Valentine Response: 2 Marital Responses to this Holiday

If you know me, I’m a huge fan of marriage.

I love studying the beauty of how man and woman come together in a moment and take a lifetime of being woven together with Jesus to form a “cord not easily broken.” I marvel at how two broken, imperfect, and opposites can connect and commit to an adventure that ends with nothing less than the grave.  I’m fascinated the dynamics of how a male and female make a covenant to become “one” on a day, yet leverage years and hard work to build a life of becoming “one.” Marriage is a moment and a journey; a commitment and a process.

I honestly appreciate special days that help accentuate that relationship. Special “holidays” and/or anniversaries should be re-centering moments for our hearts, times to recall God’s grace and goodness in our lives, opportunities to recalibrate the our relationship, and times to remind ourselves that the best has yet to come.

But, when it comes to Valentine’s Day, I wonder if we are doing more damage than we realize. Instead of being the spillover of a year of romance, it’s become “how special am I to my spouse?” because, possibly, those romantic days are few and far between.

I think of it this way: Valentine’s Day (and/or anniversaries) can be treated how people treat church on Easter. They’ll put in on the calendar, show up prepared to engage in it, then go back to living the way they were before the holiday.  Valentine’s Day should be a time to build up to.  It should be, not the introduction of a new response to your spouse, but an overflow of what’s been growing in your hearts toward one another.

I’m not saying I “hate” Valentine’s Day. But with the wrong approach, these type of holidays can develop heartache by…

  • Putting undo pressure to compete with other couples (or the previous year)
  • Developing unrealistic expectations as you pray your spouse knows what you like and/or caught your “hints.”
  • Facilitate selfish behavior as so many will do something in order to get a specific response from your spouse. (i.e. “Valentine’s is only successful if I get what I want. So I do ‘this,’ my spouse should do “that.’“)
  • Making this day more of a burden when you realize that this type of attention only happens once a year. So, you put everything you can into a moment hoping for the payoff.

Please hear my heart: If you are waiting for a “holiday” to celebrate your relationship, you are turning these moments into a spin of the roulette wheel with everything riding on that day. I believe Valentines Day is an “over and above the norm” type of celebration. But for too many couples, being romantic is “over and above” the normal or it’s usually off the radar unless you want something. Romance isn’t an “over and above” the normal every day life. It IS every day life.

Engage in Every Day Romance
If you’ve read my blogs long enough, or been in premarital counseling with me, you’ve heard my definition of romance:

Romance is selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

This entails two things: First, knowing the love languages your spouse speaks and, second, serving those love languages. In a culture of give and take, this flies in the face of that by looking at what speaks to your spouse’s heart and serving that way without any reciprocation back. I liken it to how Jesus responded to humanity. When he was with his disciples, he served them and washed their feet knowing 11 of them would abandon him and 1 would betray him. Jesus served “for the joy set before him” and not necessarily “for the joy of what they could do back for him.” Romance is really “romance” when we serve based upon what speaks to our spouse and not what we receive back from them. Jesus’ joy came from serving. I wonder if we’d experience more joy if our fulfillment came from filling our spouse instead of endlessly chasing our selfish desires.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day, but the real romance starts on the 15th. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not wrong to enjoy special days. But correct your heart in the approach. See it as something special, not to replace a “lack” of attention.” Use this day (and others like it) to launch some new steps, and not just an oasis of love in a relational desert. What if you started something new on the 15th? Here’s some ideas:

  • Purpose yourself to have conversations about what your love languages are.
  • Find strategic times, outside the norm, to serve your spouse’s love language.
  • Start a marriage book together. I’ve got a recommendation 😉
  • Plan out a date that connects well to your spouse’s heart.
  • Find creative ways to encourage your spouse.
  • Plan a walk 1-2 times a week to talk about your day/week.

At Kfirst, I’ve been emphasizing the fact that we gather at 10a.m. on Sundays, but “church starts at 11:30” when we head out of the building and start acting like the church. Valentine’s Day happens on the 14th, but the real romance starts on the 15th.

Love you all. Praying for you as the two of you approach Valentine’s Day in a new way that launches you forward into a life of romantic responses to each other.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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

 

What is Romance? 5 Ways to Make Sure You Are Actually Romantic

In premarital counseling, I really enjoy asking questions. Jesus seemed to be great at it and, I feel, was an effective tool in helping people learn about the Kingdom. So I find myself asking a wide-range of questions, not so that I can give an answer, but to give a couple an opportunity to think deeply about some issues that they may or may not have even pondered.

One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What is romance?” (It’s a bit harder than you think.)

Most guys (conservatively saying, 90% of them) want their ladies to answer first, and then reply, “everything she said…that’s what I think too.”

Which is precisely why I don’t let the ladies answer first anymore. I’ve learned that I enjoy hearing the guys give me their take on “romance” as to what it is and/or what that looks like.  Most of the time I hear things like, “a movie, flowers, chocolate” and other staple answers. I’m not saying those are bad whatsoever, but they seem to be the “default” or the “go-to answers.”  (BTW: I was that guy 19 years ago.)

But more often than not, their female counterparts have a “look” on their face when those “default answers” are given. Then a conversation unfolds before me with statements like,

“That’s nice, but it’s not really romantic?”
“Wait, you don’t think that’s romantic?”
“That may be romantic to you.”
“I guess that’s okay…I have fun…but I find _________ romantic.”
“So you haven’t enjoyed what I’ve done? Are you’re saying I’m not romantic?”

A simple question, with what seemingly had a simple answer, turned into a conversation that revealed two elements that deteriorate romance: Assumption and miscommunication. And usually, BOTH parties are a bit guilty of indulging in both elements on this very important subject. My simple question helps create revelation and warning that romance, if not monitored, can fade away in marriage.

My simple definition:

Romance: Selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

**NOTE: I wish I didn’t have to use the word “selflessly” as “serving” should indicate everything needed to approach your partner. But it seems, more and more, I find couples only “serve” their spouse in order to get something back.  If serving your spouse is based upon what you are going to receive, it’s not serving that you’re doing, it’s manipulation. So I added the “selflessly” to reinforce the Christ-like heart and approach we should have. Jesus didn’t give based upon our response. He selflessly gave (served us) because of His immense love for us (Romans 5:8).

So on the most romantic holiday (according to Hallmark), I thought I’d give you a few thoughts on growing and maintaining the romance in your marriage. 

Breach the subject.
Simply said, “TALK ABOUT IT.” Assumption gives access to idle thoughts. And idle thoughts have a way of seeding false senses of discontent, frustration, and anger. Often I hear things like, “well, he/she should know what I like.” While that may or may not be true, leaving your spouse in the dark purposely only invites the darkness into your marriage. The lack of knowledge your spouse may have on what romances you may have nothing to do with their intelligence but the lack of effective and healthy communication from the both of you.

Be the one to step up first.
Lead the way in selflessly serving your spouse. If you’re waiting for him/her to make the first move, your motivation isn’t serving, it’s getting. Now don’t get me wrong, the serving should go both ways. And in time, I’d hope that through communication (and potentially some help from a marriage resource), some good, healthy serving habits would develop in the both of you. But stubbornness about being the initiator may feel justified in the moment, but it leaves you both empty, hurting, and vulnerable. Simply said: If you both are selflessly serving, your love tanks will stay full.

Recognize that your ideas of romance may not be your spouse’s idea of romance.
I spent unbelievable amounts of money on flowers in the three years of dating Anne. Later, I found out, while she very much appreciated them, they were not as big of a deal as I thought they were. And simple conversation in the sweetest tone AND in the proper timing from her switched my romantic approach (not to mention saved me money). I find many couples in the same boat. And the remedy for that: A conversation with the proper timing, tone, and technique can help pave the way for healthy romance.

Don’t assume your spouse still has the same love language.
Romance has a tendency to evolve. And it’s the seasons of life that tends to be the thing that shifts a person’s love languages. Pre-kids, we both were very high on “physical touch.” After Cammi was born, “quality time” became the vocabulary of my wife’s heart. And what we’ve noticed is, through the past almost 19 years, the evolution of the love languages of David and Anne. Romance doesn’t have to fade, but it does changes through the seasons. While our top love languages haven’t budged, we’ve seen the others (words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts) morph into greater and lesser importance.

Find your joy in your spouse’s fulfillment.
It’s not going to feel romantic to your spouse if you look and/or sound miserable while communicating your spouse’s love language. For example, I think I’ve ruined a few “quality time” moments shopping with Anne because I was so bored. I was happy to be with her, but the loud “sighing” and “grumbling” ruined any enjoyment she was having. Learn to love, not by what you receive, but by what your spouse is receiving. When the end-game of your romance is your spouse’s fulfillment, you’ll discover a deep level of marital fulfillment and health only experienced when two people serve each other.

Although I do want you to have a great Valentines day, I would hope that this blog may set your feet on a greater path so your romance isn’t relegated to a holiday or when you want your needs met. I pray that you will be that spouse in your marriage that leads the way in selflessly serving your spouse’s love language.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my BRAND NEW book of my blogs!! Order one today!!!

 

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…

Marriage Blog Series: Date Night Part 3 “Let’s get it on”

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We started a new series with our weekly marriage blogs a few weeks ago. If you missed the last two posts, Date Night Part 1 “Elevator Talk” or Date Night Part 2 “In the Air Tonight” click on the links to get caught up.

The essence of this series of blogs is to get couples to re-engage in the necessity act of dating.  I understand that using the word “act” may even offend some of my readers.  I can read the comments/email/facebook message, “I want him/her to want to go on a date with me!  I don’t want it to be an act.”  This is my reply:

Feelings follow actions. 

If you wait for “feelings” to determine how you act in your marriage, nothing will ever get done.  Our feelings are so easily seduced that a commercial will make us drive to the store to fill the craving for the snack we saw advertised. The right actions need to be taken.  Feelings follow appropriate actions.

Part 3: “Let’s get it on” 

Romance is more confusing than we realize. The second we assume what romance is, something changes.  It could be the season of life, it could be her/his tastes have changed, or it could be your approach has NEVER changed and, therefore, predictable and unromantic.

The title of today’s blog comes from a classic clip from, in my opinion, one of the greatest shows of all time. 

Obviously, Cliff and Claire are having a moment where they both are approaching an evening together and have different views of what is a romantic expression and what isn’t.  For Cliff, simply announcing “Let’s get it on” is what fits his idea of romance.  For Claire…not so much. Maybe it worked earlier in their marriage (yes I know it’s a TV show).  If it did, Cliff doesn’t get the memo that times have change and so has his wife.

We were very romantic during dating/courtship.  It’s there that romantic expressions are usually at their highest.  For many reasons, our desire for those expressions diminish greatly after the honeymoon phase of marriage. Some of you reading this believe romance isn’t as necessary as it once was. You believe it isn’t or shouldn’t be as important as it once was. I think romance expressions is what adds the fun and adventure to what can be an otherwise predictable routine of life.

Please understand: Marriage can’t stand alone on it.  Marriage cannot survive purely on romance.  But it is a very important part of a healthy marriage. And this is often the first thing lacking when a marriage becomes boring.

Romantic expressions are so diverse. Romance depends upon the person receiving the action and not necessarily the person giving it (that’s an important thing to realize). To one couple may be as simple as a thoughtful note left on the dresser, unexpectedly helping with chores, or an evening out so no one has to cook or clean the mess. But it should also include a regular date and a weekend getaway (when the budget allows for it).

To help with your understanding of romance…

Romance cannot:
Make areas of conflict disappear.  Romance doesn’t turn you into the Houdini of conflict.
Change your spouse. You can’t use it as manipulation to form your spouse into the person you want.
Subsidize growth areas.  Romance can’t take the place or cover up areas you need to how in.
Solve your marital problems. Flowers doesn’t take away what you said about her mother.
Doesn’t guarantee more or better sex.  It’s not a magic spell that’s been cast over your spouse to ignite an insatiable libido.

I know what you’re thinking after that last one…”Crap…what in the world is romance there for?”

Romance has a deeper purposes to it.

Romance can:
Assist you in connecting in a completely different plane than what everyday life provides.  It breaks you from the norm and allows you to get out of the rut of the ordinary.
Rekindle and reminds. Romance gives you the reminder you need.  It’s remembering your life and love before the responsibilities of marriage set in.
Usher in the fun and laughter that’s necessary. Couples that laugh together FREQUENTLY don’t get divorced. Romance let’s you have fun and laugher together.
Build your friendship with your spouse.  Romance creates a depth to your relationship/friendship because it is other-centered.
Increase intimacy.  Disclaimer: Intimacy does not equate to intercourse. But as the same time, I highly encourage couples to increase intimacy both in and outside of the bedroom.
Creates memories. What you don’t want to hear is, “Remember when you used to…”  Romance helps create new memories and moments.
– Sets the stage for open and honest communication.  Which can obviously lead to the resolution of conflicts, deeper conversions, greater date nights, and better sex.

Marriages without romance are empty and, in my opinion, kinda boring.  Understand: they are not boring me…they become boring to the people involved. Being bored in marriages is cancerous. The marriages that I have witnessed make a priority of dating are marriages that have a greater capacity to facilitate health.  In those marriages, there is a high expectation of romancing their spouse. It doesn’t mean they’re a specialist at romance.  You don’t have to be skilled at it.  It’s all about the heart and the effort.

I scripture that have kept going back to (it’s a scripture I shared with our pastoral staff recently) is Revelation 2. Here, the words speak out to the church in Ephesus, “repent, and do the works you did at first.” Ephesus was a church that was doing good works but they were falling out of their passion for God.  The words given, “do the works you did at first.”  In other words, do the things you did when you first discovered your passion for God and rekindle that relationship. Just as it works in our relationship with God, it works in our relationship with our spouses (marriages reflect God…but that’s for another blog). Take your marriage and “do the works you did at first.”

I want to encourage you: never let the romance die. It is an important aspect of cultivating your relationship/friendship, and shouldn’t be tossed aside as unnecessary. When was the last time you enjoyed a really romantic time together? A romantic surprise? A romantic anything? Plan to do something special this month and see if your marriage doesn’t benefit. You will most likely feel a bit awkward if you haven’t done this in a while. BUT DON’T LET THIS STOP YOU! Find out what speaks to your spouse.  Find out what he/she wants to do.  Get spontaneous.  Get creative. Don’t worry about failing at being romantic.  Your effort and heart will show through.

Your marriage is worth it! Get it on!!!!

Thanks for letting me ramble…