Quality Beats Quantity: 2 Thoughts about Marital Communication

You may know what you are talking about but does your spouse know what you are talking about?

It’s a pretty sobering question if you really ponder on it. All too often, I take for granted, because of our 20 years of marriage, that Anne is just going to get what I’m saying.

Not necessarily true.

In fact, there is are more assaults on marriage through “assumptive communication.” That simply means that I believe my spouse understands everything I’ve been conveying. And if there is a misunderstanding, it’s probably their fault as I feel that I was clear enough with what I said. So instead of reviewing the “how” of my approach, I keep talking and talking waiting for them to “get it.”

More talking doesn’t mean better talking. Sometimes there is so much information given that your spouse cannot digest what came out of your mouth and your heart. Quality trumps quantity in communication. Think of it like the difference between going to buffet and a having a quality meal. You’ll walk way from a buffet “feeling” full but unable to digest the copious amounts of saying, “I’m not sure what I ate, but I’m full.” Now look at a good planned out meal. You’ll have the proper portions based off of the palette of the person(s) present. Not only will those eating enjoy the meal but they’ll be able to digest was presented (served).

1 – Quality communication is intentional; it doesn’t just “happen.” As I spoke Sunday at Kfirst, our communication has to go beyond information but strategy. So often I bring up the “3 T’s” of communication (time, tone, technique). Why? Because it is how you and I can intentionally convey that which is on our heart to share. Without that approach, we can feel like we communicated to our spouse not realizing, perhaps, that our tone destroyed our message or that our timing undermined our intention or that our technique misconstrued our heart.

In trigonometry and geometry, triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles to it from known points. What we can do with our communication is to triangulate the communication “sweet spot” by making sure all of our information is strategically approached. Doing this is an act of stewardship. God has given us a voice as a gift and we have a responsibility to steward/manage that gift. 

2 – Quality communication necessitates a lifetime of adjustment. It’d be fine if we, or the person we are married to, didn’t change. But we all do. My oldest is 18 and just completed her freshman year of college. I don’t talk to her the same way I did back in 1999. Why? It sounds overly obvious so say she’s older, in a different maturity of comprehension, and in a drastically different season of life than she was when she was first-born.

Why is it we are able to adapt to children and their “seasons” but we don’t allow those adjustments with adults, specifically, our spouse? I think it’s, potentially, because we disassociate idea of growth with adulthood. You may not be growing “upward” any longer but you can grow deeper. And it is incredibly difficult for the marriage to grow deeper if you are unwilling to adjust how you communicate to your spouse.

I think of any athlete approaching “game day” based off the conditions they’re playing in. Rain, wind, and bright sun shine are all taking into consideration before he/she engages in their activity. Why? The conditions can dramatically affect the results. The same throwing motion in two different conditions can produce different outcomes because of the circumstances at hand.

Sounds like a lot more work doesn’t it? Actually it isn’t. When you weigh out the amount of time and effort needed to recoup from miscommunication, to forgive faults, and heal from misunderstandings, it really is beneficial in every way to approach your communication in a healthy way.  Intentionally communicating and adjusting to the time and seasons of life actually is much less work and more effective in allowing the marriage to grow deeper and aiding in seeing a greater level of joy between you two.

What do you need to start or stop doing in your communication? How can you approach each other that prevents miscommunication? Talk to each other about it. Share with your spouse how you plan on being more strategic with your communication.

Love you all. Praying for you all as you intentionally adjust how you communicate with each other.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

To my wife, thanks for letting me ramble these past 20 years…

I love you.

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.

Use your inside voice: 5 Thoughts on Your Marital Tone

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

“Use your inside voice” has been a parenting tactic for years. For some parents, it’s an attempt at telling a child to “quiet down” but in a nicer way. Randomly, I hear parents tell this to their kids in the grocery store and, every once in a while, I hear a kid say back, “this is my inside voice.”  For other parents, there is a greater lesson they are trying to teach: tone stewardship.

Let me explain.

In most of the pastoral counseling I do, I can trace most issues back to communication. It’s why I talk constantly about the 3 “Ts” of communication (time, tone, and technique). But of the three, tone seems like one that is the “game-changer.”

I’ve heard it said that “10% of conflicts is due to difference in opinion, and 90% is due to wrong tone of voice.” (Na Mariz) Your tone can create urgency or foster peace. It can bring passion or it can communicate displeasure. A forceful tone can speak of a lack of sensitivity just as much as sarcastic tone can miscommunicate indifference. Just a change in the fluctuation of your voice can make or break what needs to be said. What if, what you are trying to say, is getting lost in your tone?

What if the tone you’ve chosen isn’t as effective as you think it is? What if your tone is destroying everything your trying to communicate? So I thought I’d give you some “tone” thoughts.

You possess more than one tone.
It almost sounds overly simple. Yet I see so many marriages that do not adjust or manage their tone with each other. I hear statements like, “This is who I am” or “This is how my family talks to each other.” You you may be correct from one point of view, those statements are either ignorance of what your tones are doing to your spouse or you are giving yourself permission to not work personally on something. Tones can make or break a symphony. Your tone can add to the harmony of good communication or completely disrupt it.

Be a better listener. 
Many issues I come across are misguided reactions to misunderstood information. Listening isn’t waiting for your turn to talk. It’s engaging in someone’s context (their situation) and request (what are they really asking for). I often wonder if we seek to understand, rather than be understood, we’d have a better tone to our communication.  Your tone signifies what you are really listening to. For example, your spouse may be trying to tell you how hurt they are. If you don’t listen, your tone can be defensive over assuming you are the cause to the hurt. Where you’re busy defending yourself, you spouse may have needed a softer tone of understanding than a reactionary tone of defensiveness.

Learn to hear what people hear. 
I don’t like what I sound like. It’s one of the reasons why I struggle listening to my sermons the next day for evaluation. I’ll sit back and say, “Is that what I really sound like?” What you may hear coming out of your mouth may not be what people hear. Ever had a “fight within a fight”? This is one of those moments. You’re fighting over something, then a tone comes in, and now you’re fighting over the tone you used that your spouse took the “wrong way.”  If the people in your life are hearing what you are not hearing, it’s time to step back and realize: If I am the common denominator, then I may have a common problem. Self evaluation is more than the identification of issues. It’s a an understanding that you have more to grow in.

Stop giving yourself permission to be offensive. 
I grow weary of hearing the excuse “If people get offended by the truth, well, that’s their fault.” I partially agree with the statement. As a preacher, I have no problem confronting people with God’s Word but I don’t have to be a jerk about it. Being “truthful” has become the excuse to blast people all in the name of Jesus. Don’t leave a wake of mess behind you. Your mouth and it’s tone are gifts for you bless not curse; a vessel to be managed not to be enslaved by.

Keep conversations that demand tone offline.
I tire of messages from people who’ve decided to engage in conversations online that have blown up because it was a dialogue that demanded tone. For example, you type a message of apology to help convey your heartfelt request for forgiveness but also want to help the person understand why you reacted in the way they did. The person on the other side of the message reads: “I’m sorry. But my reaction was your fault but I’m going to be the bigger person and apologize first.” I’ve learned that I can emoji the crap out of a message in an attempt to develop some “tone,” but it does not replace the inflection of a voice and the gentleness of a humble heart that can only be conveyed in an audible tone.

I go back to my opening scripture,

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18

How often are we to point the finger requesting that your spouse step up first? How often to we demand him/her to change before we’ll offer any more change? This simple scripture points to our hearts and says, “Stop blaming others for not being the source of peace. Go after peace as if it all depends upon you.”

Your tone is your responsibility. And your tone can make or break your communication.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Marriage with Ketchup: 5 Ways to Get Perspective

I love hearing people’s stories.

It’s amazing how when you stop and listen to someone you can, first show value to them by shutting up and listening. “Listening” is not waiting for your turn to talk. It’s showing genuine interest in knowing who the person is and what they’re trying to convey. Second, listening is (what I find) a place of comfort. It helps me feel normal as I realize that I’m not the only one to go through a variety of season in marriage/life. And usually I look to alway listen as my heart is to alway learn.

In the words of the movie, “The Shawshank Redemption,” Andy says,

Get busy living or get busy dying.

And in marriage, the only way I know to “get busy living” is to get busy learning.

So about a month ago I approached someone in our congregation because of what I heard about her husband. Oddly enough, it had to do with ketchup (and yes I have their permission to share all of this).

I was told that her husband John put ketchup on literally everything. So when I asked her about it, I discovered that this ketchup thing was an issue early for them. “Pastor, on one of our dates, he put ketchup on his steak.”  She went on to describe how frustrated she was with it to the point of rationing how much ketchup he was using every day.

Then what she said was fascinating. “I found myself at a support group of other ladies and heard what other wives where struggling with. I thought to myself, ‘It’s just ketchup.’” She went on to share the revelation of what was truly going on was not necessarily a matter of conflict but a matter of preference.

It’s just ketchup.

How many people are creating major marital conflict over “ketchup” matters?

What I’m referring to is issues that are preferential in nature that have nothing to do with “wrong” or “right.”  Usually they stem from the background and/or upbringing of the individual prior to marriage. As I so often say: Every wedding brings two sets of baggage into the marriage. It’s not a matter of “do we have baggage?” but “how will we navigate through the baggage we bring?”

I’d love to say that these are things only exclusive to “young couples.” But unattended and/or unaddressed issues of preference in ANY vintage of marriage will always have massive potential for disaster. Why? We tend to defend our preferences because they “feel” so personal. And when my preferences are attacked, I am being attacked.

But isn’t that how many marital things escalate? When something isn’t to our taste (preference), we disregard it and/or want it changed to way we “prefer.” But when the tables are turned, are insecurities rise and offense is held. Sometimes we need to step back and get a bit of perspective.

Step back and look deeper at some of the issues you’re dealing with. My guess, a number of the fights you’ve had in the past or some of the ones you currently are having stemmed/started with “ketchup-like” moments.

  • Toothpaste in the sink
  • Clothes around the basket instead in the basket
  • Things not put away “properly” (to your liking)
  • Hobbies your spouse indulges in that you don’t prefer
  • You both are doing activities that sides toward your spouse’s liking

I’m not saying the “ketchup” issues are not important, but because they’ve not been navigated through properly, we’ve allowed something things that could have been dealt with at a minor level to expound to a greater proportion than necessary.

How do you get perspective with matters of preference?

Step back. This is what Jodi did. She literally listened to the negative situations of others, refused to fall into the negativity, and decided to step back into perspective. Sometimes we have so much good going for our marriage that the little things spoil our perspectives. Step back out of the frustration, see the one you love, and embrace the idea that greater good is NOT getting your way but building the marriage itself.

Stop trying to fix your spouse. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit we don’t give room for the Holy Spirit to work. It’s your job to love, pray, encourage, serve, laugh, and walk with your spouse. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to “fix” your spouse.

Lay down your ketchup bottle. Just as much as you want to see change, lead in that change. I don’t believe we should expect in our spouse what we are unable to do ourselves. Don’t demand sacrifice; be sacrificial. Instead of expecting to be served, serve first.

Communicate correctly. Just because you may have “said something” doesn’t mean you necessarily communicated correctly and/or clearly. My simplistic marital advice on communication is wrapped up with three words: Timing, Tone, and Technique. If you work all three at once, you give your marital voice clarity, power, and effectiveness.

You can be different yet still ONE. Marriage is designed to kill selfishness; it doesn’t prevent personal change. But as we submit to the Lord and to each other, our personalities are not sacrificed but are refined. And the differences we wield should complement and build our oneness, not destroy it. In the oneness in the marriage, the husband and wife do not necessarily lose their distinctiveness, we develop it. I liken it to the biblical writers who the Holy Spirit worked through while utilizing their personalities that were always submitted to the Lord. The more we open ourselves up to the Spirit of God shaping us, the better “us” we’ll discover.

Are you fighting and/or frustrated over “ketchup” issues? Have matters of preference risen to the point of massive conflict? I know I’ve been there. Perhaps it’s time to get some perspective over the real issue at hand. “Am I struggling over a real issue or is this a preferential issue?”

Many times, I realize: “It’s just ketchup.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: My new book of my blogs came out. Click on the image to order yours!!

Talking to Yourself: How Self-talk May Help Your Marriage

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…Proverbs 23:7

I have conversations all day long, 7 days a week. And some of those conversation are actually with people other than myself.  Now, before you click off the blog and pray for me to stop talking to myself so much, you’d probably need to step back and realize how much “self-talk” actually goes on.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, we have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day. What really startled me about this study were these two tidbits of info:

  • 95% of our daily thoughts are the SAME thoughts repeated.
  • On average, 80 percent of those habitual thoughts are negative.

The clinic says, “our brains are hardwired to pay more attention to negative experiences than to positive ones. That’s right, our brains are designed to take in and register negative experiences more deeply than positive experiences.”

That is a lot of negative inner monologue happening; it’s an overwhelming amount of negativity to fixate upon. As I read these stats, I wonder how many marriages are crumbling because we excel at listening to ourselves and are terrible at speaking to ourselves.

“So, you want us to talk to ourselves?”

Well…Yes I do.

Weekly, I have interactions with people who struggle with being defeated not necessarily by what they’re facing but what they’re thinking. Their outward situation can be better than their thoughts, not to sound cliché, but their perception (thoughts) have become their reality. Could it be that the amount of insecurity, anger, fear, and shame we see in our marriage has less to do with what we are facing and more to do with what we are fixing our thoughts upon?

I think a key to being the spouse who God desires and our marriage functioning in a healthy way is learning to talk to ourselves. Let me explain.

Last Sunday, I encouraged our congregation to increase the amount of positive self-talk to help bring our emotions into check. After the service, an attendee told me about a study he had read and forwarded it to me about the scientific perks of talking to yourself. Not only does speaking to yourself help you to be more organized in your tasks, but it gives you a better vision to accomplish what needs to be done.

Isn’t that what David modeled in Psalm 42-43?  In this, of my favorite biblical passages, the psalmist says (my paraphrase),

You listen to me soul; here’s how it’s going to go: You’re going to hope in God. Keep holding on to hope, walk in obedience, remember who you are in Him.

By just listening to his mental and emotional state, he was bummed out.  Instead of being a victim of his thoughts, he took matter in his own hands. He spoke to himself the same words, 3 times, in two chapters and raised his focus to accomplish what he needed to. Simply said: Your mind feeds on what you focus on. And David knew that healthy (Godly) self-talk directs your frame of mind.

What if the change you are looking for in your marriage began, not with talking to your spouse, but with talking to yourself? Good communication is the cornerstone of marriage. But what if we viewed good marital communication that included good self-talk about our marriage? What type of self-talk should we have?

And David was greatly distressed…But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.1 Samuel 30:6

My challenge this week: Instead of listening to the negative thoughts, talk out loud to yourself about your marriage. As the Cleveland Clinic says, “Our ability to generate explicit self-instructions is actually one of the best tools we have for cognitive control, and it simply works better when said aloud.

What type of things do you need to say to yourself out loud (probably without people around)? 

  • How/why you fell in love with your spouse.
  • Find is right about your marriage instead about fixating about what is wrong.
  • Rehearse good memories.
  • Yours and your spouse’s identity in Christ.
  • Areas you, personally, want to grow in (instead of focusing on what your spouse needs to change).
  • The truth of God’s Word.
  • Encouragement (over you and your spouse).

How much better would the mental state of our marriage be if, like David, we learned to speak to ourselves and took control of our thoughts. It’s time to open up our mouths and take back our thoughts from what the Devil has been doing to our marriage. It’s time to talk to ourselves.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

(^^^imagine if we did those three things to ourselves with good self talk?)

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Fix the Disconnect: 7 Simple Steps to Re-establishing a Date Night

It’s Friday, and for Dave and Anne, it’s “date day.”

It wasn’t always that way. Almost 19 years ago, Anne married a workaholic who felt the urgency (and still does) to get work done 7 days a week. I can use that as an excuse and chalk that up to the nature of my work ethic. Or like anything God has given me, I can be a steward (manager) of it instead of a victim of it. Excuses are just that: excuses. The Apostle Paul said it best,

“…I must not become a slave to anything.” 1 Corinthians 6:12

“Date day” is something we wish we would’ve established years ago. It’s been healing to us and has reestablished the connection we needed. It’s amazing how a consistent intimate connection like a “date” can, over time, bring health to every area of your marriage. I mean, it’s how we connected back in 1995 which lead to a long relationship. And that long relationship, through this type of connection, brought us to engagement and marriage. But for some reason, the template for connection (dating) is abandoned once the wedding is over.

I’ve heard all of the excuses. From time to money to the agreeing on what to do, it seems like we look for reasons to NOT date our spouse instead finding and making opportunities to be with them.  It happened to us and we believe it can happen to anyone. No money for a date? We understand. Having no funds for a baby sitter? We get it. Packed schedule? Yep. But the love within you must overcome the obstacles facing you. If we are to be honest about it all, most of the obstacles we’re facing are more mental, emotional, and spiritual than physical. You may see something keeping you from dating your spouse, but deep down, the struggle is more internal than external.

I’m very thankful for the words of John,

“…the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1 John 4:4

Someone told me a great piece of advice a while ago. “If you don’t date your spouse, the devil will find someone else who will.” It sound so overly dramatic and intense, but it’s the truth. When we pull away from connection with our spouse, the devil looks at that as prime opportunity for temptation.

So I thought I’d share some dating “tips” to help you stay connected and/or re-establish that dating pattern that you exercises before you said “I do.”

  1. Have the conversation.
    • This is where it all begins. To me, it’s not just about admitting that dates are not happening. It’s about a resolve to make it happen.
  2. Pick a time.  
    • This is the most simple part of a date that so many people don’t get past. I deal with couples all the time who are so wrapped up in “what are we going to do.” Start by agreeing on a time/day and let that begin the momentum.
  3. Guard the time. 
    • It’s not just about establishing a day or time. Guard it. For us, if we are doing our scheduling, we guard our time as to show each other how much we value that time.
    • Establish some “rules.” Some people will have rules like “no phones during the date” to “no double-dates” (as some just need some “couple time”).
  4. Create a date pattern. 
    • Dates don’t have to be massive undertakings. Sometimes quality time can be experienced in simplicity.
      • Anne and I take consistent walks together (literally no cost) and Sunday evenings is a consistent “walk time” for us. It gives us a connection to develop the week’s expectations as far as our schedule.  We love our neighborhood but have walked Celery Flats or Al Sabo. Being on the west side of Michigan, we love walking out on a pier out on Lake Michigan.
      • Fridays are the “go out” date days. We chose the afternoon to go out and enjoy time together.
  5. Get creative. 
    • Find things you both like to do.
    • Rotate between the two of you on who choses the date activity.
    • Mix up what you are doing so that you don’t get in a dating rut.
  6. Make alliances. (Forgive me, but I’m re-watching Survivor on Hulu so this is fresh on my mind.)
    • Find a few families and make a “dating alliance.” This is where you can rotate watching each other’s children as to eliminate the cost of childcare.
    • Link up with other couples to double-date or group-date. Don’t have all of your dates be with other people but you need to get out with other couples. The more we hang out with others, the more normal you’ll feel.
  7. Don’t get frustrated. 
    • You may pick a day that, in the long run, wasn’t the best day. Congratulations, you just discovered something you may need to change or push through. Instead of feeling terrible about something you may call a “failure,” see it as “fine-tuning” your dating pattern.

 

I love the words in the book of Revelation that Jesus gives to the church in Ephesus,

“You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!…Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5

Jesus connected a pattern of their life to the disconnect of their heart. And if that simple concept can transform us in our closeness to Christ, imagine the impact it could have in our marriage.

Love you all.  Praying for you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…