When Discord Enters a Relationship
Today is another day, and with it comes another session working with a couple who have come for help with problems in their relationship. As I sit and listen, there is a common factor that comes out of almost every problem within a relationship. As I speak to the male, he will state “if only she_____”, and when I turn to the female of the couple, she will also reiterate “if only he _____”. When I deal with issues in relationships, the word “if” always comes up. That particular word often leads to unmet expectations. It is often that these expectations are either not communicated, or achievable. With each couple, I like to break down the word if into an acronym to help them define their issues so they may work through them. The word “if” can be broken down into the acronym:
I = Interfering
F = Factor
By looking at the word “if” as an interfering factor of the relationship, then we can define what the real problem is. In the majority of the cases I work with, that factor inevitably circles around to the lack of being able to communicate properly. In other cases, the interfering factor can be the intrusion of in-laws, addictions of any kind, difference in backgrounds, financial, and unmet expectations.
In order to understand the communication problem that often occurs between men and women, we must turn to Ephesians 5:33 which states “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband”. (NLT). It is in this verse that Paul differentiates the requirements of proper communication between husband and wife. To put it simply, the wife desires love in the relationship, while the husband desires respect. It is this difference that often leads to discord within a marriage or relationship.
Many women do not understand the effect of how they communicate to their husband may come across to him as disrespectful. When a husband feels disrespected, it is difficult for him to love his wife as he loves himself. Men have a tendency to interpret any type of criticism by their wife as contempt, a sign of disrespect, which leads to feeling they are not being loved. It is to the point that many men will feel like they are being looked down on by their wives, and they will start using tactics to deal with this criticism. What the husband sees as criticism by the wife, the wife sees as an attempt to be caring and loving by communicating what they need or desire. One of the main tactics used by men is called “stonewalling”. This is where the man just stares off into space or into the TV, pretends to be listening and agreeing with what’s being said but on the inside is being hurt or angered because of the disrespect they are feeling. Eighty-five percent of men use the stonewalling method during communications with their wives. This method does not solve the problem but increases the tension within the marriage and has now become that interfering factor.
Wives have the desire to talk in order to release their emotions. If they are not allowed to express their feelings, and emotions, they become like a teakettle that is ready to explode. And when they do explode, unfortunately it is usually the husband that is the recipient of what comes out. What wives tend to look for in their husband is that they will “dwell” with him for a short period through this conversation in order to discover where her heart is. It is through these conversations that women may seem out-of-control by their husbands, when in reality their motive is to connect with them in love. Many wives also make the mistake of thinking that there husband understands what they’re saying or is able to read their mind. After all, she is not speaking in a foreign language, and if he paid attention, he would know what she means.
We are all born with 99% of the same DNA. It is at 1% that makes us different, and allows us to be an individual. It is the responsibility of both the husband, and wife to learn how to communicate appropriately to one another. Husband must explain to his wife in a loving manner when he feels her comments are being disrespectful. A wife must also be able to express to her husband when she feels unloved by his words and actions. It is this ability to identify the interfering factor (IF) that will allow them to properly communicate their needs and desires within the marriage. But it does not stop there. There is that other word that always follows “if”, and that word is “only”.
In defining the IF, we need to understand what the reaction is when the interfering factor is not resolved. That action, I use the word “only” as an acronym for:
O = Once
N = Named
L = Leaves
Y = Yearning
Once the IF is determined, the spouses have the ability to feed the desire of their mate in order to help resolve the issues at hand. Once we have named what the interfering factor is, it is now up to the individuals to eliminate the IF.
The interfering factor leads to a yearning on the part of a spouse. We must understand the definition and terminology of what it means to “yearn” for something. There are many words associated with the word yearn. To yearn for something can also mean to:
- Have a longing or craving for something you do not have or are not receiving in your relationship
- Have a strong thirst, hunger, or craving for something you need from your spouse or your mate in your relationship.
- Be infatuated, attracted to, or have a strong desire for something you don’t have or are not getting in your relationship
There are situations where the IF is something that is illegal, immoral, or impossible to be fulfilled by their mate. In these cases, I strongly suggest the couple work with the counselor on an individual level, as well as a couple’s level. It is only through the understanding of the needs and desires of our mates that we can be successful in coming together as one in order to glorify God with our marriage.
We all need to remember that we are broken individuals, and we cannot fix one another; only God can do that. But we can be an example of the unconditional love given to us by Christ, to our mate, in coming together as one, and glorifying God with our marriage. It is in a Casting Crowns song that sums up what marriage really is. The title is “Broken Together” and the chorus is:
Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we’ll last forever is broken together
We are broken, and we cannot complete each other as this world likes for us to believe. It is only God that can complete us, and that is when we enter heaven to be by His side. Until then, we can be broken together, working together to eliminate the IF ONLY’s.