Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is marriage talk taboo among Christian sisters?

A few days ago I read a thoughtful piece Amy Scott wrote about expressing compassion toward women experiencing difficult marriages.  There's an unwritten rule in Christian circles that a wife shouldn't air her marriage grievances, since doing so could dishonor her husband.  Amy's article happened to center around a wife experiencing verbal abuse. Several of the blog comments were so judgmental of Amy's piece that she later wrote an "I Messed Up" piece.   For the record, I thought Amy did a lovely job on her original article; I know God will use it to bless many women.

While gossipy talk about husbands is certainly unwise (referring to "he never takes out the trash" grievances, here) have we, in Christian circles, forced confused, hurting wives into emotional isolation, thereby allowing their marriages to get worse--leading to a Christian divorce rate of around 50% (roughly equaling the secular divorce rate)?

It's often when we share with the wrong person and get burned, that we learn this important "no sharing" rule, in regards to marriage.  I keep mum about my marriage except on this anonymous blog.  Anonymity is so important to me that I plan to always write with a pseudonym, whether for pleasure or for a paying market (should I ever have time to develop marketable writing skills, that is).

Writers write what they live....what they know.  My desire is to write truth--to glorify God by proclaiming his miraculous works in my heart and life.  If I'm compelled to alter or filter my words too much, I end up saying nothing.  But, I would never want to hurt anyone with my words, either.  My husband is tough and gives me permission to write my heart--telling me he has nothing to hide.  He is a man of contrasts, for sure.  While exuding confidence in a job interview is challenging for him, he does have personal confidence in who he is in Christ.  He has never cared what anyone thought of him, whether it be about his clothing, his vehicle, his job, his status.  However, other people in my family, including my children, may not have that same toughness, so anonymity seems the merciful way to go.

Since I got married at 33, I had plenty of time to contemplate what kind of union I wanted.  Peace, honor, and trustworthiness were most important to me.  My hunch then, and still today, is that highly confident, successful men struggle more with infidelity, addiction, insensitivity, selfishness, and a sense of entitlement.  Their success leads to feelings of invincibility, making them feel they're exempt from decency.  My own father, who didn't raise me beyond the age of three but with whom I had regular contact, was cocky, confident, successful after 40, and a shameless philanderer.  He is five years into his fifth marriage, at age 70. (Yes, he's an extreme case.) Certainly there are successful men who are also exemplary husbands and fathers, but I find them to be the exception, rather than the rule, partially because their balanced personality type is less common.

People who come from dysfunctional families tend to have dysfunctional reasons for choosing their life partners, although at the time of the wedding, they're unaware of this.  Later on, this makes for some complicated marriages--not doomed, just more problematic than money squabbles and time and space issues.

Whether a woman has married a good provider, a good partner and father, or both, she is bound to encounter confusing stages of marriage. Especially if she didn't grow up in a Christian home, there are a lot of qualities she'll need that won't come naturally to her.  The younger she is, the more this may be true.

I think the key to saving marriages is to get to them before the thick walls of resentment set in--before a couple wakes up every morning with the same relational problems...the same hopelessness.  Women need support in their marriages!  And that support often needs to be more specific than mere Bible verses provide.  Godly women need to be willing to hear grievances and, without judgement, assist confused, hurting sisters (using God's word, and specific counsel, encouragement and accountability).

In the past, I would have suggested here that women go to their pastors for this counsel.  That may be a winning choice for many.  Last year I saw my pastor for counsel on how to deal with a substance-addicted relative.  It was a positive experience.  However, my husband went to the same pastor for counsel on dealing with the depression and hopelessness of underemployment, and his experience was terrible.  He still cringes when we're face-to-face with that pastor.  Unfortunately, it was my idea for him to go see our Pastor; I was worried about potential suicidal thoughts, should the depression continue.  I was wrong.  Husband is stressed and battles recurring depression right now, but it's under control.  It's to be expected, under the circumstances.

How I wish I'd never suggested counsel!

Anyhow, on my next post on this topic, I want to follow up Amy's article by brainstorming a list of qualities a woman should seek when looking for wise marriage counsel from a fellow Christian sister (or Christian couple).

Have a good weekend, friends!

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