Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Your Marriage Can Be Saved (Especially for Husbands)

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania


I'm re-posting this, with a few edits. I wrote a few years ago, especially from a husband's perspective.

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #1

In my 42 years as a pastor, with 40 of those years married to my incredible wife Linda, I have counseled and pre-counseled hundreds of couples re. their marriages. I have seen marriages of all kinds and shapes and in all varieties and levels of duress. I have learned a lot of things. Here is one: I have never, ever met a marriage that I thought could not be saved and restored and made better. Never.
If you are in a marriage that is in bad shape, I want you to know that your marriage need not be over.
Begin by reading this very good article, posted on CNN.

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #2
Recently Linda and I went out for a drive to Adrian to eat at Culver’s. Culver’s has the best fast-food hamburgers and fries on the planet. On the way Linda read to me out of a book by Rick Renner. She read some stuff Renner wrote about having a good marriage. One of the things I listened to that night was his ten thoughts for husbands on improving their marriage. As she read them to me I thought we both thought - we’d like every husband to read these!
Here is #1.
#1 - Husbands, never put your wife down in front of others. Even if she smiles and laughs, trying to shrug off your verbal jabs, this kind of behavior on your part is deeply hurtful to your wife. She needs your honor, not your sarcasm. If there is a conflict between you, wait until you get home where you can talk about it privately, but never make fun of her or put her down in front of others. You certainly wouldn’t want her to do this to you.
As Linda read that to me I can say that I have never done that to her, nor her to me. Thankfully, before I married Linda, I read a book by Charlie Shedd called Letters to Philip: On How to Treat a Woman. I believe I read that book, or large parts of it, many times. Shedd taught me never to talk negatively about Linda to others. Of course, we have had arguments, disagreements, and fights between us. But we work those out without others around. I still inwardly cringe when I hear a husband do that to his wife in front of me. I feel sorry for her, and for them.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #3
#2 of Rick Renner’s 10 Things Every Husband Should Never Do is this.
2 - Never point out your wife’s weaknesses to others. Husbands often do this, not realizing how disrespectful they are being to their wives. Talking in public about your wife’s weaknesses will embarrass her. Do you want her to point out all your flaws to other people? You would prefer that she speak to you privately about such matters, so show her the same courtesy.
When I hear a man talk about his wife’s shortcomings as a way of complaining about her or making fun of her I feel certain that this man and his wife have a poor marriage. And, I’ll add this. Not only should a husband never do this. But even worse, far worse, is sharing your wife’s shortcomings with another woman. That’s fuel for an adulterous affair.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #4

Renner’s third thing a husband should never do is this.
3 - Never tell your wife there isn’t enough money in the budget for her to buy a new outfit - and then turn right around and spend a lot of money on yourself, your fishing trip, your hobbies, etc. When she sees you do this, it communicates to her that you love yourself more than you love her. Do you want your wife to perceive you as a selfish person who is more in love with yourself than concerned about blessing her?
I’ll add that the Christian idea about money in marriage is that: all the money a couple has belongs to God; the couple is to seek God about how to use God’s money; thus the money is not really to be talked about, literally, as “his” money or “her” money. If he makes a million dollars a year and she makes one dollar a year, then collectively they have a million and one dollars, and are together reponsible to God as to how to spend it, use it, give it, etc.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #5

Renner’s fourth thing a husband should never do is this.
“Never tell your wife that you don’t have time for her. Even if your schedule is packed, look for time to be with her. She married you because she loves you and wants to be with you. When you consistently make time for everyone in your life except your wife, you are making avery big mistake. If needed, cancel something in your schedule so you can give attention to this most important relationship in your life.”
Years ago I made my life priorities these:
1 - First, love God and stay in close relationship with God.
2 - Love Linda next.
3 - Love my children.
4 - In fourth place is my job/work.
5 - all other things fall below #s 1-4.
I was once counseled to never let #4 or anything below it get ahead of #s 1 - 3. I have tried my best to do that. I find it a wonderful way to live. To live with priorities 1 through 3 solidly in place is to have a successful life. ”Success,” in marriage, is coming to the end of your life and having your wife and children with you and love you, and you them. At that time all the other stuff and things one has accumulated in life and all the other accompishments of life fade into relative insignificance, which is their proper and actual place.
Focus and work on life’s most important things; viz., your relationships with God and spouse and family.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #6

Renner’s fifth thing a husband should never do is this.
“Never walk in front of your wife. Husbands are notorious for walking in front of their wives, and their wives detest it. Too often men act as if they are racing when they walk, usually leaving their wives to walk five to fifteen feet behind them. Now, I understand that you may think your wife walks too slowly, but what is the use of racing in front of her if you must stop, turn around, and wait for her to catch up with you? It takes the same amount of time to get to your destination, whether you walk alongside your wife or you walk ahead and then wait for her. So take your wife’s hand, and discipline yourself to walk by her side. You’ll shock her by doing this!”
I have found that most couples, early on in dating, do this. They walk hand in hand all the time, and they walk slower. Just being with one another is a great joy. Commonly, this experience fades. The antidote is: keep tending the fires of marriage. For example, Linda and I (in our 35th year of marriage) still date. Last Friday night our date was at Weber’s in Ann Arbor for prime rib! Husbands, be creative in the ways you can express your constant and abiding love to your wife. Do life together.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #7

Renner’s sixth thing a husband should never do is this.
“Never compare your wife to another woman. She wants to be the one and only woman in your life, so comparing her to another woman is not wise and shows disrespect. Do you want her to compare you to other men? I don’t think so.”
While I am far from perfect, I do not believe I have ever done this to Linda, publicly or privately. Linda and I, on the other hand, have met a lot of women who are trying to lose weight or wrinkles or whatever to “get their husbands to love them.” A common explanation for ths is that the husband has compared his wife unfavorably to another woman. Wives, there is really no way to “get your husband to love you” if he does not. The Christian standard here for husbands is high: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave his life for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) In marriage, the only valid comparison a husband or wife is to make is to Christ. And in that, we all fall short; and in that, we have the highest standard to shoot for in our marriages.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #8

Renner’s seventh thing a husband should never do is this.
“Never make sexual innuendos about your wife in front of others. This is not only disrespectful, it is deeply offensive to a wife. Your sexual relationship is a time of intimacy that is to be shared only between the two of you. Therefore, when you make jokes about it or talk about it in front of others, you are humiliating your wife and making her feel cheap. This is certainly not a way to cherish her or to treat her like a treasure!”
The word “intimacy” is often translated, accurately I think, as “into me, see.” In marriage the physical act of sexual intercourse is, at its best, the tip of an iceberg (sorry for the ‘cold’ metaphor!) that is 10% physical and 90% spiritual and emotional. The sex act in marriage is greatest when grounded in a marital lifestyle of voluntary self-revealing between husband and wife. Husbands, your wife wants you not simply as some sex object but wants you as her best friend and spiritual companion. Spending time sharing the depths of your heart to her and listening to what’s going on in her heart will make the marital sex-act far more fulfilling to her, and to you as well.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #9

Renner’s eighth thing a husband should never do is this.
“Never lie to your wife or tell a half-truth to cover your tracks. Honesty must be the foundation of your relationship. If you violate her trust by lying to her and she discovers it, your act of deception will affect her ability to trust you in the future. Therefore, if you really love your wife, always level with her and be honest. It may be difficult for her to hear what you have to say, but at least she will know you are being honest with her. If she discovers you have been lying to her, this will result in a far greater hurt than if you honestly admit what you have done wrong.”
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #10

Renner’s ninth thing a husband should never do is this.
“Never dishonor your wife in front of your children. She is their mother, and they need to be taught to respect and honor her. If you treat your wife like a joke in front of the kids, they will treat her in the same way. Dishonoring her and arguing with her before the children discredits her in their eyes. Do you want her to scold you and rebuke you in fron of your children? Wouldn’t you prefer that she express her disagreements with you in private? Then show her the same consideration that you want her to show you.”
When Linda and I meet a man who disrespects women it is almost always the case that he saw his own father openly disrespected his mother.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #11

Renner’s tenth thing a husband should never do is this.
“Never forget your wife’s birthday or wedding anniversary! Excuse me for repeating this point, but it’s important. Men who consistently forget these two important dates and yet expect their marriage relationship to stay healthy are either ignorant or stupid. These are special dates in your wife’s mind. Remembering her birthday tells you that you are thinking of her. Remembering your wedding anniversary tells you that you deeply care about your relationship with her.”
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage CAN be Saved: #12

If you were to ask Linda or myself as to what’s one of the most important things to do in marriage we would answer: to confess to one another and then to forgive one another.
Up until the age of 21 I “confessed” very few things to other people. As a little child, and even in my early teens, I occasionally admitted that there were things I was wrong about. But from my mid-teens on I stopped doing this. I never told another person I was wrong, and never told another person the words “I am sorry.”
This all changed for me when I became a follower of Jesus. When I began dating Linda and realized I was falling in love with her, there was one night when we argued. It was our first significant disagreement (and neither of us can remember what it was all about). In my own small mind I viewed myself as a very powerful arguer. After all, I was studying logic and philosophy! I was angry at Linda, because she didn’t agree with me!!
And then something happened. God told me “John, you are wrong, and you know it.” I thought, “God, you are right about this.” But since I was not the sort of person to ever admit I was wrong, that being a weak thing to do, I just kept on arguing against Linda. As I think back on this I remember how I was arguing and verbally beating her down and then a new thought came to me, which was: why not just admit you are wrong? This was, for me, the equivalent of - why not just go and get ten root canals?
Stop here for just a moment. Why not just do that? What could possibly stop a person from doing that? The answer: pride and/or fear. In my troubled state of mind I thought that if I admit I am wrong she will disown me and leave me, and I did not want this to happen because I “loved” her. But then the thought came to me that, if I admit I am wrong and she does want anything more to do with me, then I need to find this out now before we get married.
So I said words that were by me rarely spoken: “Linda, you are right and I am wrong about this thing. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?” And she said, “yes, I forgive you.” And then we laughed. I laughed until I cried and it was like a release inside me. It was like entering into a whole new world where pride and ego means nothing and all that counts is speaking the truth in love. She forgave me. Like God in Christ has forgiven us. And we only remember the laughter, and have let go of the offense.
If your marriage is in trouble, why don’t YOU begin by identifying things in you that are causing pain to your spouse. Make a list of them. Be specific. Then go to them, and enumerate them, and after each one ask your spouse for forgiveness. If they give it to you (which they should), you are moving in the right direction. If they withhold forgiveness from you, then I invite you to come to my church this Sunday morning as I speak about this stuff. Or go and talk with your pastor and ask for help. Or, finally, call the best marriage counselors in the area - Masterpeace Counseling, in Tecumseh, Michigan; and Person to Person Resources in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Your Marriage CAN Be Saved: #13 (Dealing With Anger)

In every good marriage there are feelings of anger between husband and wife. I once had a person tell me, “I never get angry.” My thought was this: here is a person out of touch with what’s going on inside of him. Even God feels anger; even Jesus felt anger. There’s a healthy anger everyone should experience when faced with injustice; there’s an unhealthy and even destructive anger that creates injustice.
When angry, evaluate your anger. Here are some suggestions.
1. Recognize your anger. “Anger” is the emotion a person feels when one of their expectations has not been met. In other words, every time you feel angry it’s because you have an unmet expectation.
2. Identify the unmet expectation. Think: “I feel angry because my expectation was ___________.”
3. Evaluate the unmet expectation. Is it either: a) godly, reasonable, good, fair; or 2) ungodly, unreasonable, bad, unfair.
4. If the unmet expectation is godly/fair, then ask: Have I communicated this to the person I am angry with? If not, commnicate it. If the expectation has not been communicated then your anger is unjust since they are not responsible for something they did not know.
5. If you have communicated it clearly to the person you are angry with, then speak this way, using these kind of words: ”I feel angry because my unmet expectation is __________________.
In the midst of interpersonal conflict use “I” words rather than “You” words. That is, begin your sentence with “I feel angry…” rather than “You make me feel angry…”
Get rid of irrational or ungodly expectations. As you get free of these things you’ll find yourself less angry.
Remember that from the Christian POV, “anger” is not sin. Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” We are not told never to feel anger. There is a righteous anger, and that is not only appropriate but necessary. But when we feel the emotion of anger we are never to sin. In marriage, we are never to be harsh, demeaning, vindictive, or abusive. But in every marriage anger is felt by both husband and wife.
Finally, the second part of Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Which means: deal with anger quickly, and in a loving and truthful way. The goal is always restoration of relationship and reconciliation. Regarding this idea, I am thankful that only two, may three times in our 39 years of marriage, have Linda and I fallen asleep angry with each other. The reason for this is not that we’re some special couple. We do this because we were taught to do this by godly people who spoke into our lives. We were sufficiently warned about the cancerous bitterness that arises when anger is “swept under the carpet.”

Your Marriage can Be Saved #14: Monogamy Vs. Serial Monogamy

Linda and I are still married. Our wedding was August 11, 1973. I have done, I estimate, a few hundred weddings (at least) as a pastor. My all-time favorite was my own.
I wrote my own vows to say to Linda. I knew I would never, ever be unfaithful to her. Nor she to me. For us both, it was “until death do us part.” That’s the way it is for all the couples I have ever married. But all the outcomes have not been the same.
As a pastor I have counseled many in both premarital and marital situations. I’ve also counseled many who have been divorced, and I’ve met with a lot of children of divorce. I have seen my share of marital unfaithfulness out there, and the devastating emotional rubble left behind. (By the way, it’s a myth that, in divorce, “the children are going to be OK.” If you doubt this then you must read this book.) I see many unfaithful, dis-integrated people who, apparently, did not really mean it when they stood before God and one another and their families and friends and “promised” to stay together “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” (For divorce statistics see here.)
I find this sad. In nearly all divorce situations I have been personally acquainted with there is not really a good reason to divorce. Few, if any, differences are actually irreconcilable. The God-perspective on marriage is that, when “irreconcilable differences” happen, instead of this being a signal that “we weren’t made for each other” the reality is that it’s growth time for the couple. In my own marriage Linda and I have found that we are two very imperfect people who have been broken, stretched, taken apart and put back together by not our own talents but by the mercy and grace of God. The breaking process has shown us that a long-term monogamous relationship between two not-so-together people is a wonderful thing. One has to learn humility and other-centeredness or the whole thing will break down. Marriage not simply helps a person do that, it forces one to do it or die. Unfortunately, a lot of people get out before the real marital stuff happens.
The serial monogamist who goes questing for the perfect soul mate will remain forever stunted in their character. Character is mostly forged through conflict. A long marriage in itself does not guarantee this. But a long marriage where husband and wife grow in their love for one another is always a sign that a whole lot of personal brokenness has happened along the way. You can’t find that in a series of short-term noncommittal relationships that split when the disagreements start to happen.
Finally, if you are a divorced person I am not writing this to condemn you. I have found that divorced people can relate to what I am saying and are often willing to take responsibility for their own part of the marital failure. They want to hear a voice that goes counter-cultural to the local village wisdom that says, “It’s not working out - so you have to divorce.” Often, such words come from the mouths of people who have themselves failed maritally. If we give our children that message, guess what may happen when, in marriage, they have their first real fight? I have met many divorcees over the years whom I believe could have made it in marriage if only they had someone to disagree with such cultural pessimism and who could guide them, mentor-like, through the conflicts and on to greater character growth.

Your Marriage Can Be Saved #15: The Myth That Divorce Won’t Hurt Your Children

If you are married with children, contemplating divorce, and have been told that “divorce won’t hurt your kids - they will be all right,” stop! That is simply not true. The expert on “children of divorce” is Dr. Judith Wallerstein, professor in the School of Social Welfare at the University of California-Berkeley. Years ago I read her ground-breaking longitudinal study of children of divorce, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study. I have handed out occasional copies to men and women who told me they were getting divorced and believed the kids will get through it just fine.
Read Wallerstein’s book to get the full picture. And, her work is cited all over the internet.
Wallerstein states: `The delayed impact of divorce in adulthood is a revolutionary finding and a stunning surprise. We thought that children would be able to work through issues related to divorce by the time they reached late adolescence or left home. We advised parents that if they refrained from fighting and arranged their schedules so that the children could see both of them often, then the children would do well. But these policies were based on adult needs and perceptions of divorce. We failed to realize that living in a post-divorce family is an entirely different experience for children as opposed to adults. The story of divorce is far more complex and the impact more far-reaching than we had ever imagined.”
Wallerstein discovered that growing up in a divorced family creates a consistent pattern of behaviors and expectations in young people when they set out to form their own adult relationships. Otherwise well-functioning adult children of divorce, now in their late twenties to early forties, must fight to overcome:
Expectations of failure, based on an “internalized image of failure;”
Fear of loss, due to earlier anxiety about abandonment by one or both parents;
Fear of change, since experience has shown them it is usually for the worse;
Fear of conflict, because it leads to explosions or the impulse to escape;
Fear of betrayal, because they have seen so much of it;
Fear of loneliness, sometimes leading to self-destructive choices in partners.
It’s not surprising that Wallerstein discovered that adult children of divorce lack a healthy “Couple Template.” They don’t have a model of what healthy marital partnership is. “They carry the template of the relationship between their parents into adulthood and use it to seek the image of their new family. The absence of a good image negatively influences their search for love, intimacy, and commitment. Anxiety leads many young adults into making bad choices in relationships, giving up hastily when problems arise, or avoiding relationships altogether. Ominously, they also say that they will not support their parents, especially their fathers, in old age.” (Cited here, as with the two preceding paragraphs)
Children of divorce have the deck stacked against them. Yet I have seen some of them grow into healthy adulthood in spite of this. I am especially impressed by a faith in God some of them acquire. This allows them to find blessing and a foundation rooted in God as an experiential reality. This compensates for parents who, in their divorce, cut the familial foundation out from under them.

Your Marriage Can Be Saved #16: Forgiving Your Own Parents

Years ago I read a quote from Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago area. Willow Creek is one of the largest churches in the nation. Hybels is someone I have always admired. They have a lot of staff, and Hybels was writing about how to hire staff. He advised: never hire a person who has not worked out things between themselves and their own parents. Especially, never hire someone who does not love their parent and has not forgiven them.
I think this can be applied also to marriage: never marry a person who has not worked out things with their own parents. Put another way: never marry a person who does not, from their heart, love their own mother and father. Why?
First - if they have not gotten things right with their own parents they will bring the bitterness of unforgiveness and pain into the marriage. As their spouse, it can happen that they will take it out on you, as if you are their mother or their father. Persons unable to truly love and forgive often view themselves as victims. Never marry someone who has a victim mentality.
Second - if they do not love their own parents - even if their own parents are not very lovable - they will send a strong message to their children. I have seen this come back to get them, as their own children adopt a relational model of unforgiveness and nonreconcilation.
Third - they will find it harder to forgive you when you hurt them. And hurt them you will. This is inevitable. In Christianity, to forgive means to release the other person from indebtedness towards you.
But how can you do this? Men can begin by reading John Eldridge’s book Wild at Heart, especially his chapter on “The Wound.” Women - read Captivating, by Stasi and John Eldredge, especially their chapter called “Wounded.” Make no mistake about it, unhealed wounds ooze, and what oozes is not good for a marriage. The good news is that there is a road to healing and reconciliation.
When I was a young man I disliked my own father, for a few reasons, among them being that I viewed him as someone who could never admit he was wrong. I saw the way this affected my mother, and it angered me. My dad had a lot of good qualities, but this was not one of them. One day, I had had it with him, and I raged at him. For me, relationship with my father was now over. Emotionally, I hated him. When I became a follower of Jesus I saw that I had to face this and deal with it, and that the anger inside me was not good. So - to make a very long story short - I forgave my father. I told him one day that I loved him. He was not a great communicator, but I know this affected him. Our relationship was healing. I saw him as a brother in Christ. I also was beginning to see that I was no easy person to relate to either.
What really feels humbling to me is that my sons have me as their father. Realizing this, I have many, many times asked them to forgive me for misunderstanding them or being too harsh with them or being unloving and unkind to them.
Finally, and from my Christian point of view, the heart of my faith is the cross of Christ and the resultant forgiveness. I often think that if God, in Christ, can forgive me and love me, how can I not extend such forgiveness and love to others? It’s not always easy, but it is the doorway to freedom and relationship.
(Over a period of 40 years Linda and I have counseled several hundred marriages in a variety of situations ranging from “need a tune-up” to “in cardiac arrest.” While we have at times wondered if a certain marriage would make it, we admit to having never met a marriage that we thought could not be saved and made better.)

Your Marriage Can Be Saved #17: Letting Go of Control

In the best marriages I have seen neither husband nor wife try to control each other. This is not easy. Indeed, as Gerald May wrote in his brilliant book Addiction and Grace, there are people who are addicted to control in the same way some are addicted to drugs.
I don’t know about you but I don’t like being controlled by someone else. However, this isn’t true of everybody. Wherever there is a “controller” you will also find a “controllee.” Marriages that have this dynamic are master-slave relationships. Such marriages are deeply troubled and in need of help.
If you are in this kind of marriage and feel controlled by your spouse my recommendation is that you get help for the “controllee” part of you. What is it in you that allows yourself to be manipulated? Discover what this is, and with God’s help it can be healed. It will, however, be a shock to your controlling spouse when you begin to use the word “no.” And note this: the one who needs help is YOU, not the controlling person. I mean this in this way: you will never need to complain again about being controlled and manipulated once you learn how to set boundaries to this happening. You can’t change your significant other anyway, so you can be free to stop doing this.
If you are the controlling person, recognize how destructive such behavior is in marriage and get help with it. In marriage, control and manipulation reduce your partner to a prisoner (or a slave). Is that what you really want in marriage? If so, then realize that it will be impossible to experience love. Get help to identify the roots of your controlling behavior. Learn to see this behavior, not as freedom for you, but bondage. The good news is that you can be free of the terrible burden of always having to get things your own way. Yes, I said “terrible burden.”
I remember reading, years ago, the chapter in May’s book on addiction to control. I underlined entire pages as I read. Why? Because God, through May’s writing, was showing me how attached to controlling others I really was. When I began to see this, I know I did not like it. And this was good for me, since inner dissatatisfaction and personal brokenness are always the first steps to relational freedom.
In my marriage to Linda I never feel she is trying to manipulate or control me. If she is upset by something I do (and it does happen!) she states this to me. In fact, it happened again today! This is different from nagging. I’m saying this because some think that if they let go of control marital chaos will happen. Actually, controller-controllee marriages are the ones in chaos. Someone has to begin to let go of the control. Someone else has to begin to stop being controlled. Why not you? And when both do this, the result is trust.

Your Marriage Can Be Saved #18: How to Communicate In the Middle of Conflict

In my second year of marriage Linda and I were invited to be in a couples’ marriage discussion group with one of my seminary professors and his wife, Dr. David and Nancy Augsburger. We said yes, we’d love to join. David was one of my favorite all-time professors. In fact, he is still on the “top 5″ list of persons who have positively influenced my life. I learned so very much from him.
We were a part of this couples group for two years. One of the things that happened in the group was that, on occasion, marital conflicts between spouses emerged. David and Nancy taught us how to handle it by evaluating our expectations, setting correct standards, and communicating truthfully and lovingly. David is a great scholar on managing and dealing with anger, and has written a number of books on it.
David’s communication-in-conflict theory was based on Ephesians 4:15, which says: “therefore speak ther truth in love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.” In this brilliant bit of wisdom there are two communication points: 1) when you speak, the speak the truth; and 2) when you speak the truth, speak it in love. Truth without love can be destructive; love without truth can be avoidance and denial.
I have been told more than once that “We don’t argue in our marriage. We don’t have any conflict.” I never believe this. Because every marriage has conflict. In fact, conflict is a necessary part of a healthy marriage. In conflict, marriages grow stronger. Try to avoid conflict and “sweep it under the rug” and the marriage weakens.
In my next marriage-saving blog post I will share with you just how speaking the truth in love is done and why it can be a marriage-saver. (David’s very readable book on how to do this can be purchased here for under $10.)

Your Marriage Can be Saved #19: 5 Communication Options When in Conflict

Dr. David Augsburger, in his excellent and readable book Caring Enought to Confront: How to Understand and Express Your Deepest Feelings Toward Others, shows us how to effectively communicate when we are in conflict with someone. Linda and I were, years ago, mentored by David and his wife Nancy in this, and we will always be grateful for what we learned and how it has helped us in marriage.
David is a follower of Jesus and bases his communication theory on Ephesians which says: “therefore speak ther truth in love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.” Truth without love is destructive; love without truth is avoidant. Combining truth + love in communication-in-conflict and the results can be positive.
The way David puts this is: be both confronting and caring at the same time. Practice “care-fronting” with others. Or, care enough to confront when you’re angry with one another. If not this, what would the other options be? Augsburger gives us 4 other options when in conflict that mostly are ineffective, even causing more damage.
Option #1 - “I’ll get him!” This is the I-win-you-lose-because-I’m-right-you’re wrong” position in conflict. Augsburger writes: “This “win-lose” stance uses all power and little or no love. Goal is valued above relationship. ‘My way is the only way,’ the person feels.”
Option #2 - “I’ll get out.” If #1 1 is “fight,” #2 is “flight.” This is the I’m-uncomfortable-so-I’ll-withdraw stance toward conflict/ Augsburger writes: “The viewpoint here is that conflicts are hopeless, people cannot be changed; we either overlook them or withdraw. Conflicts are to be avoided at all costs. When they threaten, get out of their way.” This is a lose-lose option in which everyone loses, including the relationship.
Option #3 -”I’ll give in.” This is the Christian doormat position, the “I’ll-yield-to-be-nice-because-I-need-your-friendship approach. Augsburger writes: “As a rule, [this approach] falls short. You become a doormat. A nice guy or gal. Frustrated. Yet smiling. The more tense and tight on the inside, the more generous and submissive on the outside.”
Option #4 - “I’ll meet you halfway.” This is the I-have-only-half-the-truth-and-I-need-your-half approach in conflict. This is working toward compromise. Sometimes this is good, but Augsburger cautions: “When we begin with a decision to compromise, we run the risk that my half of the truth added to your half may not give us the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We may have two half-truths. or the combination may produce a whole untruth. Only when we care enough to tussle with truth can we test, retest, erfine and perhaps find more of it through our working it out seriously.”
Augsburger then gives us the stance that usually works best when in conflict. This is:
Option #5 - “I care enough to confront.” This is the I-want-relationship-and-I-also-want-integrity position. I’ll spell out exactly what this means in my next marriage-saving post.


Your Marriage Can Be Saved #20: How to Care-front When in Conflict

David Augsburger, in his excellent little book Caring Enough to Confront, teaches us how to effectively communicate in marriage and relationships when we are in conflict. He sees four communication options in conflict and finds them all lacking even though they are much used.
He gives us a fifth option, using Ephesians 4:15, which says: “therefore speak the truth in love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.” Here we are told, in communication, to be both truthful and loving or, in Augsburger’s words, both confronting and caring. Practically, here’s what this means.
Work at communicating both caring and confronting in the middle of marital or relational conflict. Here are the attitudes to have and hold to.

CARING & CONFRONTING

I care about our relationship & I feel deeply about the issue at stake

I want to hear your view & I want to clearly express mine

I want to respect your insights & I want respect for mine

I trust you to be able to handle my honest feelings & I want you to trust me with yours

I promise to stay with the discussion until we reach an understanding & I want you to stay with me until we've reached an understanding

I will not trick, pressure, manipulate, or distort the differences & I want your unpressured, clear, honest views of our differences

I give you my loving, honest respect & I want your caring-confronting response

For more explanation Augsburger’s book can be purchased on amazon.com for about $10 - a great investment! Why not get the book and read it with your significant other? Discuss, learn, grow.