It has been two weeks since my MOPS talk on December 5th. The morning went well. Very well. I love to speak in front of a group of women when (1) they actually want to hear what I have to say! and (2) I am passionate about the subject. Marriage is such a subject. It is a blessing and a privilege to have the opportunity to share what is in my heart with others. Thank you MOPS of Voyagers Church for such a warm welcome!
So, what did I actually end up teaching? After much prayer and much thought, I ended up with three seemingly unrelated topics that I wove together. I think each area is so important, and given the fact that I had one shot and only 30 minutes, I had to try to address all three. I know I talked too fast. Hopefully I was coherent! I think they got it though, judging from the smiles, laughter, and occasional tears. Want to “hear” some of it?
MOPS TALK BULLET POINTS
1. Find a safe venting partner.
We all experience pressure. All of us would benefit from a listening ear, i.e., someone who will listen to us, and listen, and listen some more, but will not try to “fix” us. I’m not talking about counseling, I’m talking about releasing built up steam! Our husbands can’t always be that partner (probably wouldn’t be healthy for our relationship). Our sister may not be the best choice. Our best friend may not either. Who is?
Let me begin by telling you who is NOT a good candidate for a venting partner. Someone who talks about others. Someone who is frequently sarcastic, snarky, or prone to gossip. Someone who is quick to make judgments and then freely and easily voices those judgments. NOT A SAFE PERSON!
Do you know a mature (meaning older in faith and maturity, if not necessarily chronologically older) woman who walks in grace and mercy? Someone whose life reflects Christ? Someone who is an encourager? Someone whose words express faith and hope? THAT is a good candidate for a venting partner.
Once you identify such a person, ask if she will be a listening ear, or mentor, if you will. One caveat: Woman to woman, man to man. It is too easy to transfer emotions to a man who understands, unlike your clueless husband. Be wise.
Treat your relationship with care. A friend/mentor is not a personal counselor. She is simply a safe place to vent in order for you to release pressure and think more clearly. Do not have unrealistic expectations or you will set her up to fail.
Which leads to the next point.
2. Be realistic in your expectations for your marriage.
In general, you will be disappointed or happy in life depending on how well your perceptions of what is happening match what you expected. We can set the bar too high, and our husbands will never be able to fulfill those expectations, or, we can set the bar too low and not challenge ourselves or our husbands to be the best we can be.
Unmet expectations can lead to great disappointment and frustration in your relationship. However, many of us aren’t even aware of what we expect in our relationships!
So, what are we to do about expectations?
1. Be aware of what you expect! Did you expect Prince Charming? The Perfect Man? Your One True Soul Mate? Sorry to tell you, you’re doomed to disappointment.
2. Be reasonable in what you expect! Fidelity, friendship, and partnership are reasonable. Also, you should expect conflict. Conflict isn’t a problem, it is how we handle conflict that can become the problem.
3. Be clear about what you expect! If you aren’t clear in your own mind, how can your spouse possibly know your expectations for him and your marriage.
Remember, marriage isn’t about YOU. It isn’t designed to meet all of YOUR needs, YOUR wants, and YOUR desires. You are a team, building a family together. Marriage is about US!
3. Learn to handle conflict in a healthy way.
The following are the ABC’s of Relational Conflict that Ken and I developed for our marriage seminar. Use these tips to get a grip BEFORE you launch yourself into the fray.
A – Assess your own feelings.
Ask yourself – What are the feelings I’m experiencing? Why am I so angry? Disappointed? Hurt? Frustrated?
Try to understand the reason you respond out of that emotion. The presenting problem is often NOT the real problem. Try to identify the source of those emotions.
B – Before responding, make sure you correctly understand the intention of the other individual.
Don’t assign motive to your spouse’s actions. Don’t assume you know what they are thinking and feeling. Ask questions for clarity. Actively listen in order to hear the emotions BEHIND the words. Watch body language. Try and put yourself in their shoes. Remember, you aren’t the only one in conflict! Your spouse is feeling the same emotions you are.
C – Communicate your feelings in a non-threatening way.
Don’t allow your emotions to get in the way of managing or resolving your conflict. Proverbs 15:1 tells us “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger!” Do you want to resolve your conflict or do you just want to be right? Do you need to win every argument? Communicating your feelings in a way that will bring resolution rather than further conflict is important. Yelling, finger pointing, aggressive posturing and the like are threatening ways to communicate, they are also ineffective. Self-control goes a long way when communicating your thoughts, needs, and emotions.
There you have it, my MOPS talk in a nutshell. You don’t have to be a Mother Of a Pre-Schooler to understand that finding a safe way to vent pent up emotions is so important to health. Having realistic expectations is important to health. Having the ability to effectively manage conflict in marriage or any relationship is important to health. I think the MOPS group was encouraged. I hope you were as well.
Blessings to you!