Lift the Lid: 3 Ways to Raise the Level of Your Marriage

I’m an eclectic reader.  As a pastor, my “reading bent” may be toward marital subjects, but I like to read on a variety of topic as I desire to constantly grow. And what I find myself doing is, as I read, I journal thoughts for personal reflection and make notes for future/potential sermon use.

It was about a month ago, I came across a couple of observations about Proverbs 31. The chapter, itself, has been historically known as the “Virtuous Woman.” I’ve heard it taught on, many times, as the “check-list” for how a woman ought to live.

But these two observations had nothing to do with an inventory of actions for a wife to live up to. They were two very refreshing takes on this beautiful chapter.

First,  Proverbs 31 was a blessing that Hebrew men memorized and sang over their wives. Not only was their time and effort made to read and memorize this song, but the care and intention was made to sing it over your wife. AND this specific song wasn’t there to be the “to-do” list, but colorful, poetic, and prophetic statements of value and encouragement.

Second, in verse 23, it says, “her husband is an elder at the gates of the city.” The verse attributes his position to herShe believed he was an elder before he was one. It makes me think of the amount of encouragement/affirmation he must have heard in his home that aided to the level that he rose to.  

For me personally, this chapter has been completely transformed. Two simple thoughts have only gone to emphasize that your marriage will not rise above your words. If you want your marriage to grow, your words, and how you use them, must grow too.

Take your spouse higher. (Sorry if you now have the Creed song  stuck in you head…I do.)
I wonder how many marriages are not seeing the growth they’ve craved because their words (tone, timing, technique) have stifled the growth.  Proverbs 31 shows me the power of words and how they raising the level health in the atmosphere in my home. And if I give my spouse a healthy atmosphere to grow, it gives a place for my marriage to grow. Where do you want your marriage to be? Your words facilitate the climate of how your relationship will grow.

Excel in generosity. Cut your spouse a bigger slice.
I like statistics. And I think the easiest way to show them is in a “pie chart.” 

If you were to take all of the words you give your spouse and create a pie chart, what percentage would be shown for things like encouragement and criticism, honor and disrespect, complement and sarcasm? Whatever you’ve been divvying out for your encouragement and honor, live generously and cut them a bigger slice! As silly as this might sound, I’ve never seen some get a bad attitude when someone offered to cut a larger slice of pie than anticipated (pie > cake).  Generosity is expressed in an act but proven in a lifestyle. All that to say, develop a lifestyle that is generous with words that build your spouse up.

Paint a better picture. 
Your words create identity. The verbiage you use (and how you use it) doesn’t give your spouse a new name but it tells her/him what you really believe about them. I’ve counseled with far too many people who would rather spend time at work or with friends simply because the words they hear, paint a more encouraging picture than the one depicted in their home. Two simple rules to live by, if you want to “paint a better picture” to your spouse is to, first, honor your spouse where you want them to be. I didn’t say to tell your spouse where you want them to be but “honor” them where you want them to be. When you show honor (or respect) it speaks of a humble and giving heart that shows recognition and value. I believe it prophetically speaks vision into your spouse of what you see in them

Then second, refuse to let anybody out-encourage your spouse. I’ll admit that I write about this A LOT. It’s primarily because I’ve seen far too many people be tempted through something, seemingly simple, yet profoundly powerful. I refuse to let anyone out-encourage me to my wife.

Today, I’m not asking you to memorize Proverbs 31 (or any song) to sing over your spouse. As much as Anne loves me, I don’t think she’d be encouraged by my singing voice. But I would challenge you to raise the level of the words of your home and marriage. Adjust the tones you use, think about the timing, and switch some of your techniques and watch health begin to develop in your lives.

Love you all. Praying for you today.

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!!

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Reducing your “…but”: 4 Thoughts on Encouraging Your Spouse

I’ve begun a few workout regiment. Physical fitness, in whatever form, has been a tremendous outlet for my own stress while being a great input for healthy living. I know there are people who tell me “there’s no time for working out.” I’m not saying you need to do the 2-hour gym-rat thing, but you can enhance your personal life and marriage just by eating better and getting some physical activities. In the words of my grandmother, “you make time for the things that are important to you.” (that should be its own blog). But back to my story…

A few weeks back,  I was in a gym hearing constant criticisms about my “work out” from a trainer (I think the bro was trying to motivate me). From form to effort, everything was called into question (mind you, I keep track of how well I progress as I’m pretty competitive with myself). And right before I left that evening, in the span of about 30 seconds, he gave me a barrage of encouragement. Those 30 seconds breathed more life into me than 2 hours of negativity and criticism. I felt like a stood taller. I was ready to restart the workout again.

Then it got ruined with one word: BUT

“You did great today…I can see improvement…BUT…”

The word “but” is a conjunction. A conjunction is the glue that holds words and phrases together. So when you use it in a sentence, it’s connecting what you said to what is going to be stated. AND this simple conjunction is ruining one of the greatest, and essential, tools we have in our marriages:

Encouragement.

Encouragement is, perhaps the most simplistic, powerful thing we can convey to our spouse. I can come up with simpler actions; I believe I can come up with some things more “powerful.” And now I sit here in my local coffeehouse, sipping my coffee and wracking my brain trying to think of something that carries both a high level of simplicity and power like encouragement does.

And what concerns me, is how this three-lettered word (“…but”), used too often, can render the encouragement in your home useless. Why? It will condition your spouse to see that your encouraging words are not there to build you up but to build themselves a platform for correction. Whether you know it or not, your pattern of encouragement reveals the position of your heart. And if the pattern of how you encourage is always laced with this 3-letter conjunction, then it’s time to reduce your “…but” (I almost went in to a “Baby Got Back” reference but that didn’t seem too holy).

“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.” – Unknown

Atmosphere is everything 
I leave my gym bag in the car so I don’t forget it. But the problem is my hand-wraps have been soaking up my sweat and, well, it’s become an unpleasant smell. What I find interesting (and Anne finds disgusting) is I’ve gotten so used to the smell that I don’t notice it. But the other day, she got in the car and started making a gagging sound. Now my gym bag sits in the garage to air out. Kind of a silly observation, but ONE simple change and the air in the car is completely different (and more enjoyable…seriously, I didn’t realize how bad it was till I removed it).

The point is simple: You can get so used to the way YOU do things that, first, you don’t see anything wrong with it and second, you don’t see what it’s doing to others. Perhaps it’s how your family did things and if that’s what you grew up in, then it has to be correct because it “worked for your parents.”

And ONE simple change can, literally, change the atmosphere of your marriage. Perhaps we need to step back and realize that we may be doing something (bringing something) to the “air” of our home that may not be conducive for healthy encouragement. And simple dealing with the word “…but” can make all the difference. Why? It leaves encouragement as, well, encouragement.

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”
I know that’s using the King James Translation (Proverbs 23:7), but it really conveys an important point: What you fixate your mind upon, that’s what the actions of your life are going to follow. It’s why Paul writes to the church and says,

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

Encouragement is a discipline that reminds us to see what’s right in each other and why we fell in love with each other. It causes us to see the best in each other and fix our minds there. If our spouse is doing 8 things wrong and only 3 things right, focus on the three things and you’ll be surprised on what your spouse can do. If you’re constantly looking to change and correct your spouse, not only is “what’s wrong” all you’re ever going to see, but it’s all your spouse will ever hear from you. Fix your thoughts on the right things and the actions will follow.

Use the 3-1 rule.
I am in no way against moments of healthy correction and criticism. Marriage without accountability is a marriage with the absence of love. And love of Christ causes us to know how to adequately convey those moments. I think of Colossians 4:6,

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…”

Yes I understand the context was how to speak to people who were not Christians. But there’s a greater principle: if this is how careful we are to be with others, how much more care should we give to how we speak to our spouse. Don’t be “full of salt and seasoned with grace“; it says, to be “FULL of GRACE, SEASONED with SALT.” And I think a very simple way to do this is the “3-1 Rule”: For every 1 criticism/correction, there should be 3 encouraging words. Why this extreme? Because, I believe, that if you are constantly looking for what is right in your spouse, it will put the criticism in your heart in perspective. This simple rule will fill your heart with what’s “right” and gives you a well of inspiration to draw from. And the more you do it, the more you’ll notice that the “3-1 Rule” is changing YOU more than it’s changing your spouse.

Let love set the tone.
Christ loved us before we could even be in the place to love Him. Think about that. Regardless of our response, He acted out of love whether or not we deserved it or would return it back to him. Jesus didn’t love out of what He would receive back from us. He simply loved regardless of what you and I would do with that love. His love set the tone. And it’s up to us to respond to that.

Christ example, for me, has been such a personal challenge. If Christ can do that for me, how can I withhold that type of love for my spouse?

How do you encourage someone who not a very encouraging person? Simply said, do it out of the same mind that Christ had for you: love. Let love set the tone of your encouragement. Let love be the “pace-setter” for your responses of encouragement as you see deeply into what God is doing in your marriage. If your encouragement is only to get something in return, then it’s nothing more than manipulation. Give encouragement, if nothing else, because it’s the right thing to do and it sets your marriage up for healthy opportunities. Truth trumps feelings and encouragement has been, and will always, be one of the most healthiest actions you can do for your marriage.

I love you all. I’m praying for you. As the Lord for help and make the faith-step forward today and begin to start a new habit of transforming your home in to a grace-filled home of encouragement.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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

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The Flyover: 11 Marriage Conference Thoughts

I’m a pastor who loves to preach series. Why? There are so many sections of scripture, subjects, thoughts, and topics that are waaaaay too much for one sermon. And I think, us pastors, can be at fault for giving so much info packed in one message that it makes it impossible for people to digest and use in their every day lives.

So often, I’ll begin the series with a “flyover” message. Essentially, it’s a view of the main passage or thought behind the series from about 30,000 feet. In other words, you’re going to see a few things from the surface that, the closer you get, will be far deeper to tackle.

Anne and I are taking off today to do another marriage conference. And as I was on my run today, I thought to myself, “If I could boil down a marriage conference into a flyover, what would that look like?”

So here’s my post-run flyover of what I hope every couple can gather from a marriage enrichment weekend:

  1. Your marriage is more normal than you realize.
    • You’re not the only one to deal with what you are facing. You are not alone in your struggles and challenges. There are more like you that God has worked in and through.
  2. Healthy sexuality is more important than you realize and it’s nothing of what society likes to emphasize. 
    • God created sex as a gift to be enjoyed, explored, and indulged in your marriage.
  3. Communication is just like firewood.
    • I learned that in survival situations, whenever you think you have enough firewood, double it. Because what you demand for survival will be more than you think you need.
  4. There’s no such thing as too much grace and forgiveness.
    • I’m not speaking of trust nor am I asking for someone to be in an abusive situation. BUT we ought to be giving out grace and forgiveness the way God give it. He operates like Five Guys and their fries; what you ask for, He gives beyond expectation. And THAT make you keep coming back.
  5. Fun may be the most underestimated aspect of marriage.
    • We invest so much into it BEFORE marriage and we forget how necessary it is after. If it’s how you “fell in love” then why don’t we continue it to feed the passion?
  6. Marriage is brutal on selfish people. 
    • The best marriage is two servants in love. Servants live to please someone else and that someone should be Christ and your spouse.
  7. Jesus is not the “third wheel” but the “third strand.” 
  8. Trust is not the same as forgiveness.
    • Forgiveness is immediate; trust is built. In fact, trust is like breaking a piece of fine china; with patience, hard work, and care, it can’t be put back together.
  9. Believe the motives OF your spouses heart, more than the assumptions you built up ABOUT your spouse. 
    • If you know his/her heart, then let the be the filter you work though. Your mind will conjure up scenarios that will add unnecessary anger, anxiety, and apprehension to you.
  10. Not everybody needs to know your business.
    • Have healthy boundaries with parents, friends, and social media. Keep Christ as your closest and first confident and your spouse as your next.
  11. It’s not weakness to ask for help; It’s weakness to NOT ask. 
    • Pride is the only thing keeping you from seeking good, healthy, and Godly counsel. Work together and work with someone.

I hope this can encourage and help someone today.

Love you all. Pray for us this weekend as we travel to the east side of Michigan and come back to Kalamazoo for Sunday.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

“Do you even hear yourself?” 3 Thoughts of Fixing Your Marital Gait

Last week we began our annual vision series at Kfirst. And for every series, we have a sermon “bumper video.” It’s a very short video that brings the focus of the service to the message that is about to be preached. Usually, I see the video before it’s launched. But last Sunday, I was seeing it for the first time along with the rest of the congregation.

Just in case you want to see the video:

My first response was tears. The sight of people serving, laughing, worshiping, and engaging in ministry was humbling. It touched my soul.

Then I fixated on something else: My face.

It seems that, in the pictures of me baptizing, I’m looking “angry” or “intense.” And, obviously, the moment was everything but what my face was communicating. It was a time of rejoicing and celebration; it was a day that brought both smiles and happy tears. But, from a simple glimpse, you might not get where my heart truly was.

And it’s here that I’ve begun to remember so many conversations with couples who struggle, not with verbalizing words, but with the factors that surround communication. Simply said: Just because you are good at talking doesn’t mean you are an effective communicator. On the flip-side, just because you heard the words that were said, doesn’t mean your spouse feels like you listened. If you don’t understand your marital “gait,” then you run a danger of misrepresenting what your intentions are in how you speak (and listen). Your gait can literally reshape and restructure your verbal communication.

Simply defined, a “gait” is a person’s manner of walking. And every person has a “personal gait” that is seen way they step, hold themselves, posture their back, and position their feet. Sometimes you can tell how someone’s day is going by their gait. If their head and shoulders are slumped, they may be having a “down day.” Perhaps you see someone walking briskly with a smile may project that they’re motivated to tackle the day’s activities. Your “gait” says a lot about you.

Some of you have never realized what a “gait” was, let alone, had one. We all do. But let me take this a bit deeper: The way you carry yourself (your gait) sets the atmosphere for words you speak. It can be the thermostat for your communication (or lack thereof).  Just by your demeanor, you can set the temperature of what a conversation will look like and/or be received. This can happen at work, in church, and yes, especially in your home. Most of us are aware of the words that come out of our mouths, but unaware that your “gait” may be changing everything you are trying to say.

For example, over the past 18 years, both Anne and I have said to each other variations of:

  • “Do you even hear yourself?” (Tone is mis-communicating my heart.)
  • “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror when you say that?” (My face says something different from my words.)
  • “I don’t think YOU understand HOW you just came off to…” (Speaking of the technique of my approach communicated the opposite of what our words were saying.)

We’ve all been there (some of us are still here). Why? The longer you are married, the more comfortable you get with your spouse (which is a good thing). But with the passing of time we do run the danger of taking our gait for granted in our marriage. We assume our spouse knows what we’re trying to say and we get lazy with our communication.

“I know that’s what I said, but you should know what I meant.”

So the question comes: how do you work though marital “gait” issues?

Stop the selfish argument. I’m so tired of hearing “this is just who I am” or “this is how God created me.” I’m sorry…that’s crap.

It’s just another way of saying, “I refuse to grow and/or allow the Holy Spirit to change me that may be healthier for me, my spouse, and my family.” It’s a pride statement from a refusal to face the fact that, first, something you may be doing is incorrect and, second, you may need to adjust something in your life that you’ve never addressed.

You don’t always hear your tones. Some mannerisms can come out of nowhere and confuse your listeners.  Stop arguing for the way you’ve been acting and be humble enough to admit you may not have it all figured out like you think? If an antibody is what the immune system uses to identify and neutralize bacteria and viruses that threaten us, then humility is the “antibody” that we use to address and neutralize the pride that threatens our marriage. Lord, teach us to be “humble in doing right,” teaching us your way (Psalm 25:9).

Be humble enough to ask for help? What better way to hear about your gait than from someone who isn’t you. Because the truth is: We are not always aware of ourselves. And who better than a trusted source that loves you enough to say what needs to be said. I love Proverbs 27:6 which says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” If you trust your spouse and know his/her motives, then allow them to speak into this area. Communication is relational currency. And if you can maximize the use your words with your gait, then you not just spend the “relational currency” well, but you’ll put to death things like misunderstanding, assumption, and doubt.

Shape your gait. What I’ve discovered is the change I need is not always the change I want. Shaping your gait is as simple as making necessary adjustments while welcoming outside accountability. And I’ve learned to do this inside my home as well as outside of my home.

I’m thankful for a staff who helps me. I may be their boss, but they are my sounding board. And if I can be a more effective communicator, I have give people a greater image of the “Christ in me” instead of the “David in me.” This was the apostle Paul’s concern for the church in Colossia (Colossians 1:27)  and it’s a huge challenge for all of us.  It’s more important for people to see Christ than it is to do what is easy (remain the same).  Change is necessary for growth and, most of the time, change is located out of my comfort zone.

I love you all. I pray that you would develop some “gait awareness” that may be adjusting your communication far beyond you realize.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Drop Your Resolutions: 3 Thoughts About Changes in Your Marriage

A few days ago, I sat at around a table and we talked about resolutions. I’ll be honest, I’m just not a proponent of them. Why? Because they tend to be an “all or nothing” mentality. If you’re struggling to take steps toward them, you quit. If you didn’t reach the full “resolution” then you didn’t complete it. I’ve known people who came 5 lbs. short of a “resolution” but saw it as a failure because they fell short. Where I feel that you accomplished a tremendous feat, many people consider that a resolution failure.

Yet in marriage…

Mistakes are made. Habits become bothersome. Frustrations develop. Changes are desired.

So we approach our spouse like we approach a “New Years Resolution” and ONE of TWO things happen. First, if we don’t see the progress we want to see in the immediate, we give up and “cash in” on any hope.  There’s something in our culture that demands such immediate results that leaves little to no time for personal/marital growth. You can’t make a seed open and you can’t force roots through the soil. Too many want people want to give opportunity for the Holy Spirit to do a work but don’t want to give Him the time and place to develop the work both in you and your spouse.

Second, if we don’t complete the expectation (resolution) fully, then it was a failure. We can’t see the growth and progress because we’ve fixated on what wasn’t accomplished. While I’m a proponent of ceasing sinful activity in the immediate, you must allow the same amount of grace that Christ gives you while stepping forward with Holy Spirit-driven wisdom. Instead of an all-or-nothing mentality, look at the growth that was made. While an expectation wasn’t met, progress was accomplished.

In reality, most marital irritations didn’t happen overnight, yet we approach them as if they will go away that fast. So I thought we’d begin the year with THREE thoughts about seeing change.

Quick change vs. Deep Change. Are you wanting habits to change or hearts to change?  While some of you are thinking, “I just want that annoying habit to stop,” there may be a deeper issues at hand. If “surface irritations” are getting out of hand, it’s a sign of deeper infection. Deep marital change begins with heart changes. And hearts that experience change are hearts that surrender to the presence of God and the peace, wisdom, and strength He provides. Position your marriage for deep change. Pray together. Pray for each other. Attend a local church together. Serve together. Encourage each other. When God enters the heart, hope rises. And whatever you face, you will only sink at the level of your hope.

Develop measurable goals. I challenge people to set measurable marital goals and not absolute resolution standards.  When you set something “measurable,” you can see progress and growth as opposed to something checked off a list. Personally, I like seasonal attainable goals. It helps me look and step into something right now as opposed to the overwhelming and sometimes sinking feeling of a 12-month long resolution that seems daunting to even attempt. What type of goals can you develop?

  • Financial goals. These shape your budget (saving and spending). For example: develop 3-5 short-term (6 month – 1 year) goals as well as 3-5 long-term (1-5 year) goals.
  • Spiritual goals. These shape your walk with God as individuals and as a couple. For example: attend a church, get involved, personal devotions, tithing.
  • Marital goals. These help you see the areas you want to grow in and develop. For example: Weekly dates, books/blogs to read and discuss, annual vacations, consistent intimacy, projects around the home.

Connect, reconnect and communicate. Communication is marital currency.  And some of you want to see change, but without communication, you won’t have the currency to “fund” the changes.  Anne and I have discovered the ease and beauty of kicking-off our week with a simple 15-minute Sunday night talk and how much it facilitates what to expect as well as what we experience. Obviously that’s not the only time we talk, but pulling our focus together for getting a vision for the week (and possibly goals for the week) gets us to start the week out on the same page. We also couple that with a mid-week connection to reconnect and review how the week is going. The more you talk, the more “currency” you develop. And with more “capital” in your account, the more can be used to build an infrastructure of healthy expectations and experiences.

I love you all and believe that the best is yet to come for your marriage. Would you be willing to lay down the resolutions that have been so daunting and, together, pick up some goals that the both of you can work on and grow in?

You’ve got this.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Set Up For Success : 2 Healthy Selfless Disciplines of Marriage

I’m a huge believer in the power of words in marriage. In fact, I believe your marriage will never rise above your words. Your words have power. They carry meaning, have weight, and convey emotional tone – good and bad. And just because you use a lot of them, doesn’t mean you excel at communicating them. So often, couples will say to me, “we are great at communication because we talk all the time.” But talking doesn’t equate to “good communication” just as much as hearing someone doesn’t equate to “good listening.”

Your words will have one of two impactful effects: They will tear down or build up.  It’s why I so often bring up the great scripture out of the book of Proverbs:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” Proverbs 18:21

Your word choices both reflect the quality of your relationship and determine the trajectory of it. They (words) decide whether your marriage will continue to wither or proceed towards health. And the only way to manage them is to develop the self-discipline of stewarding what you say through the simple 3 T’s of communication.

Before we were married, it seems that we carried a few more self-disciplines than we do now. Why? We wanted to make a great impression during the courtship process.  But, as many of us do, we can lapse a bit and take our marriage (or our spouse) for granted.

Think about the relational dynamics in some of the couples that you know.  Ask yourself about those that seem to be making the healthiest steps forward. Whether a couple has been thriving for years or attempting to make strides towards growth, you’ll see, not perfection, but a rise in some disciplines that foster marital vitality.  When it comes to our words, I’ve personally noticed two specific disciplines in action:

1 – Listening. I submit to you that one of the best “word-disciplines” is listen before you speak. Listening is the discipline of giving ear to your spouse’s concerns. Listening is not allowing your spouse just so you can formulate a “come-back.” It’s receiving what they’re saying while looking at the world through his/her eyes. It is taking the time to grasp what they are feeling while understanding what it is, specifically, they’re asking for.

I feel that we live in a culture where we are far more concerned to be understood than to give ear to anyone else. And it seems who has the louder the voice or the most creative words gets heard. I meet far too many couples who are acting upon what they “think” their spouse needs instead of simply listening to what their spouse is saying. And if you’ll listen, you may realize that their first need is to be listened to and, secondly, the needs you are assuming they have, may not even be on their radar. I love what James 1:9 says. Seek to understand, then to be understood. Be slow to speak; quick to listen. Most of us don’t struggle with finding the right words, we just struggle listening to them.

2 – Encouragement. This may be, quite possibly the most underestimated self-discipline I have come across. Criticism and sarcasm has become more of a social norm and has leaked into marriage. Far too often, I hear people say, “The only time my spouse communicates is when I’m doing something wrong.” How did we get to the place where we think negative reinforcement outweighs encouragement? Building up your spouse is so very essential, and yet, simple.

  • Showing gratitude for the little things
    • “Thank for noticing…”
    • “When you said…did…it meant the world to me.”
  • Appreciating the mundane, every day stuff.
    • “Thank you for working so hard for our family.”
    • “Thank you for providing.”
    • “Thank you for being you.”
  • Noticing things your spouse thought you overlooked.
    • “I love how you…”
    • “It meant a lot to see you do/make/say…”
  • Sending notes/texts throughout the day.
    • “Miss you…love you…thinking about you…”

Encouragement is high-octane fuel. When you are rewarding effort, celebrating progress, and feeding hope, you are positioning your marriage to run at peak performance. Does it automatically make you healthy? Not at all. Like a car, there’s still responsibility to operate it correctly. But that option won’t be there if you don’t put in the right gas. Nobody should out-encourage you when it comes to your spouse. The encouragement you speak puts the right fuel in your marriage to be able to face whatever situation that comes your way.

The common denominator between these two is they are SELFLESS disciplines that help keep love alive. It’s this selflessness that we see modeled in Christ. He not just gave to us regardless of how we would respond, He did it joyfully (Hebrews 12:2). We can see how centering our lives in Christ and living through His example is pivotal for keeping and making marriages like new. In Christ we are promised new hearts (2 Corinthians 5:17) having new outlooks that free us to selflessly and wholeheartedly listen and encourage our spouses.

I love you all. I believe in you because I believe in the Christ in you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Marital A.D.D.: 2 Ways to Overcome the Deficit of Attention in Marriage

From the beginning of this blog, let me say that I don’t take things like A.D.D or A.D.H.D. lightly. According to the New York Times, at least 4 percent of adults have the disorder and as many as half of all children that have A.D.H.D. do not fully outgrow it and continue to struggle with symptoms as adults. It is a challenge to deal with as an individual as well as a married couple and more material should be produced to help couples who have been diagnosed with it.

Where an individual, who has either condition, will struggle to keep their own attention, in marriage, there is usually someone (or both) struggling to get attention. I hear comments like:

“He doesn’t appreciate anything I do.”
“Doesn’t she know I have needs?”
“I wish he’d look at me that way.”
“The only time I hear from my spouse is when something is wrong.”
“I wish I felt special.”

I call it, Marriage A.D.D. and it’s harming marriages. There are spouses struggling in their marriage from deficit of attention. Wrap your head around the change that happened when the relationship shifted from courtship to marriage. Back then, we spent time fighting to grasp the attention the one we were dating. Now, we find ourselves fighting to get the attention of the same person, but now, we’re married to him/her. Anne and I have been here. Sometimes we find A.D.D. creeping back. Why? We’re ALL susceptible to it.

How does the attention deterioration take place? 

Mistaken priorities.
Let me say this from the get-go: When you learn to love God first, He enables you to love best (Matthew 22:36-40).  And if this priority doesn’t take place, difficulties follow.

Outside of Christ, your marriage relationship should be the most important relationship in your life. Jobs, best friends, hobbies, church, etc. all must take a back seat to your marriage. Saying “I love you” doesn’t matter if your priorities don’t match up with the words.

Forgotten passion.
Passion doesn’t take place on accident. It is sought after and discovered. This is where we can glean from those “dating days.” Passion is something that is available to anyone but it needs to be fed and facilitated. Those who say they “accidentally feel in love” where actually looking for it consciously or sub-consciously. Bring back the courtship of the heart. Leisure and laughter are essential to regaining the passion back. Make dating both mandatory and consistent.

Shifting of seasons.
What worked in one season may not work in another. Your age, family, and state of life (job, home, health, etc) all shift during the course of your marriage. And what may have been romantic 20 years ago (or even a year ago) may not speak the same thing as it once did. I’ve seen so many couples missing the attention mark, not because there was a failure of attention, it was the failure of the proper attention.

Become a student of each other. Lower your defenses a bit and communicate to each other what you enjoy/like. Communication doesn’t happen by osmosis; it is an intentional act of intimacy. And the more you learn AND put into practice, the less you’ll see your marriage suffer from any deficit of attention.

Self-centered living.
Even though this could have been absorbed into the other points, this demanded its own emphasis. Healthy marriage living can only grow from healthy marriage giving. It’s that type of giving that demands no reciprocal behavior. You without expectation. A.D.D marriages wait for the other to act first. “I won’t until he/she does it first.”

Servanthood is that Christ-like manner for which our spouse see’s the example of Jesus in the home.  “Self-centered” approaches deteriorate that image and, thus, create of deficit of attention by putting focus upon ourselves. I wish I could say that I never struggle with this, but I’d be lying. Perhaps you can come together for a “come to Jesus moment” for the two of you. It can be a place where there is no finger-pointing at each other but ownership over what our human tendencies can drive us to.

Lack of gratitude.
Giving thanks FOR and WITH your spouse is, perhaps, one of the most significant marital habit. Gratitude is an essential ingredient in any relationship, but it takes intentionality and time to put it into practice.

Nobody likes to be taken for granted. Without it you get used to having your spouse in your life but forget why you chose to be with them. A lack of gratitude makes us deadened to our spouse’s special qualities and then gets us to focus on things that annoy us about them. A lack of “thanks” can leave us confused and discouraged in our relationship.

When we come into marriage each day with gratitude, choosing together to see abundance rather than scarcity, relational satisfaction rises. It will change the atmosphere of your home, develop appreciation, enhance sex, soften criticism, and pave the way for forgiveness. Practicing the art of thanksgiving increases attention by leaps and bound, thus reducing the effects that Marital A.D.D. have previously had.

Next Steps:
Simply said: A breakdown of attention is a breakdown of intimacy. This is not a one-date-fixes all situation.  It’s a lifetime of tweaks to two important systems.

  1. Change in the system of thinking (humility).
    • It begins with a mind that is fixed upon Christ and His example. We don’t wait for others to change first; the example starts with ME. James 4:10 says to “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” You were never meant to hold yourself or your marriage up. Humble yourself (rest in His identity and strength) and let the Lord lift up (hold up and hold together) your marriage. Before you fix a deficiency of living, you need to fix the deficiency of thinking.
  2. Change of in the system of living (patterns). 
    • I’ve heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If your old patterns have been creating a deficiency of attention for your spouse, then it’s time to fix them and start new habits. Talk with each other. Find out what you both can do that will work toward providing the proper attention that you both crave.

Start today. Get your attention on the proper things. Don’t get distracted. Focus on what really matters: Jesus and your spouse.

I love you all. I believe in you because I believe in the Christ in you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…