A Conversation With Shannon Ethridge

t-wife-marriage

Shannon, can you remember when the spark disappeared in your marriage?
Absolutely, I remember feeling at such a loss; why is this happening? You always expect you’ll be madly in love with this person forever and ever. When the new wears off and reality sets in, you start to question: Did I marry the wrong person? And you start entertaining ridiculous thoughts of, maybe this really isn’t my soul mate  — as if karma has something to do with it.

I remember approaching my husband crying, you don’t meet my emotional needs!  I had no idea that it was really me who was poking holes in my own bucket of marital bliss. I wanted to put the blame on him. In reality, what was going on was, 90% of the blame was actually mine.

Where was your relationship with God at the time?
Like most Christians, I thought I had it all together. I was going to church every Sunday, I was teaching a youth group  — you just don’t know what’s missing in your relationship with the Lord until you actually taste it. I had never learned to look at God as the lover of my soul. The only one who could sweep me off my feet. Therefore, I was putting the burden of responsibility on my husband shoulders, to be my all-in-all, not understanding that no man on the planet can support that kind of weight.  Until I look to God to satisfy my emotional needs, there was nothing anyone could do for me.

Is it possible for a woman to change her own dissatisfaction and have the effect that her husband’s heart would be changed?
Yes. The problem Jim, is that so often women are waiting for their husband’s to change and insisting that their husbands change. And dragging them into counseling  — if he’ll go  — saying he’s got to change.  We fail to understand that we cannot change another human being, but we do have the power to change our own responses and expectations to the situation. It’s through changing ourselves that we inspire the other person to become who it is we want and need them to be.

We can’t require intimacy, but we can inspire it. When I softened and lowered my expectations, I began to see the wonderful things in him that everyone else saw, and began looking to God to meet my emotional needs. He became the person I hounded him to be. It’s amazing how when you back off and stop nagging, pressuring, and blaming that you begin to see those good qualities come to the surface.

That reminds me of a term I learned recently: Redemptive Behavior. It says that despite the negative behavior of a spouse, you continue to treat that person with respect, servanthood, and love.
Yes, that’s exactly what my husband did for me. I became the person that I am because he never fought back; He never lowered himself to my level; he never put the blame back on me.

That reminds me of another theory I read about recently called the Looking Glass theory. It says that we become the person that the most important people in our lives perceive us to be. And when wives perceive their husbands to be laid back, passive, immature, dorks  — That’s what the husband sees himself as.

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But if she sees him as a wonderful, Godly, spiritual man  — he will rise and become that person. She’s got to believe in him for him to take on that role.

Shannon, what’s the difference between intensity and intimacy?
You can feel like you’re burning out in your marriage, but really you might be just warming up. Women think that marriage should be this 24-7 whirlwind romance, and if he doesn’t make you feel special and pretty and the fireworks aren’t going off anymore  — then the marriage is withering. The relationship is dying.

When in reality you may just be moving from the initial stage  — the fireworks stage  — into a much deeper level. It’s called transforming from the passionate love stage to the  companionate love stage where you become more of a companion, a friend. Our bodies weren’t designed to maintain these revved-up levels of hormones. God doesn’t expect us to look at our spouse as passionately as we did on our honeymoon, every decade of our marriage. But we become closer and closer and more intimate  — and yes, that can definitely create spark in the bedroom if you understand the meaning of it.

When intensity dies, what happens?
One of two things happens: The woman usually trashes the relationship or she undermines it to the point where he trashes the relationship because she sees no value in it.

Or she recognizes that we’re being ushered into a new season in our relationship. The intensity may not be there any longer, but the intimacy may actually grow much deeper. That’s the season of your marriage where you can bond together in a much deeper way than the full sparky way, if you will. I would encourage women that moving into that companionate love season of your marriage can be an absolutely, lovely thing. Don’t assume because the intensity is gone, that you’re burning out because you might be warming up to something bigger and better.

Copyright © 2007 Growthtrac.

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About Jim Mueller

bio-jim-muellerJim is the founder, with wife, Sheri, of Growthtrac Ministries as well as Program Director of GrowthtracRadio and the architect behind growthtrac.com. Jim holds a B.S. in business management and is a facilitator for PREPARE/ENRICH, the most widely used customized couple assessment tool. He has authored numerous articles, interviewed leading relationship authors and Christian artists, and has contributed to Dr. Les Parrott’s book, The Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring. Jim has worked for more than 15 years to help premarital couples and married couples build and maintain healthy relationships.

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