Posts tagged ‘Marriage’

Marriage Mistake #7 – Refused to Admit My Fault

When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I really had a hard time seeing my wrong behavior as . . . wrong. Or maybe it was just that I couldn’t bear to admit to myself that I was weak. I’d say, probably a little bit of both.

Unfortunately, that meant that I rarely, if ever, admitted my fault to my husband. After all, it seemed to me that every conflict or problem we had was all his fault anyway! And even if it wasn’t, I usually felt like he handled the conflict so much worse that it canceled out any wrong doing I had done.

Yuck! Grandiose thinking at its best!

As time marched on, the fact that I believed I was so much better than my husband actually began to make my marriage worse (surprise, surprise)! So at some point, I was forced to wake up to the unfamiliar reality that it couldn’t always be my husband’s fault. Talk about a bitter pill to swallow!

A funny thing happened when I cracked open that door. When I offered my husband an honest and humble admission, I felt him moving toward me. I saw that he accepted my brokenness and failure. He embraced the parts of me that I felt were ugly and should remain hidden.

This miracle transformed my perspective and my way of relating, which in turn, with time, transformed my marriage. I’m not afraid any longer to be completely open and vulnerable with my husband. Admitting my faults has given me the intimacy and acceptance with my husband that I always longed for, but felt could never truly be mine.

So I’m here to tell you, intimacy and acceptance is possible when you humble yourself and reveal who you really are.

If you’ve never really made this your practice—if you have remained in hiding—I challenge you to come out into the open today. Then come back here and tell me how it went!

“If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.” Prov. 28:13 (NCV)

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Marriage Mistake #6 – Turned to My Mom for Comfort

Early in my married life, I made a mistake that I feel is very common for many couples who find themselves in trouble.

This is how it worked for me:

  1. My husband did something that I perceived to be wrong or hurtful.
  2. I turned to a parent, in my case, my mother to vent about the problem.
  3. I received comfort and a, “I’m so sorry that mean old husband of yours hurt you!” pep talk.
  4. I returned to my husband to eventually work things out.
  5. My mother never got to see or hear about the resolution, (because that wasn’t nearly as interesting or fun to tell her!).
  6. My mother formed a skewed perspective of my husband and my marriage.
  7. I avoided learning how to respect my husband AND didn’t learn how to work through my private conflicts with my husband—just between the two of us.

As a result, a wedge formed between me and my husband. And the foundation that we should have been building together was filled with cracks, since I had invited an intruder into the inner workings of our marriage.

After about five years or so of walking through a revolving door between my marriage and my parent-child relationship, I realized that I was not honoring my husband. I had not “left” my parents. I was not choosing to be a full-fledged adult in my marriage relationship by fully “cleaving” or committing to my husband.

Now, I’m not saying that you can never talk to your parents about your marriage. But I am saying that your parents should not be your:

  1. Emotional Rescuer
  2. Financial Rescuer
  3. Director on important issues or decisions

If you allow your marriage to be infiltrated in those ways (and more) by your parents, then you are inviting division into your marriage. When you married, you needed to become an adult, and adults do not rely upon their parents for emotional, financial or decision-making support.

In the book of Genesis it says, “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (2:22-24, NIV)

When I learned to follow this admonition, I solidified, strengthened and improved my marriage immensely. So, I hope you learn from my mistake!

Can anyone relate?

Does anyone have an example of how turning to mom and dad negatively impacted your marriage?

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Marriage Mistake #5 – Negative Focus

Have you ever tried to tend a garden? If you don’t have the plastic weed barrier firmly in place, then you might as well resign yourself to a long-term battle with your finger on the trigger of Round-Up—aiming to kill.  In the same way that weeds can take over a flower garden, I allowed “weeds” to invade my marriage garden.

In the early years of my marriage, I tried to avoid dealing with conflict, (Marriage Mistake #3). Often when this is the method a person chooses, it comes out somewhere.  The person either complains to friends and family about the offender, or complains internally. I did both, but more often than not, I did the latter.

At the time, I thought that this was a great way to manage my anger. I was able to dwell on all the bad things I thought my husband was doing, enjoying the rush that comes from feeling justified and indignant, and I never had to face his anger.  Well, at least that’s how I thought it worked.

Actually, the negative thoughts, like weeds, began to take over and warp my view of reality. I began to think my husband was the biggest villain of all time, and I was his poor pitiful victim—strapped to the railroad tracks and all! This approach not only made my anger grow, but also my defensiveness, since I couldn’t imagine that my bad attitude had anything to do with me!

When I look back on it now, I’m embarrassed to admit that I believed that all that garbage could remain underground.  Eventually, the weeds of my mind made me an angry, bitter woman who could get ticked off by the slightest provocation. It was at that point, that I went down that path of “fighting fire with fire,” (Marriage Mistake # 4) another ridiculous strategy.

Thankfully, God intervened in my madness. He convicted me that my negative thoughts were not benign little contemplations that I could pull out and play with like evil Lincoln Logs.  So I began to train myself to notice when those delicious, but very destructive, thoughts wanted to surface. And in those moments, I made a choice to focus on the positive.

Almost immediately I felt a difference. I didn’t feel as angry or irritated. And there was an added bonus for my husband, who didn’t feel as defensive or rejected.  With consistency and time, I knew I had found an important strategy that clearly improved the love and positive feelings within my marriage. Now, every once in a while I notice that I’ve let one slide under the radar undetected, but believe me, it doesn’t stay alive long.  I “Round-Up” that thought and aim to kill!

So, what’s on your mind?

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

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In Times of Conflict – How to Meet in the Middle

It’s not easy to meet in the middle. I’ve observed this from the many couples who’ve met with me in my counseling office. But most of all, I’ve experienced it in my own life as I’ve wrestled with my pride.  That’s just it—pride distorts our thinking. It makes us think we are better and, for lack of a better word, “righter” than we really are.

So here’s my prescription for meeting in the middle . . .

Ingredient #1:

Make your goal: listening to understand –

Not talking to convince your partner of your point!

  • This means you ask your partner what he or she feels is the problem, then refrain from adding your point of view.
  • Next, ask at least two clarification questions to gain greater understanding about the context of your problem, your partner’s feelings, and what your partner perceives is your role. (You might feel that by this point you understand enough to give your partner your perspective, but I would urge you to wait just a bit longer.)
  • Now rephrase what you thought your partner said and ask, “Did I get that right?”
  • If you did, then you can ask to share your thoughts on the problem. But if you didn’t, continue to ask questions and rephrase until you both feel that you understand what your partner is trying to say.

Ingredient #2:

Open yourself to see where you may have failed or not understood.

This is where the external communication turns to the internal dialogue. You need to take that critical eye that you’ve used to zero in on your partner’s flaws, and turn it back on yourself! Prayer is necessary at this point, because God illuminates the inner deceptions that we cannot see on our own (Psalm 139:1-4 and 23-24, Jeremiah 17:9-10).

Ingredient #3:

Admit your misconceptions and mistakes as you apologize.

If you take this leap of faith and expose your mistakes and failures (and we all make mistakes!), then you will feel as if a huge weight has been lifted.  Not only that, but the closeness you’ll achieve with your partner will be greater than you ever imagined. Do it consistently, and a deep respect and love will grow between you and your partner, repairing years of damage. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen—not just in my client’s marriages—but also in my own!

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, . . ” James 1:19 (NIV)

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Marriage Mistake #4 – Fought Fire with Fire

For years, my husband and I went ‘round and ‘round when it came to conflict. He would do something that would yank my chain, and then all of a sudden he’d notice I was being extremely quiet. So he’d ask, “Is there something wrong, Beth?” I’d say, “No, I’m fine.” He would then go into some long discourse about how I needed to be open and honest with him, that I shouldn’t sweep things under the rug, and that that’s how marriages are undermined, blah, blah, blah.

At some point, I decided to try it his way and I actually told him what was wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t think hearing the truth was the liberating experience my husband had imagined! Of course, I have to confess—I didn’t mince words. I thought, well, he did say he wants to know! So I let him know in no uncertain terms! And sadly, he didn’t like it!

At that point, instead of our conflict being side-tracked by a “game of cat and mouse,” it became a struggle of two wills—fighting fire with fire. I swung like a pendulum from one side, being passive, to the other side, being aggressive when it came to conflict.

As I’ve said in my last post regarding my marriage mistakes, conflict can only be resolved when two parties find balance and meet in the middle and not on the fringes.  In my next post, I will discuss how to find that middle ground in a conflict, so stay tuned!

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Marriage Mistake #3 – Avoided Conflict

I grew up in a family that didn’t really know how to resolve conflicts. My parents played opposite positions in times of conflict, but neither position was healthy. They were living examples of the extremes in communication. My mother would aggressively confront my dad regarding a problem and my dad would passively run the other way.

In marriage, we often tend to follow the examples of our parents.  And so that’s what I ended up doing, as well. In the early years of my relationship with my husband, I adopted my father’s approach.

The conversations between my husband and I would go something like this: he would notice that I was being unusually quiet and sullen.

He would then say, “Is something wrong?”

I would say, “No, I’m fine.” (Often said in a curt way)

He would then say, “Something’s wrong! Tell me the truth, Beth!”

I would say, “No, really, I’m fine!(Still not convincing him)

At that point, he usually pulled out all the stops to literally drag me out of my place of hiding. But unfortunately, this approach didn’t work.  As you can imagine, it only made matters worse!

I must admit that we both made a marriage mistake when it came to conflict resolution.  I withdrew from him in steely, cold silence, which felt very much like abandonment or at least harsh rejection. And he advanced forward, pursuing me with such voracity that it seemed he turned from simply desiring openness to an all out attack.

As I mentioned before, we were operating at the conflict resolution extremes. Actually, there really isn’t “resolution” at the extremes. Everyone must find the middle ground when trying to resolve conflict.

I will go into more detail about how to resolve conflicts in a later post.  Before I go there, I want to share one more marriage mistake in days to come that sets the stage for discussing conflict resolution.  So, stay tuned! But until that time, please let me know, . .

Do you relate to this problem?

Are you still struggling to find that middle ground?

What fears or hesitations get in the way of dealing directly with conflict?

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Marriage Mistake #2 – Expected Too Much Communication

Let’s face it. There are major differences between men and women, and one of the big ones is the amount of communication women use versus men. Studies have shown that women use approximately 20,000 words per day compared to the measly 7,000 word count that men tend to prefer.

You can tell this simply by asking a man a question and then turning and asking a woman the same question. A man will either say, “Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t know,” and the woman will say, “I’m so glad you asked. I’ve been wondering about that a lot too. Just yesterday, I was talking with my girlfriend about this very same issue and I told her . . . blah, blah, blah.” Notice any differences?

When I was young, and dating my soon-to-be husband, I imagined that he would want to talk with me into the wee hours of the morning whenever he sensed that I had something on my heart. That fairy tale scenario didn’t quite pan out as I had hoped.

Actually, my husband, Gary, is very talkative (in a manly sort of way). As a couple, he’s definitely the extrovert and I clearly fall into introvert category. He’s the one that I have a hard time pulling away from conversations after church. He’s the one who loves to strike up a conversation with our waitress or the stranger waiting in line. He’s the one who loves to tell you story after story, and goes into way more detail than I, as an introvert, would ever think anyone would want to hear.

He definitely has the gift of gab. But when it’s just the two of us, sometimes it’s as if he morphs into the proverbial bump on a log. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times when he tells me what’s on his mind, but when it comes to chit chat or even deeper—talking about feelings, it’s as if he’s missing the zip in his doo-dah!

For the longest time, I tried to transform my husband into the wonderful girlfriends that love to chat with me for hours.  But somewhere along the line I figured out that . . .

  1. I didn’t marry a woman (duh) and . . .
  2. Trying to force him to talk with me like a woman might just be going against God’s grand design

Now, I supplement my conversational needs. I never expect Gary to be my only source.  And I turn to my girlfriends who are happy to oblige, whenever I need a little more than Gary can give. As a bonus, since my expectations have become more realistic, Gary has actually opened up more with me, even about those dreaded . . . feelings!

Disclaimer – Just in case you’re wondering, I asked permission from my husband to share this post.  He gladly approved!  Anything for the cause—bridging the gap between the sexes!

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