Marriage and Step-living: How do Love Birds Become Birds of Prey?

I know I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and posted it, but I have no idea what happened. Perhaps the message needed to be rewritten! As I pass over and through stepfamilies and their stories, their ups and downs….(and some serious downs!!), a thought came to my mind about my own experiences with an ex-husband as well as other stepfamilies dealing with ex-spouses.

My question: At one time didn’t we love our spouse passionately and completely, professing to be with them forever, loving, wanting, and needing them? Understanding the phrase “…til death do us part…” in a literal sense? Did we not have family and friends as witnesses, participating in the ceremony…its love, laughter, music, food? We planned for months, thought hard about the bridal party, dress colors, themes, bridal gown, matching tuxes,  invitations, reserved halls and music……it was going to be OUR day, forever and ever, Amen.

Ooooooops. Then somehow something happens. The wheels begin to shake and shimmy and finally fall off. The eyes that once looked at us in tenderness and love and affection are now hardened with brows furrowed and lips snarled. The arms that held us warmly are now crossed or pointing at us… or worse, swinging at us. The lips that merged with ours in sensitive and affirming or desirous touch are now curled back, tense lips that become angry vehicles spewing painful words that cut and wound us. I know that it isn’t always this obvious and harsh, but too often it is.

How does this HAPPEN??? For me, I was too young for marriage and thought I was doing the right thing and assuring my dad that I would be “taken care of”, so he didn’t have to worry about me. I was coming off the cusp of a generation that thought the place for women was in the home, having children. Sure some of my classmates went on to college, but I didn’t believe I was smart enough or “good enough” to approach the collegiate life. I certainly didn’t have the money nor did I dream that I could get it through scholarships or loans. My family frowned on loans and debts. I did what I knew I had to do…get a job. The next best thing was to say “yes” to the first one that asked me to get married. Nice guy, nice family.

Now please, do not get the wrong idea. I was not deliberate and sought to “trap” someone. I was 19 and was not aware that I was moving in the marital direction with the above precepts. I was happy that someone wanted me, that I would have my own home, and eventually have children. But did I love my first husband with unconditional forever “can’t live without him” love? No, I was naïve and gullible. Not his fault. Not my fault. But because we didn’t have GOD first and foremost in our lives and in our marriage, because in our singleness we were not best friends who took plenty of time to talk, “become”, bond, grow into marital mode…the wheels eventually loosened and fell off. I hung on as long as I could, I even moved back after our divorce to try life with him again. There are certain situations when a woman and her children must leave, and that is all I will say. I now protect my family and avoid harmful words or memories because my ex and I finally CAN be in the same place at the same time and enjoy our sons and their families…our grandchildren. Praise God!!

But this is not the case for the rest of you. Some of you really did get married purposefully, loving each other out loud, being faithful and loyal, being friends.  But then your marital wheels fell off too. Now stepfamilies lob issues and emotions at each other because the ex has become the enemy…the bird of prey!  This has been weighing on my mind for some time as I am exposed to stories of medicating kids, fighting over sports schedules, loyalty mud-slinging, ugly words back and forth and more. So after pondering and considering my own beliefs, I did a bit of research.

Here are some reasons I found:  Poor communication, selfishness, pride, stubbornness, people change, not enough sex, secrets and deceptions prior to marriage, false expectations, the in-laws, adultery, alcoholism, abuse.  These seem to be among the most-mentioned and I’ve experienced quite a few of these myself.

 I’ve also read some of John Gottman’s books and totally believe in these four behaviors as nasty evils in any relationship:

John Gottman’s FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (website under my Resource page)

1. Criticism:

Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making

someone right and someone wrong:

Generalizations: “you always…” “you never…”“you’re the type of person who …” “why

are you so …”

2. Contempt:

Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically

abuse him/her:

– Insults and name-calling: “bitch, bastard, wimp, fat, stupid, ugly, slob, lazy…”

– Hostile humor, sarcasm or mockery

– Body language & tone of voice: sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip

3. Defensiveness:

Seeing self as the victim, warding off a perceived attack:

– Making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in

a certain way) “It’s not my fault…”, “I didn’t…”

– Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of

your own, ignoring what your partner said

– Disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who …” “I did

this because you did that…”

– Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing

– Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying

– Whining “It’s not fair.”

4. Stonewalling:

Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think they

are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation,

disconnection, and/or smugness:

– Stony silence

– Monosyllabic mutterings

– Changing the subject

– Removing yourself physically

– Silent Treatment

I believe the largest component of a failed relationship, especially marriage…is not enough GOD. Couples are not equally yoked in their faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. They do not put God as Head of their household. Instead, daily living and ups and downs begin to cause each person to jockey for position, power, and control. Pretty soon the cute little things that were so funny become hugely annoying.  Soon one begins to feel they are doing “everything” around the house: “…can’t you at least pick up your own socks??”  Some people stuff emotions, some whine, some nag. Emerson Eggerich wrote the book, “Love and Respect”. Men respond to and need respect. Women respond to and need love. Yes, men and women need a little of each, but primarily….men are hunters/providers and women are caretakers/nurturers. We need each other. God designed us for relationship…with Him and with each other.  Ladies…your husband will thrive with sincere words of respect and admiration. Men…your wives will thrive to a loving touch that doesn’t involve sex, will thrive in love and kindness. Oh by the way, a little tip…..foreplay really does begin with the little things like taking out the garbage…. 🙂

Sometimes silence is such a beautiful thing. I have learned to seriously THINK before I speak. I have learned that I need to encourage my husband as well as lovingly hold him accountable. I need the same…both encouragement and accountability. Why do we begin to slough off everything we believed in? Whatever made us think saying the words during our marriage ceremony  would magically cause them to “do, maintain, and grow” the marriage? As if saying the words was all we had to do. Ugh!

When couples marry, they have a bad habit of thinking they no longer have to attract each other. By that I mean not only maintain, but step-up the romance, kindness, attention, graciousness, and little things. Touch, eye contact, sweet whispered words. Couples begin to take each other for granted, expectations set in. Couples begin to forget that there is a critical importance for each of them in the marriage. The marriage is ALIVE and cannot live without both husband and wife contributing. Marriage is work. Period. It has farming principles: plant good seeds, fertilize regularly, and enjoy a great harvest! How about planting huge amounts of forgiveness along with a sense of humor? Marriage must be paid attention to each and every day and if we set the standards and habits right away to put the marriage first and foremost under God….then perhaps we will remain more love birds than birds of prey.

“..AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.  “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Mark 10:8,9.  I seriously believe “let no man separate” also pertains to each of us husbands and wives. We are not to be a part of harming our marriage and causing it to “separate”.  Now, may God bless each and every one of us…to practice what Galatians 5:22,23 tells us: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control….”   Amen.

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One thought on “Marriage and Step-living: How do Love Birds Become Birds of Prey?

  1. Pingback: The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse: A Relationship’s Doom | The Psych Scrivener

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