I have put on the “friend hat” many times in marriage, when Edric needs someone to be vulnerable with and open up to. It’s not always easy to remove the emotional part of me that is so characteristically woman. But, there are occasions when Edric will share with me his temptations as a man, particularly in the area of women, and I have to resist the jealousy, the anger, and the pride. He doesn’t give me heartache in this area but his struggles are real and honest.
Recently, he was telling me how important it is that he doesn’t travel alone when he goes around the Philippines to give seminars for companies. He brings Elijah with him. On the one hand, Elijah is his speaking partner, but on the other hand, he is also an accountability partner.
Edric gave me a hypothetical scenario that could be spiritually precarious for him like…”What if I was alone at a hotel’s cafe and an attractive woman came up to me…” He reiterated how grateful he was that Elijah was around to keep him “safe” from this sort of temptation.
I listened with conflicting feelings. I appreciated his openness with me. That was my greater feeling. But of course, I also felt like my bloated idea of Edric’s tunnel vision for me was deflated. Pin-pricked. Duh…of course he is still a red blooded male who isn’t immune to the flirtatious behavior of women or distracted by the blatant indecencies that assault him when he turns on the TV, spends time on the Internet, or, heck, walks around or drives around in a car. Even if he is not “looking” for temptation, it finds him as it finds every man. The only difference is that he loves the Lord and that gives him the instinct to look away or run away (whichever applies). It’s only by God’s grace and divine protection that he doesn’t fall. The Lord keeps him faithful.
I listened and tried to understand where he was coming from like a friend would. I also affirmed his desire to stay pure in heart and mind. Edric doesn’t need to open up to me about these things. Yet he does.
To refrain from teetering over to ballistic-missile-wife-mode I think about this principle in James 1:19-20: But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry. For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
My part as a wife is to put on the friend hat when Edric needs a sounding board, a dependable and trustworthy confidant — a listener who won’t belittle his fears, criticize his dreams, or blow up about his struggles as a man. I also need to put it on when he needs a prayer partner.
“How can I pray for you?” is a helpful question to ask when I know he feels lost, inadequate, concerned, tempted, or defeated. I wish I was always spiritually alert to know when to insert this question. Honestly, there are moments when I am thinking, what the heck?! Why are we discussing this again?!
But I think of how to keep the communication channels open between us. If I want him to keep trusting me with the secrets of his heart, my words and attitudes must be tempered with sensitive thoughtfulness.
Proverbs 31:11 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her…”
The other night we were counseling a couple and they expressed a sad reality that can infect any marriage.
“When we were dating and first married, we had so much to talk about, but now we find that we don’t have much to talk about at all.”
This couple admitted that there are certain topics that have become off limits between them because they lead to conflict. Furthermore, the hurt and disappointments have piled up over the years. So their conversations are more pragmatic and lack the depth of true communion. (The good news is they are willing to work towards restoration and healing because they want to have a Christ-centered marriage.)
A marriage can only last so long without the intimacy that God designed it to have. While we may tend to blame our spouse when it is gone, we have to take a look at ourselves and consider if we may have pushed them away by our careless and selfish responses to who they are and how they present themselves to us.
In Genesis it says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”(Genesis 2:24, 25 NASB)
I believe that intimacy goes beyond the physical. It says in Genesis, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. While they were literally naked, I would like to think it was more than that. There was nothing to hide. They weren’t afraid that the other would point an ugly, judgmental finger and emphasize every flaw and imperfection in their person. They didn’t feel compared, measured, or insufficient. There was total trust, total security, total confidence in one another’s affection and devotion.
We all come into marriage longing for this sort of relationship-perfection. And sometimes I wonder if what Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden was a fantasy of an idea, an impossible utopia? But while I was attending “Unshakable,” a conference by apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and his team, he made a statement about HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. Our tendency to blame others, especially God, for the unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances that are present in this world, makes us overlook our responsibility to embrace God’s will and design.
We took his beautiful design of oneness of flesh and nakedness without shame and we defiled it with sin. Sin brought the shame, distrust, fear, and pain that enters into marriages today. As a result, we are cautious about what we say and what we do. We prefer self-preservation and conflict-avoidance. We stop revealing ourselves honestly and openly to the person we have called beloved.
However, the longing to do so remains. And we become lonely and dissatisfied because our relationship doesn’t meet this need. Worst of all, when someone else dangles the hope that this need could be met, it moves us only farther away from our spouse and closer to sin and unfaithfulness.
So open communication is important. It is not a guarantee against an affair but it builds the intimacy that is necessary for a husband and wife to feel connected and safe with one another.
My mom gives seminars on Open Communication and here are some pointers she shares on HOW TO HAVE OPEN COMMUNICATION:
– Make time – don’t send busy signals
– Give your full attention (set distractions like gadgets aside, turn off the TV, move away from the computer screen)
– Listen to their heart / feelings
– Show interest by asking questions
– Don’t lecture
– Don’t react, raise your voice or get angry
– Do not use phrases like “you always…or you never…”
– Share your own struggles and stories
– Ask, “How can I pray for you?”
These suggestions seem pretty straightforward but the path back to intimacy must invite Christ. I have said it so many times in my entries that God must be present in a marriage. It is his presence that restores the “Eden-like” relational climate between a husband a wife. With God’s love, forgiveness, grace, and hope, a wife can come along side her husband as a life-giver as she listens to the most vulnerable of his thoughts and feelings. And a husband can offer the strength a wife needs when she admits her fears and insecurities. They can be “naked and an unashamed”, even at the risk of hurting or being hurt.
I am not saying that being truthful has to be done in a brutal, tactless sort of way. After all, the Bible says that our speech needs to be “seasoned with grace.” But, we can invite one another to these shoulder to shoulder, side-by-side-I-am-here-for-you-sort-of-moments. It doesn’t always have to be about our struggles and temptations. It’s also about sharing our highs, victories, and joys.
I am not writing this for the men but if it helps them, then well and good. I am really writing this for us women. We have the privilege of being best friend to our husbands. Let’s not relinquish that special place that should belong to us!
On the way home from a wonderful evening with our bible study group in Vieux Chalet, Antipolo, Edric took my hand as we reflected on the recent ministry activities we have been involved in. He said, “I am so glad I am going through this journey with you. I can’t imagine doing this (life) on my own.”
Edric and I love one another deeply in a romantic way, but I praise God that he is able to say what he did because we are also great friends.