By Dr. Kim Logan-Nowlin & Arthur E. Nowlin, LMSW, CAADC
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This article was written by Dr. Kim and Arthur Nowlin for Message Magazine : Drama Files
Linda began counseling several months ago to address concerns about her marriage. She had been married for only two years when she noticed that her husband was coming in later and later every night. At first she didn’t say anything, but 11 p.m. turned into 3 a.m., so finally she realized she had to say something one night. He stated he was out helping his classmates from school change a tire. But when he got home this particular morning his shirt was off and there were no sign of oil or dirt on his clothes. She asked him why didn’t he call or even text. He stated “I knew you would be mad so I stayed out to prevent the argument.” She turned to him and said “I must really look stupid to you.”
The next morning Linda called my office very upset by her husband’s behavior. She admitted that she started checking the cell phone log to see if he had been calling one particular number. As she suspected, one number kept popping up, a female friend of her husband’s. She told me later that week in her counseling session how ashamed she was for checking the phone logs. I reassured her that there was nothing to be ashamed of, but asked her, “where do you go from here?” Linda still loved her husband and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and continue to trust God. I told her that I would respect her decision and continue to counsel and support her.
Several weeks passed and Linda’s husband continued to come in whenever he felt like it regardless of the anguish it was causing her. She would stay up night after night waiting for him and calling the hospitals to see if he had been in an accident. He continued this same behavior month after month. She prayed and cried out to the Lord and she also continued her therapy sessions weekly. Finally, she asked him to attend therapy with her. Although he was very reluctant, he agreed to come.
Arthur and I were both in attendance for the session and Anthony was very polite during our greetings. He said that he wanted his marriage, but that Linda is insecure.
Therapy Red Flags
“I am tired of all her tears,” he said. “She cries about everything.”
Linda tried to stop crying during the session, but it was very difficult. She tried to express herself but her emotions overwhelmed her. After a few minutes helping her to compose herself she turned to him, “ You are making me like this. I don’t even recognize myself in this state of mind.”
Anthony got up to walk out but Arthur called him back in. “I don’t need this marriage,” he said. Arthur walked out with him into the outer lobby and convinced him to come back and rejoin the counseling session.
After two hours of processing Linda and Anthony’s problems we suggested that Anthony consider Linda’s feelings and try to come home at a decent time. He turned to her and said “no one controls me and I will come home when I feel like it. I raised myself and I had no rules as a child. So I will not change for you or anyone”.
Big red flag for Arthur and me. Anthony’s family of origin used little authority during his upbringing, and offered no positive influence during his adult life either. Therefore, he rebelled against Linda asking him to be a good and respectful husband. Arthur and I reiterated that to stay married it would take sacrifice on both parts. Before the session ended the couple agreed to work on their marriage. They left the office feeling empowered to work together and respect one another.
Later on during the month Linda attended a wedding out of town that Anthony was unable to attend. She had stopped checking the phone logs and he was coming home by 11:00 p.m., so she thought her marriage was moving in a positive direction. She told me during the session she was worried about leaving Anthony alone, but she had made this commitment and she was going to keep it. She had spoken to Anthony a few times while she was away and everything appeared normal. Linda said she relaxed and had a very nice time visiting family and friends.
Upon her return she called Anthony to pick her up from the airport, and he said stated he could not come because he was busy, but would see her later at home. Linda was so amazed at his tone and response that she knew he had reverted back to his old ways in such a short time. Or, had he ever really changed?
She had to then find another way home and this was very unsettling for her. While on her way home she checked the phone log and Anthony was on the phone for hours at a time with the female friend, even while Linda was at the airport. She became so hurt and angry. An hour later when he walked through the door he didn’t try to kiss or embrace her. Linda didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to argue. The evening ended quietly but she knew Anthony was not being honest.
The next day she went to work but she came home early because she was so upset. As she entered the house she noticed that the house had been cleaned and certain photos of her had been turned over. Realizing that in their two years together Anthony had never cleaned the house or changed the sheets on the bed, she asked her neighbor if she had noticed anything out of the ordinary. The neighbor stated that she noticed a women getting out of a car and going inside her home, but she thought that Linda was inside. The description of the woman matched her husband’s “friend” exactly.
When Anthony received Linda’s letter informing him that he had 30 days to get out of the house, it was he who could not reach her by phone.
“It is interesting how he can call and text now that I am putting him out, but for the past five months he couldn’t call or text if he was going to be late,” Linda said.
How To Pray Through And Stay True
Linda never had any evidence that Anthony was unfaithful but she knew within her heart he had been. She reflected upon the many scriptures I had given to her during counseling and one of her favorites was 2 Chronicles 20:15 (For the battle is not yours, but God’s). She committed herself back to God, His Holy Word, and she started attending church. She made a decision to be baptized.
Linda realized that she made Anthony her God, and she worshiped him. She was so consumed with Anthony’s actions that she lost her own reasoning, voice, and joy. Though she is still waiting and trusting God to turn her marriage around, she realized that she has to allow God to deal with Anthony.
One thing for sure about Linda now, she can say “either we grow, or you go.” She has learned to apply those words to herself and stop standing in her own way. She is no longer fighting severe depression or acute stress disorder. She has become a stronger woman in Christ and is taking more control over her emotions and impulses. Anthony continues to come home late, and continues talking to and spending time with the other woman.
It is important to recognize, as Linda did after several months of clinical therapy, that she cannot have a healthy marriage without a willing partner. Every marriage takes complete sacrifice and respect which empowers love. True love begins with God, and you loving yourself. Linda loved Anthony more than God or herself. Marriage is a team effort and there is no getting around it. It takes three to make a marriage work. God, you and me. “Though one may overpowered two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiasties 4:12).
The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
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This article was written by Dr. Kim and Arthur Nowlin for Message Magazine : Drama Files
Peter and Joan’s anger often echoed throughout their small bungalow. Insults and name-calling were the normal mode of communication. The anger was not only affecting the relationship between them, but their two small children were unable to participate at school without demonstrating the same behavior!
Early in their marriage, Peter and Joan’s relationship was good and they resolved their disagreements in a more sensitive manner. Somewhere, something broke! It appeared to start out as a minor incident but was soon picking up steam. Their sensitivity to each other was changing.
Peter considered himself a fairly clean and organized person and he became bothered by Joan’s apparent lack of house-keeping skills and the amount of clutter around the house. He felt he was not receiving assistance from Joan and was always asking for her help to keep the home clean. Joan, on the other hand, was more focused on their day-care business and had a difficult time coming home to clean and cook for the family. Plus, as far as the house was concerned, Joan thought that the children should be able to play in the house after school.
Peter also had a hard time with the fact that Joan allowed her cat and their youngest child to sleep in their bed every night! He was allergic to cats. Peter had mood swings because of the on-again off-again relationship in the home. He thought he lacked the support from his wife within the household and felt the issues had become a problem. After all, he thought, all things should be done decently and in order. And in Proverbs 31:27 the Bible states that “[s]he looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
When to see it coming
One of the major areas of dating before marriage is to discuss how two personalities could come together and create a household. Peter and Joan were willing to spend time with each other during the courtship so they tolerated the little red flags of concerns. For example, Peter had convinced himself that he would accept Joan’s cat and just take medication to live in the same environment with the cat. Peter’s plan did not work because as the union between Peter and Joan weakened, so did Peter’s desire to consume medication to adjust to the cat. Another example was housekeeping and responsibilities. Joan was not raised in a environment where that was a major concern. Her parents where not neat, and they did not create an argumentative household simply because of the clutter. Peter, however, was OCD–he had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Peter needed to have everything in their place and would become stressed if the dishes were not washed or the bathroom was in disarray. Joan felt she could adjust to Peter and he could adjust to her.
The marriage was set up for a conflagration. Failure to express sincere concerns of living together caused enough issues that simulated a volcanic explosion later on. This far in the marriage, Peter and Joan allowed their anger to prevent them from moving towards reconciliation. They forgot fundamental principals to enhance their marriage.
The simplicity of praying together on a regular basis was an essential endeavor that had been lost. Reviving that prayer habit was a primary step towards healing Peter and Joan’s relationship. Increasing their prayer life has and will continue to assist them transition from the negative to positive interaction.
The couple allowed anger to be a barrier causing the erosion of their union. The Bible’s prescription in Romans 12:21 is a helpful fence-mender: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Peter realized that he wanted to improve his relationship with his wife and he needed to change his feelings by demonstrating humility, and he truly wanted change.
Being determined to focus on the areas that are broken such as communication, sensitivity and intimacy requires a strategic plan for healing. Recognizing and praying for God to intervene in these areas is crucial.
Peter and Joan are progressing because of their willingness to keep their family together. They are attending prayer meeting and bible study together and have progressed in how they communicate with each other. Joan is even willing to keep the cat out of the bed. The couple is currently in counseling and their names have been changed to protect confidentiality. Remember there is always a solution to change behaviors.