Saturday, January 7, 2012

A God-Honoring Marriage

How is your marriage these days? Great, good, just getting by, or decidedly poor? Whatever your response, I have some wisdom that will create a God-honoring marriage.

What I'll share might seem a hard pill to swallow, but please stay with me.

A couple years ago I began noticing similarities between my husband and my oldest son, Peter, who suffers from ADHD. I checked with husband's aunt, asking her, "Did he display possible ADHD symptoms as a child?" His aunt thought about it: "I do remember symptoms like that."

I gently shared my thoughts with my husband, telling him ADHD might explain some frustrations and failures he's lived with all his life, including a poor relationship with his father. His aunt confirmed for me, too, that husband's father treated him terribly. Additionally, since 65% of ADHD sufferers have other conditions riding on its coattails, I suggested that mild depression might accompany his ADHD. Depression and/or anxiety are common co-morbid conditions, but there are several others, including oppositional-defiant disorder, Tourette's Syndrome, and Bipolar Disorder, which his nephew has (along with a few other letters).

I'm in many ways my husband's opposite. In the most important ways--spiritual faith and beliefs on how to raise children--we are alike, thankfully. When I know what I'm dealing with, like a family history of anxiety and my own similar symptoms, I develop a plan and fight. I assumed sharing with my husband my suspicions about his ADHD would affect him likewise. Knowing is half the battle, in my mind.

He expressed concern that ADHD medication, begun at his age, might affect his heart. Other than that he seemed to be in denial and developed no plan for action. As I said, he is my opposite...passive to my proactive. It continues to be difficult for him to organize and prioritize and sustain motivation.  Everyday life circumstances easily overwhelm him, especially with four children at home. His symptoms worsen with lack of sleep and lack of routine, just like my son's symptoms. He is often angry and frustrated, he forgets things, and is inattentive to details, making it hard to complete all but the most straightforward tasks (straight-forward like his custodial work...low responsibility, low level of planning required).

I spoke to a pastor about my suspicions, thinking maybe some pastoral counseling might help my husband. Acknowledging some depression, husband went to two sessions. The second session went very poorly and perhaps made things worse for awhile. From that lesson I learned that pastors should refer some counseling to those who "have been there", rather than trying to tackle every topic themselves.

Here is what I did next. Absolutely nothing. Yes, that's right...nothing. (Except prayer)

My husband is not my project. He is and always will be, the Lord's labor of love.

Every husband has redeeming qualities and I'm grateful for my husband's faith, strength, love, affection, and commitment to family. But every husband has issues, too, just like every wife does. We are imperfect people married to the same. Perhaps your husband is gruff with the children or with you, works too much, plays too much, drinks too much, cusses, is an unbeliever, believes but has no spiritual practices, is verbally abusive, etc. There is something that grieves you about him. Something that seems very crucial--though you may not know what this something is until after the "seventh year marriage itch".

You are his best friend, hopefully, so you can gently bring up his "issues". The key is to stop there. He is not your project.

~ Don't withhold love or affection (especially the marriage act), no matter how he responds to your little talk

~ Ask the Lord to help you cope with the issues, without any grudge or retaliation.

~ Marriage is one of the Lord's "growing avenues" for us, like parenthood. God won't take all issues away; some are part of God's plan for our sanctification. Embrace the hard just like you embrace the blessings. Some hallelujahs are hard hallelujahs.

~ Write down all the ways you can be a good wife, and carry them out. Be a blessing. Ask God to change you.

~ Know in your heart that God will either take care of the problem, or flood you with grace.

~ Remember that your marriage covenant is more to the Lord, than to your husband. You stay with your husband, loving him faithfully, because the Lord asks you to. Except in cases of adultery and a couple other instances, like when an unbelieving husband decides to leave you, a believer--you are bound to your husband for life. Whatever your circumstances, resolve to endure. Heavenly rewards await you for you obedience to God.

~ You didn't deserve the Cross, but it was given to you anyway. Your husband may not deserve your respect, love, and devotion, but give it to him anyway. This honors the Lord.

~ Be careful in talking about your husband to your friends and relatives...and even to your pastor. Accentuate the positive A LOT if you decide to speak to someone you know and see regularly. Always pray before sharing and share when you're level-headed, rather than after an upset. Someone who lives out of town or state might be a better choice. (If you are physically unsafe with your husband around, remove yourself and your children...don't wait and hope for change).

~ Enduring may seem overwhelming, when you look beyond today. Don't let your mind wander to the the uphill battle. Take on today only.

~ Sing your husband's praises to your children. They need to honor him, no matter what. Don't sabotage that.

~ When you are short on love, ask God for more. Love comes from Him, who first loved us. He is love. In the midst of hardship, a faithful wife prays, "Lord, help me love him another day."

~ What does the Bible say about your role, as a wife and mother? What is required of you? Leave your husband's role to the Lord. Don't force it on him. Don't try to take on his "duties". Are you unhappy with his ability to provide...or to lead? Don't assume you're supposed to go out and work, or lead the family on your own. Focus on your God-ordained role. Study it in the Bible; know it by heart. If you take the "lead" designed for your husband, you'll only make things worse. (Many probably think I should definitely work, but just taking care of these four children and providing meals--and now dealing with Beth's arthritis and related poor sleeping--seems overwhelming on many days).

When you give of yourself sacrificially, God will inbed gifts and blessings into your marriage. He will transform it, in ways you never imagined. Trust Him and obey.

1 Peter 3:1 (New Living Translation, source here)
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over

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