On Friday I shared a comment from a reader that really has me thinking. The commenter shares about her spouse:
He would announce he was the head of house (I had told him that) he would tease my new faith in public; all the while I would smile and not correct him (thinking it was not my place).
I can assure you, this scenario is commonplace within unequally yoked marriages. As Christians, we can mistakenly believe we must turn the other check and virtually become a doormat within our marriage in order to convince our spouse of our faith, hoping they will come to Christ.
Women misguidedly believe they are demonstrating love to their mate by going along with their every whim and decision. They also think they are not conforming to Biblical principles when standing up to her husband’s ridicule of her faith and thus allow his disrespect of who she is as his wife. Men who are married to unbelieving wives are desperate to model Christ’s love and therefore give into the demands of their wife hoping their display of sacrificial love will win her over.
Now hear me on this. There ARE times when we need to check our selfishness at the door and support our spouse’s decisions. There are also times when the health of our marriage demands we draw a line in what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Again I refer you to Friday’s post for some suggestions to discover what a healthy marriage relationship looks like.
A few weeks ago a friend shared with me that she was struggling with the way her husband was speaking to her. I decided to share with her how I handled this common conflict in marriage and now I think it’s time for me to tell this story here.
Let me preface this account with a few facts. I am a passionate person. So is my husband. We both came into our marriage with some solid beliefs that are diametrically opposite. This is still the case today. However, the way we handle our disagreements when our conflicting moral issues arise has changed over the years.
In the early years, my husband and I could get into a major shouting match discussion over some random thing that was actually more reflective of our differing worldview. As we would begin to talk about this “small thing,” our passions would fire. Then we became desperate to defend our “truth.” As we would raise the intensity in our discussion and the decibel level of our voices, we would risk stepping over the line and take our conversation to a disrespecting and hurtful level.
I am sure many of you can relate to this scenario. Passions flare. Words fly. Hearts are hurt. Now I’m not a saint by any means and I have said my share of hurtful words but I am going to share an example of how I handled conflict when disrespectful words erupted from my husband.
There were times when I knew my husband had crossed the line and said something that was hurtful and went way beyond what a man should speak to his wife. At those moments I would pause in the conversation, look directly at him, then with a firm determination in my tone say something like this:
“Do NOT, (pause) speak to me that way.”
“It is absolutely out of line to talk to me like that. I don’t speak to you like that and I expect the same from you. I don’t use words like that and I will not allow you to say those things to me.”
I would be so firm and so unyielding that my husband knew he had gone too far. Now I preface this example with the fact that I am careful about how I speak to my husband and can tell him that he can expect the same respect in my language that I am expecting from him.
Another area where I believed I helped my husband grow up a bit was to point out to him that my faith isn’t always the bane of all arguments. Conversations went something like this:
“Even if you take religion out of this, the way you just spoke to me is out of line even in a nonspiritual marriage.”
Or, “The way you just treated me is was out of line even in a nonreligious marriage.”
It is right to receive respect. It is right for us to give our spouse respect. Without mutual respect, marriage is doomed.
I discovered that with many men, especially those who don’t know Christ, they will push their wife at times. Whether it’s fair or not, their respect grows when their wife stands up to him and can voice her opinion. Sometimes they need to be told they are out of line and need to grow up.
On the flip side, these scenarios also apply to wives. We need to listen and discern when we are immature and need to grow up.
Now I’m really going to get into some people’s business with what I’m going to share next. But the kind of conflict I’m about to describe is common in marriage.
If your spouse is addressing you with an obscenity (bitch/bastard etc.) it is not okay.
Likewise, if you are using similar language, stop it today.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
There are many behaviors that are not okay and conflict is necessary to maintain a healthy marriage.Remember Jesus’s life was a life of conflict. It still is today.
Matthew 10: 34-36 (NIV) Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.
Stop back on Friday and I will share with you how my husband and I work through conflict now after a few years of marriage. I hope this approach will be of benefit to you and your marriage.
Be Blessed, Lynn