August: I Do Every Day
Earth to My Wife? Come In, Wife
Ever get that feeling the person in front of you is there-but-not-there?
I’m totally guilty of this. My husband’s trying to tell me something and then I hear, “…but you’re not paying attention, so …” Oops. I’m too often multitasking. And it might even be for his sake, but still, I’m not present in the moment he cares about. I might make the right gestures or expressions or noises, but I’m actually being a little duplicitous.
As a culture, we don’t do presence well.
What stands in the way? It’s usually psychological noise of some kind:
- Our own agendas and desires (to feel valuable or heard; to have control, approval, security).
- Our distraction (by fatigue, multi-tasking schedules, our own keenly felt needs and hunger for care).
- Our tendency to lapse into what’s comfortable for us rather than what the other person needs.
Unfortunately, it results in emotional hunger all around us. Because presence is a precious form of love. Presence is taking out my mental earbuds so whoever’s in front of me gets 100% of my mental pie graph (or at least a good 98%).
I think of the God who wasn’t content with never being seen, never touching, with a lack of nitty-gritty engagement: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, MSG).
Sometimes this means asking our spouses for answers we may already know. God models this for me. I think of Him in the Garden of Eden: Where are you?
I believe God asks questions not for information. He’s asking to connect. To welcome. To allow expression. Desire. Interpretation. Co-journeying.
We can ask questions like, What was that like? What were you hoping for?
We can make a distinctive effort to forsake putting on with our spouse: I need to be a good spouse. I want to talk about what’s important to me. Gotta make sure we talk about this.
Take a beat to put down whatever’s in your brain’s hands (or your real ones). Right there, endeavor to fully receive your spouse. To act as Jesus to them, our God-in-the-Mess, who came fully into our world.
Be all there.
Is your family getting your whole-hearted attention? Maybe it’s time to “Put Down Your Smartphone.”
The Good Stuff: Let love be genuine. (Romans 12:9)
Action Points: Which of the bullet points above are most likely to sap your presence from your spouse? Ask God to tap you on the shoulder when you’re not fully present with your spouse (or other people).
When Jeans and a Tee Don’t Cut It
They told me the climb could be strenuous, and I shouldn’t overdress. To my Brooklyn-born wisdom, that meant jeans and a t-shirt.
As we started that morning, everything was new and exciting. I felt like a kid admiring my surroundings—a fallen tree, a small stream, a family of blue jays. As we ascended, the mountain face opened up before us. The scenery was stunning.
At about 2,500 feet, we passed through a low-lying cloud. The higher we climbed, the windier it became. It was soon apparent my wardrobe choice was a mistake.
It should have been beautiful, but now I was wet, in the shade, and facing a steady wind. I could feel my fingers stiffen, and I started to shiver. I’m sure there was still beauty around me, but I couldn’t see it. Survival was the goal.
My misadventure reminds me a lot of marriage. Inexperienced and ill-prepared, we set out in pursuit of a dream. We ignore the obvious dangers and press forward enjoying every new experience.
But somewhere along the way, the terrain gets steeper, the air gets colder. What do we do when we lose sight of the goal? Do we press on or turn back?
As I was considering my options on the mountain, I met a hiker returning from the summit. He gushed about the view and encouraged me to keep going. Seeing my condition, he peeled off his jacket and handed it to me.
I was stunned. Who does that?
But because of his sacrifice, I was able to press on.
At the summit, I sat in the cleft of a rock, looking at the clouds below. Shielded from the wind, I was able to warm up. I thanked God for His creation, and for the gift He sent to help me appreciate it. Like manna, He’d handed me a mind-boggling provision in the wilderness.
Wondering whether you should turn back? First, look around. What resources could God be handing you to warm and shield you, like the perfect layer of Gore-tex?
It’s a lot easier to keep going in our marriages when we have a strong foundation. Listen to “A Stronger Marriage: How To Have One.”
The Good Stuff: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Action Points: Sometimes we need encouragement in our marriages to help us make it through tough times. What gifts is God extending to you? Who are the people that you talk to when your marriage needs help? Are they the kind of people who would encourage you to help you press on?
Real Life Stinks, but That’s Good
By Lisa Lakey
Weddings can take months to plan. So many details: dress, bridesmaids and groomsmen, venue, food, flowers, invitations.
And it all culminates within roughly 30 minutes. A swapping of rings, vows made in front of loved ones, and boom—you’re married. Headed into the great unknown together from this day forward.
Donning a white dress and slapping a tiara on my head prepared me for zilch. But the easy stuff rarely needs preparation for.
What do you do when your spouse gets a promotion? Cheer! Buy a new home? Celebrate! Two pink lines on a pregnancy test? Rejoice!
But what about the hard stuff that undoubtedly knocks on your door?
My husband and I have twice spent months on our knees praying over a sick child. Three times we’ve shouldered job loss side by side. And then there were the things not beyond our control—harsh words, heartache, and heated arguments. Things that made tiaras and uttering “for better or for worse” seem like lifetimes ago.
I’m not bashing weddings. In fact, I love ‘em. The celebration of two lives joining is hopefully just the beginning of many joyous moments to come. But as you already know, weddings are just that … beginnings. Not the end goal.
A friend once told me, “In marriage, you get through the hard stuff to get to the really good stuff.”
The real celebration comes from victory over defeat. From shouldering losses, sharing the pain of real life, and overcoming life’s challenges together. That’s where the “really good stuff” begins.
You’ll often get it wrong in marriage. For more, read “Giving Your Spouse the Freedom to Fail.”
The Good Stuff: Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)
Action Points: They say what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. Not the most optimistic line, but where in your marriage have you seen this to be true? Maybe that job loss finally got you on the same page financially. Those years of sickness that increased your faith exponentially. Pray with your spouse today. Thank God for both the hills and valleys He’s brought you through together.
Kombucha and Other Matrimonial Hazards
By Ed Uszynski
Amy catches me cutting through the kitchen. “Here. Drink this.”
Like a racoon, I don’t eat or drink anything “new” without smelling it first. Besides burning my nose like smelling salts, this glass of whatever has the whiff of jet fuel. No thanks.
She’s standing over a huge vat of the stuff with what looks like an alien pod growing in the middle of it.
“My gosh, Amy … what IS this? And why are you trying to poison me?”
It’s kombucha, she says, and goes on to explain that it’ll help fix my stomach by adding good bacteria to it.
“Kom-what??” Now I’m surprised to feel myself even getting a little angry.
I won’t get into all the backstory of why my stomach needed help, but after resisting for weeks I finally relent and start drinking it down.
And she ends up being right. For the millionth time about something like this, she’s right.
And here I am again, reflecting on our marriage and wondering when I’ll learn.
How many times have I started by reacting negatively—almost aggressively negatively—to something Amy is trying to introduce to my life, only to realize after much conflict it’s exactly what I needed?
Look, I like the security that comes from knowing where my personal lines are drawn.
But God keeps moving them. And sometimes erasing them.
Forcing me to let go of control even of my likes and dislikes to get me to a new place. And He often uses Amy to do the work of moving me.
That drives me crazy, but it shouldn’t. It’s one of God’s gifts for marriage, and I’m pretty sure it’s only pride that blocks me from enjoying it.
So think twice before blocking whatever “kombucha” your spouse is serving up today.
It might actually help. Drink up!
Frustrated your spouse won’t listen? Consider that they might just have a different communication style.
The Good Stuff: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
Action Points: In what area(s) do you tend to mentally or emotionally block your spouse’s suggestions? Why do you feel like digging in? Ask God for a responsive heart toward your spouse.
Can’t Wait To Fight Again
By Bruce Goff
My wife, Maria, and I fight a lot. But I want us to fight a lot more.
I’d share an example, but they’re ridiculous and nonsensical. I’m sure you’d side with me and that’s just not fair to her, right?
So why do any of us fight?
According to the Bible, it has to do with not getting what we want (James 4:1-2). My boss once overheard a toddler screaming, “I want what I want!” As adults we just make it sound more sophisticated (sometimes).
When I fight for my wants and my wife fights for hers, it doesn’t work. We’re two toddlers fighting over a stuffed animal. Even when we get what we want, we’re left with half a bear, stuffing falling out.
Instead, when I fight for her, and she fights for me, something amazing happens—peace. Wonderful, intact, plushy peace.
That doesn’t mean we’ll never have conflict. It doesn’t mean I’m a doormat. But it does mean that in the middle of conflict, I fight the urge to focus only on what I want: I love her. I want what’s best for her. She’s not my enemy.
So how about instead of fighting against each other, we fight for each other? What if in the middle of conflict we prioritize each other’s wants even above our own?
Rather than the tug of war over what we want, I can use our argument to remember that in Christ, I’m loved as much as it is possible to be loved. I don’t have to throw a temper tantrum (in my heart or otherwise) to make sure my wife proves her love on my terms. I’m released from self-interest, freed to love her.
God has shown that love involves giving of one’s self for the good of another (Romans 5:8). So I want to fight to make sure my wife knows she’s loved. And I want to trust He’ll do the same in her for me.
By God’s grace, I want to fight a lot more.
Do marital struggles feel more like an emotional boxing ring? Grab our free e-book, Fighting Fair, right here.
The Good Stuff: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16)
Action Points: Pray that God would make you aware next time you’re fighting against your spouse instead of fighting for your spouse. Trust that in Christ, God has given us all we need (Romans 8:32)—there’s no need to fight your spouse for it.
I Thought He Wanted a Cheerleader
Friends let out a telling little laugh when they discover that back in the day, I was a cheerleader.
This laugh could be because:
- Though fit, I remain remarkably uncoordinated.
- My exuberance just fits with cheerleading.
- They find it amusing to match this with the persona I currently rock: mother of four.
- All of the above.
That said, I continue as a decent cheerleader in the non-pompom, un-uniformed sense of the word—I like rooting for people.
My husband has (more than once) requested I “stop encouraging” him so much. Go figure. (Or should that be, “Goooooooo, FIGURE!”?)
Transition to him and me in our driveway recently. We were engulfed in conversation over a house project that would consume a decent part of our time, but that would also form a significant dream of his for more than a decade. He looked at me.
“If we do this, I don’t want just your encouragement or administration. I need a partner.”
He encapsulated what I’ve been learning for 20 years now. I used to think any husband would love a “yes (wo)man”—in essence, a cheerleader. Someone to say, “You’re doing it right. Keep going. I’m here.”
And sure, a lot of us want someone telling us some metaphorical version of That’s all right! That’s okay! You can do it anyway!
But true partnership involves more than ornamental agreement. My husband needed thoughtful, engaged input—me working alongside rather than just for him.
He wanted a teammate on the field rather than a skirted sidekick cheering on the all-star.
This is far closer to the meaning of the Hebrew word ezer (translated into “helper” in Genesis 2:18), which we see elsewhere in the Old Testament defining either a military ally or God Himself.
Our spouses need strategic partners sweating with them, carrying out mutual touchdowns.
So leave those pompoms on the sidelines. Your spouse may need you to catch the next play.
Cheerleading’s great, but could constructive criticism actually make us better people? Listen to Paul Miller weigh in.
The Good Stuff: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
- Are there ways your partnership with your spouse is more passive than active? Explore what’s beneath that.
- Ask your spouse about one way you could more actively engage with mutual goals, rather than just cheering them on.
Fire It Up!
By Lisa Lakey
Have you ever made your own pottery? (Yep, Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze just popped into my head.)
Simply forming the clay while the wheel turns round and round isn’t enough to make it into something of any value. You have to throw your design into the kiln. It’s the most important part of the entire process. That heat is what takes your messy, muddy creation and turns it into a sturdy work of art.
Much like my less-than-beautiful attempts at pottery, marriages are refined by fire, too.
In the beginning, we’re just creating our lives together. We’re trying to see how everything fits to get the outcome we want. We argue over who does what around the house, time spent with friends, and a lot of little things that come with learning to combine two lives into one.
It isn’t until after this “honeymoon” phase that married life heats up for real.
Like miscarriages and infertility kind of real. Like bankruptcies and lost jobs kind of real. Even affairs, emotional distance, and I-don’t-want-to-be-married-to-you kind of real.
This stuff, it burns.
But if we hold on tight, these “fires” can refine us, our spouses, and our marriage. The heat will draw us closer not just to each other, but to Christ. And through Him, we won’t just survive the fire, we’ll come out stronger than before.
Some marriage issues seem too big to handle. Read on for five areas to consider seeking help.
The Good Stuff: We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Action Points: What “fire” are you going through right now? Ask God for the strength to endure it. What steps can you take with your spouse to come out stronger on the other side?
Just Go the Other Way
By Jim Mitchell
I once made a laughably simple discovery that’s stuck with me decades later. I’m warning you: You’ll laugh too, until you try it.
At the time, I was driving a shuttle bus in the Dallas area to help pay for college. This was before mobile phones and GPS (if you can imagine such a world!), so drivers were provided printed maps instead.
Take time to read a printed map with a 15-passenger van full of hurried travelers? Ain’t nobody got time for that. So we handled navigation on the fly.
I began to notice two peculiar things about myself: 1) As I approached important intersections I almost always had a gut instinct about which way to turn, and 2) my gut instinct was virtually always wrong.
Seriously. Coming up on a key turn, I’d look to my left and see lots of neighborhood lights, then look to my right and see nothing but darkness or an empty-looking industrial area, and I’d think to myself, “Okay, it’s gotta be left.” So, I’d turn left, only to be corrected by a backseat driver.
Finally, it hit me. Why don’t I just always go the other way? I tried it. And it worked!
Yep, I warned you it was laughably simple. But it’s proven itself true so many times, not just in driving but in relationships.
I guess I’m just good at being wrong, though not always at admitting it.
C.S. Lewis said it this way in Mere Christianity:
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man … There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake.
So, if you’re like me―good at being wrong―take advantage of it and go the other way. I’m telling you from experience, there’s no downside.
The Good Stuff: There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Action Points: Have yourself a good chuckle and try it this week. Find an intersection in your relationship, listen to your gut, and then go the other way. Thank me later.
By Laura Way
“She’s my wife,” my husband said firmly … to our two small children.
They occasionally get into possessive little spats about whose mommy I am. His mock outrage never fails to release the tension.
But it also communicates I am, in fact, more than one person’s significant something.
It reminds me of the idea of a scarcity economy: a sizable gap between limited—i.e. scarce—resources and theoretically limitless wants.
Limitless wants. That sounds about right when it comes to my kids.
Or perceived expectations from work, friends, or other communities vying for time and attention.
Love isn’t a scarce resource. But time and energy are.
The tyranny of the urgent so easily takes over. I spend energy in a way that doesn’t necessarily match my heart’s intentions.
Loving my spouse well sometimes means making tough choices about how I use my time. Sometimes I need to say “no” to other demands or my own preferences and comfort.
For any of us, it might mean foregoing an afternoon break so the evening can be spent with a spouse—not finishing up work. Or not hitting the snooze button so you can share a quiet cup of coffee before the day gets going. Or limiting “yeses” that encroach upon valuable time together.
Sometimes for me, it means snuggling with my husband on the couch instead of “five more minutes” of cuddles with our children after bedtime. Or saying “yes” to learning the new game he ordered, instead of the easier option of our usual show at the end of a long day.
My time and energy feel scarce indeed. I’ve got to make sure I’m intentional to put it towards what I care about most.
Are you or your spouse struggling to prioritize your marriage over kids? Check out Spouse or Children: Who Comes First?
The Good Stuff: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Action Points: What are the main priorities/people/“yeses” vying for your time? Think of one way you’d like to prioritize your time and energy for your spouse. What do you need to say “no” to so you can make it happen?
Your Marriage Problem Isn’t What You Think It Is
I slung an ugly comment at my already-infuriated wife as she retreated to the laundry room to distract herself by folding laundry.
Another evening. Another fight. What was it this time? Oh, she’d gotten onto me for not mowing the lawn.
Yeah, yeah. I had told her I’d do it. Sure, I’ll even admit she had brought it up level-headedly. But still. Can I not just chill? God rested, for cryin’ out loud. If He can chill I can chill.
Actually, wrong. Totally different situations, me and God. While He intentionally rested after His labor to establish a healthy rhythm for humanity, I hadn’t lived up to my word and I’d shot anger-driven words of poison at my wife when I got exposed. Then, I self-justified my laziness by comparing myself to God.
I think Francis Chan got it right when he said, “Most marriage problems are not really marriage problems, they are God problems. They can be traced back to … a faulty understanding of Him. An accurate picture of God is vital to a healthy marriage.”
Simply put, bad theology creates bad marriages, because what we think about God impacts our attitude and actions. Last week’s fight, even if I hadn’t referenced God, started because of incorrect beliefs about God.
Right doctrine, therefore―and the application of it―is one of the most loving things we could ever extend to our spouse.
As our knowledge of the real, biblical Jesus increases, so does our day-by-day holiness. And that directly impacts the life of our spouse―and our marriage altogether.
This question, then, becomes imminently important: What are you doing today to fortify your theology, your accurate belief and practice of who God is?
There’s more than we realize on the line!
Husbands, how can you love your spouse like Christ loved the Church? Read “What Did Jesus Do?”
The Good Stuff: Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.
Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. (Psalm 119:129-133)
Action Points: However you’re interacting with the Bible right now, increase it. Whether that’s starting over or going deeper―make the daily intake of God’s Word a priority in your life.
You’re Letting Us Down
It had been three weeks since I was laid off, and I was still trying to figure out how to cope. Conventional wisdom said I should get out of the house, so I joined a new men’s group at church.
But as soon as the first guy asked what I did for a living, I wanted to leave. Officially, I didn’t “do” anything anymore.
What was I? A job hunter? Unemployed?
I heard myself on autopilot give the answer I had given a thousand times before: “I work in IT.”
But this time, it was a lie.
My problem continued as I found a table. We were asked to share our names and―you guessed it―what we did.
Searching for a job is exhausting. Each day follows a similar pattern: Wake up early. Identify possible positions. Customize resume to fit that role. Write a killer cover letter. Apply. Hear nothing. Land an interview? Still hear nothing. Rinse and repeat.
Each failure chipped away at my confidence, feeding seeds of self-doubt. Eventually, even a simple “How’s the job hunt going?” from my wife felt like scathing criticism.
After a long day of failures, it felt like she was screaming, “You’re letting us all down! You need to do more!”
Often, how we receive our spouse has more to do with what’s going on inside of us than anything else.
When I felt myself slipping down the spiral of negativity and getting overly defensive, I spent more time reading my Bible. I was reminded what I do is not who I am.
I am a child of God, a follower of Christ.
The next time you hear what you think is a negative comment from your spouse, remind yourself of what is true. You might just find yourself reacting differently.
Ladies, ever wonder why your husband’s a bit on the testy side? Brian Goins and Shaunti Feldhahn dig into how your guy can appear confident on the outside while struggling with his worth.
The Good Stuff: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)
Action Points: What lies are you believing? Create a list of Scriptures to remind you of what is true and memorize them. Are false beliefs hurting your marriage? Do you have trouble giving your spouse the benefit of the doubt? Make a list of statements about your spouse to remind you what is true.
Those Three Little Words
By Tom Davis
There are three little words I say to my wife that always elicit an energized response: Let’s go out.
This simple phrase means more than we don’t have to cook or clean up. It’s a marital sticky note that tells our spouse, “You’re still the one I want.”
Because a successful marriage is falling in love over and over.
But I haven’t always been great in this area. I used to think the purpose of dating was to woo someone. It took a bit of error on my part (and maybe some frustration on my wife’s part), but I’ve learned long talks into the night and bouquets of flowers “just because” go a long way in showing my wife she’s still got it.
When she’s not wondering about my love for her, we’re both happier, both communicating better. (Doesn’t hurt in the bedroom, either.)
Dating doesn’t have to be complicated (you could probably call off the serenading mariachis), expensive (for us, mini-golf is right up there with a trip to the symphony), or elaborate (it’s probably more important I just show up with my whole self, undistracted). But it does take planning and prep (childcare swap, anyone?).
Wanting to take date night a little deeper? Sometimes I like to go with one or two questions in my back pocket, to get us talking about what matters to us.
- What’s one thing I do that makes you feel really respected, loved, or connected?
- What’s one of your best memories of us together?
- What kind of activity makes you feel closest to God?
- What do you pray about (or for) most often?
- What job(s) could you do that wouldn’t feel like work?
- What do you like—or for what are you most grateful—about the way God has made you?
- What’s one way I could be more of the person I want to be?
We have a few ground rules: Don’t have conversations about finances, household responsibilities, or kid stuff.
It’s amazing what three little words have meant to our marriage.
Read on for “10 Surprising Ways to Increase Romance.”
The Good Stuff: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)
Action Points: Sit down together and plan a month’s worth of date nights. Put suggestions in a jar to pick out places to go. Perhaps a lunch date works out better if the kids are in school. Or put together a babysitter’s club to watch each other’s children while on a date.
How My Marriage Changed Because Someone Died
By Ed Uszynski
We hardly knew him, but heard he was into some evil stuff.
He was found dead in a hotel room five states away, apparently from a drug overdose.
He left his wife and kids several months earlier and headed for the East Coast where he squandered their money with women, drugs, and other destructive patterns. A prodigal who never came to his senses nor returned home to his family.
But his awkward funeral became a turning point in my home.
Songs played at the memorial sounded hollow and cliche. Speakers squirmed in front of his casket, struggling to squeeze out positive things to say about his life.
There were a few references to funny things he did as a teenager from an old youth pastor, and co-workers who suggested he was a good worker.
But nothing from his family.
I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why things felt so off, until I leaned over and whispered to Amy, “It almost feels like they’re all—lying.” By stretching scarce positive memories into something substantive. By not saying what they really wanted to say. It all just felt strangely dishonest.
And it really shook me.
I left thinking, What choices do I have to make today to avoid putting my family in that situation?
What could I do today so they attend my funeral sad because I died—not because of how I lived with them? Is my presence in their life producing life and blessing or bitterness and resentment? How can I use words today to make my family, my wife, feel relieved that I’m around? Do I need to apologize to anyone in my home?
What choices can we make to invest in our families’ heart, mind, and soul today?
The Good Stuff: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8)
Action Points: Re-read the questions above. What’s one way you’ll respond—for the sake of your future legacy?
The Silent Treatment
By Lisa Lakey
I’m not talking to you.
Of course, I didn’t actually say those words out loud because they would have ruined my plan of strategically giving my husband the silent treatment.
We were both exhausted from another pointless argument. Neither side was giving in, getting less angry, or even willing to consider the other’s point of view. Sadly, the equivalent of a child’s post-temper tantrum attitude was all I had left to hold onto.
And I held it (along with my tongue) fiercely.
It’s dumb, I know. But we’ve all done it, right? We think, they’ll “hear” us through our silence, dang it!
I don’t know about you, but this has never actually worked in my favor. When I get tired of the silent treatment one of two things happens:
- The argument is still there waiting for us.
- We ignore the issue altogether, allowing it to fester until it rears its ugly head again. (And y’all, it will.)
So what’s an angry spouse to do? First, let’s all just chill out. The same anger that leads me to silence can also lead me to say things I regret. Walking away, taking a break, getting a cool breath of fresh air is often all that’s needed to de-escalate the tension.
It’s not the same as the silent treatment or ignoring an argument, because our plan is to lead into this next step—coming back together.
When we have both calmed down, we talk about what happened. Like grown-ups. We can respectfully take turns listening and speaking. No, we might not always agree on a solution. But we can at least make a plan to resolve the tension or find a middle ground. And I’m okay with that. Because my relationship with my husband is more valuable than being right.
The silent treatment isn’t about holding my tongue. It’s about holding onto my pride.
Is your home emotionally healthy? Here are five ways to identify dysfunction and healthy ways to move forward.
The Good Stuff: For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:20)
Action Points: What topics need to be addressed that you have been avoiding because they lead to arguing? Pray together and ask God to show you both where you can find middle ground.
When my husband and I first married, I was mortified when he called me—get this—manipulative.
Of course, I denied this. Manipulation was for people trying to control someone.
I was passive, for crying out loud! I wasn’t trying to lead anyone anywhere. I couldn’t even tell you where I wanted them to go.
(That was part of the problem.)
I was so dedicated to being the perfect wife and Christian, I couldn’t admit to myself when I wanted something. Yet the wanting was still in my subconscious.
But I couldn’t acknowledge that. Wanting something might rock the boat. I might want wrongly. I might be selfish rather than sacrificial.
Let me put it this way. If I’d put my desires in a basket, I’d be holding the basket behind my own back, asking meekly, What desires? I failed to present what I longed for to God with open hands, allowing Him to change me.
So my wants ended up subtly managing me from behind instead of me managing them.
These back-door desires ended up manipulating others. I fished for compliments, gave my husband the silent treatment because I couldn’t speak anger. I’d find myself surprisingly ticked when I “so freely gave” to him and it didn’t turn out like I planned. I’d appear to wholeheartedly please others, rather than actually loving them as a sincere choice (Romans 12:9).
Beware, people-pleasers of the world. You “naturally submissive” wives. You who think you have no desires.
I’m fascinated by Jesus’ example in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus articulates His desire and then surrenders it with profound trust. He didn’t empty Himself of desire. He practiced simultaneous truth-telling and yielding.
Who knew that cutting off marital manipulation at the knees started with honesty about what I want?
The Good Stuff: Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:6)
Action Points: If you’re a people pleaser, take time to examine your deeper motives. Does your care for others “earn” you the love and appreciation you crave? Does your passivity keep the (pretend) peace? Like Jesus in the garden, acknowledge your desires to God with a heart toward surrender.
9 Words for Winning Any Argument With Your Wife
By Bruce Goff
Next time you’re in an argument with your wife, I have nine words to shut it down. Ready?
“I think this is a blind spot for you.”
I mean, what can she say? “No, it’s not”?
I employed this tactic in an “emotionally rich discussion” with my wife. She had accused me of regularly not clearing my plate from the table.
I took it as an opportunity to unleash the arsenal I had been saving up of all the times I picked up after her. Her problem was rampant.
(That was my word for the moment, “rampant!” It just felt right.)
Anyway, (spoiler alert) the discussion didn’t go well. And I hope by now you’re learning from me what not to do.
An argument with your spouse is not a game to win. It’s an opportunity to love.
One way we can love is by addressing our own blindspots. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 7:4-5:
“…how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Besides a dish left here or there, my blindspots were keeping a record of wrongs and not counting it a privilege to serve my wife. That’s log-sized (not to mention rampant). My wife leaving a mess uncleaned would be a speck.
So maybe next time you have an “exciting verbal exchange” with your spouse, try, “Let me make sure I’m understanding you correctly …”
Seek to love them well and self-reflect.
Christ laid down his life for his bride (Ephesians 5:25). Certainly we can lay down winning an argument.
The Good Stuff: If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)
- Ask your wife what a blind spot in your life might be.
- Listen carefully, and ask God to help you take the log out of your eye.
- Do the above steps before trying to address a blind spot in your wife’s life.
I Think 100 Cookies Will Help Me Feel Better
“Daddy,” moaned my sick 4-year-old from bed. “My tummy hurts. I need a hundred cookies. It will fix me.”
I started to laugh … Until I realized I use the same logic.
In some sense, I am (we all are) spiritually sick and hungry. That’s why we go looking for satisfaction. For a cure.
But when we don’t look to Christ, things get frightening real quick. We step into the realm of sin.
And here’s something I’ve learned all too well: sin brings about personal ruin. By “sin,” I mean any rebellion against God. And by “personal ruin,” I mean … personal ruin!
Even if done in private, when not confessed and dealt with, sin will affect our relationships. It can even wreck our marriages.
Sin, any sin—from lying to gossip to porn to shoplifting—subtracts from our humanity. And since we’re one flesh with our spouse, the ruin is felt. Left unattended, its roots grow deep enough to meddle with the very foundation of our marriage—Jesus. And our relationship with Him. Like an infection, it spreads, often silently, always dangerously.
So let’s work with God to kill our sin. Yes, the one you’re thinking about right now. Our identity with and in Christ enables us to both see sin for what it is—a blinding lie, a false promise—and then put it to death.
It’s an intimidating endeavor! It helped me to admit that sin does bring pleasure. Like, when I disobey God, it actually feels good.
Admitting that brought perspective to my daily sin. I gossip because the temporary pleasure gives me a social high. Shoplifting could grant me a shot of adrenaline—and a free TV (actually haven’t personally done this, but you get the point).
Ah, but here’s the key: This kind of pleasure does not translate to happiness. Bingo. Sin creates a hungrier life, not a happier life.
Kinda like eating a hundred cookies. Ish?
The Good Stuff: Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:21)
Action Steps: Killing sin is usually a team sport. Grab your closest friend(s) or pastor and say, “I’m at a point in my life now where I need to take my holiness seriously. Here’s what I’m struggling with. It’s bad. And I want it dead. Will you link arms with me?”
Not Your Superwoman
Superheroes fascinate my grandson. He often shoots imaginary webs from his wrists like Spiderman. Or wields his plastic hammer like Thor.
There’s a reason kids admire superheroes. With their special powers and superhuman strength, they have the ability to always save the day no matter the danger or threat.
My son-in-law, Chris, won’t miss a Marvel movie. Like many adults, he’s an avid fan. It’s made me wonder: Do we sometimes have super-expectations of our spouses?
Sure, some of us are just muscling through daily disappointments and significant hurts in marriage from all-too-human spouses. But for others of us: Do you always expect your spouse to be strong? Does it hurt whenever you witness a weakness? Do you expect them to regularly save the day?
I’ve had these unrealistic expectations of my husband, Aubrey. And I recently realized that it goes both ways.
As I’m faced with a life-changing decision, health issues, and work-related challenges, Aubrey has seen me waver between strong, sure, and optimistic, to down, uncertain, and pessimistic.
Normal feelings, yes. But my myriad of emotions have taken a toll on him.
He wants so much for me to be happy, healthy, and at peace. Like rooting for Superman to recover from kryptonite, Aubrey really wants me to snap out of it, think positive, feel better, and trust the Lord. I’ve wanted the same of him in hard times.
Our intentions are good. But no husband or wife is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
On days when they’re tired, depressed, negligent, or wrestling with uncertainty, our trust remains solidly in our unfailing Superhero, who’s steadfast and in control.
Even King David, whom the Bible describes as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), had weaknesses and times when he felt discouraged. And yet His trust in God was sure (see Psalm 13).
Allow your spouse freedom to process in his or her own way and time. And as their biggest fan, root for them by being a listening ear, a hopeful encourager, a wise advisor, a helping hand, and the one they can count on to love patiently and unconditionally through it all.
The Good Stuff: And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Action Points: Imagine your spouse was a superhero. Tell him or her which superhero they would be. (Even if it’s one you made up.) What superpowers do they possess? In what ways have you seen them save the day? How does it make you feel when they are weakened by fatigue, an illness, or a trial? Then talk about the real dangers of viewing each other as superheroes. Without judgment, identify together any unrealistic views, actions, or expectations you have of each other that need to change to truly love each other patiently and unconditionally.
Chug! Chug! Chug!
By Jim Mitchell
After playing golf in the Texas summer heat one Saturday, I remember my dad and I drinking so much iced tea so quickly that the waitress brought us each a pitcher full so she didn’t have to make so many trips.
She only had to refill the pitchers twice.
Like a soothing beverage on a scratchy throat, God’s love and mercy flows freely to you and to me. And the best news of all? Unlimited refills!
Whether your thirst right now is life-induced or self-inflicted makes no difference. Quit sipping God’s mercy. Throw your head back and chug.
And don’t be chintzy either. Your spouse craves mercy, too. Spill it, splash it, and share it. There’s more where that came from.
“Chug! Chug! Chug!”
Have you ever felt you’re in a faith drought? You’re not alone. Listen to this episode of Real Life Loading…
The Good Stuff: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Action Points: Take a fresh drink again right now of God’s kindness toward you. It will hydrate your life and your marriage.
By Lisa Lakey
My favorite football team is having a rough season. Truth be told, this is just one in a long line of rough seasons. (As I write this, the other team has scored a second touchdown—y’all, we are less than four minutes into the first quarter.)
A lot of “fans” have jumped ship at this point. And I get it. Cheering for a losing team is hard stuff. Not for the faint of heart.
It’s easier to find another team, one that sees a dang victory every now and then, for crying out loud. Because who wants to stick by a team that can’t seem to win, right?
Unfortunately, a lot of people have the same mentality about marriage.
A couple of years into our marriage, my husband and I were both ready to jump ship. Marriage was harder than we had anticipated. We were more selfish than either of us had really known. We were both weary and frustrated from being on a losing team. We couldn’t find anything left to cheer about.
But you know what? Things did get better. With some godly counsel, a lot of humility, and time, we learned not to be fair-weather fans of our marriage. We learned not to jump ship when our spouse was going through a rough season. We learned a season is just that—a season.
As the first quarter winds down, it’s pretty obvious my football team won’t be seeing a win today. A championship game is definitely out of our near future. I’m not even sure they’ll score a touchdown today.
But win or lose, I’ll be sporting my team colors.
Ever heard there’s no “I” in team? Read “Lessons From a Basketball Coach: The Value of Selflessness.”
The Good Stuff: And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Action Points: How’s your team doing this season? Winning, losing, or a little of both? Talk to your teammate about what your marriage needs to win right now.
By Lisa Lakey
My mom hates driving over bridges. Yes, she knows it’s unlikely a steel and concrete structure will crumble the moment her wheels touch the surface, or that her compact car will careen over a four-foot barrier and into the river below.
But each time these unavoidable structures arch in the horizon, my mom grabs my dad’s hand and closes her eyes as her anxieties roll over her.
I, on the other hand, have no such qualms about driving over bridges. Physical ones, anyway. Metaphorical bridges? Those I’d like to avoid at all costs.
Like when my husband and I have had a disagreement big enough to carry over into days or even weeks, leaving a gap between us I don’t want to cross. Maybe my pride keeps me on one side of the chasm, while my husband’s pride holds strong on the other. Sometimes, I’m not sure I have the energy to make it over to him. I’m just tired of the same argument … again. I think, What’s the point of trying? We’ll just end up back where we started.
But to truly get our relationship to healing? Someone’s gotta cross that bridge.
Been there? Let me offer three (no one said “easy”) tips to close the distance.
- Pray. “God, I don’t want to make this better right now,” is an honest prayer. But ask Him to soften both of your hearts and to give you wisdom in how to come together again.
- Take a baby step. Maybe the first step over that gap is a quick “I love you” text or an affectionate shoulder squeeze as you walk by.
- Talk. When you can, discuss the situation without accusing, yelling, name-calling, etc. Too soon? Admit your desire to make things better, but ask that the conversation can wait a day.
Crossing bridges is an unavoidable part of married life. So when you’re scared to cross, keep your eyes open, and focus on your spouse waiting on the other side.
Feel like you and your spouse are growing apart? Learn how to fight the marital drift.
The Good Stuff: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Galatians 5:16-17)
Action Points: What’s one “bridge” standing between you and your spouse? An argument that never got resolved, resentment, broken trust? Pray about the issue. Then, with the Holy Spirit’s leading, discuss with your spouse what might bring healing in this area of your marriage.
Compete or Complete?
By Laura Way
My husband and I are great teammates. We met on an overseas ministry team, got married, and continued serving together for another 6 years. It’s still one of the best parts of our marriage.
But there was a time early in our journey when our team roles began to shift, and I felt sidelined. We were living overseas, and while we both enjoyed learning the language, he continued with formal classes while I took care of our baby. And his language skills began to surpass mine.
I did not like that. Not one bit.
I was an achiever, yes, but I also was a woman who had dreams of making a difference. And I felt like I wasn’t getting to do much of either. I was jealous of my husband’s freedom, the things he was accomplishing, the impact he was making.
So I played the martyr.
I guilt-tripped him for the “glorious days” he had out in the world when the reality was that his job was super draining. I compared his leisurely lunches with co-workers to my PB&Js and picked over veggies, and his adult conversations with the Daniel Tiger songs looping in my head.
He was simply being obedient to what God had called him to during that season, and I slowly learned to do the same. I was able to extend more empathy for his fatigue when he came home. We learned to support and pray for each other for what was hard about both of our days, rather than trying to compare difficulty levels.
It’s not always easy to lay down comparison and competition, but when I remember God put my husband and I on the same side—working together for His will in our home, neighborhood, and the world—we make a pretty great team.
How do you protect your marriage from the trap of comparison? Read “Water Your Own Grass.”
The Good Stuff: So if there is any encouragement in Christ … Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
Action Points: Is there jealousy or competition growing anywhere in your marriage? Ask God to help you choose to humbly serve your spouse rather than comparing. Then thank God for putting you and your spouse together.
By Ben McGuire
I’m incredibly hard to surprise when it comes to gifts, or so my wife tells me.
But when she manages to pull it off, I’m like a kid on Christmas morning. One Father’s Day, I walked into the garage to find a brand new drill. I was floored by her thoughtfulness.
I love (good) surprises.
I also love surprising other people. I like to randomly get things for my wife I think she’ll like. Unlike me, she’s easier to surprise. Like the time I surprised her with a trip to Disney World before we had kids.
Being willing to be surprised requires a certain measure of trust in the person doing the surprising.
Thankfully, my wife is a trusting person … because a trip to Disney isn’t the biggest surprise I’ve given her.
Two years into marriage, we moved to a country I’d lived in but she’d never even visited.
When we moved our family to a new state several years later, I bought a house she’d only seen in short videos.
There have also been hard surprises in our marriage. Miscarriage. Failed adoptions. Challenges in parenting.
But those all came from outside. What about the ones that impact how we interact with one another?
The way I chew my food. The messes I leave. How angry I get at trivial issues.
The ways I fail to serve because I’m focused on myself. (Surprise!)
Maybe you take the disappointment of bad surprises out on your spouse, or become angry with God. In that moment, trust is critical.
Is your spouse a follower of Christ? Then trust God is at work in their heart, bringing that work to completion. The Holy Spirit is the deeper agent of change.
Are you a follower of Christ? Then believe you have a loving, heavenly Father who will never abandon you … no matter what surprises life throws your way.
The Good Stuff: And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
- How do you respond to the surprises in life—particularly the negative ones? In some of your greater areas of dissatisfaction in marriage, what role have your expectations played?
- In what ways could you be more patient with your spouse?
- In what ways have you questioned God’s goodness or faithfulness, struggling to trust?
Marriage Is a Party (Tip: You’re the Host)
My wife and I recently attended a friend’s wedding. The officiant’s concluding words to the couple: “Welcome to the party!” To me, it sounded irreverent.
And I was dead wrong.
God is all about celebration. You can’t get far in the Bible without reading about parties.
Throughout the Old Testament, celebration is etched into the annual planner. God commanded His people to gather for magnificent festivals, accompanied by food and music and dancing and singing and lights and worship.
In the New Testament, Jesus’ first miracle is to create wine. While He’s attending a party. Revelation concludes with a wedding supper. The Kingdom of heaven is itself a feast (Luke 15:23-24). https://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/luke/passage/?q=luke+15:23-24
Why did God do this?
We worship God most by enjoying Him best. And celebration is the heart of worship.
The same principle applies to marriage. Our spouses feel most loved when they are most enjoyed.
It’s my belief—yeah, I’ll get a little weird here, that’s fine—Christian marriages should be the foremost party entities on the planet. (No, not colleges. Not teenage house parties. Definitely not the Oscars.)
How tragic that we’re allergic to this thought. I mean, c’mon. We each possess a covenantal union with the greatest person ever, right? Is it really that difficult to enjoy every facet of their awesomeness?
(Does your spouse feel enjoyed and celebrated by you?)
No, I’m not purporting that marriage is happy, happy, joy, joy all the time. Can I get an amen?
All I’m saying is that even despite the difficulties of marriage, shouldn’t the world see our God-ordained unions as ecosystems of celebratory bliss?
Celebration is core to our faith, and therefore our marriages.
Let’s make marriage a party by perpetually reveling in our better halves.
The Good Stuff: And all the people went up after [Zadok the priest], playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise. (1 Kings 1:40)
Action Points: Make a list (yes, right now) of 10 things worthy of celebration about your spouse. Your mission this week is to celebrate all of them. Don’t overcomplicate it. The goal is for your spouse to feel enjoyed—specifically enjoyed. And therefore loved.
I’m Not Your ‘50s Housewife
By Lisa Lakey
As a young wife and new Christian, I had a warped idea of “marital roles.” I couldn’t shake the thought of a 1950s homemaker: mop the floors, make the beds, put the casserole in the oven.
Bonus points if I did it in heels, right? Wrong.
I assumed our marital roles had more to do with who cooks dinner or takes out the trash than how we each serve our marriage and home. And all this did was create the breeding ground for resentment.
If you’ve ever struggled with the idea of marital roles, here are three things to know.
- Know how God defines a husband and wife.
Wives, God called us “helper” (Genesis 2:18), to respect—esteem and honor— our men and to submit to their leadership (Ephesians 5:22-24). Husbands, you’re called to sacrificially love, lead, and cherish your wives—the same way Christ does for us (Ephesians 5:25-30).
And all those beautiful Scriptures about how to treat your neighbor? They’re meant for marriage, too.
- Your individual giftings are also meant to serve your spouse and home.
Whether you’re gifted with mad negotiation tactics, being a natural encourager, or even ninja organizational skills, God created those in You to do His good work.
- Know the healthy balance in your home.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say the wife vacuums regularly while the husband takes out the trash. Yet it seems dishes and toilet scrubbing are divisive issues.
Talk about what a healthy balance looks like in your home. Who has the time and skills to cook? What chore does your spouse despise that you can cover? Don’t let some false, “ideal” image shape the flow of your home.
The Good Stuff: Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:20-21)
Action Points: Make a point to thank your spouse for one thing they contribute to your home. Are they an amazing encourager? A savvy provider? Or maybe it’s just how you know they’ve always got your back.
Extra Cherry Syrup, Please
By Jim Mitchell
I recently surprised my wife at work with an unexpected gift—a cherry limeade with extra cherry syrup.
Not exactly a diamond necklace, I’ll admit. But if you’re related to a teacher, you already know a tasty treat on a random Thursday afternoon is priceless.
The look on her face when I walked in confirmed it was a win!
But wait … there’s more.
Instead of taking the easy win, with all 44 eyes on me, I decided to up the ante. I told her 22 kindergartners that we were married, and that we’ve even kissed before.
With 4th graders that joke slays. Maybe even 2nd graders. With kindergartners, not so much.
Instead of giggles, all I saw were faces looking like they just realized the earth isn’t flat. “Wait, what? You married … my teacher? I’m scared. I want my mommy!”
The look on my wife’s face confirmed the added joke was most definitely not a win.
So back to zero with her. But where I scored major points was with the office staff and the other teachers.
Let’s just say when a fresh cherry limeade hits the campus, word gets around. “She’s special.” “He really loves her.” “I wish I had one” (the limeade, not the husband, I presume).
And maybe that puts me into the win column again. Because she is special. (I’m already the clear winner there.) And I really do love her. I’m glad I have her. I want the word to get around … for their sake and for mine.
How about you?
Do your kids need a reminder that your spouse is No.1? Any neighbors need to see you sneaking a smooch at the mailbox?
Would an extended family member or friend be stirred by a sweet, unexpected glimpse of God’s design for flourishing love?
I know, I know. Some parts of marriage should be kept private. Agreed. But not everything.
A little extra cherry syrup never hurt anyone.
The Good Stuff: Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. [This part definitely for private.] Be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:18-19)
Action Points: Even if you and your spouse are super reserved, and public displays of affection aren’t your jam, a romantic social media post just might hit the spot.
How Good Are You at Listening to Your Spouse? (Part I)
Anyone else feel like listening is a dying art form?
We carry our lives tucked deep within us. We long for somebody (anybody!) to simply have the occasion to ask for and absorb what’s on our minds, what makes up our lives.
But communication in our world happens at the speed of light. We feel more “connected” after a 140-character tweet. Few of us possess the time or the training to receive the stories of those around us.
Unfortunately, this means people are withering around us―even in our own homes. Even in our own marriages.
This art form takes practice. Time. The ability to love someone like we love ourselves.
So we’ve created a brief inventory to help you uncover strengths and weaknesses of your personal listening style.
Answering honestly, ask yourself if each statement below is a strength, weakness, or neither. Then, select 1-2 weaknesses from this inventory (and 1-2 from tomorrow’s) you’d like to improve. (We’ll specialize these for listening to your spouse, but they apply to all relationships.)
- People come away from talking to you possessing a better understanding of themselves.
- You wait a few seconds after your spouse has stopped talking to see if they have more to say.
- You practice “reflective listening,” using words like, “So I hear you saying that you’re …”
- You’re comfortable with abstaining from advice at times, to simply be with someone in their grief. (Think of what Job’s friends didn’t do.)
- You ask questions that cause your spouse to explore what he or she hasn’t before.
- Your spouse frequently responds to you, “That’s a good question”―but it’s okay with you if you’re not the person with all the good questions.
- You refrain from interrupting.
- You’re comfortable with not having an answer for some of life’s unfixables.
- You use facial expressions that are receptive: soft eyes, nodding, eye contact.
- You pray silently for your husband or wife while listening, and ask God for wisdom in responding.
The Good Stuff: A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:2,13)
Action Points: Got your 1-2 points for change? Write them down. Because speech overflows from our hearts (Matthew 12:34), pray that God will reveal the heart issues beneath your listening issues. Bonus: Have your spouse take this inventory evaluating you as a listener.
How Good Are You at Listening to Your Spouse? (Part II)
Listening is a form of loving. It’s a gift, really, of being fully there to receive a person.
Words tether us to each other. They are, in many ways (but not all), our relationship, the cord between us.
Authors John and Stasi Eldredge note in Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul:
The gift of presence is a rare and beautiful gift. To come―unguarded, undistracted―and be fully present, fully engaged with whoever we are with at that moment. When we offer our unguarded presence, we live like Jesus.
So what’s one way, through listening, that you could move into being fully present?
Reminder on how to use this inventory: With each number, see if it’s a strength, weakness, or neither. Then, select 1-2 weaknesses from this list (and 1-2 from yesterday’s) you’d like to improve. (We’ll specialize these for listening to your spouse, but they apply to all relationships.)
- You refrain from finishing your spouse’s sentences.
- You ask for clarification when you don’t understand what your spouse means.
- You don’t feel the need to prove yourself as wise or helpful.
- Rather than planning your responses, you try to set those aside in your head and focus on what’s being said.
- Your spouse is noticeably comforted after you spend time listening to them.
- Your advice is highly individualized to your spouse, reflecting back what you’ve heard them say and steering clear of pat answers and cliches.
- You have time in your schedule to listen to your spouse (and friends, children, etc.).
- Before offering advice, you offer compassion and understanding: “I am so sorry. That sounds incredibly hard.”
- You share your own circumstances that relate, but are careful not to refocus the conversation on you, or to indicate your circumstances were worse/harder.
- You think of your spouse’s experience after you’ve left the conversation, internalizing their struggle. They’re on your heart, so you pray for them, too.
- More than a problem being fixed, you prioritize that your spouse feels heard, received, and understood.
Would you like to improve your communication? Read on for four tips.
The Good Stuff: Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Action Points: Write down your 1-2 points for change, and pray that God will create these from the inside out in your heart. Then tell your spouse about them for some accountability. Bonus: Have your spouse take this inventory evaluating you as a listener.
When your spouse feels far from God
The headlights of my vehicle wove through a mountain pass as tears dripped onto my jeans. My husband had watched the kids that night while I stood absently in a used book store, seeing but not seeing the shelves. It was hard to remember a time when I felt more spiritually bewildered, where I had strained further to hear something—anything—from God.
I couldn’t have known it was only the beginning of nearly three years of spiritual regrouping. Sediment swirled in my heart around a God revealing Himself as mysterious, beyond my grasp in ways holy and troubling.
My husband, however, refused to be rattled by questions neither of us could answer. In that time, he both anchored and harbored me.
It can feel scary when a spouse seems spiritually distant or listless. But our reactions out of fear can lead some of us to control or to try to force our spouses in a godward direction.
In our faithlessness, we can lack patience for God’s long game. Rather than gently leading, compassionately listening, and calmly influencing, we can worry, nag, and manipulate. Distance can grow between us amidst the clash of our disparate spiritual intimacy.
What my husband did right? He created a place where I could be emotionally “naked and unashamed,” where I could make the questions of my heart a part of my very worship rather than feeling like I had to hide them.
He trusted the Holy Spirit in me. Prayed for me. Believed my wrestling would result in strength. Facilitated encouraging relationships and alone time where I could “be” rather than distract myself with “doing” or appearing “just fine”.
Like a friend grieving alongside, he sometimes just sat and shook his head about what wasn’t right in this world.
He did what he needed to create a fertile place for authentic spirituality, and then trusted God with the growth. And now, I’m more beautiful for it.
The Good Stuff: I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
Action Points: If your spouse is distant from God, in what ways do you struggle to trust God and His plan for your spouse? How are you “lean[ing] on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6)?
Ask God to show you tangible ways to receive your spouse and gently lead him or her toward Jesus.