Little Princess is now disillusioned. Whatever happened to all she dreamed marriage would be? Who IS this man she married? He's changed so much. Prince Charming is thinking "Who is this shrew? Where's the sweet girl I fell in love with? Is this what marriage is?"
They've both ripped the signs they've been wearing off their backs and feel completely confused about where to go from here. This is dangerous ground they're treading. This is where the enemy starts sowing the seeds for the future.
Your mind is a fertile breeding ground for bitterness and resentment. As you start thinking about your spouse's faults, you stop seeing any good in him/her. You start setting the stage for "falling out of love".
So, what do we do to prevent this? Firstly, we have to bear in mind that marriage is hard work. Love isn't just all those wonderful, warm feelings. Love is choosing to love even the unlovable in a person.. that's what unconditional love is. Love is working through our issues with the other person's well-being in mind. If you really love someone you want them to be happy. Loving is often sacrificial. You put the other person's needs above your own.
Think about it.. if both parties in a marriage hold this principle in their hearts, their marriage would succeed because each wants to love and sacrifice for the other. Conflicts would be resolved more easily because of a mutual desire to bring happiness to the other.
Easier said than done.. right? First of all selfish desire plays an important role in how conflict happens. Each person wants something... each one wants his/her needs to be met. This is where these key factors come in:
- Effective communication skills. Learning how to express yourself properly. Learning how to phrase things so they do not offend. Avoiding absolutes like "always", "never". Avoiding accusation, criticism. Speaking to each other in the right love language. If you haven't read the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman yet, you should.
- Effective listening skills. Do you really LISTEN to your spouse? Do you allow him/her to express himself/herself without interruption. Do you tell him/her what you are hearing? Sometimes what we hear is not necessarily what was said. Ask him/her to clarify if you have it wrong.
- Reality Check - are your expectations realistic or not. Are your actions or desires selfish? Do they build your relationship/marriage or do they serve only yourself. Are you being intolerant or unreasonable?
- Examine your own motives. Have you allowed your pride to determine your actions? Have you allowed anger to cloud your good judgement? Are you avoiding dealing with a difficult issue?
- Sources of conflict must be dealt with, as soon as possible. 'Sweeping it under the carpet" only allows the issue to fester and become a silent, secret weapon to the enemy and a hidden deterioration is taking place beneath the surface.
- Remember to always be loving and kind to each other when facing down an issue that is a source of conflict. You love this person, you want him/her to be happy. If your actions or lack thereof is a source of pain to him/her, you need to acknowledge those feelings and come up with a mutually agreeable solution.
- Remember that you are also carrying your own baggage and you have your own needs... these need to be factored into the very complicated equation that is your marriage.
- For husbands, very often a wife's unhappiness is taken very personally. Any expression of discontent is viewed as a personal failing and anger is a man's go-to emotion. Its the one he's most comfortable with. Stonewalling is his way of protecting himself while he sorts through his emotions. Men are wired to have iron control over their feelings.. losing that control isn't easy for them. Wives, as difficult as it is, we have to let them have their space.
- Likewise, women take any criticism of themselves as a sure indication that "he doesn't love me as I am", "I'm not good enough" and we have a waterworks that could flood an entire city! This makes our men feel worse about themselves because they have now made us CRY. We sometimes push them away when all we really want is for them to hold us and let us cry on their shoulder, listen to some affirming, loving words. Listen up guys.. a little peek inside the complicated mind and heart of a woman here!
Little Princess and Prince Charming had a long history of 'sweeping things under the carpet". Their communication skills were practically non-existent and they went through a cycle of petty arguing, sweep-sweep, petty arguing, stonewall, cry... sweep sweep. You get the picture.
Luckily, though, by God's Grace, the love was kept alive.
Little Princess had one simple principle. She loved Prince Charming more than she cared about his clothes on the floor, the coffee cups, the disappointments. She had a motto which saw her through those times. Even though she DID allow herself to become bitter and resentful, God refused to let her sink so low into it that her love turned into ashes. She may have had 'meltdowns' but God didn't allow her to lose perspective.
So, here's the motto .. highly recommended by a Little Princess for you:
THE ISSUES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE RELATIONSHIP
Now that we've dealt with how to handle disappointment and conflict, we'll next take a look at how to nurture the relationship... keep those fires burning!
Until next time... let your light shine brightly for Jesus!
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