Why we're here...

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

We're honored to be a member of the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association...click on their logo to visit them.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Great and Dangerous Expectations

The second of James MacDonald's "Five Logs on the Negativity Fire" is Wrong Expectations. Misplaced or misapplied expectations are a serious impediment to a positive life, and they can cripple a marriage.

We all go into marriage with a set of expectations. They're kindled by our culture (both religious and secular), by the examples we see, by our hormones, and by what we want - or think we want.

Christian culture paints a picture of marriage as it should be; the two should be one flesh, as Jesus said. Paul went into more detail in the seventh chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, laying out the role and 'rules' of the sexual relationship. And let's not forget the Song of Solomon, a paean to married romance if there ever was one.

It would be nice if we could live up to these ideals, but too often, we don't. The 'sex stuff' in Corinthians is often misapplied by men to demand their 'right' to sex, when a careful reading doesn't lead there at all. It's all about mutuality.

Should we turn away from the expectations we acquire from Scripture? Of course not; but we should see them as a goal to be reached together, and not a condition that comes into force after you say "I do".

Secular culture is one of marriage's biggest enemies. If we watch enough romantic comedies, read enough romance novels, we get the idea that we should expect to be in love all our lives.

It's not going to happen.

You will - I hope - love your spouse through the years, but your heart isn't going to beat faster, at least not in the same way,  after ten years of sharing a bathroom. And it shouldn't; would you want that fever pitch of excitement that brought you together, and cemented your relationship through courting? It would be pretty tiring.

And yet, if we don't feel that way, we feel cheated - as if something is wrong with us, with our spouse...or maybe the whole thing was just a mistake. "I'm not in love any more!" has warmed the hearts and fattened the pocketbooks of generations of divorce lawyers.

There's a darker side to expectations planted by secular culture, and it overwhelmingly affects men.

It's pornography.

The Internet has made pornographic images so readily available that very, very few men have not had their view of women and relationships touched by it.

It's so wrong. Pornography depends on the objectification, and ultimately the degradation of women, yet men will often use what they see as "how-to" guides for a positive sexual relationship.

They'll press their wives to try "new things"; and they often get their wish in practice, but at the cost of a wife who knows full well whence came the request.

And these women will know that they are sharing their beds with the images in their husbands' minds, and after the act, will turn away heartbroken.

The examples in our lives, starting with our parents, can give us expectations that can be positive, or quite negative.

Being raised in a warm, loving family can make us expect that our spouse will be "just like Dad or Mom"...and we're crushed when the person we married is quite different from the doting parent whose image we carried as a talisman through the jungles of dating.

We reject the person we're with, usually subconsciously, because they're not who we want them to be.

Sometimes this takes forms that can be almost silly..."You don't cook like my Mom!" or "My Dad would never spend Sunday afternoon watching NASCAR!"

But the issues are usually deeper, and stem from the security we felt in childhood - that we were #1 in our parents' eyes. And all of a sudden...we're married to a separate adult, with an agenda of his or her own. (Not to say that your parents didn't have their own lives, but kids are rarely aware of them.)

There can be bad examples, too. You might have grown up in a home that was hellish, and the modality you came to expect was constant bickering and backstabbing.

You meet someone, fall in love...but somehow, you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. You build defenses against attacks that don't come, and then, seeing the walls disused, actually invite the attacks, provoking until the itch is scratched, and the hostility that was familiar through our childhoods is reborn.


Hormones. Sometimes it would be better if we didn't have them!

Hormonal expectations are usually based around sex. No secret there.

Men are generally 'ready' almost all the time, and they cannot understand - without thoughtful training - that women's bodies and hearts simply don't work that way. For a man, an evening of passion can start after the ten o'clock news.

For a woman, it starts at breakfast...on the previous day.

To put it bluntly, men want to be satisfied, and women want to feel wanted. A man will enter a marriage thinking that his wife is 'pretty much like him', and his expectation is that if he can 'satisfy' her in bed, all is right with the physical relationship.

And what men don't want to face is the fact that a woman's drive to be wanted and cherished can lead her to fake it.

A woman will enter marriage thinking that the romantic gestures tendered by her suitor were emblematic of a cherishing heart. They are, but they're also indicative of a physically desirous heart, and in a man, you can't separate the two.

The sexual expectations often leave a man feeling inadequate, and a woman feeling used. Not what our Creator intended.

How can we keep wrong expectations from crippling or destroying our marriages?

It's not hard. Communication and education.

We have to learn to ask the hard questions, and listen to the answers without flinching, long before rings are exchanged. Too many couples avoid the difficult passages during courtship because they don't want to rock the boat, but they don't see...there's a storm a-comin', and it's called marriage.

If the boat isn't seaworthy, it can be repaired, but only if you know what to fix.

If you're already married, communication's even more important, and sometimes you have to go back to things you expected from the beginning - things that are now an embarrassment. And you have to take ownership of them, and talk about them

And sometimes you might find that the things that make you cringe in shame are exactly those your spouse loved about you in the first place...and wondered where they'd gone.

We have to be willing to be educated, and educated together. Men and women are different, and you and your spouse probably had very different - and separate - lives before you met. You have to learn about the person you're with, starting from their chromosome configuration.

You have to learn the path your spouse walked, and let your mate learn yours. Nothing hidden, nothing off-limits, because those will surely blow up in your face later.

And when you come to the end of this process, you'll find that expectations are replaced by mutuality, and longing, by hope.

Hope together.

Did you have any wrong expectations when you entered marriage? Do you have any now. that you're struggling with? Please share - you can help your fellow readers.

And one more thing - banish pornography. Guys, be transparent in your computer use. And ladies, encourage accountability without hostility.

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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Married To A Morning Person

They say that God never made mistakes, but how else can one explain Morning People?

These are the folks who can't wait to jump out of bed and embrace the day. When they were kids they probably started at sunup, but as adults they realize something...

Mom and Dad won't make me stay in bed any more, because I'm a GROWN-UP!

So, you're liable to hear the sound of happy whistling from the kitchen, and smell the coffee and bacon, while the stars are still bright in the sky.

Shall we say 0430?

Well, no, sorry. Perhaps I shouldn't have said it.

Living it is bad enough.

Mornings are meant to be endured, not celebrated. Coffee is supposed to be obscenely strong, and the shower either too hot or too cold, for a good strong wake-up effect. Or a coronary. Whatever.

Most Morning People don't get this. They bustle about, just a-waiting for the Good Lord to end the irritation with a well-aimed thunderbolt.

But it's worse when they do get it, and then they empathize all over you, sitting at the breakfast table in happy silence, refilling your coffee and your breakfast plate.

Don't they realize it's supposed to be about suffering?

You'd think that the end of the day would bring revenge, but these folks don't tire out. They just...switch off. One minute awake in front of the TV, and the next, dead to the world.

Sorry. Bad choice of words. Too tempting.

It would be fun if you could empathize with their end-of-the day fatigue, but they don't possess the decency to have it.

So you're left sitting on the sofa next to this obnoxious sleep-of-the-just person...and you're wide awake, sitting through yet another South Park rerun because our 'cute' spouse has their head on your shoulder.

This post is dedicated to my wife, with condolences.
She is married to a morning person.
Who is planning to learn to play the bagpipes, to fittingly greet the day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Pluck Out the Critical Eye

Pastor James MacDonald recently talked about "Five Logs on the Negativity Fire" on his wonderful show Walk in the World.

These are:

  1. Critical Eye
  2. Wrong Expectations
  3. Negative Friends
  4. Unresolved Hurt
  5. Bad Time Management
Dealing with these has the clear potential to help you live a more positive life, and sharpening them down to apply them to marriage issues has tremendous potential to improve your marriage - immediately.

We'll look at these one at a time, for the next five Wednesdays.

Critical Eye is something most couples are familiar with. When we're in courtship, and newly married, our love can do no wrong, but as time passes, we see the flaws. Sometimes it ends up that all we see are the flaws.

It's pretty easy to stop Critical Eye in its tracks. Stop being critical! When you're tempted to criticize, hold your tongue.

You might ask, "aren't we supposed to chastise and correct?" Sure, if you see gross faults, like blasphemy. But constantly reminding your mate that he or she didn't close the lid on the shampoo bottle isn't in that league.It's petty, but it gives an excuse to stick the needle in.

And we do look for excuses, so much of the time, to deliver a 'zinger' in the form of a criticism which we see as a 'correction'.

But when we stop, and reverse the process - looking for excuses to praise - we fall into the habit of kind and uplifting words.

"As a man speaketh, so is he/" Criticize, and you'll become critical. Praise, and you'll become an encourager. Which do you want to be?

Another excuse that we commonly use - and I've by no means exempt - is tit for tat.

"She criticized me, so I'm going to find something to criticize right back."

Sounds stupid, said like that? It should, because it is.

We don't have access to our mate's mind. We can't feel what he or she is feeling. The criticism that stings, coming out of the blue, may well be the venting pressure from a really bad day at work, or of physical discomfort.

We simply don't know, and we are obliged by our vows, and by Scripture, to forbear to respond in kind.

We can't control what our spouse does. We can control what we do.

And self-control is the royal road to a positive life.

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.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Holding Hands in Church

Listen up. This is important.

Hold hands with your spouse in church.

Hold hands walking in, hold hands during the praise and worship, hold hands during the sermon.

Hold hands walking out.


Because we're human, and every day, our faith varies. Sometimes it's great, sometimes we wonder if this is all a sham. We may not admit it to ourselves,and we'd probably never admit a serious loss of faith to our spouse (well, I wouldn't), but for most people, at one time or another...it's there.

Like an infection, the kind that left untreated can turn into gangrene.

And how did Jesus heal?

With touch.

Let your strength flow into your weaker spouse, or use touch to take from his strength, to build yourself up. They say that church isn't a palace for saints, but a hospital for sinners...and for the weak of faith.

We're all sinners, and we're all sometimes weak.

Take the hand that's closest to you.

Heal, and be healed.

(Yes, I realize that if you have children there are times you need to keep them contained, but that's what duct tape's for...kidding. Sometimes you've got to hold your kids, but when you don't, your first duty, Scripturally, is to your spouse.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Eek A Mouse!

I will never take my wife to Disneyland, because on meeting Mickey, she'd try to flatten him with a hardcover unabridged dictionary.

She HATES mice. She's not bothered by scorpions, spiders, or snakes. But mice...they elicit a mixture of loathing and fear that literally leaves her shaking.

I feel that way about bees, and did even before I discovered I was highly allergic. Barbara can let a bee land on her arm, and walk up to her shoulder, without flinching. Then she'll gently wave it away.

While I am nearly catatonic, and expecting this single bee to become the vanguard of a vast, buzzing, stinging horde.

I guess we all have our issues.

When we marry, we likely bring different issues to the relationship. which is both good and bad. I have no problem with mice, and while I don't want them in my house I'm not about the attack them with a grenade launcher.

Oh, sorry, a flamethrower. We've traded up.

But sometimes my less-ferocious attitude is the cause of intense irritation; my wife feels that I'm not hearing her, and that something which really bothers her, and about which she needs to vent - is ignored.

That's my failing, and I need to do better.

How? Well, obviously by listening, and by dealing proactively with any possible 'mouse invasion'.

But there's something more, I think. She needs me to be there in the feeling, to share it with her. She doesn't need me as a laid-back bulwark of tolerance against which she can find shelter.

But I don't know how to get there.

Other than to imagine the mouse is a bee.

How about you? Do you and your spouse have different hot buttons? How to you support one another when these issues aren't shared in their feeling?

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, July 14, 2014

You Talk Too Much!

Funny how this is never a complaint during courtship, but becomes an issue in so many 'mature' marriages.

The fact is that not a lot of people "talk too much", when you look at it objectively. Some are uncomfortable with silences and tend to fill them in, while others get by on about two words per hour (that's me, in case you were wondering, or in case you weren't!).

True motormouths are pretty rare...and they are generally the first to admit that they talk a lot.

So what does it mean, that statement? If you're on the receiving end, exactly what message are you supposed to get?

First, know that it's not about you - it';s something in your mate that has changed, that's causing an 'itch' which brought out the comment.

It could be a feeling of restlessness, or impatience with the situation...well, let's say it outright. Impatience with the marriage.

We all got through bad patches in marriage (we go through bad patches in friendship, and at work, too).. Sometimes this is made manifest by a desire not to hear our mate...literally, to tune him or her out.

Most spouses won;t go to the extreme position of saying "you talk too much!" Rather, they'll just quietly stop paying full attention, and will sometimes miss the meaning of what you've said.

This is an obvious red flag, and it's a call for a visit to a counselor. Sometimes the rough patches pass without causing permanent problems, but very often they leave behind scars and debris which cause untold trouble down the years.

That trouble is preventable, and counseling is the best prevention.

Another possible place from which this comment springs is that your mate feels like he or she isn't being heard. We all want respect, and approbation, and the most basic way of showing both is by having those around us listen to that which we contribute.

"You're not listening!" can sound a little bit needy, especially for men, so a husband will usually go on the attack -

"You talk too much!"

But make no mistake - he is needy, and needs that which only you can give him.

How can you tell which it is?


Deliberately change your communication pattern, and listen. Where you once tended to finish your spouse's sentence - and we all to this - hold yourself, and stop. Give a two-beat pause after your spouse is finished talking before answering.

It'll seem strange, but if the problem is indeed that your spouse felt unheard, you'll soon know it. Your mate will start filling in those two-beat silences!

If the problem's deeper, you'll know it too, because your gesture won't be appreciated. The two-beat pause will become a point of resentment - you'll be damned if you talk, and damned if you're silent.

And this is the time to get a counselor. Fast.


Friday, July 11, 2014

The Most Important Word in Marriage

There are a lot of candidates for Marriage's Most Important Word.





Shared Faith. Well, that's two words, but let's not be picky.

Sex. Yes, I'm a guy. Deal with it.

But those aren't even front runners, because they don't catch the crux of what marriage is all about. They get part of the way, and some of the words would be pretty good it THE most important word didn't exist.


It's WE.

Every other word listed has an individual meaning - my feelings of love, my loyalty...my  relationship with God.

Even my side of shared faith.

But we...there's no individuality that can slide through the cracks. It's a solid mutuality. It's corporate.

It's we.

Try using it more, when you talk to your mate. "What do we want to do tonight?"

Not "I want to do such-and-such". Not even "what do you want to do?"

Make it we, and see the warm glow of appreciation that will start to build.

You'll want to keep it lit.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Death of a Spouse

First, an apology - my health has not been good enough to keep to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule for the past couple of weeks. I appreciate your patience, if you've come here and found the old post metaphorically curling at the edges, yellowing in the sun. I hope to be back to the usual schedule soon.

Everyone dies, but it's hard to believe that the person we dated, and with whom we fell in love, and married...with whom we built all our life and all our memories...

...will one day be gone.

It's even harder to watch that death happening day-by-day, seeing the small setbacks and the larger disasters overtake the person who holds claim to a large part of your heart.

It's like the old movie device, the pages of a day-by-day calendar being ripped away to show the passage of time.

Until there is no more time.

There's plenty of advice on how to navigate this passage, and some of it is even pretty good.

But I'll toss in my own, and maybe it will be useful...because I am dying. (Well, so they say, but there are those who feel that I'm unkillable...including me. So we'll see who wins, and don't bet on death just yet.)
  • Death happens - deal with it. This sounds harsh, and it's intended to. Today, 18,000 kids (give or take a few hundred) starved to death. That's six million every year, and they had parents and grandparents and siblings. Unless they starved to death as well. Appreciate what you've had, and don't feel singled out, because you're not. There is a price to being human, This is part of it.
  • Life is not a Hallmark card - When time's limited, we often feel we should be able to enjoy every minute with smiles and laughter and hugs and...OK, I'll stop. It's just not realistic, and it's not right to try to create an artificial "DIY Disneyland" in your house. Dying people are people, and should be treated as such. They have the right to comfort...and they also have the responsibility to participate in life's cut-and-thrust. Death is not martyrdom. It's life. Well, sort of.
  • Don't deny your feelings - There are times when you're going to be furious with your dying spouse, for any number of reasons. You may be mad because they're dying, which seems unfair...but it's really not. This person is leaving, and your 'together story' will end. You'll have to make a new story, which will take time and effort, and it'll change the life you've been used to. Sure, it's something to be angry about.
  • But don't take your feelings out on your spouse - Deal with the anger by talking with a minister, church elder, or counselor. Don't make your spouse take on any of those roles. That would be unfair, and manipulative.
  • Do things for yourself - Take time for yourself, to get away from the deathwatch. Play handball, get a massage, go to the movies with a same-sex friend. Your spouse will understand, but even if the understanding's not there, the need for rejuvenation is.
  • Don't date - A lot of eyebrows, I think, just clicked up and jammed. It's very tempting to try to ease the transition by looking ahead and at least identifying a possible future relationship. We all fear loneliness. Bad idea, though, for two reasons. First, it's disloyal, and a stab in the back of a dying person. Second, the actual death will be far worse than you can possibly imagine. You'll be emotionally devastated, whether or not you have a new 'romantic interet'. And that will probably kill your new relationship.
  • You are not a monument - Your life should not become a memorial to your finished marriage. Your house should not be a shrine. Your heart should not become a scrapbook. You don't have to date, or remarry, but you are expected to rejoin life. Again, to be harsh - You didn't die. Your spouse did.
The death of a spouse is the most stressful thing a person will experience in teir intire life. It sucks, and there's nothing that I or anyone can do to make it any better.

But what I do hope is this, that these words may be half-remembered as you sleepwalk through the motions of a shattered life, and that they will light signposts, however dimly.

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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Discovering Disaster

There may come the bad day.

The day when you discover something about your spouse that you would have prefered never to have known. It may be the incriminating Facebook chat, accidently left up, or the receipt that slipped out of a pocket, or the magazine hidden under the chair-cushion in the study, or the touch of lipstick on the shirt collar.

And your world crumbles.

What do you do?

  • Confront immediately - this is often the first thought, but it rarely works well, because there's too much heat, too much emotion, and it sets our partner into a defensive position.
  • Confront after some thought - this is better, as we can reflect on exactly what we want to say. On discovering emotional infidelity, we might transition from "You cheater!" to "You have disrespected me, you have disrespected our marriage, and you have disrespected yourself."
  • Confront after some thought, with input from a counselor - even better, because a counselor can help us focus the meeting, and sharpen what we expect - because there is an expectation that we bring to the confrontation, even if it's only clearing our own emotions, knowing our spouse will never change.
  • Do nothing - believe it or not, this is sometimes a viable option. If you can live with the transgression, at least in the short term, a period of 'not rocking the boat' can allow you to stay in the relationship while developing a stronger spiritual life. Infidelities - both emotional and physical - can end of their own accord, and sometimes accepting the disloyalty and then accepting the return, without comment, can be the least damaging course of action.
  • Respond in kind, out of revenge - no, don't do this. You'll regret it.
The best answer, though, to preface any action, is - get counseling. Preferably for both of you, but definitely for yourself.

What would you add?

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.