Can We Come Across in a Way that Our Spouse Doesn’t See Our Goodwill?

This article is part 5 of 6 in the “What’s Really Going on Here?” Series. Over the span of six articles, I want us to take a look at twelve different stories and begin to ask ourselves, what is really going on in this story? Is the husband overlooking his wife’s need for love? Is the wife overlooking her husband’s need for respect? How can they ever get off of the Crazy Cycle?

Don’t Miss These Other Parts in the Series:

  1. She Needs Love, He Needs Respect
  2. Can Apparent Lack of Love and Respect Offend?
  3. God’s Simple Revelation to Stop the Crazy Cycle
  4. The First Sin after Adam and Eve Sinned

The Word: Can we come across in such a way that our spouse does not see our goodwill?

Can We Come Across in a Way That Our Spouse Doesn't See Our Goodwill?

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Did you catch that phrase “in such a way”? Assuming one’s motive is good, then one needs to be mindful of how one is coming across to a spouse.

If as a husband your wife is personalizing your reactions “in such a way” that she feels you are unloving, you need to come across to her “in such a way” that she does not personalize like this. As a husband you need to ask, “Am I coming across to my wife ‘in such a way’ that the light of my love is clearly seen? Or, am I coming across ‘in such a way’ that she feels unloved?”

If as a wife your husband is personalizing your reactions “in such a way” that he feels you are disrespectful, you need to come across to him “in such a way” that he does not personalize like this. As a wife you need to ask, “Am I coming across to my husband ‘in such a way’ that the light of my respect is clearly seen? Or, am I coming across ‘in such a way’ that he feels disrespected?”

Why should either of you misrepresent yourselves and thus be misinterpreted by your spouses?

Paul meditated on the words of Jesus. He meditated on the phrase “in such a way.” You can win your spouse’s heart when you aim to do this.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. . . . Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air.” (1 Cor. 9:24, 26)

Story 1

Ingrid and her daughter, Julie, get into a volatile exchange. Ike, her husband, remains silent. He deeply cares but doesn’t know what to say. When offering solutions both have turned on him. So, he heads to the garage to work—less than a positive reaction to Ingrid. He knows Ingrid will be upset with his detachment, but she is less irate when he’s quiet than when he gives advice. No matter what he does, she will verbally condemn him. He feels it is a no-win situation. Hurt by Ike’s actions, Ingrid phones her sister, “I feel so unloved by Ike. I need his support and strength when Julie screams at me. But he runs. I feel so alone. I can’t believe how he withdraws. He doesn’t care. He acts as though nothing happened.” Ike has goodwill, but his actions are not what Ingrid desires. Is it fair to call Ike unloving?

Point: Ingrid misinterprets Ike because Ike misrepresents himself. For instance, he doesn’t mean by his silence what she interprets it to mean. He loves her but pulls back because if she rejects his input, he feels a loss of respect. Of course, when he pulls back, she feels unloved. This is “why . . . the Crazy Cycle happens!”  Without love she reacts without respect, and without respect he reacts without love.

Story 2

Having lost her dad when she was younger, Jill fears that her middle-aged husband, Joel, is driving himself too hard. Because she loves him so dearly she says, “Joel, you are pushing yourself too much.” He comments, “Oh, you’re a worrier, Jill. You have too much time on your hands.” Feeling discounted for her opinion, and belittled for all she does in the home, she is hurt and angered. Seeking to shock him into change she lets out, “Well, you’ve put on thirty pounds, you haven’t been working out, and you’re not eating right. You’re an accident waiting to happen. I don’t have a whole lot of admiration for you. Our next-door neighbor keeps his yard trim and his waist line even trimmer. Why can’t you be like him?”

Point: Jill may actually fear losing Joel due to medical reasons. She loves him dearly. So, because of fear and love she tries to verbally shock him into conformity. But Joel hears one message: “I don’t respect you for who you are.” Joel misinterprets Jill because Jill misrepresents herself.  This is “why . . . the Crazy Cycle happens!”

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. As a husband, have you ever asked yourself, “Is my wife hearing in my negative reaction, ‘I don’t love you’?” Since you desire to show her love as unto Christ, no doubt you feel she is misinterpreting you. However, can you do a better job of representing your goodwill?  Is God inviting you to come across “in such a way” that she sees your unconditional love for her?
  2. Ike felt he was in a no-win situation when it came to handling his wife and daughter’s conflicts. What could he have done differently to better increase his chances of having a win-win situation—where Ingrid feels loved by him and he feels respected for his input?
  3. As a wife, have you ever asked yourself, “Is my husband hearing in my negative reaction, ‘I don’t respect you?’” Since you desire to show him respect as unto Christ, no doubt you feel he is misinterpreting you. However, can you do a better job of representing your goodwill? Is God inviting you to come across “in such a way” that he sees your unconditional respect for him?
  4. How could Jill have responded in a more respectful way after Joel minimized her worrying for him as he did, though unloving he may have been?

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