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Five Things the Enemy Uses to “Gnaw” At Your Spouse

Over the course of 21 years, my wife (Mandy) and I have had an opportunity to provide pastoral guidance for several couples. Unfortunately, despite our best attempts, some of these couples still decided to walk away from each other. In review of the situations when things just didn't work out, our collective observation has been that often the couples had something "eating away" at them -- "gnawing" at the foundation of their relationship. Over time, these “little foxes” left uncaught grew to ruin the meaningfulness of the connection between the two. The issue(s) eventually became so significant that neither the husband nor wife felt the relationship was worth fighting for any longer. Sadly, over and over again, we have heard the cry of the same little foxes coming from different relationships. Names and faces have changed many times but the issues have stayed the same.

So, please hear this clearly, LITTLE foxes are a BIG deal! They can destroy any meaningful relationship. Recently, in reflection upon this reality, I generated a list of the top five "foxes" that I’ve repeatedly discovered in the vineyards of relationships. These five things just seem to "gnaw" at people, to the point that many eventually say, “I just can’t deal with this anymore!" or "I’m done!”

In no particular order:

1. Financial Disagreements

At first, it’s just a disagreement about whether to rent or buy a home, purchase a new car or a used car, take a big vacation or stay home all Summer. But if you repetitively ignore the tension, and little foxes remain loose, things can get intense quickly. We’ve heard of everything from secret credit cards with $20,000 maxed out balances at 26% interest to hidden bass boats docked in a marina. It can start so small initially. But small debt becomes big debt when the enemy is "uncaught" and gnawing away at our minds -- falsely convincing us of everything we are entitled to call our own, regardless of our partner’s opinion.

2. Lack of Sexual Satisfaction

It starts with differences regarding stylistic or frequency preferences in the bedroom. But unharbored, the gnawing of discontentment can lead to flirtatiousness towards other people, pornographic exploration, or complete betrayal. If allowed, the enemy will come in and keep chewing until he has destroyed any remaining meaningfulness within the relationship!

3. In-Laws Overreaching

This fox usually gains entry through the gate of good intentions. For example, a set of in-laws cares a lot about their child, and they have strong opinions about what is best for their side of the family. But this little fox can chew quickly. Frustration develops, and distance from a critical support system occurs. Often, as the gnawing intensifies, ungodly counsel from unhealthy third-party advisors becomes a reality, and the enemy takes full aim at destroying the relationship.

4. Lack of Special Moments

Honestly, we may have heard this one more than any other. This fox's whine sounds like “he used to do the little things” or “she's always with the kids.” And it gets loose because couples become too busy to lean into one another which then leads to a lack of value and lost romance in the relationship. Instead, we must take time to nurture the special moments in our relationships.

5. Lack of Appreciation for the Little Things

All of us want to be edified, encouraged, and affirmed -- a LOT! Unfortunately, this means we are unlikely to be intentional about meeting these emotional needs for our spouse in a meaningful way. The reason is that humanity tends to give the least of the things we desire the most. The sad reality then becomes that failing to affirm our “special someone” can give place in their life to the gnawing effects of a lack of appreciation. Soon, attitudes like vindictiveness, anger, and lashing out begin to make noise in the relationship. So, it’s essential to appreciate and acknowledge the little things that your spouse does for you, and continue doing the little things for them!

If one or more of these fox bites are "gnawing" at you or your spouse -- chewing away at your heart and mind -- do not be discouraged. You can catch the foxes! And we will talk more about it in my next post.

For the moment, I leave you this encouragement:

Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set the torches on fire, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves. -Judges 15:4-5 (NKJV)

Samson caught the foxes.

Initially, he was distraught with the Philistines and wanted to bring demise upon them. So he took three hundred foxes and tied their tails together with torches in-between. He then set the torches on fire and released the bound and on-fire foxes into the Philistines fields that were ready for reaping. In so doing, he plundered hell’s harvest and brought destruction to his enemy so that God's Kingdom could be advanced. The bottom line: Samson made the foxes work for him, not against him. And with God's help, so can you!

We must catch and bind up the little foxes that try to destroy our meaningful relationships. It’s the little things that appear in our marriages that the enemy will use to destroy them. But when we acknowledge the little foxes, we can overcome them!

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