Friday, 17 May 2013

Taboo Topics – Part II

Often couples have certain topics between them that arouse an emotional response that is so strong that over time the couple learns to steer clear of those topics as best they can.  In Part I these topics were referred to as the “Elephant in the room”.  It is as though there were an elephant sitting in your living room (which would be extremely hard to miss) yet you acted as though it were not there.

The example cited in Part I was a difference in preference as to how a couple’s children might be disciplined.  One parent might be a disciplinarian. They might believe in the old saying, “spare the rod and spoil the child”.  Perhaps their spouse had grown up in a very relaxed environment where children were given a fair amount of latitude to be children even if it meant exhibiting some behaviors that were not always the most appropriate.  This was not a topic the couple thought to discuss before marriage.  Now after eight years of marriage and two children this has become an issue between the parents.  Each gets frustrate with the other’s approach to discipline.

As stated in Part I this is not healthy for the couple’s marriage and can lead to longer term deterioration of their relationship, particularly depending on how many such issues exist between them.  But there is something even worse to consider if this is a Christian couple.  A Christian marriage is to glorify God.  Theoretically there should be no elephants in the room.  Most often the subject is taboo because each partner feels strongly about their position on the issue.  James 4:1-2 tells us that we quarrel because we don’t get our own way, which most likely contributes to the strong feelings.

The example shown in Part I dealt with a differing perspective on how to discipline a couple’s children.  One parent a strong disciplinarian the other not so much.  Their childhood experiences helped to formulate their approach. Ignoring the issue is seldom, if ever, the right approach.

Chip Ingram
An approach that could work for this couple would be to agree on one or two Christian authors who are recognized as experts in the field of child development ala Chip Ingram or Scott Turansky.  Buy one of their books or DVDs.  Sit and review the material together.  Determine which parts of their approach makes the most sense for you as a family. Whichever principles you agree upon be very consistent in how you apply them.  If there are points that you can’t agree upon seek additional help in terms of developing an alternative on which you both can agree.

This type of an approach can work for finances, sexual problems, addictions, etc.  Perhaps you can seek out mature Christian couples at church who have dealt effectively with the particular issue that is causing stress.  A Biblical counselor may be of some assistance.  The main point is do not just ignore the elephant.



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Taboo Topics – Part I

Many married couples have one or more topics that are taboo, i.e. subjects that we attempt to avoid like the plague.  The reason for staying clear of said topic is because one or both of the partners gets emotional when discussing it.  Sometimes tempers flare, sometimes voices get raised, often blood pressure goes up and sometimes something is said that you would love to take back.

The problem is too often these topics become the proverbial “elephant in the room”.  This is an English metaphorical idiom that applies to an obvious problem that no one wants to discuss.  One such topic might be parenting.  One of you is fairly strict with your children the other tends to be far more laissez faire, i.e. reserving discipline for times of chaos.  Often the way we are brought us significantly affects the way we approach child rearing.  We may either apply the same methodology that was applied to us or go in the extreme other direction.  Unfortunately if the styles of disciplining the children are too varied, the parents will be frustrated and the inconsistency will confuse the children.  Furthermore it is likely that the difference in style will frustrate both parents and will become a source of irritation between the husband and wife.  This is just one example.  Certainly finances, in-laws, sex, spirituality, etc. can all be “elephants”.

We can simply try to ignore the elephant and deal with it only when forced to.  This is not healthy for the couple’s relationship.  Our marriages are supposed to reflect the relationship between Christ and His bride the church. (Ephesians 5:25)  Is there any subject that we can’t talk to the Lord about?  Is there any subject of any substance that God hasn’t addressed with us through His Word?  Obviously God is not fearful of talking to us about anything nor do we need to fear His reaction to what we tell Him.  Therein lies a major difference between talking to our spouse about a delicate issue and talking to God.  There is another aspect that differentiates our willingness to talk to God but not our spouse and that is His grace and unconditional love.  The reason the elephant exists at all is because we are at odds with one another, we think we are right and they are wrong and we fear their response.

If our marriages truly reflected the relationship between Christ and His bride there would be no fear about broaching any subject, particularly if we had a common goal, that being to arrive at a decision that brought glory to God.

So how might you handle the parenting issue as an example?  See Part II.



Monday, 13 May 2013

Borrowed Wisdom - Part II

The inspiration for this two part series came from Lisa Johnson of Proverbs 31 Ministries.  The following digressions are based on her posting of the “7 Days of Marriage Wisdom”:

 Day 5 Believe the Best

Don’t mind read and give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.  Too often we assume we know what our spouse meant by their actions, inactions or words.  Too often we’re wrong.  Very few husbands or wives wake up in the morning thinking “I wonder how I can make life particularly miserable for my spouse today?  We are all flawed sinners.  Rather than brood about what you believe to be an intentional attack on your personhood, just tell your partner that you may have misunderstood them but that you felt hurt by their words or actions.

 Day 6 Greet Your Spouse  - Warmly

A hug, a kiss, a squeeze, a touch, a pat, a smile, a kind word – need I say more?

Day 7 Nothing is as Permanent as Change

It is too easy to let the pace of life dictate our schedules.  This has been referred to as the “tyranny of the urgent.”  Activities, circumstances, and thoughts masquerade as needing immediate attention when something of far greater importance gets ignored.  Such is often the case with our marriages.  It is critical that as husbands and wives we maintain a structure in our lives where God is at the top of the pyramid, our spouse is second, our family is third, etc.  What happens is that our work or our children or something else jumps into first or second place, at which time our marriage will suffer. 

Intentionally do one thing each day that will bring joy to your spouse, bring a smile to their face and/or brings them pleasure.  Ephesians 5:22 tells us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
It is not unusual for a couple to come in to see me after twenty years of marriage, having raised three children, and say they don’t know one another.  The truth is they don’t.  Not only did life get in the way but as individuals they are different people than the couple who dated twenty-one years earlier.  Their tastes, their likes and dislikes, their spiritual growth (or lack thereof), their fears and dreams have all been shaped by what has transpired during the twenty years of marriage.  A couple needs to build in “together time” into their weekly calendars.

This should be a time for connecting emotionally – sorry guys I know how tough that is for you.  This should not be a time to talk about the kids, running the house, finances, or the in-laws.  This should be a time when you share what is going on inside of you, what you are learning, and what you plan to do when the last “rug-rat” leaves the house.  Being an “empty nester” (when all the kids have left home) can be a great thing, if you are prepared for it!