Wrong Delivery: 3 Marriage Thoughts on Communication

We have an ongoing issue in the Barringer home. Our mailbox, periodically, gets mail for someone who lives 4 blocks from us. It’s not like it’s random mail from the neighborhood but from a home who possesses the same house number but on a completely different street. It’s kind of frustrating, but we do what we always do: go for a walk and drop it off in their box.

But it stirs up the question of “What have they received of ours?” The first thing on my mind is the 2-3 items we’ve ordered from Amazon that never arrived. Amazon has been great in giving us refunds, but, the point of ordering stuff is to actually have it delivered properly to the home.

(Side note: As I typed that, an Amazon notification literally popped up on m phone telling me about my next delivery. Here’s to hoping it actually comes to MY mailbox.)

Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. As I’ve learned personally and painfully, you can have all of the parts and systems of a vehicle in place, but if you run out of oil, the car will seize and massive overhaul has to be done in order to be functional again (I miss my ’89 Chevy Blazer). So goes the communication in your marriage. In my judgement, most marriage issues are less about the actual “issue” and more about a breakdown in communication. And if proper, healthy communication is in place, the issue can be in place to be dealt with (if not solved because of clarity and understanding).

What does that have to do with today’s subject? Everything. As cliché as it may sound, communication isn’t about WHAT you say but HOW you say it. In other words, what I find happening between a husband and wife is, not a lack of information being given, but the delivery of that information. And dealing with “miss-delivery” is not just about missing necessary information from being delivered but healing the rifts cause by it.

Please understand: Just because you’ve “said something” doesn’t mean it was communicated properly. I hear from pre-marital couples all the time about this. I’ll ask them what they think the strength of their relationship is and, more often than not, communication is the first to come up. The most common reasoning: We talk all the time. But I submit again: talking doesn’t constitute that the information was delivered and received.

This may blow your mind but…Your spouse is not “you.”

In fact, he/she may be NOTHING like you. Not only is your spouse the opposite sex but could be your opposite in every way. From the make up of their personality to their background, you spouse (like mine) could be your polar opposite. So if that’s the case, care over the “delivery” of your communication matters just as much as the actual information being exchanged.

Don’t allow “time” to replace “tactic.” 
There is, often, a tendency to take the people we are closest to for granted. Because we have had more “time” or history with someone, we allow a relaxed approach to our “delivery” in our communication. I get it. From my spouse, to my staff, to the congregation I lead, it’s so easy to depend upon the amount of familiarity built over time to replace the stewardship of my words, tone, and approach to communication.

It’s effortless to put the blame on somebody else and defer ownership over miscommunication to somebody else by saying “he/she should know what we mean.” What we are saying in that statement is, “I am refusing to own up to the fact that part of the communication issue at hand has the potential of being my fault.” Don’t allow the depth of “time” be permission to not be strategic in your delivery. Think about who you are talking and the best way to convey the information.

Make it “sugar-free” and digestible.
“Straight talk” or communication through candor may feel good to you, but may come off as unfeeling and/or crude to your spouse. “Raw” doesn’t necessarily mean “reliable communication.” What I find in my own life, this type of communication is unrefined and without restraint. And, because of familiarity, I can easily allow my wife to be the pin-cushion for that type of delivery.I get it, it feels good to get things off your chest. But there’s a difference between outward processing and being crass. Don’t use you’re not wanting to “sugar-coat” the truth with circumventing the thought process. “Straight talk” is easy because you don’t have to properly own up on processing of the info and/or the delivery. You just give it without the care of whether your spouse will be able to digest it. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean it should be said in a way that fits your flesh.

I’m not advocating for tough situations to be ignored, to skirt the issues at hand, or to dancing around a subject hoping your spouse happens to catch what you’re hinting at. But, to if I’m really going to steward (manage) my communication, then I don’t need to “curb” the honesty but I do need to make sure it is digestible/understandable and, therefore, in position to be properly processed by my spouse. Watching our words isn’t “watering down” the truth; It’s increasing the stewardship of it.

Delivery is an ongoing process of change.
There’s a rule for public speaking that says, “Know your audience.” The older I get, the more apt I can be for sticking to the same old way of doing things. Reviewing the “how” of delivery isn’t calling what you’ve done wrong. It’s just recognizing that how you’ve done it may not be effective in the place your marriage is at. As human beings, not only do we see the seasons of life change, we change in those seasons. And what got you through one season doesn’t mean it will fit for the next one.

If our model of life is the person of Jesus, then the “delivery” in our communication needs to model what He modeled: Servanthood.

  • Does my spouse hear what I’m saying? How do I know that?
  • Am I passive aggressive or just plain AGGRESSIVE with my delivery style?
  • Do I give deliver something digestible?

Servanthood in marriage means that we don’t do what fits best for “me” but what facilitates the best for the “we.” To do that, takes careful inspection of how we are utilizing what God has entrusted in our care. And how we deliver communication fits into that category.

Love you all. Praying for husbands and wives today as you weigh out, not just WHAT you say but HOW you say it.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

What spoon do I use? 2 Thoughts on Dealing with Marital Measurements

From the youngest of ages, I’ve enjoyed cooking. For me, it’s quite therapeutic to chop, dice, slice, filet, etc. But I confess, even though I’ve cooked hundreds of meals…

I don’t know the difference between a tablespoon and teaspoon.

Stupid huh? I literally watch Food Network on my iPad while I cook and I still have to google which one is “table” and which one is “tea” (just googled it again). When I do, I shake my head and tell myself, “I should have known that; it’s obvious.”

It may not be a huge deal to you, but measurements in cooking are meant to be accurate, especially in baking. And by using a wrong measurement, you can wind-up making something you didn’t intend on producing.  Using a “tablespoon” of one element, when it was supposed to be a “teaspoon,” can change the flavor, adjust the consistency,  or take what you’re trying to create in the wrong direction. I’ve either ruined many of recipes or didn’t get the fullness of dining experience because of inaccurate measurements.

Marriage is no different. I find that problems don’t come by a lack of measurement but the instrument for which we use to estimate and/or evaluate what we are facing. When you use inaccurate measurements, you can severely change the flavor (attitude, tone, and atmosphere) of your marriage, the consistency (integrity, connectedness, and unity) of it, and take what you are building (growing, learning, and maturing) into a wrong direction. Often I find husbands and wives fall prey to what has become the primary (and extremely inaccurate) human measurement device: comparison.

Comparison 
I’ve discovered that this internal measuring tape is used in two extremes. First, comparison takes our deficiencies and measures them against somebody’s highlight real. Perhaps you see another couple, possibly a best friend or even your parents, and used them to measure the quality and/or substance of your marriage. I’m not against having mentors. In fact, I encourage it. But there’s a difference between being looking upon to a marriage for the purpose of encouragement and challenge and looking up to a marriage to idolize someone’s life and inflicting your marriage with an ideal.

Secondly, comparison takes our perceived “strengths” and put them up against somebody else’s perceived “weaknesses” for the purpose to make ourselves feel better. This inaccurate measurement is steeped in pride. It’s meant to make you feel better in the moment but convinces you into thinking growth or change isn’t necessary because you are not “as bad as (enter someone’s name).”  

Comparison is the seduction of our enough-ness. You either lose your feeling of being enough by what you lack in correlation to another couple or will you gain a sensation of being enough by contrasting what’s “right” with you to someone else’s perceived wrongness. Regardless, no matter how you play the comparison game, you lose. When you don’t find that you (and your spouse) are enough in Christ, you will place that demand upon someone or something that was not equipped to fulfill that.

Contextualize
The remedy is in the understanding of the uniqueness of your marriage. You’re less apt to compare when you cannot find a similar example. I find it’s easy to forget that both you and your spouse are, individually, made “wonderfully complex.” So if you as individual humans are complex, then the make up of each marriage is just as complex as man and woman come together. Again, this doesn’t mean you cannot have people to as mentors. It also doesn’t mean there are not principles to guide husbands and wives. But it does make you contextualize. Simply said: Look at your marriage, the season you are in, and how you and your spouse were created and gifted. When you can truly see what you are working with, you can build on Christ-centered principles to feed your marriage. Comparison does the opposite. You look at the “context” who other people are and what they have and try to enforce that upon the “context” for which the two of you live.

The fact is this: by human measurements, we’ll never be enough. When we think we’ve measured up, somebody will have moved the bar. Then we find ourselves constantly chasing things we were never meant to find our meaning in.  Stop working for the validation that comes from an inaccurate assessment and hold onto the measurement that matters: You can have an identity found Jesus. It’s not only a place to live from but it’s an identity to work with. For if you can see how Jesus see’s you, you’ll be more apt to see your spouse how Christ sees him/her. Your life will display the image of the identity you live in.

Christ, then, becomes the place for which we can “measure” our lives. And the beauty of that challenge is not to necessarily show what we lack but to help us know what we possess AND how we can grow day by day. You’ll discover that type of “measurement” keeps you personally humble YET encourages you to pursue Jesus. I find the more I receive from Him, the more I’m able to give and serve my spouse. So in essence, my place of “measurement” is also the place of my “empowerment.”

Set down the comparison that has robbed you of joy. Trust that Jesus is enough. And when you find that “enough-ness” in Him, let your marriage draw from and grow into that.

Love you all. Praying for husbands and wives today as you two pursue Jesus and each other.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

Valentine Response: 2 Marital Responses to this Holiday

If you know me, I’m a huge fan of marriage.

I love studying the beauty of how man and woman come together in a moment and take a lifetime of being woven together with Jesus to form a “cord not easily broken.” I marvel at how two broken, imperfect, and opposites can connect and commit to an adventure that ends with nothing less than the grave.  I’m fascinated the dynamics of how a male and female make a covenant to become “one” on a day, yet leverage years and hard work to build a life of becoming “one.” Marriage is a moment and a journey; a commitment and a process.

I honestly appreciate special days that help accentuate that relationship. Special “holidays” and/or anniversaries should be re-centering moments for our hearts, times to recall God’s grace and goodness in our lives, opportunities to recalibrate the our relationship, and times to remind ourselves that the best has yet to come.

But, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, I wonder if we are doing more damage than we realize. Instead of being the spillover of a year of romance, it’s become “how special am I to my spouse?” because, possibly, those romantic days are few and far between.

I think of it this way: Valentine’s Day (and/or anniversaries) can be treated how people treat church on Easter. They’ll put in on the calendar, show up prepared to engage in it, then go back to living the way they were before the holiday.  Valentine’s Day should be a time to build up to.  It should be, not the introduction of a new response to your spouse, but an overflow of what’s been growing in your hearts toward one another.

I’m not saying I “hate” Valentine’s Day. But with the wrong approach, these type of holidays can develop heartache by…

  • Putting undo pressure to compete with other couples (or the previous year)
  • Developing unrealistic expectations as you pray your spouse knows what you like and/or caught your “hints.”
  • Facilitate selfish behavior as so many will do something in order to get a specific response from your spouse. (i.e. “Valentine’s is only successful if I get what I want. So I do ‘this,’ my spouse should do “that.’“)
  • Making this day more of a burden when you realize that this type of attention only happens once a year. So, you put everything you can into a moment hoping for the payoff.

Please hear my heart: If you are waiting for a “holiday” to celebrate your relationship, you are turning these moments into a spin of the roulette wheel with everything riding on that day. I believe Valentines Day is an “over and above the norm” type of celebration. But for too many couples, being romantic is “over and above” the normal or it’s usually off the radar unless you want something. Romance isn’t an “over and above” the normal every day life. It IS every day life.

Engage in Every Day Romance
If you’ve read my blogs long enough, or been in premarital counseling with me, you’ve heard my definition of romance:

Romance is selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

This entails two things: First, knowing the love languages your spouse speaks and, second, serving those love languages. In a culture of give and take, this flies in the face of that by looking at what speaks to your spouse’s heart and serving that way without any reciprocation back. I liken it to how Jesus responded to humanity. When he was with his disciples, he served them and washed their feet knowing 11 of them would abandon him and 1 would betray him. Jesus served “for the joy set before him” and not necessarily “for the joy of what they could do back for him.” Romance is really “romance” when we serve based upon what speaks to our spouse and not what we receive back from them. Jesus’ joy came from serving. I wonder if we’d experience more joy if our fulfillment came from filling our spouse instead of endlessly chasing our selfish desires.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day, but the real romance starts on the 15th. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to enjoy special days. But correct your heart in the approach. See it as something special, not to replace a “lack” of attention.” Use this day (and others like it) to launch some new steps, and not just an oasis of love in a relational desert. What if you started something new on the 15th? Here’s some ideas:

  • Purpose yourself to have conversations about what your love languages are.
  • Find strategic times, outside the norm, to serve your spouse’s love language.
  • Start a marriage book together. I’ve got a recommendation 😉
  • Plan out a date that connects well to your spouse’s heart.
  • Find creative ways to encourage your spouse.
  • Plan a walk 1-2 times a week to talk about your day/week.

At Kfirst, I’ve been emphasizing the fact that we gather at 10a.m. on Sundays, but “church starts at 11:30” when we head out of the building and start acting like the church. Valentine’s Day happens on the 14th, but the real romance starts on the 15th.

Love you all. Praying for you as the two of you approach Valentine’s Day in a new way that launches you forward into a life of romantic responses to each other.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

What does the future of your marriage look like? 3 Questions to Ask

I’m not married to the same woman I married back in 1998.

Let me clarify. I’m married to the same human, but she’s not the same person. Really, neither one of us are. Marriage wasn’t meant to be a change of a title (single to married) or a feat to accomplish. Marriage is raw material begging to be developed into something. Like a piece of clay that just landed upon the potter’s wheel, marriage screams for hands-on, intentional growth. And your wedding day is just the first in many rotations of that potter’s wheel that helps shape us.

Often, when I encounter couples with frustrations, usually it’s in an area where one (or both) are refusing to be shaped or to grow. Growth in a healthy marriage is not optional. It’s mandatory. Without it, we fall prey to marital insanity. As the old adage says, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And I think it’s insane to think one or the both of you think you can keep going without growing and think the marriage can stay healthy.

I listen to podcasts all week. Most of the time, I listen to what other men and women are speaking into their congregations as it both challenges me and helps shape the craft that I love to do (preaching). Last week, it was a message of Levi Lusko (Fresh Life Church) who made a statement that sent my marriage blogging mind in a number of directions (not to mention my pastoral mind). He said,

“The future you is exaggerated version of the current you.”

How many of us are currently dealing with issues personally or maritally that are not new but have been developing from the past “you.”

  • Something happened, not because you’ve stopped communicating today, but the pattern of poor communication.
  • Resentment has grown over time, not because of an incident, but because you’ve not learned to navigate through bitterness.
  • You’re seen as selfish, not because of a one-time moment, but because you are only nice when you want something.

If I really want to grasp this, Dave and Anne today are the exaggerated version of 2017 Dave and Anne, or deeper the exaggerate version of 2013 Dave and Anne (just reviewing the past 5 years). So there’s less to blame in terms of the recent season and more the evaluation of what we allow and what we live.

When it comes to your marriage, if you want to understand the product of a marriage, check out the patterns they live by. Far too often, I have conversations with people who are seeing the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” not understanding that the issue didn’t just happen yesterday. On the most part, it’s a case of “cause and effect.” You are living the dividends of what you’ve been investing (or the lack thereof). I’ll say it this way: The “future” you will either thank you or wan to cuss at you by the decisions you engage in today.

Let me give you three questions for your marriage to ask:

What growth needs to happen?
What vision do you have for your marriage? How do you want to grow? What things would you like to see happen?  The both of you should have some input into where you both can grow together. It’s not about pointing the finger but being real with where you are now and where you want to be. For that future marriage you see, you need to understand that the current version of you needs to embrace growth and change. Which leads me to…

What do I (we) need to confess? 
What you did in one season of marriage may not be the most productive way of doing it in the next season. And confessing the area(s) that you need help in shows humility, brings accountability, and grows trust with your spouse. Pointing fingers raises up defenses; owning your shortcomings develops intimacy. I love what scripture says in the book of James. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Hiding and ignoring grows infection; confession and vulnerability to one another restores and strengthens.

What needs to happen now?
There’s no better time than the present to begin a step of change to create the direction of change you’re wanting to see. If you want to see more happen through your marriage later, you need to allow more to happen to your marriage right now. It’s not going to transform over night, but healthy marriage are not made in a 1 or 2 of moments a year but through consistent and intentional actions over time.

The beauty of marriage is the life-long journey it is meant to be. The frustrating side is the pressure of our culture on the rate of change. So often, we measure the ability to change on the rate for which we can see the change (perhaps, that needs to be next Monday’s blog).

Love you all. Praying for you as the two of you sit down to envision the future and make the changes to see that dream come to fruition.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

Marriage Blog: 2 Thoughts about Navigating Through Your Differences

I’m a proponent of dating before and after marriage. Dating, in my opinion, is a very good thing on both sides of marriage. What you used to win a heart before marriage helps you keep a heart after you’ve married.  But if you’re not careful, you can get deceived by the pre-marriage dating process.

Let me explain.

Please know that this blog isn’t about people purposefully lying in order to get anything out of the other. But there is an unanticipated deception that takes place in the dating process. I’ll describe it this way, back in bible college, twice a year we’d have a weekend called, “College Days.” They were strategic weekends when high school students were invited to the campus.  They got to experience everything the college had to offer. We students affectionately called these weekends, “Deception Days.” Why? We lived here every day and the food, the chapels, the decor, well, everything that was presented during “College Days” was not the real life on an average day at Central Bible College. Thus, students were committing to a place they haven’t really, truly, seen.

Thus, when we date, there is more of a deception in the dating process than we will realize. You both are putting your best foot forward (as you should). You both are looking to see the best the other can bring (in terms of their manners and demeanor). Maybe we can say it this way: Dating is a showing of, not where someone is, but the potential someone possesses. It’s not really who they are but glimpses of who they really can be.

It’s for this reason I am very much a proponent of dating. I think dating is good and, if approached in a healthy way, is a phenomenal tool to prepare you for marriage. Why? As I said before: What you used to win a heart before marriage helps you keep a heart after you’ve married. (I probably should do a blog on my dating philosophy as “courting-only” peeps are ready to send me letters.)

Now back to our marriage thought…

What I find happening with couples is this: You already see that you are different based upon your genders, but when the “Honeymoon Stage” is done (whenever that is), the reality sets in of who or what you married. You realize that “College Days” experiences are not the “every day” experiences. We’ve all been there. I remember when Anne and I started realizing that we married someone different from we dated.

  • Anne doesn’t really like Stryper. She just tolerated it on our dates.
  • Dave is not as organized/clean as Anne anticipated.
  • Anne tolerated my sports fandom. She actually hates football.
  • Dave may be with Anne, but his workaholic mind is anywhere but with Anne.
  • For Dave, going with the flow is best
  • For Anne, a precise plan is best.

It is usually at this point I get couples writing or calling me about the “disconnect” they are experiencing. I hear things like “we’ve just become so different” or “we are drifting apart.” I submit to you this: Neither are true. You haven’t “become” or “drifted”; you’re recognizing how different you are.  And this can be a very good thing. Your differences can be the place upon which your marriage takes that “next level growth” approach. How?

Your differences become a place to appreciate your spouse.
So often, we use differences to attack one another. What if you stopped and realized that your differences are not what you use to compete with each other but the way you complete each other? If you both are the exact same person,  then one of you is no longer necessary. Scripture says we are created “…wonderfully complex.” And when you see your spouse through that lens, you can stop attacking and start understanding. I find many marital fights are less about “being different” and more about differences are not being valued.  Stop trying to change your spouse. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Your job: Love your spouse the way Jesus loves you.

Your differences become a place to invite God in.
You can approach your differences from one of two ways. First, they can be your excuse of why you can’t get along. But if you do, then that better be your excuse of never having a friend because there’s always going to be characteristics in others that are not going to be “like you.” Or two, you can see the differences you possess as invitations for God to work.  I love the words of the Apostle Paul who said that God’s “…power works best in weakness.” It’s not that your differences, themselves are weak, but where you are different can have the potential to be weak areas if they’re not handled correctly. So when you see some differences rise up, approach it in this way,

“Lord I need you. Shape my heart and change my attitude. Before I expect to see a change in her/him, please change me. I invite you in this moment and ask you to give me wisdom to know how to navigate through this. Help the character of Jesus to be developed in me.”

Being different isn’t an excuse to stay the same. Differences are our starting place to get the real marital work done. Marriage is work, but I think it’s fun work. As I so often say, marriages that fail are not those that had to work at it but those that stop working at it. So don’t stop because you are discovering differences. Start pushing ahead together as you discover differences.

When you are willing to work through your difference, you’ll discover a greater and healthier relationship than you’ve ever imagined.

Go out on a date. Spend some time talking and showing value for each other’s distinctness.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

 

Turn Signals: 2 Types of Marital Signals

We all have signals. Whether we purposely try, we operate in them all the time. I can pick up the signals from my staff on what kind of morning they’ve had just by their body language, the tone of their voice, or their silence when they come in and slam their office door. Two Sundays ago, I was overwhelmed with an issue on a Sunday morning. After the service, I got a pulled aside by someone. He said, “I could tell you were struggling by your body language. I’ve been praying for you.”

Signals.

We all give “signals” to those around us and our marriages are no different. From the infant stages of the relationship with our spouse, we operated with signals. I’d hear someone say, “I saw him/her the other day and, I think, they’re giving me signals like they’re interested in me.” I’d love to say that, in my adolescence, I was always correct on reading THAT signal. Sadly (even more embarrassingly), I can’t say I was the best at it. Case in point, the girl’s face I tried to ask out because I “thought” she was interested.

Nope. #MissedAgain #WrongSignal

Then there’s the dreaded, “I’m getting mixed signals.” And, from experience, it’s a terrible place to be. It is the proverbial “fork in the road” and “I’m not sure which way to take this” type of signal. Ever got a mixed signal from someone? I remember when Anne wanted a treadmill (I believe it was for an anniversary or birthday). I’m telling you, when I was staring at that thing, I was sweating. Come on, you DON’T want to be the guy that got a signal wrong and bought his wife a treadmill when she didn’t think she needed one.

To God be the glory, I got that one right.

“Signals” can be quite fun in a marriage. They are the intentional expressions to convey a thought. My wife has a signal for me when I’m dominating conversations (us pastors like to talk). I have signals for her when I’m ready to leave somewhere. And when one of us misses the signal, we talk about it afterwords as to fine-tune our signal skills. Usually, we laugh at how blatant we were trying to be with them.

Some times it feels like this…

But signals, if not handled appropriately, can be quite toxic. How? They can be a cop-out to conversations. “Why go through all the trouble of talking when I can just drop a hint?” But when that is your only mode of communication, don’t be caught off guard if (1) your signal is missed or (2) your signal is misinterpreted.  When you create gaps of assumption, don’t be surprised when those gaps are filled with confusion. When we no longer assert ourselves in a healthy way (time, tone, technique), but we rely solely on signals, we create harmful communication habits. Signals are an accessory to communication, not a replacement of communication.

Types of Signals
Signals are two-fold. There’s the purposeful signal. These are strategically developed and talked about. Anne and I have them and we have conversations about them. Why? We love each other enough not to leave signals in ambiguity. If you haven’t communicated about “purposeful signals,” then you are forfeiting your right to complain when they’re missed or misinterpreted.

Then there is the unintentional signal. These take time and patience to learn. Why? Most of us don’t realize the type of signals we give off to those around us. For example, Anne can recognize when I’m in the beginning stages of depression. She can see the signals and she is quick to be as proactive with the funk that is creeping into my spirit. I can pick up on when she feels disconnected and needs some quality time. So when I pick up on the signals, I’ll adjust my schedule without pointing out “hey, look how cool I am at reading you.”

(Note: If you’re bragging how great you are at signals to your spouse, you’re really not trying to be a better spouse, you’re trying to look better than your spouse. So stop that)

I’ve learned this: The longer you are married, the less you become what you were when you first walked the aisle. As you grow older, there is a selfish nature that wants you to focus upon yourself and your needs. When couples only care about themselves as individuals, apathy sets in and the spark is gone. And the only way to combat marital apathy is to be a daily student of your spouse. The more you work at learning, the more you invest in growing. Why? Because whatever you’ve learned about your spouse becomes the place or the area to serve your spouse. If a couple can be students of each other and invest in the areas they’re learning about, they created a greater capacity for health.

Today, I want you to ask yourself about these two types of signals. Talk to your spouse about the ones you both use. You may find yourself laughing at the one’s you’ve missed (see the Three Amigos clip). You may discover that your “obvious” signals were not-so-obvious.” Also, start studying your spouse. The more you learn, the more you both can grow.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

Marriage Mondays: 3 Ways We Can Play fair

So I thought I’d try something new.

For the past 5 years-ish, I’ve reserved most of my marriage blogging for Fridays as people are heading into the weekend. So I thought, like a good cup of Costa Rican coffee on Monday morning, I’d start off the week with a simple marital challenge. So today, I thought I’d break down this week’s challenge to two words:

Play fair.

What often happens in marriage is what can happen in life. We tend to judge ourselves by our intentions and our spouse by his/her actions.

Play fair.

A question I tend to ask couples in this place of tension is, “Do you trust your spouse’s heart? Do you believe he/she loves you?” If the answer is “no,” then there are other issues at hand. If the answer is “yes,” then my reply is simple: Then see his/her actions through those intentions and show the same grace you show yourself. Sometimes, the action holds more ignorance then intention; sometimes the heart was right but the method was not.

How much conflict do we entertain because we want grace for ourselves but justice for others? We allow ourselves space to work through our own issues but zero margin for our spouse.

Play fair.

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” John 1:16

How do we navigate through this? Let’s make it as simple as A-B-C.

A – Ask clarifying questions.
Where the “A” you used to respond with was “Assume,” stop and ask your spouse about what you just experienced. Instead of jumping to imaginary conclusions, ask about the action(s) you just experienced with the same level of grace that Christ gave you. “I don’t understand what just happened. Help me understand…?” The beauty of verbalizing this as a question is, first, it gets you to think before you respond and second, it helps your spouse to own their actions. Sometimes, people don’t understand what their actions do. And even if they do, this gives them a chance to own their issues.

B – Be open to your spouse’s perspective.
Slip inside their skin and see things from their perspective. This doesn’t excuse behavior but it may explain it. And an explanation can bring understanding. Maybe their behavior wasn’t wrong at all but it stirred up a hurt from your past. Perhaps because expectations were not clarified, he/she didn’t realize an expectation wasn’t met. Don’t assume you are always in the right and/or don’t defend your “rightness” because you don’t want to be humble with your spouse. Make sure you show value to your spouse’s perspective with the same level that you expect for yours.

“But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” James 4:6

C – Confront with grace.
If the grace of God is not our default, it’ll cause more fracture than we anticipated. Grace is what steadies our hands and hearts so that we can build, adjust, and reinforce our marriage. But a misunderstanding about “grace” is that people see it as passive. I see it as aggressive. Grace doesn’t ignore or hide issues, it gives us the mindset and strategy to deal with them. It positions us for the greater health of the marriage and glorification of Jesus.

Today, stop judging yourself by your intentions and your spouse by his/her actions. Play fair.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.