dysfunctional marriage

Nagging

upwithmarriage_nagging

… the contentions of a wife are a continual dripping.

… better to dwell in a corner of the housetop [on the flat oriental roof, exposed to all kinds of weather] than in a house shared with a nagging, quarrelsome, and faultfinding woman.

… better to dwell in a desert land than with a contentious woman and with vexation.

… better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than to share a house with a disagreeing, quarrelsome, and scolding woman.

True, it’s hard to hear, but God told us for a reason.  I’m guessing it does more damage than we realize.  Nagging is hurtful to your husband’s ears and toxic to your marriage.  And probably doesn’t make God too happy either.

~   Let’s not be like that   ~

Rsignature

Loophole

00 POST TITLE VERSE 1a

Loophole:

an error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it (merriam-webster.com)

I didn’t think of myself as a quitter, but when it came to our marriage I wasn’t so sure anymore.  Marriage had turned out to be more than I bargained for.  It was too hard and I wanted out.  There had to be a way, something I’d overlooked or read wrong that would give me the loophole I wanted.  Little did I know that in my search to get out of our marriage, I had inadvertently started a wrestling match with God.

It was in Matthew 19 that I saw a loophole forming, right there in verse 11:

Not everyone can accept this statement, only those whom God helps. 

And the more I thought about it the clearer it became …only those whom God helps.  Right.  If God was for this marriage it would be easier.  There would be peace.  I began to see hope.  Yes, divorce is a hard process but afterward, life would improve for everyone.  It had to be better than what we were presently experiencing.  I could see my loophole getting larger.

… Until God asked me if I was a eunuch.

Wait?  What? …. A what?

Have You Not Read?

When God asks you a rhetorical question, you just know He’s got your number.  We’ve seen this line of questioning before. Jesus did this with the Pharisees back in verse 4:

Jesus answered, Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female?

… have you not read …?  Obviously, they had read it – they were the religiously educated, Jesus knew that.  Yet, the intent of his question indicates they missed something. … just like I was missing something too.

I missed it because, like the Pharisees, I was looking for something that wasn’t there.  Fishing for an excuse, any excuse to twist God’s Word to my benefit.  Any excuse that says it’s ok to give up on marriage, on a spouse … on a person.

To challenge the Pharisees, Jesus began with an overview from way back in Genesis, as though they really hadn’t read from their own scriptures.  But before He could finish, they interrupted Him with another question.  Then the disciple’s interjected with a comment of their own.

Misfire From Both Sides

On the one side of Jesus, the Pharisees are saying they should be able to break the marriage contract whenever they choose.  And on the other side, the disciples are emphatic about not even venturing into a marriage if it’s going to be a covenant situation.  Both sides had different reasons but both groups were missing the bigger picture in order to avoid doing the hard work that marriage sometimes demands.

First:  The Pharisees want to be able to trade-in for a new partner:  Jesus tells them their focus is all wrong.  Their reasoning is that if they have all their Ts crossed and Is dotted through a contract of divorce, dissolving the marriage along with the contract is clean and tidy: sanitized.  The paperwork is all in order.  But Jesus wants them to look back further than their own relationships, beyond themselves, back to when marriage was established and grasp its original purpose:  Not a contract; rather, a covenant to stay together.  But they won’t have any of it, instead, they shot back in rebuttal:

“If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”

Jesus tried to be a teacher and help them but they resisted with technicalities.  So He responds with more deliberate words, You are the stubborn, hardhearted ones to pursue divorce in the first place.  But if that weren’t enough Jesus pushes back with more, So you want to play hardball with technicalities?  I have a technicality for you.  You thought you could just divorce by saying your spouse cheated so you could find someone better?  It doesn’t work that way.  You want to leave your marriage?  Alright, but you cannot ever get married again because you will only bring your hardheartedness into another marriage.

WOAH-WAH

Apparently, there’s no trading in, or trading off.  Only trading out.  The technicality is too much for them, they got more than they bargained for.  They came out to play Jesus for the fool, but instead He bested them at their own game!  And they just quietly disappear before the end of the chapter.

And then:  The Disciples don’t even want to start without an escape clause.  Jesus recalls Genesis 2 in an effort to draw our attention to the original purpose of the male/female design of creation:  so that they would covenant in marriage.  No escape clause is the whole purpose.  Remaining single because there’s no escape clause goes against the intended design.  The only pure motive for choosing to not marry is to serve God.

At this point in the conversation, Jesus had turned his attention to the disciples and was directly addressing them.  The only people that don’t have the capacity to accept the covenant of marriage are eunuchs, everyone else does.

“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said, “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

I wasn’t a eunuch (as God rhetorically reminded me) which put me in the category of everyone else.  It applies to …everyone …else?  I didn’t like that very much.  “God, You’re not actually saying that it does apply to everyone else, are You?  Just that it doesn’t apply to eunuchs.”  OK, that was wrong, I knew it.  I had tried the same trick that Pharisees had: a technicality.

Although there was less confusion about my own heart, I was still disillusioned about our marriage. It didn’t seem fair.  What about him?  Why am I the one with the hard heart towards him?  I could feel God’s hand pull me out of my self-pity pit:  “No, it’s not Darrell you will become hard hearted towards … it’s Me.”

This was my game changer:  It’s not about my spouse and me, but God and me.

Accept it, if you can

If I left our marriage my faith would weaken because I wouldn’t have given God the chance to come through for me.  To demonstrate His power through me … through our marriage.

To leave Darrell would be to not trust God to work out all things in our marriage. Leaving him would also be saying to God that Darrell is such a lost cause that even the Creator of the universe isn’t able to do anything in him.  I would be saying that God is not able to finish the good work He started on our wedding day.

And if I didn’t trust Him in this area of my life, what would be the next area that I would withhold from Him?  And then the next?  God is everything He says or nothing at all.  I don’t get to pick and choose the areas of my life that He gets dominion over.

So.  I’m not a eunuch, clearly.  My only other choice was to seek a divorce with a hard heart towards God.  Or, stay in admittance that Christ’s teaching on marriage was for me to accept.

With that thought, my loophole vanished.

 

Rsignature

00 POST TITLE VERSE grey (quotes) ABC

EQUALITY IS IRRELEVANT

compare together2There is no equality in marriage because the roles are so unalike. You cannot compare things that contrast to each other. The directives God gives to each of them vary so much that you can’t even set them side-by-side to get a modicum of measurement to gauge equality! Not to mention the biology which, even at a cellular level, is completely contrasted.
Do we compare the cardiologist and brain surgeon? The College of Physicians and Surgeons holds them both 100% responsible in their respective roles. But they are never compared to each other in importance of their roles for the sake of equality in the medical field!
There is equality in the levels of responsibility. Just like each doctor is 100% responsible to the College of Physicians and Surgeons, so it is with God and marriage. He holds a woman 100% responsible for being a wife, and He holds a man 100% responsible for being a husband.
There is very little else in our world that we seek to equalize. We don’t compare a Thorough Bred and a Draft Horse, or a Scooter and Sport Bike, so it seems unfitting to seek equality within the roles of marriage.

 

 

Neglect

DRIFT

Neglect always leads to drifting.

There is no area of life where neglect is beneficial. Life – people – relationship: all require work. We were not built for static. Attending to – caring for – doing: We were built for activity.

PHYSICAL

  • Neglect to work out; your heart and muscles drift into weakness and atrophy
  • Neglect to eat right and your body drifts into poor health

MATERIAL 

  • Neglect your work you get passed over for promotions
  • Neglect to pay your mobile fee and your phone becomes useless

EMOTIONAL/MENTAL

  • Neglect to manage your emotions and your filters weaken
  • Neglect to keep your mind sharp and cognitive ability becomes dull

 Neglect = Drift = Dullness

Since all this is true, we ought to pay much closer attention than ever to the truths that we have heard, lest in any way we drift past [them] and slip away. –Heb 2:1

For this nation’s heart has grown gross (fat and dull), and their ears heavy and difficult of hearing, and their eyes they have tightly closed, lest they see and perceive with their eyes, and hear and comprehend the sense with their ears, and grasp and understand with their heart, and turn and I should heal them. -Matt 13:15

Fat & Dull = Lazy listeners ‘ask for it’

We all have areas in which we have become lazy listeners that make us neglectful:  In what ways are you neglecting your marriage?

A phrase you hear repeatedly from your spouse can indicate an area of dullness. You can listen to God through your spouse or you can let regression continue. But God always corrects one way or another. Just like you as a parent wouldn’t allow one sibling to constantly take advantage the other; He won’t allow His chosen to become a family of spoiled brats that hurt each other through the inaction of neglect.

You either act through listening and hearing or God will give you the help you are begging for. (Heb 10:31)

 BEWARE OF THE BAIT

Resist the temptation to ask, “In what ways is my spouse neglecting our marriage.” God doesn’t ask us to account for each other. I won’t be held accountable for the actions and behaviours of my husband; only my own as a wife. (2 Cor 5:10)

Neglect is a tool of Satan’s that is intentionally deceptive so it can be quietly destructive.  Drifting is just a slower path than directly sinking; the destination is the same:  divorce – death of the marriage. In order to keep your marriage afloat and on course it must be driven, steered, worked and attended to.

neglect 4

 

 

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

 

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