If we assume that this past issue is something which occurred during your marriage and has damaged the relationship, there are a few key considerations:
When you are compassionately, humbly, and deliberately taking steps that encompass the above considerations, you are helping to create a healing environment for your wife and your marriage. It is important to remember that breaches can take time to repair. Sometimes the offending spouse wants the injured spouse to "hurry up" and get over it so that he (the offending spouse, which in some cases is a she) does not have to be inconvenienced by the pain he has caused his spouse. Do not let that be the case with you. Just as you played the main role in causing the hurt, you now have the opportunity to play a main role in expressing the love, care, and compassion that will help to bring healing.
"My question is about communication. How do I get my husband to say what he means and mean what he says so that we are on the same page, and so that we understand what we have agreed on? There is too much verbal confusion and he does not stick to what we have agreed."
What you are experiencing in your relationship with your husband may be more than a communication issue. One possibility is that you may be dealing with a passive-aggressive spouse. Though the term passive-aggressive is quite commonly used, it is often misunderstood. So let's first have a look at some of the characteristics your husband would likely exhibit if he has passive-aggressive tendencies. (You will notice that communication issues are threaded throughout the listed characteristics.)
So what do you do? First, let me assure you that you are not "crazy". Living with a passive-aggressive spouse can be extremely disorienting. And the more you try to get him to "say what he means and mean what he says" the more you will be caught in the vortex of confusion.
A first step is to understand that his confusing communication did not begin with you and is not about you. It is an issue that likely runs deep. For change to occur, he will need to acknowledge and work through the issues.
A second step is for you to carefully choose how you will respond to him. Being reactive and engaging in power struggles will propel you into that confusing vortex. Control yourself; do not try to control him (how he thinks, how he sees the issue, how he communicates.)
A third step is to keep life simple. That might seem too ... simplistic. But it can be very powerful. The passive-aggressive person tends to be resentful and can have unspoken hostilities. The more balls you have in the air requiring his help, the more likely it is for that reservoir of resentment to be stirred and for his tendency to sabotage to be fueled. So keep decision making simple. Keep agreements simple. Think in terms of bite size pieces.
A fourth step is to actively move toward connection. It can be tiresome in that crazy vortex, and you might feel drained, empty and unenthusiastic about connecting with your spouse. But this is where you need to cast your burden on the Lord and allow Him to revive you and your marriage. This is where you must first truly connect with the Lord, before you can fully connect with your husband. Let this difficult dynamic in your marriage allow you to seek God and His precious will in new and fresh ways.
There can be several reasons your wife has a negative attitude. One possible reason is that your spouse more naturally leans toward pessimism than optimism, so she sees problems before seeing opportunities. Tied to this is the possibility that your wife is a "detail oriented" person and tends to see what needs fixing (which can be an important strength) without seeing what there is to celebrate (which can be a problem.) Another consideration is whether your wife has had positive reinforcement in her life. Perhaps she grew up hearing a great deal of criticism or being molded by people who themselves were complainers and blamers.
Whatever the case, being transformed in one's attitude takes time and deliberate effort. If your wife were asking the question about herself I would give her some effective ways to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in order for her mind to be renewed. However, as your question is how you can help her, here are a few keys:
But what if your wife's negative attitude is aimed at you? From her perspective you never seem to handle a situation correctly. You are not praised, but consistently criticized. This is where your maturity as a believer will show forth. Instead of lashing out or withdrawing, are you able to move toward your wife and speak the truth in love to her? Let her know how her attitude is affecting you, while also being mindful to offer hope and to validate the areas where she may be right, even if her attitude is wrong.
Also, praise her often. Her cup may have endured a lifetime of emptiness, depending on her background, and you can be the one who helps to fill and revive her. This also means being honest with yourself about the ways in which you might be draining your wife. While your shortfalls are not an excuse for her negative attitude, her negative attitude is not an excuse for your shortfalls to remain unchecked. This does not mean that you are to be perfect. It means that you are to be actively growing and using even this difficult area in your marriage to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in how He wants to transform you.
Since our minds are transformed by being renewed (Romans 12:2), initiate daily devotional time with your wife where you read the Word together. Elector and I have a friend who is 90 years old. He and his wife have been married for decades, and one of the things he has practiced everyday for their entire married life is to, as he puts it, "wash her with the Word" daily. Everyday he reads the Word to his wife as just one of the ways he covers her and cares for her. It's a precious act of love and devotion on his part. Perhaps you are willing to do the same and see how your wife blossoms. And remember, it's not a matter of her blossoming for your benefit first and foremost. It's a matter of her blossoming for the glory of God, from which you will benefit.
There is a difference between your husband not knowing how to leave and cleave and his being unwilling to leave and cleave. If your husband values the importance of leaving and cleaving, but does not know how to walk it out, that's where good communication between the two of you - and even help from a mature, trusted marriage ally - can help.
Be mindful that even for a willing spouse, learning to leave and cleave can be a process. Your husband might not always get it right, but appreciate and value his willingness to cleave to you.
In the case where a spouse is unwilling to leave and cleave, or is of the opinion that he has "left and cleft" but has not, it will likely take more than good communication. If your husband is an unbeliever, then God's Word is not yet His standard. Pray for your husband's salvation and ask God to show you how to be a godly wife in the midst of the difficult marital dynamic you are experiencing.
But do not stop there with your prayers. Whether or not your spouse is a believer, ask God to use the experience to transform you. When a wife is marginalized by a husband who places greater emphasis on his family of origin than he does on her, it can be a sad, lonely and disappointing place. Do not let bitterness take root in your heart. And do not allow the feelings of rejection or discontent to lure you into the arms of another. Instead, let your faith be proven by pressing in to God in prayer, in obedience, and in cultivating a heart of gratitude to your God. You will find that the Holy Spirit's transforming power will grow you in priceless and precious ways.
Many times we forfeit what God wants to accomplish in us through the valleys of our lives because we become fixated on getting out of the discomfort and pain of the valley. But no matter how determined you are to get your husband to prioritize you above his family of origin, the truth is that while you can posture yourself to influence your husband, you cannot make him leave and cleave. It is a decision he has to makes for himself. And whether insecurity, or misguided priorities, or a lack of love and care on his part are informing his choices, wrestling with him on the issue is unlikely to work in your marriage's favor.
If your husband is a believer, then it would be totally appropriate to share with him that you would like to meet with your pastor or one of the counselors in your church to help you work through this issue that is affecting you and your marriage. A godly husband should not be opposed to the wise counsel to be found within the church family.
Regardless of your husband's willingness or unwillingness in this matter, however, the foundational priority in marriage is for God to be glorified. So let Him have His way in you as you keep in step with His Spirit through this situation. He'll prove Himself to be faithful.
I'm chatting with my friends Raquel and Marjorie about marriage and some of what we've had to learn as wives. Join the conversation by leaving a comment. We'd love to hear from you.
Why isn't my wife eager for sexual intimacy? This is a question I've heard in various forms throughout my years as a counselor. Certainly there is more than one answer to this question. Some reasons are medical, some are emotional, and some have to do with traumatic past experiences. However, there are a myriad of common reasons that have nothing to do with health or with trauma. Some reasons boil down to the everyday way a husband lives with his wife. Here are five things that, if a husband is doing, he might want to stop, because they are likely dampening and even dissolving his wife's eagerness for sexual intimacy.
A wife, too, has responsibilities to her husband, as articulated below. And it is also true that when a wife has Christ in her life, she has access to a strength that will see her through the marital disappointments with which she might be living. But this does not absolve a husband from his responsibilities. Yes, Christ loves us more than anyone ever could. But Christ also calls the husband to actively love his wife more than that husband ever thought possible.
REFLECTIONS FOR YOUR STUDY TIME
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:25-33, NIV)
© 2016 by Dawn-Marie Pearson. All rights reserved.
A listener to my radio show (The Treasure Chest Radio Show) heard my hubby and I mention the "answer sheet" during one of our Marriage Makers episodes. She asked us what the "answer sheet" is. We answered her question on this live Periscope broadcast.
Today on The Treasure Chest Radio Show, Elector and I continue our chat about the key ingredients to making a marriage blossom. Visit here for the show notes. In November, 2015 you can listen to Part 1 and Part 2 right here on the podcast.
On today's Treasure Chest Radio Show my hubby and I talk marriage. We love sharing about marriage. You see, we are not that marriage that just seamlessly happened to be happy all by itself. We are that marriage that, from day 1, has had to roll up our sleeves and work for the kind of marriage we want. So tune in as we share from the heart about marriage. Faith FM 102.1, 7:00am and 5:30pm.
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Dr. Dawn-Marie shares a refreshing blend of professional insights and personal stories in this encouraging blog.