Marriage Part I
This is the single most important step in the Legacy Dad process, if you don’t get this right then all the rest seems out of place. This is also something you will work on everyday for the rest of your life. It is so important that I call it the Foundation of the Legacy. I asked God to help me when I explain this to you, so it will come across to you clearly and you will see its utmost importance. So many Christian and non-Christian couples struggle in this area and I believe it is one of the reasons we have so many wounded and angry adults in this world. I am talking about your marriage.
The example you set in your marriage will carry on to your children. How you treat your wife will be how your sons treat their future wives. Your daughter will expect men to treat her as she saw you treat her mother. If you are setting the proper example this can be wonderful. If you are setting a bad example, the results can be disastrous.
Have you ever had a water leak in your house? Well there are two types of leaks in my book. The first is a sudden burst of pipes which floods your house with water and the effects are immediately visible. The second is the gradual leak in which the effects are not visible immediately but over time it eats away at your home and in most cases, causes even greater damage. Pipes break at pressure points or points that are weak.
Your marriage faces the same two leaks and it is the most vulnerable at your pressure points.
Repairing your house from a leak is a costly proposition; it is much easier to do some preventative maintenance periodically. You can repair a marriage from a major leak but it is much easier to do some daily maintenance and save yourself some emotional dollars.
Things can happen suddenly in a marriage that causes a burst, unexpected and unforeseen things. A financial failure, being laid off or losing a business. The income stops temporarily, debts pile up and pressure looms in and causes friction. Some marriages don’t survive this burst. Or it could be a tragedy, the death of a child or family member and the husband and wife just can’t stop the leak. The birth of a special needs child can also cause this burst. The focus of the family goes on the child instead of each other and some marriages don’t survive this burst. There are many circumstances that can cause this quick burst and end a marriage.
But the normal way a marriage dies is by the slow daily leaks, the slow drifting apart. The couple that looks happy but one day they wake up and say “We aren’t where we used to be.” “We aren’t connected.” “We aren’t moving forward.” Now believe me there is no perfect marriage, the reason why is we are all human and prone to sin. You’re going to argue, going to lose your cool and say some things you don’t mean. But the goal is to minimize those events and make them the exception instead of the norm.
There are four areas that can cause the slow leaks that we will explore. I will cover one per post as they can be lengthy. The first is:
What causes it? First, is a lack of knowledge of positive communication skills. I find it funny that of all the things we learn in school and college, the things that really matter in life are not covered? Communication, Morals, Finances, Relationships.
Many people think communication is all about talking or about themselves and saying what we want to say, when we want to say it and every one will magically understand what we mean, our motive and intent. That is not communication. Communication is communicating a message in a way so the other person or the audience understands it in their own way. They get the feelings, they see where you are coming from, and they hear your intent. The burden of this task is on the communicator not on the one receiving the message.
Many people, guys in particular, speak to exchange content not to make sure the other person receives the message in their hearts. The most important part of marital communication is speaking to a person’s heart so they receive and internalize what you’re saying.
Some people are also afflicted by a wounded spirit. Something happened in the past and the wounds have not healed. So when a certain topic comes up in conversation you act out of the old wounded spirit. “You’re just like your MOTHER!!” To some this is a compliment, to others it brings up a wound and hurt feelings.
So here are some rules to follow to add communication.
Negative tears down, Positive builds up
It sounds simple but many times we don’t follow it. There are many different ways to say the same thing and if your communication style is focused on you instead of the listener, many times it will come out harsh and offensive.
“I’m SICK AND TIRED of hearing you WHINE, WHINE, WHINE!!” “Do you know what I go through at my job, just deal with it?”
“Listen, I know you are under a lot of pressure, I know things are really, really hard right now. I can’t even fully understand because I am not in your shoes and I don’t want to diminish what you are going through but look, you’ve been here before and God has helped you in the past and he will help you again.”
Can you see the difference?
Ephesians 4:29 “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.” (NIV)
Now this is easy to say but much harder to follow especially in an argument when emotions are flying. We must ask the Lord for grace to help us in this area. We have a choice of the words we use and to be a Legacy Dad we must follow the choice given to us by God. We must also take note of the particular moment and circumstances, the same words said in a different setting my come off as offensive and may add another nail in the marital coffin. So we have to also have situational awareness.
Ask yourself, “Where is this person right now?” “Where is her mind set?” Then take 5 seconds to choose a response that builds up rather than tears down. Speak to her as a person in a unique situation, no matter how many times you have talked about this topic in the past.
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
You can kill or build up with the power of the tongue. Men, we need to take responsibility for not only what we say but how we say it.
Facts + Feelings = The Heart
Women don’t just want the facts, they want your heart.
Wife - “How was your day Honey?”
You - “Fine”
Wife -“Your presentation”
You - “Good”
This is how men communicate with each other. Joe Friday for Dragnet “Just the Facts” and give them to me quickly. Women however need more, they need your heart.
Which brings us to another point, effective communication is give and take. So times women ask you a question just so they can talk!! There whole goal is to tell you about their day but first they ask you a question to lead in. Which also means you have to be an active listener? Moving on…
Wife - “How was your day Honey?”
You - “Fine”
Wife -“Your presentation”
You – “It was great, I really felt the power point slides conveyed my message and the boss was very excited and happy with the outcome. He really listened to my ideas and took a long hard look at the proposal.”
Now there is reason that guys don’t like to talk about feelings, especially in front of his wife. We have this deep seeded, playground sissy, homophobia about talking with our feelings. We also are afraid we will be diminished and seen as weak in the eyes of our wife. “I am MAN, The Hunter and Killer, I got Mickey Thompson’s on my truck.
But let’s be honest, we all get nervous and scared. We remember being a little boy having to give a speech in class or asking a girl out for the first time. We still have that little boy inside us instead now he grew up, got a job and has the money to buy the really cool toys.
Me – “I needed this circular saw”
Wife – “Why”
Me “Do you do woodwork?”
Wife – “No”
Me – “Then you wouldn’t understand, I need this.”
Now here’s the kicker. We feel like if we share our feelings that we seem weaker or diminished in the eyes of our wife but in reality, it makes your wife see you as stronger, more passionate and desirable which leads to your wife feeling like Paula Cole in her song "Feeling Love" which leads to something every guy likes.
Now guys, I’m not talking about running around talking about feelings with everyone or trying to be that annoying sensitive guy that every woman loves. To me this is emasculation. I’m talking about sharing your feelings privately with the woman in your life and believe me, my wife tells me nothing is more exciting for her than when you add the manly men we are with some occasional deep, true feelings.
What this shows a woman is that you are not insecure about your feelings, but you are a secure, strong man who can discuss these feelings. This is very exciting for women because most guys don’t and by sharing these feelings with your wife, she feels as if she is very important because a man would only share his feelings with someone very special to him.
Hey guys, don’t shoot the messenger; I’m just trying to translate this so we can understand it.
When you combine our manly nature with expressing true feelings to your wife she will love you more, respect you more and respond to you more sexually. I thought that might get your attention! Honestly, sex becomes more frequent and passionate when you communicate to your wife in this way. You have to let her in to your heart.
We have this problem men. No one ever gave us the female language translation guide in high school. Men communicate very differently than woman. Have you ever listened to a teenage boy talk to his friends on the phone…?
Hey……Ah-ha……Yo…dude…..dude……seriously? Yeah…peace out.
In man language the word dude can have multiple meanings depending on the type of inflection placed when the word is said. It goes back to our caveman days when we would simply grunt and point at what we wanted. It’s simple and to the point but woman don’t speak our caveman-dude language. You have to speak to woman differently than you speak to men and you cannot speak to men using the feelings-woman language. Trying to speak to other men using the women-feelings language will get you labeled as the lost member of the Village People.
Bottom Line. There are different rules when speaking to women that you must follow to be understood.
Next is a point I am guilty of frequently. Assuming peoples motives before hearing the whole story. We hear what we want to hear and assume our wife’s motives.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Proverbs 16:2 (NASB)
Half the time we don’t understand our own motives so why do we think we can understand the motives of others? You may have an inkling of understanding, it may look, smell and sound like something in the past but you may be wrong. Have you ever thought you were right about something beyond a shadow of a doubt only to find you were wrong?
Has this ever happened? You are sitting at the table doing the finances or something else frustrating and your wife comes in with that look on her face, she asks some pointed questions and you freak out.
“What, you want to do this? You think you’re so smart? FINE. (Throwing the checkbook) You do the finances from now on!!”
Maybe she wasn’t thinking about the finances? Maybe that look was because the kids were upstairs driving her crazy? But, we assume she has a problem with us.
What we could have said was this:
“Honey, when I am doing the finances it is stressful and when you come in here with a disgusted look on your face, it makes me feel that you don’t trust me or that you think I am doing something wrong? Can you please clarify for me what you are feeling so I don’t assume the worst? Because from my perspective, I’m not sure.”
Did you see that? I didn’t use the words “You Always or You Never” I said “You make me feel or from my perspective” You are not assuming motive. Using simply words like “in my opinion” or “from my point of view” saves many, many arguments and fights. It is amazing but once I started looking at the words I use, I realized I accused motives often. Simply changing my words to “Honey, when you said that, you made me feel like…has made my wife many times say “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant, what I was trying to say was…” This has saved many arguments in our household.
Men and women communicate very differently and we have to learn this difference and practice speaking in womaneze when speaking with our wife’s. Look at divorce statistics; finances and communication our always at the top of the list for reasons marriages end.
In order to be a Legacy Dad and an effective husband, we must learn to control our tongues and use the proper communication skills. Once you learn this, you will see immediate results not only in your marriage but in all of your relationships with other people.
Will we be perfect, of course not. Will we makemistakes, always. But, this simple technique will go along way to strengthen your marriage and set the example to your children. Try this technique for 6 months, stop yourself from falling back into our old ways and you will see immeasurable results.
More in Part II – Unresolved Conflicts
-Esse Quam Videri-