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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

The Same Old Argument

SOURCE:  Jeff Kemp/Family Life

It seemed like the 1948th time we’d had the same exchange. But the solution this time was different.

What happened was silly.

I was downstairs and opened a bill.  Since my wife handles our bills, I ran upstairs to discuss it with her.  I bounded into the room where she was engrossed on the computer.  She was re-watching a 600+ slide show of wedding photos to find a particular photo.  I interrupted her and when she waved me off, I did not take the clue and told her we could handle this quickly.

Unfortunately, I ignored and flustered her, causing her to lose her place and end the slide show.  She was upset and told me so.

I justified myself.

She reiterated her disappointment.

I weakly said, “Sorry.”

She explained how she felt, and the inconvenience I’d caused.

I said, “Don’t freak out.”

Things got worse. Duh!

The conflict was growing and I stood there defending myself in my heart, looking blandly at her, while thinking about how often we have this stupid disagreement.  Finally I zipped my lip and went downstairs.

When I sat in my chair I thought, That is about the 1,948th time we’ve had that exchange.

I began a conversation with God that went something like this.

God, why does that happen so much?  I meant well, but then I offended her, then I hurt her, then I made it worse.

The thought God gave me in return was this:  Jeff, you’re more upset that you had the conflict than you are that you inconvenienced her.  And you’re more upset that you had the conflict than that you hurt her feelings by defending yourself and showing no real empathy. You always want her to adjust and accept you.  You ask for less of these instances of offense and conflict, but you should be asking Me to help you change.  You need to want to not hurt her more than you want to not feel bad that you messed up.

Wow … That led to a very introspective and intense prayer time, and a decision.  I aimed to change so that I could be a better apologizer, be less defensive, and truly be more interested in Stacy’s feelings than my own.

I went upstairs, got down on a knee next to her, and told her I was wrong to not apologize fully at first.  I was wrong not to want to hear from her how I had inconvenienced her.  I was wrong to defend myself.  I did not care for her feelings well, and I want to.

I concluded with four things:  “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Will you please forgive me?  I want to change.”

Stacy teared up in a good way and swiftly loved me back with her forgiveness, her own apology, and a hug.

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Excerpted from Facing the Blitz, copyright © 2015 by Jeff Kemp.

 

Verbal Abuse: It Can Go The “Other” Way

SOURCE:  /Young Conservatives

Woman Realizes She’s Been Verbally Abusing Her Husband Without Even Knowing It

My “Aha Moment” happened because of a package of hamburger meat. I asked my husband to stop by the store to pick up a few things for dinner, and when he got home, he plopped the bag on the counter. I started pulling things out of the bag, and realized he’d gotten the 70/30 hamburger meat – which means it’s 70% lean and 30% fat.

I asked, “What’s this?”

“Hamburger meat,” he replied, slightly confused.

“You didn’t get the right kind,” I said.

“I didn’t?” He replied with his brow furrowed. ” Was there some other brand you wanted or something?”

“No. You’re missing the point, ” I said. “You got the 70/30. I always get at least the 80/20.”

He laughed. “Oh. That’s all? I thought I’d really messed up or something.”

That’s how it started. I launched into him. I berated him for not being smarter. Why would he not get the more healthy option? Did he even read the labels? Why can’t I trust him? Do I need to spell out every little thing for him in minute detail so he gets it right? Also, and the thing I was probably most offended by, why wasn’t he more observant? How could he not have noticed over the years what I always get? Does he not pay attention to anything I do?

As he sat there, bearing the brunt of my righteous indignation and muttering responses like, “I never noticed,” “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” and “I’ll get it right next time,” I saw his face gradually take on an expression that I’d seen on him a lot in recent years. It was a combination of resignation and demoralization. He looked eerily like our son does when he gets chastised. That’s when it hit me. “Why am I doing this? I’m not his mom.”

I suddenly felt terrible. And embarrassed for myself. He was right. It really wasn’t anything to get bent out of shape over. And there I was doing just that. Over a silly package of hamburger meat that he dutifully picked up from the grocery store just like I asked. If I had specific requirements, I should have been clearer. I didn’t know how to gracefully extract myself from the conversation without coming across like I have some kind of split personality, so I just mumbled something like, “Yeah. I guess we’ll make do with this. I’m going to start dinner.”

He seemed relieved it was over and he left the kitchen.

And then I sat there and thought long and hard about what I’d just done. And what I’d been doing to him for years, probably. The “hamburger meat moment,” as I’ve come to call it, certainly wasn’t the first time I scolded him for not doing something the way I thought it should be done. He was always putting something away in the wrong place. Or leaving something out. Or neglecting to do something altogether. And I was always right there to point it out to him.

Why do I do that? How does it benefit me to constantly belittle my husband? The man that I’ve taken as my partner in life. The father of my children. The guy I want to have by my side as I grow old. Why do I do what women are so often accused of, and try to change the way he does every little thing? Do I feel like I’m accomplishing something? Clearly not if I feel I have to keep doing it. Why do I think it’s reasonable to expect him to remember everything I want and do it just that way? The instances in which he does something differently, does it mean he’s wrong? When did “my way” become “the only way?” When did it become okay to constantly correct him and lecture him and point out every little thing I didn’t like as if he were making some kind of mistake?

And how does it benefit him? Does it make him think, “Wow! I’m sure glad she was there to set me straight?” I highly doubt it. He probably feels like I’m harping on him for no reason whatsoever. And it I’m pretty sure it makes him think his best approach in regards to me is to either stop doing things around the house, or avoid me altogether.

Two cases in point. #1. I recently found a shard of glass on the kitchen floor. I asked him what happened. He said he broke a glass the night before. When I asked why he didn’t tell me, he said, “I just cleaned it up and threw it away because I didn’t want you to have a conniption fit over it.” #2. I was taking out the trash and found a pair of blue tube socks in the bin outside. I asked him what happened and why he’d thrown them away. He said, “They accidentally got in the wash with my jeans. Every time I put in laundry, you feel the need to remind me not to mix colors and whites. I didn’t want you to see them and reinforce your obvious belief that I don’t know how to wash clothes after 35 years.”

So it got to the point where he felt it was a better idea — or just plain easier — to cover things up than admit he made a human error. What kind of environment have I created where he feels he’s not allowed to make mistakes?

And let’s look at these “offenses”: A broken glass. A pair of blue tube socks. Both common mistakes that anyone could have made. But he was right. Regarding the glass, I not only pointed out his clumsiness for breaking it, but also due to the shard I found, his sad attempt at cleaning it up. As for the socks, even though he’d clearly stated it was an accident, I gave him a verbal lesson about making sure he pays more attention when he’s sorting clothes. Whenever any issues like this arise, he’ll sit there and take it for a little bit, but always responds in the end with something like, “I guess it just doesn’t matter that much to me.”

I know now that what he means is, “this thing that has you so upset is a small detail, or a matter of opinion, or a preference, and I don’t see why you’re making it such a big deal.” But from my end I came to interpret it over time that he didn’t care about my happiness or trying to do things the way I think they should be done. I came to view it like “this guy just doesn’t get it.” I am clearly the brains of this operation.

I started thinking about what I’d observed with my friends’ relationships, and things my girlfriends would complain about regarding their husbands, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. Somehow, too many women have fallen into the belief that Wife Always Knows Best. There’s even a phrase to reinforce it: “Happy wife, happy life.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for his opinions, does it?

It’s an easy stereotype to buy into. Look at the media. Movies, TV, advertisements – they’re all filled with images of hapless husbands and clever wives. He can’t cook. He can’t take care of the kids. If you send him out to get three things, he’ll come back with two — and they’ll both be wrong. We see it again and again.

What this constant nagging and harping does is send a message to our husbands that says “we don’t respect you. We don’t think you’re smart enough to do things right. We expect you to mess up. And when you do, you’ll be called out on it swiftly and without reservation.” Given this kind of negative reinforcement over time, he feels like nothing he can do is right (in your eyes). If he’s confident with himself and who he is, he’ll come to resent you. If he’s at all unsure about himself, he’ll start to believe you, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Neither one is a desirable, beneficial outcome to you, him or the marriage.

Did my husband do the same to me? Just as I’m sure there are untold numbers of women who don’t ever do this kind of thing to their husbands, I’m sure there are men who do it to their wives too. But I don’t think of it as a typical male characteristic. As I sat and thought about it, I realized my husband didn’t display the same behavior toward me. I even thought about some of the times I really did make mistakes. The time I backed into the gate and scratched the car? He never said a word about it. The time I was making dinner, got distracted by a call from my mom, and burned it to cinders? He just said, “We can just order a pizza.” The time I tried to put the new patio furniture together and left his good tools out in the rain? “Accidents happen,” was his only response.

I shuddered to think what I would have said had the shoe been on the other foot and he’d made those mistakes.

So is he just a better person than me? Why doesn’t he bite my head off when I don’t do things the way he likes? I’d be a fool to think it doesn’t happen. And yet I don’t remember him ever calling me out on it. It doesn’t seem he’s as intent as changing the way I do things. But why?

Maybe I should take what’s he always said at face value. The fact that these little things “really don’t matter that much to him” is not a sign that he’s lazy, or that he’s incapable of learning, or that he just doesn’t give a damn about what I want. Maybe to him, the small details are not that important in his mind — and justifiably so. They’re not the kinds of things to start fights over. They’re not the kinds of things he needs to change about me. It certainly doesn’t make him dumb or inept. He’s just not as concerned with some of the minutia as I am. And it’s why he doesn’t freak out when he’s on the other side of the fence.

The bottom line in all this is that I chose this man as my partner. He’s not my servant. He’s not my employee. He’s not my child. I didn’t think he was stupid when I married him – otherwise I wouldn’t have. He doesn’t need to be reprimanded by me because I don’t like the way he does some things.

When I got to that point mentally, it then made me start thinking about all the good things about him. He’s intelligent. He’s a good person. He’s devoted. He’s awesome with the kids. And he does always help around the house. (Just not always to my liking!) Even more, not only does he refrain from giving me grief when I make mistakes or do things differently than him, he’s always been very agreeable to my way of doing things. And for the most part, if he notices I prefer to do something a certain way, he tries to remember it in the future. Instead of focusing on those wonderful things, I just harped on the negative. And again, I know I’m not alone in this.

If we keep attempting to make our husbands feel small, or foolish, or inept because they occasionally mess up (and I use that term to also mean “do things differently than us”), then eventually they’re going to stop trying to do things. Or worse yet, they’ll actually come to believe those labels are true.

In my case it’s my husband of 12+ years I’m talking about. The same man who thanklessly changed my car tire in the rain. The guy who taught our kids to ride bikes. The person who stayed with me at the hospital all night when my mom was sick. The man who has always worked hard to make a decent living and support his family.

He knows how to change the oil in the car. He can re-install my computer’s operating system. He lifts things for me that are too heavy and opens stuck jar lids. He shovels the sidewalk. He can put up a ceiling fan. He fixes the toilet when it won’t stop running. I can’t (or don’t) do any of those things. And yet I give him grief about a dish out of place. He’s a good man who does a lot for me, and doesn’t deserve to be harassed over little things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Since my revelation, I try to catch myself when I start to nag. I’m not always 100% consistent, but I know I’ve gotten a lot better. And I’ve seen that one little change make a big improvement in our relationship. Things seem more relaxed. We seem to be getting along better. It think we’re both starting to see each other more as trusted partners, not adversarial opponents at odds with each other in our day-to-day existence. I’ve even come to accept that sometimes his way of doing things may be better!

It takes two to make a partnership. No one is always right and no one is always wrong. And you’re not always going to see eye-to-eye on every little thing. It doesn’t make you smarter, or superior, or more right to point out every little thing he does that’s not to your liking.

Ladies, remember, it’s just hamburger meat.

Scripture Support For Separation From A Destructive Spouse

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

The Scripture that most people use to discuss grounds for Biblical separation is 1 Corinthians 7:10 where Paul writes, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord), the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”

Separation between a husband and wife should not be done for trivial reasons. It is a grave decision, but when necessary, there is biblical support.

When one spouse biblically separates from his/her spouse it is usually for one or two primary reasons:

1.  Separation as a consequence of serious unrepentant and/or repetitive sin: The spouse who chooses to separate does so for the purpose of waking her unrepentant destructive spouse up to the destructiveness of his ways. In most cases (with the exception of physical/sexual abuse or adultery) she has already had numerous conversations about his actions and attitudes that she find destructive and hurtful, with little change to their relationship. The destructive pattern continues. Separation is the only consequence she knows that has the power to jolt her spouse awake with the message that “I will not pretend that we can have a good, safe, or healthy marriage when you continue to ___________ .”

Where there is physical/sexual abuse or adultery, separation may be the first and immediate consequence in order to send a clear message to the offending spouse that his behavior is completely unacceptable and damaging to their marriage. In cases of physical/sexual abuse, in addition to separation, legal consequences should be implemented.

Biblical justification for implementing separation as a consequence.

Below are some examples from Scripture that supports the necessity of confronting serious sin (rather than forbearing) as well as implementing consequences.

1 Corinthians 5:9 “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindles, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to each with such a one…..Purge the evil person from among you.”

James 5:19  “If anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (is a wife to be an enabler of sin or a champion of truth and righteousness?”

Proverbs 1:30,31  They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes.

Proverbs 6:26,27  For a prostitute will bring you to poverty, but sleeping with another man’s wife will cost you your life. Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?

Proverbs 18:21  “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

Proverbs 19:3 “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:19 “A man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” Consequences are the best teacher

Proverbs 20:4 “Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.” (You can’t expect the blessings of a good marriage if you’ve been too lazy to do the work of maintenance and repair).

Proverbs 29:1 “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.”

Jeremiah 4:18  “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is. How it pierces to the heart.”

Galatians 6:7  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

Ephesians 5:11 “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”

Colossians 3:25  “But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites.”

2.  Safety and Sanity as a reason for separation: The second reason a spouse may decide separation is necessary because to continue living in the home with her destructive spouse is unsafe and taking a serious toll on her (and/or her children’s) physical, emotional, mental, financial, relational, and spiritual health.

God values the sanctity of marriage but not more than the safety and sanity of the individuals in it.

Below are some examples from Scripture that support safety and sanity goals in the body of Christ and in relationship with one another.

Safety:

1 Samuel 18-31 For example, in spite of God’s general instructions to submit to the laws of the land and to higher authorities, when David feared for his life because of King Saul’s jealous rages, God didn’t instruct David to “submit to the King and trust me to take care of you.” Instead, David fled, always respecting the position of King Saul, but not allowing himself to be abused by him.

Matthew 2:13-15 When Jesus was born and King Herod sought to exterminate all the Jewish babies two years old and younger, God told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt until it was safe to return.

Hebrews 11:31 When Rehab hid the Jewish spies, she lied to keep them safe and God commended her.

Luke 14:5 Jesus himself valued safety and said even the well-being of an ox was a higher value to God than legalistically keeping the Sabbath by not working.

Proverbs 27:12 teaches us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.”

Safety is an important component of trust, especially in marriage. There can be no freedom or honest communication if someone feels afraid or is threatened, either physically and/or emotionally, or has a price to pay whenever they honestly share their thoughts and feelings.

Women (and sometimes men) fear taking measures to protect themselves because they’ve been taught it’s unbiblical or ungodly. They suffer endlessly with verbal battering, even physical abuse, believing that by doing so, they’re being godly martyrs.  Keeping the family together at all costs is seen as God’s highest value.

Psalm 12:6  “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”

Psalm 120:1,2  “I took my troubles to the Lord; I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. Rescue me, O Lord, from liars and from all deceitful people.”

Jeremiah 9:8  “Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.”

Sanity:

The scriptures are clear. People influence and impact us, both for good and for evil. When we live with an abusive, destructive, manipulative, deceitful person, it definitely takes its toll on our mental, spiritual, emotional, physical and spiritual health. Often separation is not only good, it’s necessary for one’s emotional, physical and spiritual health.

Proverbs 2:12  “Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths, they take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. Their actions are crooked and their ways are wrong.”

Proverbs 3:5,6,7  “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing for your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Proverbs 4:14,15  “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it, do not go on it, turn away from it and pass on it.”

Proverbs 4:23  “Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.”

Proverbs 12:4  “A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.” (The same health consequences would be applicable to a wife’s bones when her husband is disgraceful).

Proverbs 12:5  “The plans of the godly are just; the advice of the wicked is treacherous.” (So how is a wife to submit to treacherous advice without serious harm to herself and her children?)

Proverbs 14:7  “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.”

Proverbs 14:11 “The house of the wicked will be destroyed…”

Proverbs 16: 27-29  “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.”

Proverbs 22:10 “Drive out a scoffer and strife will go out and quarreling and abuse will cease.”

Proverbs 22:24-25  “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man”

Proverbs 29:9  “If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.”

Psalm 1:1  “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

Psalm 26:4,5 “I do not sit with men of falsehood nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers and I will not sit with the wicked.”

Psalm 51:6 “Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

Psalm 120: 6,7  “My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”

Psalm 123:3,4  “Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorn of those who are at ease with the contempt of the proud.”

Romans 16:13  Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.

1 Corinthians 15:33  “Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.”

2 Thessalonians 2:3  “Don’t let anyone deceive you.”

2 Peter 3:16  “…There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.”

2 Timothy 3:1-5  “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

2 Thessalonians 3:6  “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.”

Titus 3:10  “As for the person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

When does reconciliation take place? A spouse may choose to stay separated from a destructive spouse when she sees no evidence of genuine change (in heart or in habit) despite the offender’s pleas to the contrary. John the Baptist said it best when he challenged the Pharisees “Prove by the way that you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

Genesis 42-46  Joseph forgave his brothers before they ever came to Egypt seeking to buy bread. He was kind to them in meeting some of their needs for food, but he did not trust them nor did he reconcile with them until he tested their hearts to see if they had truly changed.

Proverbs 20:11 “Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure and whether it is right.”

1 John 1:6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not PRACTICE the truth. (Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:22)

1 John 1:8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (Talk is cheap and deceiving)

1 John 2:3  Now by this we know that we know Him. If we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him, and does not keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Jeremiah 7:4  Do not trust in deceptive words and say…If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien the fatherless or the widow and do not shed….THEN I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers….But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

Jeremiah 9:4 “Let everyone beware of his neighbor and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the Lord”

Jeremiah 12:6 “For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; do not believe them; though they speak friendly words to you.”

Psalm 55:19  “For my enemies refuse to change their ways, they do not fear God.”

Psalm 55:21  “His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war. His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers!”

Jeremiah 7  In numerous verse throughout this chapter we are told not to trust in deceptive words.

Confessions of a Former Perfectionist

SOURCE:  Todays Christian Woman/Kathy Collard Miller

How four discoveries helped me realize my unreasonable expectations of my husband

One evening when I returned home from shopping, my husband, Larry, met me at the door, grinning. What’s he up to? I wondered.

He led me into the kitchen and announced, “I did the dishes for you!”

As I hugged him and exclaimed, “Thank you!” I looked over his shoulder and noticed crumbs and drops of liquid on the counter.

But you haven’t wiped the counter, I thought. You haven’t finished the dishes! Before I could chastise him, I remembered how my struggles with perfectionism and impatience robbed me of enjoying and appreciating my wonderful husband. I thanked him again, determined not to allow his “mistakes” to bother me.

The next evening Larry did the dishes again. I realized he wouldn’t have washed them a second time if I’d criticized him the day before. I witnessed again the power of affirming his attempts—even if they didn’t meet my expectations.

Someone once said that a perfectionist is a person who takes great pains and passes them on to others. I would have given my husband a great pain that evening if I’d discounted his effort. Yet that’s exactly what perfectionism does: It brings pain and destruction to our lives and marriages.

Throughout the first seven years of our marriage I struggled with perfectionist tendencies. Nothing Larry did was good enough. He wasn’t a good enough provider—even though he worked two jobs to support our family while I stayed home with the kids. He didn’t talk enough to me; he didn’t help properly with the housework; he wasn’t as concerned about my desires and expectations as I was. The list went on and on. My standards were set so high that Larry couldn’t win—ever. Since Larry didn’t meet all my needs, I believed I couldn’t give him credit when he showed me love. Instead I focused on his inadequacies. No matter how Larry tried to please me, I found fault and pointed out his shortcomings to “motivate” him. I “punished” him with my displeasure by withholding sex, affection, joy.

My demands and impatience were destroying my marriage! Larry began to work more overtime, and when he was home, he tuned me out by reading or watching TV. My sense of failed expectations became so bad that I felt I didn’t even love him anymore!

Then one day during my devotions, God opened my eyes to what I was doing. My behavior wasn’t getting me what I wanted. So why was I continuing it? I’d thought, When Larry changes and meets my needs, then I can be joyful and content.But I realized he might never change! God wanted me to be joyful and content regardless.

From that day on I worked to reverse my attitude, become more patient, and strengthen our relationship by putting these four ideas into practice.

It’s okay to give yourself a break.

I realized I couldn’t give Larry a break, because I couldn’t give myself one. Perfectionism can be called a kind of “dys-grace” or “ungrace” because it’s the opposite of grace. Perfectionism says, I need to earn approval, while grace offers approval as a free gift.

I expected myself to be perfect because I felt God—and others!—required it. That pressure spilled into my marriage. From my perspective, I was striving for perfection—so my spouse should too!

Granting myself grace has been a gradual growth process. But if we believe that God understands our mistakes and messes—that he’s willing to forgive—then we can stop expecting too much from ourselves and our spouse. In Philippians 1:6, the apostle Paul assures us God knows our weaknesses and won’t give up on us: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (NASB). As Christians, because we accepted that Jesus bore our sins when he died on the cross, you and I are already perfect in God’s sight. We have nothing to prove; we’re accepted.

It’s okay to give your spouse a break.

Once I was able to understand that God grants me grace, I was able to offer grace and patience to my husband.

One day God helped me put that into practice. Larry, an amateur pilot, was out flying his plane while I was home cleaning the house. I sensed God say, “Tell Larry you love him.” I was shocked. No! I thought. I don’t love Larry. My unmet expectations had squelched my love—because love and a perfectionist attitude can’t really coexist.

Besides, I thought, I haven’t said those words to him in more than two years. If I say them now, he might think I approve of his negligence toward me and the kids. In my perfectionistic thinking since I didn’t feel love for Larry all the time, I couldn’t say I loved him.

Finally, I felt God whisper, “Think it the next time you see Larry.”

That’s strange, I thought. But if he doesn’t hear me, then he can’t use it against me. All right, Lord, I’ll do it, even if it isn’t true.

That evening when Larry returned, I stared at him, gulped, and thought, I love you … but I don’t really.

Even though I obeyed God begrudgingly, an amazing thing happened. Over the following months, as I continued to think the words I love you whenever I looked at Larry, I began to feel love for him. I also recognized that I’d been holding Larry responsible for my happiness. As I received grace for myself and then offered it to Larry, my “all or nothing” thinking changed. I accepted the truth that Larry couldn’t meet all my needs—only God could. In time, Larry noticed that I wasn’t as angry and demanding. And our marriage became more comfortable and enjoyable for both of us.

It’s okay to give positive feedback.

I remember one time when Larry was hanging pictures, I refrained from saying anything positive until all were placed precisely the way I wanted. I reasoned, If I tell Larry he’s doing a great job before he’s finished, he’ll get lazy and not complete the project the way I need it done. I didn’t realize I was discouraging him; I thought I was motivating him.

But excellence is doing our best with the resources at hand. Positive feedback is what really motivates my spouse—even in the middle of a project or when it may not be done as “perfectly” as I’d like! That’s why I could say “thank you” the day he did the dishes, even though he hadn’t wiped the counter. Years ago, I would have felt it was my duty to correct him immediately, withholding approval until the job was done exactly to my specifications.

When I sense the need to correct my spouse and withhold praise for the job he’s done, I ask myself these questions: Is it really that important? Can I wait until another time when he isn’t basking in the glory of his accomplishment? Waiting helps diminish those perfectionistic tendencies.

Once I began to lighten up, Larry confessed, “I used to think, Kathy is never satisfied no matter what I do, so I might as well give up trying to please her. I don’t think that anymore. Now I want to please you because I know you’ll appreciate it.”

It’s okay to be different.

While this is an obvious statement, it was a shocker for me to grasp: My spouse views life differently than I do. I always believed Larry saw life from my perspective. And since there was only one way of doing things, he should do them the right way—my way!

My viewpoint took a 180 degree turn, however, after a friend gave Larry and me a personality test. After we finished, we discovered our temperaments and learning styles are different.

My temperament, combined with my perfectionism, makes me want to over-analyze all the facts before making a decision. And then I constantly second-guess myself. Larry’s temperament enables him to make fast decisions and feel confident about them. Before, I’d thought fast decision-making indicated he wasn’t sensitive to my opinions.

The test stressed that different is different; it’s not necessarily wrong. It didn’t mean he was insensitive to my opinions. As I recognized that Larry and I view situations differently—and that’s okay!—I became more patient, loving, and kind toward him. I have to remind myself that there are several ways to do something—not just my way. As someone once said, “Two plus two may equal four. But so does three plus one.”

While sometimes it still frustrates me that he “can’t get his act together,” I rely on patience and grace. I ask myself, Is this because we define “act” differently? Are different motives energizing us? Then I take a look at my answers. Usually, I’m the one who’s more rigid, so I stop taking his behavior personally, back off, and accept our differences.

Now that Larry and I have been married 35 years, we look back on that time 28 years ago when my perfectionism brought “great pains” into our relationship with gratitude for God’s healing. By changing my viewpoint and giving grace and patience to myself and to my husband, I’ve learned to appreciate him. Now I express my love many times a day—and so does he. And yes, we even rejoice in our differences!

Marriage: 50/50 OR 100/100?

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Family Life/Dave Boehi

The Futility of the 50/50 Plan

Don’t you hate it when you see a couple arguing in public?

Recently I was sitting at my gate in an airport, waiting to board a plane. Nearby was a young couple with a baby, and observing them was like watching someone open a can of Coke after shaking it for 30 seconds. I knew what was about to happen, and I wanted to duck for cover.

They were frazzled and frustrated. Each wanted to relax and let the other person take care of a cranky baby and a pile of carry-on items. The husband appeared to be one of those men who gets angry whenever things don’t go as he wishes.

As they walked down the ramp to the plane, the wife received a phone call. She wanted her husband to hold the baby while she talked, and he exploded. “I’ve been taking care of her all day long!” he complained (loudly). “You’re always on the phone.”

“You’ve hardly helped at all,” she replied. “And you’re never on the phone yourself?”

It went on from there, all the way down the ramp. I wondered how they treated each other behind closed doors if they acted like this in public.

Fortunately they calmed down on the plane, thanks to the intervention of a saintly flight attendant who showered them with attention and encouragement. She did everything she could to make the flight pleasant for them, and that seemed to relieve the pressure.

It appeared that this couple had no clue about how to resolve conflict in their relationship. But I found myself thinking about an underlying cause of their conflict: They seemed to be operating under the common worldly pattern of marriage—the “50/50 Plan.” She felt she was doing her part in raising their daughter, and her husband was not doing enough. He seemed to feel the same about her.

The 50/50 Plan is based on performance. Typically, couples work out some sort of agreement about how they’ll divide family responsibilities and household duties, declaring, “You do your part, and I’ll do mine.” Acceptance and affection is often tied to how well each spouse does his or her part. As Dennis Rainey writes in Starting Your Marriage Right, “Performance becomes the glue that holds the relationship together, but it isn’t really glue at all. It’s more like Velcro. It seems to stick, but it comes apart when a little pressure is applied.”

On the surface, the 50/50 Plan sounds reasonable—why shouldn’t both spouses pledge to do their part? But in the end, it won’t work, for a number of reasons:

  • You can never meet all of your spouse’s expectations.
  • Inevitably you focus on your spouse’s weaknesses and failures and lose sight of your own.
  • It’s impossible to know when your spouse has met you halfway.

The truth is that both spouses in a marriage are sinful, flawed human beings, and both want their own way. As Rainey continues:

What a marriage needs is the super glue of Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” It’s what we refer to as the 100/100 Plan, which requires a 100 percent effort from each of you to serve your spouse.

The Bible describes this plan well in Matthew 22:39: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There’s no closer neighbor than the one you wake up to each morning! And since most of us love ourselves passionately, we are well on the way to implementing the 100/100 Plan if we take a similar approach to loving our spouses.

Start by stating the 100/100 Plan like this: “I will do what I can to love you without demanding an equal amount in return.”

With the 100/100 Plan, both husband and wife are willing to step in and do all the work. At home, both are willing to get the chores done. At the airport, both are willing to care for a fussy baby.

The 100/100 Plan allows for the inevitable trials and difficulties that any couple will encounter during the different seasons of life. It keeps a family going when one spouse is sick or injured, or working odd hours, and is therefore unable to contribute as much. It allows for the richness of a relationship in which each spouse complements the other because of differing strengths, personalities, and abilities.

In short, it’s the plan that provides the best picture of a biblical marriage.

Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Family Life/Sabrina Beasley McDonald

Over time, repeated hurts can build up to destroy a relationship, but these suggestions can help you heal before the damage is done.

For nearly two centuries, Beethoven’s death was a mystery. The famous musician suffered from irritability, depression, and abdominal pain. His dying wish was that his illness would be discovered so that “the world may be reconciled to me after my death.”

In 1994, two Americans launched a study to determine the cause of Beethoven’s end. Chemical analysis of a strand of his hair showed his killer—lead poisoning1.

More than likely, it was a little poison in everyday activities that took his life. It could have come from drinking out of lead lined cups or having dinner on a lead lined plate—both common household items in that day. Or perhaps it came from eating contaminated fish or even the extensive consumption of wine. It didn’t come in one lump sum, but the lead killed him slowly and quietly—one little bit of poison at a time.

That’s also how bitterness destroys a marriage. It stores itself in the soul, and slowly poisons the one who carries it. It’s a blade meant for another that eventually severs the hand that tightly conceals it.

Recently, I have witnessed what a bitter wife does to a relationship. The problems with her husband are real, and her anger is justified. However, what keeps their marriage from healing is not only the problems that he has to overcome, but also the prideful bitterness she guards in her heart.

Little by little, day by day, she has allowed this bitterness to poison her. Her husband will do something disappointing, and instead of confronting the problem, she silently holds it against him. He continues to make the same mistakes, and she continues to harbor her resentment.

This pattern has gone on for years, and now the love she once felt has numbed and hardened her heart. Recently she walked out on their marriage wearing a list of her husband’s transgressions as her armor. Reflecting back on his behavior, she nurses her wounds with words that assure her that their marriage was a mistake—”I knew it all along,” she says.

What causes bitterness?

In every marriage, a husband or wife does something that hurts the other. It’s bound to happen because none of us is perfect. And in some cases, a spouse has a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even after the behavior is confronted.

Bitterness comes when you hold onto hurt and refuse to forgive the person who hurt you. Most of the time, this comes as a result of ongoing actions of a small nature—lack of understanding, misuse of finances, harsh comments—that build up over time. Each offense takes residence in the heart, and at some point there is no more room left. That’s when bitterness is manifested and causes the most damage.

What’s wrong with bitterness?

A hardened heart can cause a lot of pain. Here are three reasons why bitterness should be removed from your heart as soon as possible:

1. Bitterness harbors unforgiveness. You may feel justified in your anger. You may think that your spouse doesn’t deserve your forgiveness until he or she straightens out. But have you forgotten the mercy that Jesus had for you?

Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. By God’s grace, He didn’t wait for us to “get our acts together” before He provided a way for forgiveness. He gave it to us freely even when we didn’t deserve it. At Golgotha as the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ clothing, the dying innocent Christ prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). If forgiveness is given freely to us, how much more should we give it to our spouses?

Not only should you desire forgiveness simply because it was given so freely to you, but also, the Bible tells us that there are consequences for unforgiveness. Jesus said, “If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15, NASB). Seek forgiveness not only for the sake of your spouse, but also for yourself.

The other day, I found that my disappointment in my friend was turning into its own form of bitterness. So I sought the Scriptures for guidance. As always, the Word of God shone brilliant light on my own darkness. I was so moved by the verse I read that I wrote it down over and over until there was no more room left on the page. “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

I wonder how many hurting marriages would be healed if Christian husbands and wives learned to love mercy as much as they love justice?

2. Bitterness doesn’t give your spouse a chance to repent. If you’ve been holding in your hurt, your spouse may not even know he or she has offended you. Bitterness often comes from hurt that has been suppressed without communication, like filling up a bottle with pressure—eventually that bottle will explode. In the same way, the outburst in your heart can result in a broken marriage, and your spouse never even saw it coming. In this case, go ahead and tell him or her what’s been bothering you. Sit down and try to work it out.

Perhaps your spouse does know of your unhappiness, but chooses to continue in the same patterns. This does not negate your responsibility to remove the bitterness from your heart. You still need to give your spouse the chance to repent, although stronger measures, such as marriage counseling, may need to take place.

You may ask, “How many times does my spouse have to do something before I’m justified in my bitterness?” Peter had a similar question in Matthew 18:21 (NASB). He asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus replied in verse 22, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

No matter how many times your spouse may do something, you are still responsible for forgiving him or her.

(Note: If your spouse is physically abusing you, get out of your house and do not stay there. A person who is physically abusive needs extensive counseling and rehabilitation. However, no matter how the situation ends, you can still work on forgiveness from the heart.)

3. Bitterness spreads. Have you ever seen a piece of moldy bread? It appears that there is only one ruined area, but if you were to look at the bread through a microscope, you would see long roots spreading throughout the slice. What appears on the surface doesn’t reflect what’s really happening below.

Bitterness grows the same way. One little bit of bitterness can start to spread throughout your heart and contaminate your whole body. It will start to manifest itself in your attitude, demeanor, and even your health.

In addition, the spreading can also affect your children and your family. Have you ever noticed how one person’s criticism makes everyone else critical, too? It’s the same with bitterness. Paul compares it to yeast when he writes, “A little leaven, leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:6). When you allow bitterness into your life, it extends to your family, your church body, and everyone else involved in your life.

Getting rid of bitterness

You may feel like there is little hope left for your marriage relationship. You may be so full of bitterness that you’ve convinced yourself that your marriage could never be healed, but let me assure you that the healing begins with yourself. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

Here are four steps to take to begin healing from bitterness:

1.Confess your bitterness as a sin. It’s so easy to justify our attitude when we’ve been hurt, but the Bible teaches that bitterness is a sin. Hebrews 12:14-15 says, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’  springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled…” You must seek peace with your spouse and the grace to forgive.

2. Ask for God’s strength to forgive your spouse and diligently seek that forgiveness. In Ephesians 4:31-32, Paul exhorts us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

It’s hard to be tender-hearted to a spouse who has hurt you, but it is possible. We have the power to forgive because Christ forgave us, and He gives us strength through the Holy Spirit. For more information on how to forgive, read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s article, “When It’s Hard to Forgive.”

3. Make a list of your hurts and find a time to talk to your spouse about it. After you’ve made your list, pray about which things you can let go and which need to be resolved. If you can let them go, then do so. You may want to physically scratch off each one that you can forgive as an act of faith. Then for those transgressions that are left, ask God to give you the strength to talk to your spouse about them.

Before talking to your spouse, let him or her know that you plan to set aside some undistracted time for you to talk about some issues. As you talk, keep the discussion productive. Start by confessing your own sins to your spouse. Then talk about your hurts. Don’t just dump all your irritations and criticisms on your spouse, but speak in love, rationally and gently.

If you feel like you can’t talk to your spouse alone, then ask a pastor or mentor couple to join you in the discussion. Make sure your spouse knows that someone else will be there. Once you begin, your spouse may deny the behavior or even become irritated. But the object of the discussion is to expose the wounds, not to accuse. Keep love the main motivator of your communication.

4. Worry about changing yourself, not your spouse. You cannot change your spouse—only God can. But what you can do is allow God to change your heart. If you have a log of bitterness in your own eye, how can you take the speck out of your spouse’s eye? (Matthew 7:3). You, too, have made choices in this relationship that have hurt your spouse and need to be mended. Even though your spouse’s sin goes unresolved for now, he or she will answer for it one day before God (Matthew 10:26). In the same way, God will hold you responsible for the bitterness in your heart.

Making Sexual Advances Toward Another is OK…IF…

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Family Life/Barbara Rainey

The Power of a Woman

I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt.
Proverbs 7:15-16

Few things are more abhorrent to me than seeing women make sexual advances toward married men, either on television or in real life. We should recoil at this kind of behavior. But just because flirtation is often corrupt doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with making sexual advances toward one married man — the one you’re already married to.

I believe we can learn something from the powerful woman described in Proverbs 5–7. Although she is an adulteress and would not typically be seen as a positive role model, perhaps there is a pure use of this power when these tactics are directed toward a woman’s own husband.

For example:

  • Her lips “drip honey” and are “smoother than oil” (Proverbs 5:3). There was a time during the dating season when gentle, soothing speech came easily. But now in marriage, it’s all too easy to gripe and complain. Words are powerful. Use yours well, and you’ll melt him like butter.
  • “She seizes him and kisses him” (Proverbs 7:13). What would be the look on your man’s face if, when you first saw him at the end of a day, you grabbed him around the shoulders and really planted one on him? There’s not a man alive who wouldn’t wonder what you’d had for lunch that day — and who wouldn’t hope you’ll have it again tomorrow.
  • She captures him “with her eyelids” (Proverbs 6:25). We wives can tend to get sloppy with our appearance around the house. That’s understandable. But every once in a while, make sure you look good when he comes home. Really good. Use your eyes to engage him. “Capture” him with your physical attractiveness.

A wife who understands her allure as a woman is protecting her husband from temptation. She’s like a magnet, drawing him home from the seductions of his day.

She’s got power. And she knows how to use it.

Pray that God will never let Satan, who knows how to twist it, steal the joy of sexual attraction and romance from you.

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