Spiritual Abuse Part 16__Men of God, Rise Up! Protect Your Marriage!

By nature I default to the stronger leader as long as the leader stays grounded on Biblical truth. I also default to male leadership, most likely because of my upbringing, and because my husband truly is a leader worthy of my respect, honour and… yes, the ‘s’ word… submission.

Tim is a man of integrity, unlike any I have ever known before. We have been happily married for eighteen and a half years. Well, most of them were happy years. We did have some very rough times as well. Times when we were not certain our marriage would make it. Or at least I wasn’t certain. Tim never, for even one millisecond, entertained another option.

About eleven years ago I had given up on our marriage. I wanted out. It all felt too complicated and I felt I had lost myself somewhere along the way. I started to look into other living options, started to plan how I would survive without Tim, how we would share our five children and not make it a big ugly fight.

 

Leading up to this, in the first seven years of marriage, Tim and I had never had a ‘fight’, really. We had disagreements but, for the most part, we are as compatible as two people can be. So why would I want to leave a man who never treated me abusively, or harmed me emotionally or physically? When life was ‘peaceful’, why would I want out?

We had grown apathetic in our marriage. We merely co-existed. We didn’t understand each other. We were both ‘nice’ and kind, but the depth was lacking. I wanted desperately to ‘know’ him and ‘be known’ by him. I wanted him to pursue my heart, to enter into my inner world, and I wanted to be part of his. Yet, both of us had retreated.

Add to this a health crisis, on my part, that left me physically weak and psychologically fragile, and I simply could not cope with distance in our relationship. Dark thoughts and hopelessness invaded my heart and mind.

When I proposed to Tim that we part ways, peacefully, and told him I wanted out of the marriage, he was crushed. The pain I saw in his eyes that day, told me more about his deep love for me than I had understood before. He heard my heart, no defences. I shared with him how abandoned I felt, how distant I felt from him, emotionally, and like I was the one who constantly had to keep our marriage alive.

Tim showed leadership that changed our marriage. He stepped into my heart, so to speak, and got to know who I am. He apologized for hurting me, for not protecting me and not ‘knowing’ me.

I don’t know how it came about, but Hilco and Joyce, a couple from the church we attended at that time, Koinonia Christian Fellowship, came to see us. They listened to us, prayed with us and gave us some basic tools to help us fight for our marriage together.

Beyond being ‘nice’, he made a promise to know and care for my heart, and invest himself in building our marriage, in protecting me and fighting for me and our children. Being a man of his word, he did just that. This leadership has continued over the years. We’ve had gaps, but through those ‘seasons’ we learned to fight ‘together’ for our relationship.

The greatest gift Tim has given me, over the years, is his unconditional love. No strings attached, he has embraced me, as I am. In every situation, when the storms hit, and ‘life’ threatened our marriage, he has taken it seriously and ‘tuned in’ and sought God with me. He has always treated me as equal, and has not withheld important information from me, and has included me in decision-making.  He hears me, and listens to my advice and then together we make decisions, with the final call being up to him, in many cases.

This respect, and feeling valued, has made it easy for me to submit myself to Tim’s leadership.  I trust his heart toward me and know, without question, that he longs only to bless me. (He does this from his heart, but the pay-off for him is pretty good too.) On the flip side, there have been times when Tim gave up something he felt strongly about, or wanted, because I was not at peace with it. That is part of healthy relationship.

We were created for relationship, for mutual respect, and in love to submit to one another. Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church. Lead with a servant heart. Spiritual Abuse makes room for control, abandonment and expecting to be served, but that is not the example that Christ gave you. You will win your wife, if you hear her heart and validate her feelings. Take time to pursue her—she longs to be the apple of your eye. Be quick to say, “I’m sorry”, if you have wronged her. It will build trust. Pray with her. Get to know what makes her ‘tick’ and speak her love language.

Ladies, be patient with your husbands as they learn a better way. Encourage them. Be your husband’s number one cheerleader. Don’t leave that for another woman.  Believe in him and support him. It is a two-way street, and God has given us a lot of influence over our husbands. Above all, pray for him and with him, rather than trying to change him.

Gentlemen, fight for your marriages, it is worth it. Take it from someone who almost lost the best years of her marriage. Someone whose husband refused to let pride stand in the way.

© Trudy Metzger 2012

Go to first post in this series: http://trudymetzger.com/2012/05/22/spiritual-abuse-introduction/

Is Love a Commitment or a Bouquet?

Rarely do I go to the grocery store in the morning. However, as fate would have it, I stopped this morning to pick up some critical items for the office—namely coffee, cream and milk.

The first thing I noticed, to the point of distraction, was the number of men in the store. Many congregated around the flowers, either deciding on the perfect bouquet, or doing the math to figure out which would put the smallest dent in the wallet, for the biggest ‘wow’ from a sweetheart. Hopefully most were giving thought to the intended message.

There were businessmen in suits, casually dressed men, and those who looked like they had crawled out of bed against their own will but with a good awareness of self-preservation. Mostly they carefully avoided eye contact with each other—probably hoping no one would recognize them or judge the fact that Valentine flowers were being purchased at the grocery store. (Relax guys… you’re all buying them at the same place! Who is going to judge you?? Oh, and, BTW, don’t forget to remove the ‘grocery’ sticker.)

The scene humoured me. Maybe it shouldn’t.

Seems to me I had to stop at the grocery store on Valentine’s Day last year too. The scene was similar with men rushing about, looking just as distressed.

This got me thinking about the whole ‘Valentine’s Day thing’, and romantic relationships in general. The purpose for it is to set aside a day of the year to focus on celebrating the romantic love in our lives. And that’s not a bad thing.

However, as I observed the frenzy of activity, I realized that each of these men have a story, a ‘someone’ who shares that story with them. For some, hopefully for most, the flowers are a meaningful expression of the love they live daily.

You may be thinking, “….but with flowers from a grocery store?” Sure, why not? It isn’t breaking the bank that makes the thought count. It’s the other 364.5 days of the year and how he has cherished her.

For others, I presume, the flowers, or their romantic purpose, are given little thought, and serve mostly to keep him out of the doghouse with ‘the wife’.

And that mental wandering led me to thinking about my marriage. My husband and I are pretty normal people. Make that very normal. Our lives are busy with work, family–5 kids and a dog, to be precise–ministry, committees, and hobbies. We have normal ups and downs in our relationship, just like everyone else. But the one thing my husband has done every day for the past 18 years, other than the rare day that we did not see each other or speak on the phone, is tell me he loves me. That is approximately 6,579 times, minus a few days, plus add in the countless days that he told me numerous times a day. We have rarely parted ways without a hug, a kiss, and an ‘I love you’—even on the days that we were ticked off or hurt.

I reciprocate, or even initiate, the same gesture, but I have him to thank for it. Early in marriage, when I asked why he insists on giving me a good-bye kiss and saying ‘I love you’, just to go to the grocery store, Tim told me that he wanted us always to part ways, affirming our love for each other. “You never know when will be your last good-bye’, he said.  

This act of love has served our marriage well. It has taken discipline, sacrifice and the choice of will, on the days where feelings didn’t match our commitment. Other days it has threatened to make us late for work or other responsibilities when passion out-measured time available to celebrate our feelings. But , regardless of our feelings, it has always reminded us that we are in it for the long haul, that there is no competition in our love for each other and, no matter what happens, we have each other’s heart.

Today, in spite of what other Valentine’s Day celebrations we do or do not make happen, or whether I get flowers from a grocery store… or none… I am thankful for the love of my life. Truth be told, I can’t even recall what he did last year to celebrate, but I remember all the ways he helped me the other 364.5 days in between, and how special he makes me feel every day of the year. That is the love I celebrate today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!