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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

ABUSE: False Hope or Realistic Hope

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner

“But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.” (Hebrews 3:6 NLT)

Abused spouses generally have sincere love and loyalty for their violent spouse. Those feelings of love and loyalty lead to false hope. Abused spouses need to learn to distinguish between false hope and the real hope that can be found only in Christ. They need to stop allowing false hope to prevent them from taking steps to correct an ungodly situation.

Hope placed in other people and our own abilities is unrealistic. It keeps us committed to the cyclic nature of battering and intermittent reinforcement and is not godly.

Hope built on our belief that we can keep our spouses from getting angry and violent is a distortion of reality. We cannot control the feelings or actions of the abuser. We do not have the ability to manage their anger. We must learn to back off and allow the abusive spouse to take responsibility for his or her own actions. We must exercise tough love.

Realistic hope builds on God and his promises—not people. Here are just a few of the many scriptures that promise God’s faithfulness and love.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NLT)

The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. (Psalm 145:17-19 NLT)

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NLT)

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NLT)

Father, help me remember I can’t change my spouse. I realize that as long as I place my hope in him or myself, I have no real hope. I choose to place my hope in you. I know you love me. I know you will never leave me or forsake me. Thank you. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

ABUSE: Taking A Healthy Step

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NLT)

Abused spouses often become socially and emotionally isolated. It is vital to reestablish family and social connections.

Most communities offer resources to help abused spouses. Sometimes battered spouses remain isolated simply because they don’t know about the help available.

If you are in that situation, find out what local resources are available. Look in the yellow pages for counseling services and ask them about local resources. Do a Google search for “help for abused spouses” in your area. Visit websites like the American Association of Christian Counselors to ask for a local contact.

Isolation often occurs because we feel abandoned. We must not rush the resocialization process. We must allow ourselves time to relearn socialization skills and to develop intimate, trusting relationships.

Resocialization is a major issue of concern for those of us who have been battered. Our past socialization activities may have taken place in the guarded atmosphere of a chaotic and dysfunctional home. Thus, we need to allow time for this resocialization process and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

A word of caution: Although you should connect with your family of origin, sometimes they can reinforce unhealthy behavior. They may encourage you to remain in your abusive situation and try to control it because that is what they did. But that answer is hopeless. Try to connect with your family without buying into unhealthy family norms.

Father, I have isolated myself from everyone outside my home. I know I need to get reconnected. Give me the courage and wisdom to make that change. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

Abuse: Renewing Our Minds

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner

“We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.”

(2 Corinthians 10:4 NLT)

Learned helplessness comes from repeated unsuccessful attempts to control the violence in our home. As victims, we eventually become depressed and helpless. Those feelings destroy our motivation to do something different.

 We must learn new methods of survival. Using God’s Word as our guide, we need to take all thoughts captive to Christ, cast down human reasoning, and replace false arguments with God’s promises to us.

 God does not transform us by removing our problems but by renewing our minds. By teaching us to depend on him instead of those around us. By applying the Word of God to our life, we learn to change our inner thoughts to produce healthier thinking.

 The key to eliminating worry is to place our trust in something solid, predictable, and helpful for growth: the Word of God!

A major step in changing destructive thoughts is to claim the promises of God by believing he is trustworthy.

 To change our thinking, we must understand the nature of faith. Faith is acting on knowledge. We must exercise our mind, choose to believe God is who he says he is, to believe he can deliver what he promises, and then to act on our faith.

 We must act on our new beliefs, our new thoughts. We must stop worrying and trust God.

We can overcome our overdependence on a spouse by renewing our mind and acting according to our faith in God.

Father, forgive me for placing my faith in everything except you and your promises. Help me to renew my thinking by reading and absorbing your Word. In Jesus’ name . . .

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 These thoughts were drawn from …

 Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

The Hopeless Marriage

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

Most marriages have times when one spouse does not like the other, and the dislike is usually mutual—at least my “friends” tell me that is accurate, though I’m confident that even when my wife thinks she doesn’t like me, she secretly—very secretly—likes me.

For some of us, these times happen less frequently and we manage them with more skill and grace. For others, mutual dislike is chronic rather than acute, and marital hopelessness becomes the rule.

I hate that hopelessness. The choices are to persist in the relationship and see who dies first or to craft an independent life and try to pretend you don’t care. Either way, your soul withers. It is hard to have a vibrant life with God when your primary relationship is in the dumper.

So, what can you do?

1. I don’t know. That might not seem too helpful but, at least, it shows you some respect. I am saying that there is nothing easy about your situation. If any friend or counselor has the answer for you, that person probably doesn’t understand that you have tried all the answers and they don’t work.

The blessed feature of this is that the only thing we can do is cry out for mercy to the God who hears, understands, has a unique interest in relational unity, and has the power to raise the dead. The ever-present danger in counseling is that counselors figure out ways to “fix” people, which means that we might bypass our spiritual neediness and constant dependence on the Spirit.

In this sense, “I don’t know” means “in your hopelessness, you are at the end of yourselves and need divine intervention.” Such humility is both attractive and hopeful.

2. Volunteer to go first. When both spouses have their guns loaded and aimed, it takes a good bit of spiritual courage to lower your weapon first.

But, assuming that you are not in a physically dangerous situation, it is the only way to win. The Sermon on the Mount codifies the way of power and prestige (Matt. 5:1-10). Imagine how good it would be to be disliked by your spouse for doing righteousness rather than selfishness. Imagine setting your goal to love your spouse more than you want to be loved by your spouse. The worst that will happen is that you will be blessed and know Jesus better than ever. The best thing that will happen is that you will know Jesus better, spiritual beings will be stunned at the power of God in weak people, and, somehow, you will have contributed to the Kingdom of God in ways that will endure far beyond death.

Anyone willing to drop their weapons? It gets boring to fight with someone who doesn’t fight back with worldly strategies.

3. Remember that your battle is not with flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). If we know anything, it is this: Satan is invited into every divided relationship (Eph. 4:26), and, once invited, he will not leave unless his invitation is revoked.

Every divided relationship—all hopelessness—has demonic fingerprints all over it. It is as if hopeless spouses are aiming their bb guns at each other; meanwhile, Satan’s rocket launcher is ready to destroy husband, wife, and anyone who is close by, such as children.

Somehow, at least one spouse must see that Satan is a much greater threat than the other spouse.

You will receive little consolation to know that there are other Christians who are in hopeless relationships that look quite similar to your own. But you should be encouraged that hopelessness is a small step from spiritual neediness, which is the foundation of all change. And you should be encouraged that the impossible—think  of the Israelites being cornered by Egyptians at the Red  Sea—is an ideal venue for God’s power.

Emotional Abandonment: When Your Spouse Shuts You Out

SOURCE:  Dr. Dave Currie with Glen Hoos/Family Life

These nine suggestions will help you re-establish a loving connection with your spouse.

It’s a complaint I hear regularly from people looking for help for their marriages: “I feel distant from my spouse.” “I try to get my husband to open up, but instead he just shuts down.” “My wife just doesn’t seem interested in me anymore. I feel like we’re a million miles apart.” “I don’t know if I love him anymore.”

What we’re talking about here is emotional abandonment.

Instead of physically leaving the relationship, your spouse simply checks out emotionally. They stop investing in the marriage, leaving their mate feeling detached and unwanted. To the outside world the situation can still look rosy, but in reality the relationship is dying a slow, quiet death.

How does a marriage reach this point?

Sometimes it’s a slow slide into complacency, and other times it’s a little more sudden. Realize that if it’s a sudden abandonment, there likely is some precipitating event or incident between the two of you that needs to be resolved. On the other hand, if the deterioration has been more gradual, there are probably a lot of little things that have gone unresolved and are taking their toll on the relationship.

Here are some of the specific, primary causes of emotional distance between mates:

  • Unforgiveness: Emotional abandonment is unforgiveness taken to its extreme conclusion. When we feel that our spouse has hurt us and we refuse to forgive them, we look for ways to protect ourselves from being hurt again in the future. Closing off our heart from the other person is an easy way to do this, but it has deadly consequences. Unforgiveness always leads to isolation. Overcoming unforgiveness requires a willingness to humble ourselves and seek forgiveness when we have hurt our spouse, and it also requires that we be willing to graciously extend forgiveness when our spouse has hurt us. This forgiveness step is based on a desire to re-unite.
  • Callous treatment: When I am careless in how I treat my spouse, it gets old really quickly. Whether it’s discourteousness, unkindness, or something worse, it creates hurt that may start out small, but can grow into deep wounds as it festers over time. To avoid this, each partner needs to look at their own behavior regularly and consider whether they are treating their spouse well. A mate, above all people, needs to be treated with gentleness and respect. Remember, your spouse is God’s gift to you, and they deserve to be treated as something precious.
  • Lack of effort: Sometimes the problem is a little less obvious than unforgiveness or harsh treatment. It is easy, especially for men, to just assume that the relationship is going along just fine, and so we don’t put in as much effort as we once did. We start to take our spouse for granted, leading them to think that they are not important in our lives. When the marriage slips from being one of the top priorities in the heart of one or both spouses, the other person feels abandoned. This causes them to feel unwanted and then to withdraw into their own world.
  • Lack of time: Many of us simply try to pack too much into a day. Ruled by the urgent, we fail to make time for the truly important: things like romancing, talking about issues and really developing a friendship with our spouse. We stay constantly busy, erasing quality “couple times” from our schedules. A marriage relationship cannot thrive if our contact with one another is limited to a quick bite of supper or a brief chat before bed. A good marriage requires weekly face-to-face time – both talk and fun.
  • Fear of talking through issues: Emotional detachment does not just happen out of the blue; there is always something behind it. If one or both of the spouses has an inability or fear of talking through the issues in their relationship, then this kind of disconnect will be the likely result. Usually both know there is something wrong, but they are hesitant to bring it up because they fear their spouse’s reaction. Or perhaps they feel like they’ve been through this before and it hasn’t helped, so why bother? In these cases, there needs to be a clear second look at what it means to resolve conflict in a marriage – how to have a “good fight,” as it were, that really bring things to resolution. Without these skills, and a real courage to step up and deal with problems, the emotional distance will just continue to grow.
  • Living in denial: A lot of times, when things have started to go a bit sideways in the relationship, we don’t want to admit that it’s happening. Often the person truly needing to make some significant changes is most content to deny the existence of any real issues. We kind of live in denial, as if it’s not really happening, or it’s not that bad, or things will get better in time. But living in denial doesn’t fix things; it only causes the marriage to deteriorate to the point where the couple just does not feel close anymore.

Working through the emotional distance

The first step to dealing with emotional abandonment is to identify the root cause and to begin to deal with it. Don’t settle for living in isolation. Ask God for more in your marriage and then trust Him as you faithfully try to make changes. Here are some suggestions for re-establishing a loving connection with your spouse:

1. Agree to talk: At some point you have to agree to talk about the problems that exist between you. If you’re going to resolve issues, there needs to be a mutual commitment to listen to the other person’s concerns and to work towards improving the situation. Don’t corner your spouse with an unexpected lecture, but set a time and agree to start to work through your issues.

2. Be prepared: Before you have the talk, take the time separately to think through the unresolved issues that you’ll be discussing. What are your concerns in the relationship? In what areas do you feel you need to improve? What are your expectations of your spouse? To put your thoughts down on paper may be best, but either way, be prepared to be open and honest with each other about the real issues between you. Be sure to take the time to really listen to what your spouse is saying. Give each other uninterrupted time to share your view on things.

3. Be direct but gentle: Neither of you has anything to gain by holding back your true feelings. Remember: unresolved issues lie at the heart of emotional detachment. So lay all your cards out on the table by sharing your hurts clearly. Don’t allow things to get out of hand. Be committed to talk through things sensibly. Take breaks to cool it if necessary but agree to continue. Ask each other the tough questions, and talk through the difficult issues that have been eating away at your relationship. Regardless of which partner initiated the wrong, you both need to work at resolving the problem.

4. Begin to meet unmet needs: Often a person pulls back from the relationship because, in their mind, their needs are not being met. A healthy marriage demands that both partners actively work to discern the needs of their spouse, and work to meet those needs. Seek to understand your spouse’s needs and ask yourself how you can start to better express love by meeting these needs. Make your spouse and sorting things out your new priority.

5. Deal with your own stuff: If I am feeling abandoned by my spouse, I need to ask myself a tough question: What have I done to drive my spouse away? Now it may not be only your responsibility. Nevertheless, you have to find out what you are responsible for and take ownership for your actions. Really listen to your spouse. Of course, there are things that your mate needs to deal with, and they may be withdrawing from you for selfish reasons, but that can’t stop you from taking the steps that you know you need to take. Both parties must be prepared to make apologies and extend forgiveness as part of your recovery from the emotional detachment.

6. Intentionally re-engage: If you are to re-establish your emotional connection, it won’t happen by accident and it won’t happen overnight. You need to agree to make your relationship a priority and spend some quality time together. Plan a few dates and put each other in your schedules. It’s time to re-enter one another’s lives again.

7. Act kindly: This may not be a revolutionary new idea, but it can have that kind of an effect on your marriage. You must act kindly toward your spouse. Small gestures of warmth, acts of kindness, and efforts to rekindle the romance between you will go a long way toward renewing your bond with one another. Do this from the heart with real commitment to make the necessary changes.

8. Love unconditionally: Somebody has to break out of the negative cycle of eye-for an eye, poor treatment for poor treatment. You need to step out of the insult-for-insult cycle and respond differently. You cannot control your spouse’s behavior, but you can control your own. Regardless of how your spouse responds, you must choose to treat them with love. This is not easy to do when your partner is not reciprocating, but it is what you vowed to do when you promised to love each other “for better or for worse.” And nothing breaks down emotional barriers like unconditional love.

9. Allow God to work: I’m going to challenge you to ask God to change you. God wants your best and He’ll always be ready to take full responsibility for any life that is totally surrendered to Him. That also includes re-engaging with your spouse and getting attached in love again. God wants that and He will guide you in that, if you’ll allow Him to.

We’ve all got issues to work through in our relationships. Whether your problems stem from bitterness, unforgiveness, dishonesty, lack of kindness, unfaithfulness, or something else, God offers you His power to enable you to live in a way that honors Him. There’s no doubt in my mind that God wants your marriage to work and that you desire to have warmth and a close connection with your spouse. That’s His design. Let’s go after it.

Spousal/Family Abuse: NO EXCUSE !!

SOURCE:  Janet M. Lerner/Living Free

“For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:25-30 NLT)

“According to Detective Sgt. Don Stewart, a retired police officer who handled domestic violence cases for 25 years, one out of every four Christian couples experiences at least one episode of physical abuse within their marriage.

In fact, battering is the single largest cause of injury to women—more than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that 3 to 4 million women are beaten in their homes every year. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 2,000 women are murdered every year by an intimate partner.” (Today’s Christian Woman)

Spousal abuse reaches epidemic proportions and affects even Christian homes. Dr. Grant Martin in Counseling for Family Violence and Abuse says that victims of spouse abuse must seek healing in several areas of their lives: victimization, self-esteem, unrealistic hope, isolation, and emotional dependency.

Many batterers try to use the excuse that the Bible gives a husband total control over his wife.

However, today’s scripture clearly instructs a husband to love his wife as himself and to lay down his life for her. Nowhere in God’s Word does he give a man permission to abuse his wife or his children. The Bible does tell wives to obey their husbands (Ephesians 5:21-24). However, it is important to separate the commitment to marriage from an unhealthy tolerance for violence and abuse.

 Peter offered further instruction to husbands:

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT)

Father, help me understand my role as a wife. I know I am to submit to my husband, but I see in your Word that my husband is instructed to treat me with love and care. Help me understand how to reconcile all this with the way he is treating me.  Help me know how and when I should take a stand.  In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

  Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

Choose Your Conflict Style

SOURCE:  Bill and Pam Farrel/FamilyLife Ministry

It’s nearly impossible to connect your life to another and not have significant disagreements. These ideas will help you direct your conflicts in a positive way.

Adam was walking around the Garden of Eden feeling very lonely, so God asked him, “What is wrong with you?”

Adam said he didn’t have anyone to talk to.

God said, “I was going to give you a companion and it would be a woman. This person will cook for you and wash your clothes. She will always agree with every decision you make. She will bear your children and never ask you to get up in the middle of the night to take care of them. She will not nag you, and will always be the first to admit she was wrong when you’ve had a disagreement. She will never have a headache, and will freely give you love and compassion whenever needed.”

Adam asked God, “What would a woman like this cost me?”

God said, “An arm and a leg.”

Adam asked, “What can I get for just a rib?”

Conflict is normal

Conflict is an ordinary part of every intimate relationship. We all entertain the thought that we should be able to get along with this person who has captured our hearts because there is something special between us. While this is true most of the time, it is nearly impossible to connect your life to another and not have significant disagreements. As you go through your journey together, you will get under each other’s skin and challenge each other to search the depths of your heart for what really matters to you.

One decision that will help you direct your conflicts in a positive way is choosing your conflict-resolution style.

Your conflict style

When faced with a conflict in your relationship, choose one of the following approaches.

The planned approach.  Schedule a time to discuss what you are upset about. Your conflicts will almost always be highly emotional. This person to whom you will say “I do” is the only person on earth you will share everything with—your finances, your emotions, your bodies, your social calendar, and your dreams. As a result, when you have a disagreement, intense emotions surface with the potential to take over the discussion. This is further complicated by the fact that men tend to get flooded by intense emotions and shut down in defense. When this happens, couples often struggle to reach any kind of resolution because their emotions take over the conversation and override their logic. Scheduling a meeting gives you an opportunity to prepare your heart and your thoughts for navigating the discussion.

Before the meeting, describe in writing the issue as you are aware of it. Keep in mind that the presenting issue is not always the real issue, but you have to start somewhere. If you can clearly state your thoughts about the disagreement without reacting to each other, you will have a much better chance of resolving the conflict.

The spontaneous approach. The spontaneous approach for handling conflict takes the most self-control and relational skill. In this approach, you deal with issues as they come up. You don’t wait, you don’t reschedule, and you don’t give yourself time to gather your composure. You just jump in and try to get to the heart of the matter. There are a few skills that will help you in this approach.

Insulate. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. It’s easy to say you will do this when you are calm, but it is a very different matter when you are upset with each other. “You” statements sound like accusations when they are mixed with negative emotions. “You did this,” “You are so inconsiderate,” “You were being selfish,” may be statements of truth, but they easily elicit defensive responses. Your ability to use “I” statements will determine your ability to successfully work through these discussions. “I was surprised by what happened,” “I am very upset by this situation,” “I was shocked when this happened and I reacted very strongly,” are statements that do not avoid the subject but give the other person an opportunity to respond without getting defensive. If you choose this approach, keep in mind that the statement, “I think you are wrong (or stupid or inconsiderate),” is not an “I” statement!

Investigate. Take time to relieve the pressure by describing what you believe the issue is. The purpose of this phase is to lower the intensity of the emotional climate between the two of you. Ask the question, “What is the real issue we are facing?” As with all conflicts, the goal is to identify the issues that are at the heart of your reaction so you can find a positive direction to move.

Identify. Brainstorm solutions. Verbally investigate possible ways to address the conflict. Take enough time to explore possibilities to see if a new solution surfaces that wasn’t clear in the heat of the moment.

Initiate. Commit to a course of action based on your conclusions.

Interconnect. The reason you have such intense discussions with each other is the emotional connection you have. Before you end your discussion, seek to rediscover what it is you love about each other. You are highly attractive to each other, but we believe these attractive traits can also have a dark side that may show itself and create intense negative responses. Since these negative responses are attached to the things you love about the other person, they can easily be turned positive.

The delayed approach.  If scheduling a meeting or having a spontaneous discussion do not work for you, you might try taking a short break before you work your way through an issue. The purpose of the break is to calm your emotions and get yourself back to a more rational place. It is more reliable if you choose a specific time to get back together, but you may be able to say, “As soon as we calm down, let’s get back together.” If you take this approach, you will want to check in with each other every couple of hours to see if you have calmed down. If you do not diligently check in, it is likely you will ignore the issue and conclude that time has taken care of everything. This is like planting a land mine in the middle of your relationship. If you do this enough times, those mines will eventually erupt and cause severe damage. It is much better to deal with the issues as individual discussions rather than waiting for a compound problem to unleash itself.

When you get together, you will want to follow the same steps as above: insulate, investigate, identify, initiate, interconnect.

In the absence of decisions about how you will approach conflict, you will simply do what you know to do. Conflict, however, does not need to be destructive if you guide it rather than let it get out of control. One of life’s great truths is that our emotions follow our decisions, which is good news when it comes to disagreements. If you decide ahead of time how you will face conflict, you can guide your emotional energy so that it draws you together and adds value to your relationship.

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Taken from The Before-You-Marry Book of Questions. Copyright © 2013 by Bill and Pam Farrel. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. Used by permission; www.harvesthousepublishers.com.

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