Here is the conclusion of the excerpt from Chapter 7 of Husbands, Wives, God: Introducing the Marriages of the Bible to Your Marriage.
Consequence #2: Emotional Separation
It is clear that David and Michal resolved their physical separation at some point, according to 2 Samuel 6:20: “But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David…” Obviously, if Michal was in the house that David was going to bless, and it is referred to as his house, then they must have experienced some level of reconciliation. Unfortunately though, during their time of physical separation, a more difficult and more deeply-rooted form of separation occurred: emotional separation.
There can be many manifestations of emotional separation, but the common thread is that at least one or both spouses feel that the other is unavailable or uninterested in them. It is the bite of the real or imagined unavailability of their spouse that causes couples to erect, and take cover behind, walls of emotional disconnection. As the years progress and the volume of “guarded” areas increases, the emotional separation takes hold in more areas of the relationship, until the two are totally unavailable and uninterested in each other. This emotional unavailability is exactly where David and Michal were in their marriage, and there are two passages in 2 Samuel 6 that capture its depth and consequences. The first is in 2 Samuel 6:12-16:
Now it was told King David, saying, “The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.” David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.” (emphasis added)
In this passage, David was so excited that God had allowed him to return the Ark of the Covenant (God’s throne, in the Old Testament) to Jerusalem that he began to dance to honor the Lord. Michal was looking out of the window at the same time and, according to v. 16, when she saw David’s dance, she despised him in her heart.
It is amazing how dramatically emotions can change as the pressures from outside of the relationship weigh on a marriage. Remember that in the beginning of their marriage, Michal loved David and she betrayed her father to save David’s life. But now the cumulative effects of their inability to leave Saul strained their marriage to the point that Michal exchanged the love that was once in her heart toward David for despise , that is, disgust and loathing. Michal did not expect to be “here” when she said “I do” to David. However, despite how “in love” she felt at the start of the marriage, her reality at this point is disgust, hatred, and disdain. Where she was once completely open and in love, after distance has set in, there is now withdrawal and despise . She is emotionally unavailable to David because she is still emotionally available to Saul, her father.
Michal’s despising of David appears to be rooted in two external influences: her father (v. 21) and other women (v. 20). First, she despises David because he is being allowed to do something for the Lord that her father was not able to do (cf. 2 Sam. 6:21). This reveals her unhealthy emotional connection to her father that necessarily hinders her emotional connection to her husband. Her unbroken attachment to her father is captured in 2 Samuel 6:16, 20, and 23; in each passage, she is referred to as the daughter of Saul but never as David’s wife. Here she is, years after her marriage to David, and her father has died some time ago, yet emotionally she is still the daughter of Saul more than she is the wife of David. It is a point of separation between this husband and wife that has allowed love to be exchanged for disgust.
Second, she despises David because, as 2 Samuel 6:20 clarifies, while he was dancing for the Lord, he exposed himself to the other women in the area. Michal’s comments about the other women could also have been fueled by the hurt she felt over the two wives that David married while he and Michal were physically separated. We will talk more about this dancing scene in the next section, but her sentiment here is clearly a result of their allowing other people into their relationship when they failed to leave.
So whether because of her relationship with her father, or the presence of other women in her relationship with her husband, once again external influences impact this marriage. In short, Michal’s exchange of emotions toward her husband was an outgrowth of multiple external pressures on their relationship. From the beginning of their marriage, and even beyond Saul’s death, Michal remained more connected to her father than to her husband. It is unclear what the precise emotional pull was between Michal and her father. What is clear is that David and Michal’s inability to leave Saul emotionally and physically prevented them from being joined.
Emotional Separation—Lasting Effects
As the story and marriage of David and Michal moves to a sad conclusion in 2 Samuel 6:20-23, a specific point of friction is now present in their marriage: misinterpretation. Look at the provoking manner with which David and Michal view each other at the end of their relationship.
But when David returned to bless his household, Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today! He uncovered himself today in the eyes of his servants’ maids as one of the foolish ones shamelessly uncovers himself!” So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD. I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes, but with the maids of whom you have spoken, with them I will be distinguished.” Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
David, being unaware of Michal’s despising of him, returns home to bless his household. However, Michal’s despising of her husband causes her to circumvent the blessing that had he intended to give her. She meets him outside of their house with quite an attitude, before he can even enter to offer the blessing he wanted to give her. David’s intention was to be a blessing to her and the household, but she is being controlled by her heart, which despises him. As such, she misinterprets David’s disrobing in front of the women as sexual. The separation they experience prevents her from understanding David’s joy.
An emotionally disconnected marriage quickly becomes open to interpretation, rather than candid discussion. The space between the husband and wife prevents them from honestly talking with each other, soul to soul. Instead, they evaluate and filter their spouse’s actions through their own skewed perspective, as opposed to reality. I wonder what would have happened if Michal would have asked David, “What in the world were you doing out there today?” Perhaps they could have quickly resolved any misunderstanding. Instead she interprets and labels David’s behavior as foolish and shameless. At this point Michal is filtering her view of David through emotional strain which is causing her to cling more to their perspectives than to each other.
David’s response provides the perfect conclusion for our discussion of the consequences of leaving and cleaving. In verse 21, he responds to her angry, emotionally-driven retort this way: “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel; therefore I will celebrate before the LORD.”
He first of all understands her anger toward him as being tied into her continuing unhealthy emotional connection to her father, Saul. But more importantly, David never loses sight of how the Lord has blessed him. Furthermore, he determines to be happy in the Lord in spite of Michal’s view of him. At this point, this marriage is totally disconnected from God, and therefore, they are disconnected from each other. David declares that he will continue to remain connected to God even though the marriage is totally disconnected from God. The final line of verse 23 suggests that Michal was never able to leave what had kept her disconnected from David and God. Consequently, she paid a high price for her inability to leave as the chapter ends this way, “Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death”.
How to Leave
The last remaining question concerning leaving and cleaving is “How do I leave?” As with Michal, the primary challenge of leaving is letting go of, or moving away from, deeply engrained thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Typically, these are attributes that have previously defined who we are. Perhaps for Michal, the lifestyle associated with being the king’s daughter was hard to let go of once she married David, who was a lowly shepherd. Whatever the case may be, it is often these deeply embedded perspectives that prevent a couple from being joined by God.
The first step is for both husband and wife to determine the areas of distance in their marriage. Take a piece of paper and jot down two areas where you and your spouse are not connected to each other. This list should be created in prayer for it to be effective. A list created without prayer can only be based on our fallible human logic. Instead, to access the power necessary to create the desired change, both husband and wife must seek wisdom from God. An old mentor of mine used to say, “If you could have done it yourself, you would have done it a long time ago.” So spend some time praying for God’s wisdom and guidance to learn where separation or distance may thrive. Ask God with all sincerity, “Lord what do you need me (or us) to leave so that we may be joined to one another?” Start with what you, personally, need to leave first, then what you as a couple need to leave. Here are a few items that could potentially make a list:
• We don’t trust each other anymore
• He or she committed adultery
• She wants me to be like her father (or vice versa)
• We need to address our financial situation
• He is irresponsible
• She doesn’t respect me
• We need to leave some toxic friendships
Note: Typically, there is at least one area that is on both the husband’s and the wife’s list.
It is best for the husband and wife to complete their lists separately. Once a couple identifies the areas of distance, it is time to assess their individual contributions to these areas. Each person needs to honestly look at what they have not left that contributes to the identified areas of distance. Again, the key to getting a realistic picture of your contribution to the distance will be prayer. Ask God to show you in your reading of the Bible, or through some life experience, how you are contributing to the distance in your marriage. Here are three passages that I personally look to, as well as the questions I ask God and myself, in order to clearly determine my contribution to distance in my marriage.
Lord, am I displaying love toward my wife the way that you tell us to love?
1 Corinthians 13:4-8: Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
Lord, guide me through your example in Christ. Teach me how to keep trusting You rather than my own reasoning.
1 Peter 2:21-24: For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
Lord, am I being understanding toward my wife?
1 Peter 3:1-8: In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;
These are just a few of my favorites, but there are hundreds of passages in the Bible that God can use to show us what we need to leave. As you begin to read, study, memorize, and pray about relative passages of the Bible, they will begin to show you exactly what needs to be done. At this point, you are ready to sit down with your spouse and talk about what you are personally and as a couple committed to leaving. Be honest with each other about obstacles that have kept the two of you from listening to God.
1. Evaluation (Individual and Couple)
• How do I contribute to the distance?
• What am I either willing or not willing to leave?
2. Spiritual Relationship
• How does my perspective, relationship, or anything else keep me/us from hearing Christ?
• What new course needs to be charted?
Summarizing Leave and Cleave
Now that we have reached the end of a second chapter exploring the topic of leaving and cleaving, it should be clear that this topic is the foundation of a healthy, well-balanced marriage.
• God provides the spouse we need based on His knowledge of our needs.
• Failure to leave external influences leads to some form of separation in a marriage.
• When a man and a woman allow themselves to be joined by God, then they cannot be separated.
• Leave any and everything that keeps a husband and wife separated.
• In order to leave, Pray, Evaluate, and Cleave to your spouse.
EYM, there you go, entire chapter from Husbands, Wives, God. What do you think, share your feelings on this biblical perspective of leaving in marriage?