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Posts tagged ‘marital distress’

Marital Distress: Why Do I Have to Be the One to Change?

SOURCE:  Michele Weiner-Davis/The Huffington Post

You’re really mad at your partner. You’ve explained your point of view a million times. S/he never listens. You can’t believe that a person can be so insensitive. So, you wait. You’re convinced that eventually s/he will have to see the light; that you’re right and s/he’s wrong. In the meantime, there’s silence. But the tension is so thick in your house, you can cut it with a knife. You hate the distance, but there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re mad. You’re really mad.

You try to make yourself feel better by getting involved in other things. Sometimes this even works. But you wake up every morning facing the fact that nothing’s changed at all. A feeling of dissatisfaction permeates everything you do. From time to time, you ask yourself, “Is there something I should do differently,?” but you quickly dismiss this thought because you know that, in your heart of hearts, you’re not the one to blame. So the distance between you and your partner persists.

Does any of this sound familiar? Have you and your partner been so angry with each other that you’ve gone your separate ways and stopped interacting with each other? Have you convinced yourself that, until s/he initiates making up, there will be no peace in your house? If so, I have few things I want to tell you.

You are wasting precious energy holding on to your anger. It’s exhausting to feel resentment day in and day out. It takes a toll on your body and soul. It’s bad for your health and hard on your spirit. It’s awful for your relationship. Anger imprisons you. It casts a gray cloud over your days. It prevents you from feeling real joy in any part of your life. Each day you drown yourself in resentment is another day lost out of your life. What a waste!

I have worked with so many people who live in quiet desperation because they are utterly convinced that their way of seeing things is right and their partner’s is wrong. They spend a lifetime trying to get their partners to share their views. I hear, “I’ll change if s/he changes,” a philosophy that ultimately leads to a stalemate. There are many variations of this position. For example, “I’d be nicer to her, if she were nicer to me,” or “I’d be more physical and affectionate if he were more communicative with me,” or “I’d be more considerate and tell her about my plans if she wouldn’t hound me all the time about what I do.” You get the picture… “I’ll be different if you start being different first.” Trust me when I tell you that this can be a very, very long wait.

There’s a much better way to view things when you and your partner get stuck like this. I’ve been working with couples for years and I’ve learned a lot about how change occurs in relationships. It’s like a chain reaction. If one person changes, the other one does too. It really doesn’t matter who starts first. It’s simply a matter of tipping over the first domino. Change is reciprocal. Let me give you an example.

I worked with a woman who was very distressed about her husband’s long hours at work. She felt they spent very little time together as a couple and that he was of little help at home. This infuriated her. Every evening when he returned home from work, her anger got the best of her and she criticized him for bailing out on her. Inevitably, the evening would be ruined. The last thing he wanted to do after a long day at work was to deal with problems the moment he walked in the door. Although she understood this, she was so hurt and angry about his long absences that she felt her anger was justified. She wanted a suggestion from me about how to get her husband to be more attentive and loving. She was at her wit’s end.

I told her that I could completely understand why she was frustrated and that, if I were in her shoes, I would feel exactly the same way. However, I wondered if she could imagine how her husband might feel about her nightly barrage of complaints. “He probably wishes he didn’t have to come home,” she said. “Precisely,” I thought to myself, and I knew she was ready to switch gears. I suggested that she try an experiment. “Tonight when he comes home, surprise him with an affectionate greeting. Don’t complain, just tell him you’re happy to see him. Do something kind or thoughtful that you haven’t done in a long time…even if you don’t feel like it.” “You mean like fixing him his favorite meal or giving him a warm hug? I used to do that a lot.” “That’s exactly what I mean,” I told her, and we discussed other things she might do as well. She agreed to give it a try.

Two weeks later she returned to my office and told me about the results of her “experiment.”

“That first night after I talked with you I met him at the door and, without a word, gave him a huge hug. He looked astounded, but curious. I made him his favorite pasta dish, which was heavy on the garlic, so he smelled the aroma the moment he walked in. Immediately, he commented on it and looked pleased. We had a great evening together, the first in months. I was so pleased and surprised by his positive reaction that I felt motivated to keep being ‘the new me.’ Since then things between us have been so much better, it’s amazing. He’s come home earlier and he’s even calling me from work just to say hello. I can’t believe the change in him. I’m so much happier this way.”

The moral of this story is obvious. When one partner changes, the other partner changes too. It’s a law of relationships. If you aren’t getting what you need or want from your loved one, instead of trying to convince him or her to change, why not change your approach to the situation? Why not be more pragmatic? If what you’re doing (talking to your partner about the error of his/her ways) hasn’t been working, no matter how sterling your logic, you’re not going to get very far. Be more flexible and creative. Be more strategic. Spend more time trying to figure out what might work as opposed to being hell bent on driving your point home. You might be pleasantly surprised. Remember, insanity has been defined as doing the same old thing over and over and expecting different results.

Look, life is short. We only have one go-around. Make your relationship the best it can possibly be. Stop waiting for your partner to change in order for things to be better. When you decide to change first, it will be the beginning of a solution avalanche. Try it, you’ll like it!

8 Signs You Have Not Done Everything You Can to Save Your Marriage

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Every marriage struggles. And in most troubled marriages that are on the brink, one or both spouses often say something like “I’ve done everything I can, and it just isn’t working out.”

While a spouse may feel like they’ve done everything they can, in reality, they may not have. And the stakes are too high to claim you’ve done all you can when you maybe haven’t. Before you call it quits, there are some important questions to ask yourself, as I’ve blogged about before.

But it’s time now to test your heart and your actions to see if you really have done all you can. Here are some signs that you haven’t yet:

1. You’re not willing to see a counselor.

Counseling can be expensive and feel intrusive. But believe it or not, even healthy marriages sometimes need counseling help. Susan and I have seen a marriage counselor to help us through various issues in our marriage and it has really helped us. It’s not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength to admit that another perspective could be helpful. If you have resisted this step, you’ve not done everything you can.

2. You’re not willing to work on or give up your bad habits.

Whether it’s porn, constant criticism, crushing comparisons, toxic words, or other bad habits, these type of patterns are hard to break, and are hurting marriages every day. For the sake of your health, your kids and your long-term prospects as a family, you need to be willing to let go of these things. If you find yourself saying “I can’t” or “I won’t” then you’ve not done everything you can.

3. You’re not willing to give up your hobbies.

Fishing, Facebook, horseback riding, football games, golf, poker, book clubs, etc., all these things can be fine in and of themselves. But if you put these things above your marriage, you are being shortsighted. Don’t make your wife a football widow by being unwilling to turn the game off. One young man used to call golf his mistress in the early years of his marriage and decided to quit for the sake of his marriage. His hobby became an idol, and he knew his marriage was more valuable than his handicap. If you haven’t been willing to sell off your collection, stop your activities, or even pause them for the sake of your marriage, you’ve not done everything you can.

4. You’re not willing to let anyone challenge your assumptions of what your marriage is.

You may think that marriage is just a 50-50 partnership, a contract and if your spouse is not holding up their end of the deal, then you have a right to get out of the marriage. But marriage is actually a 100%-100% give-it-all-you’ve-got relationship.  And as I shared through my blog, 3 Things to Remember Before You Call it Quits in Marriage, is a life-long covenant between God, a husband, and wife.

5. You’re not willing to change the priorities of your life.

Reprioritizing is crucial to navigating choppy waters in marriage. Sometimes you need to step back and reassess where you are, where you’re headed, and what you need to do to get back on the same page. Perhaps you’ve put your job ahead of your spouse. If so, you’ve got some changes to make.

6. You’re not willing to move or change jobs.

Big changes are sometimes necessary for the sake of marriage. Jobs come and go. Houses can be bought, sold or burned to the ground. But ending your marriage will make any of those seemingly drastic changes seem like child’s play. If you aren’t willing to accept drastic changes like moving or changing jobs for the sake of your marriage, you’ve not done everything you can.

7. You’re not willing to admit that you’re part of the problem.

The famous British author G.K. Chesterton was once asked by a journalist of the day what was wrong with the world. His reply letter was brief but poignant: “Dear Sir, I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.” Very rarely is a marriage truly a one-sided problem. If you refuse to acknowledge your own shortcomings and issues, you’ve not done all you can.

8. You’re not willing to listen.

Usually, in a troubled marriage, one or both spouses are exasperated because they don’t feel heard. A bad listener makes for a bad friend, co-worker, or spouse. In every area of your life, being a good listener is critical to healthy relationships. Listening takes effort, but it can do wonders for your marriage. If you haven’t tried to listen better, to learn how to listen better, you’ve not done everything possible to save your marriage.

The bottom line: Don’t give up. There are lots of strategies you can choose to help your ailing marriage. Start by being honest. Have you really done everything you can to save your marriage? 

An Open Letter to Someone Having an Affair

SOURCE:  Adapted from articles by Brad Hambrick/Biblical Counseling Coalition

BCC Staff: In  blogs for [4/11/16 and 4/13/16], we have an opportunity to read an imaginary response to a person who is involved in adultery and yet struggles with what choices to make about both intimate relationships. With his usual sensitivity and tactic, Brad Hambrick gently challenges the adulterer to consider the realities of being stuck between a marital “rock” and adulterous “hard place.”

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Friend,

I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. I can only imagine that it is hard for you to believe that anyone can understand what you’re going through. You are making some of the hardest decisions of your life in the name of love, and no matter what you do, people you love are going to be hurt deeply. That would leave most people feeling both trapped and highly defensive.

To make matters worse, those who knew you and your spouse as mutual friends or have a Christian background overwhelmingly take the position that you should end your affair and pursue your marriage. They make it sound “easy” and “obvious,” which only supports your belief that no one understands.

Furthermore, it leaves you feeling very alone and feeling as if your adultery partner is the only one who can sympathetically understand. Who do you talk to in order to get unbiased advice? Is there unbiased advice? After all, you’re going to choose one path and radically alter the lives of many people you love dearly. That’s likely why you’ve tried to live in two worlds until now.

Let’s start with this reality: you are going to choose. You are going to choose to pursue a life with your spouse (and children, if you have them) or your adultery partner (with your children, if you have them, passing between homes). Unless you delay until your spouse and/or adultery partner abandons you, you will make a choice between these two options.

More than mere choosing, you are going to choose not knowing the outcome. You do not know if your current marriage will get better (I suppose you had grievances about how it was before). You do not know if your spouse will be able to forgive you or will be willing to work on restoring the marriage.

But, your potential future with your adultery partner is equally uncertain, although it likely doesn’t feel that way now. To this point the affair has been a fantasy. In reality, you know less about what this relationship will be like than you knew about what your current marriage would be like when you were dating and engaged. An affair is a relationship built on deceit and artificially fueled by the passion/allegiance of a shared secret and not having to bear the weight of day-to-day life. The story line of “forbidden love” evaporates as soon as there are “shared responsibilities” and no “them” to keep “us” apart.

This begins to get at why you haven’t already chosen. If you are like most people in your situation, you are looking for the route by which no one gets hurt, or for those who get hurt, to get hurt the least. This is another fantasy. Sex forms a bond (I Cor. 6:16). When you sever either relationship, there will be pain. One or both relationships will die, and your choices will be the largest deciding factor in which one. This is not meant to be a guilt-statement, but a reality-statement to sober you to the situation you have created.

Please keep reading. I recognize these words are painful. But if they are true, which I doubt you can deny, they merit your attention. This is not a choice you want to make by accident. It is too important to too many people you care about to allow that to happen. If you love anyone in this scenario besides yourself, you will quit stringing everyone along.

You’ve probably come to this point many times in your own internal dialogue since your affair began. The dead end has likely been, “But what do I do? There doesn’t seem to be any good options.” Then life goes on, so you continued living a double life.

In this letter, I want to offer you a path forward. I do not pretend it will be easy. But, be honest; neither path is going to be easy, so that shouldn’t be a criterion.

  1. Choose. The longer you delay, the more angst you create for everyone and the more pain that will result when a choice is finally made. You do not honor or care for anyone well by delaying. It is the epitome of selfishness to make people you allegedly care about to wait. The fact that you’ve allowed things to go this long should cause you to humbly question how wise and loving your intentions have been about this affair.
  2. To honor God, choose your marriage. Your spouse is not the primary person you’ve offended with your unfaithfulness. To make this decision as if your happiness and pleasure is the primary concern reveals a decision-making process that will undermine either relationship. It is not hyper-spiritual to say that self-centeredness will destroy any relationship. It is common sense. I encourage you to reflect intently on Luke 9:23-24 as you consider this decision and the overall direction of your life. If you are a Christian, this is the life you chose. It is a good life with a faithful God, if you will return to him and trust him with your life and marriage.
  3. Be honest. Often, in a crisis, we believe a “step in the right direction” is a monumental step of faith. We want full credit for partial honesty. This is why too many marriages die the death of a thousand confessions. It’s not the infidelity that kills them, but the pattern of incremental-partial honesty. Don’t say “yes” to “Have you told me everything?” unless the answer is actually “yes.” More damaging than your infidelity is your post-infidelity dishonesty. You might ask, “How much detail is needed to be honest?” That is a fair question and here is guidance on the subject.
  4. End the affair definitively. The longer you vacillate, the more pain and turmoil you will create for everyone. There is nothing pleasant about this step. Rarely does it provide the emotional affirmation that often comes with making a right choice. But it is essential to restoring any emotional or relational sanity to your life. “Closure” in an adulterous relationship is a fiction that inevitably leads to relapse.
  5. Don’t do this alone. As your affair grew, you began to separate yourself from the people you previously considered to be trusted voices and examples of character. It is hard to be around people you respect when you are knowingly doing something dishonorable. Reconnect with these relationships. This will require a comparable level of honesty as you’ve given your spouse in point #3. But, unless you let these people in, then the only voice advocating for your walk with God, the restoration of your marriage, or providing you emotional support will be your hurt spouse.
  6. Have a process to guide you and your spouse in the recovery process. “What will we do after I open the Pandora’s Box of being honest about my affair?” Realize this box will be opened either voluntarily or involuntarily. This is the question that keeps many people in your situation silent. The False Love (for you) and True Betrayal (for your spouse) materials are meant to be complementing studies to guide couples in situations like yours. They can be studied with a pastor, trusted mentor couple, or counselor (see point #5).
  7. Don’t confuse marital restoration with marital enrichment. This is the most common mistake after a marital crisis and will result in comparing dating-phase-affair with recovery-phase-marriage. Doing the things you should have been doing all along (dating, listening, flowers, sex, etc…) will not resolve infidelity. Marriage restoration is taking a relationship that is broken and making it functional. That is the focus of the False Love and True Betrayal seminars. Marriage enrichment is taking a marriage that is functional and making it excellent. That is the focus of the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series; which would be a quality series to study when you complete the False Love and True Betrayal materials.

These steps may seem daunting, and they are challenging. But I believe they represent what it means to honor God in your situation. As you’ve wrestled with the question of, “What do I do now?” I believe you will come to see that they do represent God’s best for you and your family; as such, they are for your good and not just your moral obligation.

As you come to the end of this letter, I would ask you to do two things. First, sincerely pray. Don’t just reflect in your mind and see what feels best, but have a conversation with God about what he would have you do. Ask God, “What would honor You most in my situation?” Second, call a friend. Quit waiting and talk with someone who has the best interest of you and your marriage at heart. Isolation will result in continued procrastination. Don’t leave yourself the option of waiting.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I pray you will follow its counsel and walk in integrity and faith. Yes, the road ahead is hard, but any alternative road without the blessing and favor of God is harder.

Brad

 

6 Arguments All Married Couples Have

SOURCE: Michael Fulwiler — The Gottman Institute

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman lists the 6 most common areas of marital conflict. He explains that, “even in very happy and stable marriages, these issues are perennial.” We will touch on these six types of arguments, the task they each represent for a marriage, and offer practical advice for addressing the solvable disagreements they often trigger.

Remember that all couples argue, and that’s okay. We grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.

1. Work Stress

Via someecards.com

The Task: Make your marriage a place of peace.

The Solution: Acknowledge that at the end of a long, stressful day you may need time to yourselves to decompress before interacting with each other. If you bring your work stress home, it will sabotage your marriage. Build time to unwind into your daily schedule. Once you’re both feeling relatively composed, it’s time to come together and talk about each other’s day.

2. In-Laws

Via someecards.com

The Task: Establish a sense of “we-ness,” or solidarity, between partners.

The Solution: Side with your spouse. Establish your own family rituals, values, and lifestyle and insist that in-laws respect them. An important part of putting your spouse first and building this sense of solidarity is not to tolerate any contempt toward your spouse from your parents.

3. Money

Via someecards.com

The Task: Balance the freedom and empowerment money represents with the security and trust it also symbolizes.

The Solution: What’s most important in terms of your marriage is that you work as a team on financial issues and that you express your concerns, needs, and dreams to each other before coming up with a plan. You’ll each need to be firm about items that you consider nonnegotiable. Itemize your current expenditures, manage your everyday finances, and plan your financial future. If you’re having trouble, see a financial planner.

4. Sex

Via someecards.com

The Task: Fundamental appreciation and acceptance of each other.

The Solution: Learn to talk to each other about sex in a way that lets you both feel safe. The goal of sex is to be closer, to have more fun, to feel satisfied, and to feel valued and accepted in this very tender area of your marriage. A major characteristic of couples who have a happy sex life is that they see lovemaking as an expression of intimacy but they don’t take any differences in their needs or desires personally.

5. Housework

Via someecards.com

The Task: Create a sense of fairness and teamwork.

The Solution: The simple truth is that men have to do more housework. Maybe this fact will spark a husband’s enthusiasm for domestic chores: Women find a man’s willingness to do housework extremely erotic. When the husband does his share to maintain the home, both he and his wife report a more satisfying sex life than in marriages where the wife believes her husband is not doing his share. However, the quantity of housework is not necessarily a determining factor in the housework = sex equation. Two other variables: whether the husband does his chores without being asked, and whether he is flexible in his duties in response to her needs.

6. A New Baby

Via someecards.com

The Task: Expand your sense of “we-ness” to include your children.

The Solution: In the first year after baby arrives, 67% of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction. Lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, juggling mothering with a job, economic stress, and lack of time to oneself, among other things. Why do the other 33% sail through the transition unscathed? What separates these blissful mothers from the rest has everything to do with whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.

Marriages are Boring, Affairs are Fun

SOURCE:  Ashley McIlwain

Marriages are Boring, Affairs are Fun

That’s what the spam email said that was sitting in my inbox staring at me candidly and shamelessly.

My heart ached as I saw the words beseeching me to believe their ridiculous claim. Unapologetically this lie dared to even show its ugly face. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed too many marriages where one spouse actually believed that lie though. They fell for the enticing words dripping with promises that they would never fulfill. Like a poisoned candy apple, they’re shiny appearance lures you in, but death and destruction await you underneath the pretty sheen.

Too many clients have come into my office devastated by affairs. Too many people have emailed me reeling from their spouse straying outside the marriage. Friends have reached out in despair clueless as to how to take their next breath. Tears are shed. Hearts are shattered. Lives are ravaged.

TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, ACCESS THE FOLLOWING LINK:  http://foundationrestoration.org/2014/07/marriages-are-boring-affairs-are-fun/

Busting the Myths of a Christian Marriage

One couple thought being Christians would save them from marital problems. Their naïve beliefs made everything worse.

“Larry, we have to talk,” I said as my husband prepared to go to work. Our argument from the night before still hung in the air. “There’s something wrong with our marriage.”

“Judy, I have to go,” Larry said, clearly irritated.

“Don’t you love me?” I asked.

“Sure I do. I have employees waiting to be let in.”

“Larry, if you love me, why don’t I feel it?” I needed him to put his arms around me and reassure me.

But he didn’t. He just walked out the door.

What had happened to us?

Two years before, when we’d committed our lives to Jesus Christ, Larry and I had been like newlyweds again. I was sure with God as our partner, our journey through life would be smooth.

But it wasn’t. Our first child, Matthew, who was born shortly after we became Christians, needed major surgery when he was six weeks old. A few months later, Larry lost his job. I thought about going to work, but then discovered I was pregnant again. I was scared and needed Larry to reassure me, but he couldn’t because he was dealing with his own fears.

We started to fight, sometimes over the stupidest things, such as the way he read the newspaper or ate his cereal. I felt guilty for my angry outbursts. Christians didn’t act that way, I reasoned. So in the name of peace, I swallowed my feelings and prayed God would make Larry more thoughtful, open, loving, and romantic. But with each passing year, our fights grew in frequency and intensity. We became like strangers sharing a house.

I slogged through two years hoping things would change for the better, but they didn’t. Surely this wasn’t what God wanted, yet I could see no hope of happiness with this man.

In the heat of one of our arguments I said “divorce.” Larry hardly winced. Maybe it was the solution to our problems.

At the end of my rope, I confided in my sister Barbara how unhappy I was. She and her husband, Dave, arranged for us to attend a weekend marriage retreat. They took our kids and even paid the deposit. While both Larry and I knew it was a waste of time and money, we figured this would prove to everyone that we’d tried.

During that weekend, one of the speakers talked about his fear of being unable to live up to everyone’s expectations. After that session, each couple had some time to communicate with each other their thoughts about what the speaker had said. In a rare moment of courage, Larry dropped his defenses and shared how he identified with the speaker and how hard it was to please me, his employees, his customers, his friends, and his family. He even told me about the pain of unmet expectations he carried from his childhood. As I listened to his openness, I could feel the wall I’d built toward him over the years begin to come down. Through several tearful conversations that weekend, we were able to forgive each other for the pain and hurt we’d caused and start over.

But it wasn’t until we realized how naïve we’d been—thinking that because we were Christians our marriage would be perfect—were we able to uncover the myths we’d bought into. While we realized many of these myths were well-meaning, they were destroying our marriage! After that weekend, Larry and I spent several years blasting these seven myths and uncovering the truth.

Here’s what we discovered.

Myth #1

If I have a daily quiet time and attend church regularly, I’ll have a happy marriage.

In church I’d often hear that if I’d spend time with God every morning and study the Bible, my life and marriage would go well. So I started a daily quiet time, began memorizing Scripture, and joined a women’s Bible study. I believed these “religious” acts would help my marriage be all I wanted. But when nothing changed and, in fact, things seemed to get worse, not only did I become disillusioned with our marriage, I also began to question my relationship with God.

This is the truth: Every couple goes through tough times—even Christians.

Jesus clearly states that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Does that mean it doesn’t make any difference whether we read our Bibles and attend church? No. While God didn’t take away those painful times, and he didn’t always answer our prayers in the way we’d assumed, he used our trouble to focus and mature us through our prayers and Bible studies.

Myth #2

Our marriage will be divorce-proof if we’re both Christians.

This belief left us feeling ashamed when we stood at the brink of divorce. We didn’t think anyone would understand, so we waited to go for help until it was almost too late.

The truth is: Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee you won’t get divorced.

Larry and I believed that because we were Christ-followers we’d live a fairy-tale life. Christian therapist Roy Austin calls this “magical thinking” and believes many Christian couples struggle with it. He says, “‘Magical thinking’ leaves couples less prepared for the rigors of marriage.” This may explain why Christian pollster George Barna has found that the divorce rate among born-again Christians is now the same as for non-Christians. If Larry and I had understood this truth, we might have gone for help sooner. Today we are open and honest about our hard years when speaking to young married groups, which they’ve found both eye-opening and helpful. We just wish someone had told us this truth.

Myth #3

Scriptures can be a simple guide for our marriage.

One of the hot issues with which Larry and I dealt was who should handle the money. We thought that to be scripturally correct Larry should pay the bills and balance the checkbook. He always felt pressured by the time it took to do this. Since he handled all our money, I never knew how much I had to spend on groceries and clothes. This added to an already tense situation.

Here’s the truth: Scripture can be a valuable guide for our daily living—as long as we don’t misinterpret what it says.

Intensive Bible study taught us that God intends for us to be one unit, submitting to each other and working together for the good of the whole. That means using our giftedness. Right now, I have more time available to handle our daily financial tasks. There have been other times when Larry took this responsibility. We’ve also learned that together we make better decisions than we do individually.

Myth #4

We need to keep our marital problems to ourselves.

When I joined a women’s Bible study, everyone I met looked happy and put together. I knew no one would understand that Larry and I sometimes said ugly, hurtful things to each other, so I kept quiet about what was happening in our marriage.

But the truth is: God created us as social beings to live in community where we can help each other.

That weekend retreat opened my eyes. It was a couple daring to be open with us about their problems that began the healing in us. In James it says we are to confess our sins to each other so that we can pray for each other and be healed (5:16). By keeping quiet, I hindered the healing that could have come from sharing with these other women who may have been just as afraid as I was to share what they were going through.

Myth #5

Christian couples don’t fight.

I thought “peace” meant no fighting and so I denied my negative feelings. I’d let things build until I exploded over something trivial.

Here’s the truth: It’s okay to fight.

In the Bible it says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26–27). At that weekend retreat, we were challenged to bring up whatever was bothering us within 24 hours or forget it. When I got home, I decided to try it. At breakfast Larry sat reading the paper, ignoring me. It bothered me that the paper seemed more important than I did. In the past I would’ve buried my anger, but instead I said, “I feel angry that you’re reading the paper instead of talking to me.” To my amazement, Larry put down the paper, apologized, and we had a nice conversation while we ate our cereal. I was pleased it worked so well. Of course, it didn’t always, but just saying the words, “I feel angry,” helped defuse much of the feelings I’d been carrying around for so many years. It was like keeping the blackboard wiped clean. And then when we did argue, it was over one subject, not ten.

Myth #6

I need to pray for God to change my husband.

I spent much time in prayer begging God to change my husband. I knew we’d be happy if only Larry were different. But to my dismay, as much as I prayed, I didn’t see any significant changes in him.

The truth is: God wants to change me first.

My prayer life changed dramatically after I finally got the message of Matthew 7:1-5: I was a hypocrite, trying to take the speck out of my husband’s eye, when all the time I had this log in my own eye. That log was so huge I couldn’t see what I was doing to my husband. God revealed to me that my judgmental attitude drove Larry away and hurt him deeply, the exact opposite of what I wanted. That day I prayed a new way. I prayed for God to reveal my sins. As he did, I asked him to forgive me and to help me change. Instead of shame, I felt clean and whole. Slowly, God peeled off layers of old, rotten thinking, and beliefs and bitterness that were destroying my marriage. I began to “see” my husband in a new light and told him of the positive things I saw in him. This encouraged Larry and helped him grow into a godlier husband. It also allowed me to accept some of his “faults” that I never thought I could.

Myth #7

My husband should be stronger in his faith than I am.

Early in our Christian walk, a woman told me that when her husband became a Christian he instantly became patient, loving, and romantic. I looked at Larry and wondered why his conversion hadn’t made a bigger difference in our marriage. I decided it was because he wasn’t spiritual enough, and so I began a mission of helping him grow in his faith. I gave him books, left him notes, and dragged him to all sorts of conferences and seminars.

But the truth is: We each grow toward Christ in our own way and time.

I was critical of my husband’s lack of spiritual leadership, which caused me to push and Larry to retreat. Finally, God convicted me that I wasn’t responsible for Larry’s spiritual life. It was hard, but I backed off. That’s when Larry felt God calling him to get serious about his relationship with Christ and he grew in leaps and bounds. While it took time, now Larry’s the strong leader and loving husband I’ve always wanted.

Larry and I survived those early years of mythical thinking. Now, after 33 years of marriage, Larry makes my coffee every morning, prays with me, listens to my gripes, gives me encouragement in my struggles, and accepts all my quirky ways. It hasn’t been the easy journey I thought it would be, but our love is richer for having struggled. I thank God every day for the reality of my marriage.

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Judy Bodmer, author of When Love Dies (Thomas Nelson), lives in Washington state.

Is Your Spouse’s Depression Hurting You?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

What to do when his depression is hurting you

Question:  My husband and I have been married for 27 years. I have been reading your books and articles and they have been a blessing to me. Without going into great detail, my husband suffers from major depression.

 He controls the finances, disregards my feelings and desires, lies constantly and can be emotionally and verbally abusive. There is–or was–a kind and honorable man in there, but I don’t see him much anymore, and living with the ” other guy” is wearing me down to nothing.

  After facing financial ruin 5 years ago and managing to get out of debt by the grace of God and start over, he went behind my back to fund his “projects” and we are right back where we started. I have been an enabler who vacillates between keeping the peace and occasionally breaking down and yelling/ crying, but I am trying to change.

 I just need to know…can I hold a depressed person accountable for these actions? His view of reality is skewed and I’ve tried so hard to be kind and supportive but I am so drained. I am afraid if he is forced to confront his behaviors he will be suicidal, but the stress of living this way is too much.

 Also, how do I set boundaries on the spending? We have agreed on budgets, etc., but he ignores them. He promised me he would not put us in debt again, but he broke that promise in a big way, some of it behind my back, some of it while I begged him not to. What can I do to protect me and my son? He is not speaking to me today because I confronted him about some lies I just discovered regarding finances. I am scared of what he will do if I try to take this away from him, and don’t know that I can anyway.

Answer:  You are struggling with several issues at once so I think it might be helpful to separate them a bit for greater clarity. The first is your husband’s depression. How long has he been depressed and is he getting any treatment for it? Does he have a doctor or counselor that he’s working with? If not why not? Depression is a treatable problem. Does he have any family history of bi-polar depression? His spending issues may indicate some mania. If so, be sure to mention this to his treatment provider.

Male depression typically manifests differently than female depression. A depressed woman tends to internalize her pain and blames herself. A depressed male usually externalizes his pain and blames others and circumstances. His externalized pain results in lashing out toward loved ones, sometimes leading to abusive incidents (either verbal and/or physical).

Although depression does rob an individual of his or her ability to think clearly, it does not rob them of all sense of reality or truth, nor does being depressed give him an excuse to sin or act in ways that injure those he says he loves, whether financially, relationally, physically or emotionally.

Sometimes it’s our compassion, sometimes it’s our fears, but It sounds like you’ve been giving your husband a get out jail free card when he sins against you or your family because you’re trying to be sensitive to his depression. The problem I see is that it’s not helping. Shielding your husband from the reality and consequences of his behavior is not helping him get better. It’s not helping him stop his abusive/deceitful behaviors, and it’s taking you to the edge of your own cliff where you are feeling like you can’t take much more. Therefore, let me suggest a different approach and it starts with asking God for wisdom because it’s scary to set boundaries and implement consequences when you’re not sure of what will happen next.

First, I want you to accept the very painful reality that the only person you can take full responsibility for is you (unless you have an infant in the home). Therefore, you need to get your own help to handle yourself in this situation. You acknowledged you are an enabler. Until you address why you keep enabling behavior that becomes destructive to you, to him and to your future, you will probably keep repeating it or will be too afraid to change it.

One thing you mentioned is your fear of him committing suicide. Yet you also indicated in your question that you just recently confronted his lying about finances and he didn’t threaten suicide, he just stopped speaking to you. Suicide is a real possibility with someone who is not only depressed, but has lost hope. But threatening suicide can also be used to manipulate others into doing what they want.

I hear you loud and clear that you are nearly at the end of your rope. Living with a depressed person definitely takes its toll on the rest of the family. That’s why it’s so crucial that you get your own support and help right now, not only to stop enabling his behaviors, but to stay healthy and strong yourself.

I’m going to give you a few things to think about – hopefully you will have the courage and strength to implement them. They will be crucial to your long term sanity as well as safety.

Tell someone what’s going on. Secrets are lethal and you need some support. You can share what’s happening without throwing your husband under the bus. Be wise who you share this with, but you need someone who can pray for you and perhaps be an advocate with you in talking with your husband. That might be another family member such as an adult child or one of his siblings, a good friend, or your pastor.

You must also start to exercise some stewardship over your life. You do not have power over your husband’s life although you do have considerable influence. Therefore, I want you to tell your husband that his depression is now affecting you and your marriage. You can say it lovingly like, “I need for you to get help now. You may be able to live with your depression but I can’t. You’re not behaving like the man you once were.”

You said in your question that somewhere inside of him there is a kind and honorable man but his negative emotions rule him and cloud his thinking and judgment. That can happen to all of us and sometimes it’s helpful when we have a grace-filled truth teller come along side of us to remind us who we are. Read the story in the Bible where Abigail had a heart-to-heart conversation with David after her husband refused to feed David and his men. David was humiliated and outraged. He vowed to kill every male in Nabal’s household. Boldly yet humbly, Abigail went to meet David with supplies of food. In their conversation, she reminded him who he was (the Lord’s anointed and the future king of Israel). This helped him to press pause on his destructive emotions of rage long enough to rethink his decision to kill all of Nabal’s men. (Read 1 Samuel 25: 29-35) for the story.)

In a similar way, I’d like you to try to have that kind of conversation with your husband. Humbly remind him who he is (a child of God, an honorable man, whatever good characteristics you know of him) and encourage him not to allow his depressed feelings to rule his heart or his decisions. Ask him to be willing to receive help to manage these depressed emotions so that he can be the person God wants him to be.

He may have all kinds of objections to getting outside help. Here is where you must stay strong and firm. His depression is not only causing him distress, it’s causing you distress. He is making poor decisions and these decisions affect you and your child. Affirm that you love him and want to see him get well and your marriage to thrive. If he agrees to see a doctor, or if he has one already, insist on going with him and report to the doctor the changes in him that you observe. For example, he doesn’t’ sleep well, he’s spending recklessly, he’s angry all the time, he is impulsive, etc. If he goes alone, he may minimize his symptoms or not recognize some of the things he does that are upsetting to you.

You don’t share whether or not you are employed, but at this time I would separate your finances and open a separate checking account with just your name on it exercising good stewardship over your finances. Since he has been irresponsible and deceitful with the finances, the consequences are that you are going to be in charge of family finances until he gets better. That may motivate him to get the help he needs as well as set some limits on his access to family money. Do not sign for loans or credit cards or home equity loans. This is not helpful to him or to you. This is where your enabling may need to be addressed so you don’t fall victim again.

It’s important that you realize that you are not only doing this for your protection, you are doing it for his. When you know someone is not making good decisions, you don’t give them unlimited access to things that could harm them or others. For example, if you had guns in the house you would remove them or make sure they were locked up. If you had a lot of prescription pills in the house, you would lock them up. Taking charge of the finances is not just for your protection, it’s for his. The shame that he feels for lying and failing again to appropriately manage money contributes to his feelings of worthlessness and feeds the cycle of depression and may lead to hopelessness – thinking he’ll never get better.

There is an excellent book I’d recommend you check out of your library called, How You can Survive When They’re Depressed:  Living and Coping with Depression Fallout by Anne Sheffield. It will help you be a good steward of your own life as well as wisely set appropriate boundaries with your spouse.

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