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7 Ways We Unknowingly Sabotage Intimacy in Our Marriages
This is part two of a three-part series from, "Finding the Hero in Your Husband, Revisited.”* A wife’s greatest dilemma is that you want your husband to lead, but you want him to lead the way you tell him to. There is a tension between desperately wanting to build the hero in your husband and being too proud or afraid to trust him. And so we end up using our power to overpower our husbands. In part one of this series, I shared why we tend to take over in relationships. Now, let’s talk about how we take over. Take-charge wives use different strategies to keep the upper hand of power in the relationship. Here are a few of them: Mrs. Bossypants In some marriages, there is no question who runs the relationship. Within twenty minutes of casual observation, you can tell that this wife just doesn’t have a lot of respect for her husband. Even if she loves him, she doesn’t trust him. And we aren’t just talking about big trust issues. It flows over into how they spend money, where they go on vacation, and how they discipline the kids. He takes orders from her. This can happen even if you are married to a strong man. Your husband might be admired and successful outside of your home, but you have staked your claim as the one in charge at home.  Joe, a respected business owner, obediently lays down his “man card” when he walks through the door. He may have a team of assistants and sales reps that jump at his every command at the office, but at home, he’s the one taking the orders. “You leave a mess everywhere you go! I’m not your personal maid.”  When a woman becomes dominant, it isn’t a conscious decision. Usually, she’s just reacting to passivity or weakness in her husband. Sometimes it’s how she has learned to cope with the chaos of her childhood. She only feels safe if she’s in charge. Maybe that’s the only way she’s ever seen marriage done. Her dad was weak and the mom was the boss.  The Queen of Sarcasm Humor is a gift from God. I’m blessed to be married to a very funny husband who makes me laugh almost every day. Sarcastic or biting humor is a different animal. I’ve met women who joke, “Sarcasm is my spiritual gift.” Probably not.  Instead of building her husband’s confidence, a wife can easily use sarcastic or critical words to destroy her husband’s capacity to lead.  What wife hasn’t flippantly said things that undermine a man’s masculinity?  “Nice work Einstein! A three-year-old could have figured that out.” “Yes, that’s right… who’s bringing in more money?”  “Are you always so dull, or is today a special occasion? “I don’t have the energy to like you today.” One person described sarcasm as punching you in the face with words. Even though you may “just be joking,” sarcasm is usually a backhanded way of expressing frustration and anger. But rather than address the issue, it cuts down your husband.  The Controller Have you ever walked into a house that looked absolutely perfect? Not a spot on the floor, nothing out of place, and even the dog sitting obediently in his cage? Unless the house is for sale, chances are someone living there is a bit of a control freak. Life is messy. Socks get lost, couches get stained, dust settles wherever it wants, and garbage smells like garbage. It takes a lot of constant effort to fight the messiness of a home.  The same can be said for marriage. A union between two people is messy. Not every conflict can be solved. Sometimes you’re cranky or hungry or tired or depressed. Communication doesn’t always bridge the gap between you.  Just like dealing with the mess of a home, some women approach the mess of marriage with control. Messes = anxiety. Your goal is to get rid of the anxiety by solving problems now and your way. Even better, you short-circuit the problem by controlling all of the variables that might create tension, micromanaging to make sure things are done right.  No, the kids can’t stay at your parents’ house because they might feed them the wrong thing. No, the Rosses can’t come over for dinner because you feel uncomfortable around the husband. We’re not going on vacation in Mexico because my friend told me she got sick when she went. Don’t pour the grape juice that way; it might spill on the carpet. If the dishes are to get cleaned, they have to be loaded in the dishwasher this way!  If this sounds familiar, you are likely controlling your way out of intimacy.  The Rescuer Codependency is a pop psychology term that has been well-known since the recovery movement in the 1980s. Essentially, it means that you need someone to need you. Although you may not be crazy about someone’s behavior, their weakness makes you feel validated and even irreplaceable. Without realizing it, some women reinforce their husband’s immaturity and weaknesses because this has become the “glue” that keeps them together.  A rescuer is drawn to a spouse who needs a lot of help. This establishes a sense of security because your husband couldn’t function without you. He needs you to be strong, and you need him to be weak.  There are situations in marriage when one person genuinely needs more help than the other. Mental or physical illness. Going through a season of grief or intense pressure. In family psychology, we refer to this as “the sick role.” Everyone needs to be in the sick role sometimes. A rescuer may place her husband in the sick role even when he doesn’t need to be there. Because of her own need to be the strong one in the relationship, the rescuer won’t invite her husband to grow into his strength. Even if he has genuine limitations, he also has abilities and assets that he can contribute to his wife and to their relationship.  Jedi Mind Tricks The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word manipulate as “to change by artful or unfair means as to serve one’s purpose.” I too have engaged in this type of guerilla warfare. When I manipulate, I don’t want to openly challenge Mike, but I also don’t trust him. And so rather than go through the hard work of conflict, I use subtle strategies to get him to do what I want. I use my power to suppress rather than to empower him.   I now have built-in accountability as a wife because my husband has read this book and heard me teach these principles countless times. He’s never gone so far as to point me to a page number or quote me when I use my power to take over, but he’s definitely more aware of my strategies. One evening, we were hashing out some disagreement. In the middle of my sentence, Mike put up a finger and said, “Wait a minute. Before you say another word, I need to do something.” He then slowly raised his hands in front of his face, just like an electric car window going up. “My manipulator shield is now activated. Go ahead and finish what you were saying.” Another time he told me, “Don’t try those Jedi mind tricks on me!” My Jedi mind tricks are when I cross the line from influencing Mike to stacking the deck against him. For example, earlier in our marriage I would sometimes ask my dad to talk to Mike about something we disagreed about. I wouldn’t tell Mike about this, but I’d give my dad talking points on what I thought would help Mike see things my way. Magically, he would then agree with me because Mike really respected my dad. While it’s great that my dad could be a mentor for Mike, I manipulated situations by using the back door rather than just letting their relationship unfold.  Wives manipulate when we don’t want to seem overbearing or bossy, but we still want to be in control by pulling strings behind the scenes to get our way. For example, Karen knows Josh doesn’t want a new suit, but she thinks he looks dumpy in his old one. So Karen buys a suit without Josh knowing. When he protests, she says, “Oh, I’m sorry. This was a final sale and I can’t take it back! I really thought you’d like it.” The Backseat Driver While we lived in Colorado, we often took advantage of the beautiful mountains. I’m the only skier in the family. Mike and the boys all prefer snowboarding. One day on the slopes, we all went up the lifts together and Mike told me, “You pick the first run.” So I picked a blue run that had some moguls. When we got to the bottom of the run, Mike said, “Why did you pick that one? The moguls were terrible for snowboarding!” Trust me. I let Mike pick the runs the rest of the day. This experience gave me empathy for why husbands choose not to step up.  Who wants to make a decision knowing that it will come back to haunt him if things go wrong? Life is filled with tough decisions and judgment calls. Sometimes the right choice is impossible to discern, but hindsight is 20/20.  Even worse than being criticized for a decision is when you hear the words, “I told you so.” If a husband knows that his wife will “let him have it” if his decision is wrong, he will naturally approach leadership with more fear. “I’ll let her decide and face the chance of being wrong.” Or he might choose to do what his wife wants so that she can never blame him for making the wrong decision. There are times in a marriage when saying or even implying, “I told you so” seems absolutely necessary. You may feel vindicated when your instincts turned out to be right. Sometimes even a gloating glance is enough to communicate, “If only you would have listened to me!” Whenever those four words (I told you so!) scream to be spoken, they are in reality totally unnecessary. A husband knows when his wife was right. To put it under his nose can result in only two things: he will become passive or more desperate to prove that he is in charge. Neither outcome builds your marriage. When you are right but resist the temptation to tell him so, your encouragement will go a long way in building your husband’s trust in you. Instead of reminding him that you were right, show grace. He will feel less threatened and more willing to value your input in the future. By refusing to manipulate, you might give up an immediate opportunity to gain the upper hand, but you move closer to becoming a truly influential wife.   OK, so how do you resign as the boss?  The tactics I’ve described in this chapter of "Finding the Hero in your Husband" may work in managing the chaos of your marriage, but they also undermine the chance for intimacy. Are you ready to consider a different approach? That's where we're headed in the third and final post in this series. For now, take a few minutes and reflect on these questions. Go back and review the different ways that women take over. Write down the ones that best describe you.  Think of an example of when you have used this strategy to overpower your husband. What were you afraid of? How did it play out?  Here are a few way you can engage with us and learn more about embracing your power as a woman: Did you miss the first post in this series? Read it here. Join an online book study and go through "Finding the Hero in Your Husband" with a group of like-minded women this winter!   This excerpt is from Dr. Juli Slattery’s book, "Finding the Hero in Your Husband, Revisited.” Reprinted with permission from Health Communications, Inc. *This is an affiliate link. AI may earn referral fees from qualifying purchases. Photo by Canva
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#369: Changing the Way We Talk About Porn (Because Women Struggle Too)
“I had one woman say, ‘I struggle with masturbation.’ And she just started crying.  And then she said, ‘I’ve never said that word out loud.’” In this Java with Juli, Joy Skarka recalls her experiences walking with women who struggle with porn, and shares from her own story of addiction to freedom. Despite rising numbers of women using porn and erotica, we still tend to refer to it as a "guy thing." Juli, Joy, and Jonathan Daugherty sit down for a conversation about creating safe places for women to come forward and ask for help. Grab your Java and join us! Guests: Joy Skarka and Jonathan Daugherty (Be Broken Ministries) Show notes: Learn more about the Wisephone at Techless.com "3 Things I (Wish I Hadn't) Learned From Pornography" Joy's blog "3 Things to Remember About Sexual Sin & Grace" Joy's blog "3 Things Women Want You To Know About Their Addiction to Porn" Joy's blog "Grace Based Recovery" by Jonathan Daugherty* Java #323: Bye Awkward Side Hugs! Getting Over Our Fear of Opposite-Sex Friendships "Beyond Awkward Side Hugs" by Bronwyn Lea* "Is Homemade Porn Okay In Marriage?" Q&A Video with Jonathan Daugherty Find a Christian counselor near you. Here's what to look for. "What Do I Do With My Sexual Desires?" (Juli's blog) Follow Authentic Intimacy on: Instagram: @authenticintimacy Facebook: @authenticintimacy Twitter: @DrJuliSlattery *This is an affiliate link. AI may earn referral fees from qualifying purchases. Photo by Canva    
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3 Reasons Women Tend To Take Over in Marriage
The first in a 3-part series from "Finding the Hero in Your Husband, Revisited."* Author Margo Kaufman once wrote, “The only thing worse than a man you can’t control is a man you can.” I’ve experienced this bind. Have you? I desperately want to build the hero in my husband. I want to see his strength, but I find myself too afraid and too proud to trust him.  While women often jockey to be in charge, we sometimes hate where it leads us in marriage. I was recently talking with a friend in her late forties who shared honestly, “I’m just tired! I don’t want to do this anymore. The kids ask me for everything. They never go to their dad. Even when he tries to help them, they brush him off. Why do I have to carry all the stress of our home?”   Every marriage has a power balance between a man and woman. We need to be very aware of how a dominant husband can be destructive in marriage, but the opposite is also true. Intimacy in marriage means that both the husband and wife assume their God-given power and use it to build rather than tear down.  If men want to be a hero and women want to be married to a hero, then why can’t they just make that happen? Why do we find ourselves sabotaging the very strength we hope to see in our husbands? Here are a few reasons why:   We are cursed. While this cultural moment is no champion of marriage by God’s design, the tension of women taking over is definitely not a new one. We can look way back to how marriage first went wrong in the Garden of Eden. Dr. Larry Crabb wrote a book called “The Silence of Adam” in which he asks the question, where was Adam when his wife was first deceived by the serpent? Adam’s passivity was as great a problem as Eve’s infamous bite. When God confronted the couple in Genesis 3, Adam blamed his wife rather than taking responsibility for his own lack of initiative and integrity.  We can see in Genesis 3:16 that the Fall resulted in a disordered relationship between every husband and wife. God said to the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you.” Instead of co-reigning together to subdue the earth, a husband and his wife would now wrestle continually with the tension of wanting to subdue one another.  At the risk of sounding dramatic, the power struggle so common in marriage is demonic. God’s enemy, Satan, will aim to destroy everything God made as holy and perfect. Your marriage is no exception. The last thing Satan wants is for you and your husband to experience the perfection of interacting as God designed a husband and wife to love each other.  Our own sinfulness is the often unconscious decision to collude with Satan against God’s design rather than trusting Him to lead us into the fulfillment of that design. And so along with the first wife, we experience the tension of longing for our husband to be a hero while also wanting to dismantle his power. We place our husbands in a diabolical double bind: I want you to lead, but to lead the way I tell you to lead.    We are afraid. God’s design for marriage exposes both a man’s and woman’s deepest fears. While marriage asks a man to step into the role of hero, he often lacks the skills and mentors that can guide him into becoming one. What does it look like to be a good husband? Father? Where are the role models for men to follow? No man wants to attempt something new if he doesn’t have a roadmap to success. As one young man recently told me, “Better to play it safe.” Does this give him an excuse for his lack of engagement and responsibility? No, but it may help you understand why he’s not “manning up.” Honestly, both men and women are “safer” in marriage if she takes control of the relationship. He doesn’t have to fear failure, and she doesn’t have to fear being let down. A lot of men and women just agree to build their relationship this way. It’s not like they talked about it, but if they had been so brutally honest, the conversation may have gone like this: Woman: I’d really like to see you take some ownership and responsibility for our marriage.  Man: No you wouldn’t. The few times I’ve tried to step up, you quickly let me know how I’m not doing things the way you think I should. It’s never good enough for you, so I’ll just let you have it your way.  Woman: Well, you should know how to do things right. If I wait around for you to figure this out, our family, our finances, and my heart will be a mess. I feel a lot better just taking care of things myself. Man: Fine with me! I have plenty of other things I’d rather spend my energy on.  And so they settle into an unspoken truce that keeps them both safe, but nowhere close to intimate. Can you relate?    We are immature. “How many children do you have?” Women are known to humorously reply to this question, “Four, including my husband.” Now just imagine for a moment that a man answered the question this way, including his wife among the “children” in the home.  Why is it funny for a wife to refer to her husband as a child but unthinkable for a man to tell this same joke?  Women justify a marriage takeover when their husbands have proven that they either don’t want to or can’t handle the responsibility. She slides into “mom” mode, complaining how she is married to an adolescent. Addressing this problem in your marriage begins by acknowledging that your husband isn’t the only one who needs to grow up. Yes, you can point to a hundred ways that you may be more responsible and mature than he is. While your frustration may be justified, it also probably points to your own immaturity. I know because I’ve been there. When Mike and I got married, I appeared on the surface to be more mature than he was. I was goal-oriented, knew what I wanted from life, and had been a Christian far longer than my husband. As much as I loved Mike’s laid-back approach to life when we were dating, I wasn’t such a fan once we were married. I complained about always having to be the serious one — the responsible one. I remember one incident that represented the early years of our marriage. Mike and I lived in a two-story townhouse. We agreed that we would clean the house together on Saturdays — he would clean the upstairs, and I would clean the downstairs. Along came Saturday. After breakfast, I grabbed the cleaning supplies and tackled my part of the house. Mike turned on the TV. Long after I had finished my part of the house, Mike decided to go for a run, and then lunch, and then a nap. As the hours wore on, I got more and more angry. By about 9 p.m., I self-righteously grabbed the cleaning supplies and began working on the upstairs. I’m sure I sighed loudly and slammed cupboards, letting my new husband know what a martyr he had married. I was so mad at my husband that I slept on the couch that night. I really lost it when Mike came downstairs the next morning, chuckling at me sprawled on the couch and said, “Well, I got a good night’s sleep! In the weeks and months that followed, Mike and I hashed out this ongoing issue so perfectly displayed by the cleaning episode. I learned that my husband wasn’t the only one who needed to grow up. I could be controlling and manipulative in my expectations, sparking my husband to respond with passive-aggressive stubbornness. I may have been more subtle in how I demanded my way, but I was really acting no more grown up than Mike was. I saw myself as taking the “high road” by proving to Mike and myself how much more responsible I was than he was. True maturity would have been to confront the issue with honesty and a willingness to understand what was going on inside my husband’s heart.  Truth be told, we all have a bratty, selfish, sinful kid inside of us. A wife’s greatest dilemma is that you don't want to be the leader in your marriage, but you also don't want to be led. Using your power to take control feels safe, but it also builds a barrier to intimacy. Without even realizing it, you’ve likely built coping strategies to keep yourself from feeling vulnerable in your marriage.  We'll talk more about these strategies next time (read Part 2), but here's a sneak peek: we may be bossy, we may be controlling, we may use sarcasm and mind tricks, we constantly rescue them, we constantly punish them, or we’re the ultimate backseat driver. Which one can you relate to? For now, here are a few questions and Scripture passages to think about: In your own words, describe “a wife’s greatest dilemma.” How has this played out in your marriage?  Read Genesis 3:1-19. How do you see “a wife’s greatest dilemma” played out in this passage? What insight does this passage give you into your marriage?  What weaknesses in your husband make you want to take over? How are these weaknesses the “flip side” of his strengths?   Read Galatians 5:16-26. How does Paul describe spiritual immaturity and maturity in this passage? How does this list give you new eyes to see your own immaturity rather than focusing on how your husband needs to grow up?  Join an online book study and go through "Finding the Hero in Your Husband" with a group of like-minded women this winter!   This excerpt is from Dr. Juli Slattery’s book, "Finding the Hero in Your Husband, Revisited.” Reprinted with permission from Health Communications, Inc. *This is an affiliate link. AI may earn referral fees from qualifying purchases. Photo by Canva