Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Take Action Against Adultery

SOURCE:  Josh Squires/Desiring God

Three Steps to Avoiding It

I love premarital counseling. It’s a nice respite from what is so often crisis response. Instead, I get to see two incredibly happy people excited for the day when they shall become one flesh. My job in these sessions is to listen, laugh, and challenge.

I typically do three sessions. The first two are certainly a joy, but the last one, if I’m honest, is my favorite.

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, but I want couples to have a little bit more realistic picture of what life will be like after the cake has been cut and toasts have been given. To this end, I have at least one private meeting with each person where I ask this question, “What are you going to do the first time you begin to feel about someone else the way you feel now about your significant other?”

A Ring Won’t Restrain Sin

It’s a nasty question, I admit, and one that most couples don’t see coming. The very idea that they could begin to have amorous feelings toward someone other than their betrothed — at any point in their lives — seems like an assault on their love and their moral fiber. But don’t be deceived. Putting a ring on your finger does nothing to restrain the rebellion that is in your heart. According to The Truth About Cheating by M. Gary Neuman, nearly seventy percent of men who had an affair thought that they would never do such a thing.

Further, those who affirmed the statement, “I would never cheat on my spouse,” were at an exponentially greater risk of actually having an affair later in life. Satan would love for you to believe that you are invulnerable to some category of sin because then you will stop protecting your soul from its terrible effects. As Jeremiah 17:9 puts it, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Or as Robert Murray McCheyne once wrote, “The seed of every sin known to man is in my heart.”

Warning Signs

Once the indignity of the question has begun to dissipate, we can move on to the second step: Have a plan. People rarely (only six percent, according to Neuman) just “fall into bed together.” The vast majority of time when an affair is consummated, it is done with someone that they’ve known at least a month and with whom they have had multiple interactions. That means that there is time to notice the warning signs. And time to do something about them well in advance of something egregious. Some of those signs may include,

  • you really look forward to seeing this person
  • you are willing to go out of your way to make sure that you have regular interactions with them
  • you rearrange your calendar to find ways to sneak more time in with that person (like early morning meetings, long lunches, late evenings, and more)
  • you are growing increasingly critical of your spouse, especially as compared to that other someone special
  • you are looking for reasons to be out of the presence of your spouse
  • your recreational life becomes more and more exclusive of your spouse
  • your desire to be intimate, physically or emotionally, with your spouse is dwindling.

What happens if you notice some of these warning signs in your life? Here are three steps, among others.

1. Cut the relationship off.

If you can cut them out of your life completely, do it. But sometimes because of work, church, or family, that is difficult or impossible. At that point, you need to cut them off from anything resembling emotional intimacy.

Emotional intimacy is the lifeblood of an affair. Sometimes people disclose their feelings for one another hoping that it will help keep them from acting, but all it really does is provide gasoline for a budding romantic flame. You want to starve, not feed, that fire.

2. Get help.

Find someone who will encourage Christian growth in your covenant relationship. One of the worst things that can happen is to find a friend who is actually sympathetic to any wandering tendencies. More than three-quarters of men that had an affair had a friend who did the same. As Proverbs 13:20 states, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Or as Paul states it more bluntly, “Do not be deceived, ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

It’s best if this friend or even mentor can be found in advance. I often encourage my premarital participants to identify in advance who the person is that they could call in the middle of the night and confess, “I think my heart is beginning to wander.” More importantly, let that person know who they are, and allow them to check in with you about this issue from time to time.

3. Renew your commitment to a happy marriage.

Contrary to what movies and songs often lead us to believe, only around ten percent of those that cheated did so with someone they considered “more attractive” than their spouse. Men and women who have an affair often do so because of emotional needs rather than physical ones. For men, it is usually the need to feel appreciated, respected, and valued that leads to an affair; whereas for women, it’s the drive to feel heard, loved, and cherished.

When you perceive a lack of these in your own marriage, be willing to pray together, go to counseling, read books, attend workshops and seminars and conferences —whatever it takes in order to rekindle your own passion in your marriage.

Most importantly, be willing to own your own mistakes, and try to display something of the love of God to the one whom you made that promise in the first place. As Ligon Duncan says, “People don’t just fall out of love; they fall out of repentance and forgiveness.”

In the midst of all the prep for that special day, it’s never too early to plan for the day when it could all hang in the balance. Recognize your own propensity to sin, have a plan to deal with it the moment it rears its ugly head, and stand strong in your commitment to rejoice in the wife (spouse) of your youth (Proverbs 5:18).

The Secret to “Happily Ever After”

SOURCE:  April Eldemire, LMFT/The Gottman Institute

Research Reveals The Secret to “Happily Ever After”

If you think the way to eternal love is through grand gestures of romance and passion, think again.

If you think the way to eternal love is through grand gestures of romance and passion, think again. Sure, love poems, romantic getaways, and surprise flowers are all wonderful for keeping your relationship happy, but the true secret lies in the small, every day moments.

Remember those first few months of dating?

You would spend endless amounts of energy storing up all of those little quirks, likes, and dislikes of your new love. You would dissect everything he or she said, hungry for more. What is her favorite restaurant? What is his favorite cologne? Does she like it when I tickle her here? How does he feel about me putting my hand on his leg here? It was young, fun, and exciting. It seemed effortless, and in a way, it was. Unfortunately, this type of intoxicating persistence seems to dissipate drastically once complacency kicks in. But why should it?

If you think about happily ever after like your dream job, then you have to pursue it with a vengeance.

Attack it fiercely and nurture it constantly. Think of your relationship as just as important as your life’s work. You’ll do anything and everything to make it happen. It is this intentional, insatiable quench for relationship success that makes love last.

So how do you “show up” everyday for your marriage and make it thrive, not just survive?

Couples guru Dr. John Gottman says that the secret to achieving relationship satisfaction is by doing small things every day to show you care. Adopt the motto “small things often.” His couples research that expands 40 years shows that – he calls this a “Love Map” – to show support, display love, increase intimacy and maintain mutual respect is the basis for a happy, healthy and successful relationship.

Make your relationship your most passionate life pursuit by waking up each day and committing to each other.

Acknowledge and respond to your partner in all the little ways.

Put your marriage on a pedestal and give it the attention, time, and effort it deserves.

This is the way to a “happily ever after” kind of love.

Confronting Discontentment in My Marriage

SOURCE:  Jennifer Smith/Family Life

 I had a plethora of marriage expectations that were formed as far back as early childhood. Many of those expectations were veiled, hidden in the deep places of my heart. For years I justified my notions of life and marriage, unaware of the devastating effects of those expectations if left unmet.

Entering marriage with such high expectations set my husband and me up for ruin. For example, trusting in my husband to be my everything was one of the most detrimental ways I hurt our marriage. I set my husband up for failure when I expected him to fulfill me completely.

When I wanted to feel worthy, I sought my worthiness in my husband. When I wanted to feel loved unconditionally, I sought love from my husband. When I wanted to feel comforted, cherished, validated, or encouraged, I sought those things in my husband and only in my husband. However, because my husband is human and prone to sin, inevitably he let me down and could not fulfill my needs completely. And in those times, I felt unworthy and unloved.

While some expectations are good—for example, I expect my husband to be faithful to me—when they move into unrealistic and unattainable places, they become destructive. My expectations were so lofty they hurt him. Aaron could never be my everything—he was never designed to be! And whenever I tried to make him fit that role, I unintentionally placed him as an idol above God, believing that he had the capacity to do more for me than God Himself.

With the strain Aaron and I were experiencing, we tended to be overly sensitive to conflict. It did not take much for us to offend each other, and I am embarrassed to admit I took advantage of retaliating when I felt I deserved something I was not receiving. When I became aware of any opportunity to point out fault, I didn’t hesitate to blame him. I complained about our living situation, about not having enough, about having only one car, about our finances, about our sexless life, about my husband’s flaws, about work, about anything I deemed worthy of complaint. Those unmet expectations flowed over into discontentment, which too often I nursed in my heart.

Not only did discontentment grow, but pride did as well, which grew into a sense of entitlement: I deserve better than this. And that mentality seeped not only into my marriage, but into my relationship with God. Unmet expectations of God’s role in my life lit a fire of anger within me. I believed being a daughter of the King meant that I would receive the best of everything. When it seemed as if God didn’t intervene, that anger spread like wildfire, consuming everything inside me, including my faith. I had high expectations for God to do the things I wanted, unable to grasp that God was more concerned about my character than my comfort. But in the midst of my pain and self-centered complaining, I exhausted my husband and I believe I saddened God.

After I spent several years repeating this same offense and suffering the consequences, God opened my eyes to the destruction of unmet expectations. God needed to transform me. He could do that only as I humbled myself and let go of my unrealistic and unmet expectations. Each time God humbled me, He used that experience to mold my attitude and character to reflect that of Christ and to shape my expectations to more closely align with His, which in all honesty are better than what I could ever dream of.

The transformation I underwent didn’t happen immediately. Rather, the process was spread out over time as I sought to know God and make myself known to Him—a process that continues to mature me every day.

Joy and contentment defend me from the barrage of unmet expectations. If I don’t have joy, those notions wreak havoc in my heart, turning it against the ones I love. I know because it happened countless times. It took me years of suffering and loathing in self-pity, guilt, and brokenness even to begin to understand the power of pure joy.

Joy springs up where contentment thrives, and contentment is produced through sincere thankfulness. The greatest constant I have found to help sustain me and give me strength and hope, no matter what the circumstance, is to cling to the joy of the Lord. God’s Word tells me, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10).

God taught me how to be thankful by sharing specific things I am grateful for with God and with my husband. As thankfulness fills my heart to the brim with contentment, I find myself living with extraordinary joy, regardless of unmet expectations or circumstances or past hurts.

God showed me the value of being a wife of faith, a wife who trusts Him wholeheartedly, who is confident of her worthiness and purpose. I choose to be a wife who believes she can change and believes her husband can be transformed into the man God designed him to be, and I choose to strive to affirm him in truthfulness.

I desire to be a wife of faith who can persevere no matter the circumstance because she is full of hope, which is the foundation of her motivation. I believe as I choose to walk in the Spirit, love will pour out and bless my marriage. With God’s help I can endure. I can have a thriving marriage. But it requires faith and hope.

————————————————————-

Taken from The Unveiled Wife, copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Smith.

 

5 Communication Tools That Saved My Marriage

SOURCE:  Rob Flood/Family Life

We were blissfully in love and thrilled to be on our honeymoon. Then came day five—we had our first argument. That put us on a slippery slope moving swiftly toward desperation. Within the first nine months of our marriage, Gina and I were both convinced that we not only married the wrong person, but also were condemned to a loveless marriage.

One very tangible side effect of our difficulties was poor communication. I would ask, “What’s for dinner?” She would hear, “I can’t believe you haven’t prepared dinner again tonight!”

She would say, “What time are you coming home?” I would hear, “You better get here and help me because you’re never here.”

We could not express anything we wanted to. We resorted to hurting each other with our words. We did not build each other up … we tore each other down and caused deep, emotional pain. Quite honestly, we had endured so much hurt that we could not see any hope for ever communicating well. Our despair was overwhelming.

In counseling we began learning about intentional communication. I remember thinking, “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. This stuff is so simple … I can’t believe I’m paying this guy for this.”

But, once I got off of my high horse, I realized something very simple yet profound: If communication was really that simple, everyone would be doing it and all of our communication would glorify God and reflect His image (1 Peter 4:11; Ephesians 4:29). Glorifying God did not describe my communication, and it may not describe yours either. In fact, many of us struggle to communicate well even with those we love the most: our siblings, our parents, our children, our spouse.

The road I took to learn about communication was a tough one. Here are some of the tools that helped transform my marriage and change my heart.

1. The Principle of First Response: The course of a conflict is not determined by the person who initiates, but by the person who responds.

You may feel it’s okay to strike at someone verbally because, “He is picking a fight with me.” You may be correct, but that person does not have the power to decide whether a fight actually occurs. That power rests with the responder. As Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Jesus has a well-worn track record with the Principle of First Response. Recall the times that the Scribes and the Pharisees came to question Him. They were the initiators in nearly all of their communication. Their intention was to defraud Jesus and corner Him. In how many cases were they successful? None. They failed because the power to decide the direction of each conflict rested with Jesus, the responder (Luke 20:19-26).

The implications of following Jesus’ example were huge. My wife’s sin did not give me free license to sin in return. And conversely, my sin did not give Gina free license either. By following the principle of first response, we were being called to take a poorly spoken comment and redirect it.

2. The Principle of Physical Touch: It is difficult to sin against someone while you are tenderly touching him or her.

A difficult time to apply this principle is after an argument has begun. However, a perfect time is when you know you are about to sit down and have a discussion about something that might lead to tension.

You know what those topics are in your marriage. Maybe it’s a conversation about a specific child. Maybe it’s your in-laws or your finances. For us, as you might imagine, it was when we sat down to talk about our communication. Those were tough conversations.

During these times, we would sit down and pray together … and touch. Usually we were at opposite ends of the couch with Gina’s legs stretched out across mine while I held them. (You may prefer holding hands or sitting close enough that you naturally touch.)

As we talked, we would inevitably notice something. When our conversation began to drift toward conflict, we stopped touching. We found what I’m certain you’ll find: It is very difficult to fight with someone you are tenderly touching. So, we had a choice at that point: to stop fighting so we could keep touching or to stop touching so we could keep fighting.

This type of tender touching has served us in two ways. First, it is a deterrent from arguing. Second, when we do drift into an argument, our physical separation is a visual and physical cue that our conversation is no longer glorifying God. We notice it, correct it, and get back on the right track.

3. The Principle of Proper Timing: The success of a conversation can be maximized if the timing of the conversation is carefully chosen.

The book of Proverbs tells us, “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (15:23).

Typically, the first opportunity Gina and I have to talk about the day is at dinner. We often take time then to catch up. With four young children, our dinner table is an active and busy one. Consequently, we cannot practically have an extended and meaningful conversation.

So, if something has occurred that I must discuss with Gina, I will wait until the children are asleep. To bring it up during dinner is to invite frustration and ineffectiveness.

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios where we’re more likely to fail.

Gina is a very intentional homemaker and often has wonderful ideas on how to better serve our family. Let’s say she is contemplating a new approach to family dining. She’s been thinking through this for weeks and she’s now ready to get my input. This is a very good thing—but probably not at 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon when I’m watching a football game.

I’m also prone to fall into the poor timing trap. For example, Gina and I could be downstairs enjoying normal conversation. We head upstairs at 11:30 p.m. and Gina is ready for bed. As the lights go out, I ask, “What do you think God is doing with the children?” This is a question Gina would love for me to ask … about three hours earlier. When 11:30 comes, she’s ready for bed—not an extensive discussion.

There are times when a conversation is critical to have at that very moment. In those cases, of course, the football game goes off and we talk. Or, the lights go back on and we’re up until 2 a.m. However, those should be the exceptions rather than the rule. The majority of the time, we should be more strategic in the timing of our conversations.

4. The Principle of Mirroring: Understanding can be enhanced if we measure it often throughout a conversation.

The Scriptures inform us that, if we are to understand and become wise, we must be sure to incline our ears. Proverbs 22:17 states, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge.”

Have you ever meant one thing by what you said but the person you were talking to heard something else? It can make for very frustrating communication. If you’re not sure if your spouse is getting what you’re talking about, check to see if you hear this phrase a lot: “What do you mean by that?”

Mirroring can help you test whether you are hearing your spouse properly. Once your spouse makes a point … repeat it to him or her. Say something like this: “So, what I hear you saying is …” or, “Are you saying … ?” Then, in your own words, tell your spouse what you understand to have been said. Then, the most important part of mirroring comes. You must allow your spouse to either affirm or correct what you’ve said.

As we learned this principle, I often didn’t like Gina’s negative or inaccurate summaries of my statements. So, I defended them and failed to allow her the freedom to speak honestly. In time, I learned that her summaries actually were quite accurate; my reactions were negative because I didn’t like how they exposed me.

The point of mirroring is not to be right, not to defend yourself, but to know that you are hearing accurately. If you seek to understand rather than to make yourself understood, then you are primed for success with the principle of mirroring.

5. The Principle of Prayer: Success in communication is more likely when we invite God to be an active participant and guide.

This principle is not complicated, but it requires our close attention. We’ve become so accustomed to hearing about prayer that its importance often passes us by.

No matter what principle you might be using at the time or what subject you might be talking about, no scenario is beyond prayer. I have tended to overestimate my own ability to communicate well and righteously. That was evidenced in our first year of marriage.

We will eventually and inevitably sin in our communication with each other. When it begins to drift away from God’s intended purpose for it, we have a choice: Will we be puffed up with pride or will we have the humility to stop right where we are and ask God to help redeem our conversation?

I wish someone would have shared with me what late 19th and early 20th century evangelist R.A. Torrey said on prayer:

The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle. The reason why others succeed is because they have gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came … Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.

One of the greatest difficulties that couples face with this principle is awkwardness. They are not used to praying together. So, as they begin to like each other less in the midst of unconstructive communication, the thought of praying together is not very appealing.

We learned an easy fix to this … start praying together. Begin with 30 seconds of prayer as you go to bed each night. Pray regularly as a family prior to eating. Pick one night a week to pray for your children, your pastor, and your marriage. Among the enormous benefits that you’ll see in your family, the regularity of prayer will make praying in the midst of communication breakdown more probable.

The transformation never ends

As a result of God’s grace intersecting with these principles, communication is now among the greatest strengths of our marriage. It’s not that we don’t still mess up—we do. Thankfully, God continues to work on me. He’ll continue to work on you, too.

At one time, I was convinced that I married the wrong woman. She was convinced she married the wrong man. Now, we cannot imagine knowing, loving, or enjoying anyone more than we do each other.

Your relationship with your spouse may differ from ours, but this much is true: Your spouse should be the single most important person you have in your life. Like it or not, communication is the tool that God has given us to knit our hearts and our minds together. Success is possible if we’re willing to apply some intentional principles. We’ve all been called to God-honoring communication. Step forward in humility and faith and watch Him transform you.

——————————————————————–

© 2005 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

Marriage: Don’t Fix — Feel

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

3 A’s of Empathy in Marriage

Sometimes, my wife, Susan, doesn’t need or want me to do things for her or fix things for her. Sometimes she’d rather I just feel things with her. That’s what empathy is all about. Empathy deepens a marriage through a shared understanding, perspective, or experience. I realized the importance of empathy from, of all places, an NFL coach.

As I shared in my book All Pro Dad, Coach Jim Caldwell, at the time with the Indianapolis Colts, once shared with me what he considers to be two critical components of leadership. The first one, expertise, didn’t surprise me. But the second one did: empathy.

Applying it to parenting, he said to me, “You must have empathy in both parenting and coaching. Whether it’s one of my players or one of my children, as a leader, I have to be able to put myself in their shoes. Being a coach has made me a better parent and being a parent made me a better coach. Having kids taught me how to empathize with others.”

Through the years, as I’ve thought about Coach Caldwell’s words, I’ve become absolutely convinced that he’s right…and that it applies to marriage as well. Empathy involves both the head and the heart. If you recognize the need to better empathize with your spouse, consider these three A’s to feel empathy:

  • Awareness — Be aware of what your spouse is feeling and what’s behind that feeling.
  • Agenda — Set aside your own agenda and focus on the needs of your spouse.
  • Action — Take action on meeting the needs of your spouse.

Let’s unpack each one of those a bit more.

Awareness. Being more aware of your spouse’s feelings starts with being observant around them. You can’t read their mind or heart, so you have to observe and ask and listen.

  • Read your spouse’s nonverbal cues, like their facial expressions.
  • Avoid making assumptions that whatever emotional struggles your spouse has are all about you. It could be they’re upset about something at work or the kids. When you assume the worst, you sometimes bring out the worst in your spouse.

Agenda. This is about being selfless instead of selfish. It’s about putting your spouse’s needs before your own.

  • Deprioritize your plans. If your spouse is struggling and you have plans, making their needs a higher priority speaks volumes to them. You can’t be selfish and empathetic at the same time.
  • Resist the urge to fix things. Sometimes your spouse needs to hear you say, “I love you and I care about you” more than a game plan for how to make their life better.
  • Set aside your agenda even if it’s inconvenient. I remember having my Saturday all planned out and thought it would go just as planned. So, when Susan wanted to share how she was feeling with me, I got frustrated and let her know that she infringed on my plans. I learned very quickly that my reaction was not only selfish but also didn’t do much to build intimacy in our relationship.
  • Hold your schedule loosely. Being late to church, a kid’s practice, or a dinner reservation may be a small price to pay to really connect with your spouse. If you choose your schedule over your spouse, you might bulldoze your spouse’s heart in the process.

Action. Find something you can do for your spouse that shows that they are your priority and that you understand them.

  • As the saying goes, Actions speak louder than words. There are certain things we can do that tend to be especially effective at filling the chambers of a wife’s or husband’s heart.
  • Actions speak louder than words, but attitudes speak louder than actions. Whatever you do for your spouse, do it with a cheerful attitude.
  • Do things with pure motives. If I see Susan heading into a jam-packed week and I say, “Hey, let me go the store or do laundry for you,” but I did it to get something in return, that’s not loving well.

5 Tips for Investing in Your Wife

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

Your wife needs your creative energy if she is to become all that God designed her to be.

When I was 20 and a sophomore in college, I received a hot investment tip from a stockbroker. Without getting my dad’s advice, I invested $500 in 400 shares. It couldn’t go lower than $1.25 per share … or so I thought.

Sometime later my dad found out and suggested that I use the stock to wallpaper my room! It would serve as a reminder to invest in stocks that are proven and to get my investment advice from a trustworthy authority.

The Scriptures are the best, most proven, and most authoritative “Investment Tip Sheet” you’ll ever read. Like having a copy of the Wall Street Journal today that will be published 40 years from now, the Bible tells you how to invest in your wife’s life today if you want to experience a fabulous return in 40 years. And by the way, as her stock goes up, you will share in the profits!

Your wife needs your creative energies if she is to become all that God created her to be. To help you in this area, here are some of the best tips I know for giving both of you a rich return on your investment.

Investment Tip #1: Treat her as a fully participating partner. Today the business world has all kinds of partnerships: silent partners, financial partners, equal partners, controlling partners, minority partners, and more. But in marriage, God intended for us to have only one kind: a fully participating partnership.

The apostle Peter sets forth the concept of mutual partnership as he instructs a man to treat his wife as “a fellow heir of the grace of life.” Although her function and role as a woman differs from yours as a man, she has an equal inheritance as a child of God.

When you recognize your wife as a fully participating partner in your life and marriage, you build her esteem. If you exclude her from your life, you devalue her worth as a person and her identity suffers. Without realizing it, you send your wife an unmistakably clear signal that says, “I don’t need you. I can live my life without you.”

Some husbands believe that the most difficult words to say are: “I love you” or “Will you forgive me?” But the three-word admission that seems the most threatening of all is, “I need you.”

A man may fear he will lose his wife’s respect if he admits his need, but I’ve experienced quite the opposite. When I express my absolute need for Barbara, she is so built up and encouraged that she is free to respect me even more. I do not lose my identity as a man by expressing my dependence on her.

You will make your wife a participating partner in your life when you tenderly look her in the eyes and say, “I need you.” Why not make this an experiential reality in your marriage by frequently saying:

  • “I need you to listen as I talk about what’s troubling me. And I need your perspective on my problems and your belief in me as a person.”
  • “I need you to help me become the man God created me to be.”
  • “I want you to have total access into my life. I need you to keep me honest in areas of my life in which I could stray from Christ. You may question me or confront me on any issue.”
  • “You are the person I most trust with my life.”
  • “I need you for your advice, judgments, and wise counsel on decisions I face, especially at work.”
  • “I need your prayers for a temptation I am facing.”

I want to encourage you to let your wife into the interior of your life. Are you keeping her out of some area of your life? Do you tend to act independently of her in any area, including career or business? She may be more interested than you think. What about financial matters? She most likely will offer a perspective that you need to hear. A difficult office relationship? Her advice might solve the problem.

Investment Tip #2: Protect her. The apostle Peter also exhorts husbands, “You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman.” Peter’s emphasis here is on “understanding” because she is a “weaker vessel.” Your wife wants a man who understands her and her needs.

Your wife needs to feel safe, secure, and protected. As her husband, it’s up to you to provide that security. I was reminded of a woman’s need for protection years ago when I attended a conference. During the event, a young woman was raped in her room. Later, when the speaker told the attendees what had happened, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Instinctively, and in unison, as though led by an orchestra conductor, nearly every husband in the audience tenderly slid his arm around his wife. Likewise, almost every wife slipped closer into his protective embrace. It was a physical gesture of a woman’s need for safekeeping and a man’s natural desire to protect his wife.

Certainly, you already protect your wife physically. You wouldn’t think of having it any other way. You discourage her going out at night if it is dangerous. You protect her by encouraging her to lock the car when she goes shopping. You talk about what to do if a stranger forces his way into the house. And you provide the kind of security she needs at home for the times you are away. All these statements and actions demonstrate that she indeed is valued and that you care about what happens to her.

But are you protecting her from other muggers in her life, such as:

  • Overscheduling, letting her life get out of balance, and becoming too driven?
  • Others’ manipulation of her emotions and time?
  • Her own unrealistic goals or expectations, which set her up for failure?
  • Her tendency to compare herself with others—where she repeatedly comes up short in her own eyes?
  • Burnout at work? At home?
  • The children, who would take advantage of her weaknesses that they know so well?
  • People who repeatedly discourage her?

Obviously, you can’t protect your wife from every pressure, worry, fear, or loss. But you can do your best to anticipate many of these problems before they occur and to establish a solid security system for her protection.

Investment Tip #3: Honor her. When God established marriage, He knew that one of the greatest components for building worth into another person would be honor. We see this in His command to each husband: “Grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” Webster defines honor as “high regard or great respect given; especially glory, fame; distinction.”

Every marriage is susceptible to leaks, and ours is no exception. The world lures my wife with glittery, false promises of fulfillment and true significance. If I fail to honor her and esteem her as a woman of distinction, then I ignore the reality of her need and the deceptive power of the world’s promises. It’s just a matter of time before she will begin to wear down and look elsewhere for worth.

The following are a few techniques to honor your wife that can give you a competitive edge while also building your wife’s self-esteem:

First, honor your wife by learning the art of putting her on a pedestal. If you focus on honoring her and caring for her needs, and on nurturing her as your most valued relationship, then you can truly make a difference in how she feels about herself. Capture your wife’s heart by treating her with respect, tenderness, and the highest esteem.

Second, honor your wife by recognizing her accomplishments. Frequently I look into Barbara’s eyes and verbally express my wonder at all she does. She wears many hats and is an amazingly hard worker. At other times, I stand back in awe of the woman of character she has become. Her steady walk with God is a constant stream of ministry to me.

Third, honor your wife by speaking to her with respect. Without careful attention, your tongue can become caustic, searing, and accusing. Washington Irving once said, “The tongue is the only tool that gets sharper with use.”

If your wife works outside the home, she has some unique needs for honor. She may need the practical honor of a free evening once or twice a week when you volunteer to do it all: Put the children to bed, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, etc.

Fourth, honor your wife by extending common courtesies. You may think that these little amenities were worthwhile only during courtship, but actually they are a great way to demonstrate respect and distinction over the long haul. Common courtesy is at the heart of servanthood; it says, “My life for yours.” It bows before another to show esteem and dignity.

Investment Tip #4: Develop her gifts and horizons as a woman.

First, help her grow as a Christian. Your wife is your number one disciple. Do you encourage her spiritual growth? It’s the smartest thing you could possibly do. When your wife grows in this area, not only does she triumph at life, but you benefit as well. Help her to grow spiritually by praying regularly for her and with her—at bedtime, in the morning before leaving for work, at mealtimes. It will encourage her.

Interact together over God’s Word and its application to your individual lives, as well as to your family. Encourage your wife to employ her spiritual gifts in service to others outside your home if she has time.

Second, develop her talents. Take part in her life by nurturing the development of her dormant talents. Like fruit seeds that never have been planted in fertile soil and watered, your wife’s gifts may need your care in order to germinate.

If you already have done this, you know that she responds to this personalized focus. She feels that you value her and are helping her to expand her life and utilize her gifts so that she might be even more productive. Perhaps your wife already has influence. Can you supply additional resources so that she can become even more effective?

Third, help her develop new horizons. Most of us fail to anticipate major change points in the lives of our wives, such as the birth of a child, children’s teen years, menopause, and the empty nest. When your children leave home, your wife will suddenly have enormous chunks of time and attention to devote to another worthwhile cause. Are you developing her today so that she will be ready to take some risks later?

Investment Tip #5: Assist in problem solving. Isn’t it interesting that, for most men, work gobbles up most of our most creative problem-solving energies, our best leadership, and our most noble attitudes? Home usually gets the leftovers. One of my friends has on his office desk a plaque that reads, “Save a little for home.”

Your wife would benefit if you saved a little more for home too. Start by considering this question: What one problem in your wife’s life, if solved, would truly strengthen her? Is there a complete roadblock in the way or just a small boulder? How could you remove it?

Here are some ideas:

  • Watch your wife carefully. Observing her life may turn up problems that can be isolated and solved quickly.
  • Get the facts. What exactly is the problem? Whose responsibility is it? What is the cause of the problem?
  • Discuss your alternatives together. Be sure to find out what your wife really feels is best in the situation. She may be too close to the problem, or she may know what needs to be done and simply need your leadership and backing to take action.
  • Go to God in prayer. Ask Him for the wisdom and resources to solve the problem. Be careful of procrastination; make a decision under God’s leadership and then help your wife to implement it.
  • Evaluate the results. Inspect what happens. Refine the decision and its implementation through thorough analysis of how things are working out.

Does your wife have an area or two in which she consistently fails? Time management? Budgeting? Meal planning? Problem solving at work or at home? You can help. By choosing to develop her in these areas, you encourage her growth so she can better handle the pressure. But you have a choice. Either develop her to handle the responsibilities or come alongside her to help accomplish the tasks.

She needs you to help her become all God created her to be.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Adapted from Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem , published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. Copyright © 1995 by Dennis Rainey.

 

Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery

SOURCE:  Cindy Beall/Family Life

Four lessons from my journey of regaining trust in my husband.

Editor’s Note: In 2002, Cindy Beall was a happily married wife to Chris, her husband of nine years. Chris had been on staff with a church in Oklahoma City for only six weeks when he made a confession that would change their lives forever: He had been unfaithful with multiple women over the course of two and a half years, and he was pretty sure one of those women was now pregnant with his child. He also admitted an addiction to pornography.

His complete inability to control his addiction had left Chris utterly broken, humbled, and repentant. Over the course of several weeks and much prayer, Cindy sensed God calling her to stay in her marriage. The following is an excerpt from her book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, which tells the story of how God redeemed their marriage, making it “better than new.”

 

Every week I receive e-mails from women who ask many questions about getting through infidelity in their marriage. Of all the questions I am asked, one of the most common is, “How did you learn to trust him again?”

And every time I give the same answer: “I am still learning.”

I would love to be able to come up with the perfect algebraic formula that shows exactly how to restore trust. But that isn’t going to happen—not because I barely squeezed out of algebra with a 71 percent, but because trust and forgiveness don’t exist in the land of numbers. They are born of God’s grace, mercy, and healing.

You don’t have to have endured infidelity in your marriage to lose trust. Trust can be broken in many different ways. I am still on my journey of having my trust restored in my husband, but I have learned a few things that I hope you will find helpful.

1. Trust means taking a risk.

My husband works hard to regain my trust, but I still struggle. I wish I could say otherwise, but I’d be lying.

Isn’t that the way it is with all of us? I’ve come to realize that we are all capable of doing things we never imagined we’d do. So trusting a person is a risk. We must learn to trust people, but we must also realize that people will fail us. It’s part of life. But if we place our utmost trust in our heavenly Father, we will never be let down.

There is a mental battle going on inside me as I strive to trust my husband more every day. I engage in this battle on a regular basis, and it can be exhausting. But the more I do it and believe what God has shown me, the easier it becomes.

I stand on the one thing that is trustworthy and never fails. I stand on the Word of God. Praise Him that His words are sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). There is power in them, and when we claim them, believe in them, stand on them, and trust in them, we will be lifted up. We will find peace.

2. Replace anger with forgiveness.

We’ve all been wounded. I am no stranger to the pain I see in the eyes of so many people. We can try to cover it up and “get over it,” but if we don’t truly forgive, we will be stunted individuals going about our lives and becoming more and more embittered. Forgiveness is essential. It’s also possible.

The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to forgiveness. We don’t have to wonder what our heavenly Father thinks about the idea. He’s the author of forgiveness, and we’d do well to follow His commands. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it? Especially when you’ve been wounded by someone you’ve loved as unconditionally as possible. It sounds like a cruel joke to expect us to just let it go, doesn’t it?

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know that you have a sinful nature. If we don’t recognize that nature, we won’t recognize our need for a Savior. We also need to understand and remember the true meaning of God’s love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we truly understand God’s forgiveness, can we really withhold our forgiveness from those who have hurt us?

3. Stop nursing your wounds.

It can become second nature to tend to our wounds with such care that we begin to identify only with the wound and not with a life of healing or restoration. When something reminds us of our pain, we nurse the hurt and then just can’t get past it. It’s almost as if we forget that we, too, need a Savior. We’re so busy saying, “Look at my hurt!” that we forget to give it over to God.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sure, I haven’t been unfaithful to my husband physically, but I have committed sins, too. And when we sin, we are not just sinning against one person; we are also sinning against our heavenly Father.

I know how hard this is. I am profoundly aware of how badly my flesh wants to throw my husband’s sin back in his face when he gets mad at me for something small. I know how easily I could remind him of his failures and make sure he knows just how picture-perfect my marital resume is. But reacting like that will never bring about forgiveness.

4. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving.

One of the harder parts of forgiveness is that we don’t always feel like forgiving. The problem is that feelings are often misleading and erratic. I learned a long time ago that you rarely feel your way into positive actions, but you can act your way into better feelings. You may not really want to wake up at five for that morning run, but you do it anyway. Afterward, you are so glad you made the extra effort because you feel good and have more energy. There is great satisfaction in making a choice to do something that your flesh was yelling at you not to do! You acted your way into a feeling.

How to know you’re healing

The results of forgiveness look different for everyone. Some relationships will be mended in spite of betrayal, and some will end because of it. The key, though, is to make sure you are healing from this wound. You don’t want to get a knot in your stomach every time you think about this person, especially if he or she is your spouse.

Here’s one way you can know you have healed from a wound caused by someone else: You cease to feel resentment against your offender. My mentor says, “You know you’ve healed from the hurt that someone else’s actions have caused when you can look back on the situation and it’s just a fact.”

We all make mistakes. We all have done things we regret. We all need forgiveness. And we all need to extend that same forgiveness to others—not just today, but every day.

It’s time to forgive.

——————————————————————————————–

Adapted from: Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken. Copyright © 2011 by Cindy Beall. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. 

 

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,277 other followers