FINDING THE HEALTHY BALANCE IN MARRIAGE
“I’ve had it. I just can’t take it anymore.” Marianne’s expression dared me to question her decision to divorce. I had met with enough women over the years to know when to be quiet. I waited for her to continue.
“Me and the kids tiptoe around our house as if we are guests, and if anyone disagrees with him, my husband goes on a yelling rampage that can last for hours. He says we don’t respect him and he’s right! How can I respect a man who is unable to control his temper?” I remained quiet. I could tell she was just warming up.
Then, something happened that was all too familiar with so many of the women who contact me because their marriage is in crisis. It was also something that I recognized from when my own marriage was in crisis nearly 30 years ago. Her whole demeanor changed. Tears welled up, her voice softened, and her shoulders drooped. “I don’t want my marriage to end. I love God and, actually, I love my husband. I’m just so worn out.”
I have talked with hundreds of women who admit they walk on eggshells in their home, then, almost without notice, walk out. Some are peace-makers by nature, and others are type-A personalities like myself. This has little to do with how we are wired, and a lot to do with not speaking the truth. For myself, this meant telling little white lies to protect or keep the peace. I stuffed what I really felt, and discounted my emotions. I learned this as a child from adults who stuffed and blew regularly.
As a result of my unhealthy communication skills, when I told Joe I wanted a divorce it seemed to come out of nowhere. In our book, Yes, Your Marriage Can Be Saved, we detail our two-year separation and reconciliation. During our two-year separation we had to learn how to fear God more than each other. Speaking truth (in love) is the key to finding the healthy balance in marriage.
Maybe you identify with what I used to do, and stuff what you really feel. Or, maybe your spouse just walked out and you were blindsided. Joe calls this “blinded by the flight”. In either case, it is not too late to implement healthy communication tools that will help in all relationships.
1. Identify Red-Flag Thinking. Red-flag thinking goes something like this: “I hope he doesn’t notice that I’m upset. I don’t want the drama. I’ll just hide what I really feel”, or, “He makes me sick. I hate him right now. But, it’s not worth the fight, so I’ll pretend I’m not upset”, or, “I know that his behavior is sinful, but if I don’t bring it up and just show him love, maybe he will realize that he should stop.”
If you recognize that you have red-flag thinking, bring it to the light. First, go to God. Confess that you are letting the sun go down on your anger. Read Philippians 4:8-9, regarding fixing our thoughts on what is pure and lovely. After you spend some time with the Lord in prayer, you will need to bring a few things to the light by speaking truth.
2. Speak The Truth: Your thoughts are a gauge to what is inside your heart. God gave us emotions and a mind to help us recognize what needs to be changed. If your husband thinks that you are feeling satisfied and happy in your marriage he will not know that he needs to change anything on his side of the fence. What you refer to as drama may instead be simply an uncomfortable conversation. Your role is to be real, and let your husband’s response be his role. If your husband is in sin (secret or out in the open) you must take the risk to be speak up. If you don’t, he will lose respect for you. God has placed you in your husband’s life as his helper. How can you help him be the best he can be if you are letting him get away with behavior that will hurt him and the rest of your family? Speak in truth and love, but speak up. The best time to speak up is sooner than later.
If you recognize that you are not being totally honest with your husband (even in the little things), take the risk to be real. We remind couples that true intimacy equals “in-to-me-see”. Your sex life and communication will never be the best if you are not being real. Read Ephesians 4:25 in regards to taking off all falsehood and not letting the sun go down on your anger.
3. Recognize When You Need Help. Maybe you have taken the risk to be real with your husband, only to realize that your marriage has gotten worse. His anger or alienation is causing you to shut down and tip-toe in the marriage again. This is a red flag and if you don’t get the help you need, things will never change. At some point you will give up and walk out, or he will. You need outside help. .
If you are unable to talk to your husband about things such as, anger, addiction, alienation, or other difficult issues, chances are that you will have to learn to set healthy boundaries with the help of others. You can do this by reaching out to an organization or church or counselor that can point you in the right direction. Your situation must come out in the light. Sometimes, just talking to someone that you can trust is enough to begin the process. Other times it may be that an intervention takes place, such as in abuse issues. A physical separation may be necessary in certain circumstances, but quickly filing for a divorce rarely solves abuse problems. Many just remarry and end up repeating unhealthy boundary issues with someone new.
One last thing. A marriage in crisis doesn’t happen overnight, and it isn’t saved overnight, but take hope and begin the process. It is worth the time and effort.