I Just Want to Quit, Part 2

Last time we looked at the frustration of dealing with a sensitive issue in your relationship, one that you have been working on for years, many many years.

Here are a few of my thoughts on how to proactively step through the process of working it out.

Photo by Ryan Forkel

Photo by Ryan Forkel

1. Pray. Understand that at the core, this is a spiritual battle. You need to pray for your spouse every day. Even if you are convinced that they are “the problem”, pray for him. Pray for her. And not a prayer like “God, would you open his eyes to see his problem” but rather a prayer lifting her up, thanking God for the spouse given to you. You can check out these two great books by Stormie Omartian,

2. Understand God’s desire is for you to have a GREAT relationship. That’s right! He wants your marriage to be an example to the world, your neighbors, fellow workers, of what His relationship is to His church. He doesn’t want you to have a mediocre or tolerable relationship. He wants you to be in love, full of joy and passion.

3. As you are praying, God may open YOUR eyes to see something in yourself that YOU must change. At the core of a close Godly relationship is a belief that we are to selflessly love one another. Love your spouse as Christ loves you. This is sacrificial love, forsaking yourself and following Christ’s example to love unconditionally.

4. Try again to lovingly discuss the issue with your spouse. Never get angry, threaten, or force yourself. Understand that it is OUR issue. In order for your relationship to be close, you both need to work toward a resolution.

5. If you are still at an impasse, seek Godly help. Get with another couple that you respect and see if you can work together to get to the bottom of the issue and resolution.

6. Never give up. Try to picture your relationship in the future when you are no longer dealing with this issue, when you have a loving and healthy relationship filled with joy. Keep that picture in mind and work at it. Work takes time, so never give up along the way.

I am reminded of a song by Jesus Culture, One Things Remains. Click to hear it…

 

That’s Christ’s love for us. He will never fail us, He will never give up on us, and He will never run out on us. Never. Love your spouse with that kind of love, and I believe you will be able to work through ANY issue by His grace. Pray and believe, and watch the miracles that God can do in your relationship.

 

I Just Want to Quit!

Have you had a time in your relationship when things got so frustrating with a particular issue that you start telling yourself “I’m so done with this. I’m just so tired of trying to make this work.”

You feel alone, you work on the issue by yourself and your spouse is either insensitive, oblivious, or maybe even communicates they just don’t care. They brush off or turn around your efforts and say you’re the problem. You feel like they are saying “If you would just change then the issue would go away.” It seems hopeless that it will ever get resolved.

Maybe you have tried to be loving and communicate your frustration. You’ve tried the “Can we talk about this?” and “I’m not getting through to you, am I?” And how about the “You’re just not listening to me!”

The issue starts to cloud other parts of your relationship. You were once pretty close, but now the unresolved issue hangs like a black cloud over other areas of your relationship. You’ve tried so hard to make it work, yet you are still drifting apart.

A pretty dark picture, isn’t it? Pretty dark indeed.

Photo by dafna avra

Photo by dafna avra

If you’ve read our blog for any length of time, you already know that Darleen and I experienced up close and personal the dark cloud described above. We refer to it as “The Desert Years”. Our relationship had drifted apart. I would go through long periods of apathy telling myself “I just don’t care anymore.” I tried to cope by emotionally turning off and becoming distant. But inside I was frustrated to the core. I DID care and I was so frustrated that we could not work out the issues that were keeping us apart.

  • So, what do you do when you are faced with trying to work through an issue and it just never gets resolved?
  • What do you do with the feelings of anger and frustration that dominate you?
  • How do you live in the dichotomy of wanting to love your spouse and at the same time feeling isolated and so hurt?
  • How can this be worked through?

Because if it isn’t worked through, it will weaken the very foundation of your relationship.

In part 2, we’ll look at some things that you can do, by God’s grace, to work to a positive resolution.

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.

How Much Patience is Enough?

I cannot tell you how to keep being patient with your spouse when there seems to be no movement on his or her part in a direction that brings you closer.  I can only tell you that patience may be what will turn a cold or bitter spouse warm.   You see, I was the recipient of my husband’s patience for many years while I dealt with hurts and some of the baggage I carried into our marriage.

We have been married for 35 years and in the middle years 3 children, church and school activities, and other things I volunteered for caused us to drift apart.  Then there was a hard issue and a comment made to me that was particularly hurtful.  I pulled further away. We were on parallel roads, still cooperating to do all we committed to, but we were not close.  Alan calls these “The Desert Years.”  For almost 10 years I was not responsive to his needs although I did what needed to be done around the house and the children were cared for.

Once in a while, Alan would open a discussion about it and attempt to talk it out.  I would speak of the hurt I felt and admit that I was neglecting him.  We had long, emotional discussions and I’d forgive him but I would go back to the same behavior.  His patience was seriously challenged during those years!

Don’t get the idea that he was a saint through it all though.  We had all the usual daily stresses and blow-ups.  He had his baggage and he’d rub me the wrong way too.  With the up and down of neglect, promises of change, and then neglect again he would grow apathetic.  When his needs welled up again he’d open a discussion again.  10 long years this crazy cycle went on!

This morning at church we were reminded that God’s love for us will outlast every time we turn away from him in rebellion.  He will patiently be waiting for us to turn back to our relationship with him.  When we do, there is nothing but love and acceptance.  God holds no grudge; He does not condemn.  There is no need to fear returning to his loving arms.  It was years of that kind of love and patience, coming from my husband, that turned me around inside.  He was the instrument of God that started the healing and refining in my soul.

You can see we are not perfect people and that is just the point.  He did not have to be perfect in all areas to do this and neither do you.  Even his patience grew thin at times.  But over and over and over  again I was accepted back and patiently loved in spite of my failings, and this started the healing.   As I grew personally, we grew together and now have a close relationship I never thought possible.

I encourage you to greater patience and anticipation of how your marriage relationship will grow!