When the show 24 was in its prime I was a huge fan. There was always a huge amount of suspense and action and almost every show would leave you wondering what was going to happen next week. Well, you can imagine the disappointment when the next Monday rolls around and you turn on the tube only to find that there is a repeat of an episode from 2 years earlier. I had problems on the program that were unresolved right now that I needed to take care of. I thought the problems from 2 years ago were solved the next hour of the program 2 years ago.
A big fear of many husbands is working through a problem with their wife only to find the rerun episode from 2 years before broadcast to bring back those problems. I have called this idea of bringing up our past failures during an argument as the list. I got together with the Peacefulwife and we tried to come up with some thoughts on the list and some ways we can try to limit or even eliminate the list from our marriage.
We have looked at the Ground Rules in Part 1 and in Part 2 we put the focus on wives and why they might use the list. Today we are going to look at some things husbands can do to respond to his wife when the list is brought up. In Part 4, I will look at some ways that women answered this question over at the Peacefulwife Facebook page. Feel free to look that up and respond to the question from Wednesday there. I will post some of those in Part 4.
The Peacefulwife describes what a wife needs when she brings up the list as “We need HELP! We need the GODLY LEADERSHIP of our husbands! Ignoring our sin is not loving! We will not get better on our own. We need God to open our eyes, but we may need our husband’s Godly leadership and humble, gentle, loving rebuke and instruction to help us see our spiritual condition and to begin healing in Christ. We may also need a Godly wife mentor! Sometimes we can hear some of these things better from another woman.”
(Husbands obviously bring up wives’ past failures too, sometimes, and that is equally wrong. Peacefulwife hopes to address this issue from a wife’s perspective soon on her blog)
Suggestions for a Husband when the LIST is Delivered
Two Week Rule
One thing that worked well for us and came about almost by accident is to use the Two Week Rule. The basic idea was that as a husband my memory for keeping up with past issues was about two weeks. It seemed in order for us to fight fairly in an argument that my wife shouldn’t be able to bring up any failure that was older than two weeks. So, we tried to establish a policy for dealing with a conflict where anything older than two weeks was off limits and may no longer be on the table for discussion. Ideally, the past is not brought up at all and although we had this policy, there is no certainty that the past memories weren’t summoned at least mentally. Overall, though, this method has served us pretty well.
Clean Your Dirt First
Remove the log from your own eye first before removing the speck from your wife’s eye. Deal with any sin that you have in your own life first. Repent of it to God and your wife genuinely. And begin to set a godly, sinless example by the power of God’s Spirit working in you.
Go to the Bible
It may be wise to take your wife to scripture and talk about the command for us to forgive – and how we are all wretched sinners and what a huge sin unforgiveness is in God’s sight. And then to talk about forgiveness and how to forgive and the examples Joseph (in the Old Testament) and Jesus gave for us to forgive. Then it could be wise to read a book on godly forgiveness together. It is very possible your wife needs help learning how to forgive. From the Peacefulwife, “Wives may need help learning HOW to forgive. For many of us, this is a really challenging thing to do. We WANT to forgive – but sometimes we get so bogged down with the past emotions and memories, we aren’t sure what steps to take. Then bitterness can easily take root and cause great damage in our marriages.”
If your wife begins to deliver “The List” of your failures – accusing and attacking you of being a horrible spiritual leader, not being plugged into the family, using porn in the past, struggling with lust, not being involved enough with the kids, working too much, being unloving, not remembering your anniversary… Get up and hold her hand and pull her gently to sit with you or in your lap or beside you on the couch/bed. Look her in the eyes tenderly. If you have already apologized for those things – you can softly say, “Sweetheart, I repented of those sins long ago. You forgave me, remember? Let’s not bring up those old wounds any more, please.”
If she is hormonal or exhausted or sick or in pain – cuddle with her, pray for her, reassure her of your love. If she is hysterical – hold her close. Kiss her forehead and her cheeks. Rub her shoulders. Help her to calm down. Sometimes just your gentle, reassuring, loving touch is enough to melt away the negative emotions and to help her feel connected with you. And gently encourage her to rest. Wives will often run themselves into the ground way after they should have stopped and tried to sleep. “Sometimes we need some direction from someone who has more sanity than we do at moments like that,” says the Peacefulwife.
Pray with Her
If it is a new offense you have committed, you can apologize if you actually did something wrong and say “Let’s pray about this, Honey.” And then lead her in prayer for healing for the marriage. But please don’t preach at her as you pray! You can also say gently something like, “If there is something you are upset about from the past 2 weeks, I am all ears and I want to hear what is on your heart. Please tell me how you are feeling.” Most wives WOULD LOVE for you to ask them what is on their heart every day or every few days. “We desire emotional and verbal connection as intensely as most men desire a sexual connection” – Peacefulwife.
The best approach of all of these may just be to pray with her. Opening up to God with your failures and allow her to share her failures and asking for reconciliation on the issue may put things in the proper perspective for peace. While we were talking about this the Peacefulwife felt that most wives’ anger would disappear if husbands would humbly approach the issues with God together with her. There is a post that is well worth your time to read that we really like titled, The On the Way to Church Fight by McMiracle Blog. It is a humorous look at this very scenario playing out in real life from the wife’s perspective. It may be that if you take care of your relationship with God your priorities for your relationship with your wife may change. Making yourself accountable to God may open your wife’s forgiveness and trust in you.