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.

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.

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.


Easing the Frustration: Creating Marital Change 7 Days at a Time

Ever been frustrated with your spouse? Yep.
Every been discouraged in your marriage? Me to.
Every been disappointed in your mate? Never.
Would Anne have answered these in a similar way? Absolutely (with the exception that she’d tell the truth on question #3).

Congrats. You have a very normal and a very human marriage.  Yet I get so many messages from people who are dealing with normal marital challenges but feel discouraged and hopeless. First, there’s that overwhelming sensation that what your marriage is experiencing is exclusive to just you and your spouse. And second, there’s the feeling of frustration in the tension of in the scope of where you want to be and where you are at currently.

I get it. Welcome to being human where we can easily develop the tendency to focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. We get caught up in a moment instead of looking at the larger scale. The measurement of our progress is based upon where we haven’t arrived instead of how far we’ve come.

There is a lingering image of what life/marriage “should be” that is casts a shadow over where you are now. And that’s the place I want to shed some light of hope. I wanted to build on last week’s blog as we talked about what the future of your marriage looks like. I’d like to help remove that sinking feeling of “things will never change” into progressive steps forward 1 week at a time.

I’ve been pondering Genesis 1 lately. Early in the chapter, we find a description of the state of things.

The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:2

What do you see? 
It’s easy to look at our marriage and list out what we can only detect with our limited finite senses. From the look of things, your marriage can look “formless,” feel “empty,” and seem as if “darkness” is covering your potential. But this is where you have to see things from the perspective of God. He brings light into these moments, not to expose our shortcomings but to unleash our potential. Which leads me to my next thought…

God isn’t afraid of your chaos. He draws close in it. 
Wrap your head around that. In the midst of a “formless,” “empty,” and “darkness covered” moment, we find that the Holy Spirit wasn’t distant. He was there just “over the surface.” The original Hebrew could also be translated as “in the face of.” When this world was nothing more than chaos, God came face to face with it to create something magnificent. It seems like it’s out of that understanding that the Psalmist writes,

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18

God doesn’t distant himself from your chaos and struggles. He’s there AND He is ready to create something. That truth should stand in the face of the very feelings of isolation and hurt, frustration and hopelessness. Your chaos does not nor can it distract, intimidate, or repel God. He is drawn to those who need Him and He reading to make things beautiful in His time.

7 days of creation and the work had only begun.
Genesis 1:1-2:1, we see the story of creation. From the foundations to walk upon, the things to be sustained with, to life itself, everything came into being in the matter of 7 days. And as I read that, I thought to myself: what if we approached our marriage journey 1 week at a time? Instead of being consumed by everything that needs to change, we if we implemented change 7 days at a time? I think there’s a beauty to the practicality of marriage 1 week at a time. For those who have a hard time looking at your daily marital struggles, it broadens your vision beyond merely surviving 24 hours at a time. For others who’ve lost hope in a dream of “what could be,” it narrows your vision placing tangible, progressive steps toward where your marital vision resides.

What can you see created in your marriage by tackling it 7 days at a time? My thought: Boundless possibilities. Not only do we see the creative power of God in Genesis 1, but we see He made us in His image. We are (and can be) creative because He is the Creator. And through Him, we can have creative power in our homes.

Imagine with me. What if you chose ONE thing to do for a week? What could you create in your marriage by practicing a healthy Godly habit in a practical and consistent?

What atmosphere could you create if you took a week to speak nothing but encouragement instead of criticism. What image could you create of your marriage if you took a week to invest in your spouse’s love language with zero expectation in return? What level of spiritual intimacy could you create if you took a week to pray over your spouse before work or before bed? What type of closeness could you experience if you dedicated your marriage to 7 days of sexual intimacy (some of you are tired out from that thought alone)? It is so simple and practical. So much creative change can happen with a simple 7-day approach. Not only is that attainable, but it build tremendous marriage momentum into the following week of possibility.

In the face of what may seem “formless,” “empty,” and “darkness covered,” step out and start creating. I believe God want to work in you marriage. And I also believe that He wants to work through you IN your marriage. Dedicate the next week for you two to pray over your marriage. Ask each other about the types of things you both want to see changed and/or grown in your relationship. Pick one, look at the next week, and take intentional Godly steps forward into it.

Like Genesis, you may discover that after a week, the work wasn’t done. It was only getting started.


Love you all. Praying for you as the two of you sit down, pray, and tackle creative growth 1 week at a time.

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.


Pro Tips: 4 Ways to Get (& Be) Marriage Help

Ever heard of the term “pro tip”? It’s origin came from gamers who were mocking novices. Nowadays, it’s become internet slang for “tips given by professionals to those who are lesser experienced.” Simply said, a “pro tip” is information intended to help convert a novice to an expert.

About 20 years ago, a very experienced pastor gave me a “pro tip” about conferences. He told me that if I go to a conference, walk away with one idea, and put that idea into practice, the entire event was worth the time, cost, and effort. That little bit of wisdom helped me see the value of conferences, enjoy them more while improving the way I would take notes, distill the information, and put things into practice.

One little notion (pro tip) helped ease frustration which paved the way for productivity. And that’s how I look at marital “pro tips.” Alleviating irritations can enable productivity and feed passion.

This is what I look to gather when I’m with couples both older and younger than myself. I look for “pro tips.” If I can gather a morsel of information that can give enable (or my marriage) more understanding, better communication, feed passion, and equip us to work better together, then I’m “all ears” to anyone who has some “pro tips” for me. This coming May will be 20 years of marriage, and because we are both humans who tend to change a bit as the seasons of life change, we are always looking for those “pro tips” to help us navigate through life.

For example, I was doing some marital counseling the other day and I was talking about the conflict that can come from the difference in partner styles. (BTW: partner styles is the place where so much irritation can come if you don’t navigate through them properly.) I had remarked about my family doesn’t squeeze from the bottom of the toothpaste tube which I find ridiculous and incredibly irritating. How can you maximize the amount of toothpaste out of the tube if you don’t squeeze it properly? As I was sharing this example to the young couple, they gave me a “pro tip.”

“We’ve dealt with that before. So we buy two tubes of toothpaste so that doesn’t become an irritation.”

In my head, I thought “#ProTip” followed by me asking for permission to use them as an example in a blog (Yes, I do think in hashtags.)

It’s so simple yet profound. Why so profound? Because, first, a simple $2 fix solves a constant conversation that’s been going on for years. And, second, there are numbers of you reading this who are probably saying (out of your pride), “We don’t need to buy another tube. My spouse just needs to do what I do and/or get over themselves.” I wonder how many irritations and quarrels are happening because we are so determined to force a style or pattern of life upon our spouse. Your way of doing things isn’t necessarily right or better, it’s just “your way of doing it” (which is another subject for another blog).

Recognize irritations for what they are.
Don’t get hung up on the little things. If you do, I find if issues regarding toothpaste tubes or the position of toilet paper rolls are breaking your marriage, then most likely, there’s something going on and those things have now become the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” See those areas of irritation as, not something that needs to be ignored, but navigated through properly. All of this may sound silly to you, but as someone who sits with a ton of couples, it’s the ignored little things that end up causes unnecessary stress and pain upon marriages.

Be “in the room” with other couple(s).
As a pastor, I love to be “in the room” with other pastors. It simply means to sit, listen, and observe (perhaps engage in conversation) with others as to learn. But for that to happen, I need to suck up my pride and initiate conversations or accept invitations from other pastors. Marriage is no different. Hang out with couples. Initiate coffee, meals, game nights, double-dates, etc. with other couples so that you can be “in the room” with others. Sometimes we’ve walked away from couples feeling “normal” (which is huge when you’re feeling like you’re the only marriage facing a situation or season). Other times, if not most of the time, we talk away feeling blessed by friendship and/or having learned something about how we want to grow as a couple.

Look for the principle, not the method.
I learned something years ago that applies to this. “Methods are many, principles are few. Methods may change, but principles never do.” So the tangible/practical method that works for one couple may not “fit” you two. But the principle may fit. For example, Anne and I try to walk every Sunday as to talk about the upcoming week so we both are on the same page and know what to expect. The principle of developing healthy expectations is key, but the method may not work for you. So take the principle and make it work for your marriage.

Be willing to share. 
Don’t hoard what you learn. If God has blessed you with some simple methods that have blessed your marriage, share that blessing with someone else. You are blessed to be a blessing. One of my favorite scriptures is Matthew 10:8,

Give as freely as you have received!

When you’ve discovered a new “pro tip” in your marriage, don’t be shy about it. Share it. In a world where it’s “cool” to criticize and shame openly, we need people who are willing to share and encourage. Who knows, alleviating someone of a simple irritation can enable productivity and feed passion.

Over the years, I’m thankful for a number of “pro tips” couples were willing to share.

  • Get a king-sized bed but put twin sheets and blankets under the comforter. That way, nobody hogs the huge sheets/blankets because everyone has their own.
  • Rotate who chooses what to do on date nights so both people feel value and enjoyment.
  • Share your Google calendars with each other so that you both can see each other’s schedules and properly forecast a proper pace of your family.
  • Re-evaluate each other’s love languages whenever your season of marriage changes as, it may be possible, your love languages have changed.
  • Make sure intimacy is scheduled as to make sure it stays on your radar and remains a priority for the both of you.
  • Look for resources that fit each other’s personal growth without forcing one or the other to do what doesn’t “fit.”

Do you have any “pro tips” to add? What do you and your spouse do that has helped get rid of some simple frustrations? I’d love for you to leave a reply with a host of them.

Love you all. Praying for you as you get “in the room” with other couples and let the “pro tips” fly.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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


Shed the Shame: 4 Ways Shame Adds A Burden to Our Marriage

There’s a gentleman in our church community who’s introduced me and my son to backpacking. Ethan and I have fallen in love with it. We talk about it frequently as, every time we go, we enjoy it immensely and learn something new to apply to our next experience.  That, by itself, would make a good marriage blog.

Find something (potentially new) to with your spouse.
Learn something new about each other.

Now back to my original thought…

One thing we’ve learned about improving our backpacking experience and thus, improving our enjoyment, is to do whatever it takes to shed unnecessary weight in what we carry. I’m not just talking about watching the pounds of equipment but identifying every ounce we put in our packs. Why? Anything we allow, ultimately, somebody has to shoulder it. So Ethan and I spend a good week laying out and identifying everything we intend to take on our journey.

It’s such a simple metaphor and yet, completely profound. If you don’t stop to identify what you’re taking in to your marriage, you may not notice the full weight of the burden in the first part of your marriage journey. But over time, you’ll experience the relational gravity of it and assume the marriage (or your spouse) caused it instead of recognizing that you may have potentially carried it in. Remember: Whatever you allow into the journey of your marriage, somebody has to shoulder it.

This past Sunday, we dealt with the issue of shame at KfirstAnd when I thought about how shame applies to marriage, this backpacking metaphor kicked in. Far too many couples are having their passion, hope, and peace crushed under the weight of shame. What is shame? I describe it this way: guilt is the regret I feel; shame is the guilt I wear. We begin to bear shame when we take our perception of what we don’t have, what we’ve done, or what’s been said and apply it to our identity.  Never forget, “the two become one.” So what you carry, dramatically affects your spouse. 

What causes shame? 

Difference in Upbringing
Good and bad, your history has developed your expectations, built filters for listening, and formed your responses. And at times, if your spouse had a different background, you can see, and even impose, shame upon them as if their upbringing was completely wrong. Just remember: “different” isn’t necessarily “wrong.”

Personal History
The both of you carry into the marriage a bit of baggage (personal history). You carry the experiences of success and failures; victories and devastation. Shame-based thinking take the past and inflicts the future with it. I’m always amazed at the little things in life (tones, scents, scenarios) that trigger something from my past that can cause guilt to resurface and shame to be worn.

Lack of forgiveness
From refusing to forgive your spouse, other people, to even forgiving yourself, unforgiveness doesn’t have to do have anything to do with your marriage to impact your marriage. Inflicting unforgiveness is a violent action against your heart (not to mention the shame you bring upon others). And the more you hold against others, you carry into your marriage. Why? What affects you will infect your marriage.

It’s astounding how much we underestimate the issue of comparison. We spend more time comparing and identifying what we lack instead of appreciating and investing into what we do have. Shame is the offspring of comparison; we either force shame upon ourselves for what we don’t have or see others in shame for how much better we have it.

In the words of one of my favorite preachers, Christine Caine, “The human creation was not made to feel the burden of shame.” That not only applies to individuals, it applies to your marriage. 

My challenge to you today is this: Like my son’s and my preparation for backpacking, take a block of time to really review if your “packing” unneeded shame-weight. Have a talk with your spouse and set up a time (say in a week) to talk about any shame-based thinking or actions that are happening in your marriage. Imagine how much lighter your marital load will feel when you eliminate the unnecessary shame from your marriage. It won’t stop you from working on your journey, but it’ll make the burden that much lighter.

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.