27 Jan How Marital Discord and Other Distressing Detours Are Like PMS
A reader commented on a recent blog about a recent low point in my marriage that the enemy is trying hard to take down families. There’s no denying the weasel’s fingerprints were all over this bout of marital misery. I also know that my fickle thinking is routinely waywardly-way negative, self-centered and self-righteous, distorted by a whole bunch of painfully human factors. Bible affirms that, too. Bouts of marital or any other misery come on with conviction, then vanish, like PMS. So, fast forward, and my marital discord dissipated. We’re back on the same team. Whatever the source of the latest detour, the solution is the same. Read on.
If it’s so very obvious now, why wasn’t obvious then, in the threatening thick of it? Well, in fact, I could see the enemy was at work. Kind of. I also knew my thinking was off the rails and knew what might be causing it. Kind of. But I just could not see it clearly enough or absorb it enough to allow it to challenge my stinking thinking.
Marriage & PMS hand-in-hand.
Pardon my intimate detour, but it reminds me of PMS. (Yes, that PMS). As a young woman, I knew my my mood and thinking would become…umm…unpleasant…in the days before I was due. No matter the actual state of my life at the time, my view was often devastatingly negative. Relationships, jobs, circumstances, self…all were overlaid with a dark filter that distorted everything. I was angry, hypersensitive, weepy, demanding, intolerant…you name it. All with VERY good reason, mind you. And soon after my period started, somehow, my life would be just fine again. The dark clouds lifted.
But try as I might, I could not muster that clarity when I was in it. The feelings, insights, seemingly rational observations were so very compelling, they seemed undeniable. Depression is a lot like this, too. Life seems impossibly grim. Sometimes, multi-symptom Pamprin™ would help penetrate the gloom, but more often, it just had to pass.
Once I regained perspective, I’d remind myself again that my PMS was real but not reality. My life didn’t s**k. My husband wasn’t awful. I was not a failure as a parent. My job wasn’t the worst ever. And yet, as soon as day 24,25, 26 rolled around, there I’d be, convinced my life was barely worth living. Sometimes, I could muster enough detachment to think, “Hormones. This is all going to look and feel different in a few days,” but honestly, that didn’t really help so much in the moment.
This too SHALL pass.
Many things in life are quite a lot like that, including marital discord. One can feel like a situation is truly terminal. A feeling can seem like it could never, ever, ever budge. And then, it does.
They say, this too shall pass.
My most vivid object lesson on this phenomenon is the birth of my son Isaac with Down syndrome. From the moment I learned at my 12-week sonogram he could have a genetic anomaly, to the moment the diagnosis was confirmed, and for months thereafter, I thought I might never be happy again. I feel lousy admitting it, yet I’d be lying otherwise. Isaac’s condition seemed like a death blow. A final straw in a long line of very painful straws I’d already had heaped on my back.
Today, I believe Isaac is one of the greatest gifts of my life. Not in a Pollyanna way, but because he’s simply the source of so much joy, wisdom, fun and love in our lives. Because of Isaac, I believe I am becoming more and more the woman God designed me to be. A subject for a whole other blog. Eight years ago, though, it FELT like a terminal blow. Crushing. No recovery possible. Today, I count embracing Isaac as one of the best experiences in my life.
I did remember that much when I was feeling so terminal about my marriage. It didn’t really lift my spirits in the moment, but it stood out there, like a lighthouse to prevent me from doing something irreparably stupid.
I can’t fix it. Whatever it is.
“God can fix this,” I thought. He did before.
I have to say, this paradigm shift is largely dependent on Believing God. If I don’t Believe God—that he loves us, is way smarter and can fix the seemingly unfixable, it’s hard to keep hold of hope. Or if I choose to ignore God and simply blaze my own trail, the spiritual PMS can get a whole lot worse, with devastating consequences.
God’s truth has to be my true north, no matter what havoc is messing with my compass. Stand. Stand firm.
That grass isn’t greener, it’s AstroTurf.
What I mean is, by many modern standards, I could find any number of sources that would have supported divorce as a solution to my marital discontent, make me right and him wrong, no matter what God says. Indulge that line long enough and divorce will seem not only like a tolerable solution, but even the optimal solution. The only right solution. For everyone involved. By the time the fog clears and we realize we’d been hoodwinked by our fantasy or self-centered discontent, it’s too late. After the scales fall off, we may discover we have jumped out of the frying pan into a fire of unrelenting heat.
God says he hates divorce, with all its painful mess-making for all involved, even as He makes a very few legitimate allowances for it. Not to mention the fact that Christ’s GRACE covers all believers. So, please, divorced friends, know that there’s no judgement here. I could easily be singing a very different tune someday. This is just my personal perspective on a personal experience in my personal situation with a God who is, after all, very personal. And encouragement to those who may be pondering jumping ship for more everyday conflict.
So, filtering all my legitimate and self-serving complaints, my genuine and “justifiable” resentment, my sharp finger-pointing, my questioning and regret through Believing God, the chasm between my husband and I was bridged.
It doesn’t have to be pretty to work just fine.
My Believing God during this time with Ray (or the time with Isaac or any other tough time) was not soaring, faith-filled, affirmation-laden faith, it was more like desperate, ugly, grudging, no-better-option cleaving. I wish I was better than that, but I’m not.
And then, my faith, however flawed, delivered. Peace, restoration, love, light. Hope. These are the hallmarks of Jesus.
I have found this: Act on principle (even reluctantly) and grace rushes in.
My husband is my friend again. My partner. Two months ago, I had a few weeks of touch and go. This morning, we were planning a spa staycation together.
Still, Heed the Warning Signs.
Yet, the bad conflict wasn’t entirely smoke and mirrors. Like the hormonal insanity of my PMS was never an accurate barometer of truth, it did signal the arrival of my monthly visitor.
Likewise, physical pain can signal a problem as can emotional pain.
Feelings aren’t facts, but they are information.
The emotional bottom Ray and I hit signaled issues that need to be addressed by each of us, separately and together. Addressed by facing them and owning our respective parts with goodwill. Not addressed by packing my bags or his.
So, Believing God also means being honest both with myself and Ray about my true feelings, wants and observations. Believing God means consulting The Word, in flesh and on paper. Believing God meant asking others for help and wisdom and prayer. Believing God meant acting to restore my marriage, doing what we could and asking God to do what we couldn’t.
I didn’t do any of this very elegantly. I won’t win Christian Lady of the Year for my grace, faithfulness or holiness. In fact, Believing God is often really more like coming to the end of myself, and choosing to Believe God could fix what I could not.
You’re not crazy. Or alone.
I don’t know why some of us have bad spiritual “PMS.” Why some of us have thoughts that take a life of their own, while taking over our own life. But the Bible and a thousand different books by authors of all stripes, suggest I’m not alone in my struggle. Some, like C.S. Lewis and Frank Peretti, offer vivid descriptions of cunning and very real forces at work in our thought lives.
Proverbs 23:7, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Romans 12:2, and Philippians 4:8-9 with insight and wisdom about the power of our thoughts. Our real enemy is not our husband, or boss or otherwise (Ephesians 6:12). The real enemy is a liar (John 8:44) .
Fix your eyes on True North.
How might I navigate life more peacefully and effectively if I could just trust that “this too shall pass” and God is entirely trustworthy? How might I approach conflict or bouts of dis-ease about anything or anyone differently if I really believed a real foe is wreaking havoc? If I fixed my eyes on True North as the reliable antidote?
On a more routine basis, when it comes to daily struggles with negative thinking, I can trust that the bad days will pass. The simple solution is to reject any thought that doesn’t align with Believing God and affirm my faith The Truth.
So, sister, if you’ve had it with your husband, your job, your life…If things seem irreparably messed up, take it to Jesus. Examine your facts and feelings in light of Truth. Then be still. It may well be the spiritual cycle will start anew.
Remember: God sees you and loves you, airbrushed or not.
Grace & peace in abundance.