The Crazy Cycle, as explained in my book Love & Respect, says, “Without love she reacts without respect. Without respect he reacts without love.” If neither husband nor wife is mature and calm enough to recognize this cycle and to step off in order to slow it down, it will only strengthen and keep on spinning.
Unfortunately, many couples when in conflict do not recognize that they have stepped onto the Crazy Cycle and nothing begins to simmer down until one of them, typically the husband, storms off and withdraws from the fight, with the attitude to simply “live to fight another day.”
Others are not blind to the fact that there is a real conflict going on that needs to be worked through, but to them it is not so much a Crazy Cycle, where they see how each of them is fueling the other, but in their eyes it is more of a Crazy Train, as in they don’t understand why their spouse is coming at them like a runaway train. They do not see how they have been contributing to the conflict; they only see their spouse’s negative reactions and blame them for it all.
For example, a wife who is upset about something that has angered her, such as a comment her co-worker made to her, might come home in a bad mood and lash out at her husband in a disrespectful way. This may cause her husband to react in a way that feels unloving to her. It is here that some wives disregard how they appeared to their husband in the first place and fixate only on the husband’s unloving reaction.
Oftentimes, a husband or wife recognizes where he or she has not been loving or respecting their spouse as they should and honestly seeks to be intentional about getting off the constant Crazy Cycle they feel they have been spinning on for a large part of their marriage.
They make significant changes in their previously harsh and unloving tones and words, they pursue peace with their spouse at all times instead of seeking only their own will, and they learn how to better communicate to their spouse’s pink or blue “hearing aids.”
But then . . . nothing seems to help! In fact, the situation may even feel to worsen, because while the Crazy Cycle is still spinning relentlessly, the one attempting to be the mature one only grows more frustrated with their seemingly failed efforts to better love and respect.
What, some may ask, should I try next?
Can you relate to this husband who wrote me recently?
She is disappointed because she sees him neglecting her heartfelt concerns, even dismissing them in a condescending way. To her, he is too stoic, matter of fact. Furthermore, she cannot believe that he would bark out solutions when she simply needs from him a listening ear and empathetic demeanor. To her, two people who care for each other will “tend, mend, and befriend,” and that revolves around what one feels.
In her opinion, that is the key to connecting. Two people give the report on what they are feeling to build rapport. This is what marriage is all about—husband and wife talk to discover what they are feeling, and explore those feelings, and stay with the discussion about those feelings until there is a sense of closure and closeness. For a woman, to shut down on such conversations, to declare, “Just drop it and move on; it’s no big deal” is like finger nails down a chalkboard.
On the other hand, he is disappointed because he sees her as self-absorbed in her feelings, dwelling way too much on them. To him, she is controlled by her moodiness. But worse, he cannot believe she often blames him for her upsets, hurts, and anger.
Constantly, he is asking himself questions, such as: Why does every feeling have to become an issue, and why does it end up being that he is the issue? Why can’t there be one day or one month when everything is okay? Why does every feeling have to be talked about? Why can’t two mature people move forward positively, enjoying each other instead of always revisiting some minor infraction?
Have you ever realized that the most impactful influence on your children’s marriage—whether they are two years old and barely able to say “da-da” or twenty-two and about to walk down the aisle—is your marriage? Yes, you!
Your marriage to their mom or dad teaches them both directly and indirectly how a married couple works together.
This certainly includes the way you love and respect each other. Your kids may not yet have learned the biblical emphasis on love and respect or even be old enough to know what “respect” means, but they are learning all about it nonetheless . . . from you!
Have you noticed yet that the paradise of Eden still remains in your heart? Have you recognized where the Eden in your heart has affected your relationship with your spouse and your expectations in your marriage?
Let me explain.
In the beginning, God created man “in his own image . . . male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). Then after all of Creation was finished, the passage continues by saying, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (v. 31).
The first man and first woman were created in God’s image, as all of us still are even today. But where we differ from Adam and Eve, whom God declared as created “very good,” is that they were placed in paradise as two unfallen, or perfect, human beings.
In my book Before You Hit Send, I quote a woman who said, “You know that little thing in the back of your brain that tells you not to say something before you say it? Well, I don’t have that little thing.“
I suppose all of us wonder occasionally if we lack that little thing in the back of our brains. We know that we are to think before we speak, but we end up saying something that we should not say.
The good news is that we all have that little thing in the back of our brain, but we just need to remember to ask ourselves four questions before we communicate. And by communicate I mean not just by emails, texts, or social media, but by over-the-phone talking and face-to-face discussions.
These four questions serve as a checklist. And after going through the entire checklist, if we can answer all four in the affirmative, then it is okay to speak up.
But if we cannot answer all four of them with a confident and resounding “yes,” we need to refrain from communicating at this time.
We read in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is from this verse that we get the well-known saying that a husband “leaves and cleaves.”
But for the husband who interprets this scriptural command to “leave and cleave” and become “one flesh” as purely sexual, I have some disappointing news to share with them. For most wives, cleaving does indeed mean a face-to-face closeness, but not in a sexual way. For her, this face-to-face closeness entails talking about the things that matter to her.
When she gives her daily report to her husband, she feels a rapport with him. She feels a heart-to-heart connection.
For her, cleaving is not sexual per se but emotional and spiritual.
However, do not despair, men!
Meaningful closeness between you and your wife can (and most often will) arouse her sexually. Heart-to-heart intimacy, for your wife, is the foundation of sexual intimacy. Generally, without that sense of heartfelt connection, the act of sex to her is less than meaningful.
When I became a believer as a young man, I came across certain scriptures that shaped my thinking.
Not only have these verses instilled in me an excitement that the God of the universe has not remained silent but instead has spoken loud and clear, but it has also been affirmed for me that the Scriptures are not the mere words of men that I may pick and choose what I want to believe and follow.
May I ask you if any scriptures have developed in you the same worldview?
For example, Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” What does this mean? God is there and He is not silent on matters that matter to Him.
That God has spoken is no mere passing comment. It should be central to our lives. The writer of Hebrews tells us in his first two sentences in Hebrews 1:1–2, that “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.”
In your experience, have you found that any of the following approaches have worked to influence, motivate, and energize your spouse?
Keeping track of the other’s wrongs with resentment, nagging and criticizing without seeing any good, judging and shaming from a spirit of self-righteousness, getting angry to the point of showing hostility and contempt, manipulating to achieve a selfish or worthy agenda, blaming without any acknowledgment of one’s own faults, and fighting for control, not for win-win.
I believe that we would all admit knowing that these do not work long term to influence the heart of a spouse. But here is what fascinates me. I have had some people tell me that they know these things do not work but they keep doing them anyway. Why?
What they realize and then confess to me is that they don’t want a close relationship with their spouse and they know these methods will sabotage intimacy.
Would it surprise you to hear me say that there is no better method for a husband to use to better energize, motivate, and influence his wife than to simply love her unconditionally?
When a wife recognizes that her husband has decided to be a man who authentically and consistently loves her no matter her response, she comes under conviction about her disrespectful reactions to him.
When a wife discerns that her husband is not loving her based on her performance, but for the woman she is deep in her heart and for who God made her to be, this convicts and softens her.
Interestingly, not only does she feel badly about her disrespectful reactions, she finds new motivation to put on a respectful attitude.
Few things affect the heart of a wife like a husband’s decision to be a loving man regardless of the conditions.
Husbands, I know that you love your wife, cherish her beyond measure, and wish every day (and tenfold on Valentine’s Day!) that you could figure out how to better express that to her and in return feel her love and respect for you in all new ways as well.
Though we should not dismiss in the least the importance of showing your love to your Valentine through acts like bringing home flowers, surprising her with dinner out, cleaning the house for her, and other ways that express to her that you’re thinking of her and you want to serve her, gaining your wife’s long-term admiration and awe for you is actually much less complicated than finding the perfect combination of small acts of love and service: let her see you become vulnerable and depending completely on Jesus.
It is simple. As she observes you sincerely depend on Jesus Christ, especially when your back is up against the wall, she will honor you. Something triggers in the Christ-following woman that results in the kind of admiration and respect that this wife who wrote me has for her husband:
The Bible truly is the marriage book to base all marriage books on. All the answers for every husband and every wife and every single marital argument or issue can be found within its pages, summed up perfectly in Ephesians 5:33: “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
“What does the Bible say about how to handle going through dozens of surgeries with your spouse who suffers from debilitating conditions?”
Ephesians 5:33—Love and respect.
In Ephesians 5:33, the apostle Paul wrote, “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
As God does not command things that are unnecessary, we can then infer that a woman has a need to feel loved (which no one ever disputes); but in the same token, we must then conclude that a man has a need to feel respected. And of course, the man’s need for respect has been largely glossed over by many throughout history, including in the church.
That’s why it was extremely refreshing to hear recently from a pastor who was beginning to connect the dots between scripture’s command to respect the husband and the God in whose image all men are created:
How do I ask my husband if he prays for me? Or should I not ask and hope he does?
When a wife asks her husband, “Did you pray for me?” often times she does so in such a way that her husband hears a potential “gotcha” behind this question. Many are leery of why she asks, since he knows he prays less than she does; and he is also very aware of how often he forgets to pray at all, let alone pray for his wife specifically.
But if he remains silent to his wife’s inquiry, he anticipates hearing, “If you did not pray for me, and I don’t think you did, which is why I am asking, this just proves how little you think of me or care about my concerns.”
So now that you know what is going through your husband’s mind when you ask him about if he prays for you, what can you do? You don’t want to be the nagging wife, but you certainly also have a right to expect that he as the spiritual leader of the family is advocating for you through prayer to our heavenly Father.
Can you relate at all with the following scenario?
A husband says to himself early in the marriage, “I’ll pray with her and we can be in a Bible study together with other couples.”
As the months pass, he experiences something that de-energizes him: Immediately after one of their regular prayer times together, his wife comments, “You forgot to pray for my mother who isn’t feeling well.” After another prayer time a short time later, she accused him, “You didn’t pray for me. Do you ever pray for me?” Then a couple weeks later, after their couples Bible study one night she says to her husband, “I can’t believe you said what you did to Mary about her son swinging from the rafters at church and needing a time-out. She is struggling as a mother. That was insensitive.”
It doesn’t take long for the husband to pull back from his wife spiritually. As a result, he stops offering to pray with her and grows quiet at the Bible study.