It’s Not Over til It’s Over

Every month at EMB we hear stories of marriages that appear to be over. Some of them are in the latter stages of being over, technically speaking. Papers have been filed, separation arrangements made and conversations regarding the division of assets have ensued. We know that many guys get to EMB via ultimatum; their wives have finally had enough and won’t settle any longer so they insist their husbands attend. I think some men, while they outwardly express reluctance to attend, secretly are thankful for their wives insistence. It’s the nudge they need to take action against this struggle.

After the workshop we see men with renewed commitments to win back their wives. They are willing to do the difficult work of full disclosure and humble, servant leadership. Guys often realize the treasure they have in the woman they’ve seen as the enemy.  In one recent conversation between an attendee, 2 staff counselors and myself the attendee recounted how his divorce will be final in less than a month. He described how certain his wife is that he’ll never change and how futile the effort to work at the relationship. He even admitted that to this point her efforts were futile, because he was unwilling to change. One of the counselors looked at him and said, “the story isn’t over til it’s over”.  Quickly the other counselor chimed in and talked of two couples he’s aware of that divorced and recently came back together. The attendee basically wouldn’t hear it. He was so convinced that it’s over he couldn’t hear the hope in what the counselors were saying. He was, in effect, saying that his relationship is beyond what God is capable of.

I urge you not to lose sight of hope. If you’re in that place where the marriage is over and you or your spouse has cashed it in, please at least leave open the possibility that things may change. God may intervene and when He does, hearts get softened and reconciliation is possible. Remember, with God, the story isn’t over til it’s over.

Showing Up is Half the Battle

Every month at the Every Man’s Battle workshop someone will come up to me and say, “I’m so glad I attended this weekend”. My response to them is usually something like, “Great! Showing up is half the battle”!  It is so true on so many fronts in our lives and on our personal recovery journeys.

It is true in a sense that you have to be present at the workshop to benefit from it. Literally thousands of men contact the ministry in search of hope and help in their struggle for sexual purity, yet only a fraction actually attend the workshop. The rest of those men usually flounder and stumble through their journey. They hope re-reading the book Every Man’s Battle, or some other book, or praying harder or reading more Scripture will solve the problem. But it rarely does. Showing up at the EMB workshop is half the battle. You won’t be equipped to fight the good fight if you don’t show up for basic training.

It is also true of our walk with God. Showing up is half the battle. Many of us, especially in our addictions/struggles, feel like we might as well give up on God, because it seems like He has given up on us. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve prayed a million times for God to take this issue away and it seems like He is silent. The thing you have to remember is that while God may be silent, He is not far away, and the next prayer might just be the one you see Him answer. That’s what happened to me. After having strong suicidal thoughts and thankfully not acting on them there came a day when God showed up. He answered- in an almost audible way- and everything changed from that moment on. Granted, it didn’t change the way I would have chosen (He led my wife to clues to bust me), but it changed. So my encouragement to you is to show up; stay in the Word, keep praying, keep pressing into Him.

Showing up is also a huge part of our recovery journey.  What does it mean to show up on our journey? It means to consistently do the right things you already know to do. There are a number of tools that most men already understand how to use, they just don’t apply them. Simple things. Maybe your issue is internet porn and you know you should rearrange your office so your monitor is visible to passers-by. Maybe it is strip clubs and you know you should develop a habit of taking a different route home from work instead of driving by them. Maybe you are having an affair and you know you need to tell someone. Take the next step and do the right thing – now, while you’re having a moment of clarity.

Ultimately, we have to be willing to actively fight the battle rather than passively react to it. We have to show up.

If you haven’t already attended, I hope you’ll show up at the next EMB workshop.

Super Charged Communication

Martin Fierro

So your back home from being motivated and super charged at the last EMB conference. Feeling super charged spiritually? Ready to talk? ‘Hey honey let me share what happened and what I just learned!’ Her response of ‘un-huh, but what about me?’ should not surprise you. How you respond with any information shared from your wife will be vitally important. It is in the healing of the relationship that the events of the past behavior may be in the past historically but not emotionally. In such, healing for the relationship will come through periods of communication super charged with a sensitivity fruit cocktail of caution, fear, hurt, grief, despair (shall I go on?).

The keys many men miss in the opportunity and recovery of the relationship are the components of truly listening to your wife. She too, has a story to tell and an experience to process.

The reality is that the relationship is changed and you cannot go back to the old manners in communication with your wife (and behavior for that matter). For it was in that old nature of communication that deception and manipulation was nourished. On this side of the coin, your communication model should be based in love and grace (in speaking and listening). In the construction of listening there are three strong skills to listening to your wife. Before they are detailed, let it be known that problem solving (Mr. Fix-it) is not the top of the list for listening skills. Research has shown that when the primary components of listening are worked through first, then problem solving and resolution has a higher probability for success.

Think of it this way, we have been given two ears and one mouth. A good probable reason is so we will listen twice as much as we speak.

Listening is not a matter of making the comment back, ‘so what I hear you say is” or ‘I understand.’ Or worse is the appearance of listening while preparing for a rebuttal, ‘I see honey, and I understand, BUT’.’ Do you want to continue super charging the communication level through defensiveness? Because this last example is one sure way of doing it. Or do you want to change the engagement of the communication patterns to a deeper level of intimacy? Your options; continue the old patterns of super charged communications or create the change in your response behavior. And that is typically a good spot to start. Any change in one of you will create a change in the relationship.

The three primary components of productive listening are attend, acknowledge and inviting. Attending has three sub factors: look at the person talking to you, listen to what they are saying (not what your mind is thinking and feeling), and track what they are saying. Acknowledging is about reflecting back through brief statements the thoughts and feelings being heard and understood. And this does not mean a lengthy sentence. Think of acknowledging your spouse with simple words as she shares, such as ‘wow, that is sad, how awful, mad, disappointed, how exciting’etc.’ Inviting is about when you see that your wife is holding back on sharing, and you know that look and feeling, you simple say something to the affect of: ‘keep going,’ ‘tell me more,’ ‘I am with you, please continue,’ or ‘Is anything else you want me to know?’

These skills (attend, acknowledge and invite) give the opportunity to listen to your spouse through love and grace. Notice there was nothing about giving feedback or fixing what was being shared by the other. But more importantly time to allow your spouse to experience the thoughts and feelings without correction, distraction or manipulation.

It is important to know that communication of thoughts and feelings should never be expressed through physical aggression. Appropriate boundaries may need to be set if either one of you have such difficulty. It is also just as important that listening to your spouse may appear to be verbally abusive when in reality she is inviting you into her world of thoughts and feelings of pain, depression, anger’.

In communication there are two words that are recommended to avoid or use cautiously: why & you. Both have at their base a probable result of discord and passive aggressive communication. These two words all too frequently create defensiveness even if such is not meant. Yes there are alternatives that create an opportunity for clarity. Instead of using ‘why,’ try using ‘honey can you help me understand what you meant by’.’ In regards to using ‘you’ statements, it is best to not start a sentence with it such as ‘you should,’ ‘you said” ‘you are not making sense because’.’ Instead, as silly as it may sound, focus on using a ‘you’ later in your statements while responding with the pronoun of ‘I.’ Such as, ‘There is no way I can truly understand the pain I have put you through and I want to support you through this the best that I can. It pains me to know I have caused you so much hurt in your heart.’

In all, these skills are to build empathy and intimacy with your wife. The thoughts and feelings of the relationship will ebb and flow as the issues are worked through. The communication problem solving steps will have to be another article. But for now, it is important to clarify that when your wife is not attended to, acknowledged, or invited to share more of what they have on their heart and mind, the common experience and sense of feeling ‘crazy’ overcomes your spouse. Let me stress again that in listening to the communication from any person is the pathway to inviting you into their world as they experience it. Listening is sitting there with them, feeling and experiencing the world that person lives in. If the information being shared is abused, made fun of, not attended, acknowledged or invited to expound upon, one will commonly shut down. Listening is truly about following not leading. If you want to super charge the intimacy of communication, practice the basic skills of listening.