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!
Do you believe that if you have natural talents and passions in a specific area then your development of that gifting and pursuits of that interest should be a piece of cake?
Or, do you believe that even though you have God-given abilities and deep-seated curiosities, you must exert time and effort because it won’t all be easy street?
For example, Michael Phelps and LeBron James had within their DNA, traits the rest of us envy. Are these superstars world renowned because what they did was a piece of cake for them, as a result of their God-given abilities? Or, though genetically they might be considered freaks of nature, did they work hard at developing their talents?
Put another way, could there be dozens of Michael Phelpses and LeBron Jameses out there (freaks of nature), with a similar genetic makeup, but they crawled out of the pool never to return or left the gym for good because it demanded too much work?
Many people have the mindset that if you are a science geek then doing science will be easy. Others believe that if you have natural talent as an artist, then painting will be a breeze. For the naturally gifted, according to many, there will be no obstacles or exhaustion when they set out to develop what God has already given them a propensity for.
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.
I once stayed in the home of Bernhard Langer, two-time winner of the Masters, one of the PGA Tour’s four major tournaments. As a result of the positive effect my Love and Respect ministry had on their marriage, he and his wife, Vikki, asked me to spend several days at their home, and during that time, he shared his personal story with me.
In 1985 when he won the Masters for the first time at Augusta, Georgia, the announcers ushered him into the infamous cabin where one of them asked him, “Did you look at the leaderboard?” Bernhard replied, “I was trying not to look, but I saw it for the first time at the ninth; and I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, I am playing well, and I am four shots behind!’”
Using the Lord’s name in vain prompted hundreds of people to write him letters complaining to him about such language. At that time, he had no idea what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To him using Christ’s name was a mere expression, not a curse. Though he considered himself a believer, because he was raised in church and had served as an altar boy, he admits he didn’t understand the message of the New Testament.
Since some variation of the words “the will of God” or the “Father’s will” occur more than twenty times in the New Testament, it is fair to assume “the will of God” exists and can be known. The apostle Paul commands us to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Jesus uses the expression when He addresses God with the words, “Your will be done” in what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10).
Yes, God has a will that we must discover and do from the heart.
Paul declared “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). There is a body of content between Genesis and Revelation that squarely applies to the church. In less than thirty-six months, Paul taught the Christ-followers this “whole purpose.”
We read in Jude 3, “the faith . . . was once for all handed down to the saints.” There are boundaries to this content. In fact, Paul warned: “learn not to exceed what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6).
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.