On June 30th we had our “Live” service in which our plan was to share testimonies and then answer questions from the congregation. Because of how the Lord directed the service. We’ve had to re-adjust our approach to the questions by utilizing the blog to answer the questions. In Part 1, we started with four questions while we waited for the participating couples to read and give some replies. If you’ve missed Part 1 of this blog, check out “Follow up from our “Live Highlight Reel” service @kalamazoofirst“
I sent off the questions that were submitted to ALL 4 couples. The couples chose different questions to answer. Here’s our answers:
Will I ever find a woman?
Benny and Nicole Clark: I believe if you pray to GOD to find that right mate for you he will answer that prayer. You have to put action towards your prayer.
Ryan and Katie: Yes, they are everywhere.
What do women look for when choosing someone?…I wanna know everything
I’ll try to keep this one simple to answer…tough to carry out:
Connection (Spiritually, emotionally, etc)
What have you done when it seems like you and your spouse are always headed in different directions?
Benny and Nicole Clark: I have been up front with her and told her how I felt @ that time. She has always been very, very up front with me also. Figure it out together as ONE…
Ryan and Katie: We’re not 100% sure what you mean by ‘always headed in different directions.’ In our life, we’ve experienced two kinds of ‘different directions’ so we’ll address both. The first version is a busy-life
version where you don’t see each other except when you pass the kid off, at dinner once a week and for about 15 minutes at bedtime before you pass out. This we’re-busy-and-always-running lifestyle was a huge contributor to the near death of our marriage. For us, the solution was dramatic: Ryan changed his work schedule from second to first shift and eventually changed careers altogether. Not everyone can make such a dramatic change. (Having said that, don’t eliminate the possibility completely – you might need to ask the Lord if you need to make dramatic change in order to make more room for your spouse. If He says yes, trust that He will make a way!) The fact of the matter is, a marriage where you and your spouse are always headed different directions provides a weak spot for the enemy to exploit. (For
example, he might put an attractive, like-minded person in your spouse’s path who’s always heading the same direction he/she is!) Don’t give the enemy a foothold! We highly recommend that you make changes so that you are no longer ships passing in the night. Some practical things you can
- Pre-plan time for just you and your spouse and treat it as sacred. You don’t have to spend money, but you at least need some quality time together.
- Communicate as much as possible – daily phone calls to catch up, emails, text messages – whatever it takes so that your spouse feels like he/she is in the loop with what’s going on with you.
- Say no to things. We discovered that there were a lot of harmless or good things – even ministry opportunities – that we needed to say no to because we needed to guard the limited time we had to spend quality time as a family/couple.
- Ask yourself honestly if there’s something or someone in your life that you’re putting before your spouse? In our case, Katie had to halt her workaholic tendencies and spend less time at work. Ryan had to give up certain friendships that were damaging to our marriage. For a long time we played the “You’re not being fair to me by asking me to give this up!” game, but when we chose to put the other person first, they were natural sacrifices to make.
The other kind of ‘headed in different directions’ we experienced has more to do with the fact that each spouse changes over time. Because we stopped spending time together, we started growing in opposite directions with different ideas about what we wanted in life. If you and your spouse seem to have completely different – perhaps conflicting – priorities in life, we recommend prayer. Ask God to give the two of you shared priorities. Then ask Him to help you understand the other person’s perspective. Look for ways to put them first – even small things. Talk openly about what you want and why; try not to be defensive. Also, listen openly. Your spouse is speaking their mind, not reading yours. You won’t agree on everything, but at least you’ll still know each other. In our experience, you’ll get much farther by asking God to show you what you need to change or understand rather than praying for God to make
your spouse change his/her mind.
Have any of you had couples counseling and how was the experience? Did it help strengthen your marriage?
Lori & Scot: Yes, we definitely did go to counseling. It was helpful; certainly it helped Scot adopt a less confrontational and defensive style of discussing issues. For Lori, the counselor helped her label and understand her own emotions. The counselor could catch those moments when a conversation starts to “go off the rails” and point out the counterproductive styles or tactics so that they can be corrected before emotions get too raw. It probably would have been even better if we had gone earlier in our marriage, before such serious problems had set in. On the other hand, counseling is not a substitute for prayerful reflection on your own behavior. Good habits must be practiced both inside and outside the counselor’s office. The counselor can point out the problems, but changing is hard – often so hard you need the help of the Lord to really achieve it.
Is there one thing you wish you knew before you got married?
Ryan and Katie: The person you marry on your wedding day will be a different person five, 10, 20 and 50 years from now. We all change – hopefully in good ways. You won’t always have the same things in common. Your spouse won’t always enjoy the same hobbies and past times as they used to. Your perspectives on faith and politics and life’s goals are going to change. That’s another reason why (as Pastor Dave said in his July 1 blog) it’s important to be sure that you and your spouse share the same core beliefs and values – the things that don’t change, like a commitment to serving Jesus. It’s also a reason why you must decided in advance that you will love and be committed to this person through thick and thin because you are both going to evolve over time.
Lori & Scot: Yes, we have both often felt that we had a very inadequate understanding of how much our families’ styles affected our assumptions about communications and conflict in a marriage. What we’ve learned since then is that many of us come through our childhood with certain (often subconscious) injuries and hurts from our primary caregivers. Usually, it was not that our parents meant to hurt us, but they were imperfect humans too. It often leaves us with a longing, or a “hole,” that we hope our mate will fill. Indeed, we often pick out mates that remind us in some way of our parents, but we’re always hoping that they will fulfill that longing. It isn’t always the parent of the opposite gender we try to match. Maybe you feel like your father, was a devout Christian and a highly moral man. Yet, he was also distant and aloof, perhaps hard to please. You might marry a wife who is also a good, moral Christian. After a while, you may come to find that she too is hard to please. But God’s love has no holes. When we strive to become the best reflection of God’s love for our spouse, we improve ourselves in the process. The good, moral Christian woman learns to show more appreciation and let her husband feel the long-sought approval for a job well done. The little girl who never felt respected by her family for her ideas or intelligence probably craves that recognition from her husband when she’s a grown woman. That husband grows himself when he learns to be more humble and listen respectfully to her good ideas. One good resource to learn more about this concept is the book entitled Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix.
What has been one of the hardest compromises you had to make in your marriage?
I think it’s easy to make a list of the individual things that I, personally, feel was hard. I could say, some hobbies, sports, time with friends, my work schedule, sex, etc.
What it breaks down to is my pride and selfishness. They are what makes compromises hard. When I don’t want to change and/or I want to get what I want, no matter what the issue is, compromise is difficult to do. The other side of that coin is a spouse won’t make the same sacrifices.
What makes compromise easier (not necessarily easy) is when I choose to look through the eyes of my spouse and approach marriage for her benefit instead of my own. I’m to love her as Christ loved the church and therefore need to be willing to lay everything down. Again, this is a reciprocated relationship which means that we BOTH approach the marriage the same way; we both give, we both die to self, and, therefore, the marriage wins. You don’t wait for your spouse to comprise first. Take the leadership and show it before you see it.
Do you every feel competitive in your marriage? How do you deal with this?
Absolutely. As a competitive person married to a competitive person, this comes very natural. The problem with being competitive is it’s driven by pride and selfishness. The heart behind it is personal gain. I’ll defer to what I said in the last question: What makes dealing with competition easier (not necessarily easy) is when I choose to look through the eyes of my wife and approach marriage for her benefit instead of my own. I cannot approach it for the personal win. I’m to love her as Christ loved the church and therefore need to be willing to lay everything down. Again, this is a reciprocated relationship which means that we BOTH approach the marriage the same way; we both give, we both die to self, and, therefore, the marriage wins. You don’t wait for your spouse to serve first. Take the leadership and show it before you see it.
How do you continue to stay committed to someone who doesn’t want to stay committed to the relationship?
Lori & Scot: This was one of the hardest things for Scot in the divorce. He really felt committed to Lori, but that feeling wasn’t reciprocated. He went from being the chased to being the chaser,… and he made a lot of mistakes in the course of that chase. Here are some of the lessons those mistakes taught us (read “Them” as the prodigal spouse):
Treat Them with Patience
When hoping for reconciliation with your spouse, always remember that the secret to peace is to accept and appreciate God’s timing. Doubt or resentment can lead to despair or moving ahead without His advice. Be patient waiting for God’s plan to reveal itself.
Treat Them with Calm
In our anguish and desperation to “solve the problem,” we often deny our spouse the space and peace they need to hear God’s voice speaking to them versus our pleas for reconciliation. This is especially true for men who often want to be “Mr. Fix-It,” relentlessly focusing on solutions to the marital crisis and the goal of reuniting the family. It’s important for your spouse to view you as a source of calm instead of turmoil. Chances are they already have enough stress and turmoil going on inside their heads and hearts.
Treat Them with a Soft Heart
If we can recognize the injured child inside our spouse, we can certainly be more understanding of their current behaviors. It’s even better if we can provide the love, care, and encouragement needed for our spouse to overcome those past injuries. Remember, despite the marital strife that might have gotten you to this point, to have a soft heart toward the injured child inside your spouse.
Speak Their Language
Dr. Gary Chapman believes that we all have a “love language,” a primary way of expressing and interpreting love. We can show love in many ways but Chapman outlines five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. We often have a different love language than our spouse. The things that make us feel loved and valued are different from those that make our spouses feel loved and valued. Some people cite the Golden Rule as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but Chapman shows us that we have to dig a little deeper here and “do unto our spouse as they wish to have done unto them.” It’s like traveling to a foreign country and trying to use the wrong currency. If we go to England and try to pay our bills with Mexican pesos, they just won’t recognize the payment. They take pounds in England, not pesos. Similarly, if we try to show our spouse how much we love them by buying them an expensive gift, but their love language is Quality Time; we just paid in the wrong currency. This is particularly important to bear in mind when we are trying to reconcile with a prodigal spouse. They’re already convinced you’re speaking a different language, but you’ve got to show them you know how to communicate your love in a language they value.
Treat Them with Honesty (and to thine own self be true)
Whether you or your spouse did something to compromise the trust in your relationship, we are all sinners and play a role in the current situations in our marriages. Search your heart for thoughts or behaviors that have negatively affected your relationship – pray and eliminate them from your life. Be honest with yourself as you examine these behaviors – after all, if you cannot be honest with yourself, you will never be able to be honest with your spouse.
Treat Them with Consistency (rebuild trust)
Consistently treat your spouse with patience, calmness, understanding, and love. If your negative behavior or thinking was part of the reason they left, continue to show your spouse that you no longer exhibit these negative thoughts or behaviors. Show them that the change in you is real. Show them that they can be “safe” in your presence and that they can trust you to love them unconditionally. Be supportive, encouraging, and positive in your interactions.
Treat Them with Grace
Reflect the grace that God has given you to your spouse. Even if your spouse has done something to disrespect, hurt, or betray you, respond to them as God has responded to your sins and failures with undeserved grace.
Love Them Unconditionally
When your spouse is prodigal, your feelings of jealousy, anger, and resentment are “par for the course.” Unchecked, these emotions can corrode your inherent love for your spouse. You must bear in mind how imperfect you are in the eyes of God, how often you have been unfaithful to Him and His purpose in your life. Let God’s unconditional love for you, a flawed and sinful human being, be reflected in the way you love your spouse. Indeed, your spouse may deliberately test your love, just to see how sincere you are, how real and unconditional your love truly is. Only God can give you the strength to withstand these tests. In The Love Dare, Steven and Alex Kendrick write that “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is that love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.” They go on to say, “But you will struggle and fail to achieve this kind of marriage unless you allow God to begin growing His love within you. Love that ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’ (I Corinthians 13:7) does not come from within. It can only come from God.”
Here are a few things not to do:
- Don’t try to argue your spouse into reconciliation with logic or guilt
- Don’t try to enlist the help of others (e.g., children, parents, brothers, or sisters) in convincing your spouse to reconcile – God is the best “convincer” you can have on your side
- Don’t play holier than thou with your spouse – God will inspire them to change their ways better than you ever can, and you’re still a sinner no matter how much you may have improved yourself
- Don’t try to rush or crowd your spouse when they show promising signs – let them control the pace and the proximity (sometimes the pace will be two steps forward and one step back)
- Don’t view this as just a passing phase, something to get through until things “go back to normal” – “normal” was broken, or you wouldn’t be here
- Don’t let your emotions get the better of you – pray for patience and calm
- Don’t try to control all the outcomes – only God can do that
- Don’t give up
Come back next week for Part 3 of this marriage blog!