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Dealing with the Flip-out - I Do Every Day - October 31, 2019

Dealing with the flip-out

By Janel Breitenstein

You’ve been there: that moment when you present a small issue to your spouse. You’re pretty sure you were gentle about it, but all of a sudden, it’s drama-geddon. 

Yikes. What happened?

Your natural reaction is to slam it down, maybe through control or taking your spouse’s inflamed reaction and raising them one. What just happened? Are you nuts?

Truth: Disproportionate reactions can occasionally be symptoms that something deeper is being triggered.  

When we’re going through a hard time, life can make us feel a little … naked. As humans, our emotional safety is directly tied to the degree of acceptance we sense from those closest to us. As spouses, we need forbearance to look beneath the bear-caught-in-a-trap reaction and be a safe place.

So what does it look like to be a safe place when your spouse is hurting? 

  • Not needing to prove yourself as a good spouse, or his best friend. (Your focus is on your spouse. Not you.) Image management gets in the way of good listening.

  • Receiving your spouse compassionately when she discloses a way she has lost or failed. God loved us with great love even when we were mired in our failure (see Ephesians 2:5).

  • Affirming your spouse, extending grace, and waiting to address weaknesses until it’s an appropriate time (see Ephesians 4:29).

  • Refraining from “fixing”/giving advice (especially pat answers), especially until your spouse feels understood and received by you.

  • Sometimes just being with your spouse in the middle of life’s unfixables.

  • Creating time to listen, undistracted and completely present. (Put down your phone, or that laundry you’re folding).

  • Creating conversation where, through your nurturing questions, he might even come away understanding himself better (i.e., not how you understand him or see the situation).

  • With a low voice and soft expressions, asking questions which might otherwise feel bold. 

  • Showing you’re not upended by realness, even if it’s ugly at times. Your tone has the power to communicate “We’re in this together.”

And guess what? That’s restating the gospel to your spouse: You are more than the sum of your weaknesses. You don’t have to perform to get close to me. 

It’s not us against each other. It’s us against the problem.

It hurts to feel isolated from your spouse. Read more if you find yourself married and lonely. 

The good stuff: Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Action points: Which of these ideas is most helpful to apply as you seek to be a safer place for a hurting spouse? Pick one or two.

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