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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Seven Pillars of Marital Respect

(Please don't forget to stop in at my new blog, www.dailgracequote.wordpress.com, for a quote and short commentary that I hope will shine a light of grace...for October, the subject's marriage.)

With a nod to T.E. Lawrence, we're going to spend the next seven Wednesdays looking at seven supports of respect within marriage.

It's said that women need love and men need respect, but that's a half-truth. Women need respect, too, and they positively glow with the support of a husband who not only loves them, but respects them for who they are and what they do.

(And men need love, even though they often won't admit it. Look at a well-loved man in the company of his wife sometime. Look in his eyes, and you'll see what I mean. The 'lone, aloof hero' is a myth. Lone and aloof is just dysfunctional.)

Most wives and husbands think they're showing respect in their marriage...but a high proportion of spouses don't feel respected, so there's a disconnect somewhere.

The respect language spoken is not the one that's understood.

Respect is not cheerleading, applauding anything your spouse does to a faintly ridiculous degree. That will always ring false, and does more harm than good. Rather, it's appreciation based on observation, and observation informed by love and understanding.

And illuminated by faith.

So...what are the Seven Pillars of Marital Respect?

  1. Emotional respect - respect for your spouse's emotional response to life, whether it be tears in a sad movie or joy at the prospect of the Cubs going to the World Series. This is part of the package with which you fell in love, and it's important to respect its place in your mate's character.
  2. Spiritual Respect - we may not be unequally yoked, but we rarely see our faith in exactly the same way. God created us as individuals, and the relationship we have with Him is unique to each of us. We have to celebrate both our similarities, and our differences...even if we don't agree with them. And even if we are required to evangelize a mate who's lost faith, effective evangelism begins with respect.
  3. Physical Respect - Paul taught that our bodies in marriage are not our own, but we have to respect the fact that the physical feelings of the spouse's body we 'own' are felt by another. We also have to respect the fact that bodies may change over time, but it's still the same soul inside.
  4. Vocational Respect - do you know what your spouse does at work, or to keep up a home? You should. It's your duty to know and to understand as much as you can.
  5. Avocational Respect - do you know what brings color to your mate's life, and joy to his or her heart? Do you know and care what hobbies they pursue?
  6. Respect for the Past - your spouse came from 'somewhere'...a place and a home and a family. Do you truly respect the in-laws and the home ton, or are you in danger of rolling your eyes so far back that they stick?
  7. Respect for the Future - we all have dreams...do you give your mate a safe place to share them, and the support to work toward making them real?
Next week we'll start with Emotional Respect, but meanwhile...

What do you think? Is this list comprehensive enough? Would you add or change anything? Please share!

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 29, 2014


Life is not always like a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.

On the screen, people with dread illnesses face them with tears, and depression, and then faith, buttressed by the love and support of their families. The may live, or they may die, but the story and faith arcs go through the place where adversity builds character.

But sometimes, adversity just makes you mean. Mean enough to take the pain, mean enough not to spare yourself for the sake of living, and mean enough to survive.

No one makes movies about that.

There comes a point beyond which one can't...well, I can't respond to unremitting pain with grace and lovingkindness.

I can't thank God for some of these moments. I believe that God is just as angry and upset as I am, with what's happening.

I use very bad language, to help focus the aggression I sometimes need to simply rise to a standing position. And I believe that God has my back, using very bad good language.

I will survive, or I'll die trying, and no one had better get in my way with talk of "acceptance", or a suggestion that I might listen to Amy Grant saying how God like "a dying man giving up the fight better than a Halelluyah:."

Bring that stuff here, and you'll be wearing your iPad. Internally.

Maybe it's better to be accepting and pleasant. Maybe it's better to let go and "let God".

But I can't, and I won't. This is war,and it's what God made me for.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Marriage Correspondence

(Remember that my new blog, "Daily Grace Quotes", will be starting up on October 1...and the site's open now, at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com. Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart will not be affected! We'll be here, talking marriage and relationships, just as before.)

A few weeks before we were married, Barbara went on a long-planned camping vacation. She knew she'd be out of phone and email contact, so she hit on an idea that comes straight out of the history books.

She wrote me a letter for every day that she'd be gone, and got a friend to send them, one each day.

I was charmed, and delighted. There was something about 'seeing' her voice in her handwriting that nothing else really matched.

And this leads to a thought...

Why not get into the habit of writing your mate a letter?

You'll find that you can say things when you're writing with a pen, on paper, that you'd never think of saying. You can open up new areas of intimacy, because you've already cracked the door - in a very real sense our handwriting, the way we express ourselves, is a window into the soul.

But do it right. Get some nice stationery, a pen that doesn't leave smeary ink blobs, and attractive stamps.

Stamps? "But it's for someone who lives in the same house!"

Yes, stamps, and seal the envelope and put it in a mailbox.

When was the last time you got a personal letter? Don't you want to give your mate that kind of small, considerate gift of excitement and anticipation?

And don't telegraph the gift. Don't ask if anything came in the mail today...and don't be tempted to stand around while your letter's being read.

Let it be your independent emissary, and let it put some style and class into your marriage.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Quality Time In Marriage

(First, a quick note...I'm going to be participating in "31 Quotes of Grace" during October, offering quotes on marriage.  I've set up a separate blog for this, and you can find me at www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com. The site's already live. It's a cool idea, and I intend to continue it on a daily basis past October.)

This is the fifth installment of "Five Positive Logs to Light Your Marriage", a series inspired by James MacDonald's "Five Logs on the Negativity Fire".

Today we'll address quality time.

It's kind of like the weather. Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. We look to spending quality time with our kids, with our parents, in ministry groups.

And we talk about spending quality time with our mates, but everything else seems to get in the way, and we'll do it next week.

What is quality time? It's time spent talking, listening, and being present for our spouse. Basically the kind of stuff we did during courtship.

It's not sitting through another agonizing installment of Downton Abbey because your husband can't get enough of Maggie Smith, or trying not to doze off during your wife's rapt viewing of Wimbledon (which is kind of a sporting version of Downton anyway).

Doesn't mean you shouldn't share those times - you should. That's part of being understanding your spouse's tastes.

Quality time comes when the TV is turned off and the computer screen is dark. It's when you go for a walk around the block or around the yard, holding hands and asking "What moves you?"

"What brings you joy?"

"How can I make your life happier?"

OK, you're not askingliterally. But you are asking leading questions that will draw out the information you need to be a better wife or husband.

And you're willing to share the vulnerabilities that can make your spouse live up to the role they want to assume.

It's like prayer. You have to be willing to talk, to ask God for help, or for cool stuff (still waiting on that Ferrari, I am), or just to say Howdy.

But you have to be willing to listen for His reply, as well.

And then you have to be willing to make that reply part of your life, from that moment forward.

That's quality time.

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 22, 2014

What Harm in a Virtual Affair?

If your marriage is getting dull, they say, try the Virtual Affair!

Spice up your life with forbidden fruit that you won't really eat, but that can make you feel young, invigorated, and desirable again!

Say all those things you really want to say, explore your sexuality and your emotional depth through texts and emails and chat.

And nothing's really happening...so what's the harm?

Uh...what's the harm?


First, engaging in online intimacy is a betrayal of your marriage vows, just as surely as if you were physically intimate with another person.

You've given away something, a piece of yourself, that was not yours to give..

When we marry we pledge ourselves, body and heart, and that carries with it an implicit requirement for exclusivity. Otherwise, what's the point?

When you start "sharing your fantasies" because your spouse seems (or is) disinterested, or "doesn't understand", you've chosen to devalue - or ruin - the gift you gave to your mate.

Maybe your spouse isn't "into" your fantasies. Maybe he or she never got the chance, because you never brought up the subject...but maybe they're genuinely disinterested.

Too bad. You may be dealing with someone who's become emotionally crippled.

Would you cheat, or walk away from a mate who was physically crippled? Emotional wounds can run pretty deep.  Are the marriage vows valid as long as we're healthy in body and mind, and void when problems come up?

Second, an emotional affair invited comparison at the expense of your spouse. No husband or wife can live up to the image you've created of the online paramour.

This ideal person will never be in a bad mood, because he or she can just choose not to be online when bad moods happen.

You'll never have to deal with an unthoughtful comment, because every text message can be carefully edited.

And do you really know that the picture you're falling for wasn't taken fifteen years ago...or taken of a completely different person?

And then, there will be the temptation to try to engineer a meeting. A date.

While you're married. Ugh.

Finally, yeah, you think you can keep it secret, but what will you do if your spouse finds out?

What if you're careless with the computer and leave up a Facebook chat that leaves nothing to the imagination?

Can you deal with the heartbreak, the hurt, the betrayal?

Because you will see them. Guaranteed.

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.