Projection in Marriage: A Common Activity

Pastor Idleman spends a part of Chapter 7 discussing his marriage.  His marriage, like all marriages, is not just one happy day after another.  Problems occur in every marriage.

Projection occurs in every marriage.

Spouses always want to blame the other spouse for the problem when in reality it is something they have done together.

Relationship experts often refer to this as the “dance of marriage”, as couples live together on a daily basis and they interact in patterns that can make them forget how closely they are intertwined with their partner.

In fact, in most marriages, couples develop habits of interacting and sometimes the habits are bad ones.  For example a husband could say his wife is too demanding.  The wife complains that he withdraws from the relationship too much.  This pattern may start with the man who says “I withdraw because you are so demanding.”  The wife says “I demand so much because you withdraw.”  After this pattern begins, it is impossible to say which accusation is accurate; a sort of what comes first, the chicken or egg argument.

In reality, one person makes their contribution and the other makes their contribution and together, they create a problem.

To solve this situation, the couple has to assume joint responsibility but how often does that happen?


Finger pointing is the rule of the day as one spouse swears that the other is “the problem.”  “I have no blame in this situation.”

Instead of projecting the problem onto the other spouse, the couple needs to say “let’s stop this, recognize this for what it is, and we need to try to do things better.”

Pastor Idleman recounts a marriage exercise he did with his wife on page 121.  He sat down with her and they drew a circle on a piece of paper.  Inside of the circle they listed all the problems they have in their marriage.  After completing this, they were to take the circle like a pie and carve out the pieces of the problems they were responsible for individually.

They could not do it.

They realized that the problems were problems they created together.

For one moment, projection ended in the Idleman marriage.

Questions from Chapter 7:

Who or what do you tend to blame when you find yourself in “the pigpen”?

Why is it so difficult for us to accept fault—with no ifs, ands or buts?

Is there someone you need to admit fault to right now?  Write out what you need to say to them, and watch for projection and subtle ways you try to excuse yourself.  Then go to them and read what you’ve written.

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