Dealing with Dissappointment in Marriage

Expectations of how things should go and when they should happen in relationships can be a deep source of pain and disappointment and can cause us to develop a short term view of relationships. The reality is that your spouse will let you down and you will let your spouse down. It is also reality that you will feel your spouses offenses against you are greater than your offenses against your spouse. We always weigh our own experience of pain more heavily. When we allow this evaluation and constant pondering about our woes and what we feel we are lacking in life because of our spouse to drive our emotions and perception of the world, we will grow resentful and heap all of the problems in our life onto our spouse. When we do that, the intimacy that we should have with our spouse goes out the window because who could feel close to someone we believe is the source of all of our problems? This then leads to emotional separation which, left unchecked, is how people get to the place of wanting physical separation. For those who leave a marriage based on this cycle, they believe there is someone out there who won’t let them down, not realizing that they had a major role to play in the downfall of the marriage. So they go out and find someone else only to experience the inevitable let down that happens when two imperfect people live together in close quarters and then experience the same process and wonder how they got there again. So how do we avoid this trap that has caused so many people pain?

Have a Long Term View of Relationships
The first thing we all need to do is to remember that great relationships are always based on a longterm view and are developed over time. There is no instant success in relationships. We never really arrive because marriages are living organisms of sorts. They are either growing or declining. We have to work at our marriages if we hope to stay connected and close with our spouse. This work takes place over a long period of time. I can’t tell you how many couples I have worked with who quit just before they could have experienced the greatest sense of peace and closeness in their marriages. A history with someone is not something that is easily developed or easily thrown away and a longterm view of a relationship allows couples to relax and not spend every moment of their lives evaluating whether or not the relationship is “working.” The relationship will work if both parties have a long view towards building a healthy marriage. It usually takes years to get over our own views of how things should “work” and when we finally let go of our demands and choose to love and move towards each other in life, we experience a rhythm to life that we never even had on our radar as part of the “dream.”

Admit and Respond as if You Are an Equal Part of the Problem
As I said earlier, we are all experts on how the other person is failing. Few of us are experts on our own failures or if we do admit we have areas where we have failed they are usually minor compared to what we believe our spouse is doing to fail us. When we work to fix our spouse or complain or criticize our spouse for all that he/she does wrong we are only causing more problems in our marriage and pushing our spouse away. If we really want to experience all that our marriage has to offer we have to look in the mirror and make our own behavior the project we are working to improve. If you have not been working on yourself as it relates to your marriage or if your list of what is wrong in your relationship is longer for your spouse than it is for you, you are probably still blaming your spouse for most of the problems. It is the rare case where only one person is causing all the pain in a relationship. It takes two to tango as they say and we all have to admit we have a part to play in the problems we face as a couple.

Get a Grip on Your Expectations
Many times we believe that our expectations are always reasonable and everyone in the world has the same view and is experiencing all the things we feel we are lacking. We get into the comparison game from a distance and assume that those we admire have it all together and are getting what we are not in our marriages. The reality is, everyone is experiencing conflict. Anyone who says they are not, either has a spouse who is dead, or someone is not talking and it usually isn’t the one who is saying everything is great! Take some time to evaluate how many of your expectations put an unfair burden on your spouse to come through for you in order to make you “happy.” Any expectation that puts my happiness or mood in the hands of another person is dangerous and unfair. Just as we teach our kids that someone else is not responsible for how they act, we too need to avoid making our spouses responsible for how we act or feel.

Marriage is a beautiful and difficult thing. It can be the source of our greatest joy and connection and the source of our greatest pain and rejection. But the measure of success in a marriage is not how much joy I experience on a regular basis, but how much we grow together in the midst of conflict and joy. It is the ability to work through difficult times and still stay connected that is measure not only of the strength of our marriage, but the character we possess individually.


Overcoming Patterns of Conflict in Marriage

In my work with couples I have found that we tend to follow certain predictable patterns when we allow our relationship to drift or get out of control. We all want to experience happiness and closeness in our marriages. None of us married our spouse because we wanted to learn how to fight better or because we wanted to work on patience. We genuinely thought this person would make us happy and we thought we would be happy together. Happiness is not a bad thing. In fact if you got married for any other reason there is something wrong. But when we make our happiness dependent on what the other person does and allow that person’s actions to dictate our mood, we have set up unrealistic expectations that are bound to lead to anger and despair.

Typically what happens in most relationships is the man pursues the woman to the point where they get married. He is the most charming man in the world and does things he normally wouldn’t have done all in the name of love. Once they get married, he thinks that his life just goes on as it used to with the addition of a wife in the picture. He doesn’t really think much in his life will change and, in fact, he is off to the next thing he feels he needs to pursue like a career. The woman has bigger plans for the relationship. She sees a man that she can talk with and relate with and feel safe with. Someone who will always cherish her and someone she can trust. During the dating phase she is caught up with this man who always thinks of her, is thoughtful, talks to her, and makes her feel safe. She admires and respects him and let’s him know it not only by what she says but in how she even looks at him. She knows her life will change when they get married and she abandons everything to put her attention on the marriage.

Once they get married these expectations hit reality and things don’t seem to work like they thought they would. The wife suddenly feels like she went from first place to somewhere down the list. While she wants to spend every minute with him, he wants space. So she pursues thinking that something must be wrong. He interprets the pursuit as her trying to control him or smother him so he withdraws to create space. She pursues even more because his withdrawal confirms for her that something really is wrong and he’s just not willing to talk about it. They might start to argue over things that don’t matter. He feels he can’t win a fight so rather than engage he starts to play the silent game where he communicates he is mad non-verbally but won’t engage in the discussion figuring he can’t lose if he doesn’t play. She starts to feel more insecure in the relationship because she has no idea what is happening in his head. Since he won’t talk she starts to be more critical of him which gets him mad but she figures bad engagement is better than no engagement at all. He takes the criticism as disrespect which causes him to withdraw even more. His withdrawal makes her feel insecure. Eventually he has completely checked out and she hates his guts for making her feel that way. So how does a couple get past this point?

In every marriage it takes two to cause an argument or a conflict. It really doesn’t matter who started it or who each feels is more at fault. Bottom line there is no perfect anyone in a marriage. If a couple is to move past this crazy situation there are a few things they need to consider:

Get Control of Your Mood
As I stated earlier, it is important that your mood is not dictated by your spouses behavior. If you tie your mood and how your respond to your spouse or your interpretation of how they act, you will feel bad more than you will feel good. Feels are not a good gauge of reality and to make someone else responsible for how you feel is a totally unfair situation that will only set you and your spouse up for disappointment. Feeling happy should not be the main goal. Connectedness is what you should be after and connectedness can only be developed when both parties own their own mood and responses.

Pinpoint Your Part
It is easy for each of us to point out what the other person is doing wrong. We are experts on our spouses failures. Yet when it comes to labeling our part most of us tend to struggle. Or, if we do admit we did something wrong, it always seems minor compared to what we claim our spouse has done to us, as if it is a scoring system. The reality is, there is no conflict without two people doing something wrong. The sooner you are able to label your part, the sooner you will be able to move towards a solution because your attitude and behaviors are really the only thing you can control. So know what your part is.

Seek Forgiveness
Be the first one to admit your wrong, label it, express your regret, and ask for forgiveness. The fastest way through an impasse is when one party is quick to admit, confess, and seek forgiveness for their part. When was the last time you said, “I’m sorry” and meant it?

Gain Empathy
The more you see the cycle you and your spouse have gotten into, the better you are able to have empathy for your spouse instead of blaming your spouse for all the things that have gone wrong. Just as you have been caught up in the cycle so has your spouse. The more you are able to see those things, the better you will be able to have empathy for your spouse and give him/her the benefit of the doubt. When we give our spouses the benefit of the doubt we create an atmosphere of understanding which causes us to draw near one another instead of apart.

Choose to Engage in a Positive Way
This is probably one of the more difficult things to do. The husband needs to stop disengaging for fear of being criticized or “losing” the fight and start engaging his wife in order to bring back a sense of security that she needs to move towards him. This won’t be easy and won’t even be believed at first. But if you choose to be consistent and engage, you will have more opportunities for positive things to happen than if you take your ball and go home because you don’t feel you can win. The wife must stop trying to make her husband into what she thinks she needs to be secure by pointing out all of his failures and choose to see the things in him that she can respect and point those out. Realizing that your happiness is not dependent on your spouses reaction and choosing to look and speak to him the way you did when you were dating, will cause him to want to draw near to you.

Conflict in marriage is something every couple that has ever walked this earth has experienced. It is not the end of the world, nor is it a sign that the relationship is in trouble. How we handle that conflict and how we choose to interact with one another is where most marriages get into trouble. If husbands would truly understand their wives needs for security and work hard to make her feel secure in the marriage, their wives would be their biggest supporters and their conversations would be richer. If wives would understand their husband’s need for respect and look for ways to speak into his life through that language and choose to define him by his successes instead of his failures, their husbands will be drawn to them. When this happens you have a marriage that is not perfect, because no one is perfect, but one that is connected.


Saying "I'm Sorry"

We all have been taught at one time or another in our lives that we need to say we are sorry. We are told that when we do something wrong we need to admit it and then seek to make it right with the person we have offended. This act of confession & making a relationship right is something that was established long ago. In the Old Testament we see the importance of admitting a wrong and making it right. Leviticus 5:5 says, “when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned.” Not only are we to confess our sin we are to do it from a heart that truly understands the pain that was caused. David in the Psalms confessed his sin in many different circumstances. He says, “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” When was the last time you were actually troubled over what you did wrong? So true confession is a process of understanding the depth of what I have done wrong. It is almost common sense to anyone you talk to, yet when it comes to adult relationships we struggle to actually admit anything we did was not for a good reason regardless of how much it hurt the other person.

In marriage confession and forgiveness is a huge key to building and maintaining an intimate relationship. Who wants to be married to someone who believes they are never wrong and seems to be an expert at pointing out every time you are wrong? Yet that is how many of us live and act in our marriages. We are experts on our spouses short comings and failures and we are blind, or at least feel we have good reasons, for our own failures. So rather than drawing our spouse towards us we become the source of pain that pushes our spouse away, which we then point out as one of our spouses problems that needs to be fixed. If we are to have intimacy in our marriage we need to put into practice what we were taught as a kid and what we teach our own kids today.

Confession: Admitting When You Are Wrong

Confession is something that few of us like to practice in our society because it puts us in a one down position and we don’t like to be seen as failing at anything. We know we are not perfect, but we really don’t want someone else to know it because we feel it puts us in too vulnerable of a position. After all, we have good reasons for why we did what we did. Those reasons usually have to do with something the other person did that “caused” us to respond the way we did. So rather than confess anything or admit we are wrong, we feel at some level our spouse deserved what he/she got which causes us to feel a sense of being vindicated or that our actions where somehow just given the circumstances. The reality is, we are rationalizing our behavior and selling the intimacy we could have in our marriage for the cheap imitation of feeling superior to our spouse or getting even. If we are to grow close to our spouse we have to admit when we are wrong.

There are some who do confess when they are wrong, usually after it is so obvious to anyone who looked at it or because we want to hurry up and get past the conflict. So we confess quickly with little or no feeling or heart put into it, almost like we are demanding the other person move on, like we did when we were made to do it as kid. The motivation is not to truly understand our wrong and make the relationship right. That would feel like rubbing our noses in what we did wrong. Instead we just want to move on from the incident as quickly as possible. The result is usually our spouse questioning whether we really are sorry or not responding in the gracious way we felt our apology warranted. Then we get mad all over again, this time at the fact that our spouse won’t move on as quickly as we think he/she should and we start the argument all over again, this time with more ammunition about how our spouse has no grace. This game we play with confession and forgiveness only reinforces the fact that too many of us are out to be right instead of being intimate. We want intimacy but without any kind of cost. The reality is that you cannot have intimacy without being willing to be vulnerable. If you are unwilling to be vulnerable, the best you can have is proximity.

How to Seek Forgiveness
True confession and forgiveness, starts with a true realization of how I have wronged my spouse. It is not just to get over the situation or to quickly move on from an argument so I can sleep at night or move on to my next thing knowing I have resolved the conflict. Instead it is truly feeling how it must have felt to be my spouse when I offended him/her.

From that heart I confess and admit my wrong to let my spouse know I understand the pain I caused and I am truly sorry for the way I hurt him/her. Then I ask for forgiveness and wait for my spouse to respond. He/she may not be ready to forgive me and that is ok. I need to give the time and space for my spouse to process the event in his/her own way. It is important to never confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. Forgiveness can be given but that does not mean that everything is back to normal instantly. Forgiveness is not the ultimate do over. There was still pain and there is still a cautiousness that results that needs to be worked through for true reconciliation to happen. The pain we cause our spouse has consequences and those consequences usually have to do with the time it takes to recover to a place of full reconciliation and intimacy. But without confession and forgiveness, true reconciliation cannot happen.

So when you have wronged your spouse, even if your spouse wronged you in the process. Take some time to consider your part, confess your part to your spouse and ask for forgiveness, In doing so you demonstrate your commitment to him/her, empathy for their pain, and you start a process of reconciliation that leads to greater intimacy.

What's Wrong with My Spouse?

I had an interesting conversation with a couple the other day about the dance that happens between men and women in married relationships. It is fascinating how we all seem to follow patterns without really understanding what is going on and as a result have conflict over thinking the other person is insensitive or not committed to the relationship when in reality, that person really not that much different from the typical man or woman out there.

In a typical relationship during the dating phase a man pursues a woman and seems to be super connected. When they are together he is intense in his connection and seems to be the most romantic and attentive man in the whole world. He makes the woman the center of the evening and everything he does seems to revolve around her. At the same time she responds to him in a way that says he is the best man in the whole world. She looks at him in such an admiring way the he is captivated by that and feels like he can take on the whole world with her by his side. Most words out of her mouth are words of encouragement and praise.

Then this couple gets married and lives with one another for a while. Over time she starts to feel like maybe his whole dating thing was just a way to trick her into marrying him. He doesn’t seem as attentive as he used to be and she is not getting as much focused attention as she seemed to get when they were dating. He seems preoccupied most of the time and doesn’t seem to want to spend much focused time with her unless it is scheduled or on a date night, but even then it doesn’t feel the same. He starts to feel like he went from being a man who could do nothing wrong to a guy who can do nothing right. Her words of praise have seemed to be replaced with words of criticism. Rather than a look of admiration he feels like she looks at him like an artist who doesn’t like what he has painted and can’t quite figure out what is wrong. They both feel like the other person has changed and have no idea how to bring the other person “back.”

Tho understand what is going on we need an understanding of the differences between our dating lives and married lives and how men and women perceive and live differently. Men tend to have the ability to focus on one thing at a time with intensity. This tendency for men to focus means that they can usually only handle one thing at a time. That is why a guy can be working on a project and the whole house could be burning down around him. Women tend to see everything as interconnected. One thing springs into another and so on. That means everything means something and women have the ability to be aware of everything around them at the same time and tend to see links between things and constantly be processing things in their mind. Just talking about this you can already see where conflict could come into a relationship.

Now go back to the dating phase of the couples relationship. For a guy that intense focus shows up in the times when they date. For that date his only focus is her. So she is the recipient of all of his attention and it feels great. But there is a point where that date ends and the man goes back home to his own place and she goes to hers. They both have to work usually so their contact is limited to some extent. What she doesn’t know is every man sees his home as a place of solitude, where he can let down and kind of disconnect from the world where he has been giving focused attention all day. So guys kind of check out many times when they get home.

What he doesn’t know is when she gets home she is still processing everything that happened and looking forward to the next time they are together.For the woman her admiration of him is based on her thoughts about him and his ability to make her feel secure through his attentiveness. She figures his thoughtfulness is interconnected with everything he does and he thinks about her every moment because, after all she is interconnected and that is how her world works.

Fast forward now to the marriage. He comes home from work expecting to unwind and disconnect from the world. She is waiting for him to come home to engage in his world and share all of the things that have been happening in her world. You can see the disconnect that happens. She views his lack of desire to connect on an ongoing basis as a sign that he has lost interest in her and he views her disappointment in him as a sign that she no longer thinks the world of him. Over time, he starts checking out more and she becomes more critical of him in an attempt to get him to connect. What they both need to understand is how each of them are built and then respond in kind. He may need a little more space to unwind and she may need a little more interaction spaced over time. I have found that when the wife gives the husband a little more space and the husband checks in with his wife on a regular basis combined with an intentional date night or some intense time together once a week helps the couple feel connected.

Most of the issues we face in relationships are based on viewing things only from our perspective and failing to see and understand the whole picture. When we do understand, however, and put into place a plan that takes into account our differences, our relationships will grow. Sure there are times when we are all insensitive, but every time we feel our spouse is insensitive may not be insensitivity at all but simply the way they are as a man or a woman.

Countering the Myths of Dating

In the previous post I talked about the myths singles have when it comes to dating and how those myths do more to damage their prospects for a lifelong relationship than they do to guarantee a happy result. When it comes down to it, everyone wants guarantees especially when it comes to something as intimate as a relationship. The reality is, there are no guarantees and nothing you do can somehow create a guarantee. We are human and as a result we all make mistakes and hurt one another. But there are ways we can enjoy the process and create an environment of openness and honesty that are essential for any good relationship to thrive. Let’s look at some counters to the myths we discussed previously.

First, the concept of having a list is not a bad one in and of itself. Where it usually goes wrong is in the execution of that list. Most lists I have seen have characteristics down to the hair color of the other person or having to like basket weaving like I do. What I have found is that these lists are really based on a level of selfishness. The more we live the less we are willing to compromise the things we enjoy doing. There is also a level of pain involved as well. I have been hurt so many times that I am going to narrow the list to make sure that doesn’t happen again. So rather than being flexible to learn new things or to have somethings that we enjoy but our spouse wouldn’t, we put it on a list and make it a non-negotiable. I would never have married my wife if I made my love of playing basketball a thing that my future wife would have to love and do with me. So based on something I had on my list I would have eliminated the woman who I can truly say is a perfect match for me and the love of my life. How many people have you discarded because of your list?

Instead of having a narrow list have a short list of non-negotiables. On that list I would have things like, must be a follower of Jesus Christ and committed to following Him, must be a trustworthy person of character, and I should be attracted to the person. That’s pretty much it. You could add some other things to it but I would keep it simple which would increase the potential people you could date and would probably lead to finding someone who would surprise you. Most great relationships are between people who are opposites. I know many people think this would only create a lot of conflict but I have seen the same level of conflict between people who are the same, they just argue over whose way of doing the same thing is the best. Open up your list and see what happens in your dating life. You might be surprised!

Second, the idea that you can somehow speed up the process to avoid wasting time with someone who doesn’t end up being your spouse is not only a myth but a near guarantee that you will not find someone. Think about it, if you turn every date into a job interview you are communicating a few things to the person you are dating. First, you are saying you are the judge and jury on whether or not this person is worthy to date you. It makes you critical right off the bat and most people don’t want to be graded on their performance. Plus who’s to say they are not evaluating you? How would you feel with someone interrogating you? Second, you are saying that you are desperate and if the person passes the quiz you might propose to them on the second date. Third, it communicates you are not into them as a person but as the potential of who they could be for you. Everyone wants to be loved and cherished for who they are not who they could become.

Instead of speeding up the process, relax. Allow the relationship to naturally develop and it will be clear over time if this relationship will lead to marriage or not. You cannot speed up the process to fit your timeline. Just like everyone else on the planet you have to go through this process of discovery and getting to know each other so you might as well relax instead of being stressed out over an imaginary timeline you have created for your life. If you really want to get married you will only get there by being yourself and enjoying getting to know another person and having them get to know you. Besides if you relax the odds are you will find the other person likes you more that way than if you are a stressed out interrogator!

Next, basing your decision on whether the other person is going through the proper protocol on how you think relationships should work is not a good way to go about a relationship. First you have to figure out how universally known your protocol is. Not everyone thinks the way you do and if they have some other protocol they are working on you could both miss each other miserably. Just because a guy does not make a move after your predetermined time does not mean he is not a good leader or will be wishy washy his whole life. Most likely he has been burned in the past and is afraid to take the risk of being rejected again. He is also probably missing the “signals” you think are so clear that you are giving him. Just because she doesn’t seem to respond to every joke, gift or idea you have with enthusiasm does not mean she is bored with you. It may just be that your expectations are too high for how she should respond. Rather than wait for perfect protocol, take the risk yourself and be honest. Talk about how you feel and where you see the relationship going. It is ok for the woman to ask the guy about where he is at in the next step of the relationship (within reason time-wise. See number two above). He might actually be relieved you asked. It is ok as a guy to ask what she thinks of something without looking weak. She would probably appreciate the fact you asked.

Finally, the mind reading and interpretation that goes on with the “tea leaf” crowd does nothing to help a relationship in fact it only creates more problems. It is exhausting trying to interpret every word, lack of word, action, or lack of action. Not only is it exhausting but if you interpret it wrong, which you will 90 percent of the time, you can end up having a negative attitude towards the other person that they feel without being able to figure out why you are mad other than you are just a jerk. If most people are mind readers than I would have to say they are all not very good at it based on the conflict I see that comes from imaginary insults and events. If you want a healthy relationship you have to talk about the things you are unclear about and begin to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. If he or she didn’t call it doesn’t mean they are not interested it may just mean they are busy or working at that time. If they are not enthusiastic every time they get a call from you it probably means they are normal not that they are no longer interested. Do yourself a favor and relax and stop reading into everything. Allow the natural flow of events to happen in a relationship and watch the results. If you are uncertain about something or think the person is trying to tell you something non verbally, ask. Yep I said it, ask. It won’t mean you are too needy unless you ask about everything. But if you are truly unsure occasionally asking instead of assuming will only lead to greater clarity and understanding which are critical for every healthy relationship to develop.

Dating is already a tricky thing. Making it more difficult with the myths out there can only lead to more disappointment. But if you choose to allow the process to naturally take place by being yourself and giving it time, you might just find a relationship you would never have considered in the past and if you think about it, that’s how most people who are married found one another. It was usually the last person they would have thought of. So relax and enjoy the process.

The Myths of Dating

Dating is one of those things that causes most people a lot of anxiety, especially in the single world. Relationships are already hard enough to establish and maintain with two independent people trying to figure out how to relate to one another in this identity called a “relationship.” Add to that the pressure to find the “one” who you will marry, have a family with and hopefully grow old with and you have a recipe for a difficult process. With all this pressure put on a few hours with another person who may or may not fit the profile of “marrying material” it is no wonder so many singles have been frustrated and lose a sense of hope when it comes to having all of their dreams come true. There are so many myths surrounding this dating process with advice coming from every corner, how do you navigate that advice? Here are some of my thoughts on where this advice goes wrong.

First you have the “list” people. You know how this works. You are told to make a list of all of the things you want in a person and then you go out and find a person to fit your list. It is kind of like shopping for a mate. After all, we shop for just about everything else in life, why not a future spouse? You are told to stick to your guns when it comes to your list and never compromise on that list. So singles go out and make a list that only God could fulfill and they wonder why they are not meeting new people or finding the right person to marry. Never mind that many of them could not live up to their own list or if the person on their list had his/her own list they wouldn’t be on it. With such a narrow list of attributes and things the person wants in a spouse, they miss so many opportunities around them because they would never consider anyone who doesn’t fit the list.

Then you have the “don’t waste your time” people. These are the people who say that you are only wasting time if you allow a relationship to develop over time only to find out that person wasn’t the one. So instead of wasting your time trying to figure out if this person is marrying material or not try to figure it out on the first date or second if you are not really efficient with your time. So you go out on a date and turn it into a job interview asking all kinds of questions, many of an extremely personal nature, to a person who you just met. Of course never mind the fact that you are projecting that this date is not for fun but an evaluation of the other person’s potential performance as an adequate suitor for marriage. What person doesn’t love having their performance evaluated? Everyone likes performance reviews at work right?

Next, you have what I like to call the “proper protocol” people. These people know how relationships are supposed to work and don’t cross any lines when it comes to those generally known rules. If someone doesn’t play by these universal rules than they must not be the right person to marry. You know what these rules are. The man is supposed to take the initiative when it comes to the relationship. He should know what he wants and he should do all the directing and asking in the relationship. If he doesn’t, then it shows he is not a good leader or is a terrible decision maker and therefore not a good candidate to lead a relationship. The woman is supposed to be good at following the lead and should look like a super model every time you see her. If not she may be too bossy or critical or only taking care of herself to get a guy and then will let herself go after they get married. Or you could have the reverse of these roles depending on each person’s perspective on how relationships should go.

Finally, you have what I call the “tea leaf” people. These people try to read the signs and determine whether a person is interested and what every move the person makes or doesn’t make really means for the relationship. Everything is analyzed from how soon the person calls or texts back to what certain conversations and topics really mean. He didn’t call back for two hours it must mean he is not interested in me. She didn’t laugh at my joke. It must mean she finds me boring. There is no end to the analysis and second guessing that goes on with this group. More time is spent on deciphering than is spent on really getting to know the other person and allowing the relationship to develop.

Each of these types of dating approaches usually leads to the same place, the end of a potential relationship. People are complex and yes you want to make sure you are making the right decisions when it comes to investing the direction of your life with someone else. But if you don’t allow that relationship time to develop and breathe without all the expectations and evaluations you are tempted to put on it, you will have a difficult time finding a relationship that could lead to marriage. In the next article I will discuss counters to each of the types of people above and some ways you can begin to overcome these mentalities to make yourself someone who others can relax with.

What's the Right Answer?

Today I read Job 40-42. The end of the book of Job is an interesting study in what it means to speak correctly about God and the danger of trying to figure out His motives. Here you have God putting Job in his place. Job has been asserting that he was innocent and this shouldn’t be happening to him. While he was right, even without knowing the conversation that God had with Satan behind the scenes, the issue God had with Job was not that assertion but the assertion that somehow God had made a mistake. It is dangerous ground to tread on when we try to figure out God’s motives and try to put him in the box of our own making that helps to make us comfortable with what he is doing. God spends time educating Job on how powerful he is and that Job doesn’t know enough to question Him. Job of course responds with repentance and new found realization of who God is in relation to who he (Job) is. Then in an unexpected turn of events God turns to Job’s friends and says that they had it all wrong in how they spoke about Him and that if it wasn’t for the sacrifice they were about to give and Job’s prayer on their behalf he would punish them. How did his friends speak wrong of God? Where did they go wrong?

As I shared earlier in my journal on putting God in a box I think Job’s friends relied more on their theology and systems of thought in explaining an unexplainable action of God. Their comfort was not in trusting God’s character and his ways but in their ability to come up with sound explanations that they could trust in. There is a subtle turn that any one of us can take when we make our answers as important as our faith and trust in God. This event was unexplainable so to speak. God had allowed injustice to happen to test Job’s faith and resolve. There was no debate over the fairness of that test. There was not really an explanation as to why God felt it necessary to prove Satan wrong by putting an innocent man like Job through this. Only in the mind of God is there an answer and He wasn’t giving it. Our attempts at coming to terms with the unexplainable things in life show where our faith and trust truly is. Sometimes the only answer is to wait and renew our faith and trust in God.

As I think about all the things I have seen and gone through in life, none of them is as horrific as what we see in the life of Job. Yes some are as painful and do include loss, but not at the magnitude that Job endured. I think of how I have handled some of the situations in a God honoring way with my faith in Him being my only strength. I can also think of situations that I handled terribly and trusted my surroundings, or my own understanding, or my own theology and ended showing how weak I really am and how my faith is very frail. Faith really is a tricky thing because it is a moment by moment thing and just when you think your faith is strong something will happen and your reaction to it shows just how weak that faith really is. I want to be a man whose faith is the mark of who he is. That people are inspired to trust God more instead of look for more answers that make them feel better.

Lord, please strengthen my faith. I want to be strong in my faith and trust in you but I fall so short. Please make a me a man after your own heart and help me to model for my boys and those around me what it looks like to walk moment by moment with you. Amen.


Today I read Romans 5-8 and another section from the book Integrity. As I reflect on what I learned today it strikes me how much God empathized with us and loved us that he would send his own son to take care of our sin. He didn’t wait until we cleaned up or act or obeyed all his laws but instead came while we were still sinning and disobeying him. Instead of a response of judgement and justice which I know is part of God’s character, he understood the struggle I was having with sin and he came down to earth and lived with us and with our sin and empathized with us and understands and then proceeded to die the death we should have died and deserve to die. As I reflect on all the things Jesus did as he interacted with people he always empathized with the person first, did a miracle in their lives (or in the case of the religious leaders pointed out their true motives which is also a form of empathy), and then told them to go and sin no more. Far too often we want people to experience the agony of their sin and convince them they are sinners until we are satisfied that they “get it” and then we present the gospel to them because we feel like they cannot understand their need for a savior unless they truly understand their sinful state. The problem with that as I look at it now is the fact that we get things out of order and never do we empathize with people and seek to understand who they are and where they are coming from. Yes understanding sin is important but to lead off with that or even push it hard as if we are the judge of when they actually understand it shows that we tend to want to play the role of judge instead of loving people and understanding their situation. I thank God that Jesus did not come to this earth wielding a scepter demanding we get our acts together and deeply understand our sin. Instead he came carrying a towel and modeling for us what it means to serve others and to empathize with others situations which then allows us to speak into one another’s lives when it comes to things like sin.

The integrity book focused on empathy today as well and the importance of putting yourself into another person’s shoes and then communicating to them you understand and the power that has in the lives of those you lead. This is something that I feel God has gifted me with. I have a way of putting myself in someone’s shoes and understanding how they feel. The problem I have is that I can also get so busy and wrapped up in what I am doing that I don’t take the time to use this gift. So I can be unempathetic if I am not conscious of the other person and really focused on understanding. When I do focus on this, however, it leads to great connection with others and I find that I can help others in deeper ways which in turn builds a friendship and relationship with them. I really want to be a better leader who not only leads and helps set direction, but does so in an environment of team, friendship, and understanding.

Lord, thank you so much for your love and empathy for me. I am so thankful that you did not send Jesus to condemn me but to show you loved me and wanted to save me. Words cannot express what that means to me but you know the gratitude in my heart which I wish was not so fleeting when I am not focused on you. Help me to be a leader who has empathy for others first. Make me a man who shows others the love I have experienced from you. Amen.

Relationship Weekend

I had quite a fascinating weekend this past week doing talks on relationships. The weekend started with talking to the singles at a retreat they were having. I talked about the fact that we all have been trained to some extent to see male-female relationships from a romanticized point of view. We see romantic comedies that show us that soul mates do exist if you look hard enough for Mr. or Mrs. Right and you will have one big conflict and then your life will be a happily ever after. The problem with thinking that God has one right person in the world for you is that it only takes one person to marry the wrong person to mess the whole thing up. So we spent a lot of time talking about how how men and women relate and how to have a healthy relationship.

On Saturday I got to talk to women in the church whose husbands are not believers on the topic of “Appreciating an Imperfect Man.” We had a large turnout for that event and it was fun looking at Abraham and Sarah and wondering what their conversation might have looked like after Abraham asked Sarah to pretend she was his sister to save his own skin. We talked about the fact that Sarah could have defined Abraham by his successes or his failures and that too often we define our spouse by his/her failures and rarely celebrate his/her successes. It went very well with 45 minutes of Q&A and I stayed another hour and a half answering questions.

Then on Monday we did our next Married Life Essentials Event on Spiritual Intimacy and talked about how we relate together as a couple to help one another become more like Christ. It was another great turn out and I had more questions after that not only in person but also by email the next day!

In all of this I can see that it is important for us to see our relationships as part of our spiritual health instead of a means to get us what we think we want. With all the people I talked to person after person had issues because somewhere along the way they believe that relationships should go the way they have scripted them in their minds instead of seeing them as opportunities to grow us to be more like Christ. My prayer is that these events and training’s will help more couples to be able to see and articulate what a healthy marriage looks like so they in turn can help other couples to get out of this distorted view on marriage.

Relationships are the Ministry

Today I read Job 18, Mark 1-2, and RPJ chapter 36. The theme for today is relationships. It seems like everything we struggle with in life is linked to or comes from relationships with other people. Job struggled with his relationship with God, wondering why God was punishing him, and his relationship with his friends who seemed to want to convict him to “solve” his problem and get him back on the right track. As Jesus performs various miracles in the book of Mark, he has people who are coming to see him just to get their needs met. He has others, the Pharisees and religious leaders, who are challenging his every move because he is braking all the “rules.” What is it in our approach to relationships that gets us all mixed up and causes the worst in us to come out at times?

Tom in his book talks about all the rules we set up for relationships that we use to get what we want instead of following the “Golden rule” and realizing that I won’t truly get my needs met unless I choose to meet the needs of others. I have come across so many situations lately where people don’t want to have relationships with others. Instead they want to use others to further whatever agenda they have at the time. It is as if people where objects to be manipulated instead of people to be loved. We see it in Job’s friends who couldn’t have their paradigm of how God works rocked so they attacked their friend Job instead of just sitting in silence and being there for him in the midst of his extreme pain and loss. The Pharisees couldn’t have anyone challenge the rules they had set up for how people should “behave” to make sure they were spiritual so the Messiah would come back sooner. Not only that, but their status as religious leaders and the authority that came with it was being challenged every time Jesus broke one of the religious rules they had set up. They were so concerned with protecting those things that they missed the very Messiah they were hoping would come soon. Just yesterday I talked with someone about a wife who is so used to getting what she wants that she is able to manipulate her husband. When he refuses to be manipulated she shouts him down and criticizes him. He gets angry and she starts sharing he could be emotionally abusive not realizing her own selfish desires are causing the problems in the relationship and her putting down her husband in front of her son is having a negative impact on him.

As I think about my own life, I can see many places where I blow it relationally. I can get so wrapped up in what I am working on or the stress of some situations in my life that relationships in my life take a back seat. The furthest thing from my mind in those moments is meeting anyone’s needs. Instead I am concerned with me. Other times I get upset when people don’t do what I think they should especially when it inconveniences my life. In those moments I don’t put myself in their shoes to understand why they are acting that way or maybe even if there are other things going on that I don’t understand. I hate it when I do that because I really want to empathize with people and love being around them. Today is a good reminder to see people as my ministry. That way relationships will never feel like an interruption to the real work, they are the real workHappy.

Lord, please help me to be a man who is able to empathize with the needs of others and to see people through your eyes. Help me to not have hidden agendas or look for ways to manipulate or control others. Please help me to make people more important than things, goals, or rules. Amen.