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Wifey Wednesday: When Conflicts Don't End

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57photo © 2008 Ed Yourdon | more info (via: Wylio)
Do you and your husband ever have the same fight, over and over again, without ever fixing anything?

Are you just tired, because there's this one issue in your marriage where you just can't make headway? What do you do when he just doesn't get that there's a problem, and he has no desire to change, even if it's really, really bothering you?

Some of the issues you're stressing over may be very serious, but I don't want to address the ones that are actually truly endangering the sanctity of the marriage (such as alcoholism, or pornography addiction). That's really a subject for another post. I'm really talking about those everyday things which can wear us down almost as much: he refuses to care for his diabetes, even though he's profoundly overweight. He never spends time with the kids. He spends too much time on the computer. He doesn't talk to you. And he has no interest in changing. What do you do?

Here are my thoughts, in order. And a warning: they're a little harsh, because there is no magic answer. But I think they're truthful, and that's better.

1. Realize that you cannot change anyone else.

In my book To Love, Honor and Vacuum I dealt with this quite a bit. Often when we're upset in our marriages we think the problem is all him. If he would just smarten up, we'd be fine. But what's the point in thinking that? You cannot change him. You need to stop trying. Saying, "I will be happy as soon as he..." means that you're also saying, "I WON'T be happy if he doesn't...." You're putting your peace in someone else's hands, and it's not healthy.

2. Try to see him in a different light.

He is God's gift to you. Maybe 20% of what he does really bugs you, but focus on the other 80%. Learn gratitude for what he does do and accept him for who he is. The more you accept him, the more he feels competent and strong, and the more likely it is that he will want to grow as a person. Men have a deep-seated need to be competent. If they feel disapproval, they often retreat (into television, work, etc.). Treat them well, and they're more likely to grow. But don't do so in order for them to grow. Do so because you want the best for them and you honestly are finding things to be grateful for.

3. Pray God's will for your husband.

Instead of praying that he will improve in the areas that you find difficult, pray for him that God will help him in his various roles. Pray that he will become the man God wants him to be, not the man you want him to be.

4. Pray that you will be the best wife you can be for him.

I know he's hurting you. I know he's doing things that you wish he wouldn't and that really bother you. But ask God what you can do to show your husband love. What can you do to be the best wife you can be? Instead of focusing on what he is not doing, focus on what you can do. God will honor that, and you will feel better. Dare yourself to be as good a wife as you can (which doesn't mean excusing sin; it just means learning to love). As you build gratitude for who he is (#2), pray for him (#3), and focus on your own roles (#4), you'll likely find your attitude towards him changing.

5. Change what you have control over.

If he is treating you disrespectfully, for instance, you don't need to nag him about it. You don't need to fight about it, or withhold from him. Tell him how you feel, but then put yourself in a position where he can't treat you that way. I list a whole bunch of different scenarios like this in To Love, Honor and Vacuum, but let me give you an example. If he wants to eat in front of the television, that is completely his perogative. But that doesn't mean you have to serve him there. Set the table, have the kids sit down, and if he wants to bring his plate elsewhere, he can. He's an adult; he can do what he wants. But you don't need to facilitate it. This one's kind of controversial, and some of you may disagree with me here. Feel free! But I think it is important to make it a norm that the family does things together. If he chooses something different, that's fine. But family togetherness is the norm.

6. Find your own peace in God.

If you are feeling put upon and taken for granted, then go to God for your peace. Don't rely on your husband to meet all your needs; he never will. Get involved in a good Bible study. Fill your time focusing on God, and not on your husband's shortcomings. Put praise CDs on and let music fill the house. Seek out a godly mentor that can help you grow in the Lord (not help you vent all your frustration about your husband). Look to Jesus, not your husband, and probably the problems you have will minimize in importance.

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to confront your fantasies and throw them aside? How did you do it? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the Mcklinky below. Thanks!

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At 7:33 AM , Blogger Kelly said…

Very good advice. It's so hard when we want the other person to be 'perfect'... and when they are not (for some reason) it hurts.


At 8:44 AM , Blogger ET @ Titus2:3-5 said…

So controversial, but absolutely true! The world doesn't want to believe that God could possibly satisfy us, and it sure doesn't believe that an unhappy or difficult marriage is worth staying in (especially if you're just working on yourself). Our marriage is living proof that God can satisfy and turn misery into joy!

FYI, I think there's a problem w/ Linky Tools. Last time I linked up and today, when I was taken to the page where I click the button to choose a file from my computer, the button was unclickable (good word, eh?).


At 3:19 PM , Anonymous Des said…

I have only been married for 4 years to my husband, but we argued a lot about money. He ate out for lunch every day, and it cost quite a bit. He always used the debit card, and often several times a day. Of course, on occasion, the card would be declined. He would call me and ask why w didn't have any money. I would show him bank statements, and make him total what he spent so he would understand how it all added up. I have given him an allowance. He would run out in the middle of the week, and go back to the card. I would take the card and pack his lunch. He still used it. We used different budgeting prohrams and filled them out together. Around and around we went. Almost daily. I would be furious that I didn't have money for gas. Our to pay bills. I finally cut the card up. And he wasn't upset about it. He knew he couldn't control himself with it. We haven't fought about money since. For that one area of our marraige, I removed the offenfing object. I really miss the convenience of a debit card, but I wish all our problems were that easy to solve!


At 3:24 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Des, that's awesome! Way to go! But I think you also have to be grateful that your husband took it so well.

Just out of curiosity, what would you say to a woman in a similar dynamic in a marriage where the husband WOULDN'T stop spending money and wouldn't allow the debit card to be cut up?

I think I'd advocate doing just what you've done, and show him budgets and spreadsheets, and asking how he thinks we'll meet our financial obligations, and ask him his opinion, rather than lecturing. But I know some men who wouldn't even take that well, and that's really difficult.

Tyler, I know about that Linky Tools weirdness. Last week it was even weirder (the site was down or something). I hope they get themselves sorted out, because I don't know what else to use! Anyone else have any suggestions?


At 4:06 PM , Anonymous Des said…

Yes, I am very lucky he took it so well. If I could offer advice, it would be that nagging doesn't work. Believe me, I have tried it. There is usually common ground, and being an encouragement goes much further than being a gripe. I knew my husband wouldn't take the time to pack his lunch, so I did it for him. And I save the coupons we get in the mail for the fast food chains and some mornings give him one with some cash, and he is grateful for it. That makes it more of a treat than the normal. I am afraid that I may come off as a controlling wife, but my husband is mostly content with leaving the finances to me. We just paid off his credit card debt he accumulated before we started dating. It's easier if they know they have have a difficult time with money, than someone who lives in denial.
I would also recommend setting an example. I have moments of being an impulsive buyer at times, but it was easier to keep control over my own bad habits when I realized how sad and betrayed he may feel if I didn't practice what I was asking of him.
But more than anything, be an encouragement. I find it much easier to do what my husband asks of me when he does it with a loving and encouraging attitude. I actually want to do it. Even if it's really hard. Some days it even brings the spark back!
We still have so many areas to work on, and I always looooove your advice.


At 4:30 PM , Anonymous Des said…

I should also add that I had to find my own fault in the situation. Not to sound like I am the boss of my husband, but I didn't like telling him no to things. I felt partly responsible for his behavior for overlooking things and trying to keep him happy. I even let him buy a used play station after a lay off. I don't know what I was thinking except that I didn't want him to be upset if I told him no. He knew this about me, and to break me from it, called me from work one day to ask about a purchase he knew we probably couldn't spare, and I responded with, "Let me see what we have, and I will try." He answered with, "You can tell me no. I promise not to be upset." So I told him no. "See, was that so hard?" he said. It actually was. But it helped me move past my fear of upsetting him.

I often felt like his behavior in the area of our finances was partially my fault, the same way I do with my children when they are testing my limits. It actually took a few years to pinpoint my feelings of guilt on the situation, which was that I was basically "spoiling" him, and what did I expect if I didn't give him boundaries. Not that my husband is childish, he isn't, but he had an area in his life he couldn't control without so much prayer and someone to help reign him in on occassion.


At 10:16 PM , Anonymous Gretchen @ LadyEtiquette said…

Wow! I feel so blessed that I just happened to stumble across your blog. Finally some sound advice!

My husband and I argue over one thing consistently. I know that the reason is because he is insecure in our marriage but it still hurts. So instead of trying to change him, I'm working on things I can do to make him more secure in us. Its been working great so far!
It's funny how, when we stop looking out and start looking in, things can change!

Looking forward to picking through your blog and seeing whats new!


At 9:44 PM , Anonymous Donetta said…

Great tips!! And right on the money. My husband and I have been married for 20 years and during that time we've had our shares of ups and downs. For awhile it mostly downs. We went to marriage counseling three separate times and we learned a lot of this through that and I've also learned a lot through books (the Bible being the most important!). It's amazing how changing your perspective and looking inward can dramatically change your marriage. There was day when my husband and I couldn't stand each other and now we're more in love than we ever have been!

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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