Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Final Horseman

A sure-fire way to hurt your marriage is to engage in stonewalling. This is the final horseman that Gottman uses as a predictor for divorce.  Stonewalling is when we build a wall and refuse to let others inside. We often do this by making comments such as “I don’t want to talk about it; Enough,” or “End of story.”  When we cut others off and refuse to continue communicating on a topic, men tend to feel frustrated, but women often feel shafted and hurt. Women feel isolated and intimacy is killed. 

We also stonewall with our actions when we give our spouse the cold shoulder. Sometimes we do this as a means of self-protection without realizing the hurt it causes the relationship. We are afraid of what the other person will say to us so we stonewall to guard against painful comments or ridicule.  While we might avoid hearing hurtful words, we also avoid resolution. When conflict is unresolved, it tends to stew and snowball. 

When I think of stonewalling, I imagine a people that are being pursued by their enemy. They wall themselves into a fort for protection. For a while it seems to work, but when the enemy fails to retreat, the people begin to suffer within.  Supplies run low…food is scarce…sickness and death are rampant.  In order to survive, the people must get beyond the walls they created.

The same is true in marriage. When we stonewall, we may have momentary relief, but we slowly begin to feel isolated and inadequate. Our love tank begins to run dry and the relationship suffers.

Instead of stockpiling our arsons or stonewalling for protection, we need to remember that our spouse is NOT the enemy.  We have a very real enemy who seeks to kill, steal and destroy our marriages, and we need to daily put on the belt of truth and grab the sword of the Spirit and prepare for battle. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Not My Fault...

A couple of months ago I began writing about the four horsemen that threaten to destroy marriages according to researcher, John Gottman.  Life has been so busy that my good intentions of doing this 4-part series in a month was delayed.  The third “horseman” that wants to kill your marriage is defensiveness. We are all guilty of this one.

"It's not my fault."

A wife comes home after a long day at work and sits down for a five minute break before she starts folding laundry.  Her husband comes home early and comments on the laundry he sees piled on the couch. Immediately the excuses begin. “I’ve had a long day at work, and I can’t sit down for five minutes without you nagging me about the laundry.”  Not only does the wife get defensive, but she begins to criticize her husband. 
When we get defensive, fight or flight kicks in for the other person. The defensive husband either shuts down communication or he takes the bait and fights back with equally hurtful words…and thus, the battle begins.

While being defensive may seem like a natural safeguard against a perceived threat, it can cause long-term damage to your relationships. When you get defensive, you tend to blame your partner.  Gottman says that in effect you are saying, “The problem isn’t me, it’s you.”  Not only is this ineffective in solving problems, but it may create new relational ones.  It is so much better to take responsibility apologize if needed.


A wife comes home after a long day at work and sits down for a five minute break before she starts folding laundry.  Her husband comes home early and comments on the laundry he sees piled on the couch. She answers, “I’ll get to it in a little while; I just need a few minutes to myself.” 

Who knows, he might just respond with “How can I help you?”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's All About the View

Fall is my favorite time of year for hiking. I love seeing all the colors on the trees as well as the cooler temperatures. It is the best time for climbing a mountain -- not too hot and not too cold.

Many times I stand at the bottom of a mountain and wonder if I can ever make it to the top. Depending on the clouds, there are days when the top of the mountain isn't even in sight.  The journey is treacherous at times, and I often have to rest along the way.  However, when I reach the summit, the view is spectacular. I cannot see all the twists and turns I made along the way, but my body feels them.  The view has not changed, but my perspective has.

The same can be said of life. There are times when we face seemingly insurmountable challenges. We may have no idea where the road will take us. We fear the unknown and may need to take time to rest and practice self-care during the journey.  There are other times when we have overcome unspeakable trials and we stand in awe of the strength and peace we find on the other side.  Many times, our circumstances may not change, but our perspective can.

My family is going through a tough time right now, and it is difficult to keep the proper perspective. My feelings fluctuate from anger, to sadness, to disgust, and to confusion.  Even though my feelings change, I know that one thing remains the same:  God is still in control and I can trust him.  It is during these times that I need to see things from a heavenly perspective. If I can keep my focus on God's sovereignty and off of my circumstances, I tend to experience more peace, patience, and understanding.  

May we seek to see others as God sees them and to see our trials as faith builders that can bring God glory.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Protecting Your Marriage

Last month I began to blog about the 4 horsemen that seek to destroy marriages.  John Gottman identified the four horsemen and has been able to use his theory to predict divorce among couples he counsels.  The first of the horsemen was criticism and you can read more about it by clicking here.

The second horseman, and perhaps the most dangerous, is contempt.  Contempt is when we demonstrate disgust towards our spouse.  It may come in the form of sarcasm, name-calling, or eye rolling.  When couples are in conflict, one responds in one of these ways, the spouse often feels devalued and disrespected.  We do this when we mock our spouse or sneer at them.

We've all seen it before.

A wife says, "You are such an idiot. I can't believe you..."

A husband remarks, "You disgust me."

We tend to be contemptuous when we are angry or insecure.  When we feel backed into a corner we may bark out comments we wish we could take back.  When someone hurts us, we fight back with either words or actions as a means of self-preservation (or so we think). Some of us are gunny-sackers; this means that we hold on to negativity and keep a running list of things our spouse does wrong.  Whenever they do something we don't like, we don't address the issue at hand, but we drag out our list and throw it in their face.

This is the opposite of biblical love. First Corinthians 13 says, "Love keeps no record of wrong."  For many, we not only keep score, but we constantly remind our spouse that they are losing in our book.

Most of us don't realize the damage done by contempt.  Dr. Gottman's research suggests that  this is the #1 predictor for divorce.

The question at this point becomes what is more important -- winning the battle or saving the relationship?

The next time you are irritated by your spouse, take a few deep breaths before your limbic system kicks into overdrive (the limbic system is a part of the brain that controls emotional processes) and you say or do something you will later regret.

You can learn more by checking out Dr. Gottman's blog at www.gottmanblog.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Blessed by the words of a friend...

I was recently touched by a friend's raw response to Robin Williams suicide.  Next week is Suicide Prevention Week and the best thing we can do to prevent suicide is to share our story and invest our lives in others.  Well, Lindsey Brackett is doing just that.  I encourage you to read her post by clicking here.

Like Lindsey, too many Christians believe that if you truly love Jesus you will "be joyful always" and never feel depressed.  As much as I wish this were true, it is not.  The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who experienced the dark night of the soul.  Naomi even begged God to change her name to Mara (meaning bitterness) because of her hopelessness.

If you are in despair, muster up your courage and share your struggle with someone you love.  You don't have to struggle alone.