Going after peace not war…

Holly & Garrett's sendoff

Holly & Garrett’s sendoff

Fifteen years ago I was the mother of three children, and married to a fairly passive pessimist. I lived a hit-or-miss lifestyle. (Meaning I lived without much intentionality. I acted on how I felt, when I felt it, without much regard to consequences.) Because of the constant conflict of an optimist living with a pessimist, I walked around from episode to episode of frustration. When frustration or disappointment would arise, here’s the steps I took to process the emotions:

  • Immediately express my feelings.
  • Continue to express my feelings until I felt relieved of frustration.
  • Chronically recall my frustration and remind those involved of my disappointment and feelings.
  • Forgive only when I couldn’t remember what frustrated me, or forgive only when some new frustration replaces the old.

So how’d that work out for me? I became divorced after 15 years of marriage. Was how I dealt with my frustrations the cause of my divorce? Well, no. But I can assure you it didn’t help either.

Living an Intentional Lifestyle instead of a Hit-or-Miss Lifestyle

 

frustrated momSwim season is over but there was a day in June when I had to have our daughter at her swim meet before 7 am. Yes…7 am on a Saturday morning in the middle of June! Not exactly easy, but somehow grace was abounding, because we were on time. Leaving this early left my husband (who is time challenged) to get to the meet on his own. Time challenged means he is notoriously late. He’s been that way as long as I’ve known him. I know it. I’ve lived with it for over 10 years. And yes, it’s a source of aggravation for me.

The meet started at 8:30 am. Maddie’s first event would be a little before 9:00 am. Since parking is awful at our pool, Randy need to ride his bike. I told him to leave by 8:30 so he wouldn’t miss her first event.

Well, as you can imagine, he missed her first event. And yes, I was extremely disappointed.

Here’s my natural reaction.

  • Be upset and ruin my morning.
  • As my husband arrives, show my frustration
  • Scold my husband in an attempt to relieve my frustration.

Yes, I was looking to not feel bad. Who wants to be angry? (Well some people thrive on it…I’m not one.) Some people choose to be angry, and that anger draws out past frustrations that didn’t get resolved–like my repeated frustration that my husband is chronically late.

Sometimes it’s hard not to get angry…especially when it involves my children. When it comes to my children, I am literally a Momma Bear, protecting her cubs.

So here’s how my hit-or-miss lifestyle would cope: My husband arrives, I greet him with a frown. Since it’s crowded, my scolding is public. His reaction is public. I don’t feel better. He’s obviously already aware that he’s late and feeling disappointed, but his reaction will be an immediate defensive response. Result: we both have a miserable time at the swim meet, the rest of the day will be strained. Our connection as a married couple has taken a huge hit.

So is it worth it? No!

Here’s how a loving and kind wife, who chases after peace could handle it.

  • Recognize my anger. Sometimes just acknowledging your frustration diffuses the emotion.
  • Determine the root of the anger. Is it really that awful, or is it a reaction to an underlying issue? If it is an underlying issue, a public swim meet is not the venue to discuss the problem. And discussing it in anger will not produce any positive results.
  • Determine if my anger is justified. If it is, then wait for a better time to discuss. “Walk away” and wait till you can discuss without emotions being intense.
  • Determine your outcome. What is it you want? An apology? Knowing he’s aware of his problem and promises to do better? An acknowledgement that he messed up? Once you know what outcome you want, rationally figure out the best way to get that outcome. A public and emotional confrontation is not an effective tool.
  • Ask yourself if your attitude will make your day better or worse?
  • Ask yourself if you are seeking peace?
  • Is it really worth losing my joy over this issue?
  • Anger and frustration is a choice. Sometime it sneaks up on you, but it’s still a choice to continue in a state of anger.

If you struggle with anger and feel unable to diffuse it, there are deeper issues going on. Are you trying to punish your mate with your anger? Let God take control of teaching your spouse. Pray for God to help him with his issues.

So what did I do? By delaying my reaction, I realized it wasn’t that big of a deal and I didn’t have to do anything. He was more than on time for her next meet. And my connection to my wonderful husband stayed intact.

Weeds in Your Marriage Garden? Tips for Both Husbands and Wives

WeedsWe built this cute little rock garden a little over a month ago. The grass had died and the area was looking pretty shabby.
So we planted a few Holly bushes and covered the dirt with landscape rock. It looked pretty good for a couple of weeks. Not sure what I was thinking, but I imagined this little rock garden with a few plants would do just fine without much attention.

I walked by it every day, but somehow didn’t see the weeds starting to come up, or that one of the Holly bushes started to look pretty distressed.

Then one day I got word that out of town company was coming. So I walked outside and looked at my rock garden with new eyes. Some how in the last few weeks, weeds had pretty much taken over the rock garden and one of the Holly bushes was near death.

I enlisted my 8 year old daughter and her neighbor friend to come help me pull weeds. Between the three of us, we pulled and pulled and pulled the pesky weeds. It was quite a job! Especially mid day in August in South Texas…in 98 degree heat. Luckily, it was a small area. The problem was, I didn’t see the weeds when they were young and tender, when they would have been easy to pull out and destroy. Instead, the weeds ended up choking out one of my Holly bushes, and laying deep roots in my garden. Yes, we have pulled out the weeds where we can’t see them from the top, but I know we didn’t get all the deep rooted weeds. That’s going to take even more work.

I have areas like that in my life too. Areas that I see every day, but don’t notice the change taking place. I don’t recognize the weeds growing up around my heart.

This past weekend I was at a family reunion in which my ex-husband is also in attendance.  We were married for 15 years. When we married 25 years ago, I really thought that my happy ever after had been found. My husband was a dairy farmer and we lived in a remote rural community. I poured my entire heart and soul into this new family of mine. Nothing seemed more important to me than being a wife and a mom. Three years into the marriage I gave birth to my precious daughter Holly. Life seemed perfect. That is until weeds started growing. But they were weeds that didn’t seem significant. I didn’t notice them until they were deeply rooted and eventually choked the life out of our marriage.

Here’s a list of weeds that can start growing in the garden of “marriage.”

  • You keep score on who does what
  • You start blaming your spouse…for anything.
  • You use stern and scolding language when speaking to your spouse. We need to talk to our spouses more kindly than we talk to others.
  • Your best friend is someone other than your spouse.Your best friend is someone you talk to every day. You tell them just about everything. You share your heart.  This best friend should be your spouse.
  • You are keeping secrets from your spouse.  Nothing add more tension or anxiety than keeping a secret, or worse, telling a lie.
  • Your social activities are separated.

Message to Husbands: (These are tips to stay connected to your wife.  That should be a top priority.)

  • If you do end up helping around the house, do it as a gift to your wife, not a message that she’s not doing a good job or that’s she’s a slob.
  • Take time everyday to talk and listen to your wife.  Don’t use that time as giving her a  to-do list, a time of correcting or scolding, or a session of grilling her to see if she’s doing everything right.  When she opens up to you, don’t try to fix things.  Be an encourager, validator, or admirer.
  • If you want to be intimate, don’t whine.  Don’t blame her for a lack of frequency.  Wives and Moms spend a majority of their life taking care of others.  They want to take care of you too.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself if she’s struggling with that juggling act.  Take action and do something that makes her feel loved.  You’d be amazed at how successful a hug and a declaration of pride and love can be.  Being mad or disappointed, or even a innocent comment like “I’m so lonely” can completely ruin your connection that leads to intimacy.  Do you really want your wife to be intimate out of obligation and duty, or would you rather her response be desire?
  • Be interested in things she finds interesting, even if you aren’t.  She likes cooking shows?  Sit with her and watch it without complaining.  Try to take an interest.  She likes to roller skate?  Go along side on foot or a bike.  The fact that you are being interested in what she’s interested in will create a strong connection.
  • Find something that you both like and do it together.
  • Remember that if you snap or snarl at her, it could take her days to recover, even if you do apologize.

Message to wives:

  • Quit nagging.  If you want your husband to do something, find a different way to get it other than nagging.
  • Lose the guilt trip method.  Having your husband respond out of guilt removes all the joy.
  • An argument is not the time to get your point made.  He won’t hear it.  If he’s already agitated, you enforcing your point won’t get him to see your side.  Wait until he’s calmed down and approach it at a different time, where you can calmly express your point of view.
  • Your husband needs (or craves) your respect.  Make sure every action and word shouts “I’m proud of you!”  “I’m your biggest fan!”
  • Sometimes your husband gets cranky.  Just walk away.  Don’t try to fix it.  Let them process without your words adding to the crankiness.
  • Work hard towards making your husband be your best friend.  If you are spending more time talking and sharing your heart to your girl friends, it robs your husband of that role.
  • Lose the defensiveness.
  • Work towards team work.  Some things he’s good at, some things he’s not.  Accept that.  You may have to be the one who cuts the grass or gets the oil changed on the car.  He may be a great cook.  Let him do what he’s good at.  Don’t criticise him if doesn’t seem to excel at a traditional manly role.

My mistakes:

I’m thriving in my current marriage.  Unfortunately I made all the above mistakes and more in my last marriage that lasted 15 years.

As an optimist, I struggled with feeling down.  So when I was unhappy, I made sure he knew it.  Perhaps that’s why he spent his free time elsewhere instead of with me and the family.  I nagged. I criticised.  I barked loudly.  I didn’t try to control my discontent.

I can’t imagine doing that now.  Perhaps it’s because I’m in a much better place spiritually.  When I divorced 10 years ago, I had to go through some very difficult times to get me to the place I am today.  When I finally surrendered to becoming the woman God wants me to be, I had to shed quite a few bad habits.  My habits included secrets, self-centered attitudes, laziness, materialistic desires, and low self-esteem.  God has been steadily working out these imperfections.  I know that as I grow, there are more things that have to be pruned.

I’m such a different person today than I was 10 years ago.  And I know that in 10 years, I’ll be even better.  I’m better today and trusting God to perfect in me what he started over 30 years ago when I gave my heart to God.