Just Your Type: Personality Differences and Marriage

Do opposites really attract?

MBTI and Marriage: A look at how personality differences affect #marriage

Sometimes the things that we initially loved most about our spouse end up being the things that drive us the most crazy!

This year I’ve challenged all of you to read one book a month on marriage–that’s twelve books a year. In 30 days you can get through a book–if you leave that book in your bathroom, carry it around in your purse, leave it by your bedside table.

And I believe that this month’s book has the most capacity to completely change the way you see your spouse–and it’s a ton of fun, too!

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for June

This month we’re looking at supporting him as a guy, since Father’s Day has just passed. And I suggested a number of books that you can read on gender differences. But the book I want to review today goes much further than gender differences. It looks at the 16 personality types that are part of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (or MBTI), and sees how those differences impact marriage.

Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You've Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality Type
Just Your Type helps you understand yourself, your spouse, and the conflicts you’re likely to have–and how to overcome them.

But first, let’s do a run-down on what those potential differences are.

The MBTI classifies people based on four scales:

Extrovert/Introvert: Do you get your energy from being with people, or from being alone? When you need to think something through, do you call a friend, or go for a walk yourself? Contrary to popular belief, extrovert doesn’t mean “life of the party”. Many introverts are great at parties. But it’s where you get your energy from.

Sensing/Intuiting: Do you like detail, or are you a big picture person? Do you like taking things apart and figuring them out, or dreaming up new ways of doing things? Do you like following a pattern or creating your own?

Thinking/Feeling: Do you make decisions based on logic, or based on emotion? Are you most likely to concentrate on what’s “right”, or to focus on relationships?

Judging/Perceiving: Do you like being organized, with lists and plans, or would you rather be spontaneous and go with the flow?

None of these is “right” and none is “wrong”.

They’re just different preferences. But interesting things happen when differences get together–and often quite detrimental things to a marriage.

When couples have differences, here’s what happens:

Most couples engage in this undermining campaign in very subtle and indirect ways; they rarely address the problem honestly and openly. They just stop talking — really talking. So the overwhelming reason relationships fail is poor communication

In fact, these differences tend to be the root of communication problems that drive us apart. And sometimes those couples divorce. But as the authors ask, “What if they had not only understood their differences but also viewed them positively and as a source of richness?” And in Just Your Type, that’s what the authors try to do.

The book is done in three parts: First, Just Your Type looks at the four scales and sees how people who are different on each of those scales will fare. Then it divides the 16 types up into four basic approaches to the world–which is really quite interesting. It’s based on a combination of things, so even though my husband and I are actually quite close on the MBTI scale (I’m an ENTJ, or extrovert, intuitive, thinking, judging, and he’s an ESTJ, or extrovert, sensing, thinking, judging), we actually have very different approaches to the world. I’m an Innovator and he’s a Traditionalist.

Then, in the third part, the book shows how each possible combination will fare in marriage, and where your strengths and weaknesses will be. It is isn’t mean to say “these two types should never marry” or “these two types are doomed”, but rather “here’s how these two types can maximize their strengths and work together the best”.

I’m only going to talk about the first part of the book today, looking at the four scales, and using quotes from the book. I found it just fascinating, and I know that you will, too!

So let’s jump in.

MBTI and Marriage: When extraverts marry introverts

An equal number of men and women are extraverted/introverted. So this isn’t a gender issue, though we often think women are extraverts and men are introverts. But this difference can definitely cause problems!

Here’s one example: how we solve problems.

Renee and James found themselves at a familiar impasse — once again. A simple misunderstanding during dinner had somehow mushroomed into a full-blown fight. Renee, the Extravert, wanted to deal with it now, hoping they could resolve the conflict before it escalated any further. But James, the Introvert, was nowhere near ready to discuss it. Although he really didn’t understand what had happened to cause the rift, he knew he needed time by himself to think about it.

Extraverts will want to talk it out right then; introverts need time to process. So extravert spouses: give your spouse time to think!

When you ask an Extravert a question, he or she will usually start talking. This is because Extraverts think out loud. But with Introverts, the opposite is more often true. When you ask an Introvert a question, he or she will usually pause before answering…Not only do Extraverts speak first and think second, but they also tend to act before they think. As a result, they are usually quick to become engaged in new and interesting situations, they like being out in front, and they are comfortable in the spotlight.

Not surprisingly, then, this leads to differences in how we choose to spend free time. Extraverts want to be involved in things with lots of people; introverts will want to be alone more or with small groups of people. Parties will exhaust them, and may require days to recover from. Extraverts will thrive at parties.

Understandably, Introverts choose to have fewer people in their lives, and they are more often close friends or confidants. Most Extraverts, however , “collect” people and often have a stable of friends and acquaintances with whom they enjoy spending time.

If you’re an extravert married to an introvert, become involved in some same sex groups where you can get together with friends without requiring your spouse to come along!

MBTI and Marriage: When Sensors Marry Intuitives

Sensors like to deal with the here and now. Intuitives like to see the possibilities. Sensors are highly practical. Intuitives are highly creative. Can you see the potential for problems? A sensor may want to do all the finances on Quicken and have a 10 year plan. An intuitive may always be dreaming up the next entrpeneurial idea!

Sensors take in information through their five senses, paying close attention to what something looks, sounds, feels, tastes, or smells like. That’s why they’re usually such realistic and practical people . In contrast, Intuitives look at the world quite differently. Rather than focus on what is, they see what could be, questioning the reasons why it is as it is and how it’s related to other things. Rather than trust and rely on their five senses, it’s as if they use their sixth sense to understand and make sense of things.

Intuitives are often attracted to sensors because they ground them. To sensors, an intuitive seems exciting! But as you try to live out life, this can grate on people.

This is the one difference that Keith and I have–we’re alike on all the others. And it is a BIG difference. I don’t mind ambiguities; Keith likes everything set in stone before we make a decision. I’m always trying to change things; Keith says, “if it’s working, why break it?” That may make me seem irresponsible and him seem boring (if you’re taking it to an extreme).

What we’ve found that works is just talking it out, and making lists about what are our values and where we want to move towards. That helps clarify things. And if I want to go off on a tangent, that’s fine–as long as I don’t expect him to come with me! If I want to cause a battle over something in church, for instance, I can’t expect him to charge in with me.

MBTI and Marriage: When Thinkers Marry Feelers

Here’s a dimension which is usually thought of in terms of gender differences–but is actually a personality difference. The authors explain:

Although the American population is about evenly divided between Thinkers and Feelers, it appears that about 65 percent of Thinkers are men and about 65 percent of Feelers are women, so natural differences between Thinkers and Feelers are exacerbated by the fact that they are often different genders.

Many gender differences books are written with men seen as Thinkers and Women are Feelers. If that’s your marriage, you likely love most of those books! But if it’s not, you may find those books don’t seem to apply to you, and wonder what’s wrong with you. The authors say, “Male Feelers and female Thinkers often feel that they are out of sync with the world — that they are somehow different from the way they should be.” It’s likely because it’s not a gender difference thing–it’s a personality thing.

As a woman who is a thinker, I found this insight interesting:

But interestingly, Thinking women may receive an unintended benefit. Many Thinking girls grow up to have much more access to their Feeling sides, which means greater balance and greater competence.

On the other hand, Feeling men often feel like they really don’t fit, because they go against the stereotype. And if you’re a thinking woman married to a feeling man, you may start to see your husband as weak. Don’t. See him as someone who can live out the love of Jesus and who cares about people’s hearts. That can be a great strength, especially in a man!

Here’s where problems come in resolving conflict:

Because Feelers are so sensitive to others, they will often go out of their way to avoid hurting people’s feelings. This means they are usually very tactful and diplomatic, but it also means they can be less than 100 percent honest. They know what other people want to hear, so they may tell little white lies or be insincere in their compliments. Thinkers, however, place a high value on honesty and directness. As a result, they are more likely to offend someone unintentionally. What they see as being frank and forthright, others may perceive as being blunt and insensitive.

The main thing to remember about this difference is this:

When Feelers are confused or upset, they want their partners to listen supportively and compassionately. Thinkers tend to want constructive advice about how to fix the problem.

So in a conflict, step outside your comfort zone and give your spouse what they most need!

MBTI and Marriage: When Judgers Marry Perceivers

We talk a lot about extraverts vs. introverts and thinkers vs. feelers, but what most people don’t realize is that the difference that is the most prone to derail marriage is actually this one–judgers vs. perceivers.

I’m going to let the authors explain this:

As you are about to see, Judging and Perceiving have much to do with the way we like to run our everyday lives. As a result, many couples experience their greatest frustrations when they’re different in this type dimension.

One of the key aspects of Judging and Perceiving has to do with the issue of closure. Judgers like things to be settled and often feel a certain tension before a decision has been made. Since making decisions relieves the tension, they typically take in only as much information as is necessary to make a decision and then move on. By contrast, Perceivers feel tension when they are forced to make a decision. To alleviate that tension, they avoid making decisions and try to leave their options open as long as possible . As a result, they are often (but not always) prone to procrastinating. As you are about to see, Judging and Perceiving have much to do with the way we like to run our everyday lives. As a result, many couples experience their greatest frustrations when they’re different in this type dimension.

I think one of the great challenge, too, is that we often assign morality to one or the other. Judgers tend to think perceivers are irresponsible or lazy. Perceivers think judgers are “anal”, to put it bluntly. And so we start to think of ourselves as superior, when it’s really just a different approach to life.

Judgers are planners, and they like to be prepared. Because they expect a set plan to be followed, they often have a hard time shifting gears when the plan unexpectedly changes. By contrast, Perceivers often are hesitant to commit themselves for fear that if they do, they may miss some great opportunity that will come along later. Besides, Perceivers like to act spontaneously and usually adjust well to surprises.

How does this work in everyday life?

It’s very hard for most Judgers to enjoy themselves when there are still chores to be done or projects to be finished. By contrast, most Perceivers feel that there’s always more time, so why not relax or take advantage of some unexpected opportunity.

Can any of you see yourselves in that? One of you wants to get the chores done before you relax on a Saturday. The other wants to have fun!

How Should You Handle These Differences?

Understanding your differences helps so much in marriage! You know why you often have conflict in certain areas. You can better understand how your spouse approaches life. You know what your individual potential pitfalls are.

Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You've Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality TypeI found this book really fun to read because I saw so much of myself and my husband in it! And if you’ve been having the same conflicts over and over, and you feel like your husband doesn’t “get” you or doesn’t show you love, maybe it’s just that you approach life differently. Just Your Type is an easy book to read together, because you only have to read the parts that apply to your particular types. And most people find themselves laughing a lot at it!

So pick it up–and start to understand yourselves, and your conflicts, better!

Let me know in the comments–what difference most affects your marriage? Do you see yourself in any of this?

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Wifey Wednesday: When You Love Superman–But Clark Kent Drives You Nuts

When You Love Superman but Clark Kent Drives You Nuts
Has your husband lost his superhero status?

It’s Wednesday, the day that we always talk marriage. I introduce a topic, and then you can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below! Today Tiffany Godfrey, author of The Top 12 Mistakes Married Women Make–and How to Avoid Them,  joins us talking about how our expectations in marriage can get in the way!

Would you agree that God has a heart for marriage?

I would say yes.

But if God loves marriage so much, then why are so many marriages failing?

I can understand the celebrity who doesn’t profess Christ as her Savior or the Muslim woman who denies the deity of Christ.

But what about those of us who have been blood washed and profess to have a true relationship with Christ?

If anyone should have a great marriage, it should be Christians, right?

And I think one of the ways we can discover how to experience an excellent marriage is to consider first how we view our husbands.

The question is, when you look at and think about your husband, do you see him as Superman or Clark Kent?

Because how you view your husband will determine how much love, honor, and respect you give him on a consistent basis.

I Finally Found My Superman!

I want you to think back on the first time you met your husband and then your days of courtship.

Wasn’t he one of the most gorgeous, romantic, and powerful men you knew? He could do no wrong and he was kind, considerate, and loving. Even when your friends and family kept telling you to look beyond his “strong muscles and flawless exterior,” you couldn’t.

You know why? Because you couldn’t clearly see. Your spiritual discernment was not as clear. For this reason, you were only able to see this man’s “Superman” side. And even when he did show a little bit of his Clark Kent side, you excused it believing that it would go away once you were married.

Caught Up!

When you’re in love it’s so easy to overlook people’s flaws.

I know I did.

My husband could do no wrong. He loved God, he had a leadership position in the church. And for our first year of dating, it was the perfect relationship. In fact, after a year, I knew this would be the man I would marry. I would have married him after our first year of dating, but he wanted to wait. “For what?” I would often ask.

“You love me and I love you. We love God. He’s got our backs…”

Yes, God did have our backs, but what I didn’t realize as a young lady in my early twenties was that marriage would require so much more than love and an occasional date night.

Exposed!

After about 3 ½ years of dating, my husband, Dexter and I finally tied the knot. It was great for a while, but I quickly realized that I was no longer a single woman able to make my own decisions about everything.

Have you ever been there?

In shock after being married because you realize things have changed forever?

In addition, you begin to see your husband beyond the Superman muscles and the cape. In fact, he’s taken off his muscle suit and his cape, and the only thing you have left is Clark Kent.

You begin to think, “This is not the man I married! I want my Superman back!”

What Does a Typical Clark Kent Look Like?

Clark Kent is not impressive.

He’s not a horrible guy, but maybe he’s a little messy and he snores in his sleep.

Clark Kent says some things that hurt your feelings, and sometimes he doesn’t even apologize for it because he’s so busy watching TV or texting that he doesn’t even realize you’re hurt!

Clark Kent is not a good money manager and to make things worse, he has a dark side where he dabbles in porn from time to time.

Once you begin to see the reality of your Clark Kent you begin to wonder, “How can I battle against these vices and his flaws?”

And you ask yourself and God if your marriage is worth fighting for anymore.

You begin to wonder if you ever really loved this man. Then your respect for your husband dwindles. And in the midst of your hurt, pain, frustration, and broken promises you cry out to God asking Him to change this man…

I’d Like to Exchange This Husband for Another One, Please!

In your disillusionment with your husband, of course you pray because that’s what Christian women should do for their husbands, right?

But you also start fantasizing about other men. Your co-worker, the deacon at church, or even your friend’s husband begin to look more appealing than your husband.

After all, he’s only Clark Kent and these men are Supermen.

So you think.

This is similar to what happened to me.

We had just had our first son. Money was tight, we were in jeopardy of losing our home, and this caused a snowstorm of arguments.

One morning, after an argument, I left for work. Not long after I arrived, my boss complimented me on my hair.

Fireworks shot off in my mind!

Because I felt so drained and empty from my marriage, that small compliment gave me a sense of validation. And from that point on, it caused me to have a crush on my boss.

I found myself connecting with this man through conversation at work. It was light, but it had the potential to go farther.

Eventually I had to share how I felt about this man with Dexter. It bothered me to have these types of feelings for any man other than my husband. But, I truly believe my confession to my husband prevented me from taking this relationship with my boss to another level. Although I never slept with my boss, my mind and heart wandered and this was just as wrong.

From this experience, I discovered the dangers of mental and emotional adultery.

To me, my boss had become my Superman and he seemed to be more sensational than the Clark Kent husband I had at home.

But it was a mirage, an illusion, and a deception from the enemy of my soul.

In fact, one of my friends once told me, “All men have issues. It just depends on what types of issues you want to deal with…”

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement.

We look at the men at church, at work, and even on TV hoping that these men will rescue us and give us a sense of worth.

But in reality, all men are struggling with something, just as we are. 

Love, Honor, and Respect Your Husband in His Greatness…And in His Humanity

How can you learn to both love and appreciate the Superman and the Clark Kent side of your husband? Here are some tips:

  • Recognize how God loves you and showers you with grace and blessings
  • Look at yourself and identify where you can grow in the marriage relationship
  • Pray that God will help both you and your husband to grow
  • Don’t try to change your husband
  • Appreciate the good characteristics of your husband and praise him for those things

As Christian women, we have a responsibility to do our part to make the marriage work. In other words, we can’t wait for our husbands to grab us, hug us, and say, “I love you!” before we start treating them with honor and respect.

Here’s why: In Ephesians 5:22 we’re called to submit to our husbands. That’s it. This means that we must show respect and honor on a consistent basis — whether he’s being Superman or Clark Kent.

If you want a solid marriage, it’s important to love, honor, and respect your husband when you see him on his good days. And you should also love him and treat him with respect on his bad days because nobody is perfect.

tiffanyThe Top 12 Mistakes Married Women Make...And How to Avoid Them!Tiffany Godfrey is a blogger, author, speaker, wife, and mom. She loves encouraging married women and offering practical tips on how they can do their part to grow in their marriage relationship. She also volunteers with her husband as a Family Life Weekend to Remember Co-Director.

For more tips on promoting a happy, healthy marriage, you can order Tiffany’s book on Amazon, The Top 12 Mistakes Married Women Make…And How to Avoid Them!

You can connect with Tiffany at: CommittedWife.com, a site that specifically speaks to Christian women and offers them marriage tips, interviews, and marriage quotes, based on God’s word. You can also follow her on: Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post you’d like to share? Enter the URL of the post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so that other people can read these awesome marriage posts!

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Wifey Wednesday: Are You Disrespecting Your Husband Without Realizing It?

Disrespecting Your Husband--without realizing it. #marriage
You may want to give your husband respect, but how often do we disrespect him–without realizing it?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today Brittany from Equipping Godly Women joins us to talk about how to make sure we’re NOT inadvertently disrespecting our husbands.

Have you ever noticed how the media loves to portray men, and dads in particular, as bumbling, incompetent idiots? From television shows like The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond and Married with Children to even your average cleaning commercial where the dad buys the wrong product or makes a huge mess because he simply can’t be trusted to handle simple household tasks, this stereotype is practically everywhere you look.

Whether you find these characters laughable and lovable or obnoxious and crude, the truth is that the idea of the incompetent dad has permeated our culture–probably more than we realize. How many of us women treat our husbands as incompetent or incapable without even realizing it, simply because the idea is so common, it’s rarely questioned?

Growing up, I never really learned what respect was, why men needed it, or how I was supposed to provide it.

I am extremely blessed to have two very Godly and wonderful parents, but my mother also happens to be a peacemaker. She has the gentle and loving spirit thing down pat. I… do not. And I had no intentions of going into marriage always being sweet and kind and polite and always letting my husband have his own way. I don’t care that I’m the woman–my opinion matters too!

You can just imagine how well that went over. Let’s just say–I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way. And the more lessons I learn, the more grateful I am for my amazing husband who has stuck by me every step of the way, even when I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.

Respect doesn’t come easy to me.

Not because I don’t love my husband or think highly of him… but because I’m opinionated and I honestly don’t realize when things that wouldn’t offend me in the slightest are deeply offensive to him. But I’m working on it. For now, I imagine, that’s the best I can do.

Perhaps you’re like me–you want to respect your husband, but you don’t know how or you’re worried about becoming a doormat. Let me reassure you, respecting your husband does NOT make you a doormat. It makes you an awesome wife who treats her husband incredibly well. And chances are, if you’re husband is a pretty good guy, it won’t be long until he’s showering the love and affection right back on you! Sometimes, you just have to go first–even if you don’t feel like it. Here’s how.

1. Find Ways to Talk Him Up–Not Tear Him Down

How often do you make jokes at your husband’s expense (even if you are “joking”), point out areas for improvement or bring up past mistakes your husband has made? No one likes to be reminded of their shortcomings, even though we all have them. Even the little comments you see as harmless can be really hurtful to your husband–whether he shows it or not.

I don’t care who your husband is, you can find something nice to say about him–probably lots of things!–even if you have to be creative. Don’t stick to just the big things either. Tell him how proud you are of him, how lucky you are to be his wife, how much you love certain things about him–be his biggest fan!

2. Let Him Do Things His Own Way

When you’re the one who does the majority of the housework and child rearing, it is very easy to fall into certain routines and ways of doing things. Just because your way is the best way for you, however, doesn’t mean it’s the only way. And insisting that things be done your way essentially says that your husband isn’t capable of handling the task. How emasculating!

The next time your husband loads the dishwasher, feeds the kids dinner, changes the baby’s diaper or puts the laundry away, don’t pester him to make sure he does it your way and don’t go through afterwards to “fix” whatever he’s done. Thank him sincerely for his help. You never know; you just might learn a new trick or two yourself.

3. Don’t Mother Him

As loving and attentive mothers, it can often be very difficult to turn off “mom mode” and switch to “wife mode” instead. Do you find yourself constantly reminding your husband to do things he should be capable of doing on his own, offering him “helpful” suggestions for ways he can improve his life, or expecting him to get your approval before he takes action? If so, you’re likely acting more like his mom than his wife. Not only is this terribly unsexy, but it also sends the message that he isn’t capable, you can’t trust his judgement or that you don’t think he’s good enough.

4. Watch Your Body Language

Do you ever roll your eyes, sigh loudly or even walk out of the room while your husband is talking? Do you look at him like he’s an idiot, or neglect to look at him at all? Whether you realize it or not, all of these subtle (and not so subtle!) physical cues convey the message that what he has to say isn’t important or that you’re better than him.

Think back to the time before you were married. What was your body language like then? Chances are you hung on his every word, made googly eyes at him and touched him every chance you got. Find a way to recapture that again.

5. Be a Willing and Enthusiastic Sexual Partner (to the degree that you are able)

For many men, when you reject sex, it feels like you are rejecting THEM. Of course most men will understand if you’ve had a horrible day, you’re in pain or if you’re still working through past sexual hurts, but if you frequently find yourself saying no, making excuses, not making sex a priority, or always doing the bare minimum, can you blame them for taking it personally?

If you can have great sex with your husband, do it and be enthusiastic about it! If sex is very difficult for you, keep the lines of communication open and do the best you can. It’s not the amount that matters as much as the willing, eager and excited attitude you have at the idea of being one with each other.

Learning how to respect your husband can definitely be a complicated and difficult task, but the truth is, as a Christian wife, it’s your responsibility and your privilege. Talk to your husband to find out how you’re doing as a wife, and be humble and willing to receive any suggestions he may offer. You may be surprised at how much your marriage will improve as a result!

About BrittanyA devoted Christian, wife and mother, Brittany loves helping other women grow in these roles as well. When she isn’t busy taking care of her growing family, you can find her at Equipping Godly Women, where she regularly shares tips, tricks and encouragement to help you be the amazing woman God created you to be. Brittany also has a thriving online community on Facebook as well.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up the URL of your own marriage post in the linky below. And be sure to link back here so others can read all these great marriage posts!

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Understand Your Man! Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for June

Join the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge! Each month choose 1 book on the subject to read to boost your relationship! Get a chance to ask authors questions, read author interviews, and discuss the books, too!

It’s our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in 2015–June edition!

Most of us want to grow, but life often gets in the way. And sometimes we just need new ideas and a fresh perspective to help us figure out how to do marriage better!

So this year I’m challenging you to read 12 books with me. Last month we looked at how to juggle your role as wife and mom, and I suggested that you read To Love, Honor and Vacuum (the book!). Here’s a great run-down of how not to feel so taken for granted.

I know some of you haven’t read a book in a long time, but remember: it’s just one book a month! And this month we’re going to have some fun!

Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge for June

 

Choose from these 3 books–and one challenge!–on understanding your man.

Why three books? If I just pick one you may have already read it. And I want you all to have a choice, because we’re all coming at marriage from different experiences, perspectives, and problems.

This is going to be on of the most fun months–and a month you may like to do with your husband. You’ll learn about the differences between you, and you’ll laugh at yourselves together. And since Father’s Day is in June, I thought this month was a good one to encourage you to understand more about your man!

 


Men Are Like Waffles--Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your DifferencesMen Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

The classic Christian gender differences book–that’s super fun and practical! Pam and Bill Farrel talk about how gender differences impact our communication, our goals, our families, and so much more. It’s a fun one to read, and you’ll find yourself giggling along with them as you see, “Oh, my goodness, I SO do that!” But you’ll also appreciate the heavier parts of the book where they challenge us to rise above our differences and forge real oneness.

Who should choose this book: Anyone who wants an easy–but insightful–read this month, and who may want to share this book with her spouse.


The Language of Love and Respect: Cracking the Communication Code with Your MateThe Language of Love and Respect: Cracking the Communication Code

Emerson Eggerichs wrote the classic book Love & Respect, and now he follows it up with a practical book about how to actually communicate when you speak two different languages. If you love the concept of Love & Respect, you’ll love the way he shows you how you can learn to build up your spouse and feel that connection again.

Who should choose this book: Anyone who is finding it difficult to connect right now in their marriage and needs some real help. A bit of a heavier book than the Farrels’ take on gender differences, but really useful.


Just Your Type: Create the Relationship You've Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality TypeJust Your Type: Create the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted Using the Secrets of Personality Type

And now for something completely different! If you’ve never found the “gender differences” talk that useful in your marriage, because you feel like you’re often reversed; or if you want to go deeper into understanding your differences, then this book is for you!

This is not a Christian book. It’s simply a book based on the MBTI 16 personality types, and it looks at how understanding your particular “type” and your spouse’s particular “type” can help you figure out where you’ll tend to clash and what to do to avoid those clashes. I absolutely love personality type stuff (I’m an ENTJ, and I’ve written about that before), and I find this depth of analysis actually really useful. I’m a rather “male” personality type (though they would argue there’s no such thing), but it means that when we talk about gender differences I don’t always relate (though I am such a multitasker and spaghetti person!). But with this stuff I totally do! And I love it.

Who should choose this book: If you love personality type analysis, and you actually know what MBTI means, then take a look at this one!


Your Challenge

I also have a practical challenge to go along with the reading challenge I’m doing this month. I’m going to encourage you and your husband to take a personality test together. Stay tuned for more info, but if you want to get started, here’s a good place to take a test now!


What I’ll Be Reviewing in June

This month I’ll look specifically at Men Are Like Waffles and Just Your Type–but choose any of the books to read yourself. Choose the that speaks the most to you, and then together we’ll look at these other ones! When I’m reviewing Just Your Type, I’m going to look specifically at what happens when an introvert marries an extrovert, because that’s one of the most common questions I get about personality.

Remember: one book a month. That’s all it is. Leave it in your purse or your bathroom–you’ll get through it! And you’ll find that if you read one book, on a different topic, every month, you will transform your marriage!

Leave me a comment and tell me which book you’ll be reading–or which book you’d recommend on understanding differences.

 

Reader Question: I Never Told On My Abuser

Reader Question: How do I stop the lies and tell about past sexual abuse?
Do family secrets need to be brought to light? Should you confront someone who abused you as a child?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Last week, after I posted on the Duggar abuse scandal, I started receiving quite a few emails and Facebook messages from women who were abused as children and weren’t sure what their next steps should be now. This note in particular really hit me:

I have been reading your posts about the Duggar ‘scandal’ with much appreciation. I have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual behavior a number of times as a child and teen, even in the first year of our marriage (from someone other than my spouse) and I am struggling to move on.  It was all kept a secret. I find it so difficult to open up to my husband of 5 years. I have spoken to him, but don’t know if he wants to know more, or if he just assumes I am all healed. How much or little detail do I go into? My parents also were not very open about sexuality and anything really other than teach biblical doctrine and cooking and cleaning. I lack many insights on what a healthy marriage is and just feel like I am drowning in emotion and self pity and I just want it to END! My husband is also recovering from watching porn. He’s doing really well but I am the only one he has told about it. The people from my past are known to me and two are relatives that I see regularly at family functions and church. I have forgiven them in my heart but feel I need to do so face to face. Do I talk to to them?

What a lot of pain! Let’s try to give her some help:

Bringing Past Abuse to Light: How to stop the secrets

First, a couple of big things: she is dealing with so much, and she’s living in the center of shame: shame from her parents who never talked about sex; shame from those who abused her; and shame because her husband watched porn. And she’s never been able to properly talk about any of this because there’s this cone of silence around everything.

The secrets need to stop.

When we shed light, God is there and can do amazing things. When we keep secrets and keep things hidden, we prevent God from doing His work, too.

I’m reminded of Micah 6:8 here:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

God wants us to love justice (which requires truth and speaking up); to do all this in a spirit of mercy (without vindictiveness or bitterness); and to be humble before God.

So often we think we’re merciful if we just “let things go”. But you can’t have real mercy without truth; you need both.

And so I’m going to suggest a radical shaking up in your family that may make you uncomfortable. I’m going to suggest that you tell the truth.

Here’s why:

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing.

Forgiveness is something that you can do on your own: you decide “I will let God deal with this person, not me.”

Reconciliation on the other hand requires acknowledgment on the part of the other person to the pain that that person has caused. Reconciliation helps not just your own relationship but that person’s relationship with God. They’re forced to confront their misdeeds and they have a chance to repent and make things right.

When there is no reconciliation, there can be no real relationship. There is only a false facade. A real relationship can’t be based on a lie, and when there is something that big, it is all a lie.

So you have to tell the truth in order to get your relationships on a path where God can work towards peace or can let people choose judgment (and He would rather that people be given that stark choice than that things remain in secrets and lies). Remember, he’d rather us be hot or cold, not lukewarm.

But there’s another reason this has to come to light.

If someone abused you, chances are you were not the only one.

Therefore, if these individuals have minor children in the home still, then you must call children’s services. You simply must, in order to prevent any harm to those kids. I know this will be tough, but morally it is absolutely the right thing to do.

If these individuals serve in leadership at their church, or if they serve with children in any way at their work or at church, you must also tell their church. You are not responsible for what the church does with that information, but you must tell. A simple letter or email is fine. So many churches have been rocked by abuse, and this will continue to happen unless we start speaking up. And churches desperately want to avoid children being hurt in their care.

Speaking of contacting authorities, if the statute of limitations is not expired in your state, you may also consider filing criminal charges. But that is up to you.

Also, there may be other adult victims in your family. You may have cousins or siblings who were also abused by these men. When you speak up, you give them the chance to as well.

So you must speak up to achieve reconciliation, to validate others’ abuse stories, and to protect others.

But what are your practical steps? Here you go:

How to End Secrets and Bring Past Abuse to Light

I’m going assume that you have already contacted authorities and the church, if necessary. But here’s what you do for the rest of your family:

Get some support around you.

Talk to a counselor preferably, or one or two mentors who can pray with you and stand with you. Once you have talked it over with them, be fully open with your husband. Tell him what happened to you, in as much detail as you are comfortable with, and tell him how you think this affected you. Tell him that you want healing, and you’re striving towards that, and you totally believe healing can happen. Sometimes this is easier to do with the counselor present. Then the counselor can also explain to your husband why you need to bring this to light.

Tell your immediate family

Now it’s time to tell your parents and your siblings (unless they are the abusers; in that case skip to the next step). Tell them what happened, and tell them this: “I am going to contact them and ask for acknowledgement of what happened and an apology. If it is not given, I can no longer be in fellowship with them. I ask you not to invite them to family events anymore. If you do, then I will no longer come.

This is not being mean; it is just acknowledging that while forgiveness can be given by you alone, reconciliation cannot. Reconciliation is only possible when the other party admits the sin.

Contact your abusers in a safe way

I suggest using email; it keeps you at a safe distance and it avoids you having to listen to them yell or be defensive or call you names. You can even do so using your husband’s email so that if they send back a horrible response your husband can screen it and shield you from the details, if necessary.

Say something like, “I have disclosed the things that you did to me when I was X years old to my parents, my family, and my husband (and the authorities or the church if you also did this). I would ask that you admit what you did and apologize. If you do not, I will no longer be able to see you at social functions or at church. I ask that you be open and honest so that healing and reconciliation can take place.”

Contact the church (if you haven’t already) and ask for church discipline

You go to the same church as these individuals. That must end unless you achieve reconciliation (and even if you do, it may still be a good idea to go to a different church).

However, if you like your church, then they should have to leave it, not you.

Contact the elders’ board and explain in as much detail as is necessary what happened at the time, and ask that the elders help your abusers get established in another church so that you can feel spiritually safe.

Warning: many churches will not handle this well, especially if your abusers are in leadership positions. This may cause you a lot of hurt. If you know it won’t be handled well, then you likely need a new church anyway. That’s not a safe church.

Recognize that this will be difficult

This may very well blow a hole in your family, and people may blame you. But you did not cause the rift; your abusers did. You are simply trying to mend the rift by achieving honesty and reconciliation.

A family that socializes without acknowledging harm done is not healthy. It may outwardly look fine, but there is no real love there. Real love can only be present when real truth is also present. If self-preservation and “not rocking the boat” are the main things people want, then that is not loving; it is holding God at a distance. If God is going to do something in your family, it will only be because someone is finally shining a light on Truth.

So, yes, you may lose some relationships with your family. But those relationships weren’t real anyway. It is better–even if it is heartbreaking–to move forward in truth.

What about your marriage?

When secrets are part of your past, it’s very likely that openness is missing in your marriage. You grew up without honesty and good communication, so it’s hard to achieve that now, even in a healthy relationship.

31 Days to Great SexIn our letter writer’s case, it sounds like she and her husband need to start learning to talk about and communicate about sex and marriage. I’d really suggest talking to a counselor for at least six sessions. And if you haven’t done it yet, I’d really suggest picking up a copy of 31 Days to Great Sex, which walks you through so many exercises that will help the conversations start. For so many people that’s what they need most: a way to actually talk about it.

My dear readers: my heart has broken this week with all of these stories I’ve been hearing. There are just so many secrets. So many. But Jesus came to be the Light, and He can handle those secrets. I don’t know if He will bring reconciliation; He leaves that up to us to choose it, and your abusers may not. But it is better to live under Truth, even if it means your family gets a lot smaller, than to live with a lie.

I’m so sorry. I really am. May God be with you and may He put the right people around you to support you as you tell the truth.

Let me know: has your family ever been rocked by something like this? What did you do? Let me know in the comments!

Discovering Your Husband’s Porn Use

A story about discovering your husband's porn use. God can do a new thing!

What do you do when you discover your husband is using porn?

It’s a long weekend here in Canada, and I’ve spent the weekend helping my oldest daughter make the bridesmaids’ gifts for her upcoming wedding, and now we’re heading off to move some furniture into the apartment they’ve rented. Connor’s living in it right now, but all he has is a mattress and two TV tables!

So instead I’m going to post this amazing story sent to me by Robi Smith, from the new blog Hopeful Wife Today. Her calling is to help women whose marriages have been ravaged by porn. Here’s Robi:

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.

-Isaiah 43:19

It made sense that this Bible verse came to my mind as I was looking at my husband. He was sitting on the couch in the living room with our four children cuddling near him.

It had been exactly three years since that awful day.

I could not believe the man I was looking at now was the same man from back then. That man would never have been relaxing with a smile on his face and his children right near him on his day off. Actually, that man probably would not have been sober on his day off! But today was not that day. And that day seems decades ago considering all that has happened to our marriage in just three years.

The horrid day that I am referring to is the day I found out my husband was addicted to pornography.

We had been arguing ever since my husband came home from a short work trip. His phone had whole strands of deleted text messages. They were text messages that I really wanted to read, specifically, from a co-worker. After a pathetic excuse that he wanted to “clean up his phone”, he admitted to me that he deleted the messages because he knew I would not like them. He promised that they were nothing inappropriate but that I would think they sounded like flirting. He knew how I felt about that kind of thing.

Flirting, looking, or getting to know any woman personally was out of the question in our marriage. We were totally in love and committed for ten beautiful years. He was my high school sweetheart. We had three beautiful children. What more could I ever ask for? That was how I felt, right? Then why did something seem wrong? Why did something seem weird? Why was there some foggy question just beyond my reach that I could never make out? And why did that verse haunt me day and night?

It was from the book of Isaiah. I was doing my nightly Bible reading one night, just as I always did. My husband was probably drinking a few beers and playing video games. That was his weekend routine. That’s okay though. He works really hard. He deserves it.

That’s what he always said whenever I’d remind him how much I hated alcohol in the house. I hated anytime he drank. It was just so hard to question him when he did everything for me. He worked two jobs so that I could live my dream of being a stay at home mother and raising my children exactly how I wanted to.

Anyway, that verse in Isaiah. I got to it and couldn’t move on. It said in Isaiah 43:19- “Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” I read that verse and it seemed as if God shouted, “Stop!” It was so loud in my heart that I jumped. I kept reading that verse over and over again, unable to move on. A new thing? God, you’re going to make a new thing? In what desert? Now? Now something is going to spring forth? That verse stayed on my heart day and night. It gave me the greatest feeling of hope but, also a very scary, lurking feeling. I kept thinking, “when is it going to happen and in what desert?”

That answer came the moment I quietly grabbed my husband’s phone while he was napping.

I hooked it up to his computer and looked in every file hoping I would find those deleted text messages and read for myself just what they said. What I found instead were deleted still screens of pornography websites and videos. Right then my whole life paused. Every single moment with my husband surrounded me in clarity. I said, “God, I never knew for one second, but it all makes complete sense.” I felt like I finally knew my husband. All the strangeness of his inability to ever be open with me, his guilty conscious, his exaggerated talk of our love story to everyone all made sense.

He had a terrible, secret addition to pornography and he was not perfect.

After that clarity, I literally fell to floor. I felt sick to my stomach and cried out to God. My prayer was, “God, you know I hate this! You know I have a strong disgust of anyone who even mentions the word porn. You knew that I secretly thought men who had lust problems were the weakest, most pitiful people on earth! You knew I would hate my husband forever if I thought he did this! And ten years! He actually carried this into our whole marriage and I did not know! God, you could pick anyone else for this, but certainly not me!”

Since that prayer to God that day, He has answered me. First, God showed me why my husband never told me. He struggled every single day with this secret problem, dying to tell just someone. He knew the last person he could tell would be me. If he told me before we got married, I am certain I would not have married him. If he told me any step of the way, I am certain I would have left him. But now, God started preparing my heart months ago with the verse from Isaiah.

God also spoke to my heart that He was going to use me to first, bring my husband to true repentance and second, to help other women who go through this.

I cried to God nightly. I begged God that I wouldn’t have to do this. I didn’t want to even mention it to my husband after that first week of confrontation. We decided it best that we never ever mentioned it again! My husband said he would never be lustful again. I said okay and that was that. God said that wasn’t that.

One week after my fourth child was born the verse in Isaiah came back to me. There was something so huge about to happen between me and my husband that I could feel it rising like a volcano. I started urging my husband daily. I had no idea what to say and I now know that God gave me all the words. I was literally talking blindly. I had no proof of anything. All I kept saying to my husband was, “I know you are not truly over this. I know you have not repented. I know you are lustful every single day.” And the worst one was, “God has told me that you did not tell me everything and that you have many, many secrets.”

I did not know this, but my husband later told me that last line terrified him. He couldn’t sleep at night. Until, finally, one day, almost one and a half years after I found out about the pornography, my husband confessed. He was keeping many secrets from me. He not only used pornography our whole marriage, he also did internet chatting, called various women, had a relationship with a woman at work that consisted of internet chatting daily, privately meeting, and talking on the phone. He also told me random violations to our wedding vow that had occurred many times with various women.

Finally, he admitted that even though he did not look at pornography anymore, he had huge problems with lust and searching for things on the internet that would not be considered pornography.

After that I was emotionally crushed. Yet, at the same time as that utter hopelessness, God whispered to my soul, “Now it can begin.”

Now it can begin. Now my marriage, the dream that I always thought it was, was completely broken. There was not one thing we had. We had no faithfulness, no trust, no honesty, no wedding vow, no openness, no kindness, nothing. But we had God. We had the hope in God that He would do a new thing and NOW it shall spring forth. Tears come to my eyes as I think about that broken day that my marriage began. As if in slow motion, my husband started to change. He told me one day out of the blue that he was going to stop drinking. He said, “ah, it’s not really good for me.” I held my breath. Then, he said he was going to quit smoking. Next, he started praying every single morning by himself. He prayed over his prayer list and prayed that God would guard his eyes and heart the whole day, that he would not lust, but be true and pure to God and me. We started, for the first time in our whole marriage, praying and reading every night together.

My husband became open and told me all about his days!

He even shared with me if someone was being inappropriate with him or if he had a specific temptation. We started going to church as a family. Little by little, this man was changing right before my eyes! Every day God was convicting him of things. He told me he was going to spend more time with the children, being a true father. Each day when he came home he greeted me and asked me how he could help out tonight.

As he was doing all these things, my heart slowly began to heal.

Each day I chose to let go of a little bit more of the past. The pain of it was clinging to me everywhere and I had to drop it. In my painful, quiet moments with God, I realized that God needed me for my husband. God showed me that my stubborn husband would not change for anyone in the world, except for me. God had big plans for my husband, but he needed me to bring them about.

God knew this would happen! Every day, even when I did not know what was happening behind the scenes of my marriage, God knew. He was preparing my heart for the day. The very holy, beautiful day that my marriage became a new thing.

Hopeful Wife Today is a site to bring hope and healing to hurting wives from their husband’s pornography use and unfaithfulness.

Why We Shouldn’t Bad Mouth our Husbands

Today’s guest post is from Wanjiru Kihusa, a marriage blogger from Kenya, who is sharing about resisting the urge to badmouth your husband–while there will be opportunities to do so, have a plan beforehand.

Resist the Urge to Bad Mouth Your Husband
Why you should never speak ill of your husband

Two months ago I was in the salon getting my hair braided. I always carry a novel with me because it keeps me busy for the several hours I have to be seated. The fact that it also distracts me from the pain and discomfort is an added advantage. This day I was reading Tis by Frank Mc Court a really awesome memoir. There were about three ladies braiding and chatting away and I was doing a great job ignoring them until one of them said “these men, what do they usually want? You feed them, look after the kids, and they still cheat. I honestly don’t know what do with mine,”

I was puzzled. Who says that about their man in public? I was waiting for the other ladies to quickly change the subject because of the discomfort they felt at their colleague’s outburst. But instead they went on to share very intimate details of how their men were bad husbands and horrible fathers. I was horrified. So I politely told them “I am uncomfortable hearing all these things you guys are saying. Could you please change the subject?” You should have seen them stare at me in shock. The only thing that saved me from being told off was that I was the customer, and they needed to get paid.

This is not the first time this has happened to me in a hair salon. Whenever I express my displeasure at listening to their stories, I always get odd glances. These women expect me to agree with them in solidarity and probably even share my disappointments about my husband. It is an appalling habit that I detest, and as a wife, I want to tell you why you should never bad mouth your husband to anyone.

Don’t speak ill of your husband to your family

My sister once shared with me advice a married friend gave her; if your husband ever does anything wrong (and he will) never tell anyone in your family. They reason for this is that if you ever tell your family bad stuff about him, they will never look at him the same way. It could even be something as major as cheating but please don’t. Here’s the thing, even if you forgive him and go back to loving him, your family will always see him as a bad guy. Why? Because they love you and want the best for you. Reason number two is your family is not going to be objective and show you where you may have gone wrong. To them you will always be their “nice little girl” and he will now be the “bastard who broke our little girl’s heart.”

Don’t speak ill about you husband to male friends – and don’t entertain men talking ill about their spouses either.

This is not only wrong but also dangerous. Having a male friend who you tell about your husband’s shortcomings is a disaster waiting to happen. One of these days in a weak moment when your husband has angered you and your friend offers you a shoulder to lean, the friend zone line will get blurry and one of you will cross it. And that, my dear, is how affairs start.

Don’t speak ill about you husband to strangers

Don’t talk about him in the salon and in other women gatherings. The girls might even contribute their part but you will come off as petty and completely lacking discretion. These people will not offer you any help on how to fix your marriage, they will just get fodder for gossip.

So, who do you talk to?

With all these people who not to talk to, who should you share with what you are going through? Since we all need someone to talk to, here are a few guidelines on who would be best to talk to.:

  • A close girlfriend who is also married – a lady who has a solid marriage
  • She should be sober minded – sharing your marriage should not be gossip, the encounter should be helpful. Get someone who offers you a listening ear but also give good advice; not afraid to call you out when something is your fault.
  • A friend who will pray for and with you – you need someone who when she says she’ll pray for you, she does.
  • She should be able to keep a secret – majority of the things you share will be so personal it would kill you if you had them somewhere else.

I have an amazing lady who has been both a mentor and a friend. I met her when my husband and I started dating. We needed a mentor couple to walk with us and even after we got married they have been really helpful. We picked them because they have a solid marriage and values we deemed very important. This lady is kind and very helpful and is not afraid to tell me when I’m wrong. Whenever I need advice on a marriage or faith issue I can always trust her to help.

You, too, need a friend like that. Someone sober, caring and kind; and discreet too. This kind of friendship does not happen overnight but is something we constantly work on. However, even with such a great friend, use wisdom to know how much details to give.

There will many times your husband will offend you and make you angry. Because he is human, he will constantly fall short of your expectations and will not handle issues you raise as fast as you wish he would. There will also be equally many opportunities for you to talk to ill of him to someone. Resist the urge to bad mouth him to anyone.

meWanjiru Kihusa is a Christian family blogger. She speaks and writes on marriage and relationships matters. A mother to one (in heaven), Wanjiru also speaks about miscarriages and grief caused by loss. She looks to encourage young people by giving sober and correct information about marriage and relationships. Find her at her blog Wanjiru Kihusa, or at her beautiful sister site, Family Lounge. (I had fun poking around her sites to see the things that Kenyan women are talking about! Cool.)

Let’s Talk Time Wasters: Video Games, Netflix, Internet

Do We Waste Too Much Time?

Are video games a waste of time? What about Netflix? Facebook? Pinterest?

On Mondays I usually post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood today (perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, while I’m away from my girls on a speaking trip, and I’m a little bit restless), and I have some things I’d like to share.

On Saturday I posted this on Facebook:

Now THIS is an awesome story: I’m staying at my assistant Holly’s house in Colorado while I speak this week, and her 17-year-old son just sold his Xbox. He went on a men’s retreat last weekend and heard about how many young husbands wreck their marriages because they always use video games. So he thought that before it became an addiction that wrecked his future marriage he’d get rid of it!

Quite a few people liked that status, but I had a lot of comments to the effect of, “there’s nothing wrong with video games.” Or perhaps, “maybe he should have tried moderation first.” And I do understand.

I think we all have certain bents towards different time wasters: video games, Netflix, Pinterest, whatever it may be. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Aren’t we all entitled to some downtime?

And in general I’d say yes.

But that’s not the whole picture, and so I’d like to tell you a bit of my story.

Let’s start back in 1996, when Rebecca (my oldest) was a year old. I used to leave the TV on during the day all the time just to have some noise in the apartment. I watched soap operas from 1-4 every afternoon, because I was tired. I wanted an escape. It was hard work being alone with my baby all the time. My husband worked about 100 hours a week in his residency program in pediatrics, and I was often lonely. I found myself falling into television more and more.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal ChangeThen one day I picked up Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People at a garage sale, and I read it. And it changed my life.

Specifically, it was his discussion of Beginning with the End in Mind and Putting First Things First. In other words, know where you’re heading, and then make sure you do the things that are necessary to get you there–before you do anything else.

He used a graphic to illustrate what he was talking about, and I’m going to recreate it with my own embellishment and commentary.

Divide your life into four quadrants based on whether or not the things you are doing are important or urgent. When you do that, you get something that looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: Stephen Covey's 4 Quadrants

Everything that we do can be divided into those 4 quadrants. And when we do that, it looks like this:

Don't Waste Time: How to figure out what to spend time on

Let’s dissect this a bit.

Things that are Important AND Urgent Demand Your Attention–Rightly

That’s when you go into labour. When a child is in a pageant. When your mother is diagnosed with cancer. These are life events that basically have nothing to do with how you behave–they just happen.

But then there are crises which sometimes ARE avoidable–but when they crop up, we have to address them. We discover an affair. A teenager runs away. We suffer a nervous breakdown (sometimes this is purely chemical; other times it’s because we’ve let ourselves get too stressed.) We totter on bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s even little things, like running out of clean dishes or clean underwear because we haven’t done any housework. These are the fires in our lives that have to be put out.

Things That Are Important But Not Urgent DON’T Demand Our Attention–and that’s a problem.

No one is going to make you do them. They’re the date nights with your spouse, your time alone with God, your time alone with yourself (if that’s what you need to rejuvenate). It’s your time with a special mentor friend who points you to God. It’s reading to your children. It’s keeping the home organized. It’s spending time together as a family.

We all need these things–but it’s far too easy to neglect them because nothing is forcing us to do them, and there are rarely immediate negative consequences for leaving them undone. The consequences come later.

Things that Are Urgent But Aren’t Important–But we do them anyway.

You’re having a deep conversation with your teenager and the phone rings. What do you do? Chances are you answer the phone. But what was more important?

You’re out to dinner with your spouse and your phone dings with a new text. Do you ignore it or do you check it?

Your friend, who has been in constant crisis for the last two years because she overspends, drinks too much, and keeps dating jerks, calls you when you’re on your way out the door to a volunteer activity, in tears. Do you listen or do you tell her you need to go?

Things That Are Not Urgent and Not Important–that have no redeeming value.

This is where many of us spend most of our time. I’m not saying all hobbies or all movies fall into this category. Some hobbies do rejuvenate, like productive hobbies like cooking, or knitting, or woodworking. Some movies bond you as a family. Sometimes getting on Facebook helps you keep in contact with your nieces and nephews. But how often do you spend an evening watching TV or getting on social media or playing video games, and you feel even more tired than before?

Here’s the truth that Stephen Covey wants us to understand: when you spend time in Quadrant 2, doing things that are important, you have fewer fires in your life that you have to put out. But when you spend most of your time in Quadrants 3 and 4, you’re going to end up with more crises. And you’re going to feel more dissatisfied.

Dont Waste Time: How wasting time leads to more crises in our lives

Why do we spend so much time on time wasters?

I think we do it because we want an escape. We lead lives that are exhausting, that aren’t always fulfilling, and we want a chance to forget.

But if your basic problem is that your life isn’t that fulfilling, because you’re chronically lonely, or you feel as if you’re not doing what you’re called to do, or your relationships aren’t on track, then wasting time won’t fix the problem. It will only make your problem worse. And a spiral will begin, where your reality deteriorates, and so you want to escape even more.

After reading Covey’s book I quit TV cold turkey.

I just stopped. I didn’t want to waste my life. And what I found is that for the first time in years I was bored. And energetic! And so I started something new: I started magazine writing. I researched how to get published, and by 1999 I was well on my way. In 2003 I had my first book published. My eighth will be coming out in August. And you know the rest of the story.

I firmly believe that I would never have begun writing if I had kept watching TV.

And that’s why, when people say, “there’s nothing wrong with video games”, I have to take a pause. It’s not that it’s wrong; it’s that too much of it may be stopping you from doing what is best.

Hebrews 12:1-2a says this:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

To Love, Honor and VacuumI explained this concept in my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but here’s what really hit me back in 1996: there are things that are holding us back from God that aren’t necessarily sin. Sure, we have to throw aside the sin, but there are also things that aren’t sin that hinder us. We’re to get rid of those, too.

My life is better because I gave up TV then, and I believe that 17-year-old boy’s life will be better because he got rid of video games, too.

Does this mean I can never waste time?

No, of course not. My husband and I do watch Netflix today–but we’re trying to put limits on it so that we also take time to play games together or listen to talks or books on tape while we’re doing our separate hobbies together. We don’t want to waste whole nights.

Every now and then we have to re-evaluate because we slip into patterns. In 2008 I had to quit reading political blogs because I was wasting time and getting my blood pressure up in the process. After I quit reading other blogs, I started writing this one. Again, I found that I actually had time I didn’t know I had!

And now we’re re-evaluating our Netflix time and trying to find a new balance. We have to be vigilant.

I want to live a life where I can feel like I’ve accomplished something. I want to feel well rested, healthy, and organized. I want to have close relationships with my children and my husband. I want to feel as if I’m contributing. I want to feel as if I’m leaving a legacy.

And I can’t do any of those things if I waste most of my time on entertainment.

Dayspring Purpose Mug

I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re struggling with feeling productive, or with finding meaning in your life, or with being chronically dissatisfied. But if you are, can I suggest that you take a look at these quadrants, and ask yourself: where am I spending my time?

And then ask: where should I be spending my time? Where do I want to be spending my time? And then try to put first things first.

Let me know: have you ever had to quit a time waster? Or do you think I’m totally off base? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

How Do You Respect Your Husband if You Can’t Trust Him?

Reader Question: How do I respect my husband if I can't trust him?
What does it mean to really respect your husband?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today a reader asks how she can respect a husband she still doesn’t trust:

I found out about my husband of 5 years had been addicted to porn and caught him by innocently searching through his photos on his phone while nursing my son in bed one morning. I regularly asked to use his phone so my looking through it was nothing unusual at all. The difference this time is he forgot to hide his stuff apparently this time.

We have had MANY hard conversations since then. He’s been getting help, hasn’t looked at it since July (when I caught him) and has been genuinely turning his life around and back to the Lord.

Here’s my issue: I still don’t trust him yet. I’ve forgiven him but trusting him again is something that takes a lot of work and time. We aren’t at that point yet. Is it possible to respect him without trust?

I do try but he doesn’t feel it anymore. I know it’s incredibly important to show respect and even biblical. I guess maybe I don’t know what respect truly is?

I’m being the best I know how to be while feeling so broken but it doesn’t seem enough. Please help, I’m so confused. :-(

Great question–and one that there’s a lot of confusion about. I want to leave the question of how you rebuild trust someone after porn use, because that’s a separate question that other posts do address.

Today I want to tackle respect, because it’s something we hear a lot: women need unconditional love, and men need unconditional respect, and we wives ARE to respect our husbands.

I’ve heard this love and respect dichotomy frequently, and many books explain this perspective well–like Love and Respect. The problem is that while love can be freely given, respect as a whole is something that is earned. It isn’t something which is just automatically bestowed. Loving an unlovable person is something many of us do all the time. But loving an unlovable person doesn’t involve declaring that this unlovable person is somehow lovable; it involves loving them regardless and choosing to treat them well.

To respect someone who is not worthy of respect is much trickier, because we think of respect  not primarily an action as much as it is a feeling. How can you respect someone who hasn’t done anything to earn it–but has instead squandered it?

And so today I’d like to take a broader look at what it means to respect someone, and what it is that we do owe our husbands.

How to Respect Your Husband when you can't trust him. #marriage

Dictionary.com defines respect in these two primary ways:

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability:
I have great respect for her judgment.

deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment:
respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.

The first definition is the one we usually think of, and it is dependent upon the actions of the person. You earn respect.

The second definition is the one that we are told in books like Love and Respect that men really need–to respect their position as husband, regardless of how he’s acting.

And that is certainly something that you can do. So God is not asking you to actually approve of anyone’s behaviour or “esteem” anyone. He is asking you to show deference.

But what does respecting your husband mean practically?

Boundaries in MarriageI actually think respect is part of healthy boundaries, as Henry Cloud and John Townsend talk about in their book Boundaries in Marriage, and I’m personally more comfortable with their way of framing the issue. They ask us to do this: imagine everybody as a farmer’s field, with fences around what is their responsibility and under their ownership.  In your field is your own actions; your own feelings; your own opinions. You have control over these things. You should not let others trespass. So no one, for instance, can “make you angry”. Anger is a choice that you make.

At the same time, other people have their own feelings and opinions and actions, and you need to not trespass on their field. So your husband is allowed to act his own way. Your children are allowed their feelings (even if you don’t like them). Your mother is allowed to rant at you if she wants. But you are then free to respond to that rant as you want. You can’t control the rant; you can control your response.

So to respect someone is to say: I recognize where the fences are. I recognize and honour your fence, and I will not trespass it.

Why Women are Control FreaksIn the case of marriage this is super important, because, as I’ve said before, most women do have control freak tendencies simply because we feel responsible for everyone, so we want to make sure they act the right way.

We need to not try to control our husbands, but let them be free to act. And to defer and respect also means that we acknowledge that their dreams and ideas for the family matter, and that we will get behind those dreams and pursue them with our husband, even if they aren’t always our dreams.

To respect your husband, then, does not mean that you approve of what he does. To respect him means that you acknowledge and support his right to choose what he does.

That’s a big difference. You aren’t trying to control him.

In the same way, to love your wife does not mean that you feel that she is lovable. It means you choose to treat her well and cherish her, no matter what she does.

To get back to our letter writer, she is largely equating respect with trust. Trust absolutely is something which is earned; we should never trust someone who is untrustworthy. And often we think that the respect that is asked of us is in the same category. But it is not.

So if you have a husband who isn’t trustworthy, what does respect look like?

I think it’s like this:

I will not try to control you or prevent you from using porn. I acknowledge that you have the right to freely choose whether to seek accountability or not; whether to watch porn or not; whether to rebuild the marriage or not. I am not free to try to manipulate you, guilt you, or cajole you in any way.

However, just as you are free to choose, I am also free to choose. And if you do choose to continue to watch porn, know that I will be taking these actions (and you can figure out what those are). I am not trying to control you by doing this; I am simply doing what I believe is best for me and our children based on prayer and on the godly counsel that I have received.

I hope and pray that our marriage can be restored, and I will do everything I can to build that marriage. I want to find things to do to build our friendship. I want to spend time laughing together. I want to enjoy meals together. And I know that you are free to make that choice as well, or to not make that choice. Regardless of what you choose, I will treat you with love, and I will treat you with grace.

What I really want, however, is for both of us to look more and more like Christ, and going down a really bad path isn’t going to help that. So if you do go there, I will have to take action. But in the meantime, I will not nag you. I will not manipulate. I will not look over your shoulder. I will not blame you or yell at you for my own feelings. I will take my sadness and process it with friends and with a counselor. I will work towards building up our marriage. And I will pray that you will do the same.

When someone has broken our trust our impulse is to stick to them like glue and check their phone and computer constantly and nag and cry and rage. And that isn’t respect, because it is “violating their fence”. But setting up an accountability partner for your husband so that you know he is getting help, as well as setting up conditions for what you will do if things do not change, IS part of respect, because just as he is free to choose, so are you. It’s honouring your own spheres of influence and control that God has given you, so that we don’t unwittingly become a sin enabler.

Some may say, “but that’s manipulation!” No, it’s not. To manipulate is to underhandedly use emotional, social, and sexual tools to try to pressure someone to do it our way–it is to take away their agency, their right to make a decision. Unfairness is a large part of manipulation. We’re not doing that–we’re acknowledging their right to make a decision, but we’re also acknowledging our own right to make a decision. And it isn’t underhanded. It’s right above board, and in line with God’s thinking on sin.

I know it’s hard to stop nagging and yelling and crying when trust has been broken, but I think that’s what respect means in this case. But I’d love to hear from you: how have you respected your husband when he’s acted inappropriately? How do you draw healthy boundaries? Let us know in the comments!

Note: if you and your husband are battling porn, Covenant Eyes is a great way to install accountability–painlessly! And between now and May 11, when you sign up, you get 60 days free. Check it out!

How Believing the Best Can Turn Your Marriage Around

Highly Happy Couples believe the best--even during rough times! #marriage
What if changing a marriage doesn’t always involve something huge? What if believing the best–a simple shift in attitude–can change everything?

I get notes everyday from women who are just desperate in their marriages. One yesterday stands out to me: they have two very small children; she has no friends; her husband likes to go out with the guys; and they never do anything together. Whenever they are together she begs him to talk more, to go on a date, and that just pushes him away. And so he goes out more.

And she feels  unloved.

But here’s the thing: he probably does, too, because the only interaction they have these days is that she’s upset with him. So now what do you do?

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThat’s where Shaunti Feldhahn’s book Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages comes in, and it’s our book of the month for our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge. I can’t recommend this book enough. I’ve read so many marriage books over the last year, but this is probably the one I’d say gives the biggest bang for its buck, because it’s so immensely doable. These aren’t huge changes you have to make; they’re actually quite small. Seriously, go buy it. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

Shaunti is a researcher at heart, and what she set out to do was to answer the question:

What separates highly happy couples from other couples? What are the key things they’re doing differently?

So she surveyed tons of couples and asked them to rank how happy they were in their marriage on a scale of 1 to 5–with 5 being Totally Happy–I’d marry them again! Many couples were one 4 and another 5; many were both 4s; and many were a 5 and a 3. Those couples are still pretty happy. But the couples where both said 5 were special.

Then she did in-depth interviews and surveys to try to figure out what practical things the highly happy couples were doing that the other couples weren’t. And she found two interesting things:

1. The things that the happy couples thought were making the difference actually weren’t.

2. The things that did make a difference were often quite small.

In other words, if you were to ask a happy couple why they’re happy, their answer is likely wrong. It’s not that what they’re saying isn’t important (“we always seek to serve the other; we never go to bed mad”), it’s that other couples may do those things, too–or they don’t actually do these things as often as they think they do. It’s something else that matters.

And what is that something else?

Shaunti lists 12 habits that make a difference, and some of them I’ve talked about on this blog before.

  • Wives–say thank you! In highly happy couples, men say “I love you” and women say “thank you”, and they show affection and gratitude easily.
  • Re-connect after a fight. Have a simple way to signal, “we’re okay”.
  • Turn towards each other when you’re upset, not away from each other. When you’re going through a hard time, spend more time together, not less. (I mentioned that concept in the post on sleeping in separate bedrooms.)

Today I want to talk about one more: Highly happy couples believe the best about each other.

Assuming that your spouse wants the best for you can change everything.

Here’s how this plays out: let’s imagine that couple that I was talking about at the beginning of this post. He’s heading out with the boys, and she interprets it like this: “he doesn’t want to spend time with me anymore. He doesn’t love me. He thinks I’m boring.”

And so what does she do? She cries. She builds it up to be a huge thing in her mind. When he’s there, she berates him for it, which blows up into a fight. He feels attacked, and just wants to escape.

But what if her interpretation was wrong?

(Incidentally, I’m not saying that it’s okay for a guy to spend a ton of time out with the boys and ignore his little kids. But I do think this problem would be solved so much more easily if she could believe the best.)

Let’s look at some stats.

When asked, “do you care about your spouse and want the best for them, even during a fight?”, 99% of happy couples said yes; 97% of mostly happy couples said yes; and 80% of struggling couples said yes.

So that’s good–in general, married people deeply care about their spouse and want the best for them ALL THE TIME.

But here’s where things get tricky. When asked, “do you believe your spouse wants the best for you, even during a fight”, 96% of highly happy couples said yes; 87% of mostly happy couples said yes; but only 59% of struggling couples said yes.

So 41% of struggling couples believe that their spouse does NOT want the best for them, but only 20% would actually say that’s true. That’s a lot of people who think their spouse is out to get them when their spouse actually isn’t.

Can you see how believing the best could transform this relationship?

If she said to herself, “I know my husband loves me and wants me to be happy, but he’s still going out with the guys a lot and I miss him. I wonder how we can reconnect?”–that gives a totally different feel for how she could approach him.

She could say, “I’m glad you had time to unwind with the guys! I was thinking about ways that we could unwind together this weekend, too. Can I run some by you and then we can brainstorm some together?” Now there’s no blame. There’s no hurt feelings. There’s just an issue that needs to be discussed, and it’s not a big deal.

Of course, it could be that this guy really is a lout, who really doesn’t care about his wife, and who really is an insensitive clod who doesn’t care about his kids either. Some men are certainly like that. But not very many. And if he’s truly that bad a character, don’t you think you would have seen that before you married him?

Shaunti believes that this one habit is a prerequisite to a happy marriage. It’s correlates more highly with happy marriages than any of the others. She says,

Either we try to believe the best of our spouse when we are hurt, or we allow ourselves to believe the worst sometimes–which keeps us from ever entering that lush valley where we so want to be.

It’s your choice. If your husband struggles with porn, can you believe that he wants to love you and wants to be sexually enthralled with you, but he’s fighting this battle he can’t seem to win? And can you join him in that fight instead of feeding the feelings that “he doesn’t find me attractive. He really hates me.?” (Note: if your husband doesn’t believe porn is a problem and won’t deal with it, that’s a totally different story. You need to confront him about porn and say, “no more”! But if he’s just struggling, or trying to stop, join the fight with him, not against him!)

If your husband spends a lot of time away, can you believe that he’s just trying to unwind and isn’t deliberately rejecting you–and then work at how you can spend more time together?

If your husband rarely shows affection, can you believe that he’s just wired differently than you, instead of believing that he doesn’t love you? And then reach out to him anyway?

Like I said, in some marriages he really doesn’t believe the best. Some marriages really are emotionally destructive. But this is a minority.

Shaunti says that in marriage we are often presented with times when there are two possible explanations for our spouse’s behaviour: a positive one and a negative one.

We tend to veer towards the negative. But if you veer towards the positive, and try to figure out why he acted that way, often you find that your more generous explanation was actually true! And the more you do this, the more you realize your spouse really does believe the best–and it’s easier to keep believing that. It snowballs.

So next time you’re facing a situation where you can believe your husband did something to hurt you or you can believe there was another explanation, seek out that other explanation. Find out the WHY before assuming anything bad. And you just may find a great deal of relief!

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThis is just one habit. There are eleven more. And they’re not huge. But they make a big difference. And Shaunti also has an action plan to show you how to implement them, because you can’t implement twelve changes all at once.

This research is gold, and if we could catch hold of these things, our marriages really would be transformed. I had such a great time reading this book, and I hope you all did, too. If you haven’t already, pick it up. It’s easy to read. It’s short. There are tons of stories. And it will give you hope.