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Did you bring baggage into your marriage?

I did. I had baggage from my father issues, but also baggage from Keith breaking off our initial engagement. And that baggage led to real trust issues.

When we have baggage, that often affects our marriages. Instead of seeing our husbands as they are now, and reacting to just what’s happening in front of us, we look at things through baggage-coloured glasses.

Every Wednesday on this blog we talk marriage, and today I just want to ask a simple question: Do you have any of these “glasses” on when you interact with your husband? Do you see him through a certain lens, rather than seeing him just as he is?

Here are a few “baggage” lenses that can impact our marriages:

Are you seeing your husband through a lens that stops you from seeing him for who he truly is? Here's how to see him more clearly:

1. The Father Lens.

Did you have a close, loving, supportive father? If you didn’t, that likely left a hole in you. My father, for instance, left me when I was two, and I’ve always had rejection issues. For the first few years we were married, whenever we were feeling particularly close and snuggling, I would find “you’re not going to leave me, are you?” coming out of my mouth instead of “I love you.” I was programmed to assume that this relationship wasn’t going to last.

And that can lead to a lack of trust in your relationship, which makes transparency hard, intimacy tricky, and happiness difficult. What we tend to do is to push our husbands away before they push us away. We get defensive, and believe that everything that they bring up that is negative means they’re going to leave us–as opposed to the fact that they just want to work on something.

So we assume the worst. We think that when he’s being insensitive it means he genuinely doesn’t care, as opposed to maybe he’s just being lazy or preoccupied. And so we start attacking him and accusing him of things that he has no intention of doing and aren’t even on his radar screen. And yet what’s happened is not that he’s doing anything in particular; it’s that we have read too much into things because of our own prejudices.

2. The Past Bad Relationship Lens.

Often our lack of trust is magnified if we’ve had really bad romantic relationships or marriages in the past. I have a friend who was abused in her first marriage, and is now married to someone who loves her dearly. But she has a hard time believing it. He says that he often has a nightmare where he’s lying in his coffin, about to be lowered into the ground, and she’s standing above it, saying, “See! I told you you’d leave me!”. That’s the only way that argument can end, because he can never prove to her that he is going to stay.

3. The Pathetic Man Lens.

In our culture men are thought of as incompetent when it comes to relationship stuff, housework stuff, and parenting stuff. We are the wise ones; they are the dolts that we put up with for some reason. And it becomes in vogue to make fun of men for how they can’t share their feelings, or can’t do laundry, or can’t play with a baby.

The problem is that many men CAN share their feelings, CAN do laundry, and CAN play with babies. They just may do it differently than we do. But because our lens tells us that he is pathetic, we assume that when he launches into his version of it that it’s wrong, and we berate him for it. Not a good way to build intimacy!

4. The “He’s Always Right” Lens.

This one perhaps is not as common as it used to be, but it’s still out there, and it goes something like this. God has called me to submit to this man, and He has made this man head over our marriage. Therefore, what my husband says I must obey, because my husband is right. Nope. God is your final authority; not your husband. We must submit, yes. But God never asks us to do that without thinking for ourselves. And if your husband isn’t close to God, and isn’t leading your family close to God, then you need to pick up the slack and do those things on your own.

If your husband asks you to do something in the bedroom that you feel is wrong, you don’t have to do it. If your husband is addicted to pornography, it’s okay to confront him on it. Submitting does not mean letting go of our wisdom or our discernment.

Are you seeing your husband through a lens that stops you from seeing him for who he truly is? Here's how to see him more clearly:

5. The “My Kids Are My Main Concern Right Now” Lens.

Too often we weigh everything in our marriage in terms of the kids. If our husbands want a night away with us, we wonder how that will affect the kids, and why doesn’t he love the kids as much as I do? Our children are our main priority, and we give them the majority of our time and attention, and we wonder why our husbands don’t seem to do the same thing. We assume that we must love the children more. Actually, our husbands might have the right idea. What children need is to feel that their parents have a stable relationship; if you put the children first, you’re sacrificing their stability.

6. The “All Men Are Perverts” Lens.

For several years after I was released from my indoctrination program at university, I believed that all men were evil to a certain extent, and women were superior. This isn’t the same as believing all men are buffoons; it’s actually more harmful. We learned that “all sex is rape”, for instance, and that makes it very hard to figure out how to handle intimacy in a marriage.

Others of you may have grown up with sexual abuse, and couple that with a culture which is so degrading towards women, and it’s easy to think that all men are perverts. Then, when our husbands are interested in sex, we think he’s just an animal, confirming our worst fears about the male gender.

In each of these cases, though, we’re allowing our biases to impact how we see our husbands. And that can seriously harm our marriage!

Often we have very good reason to have these biases. Perhaps your childhood was very difficult. Perhaps men did hurt you in the past.

But even if you have a good reason to have this baggage, you’re still left with this:

Are you going to let your past baggage hurt your marriage, or do you want to have a fresh start with the man you love?

Here’s my assignment for you this week: figure out what lens, or lenses, you have. If you can identify your biases, then it’s easier to take off those lenses and see him with clear eyes.  Then, next time you find yourself getting upset with your husband, or ticked off about something, ask yourself this question:

“Is he really doing something very wrong? Or am I assuming something about the situation?”

That’s a good practice to get into in marriage: start with yourself when there’s a conflict. And you just might find that those conflicts magically disappear!

Now, let me know in the comments: which lens is the most difficult for you? Or do you have one I didn’t even mention? Let’s talk!

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