Who Are These Bears?

The Lions, Bees, Bears, and Otters are four temperaments explored in Dr. Sandra Scantling’s book Extraordinary Sex Now. Previously we explored the structured, disciplined Bees and the whimsical frolicking Otters. And we have also looked in on the take charge Lions. Now let’s look at the loveable supportive Bears.

A Syed

A Syed

Bears are stabilizers. No big surprises here. They tend to be thoughtful and contemplative types, often shy and retiring. They’re supportive and calming to those around them. They fear rejection the most and want to be liked, accepted, and appreciated. They are good listeners and non-confrontational, unless backed into a corner; then watch out. Bears can attack if provoked. They also tend to hide their feelings, so you will need to gently coax them out of their den. Quite cautious, Bears avoid risks. They prefer to play it safe, so don’t expect them to respond quickly or to take charge of things. They may procrastinate, waiting for a safe time to proceed.

Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind if you are married to a Bear:

  • Be clear about what you want and expect. Bears aren’t mind readers.
  • Don’t expect perfection. Bears are ok with good enough – Bees should take note.
  • Affirm and praise your Bear for positive efforts – Appreciation is important to them
  • Avoid blaming or finding fault. This will drive them into their cave. Bears with hurt feelings stew for a long time.
  • Be patient with your Bear. They will come along, but usually later rather than sooner.
  • Because they fear rejection, be thoughtful how you bring up things for constructive review.
  • Give your Bear space. If they need time to think it over, it will be time well spent.
  • Solve tough issues a little at a time, to avoid overwhelming them.

For those of you who identify with being a Bear, here are some things that will be helpful to you:

  • Make a concerted effort to understand your partner’s feelings. Practice empathy to see it through your partner’s eyes.
  • Listen to your own feelings. This is tough. Reach deep to understand what you are feeling. Then, let your partner know.
  • Work at being more assertive. Express what you think. Take a risk.
  • Open up and share things about yourself that are personal.
  • When you are hurt, be honest and willing to express what has hurt you. Don’t bottle it up.
  • Try to be more adventurous. Make the suggestion for what to do on your next date and have some fun. Learn to be a little more Otter-like.
  • And finally, it’s OK to say No. Don’t agree to do something and then be angry because you really didn’t want to do it. Be honest in the first place.

Be thankful for your Bear. They will be supportive and loyal to you. Appreciate them and don’t try to make them into a Bee or a Lion or an Otter.

Bear with them as they are.

Frustration Fatigue

What about it? Have you ever been frustrated with your spouse about a particular issue that just keeps coming up over and over? Have you had prolonged periods of dialogue (arguing) that end with you telling yourself,

“That’s it! I’ve had it. I am so done talking about this. I’ll not say another word. It’s no use. Nothing’s going to change. Just forget about it.”

You vow that’s the last time you’ll bring it up because it’s futile. You resolve to yourself that you just don’t care.

“That’s it! I just don’t care.”

An apathetic spirit becomes your “safe place”. You tell yourself you don’t care and at least for a while, your feelings are dulled. If you don’t care, there is nothing to be anxious about, nothing to work through. Nothing to frustrate you again…..

The “apathy coping mechanism” is a strategy employed by many faced with relational impasses. We use it to shield ourselves from the hurt of dealing with a nagging problem with our spouse. It’s similar to putting medication on an open wound to numb the pain, but ignoring the cause of the wound. We self-medicate with apathy to avoid the underlying issues that are causing the pain.

So how do we deal with a nagging issue that just seems impossible to resolve?

Here are several steps you can take to begin the journey to resolution:

  1. Pray – Understand that an ongoing problem decreases the closeness you experience as a couple. Separation is a spiritual issue. You need to take the matter to God in prayer. Ask for wisdom and understanding. Ask for His direction.
  2. Commit – Renew your commitment to your relationship. Confirm in your heart there is no issue so big that it should divide you as a couple. Commit to work on restoring your relationship. Commit daily to not let an issue be divisive and destroy closeness with your spouse.
  3. Examine – In your time of prayer, ask God to open your heart to introspection. Ask Him to show you if there is something in you that needs to be revealed. Are you the one that needs to change?
  4. Ask – Ask for uninterrupted time to communicate with your spouse. Confirm your love for your spouse. Share your desire to restore your relationship to wholeness and to work though the issue so that there is nothing between you. Pray together, asking God to bless your efforts. Then work together to find a selfless resolution. Be open to compromise, creative alternatives, and to confessing your own culpability. Allow a generous amount of time to work through to a mutually acceptable solution, which may take weeks, months, or longer. Be patient with each other. It takes time to resolve a complex issue.

Set your mind to not let frustration fatigue divide your relationship. Earnestly work at issues that keep you from closeness….         So that your joy may be complete.

That Really Bugs Me!

Do some of the things your spouse does really bug you?  You know those little habits that are so annoying.  For the most part, you have probably developed a coping mechanism that keeps things on an even keel.  Well, most of the time things stay on an even keel.  But in reality, you are just coping.  You are burying it.  You keep yourself from saying anything because you just don’t want to have another argument over a simple little thing.  Why bring it up again and make a mess out of things.  It’s easier to ignore it and forget it.

It certainly can be handled by using the “ignore it” method.  Is that really the best way to deal with it though?  Remember, when you “bury” things, even little things, it creates an unspoken barrier between you and your spouse.  It may even be a little barrier, but nevertheless a barrier.  These small unspoken issues can dampen the spark in your relationship.  You need to be on guard and not allow the little things to grow into big things.

Let’s look at an example like the classic clothes on the floor.  To be sure, he’s gotten better over the years but for some reason he still can’t seem to remember where the clothes hamper is.  Home from work, he goes in to change and sure enough, he leaves his clothes strewn on the floor again.  So, what do you do?  If you pick them up  —  again  —  and say nothing, what will change?  If you bring it up, you feel like you’re just nagging, again.

How about a new strategy?  Remember, many of life’s issues need to be lovingly negotiated.  You need to collaborate together to come to a positive resolution.  Try to be optimistic without being overly expectant.  In other words, be hopeful that things can change, but be realistic.  Some habits take years to change.  Be willing to work together without a harsh or negative attitude.  Try opening a discussion with “Can we talk about something later when you have a little time?”  Set aside uninterrupted time to have a talk together.  Bring the subject up with a spirit of wanting to work things out so that you can enjoy a closer relationship. The goal should be that you are closer and have a better relationship, not just that he remembers to pick up his clothes.

When you have time, try to work out some possible solutions to the issue.  Let him know how you feel and why it is important to you.  Be willing to work toward a solution over time.  Usually there is no need for an immediate fix.  Things truly can get better over time.

Also, always apply the rule of loving each other, even when daily annoyances bug you.  Work at resolving your issues, but work more at committing to love and forgive one another.

We’ll Never Solve This Issue!

Sometimes progress in your marriage relationship can be a very slow process and the same issue comes up over and over. If we talked it through and came to an understanding, why do we have to go back through it again and again?  There are a couple of obvious reasons:

  • We are all human!  We have habits that are hard to break, baggage that is hard to overcome.  Sometimes we forget or struggle with selfishness.  We need reminding just how important this is to our spouse.
  • Problems are complex and they evolve.  We may think we have resolved an issue but in fact we have addressed only an aspect of it.  Next time we’ll focus on a different aspect.  It is like layers of an onion getting peeled away.  Each time you peel a layer you get closer to the heart of the issue and the final resolution.
  • And we change!  Something important to your spouse now may not be so key at a different stage in life.  We change as our circumstances change and that is just a part of life.

My challenge to you is to think of these recurring problems differently.  As I look back on my life-long struggle with weight, I see a yo-yo pattern of limited success followed by failure again and again.  That is how I looked at it and it became very discouraging.  Why try when failure would follow?

Now I can see the layers of the onion were peeling off and the whole process brought personal growth.  And recently I have learned some things about my stinking thinking that have opened the doors to a hopeful attitude. If I continue thinking of relapse as failure then I will be discouraged and stuck.

Look at it this way… when you take 5 steps forward that is success, and 2 backwards is failure right?  No! 5 forward and 2 back will still get you to your goal if you keep moving!!   It is wrong to see failure when we or our spouse are not perfect.  We should never expect perfection from ourselves or others.  So when those pesky issues recur, don’t be surprised.  Talk them through again, practice forgiveness, and get moving in the right direction, step by step!

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,                        not lacking anything.                       
James 1:4

Be Thankful For Struggles

Are there struggles in your marriage that never seem to go away in spite of many times talking it through?  When struggles happen over and over without getting resolved, we often try to bury the issue  and avoid the triggers.  Obviously nothing is solved and those issues have a way of popping up again at the most unexpected or worst times.

I think there is a better way to approach marital problems in general, and especially the recurring ones.  Let’s look at a verse from Romans that you have probably seen before…

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope… Romans 5:3-4 (NASB)

For me, being thankful in struggles is difficult!  I may feel angry or sad and thankfulness is far from my mind.  It is important to feel those emotions though; to analyze where they are coming from and what from our past prompts them.  The point is to learn from them, decide which feelings make sense and which don’t, which square with the facts and which to let go of now that we are adults.  In the process we learn about ourselves and our own personal issues.

Struggles are a constant part of life and we need to keep up the self-evaluation and discussions with our spouse to get through them.  This is perseverance.  Dictionary.com defines perseverance as a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”   Keep your purpose forefront in your minds- a better marriage with this person to whom you have committed your life.  Your course of action is to keep chipping away at the issues that plague you individually and together.  When a problem recurs for the nth time, that is the time to persevere all the more.

When we develop a habit of persevering through struggles with our spouse we have developed our character!  We have fought for a closer marriage.  Our intentions to honor our marriage vows are proven over time.  Bit by bit issues are resolved, we understand and empathize with each other, we cherish and love with greater depth.

And with proven character we acquire hope.  From Wikipedia: “Hope is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair,

  • which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to circumstances in one’s life.
  • the feeling that …events will turn out for the best
  • looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.”

It is a good thing when you really believe your marriage will get better, that all will turn out for the best, and that we have confidence in each other!  That is hope. And it is worth the persevering to get it.

Let’s go back to thankfulness now… When you have persevered through a few issues and come out with a closer relationship on the other side, then thankfulness starts to make more sense.  You begin to see that struggle is an essential part of the path to a soul mate marriage and should be accepted with gratitude.

When I hear older couples say they love each other more all the time, I think that they must have thankfully practiced perseverance over many years!  In the midst of struggle, try to remember what you have to look forward to and be thankful.

Hurry Up! We Need to Fix This!

Do you ever feel that you just can’t wait to get a problem fixed?  There’s a gnawing tension in your relationship and you just can’t let it rest.  “We just need to discuss this some more and get it resolved.  I know I can get her to see what I’m talking about and she will understand and we can get this behind us.  I know it’s creating tension and there are unspoken feelings that are getting in the way of us being close.  Why can’t we just get this resolved now?”

I’m reminded of a time when we worked on one of those “impossible” puzzles.  You know the kind where they take a panoramic picture of hundreds of buildings and every piece in the puzzle is exactly the same shape and size.  So you first look for the edge pieces and build the frame of the puzzle.  At least we know that it has four corners.  The point is that we make progress.  We start with the obvious pieces and then work, sometimes slowly, to find a piece here and another there.  These puzzles often stretch our patience and it’s understood that we probably won’t get it done in a day.  It may take several days or even weeks to get it finished, but with patience and persistence we can usually get it together.

Deep rooted relationship issues also take the same patience and persistence.  If we attempt to solve them with a mindset that they can be quickly resolved, we get frustrated and tempted to withdraw and give up.  Then we try to cope by ignoring the issue since we can’t get it fixed quickly.  When it surfaces again, we once again have a hurry-up attitude and a quick fix mentality that really sabotages our ability to be successful at finding a long term resolution.

Men especially want resolution right away.  They particularly dislike leaving problems unresolved.  So they approach issues with a fix it mentality and by that they mean “fix it now”.

The key here is patience and an understanding that incremental progress is good. Just like the puzzle, we need to start with some basics.

  • First of all, understand that most issues should not be bigger than your commitment to your relationship.
  • Try to remember all the positive things in your relationship with your spouse and get the issue in proper perspective.
  • Be thankful for even small changes in the direction of resolving the issue.
  • Shift perspective and empathize with what your spouse is feeling.  This will help keep you from falling into the trap of a self-centered point of view.
  •  Be thankful.

Yes, even when it takes time to work through our thorny issues, we need to be thankful for our spouse.  Neither of you are perfect and both of you need to extend grace to each other.  Make it a priority to love each other and the time needed to finish the puzzle and resolve the issue won’t seem so overwhelming.