What to do About Vanity, PMS, and Expectations
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Christian counselor and nurse, Martha Peace, offers biblical solutions to real problems women face, such as vanity, PMS, and legalism.
Today on the broadcast, Christian counselor and nurse, Martha Peace, offers biblical solutions to real problems women face, such as vanity, PMS, and legalism.
What to do About Vanity, PMS, and Expectations
Bob: Have you ever been angry with someone because that person failed to live up to an unspoken expectation, something they didn't even know they were supposed to do? Here's Martha Peace.
Martha: My husband had invited some people over for dinner. I cooked, I cleaned up, I got everything ready, and I began to think, "My husband should be helping me. He invited these people. I didn't invite them. He knows I need help." Now, he had not a clue, okay, not one clue, and I was crying, and he said, "What's wrong?" And I said, "You know what's wrong."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 18th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Does that sound familiar? Did anything like that ever happen to you? And who's really to blame there? Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, this feels just a little uncomfortable to be talking about common sin problems that women face, and it's you and me talking about it with our guest. Could we just let her -- let her take the heat? Can we give out her e-mail address instead of ours? Do you know what I mean?
Dennis: Well, we are talking about women's issues, Bob. Now, these, of course, wouldn't be issues with men, then, would they?
Bob: Um, you know …
Dennis: The issue of manipulation, of gossip …
Bob: That's another book.
Dennis: … slander.
Bob: That's another book. Let's [inaudible] talking about that one.
Dennis: We are talking with the author of "Damsels in Distress," Martha Peace. Martha, welcome back to the broadcast.
Martha: Thank you.
Dennis: You did kind of hit those subjects kind of hard on an earlier broadcast, and I have to say to you I ripped a couple of pages out of your book, and I'm sorry. I didn't want to do that to be disrespectful of you, nonetheless, you are dealing with issues here that are tough to handle. You're a counselor, an author of a number of books, and this book deals with issues women face, and today we want to talk about a couple of them that are particularly on target. Let's talk about the subject of vanity.
Dennis: That's not one that women deal with alone, but we all would have to recognize that women do have an issue with the subject of appearance and thinking about how they look and perhaps being a little preoccupied with that.
Bob: Well, the Proverbs talk about it. I'm thinking of the verse at the end of Proverbs 31 where it says "charm is deceitful, beauty if vain," and it's in the context of talking about an excellent wife. So the Scriptures acknowledge that this can be a slippery issue for women.
Martha: It's not just a minor issue, it's an obsession, whether it's with our weight or how old we are or what we look like. It's a huge problem, and women are really bad about comparing themselves to other women and how do I look compared to her -- those kinds of things.
A lot of people don't think they are vain, but when they read the list of ways that vanity is expressed in here, then they can see it in themselves.
Bob: Give us some examples. Read some of the things that are on that list.
Martha: Saying things to elicit compliments from others; some women will refuse to have sexual relationships with their husbands because they feel fat; going around all the time apologizing for how you look; comparing yourselves to others and how they look; on an unhealthy quest for thinness, gaining five pounds, and you feel depressed because you feel fat.
Dennis: Hit number 5, would you? I think that's a big one.
Martha: Overspending, that one?
Martha: On clothes, hair, and makeup. It is a freedom-in-the-Lord issue to wear makeup and dress up and enjoy your clothing, and I enjoy those things, but if you're spending more money than what you have, and you're going into debt for it, or you're spending an inordinate amount of time on this, or if you're just depressed, and your life is over when you see those first few gray hairs coming in, then your priority is not the Lord, your heart is not the Lord's.
Bob: As you wrote this book, you took on a number of subjects that are challenges. We've talked about things like gossip and slander, manipulation, vanity, you write about legalism or hurt feelings.
Dennis: And I wondered how you were going to get into this next subject, Bob.
Bob: You write about trials -- there's one chapter in here, chapter 7, where I thought, "Okay, you're ready to step up and just poke your finger a little bit on an issue that's a tough issue for a lot of women."
Martha: Right, PMS, I'll say it.
Bob: Thank you for saying it.
Martha: PMS, because of being a nurse and a counselor and working with women, a lot of times they will tell me, "Right before my period is when I go really berserk." And if they have a problem with either worry and fear and anxiety or maybe self-pity or anger, if you feel frustrated or feel irritated, that's how you feel when you're angry, it's going to be worse during that time. And this time is about a seven-day period before her period begins.
Bob: And there is something going on hormonally in a woman during that time, right?
Martha: Oh, yes, definitely. One thing, your brain swells up, and everything else does, and you just look awful, and you feel awful, but it's the emotional rollercoaster that you go on.
But as I work with ladies with their fear or with their self-pity or with their anger, and as the Lord changes that in their hearts and in their lives, then that PMS time gets better, much better. It's never pleasant, but what I tell them to do are just practical things like mark your calendar, count the days when -- and I tell how to do this -- when you think the next time your period is going to start, then count back seven days. If you can help it, do not plan a major dinner party during that time. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. If Christmas is falling during that time, you don't wait until Christmas Eve to do your Christmas shopping. You've got to be organized and plan ahead. Going off caffeine during that, say, 10 days before your period starts, really helps, and that means chocolate, and I'm sorry about that, but that's true.
Another thing is a lot of doctors prescribe the psychiatric drugs for this, but all the journals, all the medical journals that I have read -- GYN journals -- have said about this -- they'll give like two paragraphs at the beginning that if during the PMS time, if she would do, say, 15 minutes a day of mild aerobic exercise -- that means you go out and go for a walk -- not hard running or anything like that, it will either lessen the symptoms or completely alleviate them.
Dennis: I want to ask you the question on behalf of the husbands -- what one or two coaching tips would you give a husband other than the obvious "be patient."
Bob: Take a business trip during that time, if you can, that's my advice to the men.
Martha: Well, but then you risk leaving the children home with her.
Bob: That's a good point.
Martha: What I recommended in here was to come up with a plan of accountability.
Dennis: You're speaking of your book?
Martha: Yes, in the book. Ideally, if he's a Christian man, and he will help her, come along beside her in love speaking the truth but do it gently, women can have absolutely bizarre thoughts during that time. I mean, they can be just totally out of touch with reality, and he needs to tell her, "Sweetheart, this is not right. The truth is" -- and help her with her thinking. And she can actually come up with a plan and go through this herself, but if she's really out of control then he needs to either memorize this or get it out and then the Psalms are God's tranquilizers.
I would start by reminding her of Scripture, reading Scripture, either looking them up and reading them out loud, because the Word of God is alive and powerful, and it will help her. Or if she is struggling emotionally, if she's doing this by herself, she can just read them out loud and remind her to pray and ask God to help her. He can pray for her, he can give her hope -- she's going to need a lot of hope during that time, and I list several Scripture here for that.
Remind her you do not have to sin. This is a miserable time. There is a physical component here, but the Lord will help you, and you don't have to sin in this. And then remind her to keep short accounts of her sin and thereby draw near to God.
Bob: You know, this is an area that Mary Ann never really had a big issue with, but there were times in her rhythm of life where I would just notice that her stress was a little out of proportion with the life circumstances we were going through. And first it took me by surprise. I would think, "Why is Mary Ann reacting to these circumstances in a way that was uncharacteristic? And we found in our marriage that I could often just say, "Are you feeling a little out of sync right about now?" And all I was doing was -- it was a little signal to say, "Is it a few days before your period's about to start?"
And that was enough to kind of draw her attention and my attention back to the fact that what she was feeling wasn't being fully governed by her rational being; there were other factors. And once I'd drawn attention to that, once I'd kind of helped her notice that that might be what was going on here, it seemed to help her get on top of the issue and be able to deal with it.
Martha: Well, that probably is because you have a godly wife.
Bob: That is because I have a godly wife.
Martha: A lot of women would just get more berserk. I remember, before I was saved, one time I was just -- I don't even remember what I was so upset about, but I was so upset, and my husband said, "I wouldn't be this upset if the house were on fire," and, of course, that's funny, but it made me mad.
Dennis: And talking about humor, what husbands have to be careful of during this period of time is not making fun of their wives.
Bob: Don't tease, right?
Dennis: That's right, but empathize and be compassionate towards them.
Martha: Compassionate but lovingly firm. You're sinning, what you're saying is not right, you know, this is -- let's rethink this.
Bob: If you say to a woman who is in the middle of PMS, you're sinning? I'd say that and then run, you know?
Martha: It's better to discuss this with her when she's not in the middle of that …
Dennis: There you go.
Martha: … and when you can both, together, come up with a plan to help her and let her see your love and concern, and "I know this is hard for you. It's hard for every women just about, and these are some things that possibly we could do to help," and this is the husband spiritually leading his wife.
Dennis: Martha, there is another issue that you speak about in your book that we've got to talk about today, and it has to do with expectations. When a woman's expectations are not met, she gets her feelings her, and when her feelings get hurt, that's when you can see some of the anger or withdrawal or punishing a child or a husband or maybe a friend. Talk to us a second about how prevalent this issue is among women and then how should we deal with it?
Martha: I grew up in a family where my parents never talked about having their feelings hurt, so I just didn't learn to think like that. After I got grown, it did occur to me that my feelings could be hurt, but it's a wrong focus, it's a self-focus. There are things that, of course, would hurt anybody's feelings -- if the husband is selfish or angry or maybe he's cussing at her or maybe he's unfaithful to her, or whatever he's doing, that would hurt anybody.
But what I tell ladies is this -- if he is doing that, that is sin, and your focus has to be with overcoming evil with good. If you start thinking, "How could he do that to me? I would never have done that to him," and just playing it over and over in your mind, then you're going to be bitter, you're going to be compounding sin, and so in 1 Peter 3 it talks about not returning evil for evil but give a blessing instead.
And, really, it would not matter who his wife was, this is a sin issue in his heart. So if he has a lust problem, he would have that no matter who he had married. So she's got to learn to think objectively about it -- how, Lord, can I help him here? If he's an unbeliever, don’t use Scripture, but she can still say to him, "This is not right -- it's not right for you to scream and yell and me" or the children or whatever. Appeal to his conscience to do what's right.
Bob: You're really talking about taking the focus off yourself and how it's impacting you and instead saying "God's put me here in the midst of this so that I can be an encouragement or an exhorter or an influencer in the life of a person who is sinning."
Martha: Right. So there are situations where there is a legitimate offense, a legitimate hurt, but, again, she can honor the Lord and show love to the other person even if the other person never repents.
But there is another way that women or men, too, can have their feelings hurt, and that is their judging motives. We talked about that, I think, earlier. But they're reading more into a situation than what is allowed. I'll give you an example. When I was a young wife, I was a Christian, but we were just baby Christians then.
My husband had invited some people over for dinner. That was not a problem. We did stuff like that all the time. I cooked, I cleaned up, I got everything ready, and -- but that particular day I didn't realize it, but I was getting sick, and the next day I really came down with the flu or something. So you know how you feel bad, but you're not really sure, there? So I was finishing up cooking, I was sweeping the kitchen floor, and I began to think, "My husband should be helping me. He invited these people. I didn't invite them. He knows I need help."
Now, he had not a clue, okay, not one clue. He was upstairs doing something on the computer, probably something for our church. Well, by the time he got down the steps, I was so mad at him and so hurt with him for knowing I needed help, and I was crying, and he said, "What's wrong?" And I said, "You know what's wrong."
Dennis: He just walked into a war zone.
Martha: He said, "No, actually, I don't know what's wrong." I said, "I'm not going to tell you. You know what you've done." And that wasn't like -- I didn't usually do that to him. So, anyway, finally, he said, "We are not ending this discussion until you tell me," and I said, "I need help. You invited the people for dinner, and you should have known I needed help." And he paused, and then he said, very nicely but very firmly, "Don't you ever be mad at me again for not doing something you haven't asked me to do. I cannot read your mind."
And he said, "I will always come and help you and, if I can't, I will have a good reason, you know, and I'll explain it." Well, he was so reasonable …
Bob: You hated that, didn't you?
Martha: … and so right, that I said, "Well, okay, I need help." So he helped me.
But the way he handled that, what that did was help me really think about, okay, it was so true that I could see it and, after that, and I won't say I've never done something like that again but, really and truly, it helped us in our communication and so if I am starting to feel overwhelmed, and he's there, I will go and ask him to help me.
Dennis: Martha, I want to thank you for writing the book and being on our broadcast. As I've listened to chat about the issue women face today, I've been reflecting on my wife, Barbara, and, yeah, she struggles with some of these issues, there's no question about it, but I'm sitting here thinking, "I really have a good woman," and, you know, she's not a gossip, she doesn't slander people, and the key is -- and this is what I want to challenge the women who are listening with, and I know you do this throughout the entire book -- the key to that is she is a student of Scripture, and she knows Jesus Christ because of that, and she has God's view of life.
Dennis: And because she has that, you know what? Yeah, she has her own struggles here that we've talked about, but she's dealing with life the way God wants us to deal with it, and that's what you're instructing women to do with their issues they're facing is instead of handling them like the world handles them, let's deal with them biblically, let's talk about a new perspective of these issues of manipulation and vanity and PMS and -- like the one we just talked about -- and I think your book does a great job of doing that.
Bob: Yeah, I think this is one of those books that people ask themselves, "Do I really want to read a book like this," because it's going to uncover stuff, it's going to expose stuff that is going to make me uncomfortable, that is going to be unpleasant to have a to confront and yet you know if you leave this stuff unconfronted, that's not going to do you any good, that's not going to lead to godliness, it's not going to lead to a strong Christ-centered marriage relationship.
So at some point you've got to confront some of these issues, and I think your book helps women do that. We've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center. The book is called "Damsels in Distress, Biblical Solutions for Problems Women Face," and you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, to request a copy of this book. Click the button in the middle of the home page that says "Go." It's a red button, and that will take you to an area of the site where there's information about Martha's book; also information about her book, "The Excellent Wife," which is a wonderful book.
In fact, if our listeners would like to get both of these books, we can send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation with Martha, which you can listen to again or share with others, pass along to a friend, if you'd like. Again, our website is FamilyLife.com. If you click the red button that says "Go," it will take you right where you need to go so you can order copies of these books from our website or call 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have these books sent out to you.
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You know, as we've talked about some tough issues today with Martha Peace, issues that women sometimes uniquely face, it may feel uncomfortable for these things to get pointed out, and yet I've heard you share an illustration, Martha, that I think is helpful as we talk about these things.
Martha: I use the illustration of one time we went out to eat with some other people, and I got a piece of food on my face, and it dried there, and nobody told me, and my husband didn't tell me, and that was a mistake.
Later, when I went in the restroom of the restaurant and saw that, I realized I had been talking, and the food had been flapping up and down. So I told him later, I said, "Don't ever not tell me." He said, "Well, I didn't want to embarrass you." I said, "Well, it would have embarrassed me but nothing like it embarrassed me later."
Sin is like that. Everybody knows it. We're not as clever as hiding it as we think we are, so we just need to get over it and be humble.
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