Listen to the broadcast "Embracing Your Unique Love Story" with Rhonda Stoppe.
One day the emotions I'd been suppressing spilled out. As I unloaded on my husband, Steve, I knew my words hurt him. But I didn't stop.
Finally he asked, "What are you saying? Do you want me to leave?"
"Why should you leave?" I sobbed. "Maybe I should go."
As the words left my mouth, even I couldn't understand why I said them. I adored Steve. He's the love of my life. But I'd become a miserable mess. For months I'd been spiraling downward and I knew it. I just didn't know what to do about it. And I couldn't adequately explain to Steve how I felt.
During this time I'd often give our new baby to our older daughter and turn on a movie for our toddler so I could hide in my room and plead with God for help. But God was silent. I felt alone, afraid and ashamed of being unable to shake the cloud over me.
Steve's concerns grew when he came home from work to find me weeping. He let me cry. Then he said, "Babe, I've known you forever. You're just not you anymore. What's going on?"
I wanted to get mad at Steve, but I knew he was right. I'd always been a joyful, laugh-out-loud kind of girl. I loved life. And I deeply loved my husband and children.
The sudden change occurred after our third child was born. I didn't know it then, but I had postpartum depression, which turned into a hormonal imbalance causing monthly PMS.
As I considered how to help Steve understand, I recalled something I'd learned from relationship counselor Gary Smalley. He described the powerful influence of communicating with word pictures.
"Imagine you were a werewolf," I said to Steve. "And every full moon you were going to turn into a werewolf whether you liked it or not."
Steve said, "A werewolf … go on."
"When you turn into that werewolf you're gonna eat anyone near you — even if it's your young. And the only hope you have is if someone locks you up until the full moon passes." I paused for emphasis and said, "Babe, that's PMS."
I could tell I'd struck a cord with Steve. The word picture helped him gain a sense of my desperation. And it prompted him to identify with my plight and respond with compassion.
Many women with hormonal imbalances don't even know why they feel so overwhelmed, agitated or weepy. And because the imbalance seems to play itself out in the way a woman thinks or responds, it's natural for Christian women to feel ashamed — which leads them to isolate themselves from others.
Maybe you struggle with hormonal imbalance, too. Here are some ways to help your marriage survive:
Use word pictures
Whether you're the wife who needs to help her husband understand her hormonal issues or a husband who wants his wife to realize how he feels, you must communicate.
Telling a story helps you to communicate in new and more effective ways. Telling a story can allow you to explain your perspective in a way your spouse can relate to on an emotional level.
Believe the best
First Corinthians 13:7 says that love "believes all things." This means love chooses to believe the best about the other person.
In three decades of ministry, Steve and I have watched marriages fall apart when couples dwell on each other's negative aspects. This leads them to think they'd be happier with someone else. Such a mindset is a recipe for disaster because it gives Satan a foothold to undermine their marriage.
Wives: It's tempting to blame others for our emotional breakdowns. But 2 Peter 1:5-7 says that to our faith we should add virtue, knowledge and self-control — with perseverance (steadfastness).
When you're hormonal, it's difficult to control negativity. But God can help you "take every thought captive" to the obedience of Christ ( 2 Corinthians 10:5).
Your marriage can thrive if you ask God to help you persevere in thinking well of your spouse — no matter how you might feel.
Husbands: Rather than blaming your wife whenever her mood shifts, ask God to help you sympathize with her fragility. First Peter 3:7 advises husbands to "live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel."
While you cannot completely comprehend her vulnerable state, your attempt to do so can help her. When my husband responded with empathy, I felt loved and understood. I was comforted knowing his heart was with me.
Don't go it alone
In Christian circles, there's a temptation to act like everything is OK when it isn't. Christians worry about how people will view them if they share their struggles. So, they pretend.
I felt shame when I couldn't gain spiritual victory over my crazy emotions. And I wasn't prepared for how negatively it affected our marriage.
When facing trouble, find help from mentors who can relate, pastors or biblical counselors. Many couples wait until they're in real trouble before they seek help. Don't be that couple.
In my situation, Steve encouraged me to seek help from a nutritionist and also a doctor who specialized in PMS. I tried to resist his prompting because I wanted to believe I'd get better on my own. I didn't. Learning from a professional that I had a medical condition was my path toward real help.
While I hate remembering how fragile I was, I love knowing how God used my situation to prepare me to help others. Second Corinthians 1:4 says that we comfort others "with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
God used our trial to equip us to mentor other couples in similar circumstances. Draw near to Him, and to each other, and God can do the same through you.Rhonda Stoppe has three decades of experience as a marriage mentor, pastor's wife, author and speaker. She's the author of The Marriage Mentor and several other books.