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Repeatedly Flipping A Broken Light Switch

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Feeling overweight after the holidays, Michelle complains to Adam, her husband.  He listens quietly.  The next day at the bookstore, Adam sees front and center the book, Dieting for the Christian Woman: Post Holiday Menus.  He purchases it.  When he brings it to Michelle she goes ballistic! "I can’t believe you!  This is unreal.  You don’t love me for me but only if I look nice.  You’re despicable!”

Browsing the titles in the marriage section of the bookstore, Kelly is drawn to the book, Talking: the Key to Marital Bliss.  She buys it.  This is the third marriage book she bought this year.  She intends for Jason, her husband, to read it with her.  Bringing it home she sets it by Jason's lounge chair for him to devour. She has underlined in yellow key sections for him to read.  Instead, the book collects dust.  Irked Kelly asks, "Why aren't you reading this book about marital bliss?"  Jason replies, "We will just get in a fight.  Frankly, I'm tired of never being good enough.  Our marriage gives me blisters, not bliss!”

These couples will be at odds for awhile.  Both will say negative things that will prove ineffective to soften the other.

Many find themselves in similar situations.  The topics vary but the same negative reaction is evident.  This negative reaction exists as a wake up call, but one’s spouse does not seem to wake up! Inwardly each feels, “They can't treat me this way! I'll show them!"

But he or she doesn’t learn the lesson.

If I came into a room and flipped a light switch but the light did not come on, you'd think nothing of it. But if I stood for ½ an hour flipping it and no lights came on, you'd say, “He's crazy.”

Craziness is when we keep doing the same thing - again and again - with the same ill effect. Marital craziness is when we do the same thing - over and over - with the same negative results. I call it the Crazy Cycle. When hurt and frustrated we keep reacting in negative ways to motivate our spouse to be positive!  That's like flipping a broken light switch for 30 minutes.

All who are married go through this cycle. The topics change, and the intensity varies, but the crazy cycle continues. This happens among good willed people. Sadly, some think they have a horrible marriage because of this craziness. Truth is, they are inches away from making an adjustment that can set them on a whole new and positive course. The key is to see underneath this "craziness," to the heart of a spouse.

Based on Ephesians 5:33, I discovered why a husband and wife react the way they do.  We read, "Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (NIV).

But, when handed the Diet Book, what happens when a wife reacts with extreme negativity?  Does her husband decode that she is feeling unloved?   Her disrespectful explosion deafens him to her deeper cry to be reassured of his love.  For sure, he won't buy a diet book again but inwardly he is haunted by the thought that she despises him.

Is this why the Lord instructs a wife to show respect (Ephesians 5:33b and 1 Peter 3:2)?  One wife said, "I realized through this that I was shouting at him too much. He wasn't hearing my deeper cry for his understanding and love. What I wanted was his love. But how could he be tender with me when I was screaming at him, 'Love me!'?"

What about the husband who is handed the marriage book?  He reacts negatively.  He expects his wife to decode that he is feeling disrespected.  Sadly, if he neglects the marriage book, his wife will find it hard to decode.  A husband's unloving withdrawal deafens her to his deeper cry for respect.  Oh, she won't buy a fourth marriage book anytime soon but inwardly she is haunted by the thought that he secretly hates her.

Is this why the Lord instructs a husband to show love (Ephesians 5:33a; Colossians 3:19)?  One husband said, "I recognized that when I went silent, thinking this prevented me from getting angrier, it made her feel rejected. What I wanted from her was a more respectful attitude but my silence made her insecure. She got more upset with me and said things that made me feel more disrespected."

Is it time for you to apply God’s truth?  It takes work, but it works.  It may not be fair, but God’s truth is revealed to people in unfair situations.  A respectful or loving demeanor prevents a wife or husband from repeatedly flipping broken light switches.

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

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