Enduring A Small Hurt Without Lashing Out
A wife writes me, “I just finished reading Cracking the Communication Code (now The Language of Love & Respect). Thank you so much for sharing your message! I have learned a great deal about what God desires for me as a wife, and I have already found great joy in putting the principles into action. My husband and I have been married just over 2 years, and we have a great relationship. We were definitely not a ‘marriage in trouble’ by most standards when I began reading Love & Respect earlier this summer, but I felt hurt more often than I wanted, and my husband was not responding to me like he did when we were dating. I started wondering, ‘what's up?’ Your books illuminated the issues for me. Here is an example of how the principles in your books really helped me behave differently in a specific situation that could have had terrible consequences if I had reacted in my normal manner:
“My husband and I are in grad school…-- he in law school and I am getting a doctorate in clinical psychology. This summer, he is interning at a law firm in another city, but I stayed based at our home. We were about 7 weeks into our long-distance summer when this particular incident happened. On this visit to him, I had already read Love & Respect and was just beginning Cracking the Communication Code. I also knew that my husband was under a lot of stress and had an interview-type meeting the day after I was to arrive. Many of my hurts in the past have come from what I have seen as a ‘lack of affection’ (or really, my feeling unloved). When I arrived outside my husband's office building on this particular day to greet him after an absence of over 2 weeks, he did not touch me at all--no hug, no kiss, no hand around the shoulders. In the past, I would have been absolutely devastated. I would probably have devolved into the silent treatment, or given him about 5 min. and then launched into a monologue on how much his actions had hurt me, or maybe peppered him with questions about ‘what's going on? are you stressed? what's wrong? are you mad at me?’ All actions that would have been counterproductive to receiving some affection from him.
“Instead, I remembered your teaching on ‘your spouse is a good-willed individual.’ I respect my husband tremendously, and he is indeed a very good-willed individual, especially toward me. Reminding myself of these facts, and remembering his big meeting the next day, I concluded that he was a bit stressed and preoccupied. We had a nice conversation on the walk home. After a quick dinner, he retreated to prepare for his interview-meeting, while I read your book. Still, there had not been any physical affection. I was deeply saddened by this point, but chose to pray to God for strength and to read your book for wisdom instead of confronting my husband in what would have surely been a disrespectful and disastrous encounter.
“I felt so joyful when, a couple hours later, my husband emerged a refreshed and lighter man, full of hugs and kisses for me! Because I had chosen to endure a small hurt without lashing out, but instead turned to God for strength, I was rewarded in many ways: I got the satisfaction of having my husband seek me out to spend time together, I enjoyed a wonderful evening with him, I learned that God can indeed carry me through hurtful situations, I learned I can control myself more than I thought, and I had the joy that my visit to him had started out on the right foot. We proceeded to have a wonderful week together.
“I am so thankful for your teaching. Before reading your book and turning to God for help in these situations, I would have belittled my husband by using ‘many words’ to describe why and how I was hurt, and how he was mainly responsible for this. Then, I would have endured several days of an emotionally shutdown husband, and the self-loathing that comes from knowing I caused his stonewalling. This time, everything was different! I felt a true peace as I was able to look at the situation through a ‘blue’ lens and turn to God for help in understanding. Thank you so much! I pray that Christ will enable me to continue to behave according to his Word. I look forward to the fruits that are sure to come in our marriage.”
Does this wife’s testimony inspire and inform you? Or does her story provoke you to anger? In anger do you want to shout, “This husband is without excuse for not hugging his wife when seeing her! He needs to change, and change now! She should have given him a piece of her mind. You cannot let a guy off the hook like this. This guy didn’t learn a thing other than he can neglect his wife’s emotional needs as he remains preoccupied with his own selfish agenda”?
Hopefully, you were not provoked to anger but were drawn into this wife’s approach. I do not believe such a wife loses her identify and influence when applying the Respect message in this manner. Though such actions feel counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, when a wife acts on the Respect message, she maintains a sense of herself and her power when:
• Remembering her husband’s good will and blue lens
• Taking her sadness to God in prayer and asking for strength for healthy self-control
• Enduring a small hurt without lashing out and blaming him
• Watching and waiting to see the positive impact of the above choices.
I pray that more wives will access the wisdom and authority available to them as they look to Christ and act on Ephesians 5:33 (“the wife must respect her husband”). This works among good willed husbands, even though short-term hurts won’t go away!