Friday, May 25, 2012

The Quiet Husband

Husbands can relate to this article!  I recently found this Rick Thomas, christian counselor's blog here and found it very helpful.
He doesn’t talk.
That’s what Rhonda said when she came to counseling.
Jack was with her, but he was not saying anything.
“He doesn’t talk? Really?
Is he mute?”
The real truth was that Jack did talk, but he did not talk to Rhonda.
Actually he talked to Rhonda, but it was only about scheduling details.
Where were you?
What did you go?
What took you so long?
How come dinner is not ready?
You know, those kinds of things.

Twisting truth to feel better

Jack didn’t talk.
At least that is how Rhonda presented it.
They had been living this way for so long that Rhonda began to believe the lie that he doesn’t talk. On one level she knew he talked, because she had heard him talking many times–to other people about things he enjoyed.
It felt better for her to say he didn’t talk rather than admit he did talk to others, but chose not to talk to her. It was too personal for her to think about. She cast it off as “Jack being Jack,” or “that’s just his personality.”
Sometimes she would play the generational card: “His daddy was just like that.” In time she began to believe her self-skewed interpretations of Jack. Altering the truth became her new truth.
Since Jack was not going to engage his wife in meaningful conversation, she might as well spin it so it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Anytime a person begins to make stuff up and is not called on it, she will begin to drift from the truth and clarity of God’s Word.
Rhonda resigned herself to second or third best on Jack’s talk list and then convinced herself it was okay. The truth was she had a stubborn and immature husband on her hands. Rather than trying to get him to change, she quit pleading, twisted what she was observing, let him be that way, and didn’t feel as bad about his daily rejections.
That worked well until the disappointments in their marriage continued to mount and she came to the place where she couldn’t take it anymore. What she did not count on when they were in their twenties was his selfishness growing exponentially worse.

Silence is selfish

But it did. A non-talking husband is a selfish husband–unless he is really mute. Jack’s selfishness would not isolate itself to just his tongue. Wouldn’t that be nice? If only my selfishness would isolate itself to one area of my life and not try to dominate my entire life.
Selfishness is sin and sin never isolates to a single area. Sin is the spiritual equivalent to cancer. You give cancer an inch and it will take your life. You give sin an inch and it will take you to hell.
Sin shows no regard for the soul, but will seek to destroy it. The vigilant man or woman will go to war before that happens. Jack is not a vigilant man. He thinks he can toy with sin and be okay.
After 17 years of marriage, he is feeling the ravages of his selfishness. He has not been able to contain sin just to the tongue. His selfish ways have advanced to other areas of his life and by doing so his wife is worn out too.
She is crying for help. Though he does not like counseling, it’s the best thing that could happen to him. He’s too selfish to do anything about what’s going on, so his wife is doing something. And that’s my advice to any woman who is married to someone who refuses to change.

Silence is a God problem first

He can talk. He has been making a choice for nearly two decades not to have meaningful conversations with his wife. Now he is being called to change. Will he change? I don’t know. If he does, it will have to be between him and God first.
A man who does not have meaningful conversation with his wife has a broken relationship with God. It’s broken because God is not non-communicative and we’re called to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). God talks. God is a speaking God and we should be speaking people.
Man, made in the image of God, is wired to communicate. If he chooses not to communicate, then there is something broken between him and God. He is living in rebellion, rather than the potential God designed for him.
Therefore, Jack will have to address what is wrong in his relationship with God before he can begin talking meaningfully or in a sustained way to his wife.

Silence breeds suspicion

Imagine if God did not talk. Wouldn’t it be a mess? Surely. There was a time between the Old and New Testaments where God was not speaking. These were the silent years–400 of them.
These were years when God’s people were not sure what was up. Silence will do that to you. If you live with someone who is not talking, you have no choice but to be curious about what is up.
Silence is mysterious and it can lead to suspicion. Typically when a person is silent in a relationship, the other person in the relationship will supply the interpretation for the silence. It can go like this:
  • Why is he silent?
  • I don’t know.
  • It must be because ____________.
Then the person fills in the blank. If you’re not talking, then you’re putting a person in the position to “fill in the blank.” You shouldn’t want to put them in that position. If you do, they will supply your thoughts for you.
Most of the time they will be wrong in their interpretations, but you leave them no choice by your silence. The best thing for the silent partner to do is fill in the blank themselves. Don’t leave your silence for someone to speculate about.
For example, if the speculator is insecure, then more than likely they will fill in the blank according to their insecurities. What that means is you are probably going to be accused of something you didn’t do.
You’re then dumbfounded as to why they would say such a thing, never understanding if you had communicated with them, they would not be tempted to upload your silence from their ignorance.

Talking is a leadership issue

What is the cure? Talk. Let your spouse know what you’re thinking–in a kind and loving way of course. Don’t put a person in the position to have to guess what you are thinking.
Teens do this all the time. They won’t talk and the parent has to guess what is going on in their heads. This is selfish, unkind, and a lack of wisdom on the teen’s part. A lot of problems can be resolved if a person would choose to talk.
To talk is a leadership issue. This is how God leads. He leads us by His words. We cannot know anything about God if He is not talking to us. Mercifully, He gave us 1189 chapters of material to figure out who He is and what He wants from us.
Isn’t that cool? We can have a great relationship with God because we know what He thinks about things. We’re not left in the dark. We’re apprised of what’s up and don’t have to worry about His thoughts, opinions, preferences, and commands.
Jack will have to decide if he wants to imitate our speaking God by leading his family verbally. My hope is he will repent to God first and then to his wife. If his selfishness does not cease, it will be detrimental to his wife and children.

When talking goes down hill

I’m not sure exactly how a man and woman quit talking to each other. It’s probably different for each couple. For most it seems to start well–on the first date and then it goes down hill from there.
Maybe we grow tired of each other. Maybe we resist the mundane while craving new adventures. You get five big events in life–birth, rebirth, marriage, children, and death. That’s it. There are no new adventures in marriage. Marriage is mundane, day-to-day, and more of the same.
Though I’m not sure how the silence grows, it’s not hard to figure out the problem or the solution. The problem is a lack of understanding, appreciation, and impact of the Gospel in a person’s life. That is the core problem and the big one to be fixed.
The Gospel is about a person (God) coming from His place to our place so He could restore and transform us. If a silent partner understood and appreciated this and was impacted by it, he would no longer be silent.
A Gospel dysfunction is the core problem. The Gospel-affected man is all about (1) leaving his place of comfort and (2) going to another place of potential discomfort for the (3) benefit of others. Talking is a Gospel activity because it is not about what you get, but about what you can give.
Typically the silent person does not understand this basic practicalizing of the Gospel: you talk for the benefit of others. Not until Jack comes to terms with the Gospel will he be motivated to talk to Rhonda in a meaningful way.
The reason it’s typically easy to talk on the first date is because of several things I suppose, but rarely the best thing. Here are some reasons I talked to my girlfriend, who later became my wife, on our first date.
  • I talked to her because it was stimulating.
  • I talked to her because I was checking her out.
  • I talked to her because I loved the conquest.
  • I talked to her because it made me feel good–to engage a woman.
  • I talked to her because it was fresh, new, and different.
  • I talked to her because I could get her to laugh.
  • I talked to her because I like the idea of romance.
  • I talked to her because it was shallow, safe, and there was no hard stuff in our relationship.
I could think of more reasons, but none of them were about the Gospel. I did not talk to her because I desired to have redemptive conversations and my goal was to help her grow closer to Christ. I wanted her to grow closer to me.
Maybe the Gospel is what you were thinking about when you first met your girl, but not me. What I did not realize at the time was all those fun reasons for talking to her were going to go away.
After that first meeting in the gym, at our church with the OJ and donuts, it was all down hill. We were heading into the valley of the mundane. My hair fell out and hers turned gray. It was day-to-day grinding out a living. And then there were kids.

Let the Gospel motivate your tongue

I needed a motive adjustment if I was going to talk to her in a meaningful way. I needed a better reason to talk to my wife–a sustaining reason. An eternal reason. God gave me one. He began to open my eyes to the Gospel. Imagine that.
He began to teach me that my life was not for me or about me. He began to teach me about His sacrificial Son. I soon learned about the dying Savior–the One who died for me.
The Gospel then began to come alive–not in a salvific since. Been there, done that, but it came alive in a sanctifying sense. My life is not my life. It is His life and He wants to use my life for the transformation of others.
I began to want to be like Jesus in practical ways. I surely can’t die for others because of my depravity, but I can give my life up for others. The first person on my list was my wife and the first thing I needed to do was talk to her in a meaningful way.
It is not that hard if you keep the dying Savior in view. He gave His all for me. Surely I can talk to my wife. What a deal? He dies. I talk. That’s mercy.
If you’re married to a silent partner, there is little you can do until he comes to terms with the Gospel. You can do what Rhonda did by forcing the issue and getting him some help, but his counselor will not be able to change him either.
He can point him to the Savior, but your Jack will have to decide if he’s going to respond to the Savior. If he does and if he wants some help, here are some good questions you guys can use on a daily basis to enhance your communication.
These are the tried-and-true questions Lucia and I ask each other all the time. These questions keep our conversations meaningful, helpful, and redemptive. They turn the mundane into a relational adventure.
  1. What is God doing in your life?
  2. How is the grace of God working in a particular area of sin?
  3. What specific areas are you still struggling?
  4. What have you read (listened to) lately that is helping you in your sanctification?
  5. Will you help me in this “specific” area of temptation in my life?
  6. How can I serve you in a specific area of sanctification in your life?
  7. What has God taught you recently?
  8. How have you applied it to your life?
These are simple and straightforward questions. They are not complicated, but require a high degree of integrity, transparency, and humility. If you want to model the transformative Gospel, these questions will most assuredly transform your life and your spouse’s.

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