Have you ever played the blame game in your marriage? I have and it gets me nowhere but in deeper relational trouble with my wife. Instead of taking responsibility for my actions or inaction, I place blame on something or somebody else. Yikes!
A couple of weeks ago Monique and I were spending a Sat. evening watching the U.S. Open women's championship tennis match between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. Naomi was playing for the first time in a U.S. Open championship, she's just 20 years old, while Serena is notably one of the greatest women's tennis players of all time. Serena was Noami's idol as a young girl playing tennis.
Watch here as Serena allows her frustration in her play, she had lost the first set, to build up and then get triggered by the umpire's calling a coaching violation against her. The emotions escalate from there and it gets ugly as BLAME rears it's ugly head.
This scene caused us to reflect on the relational reality of how shame is triggered and a common undesirable effect pops up, BLAME, which further distances us from our spouse. If left unresolved, blaming will create a relational chasm between us and intimacy will disappear.
What has been your experience with BLAME in relationships? How have you resolved the "BLAME" game?
Let's talk about it next time.
Last time we talked about the distortions created by sin that goes unresolved. We aren't able to see clearly because our sin triggers our shame and it becomes our core identity. We don't see others (our husbands or wives) as they truly are and we don't see ourselves clearly. Our friend John Lynch says it like this in this brief video titled; "Why do I Hide?"
Grace lets God handle sin. Grace melts masks. Grace changes how we treat each other and our sin issues. #trueface
Living in the truth, how God sees us even on our worst day, gives us incredible new lens by which to view ourselves and the ones we love so dearly. It is the affordable (free) laser heart surgery we all need. Let's talk more next week about how we can live in God's grace daily.
The last two Augusts, we have experienced some really smoky days, which seriously affect air quality and what we are able to do outside. In talking with folks, no one can ever remember such smoky conditions as in the last two years. I experienced some nasty smog growing up in So. Calif. but nothing quite like the sun blocking haze created by this smoke.
As you can see by the photo on the right; the smoke literally changes the color of the sun by filtering the actual colors that are normally revealed. This is not a photo of a sunset. Wow!
I can't help but thinking, as I experience the limitations this smoke has put on our daily life and plans for hiking, that when I (we) live in sin, willfully diving into self-centeredness, selfishness and me focused living, my (our) perceptions of life and relationships around me (us) gets cloudy. There are similarities to the distortions the smoke is making for us here in NW Washington, I do believe. What do you think? What are some of the distortions you experience when you are laser focused on self? How do you experience others, especially your spouse, when they are self-absorbed and living momentarily in an "all about me" existence?
The distortions are very real aren't they? In this photo, looking across the Puget Sound, you should be able to clearly see the mountains. Whoa!
When we live in the truth, we should be able to clearly see the reality of our relationships and how others are experiencing us. Lots to contemplate and talk about here for sure, so we will continue the conversation next time. We would love to hear from you in the comments.
Choosing to align with truth clarifies and strengthens my identity. #trueface
I just read this excerpt, via my email inbox, from one of John Eldredge's books titled; Walking with God. I read the book at least 5 years ago, and right now I'm reading this excerpt with the lens of marriage and family in regards to "others". What really caught my attention was this statement.."We tend to jump in, as opposed to walking with God. Either we give too much or too little, or we offer what is needed, but at the wrong time." Read below in context below.
"People make up a very large part of our lives. We’re surrounded by people. We deal with others every day, from the driver in front of us, to the waitress in the café, to the gal in the next office, to those who share our homes. And they are nearly always, one way or another, in some sort of need. Or crisis. Or self-inflicted drama. And one of the great dangers for the person who has begun to desire to please Christ is that we simply let our conscience be our guide in relating to others. We tend to jump in, as opposed to walking with God. Either we give too much or too little, or we offer what is needed, but at the wrong time.
It would be a revealing study to look at the way Jesus relates to people in the Gospel stories. Sometimes he stops midstride to offer a word or a kindness to what seems to me to be a pretty minor character, someone I think I would have ignored. Other times he ducks for cover, dodges an encounter completely (see Luke 5:12–16). He possesses a freedom toward others I find myself longing for.
What would happen if we began to ask Jesus what he is saying when it comes to the people in your life?" In answering this question for me, I hear Jesus saying 'slow down Vic, listen to me, trust me and enter into the relationship to build trust.'
Wow! This goes along with what we mentioned last week, "We cannot let another love us unless we trust them, no matter how much love they have for us." I encourage you to ponder the question this week in the context of your marriage and family; What would happen if we began to ask Jesus what he is saying when it comes to the people in your life?"
Last time we talked about "playing fair" and established that trying to "play fair" in marriage leads to relationship disaster. The 50/50 plan just does not work and demands performance. My friends at Trueface speak to performance based relationships in this quote...
Performance obsessed cultures can never promote healing. Rather, they create more wounding.
We must have a starting point in trusting one another. I suggest that starting point is the goodwill of your spouse. Monique and I learned this from Emerson and Sarah Eggerich, who so beautifully teach this in their Love and Respect material. Here is what they say;
"One key to making your relationship safe and secure is to demonstrate benevolent goodwill toward your mate – to believe he or she has good intentions, to expect the best of the other person. Even when your mate messes up, you can choose to believe in the goodwill of your spouse. Unfortunately, what often happens when you feel unloved or disrespected is that you start predicting and judging the other person's motives. Research shows that successful couples don't make condemning judgments about the other; they choose to trust their mate's intentions.
Once a couple decides to see each other as good-willed people, it changes their perspective and the filter through which they view their relationship. "Good-willed" doesn't mean we'll do good all the time; it just means that the intentions are good.
Matthew 26:41 says it well: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". Since a man and a woman naturally view conflict differently, they too often judge each other. During those times when your spouse is frustrating you, you can still believe in your mate's goodwill, respond accordingly and treat each other as teammates, partners, even allies.
More to talk about in trusting next week. See you then.
"Playing fair will destroy every relationship in your life.
Fair is giving good things to others as long as they give good things to us. Then if they fail us in some way, we respond “fairly.” We give it right back to them, either at the moment or soon thereafter. Either our words or our actions say, 'That’s not fair. Therefore, I am not going to do good to you any more. In fact, I’m going to give you exactly what you’re giving me. Then you can see how it feels.'" Henry Cloud, Boundaries.me
The above quote came from a post I read from Henry Cloud on Boundaries.me. He titled the post, (read more here); The Bad Habit That Destroys Relationships. This title caught my attention, as Monique and I exist to help marriages thrive, and desire to see relationships built up, not destroyed.
Playing fair is similar to what Monique and I learned from the "Weekend to Remember" conferences we attended early on in marriage after our crisis. FamilyLife refers to the 50/50 marriage plan; I'll do my part and you do yours and then we will have a great marriage. Wrong! It will never work that way.
The reason the "playing fair" or the 50/50 plan doesn't work is that it is rooted in performance. This produces a conditional relationship, something that faith in Jesus has obliterated for us in relationships with our spouses, kids and others. The love and relationship we have with Jesus is a relationship built on trust (faith) and we receive unconditional love as a result.
This is how we build a marriage that will thrive...it is built on trust not performance. There is no other way to build a thriving marriage because reality tells me that I fail to perform, which will disappoint, frustrate and eventually separate us if "playing fair" is our foundation.
Join me next week, as we will be talking about how to avoid the let's just "play fair" plan and move into loving relationships that last a lifetime.
It is the 9th of July 2018, and here I am getting back to our blog for the first time in six months. Whoa! I do enjoy sharing in writing, but find myself easily distracted and not budgeting time for it. Now is the time to get the ball rolling again, rekindle some weekly discipline in writing, as there is much stored up in my heart and mind to share here for the health of marriages.
I recently read this great article on the Focus on the Family website which shares a great idea to improve communication. It is not a new idea, in fact, this type of communication goes back to the first century and is displayed over and over again in the parables of Jesus. Here is the opening to the article:
"We don't talk anymore!" shouted my wife, Cindy.
"That's ridiculous," I said. "We talk all the time!"
"But not about what we need to talk about. What's important to me. What's important for us!"
"Then drive with me to my softball game. If it's that big of a deal, you can talk to me on the way to the game about anything you want."
But Cindy wouldn't go to that game. Soon after, she wouldn't go to any of my games.
I was convinced she was just emotional or intentionally not explaining what she meant. She seemed convinced that I simply didn't care about her or anything she had to say.
That was the level of communication in our first year of marriage. We talked about how we needed to communicate with each other — all the time. But we never connected. Cindy became more and more hurt and lonely. And I grew more and more angry and lonely.
And then the day came when things blew up — but in an amazing way. On that day, Cindy used a powerful communication tool, a word picture, to change my life ... and our marriage.
Emotional word pictures can really transform your communication. The use of word pictures has really increased understanding and empathy in our marriage. To explore more about emotional word pictures, you can read more from this great article here.
In the last post we talked about "unresolved sin" and how it robs from us the gift of love that all of us so desperately long for in marriage; in all relationships. We mentioned there is Good News and the "good news" can be found in trust. Our friends at Trueface say it like this:
To resolve our sin issues we must begin trusting who God says we are. We cannot mature without the healing gifts of grace.
What are the "healing gifts of grace"? The first one is love. 1 Peter 4:8, Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Receiving the love of God will start the healing process; knowing and trusting His love for us.
Packaged in His gift of love is repentance. Repentance is simply saying to ourselves and to Him, "I can't handle this act of selfishness (sin) done against me" and turning to the loving arms and face of God. He is big enough to handle it.
The other ultra powerful gift of love He has for us is forgiveness. First forgiving the "thief" our offender for our sake. This frees us from the harmful effects of the sin done against me (us). Nothing is required of the offender (thief). This is just between me (us) and God.
In these gifts beautiful gifts, we find the key to freedom and our loving God gets the glory. The cross of Jesus Christ is just that powerful. The power of love not found anywhere else or in anyone else.
In an earlier blog post in this series, regarding "hardening of our hearts", we shared this from our friends at Trueface...
"To resolve our sin issues we must begin trusting who God says we are. We cannot mature without the healing gifts of grace. "
Unresolved sin is like a thief who works in stealth mode. In Behind the Mask we read this truth.
"The three-phase chain reaction caused by unresolved sin takes away our ability to have intimate relationships. It makes us feel ashamed and lonely and robs us of the joy of showing our true face to the world. "
Our response to sin (selfishness) happens without thought; we experience the emotions connected with guilt or hurt. Left undone (unresolved) our shame (sense of inadequacy, not measuring up) will be ignited.
Here are the results of unresolved sin if ignored or dismissed;
▪ We become highly sensitized to our sin and judge the sin of others.
▪ We lose our objectivity in a crisis and we become the issue.
▪ We hide our sinful behavior and become vul- nerable to more sin.
There are other toxic byproducts that can come from allowing shame to cause us to hide or ignore unresolved sin. They can also produce three other debilitating results:
▪ We are unable to be loved or to love.
▪ We become vulnerable to wrong life choices.
▪ We attempt to control others.
Ultimately, our spouses, our friends, even our children can sense our inability to move toward them with love. How pitifully tragic!
taken from Behind the Mask
So here in lies the soil for a hardened heart. The tragic thing is that a hardened heart is not able to receive or give love. In this condition, love dies which leads to divorce. It does not have to be this way. There is good news! We can resolve our sin (selfishness issues). We can choose the way of love and the One who first loved us. Let's talk about this next time.
What does this loving safety net look like?
How do you create this space in your marriage?
You have to trust that God loves you in this way (He is our safety net) and you are not defined by the struggle, your performance, your failures or successes, whatever they are.
What does this safety net look like in the reality of marriage? Monique's love for me continues to catch me in my fall towards letting food be my go-to for comfort from worry and stress. My life-long pattern has been to turn to food to quiet my anxiousness. I can unconsciously snack on chips, cookies, crackers and nuts for hours.
When I would share my struggles, she used to try and 'fix" me. I would make many personal declarations to get on a healthy track "starting tomorrow”, which were often met with criticism.
It has been a journey for me in discovering that I can't conquer this struggle by mustering up more will power. We have realized that; Criticism and trying to "fix" one another doesn't work.
Grace changes how we see each other and our sin issues.
Grace produces the "safety net". We began to see ourselves as God sees us. Currently I've stopped making the "declarations" and I feel freedom to share the ongoing struggle with Monique. I'm on a journey with her and Jesus, walking towards wholeness one day at a time.
Vic and Monique
We are all about helping your marriage thrive.