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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Challenging Our Beliefs and Expectations -- How To Counter the Lies to Reveal the Truth

Nikka at 12                                  Nikka at 38

Nobody exists in a vacuum.

Meaning, nobody exists "without any connection whatsoever from people or events."

With my lovely mother - 1977
We are the subtotal of all our experiences from way, way back from infancy, to childhood, to early adulthood -- and we will still bring those with us, including our beliefs and expectations -- if those are not countered or dispelled,  all the way to our twilight years (if we are 'lucky' to live long).

In marriage, we bring with it and into it, so many revealed and hidden life experiences, both good and bad, that make us behave the way we do towards our husbands. We come into it with our own belief systems and expectations that have been molded from our own upbringing and environment.

The success or failure of a marriage will depend on how willing each party is in adjusting to and respecting the other spouse's beliefs and ideals, as well as understanding his/her idiosyncracies.

Take our case for instance.

I came into our marriage with many baggages and issues:

My daily morning TV show in 2000 - Good Morning Pilipinas
  • an eating disorder that I was just starting to overcome at that time 
  • unfulfilled expectations about my career
  • people-pleasing tendencies
  • low self-esteem
  • bad hormones

I also came into the marriage thinking that:

  • a good husband was a good provider (My father excelled in this area.)
  • money should never be an issue between a husband and wife
  • should I have a problem with my husband, I would never share it with close friends and family (my Mama's advice)
  • marriage was for keeps, walang iwanan (nobody leaves)

Dong came into the marriage with his own baggages and issues:

Dong's Dad and Mom - 2006
  • fear of not being a good provider (His own father had issues with that.)
  • a very laid-back personality
  • slowness in terms of decision-making
  • a need to make me happy all the time (This doesn't seem to be a problem, right? But I was depressed for periods at a time when nothing could make me happy. Dong found this "bipolar" personality of mine -- soooo  happy one second and suicidal the next -- unnerving and frustrating. He had a very pleasant disposition and when I was in one of my gloomy moods, Dong got depressed too.)
  • a physical ailment that left him always tired and with a nearly constant brain-fog (We have already identified it and he is no longer affected by that now. Praise God!)
He also came into the marriage thinking that:

  • providing for the family was his role but he didn't mind help from me and would not take it against me if I earned more than he did
  • money should never be an issue between husband and wife
  • he would always stand by me and protect me as his wife
  • marriage was for keeps

Coming into the marriage as separate individuals with somewhat dissimilar family backgrounds and nearly set ways of thinking, Dong and I did not really have much problems initially. We had more commonalities than differences, especially with those that counted, like "marriage being for keeps", which made us work hard at keeping our marriage vibrant and intact.

Taken by our son, Andre - 2011
It was only when my "belief" and "expectation" on what a "good" husband should be doing, that was, providing, was challenged. that I started panicking and feeling insecure. That was when I started "silently nagging" him when I was not busy "noisily egging him on" in my best cheerleader stance to apply for this and that job in this and that company.

When he would not budge or at the very least, not do things when I wanted them done by him (I was so impatient with my husband's slow decision-making!), I would take matters into my own hands. His unemployed status was not for his lack of trying. Dong applied in so many positions at that time, but for one reason or another, he was just not getting any breaks. I am ashamed to admit it now but during that period, instead of empathizing with him and lifting up his depressed spirit, I would even judge him in my mind thinking him to be "not doing his best" or worse, that he was just "making up excuses to not work", so as to put all the burden and responsibility on me! :(

I was expecting him to act a certain way and when my expectations were not fulfilled, it made me feel so bitter and resentful towards him. :(

A reader of April Cassidy, the Peaceful Wife, hit the nail on the head when she concluded that :

“Expectations are premeditated resentment.”

April asked wives on her post on "Expectations" the following questions:

Do I believe I am justified to sin against him by cussing, screaming, yelling, throwing things, hating him, resenting him, gossiping against him, undermining him to our children, withholding sex from him, not forgiving him, thinking I am so much better than he is, belittling him, disrespecting him, taking over and trying to control him and the family?  If I respond in even one of these ways – I am in sin before God.
The way I respond when my husband doesn’t meet my expectations reveals the level of sin in my heart.  It shows whether the sinful nature is in control or God’s Spirit is in control.  When God’s Spirit is in control, He empowers me to respond to my husband, even if he sins against me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

Furthermore, when our expectations of our husbands are not only NOT fulfilled but they also continued to do our "pet peeves" like:

  • watching too much TV
  • playing too much video games
  • being with his friends too often
  • staying out late at the office too often
  • not putting the toilet seat down
  • not putting his dirty clothes in the bin
  • scratching his head when he talks
  • sticking out his tongue when he thinks
  • sleeping way into the morning
  • not sleeping early
and a whole lot of seemingly innocuous behavior that when done for the nth time makes us flare up and sometimes even want to leave them for good... we get even more judgmental and think to ourselves, "Ugh! I wonder when he will ever change!!! I am so sick and tired of him and his behavior!" (Note: Dong does not do all of the above. Those were just examples.:)

Ever heard of the idiom, "the straw that broke the camel's back"?

According to Wikipedia, it "is from an Arabic proverb about how a camel is loaded beyond its capacity to move or stand.[1] This is a reference to any process by which cataclysmic failure (a broken back) is achieved by a seemingly inconsequential addition, a single straw. This also gives rise to the phrase "the last/final straw", used when something is deemed to be the last in a line of unacceptable occurrences." 

I am sure you have had encounters with people who reacted waaaay overboard than you'd expect them to, or who after just a seemingly innocent remark directed towards them, stormed out in a fit of rage! 

I have had experiences in my life when I had left a job or ended a correspondence when after giving them many second chances or many "straws", an untoward incident would again occur that would make me say, "Alright. I've had it up to here. I've had enough!" It would lead me to filing my final and irrevocable resignation; or to no longer connecting or reconnecting with that person. Those were my proverbial "last straws." 

Dirty socks were the last straw!
I know of a husband who left his wife because of a pair of socks. After a string of disrespectful behavior towards him by his wife (She was a real nagger and fault-finder. She could only see his faults and not his strengths. Nothing he did was ever correct or enough.), he unknowingly left a pair of dirty socks on the floor again, which only led to more nagging on her part. Taking the "guilty" socks in hand, he declared: "I've had it with you! I am leaving!!!" And the wife, flabbergasted at his "immature" behavior, said "What? You are leaving me over a pair of lying around socks?! How shallow could you be?! Good riddance!" He already had his final straw, and the wife did not even see that coming.

If I may quote Nancy Leigh De Moss, author of "Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free" on a wife she mentioned who was similar to my personal example above...

The wife in this scenario has convinced herself that her husband is totally (or mostly) at fault. She is blind to the needs or faults in her own life -- or at least she isn't as bothered by her faults as she is by his. She sees her faults through a microscope and her own through a telescope. She doesn't see herself as a sinner, equally in need of God's Grace.
Further, her life revolves around herself -- her happiness and her hurts. She is more interested in getting her problems solved and her needs met than in the process of restoration and sanctification -- in her life as well as her husband's life. She does not have a vision for how God could use her as an instrument of grace in her husband's life -- or she is unwilling to pay the price to be that instrument.
Most importantly, she has left God out of the picture. She does not see His Holy Purposes for her marriage. Nor does she see how her husband's flaws and the difficulties in her marriage could contribute toward those purposes.  She is not exercising faith in the supernatural power of God to transform her and her husband and this marriage into something of beauty and worth.
We were in it for the long haul even when we
sometimes hinted on "giving up." - 2012

Thing is in marriage, unless one is seriously abused, separation or divorce should never be an option. There should be no "last straws" in marriage, because God hates divorce. Instead there should be unli-forgiveness or unlimited forgiveness and compassion, when our spouse errs.

                           Malachi 2:16

16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man's covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit,and do not break faith. 

                               Matthew 6:14- 15
 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  

With Dong and I, I think my "final straw" with him was when after a period of not finding work I asked him one last time on his career plans and he still could not tell me of any (in 10 minutes), so I told myself, "If you won't work, I would. If you could not provide, I could!" That started my most controlling phase and our unhappiest period ever, from 2009 to 2011. That was when I put all things in my hands and nothing on God's Hands. That was when I acted as though I was in control and not God. That was the period when I was so blind to my sins and faults because I was so full of pride. :(
We were generally happy despite our problems. - 2010

I think Dong's "last straw" with me was in late 2011 when after years of being controlling and dominant, he finally had it with me and my condescending ways. Back at that time, I "gently nudged" him into applying as TV reporter for a new network because firstly, I felt he would do well in it having been a sportscaster in the past; secondly, because I thought it would be "cute" for us to be in the same broadcasting industry which would make people think we were such a "perfect match"; and thirdly, I wanted to break his "unemployed status" which I felt had gone on for far longer than I was willing to "tolerate".

He got the job just as I had expected (!), but he was so miserable! :( He applied for it thinking that I would finally be "happy" and would stop my sulking. He was also embarrassed already by his unemployed status. However, because he did it for the wrong reasons, after a stressful, nearly 15-hour day yet again at the office, he texted me saying, "We have to talk." I braced myself for what was to come, and true enough, Dong came home tight-faced, with clenched jaws and teary eyes.
A year before the heartbreaking talk we had in September 2011

He told me all of his hurts and frustrations and pains (caused by me in part, and by the situation at large). He told me all of his fears and insecurities. He revealed to me that he never felt that I loved him for who and what he was and that I was seemingly always looking for something that he could never give or someone that he could never be. He told me that he didn't feel loved by me. (Note: I didn't know back then that respect spoke the language of love to men. I felt that "loving" him was tolerating his "errant" behaviors or being extremely helpful towards him. I "loved" him but I did not "respect" him.)

He even asked if it might be best that we separate since he could never make me happy anyway! Before he dropped the ball, those same thoughts also ran through my head in many occasions since I felt it was him who did not love me. He was leaving me to fend for myself and our family, right? Or so, I thought.

What would have happened if we listened to the lies of the devil? Poor kids. :(
We were both being played by the Enemy, suggesting to us separately, that separation was the only solution. (Divorce is not permitted in the Philippines, being a Catholic country.) To think, the "marriage for keeps mentality" was supposed to be one of our commonalities! We were supposedly in it for the long haul!

That heartbreaking incident was my catalyst to stop and assess what was really going on in my life and in my heart. Why was I acting the way I was? Why was I so controlling? Why was I so overly critical of my husband?

Years of compounded hurt, if not dealt with God's way, can lead a person to rationalize things that they thought they would never believe and to justify choices they thought they would never make. The hardness of heart and the hopelessness that result are the tell-tale evidence that they have fallen into the Deceiver's trap and have been ensnared by his deception.

The only way to break the cycle and be set free is to reject the lies that have taken over the mind and emotions and to counter those lies with the Truth, as God revealed it in His Word. The Truth is....

  • There is no marriage God cannot heal. There is no person God cannot change.
  • The primary purpose of marriage is not to be happy, but to glorify God and reflect His redeeming, covenant love.
  • God uses the rough edges of each partner in a marriage to conform the other to the image of Christ. Your mate's weaknesses can become a tool in God's Hand to make you into the woman He created you to be.
  • True Love -- God's Love -- is unconditional and never fails. We cannot love another human being perfectly on our own. But God can love anyone through us if we are willing to let Him. Love is not a feeling; it is a commitment to act in the best interests of another.  By God's Grace, we can choose to love anyone, even if we do not have warm feelings towards that person.
  • Marriage is a covenant. God is a covenant-keeping God.  He kept His promises to the nation Israel, even when they were spiritually adulterous and pursued other lovers (See Jeremiah 11:10; Ezekie 20:16; Hosea 2:13). The Lord Jesus keeps  His promises to His Bride -- the church -- even when we are unfaithful to Him. Because He is faithful to keep His Promises, it is never right for us to break the marriage covenant that was intended to be a picture of the redemptive relationship between God and His people.
  • God has commanded us to forgive without limit.
  • Your faithfulness and willingness to extend sacrificial love to your mate may be the means of his spiritual healing, even as Christ's suffering was the means by which we were healed. (1 Peter 2:24-25; 1 Corinthians 7:12-14)
  • You don't solve your problems by putting another pair of shoes under the bed. (Statistically, second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages.)
  • God's Grace is sufficient to enable you to be faithful to your mate and to love and forgive without limit.
  • God will never forsake you. Regardless of what you must endure, He will be there to carry you through.
  • The rewards of faithfulness in this life may not be fully experienced until eternity. But faithfulness will be rewarded and it will be worth the wait!             - Nancy Leigh De Moss, "Lies Women Believe"

I was already changing interiorly by this time - 2012
That first attempt at introspection after our heartbreaking conversation, led me to telling God to search my heart and show me how to change how I viewed our situation, if I could not change Dong. (By then, I have given up "changing" him.) That was the beginning of the stirrings of the Holy Spirit within my soul. That would continue all the way in 2012, till God finally convicted me of my sins and gave me a new me in September 1, 2013 when I finally let go, let God and submitted to Him and to my God-ordained authority on earth, my husband Dong.

The next time you give an O.A. (OverActing) reaction towards your husband or when you feel like already giving up and are just waiting for the last or final straw before you do, stop and search your heart, precious sister in Christ. What lies have you been believing? Have you been looking at the speck of your husband's eye while not considering the plank in your own eyes? Is it really true that he is all the negative things you are accusing him to be, and you are all the positive things you see yourself to be? Maybe you are being blinded by your own pride. Maybe you are spiritually blind because of too much hurt and pain. Maybe you are too busy pointing out his faults that you have failed to see your own.
Peaceful wife - 2013

In this journey, I now focus on my own walk with Christ. I have let go of my false beliefs and countered these with the Truth in His Word. I have released my husband from my very high expectations of him that only led to bitterness and resentment in the past. Not to say that I do not believe anymore in his capabilities! On the contrary, focusing on my own faith journey and my relationship with Christ has made me more appreciative of my husband's strengths. :)

I have stopped focusing on Dong and have redirected my sight on God Alone. This has given me peace and joy and fulfillment which I did not possess when I was focused on changing my husband and pointing out his faults! Just because I could name all his faults (perceived and otherwise) did not make me a saint! :(

Do not waste precious time receiving God's Best for your life. Humble yourself. Give your husband room and time to be God's man. It takes time and sacrifice but the blessing is amazing!
The enemy has made a mess and mockery out of marriage. The lies have resulted in countless fractured lives and homes. Only the Truth has the power to redeem, restore and renew.  Nancy Leigh De Moss, "Lies Women Believe"

John 8:32
and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Our yellow family after my son's family day in school -  February 22, 2014 :)
My T-shirt says "Family is not just an important thing. It's everything." :)

May we all be richly blessed! :)

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