Beware of harmful cycle in marriage

There is a particularly vicious cycle that can start in a relationship. It’s super common but also super subtle.  Trust me. You don’t want to enter this cycle.  The cycle goes like this:

My husband does something wrong, so I feel completely justified in my critical and disrespectful response.  Or my husband does something that really annoys me so I feel totally justified doing that certain thing that I know really annoys him.  In both cases, of course he responds with his own counter move, and the vicious cycle has begun.  We give into the subtle, destructive temptation to “hurt him just like he hurt me”.  We feel justified in our reactions, but we’ve just escalated the war.  Unfortunately, in this war, there are no winners…just losers.

I know!  Here’s an idea! (yes, you noted some sarcasm there).  How about if we decide not to play the justification game anymore?  How about if we, as our husbands’ helpers, decide to respond to our husbands with grace, love and respect, even when they annoy us?  How about if we choose to stop trying to punish them every time they upset us? Romans 12:18-19 directs us to live this way…”If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord”.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean we keep totally quiet all the time.  You may need to establish boundaries on sinful behavior.  However, even if you’re confronting your husband or establishing boundaries, you can do so with love, compassion, respect, and gentleness!

How to connect with husband’s heart

We’ve all seen that couple at a restaurant…that couple that hardly speaks a word to each other throughout the whole meal.  Don’t be that couple!  You and your husband may not be used to revealing your hearts to each other, but give it a try, and don’t just talk about the kids.  Here are two helpful hints in terms of making your husband comfortable in opening up his heart to you in conversation:  1) Show an actual interest in what your husband shares  2) Do not criticize, point out flaws, or roll your eyes at the things he shares!   Philippians 2:4 instructs…”Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interest of others.”  So, really listen to the hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, and feelings of your husband.

Here are 4 questions you could use as date night conversation starters:

1)  What makes you feel most fully alive…as in what do you so enjoy doing that you feel great satisfaction or delight and you easily lose track of time?

2)  If you had 100 million dollars and didn’t have to work for a living, what would you love to do with your time and money?

3) What are the 2 or 3 most impactful moments of your life?

4) What was the best part of your day and what was the most discouraging part of your day?

If you’re not sure what to do…

In any relationship, especially a marriage, there are going to be times when the two of you are in conflict.  Perhaps your husband is breaking your heart through wrong behavior.  At each of those times, we have to make really big decisions.  Should I confront my husband on an issue where he appears to be out of line?  Should I keep quiet and press into prayer, relying on the Holy Spirit to work in my husband’s heart?  Should I compromise on an issue where we’ve been in conflict?

At these times, counsel from other godly women is very helpful, but honestly, my very best guidance comes from God himself.  I just need to take a few moments to be quiet with Him and ask Him to speak direction into my mind and heart.  Psalm 142:3 says “When my spirit faints within me, you know my way.”   When I pause, close my eyes, and ask God in prayer to give me direction, I often sense a gentle nudge, or a prompting, or I feel like He’s speaking a word of direction into my mind in that moment.  Unless the “prompting” goes against what the Bible would say, I trust that God has just spoken to me.

I did this recently on an issue between me and a close relative.  I thought for sure I should make a certain decision, but once I spent just a few moments quieting myself and asking God to speak His counsel into my mind, I received guidance to go the exact opposite direction!  He even allowed me to see why my original idea was flawed. Try this yourself.  God is waiting at the door of your mind and heart.  Open the door and let Him in.

If your husband has a crazy idea!

Are you bewildered by the amount of time your husband spends surfing online to check out the latest, fastest motorcycles available, or talking about quitting his job to open a risky new business, or dreaming about buying a huge boat and sailing around the world?  Apparently, you’re not alone!  Many wives report being frustrated, bewildered, and maybe even scared about their husband’s “crazy” ideas to spend way too much money on a hobby or to take a gigantic risk on some new money-making adventure or wild life-style change.  So, what’s a wife to do?  Let me give you two thoughts:

1)  Since a wife is to show respect to her husband (Ephesians 5:33), avoid the tendency to ridicule his plans, but instead come to him gently and with a true desire to understand how his idea would work.  You can simply say, “Tell me more about your idea…”  Then, you can ask gentle, respectful follow-up questions, such as, “How are you thinking we would handle the financial part of that idea?” or “Do you have some thoughts on how we would pay our mortgage while your new business is getting started?”

2)  Also, ask your husband if he will take the matter to God in prayer to seek God’s guidance on his dreams and plans. By the way, it will be super helpful if you’re humble and ask your husband if he has any concerns about the way that you spend your free time or about the things you tend to focus on.  When we are humble, our husbands are much more willing to accept input and gentle correction.  Colossians 3:12 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

— or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO BELOW

If you’re facing something daunting

If we could all truly embrace the Biblical principle of taking just one day at a time, we would all be better off!  Yes, this is a Bible principle.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  In other words, instead of worrying and fretting about the “what if…” questions, Jesus tells us to just focus on doing what we should do today. 

How does this apply to you?  If it seems overwhelming to you to put your marriage back together after betrayal, just choose to move forward, one day at a time.  If you tend to avoid confronting your husband or establishing boundaries on wrong behavior because you fear the possibility of future tension, trust in Jesus and move forward, one day at a time.  If it seems daunting to take off the 50 pounds you’ve gained in recent years, don’t think about how hard this is going to be for the rest of your life. Just choose to eat healthy today and take it one day at a time.

Worrying about the future is pointless.  Being consumed by the “what if…” questions will only keep you trapped in fear.  Let’s do what Jesus says.  Let’s decide each morning to do what we know we should do that day, and let’s trust God to handle tomorrow.

How to handle frustrating moments

When the kids are fighting with each other and you overcooked the dinner and you shrunk your favorite new sweater…it’s pretty natural to get a bit grouchy.  In those moments, we usually need to “vent”.  Unfortunately, our husbands often get the brunt of our “venting”!  In fact, the men whom we promised to love and respect can become our scapegoats.  The tragically funny thing is then we wonder why our husbands don’t seem to enjoy being around us very much!

One husband once told me that encountering his wife as he walked in the door at the end of his work day was like walking into a buzz saw.  She was wired and churning and her tongue was sharp enough to slice right through him.  Yikes.

Yes, ladies, we all need to vent sometimes.  Some days are incredibly challenging.  But let’s pick the correct scapegoat.  If we need to talk to someone about our stress, anger, or exhaustion, let’s turn to God.  He has really broad shoulders and he’s not afraid to hear what’s on your mind.  Psalm 40:1-2 says “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”  Jesus is the correct scapegoat.  In fact, if you study the origin of the word “scapegoat”, it was the term used by the Israelites for a goat that symbolically carried their sins away.  Wow!  Jesus really is our scapegoat, and he perfectly carries our sins away, as well as our anger and frustration on a really bad day.

So when you feel the frustration mounting and you can tell you’re about to snap at a family member, mentally give your irritation to the Lord.  Just picture handing it over to Him.  Then take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and chuckle at the enemy’s pitiful attempt to make you lose your temper!  Hah!  His stupid plan is defeated once again. You are victorious through Christ!

If husband seems headed wrong way

Sometimes, we will notice a trend in our husband’s behavior or reactions that are concerning.  He might not be engaged in something hugely sinful, but you are concerned about the harsh way he’s interacting with the kids or the resentment that he holds toward his boss, etc.  In other words, you fear that if he continues down that path, significant damage will be the result.  Hmmm.  What’s a wife to do in those moments where she senses her husband is headed the wrong way?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but let me share two things that have been effective in my own relationship.  1)  Pray earnestly that God will convict your husband through the Holy Spirit so that your husband will see that he needs to make some changes.  Jesus makes it clear that one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict people when they are off track.  Jesus says of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8 “when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  

2) If you feel like God is nudging you to talk to your husband about your observations, quietly come to your husband, take a humble posture by perhaps kneeling beside him while he’s sitting, and gently tell him of your concerns. However, don’t ONLY tell him of your concerns.  Take this opportunity to speak words of life to him.  Tell him about the good qualities you see in him.  Remind him that God is transforming him into a man who has Christ’s character, which is “gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8).  Tell him you’re proud of him for seeking to become more like Christ and for allowing God to mold and shape him.

How to sparkle in husband’s eyes

Proverbs 12:4 says “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.”  Hmmm.  Which kind of wife are you?  Which kind of wife am I?

A crown sparkles and reflects light in a beautiful way.  Are we a lovely reflection for our husbands in all we say and do?  Think about it.  The way you pray for your husband, the way you encourage him and help him, the way you take care of his home, the way you conduct yourself in public, even the way you respectfully confront any wrong behavior…all these things become like a crown to him.  A crown is seen by others and causes others to treat that person with respect, honor, and admiration.

In contrast, a wife who demeans her husband, complains about her husband, doesn’t take care of herself or her home, enables sinful behavior by refusing to confront, and withholds physical affection….she becomes like rot in his bones.  A person with rotten bones becomes stooped over and can’t carry his load anymore.  He is crippled.

Let’s be the kind of wives who don’t cripple our men, but who so esteem them and help them that they become even mightier men of God.  Then we will indeed become beautiful crowns!  🙂

Waiting for God’s timing & help!

When we feel angered, or disappointed, or frustrated with our husband, it’s so natural to immediately give in to our emotions and let our husband know exactly what a failure he is!  We feel entitled to unleash our fury and it actually feels kind of cathartic for a moment.  It lets the pent-up steam out of our bodies. Whew!

However, the damage we cause to that person in the process of our “venting” can have the opposite effect of what we desired.  We were hoping the person would immediately grasp how wrong they’ve been, quickly apologize, cheerfully repair the damage they’ve done and humbly seek to win back our trust and respect.  Unfortunately, when we give full vent to our anger and disappointment, without waiting on God’s timing, we can crush that other person with condemning words spoken in the heat of the moment.  In response to our anger and harsh words, that other person usually becomes defensive and lashes back at us…or withdraws from us and goes off to self-medicate in an unhealthy way.  Neither option is good!

It’s so much better for us to pause before venting our anger!  During that pause, you might have to leave the room to spend a moment with God, but it’s so worth it!  Ask God to show you when to speak to your husband, what exact words to use, and how to offer encouragement and hope…even if you’re asking for him to change his behavior.

Here are 4 Bible verses that might be worth printing out for yourself.  They remind us to be patient, to wait for the Lord’s guidance and to do what HE says you should do instead of reacting impulsively!

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 27:14 Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.     I will advise you and watch over you.”

— or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO BELOW

How to approach husband with concerns

In an ideal world, a wife would never have to confront her husband about some kind of disrespectful, destructive, or just plain immoral behavior.  However, we live in a fallen world, and both men and women can easily stray into sinful choices that hurt the people they love.

If you are a wife who is ready to confront your husband over some kind of wrong behavior, here’s what not to do!   Don’t treat him like he’s the enemy.  Don’t give him that look says “you disgust me”.  Don’t scold him like he’s a 3 year-old child.  Don’t roll your eyes.

Instead, as you’re bringing up the issue that is causing you distress, let your husband know that you are for him and your marriage.  A man will shut down if he feels his wife is against him.  A man will tune his wife out if she is disrespectful.  The Bible says “the wife must respect her husband” in Ephesians 5:33, and this is critical when a wife addresses issues of concern with her husband.  Let your man know that you love him and want to work with him as his partner to overcome the challenge.  Speak gently and encourage him by reminding him of his good qualities.  If he knows you are truly for him, he will be much more apt to listen to what you’re saying instead of shutting you out or flying into a rage. 

Oh, and one more tip.  To help make sure he doesn’t get super defensive, start out by asking this gentle question: “Help me understand why….”  When you ask him that instead of starting out with strong accusations, he will be much more likely to talk calmly with you!