You Are in Control
Have you ever been utterly humiliated by your spouse in public? I (Amy) got to experience humiliation at the hands of my husband back in February of 2009. It was David’s, our youngest child, seventh birthday. I love this illustration because it is one of the times where I actually handled myself correctly (which is more than I can say for Michael) :-) . Usually I am the escalator and the one needing to apologize for mishandling myself during a conflict. But the dysfunction falls directly on Michael’s shoulders this time!
Our son David loves routine and for the third year in a row he wanted to have his birthday at a place near our house called Pump It Up. It is a great venue for kids and is filled from floor to ceiling with these awesome air-blown trampolines, slides, and obstacle courses. We decided to download the birthday invitations so we could fold and hand them out to all the kids in his class.
Over the years, Michael has learned how to use graphic design programs like Photoshop and Adobe InDesign. When you can’t hire a graphic design team, you do the graphic design work yourself. After we downloaded the invitation, Michael had the idea of making custom changes to the invitation. I was thrilled by his suggestions and gave him the thumbs up to make some changes. We talked about what we wanted added to the cards and then he made the changes. I was quite excited about what we had done to the card! And this would be the last time I felt any kind of positive emotion about this invitation.
The very next morning was the start of a two-day Marriage Restoration Intensive with a couple in crisis for me. This is a program of ours that helps couples in crisis get through trauma and hopefully regain a happy marriage. I had to leave early in the morning and was gone before my kids even awoke. Michael was in his office putting the finishing touches on the birthday invitation when our 7-year old walked in and excitedly asked what he was doing. He showed him the card on the computer and David loved it! Then our son asked a question. The answer Michael gave to his question will haunt me for the rest of my days. “Daddy, can you put on the card what I want for my birthday?”
Sounds like an innocent question, doesn’t it. But Michael had no idea of the consequences his decision would reap in only two short days.
Michael replied to David’s question with a resounding, “Of course! Daddy can put whatever you want on this card!” So our son asked for him to put on his birthday card (that was going to be handed over to every single mother in David’s class), “David is requesting CASH for his birthday present.”
I still have a hard time believing that Michael didn’t even consider how this request may come across as inappropriate and rude. But alas, he did not. Michael printed the cards, folded them up, and handed them out to each kid in the class. It wasn’t till later that day, when Michael was sitting under the big Oak tree at our kid’s school, that he wondered if it was weird to put such a request on a birthday card.
One of the moms in our son’s class was sitting next to him under the tree. Michael leaned over and asked her if she had opened the invitation yet. She said no. He then asked her if it was weird to put David’s request for CASH on the birthday invitation. Her response was classic, “Oh no. You did not put that on David’s birthday card?” He said yes. She then asked if I knew what had been added to the card, and he told her that I had not seen the cards yet. The mom then said to him, “Don’t tell her.”
We are not usually ones to endorse keeping secrets, but Michael did feel that this secret did have real implications on his life going on or ending. Which he was probably correct! I know the wives reading this story are weeping in empathy for me, thanks girls!
The party came and I was clueless about the invitation. I did wonder why all the moms were only bringing envelopes as gifts, however. I even brought this to Michael’s attention! It did not bother me, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I was actually pretty happy that the moms did not feel obligated to bring David more gifts. You see, I assumed that the cards were only cards. I did not know yet that the cards contained CASH! I just figured David already had enough toys and was content with no new presents to eventually organize and clean.
[I, Michael, must interject at this point of the story]
Can you imagine my horror at the total health of my wife! Here I was, getting prepared to be lambasted by my wife, and she pulls out this statement! I could not believe my ears. I knew Amy was loving and gracious, but this was crazy! I already felt bad for what she was about to find out, but then her attitude of graciousness at thinking no one was bringing any gifts only made my sickness even worse.
[I've said my piece, Amy can continue now]
Thanks for giving me permission to continue, sweetie =]. Michael was quickly becoming aware of how much trouble his little invitation was about to get him into. And then it happened. One of the moms, who is also a good friend of ours, came right up to me with David’s present. It was a nicely colored tin jar filled to the brim with coins. She was quite proud of her sarcastic moment and winked towards Michael, knowing full well that she was getting him into trouble! She knew what Michael had done and she was making sure he got in trouble for it. She then handed me the invitation and politely said, “I was so thankful your husband let us all know what David wanted for his birthday present.”
That was it. The secret was out and I did what any wife would do in that moment, I whacked Michael on the arm and then pulled him close to my lips and whispered, “We’ll talk about this later.”
I did it! I actually controlled my emotions and put them on hold until we could finish David’s birthday party. Nothing is worse than ruining a party with a horrible fight. I knew this and actually made a decision to put off the discussion until we got home. I wanted to keep David’s party sacred and the reality was that I did not have to respond with anger. I had a choice, and so do you.
Here is the reality: We all have a choice when it comes to our reactions. There are no victims in a healthy marriage, only two people totally responsible for their own emotions and reactions. We have already outlined for you in the beginning chapters on why you do not want to be a victim in any relationship. Victims feel powerless and out-of-control. The reality is that we are not powerless nor out-of-control. We contain the ability to choose how we respond to any circumstance or situation.
If we do not take control over our emotions and reactions, then Mr. Powerless and Mrs. Fear are going to take control for us. Because if we are not taking command of how we respond, then the only choice we leave ourselves is powerlessness and fear.
One of the more poignant things we learned early on in our marriage is that we did not make each other feel anything. This might sound like an impossible statement. But it is true. People, places, or things can not make us feel or do anything. It is our choice in response to someone’s demands or sin against us.
2 Corinthians 5:10 reads, “Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.” Notice that this verse says nothing about other people. It only mentions us. We will appear in front of Christ one day and will take responsibility for how we handled ourselves while living on Earth. There is no mention of circumstances or other people.
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