This is Day 8 of a 10 day No More Perfect Marriages series chronicling our journey from infidelity to restoration. You can click here and find all of the posts in this series.
One night shortly after Mark left, our daughter Anne called me and said she’d been googling “how to pray for someone who is having an affair.” She found very little, but one suggestion stood out. It said we often pray a hedge of protection around people, but in the case of infidelity, it suggested praying a hedge of thorns around the person. The basis of this prayer was to ask for conflict to happen in this “new” relationship so the blinders would come off.
I didn’t know anything about what Anne and Jill were praying. However, within weeks of me leaving, I started to experience conflict in the new relationship. I began to ever-so-slightly entertain the idea that maybe another relationship wasn’t really the answer and maybe I had some pretty unrealistic expectations of what real marriage looked like.
Even though I was deeply hurt, I’m grateful that God helped me see my husband through eyes of compassion. I knew he was confused. I knew he was searching. I knew he had lost his way. I knew that if he would focus and find his God, he would return to his family. That kept me praying fervently for him. Over 9 months, Mark went back and forth 7 times. I had friends and family and even my Christian counselor encouraging me that I may need to make a hard decision.
It was during that time of fighting for my marriage, that I made peace with the possibility of it not ending the way I hoped it would. Initially, I couldn’t imagine being alone. I couldn’t fathom my marriage not making it. I confessed to God that I had made my marriage an idol and I was laying it down and putting it in His hands. I walked away with a peace that I would be okay no matter the outcome. My circumstances had changed, but my God had not.
Since I returned home, one of the best things Jill and I have done is to dig into our personality styles to understand how God made us. But even more importantly has been for us to dig into EACH OTHER’S personality style to understand how God made this person we live with every day. Too many of our disagreements have started there.
Yesterday we talked about accepting one another as he or she is. We also talked about stepping into each other’s world. Today we’re exploring what to do with differing opinions. What do we do when we both have different perspectives?
My fade with differing opinions was Disagree -> Argue -> Control (Rage) -> Withdraw ->Deceive. (Do what I want behind the scenes). This certainly wasn’t healthy, but it’s a fade many of us start to ride out in marriage if we don’t do something to stop it. Too often my shame fueled my fade. I would argue and for many earlier years, rage, in order to control the situation. However, even raging would fuel my shame, so I’d eventually withdraw and over time I’d choose deception. I functioned one way on the outside and another on the inside. Jesus spoke it straight. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no!” (Matthew 5:37) I was not doing this much of the time.
My fade with differing opinions was different than Mark’s. Mine was Disagree -> Control -> Crush. Too often my pride would fuel my fade as I worked harder to win than to listen. I pushed and prodded to control and in doing so, would too often crush my husband’s spirit.
When winning is more important than listening, or when a spouse feels their way is the right way and their spouse’s way is the wrong way, it is crushing to their partner who doesn’t feel heard or valued.
The antidote to my disagreement fade is speaking up with courage. These days if we disagree (and we do plenty often!), I’m working to sort out what she’s saying from how she’s saying it. She can have the tiniest bit of authority in her voice and I used to get snagged by that. Today I’m recognizing that is Jill’s strength coming through and what she’s saying has value.
I’m also letting her know that I’ve heard her and value her perspective even if I don’t agree with it. That helps her to stop her fade before it starts. She doesn’t need to control because she’s been heard and validated.
The antidote to my disagreement fade is listening with humility. I’ve decided it’s more important to do what’s right than it is to be right. These days I’m reserving my thoughts for when they really matter. I’m letting Mark make decisions I used to want to weigh in on.
It may seem silly, but one of the biggest places I’m keeping my mouth shut is when he is driving. I’m all about efficiency and getting something done the quickest, most logical way. Mark doesn’t care. Both ways gets us from point A to point B. I’m learning to be okay with the scenic route!
Both of us are more often applying 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.”
When disagreement happens, you and your spouse probably fall into one of these fades or a fade of your own. The most important thing to do is to identify the slow fade of disagreement and turn it around with courage or humility.
What about you? When you have differing opinions from your spouse, what slow fade dynamic begins to happen? What can you do today to change how you will respond the next time you and your spouse disagree?