I just returned from a whirlwind weekend back in my old neighborhood in Pennsylvania where we held a shower and celebrated the upcoming marriage of the son of my dear friend. It was good to be back. It was wonderful to see our friends again but it was also a confirmation that Pennsylvania is no longer our home. It wasn’t sad. It was a good sense of saying goodbye to one place and hello to another.
Today’s question: Truly, very little has turned out (thus far) the way I had hoped starting 20 years ago. It's not all bad, but certainly not as I had envisioned.
I have grown through this process and recognize my innate tendency to sin and am working to raise my awareness, pay attention to my reactions and self-talk, replacing lies with truth.
My question is this – how do I stand up for myself in a godly way when I feel my dreams, talents, ideas and creativity have been squashed or let go in order for my husband to pursue, achieve and live as he wants, with very little regard for how I feel or what this does to our marriage and family? I feel like that question originates from a place of “victim” mentality and that nauseates me because I don’t want to be that and I know that is NOT how God has fashioned me–yet I speak as if I am.
Learning CORE strength is indeed new to me and takes time. It feels foreign to me right now, which perhaps is why it is difficult to understand. I resonate with where the pastor’s wife is because if I stand up to my husband and choose to acknowledge the truth of our marriage relationship, it has the potential to change EVERYTHING for myself, our children, our family–literally everything in life as we know it. When I have tried to talk to him about my feelings, he twists things and tells me I have “greener grass syndrome” and “I think I have it so bad.” I am left with the idea that would have come to me with ease 20 years ago “for goodness sake, stand up for yourself!!” I wouldn’t have hesitated to do so 20 years ago. Now, it's as if I had never known of such a thing.
Answer: Thank you for bringing up this issue. I think many women will resonate with your dilemma. You feel that although you have tried hard to be a godly wife and mother, you have not flourished as a person. In deference to your husband’s goals, needs, wants, desires, and agenda, you have lost yourself. I don’t know if this has also happened with your children and in being their mother, you have forgotten that you are also a person.
You are also very wise to recognize your current thinking as “victim mindset” rather than owner mindset. When we are in a victim mindset, we feel powerless over “what’s happening to us.” We tell ourselves “he won’t let me” or “I can’t do it.” We feel stuck, scared, angry and resentful that our husband (or whoever) has not supported our dreams, talents, creativity, etc. And when we don’t recognize this victim mindset, we blame others for our life instead of taking ownership (responsibility) of our problem and doing something to change it.
Therefore, I am so glad you are aware of this tendency and want to change it. But you also say you are afraid. You said, “If I stand up to my husband and acknowledge the truth of our marriage, it has the potential to change everything.” Yes, you’re right it does. But would that be all bad? If nothing changes and it stays the way it is, is that all good?
And, what is the truth about your marriage? From your husband’s perspective, the truth about your marriage most likely is “it’s a good marriage. I’m happy the way things are.” And why wouldn’t he be happy with the way things are? Everything revolves around him. Sounds like a good deal for him. So be careful when you approach him with the truth about your marriage. What’s true for you is probably not true for him.
Therefore, a more strategic way of speaking up right now is not to talk about your marriage directly, but to talk about yourself. For example, you might say something like,
“I have a problem that I want to talk over with you.” (When you identify the problem as you and not him or your marriage, he won’t be as resistant to listening to you nor will he be as defensive. Most men like to help people solve problems). When he gives you his attention say something like this – (as it fits for where you are at.)
“Over the years I thought it was really important to pour myself into helping you build your career, help our children get adjusted to school, and keep the home environment as stable and peaceful as possible while you……..
But lately, I’ve been feeling flat-lined as a person. I need more for myself. Don’t get me wrong, being a good wife and mother is important to me, but that’s not all I am. I think I’d like to……..(Take a class, get a part time job, volunteer at…etc.). I believe that having some outside activities will do me good. I’m ready to stretch my wings and I wanted to talk this over with you before I get started so that we can work together to readjust schedules as needed.”
Then stop talking and wait for his response. Don’t suggest what he should do. Let him problem solve with you on your request. If he resists, you can add, “I’ve always been very supportive of your dreams and goals and I would like you to be supportive of mine.” If he continues to give you grief or kickback simply say, “This is not negotiable. Even if you can’t or won’t support this for me, I am responsible before God to steward my life and I feel God has more for me to do than simply take care of a home and children. I already do that well and I have more for me to do.”
(NOTE: you are not asking his permission, nor are you asking for his opinion on whether you should do it or not. You are NOT talking about your marriage problems or his problem of being more the taker in the relationship and you the giver. But you start the change in your relationship dynamics when you inform that you are taking responsibility (OWNERSHIP) of your life and that includes adding some more things into it so that you are feeling more satisfied and fulfilled.
By making this one tiny change, you are also inviting him into more mutuality and reciprocity in your marriage. You are inviting him to show care about your needs and to adjust his schedule to support your new goals. But, his support is NOT REQUIRED – and if he chooses not to give it, you still must support yourself in your new goals or otherwise you will continue to feel and behave like a victim rather than an owner.
So start here to speak up for yourself instead of with the tougher topic of your marriage relationship. However, you can initiate the same stance when he does treat you with disrespect by simply stating, “That is disrespectful and I won’t allow myself to be talked to that way anymore. When you can speak respectfully to me, I’ll listen, otherwise, the conversation is over.” Do not argue about this or negotiate. You must be firm in your resolve, not mean in your voice tone.
One of the most important changes you need to make right now to transition out of victim mindset is to stop waiting for him to change. Stop waiting for him to love you like you want him to love you, to support your dreams, encourage your growth, or to want the best for you. Being an owner of your one precious life is taking that responsibility upon your own two shoulders and encouraging and supporting yourself to become the woman God has for you to become(Click To Tweet).
Yes, it’s wonderful when we have a supportive man by our side, but it’s not a prerequisite. There are plenty of other people that God can use to lift your arms and support you in this new journey.
Friend, what helped you to transition out of victim mindset to owner mindset that helped you to stop waiting for someone else to fix your unhappiness?
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