AFFAIRCARE

…nouthetic, Christian care after an affair.

Don’t Look at the Toothpick in Your Spouse’s Eye

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Does this ever happen to you? Something happens that sparks a pretty good discussion–something you’re really thinking about and pondering–and suddenly, over and over again, that issue comes up everywhere? That has happened recently here at Affaircare. There was a pastor that came to chat with us while we were offline, but he left us a message/email instead. He wrote:

“David or Cindy – I recently discovered your website. As a counseling pastor I often deal with the subject matter you address. I like your fire analogy. The questionnaires to assess extinguishers and kindlers is also a good idea. One observation that I would make is that the questionnaires focus on the spouse – what he or she is doing. If the questions were changed to focus on the one taking the questionnaire, I think that would be helpful. So often the problem with couples in marital conflict is the focus is always on what the spouse is doing wrong or could do better. I always have to deal with that early on – to get each person to stop focusing on the spouse and to focus on what he/she must change (James 1:22-25 -mirror analogy, Mat 7:3-5 – speck/log analogy). With the tendency of marital failures to “point the finger” I think your questionnaires feed that. That being said, thanks for what you do.”

For reference, here are the bible verses to which our pastor/commenter was referring:

James 1: 22-25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

Matt. 7:1-5 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

[The speck/log anlogy can also be found in Luke 6:37-38, 41-42 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. … Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”]

After that pastor left his message, I started working with a person who’s spouse had a ‘very special friend at work’ and was spending a lot of time listening to and talking with that work-friend whilst simulteously insisting that it wasn’t wrong, it was all perfectly okay, and suggesting that they must have insecurity and jealousy issues if this wasn’t acceptable. Over and over again, the person I was speaking to kept turning the conversation back to “my spouse does this” or “my spouse does that” and even when we were talking about what the client had done in the marriage to contribute to the weakness, gradually the conversation would steer back to focusing on the spouse!   Several times I had to stop and say “You can not change your spouse or make them do anything.  Thus our attention here is going to be on what YOU need to do and what YOU need to change in order to be more in line with the person you should be and more in line with godly designs for marriage!”

ABSOLUTELY 100% the most common issue we find as we speak with married couples is the same problem over and over and over.  It’s looking at the toothpick in your spouse’s eye when you have a big old phone pole in your own eye!  Time and again couples come to marriage counselors and expect us to be able to “see the truth” and within a week or two “make their spouse do things my way” in order to fix everything that took years to gradually erode and destroy.   Most couples do not come to counseling with the attitude that THEY are the one who needs to change or that THEY are the one who will need to put in some effort!  The enormously vast majority point at what their spouse did or said… as if to say “My spouse did something evil and hurtful; therefore it is good and right for me to do something equally evil and hurtful”… as if their spouse’s wrongdoing justifies their own wrongdoing!

As usual, here in the USA, that is almost exactly backward.  (We look at so many things exactly backward!)  In order for marital counseling to work at all, both of the individuals in the marriage have to be willing to look at and work on themselves: the one with the phone pole in there eye is going to need to work a lot!   But the one with the toothpick in their eye still needs to get that toothpick out of there, and they still need to stop justifying the toothpick because “Hey my spouse has a whole phone pole in his/her eye!”

So when you read our blog posts, don’t think to yourself: “Oh my spouse should hear this.  S/He never listens to me and this expert agrees with me. ”  Think instead about how the post may apply to YOU  When you read our articles do not say to yourself: “Well my spouse never does any Love Kindlers anymore.  S/He should do more Love Kindlers for me.”  Think instead about how YOU might do Love Kindlers for your spouse…or which Love Extinguishers YOU do that YOU need to stop.  Don’t look at the toothpick in your spouse’s eye.  Keep your focus on obeying God and being the man or woman God wants you to be, and let your spouse do the same–leave them in God’s hands.

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