Hi all, a new kitchen conversation….it’s been a while!
When our wives share their triggers and the accompanying pain, it can bring a tidal wave of shame. When we get hit by the wave, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and to buckle under it. We can go back into that shame shell where we shutdown, get angry, lose empathy, etc. Many wives will say when they see this happen (and they definitely see it happen) they begin to think of their husbands as fragile. They start feeling like they can’t share what they are really thinking or feeling because it will crush him. Underlying this is often a fear, sometimes unspoken, that it will ultimately lead to acting out or relapse. So wives will sometimes hold back because of this.
Two unfortunate things happen when this is the case. First, the wife’s process is halted. When a wife can’t share her pain and receive an empathic, receptive, humble, healing response there is a block to her grieving process. It can even feel like that point is the stuck point that the couple keeps coming back to.
Second, a wife’s respect for her husband is further eroded. Some would say there’s nothing left to erode, but I often see that there is a little reserve respect in the tank, and that gets totally tapped when a wife see’s her husband as fragile. I heard a wife recently say to her husband, “You gave me this pain, now I want to give it back to you but you can’t take it, so I’m stuck with it.” Pretty accurately describes the situation to me.
As husbands who’ve committed betrayal, we have to develop fortitude when facing our wife’s triggers. Take a look at this definition-
\ˈfȯr-tə-ˌtüd : Strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.
Fortitude isn’t the same thing as being stoic. It is not stonewalling and lacking compassion. It also isn’t simply caging our anger and just saying the right thing; although that’s better than popping off and saying hurtful things.
Fortitude means we bear pain with courage. When we encounter our wives’ triggers and pain we must develop the mental and moral strength to persevere through the danger, fear and difficulty.
I don’t know about you but I can’t just will myself into this. It reminds me that I need a Savior. I need the Spirit of God to develop character in me that leads to courage and fortitude. And He is committed to doing so.
All that said, here are a couple of practical steps you can take:
- Remember that every trigger is an opportunity to develop fortitude and to cultivate respect. It is likely that on the other side of all this your wife will say she is thankful for and admires by your willingness to lean into the process of her sharing her pain.
- When your first reaction to your wife’s sharing is anger or defensiveness, it is probably about self protection. But in the process of grieving and healing, self protection is always the enemy of empathy. Let your heart break for the pain of the situation, rather than trying to avoid feeling it.
- Remember that she hates it too. She wants it to go away more than you do. She hates that a good day is interrupted by painful thoughts too. Thus, try to be gracious knowing she isn’t manufacturing this stuff or making it up.
One of the great things about purposeful prayer is that it can center us. It can anchor us to the truths and realities of our identity in Christ, even when the waves of life feel like they’re crashing over us. Further, purposeful prayer can remind us where we are going. By inviting God into particular places in our journey, we do ourselves a favor by taking note of where we are and where it is we’re trying to go. We can invite God into the present, pray for his help reaching the destination he designates, and also to help us develop the character He desires in us along the way.
I find purposeful prayer especially helpful when I know I’m headed into a circumstance where my integrity may be challenged. For example, on Thursday I’ll be driving to the airport for the next Every Mans Battle Workshop. I know that I’m driving towards an environment where I better be on my A-game. Not only is the airport a temptation filled placed because of the people, but also because in my past life of addiction I would use the anonymity of traveling to other cities to act out. I used to get excited and feel the drip of adrenaline just driving to the airport, knowing I was going to become a different person. Now I know that the electricity associated with that drive it is a trap; giving it attention or acknowledgement is a step towards forfeiting my integrity.
So, knowing I’m headed into that space requires me to prepare with purposeful prayer. Month after month on the drive I pray this prayer:
God, help me be a man of integrity as I walk into that airport. When I’m on the plane, or at the hotel, help me honor you, my wife, my boys, my self, my clients, my ministry and my recovery. Help me honor you with my words, with my eyes, with my mind, with my hands and with my heart. Help me be a man worthy of the call you’ve put on my life. Amen.
What situations do you know in advance will challenge your integrity? What prayer can you pray to help center and anchor you to be the man God has called you to be? I urge you to write yours down and review it often.
PS: this idea of purposeful prayer is a part of the additional tools I’ve included in the Worthy of Her Trust Toolkit. I developed this ebook to summarize the key points of Worthy of Her Trust, as well as to provide additional prayers, exercises and Scripture to help with the process. You can purchase and download that resource HERE.