“TV saved my marriage” 4 Ways to Reconnect Your Marriage

It was the summer of ’03. Anne and I were in a store walking through with the kids secured in our double-stroller. We were in a season of life that was a bit hectic. Cammi was 3 and Ethan wasn’t even 1 yet. We were still discovering who we were as a ministry couple not to mention as a married couple. We were trying to find our “flow” in life. We didn’t have consistent schedules, very few “dates” together, and the age of the kids placed a higher demand upon us. I think it’d be true to say, at that point, we didn’t even realize what we were missing as we had gotten used to the fast-paced, non-stop type of living.

I remember it was a Saturday. Why? We were in this conversation about going to Blockbuster (when they were opened) and renting something to watch. The odd open evening got us thinking about getting the kids to bed and having something to watch. When we walked by the movie section of the store, I noticed a “sale” sign on season 1 of the show “24.” For only $20, we could buy the whole season. I looked at Anne and said, “I’ve heard it’s a great show. It’d cost us more than that to rent all six discs. It’s not a huge investment and it’ll give us something we can enjoy together.” So we bought the set.

That day, we purposely got the kids fed, bathed, and put to bed in a timely way, knowing, we had plans to introduce ourself to Jack BauerAt 1a.m. that night, and Lord knows how many episodes later, we were more than hooked, we discovered something that had been missing from our marriage. We had made and engaged in purposeful time and enjoyment with each other. (Full disclosure: we had watched so long that we were trying to remember when and if the kids were put to bed. Obviously we took care of them, but had a funny little panic moment.)

There was more than a “binge-watching” that took place. We found something that we both loved to do together. We enjoyed it so much that we talked about it and made plans for it. Our schedules were adjusted to compensate for our new-found passion. It’s then we began to ask ourselves, “Are there others shows we’d enjoy?” From there, we tried a few shows, invested in lots of popcorn, and scheduled out when we’d watch them.

Nowadays, we really don’t watch shows together. That season ended and a new season began: walking and/or hiking. It’s quite a bit healthier, but with the kids being older, it is also a bit easier to do.

So when I say, “Jack Bauer saved our marriage,” what I’m saying is that a moment of “trying” something together helped us make a reconnection that we didn’t realize how desperately we needed.  We, like most couples, were so busy doing good things in our marriage not realizing we were not engaging in the best things. I’m not saying a TV show is the “best” thing. But look deeper than that. We found something we both enjoyed. That enjoyment gave us a place to relax and connect. And the more we did it, the more we’d anticipate and strategically plan for it. When that avenue of entertainment/enjoyment  begin to wane, we dared to “try” something else. Anne and I knew we couldn’t lose what we had rediscovered.

I’m not saying that you need to get into movies, shows, or sports (even though they aren’t inherently bad to do). That isn’t the overall point. I’d submit: if you don’t have consistent time of leisurely engagement, then you’re starving your relationship. I always say, “What wins a heart before marriage sustains a heart after you’ve married.” And if you’re expecting longevity in something, then you’ll feed it.

How can you find a “reconnection point?”

  1. Recognize the need. Don’t just do this for your spouse, this is for your marriage. People who don’t purposely work on their marriage purposely coast toward catastrophe.
  2. Be willing to try. Perhaps it’s something new to you or to your marriage. Get out of the boat and attempt something. It doesn’t have to be a huge investment of money to be a huge investment in your marriage. Remember: I’d rather a couple fail at trying than fail to try. Take the risk on some healthy activities. If it didn’t work, then the success is in the fact you did something together. If it did connect, then congrats, you found a connection point for you both.
  3. Study your spouse. You can tell if your spouse is getting into it. Watch his/her responses.Listen to see if she/he talks about it. You’ll be able to tell whether the activity “hit the mark.”
  4. Get intentional. Don’t just do something fun together, get strategic about it. The more you plan it out, the more anticipation you create and passion you build.

We get having an empty home.
We get having little ones around.
We get busy schedules.

We also get making time for the things that are the most important. Your marriage is what is most important. Find yourself a “reconnection” and make a habit of it .

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.

 

 

 

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…

Weekly Marriage Checklist – 8 Things EVERY Marriage Should Be Doing On a Weekly Basis

Today I wanted to get into an incredibly practical marriage blog.

My wife and I are list makers.  Even though we do our lists differently, it gives us both a sense of accomplishment to check them off. I use my phone (Asana).  She’s old school with pencil and paper.  But nevertheless, we want to look over our days and week and feel we got done what needs to get done. 

So today,  wanted to give you a simple checklist to help with some items, I believe, should be on your weekly radar. 

Every week, I believe EVERY couple should have…

  1.  A Weekly overview.
    • Anne and I have a standing appointment every Sunday night where we talk through our week.  It’s a simple touch to keep our communication and expectations on an appropriate level.  We talk through our personal schedules. We talk though family schedules. It’s here were we decide when dates, family connection, and downtime is needed.  It’s amazing how this little AND SIMPLE action can clear up what to expect and keep our communication healthy.
  2. A Worship Point.
    • Being a part of a church community TOGETHER is a huge foundational piece of marriage. Being together to worship, serve, and engage in your church will help build relationships necessary for your personal growth as well as marital growth. On top of that, your involvement in your church community can be a tremendous blessing to others. See yourself as a part of a greater body.  You are necessary to others and others are necessary to you. 
  3. A Date.
    • I think every couple can carve out of your week an hour or two. Do a meal, get some ice-cream, or go for a walk at a park. A date doesn’t have to have much (if any) cost.  Get out of your head that you need to do something extravagant (not that I’m against that) as a “date.” I’m speaking to time for the two of you to have that relational connection you need.  
  4. Alone Time. 
    • From hobbies to leisure time, having time to yourself is necessary.  Don’t get me wrong, I love time with Anne and she loves time with me. But it is healthy to have a few moments where there’s a bit of separation. Anne and I don’t watch all the same shows/movies.  We don’t enjoy all the same hobbies.  That doesn’t take away from our marriage.  It adds to it. 
  5. A Place(s) of Generosity. 
    • There is a true joy in being generous as a couple.  When you give out of your time, talents, and treasure, you foster the heart of God (of which you were made in the image of). For almost two decades, Anne and I are faithful givers to our local church. We give to missions and benevolence. But we also look for opportunities to bless those in our community.  Generosity will foster a depth of joy that so many people take for granted. 
  6. An Intimate Moment(s).
    • Sex and intimacy are not the same thing nor is Sex the source of intimacy. It should be seen as an expression of intimacy. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that healthy marriages have a consistent sex-life.  What the frequency looks like isn’t up to you the individual. It’s what has been agreed upon by both you and your spouse (prevents one libido from lording over the other). But remember: Intimacy doesn’t always include sex.  It is far deeper. It’s that intimate connection where you selflessly serving your spouse’s love language. Intimacy doesn’t have to fade in your marriage, it just looks different over time.  Find what your spouse’s love language is and look to serve it without strings attached (expectations of reciprocation). When you connect the heart of your spouse, that is intimacy. 
  7. Laughter/Fun. 
    • (This is a bit more than a scheduled event. It’s more of an element that’s needed.) Couples that schedule fun moments are far healthier on EVER level (mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual).  Anne and I will watch clips on Youtube in the evenings. Sometimes we’ll send them to each other over Facebook messager.  Maybe you two like games and/or activities.  It could be movies or books.  Find what the other enjoys that fills your marriage with smiles.
  8. Heavy Encouragement.  
    • This should be a daily point instead of a weekly one. My rule I give couples all the time: Don’t let anyone out-encourage you when it comes to your spouse. For too often, people only speak up when they see something wrong.  Why do we build that culture in our marriages? Catch your spouse doing something right. From accomplishments to even just the simple effort to attempt something, find ways to fill your spouse full of encouragement. 

Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. There’s probably some other things you can add to it specifically for your marriage. But, in my opinion, these are essentials that I don’t think couples can do without. 

Love Jesus passionately. 
Love your spouse passionately. 
Make both a heavy priority in your life. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

What to not forget about on Valentine’s Day! 1 Thing I want you to remember about February 14!

A week ago, I preached a message about rest.  In that message, I had made a statement about the issues of vacations and sabbaticals.

Would the urgency of vacations and sabbaticals, as well as the length of them, be necessary if we knew how to rest on a consistent, healthy basis?

It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in them (vacations and sabbaticals). I highly recommend them for everyone.  But when you don’t have a consistent intake of rest, you don’t get the most out of the times away because you have to spend to much of the time trying to acclimate yourself to the new surroundings.  I hear it all the time, “I took me 2-3 days just to relax and decompress so that I could enjoy vacations.”

I would give a similar statement on this holiday that comes every February 14…

Would the emphasis, urgency, and stress of Valentines be necessary if we knew how to be romantic to our spouse on a consistent, healthy basis?

It seems we can take our spouse for granted.  We tax our marriages with little time for us as a couple to rest and recreate.  Words of affirmation are few and far between because, “my spouse knows what I feel.” Sex is only reserved for “moods” and is looked as optional.  It’s no wonder why people binge on this one day a year (well twice IF you remember Sweetest Day in October).  Spouses stress out on plans and details.  Because of the holiday, you end of over-spending in such excess with the hopes that your tax return will help take away some of the sting.  Expectations are built up, and if not handled correctly, can be let down. There’s a lot of pressure in Valentine’s Day.  Why? It tends to be one of the few days that couples stop the world around them to focus upon each other.

Thus, the 1 thing I want you to remember about this Valentine’s Day is:

The romantic response of Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be reserved JUST for Valentine’s Day. 

During premarital/marital counseling, I love to ask couples, “What the definition of romance?”  I always make the groom/husband answer first.  That way, if the bride/wife answers first, he can’t say, “What she said.” I hear all sorts of answers. Flowers. Dates. Candy.  Movie.  Sex.  Those are all good answers, but they may not be the right ones.  Why? The answers might not be completely romantic to their spouse.  AND, what does Valentine’s Day get filled with? Flowers. Dates. Candy.  Movie.  Sex.  Again, not against those awesome things, but they may not speak romance to your spouse.

Can I give you a different AND simple definition of romance?  Romance: Serving your spouse’s love languages.  

That’s it.  Even in its simplicity, there’s tremendous complexity.  Why?  Two words:Serve” and “Spouse’s” These two key words help divert your attention off of what you intended to get out of romance and puts complete attention upon someone else.  You don’t give what you would want. You serve what speaks to your spouse.  It’s why flowers and candy might be what you would want, but is it what she wants?  A movie might be what’s on your mind, but is it on his mind?

This is why couples gorge themselves on V-Day.  They’re romantically starved throughout the year and February 14 is the buffet for them.  They will feast on the romance of the evening. Why? “Who knows when my spouse will get romantic again?”

I’m all about celebrating Valentine’s Day. It’s fun to have that day a year where, it seems, the whole world stops to focus upon couples.  But, for the sake of your marriage, would you make a decision to pour romance into your marriage throughout the year instead of the holidays that demand it (V-Day, Anniversary, Sweetest Day). Would you find time to, consistently, pour romance into your spouse by serving their love language?

“But if I meet my spouse’s needs but my needs aren’t met?”

My response: If you have TWO people who openly communicate and serve each other’s love languages, that question will never be asked.

If Valentine’s Day is the one day you pour into romance, then you and your spouse are romantically starving each other.   It’s time to move the romantic pressure off of Valentine’s Day and spread it over 12 months.

I leave you with an amazing verse from Hebrews 13:16

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Did you see that? When you serve, you please God.  When you romance your spouse (serve their love language), you please the heart of our Heavenly Father.

My Valentine’s advice: Go out on a date with your spouse.  Have a conversation and a make a commitment together that February 14 is NOT gonna be the end of the romance.  It’s going to be a fresh start, the launch pad, for your marriage to consistently serving each other’s love languages and having a marriage that pleases the heart of God.

Enjoy.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Warning Shots: 10 subtle actions your marriage needs to pay attention to.

You’ve opened my ears so I can listen.
Psalm 40:6

I’m an aficionado of military movies.  And there’s certain lines and terms that you can count on hearing frequently.  For some reason, especially in movies involving ships, you’ll hear the term: warning shot. 

A warning shot is a military and/or police term describing an intentionally harmless shot toward the opposition.   The intention of the shot is to get the attention of the party at hand letting them know you mean business.  The warning shot doesn’t harm or hurt anyone.  It’s what I call the “attention grabber.”  It tells the opposing person that if you do not head the “warning shot”, consequences will follow. 

I’m not being a proponent of firing a shot, both literal and physical, at/toward your spouse.  But there are subtle things that happen in a marriage that are the “attention grabbers” of your relationship.  Many times, these are not intentionally done by a spouse.  They’re the subtle responses to situations that are not completely healthy. But to ignore these “warning shots” is to inviting the issuing circumstances. 

10 warning shots to take notice of: 

1. Taking for granted “The Big 5.”  They consist of: 

  • “I love you.”
  • “Will you forgive me?”
  • “I forgive you.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “You’re welcome.”

2. Love languages are becoming a side issue. I think couples should monitor the changes in their love languages as they get older.  The seasons of life change you.  What used to speak to your spouse may not speak to them now.  Take time to read, talk, pray, and discover each other all over again. The pursuit will feed the passion. 

3.The schedule doesn’t allow you to worship or pray together.  We are more than physical beings. We are spiritual as well.  When the two became one, the two were meant to experience everything together…including worship.  If the schedule is preventing time of spiritual refreshing, something needs to change.  When you can’t remember the last time you haven’t prayed together, served together, or worshiped together, they’re subtle hints that spiritual intimacy needs to be a priority. 

4. The decisions you used to make together are now being decided without the other.  This is a sign that communication and unified decision-making are beginning to break down.  It always starts off with the little things. 

5. Sex isn’t happening.  My love language is “Physical Touch” so this isn’t a subtle hint.  But for those of you who are not driven physically, if sex isn’t happening in a healthy frequency (no magic number for that), it’s a definite sign that something needs to change. The heart should drive the mood.  Both spouses should possess the heart of a servant to make sure that the most intimate needs of their spouse is being served. As I’ve always said, “you are the only one that can meet that need in your spouse.”

6. There’s much more tolerance for what you never tolerated before.  There’s freedom in Christ and there’s just cashing in on Godly standards.  Your entertainment, conversations, thought-life, and private time should have healthy Godly boundaries.  If they’re not attended to, it amazing me what gets past them and desires to take root in our lives. 

7. “This is your problem not mine.” becomes a common line.  This is one of many quotes that shows the breakdown of oneness in a marriage.  “Mine” and “yours” are natural words used by couples whose unity is beginning to erode away.  Take notice on how much they’re being used and in the context they’re being used. Take a step back and realize: you are in this together.  Make sure your words follow suit. 

8. Date night? I hear couples joke “Does that happen anymore?” and it makes me cringe every time.  When you can’t remember when it’s happened last, it’s a sure sign that you desperately need time alone.  It doesn’t have to cost much if anything at all.  Take a walk.  Go on a drive.  Do something together. 

9. Kids are higher priority than the marriage. I know you have such a short window of time to raise your children. I’m a firm believer that kids are a high priority…just behind my spouse. I don’t neglect or ignore my kids.  BUT…my wife is a higher priority.  She needs to know that.  My kids need to see that.  This is why so many people get divorced after 20-25 years of marriage.  Everything was poured into the kids and nothing into the marriage.  

10. There’s more talk about what you DON’T have than what you DO have.  Envy is a killer of joy in your marriage.  It wants to guide your eyes and heart to what others have and what you lack.  You end up forgetting the blessings of God because you can’t see them past all of the “stuff” that should be yours.  “If only I/we had it.” is a lie.  Why? Because when you do get “it”, you’ll still continue to say that line. 

My prayer for you is that of Psalms 40:6.  That you would be able to say, God “opened my ears so I can listen.”  Ask the Lord to open up your 5 senses to hear the subtle things that you haven’t noticed before.  If you see these things, they are the attention grabbers that are screaming at you saying, “it’s time to attend to your marriage.”

Don’t grow deaf to the “warning shots.”  Open up your senses and listen. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

The “Try”: 10 Things you should TRY in your marriage.

My wife married a sci-fi geek.  I’m not ashamed of it.  I embrace it.  Anne, not so much. 

In his endeavor to become a Jedi, Luke finds himself needing to get trained by the best.  It is here we get one of the most well-known figures in all of the Star Wars universe: Yoda.

For us geeks, his wisdom pours out in a fantastic line that is just as iconic as the character, 

“Do or do not.  There is no try.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQ4yd2W50No

I’ve heard it used and stated in so many different contexts.  Why not?  It’s an amazing piece of wisdom used to motivate his young apprentice to take some actions-steps forward. A few days ago, I saw it tweeted in regards to sex in marriage.  My immediate first thought: 

Discouraging “trying” may not be the best marriage advice I’ve seen.  

So I thought I’d do the opposite.  I want to encourage “trying.” Why?

For the couple going through struggles, it’s the personal effort the two of you need to show each other.  It’s the extra “try” that screams “I’m not giving up…we’re going to make it.” 

For the couple going through a season of life where you feel you’re just “existing” together.  No fights, no scuffles, yet there is no fun and no passion. The “try” just may catapult you forward over the hump into a amazing season of refreshing. 

For the couple in a good place in life, the “try” can be an extra log to the fire.  The time to try something new and exciting isn’t when things are getting mundane or frustrating. That’s the worst time to try to get momentum.  The perfect time for the “try” is when things are great.  The momentum picks up and flows.  Makes me think when scripture says, “from glory to glory.”

Here we go, 10 things I want you to “try” in your marriage…we’ll start with a few simple BUT powerful tips but please don’t tell yourself “I’m not going to “try” to do any of these unless I’m in the mood.” It’s time to back away from what you need step up into the “try” for the sake of your spouse and your marriage.  

1. Try to smile.  Sometimes we save our smile for our kids, friends, and/or for the people at church.  We take our smile for granted when it comes to our spouse.  

2. Try to complement/encourage.  Sometimes we resort to “I’ll do it if he/she does it.” Or I’ve even heard this one, “He/she doesn’t deserve it.” Childish tendencies take over us sometimes.  What brings it out? Hurt.  This is a basic need in EVERY human. Hebrews 3:13 says to “Encourage each other daily.” If you don’t do this for your spouse, the enemy will use someone else to fill that need and NO ONE should out-encourage/complement you.  Step up and try it.

3. Try to surprise.  Get spontaneous. I’ll admit, my wife’s version of surprise is different.  She likes to know what it is before it’s “sprung” upon her. That way, she can prepare her OCD self for it and actually enjoy it.  I can’t push my style of surprise upon her and expect her to enjoy.  Find your spouse’s love language and get out of the rut.

4. Try prayer and devotions.  I know what you’re thinking: “Shouldn’t you have had this at #1?” I’m a pastor and I thought you’d expect that. Some couples, like me and Anne, have a hard time with doing “couple devotionals.” We tried it and it didn’t fit.  But the key is this: we tried it.  Now, we’ll pass on to each other books, blogs, and sermons  as we look out for the spiritual well-being of the each other. I love putting my arm around her at night and praying over her.  I love hearing her pray for me.  Our devos may be separate, but it’s morphed into us pouring into each other in a way I didn’t expect.  But it happened with the “try.” 

5. Try nudity. (I thought that would get your attention.)   We base so much of sex as a “mood” or “an act.” For those that push “the act” upon the other, you ignore the emotions/mood.  For those that are all about the “mood,” you ignore this necessary and beautiful act of marriage.  Bring the “try” into your bed.  Why? It’s humility; You’re not there for “you.” Try sex from the vantage point of your spouse.  The bed isn’t there to meet your needs; it’s there as a platform to meet your spouse’s needs.   Remember this: there is NO ONE else in the entire world that can meet this need in your spouse. It’s you.  

6. Try a date. Most couples know that dating each other is necessary…well, kind of.  This is so simplistic yet I find it’s completely ignored and taken for granted.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It may not have any cost for that matter.  Anne and I like the simple walks together.  We’ve even taken our kids on walks.  The point was to have time together (which is Anne’s love language…that and Swedish Fish).  Try it. Ask your spouse out.  Plan out the day/evening.  Pour into their love language. 

7. Try to listen. A friend of mine gave me a quote I’ve used on my kids and I’ve needed to use in marriage. “Listen to me with your eyes.” Eye contact speaks so much to the person talking.  It shows more that singular focus.  It shows you are valuing them and their voice. Proverbs 20:12 says “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” Get past “Elevator talk” in your marriage. Your ability to actively listen conveys the value your spouse needs from you.  

8. Try to forgive. The preach in me wants to just say “Just forgive.  Make yourself do it.” But I felt the Lord leading me to challenge you to “try” forgiveness.  Why? So many people are afraid to “try” it because of how it may be received and/or given.  Colossians 3:13 challenges us to “try”/step-out into it regardless of your spouse’s reaction.  The response of your “trying” isn’t your responsibility.  The forgiveness is. 

9. Try to be healthy.  I know we’re ‘merica.  We’re a nation of unhealthy activities with unhealthy food.  But this should’t be our excuse to develop healthy hearts, bodies, emotions, and spirits.  I’m not asking you to be a marathon runner. I’m not demanding you to become a vegan.  I’m asking you to take an honest inventory of your life and ask yourself, “Where can I get healthier?” The bible says, “the two become one.” If you are actively “trying” bringing health into your marriage (God’s word, healthy relationships, healthy food, exercise, etc) , you are setting your marriage up for potential success.  

10. Try ___________.  This is where you have to get your imagination going.  It’s about you knowing your marriage and trying something that may be new or it could be something that needs to be revived.  Get creative.  Talk with your spouse. Go after something today. 

Yoda had it wrong.  “Do or do not.  There is no try.” And unfortunately so many people don’t/won’t try.  This needs to be a new habit for this new year.  Don’t wait for you to be in the mood to “try.”  If that’s the case, it’ll never happen because it’s about you.  Get humble and get “trying.”  

Sometimes it isn’t really about the “what.”  Sometimes all that matters is you “tried.” 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Marriage Blog Series: Date Night Part 2 “In the Air Tonight”

We started a new series with our weekly marriage blogs last week. If you missed last week’s post, Date Night Part 1 “Elevator Talk”, click on the link and get caught up.

As stated, “Date nights” were always important to me and Anne before we were married. That was the starting point of our relationship where we learned EVERYTHING we needed to know.

Date Night

But that’s where couples stop dating.  The ring goes on and the pursuit stops (after the honeymoon stage). Every season you go through as a couple presents changes in you.  Honeymoon, babies, young children, adolescence, job changes, family shifts, empty-nest are just a few of the seasons we go through in marriage that demand “dates”. They (the seasons) demand time together that foster communication, intimacy, fun, and rest.

This is the essence of this blog series.

Part 2 – In the Air Tonight

Air

If you’re wondering, yes I got the title from one of my favorite music artists Phil Collins.  I can’t say much for the horrible 80’s video. But it’s the title that came to mind when thinking about the subject of Part 2 of our series: Atmosphere.

Have you ever come home to a house where the atmosphere wasn’t what you thought it was? After a great day at work, I’ve walked in the door noticing something about the atmosphere of our home. As I’m walking up the stairs into our living room, I say to myself, “there’s something in the air tonight.”  The place is quiet.  There’s tension in the room. Nobody is talking or moving.  I come to find out there had been a “disagreement” between my wife and my daughter.  What was a pretty joyful day has now been transformed to guarded tension.  I’m not sure what happened, but the atmosphere sets the tone and mood for any events and/or plans.

Atmosphere is sorely underestimated.  One of the many things I learned yesterday at a conference was setting the tone/atmosphere of a room before communicating.  It not only gives you a platform to communicate the necessary information but aids and/or guides what is being said as to be as effective as possible.  As much as this works in sermons, presentations, conflict, and child-rearing, it is essential in marriage…specifically today in our conversation on dating our spouse.

For you scientific peeps, atmosphere (thank you wikipedia) is a layer of gases surrounding a material body of sufficient mass that is held in place by the gravity of the body. Earth’s atmosphere, which contains oxygen, also protects living organisms from genetic damage by solar ultraviolet radiation. For the non-scientific peeps, atmosphere is simply a covering of gases to protect life and help life to survive.

(Just stick with my “nerdy-ness” for a second…it will all make sense.)

Atmosphere has three characteristics: 

1 – It protects. The atmosphere guards us from harmful things form the outside as well as keeps a healthy climate for growth.
2 – Sustains life. Atmosphere provides air for plants and animals to breath.  Without it, there is no life.
3 – Multi-layered. Earth’s atmosphere is broken up into five layers.  Each layer carries its own purpose and function.

Carrying and caring about the atmosphere of our post-marriage dating is no different from those three characteristics.  Especially if you are the one planning the date, it is vital you establish “atmosphere.” Don’t underestimate it.  Don’t overlook it’s importance.  It will set you up for dating success or failure.

Can we get EXTREMELY practical with this?

Think about it…providing a proper atmosphere for dates with your spouse...

1. Protects your time with him/her. If your marriage needs a quiet night out where you two need to talk and reconnect, and you chose to go to Buffalo Wild Wings during a Monday Night Football game, the atmosphere will destroy what you set out to do (it would work for me).  Yet, if you two need to go out for a fun evening of activity and laughter, a quiet candlelight dinner may not conducive to protect what is needed for your marriage.  The atmosphere sets the tone for the evening and protects what is needing to happen on your date. This is easy as doing some simple steps:
– Plan ahead.  Spontaneity is okay.  But some spouses stress over some details.  Take stress out by planning.
– Plan what to wear and communicate it.  If you’re heading to a comedy club and she’s dressed for a fancy dinner, it’ll ruin the night.
– Talk about what to expect.  Build some anticipation with your spouse.  Get excited about the date.
– Be other centered. Plan the evening so that you are not the beneficiary of the entirety of the date. Avoid the location/activity that you most want to do.

2. Sustains the life of your marriage. Dates should be places to catch your breath. But more than that; they are places to get fresh breath into you. Some people don’t take this seriously.  “We don’t have time to date..we have kids/jobs/responsibilities.”  I will say in response: you make time for the things that are important.  Just as much as the physical atmosphere provides air for plants and animals to breath.  Your atmosphere of post-wedding dating will do the same.  During the date, it will breath into your marriage…
– The priority of your spouse.
– Selflessness.
– Dedication to a healthy marital relationship.
– A resurgence of intimacy.
– A healthy view to your children. They will see and reproduce it in their future marriage.

3. Dating atmosphere is multi-layered.  What I mean by that has nothing to do with the exosphere or the troposphere.  It has everything to do with knowing that one type of atmosphere doesn’t fit EVERY date.  Anne and I do a variety of stuff. Why? We have a variety of needs.  Sometimes we go to a movie. Early in our marriage, we’d get Taco Bell and walk through a furniture store (yep…you read that right…we like looking at furniture).  The more you communicate, the more you’ll see that a careful care of your dating atmosphere will maximize your dating experience. For the guys reading this, I’m not saying it’ll promise more sex (even thought that’s never a bad thing), but it promise a profitable dating experience.

You need to keep the atmosphere multi-layered.  Don’t do the same thing all the time.  Shake it up.
– Go out and laugh.
– Absorb a moment together.
– Take a walk through a trail.
– Do something you used to do before you got married.
– Find a place to make-out. (just checking to see if you were paying attention…but hey, you’re married! Who’s gonna argue?)

As I conclude, I look to some encouragement from scripture.  I’ve always been very passionate about the Psalms.  In Psalms 63, the writer pens his feelings about the atmosphere that God provides.  “You’ve always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all, A lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest. You’ve always taken me seriously, God, made me welcome among those who know and love you.” I know that I cannot provide the proper atmosphere for my wife without knowing and experiencing the atmosphere the Lord provides.  Why do I know what to provide for my wife?  I learned it from Jesus. His presence is a place for me to “breath” and “a place to get away from it all.” I just take what He has shown me and I pour it into my marriage.  Sometimes I miss the mark.  Sometimes I screw up.  But effort and passion help provide a great base of building a great dating atmosphere.

Provide an “atmosphere” for your dates. Provide that place that will protect and sustain your husband/wife.  Let them be blown away what is “in the air tonight.”

Thanks for letting me ramble…