Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Manipulations of the "Perfect Wife"

In our marriage courses at church and among the many couples we counsel, a recurring syndrome has been noticed:  the "abusive victim."  I've seen it among husbands, but in my experience, mostly in wives.

She badgers, complains and nags him because he is not getting things done quite right.  She is a "perfectionist" she claims, she loves him dearly and wants to help him improve.  She also knows how to indulge him with lots of loving actions: delicious food, an impeccable home, affection, hugs and kisses, but she knows how to make him feel like trash, that he doesn't deserve any of it.  She reminds him of what a mess he was when she found him, and how she has so generously "fixed" him.  She subtly convinces him he is one lucky, lucky man to have such a perfect wife.

But the nagging is unreasonable and unbearable.  She always has a justification for it, but she makes sure to push his buttons, over and over again.  Until he finally explodes.  He behaves monstrously.  He shouts, he becomes abusive, he punches holes in the walls.  He knows he is a worthless nobody because she reminds him every day by her attitudes, and something inside of him can't bear it any more.  But now what has he done?  He has proven once again that he is a monster, an evil man, unworthy and oh, so fortunate that this wonderful perfect wife whom he has victimized will accept him back home again. So he bows his head in shame and goes back to her, apologizing and torturing himself that he is less than a man.  And the cycle begins all over again.

She has him in a head-lock, and is draining every bit of life from him year by year.  The big question is, how do you show him the lies that he is believing about himself?  How can you encourage him without revealing the manipulations of his "perfect" wife?

It is a reality that some women enjoy seeing their husband fail and suffer, so that he will always be grateful to her for rescuing him like a lost puppy.  It's sadistic but it's true.  The only hope I see for a couple like this is in spiritual warfare, to break the back of this demon of the abusive "victim".

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Great Power in Gentleness

Counseling a couple with my husband today reminded me of this old fable by Aesop that I had heard in school.  When dealing with evil, that's the time to be harsh and demand that it leave our lives.  But when dealing with others, especially with the ones we love, loving kindness wins, hands down!  Enjoy,

The North Wind and the Sun

The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness.

"We shall have a contest," said the Sun.

Far below, a man traveled a winding road. He was wearing a warm winter coat.

"As a test of strength," said the Sun, "Let us see which of us can take the coat off of that man."

"It will be quite simple for me to force him to remove his coat," bragged the Wind.

The Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat. Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The man on the road unbuttoned his coat.  The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter.  Soon the man felt so hot, he took off his coat and sat down in a shady spot.

"How did you do that?" said the Wind.

"It was easy," said the Sun, "I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bringing Home Baby

Mothers Day is on it's way, and my opinion has been that any birthday ought to be a celebration of each mother who brought that child into the world.  Having been through two long, arduous labors, my mind invariably goes back to those hours of birth every time we celebrate a birthday of one of my children.  Now with anyone's birthday, I feel I can relate to whoever's mom had to go though that life-changing experience.

But as everyone supposedly knows at least in theory, the labor has only just begun!  The actual task of caring for and raising a child is no joke.  I ache for the teen-age mothers who come through the doors of our church; children raising children.  Statistically it's a long shot that they'll raise them well.  I recently met a happily married, well-adjusted couple in their 30's who just had their first baby, and it was a touching sight.  Bright, intelligent professionals, successful in their fields, and totally lost when it came to keeping up with their little bundle of energy.  They had that glazed look in their eyes of people who hadn't slept for days, bewildered that a 25 inch person could throw their lives so out of whack.

A mistake that many new mothers make, especially those who have no experience, is to expect their babies to behave in a way that shows appreciation or love right away.  When her baby cries and is inconsolable, she begins to think that the baby dislikes her.  When she looks at her newborn and smiles at him, but he just gives her a blank stare and waves his fists in the air, she feels rejected.  She tries to hold him close, but he kicks and wiggles and doesn't seem interested.  He seems to only want her for her milk, and her expertise in burping him.  She feels "used" and resents him.  He even reminds her of others who treated her badly in the past.

She has no concept of how a baby's body needs time to develop.  How little he is able to coordinate his movements, focus his eyes on any one object, that he's unaware of what a smile is yet, and can barely hold up his own head.  Instead of just loving him despite how he acts, she feels hurt and offended and is unable to bond with this child who needs her so desperately.  She wants him to give her the love that she hoped for by having a baby in the first place, and when she doesn't see it, she withholds her own love.  And the beginnings of a form of abuse begins: neglect.  Her child will soon be starving for love because his mother was too immature and selfish to be a mother in the first place.

There are some things you ought to know before allowing yourself to conceive a child:

1. Becoming a parent only works if you are ready to give and give and give, and not expect anything in return.  Unconditional love is a choice.

2. Be prepared not to have a good night's sleep for at least 2 years.  Some parents are luckier than others, but still - be prepared.

3. Babies cost money - diapers, food, formula, bottles, juice, clothes, car seats, strollers, toys.  Not to mention monthly trips to the pediatrician and any medicine he prescribes.

4. You will feel at times that: You've lost control of your life. Keeping appointments is a monmental endeavor. You will live the rest of your life covered in baby spit and attached to a large diaper bag. Be patient, and enjoy the experience.  This shall pass.

5.  You will feel like you are loosing your memory.  So many things to remember, nap times, feeding times, extra supplies, extra little t-shirts in case of accidents, extra warm cap, blanket, bottle, toys, snacks,  bring the stroller, or not bring the stroller?  And then you wonder why you can't remember where you put the car keys... Every. Single. Day.  Don't worry, this too shall pass.

6.  Your husband (if you are so fortunate to have one) still needs your love, affection and undivided attention at some time during your day.  If you snap at him when he expects anything from you even when you've been drained to the last drop, you are shooting yourself in the foot.  Give, love, and give again.

7. Don't project your own insecurities on your baby.  If he doesn't respond to you the way you hoped, it doesn't mean he doesn't like you/resents you/wishes you weren't his mom.  Babies are totally dependent on you, and their only opinions revolve around the need for food, warmth, sleep, cuddling and a clean diaper.  Give first, and know that in due time, you will really receive.

4. You don't have a baby so that he or she can make you happy.  You're the only person who can make you happy.

Give your mom a special hug and send her the best of your love, because she went through all of this for you.  For those who have been there and done that, congratulations!  And have a wonderful, blessed Mothers Day!