A Worthy Purpose

Limitless-Love

“True happiness is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” –Helen Keller

Have you defined your worthy purpose?

For me, being a wife is the most important role I fill while here on earth.  Submission to Darrell’s authority won’t be a dynamic in our relationship when we’re in heaven; but learning the humility to submit while on earth renews my mind and strengthens my faith.  This humility goes a long way towards shaping my inner person to be fit for eternity. (1 Cor 6:2-3)

God moves through my marriage in His limitless love and power to shape me into the unselfish daughter that He created me to be.  Being a part of marriage allows me to work towards something bigger than me.  Striving to make a positive difference in those closest to me diminishes my human selfishness by shrinking the desires of my flesh and moving me closer to the likeness of Christ.

Limitless love

There is no one else other than a husband who qualifies to fit in every category of relationship:

  • …have unfailing love for one another1 Peter 4:8
  • … shall love his brother also  – 1 John 4:20
  • …love your neighbour as yourself  – Mark 12:31
  • …no one has greater love [...] than to give up his own life for his friends  – John 15:13

Pulling strings or manipulating to gain the advantage in our marriage (more commonly known as getting your own way) will only bring temporary satisfaction; not true happiness.  And does nothing to teach the kind of love that Jesus demonstrated for me to learn.

Marriage isn’t supposed to teach me how to have my own way – do my own thing, or impose my own rights.  But to daily learn how to lay those things down for a better and permanent way.

  • Marriage is God’s plan to grow me.
  • Marriage belongs to God; it’s His way and in His control.
  • Marriage is the best opportunity I have to grow up.  It gives me real life practice of disciplines that will renew my mind to think like Jesus.

worthy purpose

robyn

Marriage Triangle (Part 3)

Part 3 – Imitation

 

Rev 22

 

Ok.  So far I’ve shared that the traditional view of the marriage triangle didn’t really help us in our marriage.  In Part 1, I explored that each spouse is different in their growth and approach to God.  Because we are all wounded in different ways and depths, this makes our maturity in Christ not equal.  And in Part 2, it was the realization that the dynamics of my relationship with God changed considerably when I chose to get married.

When you are both getting along, there’s no need for counselling or instruction on how marriage should be – You are living it.  This makes complete sense: who needs directions when they aren’t lost?

But then, someone is offended.  Happily ever after is replaced with the strain from the offence creating stress and threatening the unity of the relationship.

Conflict will reveal how much of Christ has been factored in

A marriage that is truly alive with Christ will have God’s love flowing through it.  Otherwise it’s no different than any other marriage.  God’s love is a giving, a no holds barred, regardless of actions, full-out – love.  Remember in Part 2 how I discovered that logically, I can’t reciprocate directly to God, because I have nothing to offer Him.  And yet He still gives all of His love.

When God showed me to focus only on my own relationship with Him and that He would take care of me through Darrell, the same way He would take care of Darrell through me; it not only changed me forever, but also my view of marriage.

Whenever God talks about love, it’s never in a relational vacuum with Himself; but with an active relational voice that is giving.

Matthew 22:37-40 …love your neighbour

Romans 12:10 love one another

1 Peter 2:17 love the brotherhood

1 Peter 4:8love for one another

1 John 4:7-8love one another

1 John 4:11 love one another

1 John 4:19-21 loves God shall love his brother [believer] also

I don’t get to turn my back on my husband and love God at the same time.  When you choose to stop loving your husband, what you’ve actually done is stop your own love from being reciprocated to God.  You have become a taker only of God’s love- nothing is getting through you.

 blank RMP x

You love God by copying Him

God is a giver.  So to look like Him we must become givers who only focus on what we give into the marriage … not what we get from it.  Truly imitating God means you give without limits or strings attached.  As your husband’s wife you don’t concentrate on what kind of husband he is, but instead on the tremendous son of God that he will become as God loves him through you.

RMP 1

Therefore be imitators of God

[copy Him and follow His example],

as well-beloved children [imitate their father].

Ephesians 5:1

robyn

Marriage Triangle (Part 2)

Part 1 – The Myth We Discovered

Part 2 – Reciprocity

reciprocate

Myth

Because I am in relationship with God, I actually have something, on my own, to give back to Him.

When you look at the surface of Paradigm A, you only view the shell.  But if you look under the surface, scrutinizing the real message (Paradigm B), you can see that there is no representation of “oneness” that includes God.  Instead, what it illustrates is actually THREE reciprocal relationships, each of the three being separated in its own vacuum:

utopian marriage

Three Relationships Each In Its Own Vacuum

1 – God & wife

God does all the giving in this relationship, any love I have originated with Him, I love Him, because He first loved me (1 John 4:19).  There is nothing I can reciprocate to God:

He does all the giving … a wife can only TAKE.

 2 - God & husband

Again, God does all the giving in this relationship.  There is nothing a husband can reciprocate to God:

God does all the giving … a husband can only TAKE.

3- husband & wife

There is no line for the relationship that shows the oneness of marriage that comes from God, the One who does the giving.  Instead, the arrow representing marriage involves two takers.

Reciprocate, To God?

Paradigm A disguises reality by presenting the way marriage should be (see Part 1) – the utopian view.  It also enforces the idea that: I can reciprocate directly to God.  Even though I know, logically, there is no way that a natural human being has anything to offer a supernatural being.  Because of the fact that the only reason I am able to love God is, because He first loved me, this begs the question:  How am I going to love God back?

Conceptualizing the interaction (Paradigm B) that is actually taking place between God and each spouse gives a clearer idea:  God loves me.  That’s a $100 bill that He’s given to me … do I give Him back the $100 bill?  Is this how I love God back?  Keeping the $100 in a vacuum, isolated between the two of us – passing it back and forth?

utopian marriage 2

How easy is it to be in relationship with God?  I’ve discovered, as you probably have, He’s pretty easy to love.  With God there’s no relational dysfunction, is there?  Never any ugly trials and tribulations.  God is supreme perfection.  Always giving.  Never taking.

God always does the right thing and never sins against you.

Paradigms A & B don’t actually show how each spouse is growing closer to God.  As long as the arrow is pointed at God (Paradigm A) and remains between just the two of them (Paradigm B), it is not a relationship with any maturity.  Maturity responds to God’s love by imitating it.

When I identify with the utopian Paradigm A, it seems ok for me to see my relationship with God as separate from my relationship with my husband.  And this is where the deception comes in:

  1. It is not humanly possible for a spouse (a taker) to love the other spouse (a taker) the way God loves each of them.
  2. There really isn’t two separate relationships in marriage … the two have become one.

The question again:  How do you reciprocate with a being that is so supreme He completes His Self within Himself?

You imitate Him

When Darrell and I got married, we became ONE flesh.  There aren’t two of us anymore, there is one.  Therefore, that great mystery of becoming one flesh would be more accurately illustrated by a single line:

 ORIGINAL 1

The utopian triangle (Paradigm A) is applicable when a marriage is as it should be:  In its “good place.”  There is no conflict and both spouses are getting along.  However, with the pressures of life, the reality of trials and the ugliness of human sin, conflict in marriage is inevitable; the utopian paradigm crashes and burns … it’s useless to us.  The high divorce rates are the best indicator of the misapplication of the ‘marriage triangle.’  Perhaps it’s time for a paradigm shift.

Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning. –George Bernard Shaw

 ~~~

Part 3 – Imitation:  A paradigm shift to an active perspective.

robyn

Marriage Triangle (Part 1)

upwithmarriage

Part 1 – The Myth We Discovered

There is a triangle paradigm used to depict the Christian marriage, aptly called a marriage triangle.  There’s many variations of it, but generally it looks like one of these:

marriage triangle 2

The premise is obvious:  The closer you get to God the closer your marriage will align to the perfection of God thereby bringing the two of you closer.

In theory this paradigm makes complete sense, but for real life practical application in marriage, it’s a miss and leaves us strandedBy glossing over our human brokenness – the truth of what we really are, with the illusion of perfection, it leads us more into a myth mindset than a paradigm that can help a marriage grow into the force it was meant to be.

This triangle image bolsters the idea of black and white in the marriage relationship and leaves us with a flavour of simplicity.  It doesn’t factor in the reality of any hurt, strife, offences, or conflicts that are inevitable, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7:28, “… Yet those who marry will have physical and earthly troubles, …

Perfection is a myth

MYTH:  Darrell and I are equal in our maturity and our backgrounds won’t make any difference.  It doesn’t matter what each of us has been through in childhood and life, we’ll ascend the triangle towards God at an equal rate of maturity.

Both spouses growing equally in their respective relationship to God, and naturally getting closer to each other.  Yes, if all things were equal.  If I grew up on Bliss Boulevard and if Darrell came from Paradise Place and if we were making our home on Utopia Avenue, this triangle is a statement of truth.  Correctly depicting 2 Christians in a marriage; as the marriage should be.upwithmarriageJAN

But here’s the problem:

  • Earth is not utopia and balanced maturity is hardly the reality of two sinners that are …
  • Bound together in such a close relational space that they may as well be called one person …
  • Living in the fallen world.

Sorry for the bummer of all those grim verses but if we are going to live in reality and not fairyland, we need to be honest with ourselves about who we really are.  Let’s face it, there’s a reason Jesus had to die for us.  Also, if when we get a little high on ourselves, there is nothing more effective than a good dose of reality to level the playing field of marriage.

Without exception all of us are different.  Nobody grows and matures at an equal level, in the same way or during the same time frame.  Each of us have come from different backgrounds, lived different lives and have experienced hurt in ways that differ from each other, so our wounds are unalike.  Our healing and maturity will be anything but identical, equal or symmetrical as we grow closer independently to God.

Conflict is not a myth

You can’t live in this world and not be wounded.  Somehow, some way … all people are hurting (Mk 2:17).  Hurting people hurt others.  But as we heal and grow … we do less damage to each other.

Wounds are the root of offence, discord and strife.

They reveal where we need to be healed in order to grow-up.

Ferreting out the wounds from beneath our self-made coping mechanisms so that we can heal and grow, takes time.  And on top of the wounds, there’s also variations in our genders, our basic personality differences, which are not so basic if you’ve spent any time reading some of the Meyers Briggs information.  Not to mention birth order factors that probably come into play.

We humans are fearfully and wonderfully created with all our amazing complexities.  The good we live in and do belongs to us and our spouses; and so does the darkness.  It’s not as simple as:  sliding up our respective sides of the triangle into happily ever after.  So, what’s the solution?  Reciprocity.

Part 2 – ReciprocityWhat can you give to The God that has everything?  Same triangle – alternate and active perspective.  Helping each other to heal so that we each can grow closer to God.

robyn

Dysfunctional Communication (Part 3)

Part 1Our First Truce

Part 2 – Emotions

This post is the final installment of my series on Dysfunctional Communication.

Part 3 – The Truce Box Talk

truce 2

Perhaps this last part would have been better titled, Rules of Engagement, as that is what we were really attempting to do:  To actually engage each other in our own grievances.  But I had already chosen The Truce Box Talk sooooo, I went with that one.

First things first.  It’s presupposed that if you are reading this far in the series that you and your spouse have made the decision that you are going to fight for your marriage, regardless of where that journey may take you.  That was the place where Darrell and I had ended up, between the proverbial rock and hard place.  It was not good, but once you’ve removed the idea of divorce from the table you are left with only 1 logical option, fight for your marriage no matter how bad it is.

Our marriage is living proof that necessity really is the mother of invention.  That invention was our Truce Box.

The truce had served its purpose – there was peace.  But now we were going to move onto the next step:  Engage in conflict.  This was scary.  When you get to this level of dysfunction in your marriage, things have gone unsaid for so long and there are so many problems, that it’s almost unbearable to broach them.  The emotional weight attached to each one makes it seem impossible to lift onto the table of discussion.

Press on.

Accept that it’s going to be messy and hard …

but not undoable.

Some things are going to be very difficult to say and some things will be even harder to hear.  The Truce Box Talk is not about being right or wrong; but being safe.  Think of it as being in a meeting at a boardroom table with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the CEOs.

Its purpose is to allow naked communication by stripping away the feelings and emotions that come from conflict.  Clearing away all of the confusion, assumptions, miscommunications and misunderstandings.  The first few times it will feel awkward and disjointed, kind of like learning a new dance to a song you’ve never heard.  But with practice you become a more skilled partner.

And now, our Rules of Engagement:

RULE 1 – Public Location

Public was safe, for both of us.  I was safe from Darrell’s angry aggression and he was kept safe from my verbal tirades that lead to emotional unravelling.

There is a certain standard of polite behaviours that society expects from its adults, we could sum them up in the word civilized.  Being out in public forced us to be on our best behaviour with each other.  We were able to speak freely but it had to be done with care and dignity, which is the way we should have been speaking all along.

Rule 2 – Honesty

Honesty with each other and self.  Sounds pretty straight forward and simple, but it’s not so easy.  Honesty takes courage.  It meant we each had to be brave enough to reveal our real thoughts.  Courage to believe that it didn’t matter what the other thought, only what God thought.  There is no faster way to kill communication than by the fear that’s rooted in self-consciousness.

Rule 3 – Acceptance

This rule was based on the premise that everything goes.  This meant that whatever Darrell said, I accepted as true and real – to him.  And vice versa for me.  It’s drilling down on the idea that each other’s hearts are more important than who is right.  It’s rooted in others before self rather than self-seeking.

  • Hearing and accepting – NOT defending, NOT arguing and NO rebuttal
  • Trying to put yourself in the shoes of another to really understand
  • Listening with the intent to validate

Rule 4 – Freedom

Not all things were settled when they were first broached and most things relational are just not cut & dried.  Old habits of relating die hard and new ones take time to develop.  If When either of us fell back into old ways of responding reacting, we gave each other the freedom to say, “You are still doing it.”  Or, “You did it again.”

In the beginning there was a temptation to disregard the rules of engagement that we had established.  This generally meant that one of us would delve into conflict on the spur of the moment.  We gave each other the freedom to invoke a truce, even if it was the one who started the conflict in the first place.

The truth box talk is not about

  • saying your say to get your way
  • making a decision
  • who makes decisions
  • what is the right decision

… but is about

  • learning how to arrive at solutions together
  • working as a team
  • growing in unity through trust and peace
  • striving for maturity

In Summary

It has been humbling to put pen to paper (so to speak) and relive this pivotal time in our marriage.  As I walked down the halls of my memory I was reminded again just how fragile people can be.  How easy it is to become self-centered, or to misread a heart and assume the worse in our spouses.  How we need to be on guard against the wiles of the enemy as he seeks to trespass between husbands and wives in an effort to destroy our marriages.  I was reminded that if either of us had given up on God and walked away because of conflict, trials and tribulations in our marriage, neither of us would be experiencing the abundance of the blessings of faith, strength and unity that we now have.  Thank you for reading and giving me the opportunity to relive it.

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place. –George Bernard Shaw

robyn

Dysfunctional Communication (Part 2)

If you missed the first installment, Part 1 – Our First Truce, you can find it here.

Part 2 – Emotions

truce 1 copy

We didn’t decide who was right or wrong that night.  Instead, we agreed not to be offended at anything the other person said.  We agreed to just talk about our emotions instead of actually feeling them.  We were both guilty in our own areas of dysfunctional relating, and were both contributing to the destruction of our marriage and the disruption of the regular living of life in our home.

We determined that it was our emotions that were stopping us from reaching any conclusions or resolutions.  So what we did was put them away!  Not neuter or bury them:  put them away.  Your emotions belong to you and you alone - they have no business in the arena of conflict resolution.  Yes, you can say how you feel (or felt), but you cannot feel it.

In Bob Burg’s new book, Adversaries into Allies, I like how he says, Control Your Own Emotions.  This fact is applicable to all relationships not just in business, and especially in a marriage.  If there’s any hope to finding the synergy that evolves from healthy conflict resolution, you must take ownership of your own feelings.  Skip Prichard did a stellar review of Bob’s book, you can find it here.

Identify your own emotions

Darrell’s main problem was anger, and mine was fear.  He would react by blowing up, while I would react with crying followed by emotional distancing (shutting down).  I would then brood over it and come back around to attack* on a different day with a different angle – he would blow up, I would react by crying then shutting down.  I would brood over it and come back around to attack on a different day with yet a different angle… Rinse and repeat — again.

I felt he never heard me and he felt I never listened to him.  We were both right!  Neither of us were listening or hearing because both of us were taking the emotional cues to defend and protect the turf of our own opinions.  I blamed him for making me shut down emotionally, and he blamed me for making him angry.  Where there is no ownership of emotions, there will be no responsibility for behaviours.

Put your emotions in check

Here’s a random example of how it worked.  There would be some kind of disagreement between us.  He would say something ‘wrong’ – in anger, or too harsh, or whatever else – I was offended somehow, in some way, I was hurt or disagreed with him. <dysfunctional communication would normally be well on its way> Rather than shut down or say something emotionally charged, I would write down the situation and put it in the Truce Box – and visually close the lid (file, I kept mine on my computer).

The Truce Box sat there quietly on my computer, holding all of the emotion… so that I didn’t need to.  I could carry on with my day or activity, knowing that a Truce Box Talk was coming.  My feelings weren’t suppressed or forgotten emotions that were deemed inconsequential – they were just sitting safely in the truce.

As juvenile as all this sounds these steps were necessary, both of us were emotionally immature.  Like I said in Part 1, we had ZERO conflict resolution skills.  Normally you begin to learn these as children and they are built on as you grow up.  We’d missed out on that, and we had to start somewhere.  The good news is that it didn’t take long once we had a plan.  And the most beautiful part was that we got to grow up emotionally, together.

Separation

When you separate the emotion from the conflict, you can look at the conflict with different eyes and a different heart.

  • Your protective defenses come down and you can hear the other person and their perspective.
  • With emotion out of the way, your vision is clearer which opens your heart.
  • The conflict becomes almost tangible, and you can touch it with your hands, like with a puzzle, you can accurately see all the pieces – where they fit and don’t fit.

Your marriage is a huge puzzle and you have to build it with your spouse.  You each bring different pieces to complete the picture, and you have to learn to work together so that you can finish it.  Let’s say you are both working on the bottom part of the puzzle and there develops a conflict about which puzzle piece should be placed in a particular place.  The Truce Box enabled us to still work on other areas of our puzzle, then come back to the difficult spot at a later date.

*I say the word attack because it was my intention to continue the ‘discussion’ in order to change his mind, or get him to see my way.

~~~

In Part 3 – The Truce Box Talk, Freedom, strength and acceptance are found in the truce.

robyn

Dysfunctional Communication (Part 1)

truce

Part 1 – Our First Truce

What are you to think when a marriage counsellor says: “Wow, you guys are a really hard couple.”?

Our marriage has been counselled by mentors on two different occasions, as well as by a few different marriage counsellors.  Our last counsellor told us something that was not only hard to hear, but also a surprise.  We were half way through our 2nd session when she said, “Wow, you guys are a really hard couple.”  Of course, my prideful mind silently responded, “Finally, someone understands what I’m up against here!”

By the time we had accumulated 15+ years of marriage with ZERO confliction resolution skills, that’s all we had to show for it?  That was our legacy?  “Wow, you guys are a really hard couple.”  It brought a sense of hopelessness, but as hard as it was to hear, it was also the beginning of a turning point.  It was this feeling of not being able to find anyone to help us that forced the arrival of the Truce Box Talks.

We were in the middle of another cage fight.  It doesn’t really matter what it was about.  Whether it was 99% my fault and 1% his – or vice versa – it still takes two to tango.

Our dance was the same no matter what type of music was played.  Always the same, always the same … A dance of dysfunctional communication.  Over the course of the years, our dance had become much more aggressive towards each other as selfishness squeezed the love and life out of our marriage.

I remember getting more and more tired.  Tired of being emotionally disconnected from Darrell, the man I married.  I missed what we had in the beginning, and I hated what we had become.  This particular ‘bender’ had been going on for a very long time and I was exhausted.  I don’t know if it’s just my Sanguine personality or if all women are like this, but I find that it’s emotionally draining to cut yourself off from someone and hold them at arm’s length as an enemy.

When he came into a room, I would leave, and vice-versa.  We weren’t eating our meals together.  I went to bed early just to be away from him.  And whenever he was home he was in the garage just to be away from me.  We had relegated each other to even less than roommate status.  There were no hellos, goodbyes or any acknowledgement of the other’s existence whatsoever.

After so many years of constant fighting with very few of our conflicts actually being resolved, the emotional turmoil each argument brought just compounded on top of the last unresolved one.  I had no fight left in me.  Nothing.  I felt ‘far away’ from him.  Disconnected.  Together but alone is a tough place to live.  It’s very painful, completely confusing – and perhaps the loneliest of all.

I remember the day as if it was yesterday.  I didn’t really even think about it and I don’t know why I did it.  I was just feeling so utterly alone and empty, and had no one else to call at that time.  I picked up the phone and called Darrell at work.  When he came on the line, words just blurted out of my mouth without me really knowing what I was saying.

  • I’m bottoming-out here.  I don’t really know what direction to go.  The only direction I can see that will make it stop hurting between us, is for me or you to go away.  Is that really where we’ve arrived at?
  • Is that what you want?  I’m not sure if it’s what I want, maybe.  It feels like our marriage is teetering on a tightrope.
  • We’ve gone around this mountain so many times in our marriage.  I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how we can fix this.  We are both convinced we are right and I don’t know if it will ever get better or be resolved, but I can’t do this anymore.
  • I’m not blaming you or blaming me … I just need it to stop.  The emotional hate that’s between us, just for a little while.  Some sane time – a break.
  • Can we agree to disagree – just for now?  And … pretend?  Can we pretend that we still love each other – the way we used to?  Can we pretend that we are a normal mature couple that doesn’t fight like this all the time?

What I had been delineating was a truce … I just didn’t recognize it as such; not at first.

Dictionary.com defines truce as:

  • a suspension of hostilities for a specified period of time by mutual agreement of the warring parties; cease-fire; armistice
  • an agreement or treaty establishing this
  • a temporary respite, as from trouble or pain

It’s important to understand that we had been withdrawing from each other because of these issues for most of our married life.  In the beginning, we had a pretty OK marriage, but if you can’t talk to each other without conflict erupting – well, nothing ever gets resolved and things go downhill rapidly.  We were nearing the bottom of that hill in our marriage.

It was that afternoon that we held our first truce and by evening the idea of Truce Box Talks were born.

~~~

In Part 2 – Emotions, The Truce Box holds your emotions for you until you are ready to accept them as your own.

In Part 3 – The Truce Box Talk, Freedom, strength and acceptance are found in the truce.

 

robyn