By Contributing Writer, Jeannette Paulson
Not so long ago, I landed in a ditch — a communication ditch.
The children wanted to be excused from an activity. I can’t remember what it was. But wanting to please, I gave permission.
Later I had second thoughts and talked with my husband about why the request should not be granted. Being a diligent problem solver, he talked with the children. Rightly they protested that they already had permission. This made my husband look like the bad guy and me the good guy, when actually it was the other way around.
Incidents like this are painful. But pain can motivate us to look at how we got off the road and into the ditch. Especially if it is not the first time we have slid off this road into this ditch.
Let me tell you who first got me intrigued about this, what I was pressed to see in my own marriage, and why this is no small matter.
I was watching an interview with Tim and Kathy Keller on their book The Meaning of Marriage. They humbly shared three bad patterns in their own marriage.
- Tim is a very hard worker. But when he has worked very hard, he thinks he has earned the right not to be rebuked.
- Kathy is practical and great about seeing potential problems. Because of this, she has a hard time affirming plans Tim makes without offering some criticism or caution.
- Earlier in their marriage Kathy had a habit of bringing up difficult problems on Saturday night. Tim, being a preacher, needed to be preparing his sermon and his heart for the next morning. Later they came to see that these discussions could wait until Monday morning.
Let’s Get Personal
This led me to reflect on patterns in our marriage. Here is what I found:
- If I have not given my anxieties to God, I heap them on my husband. I make no time for jokes or small talk; and for him, it is like a week without a Sabbath.
- In the past, when I was upset I would tell my husband how to solve problems. I am learning to give him room to lead by simply giving him the problem and my emotions.
- When my husband asks a question, and I think he won’t like the answer, I will reply with a question or meandering excuses. He loves short answers. He needs information to make decisions and appreciates as few words as possible.
What about you? Do you see any patterns in your marriage? Ask God to show you. Tim and Kathy Keller were married for 37 years when they wrote this book. However frustrated you are,be patient.
The ditches are sin. And marriage is like a mirror–showing sins we never knew we had. This is God’s grace. When He exposes the ugliness of our hearts we may be tempted to run from the exposure. But instead we should run to Jesus. This is what Ezekiel is talking about when he pleads: ”Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.” Our soul is at stake.
Put Off — Put On
Long for deliverance. By God’s sweet grace we can begin seeing and repenting of sinful patterns and begin to develop healthy patterns of communication. When I stop making promises to my children before discussing it with my husband, everyone is happier. Be assured, I still slip into the ditch. But by God’s grace, it’s not as often.