Day 5: The Marriage Fade that Starts w/ Minimizing

NoMorePerfectMarriage blackThis is Day 5 of a 10 day series. You can find the other days here.

Jill says:
I sat across from my emotionally closed off husband in the marriage counselors office. He indicated that he knew the affair was wrong, but he did not want to stop it.

Mark says:
I had shut off my heart towards Jill months ago and I had no desire to open it back up. I wasn’t even sure that it could ever open up to her again.  My flesh was strong and my heart was hard.

Jill says:
I’ve never cried so much or felt so out of control at any other time in my life. I’d never seen my husband so closed off to me, to others, and to being obedient to God.

Mark says: 
The word “minimize” means to “treat something as less important than it really is.”  I did this for many years in our marriage. Something would happen and I’d just “let it slide.”  The only problem is that it wasn’t sliding. It was pooling. It was accumulating in my head and my heart, fading from minimizing to harboring and eventually to bitterness.

Jill says:
I had no idea the cesspool of emotions Mark had going on inside of him. Occasionally he would express frustration at something, and that’s where my minimizing came into play. I would minimize his frustration. I didn’t dig deeper, I didn’t ask questions, I just gave him a logical response that made sense to me—the thinker—but didn’t tend to his emotions –the feeler.

Mark says: 
There is a healthy side to letting things go. When we decide to allow another person to be different than us, we give them the “space” to be themselves. When we decide to not address every little thing our spouse does wrong, we give them “grace” to be imperfect.  Every relationship needs space and grace–some of that give and take–or we’d be dealing with conflict all of the time.

What happens with minimizing is that something that needs to be addressed or discussed or brought to the table, is instead buried. We tell ourselves things like, “It doesn’t matter.” “It will never change.” “It’s not worth the conflict.”  When we do this we miss the opportunity for us to figure it out together, strengthen our relationship, and deepen our intimacy.

Jill says: 
Minimizing keeps real issues buried beneath the surface, unaddressed, untended, simmering in the darkness of our heart.  When we keep something in the dark, it becomes the enemy’s playground. In fact that’s how slow marriage fades happen. We begin with real feelings and real responses to everyday life. Instead of attending to those feelings in a healthy manner that would move us closer to one another, we too often choose to stuff the feelings, building up walls in our heart we don’t even realize are there.

Mark says: 
There is a spiritual battle going on for every marriage. The Bible tells us that Satan’s goal is to steal and destroy.  Your spouse is not your enemy, but Satan will do his best to convince you that he or she is.  The Bible calls Satan the “father of lies” because that’s how he does his convincing. He works in the dark places of our heart, whispering lies about ourselves and our spouse, taking ground and creating distance in our marriage without us even realizing it.

Jill says: 
The antidote for minimizing is courage. Courage to be honest. Courage to dig deeply. Courage to ask questions. Courage to hear real answers to those questions.

Mark says:
These days I’m bringing thoughts and feelings to the table before they take up residence in my heart. When I feel like Jill’s tone of voice is condescending or belittling, I’m addressing it in the moment.  When I don’t feel like she’s listening to me, I’m asking for her full attention. If I feel disrespected, I’m letting her know that I feel that way rather than harboring that in my heart and providing fertilizer for bitterness.

She’s making it safe for me to do that, too.  She’s dialed down defensiveness so that when I bring something to the table she’s receiving my feedback and apologizing when needed. We’re not doing it perfectly, but it’s a great improvement from our past history of minimizing.

Jill says:
These days I’m also working to keep a short leash on thoughts, emotions, and feelings. I’ve learned that when I bring them to the table they no longer have a hold on me.  When I feel unloved because of something Mark has said or done, I’m letting him know.  Often those things aren’t intentional, but they are still very real.

When Mark expresses frustration, I’m working to not minimize his perspective, but rather to acknowledge it and give it value. I’m asking more questions…seeking to understand rather than disagree.

Mark says: 
If you are characterized by minimizing your own frustrations and concerns, you need courage to speak up, preferably in times of non-conflict. Don’t expect your spouse to really hear you when things are emotional. After you’re past the crisis or the chaos of frustration, ask if you can sort through what happened and share your thoughts.

Jill says: 
If you are characterized by minimizing your spouse’s expressed concerns you need courage to dig deeper. Resist the urge to dismiss your spouse’s concern or explain them away. Tend to their feelings, show compassion, and ask questions to understand. You don’t have to agree to understand. There’s plenty of time to disagree or share your thoughts. For now, just let them know they’ve been heard and their concerns are important.

Mark says: 
If your spouse really has trouble hearing you or you feel they are minimizing your concerns, you may have to have the courage to ask for help.  We have found marriage counseling to be helpful in those times. If your spouse is unwilling to go, then go by yourself.  You’ll still benefit from having someone help you understand what you bring to the marriage table and it may actually open the door for your spouse to join you at some point.

Jill says: 
Pay attention to how much minimizing is going on in your marriage. As much as it depends upon you, take steps to stop that slow fade before any more ground is taken.

What about you? Are you minimizing your spouse’s concerns?  Are you minimizing your own concerns? Have you started a slow fade from minimizing into harboring hurt or even bitterness? Where do you need to have courage in your marriage?

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5 Responses to Day 5: The Marriage Fade that Starts w/ Minimizing

  1. Beth says:

    I’m so grateful to both of you for being vulnerable and humble enough to share about these painful choices you each made during the time leading up to the affair. God has given you both rich and experiential wisdom that could not have been learned or shared so powerfully except thru the fire. God bless your ministry richly, Jill and Mark!

  2. Rebekah says:

    Thank you both for sharing. I know even the very act of being vulnerable with our personal sins and speaking out for the God ordained way of fidelity will surely bring further threats of attack and discouragement from the evil one. I pray for an extra dose of protection, unity, and love in your marriage as you share your story. He who promises is faithful.

  3. Lisa V says:

    I definitely feel as if I minimize my emotions. In fact I recall in my family growing up, I did minimize my feelings to keep the peace. I actually was put into the role of peacemaker as the oldest of my two siblings. But putting that aside I could relate to minimizing into a cesspool of emotions. I feel that my husband minimizes my concerns. I did speak up today though. We lost power and I was asking questions on how we would handle once it got dark, and my husband was defensive and told me I was making it a “big deal”. I responded that I was not. That I was calmly and fairly asking questions in preparation. And that instead of accusing me that instead he should be assuring me if he perceives me as being too worried. He didn’t really have a response to that. That is something that will become something I am bitter about.

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