How do you deal with trespasses in your marriage?

Big Guy and I recently traveled to a planning retreat for the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association. (Thank you, Tom and Debi, for welcoming us into your home and provide such thoughtful hospitality!)

We drove from Wisconsin to North Carolina so we could enjoy the beautiful scenery and have some time to ourselves. As a woman who grew up in the Midwest and still lives there, I’ve found great beauty in the flat landscape—but I was still excited that I would see mountains.

On the Road Less Traveled

On our way to the cabin, we decided to visit a national park. Big Guy programmed the destination into his GPS, and away we went.

I love navigating by map. Usually I plot a route myself even though we will use the GPS. This time I did not. I had the atlas in front of me, but I was too captivated by the beauty of the mountains to use it.

My husband’s GPS has proven accurate and often guides us away from traffic jams. We’ve occasionally found ourselves on alternate routes that ended up saving us a great deal of time—so we didn’t think much of it when it seemed that we were heading to the edge of town rather than through it. I mentioned that it didn’t look right, but I wasn’t worried because the GPS hadn’t let us down in the past.

The side streets led to a road heading out of town, which turned into a poorly maintained two-lane (more like 1 ½-lane) that began to wind its way up a mountain. The road didn’t look like it was used much. (The road less traveled might be great in literature and in theory, but in reality it’s full of bumps and weeds and drop-offs.)

Although we believed the GPS was taking us a back route, it was more “back route” than we would’ve wanted. The road was bumpy, and there were no guard rails protecting us as we made the constant turns. We began to see signs against the side of the road, cautioning us that the wooded areas were private property. I thought, If GPS has brought other people up this way, I’d put signs up, too.

The road narrowed even more as it wound its way up the mountain, back and forth.

According to the GPS, the road we were on had a name that sounded like it was headed to a public area. At some point, though, we realized the GPS was taking us in the wrong direction.

We realized that we hadn’t seen even a single sign for our destination. Even the back route to a national park should have had some signage.

Unfortunately, there was no place to turn around. We had no choice but to keep going until we could find a spot where we could recalculate our route and reverse ourselves.

The Clearing

Suddenly we found ourselves in a beautiful clearing. The road was even, level, and wide. We saw no people, but there were several vehicles parked at a small building.

Off to the side was an absolutely beautiful unspoiled view of mountains.

Big Guy pulled over so I could get out to stretch my legs, catch my breath (all that constant gasping and trying not to freak out about no guard rails had done a number on me), and take some pictures.

A vehicle pulled up behind us. The person behind the wheel informed us that we were trespassing, that the No Trespassing signs had referred to both the woods and the road (oops), that we were nowhere near our destination, and that we needed to leave. Immediately.

Before I’d had a chance to fully absorb the beauty of the location, we had to leave it.

Down Again

Big Guy and I got back into our car, turned around, and headed back down the mountain.

The bumps, turns, and lack of guard rails were even worse on the way down than they’d been on the way up.

I don’t like breaking the rules, and I was upset that we’d been led astray by the GPS. Knowing what the road was like, I began to worry about what would happen if we met a vehicle that was going up. Where other roads might have a shoulder to give a little extra space, this road had a drop-off.

Then I realized—there were homes on this mountain road—homes with driveways that we probably could’ve used to turn around. They just hadn’t registered when we were on the way up.

As much as I just wanted to be done and off the mountain, we had to proceed slowly and safely so we didn’t crash.

If Big Guy had been alone, we probably would’ve driven faster than he did. Because he didn’t want to terrify me or make me carsick, he drove carefully and patiently.

At that point, I was oblivious to the beauty of the mountain outside the car. All that mattered to me was what was happening inside the car.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses . . .

Marriage sometimes is like our mountain-sized misadventure.

It’s easy to get lost. We forget to check the Book for directions, letting the world tell us where we should go. We think we’re taking a faster route or that how we do something doesn’t matter. We take a short cut on kindness or love so we can finish more quickly.

We see warning signs but don’t fully think through what they might mean. Or we fail to notice that we aren’t seeing the important signs that we should be.

We get twisted around on a bumpy, treacherous, seemingly endless road. We can’t see where to turn around, so we just keep going on, deeper and deeper, hoping to get to a spot where we can recalculate and turn around.

When we recognize that we have trespassed, the right thing to do is to repent, to go back, to confess, and to get back onto God’s path.

It isn’t always a quick or easy process. We sometimes have to carefully extract ourselves from a situation so we don’t damage anyone in the process. We must slowly unwind a web we’ve spun in order to get back to where we need to be.

We may want to move quickly, but we need to be patient with our spouse. If a spouse has been sinned against for a long time, it’s going to take a while to believe that the reversal of direction is real and that the marriage is a safe place.

Our Shared Story

I don’t like breaking rules, and I felt embarrassed that we had trespassed.

In the marriage we used to have, I would have been furious with Big Guy for using the GPS and for not turning around when I mentioned it didn’t look right. I would have glossed over the fact that I hadn’t even bothered to look in the atlas to confirm our route. I would have ignored the fact that I was too captivated by the beauty of the mountains to even care much where we were going or how we were getting there.

Our trespassing would have been made even worse by the way I would have treated my husband. It would have become something that further divided us.

Handling the trespass with love and kindness made a difference. The shared experience united us rather than divided us.

A Choice

When my marriage involves a trespass—mine, my husband’s, or ours—I have a choice. It is tempting to heap blame on my husband so I don’t have to feel bad about myself or my own actions. (The temptation is as old as Adam, right?)

I could choose to distance myself from my husband and add a wedge between us.

Or, I can choose to travel with my husband away from the sin, even if we move more slowly than I want. Even if I’m embarrassed.

It is better to own my contributions to our circumstances and to refrain from making things worse for my husband when he has recognized his share.

At a certain point, I have to decide that what matters most is what is happening inside our marriage, not what is going on outside it.

The sharing of the journey away from our sins is part of what unites us as a married couple. It gives us a common landscape in our shared story.

Most of our trespasses are unintentional—but we can still be intentional in how we handle them.

How do you deal with trespasses in your marriage?

Image|Chris Taylor

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8 Thoughts on “An Accidental Trespass

  1. Great article! 🙂

  2. Doug on June 7, 2017 at 4:02 pm said:

    That is such a wonderful parallel to life in general, and married life in particular.

    My wife and I were traveling from Ft Smith AR to Denver last week, and I did something very similar. My wife was driving and I was navigating, and as we got close to Wichita Kansas, the road split and she had to choose between I-35, And I-135. Rather than consult the map, I relief on memory, and mistakenly thought that 135 was a bypass, so I told her to stick to I-35. Well, 20 minutes later, we still hadn’t driven into Wichita, and I knew the route well enough to know that wasn’t right, so I verified my error, and sheepishly told her I had misled her. I know in the past, that would have been cause for enough drama to really spoil the rest of the day, but she just accepted that it was an honest mistake, and we turned around at the next exit. I found us a rout that would easily put is back on course, and we were able to joke about it, and enjoy some nice countryside.

    We were able to joke about it good naturally, instead of the barbs that would have defined the conversation, and as an added bonus, we drove completely around Wichita. (Don’t want to step on any toes here, but I hate driving thru Wichita)

  3. janicewalkshelton on June 7, 2017 at 4:14 pm said:

    Chris, l have a question for you? What do you do when your spouse seems to be holding a trespass against you? It happened 5 years ago. I’ve asked for forgiveness multiple times and made a point to change the behavior but he continues to bring it up when he’s pointing out how broken our marriage is. We are experiencing empty nest which is a contributing factor I think.
    I continue to follow your blog because you have such good insight but don’t always read your posts because he makes it seem so hopeless.
    I know it’s not because of I Corinthians 13 and other promises in the Bible. Just last night he made the statement that he’s mad at God for not changing me. Any ideas…
    I’m seeing a counselor but although we’ve gone as a couple in the past he refused to now seeing me as the one with the problem not him.

    • He’s mad at God for not changing you, yet you’ve been making changes and living in repentance? Sigh. My guess is that he was deeply hurt, and anger feels safer to him that the vulnerability of opening himself up to seeing the changes.

      I am glad you are seeing a counselor. It would be good for your husband to see one, too, although he might do better seeing someone just for himself rather than joint counseling with you. Could you ask a pastor to reach out to your husband?

      I will pray for you both.

  4. Kevin on June 7, 2017 at 11:28 pm said:

    Great post, Chris! My wife and I spent a few days in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area last month. I’m presuming that the park you went to was the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. It’s in eastern Tennessee/western North Carolina and is THE most visited national park in the country. Also, from driving those same kinds of windy, curvey, narrow roads, I am very sympathetic to how you and Big Guy felt.

    Also, our truck’s GPS wasn’t as reliable as the GPS on my wife’s iPhone. Given the road repaving we had to go through, the truck’s GPS wanted to take us down a gravel road in order to bypass the construction zone. That didn’t feel right to us. We opted to rely on the iPhone’s GPS once we saw the different, graveled route. Can you say, “BACK STROKE!”? It was a blessing that the phone guided us through sections we recognized from previous visits to the area.

    Fortunately, as well, neither of us chided the other for the erroneous directions. Instead, we mocked the truck’s GPS, calling it all sorts of demeaning names (none of which bear repeating on here), and making fun of it by pretending the misleading directions were “tweets,”

    It was a great way to join forces and find togetherness in the face of adversity. And, by making it humorous, we were able to laugh about it, too; all the way to our hotel.

    As to your actual trespassing, some of those mountain folk don’t take kindly to people showing-up un-announced; especially Yankees. And, believe it or not, you were, probably, on one of the better residential roads in the area. Since the fires last year, where many homes were destroyed and many people killed by the fires. With reconstruction occurring, the heavy trucks used to haul away debris and bring in new building materials have destroyed many of the roads. It’s been a rough time for many of these folks just trying to get by. Too often, outsiders drive through, gawking at the destruction, when the locals really need help, not sightseers. Hence, much of the distrust and suspicion of strangers.

    I’m sure, that wasn’t yours and Big Buy’s intent. But, to the locals, who’ve seen so many gawkers before your arrival, simply put you in the same pot as all the others. Please, don’t take any unfriendliness you were shown to heart. Too many of those people still haven’t recovered and many others won’t ever recover.

    • It was a different national park. We were not in an area that had been burned, but we were definitely unwelcome where we were. I’m glad you and your wife were able to bond in the face of navigational adversity, too.

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