We became “enemies” while looking for a Christmas tree.

We piled into the car and set out on what was sure to be a magical, memory-making afternoon at the local Christmas tree farm. In retrospect, we should have told the kids that this was supposed to be one of the highlights of their holidays.

And, now that we think about it, we probably could have planned better; Hallmark moments can’t be squeezed between a son’s basketball game and a daughter’s volleyball game.

The tension actually began at McDonald’s, where we rushed through our (un)happy meals and then hurried off to the tree farm. When we arrived, the price tags on the first tree we saw made both of us gasp—more than triple the megastore alternative. So, we bypassed the higher-end imports from North Carolina.

The next group was actually nicer looking than the first but double the price. Tired and disappointed, we eventually found the cheap trees. The outing was turning into a debacle, and someone had to be blamed. So, naturally, we began to blame each other.

“I thought you said this place had incredible prices!”

“What do you mean you don’t know how tall our ceilings are?”

“This tree is so ugly, how could you think this is the one?!”

Like any loving and reasonable couple who found themselves in a similar situation would do, we went our separate ways. Each of us took two kids and went to out-search the other and find the diamond-in-the-rough tree. Before we could catch ourselves, we were pointing the finger, seeing each other as an enemy. Our magical afternoon turned into a meltdown.

Getting refocused

We got over that one pretty quickly. We weren’t enemies for long. But the experience did show us how rapidly spouses can turn on each other in marriage. It sounds preposterous to think of your spouse as your enemy. You’d never say that. You’d never want him to lose so you could win. One of you would never think that the other is standing in the way of your happiness, right?

Yet it happens all the time in the daily life of even a strong marriage. At times we need to remind ourselves that our spouse is not our enemy. Especially when we’re working through serious struggles in our relationship.

For us, one of those struggles occurred shortly after we moved to Arkansas for a new role in ministry. Moving “back home” to the South was especially heartbreaking for me (Meg). I had thrived in learning a new culture and living in an urban setting.

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There was a lot of grief around this decision and this move for me, and it was easy to be angry with David and blame him. Without realizing it, I slowly began to see him as the enemy, the source of my sadness.

One night when I couldn’t sleep, I came across a familiar passage of scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6. It was a blatant reminder that I needed to “trust in the LORD,” both for how God was leading us and for how God was leading David. I needed to stop leaning on my understanding (my sadness and disappointment) and choose to acknowledge the Lord and how He was directing our path through David.

Your spouse is not the real enemy

In the difficult and challenging days of marriage, we have to choose to walk in ruthless trust in God’s goodness and His plans. When life gets hard and our spouse is beginning to feel like our enemy, we need to remember and believe that this husband or wife is God’s very best for us, His gift to us. Psalm 18:30 (NIV) says, “As for God, His way is perfect.” God doesn’t make mistakes.

When I fix my eyes on Him and trust His purposes, I can see my husband as a gift from God, even when things are difficult. Does that mean my spouse is perfect? No. But perfect for me? Definitely.

Satan is our real enemy, and he would love to divide our marriages through suspicion, jealousy, disrespect, and resentment. We must beware of him and his spouse-splitting schemes. As long as you are seeing each other as an enemy, the real enemy is gaining ground.

Excerpted from The Story of Us, copyright © 2019 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.