Once a beautiful princess, daughter of the King, gave one of her Father’s knights a golden ball. At first the knight cherished the ball, keeping it with him always and taking care not to lose or damage it. But then one day, he found himself on the second story of the castle, ball in hand, leaning out the window . . .
If you hang out of a second story window and drop a ball, it will fall to the ground. That is not negotiable – God put the laws of gravity and physics in place, and they are what they are. When it hits the ground, it will bounce and then eventually roll. There is the potential for the ball to roll under the car, into the blackberry bushes, or down the storm drain. If you are not willing to take the risk of having to crawl somewhere unpleasant to retrieve the ball, or possibly losing it altogether, then it would be best to choose not to drop it out of the window.
But you are the one holding the ball. You can drop it or not. If you drop it and it rolls into the bushes, you can decide to leave it there rather than crawl in and get it, or you can decide that you really do want the ball and brave the prickers in order to go after it. The point is that in every single step of this process, you choose. The end location of the ball does not choose for you. It simply gives you your set of options. Had the ball rolled under the car instead of into the bushes, you would have a different set of options, but you would still have a choice.
We all have choices in everything we do. Husbands who are physically or emotionally abusive, who look at porn or have affairs, or who put work, friends, or ministry above their wife’s needs are making choices. If your husband is blaming you for those situations, he is simply refusing to take responsibility for his choice. It doesn’t matter if you are ___ – fill in that blank with whatever he is accusing you of. He can choose to love you no matter what, and when he does, you will naturally respond by giving him what he needs.
You will not improve your marriage by allowing him to avoid responsibility. You will not improve it by permitting him to cross normal, healthy boundaries. You will not improve it by practicing the whole shut up and pray teaching that is so prevalent in churches today. If your marriage is to have a chance of getting better, it will only happen when you start expecting him to treat you as who you are – a princess, a daughter of the King, who deserves love and respect.
Your boundary is like the law of gravity in the ball game up there. It is what it is, and it does not change. If he gives you what you need, then life is pleasant and he has a relationship with you. He’s holding onto the ball, so he’s not going to lose it. If he doesn’t give you what you need – chooses to drop the ball – then something unpleasant needs to happen. The ball rolls into the prickers, and he has to either go get it or lose it. People do not change until it becomes too uncomfortable to stay the same.
Don’t make the mistake of refusing to set your boundary until you are fairly certain that he is in a place to give you the response you want. Gravity does not change based on the mental or emotional state of the person holding the ball. You cannot subject yourself to abuse until he is in the right frame of mind. When you do that, you are manipulating the circumstances to guarantee the outcome you want. That actually takes away his ability to choose, because the result is a foregone conclusion, and it will not meet your needs in the long run. It will also keep him from growing up, because he will never have to actually choose to do the right thing despite how he feels. He will be allowed to do whatever he pleases until he wants to do the right thing.
Of course the downside to setting a firm boundary is that he might choose to drop the ball. He might decide to walk away rather than give you what you need. That’s what happened to me. If that frightens you – if you find yourself unwilling to set boundaries because he might leave you – then you need to ask yourself a few questions. Where is God in my life? Why do I value myself so little that I am willing to accept my husband’s abuse? Why do I not see myself as the princess that I am? If your marriage is in turmoil and you are unwilling to require your husband to treat you well, start by getting stronger yourself. Being nicer to your husband and enabling him to continue in his sin is not the answer. Doormats don’t have healthy marriages.
Your job in the marriage is to respond warmly when he does well, point it out when he’s off track, and stop enabling him. If he chooses not to love you, then he needs to be held accountable for that choice.
If your knight has dropped the ball, get strong. You are a princess. Act like it.
Cindy Bodendorfer served as an RN for 29 years. She is passionate about helping couples understand God’s design for marriage. She homeschooled her 5 now grown children and has transitioned to homeschooling her horses on a small farm in PA. She counsels and blogs at www.ephesians525.org
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