The Number One Predictor of Divorce (and how to get rid of it)

Is there something in your relationship that predisposes you to divorce?  According to studies conducted by John Gottman, a professor and head of The Relationship Research Institute, the leading indicator of potential for divorce is found in the way a couple communicates.  The presence of criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt are all bad signs, but contempt is the worst.  Gottman claims that when he and his imagesresearchers discern contempt between couples it is an 85% plus indicator that divorce is imminent.  Malcolm Gladwell detailed the method Gottman uses in a book titled Blink.  The method is simple; a couple sits together and discusses whatever they like; whatever is on their mind. Researchers measure their body language.  Facial expressions. Posture.  Body and hand movements.  They dissect a video of this exchange and categorize what they see.  And they can see contempt.  Is that hard to believe?  Not for me it isn’t.  I don’t need a super slo-mo break down of someone’s body language or facial expressions to detect contempt. It is hard to define contempt, but I know it when I see it, and I know something else; I know when I am showing it.  How about you?  Can you feel it when you are receiving or giving contempt?  I can understand why it is a predictor of divorce.  It is belittling.  It is discounting.  It is placing someone below you and acting as if who they are and what they think are of no consequence.  It is relationally corrosive whether you give it or take it.  Contempt is relational rust, and it will disable not only our marriages, but our friendships, our families – anything it touches.

According to the research I should be divorced.  Not only have I dished out a heap of contempt upon my wife, but I have done plenty of things worthy of her contempt.  But there is a secret to disinfecting our marriages.  There is a way to stop the rust in its tracks, and to restore and renew the metal underneath.  It isn’t painting over it.  Some years ago the Secretary of Defense came to visit our ship during a Fleet Exercise off Puerto Rico.  The Captain ordered us to paint the bridge wings even though we didn’t have time to properly prepare the surfaces.  We painted right over the rust.  The Secretary came and walked around our great looking bridge wings.  He came and went in an hour.  A week later we had all the rust plus paint peeling all over the place. The bridge wings looked worse than than ever.  You can’t paint over rust.  You have to acknowledge it and take a grinder after it until the metal shines.  And this is how you survive contempt.  Acknowledge it, and grind it out.  This is simple, but it isn’t easy.  The way we discovered it was the way most of us survivors discover it; we got married to a person who we never thought we’d hold in contempt and ran right into the fact that both of us were contemptible.  This was a shock to our system, so we did what most people do; we glossed over it.  We pretended it just wasn’t there.  After a few cycles of shocking ourselves and covering it over, we had a real mess on our hands.  We had contempt popping out from under our paint and we couldn’t ignore it any more.  We had to face the fact we married someone contemptible, and then we had to decide to grind it out.  Getting down to bare metal is not comfortable.  It hurts.

The truth is that it takes more than just you or your spouse to get it done.  We are not contemptible people because our spouse says so – marriage didn’t make us that way, it only revealed what was already there.  It revealed the true and deeper relational rust.  There is corrosion at a much more profound level; between us and God.  What God did to save us from this was truly amazing, and it was what saved my marriage.  The gospel is that God who could belittle us and count our opinions and lives as meaningless, demonstrates through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that he does not hold us in contempt.  God allows himself to be held in contempt so that we don’t have to be.  Do you see the practical application of this?  How can my wife hold me in contempt when God doesn’t??  She can’t keep me there!  If God says I am beyond contempt, I am beyond contempt and no one can hold me there but me.  And when I try to arrest my wife and throw her into my own little holding cell, I realize how ridiculous it is to try keeping her there.  This is the grind; the gospel meeting contemptible people day after day, knocking off the real cosmic rust and taking us back to a true view of ourselves.  My wife and I live with this grinding as a reality.  It keeps us shiny and new looking through the harsh environments we’ve sailed through in our marriage.

An Unusually Good Reason to Get Married

“But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
(1 Cor 3:28)

The only people who don’t believe this are either comatose or they’ve never been married.  If your goal in life is simply to avoid trouble you are going to have to avoid people – and the further away you get the better off you’ll be.  Marriage is the exact opposite.  It is putting on the handcuffs and swallowing the key. It makes everything more difficult.  Youtrouble may be able to avoid every one else but how can you avoid another person when they have become ‘one flesh’ with you?  You can’t.  Avoiding trouble means avoiding growth and life.  Conflict with no resolution is hell.  No conflict and no resolution is stagnation.  Conflict and resolution equals growth.  Living things grow.  A good reason to get married?  It will cause trouble.

What My Wife Likes to Wear

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There is a perfume my wife wears that makes me nuts.  Its called Pleasures…yeah.  She wears it well.  But there is no perfume that can make a woman smell so good as the compliments of her husband.  The scent of a well loved woman is obvious to anyone around her.  A man who takes out a bottle of the finest praise and pours it all over his wife will fill his home with the fragrance of life.  And thats really what we want more of right?  Just life.  None of us is too poor to afford the most expensive and desirable cologne.  We should use it lavishly.  Does your home, your marriage smell like a locker room?  Full of competition and clashes and cutting words?  Mine has.  Plenty of times.  Its usually because I’ve treated my wife like one of the guys instead of treating her like she is a woman, The woman.  The one I chose and the one who chose me.  Competition is over.  We won.  Cutting words are really putting down my own self, belittling my own choosing.  Calling myself a loser.  Cutting my self down.  The reason we don’t have enough compliments to pour out on our wives isn’t that they are not worthy of them, its because we lost sight of who we are.  The world takes it out of us.  The world gives us nothing if we con’t pay for it in sweat and blood and time.  Compliments?  Did we earn them??  More than that the constant pressure of bosses and banks and brothers pushing us out of shape, putting us down so they can go up on our backs.  It is hard.  Very hard to see ourselves rightly.  Listen carefully.  The reason you don’t give compliments to your wife any more isn’t that she “lost it” some where, its because you lost it.  You stopped seeing yourself for what you are; a man.  A man who lives before the eyes of God.  What does God think of you?  If his eyes condemn who can stand up?  Who can fight back?  Who can wrestle against that power and win?  But if that God renders and opinion about you, if He compliments you, who will contradict it?  Who will take it from you?  If only you could know what He thinks of you.  Does he render a good opinion?  Does He compliment?  The gospel says yes.  He gives an opinion.  He offers his praise.  You are worthy of it.  We are worthy of it.  He heaps praises upon us through the gospel.  He thinks so highly of us that we are stamped with it.  Complimentary.  Free.  Given without asking a price.  Paying the price so that it can be given.  Look at you.  Man before God.  God looks upon you with favor.  Do you believe it?  Do you accept this opinion?  This compliment?  Now look at your wife.  Pour out life in your home.

A Man’s Take on a “Gentleman’s” Take

An article titled “A Gentleman’s Take On Why Women Should Never Settle For Less Than They Deserve” showed up in my Facebook feed today.  I don’t know what is more funny/sad; the article itself or the commentary it is accumulating.  Go read it for yourself ladies and see what it makes you feel.  Guys go and read it too and ask yourself if you downloadwant this man around your wife, sister, daughter, grandmother…any female you actually love and respect.  Does this sound like a gentleman?  The author obviously believes he is a gentleman, many of the commenters agree, both male and female, and over 27k people shared it so far.  Why is this getting so much traction?  This article’s take on women is so demeaning as to be a bad joke; a parody I’d expect out of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.  The author unknowingly illustrates his own point.  The reason so many women lower their standards is that the standard is so low that he can seriously pass off patronizing womanization as gentlemanly!

Earlier this week I wrote an article about the effect of more and more men using pornography.  Ultimately that effect is the objectification of women; reducing women to things rather than beings.  A Gentleman’s Take shows you the result of a porn saturated male mentality.  Not that the author himself is a porn user, I have no idea about that, but he writes from a culture where porn has dumbed down both men and women to the point where a man can assign himself not only the title of gentleman, but can purport to speak for all gentlemen on a web site that calls itself “The Voice of Generation Y,” in an article so silly, immature, and condescending as to be written by a horny 13 year old boy in any high school freshman english class.  The picture accompanying the article itself contains specifically pornographic elements intended to do what porn does; titillate and attract.  And the content reveals that gentlemen read poetry, roll their r’s, and like to get a few vodkas into a woman before they gently and oh-so-politely invite her into their bedroom (which is probably in his parent’s basement).  Evidently gentlemen are not very humble because other men are just “losers” who are “not worth the squeeze.”  The author ends by suggesting that women go out there and find a hopeless romantic (like him) because they are men not boys.

To the porn saturated mind, women are primarily objects of desire.  Men and women alike adjust to this reality.  Men maneuver to obtain the object and women maneuver to become more desirable.  Men who lack one tool to obtain their desired objects will find others.  The same with women.  The interplay between the sexes has always operated like this to one extent or another, but porn amplifies it by making sexual satisfaction of desire so readily images (1)obtainable that men can get whatever they want out of a digital woman without opening a door, buying a dinner, or meeting her mother.  Women are competing with cheap digital hookers for the attention of men.  This is how an article written by an obvious womanizer gets widespread acceptance.

How can we all, men and women, escape the lowering standards?  Go on a war against pornography?  Root it out of popular culture?  Men need to become men and women need to become women, not within the confines of a romantic relationship, but before the eyes of God.  Kierkegaard said there was only one “sin unto death” – one sin that would kill us as dead as dead can be – and that it was trying to become a self outside the presence of God.  Ladies, if you try to become your self merely in the presence of a man, even the best man, a true gentleman, you will never be all you were meant to be.  Your standard is too low.  Gentlemen, if you try to shape your self in a way that makes you acceptable to a woman, even the most lovely and worthy lady, you will not become all you were meant to be.  Your standard is too low.  God’s opinion of us is so high that every other opinion is not only a low opinion, it is a life-stealing opinion; it is death unless it is taken in relation to his opinion.  Don’t think so?  Try consoling your daughter when the boy she is dating decides someone else is better than she is.  Watch her wither.  What will you do for her?  Tell her another boy will come along?  His opinion will restore her to life?  For how long?  The best boy may grow into a man and give his whole life to her, but there is a helping-handsday coming when sweet lips cease to speak and a gentleman’s touch is cooled by death.  And that opinion is forever lost.  She must have a higher opinion and truer opinion, a permanent opinion.  There is only one man who gives this and gave it and promises to keep giving it.  The gospel is God’s opinion of us.  It is the promise not to hold us to a higher standard, but to lift us to an impossible standard.  This is the answer to our pornographically broken world; to accept his elevation.

“And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

How Much is It Worth?

6a00d83451eaab69e200e54f51816f8833-800wi“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work – whereas economics represents how it actually does work.” ( Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner)

This is an interesting take on reality, and on the surface appears to be true.  A shorter, older way of saying it would be:  every man has his price.  But there is a deeper layer to reality economics can’t account for.  Morality is real.  Money is more real than morality.  But love is more real than money.  The shorter, older way to say that would be:  money can’t buy love.  Every exchange of goods and services does have economic principles attached to it, but the things we want more than money; love, meaning, respect, hope, none of these can be monetized or placed on a stock ticker.  In fact, much of the frustration we experience is the realization that we’ve been fooled into thinking economics is the pathway to the real things we want.  We all come to know one way or another that the highest love is the freest love;  the love we want is completely unattached to any market considerations.  This is why the gospel is not morality and cannot be purchased; it is the highest love and the most free.

Find the Right Thing to Fill the Gaps

Look in your bathroom where the tub meets the floor.  There was a gap there because the07-96-03 tub isn’t perfect and the floor isn’t perfect AND because the floor isn’t the tub and the tub isn’t the floor (in other words there is a gap because they are not one and the same.)  You probably can’t see the gap too well because someone, probably the builder or maybe the owner, filled in the gap with caulk.  Caulk is good for filling gaps because it is sticky and elastic.

Ever notice there are gaps between you and other people?  Now gaps aren’t the problems, but what we fill them with can be.  The best thing to fill a gap between two people is love; it’s sticky and elastic.

Love, Bono and C.S. Lewis

c-s-lewisBut you can’t be numb for love
The only pain is to feel nothing at all
– Bono, A Man and a Woman

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Lovesphoto_brownim_bono