Q. My husband and I have been married for a year. When we've had differences, we end up blaming each other and we're worse off than we started. When he's talking I listen and suggest ways to resolve the problem—but to him my suggestions are my telling him what to do. And if I express my feelings, he blames me for the problem. I don't know what to do or say where I won't be blamed!
A. We had a similar struggle when we were first married. I (Carrie) thought I was a great listener and Gary thought he was a great listener. We both heard what the other person said but we didn't understand what they meant. That's because we weren't really listening.
You may think you listen, but would he say you understand him? There's a big difference! We listen five times as fast as someone speaks. That means we have a lot of time for our minds to wander. When they wander they usually go to what "we" think are the best solutions to "their" problem.
The first step is for you to really understand him. That means when he's talking you aren't thinking about what you're going to say. When he's done, don't jump in with your solutions. Ask him questions to clarify what he said. Then restate what he said in your own words—without trying to resolve the problem—and ask if you're close to what he meant.
It sounds as if you both love each other and want to help the other person change. Change really takes place only when we're willing to apply Psalm 139:23-24 to our lives and ask God to change us first: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Remember, it takes only one person to make the first step.
I Married a Clutter Bug
Q. My wife's clutter is cheating us out of deeper intimacy because I'm always angry and as a result detached. I think about leaving. I don't want to—but I'm overwhelmed by the mess! What can I do?
A. It sounds as if you're blaming your anger on your wife. The reality is that you're being cheated out of deeper intimacy because of your unwillingness to take responsibility for your own emotions.
If you spend time thinking about leaving, then think about something else. What you let your mind focus on is your choice. Philippians 4:8 says we can choose to let our mind dwell on whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely.
Start by taking responsibility for your own stuff. Choose to understand your emotions and learn healthy ways to express them. Ask God to give you insight into what's going on inside you. Then choose to invest the next six months encouraging your wife. You've discovered how to approach her in ways that don't work. Now try something different. Become her encourager. At the same time, don't ignore what frustrates you.
Talk to your wife and explain how the clutter affects you. Then ask her what small step she might be willing to take to meet you halfway. Perhaps she views your concerns as all-or-nothing demands that she feels she can't meet. Her suggestions might be a pleasant surprise.
Another option is for you to pick a couple places that are most important for you to have clean, such as the kitchen or living room. See if she'd be willing to focus on keeping at least those places picked up. Then be clear what both of you mean by "picked up." Make sure both of your expectations are realistic.
A third option is for you to pick one place, perhaps the car, and you choose to keep it clean without saying anything to her about it. Be encouraged by the fact that a small beginning can be a significant step in resolving an issue.
Is Cosmetic Surgery Okay?
Q. I'm unhappy with my bust size (it's too small and not well proportioned). My husband says he's happy with me, but will support me if I have cosmetic surgery. I don't feel comfortable revealing myself to my husband—I feel I don't look feminine enough. I'm not looking for attention outside my marriage. But I feel the surgery would give me more confidence in my clothes. What do you think?
A. Thousands of women deal with issues regarding their breast size and proportion that don't measure up to what the media portray. You know, the perfect round "C" cup size.
I (Carrie) remember being in a restaurant recently, when I noticed several women who looked exactly the same where their breasts were concerned. The perfect round "C." Yes, godly Christian women can and do struggle with this dilemma. We feel less than sexy, we feel as though we can't fill out our clothes in the places we should, we view ourselves as inadequate and are afraid our husbands will too.
When making a decision to undergo cosmetic surgery, particularly in the case of breast augmentation, here are some things to consider.
- Will this surgery really be the catalyst to overcoming my obsession and bring the results I want?
- What size is really the best size?
If you haven't been noticed before and you go for the round "C," you'll be noticed by men other than your husband as well as other women. Are you prepared for that? Is your husband? Have the two of you talked about this issue?
I've worked with women who've had personality transformations after breast augmentations because of their "new" look—and the transformation wasn't always for the good. I also know women who willingly chose a smaller cup size to draw less attention but achieve the results they desired.
As I've looked at Scripture and discussed the issue with folks knowledgeable in the Bible, I don't find a "right" or "wrong" answer. As with any major decision, this one requires prayer, self heart-examination, and communication with your husband. At the end of this process you'll be better able to determine if this path is the right one for you. The bottom line for any decision is that whatever we do, or have done to us, that it be to the honor and glory of Jesus Christ!
Carrie Oliver is a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver is executive director of The Center for Marriage & Family Studies at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.
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