“Love doesn’t erase the past, but it makes the future different.”
“Love doesn’t erase the past, but it makes the future different.”
When I read the book Love and Respect, I was first introduced to the concept of “unconditional respect.” It wasn’t something I’d ever heard of before.
I always thought that respect needed to be earned. What I’ve come to understand is that trust needs to be earned, but respect is to be given…to anyone…because they are valuable.
In marriage this means:
Speaking respectfully to him even when we disagree.
Respecting his differences and seeing him as a different, but not wrong.
Respecting his perspectives and realizing he brings important thoughts and info to the table when we are making a decision.
In parenting this means:
Giving my kids a five minute warning when they need to clean up or get ready for dinner.
Recognizing their likes and dislikes may be different from mine.
Speaking respectfully to them even if I’m frustrated.
I have the power of respect inside of me because of the love God has given me and the love He wants to display through me. Oftentimes, I don’t “feel” like being respectful, but with God’s help I can be!
Today is our Third Thursday Blog Hop where other moms are sharing about respect this month. Hop around, find encouragement, and unleash YOUR power to respect! (If you receive my posts by email, you can find the Blog Hop links here!)
Last September, Mark and I started taking an exercise class together. It’s a first for us as we’ve always done any exercise routine we had independent of one another.
Last August, our youngest headed off to college and we suddenly realized that we had a newfound freedom to explore. We decided to sign up for a 10 week “Extreme Bodyshaping” class together.
Doing this class together has caused us to ask, “What else are we doing apart that we could be doing together?” It’s a good question for any couple to ask, no matter their season of life.
Last weekend, I had the privilege of hearing John Rosemond speak. He shared about the tragedy in our culture of our lives revolving around our children which is not only creating a self-centered generation but it is also destroying marriages. He said that he often surveys his audiences when he speaks about how much time they spend nurturing their kids and how much time they spend nurturing their marriage. Most often it is in the vicinity of 95% kids and 5% marriage. No wonder so many families are falling apart. We are child-centered when our children desperately need us to be marriage-centered. You see, when mom and dad’s relationship is strong, it gives a sense of security to the kids.
Of course, it’s important that we have our own hobbies, interests, and even friendships. It wouldn’t be healthy to do EVERYTHING together. However, there are things we do apart that we don’t need to be. Consider some of these things:
If your kids are little, it may be harder to run errands, exercise, or grocery shop together, but going to bed at the same time, cooking dinner, or reading together could be possibilities.
Marriage require investment. It needs intentionality. Evaluating what you are doing apart that you could be doing together is an important step in moving from me to we.
What about you? What are you doing apart that you could be doing together? What is one change you could make to move from me to we?
“Don’t ever let the place you start dictate where you finish.” ~Unknown
This is part 2 of my Fifty Shades of No post.
Over twenty years of ministry, Mark and I have mentored hundreds of married couples in crisis. Many of those couples were dealing with issues caused by pornography–and no, it wasn’t always the guys. Sometimes it was the women who were reading erotica or even just secular love stories filled with steamy love scenes. Many of these couples would say, “Marriage shouldn’t be this hard.” When we would dig deeply into why they expected marriage to not be so difficult, it often came down to the television shows they watched, the novels they read, or the movies they viewed that painted a different–and unrealistic–picture.
I’ve seen way too many marriages begin to fall apart because the couple was not careful and discerning about the messages they were believing from whatever form of media they were “digesting.” Some even admitted that it was constant exposure to work conversations or the moms they were hanging around with that were affecting their perspective, causing discontent, or eroding their sense of right and wrong. We tell our kids that they need to choose their friends wisely and that applies to us as parents, too!
No I won’t see the movie or read the book but I have seen plenty of movies and read plenty of books that have affected my thinking and skewed my perspective even just a slight bit. The problem with that is a slightly skewed perspective away from the way God wants me to live can easily become a slippery slope.
Let me share with you one such time and one such movie that has forever stuck with me. This was many years ago when Mark and I were experiencing a tough time in our marriage. It was a few years after he finished Bible college and a few years into his first ministry assignment. I was a stay-at-home mom of four little ones. Mark was busy with ministry and we were living under the same roof but there wasn’t a lot of emotional connection in our relationship. I wouldn’t say our marriage was in trouble, but my heart was definitely vulnerable.
One night Mark was at a church meeting. I put all the kids to bed and decided to pop in a movie I’d rented earlier in the week. It was the movie The Bridges Over Madison County.
The movie was about a mom named Francesca who was devoted to her family (played by Meryl Streep). Her husband was gruff and unkind and it was obvious she was living in a loveless marriage. The husband took the kids away for four days to the State Fair leaving mom to care for things at home.
A photographer, Robert (played by Clint Eastwood), stops by the farm to ask for directions as he’s looking for covered bridges to photograph. Francesca befriends the photographer and takes him to see the bridges he’s searching for. A four-day affair results between the two characters. While this didn’t happen on the screen, it was as if her life went from black and white to color. The way the movie presented the picture was as if the affair brought color to her life.
As I was sitting there watching the movie, I began to have thoughts like these:
Before I knew it, I was swept into what I saw on the screen and personalizing it for my life. I was resonating with the character’s loveless marriage and rationalizing why her actions were okay for her and ultimately would be okay for me.
Then I caught myself. Conviction entered my heart. Wow….I got sucked into that message so easily! I almost started to believe lies that could have destroyed…particularly if I would have acted on those lies, believing my happiness was all that needed to be considered.
What we think, what we read, what we see does affect our morals, our values, and our sense of right and wrong. I have personally experienced that…or I wouldn’t have taken the time to write about it.
The Bible isn’t relative to what we think or feel. It’s truth. Absolute truth. God gives it to us as an instruction book for life. Not to limit us, but to set us free and protect us from making choices that can hurt us or those who love us. He gives us guidelines for what to think and directions for how to live because he loves us and wants the best for us. Our feelings can lead us astray, because they change all the time. God’s truth guides us because it never changes.
Several have asked why this book and movie were singled out. If we’re concerned with them, shouldn’t we be concerned about other books we read and movies we watch. Yes! Absolutely yes! There are good reasons you don’t let your kids read or see certain things and there are good reasons why we, as parents, should be discerning about what we read or see.
As one who has helped put back together the pieces of too many broken lives and broken marriages–including my own– I can attest that being careful about the messages we expose ourselves is very important.
That’s not judgment. Nor is it criticism.
That’s first-hand experience.
You can still enter the giveaway we announced yesterday. I apologize that the link sent out yesterday didn’t work. Many of you found where to share your comment on the blog site in order to enter the giveaway, but if you didn’t and you’d like to enter, you can do so here. Because yesterday’s link didn’t work, we are extending the giveaway through midnight CST tonight (2/10/15)
Several years ago, when the Fifty Shades of Grey novel released, I wrote about it in a post I titled Fifty Shades of No. Because of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie releasing this weekend, today and tomorrow I will be sharing an updated repost of that message today and another one I called “Fifty Shades of Experience” tomorrow.
I also want you to know about an offer my friends Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh are giving this week over on their website www.TradeYourShades.com. It’s a book exchange for those who already own the Fifty Shades of Grey book. If you send in your book, they’ll send you their book Pulling Back The Shades…a book I’ve personally read and can heartily recommend.
Now here’s my updated thoughts on the dangers of books and movies like Fifty Shades of Grey.
There’s a push these days for healthy eating. We have more nutritional information than any previous generation and many of us are conscious of our carbs, sodium, and calorie consumption more than ever before. Countless concerned moms are limiting processed foods and trying to provide fresh, organic foods for their families.
There’s also a push for green home products. More and more we’re hearing about just how many chemicals can be found in everyday cleaning supplies. Scores of conscientious moms are making their own cleaning supplies using natural products like vinegar and baking soda.
After all, we want what’s best for our family and some of us will go the distance to protect them from the dangers of this world. Right?
We’re concerned about what we’re putting in our mouths. We’re concerned about what we’re absorbing through our skin. Why then are we not concerned about what we’re feeding our minds?
What I’m talking about are the droves of women who are grabbing girlfriends and planning to go see the movie Fifty Shades of Grey this weekend. I also just learned there will soon be a sequel to the movie “Magic Mike” which also released around the same time the Fifty Shades of Grey book several years ago.
Let me tell you right up front, I haven’t seen the movie “Magic Mike,” nor have I read Fifty Shades of Grey. I won’t be opening my heart up to either one. Why? Because I firmly believe they are junk food for the mind.
In the same way that potato chips do nothing to nourish my body, movies about male strippers and erotica novels do nothing to nourish my mind. Not only that, but Fifty Shades of Grey has been determined to be the most sexually explicit movie ever to receive an “R” rating. An “R” rating ensures a wider release than an “NC 17″ rating that would have likely limited its release.
There’s a reason God tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
He clearly wants us to consume only what is good for our mind.
I won’t be reading an erotica novel or seeing a sexually tantalizing movie for these reasons:
Don’t get me wrong. I like sex. A lot. I wouldn’t have written a book on the subject if I didn’t!
However, I’m intensely aware of how easily the human heart can be led in the wrong direction. A movie here. A novel there. Before you know it, your heart has been drawn away from the things most important in this world.
For me there’s fifty shades of “no” and there’s no magic in Mike…only Mark.
As this movie releases this weekend, will you join me in fifty shades of “no?”
Yesterday I had a text conversation with a friend. She has been frustrated with the lack of spiritual intimacy in their marriage. From her perspective, they have not been attending church or engaging in any spiritual pursuit together. She said that somehow her requests seem to be “making him feel inadequate, as if he can’t do it right.” I suggested that she take baby steps in her requests. Maybe rather than talking with him about ALL they’re not doing that she wants to do, she could start with a request like “I love it when we go to church together. Do you think we could start that again?”
Then she said “Well I guess he has stepped up a little. We have gone to church three weeks in a row. That’s a record for us.”
“So,” I responded, “Have you thanked him for that? Have you said, ‘Honey, thank you so much for making church a priority the last 3 weeks. That means the world to me!'”
Her response: “No, I guess I haven’t. Duh.”
Affirmation is powerful in marriage. It’s a tool we all have in our toolbox but it is used far too infrequently. We quickly focus on what IS NOT happening rather than celebrating, thanking, or affirming our spouse for what IS happening.
When my perspective became skewed and I headed down the road of infidelity, I could only see Jill’s faults and failures. I couldn’t see any good in our marriage, I only saw bad. The truth is we see only what we choose to see. When we start seeing only negative, we have to “take our thoughts captive” and move our focus to what is good and what can be affirmed.
This doesn’t mean we don’t address things that need to be addressed. It means that we take some intentional steps to move our focus from the bad to the good. This helps us balance our perspective and even take steps to speak words of life, words of appreciation, and words of affirmation to our spouse.
During our separation, there was one interaction that we had that was very powerful for me. I asked Jill how to handle a certain situation. Jill paused before responding to me with these powerful words, “Mark, you are a man after God’s own heart who has lost his way. I will not tell you how to handle this situation because I believe you already know what to do.”
Why was that so powerful? She affirmed me! She believed in me. In fact, she believed in me enough to trust that I would make a right decision without her input. That was powerful affirmation for me.
What about you? What is your spouse doing that you haven’t thanked him or her for? Where have you been focusing on the negative that you need to balance out with some positives? Where could some daily words of affirmation change the dynamic in your marriage?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Hearts at Home is offering a huge giveaway for all who have joined us for the No More Perfect Marriages blog series and Marriage Mondays! All you have to do to be entered into the drawing is to share a comment on this post with one takeaway from the No More Perfect Marriage blog series or the last two Marriage Mondays that has really caused you to think or has already made a difference in your marriage. You can also share a thought/question about something you would love to see us address in a future Marriage Monday or in the upcoming No More Perfect Marriages book. We will take comments until noon CST on Tuesday, Feb 10 and then draw 30 winners! Ten winners will get Family Life’s Simply Romantic Nights Resource Pack, ten will win a Dr. Kevin Leman marriage book, and ten will win Hearts at Home Marriage Love Notes to help you encourage your spouse’s heart! You can share your comment and enter the giveaway here!
“In every encounter we either give life or we drain it; there is no neutral exchange.” ~Brennan Manning
Two weeks ago, I shared a new workshop I’m preparing for the 2015 Hearts at Home conferences at a local moms group. That day the group’s leader, Sandi, shared a few thoughts of her own on the topic.
I loved what she had to say and asked her if I could share it with you. This is so in line with the No More Perfect Kids message and so applicable for anyone who is a parent!
“Embrace Your Mothering Personality” was the title of Jill’s presentation at our moms’ group. My first thought? Myers Briggs. I took this test twice during my 18-year career before becoming a stay-at-home mom. And I learned that I am an introvert, while both my boys seem to be extroverts.
This difference became apparent to me when my younger son Ryan was 3-years old. At that time, he was considered a special needs child who attended three therapy sessions a week at Easter Seals. Ryan had speech issues and couldn’t communicate effectively.
Although he couldn’t talk well, he could play well. Ryan was all boy (still is) and always wanted to be outside running, jumping, climbing, doing. That was the summer we made it our mission to go to every park in the Bloomington-Normal area. Little did I realize that there were over 40 parks.
One day we discovered a park we hadn’t been to before and I got so excited for Ryan. It was such an attractive park with fun playground equipment AND there was no one there. We had the entire park to ourselves!
I remembered when I was a youngster and how much I enjoyed a park with no other kids around. I didn’t have to share the monkey bars and there was no waiting for a swing. I could do whatever I wanted with no one in my way. Except, I couldn’t ride those wooden see-saws that gave your butt splinters. Anyway…
I expressed my enthusiasm to Ryan who looked at the cool slides and interesting climbing walls, only to turn to me and say: “Mommy, I go ta pok wit frens”
He wanted to go to a park with friends. He wanted to socialize with other children. Ryan was only 3, but he knew what he wanted–and it wasn’t at all what I would’ve wanted.
It was at that moment when I realized my son and I wouldn’t always like the same things. We were wired differently. When pregnant with Ryan, he was a part of me, and I needed to accept the fact he was no longer an extension of me.
God used Ryan to teach me a worthwhile lesson. Since that day, I continually pray that the Lord helps me to allow both my boys to develop into the young men God intended, not into adults with interests and a personality like mine.
What about you? Where do you need to embrace your child’s personality? In what ways do you need to accept the fact your child is no longer an extension of you, but instead an individual with their own likes and dislikes? (You can be a part of the conversation here on the blog or through Facebook or Twitter.)
It’s was one year ago today that my hair had fallen out from my chemo treatments and I had no choice but to shave my head.
I couldn’t bring myself to shave Jill’s head, so we called a friend of hers to do the job. I however, decided to shave my head in solidarity. That meant the world to Jill.
It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since our marriage crisis and a year since my health crisis. No matter what you are facing, it will someday be in the rear view mirror of your life. In the meantime, there is hope and help to be found.
There were so many resources that helped us on our No More Perfect Marriages journey. (You can find all of our post in the No More Perfect Marriages series here.) Today we’d like to share them with you. If you are looking for resources for your journey, these are all excellent tools for any marriage. (Listed in alphabetical order by category.)
Healing From The Past
Marriage Books (There are dozens of wonderful marriage books out there. These two have had the most impact on us.)
Protecting Your Marriage
Separation and Divorce
What about you? What resources have been helpful to you and your mate? What would you add to this list? (If you receive these posts by email you can share your thoughts here.)
This is Day 10 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.
Mark returned home two months after Easter. We continued counseling for another 7 months after he returned home. Our counselor was an hour away, but it was worth it because we felt it was the right fit for us. We had started counseling a few weeks after I discovered the emotional affair so by the time this was all said and done, we were in weekly counseling for 18 months. It was a sacrifice of time and resources we were willing to make.
I knew that rebuilding trust was going to be a full-time job for me for a while. I answered any question asked. I installed the Find My Friends app on my cell phone and Jill’s cell phone so we could always see where each other was. I apologized when new information or an answer to a question would bring Jill to tears. I committed to stay steady and to not get exasperated with however long it took to rebuild trust.
As we’ve loved on other couples who have walked this journey, we’ve often been asked about how much is healthy when it comes to the betrayed spouse asking questions about the affair. What I tell people is every marriage is different. You have to do what brings healing to YOU. There’s no right or wrong.
For me, facts were important so I asked a lot of questions. For others who are more emotionally wired, they may not want to ask too many questions because it’s just too hard emotionally. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to healing. You have to do what is best for you. I’m grateful that my husband is patient with me. Notice I said “is” and not “was.” There are days I still ask questions three years later. It’s far less often than it used to be, but we’re still in process.
What we’ve also found is that any time we bring something that’s hiding in the darkness of our heart to the surface, it’s healthier for our marriage. As long as we keep something inside of us, the enemy can have a heyday with it. The minute we bring it out in the open, it breaks the hold it has on our heart and takes much of the fear away. This is a truth for any married couple. Get things out in the open in an honest, respectful way.
We’ve also learned from our experience that emotional and even physical issues can play a role in marital difficulties. Depression and anxiety can contribute to marriage challenges. People with ADHD can behave impulsively or lack executive function. Even sleep problems can impact emotional stability. It may be important to explore some of these because they can be undiagnosed contributors to marital strife.
Once I was on the right medication for my depression, it made a world of difference. You can start that conversation with your medical doctor.
For the first year, anniversaries of when I discovered the affair and when Mark left were hard. As we approached the one year anniversary of Mark leaving, we chose to reframe the weekend with a two-day getaway for just the two of us. It was relaxing, restorative, and just what we needed. There were other reminders of the affair we chose to reframe as well. That’s an important part of healing when there’s been hurt and betrayal.
I’m also often asked about forgiveness. I’ve come to understand that forgiveness is a process. It’s not a once and done things at all. In the initial days, I’d have to forgive each time I was reminded of the affair: when I’d drive by a hotel they met at or when I’d pay the credit card bill. (The affair and two households drained our finances and I had to use the credit card to pay bills for a while.)
Forgiveness is a choice…never a feeling. I chose to forgive each reminder, each situation I bumped up against. Books like Unfaithful by Gary and Mona Shriver and Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken: Finding Forgiveness and Restoration by Cindy Beall were helpful along the way (we will share more resources on Monday).
I had to forgive myself. I also had to work to experience conviction without tripping over into condemnation. Conviction says “I did a bad thing.” Condemnation says, “Therefore I’m a bad person.” I made a choice that caused deep hurt to even the most extended members of our family. The consequences of my choices have taken years to get over and I’m still dealing with some of those consequences today. However, I’ve seen the truth of Joel 2:25, “God will restore what the locusts have eaten.” God’s grace is a beautiful thing.
I love what Rick Warren said in one of his devotionals, “Your past is past. You are not your past. Your past influences you, but your past does not define you. What matters today is not your past. I don’t care what you’ve done, who you did it with, or how long you did it. That’s not you. Satan will tell you it’s you, but that’s not the truth. What matters today is what direction your feet are headed right now.”
When Cindy Beall, author of Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, was trying to figure out what to do after her husband’s infidelity, a wise pastor said to her, “I would respect you if you felt that you needed to remove yourself from your marriage. What you’ve endured is very hard. But you are not a fool to stay and be a part of the redemptive work in a man’s life.” Those were powerful words for me to read and I can say I’ve had a front row seat at being part of the redemptive work in my husband’s life. It was hard, but it was a privilege.
We know not all marriages make it. We know it requires two people to make a marriage work. However, we want you to have hope, no matter where you are in your journey. Your circumstances may change but your God has not changed. As you face mountains in your life and marriage, keep your eyes on the Mountain Mover.
We want to thank you for joining us for this series. Many of you have told us that you don’t want it to stop. We don’t either, honestly. We’re happy to announce that we will be starting to do Marriage Monday blog posts again starting this coming Monday. In fact, on Monday we’ll be providing a list of all the marriage resources we found helpful in our journey. It’s a nice way to wrap up the series and give you resources for the future! We are also already beginning to work on the No More Perfect Marriages book and we hope you’ll pick that up when it is released in early 2017.
We encourage you to use these posts in your own marriage if you can. If you haven’t already, share them with your spouse. Use them as a discussion starter for your own relationship.
If your marriage is hurting, please know we are praying for you. If you’ve already sent us an email, we’ve already prayed for you by name. If you haven’t and would like us to be praying for you, you can send us a confidential email at jillsavagespeaking (at) heartsathome.org.
If your church is looking for speakers for a marriage event, you can request us as speakers through my website.
This verse carried us through our journey and we offer it to you as you continue on yours:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
There are no perfect marriages, but there is a God who wants to “perfect” us through this thing called marriage.
When it comes to marriage, may we be clay in the Potter’s hand.
This is Day 9 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.
When sharing my story with others, I have often said that I identify with Peter in the Bible. I’m not an easy disciple. God says “yes” or “no” and I tell Him I want to talk about it. I question and argue seeking to convince God to do things my way.
In the midst of the midlife storm, I never stopped talking with God. I continued to read His word. And I continued to question and argue with Him as I always had. After I left in early February, I began asking God if this year Easter could be different for me in some way. I had a longing for help and hope and Easter seemed to offer the promise of that in some way.
From the time Mark left, he would ask me to occasionally meet him for lunch. I’d ask him why and he’d say that we had five kids together and we needed to be able to navigate conversation about family things. He firmly indicated that he had no desire to reconcile.
I’d pray so much before going to lunch and I’d have family and friends praying for me each time. At the end of every one of those lunches I’d say, “Mark, I want to ask you to do the right thing. Leave this other relationship and return to your marriage and your family.” Every time he would say, “I can’t do that.”
The week before Easter our second grandchild was born. Jill traveled to help Matt and Anne in their new life of two kids. Although I had moved out, I stayed at the house that week to be there for our teenage boys. Even though I began to have more conflict in my affair relationship, I began to formulate my final discussion with Jill: I wasn’t interested in reconciling. I was going to file for divorce.
The boys and I traveled to see the new baby that weekend and then Jill, the boys, and I returned home late Saturday night. Because we’d actually arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Jill suggested I just stay at the house and head home in the morning. I decided to do that.
Sunday morning both our boys were headed to church early as they both served on the worship team. That left Jill and I home alone. I began a conversation with her to let her know what I had decided. As I began my conversation with her I drew a picture with a line down the middle. I said, “These last few months you’ve been in your yard and I’ve been in my yard.” I pointed to the line down the middle and said, “We’ve been meeting at the fence. But I don’t want to meet at the fence anymore.” Then I paused. In the pause, Jill said two sentences that would forever change my life. “You know, Mark, when Jesus went to the cross He didn’t want to do that either. But He knew he needed to do what was right.”
Then I remembered it was Easter. I had prayed for Easter to be different. What did that mean right now? God, are you there? What do you want me to do? A flood of thoughts and questions filled my mind.
Jill said nothing else. She just sat there.
Mark, if you’ll trust me for the outcome, I’ll take care of the pain, I heard deep in my soul. “No, that’s not possible, it’s too bad. It’s impossible! Trust me. I flipped the paper over and said aloud, “but it would have to be like a clean sheet of paper.” Mark, if you’ll trust me to manage the fence picture, I’ll give you a clean slate…a fresh start. Even though she didn’t understand the conversation I just had aloud with God, Jill still said nothing.
I was so desperate. So tired. So at the end of myself, I finally said “Okay, Lord I’ll let you have it.”
The battle was over.
Even though I had accepted Christ nearly 30 years earlier, I felt for the first time in my life I had surrendered ALL to Him that Easter morning. I would do whatever it took to follow Him and leave the pain behind. I was scared of what that meant, but I was FREE!
Later that morning, Jill and I headed to church…TOGETHER. It was a resurrection day like no other.
While I had no idea what was going on in his head and his heart, there was a visible change in Mark that morning. I saw the struggle. It was something I’d seen many times over our 29 years of marriage. Mark wrestled with God a lot. I knew that look. However, I’d never before seen surrender in him so completely. Suddenly there was a visible sense of yielding, submitting, and laying down his agenda to accept God’s.
By that evening, it was as if I could hardly remember the indictments I had against God, and Jill, and everyone else I had determined were ruining my life. I was so free of them. God had really broken the strongholds in me. I gave up…in a good way. I gave up my right to know things I wanted to know about God. I gave up my need to understand God and His ways. I gave up my unrealistic expectations. I gave up my desire to do things my way. I fully surrendered to do things God’s way.
It would be two months before Mark moved back home. There was work to be done to repair the breach in our marriage. And now I began to work on the fade I was most responsible for.
Because I’m a feeler, I always longed for a deeper emotional connection with Jill. I wanted to know her inside and out, comfort her when she was sad, reassure her when she felt insecure, and encourage her when she was down. I wanted her to need me to do all those things.
I’ve always been strong, independent, steady, and secure. I rarely needed anything. As a thinker, I wasn’t particularly emotional. In fact, I wasn’t real in tune with my feelings at all. They didn’t guide my thinking. They didn’t help me make decisions. I believed deep down that feelings didn’t matter. Only facts mattered.
Mark and I started alternating how we used our counseling appointments. I would go by myself one week, he would go by himself the next week, and on the third week we’d go together. At the appointments I went to on my own, I began to dig into why I had disregarded my feelings for so long. We identified several points in my life where the “lie” that “feelings don’t matter” had been planted.
Being a thinker works very well in the business world. As a leader and particularly one that has lived life in the public eye as a pastor’s wife and then as the Founder and CEO of Hearts at Home, this served me well. Where it didn’t work so well was at home, in my roles as a wife and a mother. My fade started with a guarded heart (private, reluctant to share) which caused a disconnect in relationships and then emotional distance. How do you turn that fade around? With vulnerability. That’s scary stuff for an avoider like me.
It was during this time that Jill and I began reading the book How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. Jill identified with the Avoider love style, one of four styles they discussed in the book. That book was transformational for both of us. It helped me identify some of the fades we’ve discussed in earlier posts in this series. It was crazy hard for Jill to learn to open up, but it was crazy cool that she did and I began to see that she really did need me.
I turned a corner one morning shortly after Mark came home. I had been encouraging another woman who was walking the same journey I had been on. Her husband had left her for another woman. We prayed for, texted, and encouraged one another during that dark season in each of our lives. However, her story wasn’t ending like mine was. Her husband never returned home. On the morning that became fully evident to her, she texted me. I was in the kitchen when I read the text and my heart was so broken for my friend. I began to cry.
Mark was sitting in the family room, one room away from where I was. I wanted to go upstairs and cry in my bedroom. That’s what I’d done the first 48 years of my life and the first 29 years of my marriage. But I knew this was my opportunity to do something different. It was time to apply what I was learning.
Reluctantly, I went into the family room, read the text to Mark, and then crawled his lap and cried my eyes out. It was a new experience for me, but it was a practical step I took to actively turn the fade around. Over the years I have learned that sometimes you have to push through awkward to get to a new normal. I did that that day, and I’m so glad I did because being vulnerable with Mark now feels normal.
I was beyond grateful that Jill was trusting me with her heart. I held her and knew that she had taken a risk and I wanted her to feel safe and secure in making her needs known.
Mark made it safe for me to step out of my comfort zone. Avoiders are uncomfortable exposing their thoughts and feelings. When your spouse struggles with vulnerability, it’s extremely important that you are present and reassuring, asking very few questions but just letting them know you can be trusted with whatever is being shared.
We finally have the emotional intimacy I’ve always longed for us to have. It took us over 30 years, but we’re getting there!
What about you? Are you emotionally disconnected from your spouse? Are you the one who avoids emotion? What can you do to become more vulnerable yourself? What can you do to make it more safe for your spouse to be vulnerable?
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?