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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chosen To Marry

(Next week we'll start on our next series, "The Five Languages of Touch". Today is the day for a Thanksgiving-themed post.)

On this eve of Thanksgiving, it is perhaps a good opportunity to let your mate know how thankful you are for him or her.

You were chosen.

Think of that. You were wanted, above anyone else. Not just anyone else your spouse knew at the time, but all of those they had the future opportunity to meet.

It didn't end there. Your husband or wife has chosen to stay. In this age of drive-through divorces (which did exist in Las Vegas), your mate's chosen to stay.

Not because you're a thoroughly lovely person; no one is, all the time.

Not because he or she is 100% madly in love with you. Marriage tends to cure that.

Not because you're rich as Rockefeller and your spouse can't let go of the lifestyle...ever looked at the divorce statistics of rich celebrities and "beautiful people"?

It's because you were chosen, you're loved, and your mate made a promise.

CHOSEN, LOVED, PROMISE...THOSE ARE A GOOD REASON TO BE THANKFUL.

We hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(If you have the chance, please visit my other blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quotation and a short commentary of grace in marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Zero Tolerance?

Last week a new hashtag emerged...high-school students were taking pictures of their "healthy" but unappetizing school lunches, and Tweeting them with #thanksmichelleobama, a reference to the First Lady's support of increasing the nutritional value of school meals.

While Mrs. Obama is being unfairly pilloried - she doesn't prepare the menus, after all, and we did need to move beyond pizza and doughnuts - the kids have a point. Some of the food looks like dog vomit, and would you eat "Spanish Rice" with no salt?

It's just the latest installment of the "zero tolerance" philosophy that has replaced reasoned thinking since the 1990s. If lunches are not nutritious...make the transition from pizza to bean curd immediately. That sort of decisive action will somehow make up for the years in which Pop-Tartswere considered one of the major food groups. Right?

Riiight.

What it's really about is control; it's a convenient way to wield power cloaked in what seems to be common-sense justification.

Telling kids they can't bring a pistol to school is one thing; telling adults they can't take a pair of fingernail clippers onto an airliner is quite another. One makes sense, because it can marry immature intent with capability; the other is moronic, because fingernail clippers have no capability beyond clipping fingernails.

Is "zero tolerance" common in marriage?

I'm afraid it is. Consider these scenarios, which are disguised as House Rules -

  • No eating or drinking allowed in the car
  • No feet on the furniture
  • Don't touch my tools
  • ...and so on
Again, they seem reasonable within certain contexts, but in terms of  "real life" they are typically put up not only to protect personal boundaries...but to project power.

No food or drink in the car? Sure, it'll keep the upholstery clean, and give the illusion of keeping up the value...but cars lose value over time. Fact. Period.

It's kind of like an Asian observation of Western time-saving techniques..."when they've saved all that time, what will they spend it on?"

The interior may be pristine, but a car with 150,000 miles on it is still old.

Feet on the furniture? I personally don't like it much, but after a hard day, someone - like my wife - just needs to put her feet up in a safe place,where she can relax and watch some television.

But furniture is designed to be used, and if I occasionally overlook B's feet on the sofa, she feels at home,and I have allowed a small bit of grace to pass to her...the grace defined by keeping my mouth shut.

But she should never touch my tools. I would much rather she have to drive into town to get a hammer if she can't find "hers", rather than use mine.

I mean, she might break it.

What zero tolerance in marriage accomplishes is the maintenance of distance. It makes my wife feel not only like a second-class citizen, but one under constant scrutiny. On probation.

Zero tolerance is a prison.

Your thoughts?

In you have the chance,please stop by my other blog, "Starting the Day With Grace" at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Did You Notice Them? - Five Minute Friday

Once again, it's Five-Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Montaug. The challenge is to write for five minutes on a given "theme word", posted by Kate on Thursday night...and then stop when the timer dings.

Today's word is notice.

GO.

Did you notice them?

They were in Wal-Mart today - the elderly couple. He was wearing a cap that said "Korean War Veteran",and a windbreaker with a small American flag pinned to one lapel. There was a little Korean flag pinned to the other.

She was in a wheelchair. He was walking straight and tall, and pushing her. She pushed the shopping cart. Quite a sight.

Occasionally he would rest one hand on her thin shoulder, and she would put up her hand to touch his.

Did you see them in the canned-food aisle? He was trying to reach something on the top shelf, when a young, tattooed homie walked past.

The gangbanger stopped, turned, and then took down what the veteran needed. Then he pushed the cart through the store for them. He called the veteran "sir", and called his wife "ma'am".

Did you notice them?

Did it give you hope?

STOP

If you have the chance, please stop by my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace", at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Respecting Your Spouse's Dreams - The Seventh Pillar

Today we're at the end of "Seven Pillars of Marital Respect", and it's fitting to conclude the series with a look into the future - the future held in your mate's dreams.

Most of us can assume that we have a relatively long and indefinite time to live stretching out ahead of us. We shape it through our daily actions, but we animate it through our dreams.

Hopes and dreams are what we used from childhood to propel us into tomorrow, to give reassurance that tomorrow would be all right, or much more than "just all right". Our dreams are sometimes what got us over a rough past, and can be the hook from heaven that can help us through a difficult today.

Dreams deserve respect, because they're the most personal and intimate part of a person...often hidden from everyone but God. They lift us up; not only the specific aspiration, but everything. They put a more pleasant and hopeful cast on life,and we all need hope.

Being entrusted with knowledge of your spouse's dream is a high honor.

And yet, it's often trashed. Consider the writer I know, who received some interest in a novel she'd been working on for years. She went to tell her husband about it.

His reply was, "Yeah, I guess it's based on something you read about." And he walked away.

I know the gentleman in question - he's given to offhand, cutting remarks, sometimes without a real desire to hurt.

But this time he did hurt. He devalued his wife's dream, and her enjoyment of the possibility of future success. She doesn't talk about her writing any more. Not to him, not to anyone. I don't know if she still writes.

I don't think the husband meant to do this; I believe he just wasn't interested, and wanted the possibility of having to listen to her description to go away.

Sometimes, the intention is malign, through a basis in fear. Some people feel threatened by a spouse's dreams, worried that they'll be somehow left behind.

Some simply don't want their spouse to achieve something separately, like the wife who kept putting trivial roadblocks in her husband's opportunity to take art classes...his clothes would smell of paint, and how could he justify being away from home one night a week? And what would the neighbors think, with him pursuing such an unmanly activity? Eventually he gave up the idea. I wonder if he might have been a modern-day Monet? We'll never know.

Togetherness is great; but God made us as individuals, and as long as one's hopes don't carry one away from commitment to the marriage, it's wrong to crush them out of fear.

What can you do to support your mate's imagined future?

  • Listen and learn - encourage your husband or wife to share their hopes for their future, without forcing a link to your together future. Make an effort to remember the details, because it's the details of a dream that bring it to life.
  • Contribute - offer to help, but be sure it's an offer you're willing to meet...if you're married to a writer, you may open yourself up to reading endless drafts of a manuscript. (If the writing's really bad, chalk it up tho the "for worse" part of the marriage vow and keep smiling.)
  • Give space - some people, usually men, will get so bullish on the subject of their spouse's dreams that they'll take them over in an effort to ensure success. "I want to do it myself!" isn't just for kids.
  • Celebrate success - understand what the milestones of success are, and celebrate their attainment.
  • Share your own dreams - be willing to be vulnerable, and share that which moves and motivates you
There's clearly a lot more that could be said...how to allocate family finances to support the restoration of that '32 Chevrolet, how to share household duties in a way that allows the writer to write...but their successful negotiation has to come from respect.

Please share - how does your spouse support your dreams? And how do you support theirs?


(If you have the chance, please visit my other blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quotation and a short commentary of grace in marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Communication Breakdown

It happens in every marriage - suddenly you and your mate seem to be always at odds, talking at cross purposes...and you know it.

"You're not hearing me!"

"You're not letting me finish!"

"Now you're mad at me"

"You just aren't comprehending!"

Sometimes this is symptomatic of a deeper rift, when a couple has started growing apart. In those cases, counseling is definitely called for. run, don't walk, because if you can't communicate, the drift will only get worse.

But sometimes it's a "Wizard of Oz" paradigm...the lack of communication feels huge, but it's really just the Little Man Behind The Curtain. It's trying to be big and powerful and scary.

The only way it can harm your marriage is if your harm it yourself, in reaction to fear.

Our communication style, both talking and listening, is governed, to a large degree, by our emotions. Emotions are the mot changeable thing about us; a sad song can depress some people for a whole day, and finding a dim on the sidewalk can cause jubilation.

And so it goes with the way we talk to our mates. Generally, it all works out pretty well; they know our ups and downs, highs and lows,and unconsciously make allowances.

But sometimes, like two waves meeting at the peak, our 'bad' corresponds with our mate's 'bad', and we're suddenly talking at cross purposes...and at each others' throats.

How does a minor miscommunication escalate?

Simple. By labeling. If a couple isn't on the same page, saying "we're not getting through to each other right now, let's talk later" defuses the situation.

But when one or the other says,"You never hear me!", it's both an exaggeration, and an accusation.

The label of chronic miscommunication has long legs, and it sill survive far past the time when the original issue is forgotten.

How to avoid it?

  • Banish the words "you always" and "you never" from you speech and thought.
  • When a conversation starts going south, try to end it with the promise to talk later.
  • If the conversation is ended, don't reignite it. Some of the most damaging arguments come from a sharp but short disagreement, ending when one party leaves the room...and the he or she comes back to stir the pot, and it gets far,far worse.
What are your thoughts? How do you avoid letting a temporary breakdown in communication hurt your marriage?

If you have a moment, please visit my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace" at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com for a quote and short commentary on marriage.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Still Here- Five Minute Friday

Once again, it's Five-Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Montaug. The challenge is to write for five minutes on a given "theme word", posted by Kate on Thursday night...and then stop when the timer dings.

Today's word is still.

GO.

Today was hell.

I'm dealing with more physical pain, and more just plain fright, than I could ever have imagined possible. To those who have ever been shot, it's like being shot.

To those who have had kidney stones, it's like the mother of all kidney stones.

But wait! There's more! (I've seen too many late-night infomercials.)

Bleeding from various places (and today, for the first time, the nose...yee-ha).

Nausea and vomiting.

And, just to add insult to everything else, incontinence.

But I'm still here.

This life means something. God put me here for a reason, and I'm not going to sabotage His plans by opting out of involvement, or, heaven forbid, opting out of life.

Still here, and they're going to have to come in over the wall to get me.

I have something to contribute. I have kind things to say. I have stray dogs to comfort.

And I am still bloody here, and if the devil doesn't like it, he can go and...treat himself unconventionally.

STOP

If you have the chance, please stop by my other blog, "Starting The Day With Grace", at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Respecting Your Spouse's Past - The Sixth Pillar

Today we'll talk about respect for what made your husband or wife who they are - their past, and their heritage.

Both are important; and both are subject to deep disrespect in far too many relationships.

Just consider the negative connotation from the expression "having a past"; it's particularly nasty when applied to women, unfortunately.

And for problems with heritage, when was the last time you heard an in-law joke? Not long ago, I'll bet.

Disrespect for either your mate's personal history or their heritage is a not-so-subtle way to disrespect the person. It's also a way to maintain an unhealthy form of control in the relationship.

When you marry, you don't build a life with a person new-spring from the palm of God's hand; you marry a complex web of past relationships, experiences, family, and genealogy. The wedding limousine can get crowded; not to mention the marriage bed.

Let's deal with your spouse's past, first. The approach to showing respect is pretty simple: never bring up anything negative from their past, and never, ever reference current behavior to what you know of their past.

It can take discipline, but it's absolutely necessary. When you bring up "those friends you used to hang out with", you're locking your mate into a past that they can't escape. They may have tried; they may have gone a long way from the irresponsible of younger days.

And when you bring it up, you're negating all the work they did, and saying "you really haven't changed at all".

Based on the past - you've appointed yourself judge and jury, with no hope of appeal.

What you know of your spouse's past, that you don't like...you've got to let it go. That's the beginning and the end of respect.

Respect for heritage is a bit different, because you have to key your respectful attitude to your spouse's view of their family history.

It can be a tightrope walk. Remember the old saying - me against my brother; my brother and I against our cousin; my brother, my cousin and I against the world.

There may be little love lost in your mate's family, but blood can be quite thick, and you're not "of the blood".

That means that your mate may feel fine being extremely critical of "the family"; but you try it and you'll find yourself pilloried,  and wondering what hit you.

By the same token, if you defend the "black sheep" of your spouse's family, you can wind up soundly disliked by everyone - including the black sheep.

The best way to show respect is to be agreeable..and never take any side expect that of your mate, and then only in a supporting role. Never take the initiative in either praise or censure of your mate's family, and make sure that your emotions remain as unengaged as possible.

Respect for your mate's past and heritage can be a challenge, the biggest challenge of all, because it fundamentally requires you to...

...keep your mouth shut, and your opinions to yourself.


(Please don't forget to visit my other blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quotation and a short commentary of grace in marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage. If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information. It's run by Beth Steffaniak, who has a heart for marriage and a soul for God!