“I Was Just Kidding”

(Refuse to let a critical spirit spoil your marriage)

A regular stream of critical words has a way of taking the joy out of a marriage.  A marriage in which a husband and wife regularly criticizes one another can feel like you are being nibbled to death by a duck.

Sometimes we will level a criticism toward our spouse followed by the words, “I was just kidding.”  Often this is a passive aggressive way of not taking responsibility for what was just said.  Slowly but surely, such criticisms have a way of poisoning the atmosphere of a marriage.

Consider:

A husband has been working very hard in the yard during much of a hot summer day.  Finally, he comes inside, pleased with the improvement in the yard.  Meanwhile, his spouse goes outside to look at the front yard.  The very first thing she says in response to his work is, “Well aren’t you going to clean up the flower bed on the side of the house?  It looks awful!  It’s embarrassing!”  Wow.  No affirmation or appreciation for what has been done.  Instead, the first word is a critical remark that basically says, “I see what you’ve done but it doesn’t measure up.”

Now of course there is a time in which this spouse could express her desire that he address the flower bed on the side of the house.  Yet, when we immediately choose criticism over appreciation and gratitude, this probably isn’t going to be received well.

That Saturday evening, this couple eats a nice meal at home. She has prepared a roast that has cooked much of the day.  She has also prepared several vegetable dishes and a nice salad.  At the conclusion of the dinner, he asks about desert.  After learning there is no desert, he makes a big deal about never having desert.  Instead of expressing appreciation and affirmation for what she has done, he immediately begins complaining.  No thank you.  No words of appreciation.  Just complaining.  This kind of response gets old, very quickly.

5 Ways to Avoid Killing Your Marriage

1.  Put some energy and intentionality into this marriage!  Some people put more energy into creating their college basketball tournament  bracket each year than they do their marriage.  Being passive, while sitting in your emotional recliner, will bring a slow death to a marriage that could have been so much more.  Think of what you might have missed!

2.  Stop giving all of your attention to your children while you totally neglect your spouse.  This is a dead-end street.  Are you married?  One of the most precious gifts that you can give your children is a front row seat to witness their mom and dad cherishing one another.  As a Christian married man, there may be nothing I can do for my children that is more important than for them to see me love their mother.

3.  Quit talking to one another with contempt.  When you call her vile and degrading names, you are sending a strong message.  When you rip him apart with degrading language, you are sending a strong message.  Conversation with contempt intends to punish and hurt.  Do you really think this brings God pleasure when he hears you talk to your bride or groom this way?  Or, do you think it breaks his heart?

4.  Pray that you will begin to cherish her/him.  Then, put this into action.  Do something that in some way communicates that you cherish your spouse.  After all, God cherishes each one of us in spite of our sin.  God cherishes you in spite of your failures.  God certainly cherishes the one you married.  At the end of the day, I know that God wants me to treat her right.  In fact, God wants me to cherish the precious gift that he has given me.

5.  Focus on yourself, not her or him.  You can only manage yourself, not him or her.  Far too many married people are waiting on their spouse to get it together.  It is far more productive to focus on you being the kind of person that you would like to be married to.  You can not fix him/her.  You can’t make him/her better.  However, you can become the husband or wife you need to be.  The bottom line is, “Am I bringing God pleasure and satisfaction in the way I am behaving as a married person?”    

Avoid These 6 Enemies of Marriage

The following are enemies of marriage.  They have a way of chipping away and even poisoning a marriage.  Run from these enemies!

Bitterness

Bitterness has a way of souring most any situation and most any day.  A bitter person can take seemingly innocent remarks and find something devious and sinister.  Bitterness is a poison that can be fatal to a marriage.

Deception.

Withholding information can become a pattern that ultimately destroys a marriage.  Some people put great energy into withholding information about those whom they are texting, what they are saying in private messages on Facebook, and whom they are calling on the phone.

Passivity.

Some husbands and wives will not take the initiative in their marriage.  Children cry while dad sits in his recliner wondering why she doesn’t deal with them.  Meanwhile, she puts more energy into Facebook and commenting on blogs than she does her marriage.  Passivity breeds neglect. Consequently, this marriage may suffer from a lack of intentional action, time, and energy.

Absence of Adoration.

A husband or wife may go to great lengths to do what they want while ignoring their spouse.  For example, a husband can make a lot of effort purchase tickets to the big game.   However, when his wife says that she would like to see a play or musical, he makes little or no effort to respond to her desire.  These spouses communicate to one another that they do not value each other enough to make the effort to give what the other might enjoy.

Constant Criticism.

Some people constantly complain, whine, and gripe about their spouse.  They are silent about what their spouse does that is right while they harp on his/her shortcomings.  A critical spirit can be a joy killer in a marriage.

Repeating Destructive Patterns.

A husband declares that he doesn’t want to be like his dad, either in his marriage or as a dad to his own children. Perhaps a young mother says that she doesn’t want to be like her faultfinding, complaining mother.  Yet, if a person is not intentional about becoming a different kind of spouse or parent, they will often resort to their default in their family of origin.  This person then repeats the same immature and obnoxious behaviors disliked in his/her father or mother.

These are six deadly enemies of marriage.  Anyone who is married and follows Jesus has been called to something higher.  Genuine self-giving love will cause us to avoid these enemies and not go near them.

(repost)

 

Eleven Things Married People Need to Know

1.  We have been married for almost 39 years.  There is no magic formula.  Much of marriage is about a committed friendship that a man and woman have with one another.  Marriage may be more than simply a friendship but it is at least that.  It is building a history of friendship together.  It is so important that I treat her/him as I would treat a true friend.

2.  Know that marriage requires forgiveness.  Are there difficult and challenging situations?  Of course.  Such situations will mean that we will need to offer and receive almost daily forgiveness.  As a Christ-follower, I can’t store up instances of my spouse’s failures, mistakes, and sins only to spread them out on the kitchen table for review every time I get angry and resentful. Before I focus on what my spouse has said or done, I might first consider what I have done in my life that put the Son of God on a cross.

3.  Be committed to growing up.  It is tough when a husband acts like a 12 year-old boy instead of a grown man.  It is tough when one’s wife continues to behave, well into her 30s, as if the world centers around her.  Husbands and wives are called to grow up and mature.  Marriage is meant for grown-ups.

4.  Deal with the baggage that you have.  If you were hurt, abandoned, or abused as a child, no man can make up for what you experienced.  No spouse can heal the hurt or make up for the insecurities that one experienced as a child.  Such expectations put unrealistic pressure on a marriage.

When Men Leave Emotionally

(The Frustrating Silence of Emotional Withdrawal)

basement_series_sadness-500x332What does a man do with pain?

Many men simply leave.

No, they don’t necessarily leave physically. Rather, they leave emotionally.

I recently heard a friend of mine talk about this as he reflected upon a very difficult time in his life.  I could identify.

Many men have learned that the safest place to take one’s pain is within.  While withdrawing may be one’s default for dealing with pain, it is not conducive to connecting with another.  In fact, to family members and friends it can feel like the person has “gone away.”

Most men who leave emotionally do not do so maliciously.  I don’t believe most have the intention of being difficult or hurting their family and friends.  Rather, this may be the comfortable default that has been a part of one’s life for many years.

So when we leave one another emotionally, where do we go?

  1. Some of us just stay very, very busy.  We lose ourselves in our work.  Maybe we can stay so busy that we are not preoccupied with the pain we feel.
  2. Some of us look for substitutes.  Alcohol.  Drugs.  Pornography.  Or, a man may lose himself in his children so he doesn’t have to address the issues of his marriage.  Or, he can volunteer for numerous activities at church.  It may be hard to argue with someone who is heavily involved at church.  Yet, this can be a way of not dealing with pain.
  3. Some of us retreat to a room within ourselves which may seem safe but actually serves to disconnect us from the people we love most.  This “man cave” might be a place where we occasionally revisit the moments of shame, humiliation, and disappointments in our lives. Perhaps it is the place where we house the pain we experienced as children.  Or, it may be the place where we occasionally sift through the ashes of our hurts and resentments.

As a result, many men live with an anger that quite often comes to the surface.  Or, such men can experience depression.

The Charmer, the Bully, and the Church

woody-selfieSome secrets need to be exposed.

One of those secrets exists in families where the husband/father is a narcissistic man. During thirty six years of congregational ministry, I noticed that occasionally a certain kind of man would emerge who could be quite a problem for others.  This person had a view of himself that was completely self-absorbed.

Sometimes the issue was marriage related. At other times the issue centered on the problems that adult children had with a certain man in the family.  Today, this particular pattern in a man is often referred to as narcissism.  This husband/father is a narcissistic man in terms of the way he sees himself and consequently the way he relates to others.

For example:

One Sunday morning, a husband flies into a rage toward his wife.  He calls her several demeaning names and then tells her she is crazy.  Yet, a few hours later, he leads the opening prayer at their church.  Others comment to her regarding how “lucky” she is to have such a husband.  She wonders for a moment if she is not making a big deal out of nothing.  After all, these people at the church think he is such a good man.  She concludes that maybe she just needs to try harder.

Marriage: Maybe It Was Meant to Kill You

Cross-and-marriageIf you’ve been married for any length of time, you may have occasionally thought, “This marriage is going to kill me yet!” After all, marriage certainly isn’t easy.  In fact, there may be seasons when the joy is scarce and the energy required is huge.

One thing is for certain.  Marriage is for grown-ups.  It can be both challenging and difficult.  It can also be immensely rewarding and satisfying.

Sometimes when our marriage is difficult, we tend to focus on the flaws of our spouse.  Yes, there are some marriages where one person begins to inflict emotional or physical abuse upon his spouse.  Or, a married person may practice continual infidelity. These behaviors are often a way of expressing contempt toward his or her spouse.  These behaviors can reduce a marriage to a crisis.

Even in healthy marriages, we can focus on the flaws and shortcomings of our spouse.  Of course anyone in a marriage gets a front row seat to the virtue and the flaws of one’s spouse.

Perhaps marriage is sometimes difficult because we begin to see our flaws and sins.  For the person who is serious about being shaped and formed into the image of Jesus, focusing totally on the flaws of one’s spouse can waste an opportunity to grow.

Maybe marriage was meant to kill you.  Maybe marriage was meant to reveal parts of you that are un-Christlike, immature, and self-absorbed so that by his grace these might be put to death.

4 Ways to Take Pressure Off Your Marriage

Happy-marriage-anniversary2

Marriage can be challenging.  Yet, sometimes we put additional pressure on ourselves by taking on responsibilities that are not ours.

For example:

You are not responsible for your spouse’s moods.

Some men and women are very emotionally immature.  Some are moody and emotionally manipulative.  These people may even blame their emotional moods on their spouse.  “I was in a great mood until you spoiled it!”  Yet, no one is responsible for another’s mood or attitude.  You cannot “fix” another’s moods.

You are not responsible for keeping your spouse from getting upset.

Some people attempt to punish their spouses when they become upset.  A spouse may learn that she has to be very careful or her husband will become upset and explode with rage.  As one woman said, “I have to be very careful about what I say to my husband.  He becomes angry and I know I am in trouble.”  As a result, the family tiptoes around this man’s feelings and immaturity.

You are not responsible for keeping your spouse from withdrawing emotionally.

One of the regrets I have in my own marriage (especially in the early years) are the times when I withdrew emotionally from my wife.  I would become angry or frustrated and instead of dealing with it in a mature, godly manner, at times I would withdraw.  Of course that behavior was frustrating to my wife.  My behavior was not mature nor was it right. Nevertheless, she could not be responsible for keeping me from this kind of behavior.

You are not responsible for making your spouse look good.

Some people are far more concerned about projecting a particular image than they are in becoming a person of maturity and high character.  Instead of behaving in a way that would please God, they focus more on looking good in front of particular people.  How they appear to others on Facebook may matter more than how they are really living before the Lord God when they are at home.

Marriage can be challenging.  As men and women, we do have responsibilities when we marry. However, we cannot bear responsibilities that belong to our wives or husbands.  Doing so only adds unnecessary pressure to a marriage.

How to Avoid Destroying Your Marriage

MarriageMany men and women sabotage their own marriages.

At its best, marriage can be challenging.  Yet some people harm their marriages through their own behavior.   The following are some ways in which you can do damage to your own marriage:

1.  Whisper words of criticism and put downs in your spouse’s ear.  Doing this will eventually destroy his or her confidence.  You might think that if you whisper these words, you can save face with your friends.  After all, you know if they were to hear what you whispered they might think you were rude, immature, and perhaps even a jerk.  This way, you can quietly tear down your spouse while pretending to be supportive and loving before friends and family.  If she objects, then you can say, “I was just joking.”  The idea seems to be that if one claims to be joking, responsibility for any hurt can be denied.

2.  Focus your attention on other women/men instead of your spouse.  If you are caught flirting with another, be sure to blame your spouse.  “Well, what am I supposed to do?  It’s nice to get some attention!   Maybe if you would be a better husband (or wife), I wouldn’t find this person so attractive.”

Some focus on others by using pornography.  This will allow you to live in a fantasy world where you can stare at a computer screen or lose yourself in an erotic novel instead of having to grow up and commit to tender loving marital intimacy with your spouse.

3.  Ignore your spouse.  You can destroy your marriage over time by just doing nothing.  Basically, you can live in the same house and totally ignore one another.  You can ignore his/her desires, needs, and longings.  There are homes where night after night married people do nothing but stare at their phones or the television.  A marriage can be destroyed over time by doing absolutely nothing.