“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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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…

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…

Part 2 from our “Live Highlight Reel” service @kalamazoofirst

Highlight Reel "Live" service

On June 30th we had our “Live” service in which our plan was to share testimonies and then answer questions from the congregation. Because of how the Lord directed the service. We’ve had to re-adjust our approach to the questions by utilizing the blog to answer the questions. In Part 1, we started with four questions while we waited for the participating couples to read and give some replies. If you’ve missed Part 1 of this blog, check out “Follow up from our “Live Highlight Reel” service @kalamazoofirst

I sent off the questions that were submitted to ALL 4 couples. The couples chose different questions to answer.  Here’s our answers:

Will I ever find a woman?

Benny and Nicole Clark: I believe if you pray to GOD to find that right mate for you he will answer that prayer. You have to put action towards your prayer.

Ryan and Katie: Yes, they are everywhere.

What do women look for when choosing someone?…I wanna know everything

I’ll try to keep this one simple to answer…tough to carry out:
Connection (Spiritually, emotionally, etc)
Fun
Maturity
Responsibility
Security
Stability
Respect.

What have you done when it seems like you and your spouse are always headed in different directions?

Benny and Nicole Clark: I have been up front with her and told her how I felt @ that time. She has always been very, very up front with me also. Figure it out together as ONE…

Ryan and Katie: We’re not 100% sure what you mean by ‘always headed in different directions.’ In our life, we’ve experienced two kinds of ‘different directions’ so we’ll address both. The first version is a busy-life
version where you don’t see each other except when you pass the kid off, at dinner once a week and for about 15 minutes at bedtime before you pass out. This we’re-busy-and-always-running lifestyle was a huge contributor to the near death of our marriage. For us, the solution was dramatic: Ryan changed his work schedule from second to first shift and eventually changed careers altogether. Not everyone can make such a dramatic change. (Having said that, don’t eliminate the possibility completely – you might need to ask the Lord if you need to make dramatic change in order to make more room for your spouse. If He says yes, trust that He will make a way!) The fact of the matter is, a marriage where you and your spouse are always headed different directions provides a weak spot for the enemy to exploit. (For
example, he might put an attractive, like-minded person in your spouse’s path who’s always heading the same direction he/she is!) Don’t give the enemy a foothold!  We highly recommend that you make changes so that you are no longer ships passing in the night. Some practical things you can
do are:

  • Pre-plan time for just you and your spouse and treat it as sacred. You don’t have to spend money, but you at least need some quality time together.
  • Communicate as much as possible – daily phone calls to catch up, emails, text messages – whatever it takes so that your spouse feels like he/she is in the loop with what’s going on with you.
  • Say no to things. We discovered that there were a lot of harmless or good things – even ministry opportunities – that we needed to say no to because we needed to guard the limited time we had to spend quality time as a family/couple.
  • Ask yourself honestly if there’s something or someone in your life that you’re putting before your spouse? In our case, Katie had to halt her workaholic tendencies and spend less time at work. Ryan had to give up certain friendships that were damaging to our marriage.  For a long time we played the “You’re not being fair to me by asking me to give this up!” game, but when we chose to put the other person first, they were natural sacrifices to make.

The other kind of ‘headed in different directions’ we experienced has more to do with the fact that each spouse changes over time. Because we stopped spending time together, we started growing in opposite directions with different ideas about what we wanted in life. If you and your spouse seem to have completely different – perhaps conflicting – priorities in life, we recommend prayer. Ask God to give the two of you shared priorities. Then ask Him to help you understand the other person’s perspective. Look for ways to put them first – even small things. Talk openly about what you want and why; try not to be defensive. Also, listen openly.  Your spouse is speaking their mind, not reading yours. You won’t agree on everything, but at least you’ll still know each other. In our experience, you’ll get much farther by asking God to show you what you need to change or understand rather than praying for God to make
your spouse change his/her mind.

Have any of you had couples counseling and how was the experience? Did it help strengthen your marriage?

Lori & Scot:  Yes, we definitely did go to counseling.  It was helpful; certainly it helped Scot adopt a less confrontational and defensive style of discussing issues.  For Lori, the counselor helped her label and understand her own emotions.  The counselor could catch those moments when a conversation starts to “go off the rails” and point out the counterproductive styles or tactics so that they can be corrected before emotions get too raw.  It probably would have been even better if we had gone earlier in our marriage, before such serious problems had set in.  On the other hand, counseling is not a substitute for prayerful reflection on your own behavior.  Good habits must be practiced both inside and outside the counselor’s office.  The counselor can point out the problems, but changing is hard – often so hard you need the help of the Lord to really achieve it.

Is there one thing you wish you knew before you got married?

Ryan and Katie: The person you marry on your wedding day will be a different person five, 10, 20 and 50 years from now. We all change – hopefully in good ways. You won’t always have the same things in common. Your spouse won’t always enjoy the same hobbies and past times as they used to. Your perspectives on faith and politics and life’s goals are going to change. That’s another reason why (as Pastor Dave said in his July 1 blog) it’s important to be sure that you and your spouse share the same core beliefs and values – the things that don’t change, like a commitment to serving Jesus. It’s also a reason why you must decided in advance that you will love and be committed to this person through thick and thin because you are both going to evolve over time.

Lori & Scot:  Yes, we have both often felt that we had a very inadequate understanding of how much our families’ styles affected our assumptions about communications and conflict in a marriage.  What we’ve learned since then is that many of us come through our childhood with certain (often subconscious) injuries and hurts from our primary caregivers.  Usually, it was not that our parents meant to hurt us, but they were imperfect humans too.  It often leaves us with a longing, or a “hole,” that we hope our mate will fill.  Indeed, we often pick out mates that remind us in some way of our parents, but we’re always hoping that they will fulfill that longing.  It isn’t always the parent of the opposite gender we try to match.  Maybe you feel like your father, was a devout Christian and a highly moral man.  Yet, he was also distant and aloof, perhaps hard to please.  You might marry a wife who is also a good, moral Christian.  After a while, you may come to find that she too is hard to please.  But God’s love has no holes.  When we strive to become the best reflection of God’s love for our spouse, we improve ourselves in the process.  The good, moral Christian woman learns to show more appreciation and let her husband feel the long-sought approval for a job well done.  The little girl who never felt respected by her family for her ideas or intelligence probably craves that recognition from her husband when she’s a grown woman.  That husband grows himself when he learns to be more humble and listen respectfully to her good ideas.  One good resource to learn more about this concept is the book entitled Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix.

What has been one of the hardest compromises you had to make in your marriage?

I think it’s easy to make a list of the individual things that I, personally, feel was hard.  I could say, some hobbies, sports, time with friends, my work schedule, sex, etc.

What it breaks down to is my pride and selfishness.  They are what makes compromises hard.  When I don’t want to change and/or I want to get what I want, no matter what the issue is, compromise is difficult to do.  The other side of that coin is a spouse won’t make the same sacrifices.

What makes compromise easier (not necessarily easy) is when I choose to look through the eyes of my spouse and approach marriage for her benefit instead of my own. I’m to love her as Christ loved the church and therefore need to be willing to lay everything down. Again, this is a reciprocated relationship which means that we BOTH approach the marriage the same way; we both give, we both die to self, and, therefore, the marriage wins.  You don’t wait for your spouse to comprise first.  Take the leadership and show it before you see it.

Do you every feel competitive in your marriage? How do you deal with this?

Absolutely.  As a competitive person married to a competitive person, this comes very natural.  The problem with being competitive is it’s driven by pride and selfishness.  The heart behind it is personal gain. I’ll defer to what I said in the last question: What makes dealing with competition easier (not necessarily easy) is when I choose to look through the eyes of my wife and approach marriage for her benefit instead of my own. I cannot approach it for the personal win. I’m to love her as Christ loved the church and therefore need to be willing to lay everything down. Again, this is a reciprocated relationship which means that we BOTH approach the marriage the same way; we both give, we both die to self, and, therefore, the marriage wins.  You don’t wait for your spouse to serve first.  Take the leadership and show it before you see it.

How do you continue to stay committed to someone who doesn’t want to stay committed to the relationship?

Lori & Scot:  This was one of the hardest things for Scot in the divorce.  He really felt committed to Lori, but that feeling wasn’t reciprocated.  He went from being the chased to being the chaser,… and he made a lot of mistakes in the course of that chase.  Here are some of the lessons those mistakes taught us (read “Them” as the prodigal spouse):

Treat Them with Patience

When hoping for reconciliation with your spouse, always remember that the secret to peace is to accept and appreciate God’s timing.  Doubt or resentment can lead to despair or moving ahead without His advice.  Be patient waiting for God’s plan to reveal itself.

Treat Them with Calm

In our anguish and desperation to “solve the problem,” we often deny our spouse the space and peace they need to hear God’s voice speaking to them versus our pleas for reconciliation.  This is especially true for men who often want to be “Mr. Fix-It,” relentlessly focusing on solutions to the marital crisis and the goal of reuniting the family.  It’s important for your spouse to view you as a source of calm instead of turmoil.  Chances are they already have enough stress and turmoil going on inside their heads and hearts.

Treat Them with a Soft Heart

If we can recognize the injured child inside our spouse, we can certainly be more understanding of their current behaviors. It’s even better if we can provide the love, care, and encouragement needed for our spouse to overcome those past injuries.   Remember, despite the marital strife that might have gotten you to this point, to have a soft heart toward the injured child inside your spouse.

Speak Their Language

Dr. Gary Chapman believes that we all have a “love language,” a primary way of expressing and interpreting love.  We can show love in many ways but Chapman outlines five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.  We often have a different love language than our spouse.  The things that make us feel loved and valued are different from those that make our spouses feel loved and valued.   Some people cite the Golden Rule as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but Chapman shows us that we have to dig a little deeper here and “do unto our spouse as they wish to have done unto them.”  It’s like traveling to a foreign country and trying to use the wrong currency.  If we go to England and try to pay our bills with Mexican pesos, they just won’t recognize the payment. They take pounds in England, not pesos.  Similarly, if we try to show our spouse how much we love them by buying them an expensive gift, but their love language is Quality Time; we just paid in the wrong currency.  This is particularly important to bear in mind when we are trying to reconcile with a prodigal spouse.  They’re already convinced you’re speaking a different language, but you’ve got to show them you know how to communicate your love in a language they value.

Treat Them with Honesty (and to thine own self be true)

Whether you or your spouse did something to compromise the trust in your relationship, we are all sinners and play a role in the current situations in our marriages.  Search your heart for thoughts or behaviors that have negatively affected your relationship – pray and eliminate them from your life.  Be honest with yourself as you examine these behaviors – after all, if you cannot be honest with yourself, you will never be able to be honest with your spouse.

Treat Them with Consistency (rebuild trust)

Consistently treat your spouse with patience, calmness, understanding, and love.  If your negative behavior or thinking was part of the reason they left, continue to show your spouse that you no longer exhibit these negative thoughts or behaviors.  Show them that the change in you is real.  Show them that they can be “safe” in your presence and that they can trust you to love them unconditionally.  Be supportive, encouraging, and positive in your interactions.

Treat Them with Grace

Reflect the grace that God has given you to your spouse.  Even if your spouse has done something to disrespect, hurt, or betray you, respond to them as God has responded to your sins and failures with undeserved grace.

Love Them Unconditionally

When your spouse is prodigal, your feelings of jealousy, anger, and resentment are “par for the course.” Unchecked, these emotions can corrode your inherent love for your spouse.  You must bear in mind how imperfect you are in the eyes of God, how often you have been unfaithful to Him and His purpose in your life.  Let God’s unconditional love for you, a flawed and sinful human being, be reflected in the way you love your spouse.  Indeed, your spouse may deliberately test your love, just to see how sincere you are, how real and unconditional your love truly is.  Only God can give you the strength to withstand these tests.  In The Love Dare, Steven and Alex Kendrick write that “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional.  The truth is that love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”   They go on to say, “But you will struggle and fail to achieve this kind of marriage unless you allow God to begin growing His love within you.  Love that ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’ (I Corinthians 13:7) does not come from within.  It can only come from God.”

Here are a few things not to do:

Don’ts

  • Don’t try to argue your spouse into reconciliation with logic or guilt
  • Don’t try to enlist the help of others (e.g., children, parents, brothers, or sisters) in convincing your spouse to reconcile – God is the best “convincer” you can have on your side
  • Don’t play holier than thou with your spouse – God will inspire them to change their ways better than you ever can, and you’re still a sinner no matter how much you may have improved yourself
  • Don’t try to rush or crowd your spouse when they show promising signs – let them control the pace and the proximity (sometimes the pace will be two steps forward and one step back)
  • Don’t view this as just a passing phase, something to get through until things “go back to normal” – “normal” was broken, or you wouldn’t be here
  • Don’t let your emotions get the better of you – pray for patience and calm
  • Don’t try to control all the outcomes – only God can do that
  • Don’t give up

Come back next week for Part 3 of this marriage blog!

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Are you looking for volunteers to date your spouse?

I’m discovering something.  My blogs that have the most “activity” all have one thing in common: they deal with marriage.

That may for one of two reasons (perhaps both of them). First, I blog about it frequently because I’m passionate about marriage ministry.  When Christ comes into the marriage, everything about the home changes.  He established marriage.  He blesses it.  Why wouldn’t we invite him to be a part of it (John 2:2). Second, it’s being read because it’s hitting a need.  In a world where martial security seems to be extinct, people are hungry to find what makes the wedding day stick through the better and the worse, the richer or the poorer, and the sickness and the health. I’m gonna keep blogging and, perhaps, give you some tools to help create a marriage that sticks.

I’m a collector of quotes…especially on marriage.  There’s one I came across on July 30th of this year.  A pastor had tweeted a quote from Mark Driscoll.

“Men, if you don’t date your wife someone else may eventually volunteer for the job.” – Mark Driscoll

Dating is a big part of the courting process.  We put our best foot forward. We plan out where to go.  Our date waits with excitement and anticipation over what the date may hold. Why does it stop after “I do?”  Over the years , why have I heard in counseling the same quote, “where is the one I married?” “Where is the one that “won’ my heart?

This is a concept I have been teaching in premarital/marital counseling for years. Maybe I can reword it and take it a step further:

“Refusal to meet the needs of your spouse empowers others to volunteer for the job.”

I won’t give a free pass to anyone to have an excuse to engage in an affair. But, as a spouse, I won’t give my wife an excuse to go looking for someone else to fill a need.   Even a step further, if I am not meeting a need, I am, by my negligence, opening up an opportunity for someone to fill it.

Selah. (translated: think on this)

This is what challenged me to ramble on a few thoughts about NOT meeting the needs of our spouses.

Unattended needs (different from unattended wants) speak of: 

1 – Living selfishly.  Ephesians 5. Anne is to walk in respect of her husband. I am to love her as Christ loved the church. Marriage isn’t a 50/50 proposition. It means if I give enough to match what she gives…we’ll be okay.  Marriage is 100/100 proposition. I completely give all as she completely give all.

2 – Not actively listening. Proverbs 13:10. I’m either refusing to speak her love language or I refused to be trained to listen for it. I’m so preoccupied with my own desires and my way of communicating them that they trump hers.

3 – No assertiveness. Proverbs 10:31 says “A good person’s mouth is a clear fountain of wisdom…”You can’t blame a spouse for not knowing a need if you don’t communicate it clearly and effectively.

4 – Deferring responsibility. Proverbs 8:33. “Listen…be wise…don’t neglect.” By neglecting a spiritual, emotion, physical, and/or mental need, I am affording the opportunity to the next person who comes along.  I acquaint it to when our children were infants.  As infants do, they wake up crying because of diapers and hunger.  I would pretend to sleep so that Anne would have to get up to get the baby. Many times, our negligence, is another way of saying, “someone else get up and do it because I don’t want to” or “I don’t want to make the effort to do it.”

5 – Taking your spouse for granted. Proverbs 5:17. “That’s what young people do…we’re in a different season.” “He/she doesn’t like that anymore.”  “That’s just not real life.”  You’re spouse wants to be pursued.  Whether you realize it or not, but the enemy is pursuing them every day.  I’ll give you “TWIN TRUTHS”:

TRUTH #1: Your spouse isn’t the same person you married.
TRUTH #2: Neither are you.

You age. You transform. Every season of life presents new challenges. These challenges can be our excuses to not be Godly husbands/wives.  OR…these challenges can be what excites us into passionately pursuing our spouse.

IT IS NOT TOO LATE FOR YOUR MARRIAGE. Don’t give me the excuse, “this is just the way I am.” Let you’re spouse see you fighting for time with them.  Let you spouse see how much of a priority they are to you. Put away your own desires and go “all in” into theirs.

Make dating a priority.  Here’s some ideas Anne and I do:

  • Cook favorite meals.
  • Get a baby sitter (insert shameless plug for Cammi’s baby sitting service) and get out of the house.
  • Go to a movie we both would enjoy.
  • Go to a musical/theater (well…I would want that more than Anne)
  • We go for a walk (healthy bodies and healthy conversations)
  • Change things up and go out with another couple to create more conversation. Anne and I like double dates…just not all the time.
  • Surprise your spouse.  If he/she doesn’t like surprises, let  them know what you are planning.

The point is: DO SOMETHING!!!  At this point, they don’t care if you burnt the meal or you played Kenny G and it ruined the mood…they just want to know you cared.

I pray for marital health and strength upon you.  I hope that today challenges you, especially husbands, to stop neglecting your spouse, in essence, look for volunteers to do what you are supposed to do.  It’s your responsibility…and in my opinion it’s a fun responsibility.

Thanks for letting me ramble…