Why we're here...

Love and marriage are the greatest adventures in life, and they point they way to our relationship with the Almighty.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Healing Harmony in your Marriage

This is the fourth installment of our series "Five Positive Logs to Light the Fire in your Marriage".

Today we'll be talking about healing, and the resolution of the emotional wounds that spouses can inflict on one another.

There's an old song called "You Only Hurt The One You Love"; well, not only, but the unique vulnerability that comes with being married makes those hurts deeper and harder to heal.

Sometimes the hurts are unintentional. The casual slights; getting involved in a telephone conversation while a carefully prepared dinner slowly cools and congeals.

And sometimes they're very intentional indeed, harsh words spoken in anger, aimed at the weak points that we are privileged to know, to do the most damage possible.

The way to handle both of these, when you';re on the receiving end, is the same.

Let it go.

It sounds like simplistic feel-good hogwash, right?

But consider this - first, you know your spouse. You know that he or she made a commitment to you, and has kept that commitment for quite a while.

Do you think something has suddenly changed? It's not likely.

So, the hurt, delivered accidently of intentionally, is an aberration. It's not part of the consistent norm of your marriage (if it is, you need to seek counseling...now).

Second, you can only control your own reaction. You can't control someone else's emotions. Your mate may have had a bad day, and is taking it out on you. It's unfortunate, but it happens.

You don't have jurisdiction there, but you do have jurisdiction over your soul. Exercise it. Being hurt is not a choice, but holding onto it is.

And finally, remember this...you've probably given as good as you've got, and many of the hurts you inflicted were swallowed silently, and perhaps sometimes in very good grace indeed.

We are all sinners. Against God, and against one another.

And what has God done with our sin?

He let it go.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Courage Has A Name

And it's Steven Curtis Chapman.

The other night I saw an interview with Mr. Chapman, in which he described the death of his adopted daughter Maria.

Maria had been playing with her older sisters in the yard, when their brother came home. The child rushed to see her beloved sibling...and ran into the path of his truck. He didn't see her, and couldn't have stopped even if he had.

Mr. Chapman talked about this, forcing out the words. He talked about the sense of loss, and the crushing guilt his son went through...and, through a supportive family and God's grace, has survived.

And then he sang "Cinderella".

The audience was in tears. The interviewer was freely weeping.

And Mr. Chapman got through the song. He altered the lyrics, just a bit, to look beyond the veil.

It was a fight, visibly a battle. One might say, well, it's been years.

One might say he's sung it so many times since then.

One might trot out other such hogwash.

The death of a child is the wound that never heals.

It's the heartbreak that is fresh every day.

It's a grotesque obscenity of time, reversing the natural and expected order, and there's no recovery.

There's only the placing of one foot in front of the other.

Mr. Chapman did that, and more. He transcended his heartbreak to share his faith, his hope, and his love.

It's the bravest thing I've seen in a long, long time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Positive Friends for your Marriage

This is the third part of our series "Five Positive  Logs to Light the Fire in your marriage", adapted from James MacDonald's series "Five Logs on the Negativity Fire".

Today we're going to talk about bringing positive friends into your life...the kind that will strengthen your marriage.

Our friends can bring out the best in us.  The can call us on our failings, in a positive way, and help us to be better.

And they can celebrate the best in us, and put a final polish on the best we have to offer.

Making friends when we're single is pretty easy...and we have to say that it's harder to make "marriage friends".

A lot harder.

The reason is simple - instead of finding a friendship equilibrium that pleases two people, you've got to please four.


Yes...because when you're married, you should make an effort to befriending other couples.

I have nothing against single people; I was one for most of my life. But a marriage needs the kind of input and support that only other happily married couples can bring.

It needs the example that while bad days happen, good wins out.

A marriage needs to be in the space provided by another pair of shared hearts. And it works both ways...your marriage will help strengthen that of your friends.

Our single friendships usually developed from a common interest, but we have to go beyond that for a couples friendship..

We need to turn to common service, whether it be a church ministry, or volunteer work with an organization like Habitat for Humanity or the literacy program at your city library.

The cornerstone of marriage is service; it's the example Christ set for the Apostles, and if we're supposed to be like Jesus for our spouse, there's not much ambiguity in our directive.

So it should not be a surprise that the best and strongest friends we find for our marriage will be looking outward together, to serve. These are the people with whom we can best join hands, because there's a common hard core of values.

Obviously, you don't pick up a ministry to meet people, just as you didn't take up a singles activity to find a date. (Uh, well, maybe I have done that...but it was stupid, and led to some world-class bad dates.)

Find the service you love, and you'll be a magnet, drawn to others as they are drawn to you.

A few cautionary words...

First, don't come on too strong. The ministry is the first priority; socializing is a benefit.

Second, don't "serve and run". Make sure that you can spare time to interact.

Third, try to cultivate friendships outside your own age group - either seek out a mentoring older couple, or become that for a younger couple. The reason should be obvious.

Well, okay. The possibility of intermarriage "attraction" is higher in the same age group.

If you find yourself attracted to the "other" spouse, make sure you're never alone together. It's not unusual to develop something like a crush, and these usually pass...because the attraction usually isn't mutual. But guard your heart, and watch your hands.

If you feel that it's an uncontrollable situation for you, do not have a heart-to-heart with the other couple, with the premise, "Hey, I'm really attracted to your husband, and we can't do this any more."

You can throw a bomb into someone's marriage that way,and create suspicion where there's no cause.

Likewise, don't tell your spouse, "Hey, I'm really falling for Joe's wife..."; you probably won't get the chance to finish the sentence.

This is one of the few times in life where truth is not the first best answer. If you can remove yourself from temptation through subterfuge, the feelings that can cause damage will pass, far faster than you think.

Back out gracefully, and step away from the activity. Develop an aversion to what you're doing; or, better, a compelling interest that takes its place. This is an emergency; get out.

You may leave bruised feelings, but it's better than broken hearts.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Aim High in your Marriage

Today we'll talk about our second 'log' for the Positive Fire of marriage (with a tip of the hat, as always, to James MacDonald).

(I'm also guest-posting today at www.messymarriage.com...talking about PTSD and marriage)

It's called "Expecting the Best"/

Good expectations of your spouse and your marriage goes hand in hand with what we talked about last week - an encouraging heart.

We all go into marriage with a set of hopes and dreams that are solidified into expectations - mainly by the people around us (parents and extended family can hand down some pretty heavy baggage), and by popular culture.

"Happily Ever After" means everyone's expectations are met, right?

Well, maybe...but in real life, it means that realistic expectations are reasonably met.

And meeting implies something else.

Both sides come forward.

The key to meeting the hopes and expectations we bring to marriage begins with defining what we really want. We courted and married an individual based on (I hope!) who he or she is, and for what we become in their presence.

But too often, the "come as you are" attitude of courtship becomes a "get in line" demand, and that demand often doesn't come from our own hearts.

"The house isn't perfectly dusted, and my MOM is coming...you're not meeting my expectations for keeping a neat house!"

Sound familiar?

Meeting expectations begins with taking charge of our own lives, cleaving, as the Bible says, to our spouse alone. Don't see the word "parents" in there, do you?

It's not a matter of being rude, but your mate does not have to satisfy your Mom and Dad. If you're happy, that's enough. Period, full stop.

The second part of meeting expectations is easier. It's lending a hand.

If you want a Better Homes and Gardens house, make it a joint project.

If you want gourmet multi-course meals, both of you should learn to cook them, and take turns serving.

If you want a robust and exciting sex life, there are many books you can study together that can give you guidelines - and yes, many of them are (or should be) quite acceptable to a Christian couple. The Bible's pretty clear - sex in marriage is to be enjoyed.

The point is that if you expect something, want something...your mate can't read your mind. You have to walk hand-in-hand toward your goal, and infuse your beloved with your enthusiasm.

And you have to let him, or her, do the same for you.

Because...expectations are a gift that we give to one another.

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lighting the Positive Marriage - The Encouraging Heart

Over the last five Wednesdays, we looked at James MacDonald's "Five Logs on the Negativity Fire", specially modified for marriage.

These were:

  • The Critical Eye
  • Wrong Expectations
  • Negative Friends
  • Unresolved Hurt
  • Bad Time Management
Today we'll start a focus on the positive, going through the same basic categories...
  • The Encouraging Heart
  • Uplifting Expectations
  • Uplifting Friends
  • Putting the Past Behind You
  • Quality Time
We'll begin with the Encouraging Heart.

We all need encouragement, even though there are some who are to proud to admit it. We need the "attaboy", the "I know you can do it", the "I believe in you".

We particularly need them from our mates, the closest human relationship we'll ever have.

Encouragement means, literally, "to give courage". How do you do it in a meaningful way?
  • It starts with understanding. You can't encourage what you don't know, so you have to start by being familiar with what's happening in your mate's life. Ask questions, and listen to the answers.
  • Be specific in your praise. If you're married to an accountant, don't just say, "I'm so impressed how good you are with numbers". Focus on special jobs that your mate's been entrusted with, and say that it shows how valuable he or she is in the job. Praise the skills they're proud of.
  • Use reasonable superlatives. Don't go overboard; it sounds false. It's better to express yourself by saying "I can see by what you're saying that you're really handling that situation well", rather than "What a terrific job!". Both have their place, but the first requires more thought - and gets more appreciation.
  • Be gently complimentary to weaknesses. If your wife is self-conscious about her weight, tell her that what she's wearing looks good...often. Appreciate her for what she is. If your husband is upset about a developing bald spot...ladies, this is going to sound stupid, be warned...kiss it often. Make that bald spot something special for you, and do it without specific comment. Here, the action is the affirmation.
  • Be careful offering encouragement in serious problem areas. Some praise can come across as false, even when it's not, and can wreck the open avenue of encouragement. Sometimes you've just got to sympathize.
There are few qualities more beloved in a spouse than the capacity for understanding encouragement. It can lift the recipient from a pit of despair to new hope, and to success undreamed of.

Be an encourager, and you can be the miracle in your marriage.

How about you? How do you encourage your husband or wife? What suggestions do you have for us?

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.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Starting the Day Right with your Spouse

We humans like to have time measured in neat bits; days, weeks, months, etc.

If a day starts badly...usually it stays that way.

So why not take a few intentional steps to start the day well, and set the tone for a good day...and beyond?

Here are some simple things you can do...starting the night before:

  • Have the things you'll need early ready to go the night before. This includes lunches, packed and ready; work and school supplies, organized and waiting in the entry hall; clothing, chosen and laid out. Do this, and all you have o do is collect gear and go.
  • Get the kitchen ready for breakfast. Get into the habit of clearing the sink and the countertop of dirty dishes, either putting them into the dishwasher or washing by hand and putting them away. Make sure you have what you'll need, or suitable alternatives, to avoid the frustrated cries of "But I really wanted Rice Krispies!"
  • Try to ensure there's enough gas in the car to get you where you need to go in the morning.
  • If you've got a conflict with your spouse in the evening, settle it. The Bible suggests that you not let the sun go down on your wrath, and certainly you shouldn't go to sleep on it. If it's not a life-or-death situation, you might just...give in. let it go. Most marriage arguments are caused by bruised egos...and can you even remember the reason for your last fight? Let it go.
  • Start the morning with a hug and a kiss. Not a perfunctory shoulder-squeeze and peck, but a hug and a ten-second kiss. No, don't hold a stopwatch over your spouse's shoulder, and don't set a timer, either. Just get used to how long ten seconds really is.
  • If you start the morning with a shower, shower together. Not for sexual reasons, but to have a moment of mutual physical closeness.
  • Banish the morning news. You can get weather and traffic on your smartphone, or on the car radio. Have breakfast together, without inviting in the Morning Show personalities. 
  • No newspapers at the table. Nothing's more depressing than taking to a sheet of newsprint...wait, does anyone still actually read them?
  • No texting or calling or browsing during breakfast. Would you invite a friend over for a meal, and ignore her while you're playing with your phone? No? You've invited your husband or wife into your life...don't they deserve at least that consideration?
  • No conflicts of controversy before parting. Don't leave an unresolved issue hanging. There is the small but nonzero chance that when you say goodbye, it will be for good. Bad things happen, and there's no reason to risk a life of regret..."Why couldn't we have parted with a smile?" is a horrible burden to carry down the years.
None of these action items is hard to implement...and if you need to make changes, you don;t need to make them all at once. Don't make it a crusade...but do make a better start to the day a priority.

You won't regret it.

Share with us - how do you and your spouse make sure your day starts well?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Do You Have Time To Be Married?

This is the last chapter in our take on James MacDonald's "Five Logs on the Negativity Fire", applying each one specifically to marriage.

We've been through the Critical Eye, Wrong Expectations, Negative Friends, and Unhealed Hurts over the last four Wednesdays.

Now...let's talk about Bad Time Management.

Marriage is all about time. It's about building and nurturing a relationship with that one special person while we're trying to make a living, maintain a household, and grow a family.

It was so much easier during courtship! We pushed everything else aside. Well, I did.

But while an employer may put up for a while with an inefficient and starry-eyed worker who's deeply in love, that forbearance usually starts to dry up after you get back from the honeymoon.

Likewise, creditors, unreasonably, still want to be paid.

So married life takes its place in the conga line. You do what you can together when you can...oh, wait, it's Super Bowl Weekend...we'll do some stuff together next weekend, right?

Oh, you're going to the antique fair?

Well, another time.

And I haven't even mentioned kids. Or in-laws.

Fortunately, time management in marriage is pretty straightforward.

Your spouse comes first. period. Full stop.

That means that unless you're bleeding out, if your husband needs to talk to you about a bad day, you can't defer him. Not even to watch Downton Abbey.

And if your wife really wants to clean the gutters before the autumn rains come, that's where you're obligated to be. Even if the World Series is on.

Our society idolizes children, and they are certainly important, but they will not be there for you forever. Your spouse will.

Cleave unto him (or her),

Your in-laws may say the blood comes first.  Well, sure. "One flesh" includes veins, rights? And there's blood in veins, eh?

Your spouse comes first. That is the essential time management of marriage.

You've got to give that time with a generous heart, not begrudging the TV shows you missed. You have to trust your mate not to deliberately try to interfere with something you enjoy.

If he or she needs you...you're needed. And you promised.

Easy to say...but how do you live it?

There's no simple, bulleted list to follow here. There's no set of exercises.

This is something that has to be a gift. It's a gift that you promised in the months leading up to the wedding, and you formalized it before God, community, family, and your spouse.

The one thing you can do is hand on the time, with a smile. Liten with your whole heart, and help with a committed soul.

You promised.

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.