Saturday, November 18, 2006

Letting Yourself Go

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had dinner with some old friends who happened to be in town.

Over chips, salsa, and mexican food, to our surprise, they began sharing about the marriage struggles they had experienced over the past year.

The wife began to share about the changes she had made in order to preserve her marriage. She confessed that she was frequently angry and lashed out at her husband and kids. Also, she had put on about 40 pounds and her husband no longer found her attractive.

They were both pretty miserable in the relationship. The husband found himself in circumstances where he was tempted towards having an affair. He strayed emotionally, but had not yet strayed physically. He told his wife that unless they could learn to be happy together that he was going to leave.

Jarred into dealing with reality, the wife was broken before the Lord. The Lord began teaching her ways to deal with her anger. He also began showing her sacrificial ways to show love and care for her husband. She lost the 40 pounds.

It was at this point that they were sharing with us. She had obviously humbled herself completely in order to preserve their marriage. The husband patted her hand and proudly explained how well she had done in making these changes.

Naively, I asked the husband what the Lord had taught him through all of this. He basically said he hadn't changed much, but he certainly appreciated the changes in his wife.

While he excused himself to the restroom, she described through tears how she learned to die to herself when dealing with the criticism and other actions of her husband that still hurt her and previously caused her to respond in anger. She described the insecurity of always wondering if she was good enough to please him. This had been an underlying issue in their marriage all along.

This was the stage they were at right now, she chose to die to her own needs and desires in order to save the marriage. I choked down another chip and silently prayed that the Lord would use the changes she had made to produce a loving and generous response in her husband.

And I wonder, which of the two let themselves go?


Anonymous said...

Excellent post Grace. Wow.

I think that's a very important question you ask at the end. I think this scenario is true in lots of marriages, where one person thinks all the marriage problems are the other person's fault. I've been there, and it can get ugly. Only by the grace of God has our marriage survived something similar.

I will pray for your friends.

Robbymac said...

My best friends just split up after 21 years, and in all my conversation with them, and their four teenagers, the same thing comes up again and again:

One will admit to having problems and owning up to the need to change, while the other insists that the spouse is the problem and blames everything on them.

The only difference is that in this case, it's the wife who refuses to see her own part in the marital situation.

We will pray for your friends; please also pray for ours.

Stephen said...

great post, grace

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a Christian motto that says, "Let go and Let God"?


Just a very strange situation, and I feel bad for the wife.

BarBarA said...

Excellent point - who did let their self go? Sad, but hopefully he will also be humbled and be able to love his wife the way she's chosen to love him.

aBhantiarna Solas said...

Wow ... this is one of the saddest posts. I'll be praying for both of them. I'll also be praying that they get into counseling.

Inheritor of Heaven said...

Very interesting that this post comes as my wife and I are attending a conference called "Rekindling Your Spirit" which is being done by the author of the new book of the same name, Paul Singh. So far the weekend has been opposite to the first premise in Purpose Driven Life (It's not about you) and in fact in terms of marital change, it is about you. I will try and post more about the conference later but in essence it is not about changing your spouse but about each understanding his/her own issues, woundings, pain, and baggage and allowing the Lord to bring change, healing, understanding, forgiveness etc. When one can accept and receive the love and power of God, then can they be able to give that love to their spouse. I think you were quite correct in you last two paragraph assessment of the situation.

Dave said...

I think you're question implies that all the blame lies in the lap of the husband, but to gain 40 lbs. is without excuse. She did eventually lose it so she couldn't complain that it was a "glandular problem" like a lot of women do. I feel she should share the blame for selfishly getting fat like that. Her sacrifice should be commended though and he should support her in slimming down to beautify herself.

pamhogeweide said...

I'm glad my husband loves me and still desires me even though I've put on about 40 pounds in our 18 year marriage. Just last night during some um, pillow talk, we affirmed our commitment to each other. We expressed our gratitude to each other for the security of the commitment in our marriage.

We've both padded out a bit over the years, but Thank God I'm not married to a superficial man who needs eye candy to remain a devoted marriage partner.

grace said...

So true, blaming isn't a helpful way out of marriage issues. I'm glad you guys found your way through the rough spot.

It is so sad and difficult to resolve when they aren't both equally willing to take responsibility and contribute to restoring the marriage. I will pray for your friends too.

thanks stephen!

I really do hope that the changes she has been willing to make will sustain them until they find a healthier place of mutual support for each other.

I think that to the point we only focus on our own needs and give the other person complete blame, we really are "letting ourselves go." I believe it's possible that her love will open the door to changes in him also.

It is sad. What's equally sad is that even though they are both strong christians, they've endured this sorry state of a marriage for so many years. I hope they find more happiness in their future together.

I very much agree with the ideas you shared. I believe it is out of our woundedness that we damage our relationships and out of our wholeness that we find the capacity to love in ways that prefer one another.

Nothing implied, just the fact that, at this point, she is the one who has made changes to preserve and improve the marriage. Because their issues are much deeper than her weight, my prayer is that they will eventually find healing for all of the root issues, both his and hers.

Yes the true beauty in a relationship is the enduring love and commitment. It's so awful to think that love and desire would suddenly end if one or both partners become a little bit "fluffy."

Robin said...

Funny, Grace, I accidentally hit your blog when I was closing a window. To say I have quite a few blogs bookmarked is an understatement, and when yours popped up, I realized it had been some time since I read (I'm slowly shifting to reading through Bloglines, but have never gotten around to adding all my "favorites".)

Anyway, way tmi, I'm sure, but your renovation caught my eye; we're in the middle of a bathroom remodel that has been going on for over a month now, and I'm afraid it will be for at least a few weeks more. I'll be posting before/after shots, too, the end result will certainly be worth the hassle.

But this post...this post...breaks my heart. The wife truly is living "a life that is not her own"; her ACTIONS personify dying to self, and it's sad it appears she is the only one who recognizes the need to change. It would've been difficult for me not to resort to some sort of passive-aggressive response when the husband came back, but that would've certainly shown my immaturity, been rooted in the flesh and my own finger pointing, and likely would've fallen on deaf ears, anyway.

During a time in my own marriage (around year 18), we hit a rough place. It had been building for years although I don't think either one of us saw it. As my eyes were opened and I recognized how detached I had become...and that there were unmet needs (from my husband) that could be met from somewhere else, I was scared to death. I tried to verbalize that to him, and he was open to change; the things I "needed" I'm not sure he's capable of's just not the way he's wired. That being said, my prayers began to change--rather than wanting God to effect change in his life, I asked God to change ME through the circumstances that were beyond my control. This sounds like "where" your friend is....she's willing to allow herself to change for the good of their marriage, but with no expectation of her husband doing the same. That may be as good as it ever gets, but I sure hope not, for her and countless others like her :/. It certainly isn't what marriage is intended to be like.

Pam Hogeweide said...

well said robin.

Anonymous said...

This was the stage they were at right now, she chose to die to her own needs and desires in order to save the marriage. I choked down another chip and silently prayed that the Lord would use the changes she had made to produce a loving and generous response in her husband.

And I wonder, which of the two let themselves go?

It is very good of you to realize that there is a bit of a problem here.

Anonymous said...

also...speaking to Dave's comment...if a woman were to say that she was leaving her husband because he had gained 40 lbs. she would be lynched!

Lorna said...


but bless her heart - to work so hard for this - losing 40 lbs is so mean effort

Trailady said...

It takes two to make a marriage work. I have tried to re-invent myself to make my marriage better. Doesn't work, I only ended in total frustration.

Both people have to change & grow in order for it to work. I really feel for your friend and share your well-wishes for her.

grace said...

I'm glad you dropped by. Good luck with your remodel. I added you to my blog reader, so I'll look forward to seeing your pictures.

I am a big believer in the idea that one partner really can change a marriage, because often God can work through the changes they've been willing to make in order to reach the other partner.

Asking God to change me is what has helped in our rough times also. Seems He's never looking to change the other guy, at least at first. :)

Yes, it really was very sad.

I'm still hopeful that God will work in the husband's heart. He's not a bad guy, he loves the Lord, but he's a little slow catching on in this situation.

I agree with what you are saying, because in the end, it has to be mutual. However, sometimes one person can initiate change that produces a positive response in the other person. It can be very difficult though.