Have you ever heard of Karen Horney? She was a psychoanalyst that passed away in 1952, but her theories and the way she conceptualized relationships are still widely used today. Short history lesson: She disagreed with Freud and began teaching that men and women were not inherently different, but that society simply raised them to be different. While her focus was never on creating a strong marriage, her theories are quite helpful for relationships.

The reason her views are important is because she believed that all people could choose one of three way to react to and interact with one another: turning toward, turning against, or turning away. Here are some examples of what each one of those looks like, and what you should be doing to have a strong marriage.


Turning Toward ~ Key to a strong marriage

Turning toward is the ideal for a married couple. Picture this as a literal turning and facing one another (though her theory would support an emotional turning toward as well). The couple that turns toward one another determines that no matter what difficulty they face, they will face them with one another as a team. This is the ultimate “becoming one” type perspective. When you’re fighting, when you disagree about how to raise the kids, when one wants to move and the other does not…you can choose to turn toward one another. Decide on an action plan (which very well may include compromise) and turn toward one another. Scripture would call this considering one another above yourself (Phil. 2:3).

Turning Away:

The turning away couple could be a little harder to spot. Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes its pretty clear to anyone that knows them. The “turning away” couple is disconnected and rarely speak to one another. The partners typically still love one another and care pretty deeply for one another, but they have forgotten how to truly connect. This is the couple where one is completely shocked when the other threatens divorce. “I thought everything was fine” this spouse might say. You can see why this wouldn’t be an ideal situation.

Turning Against:

Turning against is similar to making an enemy of your spouse. Couples who often turn against one another will make a fight out of just about every sentence that comes out of their mouths. They disagree about almost everything, they purposely push each others’ buttons and provoke one another to anger, and they embarrass one another by pointing out the flaws each have to anyone that will listen. This couple is incredibly unhappy and they’re uncomfortable to be around. This is a dangerous relationship to have in marriage, after all, a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).

How to Turn Toward:

According to these three types of relating, clearly most of us would desire the ideal turning toward type of relationship. Scripture actually gives us a couple of ways to make that happen:

    Consider one another above yourself (Phil. 2:3)
    Submit yourselves to one another (Eph. 5:21)
    Love one another deeply (John 13:34-35)

    And forgive. Then, forgive again. And again. (Mt. 18:21-22)

Don’t you wish that those things came easy all the time? But, we were never promised that relationships would be easy. In fact, Christ even warned us that this world is full of trials and tribulations (and many couples go through times of trial and tribulation). But, as many great teachers and preachers have noted, marriage is really designed to make you holy. It’s not about avoiding things that make you unhappy. It’s about learning to love your spouse even when the marriage is not your ideal.

I encourage you, if you and your spouse have been struggling for a while (or even just for the day), practice turning toward one another. Discover how you can come to agreement and find a way to celebrate your mini victory. (After solving the problem a little make-up sex might be in order.)

Blessings on you and your marriage!

Jessica