The Altar and the Door…I decided a long time ago to pour music into me that pours Jesus into me.
The Altar and the Door…I decided a long time ago to pour music into me that pours Jesus into me.
Before my first marriage, I had four years of dating and fighting and breaking up and getting back together and doubts upon doubts and a handful of people telling me maybe we shouldn’t be together.
I was probably 90 percent sure I was willingly walking into a hard marriage, but I moved forward anyway. And my marriage was hard almost the entire time. We eventually divorced after almost 19 years.
Before my second marriage, I felt peace. We were given the go-ahead by our counselor after much intense counseling, and I couldn’t wait to marry that man.
I was probably 97 percent sure I was willingly walking into a good marriage. And it has been good between us almost the entire time.
I’m going out on a limb to say that if, like me 25 years ago, you are pretty sure your future marriage will be harder than the average hard, you might want to reconsider marrying this person. Because marriage is LONG and DAILY and ALL-CONSUMING. (Marriage is even longer and DAILY and ALL-CONSUMING if it is difficult.)
If you are pretty sure your future marriage will be harder than the average hard, you might want to reconsider marrying this person.
The reality is, marriage is hard. Marriage is work. People change. People don’t change. Life is crazy and throws unexpected twists and turns right in front of us, things like children and stepchildren, job changes, health issues, deaths in our family, et cetera. There’s sin. And we’re human. You get the picture.
So if you have doubts more than or even simply as much as you feel good about your relationship, that should be a red flag.
A friend of mine, years ago, was talking about her marriage and said in passing, “My husband just cherishes me.” I started to cry because that wasn’t my experience in my first marriage. I not only didn’t feel cherished, I actually felt disliked. So ask yourself the following: Do I feel protected, treated with tenderness, nurtured, held dear, indulged from time to time? In other words, according to author Gary Thomas, do you feel cherished? I believe you should feel confident that you are cherished on your wedding day and leading up to it.
My little sister just got engaged, and she said the most brilliant, perfect thing to me about her fiancée: “My head and my heart agree.”
I truly believe you can know, or at least have a really accurate, educated, prayed-up, counsel-sought “guess” that can lead you to making a decision you feel confident in.
And if that confidence ebbs and flows before the engagement ring gets slipped on or even before the wedding day, I beg you to listen to that. The lack of peace is there for a reason. God might be speaking.
“He really makes me angry,” Kate said to me during a recent counseling session. She had been preparing to ask her husband to join her in counseling, but noted, “I want to become stronger first! He can be incredibly demanding.”
“What do you mean by ‘stronger,’” I asked her.
“He gets me to doubting myself, with my mind spinning in circles,” she said sadly. “I love Cal, but he punishes me when I don’t agree with him.”
“Whoa,” I said, shocked by her admission. “Punishes you?”
“Well,” she answered slowly. “It sure feels like he’s punishing me.”
“Please explain,” I said. “A man who sets out to punish you because you disagree with him is pretty serious business.”
“I’m not even sure how to describe it,” Kate continued. “That’s why I’m here. I feel too close to it to even tell you what he is doing.”
“Please try,” I persisted. “Just list some of the things he does.”
“Okay,” Kate said.
Kate proceeded to list behaviors that fell into a constellation of behaviors we’ve come to call passive-aggression—aggression expressed indirectly. Men, (as well as women) displaying this behavior, have the ability to make us feel like we’re doing something wrong, while they continue acting in ways that are extremely unhealthy. They create chaos and then point the finger at us. Let’s consider passive-aggressive traits and note their impact as well as solutions.
1. Obstructionism: Like children who are oppositional, the passive-aggressive man finds way to block progress. Hating to be hemmed in, he may agree to something, but won’t be put in any corner or forced to keep an agreement. He will do things at his own pace, refusing to cooperate with how and when you’d like things done.
The impact, of course, is chaos. His refusal to be “cornered” maintains distrust and impedes cooperation. You’re never certain where you stand, and never fully know what you can expect from him. All the while he points a finger at you, claiming innocence.
2. Fear of Intimacy: The passive-aggressive male is guarded and mistrustful. While he may say he wants to be close, he’ll sabotage any efforts to spend meaningful time together. When together, he is unable to talk about his feelings, or share intimate details of his life.
The impact is a sense of distance, though you may be unsure of what is causing the distance. He pushes away from close and personal encounters, but denies he is doing anything to sabotage intimacy.
3. Playing the Victim. The passive-aggressive man refuses to take responsibility for his behavior, protesting loudly “You’re the crazy one.” Feeling maligned, misunderstood and mistreated, he again points the finger of blame back at you.
It can be tough to gain a firm footing when he blames you for everything. In fact, the passive-aggressive man puts his “spin” on events so as to make himself look innocent, while you appear the villain. As you can imagine, this feels chaotic and leaves you feeling angry, leaving many issues unresolved.
4. Making Excuses for His Behavior. He’ll likely make excuses for any wrongs he has committed, leaving him again feeling innocent. If you persist with holding him accountable, he is likely to make even more excuses and then blame you for refusing to let the issue go.
This “dance” can make you feel very crazy. You know what he did was wrong. You believe he even knows this but refuses to take responsibility for his actions. Round and round the conversation goes, with no clear end in sight.
5. Confusion Creator. The passive-aggressive man is the master of creating confusion and chaos. By using mixed messages, pouting and playing the victim, he creates chaos in every relationship. You’re never sure whether you see things clearly, or whether he is, as he purports, the victim. You live in a world of confusion.
The passive-aggressive man is a confusion creator, and if you remain “hooked,” you will spin around in that cycle of confusion as well. He remembers things different from you and if you try to get him to see “the truth,” you’ll be hooked in his world of confusion. He twists the facts, rewrites history to put a positive spin on his behavior. This, however, makes you feel crazy.
So, how are you going to stay clear, calm and connected with a passive-aggressive man? It will not be easy, but it can be done. You must master a few strategies.
First, understand passive-aggression. You cannot remain clear and calm if you don’t understand what is happening. If you remain reactive, you’ll be dancing from one encounter to another. Notice what is happening. When and where do you get hooked? What does he say that provokes you into snapping back aggressively? Notice these patterns and determine to remain clear about what is happening.
Second, determine to be active, not reactive. Choose how you will respond to him. In the face of his passive-aggressive actions, choose to be clear with him. Let him know how you see things. Refuse to get into a power struggle with him. Don’t try to change his mind or make him see things the way you see them. Be in charge of yourself, knowing what is true for you.
Third, keep agreements simple and doable. Create agreements that are likely to be kept by him. Choose your battles carefully. It is far better to have a simple life, with simple agreements, than try to enforce complex agreements that he will sabotage.
Fourth, maintain clear and firm boundaries. Don’t allow him to manipulate your point of view. Seek specific agreements, even writing them down for clarity. Reiterate those agreements with him to ensure clarity. When he violates boundaries, which he will do, state your feelings clearly and consistently.
Finally, celebrate modest victories. Understand you cannot make him do anything. However, you can introduce accountability into the relationship. Clarify how his behavior impacts you, asking for exactly what you need. Notice how even small victories create a positive connection with him.
Most husbands I know would never injure their wife knowingly. They want to be her protector. But we guys are different than women, and the way we respond to our wife often causes injury. And, most of the time, it’s unintentional. We didn’t even know we were doing it. When we don’t realize the damage we’re doing to our wives’ emotions, we invalidate every desire we have to be her defender.
As a counselor and pastor, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples and have seen these behaviors countless times. I wish I could say I never did any of these . . . but that would be a lie. I write this with one finger pointed forward . . . and four more pointed my way.
No matter how independent or strong your wife is, her heart is tender in places. Lots of places. She can bruise easily in some areas of her life, especially the places that involve the people she loves most, such as you. A husband who understands this is more careful in how he responds to her.
I always like to use this thought as a reminder: Would I allow another man to speak to or treat my wife as I am doing? She’s a precious gift, guys . . . treat her well.
• Also see 7 Ways to Wound a Husband
Used with permission of Ron Edmondson. For more blog posts like this, check out Ron’s website, http://www.ronedmondson.com/.
The (Marriage) Minutes have encouraged us to chat in a new way throughout the day, we email back and forth at various points in our day and carry on brief, yet sustaining, conversation. Kristie