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Thursday, December 1, 2016
When life's challenges press in on your spouse, you can be the haven they need.
I would rather spend time with my darling wife, Jenni, than anyone else on the planet. When life gets crazy, difficult, stressful or frustrating, she is a haven for me.
What does it mean to be a haven for your spouse? Dictionary.com describes a haven as a place of shelter, safety, refuge, or asylum. A haven is also a safe harbor for a ship in distress.
Wouldn't you like to be a haven for your spouse when life gets challenging for him or her? You can be.
Here the ways in which my wife has been a haven for me recently through a stressful and difficult season.
Refuse to Withdraw
A natural response to a spouse whose stress comes out as what my wife calls "prickly" would be to withdraw. But Jenni has learned over the years that I actually need her during these times, despite my sometimes gruff disposition. She's gotten pretty good at hanging in there and maintaining connection, even when it isn't necessarily easy.
Although I may not act like it, I actually want affection from Jenni, even when I'm in a bad mood. Admittedly that can be difficult for her, because my prickliness is not at all attractive. Plus, I may not respond immediately to her attempts to show affection through kindness, concern, empathy and even physical affection. But when she shows me love and grace, it has a big impact on my mental and emotional state.
Jenni will often remind me of who I am, what my strengths are and what God's calling on my life is. She helps me defeat the lies of the enemy by reminding me of the greater truth, despite what may be true in my current circumstances. She also is good at reminding me who God is, even when i can't necessarily see it for myself. She is great at calling me to "higher ground" when I might otherwise stay in the pit.
In addition to the things above, which I also try to do for her, I asked Jenni to describe other ways in which I provide a haven for her when she is having a hard time. These are the things she came up with.
Jenni described my efforts to guard and protect her from over-extending herself as "extreme watchfulness." Because she is naturally a tremendously giving person, she can have a tendency to pour herself out to the point of exhaustion. I try to make sure she doesn't get to that point by proactively helping her leave some margin in her life. And when she gets overwhelmed, I willingly step in to help her out in practical ways.
In addition to helping her not over-extend herself, I also make an effort to see that she prioritizes the things in her life that feed her soul. The most recent example is that I suggested she skip a church meeting that would have meant a late night when she has to get up before 5 am. It would also have meant driving in the dark, which she doesn't enjoy. But I encouraged her to go see Amahl and the Night Visitors, an operetta that delights her every Christmas. (Google it and find one in your area this year!)
Make a Refuge
Jenni reminded me of time I created a sitting room for her in our bedroom so that she would have a place of her own to rest and recharge. This was back in the day when my mother, who was suffering with Alzheimer's, was living with us, and when Jenni felt she had lost ownership of much of our home. She wrote a post about that called A Haven in Our Home. It doesn't need to be an entire room, but think about how you might provide a comfortable space that would be a place of refuge for your spouse.
What can/do you do to be a haven for your spouse? Share your ideas in a comment.
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