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Posts tagged ‘fear in marriage’

Marriage Q&A: What If I Really Try, But Things Don’t Get Better?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Are You Living by Faith or by Fear?

Today’s Question:  I have read some of your blogs and done some of your suggestions. But what I experience from my husband when I act in the ways you describe is rage, anger, bitterness and resentment and it’s not because I didn’t say it right.  It’s because he’s not getting his own way and it’s becoming too much for me to handle (it’s been 25 years).

I believe the next step is to seek a counselor who can help us both communicate better, respect each other and then allow my husband the gift of consequences if he chooses not to work on these issues.  I signed up for a mutual relationship, not a servant master relationship and I plan to hold him to his word, lovingly.

I believe from my experience with my husband that he will not cooperate with anything and will give me the ultimatum, “Take it or leave it. You have the problem.”

What do you think?  Speaking up terrifies me because I don’t know what could happen and rocking the boat causes a lot of anger, not just in our marriage but in the whole family.

Do you have anything to offer besides trust in the Lord, pray, don’t be afraid or be anxious for nothing.  I know these wonderful truths, but even Jesus cried and exuded blood from his pores, even Moses was scared, even Abraham doubted when he walked the journey to place Isaac on the altar.  All of these emotions are part of being human, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have faith. My family is very dear to me and I’m afraid that if I put my foot down it will only get worse.  Is it wrong to just want peace and rest?  I know God won’t give us more than we can handle, but I am so very tired and I’m afraid of the outcome.

Answer:  You are right – we are human and we all have real and raw emotions when we live in stressful situations where there is continual conflict, bullying and disrespect.

Your letter indicates you are conflicted about this change you want to make.  On the one hand you say you are very tired of living this way and are ready to make a serious attempt at real change. On the other hand you are very afraid that the change you desire won’t occur and by standing up to him, things could get worse.

I was just reading today in the psalms. It said, “My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6,7 NKJV).  Your situation reminds me of many marriages where one person wants peace, but when she or he finally speaks up, it just causes more drama, more hatred, more conflict.

You’re right. Just because you finally take a stand and say “I didn’t sign up for a slave/master relationship” doesn’t mean that your husband will be willing to move toward a more mutual marriage. As long as he’s the master and you’re willing to be the slave, it works for him.  However, perhaps he’s just as frightened of change as you are or just as unhappy.

So you ask if there is anything I can offer besides the standard trust God and don’t be anxious?  It’s sad to me that we don’t find the comfort and healing in God’s word that he wants us to but I understand what you are saying.

But here’s what I want you to know.  God designed marriage to be a mutually loving and respectful relationship, not a slave/master one. Because that is God’s will for marriage, know that he is on the side of the oppressed when one person takes power over another and uses words, money, physical force or the scriptures to dominate and control the other.

When you respectfully speak up against injustice and oppression in a marriage (or any- where else for that matter), know that God is on your side.  If the other person refuses to listen, the gift of consequences can be a painful but helpful reminder that he or she will not reap the benefits of a good marriage when they sow discord and selfishness.

Sadly, when we are in close relationship with people (as in marriage and family) when one person receives painful consequences, often the entire family also suffers.  That’s what you fear and rightly so.

So I think the next step you’ll need to ask yourself in this whole process is do you want to live in fear – fear of staying or the fear of leaving, or do you want to live in faith (whether you think it wise to leave or stay)?  Faith that God knows your story. Faith that God is bigger than your story. Faith that God has a plan for your life and he is your helper in times of trouble.

It’s interesting to me that the psalmist says both, “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:11), and “When I am afraid, I will trust God” (Psalm 56:3). There are times our faith is so big we don’t feel fear. Other times, we are so filled with fear we will be overwhelmed by it if we don’t trust God.

I pray you choose faith, even when you feel fear.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? (Part 1)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

As biblical counselors our goal is to help marriages stay together but we must be careful to not be like the priests in Jeremiahs’ day who healed God’s people superficially by saying peace, peace, when there was no peace.

When working with couples in destructive and abusive marriages, I think it’s important that we understand what it takes to put their marriage back together in a godly way.  And, if one of them won’t do the work required, then what?  Do we encourage them to stay legally together even if they’re relationally separated or divorced?

God gives us a means for healing damaged relationships, but his blueprint is not unilateral.  Healing a destructive marriage can never be the sole responsibility of one person in the relationship.   It always takes two people willing to work to achieve godly change.  There needs to be forgiveness sought, and forgiveness granted.  There needs to be amends made and a willingness to rebuild trust.  There needs to be constructive feedback given and willingly received.  When one person refuses to participate or take responsibility for his or her part, healing or restoration of the relationship cannot fully take place.

As biblical counselors, working with individuals and couples in destructive marriages, I want to give you a few mile markers that will help you identify where you are on the healing journey or whether or not you’re even on the right path toward getting there. [I’m] going to talk about the importance of safety.

Safety

Safety in an intimate relationship such as marriage must never be underestimated. You cannot put a marriage together in a healthy way if one person in the marriage feels afraid of the other. Without question, whenever there has been any kind of physical abuse, destruction of property, and/or threats against one’s self or others there is no safety.

Shirley e-mailed me.  She wrote, “My biblical counselor says that I must allow my husband back into the home if we want our marriage to heal. He said, ‘How can we work on our marriage when we’re not living together?’

“What are your concerns about him moving back home?”  I asked.

“We’ve been separated for over a year after he gave me a black eye. It wasn’t the first time he hit me, but it was the worst. I never pressed charges or called the police, but I told him he’d have to move out. Honestly, I haven’t seen any real change in him. My counselor says that Ray is changing.  He hasn’t hit me for a long time. I agreed, but his underlying attitudes of entitlement are still there.”

“Give me a few examples,” I said.

“He badgers me to give in to him when I disagree. When he visits with the kids at the house and I tell him I’m tired and I want him to leave, he says I’m selfish and only thinking about myself. He thinks it’s okay if he walks into our house without knocking even though I’ve asked him not to.  If he won’t respect my requests when we’re separated, how will he do it if he moves back home? “

“He won’t. ” I said. “Either he’s not willing to respect you or he’s not capable of doing it but either way you are not safe until he learns to do this.  Please, stick up for yourself with your counselor.  Before you can work on the marriage, your husband need to value the importance of your safety and demonstrate that he can control himself and honor your feelings and boundaries without badgering or retaliation.  If he won’t do this much, you cannot go any further to repair your relationship. ”

There are other issues of safety that also must be resolved to some degree if a marriage is going to be wisely restored. For example, Kathy still loves her husband despite his sins against her. She longs for Jeff to be the man she knows he could be. Yet she must not throw caution to the side and be fully reconciled with Jeff without the proper safety measures in place.  She knows Jeff has a problem with sexual addiction.  He has a long history of pornography, affairs, prostitutes and one night stands.

Does God ask Kathy to ignore these dangers to her health and safety in order to reconcile her marriage?  Or, is it both in her and Jeff’s best interest that she stay firm and not resume sexual intimacy with Jeff until he gets a clean bill of health as well as demonstrates a change of heart and some progress in his change of habits?

In a different situation, Gina’s husband, Matthew, feels entitled to keep his income in a separate bank account with only his name on it.  He gives Gina an allowance each week for household expenses but requires her to give him give a detailed account of everything she spends.  Gina is an RN, but she and Matthew agreed it was best for her to stay home with their four children.  Gina does not feel safe financially or emotionally.  She feels like a child when she has to give an account, yet Matthew refuses to let Gina know what he’s spending.  He says it’s his money.  Gina feels vulnerable and scared whenever Matthew travels, especially overseas.  What if something happened to him and she ran out of cash?  When she’s expressed her concerns to Matthew, he tells her not to worry, nothing will happen to him.

Legally Gina is an adult and considered an equal partner in their financial responsibilities, yet she has no voice, no power, and no idea what is happening with their assets. Should she submit to Matthew when he says she’s not allowed to have a credit card even though she’s never been irresponsible with money?   Gina’s observed Matthew being deceitful at times in his business expenses. What if Matthew has been deceitful in other ways?  What if he has underreported their income tax?  Gina would be held equally responsible even if she didn’t know.   What if he is not paying their mortgage or their home equity loan faithfully?   The financial consequences of his irresponsibility would fall equally on her shoulders. Gina and Matthew will never have a healthy marriage if these issues aren’t discussed with the underlying imbalance of power and control changed.

I’m dismayed by the number of people helpers, pastors, lay counselors, marriage mentors and professional counselors who don’t understand safety issues must come first. There can be no constructive conversation about other marital issues nor can there be any joint marital counseling  if one person has no say or isn’t safe to tell the truth or disagree without fear of physical, emotional, sexual, financial or spiritual retaliation.

When Fears Collide

SOURCE:  Elaine Creasman/Today’s Christian Woman

Four ways you can grow closer by dealing with what scares you

I’ve noticed when the dust settles after a major fight, and Steve and I communicate about what caused the dispute, one word comes up repeatedly.

That word is fear.

Every husband and wife enters marriage with fears. It’s part of what some counselors call “our baggage.” Too often when a fear in my husband is combined with a fear I’m battling, explosions occur that threaten to destroy our marriage. Steve and I didn’t know this early on, and we had battles that rivaled heavyweight matches in their intensity. Yet we’ve been fortunate over time to bring our fears out in the open and deal with them. Here are some ways we did that, and in the process strengthened our marriage and increased our intimacy.

1. Ask God to reveal fears.

As I’ve asked God to show me my fears, he has. One day when I asked, “What am I so afraid of?” after a skirmish with my husband related to my cooking, God revealed this, which I communicated to Steve:

“Honey, when you criticize my cooking, it really stirs up my fear of failure.”

Then I gave details.

“When I was growing up my father was a perfectionist, and I felt like I couldn’t please him. It seemed no matter what I did, such as cook him a meal, he had a negative comment about it. When you criticize me, I feel as if I’m a failure as a wife, just like I felt I was a failure as a daughter.”

It was after one of many fights that Steve and I began talking more about our childhoods. In doing so, we realized my number-one fear was fear of rejection—especially from men.

Because much of my feeling rejected as a child was because of my father’s anger, Steve’s anger triggered my fear of rejection.

On the other hand, Steve’s number-one fear was being controlled by women because of his mom’s and older sister’s controlling ways.

So how had I been trying to avoid feeling rejected and hurt by my husband’s anger? I had attempted to control him. And how did he try to keep me from controlling him? By using anger, which I interpreted as rejection. What a vicious cycle.

God revealed that our deep fears were colliding and setting off sparks which led to fiery fights. Once we became aware, we also became more empathetic. Our fighting has decreased dramatically.

Now when Steve raises his voice, I know that one reason might be fear that I’m trying to control him. I can back off and return later with a gentler approach.

After revealing our fears, we began to pray for healing. We are still in the process of being healed of childhood hurts, which are at the root of our fears.

2. Be honest and loving when communicating fears.

When I’ve asked Steve, “What are you afraid of?” I’ve wanted him to be honest instead of acting macho and saying, “Me? I’m afraid of nothing.” He has been.

I have to be honest also. Sometimes I want to pretend I’ve overcome all fears. But the truth is, fears seem to stay hidden like weeds underground. At various times—especially during trials and hardships—suddenly they’re back and trying to choke the life out of our marriage.

I’ve learned that when Steve admits a fear and gives details, I need to show empathy and not say things like “You shouldn’t be afraid of that.” Because Steve and I have different fears, it’s easy for me to think, “That’s a silly fear” or “He should be over that by now.” Instead, I need to remember that our fears were formed in childhood and are deeply rooted and not necessarily logical.

As we became honest with one another and before God, my husband and I made lists of our top fears. Each of the fears on our lists is intertwined with other fears on that list.

Steve’s top three fears:
Fear of being controlled by a woman
Fear of failure
Fear of intimacy

Elaine’s top three fears:
Fear of rejection—especially from men
Fear of failure
Fear of feeling disconnected

To help him understand my fears, I told my husband more about my family of origin. I related that I had often felt disconnected. We had a large family with eight children. I remember longing for more time with my parents and thinking that if I ran away no one would miss me. This left me with a longing for intimacy and reassurance that might be greater than other people’s. This collided with Steve’s fear of intimacy.
I communicated to my husband that after we were married I noticed he seemed to enjoy being disconnected from me and spending long periods of time alone (because of his fear of intimacy).

These days, he works at initiating time together, and I work at not triggering his fear of intimacy by avoiding demanding togetherness. Instead I invite it—something a counselor taught me. I’ve realized that demanding intimacy from someone who is afraid of it and fears being controlled is not a good idea and can ignite a fight.

As I maintain an awareness of Steve’s fears and my own, I can keep them in mind to avert a conflict or fight. He tries to do the same.

3. Avoid taking things personally.

Early in our marriage, Steve seemed angry so often. At first I saw him as a monster who wanted to destroy my soul. But as I prayed about how God saw him, I realized he was like a frightened child (just like my dad). That picture of him helped me to not withdraw, lash out, or take to heart his hurtful words when he got angry. Instead I asked him or the Lord what he was afraid of at the moment.

For instance, Steve often got angry about money. He would shout, “Where did all the money go?” If I couldn’t remember every penny I spent, he seemed about to panic. I would argue about how unreasonable he was being. This only caused him to shout louder.

Why? God showed me that it was because I wasn’t dealing with the fear he had—the fear of being a failure as a provider.

These days if he starts to get upset about money, I realize it’s not about me, and I remember he battles that fear. Then I say something to calm the fear rather than try to argue against the anger and/or defend myself and my spending habits (I confess I do sometimes waste money).

What works is to say, “Honey, you’ve been an excellent provider. And God has been faithful to bless us financially over many years. I don’t think he’s going to stop now.”

4. Seek the Lord to deal with fears.

I can’t make Steve deal with his fears, but I can do what the Lord leads me to do so I can deal with mine.

The verse I’ve clung to in dealing with fears is Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (NIV).This is not a one-time seeking. Whenever fear rises up in me, I try to go to God and pray my way through it. I like how one man put it: “I go to God in prayer afraid, and then I keep on praying until I am no longer afraid.”

Another verse that helps me overcome fears is Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (NIV). Often I’m afraid because I feel Steve can’t be trusted, but that’s OK. As I learn to put my trust more fully in the Lord, fears dissolve.

I’ve concluded that perhaps all of our fears are tied in with trust issues. But can anyone but the Lord be trusted 100 percent? I don’t have to trust my husband completely to love him.

Steve’s fears sometimes cause him to reject, disconnect, and communicate, “You’re a failure” when he criticizes. That triggers my fears and my desire to fight, but instead of concluding, “He doesn’t love me anymore,” I can choose to allow God’s perfect love to flow through me to Steve. This erases my fears and soothes his. As God’s Word reminds me, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18, NIV).

Dealing with fears can take a lifetime together. When fears collide, we can let them take over or work with each other to defeat them, realizing that fear—not our spouse—is an enemy of peace and intimacy in marriage.

Steve and I have chosen to embrace this Scripture for both of us and for our marriage: “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6).

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Elaine Creasman is a freelance writer and speaker living in Largo, Florida. She and her husband, Stephen, have been married for more than 30 years. They have two grown daughters and one granddaughter.

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