Reader Question: How Can I Love if My Spouse is Hurting Me?

Reader Question: how can I love my husband when he ticks me off?How can I love my husband if he’s hurting me? How can I love my spouse if my spouse completely ticks me off?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is quite a common one that most of you could have written:

I know that sex is important in a marriage, but after spending the whole day picking up my husband’s messes, dealing with all the chaos with my kids, and watching my husband totally oblivious to what’s going on around him, I just want to scream! How can I not notice that two kids are fighting in front of him? Why is that always my problem? And how hard is it to put a coffee mug in the dishwasher? Why do I always have to do it? I feel like he walks through our house and notices nothing–not the mess, not the kids, not the bills. I take care of everything, and he likes it that way. And I’m just fed up.

Whether we’re ticked off about our husband never putting his coffee mug in the dishwasher or whether we’re ticked off about our husband watching porn; whether it’s a small thing or a little thing, we all battle with this essential question: how am I supposed to be nice to him when he makes me so mad?

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to feel ticked off. Sure, your spouse can do something wrong. Sure, your spouse can say something hurtful. But ultimately you decide how you will respond. Your husband can’t make you mad; that is a choice that you make.

When your spouse hurts you: You don't have to feel ticked off! You can choose how to respond.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentI’m not saying that you should let everything go, or that you shouldn’t deal with problems; not at all! In fact, in my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage I’ve got 3 of the 9 thoughts that all have to do with handling these issues in marriage, whether they’re big or small. You definitely have to resolve problems.

But those problems are easier to resolve if we’re going at them with our hearts right. And when we focus on anger and we focus on hurt, we won’t be able to solve anything.

Know Your Goal in Marriage: Oneness

I can think of so many times that I’ve been angry at Keith–and I actually shared a few instances in the book where I let those hurts and that anger drive a wedge between us. He’d be at work and I’d be at home, crying into my tea, so sad that I didn’t have a husband who understood me.

And usually at some point in the afternoon, a thought will enter my head: “do you actually want to make the marriage better, or do you just want to be proven to be the ‘good guy’ here?” In other words, am I trying to mend something, or am I just trying to justify myself and make him feel like slime?

But I usually dismiss those thoughts, because I HURT AND HE NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND IT. So I work myself up and see how much worse I can feel. By the time he comes home, I’m ready for battle.

And often, within five minutes or hashing out all the ways he’s hurting me, all the things that I’ve rehearsed saying all day, I realize that I sound ridiculous. Sure, Keith may have done something hurtful. But me dwelling on it all day and lambasting him for it is worse.

How can we avoid all those crying messes in the meantime?

Here are three steps that I talk about in my book.

Know Your Triggers

Here’s how I explain it in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage:

One night your husband arrives home later than he was supposed to, and it doesn’t bother you one bit. Yet a week later he walks in the door equally late, and you’ve already been seething for half an hour, rehearsing the speech you’ll launch into once he steps inside. You think, He doesn’t care about our family! You decide that he has the problem—or even, that he is the problem.

Or maybe some mornings you’re ready to tear your husband’s hair out for leaving his socks on the floor instead of pitching them in the hamper, while other mornings you happily fetch the offending garments while humming to yourself.

We dwell on the particular infraction—being late or leaving socks lying around—but we often fail to realize that it isn’t necessarily what our husbands do that makes us mad; it’s other things that are going on in the background that cause us to see our husbands in a bad light. We let these other things—these triggers—influence how we think about our husbands. By scanning for these triggers, though, we can minimize their ability to send our thoughts reeling.

We all have times when we’re more likely to get ticked off, and if we can recognize them, we can minimize the chance that they’ll tackle us. Being hormonal; being too busy; being tired; feeling defensive; feeling like you haven’t connected in a while–all of these things make us more likely to react badly when our husbands do something insensitive.

I elaborate on that here–but remember: when you’re angry, ask yourself if the problem really is entirely with him, because quite often it’s not!

Don’t Dwell on the Bad Stuff

Did you know that you can control your thoughts? 2 Corinthians 10:5 says this:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

We take every thought captive! That means that we can take a thought, examine it, and throw it out if it’s not valid.

If we’re always looking for our husbands to mess up, we’ll notice each and every time they do. Taking every thought captive means breaking this cycle.

When writing the book I asked on my Facebook Page for people to share stories of how they managed to “let things go”–those little things that can bug us and make us think we have a bad marriage. I want to share the story of a woman I named Ruby:

A couple years ago I realized that I couldn’t look at my husband without seeing everything wrong with him. I was constantly annoyed, irritated, and disappointed.

I must have prayed about becoming more loving because God dropped an idea into my brain. I would stop criticizing Dave for one whole month. In order to keep from falling off the wagon, I decided to write about it. Every day. On Facebook, for all my friends to see. They would be my accountability group, whether they wanted to or not.

When I told Dave my plan, I was so nervous. I thought he’d roll his eyes or be suspicious. Instead, he beamed. And another little piece of my heart broke. I hadn’t realized how hurt he’d been by my bad attitude, sarcastic remarks, and snide comments—my passive-aggressive attempts to fix him.

I found that, because I wasn’t allowed to say anything snide to him, I stopped thinking critical things too. It happened gradually. I’d start a rant in my head about his leaving his side of the bed unmade or his floor all messy, and then I’d stop. All the nasty comments I was saving in my head for him were useless, since I wasn’t allowed to say them. So I stopped searching for them.

Since I was required to say nice things, I had to look for them: reasons I was thankful, things he was doing right. And slowly, I saw him differently. I realized that all those negative things were really coming from my own baggage, my own selfishness, and my own needs and desperation. They weren’t the whole truth.

Once my mouth, and more especially my thoughts, got out of the way, I realized I had a great husband. By the end of the month, I had formed a new habit. And as an added bonus, I’d had great conversations with my friends on Facebook, and I think we all grew a little.

After shutting up about my own needs and stopping thinking me, me, ME! all the time, I realized I had some issues of my own I needed to work through. I had no concept of boundaries and saying no. I had no idea that a “good Christian wife” could ask her husband in a nice, non-ragey way to please put his lunch bag away instead of stewing over feeling like his maid for months and then exploding in a vague storm of emotions and frustration.

I had a lot to learn, but the month of no criticizing was a great first step for me.

Catch Him Doing Good

Ruby tried to not criticize, and it meant that she wasn’t watching for him to mess up. Now let’s take it one step further and catch him doing good.

If you make it your goal to notice one thing that he does today well, and then praise him for it–that can change the whole dynamic of your relationship!

If you’re in a tough marriage, I know this sounds difficult.

But when you get your heart right, you can start tackling the big problems in marriage with a better attitude. And you’ve built some goodwill so that your spouse is more receptive, too.

I know when you’re sad you just want your spouse to acknowledge it and feel badly about it, too. And a little grovelling wouldn’t hurt.

But wanting your spouse to feel like a worm rarely does much for the marriage. Instead, realize: I can control my feelings. I can decide what to think about. I can decide what to dwell on.

That’s really empowering. And then we can stop feeling so much like a victim in the marriage, and more like a strong person who can start to address problems and turn this  marriage around! When everything just happens TO you, you can’t do anything. But when you decide how to feel and how to act, suddenly you have the ability to make changes. And that’s what God intended for you.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentMy husband can’t make me mad, and I don’t have to feel ticked off.

That’s freeing! And it’s thought #2 in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. If you want to read some marriage thoughts that empower you to make changes, then this book is for you! God doesn’t want us to be passive in our marriages. He wants us to learn to do the right thing. And I try to show you how you can turn a mediocre marriage into a great marriage!

 

Wifey Wednesday: How God Wrote Our Love Story

Sometimes the love story we dream of isn’t the one we end up living. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not also a love-ly story.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And I give you a chance to link up your marriage posts in the linky below, too.

How God Wrote Our Love StoryToday Samantha Lee-Wiraatmaja from Godly Womanhood joins us to tell us about her love story. Here’s Samantha:

My husband and I love how God wrote our love story.

We’ve shared that story to many, and have been asked to share our wedding vows to youths learning about God-centered relationships. But before I tell the story of how God brought us together, I always start with a different story. One that is darker and a little sad, but more beautiful. A slightly less magical story but filled nonetheless with the rays of His glory. Without this story, telling of how God wrote our love story is just an empty promise of fluffy fairytale spirituality.

Because real love stories don’t end on the wedding day. We don’t belong to such short-lived tales that end with vague hazy promises of happily ever after. We belong in the halls of great men & women who found something worth fighting for and gave their lives for it. Stories filled with a little less fairy dust and a little more blood and tears. Stories that echo through the ages. Because God doesn’t just write great falling-in-love stories; He writes kick-ass, staying-in-love, submission-with-an-attitude, powerhouse-marriage stories too.

I want to tell you the story of what happened after we said “I do.”

It broke my heart. Marriage broke me into so many pieces there was no way I could be put together again.

I can only remember one promise that I’ve held onto growing up – one day, I’d meet a man who would see me for who I was and love me wholeheartedly for it.

I hid that promise in my heart for years, waiting and saving myself for that one man who’d see and cherish who I was – spirit, soul, and body. I resolved to give my heart & deepest parts of my soul only to this man, if he be found, or none at all.

I cherished this promise in my heart as the single most priceless treasure.

When God brought Alex & I together, it involved so much of the divine – dreams, visions, prophecies, that led us to each other – that I knew without a doubt this was the man I’d been waiting for all my life.

I also believed that he was God’s fulfillment of the promise I’d held onto for so long.

Then he began breaking my heart… and wouldn’t stop. Each wound tore a little deeper into that precious promise I’d kept wrapped so carefully in the innermost chambers of my heart.

He’d flirt with other women, sometimes while I was right beside him. He yelled at me for being hurt by it. He watched pornography with the intention to hurt & punish me.

He occasionally told me that he wished I was someone else. He wished I had this woman’s body, or that woman’s personality. He told me that he wished I was another woman as she’d do a better job of impressing his family than I was doing.

Each time left my self-esteem and dignity in pieces. I lived in the wreckage, unable to come to terms with the fact that “the one” promised by God was also the one tearing that long-cherished promise to shreds.

This man had been given access to parts of my soul that no one else knew, and with every betrayal he told me that who I was was simply not good enough.

And I turned on him with a vengeance.

I threw things (like his laptop. right out the window). I punched him, (everywhere I could except his face. because, ouch). We threw hurtful words intended to devastate the other.

And I allowed bitterness to harden my heart, turning me into someone (cruel, violent) I could no longer recognize. I relished the darkness and the pain, perversely believing that it was what I deserved.

We lived apart for awhile, and then we lived for months like strangers sharing a bed. I cried myself to sleep night after night, the coldness & distance between us made even more unbearable within the confines of the bedroom.

I wanted him to say something, do something – I so desperately wanted him to fight for me.

But he wouldn’t, couldn’t. He was as hurt, scared, and helpless as I was. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. Most times he was sweet, tender, loving. He loved me and he loved God. It distressed him to see me so broken by his actions. But he couldn’t help it, and the way I behaved in return only made matters worse. You see, we bring the baggage of our family heritage into our marriages – addictions, patterns of communication, models of the marriage covenant, and plenty of childhood issues. And unless we intentionally decide to cultivate a new heritage in Christ, we’re just repeating the harmful patterns we’ve grown up with.

We were both drowning, clawing at each other in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, not realizing that we were only pulling each other further down into the cold darkness.

But paradoxically, it was when we reached the end of our rope that we found salvation.

I hit that lowest point when I realized that Alex might never change. He might keep doing things to hurt me and not care. He might never respond in the way I wanted him to, comforting me and taking responsibility for this actions.

All those things might never change, but what could change was me. I didn’t have to keep living in darkness and pain.

The Lord began to speak to me a message of deep comfort that began to heal my heart. He showed me that I didn’t have to wait for Alex to comfort me for the hurt he’d caused, or even to acknowledge the things he’d done.

Because ever since Eve, every woman longs for her husband to rise up. To fight – for her, their marriage, and most of all, her heart.

And unless we run to God every single day with our vulnerable hearts, we end up taking matters into our own hands. Just like Eve did.

We need to come every day to our Father’s throne. Fall down at His feet, throwing down every pain and shattered dream. There, healing waters flow to cleanse & heal our hearts. There, we feel His love wrap around the places in our souls that have gone without love for so long.

Because this is the truth that set me free: We can count all our grievances, name them one by one. And chances are, every single one of them are valid. But there is no freedom there. We will go round in circles, waiting for him to make amends. Or we can be free right here and now, regardless of where he is or what he does.

Not that we don’t try to make things right. We do what we need to (keeping our hearts pure, responding in a godly manner to our husbands) and then we need to let God be God, and let the man be the man. The man must have space to rise up, and for God to work with him, without the woman rushing in to do everything for him (we’re not doing him any favors when we do).

While the Lord was restoring me, He was doing the same with Alex. We stopped trying to get the other to fill the empty places in our hearts and found that it was God, not man, that completes us. And in doing so, we began to find all the things we’d thought would be lost to us forever – love, laughter, and a tenderness between two comrades who’ve witnessed the horrors of war together and survived.

Through the period of healing & strengthening, the Lord began to speak to me about promises.

He opened His Word to me in a new way and asked me this: Was I willing to let God’s promise in my life die?

That precious, precious promise I’d been holding onto since I was a little girl – would I let it fall to the ground and die? Because fruit only comes when a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies (John 12:24), and out of it will grow much fruit that will bless others.

Through the story of Abraham’s testing (Genesis 22), the Lord showed me this: When the promise that I’ve held on to for so long has to be sacrificed is when it is revealed that the greatest reward is the Lord.

The day I said “Yes” to Him and let that promise go is the day my heart was set free. A gust of fresh air blew into my soul and all the pain and darkness began to be washed away.

I found so much freedom in saying, “Yes Lord, I give up my right for a man who loves me perfectly. I lay it as a sacrifice, and I trust that you will provide.”

I didn’t realize till then how tiring it had been to hold on so tightly to that promise, always afraid that it might get lost or broken. And in leaving it all behind, I found incredible freedom that I could abandon my interests because someone else was looking after me.

And what of our marriage? Well, I am happy to say that all the smashing of computers (me), punching (me), and screaming (me again) has stopped…. as has the flirting and pornography.

He has turned our mourning to dancing, our sorrow into joy, our despair to hope. He took zealous idealism and tested it in the fire so that conviction-filled reality emerged that was worth much more than gold.

Are we still on the road to recovery? Oh yes, definitely. I think we’ll be on that journey for the rest of our lives.

But do we find joy in the journey? You bet. God doesn’t stop writing our love stories after we say “I do” – in fact He’s only just getting started.

Marriage broke my heart.

It broke my heart of stone. So God could build a new heart in me. A heart of flesh. (read: Ezekiel 36:26)

Because a God-written love story is not all perfect fluff and fairy dust. It looks more like the cross – messy, painful, blood everywhere. But God covers it. And we slowly work our way back to the perfect harmony of Eden, just as God intended marriage to be.

 

samanthaSamantha Lee-Wiraatmaja is the writer at Godly Womanhood and owns + designs the Godly Womanhood Shop. Romance is the greatest inspiration, motivation, and dream of her life. She dreams to see Romance of the gospel – the fullness of Eden – restored between God and man. She is passionate about seeing women reach the fullness of their potential.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage posts

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of your marriage post (please, only marriage, no cooking) in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!

 

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

When Sex Seems Like a Chore

Don't Let Sex Become a Chore. Why we need to prioritize it more!

A few weeks ago a young wife caused quite a stir when she wrote an article called “The Night I Gave My Husband a Free Pass.” I won’t link to it because I think quite a few of you would find the site itself and the language objectionable, but let me summarize.

Basically, they have a great marriage. They’re good friends, they parent well together, they do stuff together. But she has no libido, and making love when she doesn’t feel like it is degrading and gross, she says. And she doesn’t understand why sex has to be a part of marriage. It all seems so silly. Why give up a perfectly good relationship just because the sex isn’t there? So her solution is this: he can have an affair or use a prostitute, it’s honestly okay with her. In fact, she’d appreciate it because then he’d stop bothering her and they could go on with their real lives together!

A number of you have sent that article to me and asked me to comment, but I haven’t really had time what with wedding preparation (9 Days and Counting!). But I’ve had some men send me some material that I think is really useful for women who start getting into that frame of mind.

I’m sure the vast majority of us have never thought, “just go use a prostitute.” But we may start to see sex as a chore. Here’s Matt Jacobson talking about why thinking of sex as a chore is NEVER a good idea–and what we can do instead.

And here’s a thoughtful response to that article written by one of my male readers, Jack Lopez, who sent it along to me. I thought you all may appreciate it:

He writes to the author,


Wow! Thank you for opening up a discussion about this.

I realize that it probably started as just venting and that there are a lot more dynamics to your marriage than just what is shown in this article, and while it is a testament to how understanding your husband is, it is really sad to hear all of the pain and frustration (on both sides of the fence) going on. I appreciate your honesty, and your husband sounds like a pretty normal guy. For you and your readers, please let me share some insight from 25 years (and counting) of marriage. (And know that none of this is meant to attack you in any way – please read to the end and you will see my heart)

My wife has been through a lot of health issues, including cancer & complications which resulted in having a mastectomy with no reconstruction, a year of chemo causing the loss of all of her hair, and weight gain due to the drugs she was on. So we had plenty of body issues to go around! (She has been cancer free for over 7 years now, which we are very thankful for) We also have a whole herd of mouths to feed and chores to do, active businesses in addition to outreach and counseling. We have had our ups and downs in the sex department, with all of the obligatory fights and start-overs and it continues to be an ongoing challenge. I like most husbands am pretty lousy at communicating in this arena.

That being said we love each other very much and neither of us has ever cheated.

I still am just as attracted to her as the day we met. We both have a strong faith and relationship with God which makes a difference through the hard times.

So, here are seven insights that I hope will help you and your readers:

1) Your husband is a smart guy.

While I have often thought that if prostitution was moral and legal it would make marriage easier for all the reasons you described, that’s not the way we were designed. It’s abusive to women involved in the industry, soul crushing to all involved and would be toxic to your relationship and kids. (just imagine trying to explain to your kids why daddy got arrested for soliciting a prostitute, or when his sugar baby shows up on your doorstep telling you that you should divorce him because you can’t make him happy like she does). So like your husband says, it’s not sex he wants, it’s sex with you, the woman he loves and would lay down his life for. It is a spiritual connection between two people that have committed their lives to each other, and there is no other place he can get that.

Everything else is just a counterfeit.

Even if it is not “cheating” to you, it would be “cheating” to him, which would come with the shame, guilt, confusion, etc… that goes along with it.

2) You are too busy.

No woman is going to feel in the mood after being sleep deprived from taking care of the kids, cleaning the house and working. So make some changes! You said your husband would not mind if you hired a cleaning service, or ate take out a few nights a week. Do it! Get some help, hire a sitter, take some “me” time, go to the spa, have lunch with a friend. See, your husband understands what is important. He can hire someone to clean, cook and babysit, but you are the only person that can make him feel loved, appreciated and connected to. (For you ladies, try telling your husband that you need to hire someone to help around the house so you can focus on having more sex with him and see how fast he finds room in the budget for it.)

Ten years from now your kids aren’t going to care if you personally did not scrub the kitchen floor, they will care if they had a father that was angry and depressed most of the time.

3) Sex is not just physical.

Sex makes your husband feel loved, cared for, and connected to you. He draws self esteem and happiness from the fact that you desire him, and that he can still “ring your bell”. When he sees you spend countless hours on the house, the kids, your job, he knows that those things are very important to you by the fact you give your precious time and energy to them. When you can’t make 30-45 minutes a week to meet his physical needs, or make it seem like an undesirable chore, you tell him that his real place on your list is somewhere below vacuuming and changing dirty diapers.

No matter how many times you say you love him, your actions say differently. Now a note here: if you have lost respect for your husband because of something he is or has done, then you need to address and resolve it. If you do not love and respect your husband, your kids will not either, which will open them up to a whole slew of issues.

4) You are making it more difficult / stressful than it needs to be.

Stop being so hard on yourself. Husbands are actually pretty easy to keep happy. To make his wife happy, your husband has to be a breadwinner, a mentor, example and loving father to your kids, plan for the future, maintain the mechanics of the house and vehicles, have good ears to attentively listen to your hopes, dreams, be understanding of your moods and struggles, a shoulder to cry on and to be a wall of protection between your family and an ever increasingly crazy world.

The effort to make your husband happy involves ten minutes of physical activity that ends with you occasionally having screaming orgasms. (I’ve often said to my wife after she has a particularly strong climax, “Why would you not want to do that every day?”)

Not that every single time it has to be “mind blowing”. We know that sometimes you are not in the mood, and do it anyways and we appreciate it. There is “maintenance sex” and then there is “roll around in the bed hot and heavy sex” and lots in between, but it is all good to us. Don’t get hung up on your performance, just enjoy it.

5) It is about quantity as much as quality.

Men need sex on a regular basis. Women like it to happen organically, but when you are married with kids, that is darn near impossible. You don’t “spontaneously” take your kids to soccer practice, or wait until you are in the mood to take them to school or feed them. My wife made a chart once to show examples how my anger and resentment were not at all a turn on, but being thoughtful and kind first and helping out around the house, and then doing romantic things moved her closer to the place where she felt loved and connected and desired intimacy.

I found it to be helpful, but it also struck me that for men, it works 180 degrees opposite. When we have just been intimate, we feel loved, connected, we want to help out around the house, buy you flowers, and show kindness. After it’s been a couple of days, we feel less connected, especially if we have been rejected in between. By the time a week has gone by we feel unappreciated, confused and frustrated. Two weeks and we feel taken for granted, resentful and angry. Longer and we are distant, despondent and depressed. (even if we hide it)

So stop the cycle! Schedule a date night every week or two (which does not have to include sex), but also schedule time for intimacy. Don’t underestimate the power of a good “quickie”!

6) It is the best thing for your kids.

Your husband is more important than your kids. He is the one you made a covenant with. Your kids are going to grow up and leave you and start families of their own. He is going to be with you for the rest of your life. The greatest gift you can give your children is a father that is respected, loved, happy and connected to the family. And you are the one with the power to make it so.

7) Fix it now.

Let me paint two scenarios. In scenario #1, you take some part of my advice and choose to show him that love through physical affection. (which isn’t just sex: holding hands, hugging and “real” kisses are just as important) Your husband is stress free and happy, involved with the kids, prizes you above all else, and the two of you live a long and fulfilling life.

In scenario #2, you continue for the next 3 to 5 years saying “sex just isn’t important right now I will get to it later” which says to your husband, “you are just not important to me right now, I will get to you later”. He becomes resentful, angry and depressed. He tries to hide it, but becomes more distant.

You have sex every once in a while, but it is mechanical and unfulfilling. Eventually he just gives up. Your kids grow up with a father that is physically or emotionally absent. He finds reasons to work late and hobbies that isolate him from the family. Maybe one day he takes you up on your “free pass”, but by then he sees that “free pass” as a one way ticket out of a relationship that he does not get anything out of.

Or maybe he sticks around and becomes bitter and emasculated, you never say a kind word to each other, you start sleeping in separate rooms, he becomes addicted to porn (not because he thinks other women are prettier than you, but because he is captivated by the fact that some women appear to still desire and enjoy sex). If he doesn’t leave or die early from stress/depression, then by the time the kids are out of the house and you finally have “time for sex”, you hate each other and are so far apart that without divine intervention you either get divorced “now that the kids are gone” or spend the rest of your life making each other miserable because it is all you know how to do.

I am hoping that you opt for scenario #1. If you do, as the saying goes: Just do it. There will be ups and downs, life will happen in between and everything will be ok, because you will have a happy husband by your side, to help, protect, provide and take on the world with you.

Jack is starting to get his views known on the web at his website, Insightful Guy Musings. He’s an ordained minister who once bought Vladimir Putin a drink. And he says he played a small part in the financial collapse of 2007.


I appreciate his thoughts, but I’d love to know: what do you think? Let me know in the comments!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

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

When You Love Superman but Clark Kent Drives You NutsHas 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: When Daddy Issues Impact Your Marriage

Do you project onto your daddy issues onto your husband?

When Daddy Issues Affect Your Marriage

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then all of you who are bloggers can link up your own posts below. And with Father’s Day coming up this week, I thought I’d look at how those of us with father issues can try to keep those issues out of our marriage.

Whether your dad abandoned you, verbally abused you, molested you, hit you, or just disapproved of you, many of us have found Father’s Day a difficult day on the calendar. When I was younger I remember not being able to buy a Father’s Day card to mail to my dad, because the words in all of them weren’t true. What do you say to a father you have never lived with, whom you see for a week a year, and who doesn’t really know you? There just aren’t cards for that.

And I know many of you have felt the same thing.

Yet as I shared last week, marriage can be a vehicle that God uses for healing in our lives. When we marry good men, they show us how we’re supposed to be loved. They cherish us. And so much of those silent accusations we have inside our heads start to diminish.

I asked on Facebook yesterday how people prevent themselves from projecting onto their husbands their issues with their dads, and had some great (and heartbreaking) responses. I can’t do this subject full justice in a quick post, but I want to leave you with just a few thoughts that may help:

1. Many of us used our past to make good choices

Just because you have father issues does not mean that you’ll marry an idiot. In fact, over and over again women said something like, “I knew from my dad what I didn’t want and I made sure I found what I did want.” I did the same thing! Sometimes when you have a difficult childhood you run hard in the other direction: you marry a good person; you become an amazing parent; you prioritize relationships.

Some of us, unfortunately, don’t do that. It’s quite common to marry someone who gives us a similar “feel” as our father–if he was an alcoholic, we marry a workaholic because we’re used to feeling distant.

But just because you have father issues does not mean that you’re guaranteed to have a bad marriage–not at all! So never believe that.

What to do: Ask yourself, “Did I marry someone who makes me feel like my dad made me feel?” If not, celebrate! If you did, then find a mentor or a counselor to talk through this and figure out how to address key issues in your marriage.

2. Our coping patterns can cause problems

At the same time, it’s good to recognize how our past did affect how we treat others. One woman wrote this very insightful tidbit:

The biggest issue that has come up with us is the habit I learned in my childhood of not sharing what I thought if I believed it would cause friction. I finally told my husband that, & he said he wanted to know what I thought since I saw different possibilities then he did. The first few time were VERY hard, but I took a deep breath and spoke up anyway. I still start off speaking carefully, but if my careful words don’t communicate well to him, he has learned to ask questions to make sure he understands my point.

When we grow up with friction we learn to try to avoid friction at all costs. That’s a common coping mechanism, and it makes perfect sense when you’re in a dysfunctional home.

The problem is that that exact same coping mechanism can also cause a functional home to become a dysfunctional one. If you fail to speak up and tell your husband what you’re thinking, then you prevent emotional intimacy. And once emotional intimacy is lost, other forms of intimacy quickly follow.

What to do: Ask yourself, what’s my reaction to conflict? Do I try to avoid it? If so, tell your husband and sit down and figure out some “rules” for conflict that will help you feel safe enough to speak up.

3. Our fear of abandonment can cause problems

If your dad left, then at the back of your mind is likely the fear that your husband will, too. Rejection is real in your life; how do you know that anyone can stay forever?

But when we fear abandonment, we often withdraw into ourselves and again fail to share key things. Sometimes it’s not even failing to share when we’re upset. We may even fail to share when we’re happy! If he’s going to leave, then I can’t let him see all of me. That way if he leaves he’s not really rejecting ME; he never really knew me.

The other dynamic that can be quite common is to become defensive during conflicts. If he mentions anything that he’s unhappy about you’re sure he’s going to leave. So you overreact to everything, leaving him unable to really share his heart.

What to do: Confess this to your husband! Let him know your fears. And then talk about specific things your husband can do to let you know that he’s not leaving. Teach him your love language. Tell him that during a conflict he must always say, “I’m staying with you no matter what because I love you, but this bothers me and I’d like it to change.” Pray with him about it.

4. Our family of origin can cause problems

If you have father issues, chances are the rest of your family also has issues. Your siblings may be messed up. Your mother may be needy.

And we often carry guilt for a lot of these things (even if it’s not our fault). We’re still trying to fix our family of origin, and we get sucked in to drama that is ultimately caused by a dysfunctional father.

If we try to step back, we can be blamed by siblings or by our mother. Loyalty became a huge thing, because “we had to stick together” to get through this with dad.

That dynamic can make it so hard for you to move forward with your husband. If you’re in that dynamic, as hard as it may be, put limits on how much you will talk to or see your siblings and your mother. Sometimes it may even be a good idea to move far away for a few years to build your marriage, just the two of you. Once you’re on strong footing you can reestablish those relationships.

BoundariesWhat to do: Talk to your husband about how big a role your family plays in your marriage. How does he feel about it? What is his perspective about how you react to your family? Decide how to set clear boundaries for your family.

5. Sometimes we need someone else to talk to about our “daddy issues”.

We are not meant to live the Christian life alone, and God has appointed some to be encouragers and counselors to help us get through trauma and live a life of freedom. If you feel that your issues just aren’t going away, and you have a hard time trusting your husband or opening up to him, maybe spending five or six sessions with a counselor to talk through these issues and come up with an action plan would be a good idea.

I know it can be expensive; counselors often range around $100 an hour. Some churches will subsidize, but think about it this way: If you spend $600 on counseling, even if that’s a huge sacrifice, but in the end it helps you live an amazing marriage, think about the money you’ll save by raising healthy kids and having a strong marriage.

A counselor can help you pray through things and see how Jesus felt when you were abandoned or hurt; to see that your father probably had issues too; and to see that Jesus’ grace covers such a multitude of hurts. Find someone who can point you to Jesus.

Do any of those thoughts resonate with you? If you have father issues, let me know in the comments what has helped you in your marriage. And for all of you–have a good Father’s Day this weekend!

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. #marriageYou 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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5 Ways to Pray for Your Husband

 Today, please welcome Jared Brock, writer of A Year of Living Prayerfully, a humorous travel memoir about prayer.  Jared is sharing five great ways to pray for your husband.

Pray for Your Husband

The email read as follows: “Hey Jared, can you write an article called ‘5 Ways to Pray for Your Husband?’”

I thought about it for a moment, then laughed out loud. How was I supposed to know five ways to pray for a husband? I’ve never been married to a dude.

Yep, I’m that slow.

It eventually dawned on me that I’d been given a wonderful opportunity. The opportunity to answer an entirely different question:

“What are five ways that my wife can pray for me?”

That I can do.

1. People

Ladies, I’ll be honest: we boys don’t play well with others.

There’s a reason why most of our fathers are lone rangers, who don’t have any close male friends. It’s hard to be open, honest, and understanding.

Pray that we’d find ways to cultivate and maintain a ‘band of brothers,’ a group of godly men with whom we can share life. This will massively impact our entire existence, and it’ll overflow into our ability to be a good husband and father.

2. Purity

If you ever meet a man that says he doesn’t struggle with lust, just run. It really is ‘every man’s battle.’

We love our spouses – deeply – and it’s that bond of love that keeps most of us ‘walking the line.’ But your prayers are what keep us pursuing an even higher standard. The sin nature is strong, and we need the spiritual support to purpose that intimate oneness that God invites us into, together.

3. Pride

It’s not that we’re right every time, but it’s really close. Our opinion is the most accurate, our political position is the right one, our belief system is the most true. It’s ugly, really. I don’t know where our deep need to always be right comes from, but it’s certainly anti-Jesus.

Pray that we’d allow the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, that we’d care more about ‘His kingdom come’ than ‘our will be done.’

4. Passion

Guys get loud when they watch NFL or UFC, but have you ever seen that happen during a Sunday church service? We’re dying here.

Pray that churches would find ways to reach men. Pray that godly grizzlies would seek us out and mentor us. Pray that churches would get creative with adding movement and action to the standard contemplative rhythms of the modern meeting.

5. Purpose

There’s a reason why so many guys play video games – we’re looking for a mission. For the most part, our 9-5 is killing us. We crave meaning and purpose, more than you can imagine. But we’re stuck.

Pray that we’d have the energy, endurance, creativity, and will to fight for our dreams and passions. Pray that we’ll enter the fullness of our calling – to do all that we were created to do, and be all that we were created to be.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other things you could pray about for us, that don’t start with the letter P, but we’ll save them for another day.

Oh, and one more thing that us guys usually aren’t very good at doing..

Thanks for praying for us.

Don’t just read this list! Save it so you can use it. Pin it or share it on Facebook!

5 Quick Ways to Pray for Your Husband

Jared BrockJared is the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully, a humorous travel memoir about prayer. He is the cofounder of Hope for the Sold, an abolitionist charity that fights human trafficking one word at a time. and he has written for Huffington Post, Esquire, Converge, and Relevant. Jared is happily married to his best friend, Michelle, whom he first kissed in the seventh grade.

Reader Question: How Do You Leave and Cleave If He Won’t Leave?

Reader Question: My husband is lazy and won't get a job!When we get married we’re supposed to leave and cleave–but what if your husband won’t leave his mother and father?

Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it. Today we’re talking mother-in-law issues:

What do you do when your mother-in-law interferes? She will call the house and if I don’t answer she will call my husband at work and bug him about me not answering…She calls every evening around 7 when my husband is getting home. Most times I don’t even get a hello from him before she calls. Some nights she will keep him on the phone for up to an hour…Almost every Sunday she bugs us about going to church with them and she gets mad if we don’t go to their church. Every time we plan on going out something comes up (usually because of his mom) and we don’t. We have only been out once in the last year for our anniversary. I feel like I never see my husband and when I do his mom is involved. It is very stressful and it is causing a wedge between us. Please help!

Here’s another woman who is frustrated that her husband is still primarily concerned with his mother:

My husband and I have been married for 14 years and have several children. We married quite young and went straight from our parents’ homes to married with a baby on the way. We’ve been through a lot in our marriage, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his tendency to choose his mom over me. If she wants us to do something and I do not want to, we do it. We have talked and argued and battled over this our entire marriage. When he does go along with something, he acts as if it couldn’t be helped. In the past I have tried to get him to go to counseling, but he “doesn’t like the idea”. I realize that this is a power struggle that I am in, but my life and marriage are being controlled by his mother. I am 33 years old, a mother myself, and do not want her dictating our lives. What do I do that is both pleasing to God and putting my foot down?

Leave and Cleave: Handling it when your husband lets your mother-in-law interfere

The Basics: What Does “Leave and Cleave” Mean?

Genesis 2:24 says,

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

When we get married, we leave behind our parents and we join with our spouse, becoming one flesh with them. We are a new unit.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t to honor our parents; they deserve our love and respect and our help, especially as they age. But our primary allegiance is no longer to them; we’re supposed to identify first and foremost with our spouse.

On a Daughter Getting Engaged: Getting ready for them to leave and cleaveThis summer, after my husband walks our oldest, Rebecca, down the aisle, the minister will ask Keith and me and Connor’s parents if we are prepared to let our children go. I never thought much about that, but as the date draws near the enormity of it is hitting. I have to let Rebecca make her own choices. I can’t interfere. I can’t demand that she update me on what’s going on with school. I can ask, but it really needs to be her choice, and I need to be okay with that.

I hope that she still wants to spend lots of time with us, but ultimately that is her decision, not mine. She and Connor will be the unit, and we won’t be a nuclear family in the same way again.

How Do You Talk About Leave and Cleave?

Usually when leave and cleave in-law issues come up, the conversation with our husbands focuses on the mother.

Let’s imagine the first scenario for a minute:

“Your mom called right as you came in the door again! I feel like I never get to talk to you. Instead of eating dinner with the family you speak all night with her. She is always interfering in our lives and taking you away from us!”

Now, what’s your husband going to think? He now is put in the position of either defending his mother or attacking his mother–neither of which is really comfortable for him.

What’s a better strategy for having this conversation? Offer him two things:

  1. A specific chance to help you
  2. A chance to plan with you

Let’s say the conversation instead looked like this:

“Honey, I feel like we’ve had so little time together lately because your mom has been calling so much. I love your mom and love the fact that you love your mom, but I’m feeling lonely. Can we talk about how to find time to feel more connected?”

Now the issue is no longer his mom–it’s the fact that you have a need that he can fill–and many guys like feeling like Captain America swooping in to save the damsel in distress.

You could also frame a conversation like this:

“I love your mom and so appreciate her role as grandma. I also really love our own nuclear family. Can we talk about what a great relationship with a grandma would look like, and what a great nuclear family would look like?”

Again, no blame is being placed. You’re not attacking his mom and asking him to choose sides. You’re just asking for some ideas. And as you have these conversations, you can say something like this:

“I’d like to write down what we’re saying so that we can refer to it later. What do you think is a reasonable amount of time to spend together with your family in the evenings? How often should an adult check in with their parents if they want to honor their parents? How many weekends a year should a family give their parents, and how many weekends should they take, just them? Can you think of a family that we know with a great relationship with their parents–but also as a nuclear family? How often do they spend with their parents? What makes that relationship great?”

Once you get these parameters written down, you can now refer to them when things get out of hand.

“Honey, I notice that you said you thought it was reasonable to check in with parents every other day for about twenty minutes, but in the last few days you’ve talked to your mom for an hour each day. How do you think we can move our family closer to what we want?”

These are the kinds of conversations that are often more productive. You’re not blaming, you define parameters, you set up goals which you you can easily see whether you’ve met or not, and you have something tangible to come back to if things don’t work.

Who is Responsible for Leaving?

It’s important that parents let their children go, but ultimately the child must decide to leave. And you can’t make that decision for your spouse. If your mother-in-law is taking a lot of your husband’s time, you can certainly talk to her. But your husband must be the one to set the parameters.

How Can You Build a Life with Your In-Laws?

It’s easier for him to set those parameters if you make an effort to love your mother-in-law and make your own relationship with her. If your husband feels as if he always must choose between two women who don’t like each other, you put him in a difficult position.

Romans 12:18 says,

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Do what you can to have a great relationship with your mother-in-law. Sometimes that won’t be possible, but try. Ask for recipes. Ask for her to teach you something. Ask if you can join a hobby with her, or take her shopping. Go get your nails done together on a regular basis.

If you can find a way to relate to your mother-in-law that does not involve your husband, you go so far in making it easier for your husband to leave.

I’m about to be a mother-in-law, and I’m starting to have some sympathy for the mother-in-law in these relationships. Here’s the thing: I believe that mothers-in-law often become interfering because they are desperately afraid of losing their child. And so you try to make sure that your son still loves you as his mom. You want to still feel special.

I know that I won’t worry about losing my daughter if Connor takes some time to get to know us individually. And that’s why we were so happy when he agreed to go on a father-son canoe trip coming up with my husband! If we feel as if our son-in-law loves us as individuals, and not just because he’s married to our daughter, then we won’t be nearly as concerned with our daughter proving her loyalty. And I’ve been so proud to watch how Rebecca is trying to reach out to her future mother-in-law, and put her at ease that she won’t take her son away from her. She gets it.

So reach to your mother-in-law. It may not take much–but if she knows you’re an ally, not a rival, then she may have an easier time letting go of her son.

Dayspring Serenity Prayer

What if Your Husband Never Chooses to Leave and Cleave?

What if you’ve done all of this and your husband is still at her beck and call?

Can you move away? I’ve known several marriages that have broken up that I’ve always felt would have survived if they had just moved away from her parents (in those cases it was SHE who wasn’t leaving, not HE).

If that’s not possible, you have two choices:

  1. Grow bitter about it and make his life miserable
  2. Decide to let it go and love your husband

I know that everyone would be better off if your husband learned to leave and cleave. But you can’t make him. You can seek out a mentor couple; you can ask for all of you to sit down with a counselor; you can even go to your pastor. But if things don’t change, what are you going to do?

I wrote a post a while ago about changing our attitudes when there’s one big area where your husband disappoints you–and you have to learn to accept it, and find ways to make your own life happy and peaceful anyway.

If you know that your husband is going to talk to his mom every night at 7 for an hour, then can you find something you do at 7 that you enjoy, so you’re not disappointed and stewing every evening? If you know that your mother-in-law is going to want your husband to help her with errands this Saturday, can you plan something fun for you and the kids so that you don’t end up making him feel guilty?

BoundariesAnd if your mother-in-law wants you all to come do something with her, it’s quite okay on occasion to say, “I really need a weekend just with the kids. I’d love for you to join us, but if you feel you must go with your mother, feel free. But I think I’ll keep the kids here with me this weekend.” You don’t need to go along with everything; you can set boundaries yourself.

Keep expressing your feelings, as we talked about above, but ultimately you’re letting go and you’re letting your husband make his own decisions. Sometimes in that letting go he feels freed to look at the situation more objectively, because it’s not so emotional. He may decide that you look like you’re having a lot more fun without him–and he wants to join you! But even if he doesn’t, at least you’re not as miserable anymore.

Now it’s your turn: Let me know in the comments, have you ever had to set boundaries around in-laws? Or are you an in-law yourself and you’ve had to watch how you treat your adult children? Tell us any tips you have!

Ten Truths About Emotionally Destructive Marriages

Emotionally Destructive Marriages: 10 Truths about marriages characterized by emotional abuse

If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, filled with emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse, I pray that this post will help you today.

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeIn January I challenged everybody to the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge–read one book a month all year, on a set subject. This month’s was on setting boundaries in your marriage. For those in marriages characterized by mutual respect, where this wasn’t an issue, I suggested the awesome book Ask It by Andy Stanley. Then I had several other suggestions for those in different situations, culminating with The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick. And today I’d like to share 10 truths about those marriages, using many of Leslie’s words from the book.

1. Most Marriages Are Not Emotionally Destructive

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceIf you are reading this blog, chances are your marriage is NOT emotionally destructive. I took Leslie’s 50 question quiz to find out how my marriage ranked, and I answered “never” to every single question. I’m married to a great guy–as many of you are.

And as Shaunti Feldhahn showed in her research for Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, in 90% of marriages each spouse genuinely wants the best for the other spouse.

However, even though most marriages are not emotionally destructive, emotionally abusive marriages are over-represented on this blog, because so many of you land here in crisis after a Google search.

2. Emotionally Abusive Marriages follow a pattern

In every marriage people may say cruel things during a fight. They may act inappropriately and harshly. I’ve yelled at my husband (though I haven’t called him names). He’s yelled at me.

But this isn’t typical of our marriage. Leslie Vernick says that a good marriage is one characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom. We each try to make it better. If a rule applies to one person, it applies to both (for instance, if one person has to make account for the money they spent, then both do. In abusive marriages, often one person forces this on the other without any reciprocity at all). And both spouses feel free to express opinions, make decisions, and choose how to act–even if in bursts of anger we may occasionally do the opposite.

On the other hand, Leslie Vernick says,

An emotionally destructive marriage is one where one’s personhood, dignity, and freedom of choice is regularly denied, criticized, or crushed. This can be done through words, behaviors, economics, attitudes, and misusing the Scriptures…

It’s characterized by repetitive attitudes and behaviors that result in tearing someone down or inhibiting her growth. This behavior is usually accompanied by a lack of awareness, a lack of responsibility, and a lack of change…

Emotional abuse systematically degrades, diminishes, and can eventually destroy the personhood of the abused.

Eventually the emotionally abused spouse (and either spouse could be abused) no longer feels like “me”.

3. Emotionally Abusive marriages make you sick

The stress from living in an emotionally destructive marriage takes its toll.

Your body feels it. Your stomach churns, your teeth grind, your hands clench, your jaw tightens, your head pounds, your legs shake, and your blood pressure rises. You cry, you can’t catch your breath, and you throw up.

When your husband is near your body starts to shake. Almost all women in these types of marriages experience physical symptoms: ulcers, digestive issues, migraines. And it only gets worse.

4. Emotionally Destructive marriages make you crazy

Abusive spouses seek to control their mates through manipulation, anger, rage, and deceit. They play mind games. And then, every now and then they perform acts of kindness to keep their spouses ambivalent about leaving.

But when our personhood is systematically denied and we aren’t allowed to express, or even have, feelings, we feel as if we’re going crazy.

Leslie writes,

Our emotions always serve a purpose, like the warning lights on a car dashboard. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, and often ignoring our feelings only makes the problem worse.

5. Most typical Christian marriage advice is exactly the wrong thing to do in an emotionally abusive marriage

To me, this is the most important point. I believe in biblical submission–with a firm emphasis on the word biblical. I do not believe in just plain submission. And yet over and over again in Christian blogs and in Christian books we’re told how submission turned their marriage around. How submission was the key to marital happiness.

That may be true–as long as you’re not in an emotionally abusive marriage. As soon as you are, acting in a typically submissive way only makes it worse, as I shared in this post about how not all advice is one size fits all.

Yet too often we in the church are told that the only proper response for a wife towards her husband is to defer to him–a  position that ignores the entire book of Proverbs, most of the Pauline epistles, and how Jesus Himself acted towards injustice.

In many emotionally destructive marriages, wives have spent years reading marriage books on how to make their marriages better. They’ve tried everything they can get their hands on–but nothing works, and in fact things often get worse, because the typical advice doesn’t fit.

I’ll let Leslie Vernick speak to this,

We’ve misdiagnosed a marriage that has terminal cancer and treated it as if it were only suffering from a common cold. We’ve also misplaced the responsibility for keeping the marriage alive by putting an extraordinarily heavy burden on a wife’s shoulders to somehow maintain a loving and warm relationship with a husband who treats her with cruelty, disrespect, deceit, and gross indifference. It’s not feasible, nor is it biblical…

When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing, and working toward being a better spouse, you are a godly wife, but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage…

In some marriages, trying harder does not engender a reciprocal response. It has the opposite effect. It feeds the fantasy that the sole purpose of your life is to serve your husband, make him happy, and meet his every need. It feeds his belief of entitlement and his selfishness, and it solidifies his self-deception that it is indeed all about him.

6. If you’re in an emotionally destructive marriage, be good, don’t be nice

In every marriage, our goal should be to encourage people to be more godly–and that should be all the more so in marriage because we are the helpmeet.

If we act in such a way that we solidify his self-centeredness (or her self-centeredness), then we aren’t being good or loving.

One woman said to Leslie,

I made our marriage worse by never speaking up, by being too nice, by not expressing my needs, and by accommodating Charlie even at my own expense. I went along thinking that this was my role as a godly woman, a submissive wife, a biblical helpmate.

7. To love your husband in an emotionally abusive marriage is to be concerned about his welfare and his soul

Leslie writes,

Biblically loving your husband doesn’t require you to prop him up in order to enable him to continue to hurt you. It involves something far more redemptive…

He needs a wife who will love him enough to tell him the truth and to respectfully challenge his selfishness, his self-absorption, and his self-deception.

What can you do to help your husband grow? You refuse to accept behaviour that is destructive and abusive.

When you put your foot down and say, “I will not allow myself or the kids to be treated this way anymore. It’s destructive to me, to them, and to our marriage,” you are not going against God by speaking the truth in love. You are standing for goodness, for truth, and for the healing and restoration of your marriage.

In an emotionally destructive marriage, you must learn to say no.

If you don’t know how to do that, Leslie lists some very practical examples of how you can set repercussions and boundaries for destructive behaviour while still making sure you and the children are safe. She talks practically about how to get a team around you for support, how to express to him what you will and will not accept, and how to start a process which can lead to him understanding what being a godly man is.

8. The Bible clearly says that if you are married to a fool, being nice only makes the fool worse

If people are doubting whether women have the “right” to put these kinds of ultimatums to their husbands, then I’d suggest you read the book of Proverbs and look at how God tells us to treat fools. Leslie explains in detail these Bible passages and how they apply to marriage.

And she looks at one example we have of a woman who was married to a fool–Abigail who was married to Nabal in 1 Samuel 25–and how she went against his wishes and was not submissive because she put God first.

9. We are to obey God, not man–especially an emotionally abusive man (or woman)

Following your husband into sin may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive. Allowing him to berate you and your children may be submissive, but it is not biblically submissive.

As Peter says in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than man.”

10. God cares about the individuals in your family more than he cares about your marriage

Finally, if you’re in an emotionally abusive marriage, know that God sees you and grieves for you. In her book, Leslie shows through Scripture how God feels when His children are physically and emotionally hurt. He cries with you.

And she shows how the verse “God hates divorce” is often used against women in abusive marriages, rather than against the husbands who have made the rift–which is who that verse was directed at in the first place!

Leslie writes,

Maybe you think that God is more interested in preserving your marriage than the well-being of you and your children, but that is not true…

Joanne realized that her marriage, although important to her, had become idolatrous. Keeping it together was what controlled her, not the love of Christ…

A wife is not a body to use but a person to love.

And finally, let me leave you with this:

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: We Need to Learn God's Heart

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your HopeMost of you reading this are not in emotionally abusive marriages–but some are. And I want you to know that God cares. That you are not alone. And that He wants you to get help. Maybe that first step is picking up a copy of Leslie Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, which outlines how to identify your marriage, how to seek help, and how to do the hard work of seeing if the marriage can be saved. I encourage you to get it–it will give you hope!

 

10 Things To Consider When Working with Your Spouse

Today, please welcome author Jill Lynn, who shares 10 key ingredients to working with your spouse, finding the balance to a thriving marriage and a successful business partnership. Yesterday we looked at the business aspect of working with your spouse; today here’s a look at the marriage aspect of working with your spouse.

Working with Your SpouseAbout eight years ago, my husband and I bought a small business. Our plan? That I would do the accounting and he would manage the rest. We were young and naïve. Many things have worked out over that time, but we’ve learned some lessons along the way. Whether you are already working together or just thinking about it, here’s ten things to consider when working with your spouse.

1.  The first thing to ask yourself if you and your spouse are considering working together in any capacity, is should we work together?

Is it right for you and your family? Some people barrel into working together, assuming that since it’s the easiest solution, or makes the most monetary sense, it’s an obvious choice. It’s not. Have open discussions about what each of your strengths are and if your marriage can weather this change in your relationship.

2.  Ask yourself if you really have the time the position would require.

Do you need to give up some other things to make it happen? For instance, if you have small children, where will you have an office? How will you carve out time for work? Are you going to hire a sitter a few days a week? Or perhaps someone to clean your home? Logistics matter. Being on the same page matters.

3.  Communicate.

Eight years ago, I was a stay-at-home mom, who loved my time at our family business. As it’s grown over the years, there’s been many times my husband and I have felt stretched beyond our skin. We can’t accomplish it all. We’re thankful for the work, but it feels unmanageable at times. In these moments, we always come back to one truth: there’s a choice in everything. Is this growth just for a season? Or do we need to hire more help? My role has changed from what we thought it would be to something different. We only came to that conclusion through open lines of communication. My husband doesn’t push me into what he wants. We consider each step—how it affects our marriage and also our family. We have to being willing to change and grow in our roles as the business changes. It would be very stressful if both of us weren’t open to talking about these unexpected twists.

4.  Put your marriage first.

You can rebuild a business. You can come back from it failing. You can come back from financial ruin (many have). But a marriage? That’s something my husband and I don’t want to put at risk. Our marriage existed before the business and we pray it exists long after. Pray for wisdom over the small things. And make sure your home life, family, and marriage are functioning well before attempting to add working together into the mix. Whatever you do, do not enter a time of working together when you are not at peace in your home and marriage. It’s only going to exasperate those troubled areas. When I see couples who are struggling in their business relationship, they are also often struggling in their marriage. Deal with these issues first. Don’t throw one stressful situation on top of another one.

5.  Discuss when it’s okay to talk about work and when it’s not.

When my husband and I go on a date, we do talk about work. But we don’t only talk about work. We talk about kids, dreams, whatever comes to mind. For us, this has been an organic experience. We haven’t had to put the business in a box that doesn’t enter personal conversation. But for some of you, this is going to be an issue. Again, be open. If a husband or wife wants to have an evening without any talk of the business, determine that ahead of time instead of silently seething that your partner doesn’t know you don’t want to talk about the business. If you’re working together, that means it’s a major part of your lives. Talk about where and when you feel it’s okay to have conversations about the business and when you’d prefer not to.

6.  Respect each other.

I can’t stress this one enough. I mentioned my husband respecting me by often checking on where I’m at, how I’m feeling about the role I’m in. I can’t tell you how much this helps in my desire to support our business. It also makes me want to be the same for him. I do my best to protect the time my husband needs to accomplish his work and make the business run smoothly.

7.  Complement each other.

Often, in business, as in life, we only talk about the things that need to be fixed or change. Remember to compliment your spouse on what they do well. Talk about each other’s strengths.

8.  Carve out a schedule.

I have always carved out a schedule for working and I’ve respected it. Yes, I could skip work and take my young kiddos to the zoo, but I put that schedule in place for a reason. My husband knows when I’m working and when I’m not. We both depend on that schedule. I’m not saying it never fluctuates, just that we both treat it as if I were working for another employer. Otherwise, it’s too easy to say you’ll just get the work done when you can… and when would that be? Between the laundry, the school volunteering, my writing? Without a schedule, I would never get the work done, therefore creating more stress for my husband. He has enough stress running a business. I want to be a help, not a hindrance.

9.  Have fun.

Don’t forget to laugh with each other and enjoy the path God has for you.

10.  Forgive.

Have grace for one another. When mistakes are made, remember we’re all human. We make mistakes. Yes, money matters. But relationships matter more.

Jill Lynn HeadshotFalling for Texas (Love Inspired)Jill Lynn lives in Colorado with her husband and two children. When she’s not working at the family business or playing laundry fairy, she writes Christian romance with themes of humor and grace. Her first novel, Falling for Texas, is available from Harlequin Love Inspired.
Connect with her at Jill-Lynn.com, or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.