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Don’t Hurt Me

One who is married is concerned about . . . how she may please her husband. 1 CORINTHIANS 7:34

What usually happens when you and your spouse get into a disagreement? If you’re like most couples—according to the research of Dr. John Gottman, professor emeritus at the University of Washington—the wife does six times the amount of fussing and scolding, and the husband is 85 percent more likely to be the one who goes into stone-wall mode.

But as Emerson Eggerich told our radio audience recently, it’s not merely the amount of the wife’s talking that pushes her husband into silence and rejection. It’s the way she talks.

To every wife reading this, I know that this just seems to confirm that every man is overly sensitive and not willing to deal with the truth. But Emerson, who has over two decades of experience helping couples, asks you to take this challenge: “After you’ve had a fight with your husband, go into the bathroom, shut the door and reenact your responses as best as you can in front of the mirror. Look at yourself and how you’re coming across. Is there any man in your husband’s world who talks to him that way? Is there anybody in his world who talks to him that way?”

Usually, all you have to do to avoid his stonewalling is to soften the tone, brighten the facial expression and control the pointing finger. You can pretty much talk to him all day long—even with deep, impassioned emotion—if you avoid berating, dismissing and emasculating him.

Men are typically able to handle negative content. We do it all day long. We just can’t easily handle it when it comes across with the volume turned up on contempt. The disrespect drowns out the message from being heard. If the goal is communication, the gateway to his heart is through respect, even when you don’t think he deserves it.

DISCUSS

Is this pattern true of your marriage? What makes you want to attack verbally? What makes you want to clam up?

PRAY

Pray that you will better understand how to communicate with one another with mutual respect.

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The Holy Spirit

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. EPHESIANS 5:18, NIV

When I was a little boy growing up, I remember people in our church referring to the Holy Spirit as the “Holy Ghost.” For a long time I had this image in my mind of the Holy Ghost being something like Casper the Friendly Ghost, floating through walls like a puff of smoke.

I was also wrong about something else: I used to refer to the Holy Ghost as an “it”—as if He were some kind of impersonal machine or space alien. But the Holy Ghost that Jesus talked about is a living, active, personal being, sent to glorify Christ as well as to be our Counselor, Advisor, Advocate, Defender, Director, Encourager and Guide.

If you are interested in living life the way Jesus promised—and if you want a marriage where the two of you are growing spiritually—then a good understanding of the Holy Spirit is vital. Being “filled with the Spirit” is not just a suggestion but a clear command of Scripture. What Paul wrote to the Ephesians in the above verse means being controlled by Him in much the same way that alcohol controls a person’s mind and actions.

When we’re angry with each other about something, for instance, being filled with the Spirit enables us to control our tempers and impatience. He keeps us from saying things we’ll later regret. He battles the selfishness within us, bringing our hearts under His authority and bending our wills to God’s.

We don’t always let Him win, of course. We still fail Him far too often. But every time we submit ourselves to His control, He grows in us the character traits that please Him and bless our spouses. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

DISCUSS

What have you learned about the Holy Spirit? How much of your understanding of Him has been inaccurate over the years?

PRAY

Pray for hearts that are constantly cleaned and confessed, leaving ample room for the Spirit to dwell in.

Are You Really Bible Based?

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. JOHN 15:1

This may seem like a shocking thing to say, but I firmly believe that most Christian marriages are actually patterned after the world, with a few threads of Christianity woven in. Couples know certain Bible verses, but few really practice the Word of God and use it as the defining standard for their lives.

Here is a litmus test: Could you lead a group of couples through a Bible study for several hours on what the Scriptures have to say about marriage and family issues—everything from raising children to God’s blueprints and purposes for marriage? Most churchgoers couldn’t last more than a few minutes.

But the very fact that you’re reading this book today at all is a testimony to your desire to know more of God’s Word and apply it to your lives. If you want your marriage to become all that God intended, then I hope this inspires you to keep digging deeply to His truth and let it become the “source” of your lives together.

Jesus painted the picture when He declared Himself the vine, with us as the branches. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). The word “abide” here is used to describe drawing the source of life from Jesus, like a branch draws its life from the vine. It means to make Jesus Christ and His Word the source of your convictions, decisions and mission in life. Just as branches draw their nutrients from the vine, so too we are only able to grow spiritually when we’re firmly attached to Christ, drawing our life from the source of all truth.

DISCUSS

Talk honestly about your values, convictions and mission. How much are these shaped by abiding in Christ and His Word? Talk about how you can help one another do a better job of abiding in the Word.

PRAY

Pray for one another that you will grow spiritually together as a couple by abiding in Christ.

Islands of Clarity

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. PSALM 27:13

Barbara and I have long enjoyed the benefits of carving out time together as a couple. It was something we committed to early in our marriage. Even with six kids and all the natural activity that ensued, we pretty much stuck to our guns, and everybody reaped the benefits.

For us, these became islands of clarity—stolen moments when we chose to set aside the rush, distractions and noise of life long enough to reflect and hear from God. Here are three tips for finding uninterrupted time to help you regain perspective in the midst of the family circus:

Do it daily. The mere fact that you’re reading this book tells me you understand your need for at least a few minutes each day to square up and seek the Lord together.

Do it weekly. I’ve been telling people for years about Barbara’s and my selecting Sunday night as our sacred time to grab a booth at our favorite cozy little restaurant, The Purple Cow, and sync up our schedules. We have seen God supply answers as we talked about the children’s school needs, various discipline issues, major purchases and other elements of our marriage relationship.

Do it twice a year. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but we found that squirreling ourselves away without the kids helped us clear our heads and renew our sense of partnership and purpose. Many couples use the Weekend to Remember as an annual getaway to refresh and refuel their relationship.

Marriage often resembles a shootout between Siamese twins—two people joined together at the hip but fighting to control the direction they go. Islands of clarity are good places for the two of you, not just to sign peace treaties, but also to chart a course for the future and build romantic fires as well.

DISCUSS

What has been your favorite getaway as a couple? What made it so memorable? Schedule your next one.

PRAY

Pray that God will help you never to lose the ability to set aside some time away together as a couple to seek Him and one another.

Kinder and Gentler

What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness? 1 CORINTHIANS 4:21

Ellie Kay, the wife of an Air Force pilot and the author of Heroes at Home: Help and Hope for America’s Military Families, reveals what can sometimes happen when her husband, Bob, returns from a turn of military duty. After months of flying and fighting and barking commands, he is often still in a giving-orders mood when he re-enters civilian life. That’s when Ellie uses a little code phrase to bring him back to her world: “K and G.”

Kinder and gentler.

It’s a signal to her husband, who likely doesn’t even realize how harsh his words may sound, to throttle back. To tone it down. Save it for his subordinates. We all know you don’t have to be a soldier in uniform to bring home a military manner at the end of the day. You can be in a business suit, casual pants or coveralls and still treat your wife as though she’s just another item on your checklist, just one more employee needing a grade on her efficiency. It can work the same for women who work outside the home.

Like Bob, we often aren’t aware that we’re doing this. We’re still in our office or job mode without realizing we’ve left it on. If our wives confronted this attitude, would we listen? Would we respond?

My suggestion is to find a spot along your usual way home—some recognizable milestone or visual marker—to remind you that it’s time to shed the necktie and get ready to meet your wife. Leave the workday behind someplace where you can pick it up again tomorrow. And go home ready to love and listen, not to push and prod.

Be K and G.

DISCUSS

How often do you bring the pressures and attitudes of work home with you? How do they manifest themselves at home? Talk about how you can remind one another to be K and G.

PRAY

Instead of bucking your mate for confronting a bad attitude in you, thank the Lord for putting someone in your life to help you be more like Christ.