Leave and Cleave — Wilderness walking, rooftop sitting and leaky faucets

We’re at camp this week with the boys so I’m sharing some posts on marriage.
So there might be a few “ouch” moments with this post. There were for me while I was writing it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Bible makes it very clear what it’s like for our spouses to live with someone (specifically a woman) who is contentious.

It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman.

It is better to live in a corner of the roof Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

A constant dripping on a day of steady rain And a contentious woman are alike;


The definition of contention is a struggling together in opposition.

It is so tempting and so easy to be contentious in a marriage. When we were first married, contention came easy to me. I have a strong personality and I like to get my way. Really, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like to get their own way. And when we don’t, we pout, we make sure everyone around us knows that we’re not happy with the way things are. Especially our spouse. We will struggle in opposition until we get our way or we give up, or they do.

Marriage isn’t about getting our way, but it’s about working together to accomplish common goals. And sometimes that common goal is just to survive the day without yelling.

Being contentious is like being a little kid. We throw a temper tantrum every time we don’t get our way, every time we struggle in opposition of our spouse. Think 2 year old pitching himself on the floor kicking and screaming, that’s you being contentious. (If you don’t have kids yet, I have a 2 year old I can loan you for an hour so you get the idea).

Ouch again.

Wives, I’ve got to tell you, if you’re being contentious to your husband it’s like piling bricks on his back. It makes him shut off. He’s afraid to tell you anything, he’s afraid to be open with you. He’s afraid you’ll use it against him later, when it’s time for another tantrum.

Double ouch.

The Bible says it’s better for him to walk in the wilderness than be with a contentious woman. It’s better for him to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with you. You’re like a dripping faucet. Drip drip drip. Brick brick brick.

So how do we keep from being contentious?

1. Be realistic with your expectations. I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again…Contrary to what you see on TV, men can’t read minds. You have to tell him what you want and need. But at the same time don’t expect him to rescue you from everything either. Additionally, I don’t know many guys who come into a marriage with an unending supply of money. One of the biggest areas of contention when we were first married was that I wanted to live at the same level I had been when I was living at home. I didn’t want to have “hand me down” furniture, a small house or a beater of a car. I was delighted when we were able to buy the farm I grew up on, but was upset when Kerry wasn’t making enough money for me to stay home full time and make the payments. I was contentious. But my expectations weren’t realistic. I put brick after brick on his back with my constant complaining and whining about all the stuff I wanted but wasn’t getting.

2. Pray for your spouse daily. Ask God to help show you how you can remove bricks from your husband. God will show you where you can help him and how you can be a soothing balm of joy and contentment for him.

3. Don’t compare yourself or your marriage to anyone elses. Our society has taught us to “keep up with the Joneses” We need a bigger better car, house, new furniture or clothes to compete. Build a relationship with each other instead. Be willing to live with a little less so you can love a little more.

4. Be content. I mean really…be content. 1 Timothy 6:6 says “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” Be thankful for what you have and what you’ve been given. Don’t constantly be asking, begging or whining for more when your spouse is already working hard to make ends meet. I learned to be content over time. It took longer than Kerry probably would have liked. I have learned to be content with the beater car (actually we call it a hoopty bus), and the second hand furniture (we have a white fur couch that was in Kerry’s grandma’s house) and a smaller house. There are still things I desire. I long to be home full time and I long to live in the country. Kerry knows the desires of my heart and although I talk about the from time to time, I don’t nag him, I don’t throw a fit and I don’t stack bricks. I am content for the time being. Some days it takes more effort than I’d like to admit to not remind him, but I know he’s working hard and if he could give me those things he would.

5. Quit nagging. You may have picked up on this one already, but it bears repeating. Don’t bring up that “stuff” you want or the things that drive you nuts over and over again. And especially don’t bring it up in front of others and make your husband feel inadequate in front of them. Don’t even joke about it. For example, I would bring up things that I wanted or thought I needed in front of Kerry’s family and my family when we were first married. I’d say things like “well I’d really like…but Kerry keeps telling me no.” (can you say temper tantrum?) I’d remind him every chance I got. Drip drip drip. My nagging didn’t make him want to work any harder to give me what I was asking or wanted. (Although it did make him want to go to work…just to get away from my nagging) He knew that there would be another request right behind it. It didn’t make him delight in my presence and our home wasn’t a peaceful place to be.

I’ve done a lot of growing in the 10 years we’ve been married. It’s by the grace of God that we have made it this far. We’ve both learned things about communication and living together without someone feeling like the faucet is leaking again

I challenge you this week, if there is something you’ve been contentious about…drop it. Don’t say anything about it this week. Don’t dig at your spouse with the things you’re not getting. Praise him for the things he does give you and the things he provides. If he wipes the table after dinner, thank him…don’t remind him that you want a bigger table. If he fills the car up with gas for you, praise him…don’t remind him about how the neighbors just got a new car. When he gets paid this week, appreciate him for the fact that he’s working for your family. Don’t nag him to talk to his boss for a raise or to change jobs because then he’d bring home so much more money.

You get the idea…Don’t make him wish he lived on the roof or in the wilderness.

Communication in marriage

Communication. It’s so vital to the health of a marriage. But it’s often overlooked and taken for granted. Now women by nature are typically talkers. We like to talk out all the options of a scenario and possible outcomes. We like to know what our husband is thinking. We ask questions like “what do you think about…” or “so tell me…” We are whole story people, we want the whole story, little details and all the stuff from beginning to end.
Men on the other hand, typically are short answer kind of folk. Quick to the point. Short story, strictly need to know kind of information.
This can cause some (okay, a lot) of conflict in a marriage. First I have to say this to the ladies…life is not a romantic comedy. Our husbands can’t read our minds and really things rarely play out like they did in “how to lose a guy in 10 days”. Most of the time if you tell them that you’re okay, he believe you. Unless you use that tone that says…”buddy you should know what’s wrong” that strikes fear into his heart. He’ll spend the rest of the day trying to figure out why he’s in the dog house. So don’t expect him to read your mind. Tell him. You love to talk…don’t clam up and expect him to suddenly become telepathic about the stuff that is really important to you.
Guys…your wife wants you to talk to her. She wants you to tell her what you’re thinking and then she wants to verbally process it with you. It’s unnatural for you. I know. But try to give her more than just “it’s okay” or “fine” when she asks you a question. Communicate…it’s one of the ways she knows that you’re paying attention to her, that you care and that you love her.
Here are some general guidelines for communicating with your spouse…
1. Shut your phone off. Don’t facebook, tweet, check your email or otherwise send the message that you’re not really paying attention. (I have been known to try to do all of these while carrying on a conversation with Kerry…it did not go well.)
2. Don’t roll your eyes, sigh, cross your arms etc. Again this says “I don’t really want to be here”.
3. Say something back. Seriously. If you’re listening to someone…say something back to them to let them know that you at least kind of understand what they’re talking about. Even if you say “I have to think about it for a minute”
4. Don’t interrupt. If your spouse can’t read minds…you can’t either. Let them finish their sentence.
5. Be willing to postpone the conversation if you need to. In our house full of 4 boys, we will sometimes have to put our discussion on hold so that we can attend to whatever emergency (diaper change, tantrum, fight or whatever) is at hand. One of our favorite authors has a policy in his house… when mom and dad need time together they tell the kids they’re taking a break. They shut their bedroom door and have time alone to talk, nap or do whatever married couples do when they’re alone. 🙂 The kids know that only in dire emergencies are they allowed to interrupt. Now, this wouldn’t work on our house Our kids are still too young yet, but it’s certainly a great idea.
6. Sometimes silence (gasp!) is okay…for a bit. Other times it means that your spouse has fallen asleep. Silence is helpful to collect your thoughts and formulate a response. But I’m telling you…I only give Kerry about 30 seconds before I start nudging his leg to make sure he’s still awake. Which brings me to my next point…
7. Don’t save big topics (or in some cases any topic) for right before bed. Your husband is tired. Once the lights go out I have about 2 minutes max to say good night to my husband. Now is not the time for me to bring up discipline issues, job conflicts, having another baby (no that’s not an announcement) or whether we should move again. I’ll get irritated that he falls asleep and the poor guy has no idea what hit him when the pillow comes flying across the bed.
8. Keep your personalities in mind. One of the most helpful things we did in our marriage counseling was take  a little questionnaire. To be honest the biggest take away I have from this survey was that our personalities are very different. I typically answer questions with either strongly agree/strongly disagree, while Kerry answers them with agree/disagree or neutral (I’m rarely neutral on anything). Eventhough we answered questions similarly, I almost always picked the strongly option. Early in our marriage this proved to be huge. I tend to get excited and worked up about things quickly. I wanted Kerry to do the same. When he would respond calmly or would take time to think about stuff (this is a great quality as I tend to make pretty snap decisions) I would get irritated and interpret it as lack of caring or that he wasn’t paying attention. Sometimes your spouse might need to take time to let it sink in.
9. Be respectful but be honest. This goes without saying I think, but sometimes it’s helpful to have a reminder. Be nice and tell the truth. 🙂
I would encourage you this week to think about how you speak with and to your spouse. Communication isn’t just about conveying ideas. It’s about connecting. It’s about meeting the needs  of your marriage and building your relationship.