It’s not what you think. I mean, it’s a lot of the stuff we assume they’re thinking, for sure. And sometimes, they really are just thinking about absolutely nothing at all. But I’ve learned most of what men think is just as full, complicated, meaningful, and important as what women think.
This is a snapshot of a typical day during our week. Our real office is alllllll the way upstairrrrrrrrs and who wants to do that all day?! So our kitchen table is where all the magic happens. We talk ideas and strategy over the tops of our computers, reheat cups of coffee and eat sandwiches without plates, and pass the baby back and forth when we take calls. It’s a rhythm we settled into when E was born, and its predictable unpredictability makes every day exciting.
One day last week, after I whined that I didn’t accomplish much of what I wanted to, Jack said, but you did x, y, and z! I said – YOU did those things for me! To which he replied, it’s a team effort. Want me to write a blog post for you too?
And I said, YOU’RE HIRED. I decided to interview Jack for a post on making your marriage work – from the man’s point of view.
So here’s where you came in: you sent us your questions on marriage, faith/lack thereof, jealousy, communication, de-stressing, money, sex, balance, trust, and more.
Jack is drop dead, I-can’t-believe-he-said-that honest, so he didn’t hold back. I asked him to approach these questions as if they were going to be read by a lot of women and maybe some men too. How would he want to help women better understand what’s going through their husbands’ heads and hearts?
We’re no experts and certainly aren’t certified therapists, so take it all with a grain of salt and remember that you know your spouse better than anyone. However, we did walk through some pretty deep sludge, and we learned a lot on our way out. There’s a lot of stuff we’re still working through because we’re still human and that stuff was really, really hard.
I set Jack loose with the questions expecting some bullet point answers back. But he went so deep on these that 1) he surprised me, and 2) I decided to split the interview into several chapters.
It’s no secret that we bottomed out a couple years ago and in case you’re new to our community (or you’ve been living under a rock!), along with bottoming out came an affair and the absolute devastation it created in the aftermath.
I tried for a very long time to clutch all these pieces close, afraid of what would happen if people knew. But people did know, and then more people found out, and then some people thought it would be fun to tell some other people… and I watched as all those little pieces blew into the wind, out of my hands. As awful as that was, nobody died, and a very unlikely little ministry has come out of the whole experience. Yay. (Some days that’s sarcasm but most days I mean it.)
It’s funny what happens when you turn over all those little broken pieces to God. He puts them back together in the most surprising ways.
The vast majority of your questions were on spirituality, prayer, and faith in general. I have to admit I was surprised by that. Although I shouldn’t have been; that was the single biggest contributing factor to the wedge that drove our marriage apart, and the single factor that mended it back together.
So that’s where we’re going to start. Here are the honest man-swers to your questions on faith! The wisest nugget (in my opinion) is actually in the answer to the last question.
What was your view of God before you became a Christian?
Jack: I always believed in God. I always believed that there was a God. I believed in Heaven and Hell and that sinners go to Hell, and people that did good deeds went to Heaven. It was a merit based system. I grew up Catholic, so this is what I gathered from my time in church as a young boy. I also believed fully that God was going to punish me for my sins at some point in my life.
When our son passed away, I thought for sure that this was the punishment that I was waiting for. When I almost lost my family, that’s another time that I though God was punishing me. I never realized that all I had to do was invite Him in and love and worship Him. This concept was foreign to me and took a backseat to more of an old testament God that was punishing.
I’m not sure that this is the right use of this term, but it’s close enough and what I believe was happening in my life until the time that I finally made the decision to bring Jesus in and to fully follow Him. Pervenient Grace is the concept of divine grace. The idea that God’s grace and love preceded the human decision…my decision…to believe. I believe that God was always there in my life and that He was trying to pull me in or get my attention, but I was not ready to “release control” of my life and leave it in the hands of a higher power that I could not see.
What brought you to commit your life to God, and what steps did you take to get there?
Jack: In 2016, I was 39 years old. I was on top of the world. I was making a healthy salary that made me finally feel that I was getting paid what I was worth. I had some friends that lived life loosely and we liked to party. I had other friends that just wanted to make money and it was like a competition trying to outdo each other. I was totally wrapped up in the financial legacy I was trying to leave for my family. I always chose work over my family.
Even though I went to church, I was still waiting for that next round of God’s punishment. I was playing defense when it came to religion. I never truly knew or believed the love that Jesus had for me, and I never thought I was good enough to receive His love anyway. I thought he was going to punish me and I was waiting for it, constantly looking over my shoulder. When LJ died, I thought that was my first punishment. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, but I hid from God at that time in my life.
I finally hit my rock bottom when infidelity hit our marriage. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening to me. I couldn’t believe that my family was going to be ripped away from me. I couldn’t imagine my two beautiful, sweet, innocent children being raised in a split household and by another man. I couldn’t imagine going through the pain of a divorce and the destruction that brings to families, people, and children. Most importantly, I couldn’t believe that I was not wanted, not loved, not desired, and not appreciated by the woman that I loved more than anything in the world. All of the trust that I had for my wife was gone. I have never felt more alone than I did at that point in my life.
Jack: So, I found myself in the mall parking lot one night. I thought that the world would be better off without me in it. My pain was unbearable and I thought I wasn’t going to get through this on my own, and I had nobody to help me. The thought that my life and my marriage, if it was even going to survive, was never going to be the same was too much for me to handle. I almost took a dive off of the 4 story parking garage that night to just end it all.
But instead, for some reason that I still don’t understand, I just started praying right there in my car. I remembered all of the things that I had learned at church over the past 15 years. I invited Jesus to come into my heart and I vowed to live my life for him.
An instant warmth came over me, and a little light shone brightly for me. I had some direction and no idea what to do with it, but I really liked the way that I felt. I have no other explanation for what happened to me that night other than Jesus was right there with me, put His hand on my shoulder when I thought I wanted to jump, and said, “Come here child.”
I started reading the Bible every day, listening to sermons and Christian music and I kept a journal of my thoughts and prayers each day. I read Christian books and Christian blogs and completed every bible study I could get my hands on. I realized that the only thing that would make me truly happy, the only person that I could truly count on, the only person that would always be there for me was Jesus. As much as other people in the world loved me, we are all flawed and selfish. My new found love kept me going for the 9 long months of hell we walked through before we reconciled.
I had tried for so long to connect on a spiritual level that by the time our marriage fell apart, I was out of steam and was highly skeptical and critical of Jack’s sudden belief. I was so angry that this is what it took for Jack to finally soften his heart. So I left him to do it all by himself with a bitter “well, PROVE IT” attitude. Looking back, I wish I would have dug a little deeper for compassion and patience to affirm his newfound faith. However, the silver lining is that I do believe it forced him to commit and stay the course to finally make his faith personal, meaningful, and lifelong.
Not everyone has a dramatic turn to faith. I don’t – mine is plain and boring! But it’s just as special. All it takes to begin a life of faith is a decision. That’s it.
How have you stayed connected and grown your faith as a new believer?
Jack: I just try to keep my faith as a priority in my daily routine. When I get too busy, I start to slip and put this on the back burner. It’s funny…maybe not…but when I put this on the back burner, I always feel unbalanced and my days don’t seem to go as well as it does when I start my day with bible study and prayer.
I have a group of guys that I meet with regularly. The idea is for this to be a bible study group, but honestly, I think we’ve only actually done bible study two or three times in the past year. However, we do talk about our lives and below the surface things and are open and honest with each other about our faith. This is a great group of friends, and believe me we are not perfect by any means…but all of us are working to strengthen our faith and work together to help lift each other up. I think that these types of relationships and groups are very important, especially to a new Christian that needs guidance.
He NEVER would have sought out a group like this before. Not even socially, for fun. I think many men fight insecurities they would rather die than voice out loud. It keeps them from connecting with people (even their spouses) on a meaningful level.
How did you feel as a sort-of believer in a family of committed life-long Christians?
Jack: This was incredibly hard for me. My thought at family gatherings was always things like, “I will never be able to pray like that!” and “I hope they don’t ask me to pray” and “I don’t even understand what they are talking about.” It was actually very discouraging. I didn’t grow up where we talked a lot about our faith or feelings. I mean, we always were able to if it came up, but for some reason, for me at least, I never wanted to have these conversations with either of my parents or my siblings.
In Jessica’s family, it is completely the opposite. They are open and honest with deep conversations, feelings, faith, etc. I have no problem talking about these things now, but I went in with the idea that I was nowhere near where I needed to be to “keep up” with them. So I tried to learn as much as I could, but kept my mouth shut when I had questions.
Personally, I don’t like being the weakest person in the room on any topic. I have to make a conscious effort to humble myself and ask questions when I don’t understand or don’t know something. My go-to in this type of situation is to take mental notes and go study up later so I can keep up the next time the conversation comes up. I wish that I could have gotten over this insecurity at a much younger age. I would have learned a whole lot more about a whole lot of things growing up.
If your spouse is struggling with faith, or questions, ask and open up the dialogue. Be gentle and patient. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Nobody knows it all this side of heaven. If your spouse has a tendency towards debate and win-lose, don’t lose your cool. Take a break. Find an article or two or even a spiritual mentor to help each other learn, and calmly revisit it later. You may feel the burden of being your family’s spiritual leader right now, but that doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. DON’T GIVE UP.
What do you still struggle with in your faith?
Jack: My biggest struggle, ironically, is that I have trouble talking about my faith with people that I don’t trust completely and that don’t know my story. Believing in and worshipping someone that you can’t see, can’t feel, can’t hear … that has always been weird to me. Looking beyond the literal interpretation of see, feel, and hear – that’s something that is really difficult for me as well. I am a pretty good mix of creative and literal, but I lean more toward the literal side of things, at least in real life situations. I am the kind of person that needs to be hit over the head with a 2×4 to realize something is happening that isn’t set right in my immediate sight.
So, when people say, “God is speaking to me,” I’m actually straining my ears to hear the voice. When people stop in wonder and awe at a beautiful sunset, I’m thinking, “Yeah…I’ve seen that before…a lot actually. Whatever. Show me something new and shiny that I haven’t seen before!” It took me a really long time to understand the subtleties and the whispers of God’s voice that are constantly around us. I still am so oblivious to them.
It also has taken me a long time and an incredible amount of consciousness to slow down, look around the world, and see it for the amazing creation that it actually is and to just appreciate the beauty all around us. It think that appreciation for beauty in general is something that is so lost on us as Americans, whether it be in art, architecture, literature, music, nature, and whatever. We just live our lives too fast.
Faith and God are challenging topics if either spouse feels skeptical. That skepticism probably comes from insecurity, or in many cases, past pain. It’s okay to be mad at God or even hate Him. He’s big enough to take it. What God really wants is a conversation, even an ugly one. So if you are struggling with faith, just start talking. It will feel awkward at first but all epic stories have humble beginnings.
What advice or help would you suggest for a husband who feels skeptical or fearful of faith in God? And what would you want his wife to know?
Jack: It’s tough. For me, it’s very similar to talking about my feelings, which most men don’t want to do. The skepticism…there are a lot of people out there with a lot of differing opinions on everything including faith and religion. And everybody has a platform to rant and spread their ideas now with social media. Combine that with the online algorithms that work to serve you more of the things you have been googling and reading, and it’s really easy to become subtly convinced over time to one viewpoint or another. It brings a lot of noise and a lot of doubt on things. If you are literal like me, it’s hard to believe in something that you can’t see and that’s “not really there.”
Find someone that you trust and humble yourself to ask questions. For me, that was a pastor at our church that I developed a connection with and a long time friend that is studying to become a pastor. Your wife may be a great resource. Over time, it was easier for me to ask other people questions when things came up that I didn’t understand. I developed a learning mentality and once I took the plunge, the more I learned and the more I loved it and appreciated it all.
It just takes that first step. Don’t wait until you are at your rock bottom. In your marriage, if you can figure out how to worship together and grow together in your faith, you will avoid hitting a rock bottom, and in fact, the difference this makes in your life and your marriage is absolutely incredible.
Ladies, fight or flight is a big deal with men. It is how we are wired, and I think it’s hard for women to understand. We are also very literal, and most of us hate talking about our feelings or anything that is deep inside of us. Our faith fits into this category. We don’t like to be the weaker one in any relationship and whether that mentality is right or wrong, it is what it is. The fight or flight is activated when you start pushing and asking questions that make us feel less than. Try to find a way that your husband likes to communicate about things. This may be in writing so he has time to read and think about it.
Developing deep trust between the two of you is the way to start, and that’s not going to come quickly. If you are nagging, we will fight or we will lock up (which is our flight mode in this type of situation). Find another way to encourage, not discourage. Lose the attitude that you are trying to change your husband into what you want him to be. Remember, you can only control you. Lift up, don’t belittle. And remember, this is all a work in progress. It will not happen overnight. It may take years, and it may take a lifetime. Stay the course and continue to pray for him and for your family.
Part 2 of this interview is work and life balance – check it out here!
J (and J)