Lorri Dudley

Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

Tag: Marriage

Samurai welding sword

How Do You Weld Your Words?

Samurai welding sword

Writers understand the power of words. Our goal is to carefully craft sentences to stir up emotion within our readers, so hearts synchronize in tempo with that of the heroine and lungs breathe the same air as the hero. The thesaurus is our right hand as we pursue the perfect phrasing to construct an image or engrave an impression.

Often, the power of words is underestimated. We forget how, in Genesis 1, God spoke the world into being. Nine paragraphs begin with “God said,” and then something was created, for instance, “Let there be light (Gen 1:3)” and “Let us make mankind in our image (Gen 1:26).” Jacob, in the Bible, understood the power of a blessing. He pretended to be his brother Esau by tying goat skins to his arms so that his almost blind father Isaac would bless him instead. A father’s blessing was so powerful that when Esau found out what had happened, he begged his father to bless him too, but Isaac could only tell Esau he would live by the sword and serve his brother (Genesis 27).

Words can be life-giving, or words can be a loaded weapon.

Our careers, passions, and lifepaths are frequently formed by words of encouragement that speak life to our dreams, but a negative comment can be a dream crusher. My fifth-grade teacher saw my creative writing potential and instilled the seed of becoming a writer within my heart, but my seventh-grade teacher criticized my grammar and set my dream back twenty years. Now, I kick myself for listening to that seventh-grade teacher (and praise God for grammar correcting software).

Man and woman arguing

Recently, my husband and I have been working with married couples of all ages and hear a lot of “If only he would…” and “She needs to…” We hear a lot of I and me and very few us and we. They don’t recognize the criticism and judgment in their words. Dr. Gottman and Robert Levenson performed a longitudinal study to identify happy and unhappy couples. They discovered a ratio that could depict whether a married couple would stay together versus become divorced with 90% accuracy. That ratio was five positive interactions to every negative one (Benson, The Magic Relationship Ratio, The Gottman Institute, Oct 2017). It takes five compliments to overshadow one criticism.

James 3:10 says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” But, how do we change the pattern of spewing criticism? I’ve taken to praying as David did in Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” It’s a daily struggle to die to the greedy pride of self and bite our tongue before it starts a fire that burns out of control.

What of those hurtful comments that still echo in our ears? Deuteronomy 30:19 God says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” We can choose blessing and shake off the hurtful words that have hung over us like a dark cloud. We can choose life and life-giving words to live by.

We can weld the weapon of words for good.

Sword

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Couples fighting

Unstir the Pot – Calming the Battlefield

Couples fighting

The kids scatter to get away from the tension between mom and dad. Yelling, screaming, tears, a door slams. Words have been said that can’t be unsaid.

Most fights are not the iconic scenes of the movies like Braveheart where William Wallace inspires his warriors with a freedom speech before they charge into battle. Mr. and Mrs. Smith movie posterOr, the fantastic light show of sabers as Luke Skywalker holds a final showdown with his Darth Vader dad.  Or, even the witty, I love you, but I have to kill you now, undercover spy humor of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Usually, fights are trivial, hurtful, and often a simple misunderstanding.

Misunderstandings are what develop conflict between the hero and heroine in most romance novel plots. It can be anything from hiding a past shame to believing the hero may be an actual murderer. Whatever the conflict, it’s good to know how and why fights progress. In my research, I came across two types of fighters: duckers and confronters.

Duckers prefer to hide or ignore the issue hoping it will resolve itself on its own. When forced into a confrontation, they think, I don’t need this, or I don’t have time for this.

Confronters prefer to attack the issue. They want to air it all out in the open. When faced with a ducker they think, he’s/she’s not willing to fight for me and wants to press their spouse into standing up for them.

Here’s an example of an argument from my manuscript “Love Never Fails” between a confronter (Abby) and a ducker (Nick). For some background information, Abby’s husband Nick had gone missing during the Napoleonic Wars with France. He’s suffering from what now would be diagnosed as Post-traumatic stress disorder, and even though the war ended, he’s allowed everyone, including his wife to believe he was still deceased.

 Abby crossed her arms over her chest. “Do you have another family?”

“No!” Nick’s bellowed answer reverberated off the cramped cabin walls. His eyes flicked to the lieutenant who stoked the fire as if it was his sole purpose in life.

Abby’d grown tired of excuses. The truth must come out. Tonight. She lifted her chin higher. “You know, for a moment, I was actually relieved to discover you were a spy.”

“I’m contracted out by the War Department for specialized missions.”

“You’re a spy.”

“You’re not listening.” Nick stared into the fire and dragged his fingers through his thick hair.

She continued to watch him, using silence to demand the truth.

He let out a low growl. “Yes, I’m a spy. The lieutenant is my liaison. He can confirm I have no other family.” Cynicism tinged his voice. “Since my word isn’t enough.”

A single nod from the lieutenant verified Nick’s statement. Once again silence fell over the room, interrupted only by the popping and hissing of the fire. Lieutenant Spark’s eyes shifted between her and Nick before he slowly stood, faking a yawn. “It’s been a trying day. I’m going to turn in for the night.”

Abby followed him with her eyes, using it as a chance to blink away tears. Lieutenant Sparks grabbed a blanket from out of his saddlebag and curled up in a corner facing the wall.

Nick continued to stare at the blazing fire. He snapped a twig in his hands and threw it into the flames one piece at a time.

“You never meant to come back home, did you?” Abby demanded in a hoarse whisper. “I discovered you by accident. You planned to sneak back in and grab your bow and arrows while I slept.”

“Don’t do this, Abby.”

Abby stood. “I waited for you for ten years. I prayed and prayed and prayed until I thought God had forgotten me, but you were alive.” Her arms hugged her midsection. “Did you ever plan on telling me?” She shook her head. “No, of course not. That’s why you suggested I remarry because you wanted to continue to play dead so you could resume spying for the crown.” Hot tears choked out her voice. “You would prefer a cloak and dagger life over being with me.”

“I wanted you to remarry,” he hissed in a rough whisper, “so you could have a chance at happiness.”

Abby crouched beside him, her tone lethal. “I’m already married.”

“I’m not the same boy you wed. I was giving you an out.”

“I never wanted an out. I wanted you. I wanted a life and a family of our own. You never gave our marriage a chance.”

“Don’t turn this around on me,” he roared. Nick’s gaze flicked to the lieutenant’s sleeping form and lowered his voice. “Everything I did was for you.”

“What did you do? Save me from heartache? My heart shattered into a million pieces ten years ago.”

His hands clenched into tight fists. “I don’t need this right now. You’ve made up your mind. I’m the bad guy. I can’t reason with you if you’re not going to listen.”

“So, you’re not even going to try?” Hot tears flowed freely down her cheeks.

Nick chucked a large stick into the fire and stood. “I can’t do this.” In three long strides, he stalked to the door. The wooden door crashed into the weeds as he exited, leaving a gaping hole.

Love and Respect a book by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs talks about the “crazy cycle” in which married couples can find themselves trapped. Men yearn for respect. If they don’t receive it, then some will withhold love using it as a weapon to lash out. In the same line, women yearn for love, but if they’re not getting it, they may disrespect their husband as a method of revenge. Dr. Eggerichs found that these tactics only land couples in an endless circle of dishing out more disrespect and unloving behavior. He encourages people to break the cycle. How? Husbands—by being bold and doing something that shows your love, even if you think she doesn’t deserve it. Write a love note, buy flowers, finish the honey-do-list. Wives—respect your husband, even if he may not have earned it. Tell him qualities you admire in him, thank him for working or even taking out the trash, encourage him. Even little acts of love and respect compounded over time can reverse the “crazy cycle.”

I know I’m a hopeless romantic (it’s why I write romance novels), but I believe there’s a reason why little girls play princess and boys pretend to be superheroes. Deep down women want to know, “You’re worth fighting for,” and men want to hear, “I believe in you.”

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