I recently posted a meme on my social media accounts that garnered a lot of attention from respondents. One particular reader comment caught my attention. The response was very articulate, thoughtful and direct but it was obvious that the message I’d written had struck a chord and pressed on a wound this woman had either long attempted to bury or had not yet fully healed. I know this woman to be a beautiful soul, a devout Catholic and a warrior for the pro-life movement. But while most Catholics already believe in the Church’s position on life and are against abortion in every instance, her response shows that when it comes to marriage and divorce even “devout” Catholics and Christians (those who would even die for the Lord) still struggle with God’s Truth about marriage. After reading, you will understand.
I totally want my husband to be the man of the house...as long as he does things the way I ask him to. Umm. Ok.
Ladies, we're overworked because we try to do it all. We want his help. We complain if he doesn't help and yet we want him to do everything OUR way. Does that seem right or fair? Would you want him to tell YOU how to do everything you do? Of course not.
When people think of love, Eros is typically the love style they are envisioning. Thus, it is the easiest to write about. From the Greek word eros we get our word erotic and that makes it easy to understand that this type of love is one that is most definitely a romantic love, one that is shared between a man and a woman. Eros is the difference between saying “I love you” and “I’m in love with you!” Eros is the love that involves what marriage researcher John Gottman calls “the Love Cocktail.” I refer to it in my book The Super Couple: A Formula for Extreme Happiness in Marriage. (You should get a copy. I hear it’s really good! 😊).
What is love? For something so important and so basic to human existence it is sorely inadequate that the English language has only one word. In the Greek language there are at least eight words to represent the different kinds of love. In this relatively new millennium where "progress" is touted as enlightenment and we perceive our world as more advanced than ever before, it's actually rather pathetic that we haven't evolved enough or advanced our language in a way that would produce a better selection of words to represent the diversity of feelings currently encapsulated in the single word "love." After all, we've had zero problem creating new words to represent all of the other innovations of modern culture in the 2020s: Selfie, Google it and sexting are just a few examples (and point to the turn towards self-gratification and instant information to boot). C'mon people! We can do better than this.
When your spouse leaves you, your first inclination is usually to seek information as to what they are doing, what they are saying and who they are with. This is natural. This is your one flesh spouse and you are desperate to do whatever it takes to heal your relationship and bring them home.
Don't do it!
The social media posts of your prodigal will NEVER bring you peace. They are based on the lifestyle they are currently living, the lies they are telling themselves and the culture's influence on their decisions. Often those decisions are absolutely counter to the life they were once leading, everything they used to preach they believed and, sadly, counter to the faith in Christ they used to practice. You will almost NEVER find information that brings you peace but rather only heartache and pain.
I can't begin to tell you just how many times I went searching for information that I thought would "help" me understand what my prodigal was doing so that I could better be equipped to "fight it." At least that's what I told myself. I really just wanted something, anything that could make me feel anything but powerless and lacking in control of the situation. I'd convince myself that if I could figure out who my prodigal was with or where my prodigal was hanging out that I could somehow do something about it and even feel better. I never did. I felt worse. The phone records, the social media posts, the rumors about where my prodigal slept last night...all of it only made me feel as if I had received another gut kick. It would knock me down, make me sick, anxious and upset and it would consume my thoughts for the next hours, days or even weeks. I never did me any good.
In time, I realized that I always felt best when I had little idea of what was going on while my prodigal was in the metaphorical pigpen and I felt sick when I knew too much. What is too much, you ask? Too much is when I know information God did not intend me to know. Too much is having information that God first said "Um, Christine, I've got this. You don't need this piece of information to help you in your stand. This piece of information in the long run is meaningless because it's transient. It has nothing to do with the final outcome." Too much information is acquired when I try to play God (because He really does need me to help Him out. Right?!). Too much information and snooping is not trusting God.
That being said, God will in fact fill you in on the details He needs you to know in order to aid you in your stand. He has an amazing and uncanny way (well, He is God after all) of getting you just the right piece of information at the very moment it was needed or could benefit your stand. You find a receipt your prodigal meant to hide, you receive a text that wasn't meant for you, you have a friend who knows nothing about your current status say "Hey, I saw your spouse yesterday at..." Oh, rest assured, God will get you whatever information He needs you to have and on those moments when He does, he expects you to do something about it: pray, fast, make a call, etc. He'll let you know. He loves guiding you. he's teaching you how to listen to His still small voice and He'll also show you how to respond. After all, God wants you reconciled even more than you do...but in His time and in His way.
Let God be your Google! He is using this for you to grow in trust of Him and so he wants to trust he'll get you what you need when you need it. Let God help prevent you from getting information that will only bring you pain. What's the solution?
The solution is the same solution He presented to Peter when he got out of the boat and walked on water: Keep your eyes fixed ONLY on Christ! Don't look left. Don't look right. Don't look down or up. Just look straight at Him. If your eyes are fixed on Jesus and His promises then you cannot possibly see the "mess" that surrounds you or the pigpen your prodigal is in.
Peace will follow. Trust me. Trust Him.
Defensiveness is deadly. As a matter of fact, according to marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman it is one of the four "Deadly Horsemen of the Apocalypse" to any marriage. (I'll talk about the other three in a future post).
It's in our nature to defend ourselves. Doing so when we are in the right seems more, well, defensible (hah). But many of us also defend ourselves though we may be wrong. The problem is that none of us THINKS we're wrong or we wouldn't be defending. Regardless of which side you're on, defending oneself is almost never productive. If we're wrong we look like an idiot. If we're right the other now has you wasting your breath and has helped the relationship turn into a battle that will divide and not unite.
Want a more productive means of building your relationship, one that puts you on the offense?
Silence is one of the most POWERFUL tools you have at your aid. As a matter of fact, in her Diary, St. Faustina wrote:
"Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. A silent soul is strong; no adversaries will harm it if it perseveres in silence."
When at odds with your loved one your words, good or bad, give the other something to cling to (to divert, to attack, to twist, etc.). However, when they expect a response yet all they receive is silence, they have no idea what to do next. THEY become powerless.
When your prodigal lobs an attack at you over phone, text, email or even face-to-face (though significantly harder to remain silent when in person), and they receive no response in return it befuddles them. They intended to rile you up and sit poised and ready to pounce at your first response. When, over time, they receive nothing it does several things:
1. It calms the situation as cortisol drops.
2. They begin to wonder what you're thinking, if they were able to "stick it to you" and then whether or not you even received the message.
3. You have time to think, pray and regroup.
4. You gain the upper hand.
I have learned the power of silence and would love to teach it to you as well. Silence takes strength. You are stronger than you think.
Dr. Christine Bacon is a communication and relationships expert whose articles seek to encourage, inspire and teach others to become the best versions of themselves possible. Here, she offers valuable insights and advice on matters of personal, couples, family and workplace relationships.