Quality Beats Quantity: 2 Thoughts about Marital Communication

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

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

Not necessarily true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

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

I love you.

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

Devotionally Frustrated: 5 Habits That Helped Me with “Devotions”

I grew up in church having heard (and used) the phrasing, “doing my devotions.” This was the terminology we (my youth group) used to describe a dedicated time that included reading our bibles and spending time in prayer.

Perhaps this is just my own experience, but in the 4 decades of attending church, “devos” has been both a source of blessing and issue of guilt; a place to be fed and the cause of frustration.

Congrats. You’re not the only one to feel that way.

Like many of you, I would hear stories from the pulpit about the preacher’s devo-moments that rivaled what happened on the Mount of Transifiguration. I would get inspired from the testimonies of leadership and friends. My mind would be filled with high aspirations as I decided, “Monday, everything is going to change” as I, one more time, was going to begin a new “devotional habit.”

Perhaps we’ve approached devotions wrong. I feel we may have treated this necessary, on-going, spiritually healthy routine into nothing more than a diet fad. I see blogs and post saying something to the fact,

“If you need help, follow my prescription for spiritual health for a guaranteed outpouring of personal spiritual revival.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like reading plans and strategies (here’s a great place to get some reading plans). I utilize them both and they can be very effective. But I’m afraid we’ve turned devotional methods into the South Beach Diet and Atkins as the plug-and-play solution for all of our spiritual woes instead of embracing the simplicity of communion with God.  That’s what devotions are about. And when that is realized, you’ll see “devotional time” lived out in two ways.

  1. A Momentary Discipline.
    • Developing the daily habit of having time in the Word, seeking the Lord in worship and prayer, and listening to the Holy Spirit.
  2. An Experiential Devotion.
    • “Devos” will be shallow at best if they are left in the moment and never manifested in our daily lives. We must have a dedication to living out our devotion to Christ. I struggle when people profess to know the scriptures but fail to model Christ through love, mercy, and compassion. When I read scripture, Jesus definitely spent plenty of time in personal prayer. But most of His life was engaging the world around him with the Kingdom of God.

So I thought I’d help you work through some frustrations by making this as simple as possible. As we say at Kfirst, “simple doesn’t mean easy.” Like any human relationship, your relationship with God will rise and fall on communication. You were wired that way because God created you that way. And I want to take some of the confusion out of devos by giving you, what I hope are, simple and practical steps to developing a healthy devotional life.

Find your sweet spot.
So many people are devotionally frustrated at the method, time of day, and manner for which they’re doing (or have done) devos. Find that “fit” that brings both challenge and growth without having to jam into someone else’s model. From the time of day to the translations you use, find not necessarily what’s easiest, but what facilitates spiritual health. I’m a morning person with my scriptures. When I pray, I head outside and walk the neighborhood. Periodically, I change translations. I’ll even hook up with a reading plan to guide me down a thought (topic). BUT…just because a method/location works for someone (even your spouse) doesn’t mean it’s a right fit for you.

Quality over quantity.
I love reading through books of the bible. But I found that just because I read a lot, it didn’t necessarily equate to understanding or practical living. Don’t treat your bible reading like a buffet where you gorge yourself and say, “I don’t know what I ate but I am full.” If you don’t know what you read because of the “quantity,” then have a smaller “meal.” Read a few verses a day. You’ll digest it better and exercise it in your daily life. Some preachers need to understand that principle for their sermons. 😉

Set some attainable goals.
Start small and build momentum. Set goals that will require some stretching but not so lofty that one missed day doesn’t make you call it quits. It takes time to build healthy habits. And the more you put into the habit, the deeper and wider the habit will grow. I’ve been amazed at watching people who gave God 5 devoted minutes a day developed a habit that has grown into something astronomically deeper and wider than they ever imagined.

Make time to live and listen.
When spending time in prayer, I believe one of the most missed opportunities is time in silence listening for the voice of God. But there’s a whole other side to the voice of God. When you are engaged in the Word, look and listen to God throughout the day on when/how to exercise what you read. For example: If I read John 1:14 today on how Jesus was full of grace and truth, I need to look and listen for opportunities to show grace and truth. It sounds so simple, but it’s the most pragmatic way to get our devos out of our prayer closet and into the real world.

Journal. 
I used to be intimidated by journaling and frustrated with people who excelled in it as I was envious about their writing abilities. But when I stopped comparing myself to others and decided to be my own person, it’s sparked a major passion in me. My daily entry might be just 3-4 sentences (nothing more than what I read in scripture to what God was challenging me to do). Other days, 6 pages will pour out of my heart (had a rough, emotional day yesterday). Find your “sweet spot” in your journaling. It’s become a great reference point to help me look back and be encouraged in how God has grown me as well as what He has worked through me.

I wanted to keep this simple and clean. “Devos” are not as complicated as you may have seen. Remember, they’re isn’t about getting checklist done and doing your duty for God. The goal is to meet with God, hear His heart, and letting him do something IN you and THROUGH you. “Devotions” must be more then a description of a moment but the evidence of our love for Jesus Christ.

I love you all. I belive in ya. Get into your devotions and live them out “for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

Spend, don’t save: 5 Ways to Invest Time in Your Marriage

Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! Psalm 90:12 (MSG)

There are “savers” and “spenders.” Judging by the average debt for couples, this country is filled with “spenders.” At the same time, looking at a high divorce rate, we have a country of “savers.” In other words, we spend money we don’t have and misuse the time with our spouse. 

Stewardship is really a huge issue in marriage. While I’m not going to turn this into a financial marriage blog, I will turn attention to how much time we spend (or don’t spend) upon our marriage. 

Please know:  You need to work (provision is important). You need alone time (we all do).  You need recreation that may or may not include your spouse (I’m not against that). But marriages that are time-starved are adding steroids to issues that have no right exploding to the size they’ve become.  Conflict is inevitable.  But when you are depriving your marriage of time, it escalates the size of a molehill into a mountain.  

Think about it.

How many misunderstandings could have been avoided by spending time talking to each other in a civilized way? 
How many issues are exaggerated because no one has taken the time to talk through things at appropriate moments?
How much assumption is inserted into marriage because nobody thought to take the time to communicate?
How many couples are time-starved because, even though time was spent, it wasn’t quality time?
What amounts of stress is being placed upon the marriage because time isn’t budgeted properly?
How many couples act like two ships passing in the night because it’s been so long since they’ve planned alone time?

Wrap your mind about what you two are struggling over and ask yourself, “Have we spent quality time together? If we had, could this issue have been avoided?” (Notice I said “quality time” and not just time…there’s a difference.”

Life is busy.  We’ll catch up later.

Life is always busy.  But in the name of providing, parenting, and even ministry, we’ve sacrificed time from the one who needs time the most. I love my kids (as they need time too). But what use is it to them for me to deprive my wife of quality time so that we fall apart when they’re graduated and gone? What legacy/example to I have my kids if I deprive my spouse

You two need intimacy.  And intimacy is essential to a healthy marriage. It doesn’t have to cost any money. But it will cost you time.  What are you waiting for?  Are you “saving” the moments up for a weekend away? Are you waiting for the right moment to give “quality time.” Time is a currency that you cannot save for later.  It cannot be saved.  You must invest it.  And outside of a relationship with Jesus, the best place to invest it is in your spouse.

Here’s 5 practical investment tips on time and marriage: 

1 – Take the initiative.  Stop waiting for the other person to get motivated.  Get out of the childish (and selfish) mindset of “I won’t if he/she won’t.” Put time on the calendar. I do. I block off time for my wife and my family.  I block off time for me to be home to get stuff done (sometimes just being home is huge…especially for a quality time-driven person like my wife).  Whatever you do, be the one to take the initiative and fight for time together. 

2 – Walk through your week together.  Anne and I have a standing appointment every Sunday night.  Most of the time, we do it on a walk (good cardio + good communication) but we take a few moments to go over the week.  When we do a “flyover” of our week, it gives us a chance to look at our two schedules and talk through what to expect. We both have Google calendars (which are shared so we can see what each other is planning).  Those walks help prepare us for our weekly schedule and prevent fights and misunderstandings. It gives us a week-by-week perspective.  

3 – Frequent Dates. You are harshing the buzz of your marriage by not consistently/frequently dating your spouse.  It doesn’t have to be expensive financially.  But investing in intimacy will cost you time. Young in our marriage, dates were as simple as hitting up McDonalds at Midland Mall for an ice-cream cone and walking together.  Hit up Redbox and microwave some popcorn. Just pick a time conducive for you two and do something that your spouse wants to do.  Just get back to dating and do it frequently. 

4 – Maximize moments. Life is busy all by itself.  Add children into the equation, and it’s pandemonium.  Especially with little ones around and the expense of babysitters, you look for moments to maximize. From going home for lunch during your child’s nap to scheduling time when the kids go to bed, find times to develop quality moments with each other.  Anne and I used to tape (yes with a VCR) our shows during the week and use specific evenings to make popcorn and enjoy Jack Bauer and Gil Grissom solve criminal activities. Here’s another tip: Connect with a few other families and trade evenings every few weeks where you watch the other family’s kids so that you can have a night out. 

5 – Rotate between “tastes.” Don’t let your definition of quality time be the ONLY definition you work with. Quality time by my definition usually involved two things: Sports and/or sex (why not combine the two?). Anne’s definition of quality time doesn’t have anything to do with either one of them.  She likes shopping, coffee, walking with me, and frozen yogurt (which sometimes gets combined). I work with couples all the time, who have time together, but they feel it’s dominated by the preference of one spouse.  Trade back and forth on how your time will be spent together. 

They say time is our most precious commodity.  Whether you realize it or not, it WILL be spent on something. It’s up to you to choose what it is being spent upon. Don’t wait to spend it on each other when the kids are older. Don’t wait till the kids are out of the house.  Be liberal with your spending.  Splurge your time on your spouse. 

Lord, teach us to live wisely and well with our time (Psalm 90:12). 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages: Part 3 No Fun

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Two weeks ago, we started a new series of seven blogs designed to recognize unhealthy habits. If you missed the last two weeks check out our first TWO Highly Defective Habits:

Habit #1: Spiritual Continuity.

Habit #2: The Single Life

Here we go…#3 on the list of my 7 Habits of Highly Defective Marriages:

Defective Marriage

Habit #3: The Fun-less Couple

fun/fən/
nounenjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.
synonyms: enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, pleasure
adjectiveamusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing

For a while, whenever I read Ecclesiastes 3, my eyes went to the negative parts of the scripture.  (Maybe that reveals something about my psyche…that would explain a lot). Focus get’s drawn toward words like die, kill, break, weep, and mourn.  We can get so caught up in theses inevitable unfortunates.  Marriage is no different.  We too can get drawn into “inevitable unfortunates” and dwell on them as if to forfeit the other side of the coin. It’s time to get out of our marital pessimism.  It’s time to return to what we relished in our dating/courting.
Fun…times of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.  It’s more than a noun (something to do). It should describe who you are (adjective).
Defective marriages struggle with a deficiency of fun.  We treat our marriage like a business transaction instead of a growing relationship that THRIVES on fun. Couples forget that fun isn’t optional for a growing marriage. It’s a vital time filled with, according to our writer a time of building up, laughing, dancing, and embracing (which is my favorite one).
A couple of years ago, we had an odd winter here in Michigan.  We hit temperatures in the 70’s to the 80’s.  In the Michiganders minds, this was the best winter.  It’s as if we skipped the season of winter.  The problem: it messed with our agriculture and was a tremendous burden for our farmers.  Our harvest wasn’t the same which affected our economy.  Skipping a season may feel okay in the moment, but it’s detrimental on so many deeper levels.
It may not seem like a huge deal, but I want you to know something:
“FUN” is a marital season that is not optional. Skipping the season of fun in your marriage is detrimental on so many deep levels.
Come together with your spouse and plan out some fun.  I’m not talking about what YOU think is fun.  Look into your spouses heart and position them for a great time.  What do you two like to do together?  What can you both do that will facilitate laughter, emotional intimacy, and stress-release?  What can you two try that may be new? Have you talked with other couples to see what they do (get some ideas from others)?
Know this: marriage wasn’t designed to be in a constant season of stale monotony.  It’s to reflect who God is.  God is life.  God is celebration.  God is a God of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. God is fun.
If our marriage is to reciprocate who He is, then our marriage, therefore, needs to have “fun.” Don’t just let it naturally happen. Be purposeful with your fun.  Be strategic in your busyness.  Be a fun spouse. I leave you with a great scripture out of the Old Testament:
Deuteronomy 12:7 (MSG) Celebrate everything that you and your families have accomplished under the blessing of God, your God.
Get off your butt and go have a time of enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure with your husband/wive…
Go have fun!
Thanks for letting me ramble…