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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Q&A: He’s Sorry Now. Do I Wait?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

Question:  My husband has had several affairs. One sexual and the others emotional. After each one I have tried to work on me and felt they occurred because I needed to fix things in my own life. I needed to be more loveable, appealing and easy to be with. In so many ways I have been completely humbled and broken, but despite the changes in my own life I recently discovered he had resumed calling the woman he had been having an emotional affair with 4 years ago. In addition, he has confessed to having a sexual addiction or integrity issues involving pornography and pleasing himself sexually. Yet, even while he has been doing this, I have felt loved and cared for by him most of the time.

My biggest concern has been however, when we have discussions, I feel very intimidated by him and end up backing away or apologizing profusely because I’m afraid of his anger and intimidation. I’m not perfect and see so many of my own faults and insecurities but I desire to have intimacy with God.  I’m fit, I have a great profession, close relationships and work at being a good parent to my son (16) and daughter (18).

So here is my dilemma. My husband and I are separated. After the last affair, it was agreed if he ever did this again it would mean automatic divorce, no more counseling, etc. When we first separated I felt scared, but now after 5 months I’m fine and our children are fine.  They say they prefer him gone and we have needed time to heal. Before, I tried so hard to rebuild my marriage that our children took a back seat. Now I’m enjoying the peace of our home instead of always being anxious that I would make a mistake that would drive him into the arms of another woman.

I’m thriving, going to a great Christian counselor and reading and trying to understand sexual addiction. However, my husband wants another chance and feels he now understands why he made so many hurtful choices. He periodically meets with a pastor from our church but has not sought counseling or a recovery group. He seems softer, has realized much and constantly says he misses me and loves me, but I have lost my desire for him. I almost would be embarrassed to put myself through this again but feel guilty or unsure if I’m disobeying God. Isn’t God a God of second or fifth chances?

I have never been good at discerning when my husband was betraying me how can I ever trust him. How do I know if he is fully recovered? Am I being disobedient by not giving him another chance?

Answer: Oh how we wish life’s decisions could be black and white and that God would just tell us what to do. I struggle with the same dilemma of “not knowing” the future, or the reliability of a person’s words.  Talk is cheap and insight, even good and truthful self-awareness, is still a long way off from faithful and consistent change in a person’s heart and habits.

The good news is you don’t have to decide just yet about whether or not to follow through with divorce. Although you certainly have biblical grounds. You indicate you are getting good counsel so I’m going to give you some things to talk about with your counselor to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

First, pay attention to your feelings but don’t allow yourself to be ruled by them. You feel anxious about his anger and intimidation. Is this true in other relationships or mainly with him?  You indicate your own insecurity issues and sometimes people who fear rejection are easily intimidated into compliance because they fear disapproval or loss of relationship even when the other person isn’t intentionally trying to be controlling.

This season of separation can be a good test for you to observe the fruit of your change as well as his.  Are you able to speak up and say no, even if you still feel anxious or intimidated? And, can he hear and respect your “no” the first time, without arguing, trying to change your mind or threatening you with loss of potential reconciliation? If you’re still not able to be clear and direct with what you want or don’t want because of fear, you need to figure out why.  Is it him or it is your need to please, to not disappoint, to be a good Christian girl, and/or to always be the accommodating one?

Your husband has done great damage to your family and marriage yet he doesn’t seem to be working very hard to make sure he never does it again. That does not sit well with me at all. Why has he not gone to personal counseling, joined a recovery group or taken other steps to deal with his problems? You say you’re reading about sexual addiction, but is he? You seem to have done lots of work to mature, grow, and become a more godly woman but what exactly has your husband done to identify his problems and change them?

From what you describe, it seems to me that your husband has been ruled by a selfish and a lazy heart. (These are defined more fully in my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship). Pornography is a selfish and lazy way to have sexual pleasure and release without the responsibilities of relationship or mutual giving. It’s all about him!  From what you describe, most of the marriage has been all about him and what you’ve lacked or not done to make him happy or keep him faithful to you.

Affairs are also selfish and indulgent. He wasn’t thinking of you or your children, only about what he felt and what he wanted. From my vantage point what you describe as your husband’s change is really just more of the same but now instead of the other woman, you’ve become the desired object he wants.

Yes, God is a God of second chances, of fifth chances, of hundredth chances, but you are not God. You do not know his heart.  Only God can discern his true motives. However, you can use the growth you’ve achieved to speak the truth in love, ask him to do the work required in order for you to be willing to consider reconciliation and build trust again and see what happens. If his heart is truly changed, he will. If not, he will get angry, blame you and want you to do the work to trust him. You’ve already been around that bend several times and you’re wise to not repeat it.

7 Things to Remember About Sex

SOURCE:  Family Life Ministry/Bob Lepine

Your spouse approaches intimacy much differently than you.

It’s no surprise that many husbands and wives think differently about sex. And these differences can easily become a source of conflict in marriage.

With that in mind, I want to suggest seven things men need to remember about sex and seven things wives need to keep in mind as well:

What husbands should remember about sex

1. Hollywood sex is made up. It’s a fantasy. The people in romantic scenes in movies are actors. Don’t try to measure your marital sex against what you see in a romantic film.

2. Sex is probably (but not necessarily) a lower priority for your wife than it is for you. Are you as committed to meeting her needs and desires as you’d like her to be with your desire for sex? Could you even name her top three relationship needs? Here is one of them …

3. Your wife needs a safe and secure relationship. In order for her to engage in sex with heart and mind and body, she needs to know that you will be there for her, that you are committed to her, and that she is your one and only.

4. Your wife wants to have sex with a companion, not with someone who simply shares her mailing address. If you’re not spending time having fun together in all kinds of settings, she’s going to be less motivated to be with you sexually.

5. You don’t need to have an affair to be an unfaithful husband. Whether you look at pornography or at other women, the Bible makes it clear that any lust for a woman who is not your wife is adultery.

6. There is no secret formula to arousal. If you think you have found a secret formula, and you attempt to repeat the recipe, your wife will change the secret. Women don’t want to be figured out. They also don’t want to be manipulated.

7. Your wife is insecure about her physical beauty. She sees all the flaws. Watch what you say to her.

What wives should remember about sex

1. Sex is God’s idea. He created it and gave it as a good gift to husbands and wives in marriage. It is a key part of His plan for how we become one in marriage.

2. For most men, sex is a big deal—and it’s not because men are perverted or ungodly. God delights when a husband and wife enjoy marital intimacy.

3. How you respond to your husband when he initiates sex is critical. To be uninterested can communicate a lack of respect and honor for him. I’m not saying you need to say yes every time he initiates. But when you say no, explain why in a way that still affirms your desire for him.

4. Sex is a marital discipline. It’s a part of how we serve each other in marriage. It is wrong for a wife to use sex as a reward or a lack of sex as punishment. The Bible clearly teaches that husbands and wives are not to deprive each other in this area.

5. Men are visually oriented. No matter how you see yourself, he is stimulated by sight. Again, God is the One who made men with a desire to see women naked. And the only legitimate way for your husband to satisfy this God-given desire is for you to let him see you naked.

6. Men in romance novels and soap operas are made up. The strong, sensitive, caring men portrayed in most romance novels are fictional characters. No husband can live up to the near perfection an author presents.

7. Creativity is good. The Bible says that the marriage bed is undefiled. This means that a husband and wife have freedom to explore what brings them pleasure and enjoyment in the sexual arena of marriage. Neither of you should be pressured to do something you’re uncomfortable with in the sexual relationship. But passion can be stirred by variety and creativity in the sexual relationship.

Submission: Everybody Has A Role

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 NIV (Also read Ephesians 5:18-6:4, Galatians 5:13)

In God’s plan for the family, each family member has a role to fulfill. God’s divine revelation for the family is mutual submission.

Each family member is first a child of God. Children of God are to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. Each family member is called to submit to and respect the other family members’ God-given roles. This attitude of mutual respect can pass from generation to generation.

Important lessons about marriage are taught by the parents to the children through verbal and nonverbal communication. These lessons can have a tremendous influence, good or bad, on children. For example, if a husband loves and respects his wife, his son will probably love and respect his wife. And so on through the generations.

God does not view the various family positions in a hierarchy of superior to inferior. Each is given a different, but equally important, role to play. As each one carries out his or her role in the way God has designed, everyone will benefit.

The husband is to honor and submit to his wife’s role. To listen to her insights and the special wisdom God has given her. The wife is called to submit to and honor her husband as the spiritual leader of the home. Children are to honor and obey their parents. Parents are to submit to and honor their children, listening to the simple wisdom God has blessed them with … respecting their God-given talents and gifts and giving room and encouragement to grow in those areas … respecting their children’s unique traits and helping them grow into the person God has designed them to be.

Mutual submission, out of reverence for Christ.

Father, thank you for your perfect design for the family. Help our family members to understand and fulfill our roles according to your plan. Teach us to respect and submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. In Jesus’ name …

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


These thoughts were drawn from …

Committed Couples: God’s Plan for Marriage & the Family by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

3 WAYS TO BUILD EMPATHY AND IMPROVE COMMUNICATION IN YOUR MARRIAGE

SOURCE:  /Verily Magazine

Marriage is hard.

The difficulty primarily stems from the frustrating fact that men are from Mars and women are from Venus and, according to my five-year-old who is currently learning about the solar system, “Those planets are really, really different.”

It’s not news to any couples who have made a commitment to share a life that it can be painful at times. If love is like a flame (as the artists and poets have told us), it has to be deliberately tended to like the Olympic torch, not left to burn out like a 10-cent votive from IKEA. In my seven years of marriage, I’ve discovered that this kind of attentiveness is expressed most clearly through empathy. Taking the time and energy to put myself in my husband’s place—and check out the view from Mars—is the only way to avoid near planetary collision.

Dr. John Gottman—famed researcher, therapist, and founder of the Gottman Institute—cites empathy as “the key to attunement” with your spouse. Gottman describes empathy as “as mirroring a partner’s feelings in a way that lets them know that their feelings are understood and shared.”

You can’t love without knowing, and the path toward knowing involves both seeking and finding through a gauntlet of blood, sweat, and tears. There’s no X-ray machine for this kind of insight, but there is a way to see and be seen, and that is to really look and really share.

Here are three ways my husband and I have learned to build empathy:

01. Take a personal inventory.

Taking a personality test—not of the Disney Prince kind, but a real framework to understand yourself—is a great starting point. One important thing to figure out is if your significant other is introverted or extroverted. Recognizing that my husband is an introvert, and then understanding that introverts are drained by socializing and must have some recovery time, changed my marriage for the better.

Another terrific tool is knowledge of the Five Love Languages. We’ve all heard it before: “Do unto others as you would have then do unto you.” That is great as a general guideline, but it turns out that can get a little dicey if you’re someone who needs quality time above all but your beloved primarily wants to give jewelry. Or if you enjoy heaping words of affirmation but they fall on the deaf ears of someone who just really wants a back rub. If you’re aware of his love language, you’re already well on your way to increased empathy.

02. Ask and tell.

Things get tough even in the best relationships. Stressful situations can especially wreak havoc if you and your partner don’t intentionally check in with one another to see how each is faring. The best way to find out what is working and what is not is to simply talk about it. Explain what you like—and what you don’t. You can say, “I really appreciate your little love notes but not so much when I find one in the refrigerator next to a completely empty milk jug.” Now you’re getting somewhere.

03. Workshop date nights

If you find that the two of you are talking past one another, it’s time for a date night. This kind of date night is for talking about what you’re feeling—big picture and nitty-gritty—and listening to your beloved do the same. Practice telling back what you just heard to be sure that you really understand it. Misinterpretations are the worst but are easily avoided with the help of honesty and clarity. Avoid being petty or nasty. Don’t let your anger or annoyance get the best of you. Instead be open about how you feel and let it refine your relationship so your man clearly sees what has been entrusted to him.

All of this takes a lot of effort, but regularly exercising empathy will build up your endurance to get you through the worst of times. And that’s exactly how lifelong commitment works.

Q&A: Is an Abused Spouse Called to Suffer for Jesus?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

This week one of my coaching clients shared that her Christian counselor told her that her role as a godly wife was to submit to her husband’s abuse and quietly suffer for Jesus.  She was told that setting boundaries was unbiblical and asking her spouse to change specific behaviors for her to feel safe or rebuild trust was demanding.  Is that true?

Does scripture encourage a spouse to patiently and quietly endure harsh and abusive treatment within her or his marriage?

The passage that we usually turn to support this thinking is found in 1 Peter 2:13-3:22 where Peter writes to believers who face mistreatment for their faith.

The entire book of 1 Peter has to do with suffering, but let’s see what Peter teaches us about how we suffer in a godly way as well and when we should patiently endure suffering.

First, let’s look at how Peter tells us to handle ourselves in the presence of abusive people.  Peter is clear that believers should be respectful of others regardless of how we are treated. Often in destructive marriages a spouse who is verbally battered or emotionally neglected or abused starts to lob some verbal bombs of her own.

Instead of responding to mistreatment in a way that honors God, she dishonors herself, her husband, and God by her building resentment as well as her explosive or sinful reactions to his abuse.

We must help her choose a different path. Peter encourages us not to pay back evil for evil by reminding us of Jesus, who, “when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:22,23).

Second, Peter explains when we should endure abusive treatment.  He writes, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?  But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”

The good Peter is talking about here is a moral good, a doing the right thing kind of good.  Although in this passage Peter specifically advises us to submit to authority, Peter himself was flogged after he refused to stop preaching about Christ even though he’d been ordered by those in authority to stop.  Peter refused to submit because in doing so, he would have to stop doing good (Acts 4:19;5:17-42).

In the same way when a wife refuses to submit to her husband’s sinful behavior, or stands up for her children who are being mistreated, or refuses to sign a dishonest income tax report, or calls 911 when her husband is threatening to harm her or himself,  she is doing good even if it doesn’t feel good to her spouse.

Her behavior honors God, protects her children and does what is in the best interest of her spouse.  (It is never in someone’s best interests to enable sin to flourish.)

When a woman takes these brave steps she will suffer.

She may suffer financially as her husband sits in jail because she called the police when he hit her.  She may suffer the censure from her church when she separates from him because of his unrepentant use of pornography and verbal abuse.  She may suffer with loneliness, retaliation from her spouse, disapproval from her friends and family for the stance she’s taken.

That’s exactly the kind of suffering Peter is talking about.  He’s speaking about suffering for doing good instead of being passive or fearful or doing the wrong thing or nothing at all.  Peter is saying that when we do what is right and we get mistreated for it, God sees it and commends us.

When we counsel a wife that God calls her to provide all the benefits of a good marriage regardless of how her husband treats her, provides for her, or violates their marital vows we’re asking her to lie and pretend. This is not good for her or her marriage.

This counsel also reinforces the abusive person’s delusions that he can do as he pleases with no consequences. It would enable him to stay blind to his sin and colludes with his destructive ways, which is not good for him, for her, or for their family. That kind of passivity does not honor God.

Peter concludes his teaching with these words.  “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV).

If we encourage a woman to suffer for Jesus, let’s make sure we’re encouraging her to suffer for doing good rather than to suffer for staying passive or pretending.

Why Compliments are Powerful

SOURCE:  

There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. ~ Mother Teresa

Psychologist John Gottman most likely agrees. His widely respected research found that in good marriages, compliments outnumber criticisms by more than five to one.

My book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love:30 Minutes A Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted, tells exactly how to hold a successful marriage meeting. They are short, gently structured conversations with your spouse which fosters romance, intimacy, teamwork, and smoother resolution of issues.

Appreciation is the first agenda topic. Each partner takes an uninterrupted turn telling the other what he or she valued about the other during the past week. Doing this sets a positive tone for collaborative discussion of the remaining agenda topics: chores (tasks, business, etc.); planning good times; and problems and challenges.

Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. Besides enjoying the process of giving and receiving appreciation, you’re likely to find that complimenting your spouse results in her or him doing what you like more often.

Some people say they hold their own version of a weekly meeting with their spouse but without including the topic of appreciation. What’s wrong with that? By omitting this key relationship enhancer, they risk taking each other for granted.

Whether you are complimenting your mate during a marriage meeting or anytime, here are some ways to do it well:

  • “I appreciate you for cleaning the kitchen counter tonight.”
  • “Thank you for going to the play with me last Saturday night.”
  • “I like how handsome you look in the blue sweater you’re wearing now.”

If you say, “you did a good job cleaning the kitchen counter,” you are making a “you” statement. You can sound like you are judging rather than complimenting in a heartfelt way. It’s better to begin with “I.”

Other ways to enhance your appreciative comments:

  • Use body language and a warm voice. Smile and make eye contact.
  • Compliment positive character traits: “I appreciated your kindness in visiting my sick aunt with me.”
  • Be specific: “I appreciate how lovely you looked in your new navy dress you wore to the party Saturday night.”

Take nothing for granted. Does he read a bedtime story to the children? Did you like her attentiveness at the party when she caught your eye from across the room and smiled? Did you value his thoughtfulness in phoning to say he’d be late?

When complimented, listen silently, then say “thank you” graciously. Denying a compliment (e.g., saying “I look fat in that dress”) is like refusing a gift. If you haven’t learned to accept a compliment, practice. It’s important!

Do not make disguised “you” statements. They sound critical and create emotional distance. Don’t say, “I appreciate that you finally remembered to take out the garbage.” Do say, “I appreciate you for remembering to take out the garbage last night.”
Give and accept appreciation cordially, with a warm voice and soft eye contact. You’ll keep your love growing and your marriage thriving.

Not everyone is comfortable receiving appreciation. Here are some reasons:

  • People who lack self-esteem may not trust that the compliments are true.
  • Some cultures view accepting a compliment as boasting.
  • People who were raised with too much criticism or where self-disclosure was risky tend to find it hard to make I-statements. I-statements require a willingness to be vulnerable.

These challenges can be overcome with self-awareness and practice.

Noticing fine traits and behaviors in your partner produces a ripple effect. You will start noticing more often what you like about your children, other family members, friends, and co-workers.

Expressing appreciation adds to your reservoir of optimism and good feelings. Life’s stresses and tensions can reduce the supply. You’ll keep the warm feelings flowing by noticing what’s going well and communicating appreciation daily.

 

How To Deal With Your Spouse’s Bad Habits

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

He left the toilet seat up…again. She interrupted me mid-sentence…again. She hounded me about that to-do item…again. He left his clothes in a heap on the bedroom floor…again. Those annoying habits can be frustrating, especially when we’ve asked our spouse to stop doing them so many times.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a magic wand that “fixes” our spouse and their bad habits?  Sorry, there’s no such thing. “But Mark,” you say, “if I don’t find a way to fix this, I’m gonna go crazy!”

Before that occurs, let’s take a deep breath and consider a few things that may help you deal with your spouse’s bad habits.

1. Ask yourself, “Why does this really bother me?”

Sometimes those habits bug us because of what we think they really mean. Does she interrupt me because she doesn’t think what I’m saying is important? Does he keep hounding me about that call I need to make because he doesn’t trust me? And sometimes, you wonder if your spouse is doing something just to get under your skin. Instead of wondering why your spouse does those things, it may be wise just to ask them. For example, you might say, “Just wondering…do you realize you interrupt me a lot? Any reason why you think you do so?”

Another reason a habit might frustrate us is if we have a certain way of doing things or a low tolerance for a spouse who thinks or does things very differently. My wife, Susan and I are similar in some ways, but very different in others. She has more of a creative, “wing it” personality. I like more clarity and order. So when she always  (yes always) leaves the bathroom drawers open, I notice. It doesn’t bother Susan, but it irritates me because I believe “there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place.”

So start dealing with it by identifying “why does this habit bother me?”

2. Ask yourself, “How big a deal is this to me?”

Consider how important this is to you personally and to your marriage relationship. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a big problem, rate the habits that bother you. If you have just a couple of 8, 9 or 10s, address those with your spouse as things that are a big deal to you. If you’ve got a long list of 9 and 10-rated issues, then maybe the habits are the least of your problems, and you may need professional help. On the other hand, if the list is dominated by small numbers, maybe that is an indication that your mental and emotional energy is being drained on something largely unimportant. When I really thought about the drawer example above, I realized it was only a 3.

3. Ask yourself, “How can I let this go?”

Perhaps your answers to the earlier questions have already helped you to see that this habit that bugs you is no big issue and you can let it go. For me, the drawers that Susan leaves open are no longer an issue…I’ve let it go! It’s easier said than done. It takes a lot of discipline and self-control not to bring it up again, especially when you are in the heat of an argument where you want to bring up everything about your spouse that bothers you!

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