Picking your battles!

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Although the primary message of this saying is that mom’s attitude affects the whole family, I think a secondary message is just as significant.  If a wife conveys to her husband through her constant complaints and criticisms that she’s not happy, her husband begins to feel like a failure and starts to close his heart to her.

Unfortunately, many wives get stuck in this dynamic.  We tend to point out one disappointment after another to our husbands.  We remind him that we notice he forgot to take out the garbage.  We point out that he hasn’t communicated in our love language recently.  We remind him that he hasn’t played with the kids in a while.  In short, we can’t seem to resist pointing out his flaws.  Adding insult to injury, we then get really upset that he seems emotionally withdrawn from us!

Perhaps it’s time to pick our battles more carefully.  Maybe we should let the small stuff slide.  Proverbs 12:16 says, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.”  Let’s ask God to help us affirm what our husbands do right, overlook the small imperfections, and only confront our husbands if they are truly sinning against us and/or the children. EVERYBODY in the family will be happier!

Try this game-changer during conflict

Conflict and disagreement is inevitable in marriage.  However, conflict need not lead to the formation of two enemy camps!  Here’s something that can greatly change the dynamics during conflict and actually move you closer to resolution.  Pause and ask God to help you see the situation through your husband’s eyes. Ask the Lord to show you what is truly prompting your husband to say what he’s saying or do what he’s doing. Is he stressed?  Is he discouraged?  Is he still affected by emotional wounds from his childhood?  Does he simply have a different idea on how something should be done, and could his idea actually make sense?

When we intentionally pause and try to consider the vantage point of our husbands, we begin to have compassion, or at least an understanding of why he is thinking or acting the way he is. Instead of only focusing on our desires, Philippians 2:4 instructs us, “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  When you truly stop and try to look at the situation from his perspective, you may see some actual merit to your husband’s point of view!  You might also start to realize how your husband’s past hurts in life (or current fears) are playing a role in his actions or reactions.

When we ask Jesus to help us see the situation through our husband’s eyes, we start to soften and feel compassion.  As we have compassion and understanding, it will be much easier to compromise or find resolution.  Try it!

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

Handling marital disagreements

It’s vital for you and your spouse to come into agreement on the major issues within your marriage, such as finances, parenting, time spent on recreation, frequency of sex, etc.  You must come into agreement because division in a marriage often leads to the eventual collapse of that marriage.  God’s word even states this.  In Matthew 12:25, Jesus says “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”

So, what should you do if you and your spouse are consistently divided in a specific area?  Don’t just throw your hands up in the air and give up!  Decide to respectfully, but thoroughly, discuss the issue with your husband.  Ask God for the right timing and ask God to prepare your heart and your husband’s heart for the conversation ahead.  The goal is to reach a compromise that you can both support.  And, if you can’t reach such a compromise on your own, then seek help from a pastor, counselor, or mentor couple.  Do whatever you need to do to come into agreement with your husband on this issue.  It will bring peace to you, your marriage, and your household!

P.S.  If the disagreement stems from your husband wanting to do something immoral, then compromise isn’t the right option!  In that case, you will likely want to see help from a counselor or pastor, and you may have to establish boundaries in the relationship.

What conflict avoiders need to know

I’m an expert conflict avoider.  How about you?  I grew up in a household where there was a lot of yelling and rage and verbal abuse.  As a result, everything within me tries desperately to avoid anything in my marriage that could result in tension, raised voices, or anything remotely resembling conflict.

However, avoiding conflict is a recipe for disaster in a marriage.  I learned that the hard way in my first marriage, which failed.  Here’s the thing.  If you don’t address the things that are really bothering you about your husband or your marriage, a seed of bitterness is planted in your heart.  That seed slowly takes root and grows, and after months and years go by, you will most likely grow to despise your husband and want a divorce!  Not good.

So, let’s commit to respectfully, lovingly, and diligently address the things that are bothering us within our marriages.  Hebrews 12:15 warns us not to let “any bitter root grow up among you to cause trouble…”  So, ask God to give you the courage to gently and respectfully discuss your concerns with your husband.  Ask God to give you the courage to express your needs and desires to your husband.  Do not become invisible.  When you start stuffing your feelings and immediately cave in during disagreements, toxic resentment will start to grow inside you. Don’t let that happen!

Are you giving the devil this foothold?

The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 – 27, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Well….I almost gave the devil just such a foothold in my marriage the other day.  My husband had acted in a way that really bothered me.  I was steaming for hours and couldn’t even bring myself to talk to him about it because I feared we’d get embroiled in a huge conflict.  So, I went to bed early, by myself. 

I am so thankful the Holy Spirit prompted me to get out of bed and go speak with my husband.  I sensed that I was giving the devil a “foothold” in my marriage through me stuffing the issue and letting resentment grow.  So, I went and found my husband in the living room, knelt by his side as he was sitting on the couch and told him that I truly do see so many good qualities in him.  I also told him why his behavior had bothered me. 

I know you’re thinking he agreed with my assessment, but he didn’t!  However, a good thing did happen.  We calmly acknowledged our difference of opinion and I was able to go to sleep in peace.  There was no wedge between me and my husband.  Don’t allow the enemy to gain a foothold in your marriage.  Resist the temptation to go to sleep with simmering anger and resentment.

Aim for this goal during conflict

It’s natural during disagreement with our husbands to believe you’re right, he’s wrong, and you must convince him of that!  However, if we stay stuck in that mindset, the battle only heats up.  He gets defensive.  You get defensive.  Usually, the situation either evolves into yelling and ugly accusations or a silent, but deadly cold war.  There is a better way and it begins with rethinking your end goal.

What if your goal was not to “win” the argument or change his mind?  What if the goal was to reach a compromise or solution that addresses the biggest concerns of you both?  Seriously. Think about it. Now you both win and there are no losers.  This means that you both agree to consider the other person’s perspective, fears, values, and concerns.  From there, you begin to present ideas that might address both of your main concerns.  Philippians 2:4 reminds us “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

So, the next time you and your husband start to have a significant disagreement, suggest that you would like to sit down together and better understand his perspective and concerns.  Then gently share your concerns, and ask him to join you in brainstorming a solution or compromise that would be the best fit for both of you.