pragmatic love, a wife’s choice

I’m joining in with Leslie at Lux Venit for the book study on The Excellent Wife. I’m a little late. I just posted my response to Chapter 8 yesterday (also late). This is my response to Chapter Nine, Love, the Wife’s Choice. Here’s what is highlighted in yellow on the first few pages of Chapter Nine in my book:

“Those romantic feelings I used to have are gone, never to return.

Since most wives are “in love” with their husbands when they marry, what happens to that love?

. . . three categories of sin that will destroy love: selfishness, bitterness or fear. Often it is a combination.

. . . no matter what has happened and what she is feeling, God can work in her life and her husband’s life and He can give them a love for each other that they never dreamed possible. (emphasis added)

Their biblical love can draw them together in a more lasting intimate bond than all of the intensity of their early days of infatuation put together.

. . . even if her husband does not respond in love, it is a choice when wife must make because of Christ’s command.”

The Greek noun for love here is agape . . .

. . . it is a sacrificial love, giving.

. . . it is a love that gives to others even if nothing is given back in return. The noun form (agape) is primarily an attitude. The verb form (agapao) is primarily a practical action. Either way, it is a choice and we are held responsible.

Remember, at times, you will have to go directly against your feelings.

Godly love is not primarily a feeling, it is a choice.

. . . think objectively (biblically), not subjectively (based on feelings).

This will not just passively happen to you. You must work at it.

Remember that you do not have to feel “led” to be unselfish, you just have to do it.

. . . many women who were selfish . . . they usually held some secular beliefs about love. Often those beliefs were “love is romance and feelings,” . . . “love is having my needs met.”

Unfortunately, longings of this kind can never be satisfied since our flesh wants more and more and more.

Basing love on romance and feelings is immature at best.

“Feelings” are always somewhat disappointing.

. . . most women are never recipients of the romance they desire. It is much better to think, “How can I show love?” (love is patient, etc.) rather than, “How can I get love?”

As you change your thinking, your expectations will change.

Any time someone has a philosophy of life that is based on “my needs” (self), they are likely to fall into the trap of being unloving, selfish, vain or proud.

But if your heart is set on the wrong thing, you are guaranteed to be disappointed.

Mrs. Peace? AMEN, sister!

I’m reminded of an incident when FirstHusband and I were first married. We had recently bought a boat and were taking it out. My two (teenage at the time) sisters were with us. FirstHusband asked me to take the wheel just a few minutes after “putting in.” I told him I didn’t know how to drive a boat. He said I would be fine. I drove the boat aground. He said a very bad word. Very loudly. He was angry. It was the first time I had ever heard him say this word and the first time I had ever heard him yell. My sisters were with us. They looked at each other. They looked at me. I was experiencing righteous indignation. Big time.

But.

It was early in the morning. We were supposed to spend the entire day together on the boat. Having fun. It’s not like I was going to divorce my husband over this. We weren’t going to spend the rest of our lives angry over this. So what was the point of fighting over the fact that . . . what? I shouldn’t have run the boat aground? He should have believed me when I said I didn’t know what I was doing? Whatever we would have been fighting about would have been a complete WASTE of time! I had a choice to make.

I had witnessed the intense cruelty and immaturity of the “silent treatment” my entire childhood. I was determined not to EVER scream at my husband in anger or EVER call him an obscene name. I’d been on the receiving end of screaming and cursing and I did NOT like it. Although in my teenage years, I took the path of least resistance and followed suit. I had a quick and vicious tongue. As I grew older (and took more communication classes), I became aware of the fact that I didn’t have to react. I could choose to respond differently. I became DETERMINED to make different choices. I now have a core belief that emotions are unstable and decisions and actions which stem from them are, more often than not, irrational. I was not going to “right back atcha” my new husband in this situation.

I had a chance to show my sisters what healthy conflict resolution looked like. And I took it. I’ve mentioned before that FirstHusband and I have employed a conflict resolution model since before we got married. At that time in our relationship, we were getting good at it. Step 2 is “choose the best time to speak” and this was not it. NEVER try to resolve a conflict when one of the parties is angry. We were both angry. He was still angry about the boat, but also feeling bad about what he said. I was still hurt and angry. I said I wasn’t ready to talk about it – and then, to my sister’s complete surprise and confusion, I engaged in conversation and activities with everyone as if nothing had happened. No silent treatment while I waited for the best time to speak. I LET IT GO. I had fun. We had fun. I had truly forgiven him. Oh. Make no mistake. We were still going to talk about it, but I wasn’t going to waste the day pouting. Pointless.

Later that day, while fishing and bored, we went on to complete the conflict resolution model, in front of my sisters. (I have GOT to post about the model soon. When I do, I’ll put it on Pragmatic Communication and link to it from Compendium.)

Reading this chapter has also reminded me of a conversation I had with my mother a few years ago. I actually wrote it in my journal. Here are some excerpts from August, 2006.

She said: “I’m not in love anymore.”

I said: “IN love? After 15 years with my husband, I’m not “IN love.” I LOVE my husband. He’s my companion, my best friend and we can’t go half a day without talking to each other.”

She said: “Well, I think that’s kinda sad.”

I said: “You and I have a completely different idea about the definition of a good marriage.”

(I’m thinking: You can’t maintain “IN love.” It’s an unsustainable high. FirstHusband thinks “IN love” is chemical. Real love is a commitment and EFFORT. I agree.)

Later in the conversation:

She said: “After nearly 45 years of marriage, your father and I can’t learn to communicate differently.”

I said: “Yes, you can. You just choose not to. You go to the beach instead. That’s just what you do. It’s familiar. It’s a pattern. It’s easier.”

She and I made very different choices.

Beginning on page 88, there’s a list of what Mrs. Peace calls “Common Signs of Bitterness” In my opinion, that title should be changed to something stronger, like:

“9 Things to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, Do. Never.”

This list is worth the price of the book. If every married person in the world was dedicated to NEVER doing these 9 things, I think the divorce rate might actually hit rock bottom.

Another EXCELLENT suggestion? Mrs. Peace describes it using an example:

Supposed you believe that the problems in your marriage are 40% your fault and 60% his responsibility. God wants you to begin biblically dealing with your bitterness by taking 100% responsibility for your 40%.

Mrs. Peace? AMEN AGAIN, sister!

The entire section in this chapter which focuses on Bitterness contains some great advice, strongly supported by scripture. The suggestion to make “second mile investments” in a marriage relationship is founded on the idea that “My response is my responsibility.” I’m not responsible for my spouse’s actions and, whatever they may be, they are certainly not a “free pass” for me to forgo MY responsibilities. Check out this concept. Personally, I’m really trying to do this.

A long time ago, I heard a radio commentator explain a way to change an attitude by first changing behavior. The suggestion that I remember to this day is that, whenever I catch myself saying or even THINKING a negative thought about my husband, I STOP. Just STOP. In mid breath, if necessary.

And turn it around. Consciously choose to say or think something GOOD instead. CHOOSE to think only positive things about your spouse. REFUSE to say or even THINK negative thoughts. The more you do this, the more you won’t have to try. By changing this ONE behavior, you can turn around an entire relationship.

On pages 94 to 96, Mrs. Peace gives some very specific reversals of self-talk. Excellent examples.

She also takes this example I heard on the radio a step further. She recommends that you write down your thoughts word for word. Then take the time to go over each thought and convert it to a kind, tender-hearted or forgiving thought. She very wisely reminds us to destroy the bitter thoughts list no one would be hurt if they were to read it.

Bitterness can’t thrive in forgiveness. Where did I here this one?

“When you don’t forgive someone, it’s like taking poison, expecting the other person to die.”

Mrs. Peace also explains that forgiveness and trust are not the same. She points us to Chapter 14, the God’s Provision, Resources for the Wife’s Protection.

Then Mrs. Peace talks about pride. I think pride is a killer of relationships. It’s the need to be right at the expense of all else. Sometimes it’s the need for the other person to not only admit you are right, and that they are wrong, but to do it in front of witnesses. It’s a power struggle and it takes a relationship nowhere but down.

Mrs. Peace also talks about fear and points us to Chapter Nineteen, The Wife’s Fear, Overcoming Anxiety. I’ll wait till Chapter Nineteen.

Lastly, Mrs. Peace talks about 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. A perfect ending to this chapter.

6 thoughts on “pragmatic love, a wife’s choice

  1. Excellent post! You’ve really added some great stuff to think about this week.

    Leslie – thanks for being so steady in your posts on this study. I posted two chapters in two days – both late! (by JSM)

  2. I have not been privy to true communication classes. Reading your posts and their inclusion of such tidbits gives scratch to my itch to continue to improve in communication skills. Thanks for including them.

    Elle – I need to get off my duff and post that conflict resolution model. At least a condensed version of it. But, summer vacation will probably delay it for a while. (by JSM)

  3. Wonderful post. This was one of the best chapters so far, I think. Very, very practical. Thanks for what you shared!

    Rebekah – this is really the first chapter in this book that I have really, really identified with. It’s what I consciously try to do every. day. I can’t stop seeing the big picture, even when I close my eyes. Every heartbeat is a tick of the clock. Time that is gone. Time I need to make the most of. Circumstances in my life are bringing back memories I don’t EVER want to cause my family to have. (by JSM)

  4. Excellent words. And right in line with my post on what true love REALLY is. Talk about showing love after the “in love” has faded. And even when there were things one could hold on to in anger. Letting go and loving for the long haul. Unfortunately, ’tis a concept about which most of today’s world has no clue.

    Linda – So true. But I have truly learned what I DON’T want in my relationships. My past is VERY motivating. (by JSM)

  5. Wow. These were words I needed this week, not for the relationship with my spouse (where I seem to have no trouble with this concept) but for the one with my kids. I am having serious trouble “owning my response” with my kids, and it’s making us all miserable. Thanks for the “feast” for thought and prayer.

    Debbie – This really does make a difference in all my relationships. If I’m ever brave enough, I’ll post about how I almost fell back into old patterns when my son first began adolescence. My behavior is not something I’m proud of there. I can say that now – we don’t yell. We “diffuse.” LIFE changing. (by JSM)

  6. It works he other way around for me. In order to change my behavior I have to change my attitude first.

    Memarie Lane – I understand – no need to fix what ain’t broke. You gotta do what works for you! (by JSM)

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