Your spouse messed up so why do you feel guilty?

Let’s say that you just found out you’re spouse has done something wrong and it’s pretty drastic. He or she has cheated or went against his word on something you both agreed upon. You are deeply pained. What is her reaction and where does it take you and your relationship?

You address the issue with your spouse and he/she could have one of two reactions. First, he could admit to his error and you can both begin the process of healing. It’s not easy to do but you are thankful that he sees his place in the matter and is willing to take responsibility. The other path he could take is this; turning the tables. Where once you were angry because he did something wrong, you suddenly feel guilty. You’re not sure why this is but before you know it, you find yourself apologizing and working to sooth his now upset emotional state. Later, you think, “what just happened?”

Like a crying child caught with chocolate brownie all over her face, your spouse has turned the tide of blame away from her (where it belongs) and on to you. By making you angry and confused, she transfers the blame. Her threats of leaving or other behaviors frighten you and you relent. You are now the one apologizing and asking her to be happy again. What have you done? Accepted the responsibility for something that is clearly not your fault.

Well, maybe you are doing something. No one is perfect. Think about it and listen to what she tells you. Later, when you are calm, consider what she says and work to make necessary changes. We all could be better spouses. However, this does not mean you should take the blame for something that is clearly her fault. While your lack of attention towards her may be the reason she had an affair, you did not choose the affair. She chose to do what she did and no amount of blaming can change this. Promise to do better. Promise to be a more attentive spouse, but do not carry the burden that says you are the cause of the infraction.

What’s going on with your spouse? Well, he/she is selfish and childish. He can’t handle the negative feelings that go along with guilt so he “flips the script” and suddenly he’s the victim because you brought the subject up. You are hurting him. Why would you do this? This shows immaturity and a lack of character on his/her part and this behavior can be very detrimental to the marriage.

What else is happening? Your spouse is angry with himself and suddenly you are the object of his anger. While anger can be a natural expression of guilt, it isn’t necessarily a healthy one as an angry mind is often a clouded mind. By choosing anger, he isn’t choosing the best method to solve the problem and fix what should be fixed. Instead, he blows up, blames you and hopes you’ll just forget about it because the experience he just caused was so uncomfortable. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t forget about it. Misbehavior on the part of your husband or wife at this level could be a sign that you need counseling. If he continues to transfer the burden of guilt on to you, you’ll eventually get tired and calloused towards his behavior. Rather than growing closer, you are growing apart.

There is one area where you are at fault here. You allowed this to happen. When you know you are right (and you better be abundantly sure on this) stand your ground and force him or her to accept their responsibility. Otherwise, you’ll continue to be a parent wiping the chocolate brownie off the face of a guilty child.

3 Ways to Tell Your Spouse Isn’t Happy and 1 for You

It is a scenario that I regularly see in my office. Spouse A has cheated on spouse B because he/she wasn’t participating in the marriage. Then, spouse B hurries to fix what has been wrong for 10, 20 or even 30 years, but many times, spouse A believe this effort is too little, too late. What has happened? Spouse B kept hitting the snooze button on their wake-up call. Here are some signs that your spouse wants to improve the marriage; typically through counseling.

He/she says, “I want to improve the marriage. We should seek counseling.” This is pretty straight forward. It might not be this nice, but it will typically be a blatant statement that he or she isn’t happy and wants things to change. Has your spouse said anything like this?

Your spouse spends time on other activities rather than the marriage. Your marriage is no longer fulfilling so other hobbies must be pursued in order for your spouse to get the daily recommended allowance of enrichment. This might be a personal activity or it might be another individual. In either case, it’s not with you like it should be.

Your spouse isn’t happy when he/she is around you. It is a cliche that marriages are to be unhappy prisons of barren loneliness. Well, after 16.5 years of increasing marital bliss, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn to be happy with your spouse. You should be happy.

You aren’t happy when you are around your spouse. You may be ignoring your wife or husband because of his or her behavior. This too can be fixed through counseling or even a pursuit of your own self-improvement.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Fix what’s wrong in your marriage, now.

How Bad Do You Want A Happy Family?

We must invest in our families, but too many of us do other things besides build the relationships with our children or with our spouses. We spend time at work and all too often doing things we want to do which typically doesn’t involve family activity.

The story is told of a man who wanted to be successful so he met up with a guru and asked, “how can I be successful?” The guru told him to walk out into the ocean. The two men walked way out until it was up to their necks. The guru then held the man’s head underwater and asked him when he let him up what he wanted more than anything else when he was under water. He said, “I wanted to breathe.” The guru then said, “when you want to be successful as bad as you wanted to breathe, you’ll be a success.” How bad do you want to have a happy family?

Too many of us want to watch football more than we want to spend time with our family. We’d rather work in the yard, look at our phones or watch whatever is on TV. How we spend our time shows what we value. Do you value your family or whatever it is you do at the end of your day? Your actions speak louder than your words and your kids notice. Your spouse does too.

Speak to Your Wife’s Heart

Men often struggle with just what to say to their wives. We tell them we love them but somehow this isn’t good enough. We tell them good morning and this doesn’t work either. “What’s going on?” men lament with a frustrated tone.

Think of Valentine’s Day. Saying the stuff you are just supposed to say or that you say everyday is like presenting her with a little candy heart. It’s nice, cute and is made of sugar, but it’s not that impressive. She wants the candy hearts. They are expected. You know that you’ll see them starting sometime in January and they will be everywhere. Well, what she wants every now and then is a Dove chocolate bar. I am speaking metaphorically of course. On occasion she wants you to stop what you’re doing, have her stop what she is doing and reveal to her your innermost thoughts regarding her. This takes a bit of planning, but you’re good at that. Jack Nicholson does it best in this scene from As Good As It Gets.

You might not be Jack, (my wife is thankful I’m not) so what can you say? Keep in mind that these just get you started. If she suspects that you’re response to her is canned, she’ll appreciate the effort, but it’ll be a Hershey’s Kiss, not a full Dove bar like you’re shooting for. Do this right and just wait’ll she gets a load of you.

 

 

  1. Remember that time we went to / ate at / ___________________? I really enjoyed it. You looked so beautiful. This tells her you were thinking about her earlier in the day. Keeping a collection of good memories that involve her can give you a quick resource.
  2. You are so good at ____________________. It helps me so much and I appreciate it. Women enjoy praise as much as men. Verifying her talents will show her you respect her talents.
  3. You’re such a good mom. She is constantly comparing herself to other women and families. She wants to know she’s a good mom and hearing this from you means a lot.

Speaking to your wife’s heart is how you can connect with her emotionally. It could be just what your relationship needs.

Three Things You Must Get Right In Your Marriage

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I love the above picture. It’s a reminder of how things change and of how people can believe they are so right about something yet be so wrong.

The picture is from the Tour De France, sometime in the 1920s. Back when smoking was considered healthy, this made perfect sense, but now we know better. Unfortunately, many have died discovering this fact for themselves. The same can be said for our marriages. We know there are better ways but we don’t take the time to consider them or look for how we can improve. Instead, we continue to have a marriage where we aren’t fulfilled.

What are some areas in your marriage that you need to improve? The following are pretty typical.

Learn to communicate better and while this is a standard answer, it is one that continues to be proven over and over again. Couples know how to yell at one another but they don’t know how to listen. They know how to complain about what’s not happening, but they don’t know how to ask for what they want.

Meet the needs of your spouse. Don’t know what they are? He/she probably doesn’t either. Willard F. Harley’s book does a great job of outlining how this issue can be resolved in your marriage. When needs aren’t being met, spouses often look elsewhere.

Learn to spend time with your spouse and enjoy it. If your daily routine does not involve regular time spent with your each other, a real change must occur. While you might not spend every night enraptured by one another, sitting close on the couch will go along way to communicate love and affection.

Life is made up of the little things and the little things must be done right.

Christian Parenting Books

Below are my books available on Amazon.com, all from a Christian perspective.

 

1. My latest work on parenting, published by 21st Century Christian.

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2. No More Yelling formerly titled, How to Argue with Your Teen and Win; a good primer to start communicating better, tonight. Available in Kindle .

This book was formerly titled, How to Argue with Your Teen and Win; a good primer to start communicating better, tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. A collection of my best posts on marriage. Available in Kindle and paperback.

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4 Tips to Save Your Dying Marriage

Never too far gone

Sometimes couples get into such a state that they are extremely divided, but because of one spouse’s level of commitment, he or she refuses to quit on the relationship. Certainly, there may be a time to quit, but at this time, one of the spouses has resolved to save the marriage. It can be done. As I’ve said before, you’re never too far-gone in your marriage if you’re willing to make the journey back. So, what should a spouse do if he/she wants to save the marriage?

First, is it worth saving? If your partner is on his/her 20th affair, should you keep going? Only you can answer that. Anybody can change at any time and Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18 to have no limit on our forgiveness, but there should be a limit to the degree we are going to endure poor marital behavior. How much is that for you? Decide and then move forward.

Second, if it is worth saving, what are you saving it for? There must be a motivator and in a chaotic state, any will do. Children come to mind first. They are better off in a home where mom and dad learn to love one another than in a home void of this love. So, if you are doing it for your children, make sure you do it right. You might also consider the material investments you’ve made in the marriage. Remember, any motivator will do and starting over on what you’ve gone so far to earn is pretty scary.

Third, you must work to change the narrative in the home. For weeks or months your relationship has been built on the negative. “We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t . . .” is what you might say. What is wrong in the marriage must be discussed but do it during controlled times that you agree upon. Also, if you learn how to communicate about difficult topics, the discussions can be just that, discussions rather than arguments which only make the problem worse. Localize the negative, deal with it, and make the rest of your home life positive and encouraging.

Finally, you must now change the behavior in the marriage. If you are not the offending spouse, this means acting out of love (not obligation) for your lover. If you are the offending spouse, this means going overboard on showing your spouse that you have nothing to hide. In either case, changing behavior to look like a happy marriage results in being a happy marriage. It became unhappy because you were doing all the wrong things. Now, you must act differently. This “fake it til you make it” method can work and eventually be sincere. This is not a replacement for discussing the issues that brought you to such a lowly state.

Marriages are worth saving and if yours is one of these, I hope you’ll consider these tips as a new beginning for a lifelong relationship.

Stop Doing Love Wrong

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“I love you but I’m not IN love with you.”

This phrase has come into my office on more than one occasion in the past month which caused me to put some thought into its meaning. I hadn’t thought about it much but the spouses who had heard it know its weight all too well.

It is often the closing bell on a relationship as a cheating spouse comes clean. Or it is an indicator that the spark that was once there is now gone. The problem is that we often equate love with feeling and when the feeling is gone then the love must be gone. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted vision of the love that a man and woman are to have for one another.

In his book, The Social Animal, author David Brooks says that love is a collection of behaviors that lead to feelings. The apostle Paul said it well also when in 1 Corinthians 13 he lists all the things that love DOES. It is patient, kind, loves truth, protects, hope, trusts and perseveres.

Paul also writes that there are things love does NOT do. It does not envy boast, act proud, dishonor or seek its own interests. It is not easily angered, does not delight in evil, and keeps no record of wrong.

In watching what little TV I do, there’s plenty of what people say is love but is not. On one home makeover, all the wife could talk about was her apartment, her house and what she wanted to do. She had her husband actually sharing a closet with the dog. All she wanted to do was seek her desires and wore this like she was some sort of suffragette. His needs were second and possibly third after the dog’s.

I also see spouses who continually bring up the past, lose their temper and continually dishonor the person they are supposed to love. Not in love anymore? I wonder why. You’re doing love wrong.

Love has a positive polarity in the things it DOES and it has a negative polarity in the things it DOES NOT do. What do the negative and positive sides of a magnet do? They attract. Maximize the positives and keep away from the negatives and your feelings of love will return. Wait for the feelings to come without doing anything and you’ll be stranded with no one to love.

Love must be tended to and grown like the living thing that it is. When people say, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” what they mean is that they desire to have the feelings of love but the passion is missing. It may be missing because they’re doing love wrong as I discussed above, or it may be missing because they have traded the pursuits of this life for the holy matrimony they promised on their wedding day. The departure from a happy vivacious couple is so slow and so gradual that neither spouse sees it coming until they wake up one morning in an empty shell of a relationship.

Your marriage cannot survive on the notion that you live together and that’s enough. You must enjoy one another’s company, have mutual dreams and meet each other’s needs. Start today.

7 Tips for A New Marriage . . . or An Old One


The following article appeared in the Hendersonville Standard, the Gallatin News and The Wilson Post the week of February 3, 2014.

 
When you marry, this new relationship presents issues neither of you have ever faced before. It’s a scary time. However, you bring into this union the hope that it will be the start of a life that will bring you rich fulfillment. You are also both bringing into the relationship your faults, your strengths, and the possibility that your marriage will endure or fail. How you tend to your marriage will determine the level of satisfaction you experience and whether or not your ideal is realized. Hopefully, the following tips can give a new marriage the charge it needs or restart a once happy one.

Expect that your relationship will change. Within the first few months and even years of marriage your life will be relatively easy. You work and live for each other. There’s little else that takes your attention and what does typically has its own time slot (ie. exercise, work, and friends). However, as children enter the picture, you will be spread thin and forced to continually reconsider your priorities. This change can be good if you accept and adapt to it, or the metamorphosis can be your undoing.

As a result of your changing relationship, the excitement level you have consistently maintained will begin to fall. This is a practical matter because we can’t remain in a state of lover’s euphoria forever. This is life. The question is, can you find happiness in the little things? Can you connect over a cup of coffee or while playing with the kids? These moments of contentment and shared joy are what will prolong your marriage. Trips and dates are fun, but must not be relied upon to fully engage with your spouse. While what you deemed exciting as a young married adult may lessen, moments of intimate connection can be more intense than you ever thought possible. Why? You get better at being you, at being a lover, and you learn how wonderful the person you married actually is.

Discuss your values. You may have entered the marriage with a well thought-out plan or you may have fallen into it with little discussion about matters of importance. Where do you each stand on politics, religion, and children? Depending on their importance to you as individuals, they can either push you apart or bring you together. Talk about what is important to you.

Don’t be selfish. Your decisions are no longer about what you want, but about what is best for the family. This makes goal setting an important part of your relationship. If you have goals, both of you know what you are working for materially speaking. Then, saying no to a new boat or other luxury item will be easier if it’s not in the current plan. Talk to a financial planner and be on the same page regarding money.

Time apart is a good thing. In our families we give and give without taking personal time and this can be bad news. It could be as small as 30 minutes at the end of the day, but we must nurture ourselves. This will enable us to have something to give to our family; our best. That being said, time together is equally as important. You can’t be apart on a regular basis and then act surprised because of the lack of affection.

Read at least one book per year on how to improve your marriage. You can also follow blogs or someone’s Twitter feed who gives good advice on marriage. There are also podcasts to glean inspiration from. It’s easier to maintain a good marriage than it is to fix a broken one. A good book to start with is Willard F. Harley’s Fall In Love Stay In Love. In it he explains how spouses should work to meet each other’s needs.

Always strive to be the best spouse you can be. It’s very common for battling spouses to point at their counterpart and say, “when you change, I will.” In this case, neither party is winning. The only thing that is being built is a wall that grows stronger with each passing day. Forgiveness must be a part of your lifestyle. If you both strive to be the best spouse you can be, you won’t be pointing out the faults of the other. Rather, you’ll be working towards reconciliation.
 
 

A Contentious Woman

“A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” Proverbs 27:15

As in many of the Proverbs, there’s little explanation that follows except to say that containing this type of woman is like containing the wind or holding oil in your hand. Maybe one of Solomon’s wives was looking on and he didn’t want her to know whom he was writing about. Maybe his reference to the wind led her to believe it was the wife who talked too much. Or his allusion to oil was a nod to the woman who used more than her fair share of the perfume.  

What a shame that the wisest man to ever live had to do so with an argumentative woman/women. I can see him now, on his throne, head resting patiently, thoughtlessly on his fist with his wife, standing above him, her ever thrusting finger in rhythmic time with her verbal barrage. “Yes dear,” he would say hoping it would bring him a moment’s peace, no doubt remembering what he had previously written in chapter 21, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.” By chapter 27 he had probably worked up enough courage to say what he really meant, but made sure the words were hidden between the parts about blessing a friend with a loud voice and of iron sharpening iron.

Little is said of a contentious woman other than she will drive you stark raving mad. Rain doesn’t stop while it is rain. As the verse states, it continues dropping, dropping, and dropping with no thought of your feelings or the fact that you are wearing your suede jacket. “Maybe if I let the rain completely cover my shoes, it will be alright,” you think. “Darker suede, like a new pair.” But no, the rain ruins them all the same.

Similarly, a contentious woman cares little that her words tear up her husband’s manhood, and by doing so he is not becoming the man she thinks she wants him to be. Rather, she is beating him like a helpless puppy and probably becoming her mother at the same time. This is a thought that never occurs to her but that would do her irreparable damage were the observation to be made. Her family thinks, “we should tell her what she’s doing and how she acts.”

Would it be so bad to tell her? It’s likely that in some rickety gym bleachers during a high school pep rally she uttered the words to her BFF, “don’t ever let me become my mother.” Probably because of a fight they had over her short skirt, but telling her that her pseudo-prophecy is coming true would do no good. It would just be more ammunition to throw at her targets. As though she needs more. “You said I was just like my mother so I guess I need to live up to the expectation.” Visions of the Wicked Witch of the West come to mind as well as the large collection of wire hangers I have in my closet.

While the husband is often the hapless victim in circumstances like this, the children also get a good lesson in manipulation and family dysfunction. If you cause people enough guilt yet make them feel sorry for you at the same time, you are in charge and can get whatever you want. The daughter might view her parents’ relationship much like the relationship she has with her hamster, locked in his cage in her room. “I’ll play with it,” she pleaded at the pet store, so giddy and ready to raise a national champion hamster . . . if there is such a thing. Weeks have past and he sits in his cage until she finally takes him out to clean it. “You dirty rat. I can’t stand you,” she mutters as her once prized possession is now little more than an inconvenience. When she finishes with her task, her disposition is more solidified as she hears her mother yell, “Have you swept the floor yet you lazy man?”

The other lesson contentious women give here? “Men are scum, and if we don’t tear them down, they’ll be lazy, good-for-nothings and will probably cheat on us.” It’s true. For generations men have been scoundrels, competing masses of conquering adrenaline that are not fit to be in the presence of refined women who are about the only things we don’t hit over the head anymore. Most of us anyway. And this is for the better because we should be domesticated by now. If I lose at a card game, my instinct is to jump up, allow my chair to scrape against the wooden floor and then punch the guy. Next, if old western have taught us anything, the piano will strike up as we duke it out until being thrown into the horse trough outside. But society and my wife say that this is wrong. I should be a good sport and not a sore loser.

Men are domesticated thanks to women, but in our hearts most of us are still wild. The desire to conquer is strong in us. We still retreat to the woods, we still eat hoards of meat and the desire to drive recklessly is tempered only by the loving eyes of our family. To deal with this, women have two options. First, she can be the type of woman a man longs for, and if he’s smart, he will pursue her with all the gusto he can muster. This will result in a happy and productive marriage along with the occasional trip to the woods or river. We’re still wild, remember? The other option is to be a Trojan horse to him. Lure him in with her seductive ways and promise him happiness until she has him around the throat and his other sensitive parts. This places her in a prime position to get exactly what she wants from him, which may be a child, money or simply the satisfaction that she can rule his life because of her low opinion of men. These women are sick. Her husband bought a ring as a token showing he can care for her and she has slowly become something that he can’t do anything with. She sees no wrong in her selfish actions and everyone is left with an open heart where a loving mother should be.

Proverbs 31 speaks of the virtuous woman, lauding her business sense, piety, and care for her family. Women are one of God’s most precious gifts to us. They are gentle and loving, but when they do not take their place in this world seriously, or worse, use their talents for selfish reasons, everyone suffers.