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!

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 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!


melt2
20% off Melt: Massage for Couples – Only 4 days left Father’s Day Special.

Last year I showcased Denis & Emma from Melt: Massage for Couples – their online massage tutorials teach you how to give the best back rubs! It’s been a huge hit with readers. They give you and your husband a way to connect at night and help the romance start!

Make this Father’s Day the best hubby has ever had, learn how to give each other a back rub – click here to read more.

 




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!

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.

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 cleave
This 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 Spouse
About 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.

 

Gary Thomas Answers Your Marriage Questions

Gary Thomas shares some marriage advice based on his book A Lifelong Love

One of the absolute FUNNEST things (I know that’s not a word but it should be) about doing the Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge in 2015 has been to get to reach out to amazing Christian authors and have them actually answer your questions–and interact with them!

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?In January we looked at Gary Thomas’ book A Lifelong Love, and I invited you all to submit questions for Gary. I sent him four, and he’s sent me his replies! (We had a great chat with John and Staci Eldredge last month, too.)

1. What is the most important thing a wife can do to bless her husband?

Part of me truly wants to shout, “it depends on the husband!” Love needs to be particular to be truly felt, so to answer this question in a general way could mislead some wives about what truly is the best way to bless their individual, particular husbands.

But, having said that, my answer would be to build a devotional platform from which you are overflowing with God’s love, and to guard that platform like you’d guard a toddler walking through a crowded mall. 1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us. If you’re not experiencing God’s acceptance, affirmation, and encouragement at least daily, you’ll start demanding instead of serving. You’ll ask your husband to be more and more to you as God becomes less and less, which will increase your husband’s frustration and decrease your contentment.

There will be days when your husband doesn’t notice you as he should, or notices the wrong thing about you, and breaks your heart. How do I know? James 3:2 tells me your husband stumbles in many ways. On those days in particular, you need to receive from God. If you receive from him beforehand, it’s even better. In that case, you’re already prepped.

I know this sounds religious, but it’s so true. I am simply a much, much better spouse when the day starts by getting my mind right (through reading/study) and my heart right (through prayer and worship). Yes, you’re busy, but few things truly are more important. If we skip time with God, we’re saying we can love without God, and I, for one, have proven a thousand times that’s just not true.

2. How do you stay motivated to bless your spouse even in difficult times?

Some of you may be in a relationship that your spouse values about as much as I value our backyard (which is to say, not much—at least, not enough to do anything about it). If your marriage would just “happen,” they’d enjoy it. But they lack the will and the work ethic to make the relationship grow. There are other priorities that drive them.

Philippians 2:13 is an encouraging word for these marriages: “It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (NRSV).

We often go to God for the “work” but forget to go to Him for the “will.” When things get difficult, before you can ask God what you should do, you may have to spend time asking God to help you care. “God, on my own, I’m so done with this! But please give me the will to make this marriage work, for Your good pleasure. Make me care again.”

Do you think God will hesitate before answering that prayer? Do you think He might pause and say, “Hmm, not sure I’m ready to offer that”?

If you feel one-sided in your marriage, it’s easy to lose the will. If you’ve been unsuccessful in bringing about change, it’s natural to lose the will. If you’ve tried every trick you can think of and your bookshelf is filled with every book on marriage published in the last ten years and yet your marriage is still subpar, it’s natural just to give up.

Have you prayed for God to give you the will? Christianity isn’t based solely on a bunch of beliefs; its heart and soul is based on a powerful and active God who can lift us above our apathy and limitations. God becomes the third partner, the uniting presence.

So let’s tap into this divine resource. We’re not alone in our marriages, even in our so-called solitary marriages. There may not be two engaged humans, but there can be—with your initiation alone—two engaged parties: you and God.

3. How can you figure out a common purpose, or common mission, with a spouse who is an agnostic?

Even if your spouse isn’t a believer, find something that pleases God that your spouse also believes in—raising “good” children (though he will define good differently than you, perhaps). There may be certain ministries—helping the poor—that he will share with you. Samaritan’s Purse is a great organization that is often a “first responder” to natural disasters. Maybe your spouse will help fill a children’s Christmas shoebox (given to underprivileged children) with you. In other words, find something that gets him excited, and let that become a joint ministry—even though you may not share a joint motivation (it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a non-believing husband to go on a mission trip to Haiti to help build a school for poor children, particularly if he’s into building things).

Secondly, the wives I’ve talked to who are married to non-believers and who did best figured out that they had to work to find common “non-spiritual” interests with their husbands. Relational intimacy is key to keeping your husband interested in future spiritual intimacy. For one wife, it was riding bikes with her husband (like, 100 mile rides!). For another wife, it was going hunting. You’ll never get anywhere by “punishing” your husband for not going to church with you by withdrawing from his favorite activities. Be the Christian—love on him, be a good, kind friend, and keep praying that God will use that friendship to open up his heart.

4. What are the first few steps in putting this into practice in a marriage where you’ve done the exact OPPOSITE for 20 years. How do you switch gears practically?

You serve no one by beating yourself up for what you haven’t done; take all that energy and instead pour it into loving your husband excellently now. All Christians live in grace, out of grace, and because of grace.

When it comes to treating your husband as God’s son, tape a copy of 1 John 3:1 to a mirror or inside your car—something to remind you of that precious biblical truth. And then start praying for your husband referring to him as God’s son. “Lord, help me love your son. Help me understand your son. You were there when he was little; help me figure out why he acts this way.” Just remind yourself as you’re praying that you’re talking to a very interested third partner. You then slowly pray your way into treating your husband like God’s son.

When it comes to living intentionally through the seasons of marriage, get together with a friend and describe what is most likely creating distance in your marriage right now, and then discuss how you can turn that around to build renewed intimacy. “Being so busy makes it so difficult for us to connect, so instead I’m going to think of ways I can help him be less busy.”

On the third part, that’s best met with a morning prayer. Simply wake up and ask yourself, “How can I bless my husband this morning?” Before he comes home from work, ask yourself, “How can I bless my husband this evening.” For me, I’ve had to mentally remind myself of this question over and over until it becomes second nature. It’s a choice to think this way.


I am so honored that Gary Thomas spent this long mulling over these answers and gave us something that is so practical but also uplifts Jesus. Love it! I was blessed, and I trust it blessed you, too.

And if you liked what Gary had to say, don’t forget to pick up A Lifelong Love! And visit him at GaryThomas.com.

 

How I Win Every Argument with My Spouse

Today we welcome Daniel Robertson from God’s Help for Marriage, as he shares about how to win every argument with your spouse–the answer is so good, you BOTH actually win!

How I Win Every Argument with my Spouse
This past summer I was working a temp job at the local county fair. One day, before my shift started, I took my wife and kids (and mother-in-law) to the fair for some family fun. But this trip ended in an epic argument between me and my wife. One of the worst we’ve ever had in 7 years of marriage.

I’ll also share how we overcame this argument, and the secret to winning every argument with your spouse. This secret is so powerful that not only will you win, but so will your spouse.

We were having a great time at the fair. The kids loved the Ferris Wheel. I think I took each of them on it twice, even though I don’t like heights. But what they loved even more was the dance floor, where they were playing country music and a bunch of kids were goofing off and dancing in a way that only little kids can do. They spent quite a bit of time there dancing around.

In fact, I was starting to get antsy because I wanted to show them more of the fair, and it was getting closer to the start of my work shift. I also wanted to help my wife get the kids in the car before my shift started. I hinted at my wife a few times that I wanted to go do something else, but she didn’t take these hints.

Sidenote: Hinting is not a great form of communication. I’m learning to be more direct with my requests.

After a few of these hints, I was really starting to get frustrated. I also knew that my 3 year old son was likely to throw a temper tantrum if and when I did try to get him to leave. I figured it would be better to get him away from the crowd to throw his tantrum, so I swooshed in and grabbed him. I pulled him away, with him kicking and screaming the whole time.

All of this happened without communicating with my wife about what I was planning. Huge mistake.

She was furious, and embarrassed to be seen with me after that. I looked like the mean daddy, who dragged his kid away from his fun. I thought I was the hero, who was taking charge and preventing a very public 3-year-old tantrum.

Sensing my wife’s fury, I knew it was time to end the fair date. I helped her get the kids into the car, and then tried to make amends with my wife. I explained why I did that, and she explained why I was wrong in what I did. I reached out to hug her and told her I loved her. She pushed me away and said something like “I hate you” or “I don’t love you”–with more vehemence than I could ever have imagined coming from her.

I was infuriated by her rejection. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hurt in my life. So I went to my car to get my badge and uniform shirt, and I still had maybe half an hour before my shift started, so I sat in my car, fuming. How could she say what she did? How could she let me start off a work day with this hanging between us?

So, how did we recover from this argument? How did we both end up winning?

I’ll tell you in a bit. But first, I’d like to talk about some common questions couples have about arguing.

How Often do Happy Couples Argue?

Despite this epically bad argument, my wife and I are a very happy couple. And happy couples argue just as much as any other couple.

In other words, it doesn’t really matter how much you argue. Argue a lot. Argue a little bit. It doesn’t make a huge difference on your overall happiness in the long term.

In some ways, arguing is actually a sign of a healthy relationship. Each person brings different beliefs, ideas, and values to marriage. You probably even have different ways of doing the same task.

Sometimes, these conflicting attitudes cause arguments. And that’s OK. It shows that each of you is willing to stand up for your values and positions. And that’s a good thing. If a couple told me they never argue, I would suspect one of them of being a wallflower or having given up.

What’s the Right Way to Argue?

Again, HOW you argue isn’t actually all that important in your long term happiness as a couple. It probably matters more than how often you argue, but not by much.

Some happy couples break all the “rules” of how to fight fair. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Use “Active Listening” techniques
  • Don’t get defensive
  • Don’t use blame-shifting
  • Don’t say “always” or “never”
  • Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements
  • Don’t attack your spouse’s character
  • Stay on topic

All of this is good advice. Follow it, if you can. But let’s be honest. In the heat of the moment, all of this good advice goes out the window. Even for the happiest couples.

The one rule you need to stick to every time is to not use violence when you argue. Spousal abuse is never OK. Other than that, all of the “arguing rules” are guidelines.

The Real Secret to Winning Every Argument is What you do After the Fight

OK, let me finish the rest of my story. A few minutes into my work shift at the fair, my wife called me and apologized for how she reacted. It was probably less than an hour after our fight. Definitely less than two. She also offered to bring me lunch at my break, which I had been planning to ask her to do until our argument broke out.

In other words, she made a peace offering.

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceIn her book “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages” Shaunti Feldhahn reveals this as the secret:
“When highly happy couples inevitably experience hurt feelings and conflict, they will at some point mutually reconnect by sharing a private signal that says ‘We’re okay.'”

After an argument, happy couples reach out and reestablish their friendship and commitment to each other. I initially reached out to my wife by trying to hug her and tell her I loved her. Although she rejected my initial peace offering, it wasn’t long before she made her own attempt to reestablish connection with me.

Maybe you stay angry for days after an argument with your spouse. You might stonewall, push your husband or wife away, or just shut down. All while stewing in anger and bitterness and thinking negative thoughts about him or her. These thoughts are particularly damaging because they shift your perceptions of your spouse. The longer these thoughts continue, the more these negative perceptions become a part of your subconscious thinking patterns.

For instance, after our fight all I could think about was how badly my wife overreacted, and how could she let me start work like that, and all kinds of uncharitable thoughts about her.

These negative thoughts stopped instantly once she called and apologized. They were immediately replaced by feelings of gratitude and friendship.

It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with resolving the conflict. My wife and I never reached an agreement of who was “right” and who was “wrong”. We did come to an understanding of WHY we each did what we did, but we never agreed that those reasons were right.

There are some conflicts you will probably never resolve in your marriage. You’ll keep arguing about the same things over and over again. In some cases you might be able to reach a good compromise. In others, you might just have to agree to disagree.

But if you quickly reconnect with your spouse after an argument, you both win. Every time.

So how do you do this? The best way is to apologize and make some kind of “peace offering” after the argument. It might be as simple as a hug. Or maybe you make a goofy face or tell a joke to try to get your spouse to laugh. Or you touch pinkies as a secret sign that says “We’re okay”.

Or there’s my personal favorite: make up sex.

And if your spouse offers a peace offering, do your best to accept it. Maybe you aren’t ready right away. If not, it’s important that you make the next move. As soon as you are ready, make your own attempt to reconcile and reconnect.

Whoever makes the initial move, it’s best if this happens within a few hours of the argument. Or within a day at most. The sooner this happens, the better.

DanielDaniel Robertson is a Christian husband and father and writes about how to improve your marriage with Biblical principles. Download his free report to discover 3 simple keys to create more passion and intimacy in your marriage, or read his recent post on 15 tips to rock your marriage in 2015.

 

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.


How to Increase Your Chances of Marriage

How to Increase your chances to find a spouse--and spend your twenties well!

Lately I’ve been preoccupied thinking about dating, engagement, and marriage (because my daughter got engaged! Yay!). And so I’ve written a number of things lately on why young people should prioritize relationships even in college, and why you need to be careful who you give your heart to. But there’s one more piece of advice that I have for late teens early twenty somethings, and it’s going to be controversial. But I’m going to say it anyway.

If you want to get married, then make yourself available to get married.

That may not sound controversial yet, but here’s the thing: that’s actually the opposite of what we’re often taught in church, and it’s certainly the opposite of what kids will hear in school. And my fear is that many young people who desperately do want to get married are acting in ways that make marriage less likely.

First, though, a caveat: Marriage is not the most important thing in anyone’s life. God is the most important thing in anyone’s life. And you can have a full and complete life without being married. I am not saying that we should raise our kids to obsess over getting married or to worry about getting married. But I do believe that if this is a goal that they have that they should live in such a way to make that goal more likely.

So here’s where the controversial part comes in: if you spend five years teaching English in Japan or China or wherever, you decrease your chances of finding a spouse. That doesn’t mean you WON’T find a spouse; you just decrease your chances. And it certainly doesn’t mean that if you feel called by God to go somewhere you shouldn’t go; it’s just that I think many twenty-somethings want to have these “experiences” before they get tied down, but in so doing they limit their chances to get tied down.

If you want to get married, it is smart to spend your time where there are large numbers of potential mates.

I have a young friend named Daniel who felt called to go to the mission field, so he moved to Central America in his early to mid-twenties. Yet while leading a youth group from North America on a short term missions one summer, he met a youth group leader. A woman. Who was wonderful. And they married recently. I know another young woman who was serving in India who met the leader of another short term missions group, and they were recently married. If God is calling you somewhere, you go. Absolutely.

But studying abroad for a year? Taking a few years to backpack across the world? Even living for two years on a cruise ship? Nope. If you want to get married, and it’s really important to you, then go where you will find a whole ton of young, Christian potential spouses.

There’s another exception: I heard the story recently of one man who became a Christian at 22 after leading a really messed up life. He took the next two years on the mission field just serving so that he could get to know God better. After that, he came home, went to seminary, met his wife, and the rest is history. Sometimes we need those few years to find ourselves if we have a lot of issues to deal with. But if you don’t, then don’t take yourself out of the pool of marriageable people at a prime time in your life.

Certainly people can get married in their late twenties and thirties, but the pool of eligible people is smaller, since many start marrying young.

I have served on the mission field with my husband AFTER I’ve been married, and we’re planning to again. Getting married does not end your dreams of travel or service. In fact, I’ve traveled more and served more since being married than I did before I was married.

Be very careful about what kind of post-secondary education you choose.

I would venture to say that about half of married people met their spouses in school–either in high school or in college. Those school years are vitally important, because they occur right at the time that we’re getting to the age where marriage is possible, and we’re with the largest number of people our own age at the same time.

And I think that’s why so many people send their kids to Christian universities. You get to meet other Christians, after all! There’s a reason we call them Bridal Colleges, not Bible Colleges!

But hold on a second. The majority of Christian universities have a terrible sex ratio of about 70 girls to 30 guys. Think about that: for every guy, there are at least two girls. So if you have a daughter, do you really think that’s the best place to send her? (If you have a son, he’s practically guaranteed to meet a wife. A daughter? Not so much.)

It may certainly be the best place if it’s the education you’re after, but having been to a secular university and attended the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship group there (and met my husband there), I can tell you that you can get a lot of Christian training at the secular university Christian groups, too. In fact, those Christians are often extremely strong in their faith, because they’re in a secular environment but they’re choosing to spend the majority of their free time in Christian study and service.

That’s where my daughter met her fiance, too. And the opportunities for learning evangelism are amazing! My daughter has become a major evangelist when she didn’t even know she had the gift.

Secular university is not for everyone, but I’m just saying that one shouldn’t assume that one will marry just because you go to a Christian university. If you’re female, your chances are actually better at a Christian group in a secular university where the sex ratios are more even.

If you do choose a Christian education, then, make sure it’s in a city with a wide range of church options that have large college and career groups, so that you can meet other people in a church setting.

Don’t just believe “God will send me a spouse if I trust him”

A lot of girls (and it’s especially girls) are sitting at home on Friday nights, reading Christian books, watching romantic comedies, eating ice cream, and praying that God will send them a spouse.

And that seems like trust. They’re wrestling with God about not getting anxious about it. They’re learning to let it go. They’re not obsessing.

But does God really do that? Does God answer our prayers without requiring us to do anything at all? Is that the best way of demonstrating trust–to remain safely in our comfort zone, not doing anything scary, while waiting for God to show up? Or does he want us to stretch ourselves a bit?

It’s scary to join a whole bunch of college and career groups. It’s scary to invite people back to your house for dinner or for movies and popcorn. It’s scary to take up people you don’t know well on their offer of “do you want to hang out on Saturday?” But the truth is that most of us marry someone that we meet through our social circle. You meet a friend of a friend, or a cousin of a friend, or a brother of a co-worker. You know what I mean.

But to do that, you have to have friends. Hang out where there are other strong Christians. Volunteer in places that you care about. Serve in a lot of ministries in church. Serve on short-term missions trips. Go to weekend retreats. These are all great places to meet a wide variety of people–but, even better, they’re all great places to build your faith and to build yourself as a person.

In the church, we often give people the message, “You can do whatever you want, and God will provide.” I don’t think that’s true. I think we need to prioritize and put first things first. If you hibernate for five years in grad school, never talking to anyone, then I’m not sure a mate will just show up. If you stay living at home after high school in your small town with few Christian marriageable options, then I’m not sure a handsome perfect guy will suddenly move in next door. Sometimes we need to move away to a larger city with bigger churches.

Sacred SearchThis is one of the main messages in Gary Thomas’ excellent book Sacred Search, too. If you want to get married, then get serious about making friends and growing your social connections. Live out your dreams!

Look, I am writing this for people who want to get married. If that is not your main goal–if you are focused more on career or on missions or on something else–then that honestly is fine. I believe that God puts stirrings in our heart that we are to follow.

But my fear is that we are not teaching young people the common sense facts about finding a mate. So if marriage matters, make yourself marriageable, and that includes putting yourself out there. It’s scary. It takes some risk. It takes a lot of time–you won’t get to stay home and watch Netflix as much. But it is worth it, and I encourage you, if it is important to you, to get out there and live a big life and meet lots of people! Then, even if you don’t marry, you’ll still have a wide circle of friends, a wide number of interests, and a really full life. And that’s worth it, too.