Q. My husband had an affair with a friend of mine. He and I have reconciled, but I feel the need to confront my friend. I want to talk to her about how she betrayed me. What's the correct way to handle it?
A. The "correct" way to handle it depends on your motive, what you hope to accomplish, and what you sense the Holy Spirit saying to you about it. Your first step is to examine your purpose in confronting her. Is it to "speak the truth in love" with a desire to promote healing? Or is it to exact a pound of emotional flesh for the way she wounded you?
If part of your motive is payback, don't be too hard on yourself. That's a normal emotional reaction. The danger lies in dwelling on those feelings and allowing them to determine your choices. Before you consider confrontation, it's critical for you to check your motives. As you've thought about a confrontation, and even rehearsed different scenarios in your mind, what's been the state of your heart?
Before talking to her it's essential that you've first followed the clear teaching of Scripture and forgiven her. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says, "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (NLT).
Psychologist Norm Wright once told us that you know you've forgiven someone when you can pray for her and desire God's best for her. It doesn't mean you have to like her and want to be around her. It does mean that you've let go of the offense, are able to focus on what God wants to do in your life, and have received the grace to want God's best for her life.
How can you get there? Once a day for the next 30 days, read Matthew 5 and 7, in which Jesus talks about dealing with those who have hurt you. Get a copy of David Stoop's book, Forgiving the Unforgivable, and look up the Scripture references he lists. Then pray daily asking God what he'd have you do. At the end of the 30 days you'll have a more complete answer to your question about confronting the "other" woman.
Depressed and Angry
Q.Three years ago my husband was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. This has struck down his faith and sent him into a deep depression. He won't attend church, pray, or talk about God. What should I do?
A. After three years of struggling with the physical pain, increasing physical limitations, difficulty in maintaining normal levels of activity, as well as the enormous emotional and psychological drain, it's not surprising he's depressed. Studies show that one-third of all patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) suffer depression.
Withdrawal from normal activities is a common symptom of depression, and if it isn't dealt with, it can exacerbate your husband's depression.
It's critical that you and your husband see a physician, perhaps a psychiatrist, who understands FMS as well as depression to assess what may be the physiological, psychological, or emotional reasons behind his depression. It may be that he needs help with medication for the depression.
It's also important to get him involved with people and with spiritual things. If your husband was active in a men's group or has male friends at church, ask them to reach out to him. They may not be aware of his struggles, and can encourage and pray for him. Also, call your pastor or men's ministry leader to see if there are any others in your church who have struggled with FMS. Many larger communities have FMS support groups. See if one is active in your area. Know that with some help there's a lot of hope.
Expressing True Feelings
Q. How much should a spouse express his or her true feelings and thoughts without fear of "rocking the boat"? I get weary of telling my husband things because it seems to end in an argument. It's just easier to let things go and not have the hassle.
A. Never forget that peace at any price is rarely worth the price. Having said that, I (Carrie) learned early in our marriage that not every thought needs to be expressed and not every emotion needs to be shared.
Several years ago we discovered a simple technique that's helped us successfully deal with these situations. First, determine whether the issue is high ticket or low ticket. A high ticket item is something one of us has thought and prayed about and determined is so important to us or to our marriage that we'd rather have a spinal tap with no anesthetic than not discuss it (e.g., major purchases). A low ticket item is something that might be nice to talk about, but really isn't significant and will probably be forgotten in a few days (e.g., which way to put the toilet paper on the holder).
We've learned internally to rate issues on a scale from one to ten, with ten being very high. In our marriage we've agreed that anything five or above is high enough for us to share with each other. One ongoing issue for us is how many times we'll travel for our work. I (Gary) am most likely to take on too much, while Carrie goes the opposite way.
If you decide there's something in this range, your next step is to consider prayerfully the what, where, when, and how: what do you want to share, when is the best time to do it, where is the most conducive place for your mate to listen, how are you going to present it, and how much do you need to say?
If your husband is detail oriented, and you're more of an intuitive, big-picture person, it will be important for you to be specific and to the point. Otherwise, he's likely to get lost trying to discern what the real issue is and move quickly to feelings of confusion, frustration, and futility. When that happens he's either going to check out of the conversation or he will turn it into an argument about an issue that's probably ill-defined and somewhat unclear to you both.
We've had hundreds of couples tell us that as they applied these simple principles over a three to six month period, they were able to develop new patterns for dealing with important issues and eliminate many unnecessary, unprofitable, and painful discussions.
Q. My wife is a flight attendant and is gone from home a lot. When she is home, she goes into what I call "single mode." She makes her own decisions, spends a lot of time by herself—she even bought a car without telling me! When I raise my concerns about it, she just brushes it off—and nothing changes.
A. The problem you address is a common occurrence when one or both spouses are "on the road" a lot. It doesn't matter if one is a flight attendant, a traveling salesman, or in the military. These kinds of situations make it easy for a couple to become "married singles" and drift apart.
The main problem is that you and your wife haven't been intentional about cultivating deep levels of trust and intimacy.
The good news is that some of the most loving and mutually satisfying marriages we've seen involve couples where one spouse travels a lot. There are healthy ways of being apart that can make coming back together a joy.
Since you've talked to her and that doesn't seem to help, you need to be creative. That means looking at what you can do to make the situation better.
In light of Paul's teaching in Ephesians 5:25, what might it look like for you to prayerfully consider creative ways to love your wife "as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her"? Are there other healthy Christian couples you enjoy being with? How much time do you spend prayerfully preparing for the times when she's going to be home? Do you talk with her when she's away? Do you initiate prayer together on the phone? Do you show her that you enjoy being with her?
In these situations it's tempting to be so painfully aware of how our spouse could improve that we miss some of the simple things we could do to make the situation better. Find some support and encouragement from other men to help you stay the course. Ask your wife if there are specific things you can do to help when she's home. You may be surprised at some of the changes you start to see in her.
Carrie Oliver is a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver Ph.D., co-author of A Woman's Forbidden Emotion (Regal), 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.
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine.
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