The 3 Things You Need to Do
2. Give more
3. Stay in your right mind
A Recap and an Introduction to Part II
Marriage is almost impossible. It takes society, willpower, the threat of financial ruin, and Divine Intervention to keep us from exploding into separate and unhappy divorced pieces. Studies have shown that after a few years, unhappy couples who have rated themselves as miserable and yet stuck it out now rate themselves as happy. The unhappy couples who divorced still rate themselves as miserable(http://www.americanvalues.org/html/r-unhappy_ii.html). That makes sense if you think about it. Are you happier knowing that when times get rough, you have someone willing to tough it out with you? Or are you happier knowing that when times get rough enough, you'll be all alone?
Real unhappiness in a marriage stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature. We think that we can live happily ever after. Oh sure, you'll be happy intermittently and sad intermittently, and angry, too. But that happily ever after part comes later, ladies, when you reach your reward. Having impossible expectations leaves you frustrated and unhappy. Who are you going to blame for your disappointed expectations? Him? How about our fallen human nature?
From our Self-Esteem Pushers we've heard that human nature is giving, loving, generous, kind. Blah, blah, blah. What is pointedly ignored is that human nature is also selfish, demanding, cruel, and lazy. Each one of us is a combination of good and bad traits. You are. Your husband is. We are all pretty much idiots emotionally. You are going to hurt him and he will hurt you back.
So? So stop feeling guilty. So stop holding grudges. It's the nature of the beast.
Stop thinking of your husband as the enemy. Even when you are fighting, he is not the enemy. He is the man you chose, and he is the man God will use to make you better than you are. We do not grow emotionally or spiritually by doing what is easy, but by enduring what is hard. Marriage to an imperfect person is hard work, but you will grow in love and holiness by persevering in the task. G.K. Chesterton, often referred to as the Apostle of Common Sense, said, "Love means loving the unlovable - or it is no virtue at all." Love what is good in your husband and he will return the favor. Love what is not good in him, and pray he does the same.
Your husband may not be your enemy, but you are involved in a great war. On a purely secular plane, the battle is about wresting a living and keeping afloat financially in the world. It involves everything from scheduling to sleeping to packing a lunch. There are too many demands out in the world. You act as one another's filter to keep those financial and time demands to a sane minimum. There is also the war of good versus evil that has its sights trained on you. Since marriage and raising children is a "good," it will come under direct attack. Evil is not a very fashionable idea in our day and age, but that only works toward its advantage. It exists. If you don't believe in it, watch the news.
When at war, there are casualties. Although you are united in the fight against a common enemy, it is the nature of war that sometimes, accidentally, you catch fire from your own side. It's called Friendly Fire. It's due to errors in communication, judgement, or confusion in the heat of battle. The injury is the same as if the enemy inflicted it, only...it's worse somehow.
The problem with battles within a marriage is that they are all Friendly Fire. Thank God, there is a cure for those wounds.
1. PrayWhen you hurt, pray. When you wonder, pray. When you despair, pray. In all things, pray. Prayer reminds us that we are not the largest, greatest, and best thing in the Universe. We are bowing to Somebody. We are humbled. I have a very wise friend who once advised me when my heart was breaking to cry in the lap of God. He would comfort me. She was right. I received comfort and was healed over time.
God will take the hurts of your marriage and heal them. Through prayer, He will make the pain in your life a wellspring of compassion in you. When you are humble enough to ask for help and to admit your own faults, it's amazing how your perspective on your spouse changes. He stops being an adversary and becomes, once again. a person that you love and that you want to love you. Be soft. Be humble. Be prayerful.
My husband and I began a habit not too long ago when we were stuck in a rut of daily bickering. I wanted to stop the constant, mutual harassment and so did he, but it seemed impossible. After a particularly trying day and at the start of yet another epic misunderstanding I prayed aloud, "All of Heaven would you please listen to what I am trying to say to this man?" My very wise husband, grabbed my hand and said, "Okay, then, let's argue in prayer!" So we did. All the heat went right out of us and we were able to say exactly what we needed to say and to hear exactly what we needed to hear. It's now a joke that God wanted in our argument. But the joke was on us, because by praying, the argument was over. We were able to finally have a discussion.
What's really funny is that neither of us even remembers what that particular argument was about!
So, if you want to really go out on a limb, be as brave as my husband was, grab that furious person's hand and ask him to pray. Ask God to join your argument. It will transform your marriage.
2. Give more
Selfishness breeds more selfishness. Focusing only on yourself and your needs is childish with the complication that it will further your unhappiness. When you are thinking, "All I ever do is give!" the focus is on yourself and what you are doing. It's a sure sign that you are actually not giving enough in the marriage.
Human beings have a real need to be needed. This doesn't mean that you have to go out of your way to make yourself indispensable to your husband. That is another form of selfishness--it's still all about you. What you need to do is to go out of your way to make your husband's life easier to live. There's a big difference. The first way, becoming indispensable, means that you are rewarded by being needed. The second way, being helpful and easing his burdens, is a gift you are giving your husband. Remember that first post on the difference between male and female? I'm trying to teach you a little about the male way of loving.
We women make the mistake of feeling that love is only an emotion. We think it's supposed to be a perpetual state of bliss, a soft goeyness, or an overwhelming desire for another person. What is love really? Love is a series of decisions you make. Men understand that way better than we do. They decide to brush the snow off your car, check the fluid levels, fill up the gas tank, not because it's something you can't do, but to show you they care. What little gestures of love does your husband do for you? Does he put a glob of toothpaste on your brush before he brushes his teeth? Does he spoon sugar into your coffee when he's sugaring up his?
Use the male model of love for a month. Do little things for him that he would normally do for himself--not the things you'd like done for yourself, that's a veiled hint. While you do these little things in your head say, "I'm doing this to show myself how much I really love him." Don't worry if he never notices. Don't hang around waiting to see if he's discovered all the wonderful things you are now doing for him. This is a lesson you have to teach yourself.
3. Stay in Your Right Mind
This one is the hardest. We women are emotional creatures and we relate to the world and to others on a touchy-feely level. When we hurt, we hurt! When we love, we love! When we argue, look out!
We have an advantage over men in the emotional arena. Our female brains are wired with many more connections between the right and left hemispheres than male brains. That means your emotional left brain and your rational right brain are a little more intertwined than your husband's. A woman can generally out think and out speak a man on the emotional level. In other words, we can better express our feelings from the right side of our heads with the logic and language skills stored on our left side. While this gives us a decided advantage in rearing children, it can be a handicap: when our emotions run away with us, our mouths give a running commentary.
How many times have you had to apologize after the heat of the battle for the cruel words that spewed from your anger? How many times have you wished that you could take back the words that have hurt so deeply?
When you are in the heat of the moment, always remember that this moment will end and it will have an aftermath. Would you rather the aftermath be full of peace and resolutions or full of regrets and apologies?
Keep your head straight when you are in the thick of a disagreement. You don't have to agree on everything. You don't even have to come to any particular conclusions right at this moment. Some discussions are better tabled until after some thought has been applied.
The old adage of "Count to 10" before speaking is a good one. A better idea is to give Heaven a quick appeal before you open your mouth to speak. Ask for help expressing your needs in a way that he can hear. Ask that his ears and heart be open to you and ask that yours be open to him.
Maybe a change in perspective is needed, too. Before you start to voice your opinion in any given disagreement, ask him if you can sum up what he is trying to say to you. Try to restate what it is he is trying to say. Let him fine tune your perspective until you actually do understand and can make his case for him. Take the time to hear him and his side before you ask him to do the same for you.
You may find that if you are calmer, more logical, and more open to his perspective, he'll begin to return the favor. There's no guarantees, of course, human nature being what it is. But if you change your way of dealing with him, you will at least have more peace with your side of things.
Well, that's a very good question. Now that you are better prepared to stay prayerful and giving in your dealings with your husband, shouldn't everything be blissful?
Not on your life, but take heart.
We are not meant to be happy every given moment. We are not capable of sustained bliss. Marital happiness is more about having a person on the planet who is willing to bear you and bear with you the struggles of daily life. He is your one sure ticket to heaven--either by encouraging you in your daily growth to God or by causing you to call upon Heaven for the strength to put up with him.
Your marriage isn't about Happily Ever After anyway. It's about something more: how two selfish people can overcome themselves in order to make something beautiful. It's about reflecting the love God has for us by giving and loving another person. Neither you nor your spouse is the center of your marriage, and neither you nor your spouse is the Center and the Universe. God is. Just remembering that alone will take care of most of your problems.
One final point. I don't know about you, but I sure am grateful that I don't have to be married to me. I think my husband is much easier to get along with.
Part I here: