The Domestic Bride

I have met some lovely young brides over the years and been delighted by the heart-felt desire of each one to please her husband. The home and its domestic challenges is an area where many brides long to excel and through which they plan to bless their husband.

Yet the domestic role of a bride is also an area where some misunderstanding and unclear concepts can lead the couple into strife. So this post is for the domestic bride.

Beautiful Bride with a Beautiful Heart

I know that not all young brides are as wonderful as others, but I want to pause for a moment and commend the many amazing and sweet young ladies I have met over the years who earnestly long to delight their husband. Some of those lucky men have been ignorant of how blessed they are. Some of them have gone on to bruise the tender heart of their darling bride.

So, to you amazing and gorgeous young ladies, I commend you for your eager and delightful intention to bless your young man. Mankind is blessed to have the undeserved devotion that you give. I pray that God bless each of you with the rewards of His grace, even if your wonderfully blessed husband does not realise how privileged he is.

Tender Hearts Get Bruised

I am sorry that it is so, but tender hearts do get bruised. Insensitive young men and starry-eyed young brides end up with the pain of disappointment, hurts and misunderstanding. Sometimes the bruises are so sore that the marriage never regains the innocence and tenderness of its initial hopes and dreams.

With the progress of time many marriages completely lose their wonder and delight. Both bride and groom draw back from their innocent hopes and their willing abandonment. Many a cranky older couple started out as two tender hearts longing for things they could never find. I will look at this subject from another angle at some time, with reference to the ‘spirit of the marriage’.

Understand the Problems

Entering into marriage and this wonderful new level of relationship with some understanding may help you. So allow me to cover some points that should help you understand the problem.

In simple terms the main problem stems from the bride’s longing to serve and bless, and the husband’s ignorance of what he wants and how things should be administered. It is hard to effectively serve and bless someone when that service is ill defined.

The Dangerous Assumptions

In marriage, the easy assumptions to make include such things as the idea that you are both wonderfully compatible. Another assumption is that it will just work out fine, all by itself. Then there is the assumption by the man that the woman will somehow instinctively do what pleases him, and the assumption by the woman that the man will instinctively be delighted by what she gives him.

All of these assumptions are dangerous, because all of them are most likely not true. They set the couple up for surprises, disappointment, argument, misunderstanding and hurts.

It is unlikely that the husband has ever clearly catalogued what he likes and what he wants. He has most likely been a passenger in life’s journey, floating along with the things his mother did for him. What ever she did will be what he sees as ‘normal’, even if she is the only person on the planet who does things that way.

If a young husband was asked to explain the domestic management of a home very few would have much depth of understanding. Most husbands are happy to leave things up to their bride. However this creates several problems.

Integration Problems

Since two separate domestic worlds are brought together by the newly-weds they will have to work through the integration issues. If they have never done such a thing before then they will be surprised how many issues arise.

There are often no right and wrong ways to do things. But we each have a sense for what is familiar to us. That familiar process is the one that will “seem right” to us, even if it is the most inefficient process ever imagined. If the bride and groom have different ideas of what is ‘right’ they will end up stumbling over each other’s perceptions. It will be easy to use words like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, bringing a sense of condemnation into the relationship. If emotions are aroused, then insults and hurtful words can spill into the situation.

Tender and fragile emotions can be damaged in such an unexpected exchange.

Many a young man has rebuked his wife for not being able to cook meals the way his mother cooked it. His tastes and expectations have been moulded by his family experience and he may not realise that there is such great diversity in food and its preparation.

The Wrong Response

When a person does not have a clear idea of what they want or how to communicate it they can leave the other person directionless. Most young husbands will tend to leave their bride to do her best, not quite sure what she is going to do and how well she is going to do it.

These husbands can’t give positive guidance in such situations so the only guidance they can give is to point out what they think to be wrong. This I call the ‘wrong’ response. And the ‘wrong’ response is the wrong response!

When a husband can only tell his bride what is wrong he is set up to bludgeon her tender hopes into a calloused heart that gives up the hope of pleasing him. Or that gives him what he wants, but without any delight on her part any more.

Negative responses produce negative responses. A husband who guides his bride by disapproval is wounding her heart.

Is There a Simple Solution?

In matters of relationship there is usually no simple solution. I will offer a few simple suggestions, but I doubt that many people will heed them. I fear that many more lovely and tender young brides are going to head down the road to hardened and hurt older wives, despite what I present here. But for the sake of the one or two who may be saved from pain by my thoughts I will venture my simple solution.

Brides should be taught to expect that everything they bring into the marriage will have to be modified. They should be encouraged to go on a two-year journey of discovery of what works best in their home. They should be told that they will face some difficult challenges in this process but that they can succeed and create the most amazing new domestic formula for them both to enjoy.

The reason I put this on the bride is because she is the one who will otherwise be hurt. Her insensitive hero is less likely to be damaged in the sort-out of domestic process than the wife is. So my simple solution aims at shielding the most vulnerable party – that beautiful young woman.

If brides enter marriage with an expectation of their need to change, and a long-term time-line for getting things sorted out, there will be less pain in finding that the couple are less compatible than she hoped. There is time for the two of them to talk and explore their options. There is no silly idealism about it working perfectly from day one.

All of that helps the tender one to be more resilient in the inevitable sorting out process.

Other Helpful Steps

Obviously it is valuable for the young husband to understand the situation and how easily he can and will offend his darling bride. Men should be challenged to expect a long season of exploration and discovery. They should expect food to taste different and things to be done differently, because they are a new family, with new horizons and new possibilities.

I recommend that the couple set up an expectation – possibly suggested to them in the pre-marriage preparation process – that the husband review the bride’s processes and program at regular intervals.

While that might sound very sexist and man-serving at first glance, allow me to show why that is valuable.

The bride is built to please her man. How can she do that if she does not become attentive to what he needs or wants? If she makes her own assumptions and assessments independently of him she may spend her whole life doing things he does not want her to do in ways he does not want her to employ. This undermines her whole design and motivation.

I have also observed that two heads are better than one. I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the first to observe that fact. When any person acts for their whole life without the benefit of additional input and review they are in danger of doing the wrong things the wrong way for a long time. The most valuable and understanding contributor to the wife’s situation should be her husband. So having him give input in a regulated and consistent fashion is logical and appropriate.

And I also recommend that young men be given at least some understanding of how to protect the tender heart of their beloved. The pushing of the feminist notion that men and women are equal and almost identical has robbed men of appreciation for the woman’s needs and denied women the loving care that they are due.

Yesterday is Gone

The Beatles made a huge hit singing “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away”. And others waxed poetic about how “Yesterday’s gone” and how they remember “Yesterday when I was young” and so on.

Yesterday’s Hold

The reason “yesterday” has such a hold on people’s lives is that we all carry the past into the present and beyond that into the future. Yesterday is the time we sowed certain things into our lives and today we reap the harvest. So yesterday is a powerful component of ‘today’ and it will still be making its presence felt when we get to tomorrow.

The Catholic Church teaches people to go to confession to deal with the sins of yesterday. Someone sneered at the habit of some who sin during the week and look for forgiveness in the confessional on the weekend. They said it was like sowing wild oats all week and then praying for a crop failure.

The Hindu faith respects the baggage of yesterday as karma, which we carry not only through this life, but into future lives which Hindus believe they will face. Gautama Buddha, who rejected the Hindu teaching of reincarnation, went so far as to say that we cannot remove our Karma even in a thousand lifetimes.

Yesterday’s Debris

Here are just a few of the things we bring with from yesterday, even though yesterday is gone.

We bring our disappointments from yesterday. We face disappointments with others, such as our parents and family. But we also face disappointments with ourselves.

We bring our broken relationships from yesterday. Once we have offended someone else or they have offended us that damage remains, often throughout life. Family reunions and community life become tinged with the hurt and offence that we feel toward others and they feel toward us.

We bring our compromises from yesterday. Once we have compromised our values and character that becomes a weak spot for us from that time on.

We bring our slaveries from yesterday. When we give in to sin, such as anger, pride, jealousy or lust, that thing enslaves us and it controls us throughout our lives.

Today’s Harvest

It is also true, as the Bible teaches, that our actions and choices involve us sowing seeds in our lives. A seed not only remains, but it germinates and produces a whole crop. So when we sow something into our life, we are setting up a harvest in the future.

Today’s harvest is filled with the fruit of the things we planted yesterday. If we planted selfishness, pride, anger, greed, violence, self-pity, wilfulness, addiction, lies or other evil things, we will have an evil harvest today.

If we planted forgiveness, faith, love, trust, humility and the fear of God then we will have a much better harvest today than others might have.

Yesterday is not ‘Gone’

While the songs might say, “yesterday’s gone” it isn’t true. Yesterday has passed, but it has not ‘gone’. Yesterday lives with you today.

Just as yesterday’s piano lessons undergird today’s musicianship and yesterday’s studies undergird today’s understanding, yesterday’s moral choices undergird today’s character.

Transforming Yesterday

“You can’t go back in time” is one way to look at it. “What’s done is done!” might be your way of dismissing the past. But there are powerful ways of unlocking the past and transforming yesterday. Let me briefly outline two of them.

Confession of Sin is a powerful way to unlock and transform yesterday. When you repent of the choices you made in the past God is able to set you free from the debris and consequences of those choices in the present. You can actually get a crop failure, even though you sowed lots of wild oats.

God can go back in time. While you are stuck in the time-space continuum, God exists outside of time. So He is able to go back to your past and make Himself present, bringing healing to things that are part of your yesterday that has ‘gone’ from you.

A Testimony

A friend of mine named Malcolm visited a lady who had chronic problems. When he prayed for her she had a vision of a baby crying in a cot. She realised that she was seeing herself as a tiny baby. She sensed the extreme distress of the baby and it connected with the pain that kept surfacing in her life.

A spirit of intercession came on Mal and he began to weep for her. As he did she saw in her vision that the door to the baby’s room opened and Jesus walked in. Jesus lifted the baby into His arms and as He did the woman felt all her pain and torment drain from her life.

It was as if Jesus was able to go back in time to the entry point of the woman’s troubles and resolve them, even though that was now many years past.

Saying Good-bye to Yesterday

If yesterday has brought its bad baggage with it into your today then be encouraged to say “Good-bye” to that stuff. You can remove it forever by confession and by asking the Lord to unlock and heal your past.

The Steps to Release, which I have written about in my books and in other posts, will be helpful in this process.

I want you to live in the freedom with which Christ has made you free. I want you to be able to say, in all reality, that Yesterday is Gone! Keep all that is good from yesterday and unlock and remove all that is bad. Once you’ve said “Good-bye” to yesterday’s rubbish you will have an even better future to look forward to.

Marriage Counselling

When I give Marriage Counselling advice to couples or Marriage Counsellors there are a few basics which I always cover. Let me share them with you.

Marriage brings two different people together to establish a working relationship. When the marriage relationship breaks down, people feel hurt, betrayed, unloved, insecure, fearful, angry, bitter, or a range of other emotions. Those emotions not only challenge the marriage but they also tap issues from the background of the couple. Having a sense for this interplay empowers marriage counseling to be more effective.

The Individual

Marriage brings two individuals together for a mutually rewarding relationship. Who they each are, as individuals, affects what they can achieve as a couple. An unstable person will hardly be able to build a stable relationship. A fearful person will not be able to build a trusting relationship. An angry person will not be able to build a loving relationship.

So, before a marriage counselor becomes too distracted with the relationship issues they are wise to consider the individual qualities of the husband and wife. The weaknesses, attitudes, past experience and personal skills of each spouse will impede or assist the building of a strong relationship.

Individual Complexity

People are complex, so the range of personal issues they carry could be quite extensive. A wise counsellor seeks to uncover those things which are most relevant to the person’s ability to enter into and maintain a strong marriage relationship. Issues of trust, forgiveness, correct view of marriage and relationship, willingness to change, flexibility, selfishness and fear might be among the relevant matters to uncover.

People’s behaviour is often crafted by their reactions to past experience. For example, a person who has suffered injustice will tend to be very sensitive about justice issues. A person who has been denied loving acceptance may idolise the input of their spouse and feel let down when the spouse does not meet their idealised expectations. A person who has been spoiled may find it hard to give up their will to fit in with their spouse. I refer to this individual complexity as the “baggage” which the couple brings along on their honeymoon and into their marriage. Most often the person does not know their own baggage, since it seems normal to them. Their spouse is most likely completely oblivious to this baggage.

In time this baggage will trip up the marriage relationship. These hidden things will become obvious, over time, and they will prompt a new set of problems as each spouse reacts to the issues for better or for worse. The joke goes, “Love is blind, but Marriage is an Eye-Opener!” And that’s true. Relationship brings to light the hidden things. How skilled the couple are in dealing with those revelations will impact where their marriage goes.

Relationship Skills

Because marriage is a relationship it is vital that each person has good relationship skills. If one has good skills they can save the marriage from much trouble, but it is better if both work together than that one exploit the strengths of the other.

Relationship skills are not so much ‘skills’ as attitudes. Selfish attitudes are contrary to the spirit of relationship. Inflexibility makes demands on the other party in a relationship. Unforgiveness is a cruelty which violates relationship. Independence is contrary to relationship. Stubbornness is a road-block to relationship. Self assertiveness violates others. Pride is an offence to others. Self-determination is contrary to the spirit of cooperation.

People with the wrong attitudes have the wrong skills. Yet some people need to be trained in the practical expression of good relationship skills. Listening, caring, cooperating, sharing, committing time for each other, fitting in with the other’s plans, negotiating equitably, repenting, forgiving, adapting, standing firm on moral principles and being consistent are practices which may have to be learned and practiced by today’s dysfunctional society.

Proper Modelling

When a couple does not know what they are trying to build they will have less success than they could otherwise have. A clear understanding of the godly model for marriage, as I present in my books, Marriage Horizons and Mending Marriages, empowers a couple to build the most stable and effective kind of relationship. A good counsellor is attentive to the concept of marriage the couple are working with. If it is flawed then the couple needs to be instructed and directed toward the model of marriage that actually works and works most effectively.

God’s Grace

Humans are limited creatures and they don’t have the ability to save themselves. Even the best possible help from the most skilled Marriage Counsellor is not enough. Each person and each couple needs to have the grace of God released into their lives and relationships.

Good Marriage Counseling releases God’s grace into each individual spouse. That’s why Christian Marriage Counselling is so very important in the lives of couples who need help. Secular assistance can give good advice and sound wisdom, but it cannot release God’s divine touch into the lives of the couple.

If a couple cannot access Christian Marriage Counselling then they should find a Bible-believing church where they can get prayer and ministry to release God’s grace into their personal lives and into their marriage relationship.

Peddling Poison

How many times have you been poisoned? Have you always recovered or have you suffered permanent loss?

Those are silly questions, aren’t they? Poisoning is something we read about in books, from olden days and far-off lands. We laugh at the idea.

“The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, while the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!” (Poisoning featured several times in the 1956 Danny Kaye movie, The Court Jester).

It’s ludicrous to think you’ve ever been poisoned, isn’t it? Surely you’d know if someone tried to poison you, wouldn’t you? Maybe not, if you’ve not been attentive.

The most common poison people use on each other today, in homes, schools, offices, the media and society at large, has doubtless been tasted by everyone, young and old. I dare say there is hardly a person on the planet who has not been poisoned in some way or other in the past year. We have all drunk from the “vessel with the pestle” that has the “pellet with the poison”.

The toxic substance that is doing all the damage is easy to consume. It is often drunk down willingly and passed on to others with hardly a thought. While its effects on the body are minimal and not fatal, the effect on people’s lives, often for as long as they live, are deadly and pervasive. Whole villages, organisations and communities have been poisoned by this stuff.

What is it called? I was hoping you’d ask. See if you can work it out in the following example.

A new person enters one of your social circles. He or she may meet you at work, school, church, social functions or some other place. You find them friendly and likable. You enjoy their company and welcome them into your circle of associates. You may even plan to get to know them better and maybe invite them to social events you organise.

Then someone come along and whispers information to you that you were not previously aware of. You may find out, for example, that the newcomer is under suspicion for theft, or some other crime. Possibly you find out that they recently abandoned their family for nothing but selfish reasons. It may be that they support some horrible cause. I’m not talking about gossip or lies here. Let us assume that there is ample proof for the claims being made. Someone is simply passing on the information without malice or evil intent. However, whatever the information may be, it causes you to feel sore on the inside.

That sore feeling is the poison taking effect. You are hurt by the news.

So now, what happens next time you meet that person? How do you feel toward them now? Do you continue to welcome them into your circle or do you find it hard to be warm and open to them?

The universal experience is to feel a strong desire to cut that person off. The universal experience is that the budding friendship and the respect and warmth that existed is now poisoned off!

It’s based on feelings of offence that cause you to resent the other person. The poison is the resentment which is passed on, penetrating your heart and mind and killing off something in your attitudes and lifestyle. It’s a toxic poison that has killed off millions of things each year, right around the world.

Before you dismiss this as something of little consequence, let me show you how it works on the grander scale. The poison of resentment has powerful social impact.

At one time in our history it was normal for a woman to enjoy her home-maker role and her domestic responsibilities with the children. At that time women found fulfilment and delight in what is now considered an old-fashioned social order.

Then along came various voices which sowed resentment. Examples were touted of women who were oppressed by domesticity. The case was presented that every woman should be allowed to openly compete with her husband and completely reverse the domestic order if possible. In all the to and fro of the agitation and feminist action many offences were sown and resentments formed.

Now many women in domestic roles, looking after children and out of the workforce, feel resentment toward their situation. They feel as if they are being looked down on. They feel put-down and needing to justify their predicament. The domestic situation which is still able to be enjoyed by women is not enjoyed any more. The roles which their grandmothers found fulfilment in are now not suitable.

Why? Because a poison has been spread through society. It is the poison of ‘resentment’. Things that are noble and worthy have been made to seem offensive. Attitudes of resentment have been spawned toward those things.

Millions of people have been impacted by this kind of toxic attitude, causing the whole society to go through upheaval. While some people demand the right to make their own choice, they resent certain options and those who make them. Many women who intend to enjoy their domestic, stay-at-home role as a wife and mother come under the pressure of resentment from other women who feel duty-bound to rail on them

As another example, is it possible that your attitudes toward rich or successful people have been poisoned off in some way? Have you heard talk that the only way to become really rich is to take advantage of others? Do you tend to feel that super rich people are worthy of resentment?

And what about cultural resentments? Do you have toxic thoughts about people from America, Asia, third-world countries, jungle villages, extremist groups or high society? I guarantee that at least some of those attitudes are anchored in resentment which came from your reaction to information you heard about them. For example, there is a cultural hatred of Americans which is being propagated in many places today, with ugly consequences.

Whole cultures have been sprayed with poison, through popular media and social attitudes. Millions of possibilities lie dead on the ground, because resentment-based attitudes prevail, killing off any chance of change for the better.

Let me take you back to my starting questions. Have a look at them again and see if you might have a different answer now.

How many times have you been poisoned? Have you always recovered or have you suffered permanent loss?

It’s time you became aware of the poison you are being fed. It’s time to do something about it. Don’t you think your life could be different if you could take the antidote to those toxins?

Hmmmmm…..

Hurt Spirits Picnic

How would it be if a bunch of smelly, spiteful, murderous and hateful creatures were having a picnic on your lounge-room floor? How would it be if a bunch of ‘hurt spirits’ regularly turned your home into their picnic ground? Well, that’s what a lot of marriages allow to happen.

I talked before about how Hurt Spirits work in marriages (see: Hurt Spirits Working). The spirit stirs up hurt feelings in one or other of the spouses, prompting them to act out of that hurt. The spouse may be prompted to pout, withdraw, accuse, manipulate, contend, be angry or whatever. As soon as the ‘hurt’ spouse begins to behave like that, especially out of their own hurt feelings, their actions cause hurt in the other spouse. Thus the cycle of hurt is ignited and the relationship is set on a course of destruction and pain.

I believe that this process is epidemic in marriages today and most couples, including Christian couples who should know better, get caught in this ‘device’ of the enemy. We are not supposed to be ignorant concerning the enemy’s devices, but this one seems to have slipped in and caught many couples in the trap of celebrating their pain.

What the hurt spirits want to do is to move in to your home and host picnics in your kitchen, lounge-room, bedrooms and so on. They want to turn your home into a pain-filled picnic-ground where hurt spirits feel completely at home and can celebrate their evil influence over your marriage. The Hurt Spirits want to picnic at your place.

So, let me unpack for you what is really going on. The hurt spirits want to enshrine ‘hurt’ and hurt feelings as the top priority in the home. In a culture that is selfish and self-centred, that is easier than it would be in a godly culture. So, as the West becomes increasingly selfish, hurt spirits have a much easier time picking off the easy targets. There are more hurt spirit picnics these days than at times in the past.

Hurt spirits want to make ‘hurt’ the central theme of your home. So these spirits arouse feelings of hurt in marriages. They remind people that they are being neglected, misunderstood or offended. They point out that their spouse is not being what they wanted them to be. They stir up feelings of offence, frustration, disappointment and so on. As soon as a person buys into the hurt the next stage is to accentuate it until it becomes a central issue for that person, not just a passing feeling.

As the couples begin to fight with each other and hurt each other the stage is set for the home to be polarised by hurt feelings. The couple may withdraw from each other, only heightening the feelings of hurt they each carry. They may play ‘no speaks’, or one or other may become demanding, contentious, angry, resentful, or the like. Before long the unresolved hurt feelings have become king in the home.

No progress seems possible until the huge burden of hurt can be dealt with. Yet the mountain of hurt feelings is SO enormous that it would take a giant person to be able to wade through it all. The marriage may end up just limping on, with both spouses making the most of the good moments and battening down for the stormy times.

Both husband and wife will desperately want their marriage healed, but the hurt spirit will continue to stoke the fires of hurt, frustration, offence, etc, to ensure that the barrier between the couple remains firm.

Now, that’s the enemy’s strategy. Would you like to know the solution? I think it’s remarkably simple and delightfully do-able.

First step toward breaking this cursed cycle is to recognise that it is going on. I explained to a couple recently that their problem is the action of a hurt spirit and they were able to make gains in their relationship from that very night. So, this article needs to be passed on to as many people as you can get it to, so couples recognise what they are really dealing with. For some, that very realisation will be liberating and allow them to move toward forgiveness and healing.

The second step is to dethrone the hurt. Hurt and hurt feelings are not meant to picnic in your home. They are not meant to be on the throne in your heart. They are not meant to have any place in your home or heart at all. If you keep them on the throne, demanding that they be placated, you will stay in slavery to their destructive work.

Much more worthy and noble things should be on the throne in your home and heart. Righteousness and the fear of God should be exalted in your home, not hurt feelings. Humility, submission, grace, love, peace, forgiveness, compassion, hope and joy are much more worthy things for centre stage than hurt can ever be.

As you dethrone hurt you now need to push past it, knocking it to the ground and walking all over it. When a hurt spirit jumps up and says, “You should despise your spouse”, knock that thing to the ground as you step toward your spouse and fulfil your godly calling in their life.

Husbands, press in to love your wife, while she is throwing hurt into your face. Wives, press in to submit to your husband while he is hurling hurt into your heart. Determine that you will be who God has created you to be and you will serve Him, not some dirty demon.

Don’t let the demons picnic at your place. When the hurt spirits turn up with their picnic basket, throw them out. And fall on your knees to worship the true and living God, not some filthy demon who hates you and your marriage. Don’t give in to their goading and their fear-filled stories of what will become of you if you don’t stand up for your rights and fight your spouse. Reject their taunts and the aroused emotions of your heart.

Be who God has made you to be and do what He wants you to do, whether you have hurt feelings or a heart of joy. As soon as you change course to accommodate hurt feelings you have elevated hurt above God and allowed the hurt spirits in with their picnic baskets. If you purpose to do what God asks you do to, no matter whether it is easy or hard or whether you are filled with joy or struggling with pain, you have dedicated your heart and home to God, and fortified it against evil spirits.

It is time to withstand the enemy’s scheme. It is time to resist him to his face. It is time to fight the demons, not our spouse. It is time to so worship God that we do what He asks us to do, despite the hurt feelings our situation prompts within us. Cast your care onto Him, don’t take arms against your spouse.

And let us celebrate the glorious liberty which God gives us as His children. Don’t let that bully who hates you have any place in your heart, home or marriage.

“Lord God, we ask You to empower us with wisdom and insight, to see the enemy’s hand at work and to resist him with all the authority of heaven. Lord, forgive us for elevating hurt feelings when You ask us to elevate forgiveness. Forgive us for fighting with our spouse, instead of fighting with the enemy. Forgive us for pressing on in our own strength, instead of working in Your power. Now, come and deliver us from all evil we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”