Marriage Blog: “It’s just not me.”

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We’ve all used it to get out of things we don’t want to do.

“Do you want to ride the roller coaster?” “No. It’s just not me.”
“Do you want to try escargot?” “No.  It’s just not me.”
“Do you like country music? “No. It’s just not me.

It’s kind of our nice way of telling people that we have absolutely no interest in what they are offering.  As long as you say it in a nice tone, it’s amazing the stuff it can get you out of.  It’s like a “get out of jail free card” for moments in public places.

FreeJail

Sadly, it’s a line used to often in marriage.  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times.  I have heard the line used all over the place and in numbers of situations.  Casual conversations with couples, in small groups, dining, counseling…well, you get the picture.  I’ve heard it too much

“All he/she wants to do is talk…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to get all romantic…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to be involved in volunteering together…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants is sex…it’s just not me.”
“He/she is more the disciplinarian for the kids…it’s just not me.”
“Well that’s just his/her thing…it’s just not me.”

thats not me

cop out  n. An excuse designed to shirk responsibility.

That’s all this line really is…a cop out.  It’s the marital line we use to shirk responsibility of being an “other-centered” husband/wife that serves our spouse.  (as I type this, I’ve noticed there has been a common thread being woven through my latest blogs…And that thread is simply being a spouse ready to take up not just the JOY but the responsibility of serving our husband/wife.)

We live in such a self-centered ego-driven manipulative culture that is fascinated in pleasuring self.  As blunt as it sounds it’s completely true.

“I have to receive something for me to be happy.”
“What do I get in return if I do what you want?”
“If I get what I want, then you can get what you want.”
“I don’t feel like it. He/she just has to deal with it.”

We feel entitled to have our own needs met with little thought what our spouses needs are.  We justify our actions by calling their “needs”  as “wants” as to calm our conscience.  It is no wonder why people start emotional and physical affairs.  We send out our spouses empty and thirsty and we get upset when someone has stepped up to the plate to fill them up.  Note: I’m not giving ANYONE the excuse for having an affair.  Affairs are wrong no matter how you package them (Matthew 5:27-30).  But as a spouse, we cannot empower what the enemy is wanting to do in our marriage by neglecting our spouse as well as give our significant other an excuse to go looking for attention elsewhere.

Proverbs 5:18-19 Bless your fresh-flowing fountain! Enjoy the wife you married as a young man!  Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose – don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted!

This last part is what this blog is all about. The longer we are with someone (we’ve been married for 16 years + dated for 3 years) the more apt we are to taking them (their wants and needs) for granted.  We assume too much and neglect them.  I would love to assume I’ve never given the excuse “it’s just not me”, but honestly, I think I used it last weekend when she wanted to go for a “romantic walk” on a beach and I was comfortable in the shade.  I’ll say it this way: the more we put off our spouse, the more we push away our spouse.  It could be a walk, a conversation, a date, sex, or a simple cup of coffee, but to ignore them is to take them for granted. And to take them for granted is to stifle the love and passion in your marriage.

Be a listener to your spouse.  Then take that next step from being a listener to serving your spouse.  Get past the “it’s not me” phase and realize, if you are married, whether you like it or not, IT IS YOU! Never take your spouse for granted.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Marriage Series: Catchphrases – “Don’t worry about it!”

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My sole goal of this week’s marriage blog is simple:  I want you to stop saying “Don’t worry about it!”

Two weeks ago we began a new series entitled “Marital Catchphrases” in which we look at the random phrases we toss out almost flippantly to our spouses while potentially losing the meaning behind the words. The scripture for this series is: Proverbs 13:3 “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” (The Message) In our last two blogs, we attacked the simple, yet overused catchphrases “Yes Dear” and “I’m Sorry.”  Today we hit another one.

Title Marriage Catchphrases

Don’t worry about it!

“How much did you spend at the store?” “Don’t worry about it!
“What are you looking at on your computer?”  “Don’t worry about it!
“What did you say to your mother?”  “Don’t worry about it!
“When are you going to be home?” “Don’t worry about it!

(I can almost hear the temperature of tempers rising…you’ve heard this “catchphrase” before haven’t you?)

It was about 9 or so years ago and we were on vacation in Florida with my entire family.  My parents had rented a hug home for the entire family to stay in.  On our first night there, Anne had waken up to find me missing from the bed. She walked out to the living room area to find me sitting in the dark on my computer intently staring at the screen. All I heard was “What in the world are you doing at 4am?”  My reply?

Don’t worry about it. Go back to bed.”

With all the volume she could muster without waking up my parents and my sister’s family, I heard these words, “DON’T YOU DARE TELL ME THAT!!! I’M YOUR ACCOUNTABILITY AND YOU ARE GOING TO TELL ME RIGHT NOW WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT!”

I hung my head in shame.  I looked up at her and showed her my screen.  “Babe, Marty and I are against each other in our Fantasy Baseball Championship and I had to wake up and get my players before he gets up…I gotta beat him!”

The only reply she gave was, “This is stupid…I’m going back to bed.”

When you hear those words “Don’t worry about it“, what do you hear? (I’m not talking about the casual response to a silly situation:  “I ordered you a Coke instead of Pepsi…sorry.”  “It’s okay.  Don’t worry about it.”)

I’m talking about the way that you and I use this catchphrase to simply say “It’s none of your business” but without the harshness.  That’s what it means doesn’t it? We get an inquiry that we don’t want to have to explain so we drop the catchphrase.  Some people will utilize it to escape shame and embarrassment as to not get caught.  I don’t know how you use it, but that simple little catchphrase has been used to fracture so many marriages.

How? First, the words “Don’t worry about itfractures the sense of oneness of your marriage. Genesis 2:25 says, Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” There was nothing hidden between them.  It’s a phenomenal pattern for any marriage.  To have emotional, spiritual, mental, and, yes, physical nakedness within your marriage fosters that cohesive oneness that guides a healthy marriage.  When you start masking your actions with “Don’t worry about it“, you are beginning to turn your marriage into two silos instead of the oneness that the Lord intended.

Secondly, the words “Don’t worry about it” fractures the trust of your marriage.  The second you begin to hide actions, thoughts, and feelings behind that catchphrase, you put mystery in the mind of your spouse regarding your “private” life. (NOTE: If you are keeping a private life hidden from your spouse, you’ve got some serious marital challenges coming your way…but that’s for another blog.) I don’t care if you don’t thing your husband/wife wouldn’t understand the business, finances, home, etc.  If they’re asking about something, tell them. Let him/her decide if they want to ask again.  Ignorance is not bliss! What your spouse needs to see is that your life is an open book to him/her. In 1 Corinthians 7, we read “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”  Even though the context is sex and intimacy, the principle of ownership and oneness is applicable.  You belong to each other and you cannot purposely keep things whether for convenience, concealment, or solitude.

Lastly, the words “Don’t worry about it” fractures the your heart toward your spouse. When you start giving yourself permission to use this catchphrase, you are taking one step way from your spouse and one step closer to fostering a heart of a “single” life.  When you were not married, you lived and operated for yourself. This can’t exist in marriage. But to keep using this catchphrase, you move one step back to that single life.  You begin to form a separate life outside of the life of your marriage. Our marriage is echoed out of our relationship with Christ. If we are fracturing our life into a life outside of our relationship with God, it leads to a life of instability.   James says “Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” Don’t invite instability into your marriage or your walk with Christ.  Live with the oneness in your heart.

As we stated in each blog, “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” Guard yourself from this simple catchphrase fracturing your marriage.  Talk with your spouse. Ask if he/she has heard you used this one.  Ask what they hear when you use it.  If needed…ask for forgiveness.

Till next Friday…

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Marriage Series: Catchphrases – Stop saying “I’m Sorry!”

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My sole goal of this week’s marriage blog is simple:  I want you to stop saying “I’m sorry.”

Relax…get ya some tea (Moroccan is my fav)…and I’ll explain.

Two weeks ago we began a new series entitled “Marital Catchphrases” in which we look at the random phrases we toss out almost flippantly to our spouses while potentially losing the meaning behind the words. The scripture for this series is: Proverbs 13:3 “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” (The Message) In our last blog, we attacked the simple, yet overused catchphrase “Yes Dear.”  Today we hit another one.

Title Marriage Catchphrases

“I’m sorry.”

“Did you break this?” “I’m sorry.”
“You bought what?!?”  “I’m sorry.”
“I can’t believe you said that to the kids?”  “I’m sorry.”
“You invited your mother?” “I’m sorry.”

This simple phrase that our parents taught us so well has been so over-used and abused.  I think of when my parents were trying to teach my sister to say those words.  I remember it well.  Rachael hit me.  My parents saw her and sternly told her, “Don’t you ever hit your brother.  If it happens, you need to say ‘I’m sorry.'”  What my parents said and what Rachael heard were two different things.  My parents where trying to teach her remorse and manners.  Rachael heard something else.  She began to hit me while quickly following up the punch with a quick “I’m sorry.”  It got so bad she was actually saying  “I’m sorry” while her fist was flying through the air. To her very young mind, it was the escape from all consequence and responsibilities that were connected with her actions.

We adults are not all that different.

The more I counsel, the more I hear the same very disturbing words: “When my spouse says they’re sorry, it doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.

How do you get to that point? It elementary my dear Watson (sorry…I’ve been watching Sherlock).  It’s the same mentality that my preschool sister used that we still try to enforce today.  If I say “I’m sorry,” then things will go back to normal and I don’t have to face any consequences and take greater responsibility over my life.  We use these simple words as band aids for wounds that need serious treatment.  The words  “I’m sorry” have been used over and over and over and over…

…till the phrase has virtually no meaning..

It becomes a worse situation when that spouse really does have remorse over their actions and their spouse cannot take their word for it.  It didn’t have any meaning before.  It doesn’t have any meaning to them now.

Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. If you and I are professing remorse with our lips but do not possess it in our hearts and our actions, we are not apologizing.  We are simply speaking deceit.  Something needs to change.  Something must be transformed.

Here’s some help: First, confront the issue.  James 5:16 tells us that confession leads to healing.  Talk to your spouse about the revelation you’ve come to. Confess your deceit and bring it into the light.  Quit hiding it and letting the darkness grow something that doesn’t belong in your life.

Secondly, Apologize correctly. Get rid of the words “I’m sorry.” Somebody taught us something a long time ago about apologies.  Take out the words “I’m sorry” and replace them with “Will you forgive me?” There is an amazing difference.  There’s something about the words “Will you forgive me?” that demands a two-fold action:
1 – For the person apologizing, there’s an action of humility and recognition that what you’ve done was wrong and hurtful.  You are humbling yourself by removing excuse and positioning yourself and your spouse for healing.
2 – For the spouse receiving the apology, there is a reciprocated action demanded.  There is only TWO responses to the words”Will you forgive me?” You will either hear “no” or “yes I forgive you.” There’s no other option.  If you say, “yes I forgive you,” then you are position yourself in a place of acting and living in forgiveness.

I remember quite a few years ago, Anne had done something wrong.  What I remember about the situation wasn’t what she had done to me.  It was the end of the skirmish that sticks in my mind. We were driving and she looked over at me and said, “Honey, will you forgive me?”

My reply, “Yes.”

After about a 3 second pause, she said again, “Honey, do you forgive me?”

I knew what she was asking.  We had agreed some time before that we would always apologize to each other in that manner.  We felt it positioned our marriage to walk in forgiveness.  To express the words “I forgive you” would put the onus on the other to let go of anger and bitterness and ACTUALLY forgive.  I remember not wanted to say it.  I wanted to linger in my anger…

…but that’s just it isn’t it?  We need to let go.  We need to forgive without stipulation the way Christ forgives us.

One more time, “Will you forgive me?” “Yes babe…I forgive you.”

This stuff may not be a big deal to you.  But the more “catchphrases” we can eliminate, the more we can position our marriages to walk in the heath that the Lord has designed for us to live in.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

New Series: Marital Catchphrases – “Yes Dear!”

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Proverbs 13:3 Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” (The Message)

I’ll share with you a secret about my marriage. Anne and I talk in “catchphrases” from TV show and movies.  I don’t know when it began, but somewhere early in our 15 years of marriage, phrases from favorite shows and actors started coming through out mouths sparking the connection and laughter we feel is necessary to keep our marriage healthy.  Why? First, we take the scripture at face value when we are told that laughter is a medicine (Proverbs 17:22). Secondly, it’s been proven that people who laugh are healthier (Wish I could find that article right now but you’ll have to take my word it).

Last September, I had come across an article about the Top 60 Catchphrases from TV.  What these simple one-liners are, are quotes that you not only hear consistently from the characters, but the “phrases” are associated with the character’s development in the show. Some of them are funny the first 50 times.  The problem, if you watch a show over and over, the “catchphrase” becomes white noise.  It kinda loses something because it is so predictable.    After reading through, a marriage blog series began to form. I asked myself the question:

Do I have marriage “catchphrases” that I use?

Title Marriage Catchphrases

Over the years, there are things that I say that I’ve been stating so often that it’s become white noise.  In other words, theses statements don’t carry the punch or effect it used to have.  What ends up happening is my actions (or lack thereof) negate the effectiveness of the phrases I use with my wife.  Something needs to change.

I asked Anne which catchphrase to start with.  She hit a home run with the answer:

“Yes Dear”

“Can you take out the garbage?” “Yes Dear.”
“Can you bring me ___________?” “Yes Dear.”
“The kids are screaming at each other. Do something about it!” “Yes Dear.”

What is communicated by that two-word phrase? If you’re in the “Honeymoon Phase” of marriage, “Yes Dear” means “I’m thrilled to do this for you…by the way, we’re going to have sex later.” A few years after that, the meaning usually changes to “I’m saying these two words to pacify you till you either forget you asked me for something or you go and do it yourself.”

Yes Dear.

We throw it out so casually. It, if we’re not careful, can become a cop-out to actual conversation.  Anne made a great point this morning.  “Yes Dear” is almost a mockery of your spouse.  It an easy out for actually taking the time to give open and honest communication to your spouse.  For example:

Can you take care of something for me?
Yes Dear.
(Either one spouse is disgruntled because their spouse didn’t get the task done in the time expected or the other spouse is frustrated that he/she had to stop what they were doing to get the tack accomplished.)

Perhaps the new response should turn into:

Can you take care of something for me?
That shouldn’t be a problem.  I’m in the middle of something now.  Can I take care of it a bit later?

BOTH parties need to step back out of their agenda and have respect enough to stand back and think before engaging.

If you don’t want a “Yes Dear” reply:

1 – Timing is everything.  Make sure you have your spouses’ complete attention.  If you don’t think you have it, simply ask.
2 – Clearly define what is being asked. Make sure your spouse knows what you require as well as timing. You cannot blame your spouse if you haven’t communicated clearly.
3 – Be polite.  The longer we are married the more we take each other for granted.  Don’t stop saying “please” and “thank you.”
4 – If you get “yes dear”, ask your spouse what the “yes dear” means. What you should hear back is “I heard that you need __________ done by (certain time) today.”  Don’t let the catchphrase pacify you.  Make sure you know that you’ve been heard.

For you “Yes Dear” people (like myself):

1 – What is my spouse actually asking for?  Look past the surface.  You’re spouse may be wanting attention, affection, time, or simply want to be heard more than actually getting a task done.
2 – What is the emotion driving it? Is he/she frustrated? Is there a sense of urgency?  If you spouse is urgent about something but you refuse to sense that urgency, you’re telling your spouse that you don’t have the time to validate their feelings and you are asking for the same treatment.  Don’t just hear the request, listen to the feeling behind the request.
3 – How important is this to my spouse? We always want what’s important to us to be important to our spouse.  It’s a wonderful fairy-tale scenario. But reality is: so many couples struggle because their only urgency rests in what they selfishly feel is urgent.  I will get into a zone watching a football game.  Anne will get into a zone when she is organizing.  It may be a silly illustration, but we have both been frustrated with the other because we were bothered at inconvenient moments.  In our “zones”, we refuse to listen to the importance of what our spouse is saying.

Back to the scripture we started this whole blog with. Proverbs 13:3 says “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.”  A careless approach to marital longevity involves the use of over-used catchphrases that can be detrimental to a healthy life with our spouse.  Take a step back.  Examine your words.  Ask for forgiveness.  Communicate effectively.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Yes Dear.