Dr. Wall advises couples to let each other know what’s going on without having to be asked. The options aren’t recommended unless you are bound and determined to ruin your life and everyone in it.
Rebuke a fool and he will hate you.
The other day my wife, Mary Sue, and I went out for supper. Our schedules were such that we drove separately and met at the restaurant. We usually follow each other on our way home when this has happened in the past. This particular night we got separated and I had no idea where she was. Not to worry. We’ll just meet up at home. Then my phone rang. It was Mary Sue. She said she had to stop at her office to get something before she went home so she’d be a few minutes longer. I said thanks and after hanging up I remember having a tiny feeling of peace inside along with an inner smile.
What was that tiny feeling of peace? It was from Mary Sue bringing me into her life without my request. She was being courteous. We’re only talking ten minutes here, folks. Nevertheless, this is something we do. We’ve never had a conversation that we’re going to let each other know when our schedule changes. We just let each other know when our schedule changes. In our day and age with both of us having cell phones, this is just axiomatic.
The inner smile I had was because what she did was so contrary to what I hear in my work as a marriage therapist. I was grateful for a wife who was so thoughtful. The contrast is startling. All day I hear stories of people who have not let their spouses know things that they were doing in secret. Often these are huge, seemingly unbearable secrets such as affairs, pornography, gambling, alcohol, drugs, or out-of-control spending. Sometimes they are simple things not being said. Sometimes couples aren’t talking at all…about anything!
My wife telling me she’d be a few minutes late is a small thing. Jesus said if you are faithful in small things you would be trusted with big things. It starts with the small things. If you have a habit of letting your spouse know the little things, when the big temptations or huge fears come your way (and the big temptations and huge fears will come your way), talking about them will be no big deal. It’s a natural part of your life. It’s much more helpful to talk about a big temptation, than a big sin! Let’s talk about stuff BEFORE it becomes a problem!
But, you know, if you aren’t used to talking about and being forthright and honest about little things, you won’t have the courage to be forthright and honest about the big things. Let’s let each other know big and small things. Regularly. Without being asked. Just tell. When circumstances change, tell. And when you do, when you tell your spouse these small, seemingly insignificant things, her heart will smile and her spirit will rest. Peace will enter your home.
Trust is built and reinforced when what you say matches what you do. It’s a simple formula. You can mess this up, though, in a number of ways. You can keep silent and not say what you did, so your spouse has no idea what you did and has to fill in the blanks. You might actually being doing something fine and productive, but your spouse hasn’t a clue. You can say what you did when what you did was something else. You can say what you did and that part is true, and leave off the part of what you REALLY did. You can give the impression by your regular habit that you did a certain thing, and not say a thing, but you were really doing something you shouldn’t be doing instead.
The craziness of your spouse is directly related to the number of times that what you say does not match what you did. This is also a simple formula. If you want a crazy spouse, just don’t tell her what you did, or only tell her partly what you did, or tell her a completely different thing than you did. An even quicker way is to not tell her anything at all. Then, when she asks you about the incongruity or the unknowingness of everything, tell her she’s being a nag and a bee-atch. Or get all mad and stuff. Act put out. Tell her you don’t need another mother. Tell her to get a life. Tell her you can have friends. You only had two beers. All the boys do it. It’s an 11 billion dollar industry and it’s legal. Tell her you were at work. Don’t tell her what you were doing at work. Just tell her “at work.” Let her imagination fill in the blanks. Leave lots of blanks. Have lots of unaccountable time. Tell her you are coming home at such and such a time and then don’t come home when you said or don’t tell her when you are coming home at all and when she’s a bit upset act REALLY miffed and sigh and point your finger in the air and jerk your arm around a lot. Stand and look intimidating. Train her to never ask you anything. Train her that she’s crazy. Tell her she’s crazy. Repeat. Over and over. Then, when she quits asking you anything anymore, imagine that you have a peaceful home, because now you don’t fight. Ha! You can have your cake and eat it, too! Marriage isn’t so bad after all!!
I hate making these generalizations, because as soon as I do, there are always exceptions, but it seems to me that men are more apt to make their wives crazy, then wives make their husbands crazy. Certainly there are women who won’t be forthright. But it seems that there are too many men who are bound a determined to NOT bring their wives into their lives. They AREN’T going to tell their wives what they did that day as a matter of principle, a badge of pride. They aren’t going to tell their wives what they did at work that day or what they felt, thought about, worried about or even what they are happy about. Nothing.
Or they lie about absolutely stupid stuff. Insignificant things.
These behaviors will literally make your wife crazy. I’m sure there are state hospitals with separate wings for wives, who were treated this way, who sit on the hallway floors rocking back and forth and saying “It’s all my fault,” “I’m not his mother,” “It’s all my fault,” “Why don’t you trust him?” “It’s all my fault,” “I’m a crazy woman.” “It’s all my fault.”
Here’s how accountability in marriage works: You tell because you WANT to. You WANT your wife or husband to know what’s going on with you. You WANT to bring her into your life. You DON’T WANT him to worry. You WANT to be courteous. You WANT his input. You WANT her to trust you.
So you tell. When your schedule changes, you tell. When you spend money, you tell. When you want to spend money, you tell. When you are worried or fearful or sad, you tell. When you are happy, you tell. You tell what you are planning to do. You tell what you did. Sometimes you even tell while you are doing what you are doing. You tell whom you talked to and about what. You tell about the spirit at work, whether positive or negative and how it is affecting you. You tell about the temptations that came your way and how you slayed the dragons. You even talk about temptations that are coming at you right NOW. You talk about dragons that slayed you.
And if all this matches and what you tell matches what you actually did and felt and thought, an amazing thing will happen: Your spouse’s spirit will settle down. She’ll relax. Her heart will trust in you. He won’t have to guess. You will be known. Being known is the soil where the seed of love grows. If you don’t say who you are, the good and the bad, there is nothing for love to take root. You can’t be loved if you aren’t known, because love covers a multitude of sins. If you let your spouse know what’s going on with you, you will be known and loved. It’s nice to be known. It’s nice to be loved.
You will also find you make better decisions. The temptation dragons aren’t quite so big. You become wiser. Your spouse will tell you things and ask for your input. Trust and love will grow both ways. You will feel closer to your spouse. Your spouse won’t complain that he or she doesn’t know you. Sex will improve. Your financial life will improve. Your kids will settle down. Peace will enter your family. Chaos will leave.
You have two options:
Let your spouse into your life and say what you did and felt and thought for good or ill and be loved and trusted and see your spouse relax and your marriage improve.
Don’t say squat, have unaccountable time, only answer when asked, get all pissy when asked, roll your eyes a lot, accuse her or him of being nosy, have lots of secrets, and lie to your mother on the phone in front of your spouse and watch before your eyes as your spouse turns into an absolute lunatic.
The advantage of the latter is you will keep me in business for years to come.
Thanks in advance.
In this next blog Dr. Wall ponders how little lies ruin our lives. Let your words and actions match instead:
Integrity may seem boring but it’s the only way to go: