(When I am addressing husbands or wives here, you may need to reverse the genders for your situation.)
Recommendations to avoid drowning
In the last blog post, I told a story about a husband and wife on the seashore, out in deep water. It was to demonstrate that things in relationships are often not what they seem obviously to be. After thinking about it, I thought I’d write this post on how to avoid getting your relationship into that situation in the first place. If you are there, the last blog gives ideas on the way back to dry land. If neither of you are drowning, thank God! Read on for hints on how to keep your marriage on solid footing.
Remember Mazlow’s hierarchy of basic human needs: basic physiological needs, safety and security, intimate relationships, esteem from others and self, self-actualization, transcendence. Look for ways to provide an environment where your spouse can find these things.
Wedding Prayers and Vows
First of all, don’t go out swimming alone, not even just the two of you! Keep the people who were at your wedding around you throughout your whole marriage as much as possible, Whenever some move out of your life, replace them. It is not for no reason that in the ceremony, the minister asks them to swear to do all that they can to support your marriage. Hold them to it! Better yet, invite only people who are going to mean it.
Have different generations represented at your wedding, so you have greater, wider range of experiences in your close circle of friends. In my experience, church can provide this community of people who ordinarily would never speak to each other, coming together under a common belief, vision, definition of success - physical, emotional, and spiritual, in a way that other organizations do not.
The most intimate time you have together, do it with a third person present. I’m not referring to a menage a trois, but prayer. Times of prayer together is where you are really emotionally naked with each other. The last time you went to church (maybe it was your wedding day) wasn’t the last time you needed a prayer. That naked vulnerability builds trust, which is a great defense against the doubt and questions that can creep into a relationship.
Remember your vows to each other. This doesn’t mean gritting your teeth and toughing it out, nor brandishing it as a weapon in front of your spouse, “you promised …”
This means she deserves the benefit of the doubt.. Remember her vows to you, her love for you. That is still there somewhere. In amongst all of the pain, fear, anxiety, woundings, etc. She didn’t set out to hurt you at the beginning of this relationship, did she? So honour that original intention, regardless of what it looks like now. Despite what may have happened between you recently, expect her deep down to have a good motivation towards you.
Women, trust that he is still the same man who said he would willingly take a bullet for you. That man is still there, despite how he is reacting to something now. A husband (or wife)’s physical energy may be drained by lack of sleep, stress and long work hours. His emotional energy may be drained by not hearing his love language and lack of community. His spiritual energy may perhaps be drained by lack of time with God, both in community and individually. Someone with no energy, is not going to want to do anything new — no matter what the long term benefit; he’s just in survival mode.
Are you speaking English?
It will probably be beneficial for you to determine what your primary love languages are. I found this book is worth the read. Without telling you the whole book, the basic idea is this: If you were married to someone whose mother tongue was Spanish, wouldn’t it be more loving to talk to her in Spanish? This is where she is the most comfortable, and understands the best. Often though, when it comes to love languages, we are happy to just keep talking to her in a foreign language, and hope she gets it.
Here is the typical scenario: the husband is busy doing stuff around the house for his wife. Meanwhile, she is sitting on the couch, cooling her heals, hoping to just spend some quality time with her husband. She thinks that the stuff he is fixing is more important to him than she is. He thinks that by doing all that stuff for her, he demonstrates his love for her. She feels unappreciated. He feels unappreciated.
All of this frustration, hurt and anger is because his love language is ‘acts of service’ and hers is ‘quality time’. They both think they are showing a lot of love, but not getting any in return. It has a completely different effect when the wife speaks his love language and the husband speaks hers. So, just take a look at how he shows someone that he cares (quality time, gifts, acts of service, physical non-sexual touch, words of encouragement). Try doing those kinds of things for him. Which one most touches you? Don’t give him hints; tell him!
Twelve Good Men
Husbands, have other women around you who can describe your wife’s situation for you, and if the water your wife is in is much deeper than where you are. Maybe they can tell you in a way that you can understand, probably better than the way your wife is currently able to express herself.
Have other men around you watching you in case you go under water, to pull you out. And to hold you accountable for your actions towards your wife. This is not a guy who complains with you about the state of the Giants offense last week. This is someone who knows your heart. Again, I will say that a Christian men’s group would fit the bill. I don’t know of other venues where this can happen. It is commonly very different from how most men usually gather. If you do know of other types of groups like this, you can list any group that you would recommend in the Comments section.
If that describes some people around you — great! If not, find him / them. It’s necessary. No man is an island and all that. When men don’t have buddies backing them up, they will naturally be more defensive in protecting themselves from being pulled underwater himself. And you don’t want to be that guy who instinctively lashes out when your wife needs you the most.
These men can give you examples of their successes in communicating with their wives, so you may get some good ideas (Try not to surround yourself with only men who have mostly bad ideas, or few success stories to tell.) Maybe they can even pull together with you, like a Tug of War team, to pull her back from danger.
Maybe one of them would even be helpful enough to say to your wife, “your head may go under the water while we pull you, so hold your breath for the next 10 seconds.” Experienced counsellors will. This is the benefit of having sage people in your circle of friends, regardless of their title at work. It seems to me, that it is often the case that it gets worse before it gets better — whether it is tidying his room with your son, or working through a deep rooted, serious trauma with your wife.
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
[An African Proverb]
Do I have to go halfway around the world?
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it is my opinion that it takes a village to support a marriage too. This helps the couple to mature together (it is not a bad word — mature woman).
In North America, it is not common to have a ready-made support group of different generations of cousins, aunts and uncles, where you can find older women who have sweetened over the years, and not grown bitter. And rather than grumpy old men, ones who have learned to listen to their wife’s needs and can coach others to do the same.
I have had women come up to me and say they wish their husband would join my men’s group. They recognize the benefit that it would be for themselves. It seems like women tend to naturally be better at finding opportunities to talk and share with each other, without needing a specifically designated scheduled group meeting. Maybe you can ask around and find one that could make your married life easier, more successful. Tell them the story from the last blog about swimming at the ocean.