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Winning Your Wife BackA Game Plan for Reconciling Your Marriage
By Gary Smalley
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 1999 Gary Smalley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneStep ................ One ................
Understand How Penalty Flags Can Damage the Reconciliation Process
As you enter the game of winning your wife back, you must understand certain things, or you can hurt your chances of executing the right plays. My son Greg learned how some actions can drastically damage scoring opportunities when he was playing high school football. Greg's freshman season was almost over, and he still had not done the one thing he'd dreamed of doing his whole life: scoring a touchdown!
In the last quarter of the last game something wonderful happened to Greg. His team was down by 3 points with only a few minutes left to play. Greg and his teammates were on their opponents' 15-yard line, and their chances of winning looked great. Norma and I were sitting in the stands and could barely contain ourselves. I was so pumped full of adrenaline that I felt like running down onto the field and executing the play myself.
As the ball was snapped, I grabbed Norma's arm because the quarterback was dropping back to pass. Greg was a receiver, so I knew he might get the ball. The quarterback ran around until he spotted his receiver and thenreleased the ball. The beautiful, tight spiral seemed to hang in the air forever until it finally landed in my son's hands. "He caught it!" I screamed while almost falling off the bleachers.
"Touchdown!" was the first sound I heard after realizing that Greg had actually caught the pass. But then our excitement turned to disbelief when we realized that the referee had thrown a flag.
"What's wrong?" Norma screamed as she grabbed my arm. I had no idea.
All of the fathers quickly started second-guessing why the flag had been thrown.
"It's got to be holding."
"Did they have too many men on the field?"
"I swear I saw Billy moving before the ball was snapped!"
"Was it pass interference?"
Then suddenly someone shouted, "It was Greg! They penalized him for spiking the ball!" A big moan swept over the stands as people realized what had happened.
I couldn't believe that a referee would call something like that. As Greg ran toward the sideline with his head down, I knew that he would be heartbroken. His dream of scoring a touchdown had been dashed because of a stupid penalty. While Greg stood there facing his coach, I wondered what he must be telling him. "It's okay ... you did your best," or "You idiot ... your stupid antics just cost us the game!"
I didn't like thinking about the latter one. But the reality was that Greg had violated a rule, and it was costing his team the game. At least that was what we thought until someone explained that the penalty would be enforced during the extra point. The touchdown was good! And as a result of the play, Greg inherited the nickname "Spike" throughout his high school years.
Greg's actions that day serve as an important reminder as you begin the reconciliation process. Greg was penalized for spiking the ball, and you may do some things that can keep you from making positive yardage or scoring points. For example, you may quickly lose yardage when you blame your wife for the separation. Furthermore, if you become impatient during the reconciliation process and demand her return, you risk losing major yardage and may have to make up lost ground by doubling your efforts. Specifically, there are nine rules that, when violated, cause the first-down marker to move farther away and make the goal of enjoying a mutually satisfying relationship move farther still. These nine violations remind your wife how difficult it is to trust you with her feelings and may cause her to question your sincerity.
The following recommendations are not a smorgasbord of suggestions-for you to pick and choose what you like. Instead, avoiding all the penalty flags and honoring each relationship principle highlighted here can provide you with a great second-half game plan. That, in turn, will be an appealing invitation for your wife to return. But regardless of her response, becoming skilled in these relationship areas is always to your advantage.
1. Recruiting (Illegal Substitution)
During a football game, a penalty flag is dropped when there are too many players on the field. The same holds true the moment you try to recruit family and friends to your side. Siding may occur-it's human nature. However, resist the urge to campaign; allow people to respond and react as they will. Your job is to stay focused on the goal and avoid expending energy by persuading key players (family members/ friends).
George learned what can happen as a result of recruiting when he was late for a return flight from New York.
"Hurry," George said while jumping into a cab, "get me to the airport as fast as you can!" The cabbie nodded, and they took off at more than sixty miles an hour.
Just ahead a stoplight was bright red. The cab shot through the intersection without slowing down the slightest bit. "Are you blind?" shouted George. "That was a red light!"
The cabbie was unfazed. "I don't believe in red lights, sir, nor do any of my five cab-driving brothers."
After several more hair-raising hurtles through red lights, George was relieved to see a green light. Just before the intersection, however, the cabbie slammed on the brakes. "Are you insane?" screamed George. "That was a green light!"
"True, sir," replied the cabbie. "But you never know when one of my brothers may be coming through."
Attempting to recruit key players to your side can result in your learning what the New York cabbie already knew. When you recruit others, you never know when the practice will run a red light and come back to hurt you. Recruiting draws a penalty flag because of its boomerang effect-it potentially can come hurling back. As this happens, it becomes very difficult to accomplish your goal of reconciliation because your wife is almost always driven farther away.
In every situation there is a way to respond that is best. But the reverse is also true. For example, the urge to share your side with your kids can be difficult to resist. You may feel that they are getting only part of the whole picture or a one-sided view. If you sincerely believe that lies or partial truths are being communicated, pray that truth will be revealed, then trust the Lord. The negative ripple effect of taking sides, or recruiting, is far-reaching. Therefore, hold on to the truth of Romans 8:31 (NKJV): "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
2. Blaming (Intentional Grounding)
Closely tied to recruiting is the penalty flag of blame. Someone wisely observed, "A man can make many mistakes, but he isn't a failure until he starts blaming someone else."
Blaming your wife for the marital problems can leave others with a distorted image of the situation. John was a blamer. He didn't like his job, he struggled through all of his relationships, and he couldn't get ahead financially. He was convinced that if he could somehow escape the real world and its troubles, he would be happy. That thought process led John to enter a monastery.
The monastery had an excellent reputation. The monks there really knew how to forsake the world's allure, which appealed to John, so he gladly signed on. At his first meeting with the monsignor, John learned about the code of discipline. "My son," the monsignor began, "at this monastery we abide by a strict code of silence. Consequently, you will be allowed to speak only once every five years, and when you do speak, you will be limited to two words."
John reluctantly agreed and went about his life at the monastery for five years. Year after year he searched for the real meaning of life in the halls of silence. When the first five years were up, the monsignor called John to his office for the opportunity to speak.
"All right, my son, you may speak your two words."
Without a moment's hesitation, John opened his mouth and uttered his feelings. "Food bad!"
John left the monsignor's office and went about his duties faithfully for another five years. At his ten-year anniversary at the monastery, he was called in to the monsignor's office for the uttering of the words. Once again, John wasted no time and quickly blurted out, "Bed hard!"
John quietly left the office to work another five years in silence. After fifteen years in the monastery, John took the opportunity to express how he felt. The whole experience had been too much for him, so he merely said, "I quit!"
The monsignor fired back, "Well, I'm not surprised. All you've done since you've been here is complain!"
John never seemed able to see the good of monastery life. Instead, he chose to blame his problems on trivial things. Likewise, when you blame your wife for your current situation, you rob yourself of taking advantage of the reconciliation game plan. Football players know that one of the best ways to beat the opposing team is to defeat them mentally, so they will start fighting among themselves. The same is true in your relationship. Blaming your wife makes winning almost impossible because arguments and fighting usually result. As you try to run your reconciliation plays, blaming has the same tragic effect as tackling one of your own players.
We encourage you to resist making "you" statements such as, "You're the one who needs to change," "You should have warned me that our marriage was in trouble," "You're not the same woman I married," and "You weren't submissive enough," as reasons for your behavior. These "you" statements are devastating, and they seldom improve your situation. Therefore, to win your wife back, avoid using these types of blaming statements. The most important reason is found in Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV): "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
Using a statement such as, "You were just too sensitive," stirs up more anger in your wife. As this happens, the blaming backfires and exposes your resistance to improve or change. Just as the Buffalo Bills felt hopeless going into half time down by 25 points, your wife may lose hope when faced with blaming. Try to keep your focus on improving your character and loving your wife by meeting her needs. When you experience the urge to blame your wife, remember King Solomon's wise words: "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered" (Prov. 17:27 NIV).
3. Having a Critical Spirit (Unsportsmanlike Conduct)
Pointing out every black spot on your wife's white uniform deserves an unsportsmanlike penalty every time. Lecturing your wife seldom produces the results you desire. Demeaning and dishonoring speech usually breeds only contempt. She'll not only refuse to play on your team, but she'll refuse to suit up, keeping her nowhere near the playing field.
A young man saw firsthand how harmful critical words can be as he boarded a plane. He sat down next to an elegant woman wearing the largest, most stunning diamond ring he had ever seen. He asked her about it.
"This is the famous White diamond," she said. "It is beautiful, but a dreadful curse goes with it."
"What's the curse?" the young man asked.
As the wife criticized her husband, imagine what the young man must have thought of Mr. White. Poor guy! How did such a rich man get to be so stupid! or What in the world did he do to deserve that?
When you heap criticism on your wife-her looks, her decisions, her thoughts, her likes or dislikes, her plans, her handling of the family, or her managing of things-you do damage that may lead her to never see you again. No one enjoys playing for a coach who continually rants and raves, barks out orders, throws headsets, and rides everyone's back (especially if he has made wrong decisions in the past).
4. Being Impatient (Encroachment)
One of the strangest football bloopers I ever saw took place during the final minutes of a hometown game years ago. Down by 5 points, the home team needed to stop their opponents from getting a first down. Unless they were stopped, the other team would kick a field goal and put the game out of reach. It was third down and 9 yards to go, so the opposition set up in a passing formation, meaning they had five receivers and no running backs.
Seconds before the ball was snapped, a linebacker from the home team tried to guess the snap count, so he could hurdle the center and sack the quarterback. The linebacker got about 10 yards back and came flying toward the line. Unfortunately for him, the quarterback saw what he was doing and stepped aside. However, the center didn't realize what was happening. When the quarterback moved, the ball was snapped, and it went rolling back unguarded. The amazing part was, the linebacker had flown about 5 yards past the line of scrimmage, and the ball bounced right to him. The home crowd went wild as he raced 60 yards for an apparent touchdown. When the celebration died down, everyone realized that the linebacker had been penalized for encroachment. No touchdown! The worst part was that with the penalty yardage, the opposing team easily picked up the first down and went on to win the game.
In the reconciliation process, an encroachment penalty flag comes flying out when you become impatient. If you become too anxious like that linebacker, you might miss a golden opportunity to win back your wife's trust. As you respect your wife by giving her the gift of space, you can turn the momentum back toward your side. Do not fear that the reconciliation process will be slowed down unless you are in contact. God can bridge any gap.
Regard this separation period as part of your training program. To build up strength and get his body into shape, a player must spend many hours in the weight room. Consider this separation as exactly that-you're spending time in the "wait" room. You can use this time to build your relational muscles by developing friendships with people who can encourage your spiritual growth and hold you accountable. Use this time to humbly wait on God's will for your life by living out Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV): "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
5. Setting a Time Frame (Illegal Snap)
One penalty flag that will be thrown sky-high results from imposing a time frame on your wife for reconciliation. In other words, you try to control the game clock. By trying to control her response to you, we mean using comments like these: "It's been long enough ... You should be able to trust me by now ... How long are you going to punish me?"
A naval captain learned the dangers of trying to control others when in the pitch-black night, he realized that his ship was on a collision course with another ship. With the collision alarm blaring, he sent a message to the approaching vessel: "Change your course ten degrees east."
As all eyes were focused in the direction of the approaching object, suddenly, a signal in return read, "Change yours, ten degrees west."
"What?" the captain furiously shouted. "Who does this guy think I am?" Angry, the captain sent: "I'm a navy captain! Change your course, sir!"
"I'm a seaman, second class," came the reply. "Change your course, sir."
The captain was enraged. "I'm a battleship! I'm not changing course!"
There was one last reply: "I'm a lighthouse. Your call."
Like the navy captain's attempts to manipulate the lighthouse, your attempts to control the situation could cause your wife to become an immovable rock and resent you more deeply. As a result, she may interpret your control as a lack of understanding and may extend the time that she spends apart from you.
Another way to receive a controlling penalty is to spiritualize your efforts to win her back. For example, saying, "The Bible says that a godly woman submits to her husband," or "I know God wants us back together now," can only increase the distance between you.
Excerpted from Winning Your Wife Back by Gary Smalley Copyright © 1999 by Gary Smalley. Excerpted by permission.
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