Reconciling Relationships

It won’t take as long as you fear, but it will take longer than you would like.  Trust the process.

Reconciling Relationships2Sometimes a separation in a marriage is a necessary step in order to ensure safety and to have each individual work on themselves.  I’ve seen couples put marriages back together again and others not be able to.  In fact, I know this path well as my husband and I were able to reconcile our marriage after a seven-month separation.  Too often, couples want to rush past the necessary steps and go to where they want to be or wish they were.  This simply backfires.  So, in this blog post I would like to outline the steps for those who want to put their relationship back together again.

It won’t take as long as you fear, but it will take longer than you would like.  Trust the process.

Safety First

One of the biggest reasons to separate is because in some way one or both of the partners are not safe.  They are either physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally unsafe.  They don’t know how to discuss things, be emotional, or live life without some kind of a blow up and more hurt happens.

If either substance or abuse are a part of the issues, these are personal issues and a separation is necessary for the abuser to deal with their personal issues.  You cannot do marriage counseling when there is addiction or abuse present. 

A separation needs to actually be separate; little to no contact.  Some of these things can happen simultaneously or overlap each other, but you should not jump ahead too far and try to resolve conflict before creating safety.

Staying on Your Own Side of the Street

The goal here is not to cast or claim ‘fault’.  Your goal is to name the areas you need to work on and change.  List out what is NOT OK in the marriage.  You need to be able to name it, before it can be addressed.

Next, you need to examine how you have hurt the marriage.  It’s so easy to see how your mate has offended you but this is a time to consider how you need to change.  Please note: your sins and offenses do not have to be equal.  In other words, your mate may have cheated on you, lied, done drugs, spent all the money, burnt the house down, but in this process, you might have responded by not holding them accountable to let them reap the consequences for their actions.  Or perhaps you responded to their sins with criticism and hostility.  You don’t get to justify your criticism and hostility because they sinned bigger.

It can actually be legitimate to come out the other side and believe that you have done nothing to offend the marriage and it might be true.  Certainly, if one person is thinking everything is good in the marriage and the other person is hiding and lying they really can’t address unknown issues.  One person really can have personal issues that affect the relationship and the spouse doesn’t know how to respond.  These are legitimate reasons believe the issues are one-sided.  But it’s still a good time to ask yourself the question.

Here’s one problem: If everything is the other person’s fault, then there isn’t anything you can do to change your situation.

Here’s the other problem: If everything has been your fault and you’ve tried to change every way you can think of and you still have problems, maybe you are not naming the problem correctly.  Get help.

Remember: you aren’t trying to cast or claim ‘fault’.  But if you can figure out what Me, Myself, and I need to do differently, then you can change your situation.  Maybe what you need to do is to set some good boundaries.

At some point, when each person is ready, they come together with a third-party present, to talk about what the issues are and what is their part is to change.

If this can be discussed and agreed on, then you can move forward.  If this cannot be agreed on, blame is cast, accusations hurled, there is no agreement on past issues, then the marriage isn’t ready to move forward.

Building Trust

Once the couple agrees what the problems have been and each person begins to take responsibility of their part, then trust can begin to be established.  To build trust there must be evidence.  Trust is not built through guilt or manipulation.  It is not forced.  It is built through seeing bank statements, phone records, drug tests, GPS, confirming attendance at meetings, or any number of other records.  This is openly communicated by the person who broke trust.  If one person never had a spending problem, they will not need to show bank records.  The person who needs to establish trust needs to willingly offer evidence.  This is the fastest way to build trust (other than not violating trust again.)

Amends

Real Amends need to be made.  In most cases, both people will need to do this.  This is where the offender admits specifically for the ways they have offended.  Not every incident, but ways they have wounded a person.  Example: I have lied to you, manipulated, made you think things that were not true, broken agreements, etc.

An amend includes ways in which you hope to heal the hurt in the person you have hurt. Example:  I will respect your wishes for communication, I will prove my words with receipts, I will give you access to my accounts.

An apology needs to be free of if’s, but’s, and just’s.  These words dilute the apology.  Example: I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you made me mad.

After the above-mentioned things, you need to actually ask for forgiveness.  NOT: ‘I hope you can forgive me’, because that feels like a dump truck backing up and unloading a guilty-tripping pile of dung.  Using the words ‘will you please forgive me’ takes humility and it’s hard, and it frees us.

Acknowledge the hurt you have caused.  This is an important step because the person begins to feel heard and seen again.

Accept the consequences of your actions.  Accept the separation, the debt, the hurt feelings, going to jail, or whatever the consequences are of your actions.  This is one of the most healing things you can do for the person you have hurt.  It shows you understand the gravity of what you have done.  The Serenity Prayer is vital here.

If what is confessed is later used against you, you can know that this is still an unhealthy person you are dealing with and you cannot continue to move forward.

Building Boundaries

My definition of boundaries: A decision I am going to make given your actions.  It’s not a wall when you can’t take it anymore…it’s not stonewalling and avoiding…it’s an invitation into the land of healthy.  It’s saying, “If you yell at me, I will…leave the room, go to a hotel for the night, etc.  When you can speak with care and concern to resolve the issue, I will come back.”  It says, “I will engage with you when we can both be healthy.”

Boundaries are so important in any healthy relationship.  Each person needs to be able to have a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’.  What works for them and what doesn’t work, without receiving backlash of pouting, yelling, stonewalling, threats, or retribution of any kind.   Boundaries are the foundation to both love and respect.

Talking Kindly About Nothing

Both people need to be able to be present, with a third-party present, and be civil (and dare I say kind) to one another and not just in your words.  Death stares, clinched fists, slamming doors, avoidance, one-word utterances won’t work.    You need to be able to talk about the weather, the kid’s school program, or a change in schedule like you would someone that you like.

Resolving Conflict About Important Things

Again, with a third-party present and once talking about nothing can be civil, you need to start to talk about important things like problems and icky feelings with civility and kindness.  There can be no name calling, blaming, over-talking, demanding, lying, pouting, screaming, justifying, etc.  You can’t be hurling issues that have been resolved, bringing issues up that have no bearing on the current issue, or making things up in your head.  You talk about facts and feelings as though you care for one another.  Hard things are brought up with tenderness and compassion.

Resolving Conflict Without A Third-Party Present

Once this skill is established, you can begin to have these conversations on your own.  This should be done at a time and place where either party can leave if things don’t go well.  The conversation then goes back with a third-party present to help resolve the issue.  After several successes of having healthy conflict, it’s time to begin considering ending the separation.

Building Intimacy and Moving Forward

Intimacy is far more than sex.  It is sharing dreams, frustrations, successes, hurts, and hopes.  Often times, the couple has never known a time in their marriage (or in their lives) when they experienced real intimacy.  They first have to learn to become intimate with themselves and with God first to even know what their dreams or hurts are.  Only then can they begin to share them with another safe person.  To be a safe person, we must learn to listen and hold space for another person who is feeling their emotions, without correction, despise, or anger.

 

Diane Langberg writes, “I learned the paradoxical lesson that sometimes the way to fight against sin and suffering is to wait. We destroy the dignity of others when we refuse to wait for them –whether they need to tie their own shoes or they are struggling to find words for the indescribable. We bestow honor on another when we consider him or her worth waiting for.”

 

Love In Any Language

I think as a culture we are measuring our attempts at loving against these 5 Love Languages, instead of against Scripture.

Love In Any LanguageThere is much written on the 5 Love Languages.  I’ve read the book, articles about the book, heard sermons, and it comes up in daily conversations.  The original book written by Gary Chapman was published in 1992 and has sold millions of copies.  The premise is that we all give and receive love differently and that we should aim to love those closest to us in the love language they can receive best.  While there are certainly some good takeaways from this book, I think as a culture we are measuring our attempts at loving against these 5 Love Languages, instead of against Scripture.

First Corinthians 13 is the ‘love chapter’ in Scripture.  So if we are going to measure ourselves it would be a good idea to start there.

 1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

This sounds really important!  I can live my entire life faithfully, flawlessly, sacrificially, and with great talent, but if I don’t have love it means nothing.  So. Much. Wow!  Let that sink in.  That means I could love my spouse with Acts of Service, Gifts, Time, Physical Touch, or Words of Affirmation and if I don’t have LOVE then it’s all for nothing.   If that’s the case, then I want to seek after what it means to actually love…like it’s gold.

 Love is patience

Patience can only be developed in the laboratory of frustration.  This is why we need frustrations in our lives.  When I was a young mother I was a very impatient mother.  I thought I had a great deal of love for my children.  I certainly had a great deal of affection for them.  But I had little patience.  I still remember the day when I read this verse and realized that in all of the moments I was impatient with them I was not loving them.  Over the years I began to see that as I was showing patience I was honoring them.  Patience is the way of love.

love is kind 

Kindness is a desire to do good for another.  The dictionary says kindness is, “a good or benevolent nature or disposition.  Having, showing or proceeding from benevolence.  Indulgent considerate or helpful.”  I think it would also include “without an agenda.”  Love is kind without knowing the return on investment.  Kindness is so powerful that it is love even in the face of opposition.

and is not jealous;

Jealousy is characterized by resentment over another person’s success.  Do I want the success of someone who has taunted me?  Do I want good to the one who has hurt me?  I will sometimes struggle here.  But then I remember that sometimes ‘success’ and ‘goodness’ come in the form of hard knocks, when they come to teach life lessons.  I’ve had a few of my own hard knocks and they have been good to me.  I remember we all have our own stories and someone else’s success is not a part of my good story.

love does not brag and is not arrogant,

There is a difference between bragging and sharing your blessing.  Bragging is taking the credit and one-upping others. It’s about your own greatness.  But walking in humility is about understanding your blessings and giving credit to the One who has given all good gifts.

does not act unbecomingly;

Unbecoming isn’t a word we use much anymore.  It means inappropriate, ill-suited, inapt, incorrect, unacceptable.  Love acts in a way that is considerate of others.

it does not seek its own,

Love does not manipulate others for its own desires.  When I make requests of others, it needs to be clear of all expectation.  They need to be free to say yes or no, without repercussions.  I still believe that I can seek my own desires.  It’s more that I can’t put that on someone else with coercive tactics.

is not provoked, 

Love acts, it does not react.  It does not make a decision based on fear, anger, or grief.  It determines the way of goodness and moves toward it.

does not take into account a wrong suffered

Wounds are deep and painful.  I want to protect my wound so it heals and so that I don’t get hurt again.   But Love steps into truth and moves toward what is right.  Sometimes that means to forgive and forget.  Other times that means we say ‘no more’ for the sake of everyone involved.

does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

Lies are death.  Truth honors.  Truth honors my pain, my experience, and my humanity.  It sets me free to be exactly who I was created to be; imperfectly perfect.

bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

All things.  After going through this list of what love is and what it is not, it now states Love does ‘all things.’   Love bears in patience and kindness.  It believes in patience and kindness.  It hopes in patience and kindness.  And it endures in patience and kindness.  Do I?

Love never fails;

Never is a very deep promise.  It’s a promise I can stand on.  Remembering that Love doesn’t always change my situation and it doesn’t always change another person.  But when I have loved well, it will never fail to change me.

 

Help! My Spouse is Addicted

How do I respond to my spouses first love that’s killing them and us? 

Help! My Spouse Is AddictedAddiction is a killer.  It’s a killer of relationship, dreams, and self.  When your spouse is addicted to something, it doesn’t really matter what it is, it feels like you are losing a competition.  They love something more than you.  The question becomes: How do I respond to my spouses first love that’s killing them and us?

It’s not about you:

First, realize it’s not about you.  ALL addiction starts with wanting to run away from unwanted thoughts, feelings, and memories.  There is something deeply troubling in them that they are running from.  It is possible that they can have deep feelings of affection toward you AND not want to face their pain.  (I chose to not use the word ‘love’ here, because love sacrifices regardless of feelings and it is true that they are not loving  you.)

No Shame

Secondly, shame is the number one emotion that will send a person back into an addiction.  Sometimes, we try to use shame as a means of motivating them to change.  We think, ‘if they just understood how their behavior is hurting me, they would stop.’  But communicating in a shameful way will just send them back into their addiction.

Call Them Higher

Trying to understand what they are running from will help you to heal the wound.  For instance, many people are afraid of not being enough in some capacity.  When you tell them ‘you’re a lousy spouse and only care about yourself,’ they want to run back to a place to feel numb, so they don’t feel their feelings of not being enough.  When you tell them, ‘I see you are struggling, and I believe you can face this hard thing and conquer it,’ they are motivated to rise to the expectation.  It doesn’t always work, but it’s your best shot.

Non-Negotiable

It’s alright to let them know that dealing with the addiction is a non-negotiable.  It may mean 100% abstinence (for things like a substance abuse) or it may mean bringing in accountability to control excess (for things like finances or excessive habits).  Some things really can be non-negotiable or the relationship needs to end.

No Secrecy – Bring in Accountability

Addiction loves secrecy because secrecy is the best environment for addiction to thrive.  You can let your spouse know that for each relapse you will be seeking help from your support community.  When relapse does occur, you then let the next tier know, which can include family, friends, pastors, counselors, or community members.  This is for the purpose of finding help NOT shaming!!!  You’re bringing in people that will offer support not criticism.  The circle of people remains as small as possible and you let your spouse determine how big that circle gets by their sobriety.

Healing the Wound

The ultimate goal is to help heal the wound that is driving the addiction.  When relapse does occur, we begin to explore the question of: What was the emotion going on before relapse?  Rejection? Fear? Loneliness?  THIS is what needs to be healed.  Healing this is what will bring long-term sobriety and make it possible for your relationship to heal.

If your spouse is not willing to face their struggle and their emotions, you may need to make stronger boundaries in hopes they will pursue the healing they need.   Realize there really are some addictions that are so toxic that separation or divorce are really the necessary options.

The most difficult part of this journey is learning how to step out of being offended, when it truly is offensive.  You will need strong and healthy boundaries in place and find a supportive community that will work both as a means of protection for yourself and as a way of calling your spouse higher.

May God give you the strength and wisdom to walk this hard road.

 

Holding Boundaries

But the hardest part is not in the setting of boundaries, it is in the holding of boundaries. 

Holding Boundaries (1)There is much written on the need to set boundaries with harmful people.  There is indeed a learning curve in learning to set boundaries.  We need to understand that a good boundary is not a rule I place on someone else, but it is a decision I’m going to make given someone else’s negative actions.  We need to understand how to make them without becoming the controller.  We also need to understand what is appropriate and what is not.  But the hardest part is not in the setting of boundaries, it is in the holding of boundaries.

There are two kinds of boundary-breakers; the first is the person who just wants what they want and will fight to get it, and the second is the person who will cross a boundary just because it’s there.  Both kinds of boundary-breakers create unhealthy, destructive relationships.

When we finally get strong enough to set a boundary, we believe that if someone really loved us they would adhere to our boundaries.  The truth is, true love does respect another person’s boundaries.  A boundary-breaker is generally not loving but is self-seeking.

Holding a boundary starts by not getting offended at not being loved.  Now, don’t get me wrong…someone who is not respecting your boundaries IS being offensive.  But reacting out of a place of offense isn’t going to help you.  We need to step into a place of love for the offender and hold our boundaries in kindness, because that is what is good for them and for you.  And yes…you can love a person by saying no their desire.  This may be the hardest thing you ever have to do in life.

Now here is where the rubber meets the road: the boundary-breaker isn’t going to like it.  It’s not going to produce warm fuzzy feelings in them for you.  In fact, they may tell you that you are being selfish, controlling, or manipulative.  They may use anger, stonewalling, guilt, or manipulation to get you to change your mind. They may change direction and reject or blame you.  But, the most important thing to do right here (as long as you are physically safe), is to hold the boundary; don’t apologize, don’t explain, don’t get angry, don’t recant…and have a confidence you are doing the right thing. If you are not physically safe to be able to hold a boundary, it’s time to make a safety plan.

Even if you can only project a confidence, while shaking in your boots, that will be good enough.  You see, when you hold a boundary in anger, they will then turn the accusation to you and say, ‘well, she’s just mad and will get over it’ or ‘he’s got such a problem with anger’, and they don’t look at themselves.

Holding a boundary in love is a powerful force.  It leaves the responsibility of reconciliation with the offender (to respect your boundary), while leaving the one offended in a loving and healthy place.  When we set a boundary with a boundary-breaker, we must realize that at some point they will make us hold the boundary.  So, we need to be ready and do it well.

Am I The One In Control?

Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement.  A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him.

Am I The One In Control_I received this honest question in a text from a wife in a destructive/abusive marriage.  It’s far too broad and wide to answer in a text so I am writing some thoughts here:

“How is it that my husband is supposedly the blamer/abuser, when I have been the one for years believing he is someone he is not and pressuring him to be that man?”

First, you may or may not have responded to your husbands blame and abuse perfectly.  I don’t know of a single person who has always responded to someone else’s destructive behaviors perfectly…except Jesus.  

But, I would ask you a few questions:

Has he led you to believe he is someone he is not?  Has he said one thing and then done another? Has he said he would protect and care for you, but then been the most destructive person in your life?  OR has he said to you, ‘I am a lazy man and I don’t want to engage as a husband and a father’ and you are ‘pressuring’ him to be someone he doesn’t want to be?  

Secondly, who does the behavior serve?   Does your ‘pressuring him’ take away his voice and his choice?  Or are you pressuring him to keep his word to you? Are your expectations higher than what he is capable of?   Is your ‘control’ because you want the power over him or is it that you don’t want to live under his control?

I think we can have certain ‘common courtesy’ expectations, such as: calling when they will be late, keeping their agreements, taking everyone’s needs/desires into consideration when making decisions, personal hygiene, listening and working on issues and not stonewalling, and please and thank you.  These are things that are ‘common’ in our culture.  To require common courtesy is not being controlling.  They may have to be learned, but they are not too high of an expectation.  

Voice/Choice

We ALL have done destructive behaviors.  Every. One. Of. Us. Humans can be manipulative, selfish, and controlling.  We want what we want when we want it.

Abuse = power and control in taking away someone’s choice and voice.  Abuse is damaging to the human soul, psyche, mind, and body. We can even be abusive/destructive to ourselves and may need to learn healthy choices.  

The follow up question she had was telling:

“I don’t understand his inability to do the simplest things.  Like why should his hygiene even be something I have to bring up?  I am fed up with him not even showering or shaving. When I finally get fed up and ask him to shower, he just ignores me.  I feel like the only option I have left is to make him a spot in the basement to sleep. It feels like I am the controller.”  

My response:

Whenever you get ‘fed up’ look for a boundary to implement.  A boundary is ‘the decision I’m going to make for ME.’ Then you are controlling you and not him.  Give him options. Use ‘I’ and ‘me’ statements. Rather than “you smell and need to take a shower”, say, “I don’t appreciate it when I smell you all night long.  I understand that sometimes you don’t feel like taking a shower. When that’s the case would you please sleep downstairs?” He can always say no, and then you need to make a decision…you sleep downstairs with a space heater, go to a motel, buy a cot and sleep in one of the kid’s rooms, etc.  

Remember, boundaries must be implemented kindly or they come across as you are the one with the problem.  When you hold a boundary in outrage, they will discount your boundary because they think you are just acting impulsively instead of acting decisively.  It can take a long time to learn to hold boundaries firm, confident, and kind, but when you are able to, it makes them far more effective. And yes…you can have boundaries!  They rock!  If when you hold boundaries it is met with further abuse, it is time to consider getting support and creating a safety plan.

Your original question is worthy to think through.  It is possible to attempt to pressure someone to be what we want them to be rather than who they want to be.  There may be desired expectations that need to be let go. But if your expectations have been communicated and agreed to or if your expectations are ‘common courtesy’, then finding your voice and implementing boundaries is not being a controlling person. It’s living in a normal relationship.  

 

How To Change Your Spouse

We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

How To Change Your SpouseOK…In all honesty, the title is misleading.  The truth is, you can’t make your spouse change.  But I didn’t think you’d open this post if you saw the title as “Changing Your Spouse Is Hopeless.”  That’s not what you want to hear.  But wait…don’t close this post just yet…it get’s better I promise.

A place where relationships often get messy is in the concept of responsibility.  We need to understand the difference between “responsibility FOR” and “responsibility TO”.  There is a BIG difference between these two ideas.

I know of no place in Scripture that it declares that I am responsible FOR any other person.  Even Adam and Eve each were held responsible for their own choices.  It does say in scripture several times “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”, but that’s not saying that the children are responsible for the father’s sins, merely that there is an affect on the children.  Overwhelmingly, Scripture is clear to “one another” each other with love, truth, service, peace, not judging, acceptance, burden bearing, etc.  But the instruction is to ME, not for me to make sure you do it.  As the saying goes, the only person I can change is me.

To focus on changing me requires having healthy boundaries, which is not creating walls or punishments for someone else.  It’s also not putting a rule on your spouse that doesn’t “allow” them to do something.  A healthy boundary is a decision I’m going to make for myself when someone sins against me.

I am only responsible for my thoughts, my opinions, my actions, and my emotions.  But in marriage we sometimes feel responsible for our spouse.  Where our responsibility lies is TO others in caring for and/or providing for them.

In Her Journey, a class helping women in domestic abuse situations, we learn a mantra of “I am responsible for me and you are responsible for you.”  It really is that simple, but oh so hard to live out.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s emotions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to be considerate.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s actions.
I am responsible TO my spouse to act uprightly.

I am not responsible FOR my spouse’s habits that cause damage.
I am responsible TO my spouse to set healthy boundaries for myself.

I am not responsible FOR someone else breaking promises.
I am responsible TO myself to set healthy boundaries.

I am not responsible FOR my teenager’s demand for the latest thing.
I am responsible TO my teenager to provide necessities.

I am not responsible FOR my 2-year old’s temper tantrum.
I am responsible TO my 2-year old to not provoke him to anger through
 coercion and threatening, but help them with his emotions through 
discipline and instruction.

I am not responsible FOR my friend believing lies.
I am responsible TO my friend to speak the truth.

A husband is not responsible FOR his wife
A wife is not responsible FOR her husband. 
They are each responsible FOR themselves TO one another.

God will not hold us responsible for our spouse’s behavior, but he will hold us responsible for ours (Gal. 6).  And I don’t think it’s going to go too well for you if you point the finger and say, “but she’s (he’s) the one YOU gave me.”

Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no.  Stay on your own side of the street.  Be responsible for you.  And THAT changes everything.

The Purpose of Authority

Whatever it looks like, we know it does not look like the Gentiles that ‘lord it over’ others, but serves (Matthew 20:25).

The Purpose of AuthorityI think ‘authority’ has gotten a bad rap.   The Bible speaks to both the purpose of authority and the abuse of authority.  We tend to want to throw out the whole thing when authority has been abused.  But that will only lead to anarchy.

The Gospel affirms that God’s plan for humans is not to keep them under His control, but to give them authority to write their own stories within God’s story.  We also see that all authority has its purpose and its limits.  Even God limited himself when he gave man choice in the garden.  Whatever it looks like, we know it does not look like the Gentiles that ‘lord it over’ others, but serves (Matthew 20:25).

So, I did a little word search on the term ‘authority’ in the New Testament and tried to categorize the essence of the purpose of authority.  Now I am aware that we can not have a full understanding of a topic simply by doing a word search, but rather we need to look deeper into the context and such.  Still, I found this interesting…I think I’ll just leave this here for you.

Authority of Jesus

To Teach: Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22,27, Luke 4:32, 1 Thess. 4:2, Titus 2:15

To Heal: Matthew 8:9, 10:1, Luke 7:8, Luke 9:1,

To forgive sins: Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24

Over demons: Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:15, Mark 6:7, Luke 4:36, Luke 9:1, 10:19

To serve: Matthew 20:24-28, Mark 10:43, Luke 22:26

To Be raised in 3 days: John 2:18, John 10:18

To give life: Luke 5:21, John 17:2, 1 Cor. 15:22,

To Judge (him alone): John 5:22, 27

To lay down his life: John 10:18

To show the Father to the world: John 14:5-14

Over all dominion, authority & power: 1 Cor. 15:24, Col. 2:10, Jude 1:25

Jesus has over the church: Eph. 1:21-22

Authority of the Father:

To set times and dates: Acts 1:7

To throw you into hell after death: Luke 12:5

Authority of husband/wife:

Mutual Authority 1 Cor. 7:4

Wife is not over a husband 1 Tim. 2:12

Authority as Christians:

To make disciples: Matt 28:17-19

To build up: 2 Cor. 10:8, 2 Cor. 13:10

Authority of Elders:

To speak and exhort and reprove these things* with all [i]authority. Titus 2:15

*instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age

To preach the gospel not in domination but appeal like a child: 1 Thess: 2:1-7

Keep watch over flock so as to give an account: Heb. 13.17

To command sanctification and love: 1 Thess. 4:2

Authority of humans:

To earn money from work: 1 Cor. 9:1-11

Authority of the Devil:

World’s Kingdom of Authority & Splendor: Luke 4:6

Authority of the Government:

To tax: Luke 20:26, Rom 13:6

God’s servant for good: Rom 13:4

To arrest: Acts 9:14

To govern: Rom. 13:1

To provide a quiet & tranquil life for citizens: 1 Tim. 2:1-3

To bring punishment on a wrong doer: Rom. 13: 4, 1 Peter 2:14

Authority of the Chief Priests:

To arrest & persecute: Acts 26:10,12 (this was reprimanded by Jesus)

Authority of the Angels:

Have positions of authority: Jude 1:6

Dear Husband

No really, let’s talk for just a minute about a husband’s role.

Dear Husband
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

Today’s blog post is short and sweet.  Mostly because this is not all that complicated.  Also because I sit with countless women in abusive marriages who have been taught from one or two verses of Scripture what marriages are supposed to look like.  If they do bring up other Scriptures, they have been told they only need to worry about their role in marriage. No really, let’s talk for just a minute about a husband’s role.

Dear Husband,

Are your prayers being answered?   Consider 1 Peter 3:7

“You husbands, likewise (as in 1 Peter 2:23 as Jesus was being reviled he did not revile in return and while suffering he uttered no threats; it’s not just a woman’s role to suffer her husband’s self-centeredness), live with your wives in an understanding way (considerate, kind, attentive), as with a weaker vessel (guess what? You are stronger, you are more domineering, you are meaner…so be nice!), since she is a woman; and grant her honor (respect, dignity, regard) as a fellow heir (equal, partner, co-inheritor) of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered (well that’s serious).” (italics mine.)

Finding The One

What to look for in the dating world.

Finding 'The One'
Photo Credit: Hilary Storm

The romance movies have it all wrong.  They tell us we find our soul mates by looking across the room, catching their eye, we make it into the bedroom after some initial flirting and live happily ever after.  This sets up singles to be seeking for a partner based on physical attraction alone. Now, there’s nothing wrong with physical attraction, and I will say it is one important element of a romantic relationship, but it certainly isn’t the totality of it.  There are 23 ½ hours left to a day after romance, so it might be important to like the person you’re with. I’d like to suggest that there are at least 11 practical wisdoms to be looking for in a prospective spouse. Please know, nobody will have these down perfectly.  But are they willing to admit where they are weak and are they actually working on growing strong?

Will they fit in with your community of people?

From Romeo and Juliet to The Princess Bride, media tell us that it’s you and your true love against the world.  It sets you up to think that you must follow your emotions and run into an isolated relationship. The problem with this is your emotions then run the show.

While it may seem old fashioned (or even impractical) to have a prospective suitor ask a girl’s father for a date, the wisdom of this tradition is important; community protects.  Parents are often privy to understanding young hearts and motives. But other family members and friends know you best and love you too. They want good for you. And they can see things in a prospective heart-throb that you can’t see. And if you are the prospective suitor, community can call out motives that you might not even realize are present.

Before you hurl headlong and give your heart away, ask them.  Do they think this person is good for you? What do they think of the character of the one you are attracted to?  What are they known for? And then listen! You don’t need to take any one person’s advice, but if you have several people who love you are telling you there may be red flags, then listen!  And if the prospective heart-throb is telling you that your community of people ‘has something against them so come away with me to prove your love for me’, that is a red flag on fire! Run like hell!

How do they resolve conflict?

Does this person know how to deal with conflict?  This is something that you can see if you are in the same social/work settings before you ever go on a date.  Do they destroy relationships? Do they appease others rather than speak the truth? Do they dominate in social settings?  Do they have long-term friendships? Can they see their part in a conflict, or is it everyone else’s fault?

This is an important trait that has life-long implications.  Even if you have never had a conflict with this person, there will come a day that you will and you will want them to be able to fight fair.

Are they balanced in seeing their weaknesses and sins?

If a person cannot admit they are weak or wrong, this is a huge red flag?  This will mean everything will be your fault one day. Look for where they consistently place blame.  At the same time, they shouldn’t be taking all the blame and thinking of themselves like a worm. Finding a spouse that can be both confident and admit weaknesses and sins is an important element of a healthy person.

How do they treat others?

How they treat others is how they will one day treat you.  How do they treat family members? Waitresses? Subordinates?  Bosses? Civil Authorities? A common thinking pattern that will often hook you is this: ‘they treat others badly, but they treat me great, therefore their love for me is true.’  Be very careful with this type of thinking!!! How they treat those they think are ‘less than’ them, will one day be the way they treat you.

How do they deal with failure?

Do they run from failure? Do they get angry, destructive, or try to control?   Or do they learn from it and dust themselves off to go again? Failure is a given in life; they will fail you, you will fail them, you will fail together, and each of you will fail alone.  And, if you don’t ever try because of fear of failure, you fail. Knowing how a person fails will determine the trajectory of your relationship.

Do they know who they are?

Do they know who they are; their gifts, talent, values, and purpose.  Or are they looking to you to define them? In any healthy relationship, both people should bring the fullness of who they are into the relationship.  What is important to them? Do they have goals?  Do their goals complement your goals?  If one person wants to travel, while the other wants to set down roots, it will be a point of contention throughout the relationship.

Do they support your dreams? Do they share or at least respect your values?

How do they complain?

What do they complain about?  Is the glass half full? What is behind their complaints?  Do their complaints produce change or is it a never-ending drip?  This is a disposition they will carry with them until they decide to change it.  It is a very heavy burden to hear complaints about everything all the time that you can’t do anything about, especially when the complaints turn on you!

What is their attitude toward work?

Work is a given whether a person works as a CEO or a housewife.  Do they resent work? Do they bury themselves in work? Do they find their identity in their work?  Do they avoid it? Create it? God gave us work before the fall, so to resent it is a problem. It’s equally a problem if it becomes their entire life.  Balance here is important.

How do they spend money?

Are they a tightwad or a spendthrift?  Do they spend money on things or adventures?  Do they hoard or throw money away? Are they responsible with finances or do they abdicate responsibility?  No two people on the face of the earth will spend money in the same way so having a respect for how someone spends money will be important.

What do they value?

Values are important in life because they dictate how you spend your time, money, and energy.  It’s good to share at least a few values with your spouse or at least have respect for their values.  For instance, if your spouse values organization but you don’t it could be a source of conflict.

There are many values exercises online; here are a couple.

https://www.cmu.edu/career/documents/my-career-path-activities/values-exercise.pdf

https://peak-ict.wikispaces.com/file/view/Defining+your+core+values+-+personal.pdf

   

Are they honest?

Do they lie to others?  If so, one day they will lie to you!  #enoughsaid

Develop these characteristics too!

This might seem like a long list that no one can get past.  But that’s not true. If you are important to them, they can at least be developing these traits.  And it will be important that you also develop these characteristics yourself. As you begin to establish a community of support who will help you see red flags, ask them how you are doing in these areas and grow into a person that you would want to date.  If you expect these characteristics (or any others) then it’s important to live them out yourself.

Most of these things can be observed or inquired about even before a first date, if you are in community.  Remember, being attracted to someone IS important…but it’s not the only important thing. As you develop yourself as a person of character, you can also expect to find a person of character.

Love and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Both love and respect must go much deeper than an emotion, particularly in a hard marriage.  

Love and R.E.S.P.E.C.T.Love and respect have become somewhat of buzzwords in the world of marriage counseling.  Marriage counselors can attempt to find the root of every problem with a lack in these areas.   It’s true that learning to love and respect one another is a part of the learning curve, especially in the early years of marriage.  But, there is a certain pressure in counseling to love your wife even when she isn’t being loveable or to respect your husband when he isn’t being respectable. What the pressure is, is no matter what they do be happy with them.  The theory goes that your actions will cover over your spouse’s ‘weaknesses’ and make things all better.  I think the real question becomes is, what does love and respect mean?  In this post, I will be addressing what does love or respect look like when it meets regularly with inconsistency, rebellion, laziness, anger, lies, broken promises, demands, and/or selfishness?

First, a common misconception is that only men need respect and only women need love.  But the truth is that both men and women need both love and respect. When Paul writes in Ephesians regarding women to respect their husbands or husbands to love their wives, he is not writing exclusively or in ultimatums.  

These buzzwords have the implication of warm approval for a person.  They focus on ‘You must feel a certain way.’  But if love and respect are just emotions there would be no marriage that could endure the test of time.  Both love and respect must go much deeper than an emotion, particularly in a hard marriage.   

So, let’s begin with some definitions.  Love does not mean: You must be attracted or have warm fuzzy feelings regardless of their actions.  And it certainly doesn’t cover over harm that is repetitive.  While love does cover over a multitude of sins, it doesn’t allow sin to continue.

Respect does not mean: Don’t think, don’t discern, don’t question, don’t have your own opinion, and don’t notice problems.  It doesn’t mean you have to drop everything and jump every time you’re called like an obedient dog.  Respect isn’t about seeing everything they do through rose colored glasses. It’s really about the giving of dignity to being human.    

The deeper meaning of love means, ‘to do what is in the best interest of another’. Sometimes that means to expose the deeds of another (Eph. 5:11) for the sake of seeking help.  In a hard marriage, that could look like cutting up credit cards, cancelling subscriptions, not riding in a car with them, or sending someone to jail.  The key here is that these actions must be done for the welfare of the other.

The deeper meaning of respect is to believe in the capabilities of another. It is about esteeming another person’s voice and letting them have their opinions, even if they disagree with you. Respecting is giving them space to be different or wrong without condemnation.  It’s about letting them bear their own consequences without “reminding” them because they are either mature enough to get it done or mature enough to handle the consequence.  It’s not telling them what to do or how to fix their problems.  Ultimately, you esteem the person enough to let them make their own choices and reap the consequences.  

The tricky part with this (and the part that makes these actions effective in hard marriages), is to love and respect in a respectful way and that means it’s not coming from a place of offense.  Now, this is tricky because it’s extremely hard to do when you have been offended.  It’s hard to cut up credit cards or send someone to jail not coming from a place of offense.  I’m not saying to not be offended because their actions are offensive.  I’m saying don’t act from that place of offense.  Act because to allow the consequences of their actions to be what is best for them.  

It is true that you may not “feel” loved when your spouse doesn’t give you everything you want or if you are not rescued from the consequences of your own choices.   Or you may not “feel” respected when your spouse questions a decision you have made or doesn’t like a habit you’ve developed.  We need to test our “feelings” against what is true love or respect.

Mutual love and respect are indeed the foundations of a healthy relationship. They are also possible to offer to your spouse when they may not be deserving of them.  Love and respect is not about removing consequences by pretending nothing happened.  That would be taking the dignity away from the relationship and living in lies.  Love and respect is about living in reality and offering dignity in truth.  Warm feelings of affection for one another are a by-product of love and respect, not the source of it.