I hope you’re loving this series – it’s been really fun to put together. (Check out Part 1 on Faith and Part 2 on Work/Life Balance.) And trust me, it’s been good for us. Growth means change, and change means challenge, and there are definitely challenges we keep encountering over and over.
Just because you solve a problem doesn’t mean it disappears forever. The bigger and more impactful the problem was, the more ripples it makes on the water… sometimes even miles away. So when these topics come up in conversation or present themselves again in real life, we have to address them again (quick and honest, forgive and give grace, and then move on) or we run the risk of winding back up in a giant mess.
The answers in this chapter dig a little deeper into some of the harder emotional questions you sent our way. Just because our men are men doesn’t mean they don’t think about things just as deeply – and lick wounds just as deep – as women do. They just think about them really, really differently and definitely communicate differently too.
Most of you sent questions privately and I couldn’t be more grateful. Or more proud. It takes a lot of guts to raise a hand and ask for help. It takes even more courage to share what’s happening in your life. I do not take for granted how hard it was for you to trust me with your thoughts. I hold them in the greatest confidence. Things can start to change when you take the tiniest first step to speak up.
Here are your man-swers to emotional questions!
Jack: This is a tough question for sure! My defense mechanism is anger when I am hurt. I just want to get back at the person that hurt me, whether it is my wife or anyone else. If I have to choose between fight or flight, I will always choose fight, which involves lots of adrenaline and aggression.
The way to overcome any kind of conflict in your marriage is to see your spouse in a different light. There is a huge amount of trust that needs to come from both sides on this one. If you’re trying to get away with something, you’re missing the point of what marriage is supposed to be.
I think the typical thought process is that a husband and a wife still have two separate lives. A lot of times, men feel like they have to sneak around to do something that they really want to do because their wives won’t approve. This may be something as simple as staying out late, having more drinks than they tell their wife about, going to a ballgame, or it could be even greater things like hiding the weed in the garage, making sure you clear the history on your browser after a porn viewing session, using cash at the strip club, or deleting text messages from your lover.
I think this problem is two sided. I think that the reality is that women don’t take the time to really understand men for who we really are and what we really need. Women try to shape their man into the person that they want them to be. Men, on the other hand, don’t want to tell or show their wives what they really want or need. So what ends up happening is that the man is one person at home, and a completely different person when they are at work or with their friends. The man sneaks around like he is a teenager trying to hide something from his mom.
Ladies, if you put restrictions on your husband, they will figure out how to get around the restriction. Men, be honest with your wives about what you want and need. When these conversations take place in a controlled and safe environment, a lot of great progress will be made.
Your job as a married person is to view your spouse as holy. God designed and created your spouse to be with you and to compliment you. And God designed and created you to be with them and to compliment them. Adopt the mentality that you are in this life together, and that your job is to make each other holy.
I had a very wise person tell me one time that my job as a husband is to give my wife back to Jesus as a better version of the woman that she was when He gave her to me. I thought that was a pretty powerful and interesting way to think about your job as a spouse. It is a great standard for how to treat your wife (or husband).
This mentality is something that develops over time. Newlyweds, start working on it now! If you are stuck in the middle of a knock-down drag-out ordeal and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, then your job is to practice sacrificial love. To do this, you have to do everything you can to see the one little shining light in your spouse and cling to it with everything that you have. Through gritted teeth and clenched fists, focus on that little speck of light and love your spouse through whatever else is going on. If they hurt you to your core, love them anyway. If they embarrassed you, love them anyway. And if they betrayed you, love them in spite of it.
Also remember that if your friends are good friends, they will be willing to go to battle for you. If you are telling them how much you resent your spouse, remember that they only have your side of the story. It’s really easy to get on board, get fired up, and be ready to fight to the death with just your side of the story. My advice to you is that if you have issues that you and your spouse can’t handle on your own, go see a professional. Guys (and I’m sure some women need to hear this too) … a good counselor is worth their weight in gold. It is not a sign of weakness to get extra help.
We worked hard on this. Our marriage was so far gone that hurt, resentment, and anger ran deep. It’s very hard to come back but you can come back if both of you are willing to work on it. If you’ve hit a stale-mate (She doesn’t give respect to me so I’m not going to show love to her, or vice versa), someone has to be the first to send the peace offering. Humble yourself and keep the greater goal in mind. Sometimes you really do have to be the bigger person.
Jack: I think that this all depends on what a person is insecure or jealous about. Some things, we just have to let them go. But some things are major deal breakers or “life and death” situations.
I believe that security in your marriage comes with trust. If there is mutual trust between both husband and wife, there are probably going to be few insecurities that come up. What I have found in the past is that I usually worry, or am insecure, about something that I’m doing myself that I shouldn’t be. So, in essence, if I am violating Jessica’s trust, I’m going to look at her and assume that she’s probably doing the same thing. This becomes an out of control downward spiral and can lead to bad and hurt feelings toward your spouse. This is usually one sided and is a “me” problem. If there is a lack of communication, then both spouses probably have no idea that there even is a problem.
As far as jealousy goes, there are a few things that come to mind. If you are the jealous one, bring it up in a safe space to talk about what makes you jealous. If your spouse approaches you and says that she or he is jealous, listen to them. Don’t get defensive. The best thing for you to do as a couple is to remember that your job is to make each other holy.
Our coffee club is the safest place that we have in our house and our life. In all honesty, I can approach Jessica and she can approach me about anything at any time in any place. We have an approach to each other that we use when something is really bothering us. We can both see it coming, and we have an understanding that we are going to listen to each other and understand that if the other person is bringing it up, then it is a big deal whether I think it is or not.
My job as a husband is to listen to hear my wife, and believe me that took a really long time to figure out. I also slip every once in a while, but the trust is there for me to be able to ask her to repeat herself, or even to say, “I’m sorry, I really don’t understand what you are really telling me.” Jessica immediately takes that statement as a way for her to change her approach so that I can fully understand.
Women – if you don’t tell us EXACTLY what is wrong, we will not figure it out. Period. End of story. We do not have the ability to read between the lines, and most of the time we do not do subtlety. Just say it…however we make you feel, say the words. Don’t sugar coat it, don’t beat around the bush, and most importantly, don’t talk to us like we are one of your girlfriends.
Men – soften your approach. This is your wife. This is the woman you fell in love with and the woman who you vowed to cherish until the day you die. They are not like us. We can literally have a fist fight with our best friend and go share a beer afterward like nothing happened. Women will store that away and it will eat at them while it goes through every single emotion in their brain and body. I can’t say that I completely understand it, but I know it’s there and I know that I can not approach my wife like she’s one of the guys.
A jealous spouse typically won’t say the words “I’m jealous.” They will pout, rage, lash out, or become passive-agressive because emotions take over.
Coffee club saves us every day. It’s the safest place we have to spill what’s eating us, with no fear of being mistreated. We try better each time to listen to understand, apologize and forgive, and realize some things don’t get solved on the spot. Find a safe place and try to trust each other by being honest and kind.
Jack: If you have relationships with people of the opposite sex, it is in your best interests to make sure that these relationships are purely professional. It is a slippery slope when text messages start flinging back and forth at night, or meeting up for a quick coffee or drink after work. I bet most people that have affairs aren’t going out looking to have an affair. Some people are, and those people have some major problems and need to get help. What happens to most people is that they find themselves “falling in love” with someone else other than their spouse, and the next thing they know, they’re crossing the line with their co-worker or long time friend.
It is not worth it to ruin your marriage and your family for the variety. If variety is what you feel that you need, I suggest that you turn off the porn and start dating your wife. Go find a Christian marriage counselor if you can’t talk to your wife open and honestly about these types of things, whether they are sexual or emotional.
And here’s another major deal…marriage isn’t a tit for tat relationship. Marriage is a giving relationship. You should want to give as much of yourself as you can to your spouse, and you should feel appreciative and grateful when your spouse does the same for you. If you are keeping track of who’s done what and when do I get mine, then you are missing the point of what God intended our marriages to be, and quite frankly, you are missing out on the greatest worldly relationship that we will ever have.J
Jack: Building trust is a very long and intensive process. I think it depends on how big and deep the hurt is. For us, I trusted my wife exactly ZERO. In fact, if there was a way for there to measure trust in the negative, I would have definitely been there.
I think it starts with a decision from both parties that you want to rebuild trust between you. For the person that was betrayed or hurt, of course this is going to be difficult. But in all honesty, this is difficult for both sides. If you are the betrayed or hurt party, try extending some grace and forgiveness to your spouse. The fact of the matter is that the trust between the two of you was probably gone long ago.
The simple answer is that you each have to give yourself back to each other, and there needs to be some time of validation or verification, and then after trustworthy patterns are developed, trust starts to come back. Remember that most times trust will need to be earned just as much as it will need to be extended from each party to the other.
In reality, there will be a point where you just have to trust in God that His plan is perfect, and that everything is going to be OK. This doesn’t mean to sit back and wait for something to happen. You always have to take the first step or leap of faith and then He steps in and does His thing. Sometimes this first step is just letting go and training yourself not to worry when your spouse is not at home.
Spelling out expectations is probably the easiest way to rebuild trust. You will likely need the help of a professional counselor, especially if this is a conversation that you can not have without blowing up at each other.
If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy. It takes 1,000 acts of trustworthiness to offset one betrayal, and it only takes one act of betrayal to nullify a lifetime of trust. Building trust back takes time and lots of honest conversations. It takes both people.
Jack: I fought through it. It was hard and I was absolutely heartbroken. But, this is when I made a realization. I realized Jessica won’t ever truly make me happy because she’s human, and also because that’s not her job. I also realized, after many counseling appointments, that I can only control me. I cannot, nor should I try to, control the actions of anyone else in the world including my wife. If you can convince yourself that nobody validates you or your worth, you will be much better off.
Jack: I didn’t. It is actually really sad looking back. As a man, I am a protector and a provider. If I can’t do these two things, then I feel like I lose my man card. (I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone that has a reverse role in their marriage. I have a great friend that is a stay at home dad. He’s awesome in that role and would totally win if we ever got in a fight!)
When L.J. died, I thought for sure Jessica was going to be a wreck. And she was, which is to be expected. I was so worried about her that I acted strong so that she could be the one to cry. I took care of our business so that she could mourn. I tried to do everything that I could to create a normal environment for us. In reality, I felt like a zombie. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had buried the emotions so deep inside of me that I buried all of my feelings on pretty much everything along with them.
Fast forward to 7 years later in October, which is the month of our son’s passing. When our marriage was on the brink of disaster, I knew something was wrong and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I knew that a part of me was still buried because I never had a chance to mourn the loss of L.J. So I never went through the grief stages. I just bottled it up. And to make matters even worse, as each year passed, we would hit October and I knew that Jessica was going to be a wreck, so I put on my strong face all over again. It was brutal and unsustainable, and what it did was push Jessica even further away when what she needed was for me to pull her closer. Every single year.
I wish I would have taken more time off of work, or more time to just close the door, turn off the phone, and cry with my wife. I didn’t do this because it was hard and the world keeps turning. Again, my defense mechanism is anger…I fight and that’s what I did. I wasn’t really angry because I tucked that emotion away too, but I used the adrenaline to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Grief is personal and everyone does it differently but it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. “I have to be strong” is a myth and believe it or not I think it’s a defense mechanism (may I even say a cop-out?) that keeps you from really dealing with your emotions. If you are grieving, reach out. And if you really want to help someone who is grieving, here are some ideas that might help.
Jack: Yoga pants!!! Seriously…there is sex everywhere and it’s really hard to deal with. I think our society is numb to things that are sexual in nature that are totally inappropriate. We’ve got our leaders and role models trading in their marriages for new ones, cheating is so common that it’s a shock when we hear of a couple that has truly been faithful, the topic of sex comes up in casual conversation like it’s nothing, advertisers use sex to sell everyday products…the struggle is real and there is so much of it out there.
The more you hear something, the more you are convinced that it is OK. The more you see something, the more you get used to it and it’s no longer a big deal. I was telling Jessica the other day that when I was in high school and even in college, the internet wasn’t a huge deal. So, we only saw naked women in media when a friend had a magazine, or in an R rated movie, and that was a huge deal.
A few weeks ago Jessica was trying to decide on a new haircut and asked my opinion, so I googled something like “sexy hair cuts for curvy women.” Just about every other picture was a naked woman. And besides noticing it for what it was, it didn’t even phase me because it is so easy for that stuff to come up online. I literally just filtered through them to find what I was looking for like the images weren’t even there. It scares me for my children and for future generations that this kind of stuff is so accessible.
I want my son to have a healthy perspective on temptation too. It seems like online temptations are targeting children younger and younger all the time. He’s a little young for a sex talk but for now we can certainly talk about self-control and choosing your thoughts. Experienced mamas: I trust your thoughts or suggestions on raising Godly men.
Jack: I read something today that said that regret is not a useful emotion. Instead of looking back with regret, we should learn from our mistakes. Going back and changing something that happened to me that may have had an unfavorable outcome… I would prefer to store those things away and use them as growth opportunities.
So, I’m going to re-phrase the question to, “What are things that you have learned over the course of your marriage that you would like to share?”
Here’s a quick list:
My challenge to you is to take the brave and scary first step of asking your spouse if you can have an honest conversation about something that’s causing tension between you.
I’d love to invite you to get plugged into our Heartfully Present Facebook group, and be sure to come back for the final chapter on What Men Think: Honest Answers to Fun Questions!
J & J
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.