Friday, 14 December 2012

It's Called a Screwdriver

I was asked if I remember the very first blog that I posted back in April of 2010.  I said yes and here it is:

To say that I am mechanically challenged would be an incredible understatement.  Much to the chagrin of my first wife I didn’t know the difference between a hammer and a hole saw. Interestingly during our dating years this was never a topic of conversation.  On the other hand, my wife’s father believed that he could fix anything, the operative word being “believed”.   This just became one of many expectations that as a new husband I did not fulfill.  My wife had every right to assume that I knew how to change the oil in the car, repair the dishwasher when it broke, etc. because her father could.  I thought I was doing well just to know how to start the car and turn on the dishwasher.  My first wife passed away and I never did get a whole lot better at doing the handy things that so many men can do.

The path to many counseling sessions has been paved with the bricks made of expectations. (That’s as metaphorical as I get)  Most often we bring to marriage some preconceived notion of what it will be like.  Perhaps our parents modeled what we understand marriage to be like.  Sometimes books, movies and TV become the source of our paradigm of what we can expect when we tie the proverbial knot. 

Are expectations bad?  Yes!  Expectations are bad because without realizing it they turn into entitlements.  I am entitled to (fill in the blank - conversation, a hug, clean clothes, sex, and appreciation, have my opinion respected, etc.)  What right do I have to expect that my wife should wash and fold my laundry every week?  I don’t remember that being in the marriage vows.  “I take thee Kathleen to be my lawfully wedded wife, provided you wash and fold my laundry every week.”  When an expectation becomes an entitlement we feel cheated if our spouse fails to “perform”.  Resentment builds as they fail to meet other expectations.  And the ones they do meet we don’t appreciate because that is their “duty”.

 And as for my lack of mechanical aptitude at least I set that record straight early on in my relationship with my current wife.  I met Kathleen on line.  One of my first confessions was that I was about as useless as tonsils when it came to fixing things.  She wrote back and asked if my manhood would feel threatened if she could fix things.  I assured her that my manhood would be just fine and we have lived happily ever after.

What do you think, are there any justifiable expectations?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

I'm Not Angry

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

Unfortunately displays of anger can be the beginning of the end of a marriage either literally or figuratively.  No one likes to be screamed at, yelled at or put down. It is not an affective form of communication and usually resolves nothing.

Often anger is caused by fear or the feeling that a person is losing control.  In any event anger, other than righteous indignation, is a sin and often caused by a sin.

When Anger Hurts by Mckay offers some helpful behavioral suggestions to the person wanting to stop their outbursts.  However the first thing to do is to repent and ask God to help you overcome your predisposition to anger and then go to your latest recipient of your anger and ask them to forgive you.

There are three active and three passive approaches to converting an angry exchange into a productive conversation.  First there must be an attitude change.  The angry person must re-orient their thinking.  Moments of conflict must be viewed as opportunities to resolve problems with your partner.  By changing the desired outcome from wanting to punish, control, or get even to one of problem solving the entire climate changes.

 Active approaches:

1.    A healthy response is direct.  Ask for what you want of the other person.  Be sure it is something they can do, something behavioral.  Develop a fallback position, a minimum change that is satisfactory to you.

2.    Negotiate.  Ask the other person for a proposed solution to the problem. 

3.    Self-care.  You deliver an ultimatum.  If we don’t resolve this disagreement about ____________ I will _____________.   You must be willing to follow through.

Passive approaches:

1.    Get information.  What are your concerns?    What do you need in this situation?  How are you being hurt by___________?

2.    Acknowledge / clarify.  So what you want is_______?  You are feeling hurt because_____________?  Be factual and non-judgmental in how you state this question.  No sarcasm.

3.    Withdrawal.  This is a request for a time out.  A time to think, reflect and come back together when cooler heads might prevail.

 Hopefully, if you are prone to become angry these practical skills will help.  However for a lasting change there needs to be a heart change which only comes about through the help of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Do You Ever Overreact?

I really dislike it when I read or hear something that makes me realize that I am still a sinner.  Don’t get me wrong, I have no delusions of being anything else but a sinner; I just hate to face it.

Marriage Matters, by Winston Smith, addresses among other things the concept of idol worship.   He says, “Spotting the activity of idols in our lives can be difficult.  One sure sign of idolatry is when we overreact to something.”   If I had a dime for every time I have overreacted I’d be writing this blog from the Bahamas.

As if that isn’t bad enough Smith goes on to specify some other forms of idol worship such as comfort, security, safety, success, etc.  I feel fairly confident that if I were able to make an exhaustive list you would find something on the list with which you would identify.  Perhaps it’s your kids.

Ironically it was my wife who first identified my overreaction to a minor frustration as being in an idol in my life.  It was during a time when I was throwing one of my hissy fits and she asked me who I was mad at.  The question took me by surprise because I didn’t think that I was mad at anyone in particular, I was just upset that whatever it was that I was working on wasn’t going according to “my” plan.  She gently asked me whether or not I was mad at God.  What, me mad at God?  She then asked me if I thought God had the power to make the thing that was annoying me work the way it should.  I said of course.  I think you can see where this is going.  My need for life to work according to my plans is self centered.  It is as though the world should revolve around me, my comfort, my desires.

 Rather I needed to see this as well as many other times in my daily journey as an ordinary moment, a time when I can trust that God is working on my heart.  Whatever I allow to control my behavior in a way that does not glorify God has become an idol at that point in time.
The next time you get upset with your husband, wife, children or life in general ask yourself what is it that I am seeking.  Why is this incident bothering me so?  Invariably I suspect, if you are honest with yourself it is because things are not going according to your plan.  Whether it is as insignificant as how the tooth paste tube is squeezed or something far more important most often your desires become the idol