I am going to attempt one of my most careful and sensitive posts on Revision 3. Why? Because I read a marriage book in an attempt to help me with my marriage problems, and it was unlike any other book I’ve read. I did write some posts on another, more private blog, documenting my reactions and confusions as I read the book. I have since turned that blog off, and this post will be where I stand concerning The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick (2013).
Why I find this book helpful: The early chapters consist of two quizzes, one longer and designed to help me figure out which specific areas of my marriage may be emotionally destructive. The second is shorter and designed to determine if indeed my marriage can be called destructive or if it is merely weak or unhealthy. I did indeed end up with the “destructive” result. Although I didn’t even want to write about this second quiz at first because I didn’t really want to admit my marriage was that bad, now I have found this helpful. My mood swings, my depression, and my “feelings of craziness” are easier to explain. I can now pinpoint ways my husband acts that I don’t like and I don’t want to cover up. I have realized that I’ve been doing a lot of personal freaking out over things my husband does, and then I blame him privately, which makes me feel bad, so I shift the blame to myself, which doesn’t really make anything better, and I end up being enormously confused and feeling crazy. I now can put specific words behind what I’m freaking out about. That is very helpful.
What I don’t like about the book: The author, who is a Christian counselor, covers a lot of different types of emotionally destructive marriages here in this book. While the problems in my own marriage are subtle (yet awful) things like playing mind games and being indifferent to what I want, many of the examples in the book are severe abuse, and so the author is often showing how the husband and wife need to be separated, even to the point of divorce. She certainly doesn’t advocate it in every case, but her advice to leave your emotionally abusive spouse comes easier and more frequently than the advice I’ve grown up with. I wind up wishing for more advice for the less severe abuse cases.
The hardest (but maybe best) advice from this book: The author promotes something called “living from your CORE.” This is a personal strengthening-up. It is about what I do to keep myself strong and well. I need to be committed to truth and reality (that’s a big one for me – as I said before, I was covering up). I need to be open to growth, instruction, and feedback. (I’m open for feedback here, folks.) I need to be responsible for myself and respectful toward others without dishonoring myself. (Another big one – I tend to dishonor myself, and being responsible for keeping myself strong against the ways my husband acts is difficult. I haven’t really figured out the best ways to do that yet.) And I need to be empathic and compassionate toward others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me. (Again, this is difficult. I’ll explain why in the next paragraph.)
My big confusion right now: My confusions tend to change and multiply depending on the day, but right now I have this thought: how do I be content in all circumstances, be forgiving, and still not enable my husband to treat me badly? I can’t even write my way through this one. I simply don’t know.
How am I currently handling the information from this book? One of the things I don’t like about my husband’s way of communication is his tendency to keep important information from me. I am the opposite. I tend to spill out too much emotional information that I probably would be better to keep to myself. So, yes, I’ve already discussed much of this with him, for better or worse. And he says he will work on some things, which I’m happy about. Because I now am noticing what upsets me, I get more pointedly upset at him, but this still leads to better communication between us. It’s better than senseless depression that seemed to have no source.
I am also seeing a need to emotionally withdraw from the relationship sometimes. It’s important that I don’t do this all the time, or I’d be totally cold-hearted and impossible to live with. On the other hand, this marriage isn’t going to be fixed by me alone. So I need to detach myself until my husband is willing to put in some effort toward the marriage cause as well. His big problem is that he’s too busy for anything. I feel bad about pressuring him to change when he has so much work stress as it is. But it’s exactly that stress that is spreading its toxins throughout the rest of the family. I can’t change that. So I have to shield myself against that bad stuff resulting from his bad situation. And I have to do that without allowing it to abuse me. That’s really hard. (Open for feedback here.)
Quote of the Day: “God calls us to be biblical peacemakers, not peacekeepers or peace fakers” (104). I have definitely been trying to be a peacekeeper and a peace faker, and now I have to try to be a peacemaker, which isn’t easy for me. Please pray for me. Thank you.