Sharing my faith and my life one day at a time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Identifying Emotions in Marriage

One my most cherished times in this season of exploring, discovering and learning is being a part of a "journey group" for married couples. Robert and I have always wanted study God's Word with other like-minded people who acknowledge God's standards for marriage. We are really grateful that we got the chance to complete a series called "Staying in Love" by Andy Stanley for the fall semester.

Today, I want to share with you the biggest lesson that I learned from this Bible study series.

Don't you think it is interesting that no couple wants to fight and yet we have not met anyone who has completely avoided it? And it seems like the failure to communicate and address these disagreements leads to another fight, and then another fight, and then another fight ...

And the next thing you know, a married couple who used to be head over heels in love are now growing apart and has completely given up on any kind of resolution.

Unintentional or not, we all bring emotional baggage from relational hurts in our pasts. It is only inevitable that our spouses will say or do something that will trigger an unpleasant emotion that will consequently generate anger in our hearts.

I just love how the Bible warns me on how this is likely to happen in our marriage:

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23)

Andy Stanley's commentary on this Bible verse proves to be even more helpful:

"We need a proactive strategy for doing this. We're good at monitoring our spouses' behavior, but we're horrible at monitoring what's really happening in our own hearts."


I have come to the realization that when I get angry, I often blame my husband for being the source of that anger. I have since learned that my default reaction should always be a thoughtful examination of the condition of my heart.

As a married couple, both of our hearts must be anchored on God for us to be in an emotionally healthy place. If we proactively "guard our hearts," we can address disagreements with civility and a genuine determination to resolve issues so that it does not creep up again and again.

When you find yourself starting to get heated up that can possibly brew a fight, I recommend taking these steps.

1) Calm down. Have a seat. Take a couple of deep breaths.

2) Pray. Pray hard. Ask for the power of our Great Counselor, the Holy Spirit to navigate through your feelings and thoughts.

3) Identify what causes the anger. It is not enough to vent to your spouse, "I am mad" or "I am frustrated with you." It is also not healthy to express these feelings on a social network status because you need to let it all out. Or worse, you just keep it all in and let it kill you inside. It will not resolve anything. Go into specifics. Communicate these emotions. Think of words that precisely describe your feelings. Looking for sample statements?

"I am frustrated at the fact that you leave your clothes lying around. When you do that, I feel that you disrespect the work that I do to keep our home clean."

"Your lack of affection leaves me feeling undesirable. And that makes me resentful. The more I resent, the angrier I become."

"Sometimes I feel like you are too bossy and controlling with me. When you do that, it reminds me of sad memories of childhood when I watched my father do that to my mother. Remembering these days hurt me deeply."

"You do not have to question my decisions all the time. I feel belittled. I wish you can trust me more and know that my reasons are always of good intentions."

"It makes me mad when I see you spend almost all of your time caring for our children. I think you are a wonderful mother but I cannot help but feel neglected."

"I feel really judged when your parents are around. Their actions make me feel like a terrible wife/husband. I wish you would stand up for me more and honor me in their presence."

"When we spend time with these group of people, I feel so left out. I would love it if you were more intentional about filling me in some of the details so that I feel a little more included."

"I need help. I need some form of assistance. I thought I could do it all but I am too prideful to admit it. I don't want to keep on pretending because it just puts anger and frustration in my heart."

Do these statements sound familiar? I am sure most of us have felt this one way or another. However, we overlook the desire to be deliberate about identifying the source of the anger.

The more specific we get in identifying our emotions, the better we communicate our feelings to our spouse.

If you find yourself needing to communicate something to your spouse:
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Ephesians 4:15)

If you find yourself on the receiving end of something that is being expressed to you:
"Christ uses critics to guard our souls from self-destructive tendencies. We gain ears to listen to others when we gain ears to listen to Him. Critics, like governing authorities, are servants of God to you for good." (Romans 13:4)

Let us challenge ourselves with this concluding statement from Andy Stanley:

What's inside of you is coming out. And it's not coming out because of who you are with, but because it was in you to begin with. If you want to stay in love, you have to pay attention to what is in there, so that you can own it. You have to have a plan to guard your heart--a plan that begins with thinking about and identifying specific emotions and then communicating them. Will you commit to this plan?

Do you want to know more?


Diane G said...

wow, great blog entry =) you are so right, and i'm super grateful that God gave me a husband who is open and honest in communicating (and patient too, as i'm usually the one blowing my top of late! haha)

oh, we got your Christmas card, lovely!!! thank you! nothing beats traditional mail, i super loved getting it, Gabe brought it in from our mailbox and said "we've got mail!" and i almost didn't want to open it, hard to believe it wasnt Meralco lang hahaha

Samantha Johnson said...

Thank you Diane! A big shout-out to husbands who actually want to be open to dialogue.

I am so glad you got the Christmas card!! I am such a big proponent of traditional mail. It is such a delight to receive something in the mailbox, so I know what you mean :-) :-) :-)

Samantha Johnson said...
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