I think I like to be vocal and honest about marriage stuff because no one taught me how to be a wife and I didn’t have someone to call when I was blowing it royally in the beginning years when I was a fit throwing idealist with little grace for myself let alone my husband. I’ve learned some stuff over the years, that marriage has seasons, one person has been stronger when the other is weak, we’ve experienced when both of us have been exhausted and overwhelmed, we’ve come through some mountain tops of first experiences like our houses and kids … We have been well behaved communicators and we haven’t been. You see when I was a kid (I was a 22yr old kid because I lacked maturity and a God centered understanding of love when we married and well we always can grow into more of that) … But as I became a woman, I began to put those things behind me … I learned telling my husband all his faults NEVER motivated him to want to change, putting him down and letting him in on all my disappoints never made him go I want to love her more. I think as women in marriage when we are hurt we can spend more time day dreaming about what our marriage would be if our husbands would be the man we think they should be instead of loving the person and getting to know the person in front of our face. Or we focus on all that could be better and just stop trying to have fun. A wife isn’t what a certificate makes a woman, it’s a living, active, growing, changing, adapting, commitment that takes work, love, nurture and understanding. Don’t get me wrong there are still days I want to lose my junk but I’ve made a decision I want to be a woman that values myself and my voice, that I try to use it in a way I can be heard but even then I can’t control outcomes, and grace gives people space to work out their own junk too. Somethings aren’t fixed or healed overnight. My husband is a great man and we’ve walked through stuff, we have become okay with saying we are not perfect and that we lean on God. I hope this helps someone, don’t get caught up in marriage comparisons, keep working and fighting for what is yours. You are well able to walk the seasons with grace, because God says if we call on His wisdom, He gives it and we are never alone.
The number 15 had me inspired. I had to write about it!
I thought, “Why NOT?!? 15 years of marriage surely gives me the right to say SOME things about marriage.”
(granted it’s not 20, 30 or 40 years at which I would respectful sit at the feet of these women and hang on their every word … always be a learner.)
On my Anniversary to the man I adore today … because I LOVE marriage … I fight for every marriage I know to make it … REALLY both Yuri and I do and it’s why he has given permission in my life to be honest and vulnerable, to say the things people don’t want to say or expose, because we are sold daily images … ideals of the perfect marriage … the knight in shining armor husband … oh crunch, seriously people give me a break! (I’m feeling the need for a Kit-KAt bar right about now! … excuse my humor 😉 )
Here is the deal if you are married (or you one day will be) it’s highly likely, (yes, take a deep breath right about now), that you married or will marry someone who is NOT perfect … gasp!!!!! Ohhhh and here is the real cliff hanger … it’s highly likely YOU are NOT perfect either!
* Double Gasp *
Coming from the girl who thought she was right more than she was wrong for the first 3 years of her marriage, it was a rude awaking. 😉
So I broke down 10 things I learned over the last 15 years and tried to keep it simple in pure celebration that an ex-meth addict and kid from Maui who started selling marijuana at 8 years old (who met at Bible College no less), have some how made it this far. Unbelievable. Grateful.
So I’m keeping this all straight to the point but know it’s with lots of love!
(First three are about sex, here is your mental prep … it’s gonna be ok 😉 ) It’s all very honest starting with the fact that I learned most of these things the hard way, but no one talked to me about them, why not break some silence for some one who might need the encouragement because fighting for your marriage is worth it!
Here we go …
1.) Don’t drill your man about your body. When you are having a melt down about your self-image it’s really about you … believe me your man knows it too … it’s a set up! Ultimately if you are not happy with you and he opens his mouth, it’s never enough, all answers are heard wrong and he is going down, he is actually probably scared, his face isn’t that he is lying … it’s the face of pure fear. God will always be your source and place of true identity, even thou your spouse is your best friend take these fears and insecurities to the Lord first, His words of love and acceptance will be the only words to sooth your soul and help you heal from wrong thinking about yourself.
2.) A healthy sex life is huge. It’s not a bargaining chip. It’s not something he gets if he is a good boy. It’s not something he is denied if he is a bad boy. It’s a need for connection and intimacy … the truth is on the other side of this is all that open heart communication you really want. Be romantic don’t expect romance. EXPECTATION is a killer of true intimacy. I spent years putting all the pressure on Yuri to be a certain way … I was being a getter not a giver. Give me romance and then … you get it. But then I learned to embrace that wild little goofy boy that lives inside every man and I tried (with several times of failure on the way) to accept that love he was giving me, that exposure of who he really is that only I get to see. I decided it was precious and worthy of the same pursuit I expected of him … when I got this, like really got this … I ended up getting what I really wanted a man that desired me and respected me. Heck, if you are married you should have a killer sex life! Simply: connection keeps couples connected.
3.) Men actually just really want to see their wives naked. I’ve been twice my current weight and i’ve been fit … it didn’t make a difference to my husband that wanted to be with me and love his wife. How I saw myself messed with that but not his need to enjoy his wife. Your husband will only see or focus on what you make him focus on. He is not looking and focusing on the dimple on your left bum cheek like you are, so don’t feel the need to point it all out to him and make him stare at it … learn from me … this doesn’t go well. When you rock what yo mama gave you and you are ok with you … there is nothing quite as beautiful! Weight will never be your worth or define your beauty. Society is broken and none of us women make it through the media entourage of images we are feed daily unscathed but make a choice not to bring that brokeness into the marriage bed. Martial intimacy is about knowing and being known … don’t let insecurities keep you from letting your spouse know you. This was huge for me, I let it steal from me for way too long, so if I can give you this advice gift early on then you can rock one of the great gifts of marriage which is a rockin’ healthy sex life!
4.) Don’t shoot your cheerleader. Once you get married you get ONE most important fan, your spouse. You will have really encouraging people in your life there to push you to be your best but they can never take the place of the one meant to be your main cheerleader. Your words matter. Don’t use them to tear down the very one you need to build you up and hold you up when you are down. You are going to get your feelings hurt, you are going to get angry, you are not going to agree on everything; resist the temptation to accuse, judge or tear down your spouse like a woman that attacks the very one she needs with words coming out her mouth like ammo from two automatic weapons under her arms fueled by her own fears and need to control. Acknowledge God, invite Him into way you communicate, feel what you need to feel, heck cry, yell, drop a “S” bomb if you have too telling God how much you think it sucks in a private moment with God, then come back to the situation in a more dignified mutually honoring way. If you are a person who internalizes their emotions, it’s important that you don’t stuff and get into the habit of being a marriage martyr, your feelings are valid and you may need to express those feelings to God so you don’t withdrawal from your spouse, letting the silence be what you actually wound your mate with. Let your cheerleader know you value them, you need them, that their support helps you be better, ask them what they need in a cheerleader as well. Words matter. Use them wisely.
5.) You know that scripture about, “not letting the sun go down on your anger, don’t let the devil have a foot hold”, ya THAT one. My personal opinion after traumatizing my husband with my good “Christian” intentions the first two years of marriage is that this can be one of the most misunderstood or taught marriage principles that leave couples feeling like failures at 2am in the morning, exhausted as all get out, trying to resolve issues that would be better talked through by two rested individuals that had time to reflect and get perspective. The sun going down on your anger is about you dealing with your own anger, not keeping inventory of your spouses or your analysis of how well you felt like they dealt with it. It takes 5 minutes with your eyes closed to give God your anger and get the devil off your foot, if you will, to let go until a more beneficial time when you both have fresh perspective.“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Ephesians 4:26–27)
6.) It’s ok to be different. Not to agree on everything. Your spouses ‘different’ isn’t against you and it also doesn’t need to be conformed to the way you see things. It’s not right vs. wrong it’s asset vs. asset. You see your spouse opens up opportunities for you to see the world differently, to experience new perspectives. I remember when I stopped trying to convert my husband to the way I saw life, the way I experienced God, the way I internalized emotion and I actually asked him why he saw things the way he saw them and then actually honored the way he saw it … craziness happened, he wanted to honor my differences.
7.) Don’t hold grudges. Make fun of your marriage blunders, laugh about ways you blew it. Just laugh a lot, look for ways to be playful and fun with your spouse. Life will present lots of obstacles and a couple who can laugh together in a midst of those storms becomes stronger because of the storm. Don’t loose site of developing the friendship side of marriage … don’t let the obligations of life cause you to stop being a good friend.
8.) Don’t listen to your spouses fears … speak to their faith. I actually learned this from my man. It’s normal to get insecure and question yourself, but when you begin to hear your spouse operating from a place of fear in their life, don’t negotiate with their fears call out their faith and greatness. For example … I hear your fear saying this, but I know this to be true about you, this is who you really are, be that person. I’m not going to argue lies with you, I promise to always tell you the truth. These can be hard conversations … give your spouse permission to remind you who you really are … always be reminding them too!
9.) Love “the crap” that’s yours. Can I say that, well I already did. You have areas you could be better, your spouse does too. I recently was talking to my husband that he better not die on me because I really don’t want to ever have to deal with someone else’s crap, their hang ups etc. I know your crap, I chose you with it, I choose you with it daily … it’s my crap because I love you and your mine. Does it irritate me sometimes, hello yes, but it’s mine. Like wise my “stuff” is my husbands, every year, all the time God is giving us revelation, we grow, we change, we let go of old crap but we also know we will never be perfect. We’ve decided to let go of the expectation that we will ever be free from refining in some area of our lives. It’s about perspective and it’s about accepting the person you love today on their way to tomorrow.
10.) No matter what … keep dating. We change as individuals, I am not longer married to the man I was at the alter. Don’t get me wrong their are elements of his personality that are the same but he will never be the 26 year old Yuri again. His interests have changed over the years so have his relationships, his work making him who he is today. It’s been in our dates and intentional time together that we are in pursuit of the person that each of us is in the state of becoming. We are always learning new things about each other and uncovering new memories we haven’t shared with each other yet. Our dates are some what comical sometimes … we like to get a booth in the corner of a restaurant hovering over our table-side guacamole he will show me videos of Jiu Jitsu moves and UFC fighters he likes and I will show him silly and funny pictures and videos that make me laugh that have very little relevance except that I just love funny things and find great joy discovering humor or inspiration in unexpected places. We both enjoy watching the human spirit be resilient and that is were we find our common ground.
That’s all really. I said just 10.
If you are alive (which I gather you are, because you are reading this), you’ve realized that this word is unavoidable.
It’s not a dirty little word.
It’s actually, if looked at differently, an amazing opportunity … really!
It’s an amazing opportunity for a couple of things.
Dealing with conflict in a relationship has the amazing ability to bring people closer together. It also has the amazing ability to create a great divide. The difference is in our responses to conflict, to the people involved and to the mirror conflict uses to show us what is in our own heart, if we dare to look.
Conflict harnessed and maneuvered through correctly can be a very powerful tool and catalyst to some of the greatest changes we desire to see in our relationships and lives. It’s all about how we view it, and yes, I‘ve learned this all too well the hard way.
I was actually asking the Lord, “Do you seriously want me to write about this?! You know, since you are, like, God, You are kind of putting me in the sweet spot Lord… Cheers, to more opportunities to practice what you preach/write, right Jesus?.”
Of course in true Holy Spirit style this week lent itself to opportunities to test what the Lord has taught me about the double-edged beauty of conflict, posing this question to my heart, “Do I really believe and live what He has taught me over the years about conflict?” With a deep glance into my heart the answer is both yes and no. Do I believe it? Undoubtedly, yes. Do I always live it, or better yet, do I always get it right, without hesitation? NO. That is where grace comes in.
Grace is not an excuse for bad behavior in relationships. This is all about the grace you walk in, is the grace you can give to yourself and others. You can not give grace you have not experienced or received. Grace is about You and God. Grace makes the gospel we believe to be true a reality in everyday life (that Jesus came for us in all our mess, completely aware of our mess and He chose us anyway. He then gave His life so He could hold our hand through a life that is messy, one He told us in advance would not be easy, but that He has overcome). Grace in conflict is about taking a step back and acknowledging God (a kind of God that sent Jesus, the God that sent grace), asking Him to come into your conflict and lead you through it because you don’t have all the answers. In simplicity it mirrors Lordship, but sometimes in the heat of conflict the truth is we feel a little more, “Oh, no you didn’t!,” then, “Come Jesus.” Or maybe it’s just me, oh but nah, I know better!
Conflict is no respecter of persons, it presents itself in all sizes, ages and relationships, (the ‘I DO’ relationship will definitely give you some opportunities to practice some of these grace in conflict tips for sure. ) Here are a few things the Lord has spoken to me over the years and I pray they are helpful to you in turning conflict into an opportunity that produces life in your relationships and doesn’t destroy it.
Consider The Equation (Conflict should be an equation solved not a problem without a solution)
I was 20 years old the first time God spoke to me about how dealing with conflict was like working a math problem. I had a friend I loved dearly that I began to see making decision that I felt were going to be hurtful to her in the end, it just ebbed at my heart because I loved her so much. I’ve always been one to choose my words carefully because, well, I really love words and I’m a firm believer that words matter. You can be forgiven for what you say, but only time and the building of trust can take the sting of choice words away. So I watched and waited hoping I wouldn’t have to say anything because I was so not the lover of conflict at the time. I began to grow frustrated and hurt because I stuffed a concern until a conflict grew in my own heart. I remember it growing to the point I just wanted to call her, no “Hello.”, just “This is actually what I think about this and that and THAT!”
I felt it, that ugly feeling had crept in, I took a deep breath, I searched for the word that would give voice to what was happening in my heart, then it came like an elevator coming to a halt; judgment.
I had crossed over into judgment and it happened in a flash. It happened because I choose not to communicate, so what was simply a concern out of love became a conflict that became a judgment and now I had set myself up to stand up under the same judgment in which I had judged. The ugliness caused me to open my heart up to God, (which would have been really awesome if I had done that at first). First I repented of judgment, I asked for and received grace for myself, then I asked for grace to walk through the conflict.
It’s then He spoke to my heart and I saw this equation:
God asked me, “Are you willing to work the equation to solve the problem?”
“Of course I am, I want to fix it, I want it to be better!”
“What if that means you are the one that has to change the way they communicate so you can be heard? What if it requires you lay down your way of doing things to get the desired outcome that is in your heart? What if it requires that you choose to do something different than you’ve done before?”
“Whew. Wow. Honestly I’m scared … only because I don’t fully understand, but I’m willing. Lord would show me what I don’t know, help me see what I don’t see.”
A: It was then God began to speak to my heart about how my friend heard a whisper like a roar in conflict because of what she had been through in her life. He said she would be able to hear my heart if I first affirmed how much I loved her and how meaningful her friendship had been to me over the years and the value that I held her in high esteem in my heart.
B: Then I would be able to address my concern by asking questions and being respectful to not accuse or attach perceived motive to her actions. After being careful to listen and not talk over and interrupt I could submit my concern to be considered because of my value and love for who she is as a person.
C: I got to share a confidant acknowledgement that I was thankful that this resolved conflict made us closer because we were vulnerable enough to share in honesty our true feelings that gave our friendship a new maturity and richness.
Because God is, like brilliant, this totally worked. Imagine that. God and grace with results; A+B=C
Of course this was custom wisdom for this conflict, this friend and this situation but I’ve been tested to work this equation in several other situations and in my marriage. It does require acknowledging and hearing God, receiving grace and giving it.
I’ve learned that my way is saying what I want to say in the moment to get it off my chest (because that does feel good for like 2 seconds, I’m not going to lie) BUT that does not result in C! I’ve totally proven this, trust me on this one and let me save you from some hardship. Simply take a moment and breathe, walk out of the room if you have to. Choose to acknowledge God and ask for grace to communicate in a way that is gracious and reflects mutual honor. When you blow it (and you will) call on grace, He is always with you, be quick to repent. You may miss the exit but there are always U-turns. I just (while preparing this article) had to go to my husband and say, “I communicated in a way that caused me not to be heard, will you forgive me and can we try talking about that again?”
You have the power of choice to choose to see conflict as an opportunity instead of a great divide.
Always be adding tools to your communication tool box (Be a learner of Grace)
- Ask questions don’t assume
- Respect each others truth about the same situation
- Don’t abuse “I feel” statements if you are not willing to listen to the other’s feelings
- Resolving conflict is about listening with more than just your ears (remember 90% of communication is body language), use words like, “I hear you saying with your words this …., but I’m also hearing that you are … hurt, fearful, frustrated etc. from your tone, demeanor etc. can we talk about that?
- Choose honor over control
- Take responsibility not blame
- Realize God doesn’t take sides with His children … He is working all things together for the growth and maturity of each involved
- Believe the best, even when the best is not what you see (this is not an excuse to stay in abusive relationship, it’s about keeping your heart positioned in Godly love.)
- Remember the power of blessing
I also understand and have experienced that there are relationships in this life where it just doesn’t work out the way it is in your heart and it is painful. In every varying level or relationship we participate in we take a risk to invest a part of our lives. We risk when we share who we are, we ultimately risk when we love and love takes these kind of risks. It’s in the risk we find honest community and vulnerable life exchanges. These relationships when found are well worth the risk, people are what make our lives rich. I have looked back over my own life and said it was better to have loved then not to have. Even knowing that, it is human to think of ways we could have done things differently because we were made for love and every broken relationship in which we made an investment hurts. If you’ve walked through that kind of severing, I want to say I’m so sorry and validate the disappointment, regret and loss you feel. It’s so very real.
Whether it was a friendship, a boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, even church or job leaving experience I pray Grace rests on your heart. I pray for grace to grieve loss, grace to climb up to the balcony of your faith and hear God’s truth about you and the situation. I pray grace carries you and helps you find your place to ‘camp out’ in truths about His love and grace that keep your heart dependent and free from offense … a place where grace teaches our hearts to love in the face of any circumstance.
I believe there is grace in conflict. I believe in choosing grace (Jesus) and it’s (His) ability to teach us in the face of the many messy situations we will experience in this life. I believe in you and your ability to turn conflict into an opportunity and your ability to hear His voice!(* Originally written for Destiny in bloom Nov. 26th, 2012)