It's so true! It happens so quickly. You took a tone and I took offense. How many times has that happened in your marriage? The next thing you know, you are pulling back. You want to protect your heart so you move away from the hurt. I've done it, have you?
Gary Thomas writes in his book, Sacred Marriage. The chapter is called, "Falling Forward".
"Many years ago, I and a few close friends celebrated our high school graduation by hiking on Mount Rainier. Before I attempted to jump a fast-moving creek, one of my friends advised me, "Just make sure you fall forward." The advise was well heeded. Even if I didn't make the jump, as long as I kept my momentum going forward, I wouldn't be swept into the stream.
The advice has stayed with me down through the years, as I believe that Christian marriage is also about learning to fall forward. Obstacles arise, anger flares up, and weariness dulls our feelings and our senses. When this happens the spiritually immature respond by pulling back, becoming more distant from their spouse, or even seeking to start over with somebody "more exciting" Yet maturity is reached by continuing to move forward past the pain and apathy. 'Falls are inevitable. We can't control that, but we can control the direction in which we fall--toward or away from our spouse.
When disagreements arise, the natural tendency is to flee. Rather than work through the misunderstanding, (or sin), we typically take a much more economical path--we search for another church, another job, friend, spouse, etc. Mature adults realize that every relationship involves conflict, confession and forgiveness. ...The absence of conflict demonstrates that either the relationship isn't important enough to fight over or that both individuals are too insecure to risk disagreement.
Conflict provides an avenue for spiritual growth. To resolve conflict, by definition we must become more engaged, not less. Just when we want to "tell the other person off, " we are forced to be quiet and listen to their complaint. Just when we are most eager to make ourselves understood, we must strive to understand. Just when we seek to air our grievances, we must labor to comprehend another's hurt. Just when we want to point out the fallacies and abusive behaviour to someone else, we must ruthlessly evaluate our own offensive attitudes and behaviors.
It's this self-emptying act of understanding that explains how successfully negotiated conflict creates an even stronger bond in the end. " (Again, the above was taken from Gary Thomas's book, Sacred Marriage)
I recently heard one of our new Side by Side medical student's spouse, Kristen Gonzelas describe this very thing when she and her husband, Vince, were newly married. This is her story:
"My husband and I moved to Boston just 2 weeks after getting married in our pursuit of medical school. We did not have any family or friends out there but felt it would be a fresh new start into our marriage. We moved into a 600 sq. foot apartment and quickly learned that privacy did not exist in our new home. When we would argue or have a fight, we soon realized that neither one of us had a place to retreat. Sitting down, listening and discussing our difference of opinions was the only way to resolve our problems. Living there for 2 years and establishing this direct approach of working out of problems, brought us closer than we could have imagined. We are not only each others spouses but we became each others best friends. I wouldn't trade those tight quarters for anything as they brought my husband and I to be an even stronger couple."
Next time conflict arises and you are tempted to flee or become defensive, move toward your spouse and talk through your differences instead.
Since we are discussing Intimate Issues in our meetings, I found this song to be very applicable to our topics of discussion! This is Point of Grace's video for their song - listen to the words. It's a fun and upbeat way to describe how crazy our lives as moms can often get. Enjoy!
I'll never forget the anniversary Steve and I celebrated a few years ago. Steve and I had so much fun over lunch talking and laughing. His eyes showed so much excitement when he looked into mine. It should have been my first clue that he was up to something. We got back into the car and headed on the highway only he got on the highway in the wrong direction from where home was. When I asked him about it he replied, "Surprise, you're not going home. I made reservations at a hotel tonight." I was so excited and scared to find out where and what clothes he had brought for me. He had made reservations at our favorite hotel, "The Inn at Honey Run". When I asked him about clothing he replied. "Well remember the big box I put in the car." Then I remembered getting into the car before lunch and hearing him say, "Just a minute, I need to get somethings to take back to the hospital." He was so intent on making sure this would be a surprise that in the few minutes I waited int he car, he told me that he ran to the basement, grabbed a box marked "gauze", dropped it on our closet floor and proceeded to grab some things from my dresser drawer and closet for me in 30 seconds. I laughed until I cried when I realized what he had grabbed. I had just washed all my underwear and they were not back in the drawer as yet so I knew he didn't have any of those, but he had thrown in 4 bras and a bunch of tights. He grabbed my little black dress but no shoes to match and my new sweater but nothing else to wear it with. Make-up but not all of it. While I waited in our hotel room for him to go out to the car and bring in "our box" of clothing, I reflected on how loved I was to have a husband who went through all this trouble to express his love for me by making sure our kids were cared for, getting reservations, ordering flowers to be delivered to our room along with our favorite drink, purchasing small thoughtful gifts (along with a new teddy) for me during our stay and making sure I was kept surprised about the whole thing.
I was blown away. Our marriage had not always been this fun, intimate, spontaneous. In fact, there were years that our marriage was a source of stress and pain for us, we both felt very unloved, there were serious red flags that concerned me, and because of all this we both felt very lonely although we were living together. In fact, I asked Steve once, "How did you feel during the time I either tolerated or rejected your need for sex?" He slowly and thoughtfully responded, "I felt lonely, used, rejected, hurt." I was in shock for two reasons. First because I had no idea he felt that way and second because I would have used the same adjectives to describe how I was feeling. Why is it that we live lives of lonely desperation? I think it's because we fear risking our hearts to the other person. This is how my daughter, Summer put it, "When we shut ourselves down, control, close our hearts to risk, we close our hearts to the joy. We flat line."
A Focus on the Family newsletter sent September 2002 reported the following: "Using data fromt he National Survey of Family and Households (a nationally representative survey with a wide-ranging data set looking at all kinds of family outcomes, including happiness) the reserach team studied 5,232 married adults who were interviewed in the late 1980s. Of these individuals, 645 reported being unhappily married. Five years later, these same adults--some of whom had divorced or separated and some of whom had stayed married-were interviewed again.
The results of these interviews were astounding. They revealed that a full two-thirds of the unhappily married spouses who stayed married were actually happier five yers later! Among those who initially rated their marriages as "very unhappy," but remained together, nearly 80 percent considered themselves "happily married" and "much happier" five years later.
Surprisingly, the opposite is found to be true for those who divorced. The Institute for American Values study confirmed that divorce frequently fails to make people happy because, while it might provide a respite fromt he pain associated with a bad marriage, it also introduces a host of complex new emotional and psychological difficulties over which the parties involved have little control. They include child-custody battles, emotionally scarred children, economic hardships, loneliness, future romantic disappointments and so on. this helps explain why of all the unhappy spouses in the initial survey, only 19 percent of those who got divorced or separated were happy five years later."
No one wakes up in the morning and says, "Today I think I will get a divorse." No it happens one thought at a time, one action at a time, one choice at a time. Remember, people say that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. You say that while you are looking at the marriage a friend has or how wonderful you think her husband is. I say, the grass is greener where you water it. As you water and care for your own marriage, you too will experience greener grass. Dennis Rainey writes in his book Lonely Husbands, Lonely Wives, "Every day each partner in the marriage makes choices that result in oneness or isolation. Make the right choices and you will know love, warmth, acceptance, and the freedom of true intimacy and genuine oneness as man and wife. Make the wrong choices and you will know the quiet desperation of living together but never really touching one another deeply." Make a choice today to communicate love to your spouse.
"When we are embracing and fully engaged in the joy and pleasure God has given us in marriage, it gives us joy. Pray and ask God to make you fully alive to the abundant full life he intended in your oneness. Express to God your needs. He is your source. As you offer it up to him, do your part in working on your marriage, God is responsibile for the rest.
The following was taken from the book, Capture His Heart, by Lysa TerKeurst:
"When we are dating one thing that makes us so exciting to each other is the new discoveries about each other that we spend time unearthing. " While listening to each other we hear childhood stories, college experiences, family life and hopes and dreams for the future. "All the newness is exhilarating and serves to stoke the flames of romance. Then you get married and have a couple of children and suddenly every conversation becomes Cliff notes versions. There's no time for in-depth reviews and new discoveries; there are diapers to change and bills to pay and things to acquire."
"So we slip into survival mode and stop discovering all together." There's so much to learn about each other. Therefore, Lysa put together a list of questions to help you get started.
What is your favorite color?
What does your ideal Christmas look like?
When do I look most attractive to you?
Is there anything that you've been wanting to share with me but haven't for fear of offending me? I'll give you the chance and promise not to get emotional about your answer.
What is the ideal gift to you?
If you could start all over again after high school, what are some of the things you would do differently.
If you could only give our children three pieces of advice, what would they be and why
If you had to write one sentence to be put on your tombstone, what would you like it to say?
If you could be an expert of one thing, what would that be and why?
What is your favorite game?
What makes you feel relaxed and comfortable enough to unwind?
What is your favorite Bible verse?
In your opinion, what is the most romantic thing we have ever done?
How can I be a better friend to you?
What is something you've always wanted to do but haven't because of financial limitations?Enjoy!
1. Choose one night a week to curl up together on the couch with dessert, candles and favorite music. Discuss something more than work and your children.
2. Push back the furniture, put on your favorite old music and enjoy dancing with your husband.
3. If your bathtub is large enough for two, pick up a special snack, put the kids in bed and enjoy soaking in the tub together with your snack and a special drink. It makes a great cheap date.
4. Take a blanket to the park, lay down and watch the stars come out.
5. Surprise your mate by having a babysitter planned and "kidnap" him or her to a nearby hotel with a day rate. You can enjoy time alone for an afternoon to early evening before returning home.
6. Take turns planning a get-a-way weekend. (During residency, I didn't think we could afford this, then after getting family to come watch our children and then enjoying a couple of nights away, I realized we couldn't afford not to. It did a great deal to boost our marriage.)
7. Find a romantic story to read to each other. For example, a Nicolas Sparks book.
8. Read Song of Songs to each other. Caution! It's hot!
Sunday Steve and I went to visit Stan Hywett Hall. It's a beautiful manor in Akron, Ohio built in 1915 that is open to the public to tour the home and grounds. As you enter into the foyer, there is a quote craved into stone above the archway into the great room that says. "Welcome as thy need maybe. Find here gladness, happiness, peace, sanctuary."
After we toured the manor and enjoyed the English Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the long alley of birch trees on this enormous grounds, we sat down at the cafe and discussed what it meant to make your home a sanctuary. To be honest, I don't think our home was a refuge when Steve was in residency. I was in survival mode with three young children. I was just trying to make it through the day sometimes feeling like a single parent.
I asked Steve what a refuge would look like for someone in the medical profession; especially those in training. We decided to think about what it looked like for a resident. When a resident arrives home, he often is exhausted and feels like he is pretty inadequate. He may believe the lie that he doesn't have what it takes to be a good physician. He needs you as his wife to believe in him. He may feel beat up emotionally at work, but your home is a safe place where he is encouraged and believed in. If he is an attending, he may be tired from working with the bureaucratic problems at the hospital, or dealing with a difficult partner, or a malpractice suit.
Having a refuge to come home to is crucial.
You may not have a huge manor like Steve and I saw last Sunday, but you can still develop a refuge from the storms of life in your home. Be intentional! Look around your home. What would make it feel like a refuge for you or for your husband. Think about it. What is it you need to feel refreshed so that you can provide a refuge for your husband and children? What does your husband need? Ask him. It will be constantly changing from season to season or through various rotations. It will probably change according to what season of life you are in. He may tell you he needs 30 minutes of quiet after he greets the family and before he is ready to be fully present to engage in family life. He may say, "I have about 1 1/2 hours left in me before I crash for the evening."
Often we don't realize that awe need a refuge until we are operating on empty and have nothing left to give.
Here are some thoughts about providing a refuge for yourself and your family.
Think about the following areas to add a sense of refuge.
1. Time - Take a 10 minute quiet time to just relax. Moms with little ones are often tempted to spend the whole time their baby is sleeping to get work done.
2. Music - Music has a way of either relaxing or inspiring.
3. Schedule - Make sure you leave margin in your schedule. When your husband is off for the weekend, it's tempting to schedule the whole weekend with friends, family or other commitments. Make sure that you leave margin for your family to just relax.
4. Words - Your family may be on the receiving end of unkind words outside your home from work, school or friends, but you can make a decision to provide a refuge verbally in your home. You can decide to follow Ephesians 4:29. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." It helps to memorize it.
5. Your lovemaking-Takes you a way to another place away from stress, headaches, bills, dinner, dishes, etc.
6. Your love provides a shelter from the storms of life when you provide your family with your love, hugs, and tenderness.
7. Most of all, God is our refuge. Jesus welcome us to come to him when we are weary and heavy laden. He promises as we learn from him that we will rest for our souls. Matthew 11:28.