Wifey Wednesday: How to Keep Your Self-Respect

How to keep your self respect if your husband is threatening to leave the marriage
It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up! Today I want to talk about keeping your self-respect in marriage when your husband is treating you badly.

Ever feel like a doormat?

Too many of us allow us to become doormats in our marriages.

I know several women whose husbands are unhappy in marriage. Their husbands blame the wives for everything, but are unwilling to do anything to grow the marriage (date nights, counseling, even just communicating). They won’t tell their wives what the real issue is. Instead, they act miserable, constantly threaten to leave, and even text other women or flirt with other people.

The wives are so petrified the husbands will leave that they turn themselves inside out to try to make sure that there is nothing in their behaviour that the husband could object to.

This isn’t a gender thing–I know women who have done the same thing to their husbands. But in the two relationships I’m thinking of right now, it’s the husband who is threatening to leave. In one case, he circles apartments in the “To Rent” section of the newspaper. He leaves budgets for two households lying around. And his wife is terrified.

Now, I have spoken at length in this blog about how you have to learn to show your spouse love in their language, and how we need to make sure that we are loving our spouses, even if they are not showing us love. But that does not mean that I think we should be doormats or lose our self-respect.

My mother, for instance, when she was married, tolerated really horrible behaviour on the part of my dad, because she was so scared of being left alone. And in the end, all that bending over backwards did absolutely nothing. She has since become such a strong, wise woman of God, so God brought tremendous good out of a bad period of our life. But looking back, she wishes she had more backbone.

When you bend over backwards and try so hard to become what the other person wants, you cease being yourself.

You’re not looking to be what God wants you to be; you’re looking to be what you think your husband wants you to be, and those are not necessarily the same thing.

A truly intimate marriage relationship is based on two individuals who can cling to each other, confide in each other, talk to one another, and feel like partners. If you don’t feel like your husband’s partner, but instead feel like his maid or his slave or even his mother, then you’re not building a good marriage. You’re pushing him farther away from real intimacy.

Love Must Be ToughJames Dobson talked about this well in his book Love Must Be Tough. His central thesis was this: the whole way we do marriage counseling is backwards, because in the vast majority of troubled marriages, only one person is willing to work on things. The other doesn’t care if they’re hurting the spouse. They don’t care how the spouse feels. They don’t care what happens to the relationship, because they’ve become completely caught up in what they want.

So they’re not going to go to counseling.

So what do you do if you want to work on the relationship but your husband doesn’t, and can’t even admit there’s a problem?

Dobson says you need to do have them feel the consequences of their actions, because that’s the only way out of the selfish fantasy land they’re in. They believe that they can keep daydreaming about leaving, and threatening to leave, and talk about being unhappy, because you’ll sit there and take it and bend over backwards to try to satisfy them.

Stop bending over backwards, and show them what it will be like if they follow through and leave.

Protect yourself and keep your self-respect, because a person cannot fall in love again with someone who has become a doormat and who no longer values herself.

God hates divorce, but where Christians err is that we often think that the proper response then when a spouse starts talking about divorce is to try to do everything possible to appease that spouse. Appeasing, though, doesn’t work, and can cause us to do things that God wouldn’t want us to do. We may put up with things like affairs, or we stop respecting ourselves or our kids because we don’t want to rock the boat. What we do need to do is to show proper love.

Proper love always points people to God; inappropriate love allows people to act in an unChristlike manner. (click to tweet!)

Real Love Points People to God; if you're needy, though, you let others get away with unChristlike behavior.

When we love inappropriately, by allowing people to walk all over us, we actually encourage them to go further from God. We need to show people that if they leave, life will be difficult, but they need to make a choice. We need to stop tolerating affairs, or pornography, or flirtations, or addictions, or things which will eventually ruin the marriage anyway. The best way to help your husband get over pornography is actually to not tolerate it.

If you’re in this kind of a marriage, I’d recommend both Love Must Be Tough and Boundaries. Both books show what is your responsibility in a difficult relationship, and what is not. And remember: the best way to get positive change in a marriage is often through realistic consequences, not by becoming a doormat!

Now I know this is controversial, and I know there is a thin line between pushing someone away and calmly showing consequences. I know we are called to be gracious and to forgive, but I also don’t believe we were called to tolerate indecision or evil. So if you have any pointers on how to walk that fine line, and do what’s right, please leave a comment!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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Wifey Wednesday: Christians Do Have Unhappy Marriages


It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up! I’m taking the summer a little slowly, so I’ve asked Tammy Rhoden to guest post for us today. Here’s Tammy’s story:

As a Christian woman entering a marriage in which I was equally yoked, I expected to live happily ever after once the rings slipped over our fingers. I didn’t believe our marriage would be tainted by the worldly issues of non-believers. I knew there would be a few bumps in the road but overall I wasn’t worried. I thought God made marriage to bring happiness to believing men and women.

DSC_0101photo © 2007 Tom Reynolds | more info (via: Wylio)

But it hasn’t been perfect. Actually, there have been far more imperfect moments than not. There have been many heartbreaking moments as well. Moments when I cried out to God and asked Him how He had allowed me to make such an awful mistake! There have been times when I haven’t known who I was madder with; Bobby, myself, or God. How had the marriage that I thought was the one every Christian woman was destined to have, turned so sour? Was I not good enough? Had I not paid enough? Would I never finish reaping the harvest of the bad past I had sown? Where was my happiness? I felt betrayed by my husband yes, but more so by God. I felt He had let me down.

I contemplated at times whether I should be able to get out of this marriage. I bargained on occasion with God trying to get Him to work on my behalf. Often I picked myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and got down to the business of saving my marriage. Never during any of these times did I find lasting happiness. Happiness was that elusive emotion that seemed to flit in and out of my marriage but I could never get a handle on so it would remain. What was wrong with us? We are Christians. Why weren’t we happy?

Then slowly I began to see things differently. I’m not sure when but over time, I noticed I was changing. Previously, I bought in to the whole idea that seems rather prevalent in the Christian world, that when two believers marry, their marriage should be a good one. After all, if two people are professing to love God then it follows that two people want to please God by living as He directs. So, it’s all good and they as Christians are destined to live happily ever after.

That really isn’t always the case, though. We want marriage to be a union with another person that brings us happiness but the truth is, God’s Word doesn’t say that marriage is designed to bring us happiness. In fact it says that it will be an area of struggle and hardship. Genesis3:16 He told the Woman: “You’ll want to please your husband, but he’ll lord it over you.”At some point, I began to realize that I weighed almost every moment of my marriage on a happiness scale. Because there is no standard unit of happiness in marriage, I often found my scale too light. When I was feeling let down numerous times a day because my scales were always off, it only makes sense that my heart was beginning to develop defense tactics to keep from being hurt so often. As my heart began to harden, it became easier for the enemy to whisper more and more darkness into my ear.

As my heart grew harder and colder and wrapped itself tighter within layers of defensive repellent; I found it harder to respect my husband. When a wife doesn’t respect her husband, she finds it hard to submit or to have sex, whether out of spite or lack of desire. When a husband feels emasculated and lonely, he uses emotional distance to cope. Things continue to feed off each other and spiral out of control until each spouse’s heart is so hard they not only fall into further sin and treat each other more poorly, but they are no longer of use to God in many ways that they once were.People tend to expect marriage to bring them happiness even though God never promised it would. Satan desires to harden the hearts of Christians so they aren’t able to be used by God as He would like. Satan knows we use how our spouse makes us feel as a happiness gage and when we aren’t happy, we begin to try to fix that. When we try to fix our spouse, we begin to have marital problems because our “fixing” stems from selfish desires and expectations of happiness that we believe our spouse should provide. As we criticize each other and try to change each other or begin to seek happiness outside our marriage, our hearts are hardened and become less usable by God for His ultimate purpose, which is to bring all things in the universe together under Christ.

Here’s a thought: if Satan attacks married people first and foremost through their spouses, in order to render their hearts useless to God, doesn’t it make sense that two strong believing Christians may have more problems within their marriage than non-believers?
Does this mean that I think Christians should just settle for a poor marriage if they are in one or that they shouldn’t strive for their marriage to be all it can be? No! But I also think that we as Christians should begin taking seriously the role God intended us to play in this world. He expects us all to share the Gospel and to play large parts in bringing everything in the universe together under Christ. We often forget that and instead get caught up in thinking about our marital happiness. We need to remember that as well as pursuing happiness in our marriage, we need to pursue joy in Christ. This is how we find it possible to love our spouse with the agape love of Jesus, making us capable of fulfilling God’s purpose.
I have begun to measure the moments of my marriage with a different tool. I no longer use my happiness scale but rather ask myself if the moment has done or is doing anything to further God’s purpose. If I find that it has, I celebrate and thank God for His goodness and grace. If I find that it was lacking, then I look back through the lens of self-examination, held by the Holy Spirit and try to discover where I fell short. I try not to think about where Bobby may have fallen short because God uses us as individuals and we are accountable as individuals.
Since I have begun to make personal, heart changing, spiritual choices in the way I deal with my unhappiness, Bobby has begun to turn around a lot in areas he personally felt he needed to improve in. We have identified who our enemy really is and we know it’s not each other.
Is everything hunky dory now? Well, things are still a work in progress and I think they may remain that way in one sense or another, maybe until death do us part. As for happiness; I can say that the joy I am experiencing more regularly in my life surpasses earthly happiness by far. Joy is what I have the most of but I am also happy more often than not as I am no longer feeling let down most of the time. My perspective of what marriage is supposed to offer me, has changed to align itself with a more godly vision and that makes a huge difference in the happiness scale!

Tammy Rhoden is a Christian Life Coach and Speaker. She offers one-on-one and group coaching as well as workshops, seminars, and lectures designed to support women in facilitating change in their lives that are in agreement with God’s Word. Areas of support include but aren’t limited to marriage, children, career, finances, weight loss, setting boundaries, forgiveness, making friends, and time management. Please visit Tammy’s site, Jesus is My Host of Hope, to learn more about her, or find her on Facebook!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

Wifey Wednesday: Are You Expecting the Impossible?


It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Photo by Easywebsites.ky

You may have heard it said before that “the enemy of the best is the good”. The French philosopher Voltaire made it famous (though he said it in French!), and it’s famous because it’s so true. Often we get so caught up doing good things that we miss the best. We miss our priorites.

But that being said, I think the reverse can also be true. Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good. When the best is more a fairy-tale ideal than a reality, then it can become the enemy of making any kind of real progress. The best can actually be a hindrance to your marriage.

Allow me to use an analogy that doesn’t have to do with marriage first to show you what I mean. A while back I caused a ruckus in the comments section of this blog because I insinuated that there were things that women could do to reduce the chance of sexual assault, and we should teach these to our daughters. I never said that we could eliminate rape–but I said that we could reduce it.

People kept taking issue with me, so I kept writing follow-up posts, and the comments grew worse and worse. One commenter really summed up the other side perfectly. She said (and I paraphrase):

Women should be able to wear whatever they want and go wherever they want. You should be talking to the men, not to the women!

She was a little ruder than that, but I’ll leave out the colorful language.

What a strange comment, though. OF COURSE women should be able to wear what they want and do what they want without getting raped. We should live in a world where there is no abuse, no rape, no children in poverty, no wars, and no violence. But we don’t live in that world. And since we don’t, what steps can we take to protect ourselves?

They were focusing so much on what SHOULD be that they refused to acknowledge that there were any steps you could take to make our present life, the one we are living in right now, even the least bit better. It was all or nothing.

Have you ever felt that way about your marriage? I once knew a woman who eventually left her husband, who explained it to me this way:

God created marriage to be a joining of two human beings–an institution where we’re able to communicate, and love, and respect, and share ideas and share vision and purpose. He created marriage to build us up, not to tear us down. He created marriage to be part of our fulfillment, not part of our destruction. My husband didn’t know how to communicate. He never listened to me. He never talked to me; he only ever talked past me. He used sex just to satisfy himself. In other words, it wasn’t actually a marriage. And so I ended it.

I have no doubt that her marriage was extremely difficult, but do you see the problem with her position? She was saying that because her marriage was not one in which two individuals were completely joined, it was thus not a marriage. God intended marriage to be fulfilling; it was not, therefore the argument about whether one had biblical grounds to divorce was moot because this wasn’t even marriage!

Her argument is flawed, because while God said marriage should be like this, He never invalidated marriages that were not like that. Indeed, in Corinthians Paul even tells women married to men who aren’t Christians to stay if they can–and these marriages are obviously not a complete joining of minds and ideals.

This woman was looking for the best; she didn’t find it, so therefore she invalidated everything else.

Many of us enter marriage with similar thoughts. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we can completely bear our souls. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we are unconditionally cherished. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we find our best friend. Then, when the should doesn’t happen, we give up. That’s how things SHOULD be, and we can’t settle for second best. We don’t look at little changes that we could make to grow the marriage, or to grow our communication, because we figure that he is just hopeless. He’s so out of touch with what a husband should be, that growth is well nigh impossible.

None of us is perfect, though, and I think we need a different strategy. If your husband isn’t a good communicator, or sulks constantly, or watches too much TV (or plays too many video games), or never spends any time with the kids, that doesn’t invalidate your marriage, and it doesn’t mean that things can’t get better. After all, by staying away from drunken parties, girls can drastically reduce their risk of date rape. Similarly, by learning new communication techniques, you can drastically reduce your risk of growing apart and ending the relationship. You can do things to move in the right direction, even if those things won’t give you 100% change. They can still make your life significantly better.

What I would suggest, then, is that we stop looking at what marriage is supposed to be in the ideal, and we start looking at what we can do to make things better. In other words, quit focusing so much on the destination, and focus instead on the direction. Move forward, even if it’s slowly, and you will eventually get there. Focus so much on the finish line, and how far it is away from your current position, and you can quickly lose heart.

This applies to aspects of marriage, too. I was at a place in our marriage once where everything was going really well–except sex. It’s not that it was horrible; it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be, according to the media and all the sermons I heard about how God created sex to be wonderful. For a few years, I gave up. It’s not that we didn’t make love; it’s just that my attitude was one of: “this just isn’t for me. It’s all for him, and I’ll just get through it.” I believed that if it wasn’t the ideal, then I had been gypped, and there was no point in even trying.

It was only when I had an attitude shift where I started to ask whether I could believe that it could get better–even if it was slowly. When I made the mental shift, then the way I acted also changed.

Whether it’s in your marriage as a whole or in individual parts of your marriage, don’t give up because you haven’t reached the ideal. Ask God to help you make baby steps, because those steps can add up! Ask Him to give you a new heart to grow, even if it’s slowly, because moving in the right direction gives you a new attitude or outlook on your marriage which is so much more energizing.

Whatever you do, don’t let the best become an enemy of that real, helpful change.

Wifey Wednesday: What Does Til Death Do Us Part Mean?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!
'Wedding - Relaxing couple' photo (c) 2009, Ben Luckman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Today I want to tackle a tough one, one that I’ve been mulling over a bunch for the last few years. And that question is: What does til death do us part mean?

When you married, you pledged that. But so often, five, ten, fifteen years down the road you decide you’ve had enough. I know so many women who are in just awful relationships. He pays no attention to her, he’s never home, he speaks in condescending tones, he’s lazy. I know other men who are control freaks, who nitpick about their wife’s weight, or her clothes, or her housekeeping. And they’re horrible to live with. And I find myself thinking, “she’s not honestly expected to stay in that, is she?” She’s miserable in her marriage.

Now please, I know many of you completely believe “Til Death Do Us Part”, and your inclination is to make a snap judgment. But think of some of the women who are likely reading this. They’re extremely lonely. They cry almost everyday. They’ve sought out counseling because the marriage is so difficult. They’re worried about their kids. If you haven’t walked through that, please don’t just assume that you know the answer. Just bear with me for a minute.

I speak at marriage conferences with my husband, and my passion is to see marriages restored, strengthened, and thriving. I have seen relationships go from a place where he is bordering on cruel to where he has become tender, at least around the edges. God can do anything. But for most women who are in the midst of that heartache, it isn’t so easy. Nothing is changing.

They desperately want to leave. They want a new start at life, where no one is telling them what to do, criticizing them, or perhaps worse, ignoring them. I know some women who have prayed for their husbands to have affairs so that they would have biblical justification in leaving him. And I have talked to other women who have said that they find the whole affair justification strange, because having a one night stand is not nearly as bad as what her husband does to her on a daily basis, but her friend with a husband who had a fling can leave, and she can’t. It doesn’t seem fair.

No, it doesn’t. But here’s the thing: God never promised it would be. And He never promised that any of us would have easy lives. I really struggle with the idea that divorce is off limits when I talk to some of these women, because I truly feel for them, and I truly do think their husbands are horrible. But we have to go back to Scripture. Can Christians divorce?

My reading is this: if he has a one night stand, you probably shouldn’t leave, but if he has cheated on your continuously, he has been the one to end the marriage, not you, and if you leave now, you are perfectly justified. I also believe, though this one isn’t as Scriptural, that if you are being physically abused, or if your children are being abused, you are justified in leaving. We are not asked to sacrifice our lives, or our children’s lives, on the marriage altar. And as for addictions, sometimes we have no choice to protect the family than to leave.

That doesn’t mean that in all these cases we need to divorce. I know one woman who left her husband a decade ago because he was addicted to gambling. She is still single, and they have never divorced. She just felt she needed to get her kids out of the situation.

Often, though, when we are trying to justify leaving, we will build up our husband’s sins, and say that they encompass abuse or addictions. And since nobody actually sees what goes on inside your house, I don’t think anybody is really in the position to challenge this that much. I certainly wouldn’t, because I don’t think we can really judge others when it comes to this. So I am not trying to judge anybody, but I would say that you need to be very careful if you’re going down this road.

Marriage, you see, was not meant to be fair. One Christian writer I know well told me that she left her husband because he had violated his marriage vows to love her. He had an anger problem, and even though he wasn’t abusive, he was often angry and sullen, and he criticized her, and demanded sex all the time. She felt that the Christian view of marriage was “oneness”. We have been made one, we treat each other with respect and love, and God intended for us to be connected. When that hasn’t happened, as in her case, then you’re justified in leaving.

I don’t believe this. Yes, God intended marriage ideally to be a certain way, but He never says anywhere in Scripture that if the ideal is not met we are welcome to violate our vows. When you marry, you make a vow before God. God takes that seriously. I don’t think we understand that because we live in a society where fulfillment and happiness are the prime goals. To continue in a relationship which drains your spirit rather than fills it seems like a sin in and of itself.

But for whatever reason, God made marriage this way. He gave only a very narrow excuse for leaving, and even then, He doesn’t command us to leave. He just leaves the door open, should we choose to do so. And He says, very clearly, “God hates divorce”. We need to get that in our heads. God wanted relationships to be permanent, even if they are far from perfect. Commitment matters. Stability matters.

Why? Because when we commit, we teach our children to commit. We create a society that is based on grace rather than performance. We leave room for God to work. We learn to rely on God in our hard times, rather than thinking another person can fill our voids. We learn to compromise, to accommodate, to give. We become less selfish.

And perhaps there’s a bigger reason. How about, quite simply, because God said so. That is what I am teaching my kids about their future marriages: you stay married because God said so. You don’t look for a way out. Divorce is so hard on kids, even when that divorce is justified. It usually leaves one or the other of you down the wrong path. I have seen divorces occur in my family where one of them became promiscuous and alcoholic after the divorce, which likely would not have happened had they stayed together, because they had stability. Take that stability away and everything falls apart. Marriage increases holiness, even if the husband appears petty, mean, or clueless.

The question becomes, then, “If God wants me to stay, then how am I going to manage it? What can I do to make my life bearable?” And that’s a good question to ask, because it forces us to go to God. It forces us to ask Him to be our peace. It also forces us to confront the real issues in our marriage and make an honest stab at fixing them, whether it means counseling, or a lot of prayer, or persistence.

I don’t think it’s easy. When these women in hard situations come to me and say, “I hate my marriage” and explain why, I want to say, “You’re right. You should leave.” Their husbands don’t deserve them. But I can’t say that, because I just don’t think it’s true biblically. I may think it should be true, but it isn’t. And at some point we have to submit.

Some people in this life will have much more difficulty than others. It seems unfair to stay in a rotten marriage when those around you have great ones. But things happen. Some people have children born with disabilities. Some people have health issues in their 30s. Some people are born into violent societies. Life is not fair. You can’t make it fair by doing something that God explicitly said not to do.

That, then, is my philosophy. When we vow Til Death Do Us Part, we mean it. God means it. And there is no Get out of Jail card. At the same time, I would never tell a woman that what she did was wrong, because like I said, I can’t see into your particular home. I don’t think we are to judge others in this regard. But I do think we need to preach this louder: no divorce. Absolutely no divorce. And if people realized that, perhaps they’d be more careful about who they married.

Here’s a bit of encouragement, though. In large scale studies of marriages, they have found that couples who split were less likely to be happy five years later than people who stayed together, even if their marriages were equally miserable. And even better, 78% of couples who had miserable marriages rated their marriages as wonderful five years later. The act of committing to riding it out made them happy. So if you’re going through a rough time, it likely will not always be like this. And no matter what, God is there to help you, to heal you, to comfort you, and to change you (and minister to him). If you’re miserable, throw yourself on Him. Wrestle with Him. He can take it. And ask Him to provide you with an escape from your misery–even if that escape is actually within your marriage!