Is There An Empty Chair Separating You?

don't let the chair come between you

During the month of August I am sharing the top four lessons that I have learned in our four years of dating and forty-four years of marriage.

By profession I am a marriage and family therapist. Yet I struggle with many of the same challenges that my clients are facing. On this journey of learning how to love another, it’s nice to know that we are not alone.

When I dreamt of being Dave’s wife, I hoped he would see me, love me and appreciate me. Never did I think that loving him would force me to see myself at my anti-loving worst.

Lesson # 3

Loving Another Forces Me to Face Myself!

Our pastor shared a personal experience with us a few weeks ago. He was a wedding guest, but his attention was not on the ceremony. Instead he was distracted by a couple seated five rows in front of him. According to him, they were difficult to ignore. They were obviously not in a good place with one another. Their body language said it all. Tension hung in the air. Suddenly one of them moved one chair over. That left an empty chair between them. No words were exchanged.

As the ceremony continued, the officiating pastor started quoting the familiar words from I Corinthians 13.

“Love suffers long and is kind;

Love does not envy;

Love does not parade itself;

Is not puffed up;

Does not behave rudely;

Does not seek it’s own’

Is not provoked;

Thinks no evil, etc.”

Somewhere between… “does not rejoice in iniquity and …now abides faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love…” the person who had distanced moved back into the empty chair next to their spouse. The scripture had reminded them of the big picture.

As I heard the story I thought of the multiple times over forty-eight years that I have taken a step away from love. The second I do that the tension inside me and between us increases. There might as well be an empty chair between us.

There is a battle inside of me.

I am quite aware of the loving move that is necessary yet there is not one thing in my humanness that wants to take it.

Oh the stories I tell myself from that stubborn prideful place. Yet a still small voice keeps nudging me to move out of my isolation and to take a step towards my husband.

Am I going to imitate Christ’s love or

Am I going to resist and just be mad for a while?

Or am I going to wait till David makes the first move in my direction?

Whatever happens in that moment creates a page in our story…The Story of “US”. These moments happen multiple times in a relationship of forty-eight years. If I choose the loving choice in more of those moments than not, I grow as a lover. The result is our relationship benefits. If I choose to stay angry and upset, I become a bitter, resentful, withholder who sees herself as a victim. Needless to say our connection deteriorates.

boundaries in marriage

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in their book, Boundaries in Marriage challenge me.

“We are only partly responsible for growing our marriages, but we are completely responsible to God for growing our own souls. You are responsible for half of your marriage and all of your soul…no matter what the issue in your marriage, you have to take the initiative to solve it.”

Loving David has forced me to face myself. I’ve had to stop focusing on my husband’s flaws and face all that I do that is anti-love. Guilt trips, angry reactions, withholding, stonewalling, threats are all attempts to control. These are anti-love choices. They are also attempts to take away my husband’s freedom and choice.

In my saner moments I’ve had to acknowledge that if my misguided attempts to control him worked, I would not respect him. Who wants to love a “mini-me”?

There are times I have to take myself by the scruff of the neck, as it were, and say to myself, “Time to confess your anti-love behavior.” Sometimes if I talk to the Lord first and experience his love and forgiveness, it helps me to approach my husband and confess my lack of love. Whenever I own my anti-love choices, my husband receives my admission with compassion and grace. I know I am most fortunate! Some spouses choose to bring the confession up as ‘Exhibit A’ in the next argument and attempt to shame their spouse with it.

Even as I set boundaries on my hurtful words and choices in my interactions with David, I still must choose to move towards him with love, grace, and a willingness to forgive. Why? Because I have been forgiven so much.

That is how the Great Lover of the Universe connects with me. That realization transforms me into a Conscious Lover who reconnects with her husband out of love and out of obedience. The big picture is clear even in the heat of a moment of disconnection.

When I choose to be a Conscious Lover, there is no empty chair between us.

Until the next conscious Lover’s Blog…

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