Category: Conflict

Love is Patient

Some people find it strange when I suggest that the greatest thing you can do for an estranged spouse is to love him or to love her. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus taught. We are to love even our enemies and we are to return good for evil. One of the ways in which you express love to a spouse who has walked out on you is by being patient.

The scriptures say, “love is patient”. Your marriage did not fall apart overnight and it will not be rebuilt today. Don’t set time limits for yourself or your spouse. Be patient with your spouse’s ambivalence. During separation people are often pulled in two directions:  On the one hand is the desire for reconciliation, on the other, there is the pain and hurt that says, ‘give up’. Patience is the first step toward love.

Love Our Enemies

Can you really love a spouse who has been unfaithful to you? One lady who was reading my book Hope for the Separated, told me that when she came to the chapter on “long distance love” that she threw the book on the floor and said to herself, “I’ll never love him again after all he’s done to me.”

“A few days later”, she said, “ I  picked up the book and continued reading. I discovered that Jesus said that we were to ‘love our enemies’. Well my husband certainly qualified. It took a few weeks, but I remember the day I baked him a pie and took it to his apartment. It was the beginning of our process of reconciliation.” Yes, with the help of God we can love those who hurt us deeply.

What Can I Do To Help?

It is hard to reject sincere acts of service. A young husband once told me that for the first month after the wedding, his wife served him breakfast in bed. He said, “It took me a month to get up the courage to tell her that I don’t eat breakfast.” I did a little research some time ago and found out that not a single wife has ever murdered her husband while he was washing dishes.

What is your attitude toward your spouse?  In the early years of my marriage, I made demands of my wife and gave her harsh words when she did not respond. Later I learned that Jesus had a better plan. He said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve.” When I learned to ask: What can I do to help you? The whole atmosphere of my marriage changed.

Attitude of Service

Slavery is at the heart of dysfunctional families. Service is at the heart of healthy families. Slavery creates anger, bitterness, and resentment. Service stimulates love, and encouragement. Service is freely given, not out of fear, but out of choice. It comes out of the personal discovery that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

In my book, The Family You’ve Always Wanted, I list “an attitude of service” as one of the five fundamentals of a healthy family. The husband serves the wife. She serves him. Together they serve the children. Later, the children learn to serve the parents and each other. Then, the entire family serves people outside the family. Imagine what would happen if service became a way of life in our families.

Try Writing

If you find it difficult to share your feelings with your spouse, try writing your thoughts and feelings in a letter to your spouse. Many times it is easier to write than it is to speak. When you become comfortable writing the letters and your spouse responds with comfort and encouragement, you will eventually learn to verbalize your feelings.

Writing can be a big step in the process of learning how to communicate openly about your ‘inner self’. After writing a few letters, you might try reading the letter to your spouse. Step by step you can learn to share your thoughts and feelings. A listening ear on the part of your spouse often provides the encouragement to continue to communicate.

Are Negative Emotions Sinful?

The non-communicating spouse is not always the husband. I remember the husband who said to me, “My wife keeps everything inside.  She simply shuts down, especially when she is hurt or angry.” Later in the counseling office, his wife said, “I wish I didn’t get angry, and depressed. I hate myself when I feel that way.”

I discovered that this wife had been taught as a child that Christians don’t get angry or depressed. When I told her that Jesus experienced both anger and depression she was shocked. Negative emotions are not sinful. The fastest way to process these feelings is to talk about them. When we talk about them, they tend to go away. When we hold them inside, they tend to stay.

Don't Repeat Childhood Mistakes

Patterns learned in childhood are often hard to break when we become adults. One wife shared with me that her husband had gone silent after she told him that she wanted to go to the beach with some of the ladies who worked with her. We later learned that this was a pattern he had developed as a child. When he went silent, his parents would become concerned and usually give in to his desires.

Now, he was using the same technique to control his wife’s behavior. In my book, Desperate Marriages, I talk about the necessity of discovering these childhood patterns and changing them. It’s not easy. It requires loving confrontation, but the results are well worth the effort. Repeating the mistakes of childhood is not the road to a growing marriage.

Don’t Repeat Childhood Mistakes

Patterns learned in childhood are often hard to break when we become adults. One wife shared with me that her husband had gone silent after she told him that she wanted to go to the beach with some of the ladies who worked with her. We later learned that this was a pattern he had developed as a child. When he went silent, his parents would become concerned and usually give in to his desires.

Now, he was using the same technique to control his wife’s behavior. In my book, Desperate Marriages, I talk about the necessity of discovering these childhood patterns and changing them. It’s not easy. It requires loving confrontation, but the results are well worth the effort. Repeating the mistakes of childhood is not the road to a growing marriage.

Why the Silent Treatment?

If you have ever received the ‘silent treatment’ from your spouse, how did you respond? Did you remain silent also? Or, did you lash out in anger and demand that your spouse talk to you? Neither of these extremes is likely to make things better. The answer lies in understanding why your spouse has gone silent.

Sometimes it is an effort to control your behavior. You are doing something that they don’t like and they are trying to make you miserable. On the other hand it may be that they have difficulty sharing negative feelings of hurt or disappointment. If you discover and address the reason behind the behavior, you are likely to have more success in re-establishing conversation.

Making Love Better

Perhaps you have noticed that men and women are extremely different. No where is that difference more pronounced than in our sexuality. Men are attracted by sight; women by touch and kind words. Men focus on intercourse; women on foreplay. Men think that sex will heal the hurts; women want the hurts healed before they can respond sexually.

With all these differences, what is the secret to mutual sexual fulfillment in marriage? In one word—love. Making sex an act of love—that is God’s plan. Our attitude should be, “How can I pleasure you?” We are not to force anything on our spouse. When we force our spouse out of selfish desires, we have ceased to love. Love is tender and kind; never demanding.

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