Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ken's Side Of The Story

Cynthia asked that Ken give his perspective on our marriage.  He gladly obliged ~
I will be happy to share from my perspective Cynthia, and how God has worked to bring us both to a deeper relationship with each other and with Him.

For years I tried to be make Lori happy by doing what she wanted me to do, yet always I failed to live up to her desires and expectations.  Even when we finally came to years of “peace,” I lived much like an island in my own home hoping not to make her upset, see her frown, or cause an argument. Lori took care of the kids, the home, the cars, the lawn, the garden, and I took care of the kids' sports, my job, my food, my ironing, and investments. Many nights Lori made her big salads which the kids loved, then they came running for daddy’s food that I cooked. Remember, most of these years Lori lived with a sick stomach and other health issues, so I had to fend for myself many days and nights.   

Between my travel schedule, and Lori’s illness, we still managed to have regular times of physical intimacy, but rarely connected on a deeper emotional.  Once the physical was over we went back to living life as partners with her managing half and me the other half.

Some time back, about 12 years ago, I decided that there were some things I needed to clean up in my life. I try to live a generous and caring life towards others, be a great father, and a good husband in many ways, but I longed to have a deeper and more intimate relationship with Lori. I went to Lori and told her I wanted her to hold me accountable for every time I said a cross word to her, changed my tone of voice, or got upset with her. I wanted to learn to express myself clearly in a caring way without upset, no matter how many times she screwed up the check book or frowned at me.

We played a game for a  couple of months where every time I started making her feel small or demeaned she would say my name, and keep saying it until I stopped.  I felt I needed to catch myself right then in the moment if I was ever going to break the back habits passed down to me perhaps from my Dad and his Dad.

“Ken… Ken… Ken” was pretty common the first month, but it did not take long to break a terrible habit and stop expressing myself in negative ways. I think I even had some sort of penalties assigned if she had to say, “Ken” more than a few times each week. It got my attention and helped me to change.

There were many things I was changing in my life at that time, and confessing to her, seeking her help to hold me accountable for them. What I discovered was that my vulnerability was leading her to finally open up and she too was becoming more vulnerable.

Intimacy is based on trust, and trust only occurs when two in a couple become vulnerable with each other. I grew up in an godly family with loving parents who got along great. Mom was submissive, Dad was loving, and the marriage seemed perfect in every way. Lori grew up with two great parents who lived like islands with Dad working 60 hours a week and Mom handling the family and home.

We both wanted what my parents had, but neither of us knew how to get there.  Fortunately at that same time we found the Pearls' at a conference on Hebrews and our lives were forever changed for the better. We both found the truths of our “new lives in Christ” that Michael teaches so clearly, and Lori found the best book I have never read, Debbie Pearl's Created to Be His Help Meet.

Lori came to me one day about ten years ago and said, “I finally figured out how we can have an intimate relationship!” I said, “I'm in… what do I have to do now?”  She paused for a moment, looked me right in the eyes and said, “There is nothing you can do. I need to please you.”

“I like the way that sounds!," I exclaimed as I headed to my office upstairs, and she came running after me saying, “No, no, what can I do right now for you, right now.”  Well, she caught me so off guard I wasn’t thinking clearly or we might have headed straight to the bedroom, but instead I said, “Well, my shirts are never ironed. Maybe you could iron some for me.”

With that she headed off to iron some shirts and ten minutes later she came back tired and said, “You know ironing is awfully tiring. Could I maybe iron a few shirts every day and at the end of the week they will all be done?”  “Lori, I just appreciate the fact you are trying to please me. Iron as many as you like, whenever you like.”

“You don’t believe me do you?” came her retort.  “Lori, all we ever seem to do is argue. If I say white, you say black. If I say its good, you say its bad. We never seem to be on the same page together.”  “That is right,” Lori responded as she put forward her had to shake mine she added, “and we will never argue again.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle watching this scene where my difficult, strong headed, beautiful inside and out woman, was really going to try and please me. I thought I had married a selfish wife and no way around it, I was going to have to put up with her selfishness the rest of my life, because she was mine, and the wife God had given me.

“Can I test you?” I asked.  To which she quickly agreed that I could test her in any way I wanted to. No time limit, no take backs, she was going to please me no matter what the costs. Vulnerability and trust had finally come after 20 years of marriage.

Well as you can imagine the next week was one of mild testing, but more so a time that I watched my doll blossom into all God wanted her to be.  I would start to wash  my own dishes and she bumped me off of the sink and said, “I will do those.” She would do anything and everything to try to please me. What we did not know at the time was she was doing all of this with not only a severe stomach and head aches, but also a brain tumor.

I do not recall if it was two days or a week later, but I found myself sitting across the table from Lori with two teenagers on either side, and we were smiling at each other and making eyes like school kids, when it hit me.  I had fallen in love with this girl much more deeply than even the day I had married her. True intimacy had arrived and we were finally connected to live life under the same roof not as two islands, but as one person in Christ.

We still had lots to work through over the next few years, but having the foundation of finding our New Life in Christ, and both trying to please each other, became the keys to unlocking our hearts to be the fertile ground for true and abiding intimacy.

Yes, we continued to struggle with some things, like arguing, but each time I would say to Lori, “You know you have been a little argumentative lately,” she would respond by putting her hand out to shake mine and say, “It will never happen again.” I no longer cared if it happened again or not, so long as I knew she was truly trying to please me and seeking after harmony in our relationship instead of fighting.

Is our marriage perfect?  Almost! If we could get rid of Lori's health issues it certainly would be close to ideal, as God has answered my many prayers and tears with the most fabulous, godly woman I know. We wasted far too many years, but God is restoring them with great rewards, especially as we watch our kids do it right from the beginning.  

If a couple wants to achieve a great marriage and true intimacy, it can be found by doing things God’s ways… WITHOUT expecting your spouse to reciprocate. Only when both spouses are sold out to do their part no matter what, does it work best. It may take 20 years as in our case, to finally get the wife of my dreams, but it was worth being faithful to all God had in store for us. 

Trust, vulnerability and love are essentials in any relationship that desires intimacy. Until a wife is ready to trust her man by trusting God at His Word, no man can force her.  All I could do was remain faithful to my calling and the demands God makes on my life while waiting patiently for Him to deliver on the desires of my heart. Is this not what faith is all about? Trusting Him even when we do not see the results we want, because we know that His promises may be slow in coming, but the are forever secured by His Word and His faithfulness.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands 
as you do to the Lord... 
Husbands, love your wives, 
just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:22,25