Wrong Delivery: 3 Marriage Thoughts on Communication

We have an ongoing issue in the Barringer home. Our mailbox, periodically, gets mail for someone who lives 4 blocks from us. It’s not like it’s random mail from the neighborhood but from a home who possesses the same house number but on a completely different street. It’s kind of frustrating, but we do what we always do: go for a walk and drop it off in their box.

But it stirs up the question of “What have they received of ours?” The first thing on my mind is the 2-3 items we’ve ordered from Amazon that never arrived. Amazon has been great in giving us refunds, but, the point of ordering stuff is to actually have it delivered properly to the home.

(Side note: As I typed that, an Amazon notification literally popped up on m phone telling me about my next delivery. Here’s to hoping it actually comes to MY mailbox.)

Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. As I’ve learned personally and painfully, you can have all of the parts and systems of a vehicle in place, but if you run out of oil, the car will seize and massive overhaul has to be done in order to be functional again (I miss my ’89 Chevy Blazer). So goes the communication in your marriage. In my judgement, most marriage issues are less about the actual “issue” and more about a breakdown in communication. And if proper, healthy communication is in place, the issue can be in place to be dealt with (if not solved because of clarity and understanding).

What does that have to do with today’s subject? Everything. As cliché as it may sound, communication isn’t about WHAT you say but HOW you say it. In other words, what I find happening between a husband and wife is, not a lack of information being given, but the delivery of that information. And dealing with “miss-delivery” is not just about missing necessary information from being delivered but healing the rifts cause by it.

Please understand: Just because you’ve “said something” doesn’t mean it was communicated properly. I hear from pre-marital couples all the time about this. I’ll ask them what they think the strength of their relationship is and, more often than not, communication is the first to come up. The most common reasoning: We talk all the time. But I submit again: talking doesn’t constitute that the information was delivered and received.

This may blow your mind but…Your spouse is not “you.”

In fact, he/she may be NOTHING like you. Not only is your spouse the opposite sex but could be your opposite in every way. From the make up of their personality to their background, you spouse (like mine) could be your polar opposite. So if that’s the case, care over the “delivery” of your communication matters just as much as the actual information being exchanged.

Don’t allow “time” to replace “tactic.” 
There is, often, a tendency to take the people we are closest to for granted. Because we have had more “time” or history with someone, we allow a relaxed approach to our “delivery” in our communication. I get it. From my spouse, to my staff, to the congregation I lead, it’s so easy to depend upon the amount of familiarity built over time to replace the stewardship of my words, tone, and approach to communication.

It’s effortless to put the blame on somebody else and defer ownership over miscommunication to somebody else by saying “he/she should know what we mean.” What we are saying in that statement is, “I am refusing to own up to the fact that part of the communication issue at hand has the potential of being my fault.” Don’t allow the depth of “time” be permission to not be strategic in your delivery. Think about who you are talking and the best way to convey the information.

Make it “sugar-free” and digestible.
“Straight talk” or communication through candor may feel good to you, but may come off as unfeeling and/or crude to your spouse. “Raw” doesn’t necessarily mean “reliable communication.” What I find in my own life, this type of communication is unrefined and without restraint. And, because of familiarity, I can easily allow my wife to be the pin-cushion for that type of delivery.I get it, it feels good to get things off your chest. But there’s a difference between outward processing and being crass. Don’t use you’re not wanting to “sugar-coat” the truth with circumventing the thought process. “Straight talk” is easy because you don’t have to properly own up on processing of the info and/or the delivery. You just give it without the care of whether your spouse will be able to digest it. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean it should be said in a way that fits your flesh.

I’m not advocating for tough situations to be ignored, to skirt the issues at hand, or to dancing around a subject hoping your spouse happens to catch what you’re hinting at. But, to if I’m really going to steward (manage) my communication, then I don’t need to “curb” the honesty but I do need to make sure it is digestible/understandable and, therefore, in position to be properly processed by my spouse. Watching our words isn’t “watering down” the truth; It’s increasing the stewardship of it.

Delivery is an ongoing process of change.
There’s a rule for public speaking that says, “Know your audience.” The older I get, the more apt I can be for sticking to the same old way of doing things. Reviewing the “how” of delivery isn’t calling what you’ve done wrong. It’s just recognizing that how you’ve done it may not be effective in the place your marriage is at. As human beings, not only do we see the seasons of life change, we change in those seasons. And what got you through one season doesn’t mean it will fit for the next one.

If our model of life is the person of Jesus, then the “delivery” in our communication needs to model what He modeled: Servanthood.

  • Does my spouse hear what I’m saying? How do I know that?
  • Am I passive aggressive or just plain AGGRESSIVE with my delivery style?
  • Do I give deliver something digestible?

Servanthood in marriage means that we don’t do what fits best for “me” but what facilitates the best for the “we.” To do that, takes careful inspection of how we are utilizing what God has entrusted in our care. And how we deliver communication fits into that category.

Love you all. Praying for husbands and wives today as you weigh out, not just WHAT you say but HOW you say it.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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

Beyond Words: 6 Ways to Express “I Love You” Without Words

Once in awhile, I feel the need to write a disclaimer for a blog.

This is one of those blogs.

DISCLAIMER: I believe in talking to each other. Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. As it flows so does everything else. I DO NOT want you to stop talking to each other. Immature tactics like the “silent treatment” only go to further damage the marriage as it is pride-driven to injure your spouse in a futile attempt to hurt him/her more than they have hurt you.

Now that I got that out-of-the-way, the heart of today’s blog is to help move “love” past words. I want you to learn to love without words. (You get that I don’t want you to stop talking right?) I propose to you: if the gift of verbal communication between you and your spouse were to stop, what evidence would be left to convey the depth of your love?

It’s what I love about the immense love of God that we are called to model. He wasn’t afraid to tell His people of his love (Jeremiah 31:3). He wasn’t afraid to express it (John 3:16).

Our culture seems to have watered down love to an emotion instead of a statement of our being; a flash of sentiment in our heart instead of a deep-seeded passionate conviction. And when we want to express it, 3 simple words are used (of which I do NOT take for granted): I love you.  But I tend to wonder, in the day we live in, if those words have been muddied a bit.

Don’t get me wrong. Please do not ever stop telling your spouse that you love them. The words “I love you” shouldn’t be reserved just for special occasions. Being married IS a special occasion. Therefore, open up your mouth freely and frequently to express verbally your love (this is disclaimer #2).

But if you couldn’t say it, specifically to him/her, what evidence would be left? 

 

Your schedule.
What does your schedule convey to your spouse? Your calendar will speak vision. And vision is born out of passion. The priority of time and quality of moments will speak volumes about what you are passionate about. Share calendars and let your spouse see things from scheduled/blocked-off time together to vacations and down-time. I’m of a firm conviction that NO marriage should go a month without a date. It doesn’t have to have immense cost (or any for that matter). But I’ve always said: consistent dates are cheaper than divorce lawyers.

Meaningful touches.
I read a study from UCLA a number of years ago that said that EVERY human being needs 8-10 meaningful touches a day to be healthy. But the key word there is “meaningful.” What does that look like? For some of you with higher libido, it’s learning how to touch your spouse non-sexually (simply put: a touch that isn’t laced with expectations). For those who aren’t driven physically, it’s creating opportunities to impact your spouse with your touch. It’s all about initiating creative touches that put aside your touch-agenda (or lack thereof) to create a healthy touch climate in your marriage that expresses your love for one another.

Self-initiated projects.
Are there things your spouse has been wanting to get done around the home? Are there projects that you hear him/her talk about frequently? This is as simple as making a mental note of what your spouse has been wanting to accomplish AND showing you took notice by scheduling and implementing that project. Whatever the task is, the love isn’t conveyed in the actual project as much as it is in the action of listening and responding.

Special moments. 
I’ll admit, I don’t like Hallmark created holidays. Also, I’m not big on gift giving (that’s at the bottom of my love languages).  BUT…it seems like the longer we’re married, the more we take for granted special moments that either, come by the calendar, or by the nature of our relationship (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.). RECOGNIZING and/or CREATING significant moments helps your spouse feel more like your “significant other” rather than the “obligatory other.”

Respect.
The absence of respect will kill the heart of a marriage. When a couple no longer recognizes the most base level of human dignity in one another, passion bleeds out and life leaves the relationship. Why? We respect what we value. It doesn’t mean our spouse is going to always act in a respectable way. But do we value our marriage? If so, we need to be a spouse that works hard to live in a respectful way that shows how much we value, first the Lord, and then our spouse. When you lead in respect, you build hope. And where hope is present, love is grown.

How others perceive your spouse.
What is your spouse’s reputation or image based upon your closest friends and/or coworkers? How do others perceive your spouse after they’ve interacted with you? Whether you like it or not, what you say or do will get back to your significant other (it always does). I’ve heard it said that “Integrity is who you are when no one is looking.” Perhaps marital integrity is how much you love your husband/wife when he/she isn’t around. What a statement of love to be a someone who hears that their spouse was speaking words of appreciation, gratitude, respect, and passion without them in the room.

Two challenges for you: 

1 – Have a conversation with your spouse about this. Ask your spouse what “non-verbal” ways speak out “I love you” to them. Get some input. Give some feedback. Perhaps, make some apologies where you (or both) have missed the mark. Marriage goals are not to point out where you lack; Marriage goals are to look to where you can grow.

2 – Make it a daily challenge. On top of VERBALIZING the words “I love you,” what can I do today to NON-VERBALLY express those words that will bless my spouse? Get personal and practical without the worry of reciprocation. This shows the true heart of a servant. And that is how marriage grows.

I’d love to say I’ve mastered this. To be honest, I think I have a ton of room for improvement. As a husband, one of the greatest privileges and challenges is to tell my wife I love her without uttering a single word. It’s so simple yet not an easy task.

Sit with your spouse. Have the conversation with a vision of growing the communication of the commitment and love you both possess. Remember: marriage is a long-haul journey built within healthy daily moments of growth.

Love ya.  Praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Unclouding Your Communication: The 3 “Ts” of Talking

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

I talk with couples all the time in a variety of locations. From coffee houses to homes to my office (my favorite is talking marriage over froyo), I love that people are taking their marriage seriously by getting outside input.  Side note: Counseling (getting help) is not an admission of defeat; it’s an admission of your humanity and a breaking of your pride. I’d challenge any couple to take a preventative step further by getting some check-ins with a professional marriage counselor BEFORE an issues even rises.

The “communication” conversation is one of the first things to come up. Why? If you’ve sat through ANY marriage talks with me, you’ll hear me say, “Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage. You can run out of any other fluid and get by. But if you run out of oil, your engine is done.” (I’m willing to bet a mechanic will contact me to prove my car fluid metaphor inaccurate.) But the point is worth making: communication keeps the engine of your relationship running smooth. It affects EVERY aspect of marriage (conflict, intimacy, relationship roles, etc).

And when I bring up the subject, a very typical response is, “Pastor Dave, we’re already good at talking.” But this is where a revelation came to me and Anne early in marriage: Being good at talking doesn’t equate to being good at communicating. It’s why I spend time helping couples work on assertiveness and active listening. But you can have the right elements but miss the mark because of  “talking mistakes.” And many of those faux paus are in these three areas:

1 – Timing. When you need to talk, consider the timing of when you initiate conversation. Some terrible timing moments:

  • Hitting up your spouse first when he/she walks in the door from a busy day
  • Dealing with heavy topics in front of kids/family/friends
  • Confrontation when tempters are beyond being constructive
  • Inserting criticism in the midst of a great moment.

Your timing can squash a moment or enhance it. If handled right, it can be the factor to help pave the way for your marital communication to go deeper and get healthier. Ignore timing because of your inability to be patient, defenses will go up, frustration will rise, and problems will continue.

2 – Tone. As a trumpet player, I learned that a wrong tone can take a beautiful musical arrangement and make it excruciating to listen to. Tone in marital communication is no different (or any communication for that matter). Just because you might be loud doesn’t mean you are going to be completely heard. To add to that point, just because your spouse isn’t picking up on what you’re talking about may have nothing to do with his/her hearing and more to do with the tone you’re using. Your tone is an essential tactic to consider. It can intensify what you’re talking about or distract from what is really being said.  It brings emphasis and priority while helping to convey emotion when words are not enough.

Side note: Tone is carried through more than your voice. Your body language and facial expressions speak clear tones…so be careful about those.

 

3 – Technique. This is where you realize something that you already know BUT need the constant reminder (as I do): you and your spouse are different creatures.

You are both unique and beautiful creations of God. But the way you were raised may have had certain techniques of how to handle communication that your spouse may not respond well to. It doesn’t mean your spouse was raised incorrectly and/or that your family did it right. But it does means that you may need to step back and evaluate whether your techniques for approaching communication are healthy or not.

I very much respond to touch. So when Anne is talking with me, she’ll place her hand on my leg or my arm. Anne responds to quality/meaningful time. I’ll ask her to go for a walk (one of her favorite activities) and it’s there, she feels a bit more free to talk openly. I would highly recommend a solid book on communication (love the “Five Love Languages“) and/or sitting with a professional to get some help in developing strong talking techniques.

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

Keep the engine of your marriage running smooth by constantly evaluating and developing your communication. Don’t be afraid to get help when you (both) are facing some struggles. Remember: Marriage challenges are not a “me” issue; it’s always a “we” issue.

Keep talking. Keep working. And always feed hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

The Art of Reinforcement: 5 Ways to Reinforce Your Marriage

I’m on vacation in Virginia right now.  It’s been refreshing to hang out with my family, set aside emails and messages, and totally focus upon rest. We’ve spent a lot of time going through villages and small towns that have survived decades, and for some, well over a century. But amidst all of the buildings and landmarks that have survived the years, one word has kept coming to mind:

Reinforcement

Defined, it’s the “action or process of strengthening.” And the context of marriage, it’s something that is sorely forgotten about. I think so many people are so busy trying to clean up messes and fix problems that they forget that, without reinforcement, the structure will fall.

My mind goes to an image of a mine. 2010_08_08_MontanaMountainMine_7240

Regardless of what kind of mine (copper for my U.P. friends), if one of the caverns has a breach and beginning to cave in, the last thing you’d want to do is clean up the mess. The first response, from what I understand, is to reinforce the weakened structure.

But we don’t do that with our marriage.

Do things need to be cleaned up? Yep
Do things need to be fixed? You bet.
Does there need to be change? Probably.

But I submit: What if your first response to issues was to reinforce what is SET UP instead of attacking what is MESSED UP? I’m not saying that you ignore issues at hand, but fortifying the structural integrity of the marriage will give momentum and build strength that will help carry you through the issues at hand.

Here’s some areas to reinforce: 

Reinforce your mind: Be reminded who Christ is. When you remember who you are in Jesus, you learn to fight FROM a place of victory instead of fighting FOR victory. The victory was won at the cross.  But sometimes, we feel we need to re-win a battle what was already won. I love how the Psalmist puts this in perspective in Psalm 77.  “I will remember the deeds of the Lord yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”  Remember your identity in Christ and ponder on His promises and reputation. As you do, walk in obedience. 

Reinforce what IS/HAS BEEN working. We get so caught up attacking the mess that it can blind us from seeing what is right. Are you good communicators? Focus on the communicating. Are you good at having fun together? Have more fun. Are you good at sex? Get naked. Are you good at serving? Keep serving each other. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you ignore it. Keep building it up and let that be a place to build upon. I love the advice given to the church in Revelation, “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” Even though the context is that of a church fallen away from their first love (Christ), the principle is of extreme value: the things you were good at that fed your love, go back and do them again!

Reinforce forgiveness. I cannot reinforce this enough in marriage (or life for that matter). We continue to “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” It doesn’t reestablish trust. It gives us a place to build trust upon. How many times do we forgive our spouse? As many times as Christ has had to forgive us.

Reinforce effort instead of results.  I write about this a lot. Why? Because in a culture that demands results, we force our marriage into that flow by demanding desired outcomes at an unrealistic rate. So often, spouses only hear from their spouse when they’re doing something wrong. Catch them doing something right and encourage them in it. In fact Hebrews 3:13 challenges us to “exhort (build up, encourage) one another every day.” To use an old cliché: The Titanic doesn’t turn on a dime. But encouragement will help the Titanic turn faster than the opposition of discouragement. 

Reinforce strategic areas. Sometimes the problems you’re having are symptoms of other issues. For example: If you’re having fights about which way the toilet paper was put on the roll, chances are, the toilet paper isn’t the REAL issue.  If small things are having explosive results, there needs to be a closer review of what is really happening. This is where you need to get help/wisdom from an outside and objective source. It’s why the bible encourages surrounding yourself with wisdom. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”Counseling (getting help) is not an admission of defeat; it’s an admission of your humanity and a breaking of your pride. Chances are, there are simple and strategic areas that need to be reinforced and getting help shows you are serious about your marriage. 

I’m about attacking the fracture and the mess, but perhaps if we reinforce some of the structure of our marriage, we’ll have an easier time building it up during difficult seasons. 

Love you all. Praying for you. Don’t stop reinforcing your marriage.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“I wish you were more like…”…and 6 other lines we shouldn’t say in marriage.

Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

I always, say, “Communication is the oil of the engine of marriage.” And just like the car you drive, you cannot afford to use the same oil for great lengths of time.  Oil must be changed every 3000 or so miles to keep the engine running at peak performance.  Thus, as we move forward in our marriage, we should always keep an eye on our communication to see if our communication needs to be refreshed.  Why? Through the seasons of life, you change.  Shocking enough, so will your spouse. The ways you address and respond to each other should always be on our radar as marriage becomes the place to endlessly learn to communicate.

I know marriage is much more than communication, but how many marital issues would be erased or solved if we just learned to communicate in a more healthy manner? Our almost 18 years have taught us that it’s not a matter of if we disagree, but when we do, how will we handle it? Here’s a simple rule: We should never quit and always communicate until you reach the other side. This, of course, takes hard work and dedication… and a few bits of sound wisdom on how to resolve things more healthily wouldn’t hurt either. Thus, this blog.

It’s impossible to define everything everyone should or shouldn’t say in every situation. However, there are a couple of phrases/words that we’ve discovered are usually unhelpful for marriage:

“You always/never…” Absolute statements like “you always…” or “you never…” are something Anne and I continue to try to remove from our marriage. I think we’ve done well. In fact, when we are joking with each other, we’ll usually use this phrase as if to tell the other person, “when you hear this, it’s never about anything of actual consequence.”

The problem with absolute statements is that, first, they’re rarely true when speaking of behavior, and, second they are usually hurtful.  The only thing we accomplish by using this kind of talk is sowing seeds of repeated failure.  It kills any positive momentum, and it’s a reminder of past failures. Absolute statements say more about who’s saying them then they do about whom they’re directed at. To shoot straight with you, absolute statements are just plain lazy. This is an easy one to resort to in an argument. It cuts quick and deep, it’s a low blow, and they’re a poor way to verbalize the real issues at hand.

By being specific and purposeful with your language, you can actually move forward together instead of accusing one another. Removing absolute statements from your marriage diction will do wonders.

“I wish you were more like…” Comparison isn’t a marriage builder; it’s a marriage killer. It is disrespectful and damaging. Any time you find yourself comparing your spouse to another husband or wife, you are comparing their highlight reel to your behind-the-scenes. It is always based on the partial truth of somebody else’s reality  Comparison creates an unfair and unrealistic standard to live up to.

Nobody likes being compared to someone else. Whether it’s a friend, a stranger, or a family member, comparison will break hearts and kill marriage momentum.  Nothing makes me feel smaller than when I’m unscrupulously compared to someone “greater than” me. Feeling that kind of small is ok, I guess, but only if it’s relation to Jesus. May Jesus be the only person we compare with and let the be with ourselves as we ask him to increase and us decrease.

“I’m sorry, but…  I understand can be hard to apologize. But using the word “but” on the end of an apology is giving yourself permission to do something you probably shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Some people are more stubborn than others (like me). But when you do apologize, leave it at “I’m sorry.” If you add the word “but” with any explanation, valid or not, it negates any form of apology that preceded it. Apologies should be sincere and should bring finality to the conversation. If you’re not done sharing your feelings, then don’t apologize!

“Whatever!” The ultimate shutdown response when you’ve run out of words. But even more than that, it becomes an easy immature go-to. What this says is, “I don’t really want to deal with the situation” and/or “I refuse to talk about this.”

The word “Whatever” is the arch-enemy of biblical reconciliation. By dismissing disagreements with “whatever”, you’re essentially stating that you don’t care enough about the person or disagreement to discuss further. Remember, “Love never quits. Love is patient, kind, not easily angered, and always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13). Please understand, it’s not that “whatever” is a bad word, it’s just usually used in moments when love isn’t at it’s best. Ditching “whatever” from your marriage vocabulary will force to either, first, explain why you’re OK with dismissing the conversation, or, second, explain why you’re truly ok with whatever.

“I’m fine.” (Here’s a personal favorite.) Now this one is tricky.  Whoever is the more emotional member (not necessarily the female) will use this as a hint of deeper things going on.  What is troublesome about “fine” is it’s usually a passive aggressive approach to announcing that “everything isn’t fine and you need to pick up on the signal.”

Seeing that your spouse isn’t a mind-reader, I challenge you to remove “fine” from your vocabulary and look for more constructive opportunities mixed with clear open dialogue to convey what the issues at hand is.

“…just sayin’…” This is the arrogant jab at the end of a statement as if you want to flaunt your right to say what you want. But note: Just because you have a right doesn’t make it right. Just as much as pride will destroy the work of Christ in your life, pride will destroy what Christ desires to do in your marriage. The desire to tack this onto your statement should be the red flag that what will proceed “just sayin’” may not set your conversation up for a healthy and constructive interaction.

“Divorce…” Whether is joking or serious, I think it’s dangerous for couples use the word “divorce” in reference to their marriage. I believe marriage only works if divorce is not an option. It’s looking at your life together as if there’s no back door. That way you’ll both be committed to working through anything.

The greatest enemy we’ve seen at play in marriage is simply giving up by mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually check-out of the marriage. How can you work something out if one person leaves or refuses to engage? Divorce is just that: giving up on the marriage.

Using the word “divorce” potentially introduces the idea of a terrible possibility into your marriage. No matter how you slice it, divorce is marital death…and a painful one at that. I implore you, remove “divorce” from your vocabulary. Don’t use it as a threat, comedic relief, or otherwise. Perhaps you should divorce yourself from using “divorce.”

Words are essential to healthy communication.  And I hope I’ve made a compelling case for why you should remove some phrases and words from your marriage.

Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Be selective with your words. There are two things in this life you can never get back once used, words and time.

Use your words to give life. And your marriage will feast on the fruits of them (words).

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Silence is NOT Golden: 5 Helps When Silence Hits Your Marriage

The question driving today blog: Is your heart for your marriage stronger than your silence?

Isaiah 62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning.

Silence can be good.  Small increments of silence are gifts.  Whether it’s for prayer or just to simply gather your thoughts, silence can be refreshing (especially if you have little ones…been there, bought the t-shirt, had a baby throw up on the t-shirt).  You’ve heard the cliché, “Silence is golden.” But strategic silence against your partner for the purpose of anger, resentment, and/or punishment is destructive.  Hear this from the pro at the “silent treatment” (me).

Just the other day, Anne approached me on the subject. She’s reading Jen Hatmaker’s book, “For the Love” and gave me an amazing quote from Jen.

Truthfulness hurts for a minute; silence is the kill-shot.  My resentment built a stonewall; my voicing it began crumbling the divide.

It confirmed what I’ve come to see from my own life and years of working with couples: Strategic silence is deadly.  So many couples are concerned about talking about certain subjects.  Some are afraid to bring things up fearing the outcome.  Ladies and gentlemen, this ought not to be.  If you want to be healthy, don’t be as concerned about the talked as you should be when the talking stops.

Here’s a few practical thoughts:

1 – Suck up your stubbornness and break the silence!  The pain of speaking to an awkward or painful subject doesn’t compare to what your silence is doing to your marriage. A silent issue does not equate to a solved issue.  I liken it to a sliver.  Just because it stopped bothering you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remove it.  Waiting and/or ignoring just invites infection AND more pain than necessary.

2 – Make an appointment with your spouse! It’s so practical yet so overlooked.  You both need to be position to give your undivided attention to the conversation without distractions. You’re kids don’t need to hear your conversation.  Your friends and family don’t need to be a part of your biz (this should be its own blog).  Keep your social media “friends” out of it (another blog idea). Keep this between you two and have it done so that you can focus on the conversation.

3 – Don’t get tired of breeching the same subject. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times, “We’ve talked about this before.” My admonishment: Don’t stop.  If you’ve dealt with it, then keep talking BUT change your approach. Restart the conversation but brainstorm a different solution.  If that doesn’t work, invite a Christ-centered counselor. Just don’t stop the conversation because you think you’re at an impasse.  Calling it an “impasse” is pronouncing it “impossible.” Don’t give up hope.  If you’ve got Christ AND a teachable heart, all things are possible.

4 – Taking a “time out” is healthy but doesn’t end the conversation. Time outs are good when tempers flair. Requesting one can be good for:
– Relaxing and calming down.
– Doing something that will get you to decompress. Perhaps you ladies want to hit the speed bag or go for a fun. Maybe you guys want a bubble bath with Kenny G playing in the background.
– Remembering what is important.
– Praying for humility, patience, and wisdom.
NOTE: When the time out is done, resume the conversation.  Just because you have decompressed, don’t let the talk go back into silence.  Resume and resolve.

5 – Remember: The priority isn’t striving a personal win. Humility and teamwork from both of you will pay huge dividends for your marriage. When selfishness and maliciousness are set aside, casualties are few and far between.  Marital “wins” result in successes for the marriage itself.  They’re rarely one-sided. I say it so many times in premarital counseling, “A win for the ‘we’ is always a win for ‘me.’ But going after a win for ‘me’ isn’t going to be a win for the ‘we.'”

Isaiah 62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning.

Victory, provision, blessing, and destiny for Israel were intrinsically connected to God’s silence.  They were a broken and lost nation.  God had REPEATING reached out to them.  Through prophets, the conversation was extended over and over.  In my own flesh, I wondered why God put up with them.  But out of His deep love for them, God refused to remain quiet.  He knew his shattering the silence would revive the wayward nation giving them a new identity.

Is your heart for your marriage stronger than your silence? If you’ll walk in humility, break the silence, you’ll have an opportunity to speak victory, provision, blessing, and destiny into your marriage.

Step up. Speak up.  Break the silence.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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

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

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

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

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

10 warning shots to take notice of: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…