“Two steps forward, three back,” Susan muttered during a recent counseling session, feeling obviously dejected. “It seems like we start to make a breakthrough, and then we’re right back where we started.”
“Things weren’t that bad to start,” Brad said angrily. “Why don’t you just relax?”
Having dated for the past year, Brad and Susan, both in their early thirties, were anxious to move forward in their relationship. Yet, they kept hitting roadblocks leading them to feeling discouraged.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be enough for her,” Brad said, looking away.
“And I wonder if that’s true,” Susan responded. “I think you can be enough, if you would only join me in fixing problems.”
“I’m not some touchy-feely guy, Susan,” Brad replied.
“But, you could be a guy who is able to talk to me for more than five minutes at a time. Instead of typing on your computer while I’m talking, you could look at me and show me some attention.”
Brad laughed nervously. Susan turned away and began to weep. Looking up momentarily, she added, “I want this relationship, but only if there can be significant change.”
“I’m doing the best I can do, Susan,” Brad said. “You need to relax and be comfortable with what I can offer.” With that he looked up and asked what they should do now.
Brad and Susan, like many dating and married couples, are in what we refer to as a frog pond mess—layers of problems that overwhelm them and leave them stuck. Clearly neither Brad nor Susan were the problem—both had created a mess, and both would need to take responsibility for fixing it.
In the Frog Pond Mess couples often:
• Feel overwhelmed
• Feel victimized
• Blame the other for their problems
• Experience layers of difficulties
• See no easy way out.
Thankfully, Scripture offers a clear path of freedom from the Frog Pond Mess. Scripture describes it as the way of the fool and the way of the wise. There are two distinct paths with two very different outcomes. It is important that we fully understand these two paths.
Solomon, considered to be the wisest man who ever lived, says this: “The wise inherit honor, but fools are put to shame.” (Proverbs 3: 35)
While this is a short and simple passage, the ramifications are great. What is the way of the wise? What is the way of the fool?
Use the list below to discern which way you are choosing.
Consider that the wise make several important choices:
• They look at their problems with humility
• They choose to apply wisdom to their situation
• They choose to face their problems, often seeking outside help
• They own their part to the problem
• They take active steps to fix their problems.
The fool, on the other hand, approach problems very differently:
• They look at their problems through a lens of pride, resisting help
• This leads to denial, shame and dishonor
• They choose to blame others for their problems
• They play the victim
• This leads them into further problems.
Susan suddenly stood up and, looking squarely at Brad, said, “Brad, I’m not sure why we are having such recurring problems. But, I’m prepared to look at my part of the problems. I know I’ve been critical of you and that is discouraging for you. I’m prepared to have you tell me things I’d rather not hear. I know it won’t be fun, but I want to grow. And I want us to grow.”
She reached out for his hand, tears streaming down her face. “Won’t you join me in really fixing things?”
Brad looked at her and, in a wonderful moment of tenderness, and said he would be willing to look at their problems together.
Smiling at them both, I outlined what change would require of them.
First, the path of change requires humility. As Solomon says, the wise will inherit honor, but not before they face adversity, solving problems. As trite as it may sound, problems don’t solve themselves. We must face them squarely and look deeply within our character to understand the depths of the issues.
Second, facing issues, we ready ourselves for the change process. This requires that we lower defenses that have been carefully erected to protect our egos (pride). Letting go of denial we carefully examine all the ways our behavior has negatively impacted others as well as ourselves.
Third, taking ownership of problems, we determine to remedy our problems. Facing the full immensity of our issues, we humbly count the cost of change. Often utilizing professional counselors, we lay out a path of change. We ask others to help us in our endeavor to become different people. In this instance, Susan and Brad humbly asked for feedback from the other regarding specific issues needing change.
Fourth, outline a clear path of change, with accountability for that change. Change doesn’t just happen. Undergirded with prayer, we must take decisive action. Taking ownership of problems, we must seek help commensurate with the depth of the problems. Superficial assistance will lead to discouragement. Seek to solve problems, leading to a healthier relationship and feelings of encouragement.
Finally, celebrate a new level of connection with your mate. Facing problems leads to solving them and then to feelings of encouragement, glory and honor. Freed from debilitating habits that hurt us and our mate, we experience a new level of freedom. Mired in unresolved problems because of pride leads to despair, while solving problems leads to connection and encouragement.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com where you’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled relationships, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. Please ask about my free 20-minute consultation.