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Archive for November, 2010

“Church culture” is a funny thing. As I sat in service yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the people of all ages & ethnicities filling the pews of the sanctuary . We stood up, sat down, bowed our heads & raised our hands on cue. We smiled at one another, greeted each other as we asked, “How are you?” and received the expected response, “I’m good, how are you?”

But yet, how many of us really were doing “good”?  How many of us had come to church that morning with hurting hearts? And why, would we  feel like church was the last place we could share that pain with others?

Speaking for myself, I feel that I often wear my smile like a mask that hides my deepest thoughts &  feelings. One that presents a polished face to, not just my fellow church-goers, but to the world. While I tell myself that I am being selective with whom I share my life struggles, in reality, I must acknowledge that I have difficulty being authentic.

Uggh – that is hard to admit. Being part of a church community & wanting to be known as a person – the good, the bad &  the ugly – but being too afraid of the possibility of being judged, gossiped about, maybe even shunned by my social circle. But is it really fear that motivates me to maintain the illusion that I have it ALL together? Or is my attempt to preserve the perception others have of me and my life rooted in pride?

Psalms 139:23 & 24   Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

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“Responsibility tells us we are the ones who must work through our feelings and learn how to feel differently” . . . “You are not at the mercy of your spouse’s behavior or problems” . . . “No human being can force or make you do anything”

(Boundaries in Marriage – Townsend & Cloud)

So I get that personal responsibility is what is being stressed in these passages but what does it really mean to “learn how to feel differently”? Does it mean to lower the expectations I have of my husband so his actions can not hurt me? . . . to learn how to protect myself so his behavior doesn’t bother me? Aren’t these all just ways of saying I need to learn self-preservation techniques so that I am not hurt by my HUSBAND – the one who says he loves me more than life?!

How does this happen? How does a nice girl (me) get married to a (seemingly) nice guy (him) and end up with such dysfunction? A relationship where I spend my time reading about ways to protect myself from my spouse’s emotional abuse . . . Where we have been spending 2 hours a week in marriage counseling and still haven’t even scratched the surface of addressing, let alone resolving our marital issues. Some situations are impossible to untangle and can only unravel. That’s how our marriage is feeling to me, yet I know God has not abandoned me, and so I take comfort in His promises.

Psalms 91: 14 I will rescue those who love Me, I will protect those who trust in My name. When they call Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.

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I have decided to abandon the current “marriage advice” book I am reading. It really is more for couples willing to work together & looking for ways to improve their relationship. I am in this marriage improvement quest on my own, so my latest book that I have started reading was recommended by our marriage counselor and is called “Boundaries in Marriage” by Townsend & Cloud. A popular book amongst my circle of married friends, but not one I had ever read.

I had only gotten to page 9 when I read the following:

Marriage is first and foremost about love.”

While I am the world’s biggest romantic, I had to question this. You see, I have always believed that marriage was about commitment. I believe that love is an emotion that comes & goes but commitment is a conscious choice one makes, despite the circumstances. But wait, these authors are highly regarded in the Christian community. Am I the only one who sees a problem with their comment?

Then I read:

Boundaries promote love by protecting individuals.”

Hmmm, interesting thought . . . maybe I need to read further to see how this works . . .

“Commitment may be strong, but love, intimacy & deep sharing are not present in a marriage without boundaries

OK, so how does this relate to me? – yes, commitment is present. After all, we have stuck it out for 15+ years now, but there is little/no “feelings” of love or intimacy. I guess this means we are a “marriage without boundaries”

The main reason couples have difficulty producing & maintaining love is a lack of boundaries. When boundaries break down, marriage also breaks down.”

If this is true, then why do I feel that the reason I am lacking warm, fuzzy feelings towards my husband is not just because of the things he does (or doesn’t do) but because of the person he is – how can boundaries help that? I have a feeling this book is going to leave me with more questions than answers, but I will continue reading & adding posts of my thoughts along the way.

Psalms 22:4 Our ancestors trusted You and You rescued them. They put their trust in You and were never disappointed.

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I have often heard that a counselor’s office is a “safe” place to discuss feelings, but I’ve been thinking that is not really applicable in marriage counseling. At least not in my marriage counseling sessions.

When difficult topics are discussed in therapy, my husband’s negative reactions are usually carried around out of the therapy office, making our interactions even more strained &  uncomfortable. I am beginning to think that I need to be seeing a counselor without my husband present. I know the point of marriage counseling is to go together, but I feel like I can not speak freely with him in the room. We have so many issues, I can’t even think of where to begin . . . and add to that, feeling so restricted during our marriage counseling sessions because I do not want to purposefully hurt or offend my husband, but I do not know how to express myself without inhibitions . . . and still speak “with love and compassion” towards my spouse. The reality of our marriage is ugly and that is being honest.

Psalms 119:25   I lie in the dust, completely discouraged. Revive me by Your Word. I weep with grief, encourage me by Your Word

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People often ask, “What is it like to have 5 children?!” This question usually comes from someone with only 1 or 2 kids and I usually choose the easy answer with the one word response, “BUSY!” And while this is a truthful response, there is no simple way to really describe life with 5 children. There are way too many directions that conversation can go. So unless someone is asking about something specific, I tend to commiserate only with other moms with large families where little needs to be said, but much is understood.

For example, when I became pregnant with my first, I would wonder what he/she would look like, but by the 4th & 5th child, I instead began wondering what their personality would be like. While they all have distinctly different personalities, at this point, they can all be categorized as either EASY or DIFFICULT. I’m sure that’s not something they would appreciate hearing, especially the ones who fall into the “difficult” category, but they know who they are and there is no denying it.

Most astute parents know exactly what I’m talking about. I love all my children dearly even though I’ve been able to see from a very early age that some of my kids were going to challenge me in ways their siblings wouldn’t. From minor incidents as toddlers to more serious ones as teenagers, when it comes to their perspective on life & how to respond to it, they seem to usually choose the difficult path when an easier way is clearly seen by others.

I sometimes question whether certain children of mine would have been better off in a family with fewer siblings or with parents who respond differently to life . . . But I was recently given this truth – God doesn’t make mistakes. The children I have are the children that were intended for ME and put in our family because that’s how God planned it. So whatever God saw in me as a parent was exactly what my children were going to need. I know I have shortcomings as a wife, mother and friend but I am trusting in Him to show me ways to be more like Him because without Him, I can never be the best He has intended for me to be. If I can live this for my children to see, I pray they will live the same way . . . both the “easy” ones & “difficult” ones.

Philipians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

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In the book that I am reading, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage by Gary Rosberg, the author talks about 3 types of anger:

  1. Situational – triggered by a specific event
  2. Displaced – expressing anger indirectly
  3. Chronic – not resolving conflict results in chronic anger which is often shoved into the background and ignored. Buried wounds and anger generate an assortment of psychological & physical stresses.

The author then goes on to list 4 types of people and their responses to anger:

  1. the self protector – stuffs their anger and denies the hurt to protect themselves from being vulnerable to further hurt
  2. the canon – in a disagreement, one person blows up and attacks the other
  3. the conformer – conforms to lessons they learned from culture/family about dealing with conflict
  4. the denier – does not express hurt (just anger)

I find myself experiencing all three types of anger but my response is always the same. I am a “self-protector”. I try to have little or no expectations of my husband so I can avoid the hurt of disappointment. The author goes on to describe the results of my type of response. ” . . .stuffing anger into some dark corner of your heart may temporarily help you skirt past a conflict but the anger doesn’t go away. If you persist in stuffing your hurt and anger it will affect you negatively in mind, body & spirit. Your outlook on life will tarnish, your hope for deeper happiness in marriage will fade and you will be more susceptible to illness. Unresolved anger evolves into bitterness and resentment.”

One of my blog readers recently suggested I was possibly not being “open” with my husband. He was correct. I have not been “open” for some time. In the early years of my marriage, I tried to learn the best way to approach my husband with issues. When my husband would respond, “Our life together is already hard, why do you have to make it harder with these conflicts?” I began to think “avoidance” was how he preferred to deal with problems. Years of avoidance led to my depression. When my sadness seemed too much to bear any longer, I completely broke down in tears one morning. I poured my heart out to my husband. He listened . . . and then he walked away. It was Sunday, after all, and he didn’t want to be late for church . . . Not sure if I have ever recovered from that day but it was definitely a significant point in my marriage when I realized, my husband can not handle “openness” . . . I pray that one day life will be different.

Ephesians 3:19 May you experience the love of Christ, then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now glory be to God. By His mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope.

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Our marriage counselor has talked to us about the importance of meeting each other’s needs . . . Having my needs met sounds nice but, this is not a very appropriate or realistic “starting point” for us. It is so difficult for me to even be around my husband, that I have no desire to attempt to meet his needs, nor would I be very receptive to having “my needs” met by him.

At this point, I have very little “like” in my heart for him. Lately, just being near him and within the radius of his passive aggressive, negative behavior is just too draining for me. Even when he makes an attempt to act differently, my feelings toward him do not change. I know that’s all it is – an “act” I know it is just a matter of time before his bad behavior resurfaces. The dysfunction is part of his personality.

I find myself often pretending that all is well. Pretending in front of the kids, our friends, church family, and even to my husband . . . When he puts on his “act” of the easy-going father, attentive & loving husband, I put on mine. I become the sweet & encouraging wife. He seems oblivious to the fact that I am unhappily married, or maybe it is easier for him to believe that my despair is not related to him . . . Many issues to cover in therapy. . .

Ephesians 4:1 I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling – for you have been called by God . Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowances for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit and bind yourselves together in peace.

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