For years now my husband and I have been working with couples to help them find the amazing marriage that God has designed for them to live. Many of the lessons I have learned came from a 20-year failed marriage. After spending 20 years learning what not to do, I have spent the next decade learning what to do from the best teacher of all, the Bible. Yes, I have done research in other books and from other great teachers but the ultimate lessons about marriage still come from the God that created marriage in the first place.
Wives, your husband’s number one need is for respect. Believe me when I tell you I was the queen of disrespect for 20 years and didn’t even know it. I have many times had to apologize to my ex-husband for being so disrespectful. I have spent countless hours learning how to be respectful. Yes, I’m still in the respect school, but God has used my amazing husband and partner in everything, Steven to help me learn. He has also given me a great group of male pastors to work everyday with who are great at helping me identify disrespect in my life (they do it because I ask them to). The reason I need this help is because disrespect can be so sneaky and subtle. I often times find myself being disrespectful without even realizing it. You see girls, disrespect to a guy is much different than to us. I’m getting so much better, but I’m confident it will be something I have to continue to work on for the rest of my life.
In my Bible study today I read Ephesians 4:29
29 Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good andbeneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it. (AMP)
One thing I have learned is that most disrespect comes straight out of your mouth. If we can get better at living out Ephesians 4:29, we can decrease our disrespectfulness by so much. In James 3:2 tells us that if we don’t offend with our tongues we are a perfect manor in this case a perfect woman. We can learn to be respectful in our speech. We can meet the number one need of our spouses. Watch what comes out of your mouth. Live out Ephesians 4:29. As you do you will begin to see your marriage become a living example of God’s design.
Many times in our marriage we can find ourselves attributing our spouse’s behavior to a specific ulterior motive. If the ulterior motive is “they love me and really want to be a great spouse,” then you are probably enjoying a great marriage. Honestly, more times than not this is not our default concept of our spouse’s motives.
For many years now Steven and I have utilized a concept that for the most part, helps us maintain right thoughts, attitudes, and interpretations about each other’s words and behavior. We do this by applying this very simple principle, “What is the intent of my spouse’s heart?” When you encounter any situation where you find yourself angry, disappointed, hurt, or feeling condemned, applying this simple technique can prevent you from charging head-long into a full on assault or sliding completely into a pit of hurt feelings and despair.
Many times, the behavior of our spouse is influenced by many things and these can manifest in behaviors that are confrontational or hurtful when this is truly not what they are intending to communicate. Consider this idea. If you have had a bad day at work, you were caught in traffic, late for a meeting, or perhaps were treated unfairly by your boss, you may have trouble letting it go when you come home. Because you’re already in a stressed state, you are more likely to find fault or have your feelings hurt by something simple that your spouse says, does or doesn’t do. While your spouse may intend no ill will or have no negative ulterior motive, you still perceive it as an assault or attack. It is during these times that it is important to take a step back, breath, and ask yourself a simple question “What is the intent of my spouse’s heart?” This one simple technique when applied can prevent many unnecessary problems in your marriage.
So I ask you today, What is the intent of your spouse’s heart?
I was on Facebook recently and I saw a sign that said “As two families are becoming one, we ask that you choose a seat not a side.” I’m would love to give credit to the person who made that statement originally but in my research I was unable to figure that out so if you know please share it with me.
As I thought about this statement, I thought about the magnitude of the truth it conveyed. Being a wife, mother, and a mother-in-law, I have found myself on both sides of the coin.
When two people get married it often brings with it two very different families and therefore two very different family cultures. While in most cases, the guys are less likely to bring their family into the marriage, girls are highly likely to. I remember my mom would always say “You have a son until he takes a wife, you have a daughter all your life.” This is true a lot of the time. This is not necessarily bad or good but can many times be one or the other.
Before you get married is the best time to take a good look at what each family can bring to the marriage. It is important to discuss such things as family culture, family holiday traditions, and religious beliefs and practices. By doing this you can save yourselves a lot of unnecessary problems.
If you are the parent or parent-in-law/family member or family-in-law member I encourage you to do your best to not choose sides but choose the side of promoting a healthy, loving, God-centered marriage. Making this choice, you will not only help the marriage but you will help impact future generations. Your support can and will make a difference.
Most women when asked, would respond that the most important need of a man is sex. While respect/honor is actually the primary need of man, sex is a very close second. Yet sex is one of the biggest areas in many marriages that cause a lot of conflict. For many women I work with, this very conflict causes a great deal of pain. Finding ways to navigate the balance of desire for sex between husbands and wives can be very complex. However, by have some very open conversations with your spouse about where they are both coming from can help this area of your life come into balance. Beginning that conversation often means wading through unmet expectations, hurts, feelings of failure on both sides, and even the releasing of using sex as a punishment or reward. While this is can be a path least taken, it is a path that can lead to a more satisfying marriage then you have ever dreamed of. I encourage all couples to have open, honest, and loving conversations about where there marriage stands in relationship to their sexual intimacy.
I recently read a blog Holy Hot and Humorous which addresses one of the big issues in marital sex. Just Because He Stopped Asking Doesn’t Mean He’s Stopped Wanting. This blog poses some great ideas. These ideas could be used to initiate a conversation that would help wives begin to discover exactly where their husband is in relationship to sex in their marriage. I encourage you to do a check up on your intimate relationship with your husband. It will be one of the most life giving things you will ever do.
Have you ever had a day at work where you just lost it? Have you found yourself in tears in the middle of a meeting with men that you work with? I have for sure. Let me tell you about a wonderful display of disrespect I made last year at work. As many of you know, I work at Victory Church in Oklahoma City. I must admit this is a great job and I love the people I get to work with everyday. I am fortunate to work with some of the most gifted people on the planet. Many of them are men. Having said that working at a mega church can be stressful at times. Contrary to popular beliefs we do not float around on clouds in a prayerful state all day. It is probably the hardest job I have ever had as the Director of Small Groups. At any rate, last year I had the opportunity to go to the Bahamas on a vacation. I was frantically working to get all of my work done so everything would be covered before I left. Two days before I was scheduled to leave I found out about a change that was going to be made that would really affect some of the groups that meet at my church. Let me go on record as saying the fact that I got left out of the loop on something that affect my department was completely an oversight and not anything that was intentional AT ALL. However, because of the amount of stress I felt I was under to get everything done at work and at home and getting my family ready to travel for a week and making arrangements for a house sitter for our dogs, you know the usual mom/wife/travel agent role we women play, I was not as aware of my emotions as I should have been. To say that I didn’t handle this situation well is quite the understatement. I lost my cool and added an unnecessary amount of emotion to every conversation I had all the way up the food chain. (Never ever ever ever a good idea) I was wrong wrong wrong. I will say that the men I worked with did extend a great deal of grace to me but I really believe I could have gotten much better results had I taken a few minutes and collected my thoughts and used a much more professional approach. Lesson learned. I have been much more diligent from then on to stay on top of my feelings in the office. I admit I am not perfect but I am improving.
Today I found an amazing podcast from Focus on the Family by Shaunti Feldhahn. I have loved her book For Women Only for many years. When I was busy learning about respect and submission in my marriage, her book gave me great practical insight. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be respectful, I just didn’t know what it looked like. Her book gave me real, practical ideas about some changes that I needed to make to be more respectful. It was really the beginning of the journey for me that led me to where I am today. If you haven’t read For Women Only, buy a copy and read it soon. So back to this post, the podcast I ran across was about how men perceive disrespect in the workplace. Even more the concept of how we as women unknowingly hinder ourselves by being disrespectful with the men that we work with. This was a great extension to the idea of being a respectful wife. So I am sharing the podcast with the hopes that it will give other women some insight that will help them as much as it has me. If after listening to the podcast if you are interested in finding out more you can pick up Shaunti’s new book For Women Only in the Workplace. Becoming a a respectful employ will be beneficial to women everywhere.
Women, I would love to hear your feedback on how you handle emotional situations at your workplace or trials that you have encountered working with men. I would also love to have feedback from men who have experienced women who are emotional at work. You opinion matters, please share it.
Hopefully you have been following this series and you have seen some great ways to handle conflict. In a marriage conflict is inevitable. If you have been married more than a week you have no doubt run into conflict. Truly no matter how much you love someone being in relationship and living with them is always much harder than it seems. Be encouraged, while conflict is bound to happen, having good tools to work through it is the key to making life together much better. The more you use and practice these techniques the better you will be at resolving conflict quickly and with as little damage as possible.
In this final post of this series we will look at what can be perhaps the hardest part of handling conflict successfully as well as something that if you don’t do will likely cause the eventual breakdown of the relationship altogether. Forgiveness is the biggest gift you can give to both yourself and to your spouse. However, it can also be the hardest technique to employ in handling conflict. Especially if you feel that your spouse has intentionally harmed you. Wounds inflicted in marriage by someone who is supposed to love your more than anyone else are the deepest. They take the longest to heal and they are often times the hardest to forgive. I have found that the hurts caused by my husband, my children, my parents are wounds that have to be intentionally worked through. I find that many of the people I have worked with also have the same experiences.
What is forgiveness? Many people think that forgiveness means no longer holding someone responsible for their actions. Many people think that it is a feeling and can only be true forgiveness if you can enjoy a happy relationship with the very person who hurt you. While these can be parts of forgiveness, I find that it rarely starts there. First of all, forgiveness is not about a feeling it is about a choice. We CHOOSE to forgive. It is a conscious decision we make. It is an act of our will. Secondly, when we choose to forgive it doesn’t necessarily mean the person we forgive is absolved of their part in the hurt. It does me that we choose to release ourselves from the hurt that continuing to hold the injustice or perceived wrong is causing in our hearts. Forgiveness is something that we often times have to do choose to do more than once as the pain of the wound resurfaces. No doubt you have heard the saying, “unforgiveness is like me drinking Draino and expecting the other person to die.” Unfortunately, that is the very effect that unforgiveness has in our lives. It is the contamination of our very hearts. When we choose to nurse and rehearse the wrong done to us, the wound will continue to grow. However, when we begin to release ourselves from the hurt by bringing it to God and allowing Him to heal us we find that healing begins. Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness. He chose to forgive us and then he chose to love us and allow us to be who we were and accept us. We have the same opportunity to apply the Christ kind of forgiveness. One of the ways that is very helpful when finding a place of forgiveness is to take time to consider all other possibilities for what caused the hurt. Did your spouse really mean what was said the way your heard it? What is the intent of your spouse’s heart? Were there other factors that could have caused this response from your spouse such as fatigue, feelings of failure, your own criticism of them, words you had spoken that might have been better left unsaid? When you look at an area of conflict from a calm perspective you are often able to see things that may have escalated the situation to a hurtful place. When you look at it from these perspectives it is often easier to walk in forgiveness.
I want to encourage you today. Begin to let go of unforgiveness in your marriage and relationships. Begin to ask God to heal your heart and to allow you to see the other person as He sees them. Release yourself from the pain that your have been carrying. You will find that it is the best gift you will ever give yourself.
Continuing the topic of handling conflict, I want to look at the idea of using clarifying questions and acknowledgements. When you are smack in the middle of a conflict it is so easy to slip into proving your right, convincing your spouse that your way is the only way to look at the problem, or even just continuing the conflict for the sake of winning the war. These approaches may bring submission from your spouse and you may feel that you have won the battle but the price you pay for that victory often comes at the expense of hurt and damage to your relationship and your spouse. This is not a price a loving husband or submitted, honoring wife should be willing to pay. Winning the battle at all cost is a price to high to pay.
Conflict resolution should always be approached from a win-win point of view. Agreement and peace are some of the most valuable treasures in a relationship. There is great power when a husband and wife are in agreement. So conflict resolution is about finding the place where you both can be in agreement and in peace. When you find yourself in conflict with your spouse using acknowledgements demonstrates that you are truly hearing what they are saying and validates their position. This technique will bring about a quicker resolution from a calmer place. Acknowledging statements might include: “I see where you’re coming from.” “That is a good point.” “I can understand where you got that from what I said.” These are just a few of the types of statements that indicate you are still actively listening to the other person. It also demonstrates your willingness to see their point of view.
Another technique that brings about a quicker more peaceful resolution to conflict is the use of clarifying questions. We don’t all come into conversations or conflicts from the same perspective. So by asking clarifying questions such as, “Can you help me better understand that?” or “can you tell me more about that?” lets your spouse know they have been heard and it allows you to get more information on the table so both sides can find a resolution easier. This technique is especially helpful if you are a person who tends to think quickly and are likely to begin formulating your opinion, decision, or response to the conflict before you have fully heard what your spouse is saying. By actively listening with the idea that you may need to have further clarification of your spouse’s point, puts you in a receiving mode instead of a conflict winning mode. This is a great way to keep yourself fully engaged in what your spouse is saying.
Utilizing these two techniques in conflict with help promote a peaceful, win-win resolution. If you are like me you may need to practice these techniques. The great thing about these techniques is you can practice them in everyday conversation. This gives you the opportunity to practice without the added stress that you have when you are in the middle of a heated conflict. Like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it. So as you go about your day, practice using acknowledgements and asking clarifying questions. You will become a better listener, the person you are in conversation with will feel more validated, they will feel like they have been heard, and you will be better equipped to use these techniques to help resolve conflict in the future.