Wife's Past Bothering Me: Forgetting My Wife's Past

Overcoming feelings of jealousy in a relationship can be extremely hard to do. Once jealousy takes root it feeds off itself, justifying itself and seems to nurture an environment that welcomes it.

So overcoming jealousy is never going to be done by not addressing fundamental issues in the relationship or addressing fundamental thinking that is causing the jealousy.

However because the emotions that arise from jealousy can be so debilitating, it helps a lot if you can somehow find a way to diffuse them so that you have the emotional space and fortitude to deal with what is really driving the jealousy.

Obviously for jealousy to be present in your relationship, there has to be a third-party involved - jealousy always involve at least a third-party. And basically this third-party is perceived as a threat to the relationship, or to the security of the relationship.

So since the problem is that you perceive this person as having the power to interfere with the security you wish to feel within the relationship, then you have control over that perception. This does not mean that you are to pretend that the real issues are not to be addressed.

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Overcoming jealousy in the long run will have to involve you and your partner really getting down to tackling these issues.

But for the time being, since you are the one feeling the jealousy, since you are the one that needs to overcome the jealousy, you want to use whatever tools you have available to diffuse it so it does not take root to the point of you getting emotionally exhausted.

Here is one 30-second trick that you can use to diffuse the emotions that arise from jealousy.

Cast the person you perceive as causing the jealousy in the role of a clown or something ridiculous.

Do not perceive the person as having the power to cause you to feel jealous. Perceive that person as something ridiculous that you can laugh at. A clown is one such image that you can easily create in only 30 seconds.

This is of course difficult to do when you are feeling mad and sad. But remember you are doing it for you and to give yourself enough space to deal with the underlying issues. You will feel better in 30 seconds.

Overcoming jealousy in your relationship is going to take some work from both partners, but until that work is done to the point of the jealousy subsiding, you need to take whatever steps to protect your own emotions.

This will not only provide welcome relief, but put you in a better frame of mind towards taking the required steps to overcoming the jealousy that threatens your relationship.

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Numerous men have pondered the questions, "Why does my wife say she's unhappy? What does she want that I'm not doing?" Many of the men raising these questions have been blindsided by a wife's confession that she's not happy in the marriage and wants a separation or divorce. I've seen many examples of this dynamic in marriage counseling sessions that I've conducted.

It can be confusing to try to figure out what a partner wants. And men, in particular, are having a harder time than ever because of changing expectations on the part of many females.

In the past, it was enough for a husband to be a good provider, to have stable employment, and to bring home an adequate paycheck. If he didn't ordinarily drink too much, gamble his paycheck away, mistreat his wife, or blatantly run around, then he was considered a "good husband."

But now, that's not enough anymore for many females. Enter the age of the "soulmate"--a word that signifies a deep bond and heart connection, someone who's on the same "wave length" as his or her partner. Soulmates are compatible and bring out the best in each other. The relationship has satisfying intimacy and includes friendship and companionship as well as love.

The connection between soulmates is sustained by emotional intimacy and the delight the partners share at having found each other. They share feelings easily and keep each other informed as to what they're feeling, what concerns they're wrestling with, what they're worried about, and what their hopes and dreams are. Soulmates often say they feel a spiritual as well as an emotional connection to their partner.

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A number of couples feel deeply connected at the beginning of their marriage. Both individuals are trying their best and are putting genuine effort and energy into the relationship. Even reticent, quiet males often make an effort to talk more and connect at this early stage in the marriage.

But, over time, the quality of the relationship can change--often for very understandable reasons, like parenting demands--and wives may begin feeling disconnected from their mates. Many husbands do not understand the importance of strengthening and nurturing emotional intimacy in a marriage. They may not feel comfortable sharing their feelings. In fact, they may not even be able to put their feelings into words and communicate them to their spouse.

A friend's husband once remarked that he'd rather stick pins in his eyeballs than have to share his feelings. And as a counselor with many years of experience, I know that he's not alone in feeling this way. Many men feel the same way.

The old model of marriage demanded a "real man," and a "real man" didn't cry, didn't show his feelings, and didn't talk about his feelings. He was strong, always in control of his emotions, and he solved his own problems without help from anyone else. While he was being emotionally strong, his wife was usually feeling increasingly distanced and disconnected from him.

Some men have asked, "Well, what do women want, then? Do they want us to act like their female friends do?" The answer is both "yes" and "no." No, they don't expect their husbands to be as interested in every little aspect of certain things as their female friends are (planning a baby shower, deciding what dress to wear to a special event, for example). But yes, they do expect to get emotional support and sharing of feelings from their husbands on a regular basis.

So what's a husband to do who has neglected this vital area of staying emotionally connected in a marriage? For specific recommendations often used in marriage counseling, read Part Two of "What Do Wives Really Want in a Husband?"

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Emotionally detached women tend to be responsible-excessively so! They are responsible for people, places and things. Often they assume others responsibility. This makes them enablers. While they perceive their motives as good, their actions repel those they are aimed at helping. This is very apparent among some husbands and wives.

Men married to these women often find them independent, unapproachable, disrespectful and 'not submitted'. There, I said it: 'not submitted'. Ladies, I know these words are like the sound of scrapping a fork across a plate. To the female soul tortured by these words, I understand. But please bear with me for a few minutes and read further. Husbands need to feel our dependence, approachability, respect and submission. Getting this can be a challenge. It is not simply a matter of the wife changing. He too must change.

See, here's the other side of the story. Men married to these women are frequently mentally and emotionally dependent. They have a tendency to be less responsible than their wives. These husbands permit their wives to assume responsibility more than may be appropriate. When outcomes prove less than desirable such husbands can feel hurt, cheated and robbed. They become angry and blame their wives for poor results. Although they routinely assign responsibility, they resent their wives for taking it. What really might be going on here?

The internal tension husbands' feel after wives accept or assume biblically inappropriate assignments suggests two things. First, there may be some responsibilities God did not intend for wives. When she does so it will cause the husband angst. Whether improper responsibility is offered by her husband and accepted or she grabs it of her own will makes no difference. It invites opposition from God. Additionally, it either provokes a wife to anger, or fertilizes residual anger brought into marriage. Sometimes this anger results in the sin of wives routinely usurping the authority of their husbands. Make no mistake. This is rebellion. God has already judged and condemned rebellion. The wife that rebels needs to repent and practice submitting to authority. (It is very likely that if she has a problem of submitting to the authority of her own husband, she has problems submitting to authority in general).

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One responsibility that God intends for husbands is to ensure the protection of their wives. Protection includes many things. It may include physically protecting her against an assailant, emotionally protecting her against those that condemn her, or spiritually protecting her in prayer. It may also mean financially protecting by ensuring her needs are met. It means many things. But the idea of a husband protecting a wife always involves promoting her safety. It may also involve delegating responsibility to anyone other than do. God, the Father and Husband does not entrust the responsibility of protecting his family to the children or the wife. Nor did Jesus. He left the responsibility of the Church's welfare in the hands of the apostles.

When husbands leave their wives exposed, they are tempted to do what they have always done-take responsibility. Sometimes it is godly and right. At other times, it amounts to seizing their husband's authority and thus rebellion. In the same manner that emotionally detached, excessively responsible wives foster mentally and emotionally dependent husbands; husbands that do not protect their wives encourage independence and emotional detachment. It's a dance! Circumstances provide an uninterrupted stream of music.

Secondly, when a man doesn't assume responsibility for himself, then it is almost impossible for him to take responsibility for others. The answer to the emotionally detached, independent, overly responsible woman is not simply that the wife needs to submit. Don't get me wrong. A rebellious wife needs to learn submission. But her learning submission, will not by itself resolve her husband's irresponsibility. He must choose to elevate his responsiveness.

These husbands need to improve their response to God's requests and requirements for their lives. For example, it is God's requirement concerning the scriptures that all that profess Christ read, study and pray. In II Timothy 2:15, we are instructed to study.

"Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth." (Amplified Version)

Paul tells us that the best way to handle situations that arise in our lives is to pray

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

Moreover, the disciples were devoted to doing so according to Acts 2:24

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (NIV)

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Before a husband can responsibly engage his wife in reading the Bible, he must first read the Bible for himself. His own personal relationship with God and spiritual development require this. The confidence to conduct this exercise with his wife grows out of practicing this exercise alone. The strength to sustain the exercise with his wife is derived from sustaining the practice in his own life. It is unlikely that a husband can be responsible for his wife in an area where he is irresponsible himself. In these situations, he may use his position as head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23) to obtain her compliance. And she does well to comply, unless obedience results in a threat to safety and the well-being of self or others. Yet, her participation should not be mistaken for admiration but as a desire to please God.

"And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him. Wives, be subject to your husbands [subordinate and adapt yourselves to them], as is right and fitting and your proper duty in the Lord." (Colossians 3:17 and 18 Amplified Version)

The emotionally detached, overly responsible woman and wife must do her own work with God. By doing so, she offers the best opportunity, encouragement and reason for the man in her life to do his work with God. The mentally and emotionally attached, dependent man has his own work to do with God. When he engages his work with God it affords the woman in his life the best opportunity, encouragement and reason to do her work with God. They cannot contract to do this work together because it is not solely theirs. God working together with each individual's mind, will and emotions is what accomplishes the work. Husband and wife cannot negotiate God's work among themselves! To attempt to do so only means more of the unwanted same!

Each must become responsive to God on His terms. When one does, all benefit! Jesus proves this. Romans 5:8 reads,

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NKJV)

In order for husbands to get what they want from their wives and be in a place to enjoy it, they must change both their mind and approach toward God and marriage. It's doable! God working together with one willing husband is sufficient to bring about some of the changes all desire to see! Certainly, if God is for this husband then who is it that can be against him?

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Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. ~Ephesians 5:22-24 (NRSV).

The word "submission" is a trigger word in many Christian households. It is likely that some wives will loath the concept because of what their husbands or their churches have made it. "Submission" was never meant by the Apostle Paul to be used as a club for a husband or the church to wield against wives.

Being "subject to" their husbands - the NRSV equivalent of "submit to" in other versions - is not at all about male domination or the husband's superiority. The metaphor Paul is using - Christ the husband, the wife as the church - would be farthest from this crude over-weighted and imbalanced image. Such an image as Paul's is not rooted in unfairness, but love!

Unfortunately, what Paul intended as a unifying concept has become a polarising one - sides are taken, and as such men and women, equally, have grown to detest humanity's warping of the meaning implicit in such a beautiful metaphor for marriage.

With "submission" introduced, let's move into the discussion regarding its practicalities: Reasons 1 and 2 (of five) wives feel vulnerable in marriage are:

1. WIVES DO NOT APPRECIATE DOMINEERING OVERTURES OF HUSBANDS

Who, really, would want to be married to a dictator? Yet, while many wives may at times find this an attribute in their husbands, their husbands may not see it.

When we consider a notional wife who must deal with the domineering husband we can expect one of two common responses. Either she will submit to such marital aggression or she will resist. The latter creates conflict.

Going back to the original metaphor - Christ and the church - we could never picture our Lord lording it over us. His Lordship is consummate of love and of serving the church, as the husband is to love and serve the wife.

The Bible never suggests women submit to aggressive, domineering, loveless husbands. And when the domination moves into the realm of abuse, not disregarding many perceptions that "God hates divorce" (Malachi 2:16), there is ample biblical reason for wives to leave their husbands, if there's no recourse to change.

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2. SOME WIVES FEEL NEGLECTED IN THEIR MARRIAGES

The difference between abuse and neglect is subtle; neither affords love. Where abuse is tangible and problematic in the short term - a bullet through the heart - neglect is like cancer. It tears away gradually and neglected partners are stripped of love in less obvious ways.

It is true that wives have need for affection, conversation, caring, and the nurture of their families. If these vital needs go begging - and there is little care for them in the husband's viewpoint - the wife's marital identity will suffer as a result.

One further area where neglect might be noticeable is in the area of finances. The husband is financially responsible for his family. Given that responsibility - to ensure the financial security of his family, as far as it depends on him - the husband needs to be a diligent steward.

3. SOME WIVES STRUGGLE TO TRUST THEIR HUSBANDS

It may not only be an untrustworthy husband attributable, here. Many women, and also men, find it difficult to trust a marriage partner or other important family because of unhealed hurts - the results of familial betrayal, for instance.

But, discounting the above situation there are some husbands who have found themselves untrustworthy - they have not been respectable in their duty as marriage partners. Whilst it's incredibly important men feel respected in marriage, it's equally important that women find their husbands respectable.

If trust has been broken, and little is done to restore the emotional and moral imbalance, wives may feel backed up against the wall.

If, however, one marriage partner's mistrust of the other partner is more to do with their own insecurities, these issues need to be dealt with head on. Trust is the most important issue in marriage. If a partner deserves to be trusted they should be trusted.

Honesty and openness, finally, are key qualities wives need in their husbands and, though these revolve back to trust, there is a deeper need that may go unsatisfied...

4. MANY WOMEN STRUGGLE WITH A LACK OF INTIMACY IN THEIR MARRIAGES

Men are stereotypically manly and at times emotionally disengaged. This can be disconcerting for women, who are naturally more adept at opening up.

But it's probably not the macho default that proves the biggest barrier. It's more likely to be the husband who is proudly or stubbornly distant - one who doesn't want to see the importance of such intimacy. Again, this could be the many reasons; his family of origin was possibly disjointed or broken or distant in itself.

Notwithstanding how it occurs, a lack of intimacy provides wives marital loneliness.

It's not that a husband has to fulfil all his wife's companionship needs, but if there's a lack of intimacy he fails to connect with her heart.

5. WIVES STRUGGLE WITH THEIR HUSBAND'S LACK OF VISION FOR THE FAMILY

As I mentioned in the earlier article, one important way wives feel loved is through the devotion of a husband and father to his family.

Furthermore, the husband's identity as a family man can either actualise or limit the family structure. His vision for the family needs to be grounded in the day as well as focused on the near and distant future.

The trouble is, today, many men are necessarily consumed by their careers, their other interests (for instance, sports), or by a myriad form of escapism. Everyone needs time to chase their dreams, but a family man needs to be devoted to the home. This is a balance that can only be struck by individual husbands and wives through negotiation. Who can define family vision satisfactorily but the couple in question?

Still, some wives will find their husband's lack of vision (and interest) for the family frustrating, and potentially alienating.

Saying or doing the wrong thing can actually cause your spouse to feel even more distant from you. You can make your spouse fall back in love with you, all over again.

You don't have to worry about whether your spouse is on the brink of asking you for a divorce. You can control the situation and use specific techniques to naturally make them fall hopelessly in love with you.

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