Bring FUN into Your Marriage

Question from Reader

Every year my husband and I make a few New Year’s resolutions.  One resolution that tops our list every year is to have more fun and less stress.  The problem is we rarely make it out of January before our resolutions fall by the wayside.  I’d like for this to be the year that we actually keep our resolution about having fun.  We definitely need some of that in our marriage.  Any suggestions?

Answer from Phil Haas, Family Pastor at 1st Church of Christ in Burlington, KY

Bev, my wife, and I can certainly relate to your question.  We are one of those couples that keep saying we want “more fun and less stress” in our lives as well.  The interesting thing is we had lots of fun and little stress when we were first married.  So what happened?  We’re guessing the same thing that happens to all married couples—it’s called life!  We graduated from college and both got full-time jobs.  Not long afterwards we purchased our first house and took on the responsibilities of home ownership.  And then we started having kids. Over time, having fun took a back seat to other priorities in life.  Okay, you get the picture.

The Importance of Fun

A simple definition of fun is “something that brings enjoyment, amusement or light hearted pleasure.”  Having fun as a couple is essential to a satisfying marriage.  New research on marital satisfaction underscores the importance of having fun in a relationship.  Over and over research has found that the link or correlation between fun and marital happiness is highly significant.  Even without consulting the research most couples instinctively know their marriages are happier when they make time for fun.  But as most married couples learn, it’s the fun that’s first to fall by the wayside as the demands of life pile up.

The point we’re making is that fun is more than a New Year’s resolution or an indulgence; fun is instrumental in having a more satisfying marriage.  There is a long list of benefits to increasing fun in your marriage.  Here are a few: having more fun promotes spontaneity when life becomes routine or boring, connects us with positive emotions, reminds us of the good in our relationship, creates more good memories, and gives us hope when working through difficult challenges.  If you want to have a more satisfying marriage and less stress, inserting more fun into life is a good place to start.

Overcoming Barriers to Having More Fun

You already know you want to have more fun and less stress, so how can you make that happen this year?  The daily duties (or grind as we like to call it) can keep you from enjoying your marriage or you can choose to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind.  Here are some of the most common obstacles that most couples must overcome in order to have more fun.

  • Schedule some fun.  With the hectic schedules that most couples have today; you need to schedule time for fun.  Upwards of 80% of our lives are scheduled, so why not schedule some fun?  When we agree on a date and time and put it on our calendars, we’re more likely to make it happen.  How about scheduling a weekly or monthly date?  At our church we encourage every couple to have a regular date.
  • Give yourself permission to be a KID again.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the seriousness of life and not allow yourself to have some serious fun. Did you know that the average child laughs some four hundred times per day compared to the average adult laughing less than fifteen times a day?  Lighten up and laugh more.  Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”
  • Try something new.  When Bev and I thought about words that describe our marriage lately we came up with routine and predictable.  Ouch, not words we would choose but we had to admit they were dead-on.  As a result, we are now making a conscious effort to try something new and different and the rule is neither of us can complain.  We are having fun doing things we never thought we’d enjoy.  We’ve discovered that trying something new can bring back the fun factor.
  • Budget for some fun.  We tend to hold on too tight to money, especially Phil.  Yes we both agree that we need to save for retirement, but we decided not to put fun on hold until then.  For most couples money is tight, but there are ways to find what we like to call “fun money.”  There are lots of fun things that are free, but sometimes we need to spring for something fun that costs us. Bev has a can where she stashes extra money.  Last summer we took a vacation that was mostly paid for from her can.

The bottom line is that every couple must learn how to enjoy their marriage in the midst of the grind of daily life.  Part of God’s purpose for marriage is for us to enjoy life with our spouse.  Our paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 9:9 is that God intends for you to enjoy your marriage in the midst of the grind.  This year don’t miss out on what God wants for your marriage.  Find ways to enjoy life together in the midst of whatever the New Year brings.

I Want to Quit

Bedroom Confession #3 “I Want to Quit”BC_Facebook_Cover

From Mountain Lake Church Dawson’s Sermon Series, “Bedroom Confessions”
View the service online at: vimeo.com/dawsonmlc

Is love enough? I guess that depends on how you define love. We love pizza, love our jobs, love vacations and love our spouse.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that “love never fails”. If that’s true, why do so many relationships and marriages still fail? To have a love that never fails as it says in verse 8 we need to look back to verse 7 to see what it takes to get to a love that never fails:

It [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

To have a love that never fails in our marriage we must be willing to put in the work and effort on the front end. When we have a love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres we will have a love that never fails.

As we look at practical ways to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere to develop a love that never fails…understand always means “in all things”. That means that in all things love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres…in good times and bad times.

Love Always Protects

To protect means to provide, care for, defend. It is the image of covering to protect from potential threats. It is putting your personal safety and desires aside for the good of someone else, in this case, your spouse.

Gardenia vs. Daylily
If you are gardener you understand what is required to care for different plants. There are some plants that demand more care than others. Gardenias are beautiful plants known for its fragrant white flowers. Due to their beauty they have become a gardening symbol in the southeast. But to be able to enjoy the beauty of the Gardenia you must be willing to put in the effort. Gardenias demand very specific care from the time of the year they are planted, temperature, sunlight, watering, placement, soil type and so on. You cannot plant a Gardenia in your backyard and expect to sit back and watch it blossom.  A Daylily on the other hand is in many ways just as beautiful but is capable of blooming and growing without the tedious care and attention.

Each spouse has a duty to protect, to care for, the other…always! A love that always protects means that each spouse knows what it takes for their spouse to grow and blossom into the beautiful man or woman that God intended them to be. A gardener can’t get upset at a gardenia for not growing if he doesn’t provide the correct care. God has given husbands and wives the duty to protect, to care for their spouse…paying careful attention to their specific needs so that they can grow into their full potential. It is the responsibility of the spouse to be the gardener of their husband/wife.

Side Note: We get the word “husband” from the term “husbandman” which is someone one cultivates the land…aka farmer. 

Know the Needs: Do you know what it takes for your spouse to grow and blossom? If not…find out! (this is a process…sometimes a process of trial and error)

Do the Deeds: Once you know what it takes to protect your spouse so they can grow, do it! There is a large gap between knowing and doing. Set time aside to do what it takes to protect

Be a Defender: Just as a gardener does many things to protect his plants from insects, frost, too much sunlight, not enough sunlight, etc…We must be very aware of anything that poses a threat to our spouse. Are any of the following a potential threat: Toxic Relationships (family, friends, coworkers, neighbors), Financial Pressures, Stress, Temptations, Media, etc…

Remove Sarcasm: The word “sarcasm” literally means “to rip flesh”. When we allow sarcasm into how we talk to our spouse we are doing the opposite of protecting

Love Always Trusts

In order to always trust the relationship must be safe. Security in a relationship is developed through honesty not perfection. Honesty includes apologizing and forgiving. This doesn’t mean we necessarily forgive and forget but we choose to forgive and choose to not hold grudges against our spouse. Always Trusting means we think the best of the other person and always assume the best in the other person.

Apologize: Be quick to apologize. Ask your spouse if there is anything you still need to apologize for. You may be surprised what you need to apologize for that you didn’t even realize hurt your spouse.

Note for husbands: When you apologize to your wives it is important to be aware of your demeanor. We are naturally louder and more animated when we talk which can be perceived as intimating to our wives. To effectively apologize to our wives (which we should probably be doing on a daily basis) we need to soften our voice.

Forgive:
 Forgiving keeps our emotions from dictating our love. Forgiving doesn’t take away the hurt but it begins the healing process. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting rather forgiving is choosing to love always and in all things.

Love Always Hopes

Love that always hopes is not a love that just wishes things will get better. This is not “wishful thinking”. A love that always hopes has confidence. Confidence that even though things may not be good right now…we are committed to each other and committed to work hard, put in the effort and things will get better.

Joy over Frustration: Joy is different from happiness. There can be joy in the midst of troubles. As a couple, choose joy over frustration. Choose to see how things are growing and be joyful for the progress you are making, no matter how minimal it seems. Marriage is a journey…it will be more enjoyable walking it through together…even if the road is difficult. Hope does not expect immediate results but has confidence while being joyfully patient.

Picture It Often: Too often we get caught up in what is instead of what could be. As a couple take time to hope and dream together. Talk about what your ideal life looks like five years from now, ten years from now. The more you talk about the ideal and picture it together the more you will find yourself moving towards the ideal together.

Love Always Perseveres

To persevere means to stay, to remain, not to retreat. In our marriages we fail to persevere because we don’t feel like it, it seems too difficult, requires too much effort or just too tired. Love is a commitment not solely an emotion or feeling. To have a love that always perseveres you must be willing to commit to one another…always and in all things

Commit to taking divorce off the table! Take time this week and go over your wedding vows again. Take notice of the commitments you made to one another and take an honest evaluation of how you each are doing living up to those commitments.

Love Never Fails

Love never fails = in all things protect, trust, hope and persevere!

To grow the intimacy within your marriage both spouses must be willing to grow and cultivate that love.  When your marriage is based on the love that God has for us, which is the only love that truly never fails…then yes, love is enough!

Our love should be a reflection of the love God has for us

As a spouse, does your love for your spouse reflect the love God has for you?

[Husbands and Wives] Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

I’m Doing It My Way

Bedroom Confessions #2 “I’m Doing It My Way”

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From Mountain Lake Church Dawson’s Sermon Series
View the service online at: vimeo.com/dawsonmlc

My Way

We love our freedoms and our independence. We want to do what we want, when we want, the way we want. Culturally speaking, our entire lives are oriented towards achieving the goal of being self-sufficient, self-reliant, completely independent and free. Understand there is a difference between independence and selfishness. Independence is not always a negative in our day and age but making our personal freedoms and independence the top priority is selfish and leads to unhealthy relationships.  The problem we will continue to run into is when we value our independence and freedoms above what is best for our relationship with God and others.

When replying to the church of Corinth Paul writes, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12)

Paul is helping the early church (and us) understand that yes we have the right to do anything…but that doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it is always beneficial…Especially in our relationships!

God’s Way

God has given us very specific standards to live by FOR OUR PROTECTION and for our benefit. These standards are the Ten Commandments. When we choose to “Do it our own way” instead of “God’s way” we invite pain, hurt and consequences into our lives and relationships. However, that means in order to live within God’s standards we are required to give up certain freedoms that we may want to hang on to. We still have freedom…but it is freedom within the standards of God.

Self-Control Protects Intimacy

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28)

Selfishness destroys intimacy and our capacity to be intimate whereas selflessness rebuilds intimacy. At the root of selflessness within a relationship is self-control. We all have desires and temptations and we have a choice to “do it my way”, to choose to exercise my freedoms to benefit myself OR “do it God’s way” and practice self-control by not giving into the selfish desires. Self-control is intentionally choosing not doing something just because you want to or feel like it. When we are able to consistently practice and show self-control within our relationships (as singles or marrieds) we increase the capacity for intimacy within the relationship.

Fast Food & Porn

The lack of self-control is the easy way out…it’s lazy! Within our culture, we celebrate and glorify instant gratification: it has become a norm and even an expectation. We go through the fast-food drive thru because its fast, easy and convenient compared to planning ahead, going to the grocery and making dinner. We use porn because it’s instant and more convenient compared to developing an intimate relationship over time through selflessness. The lack of self-control becomes very dangerous within relationships and sexuality. When self-control is not a standard, there can be no standard on what is or isn’t acceptable which leads to pain, problems, heartache and the death of health and intimacy within the relationship.

Side Note: Our circumstances and situations do not determine our capacity for self-control. If we are unable to practice self-control in the seemingly small and insignificant areas what makes us think we can have self-control in other areas!? If porn is a self-control issue as a single…it will still be an issue when married. If sleeping around is an issue now…it will still be an issue later! Changing our relationship status does not automatically change our ability to have self-control

Pure Sex Challenge

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

We gave this challenge to our church this last week…The 7 Day Pure Sex Challenge! (let me explain…) For singles and marrieds, this is a challenge to practice self-control over the next 7 days, to not engage in selfish sexual relations or acts. That means: no porn, no masturbation, no sexual relations outside of marriage, no affairs (physical or emotional). To commit to practice self-control in what we think, say, wear and do! To commit to “Doing it God’s way” instead of “My way”…to live within the standards God has set

For marrieds, that does not mean sexual abstinence…that means to pursue intimacy at a higher level (to selflessly serve one another and meet your spouses needs more). That may mean MORE sex, MORE date nights, MORE conversations and pillow talk once the kids are in bed…Take a reality check of your marriage and together determine which areas of intimacy do you as a couple need to increase and press into.

The Body Follows the Mind

but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)

Committing to self-control, especially within the context of sex, is easier said than done! James helps us understand how we can set ourselves up for success! It starts with our mind’s desires. When evil (evil = anything outside of God’s standards) consumes our minds we will be tempted. And even though the temptation itself is not a sin…if we continue to dwell on that desire it is eventually going to “drag us away”, as James says, and lead us to sin and eventual death. Death here does not refer just to a physical death but a spiritual death, the death of intimacy, the death of relationships.

As we find ourselves living outside of God’s standards we must begin with our mind. What we think about, what we allow in our mind. If we change what is in our mind…eventually our body will follow.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

God’s Grace Restores Our Intimacy and Refines Our Desires

Of course, this is not something we can do on our own! Ultimatly we must give up our independence and rely on God, become more dependent on Him, trust His Ways are better than Our Ways. When we are unable, God is very able and that is the truth we must lean on in our lives and our relationships!

King David knew that in order for him to change his lifestyle and desires he first had to ask God to change what was in his mind and heart: asking God to do what he couldn’t do! A great starting point in asking God to restore intimacy and refine desires is to pray as David prayed:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

I’m not getting IT

Bedroom Confession #1: I’m Not Getting “IT”

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From Mountain Lake Dawson’s Sermon Series
View the service online at: vimeo.com/dawsonmlc

“IT”

IT is more than just the physical but needs in general. In our marriage we often are thinking “i’m not getting it…i’m not getting my needs met”. It is a common thought in relationships but seldom said out loud. The unfortunate truth is that by the time we do communicate to our spouse that we aren’t getting our needs met we have already started to call it quits in the relationship. To love means to meet needs. Loving our spouse requires us to know their needs and be willing to selflessly and unconditionally meet those needs.

Not Too Late: If you are thinking “I’m not getting it”, know that it’s not too late! Marriages can be restored and intimacy rebuilt.

Prepare or Repair: Even if your marriage is great and you are “getting it”, that can change quickly. When things are good we can easily slip into auto-pilot mode. You can either prepare and continue working in your relationship or find yourself trying to repair the relationship later.

Duty over Desire

Intimacy is destroyed by selfishness but rebuilt by selflessness. Our focus must be on our spouse and their needs. Meeting our spouse’s needs is not conditional. We do not meet their needs SO THAT our needs will be met. Even though that is the eventual result…that cannot be our motivation.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:3)

Meeting our spouse’s needs must happen whether we feel like it or not. Husbands, you have a duty to meet your wife’s needs. Wives, you have a duty to meet your husband’s needs. Desire is not the goal because there are plenty of seasons and days when we don’t want to put our spouse first. But when we married we promised to submit ourselves to our spouse and put him/her first!

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. (1 Corinthians 7:4)

[Husbands and Wives] Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:21, 22, 25)

Fulfilling Your Marital Duty:

Easier said than done. Most couples want to love and meet the needs of their spouse…we just don’t always know how and where to start. Here are some places to start so you can begin to meet the needs of your spouse and fulfill your marital duty.

Love Languages: Take the Love Languages Test online at: www.5lovelanguages.com Once you know the love languages for you and your spouse you will be better able to love and meet their needs.

Fresh Ideas: It’s doesn’t take long to run out of ideas of how to love and meet the needs of our spouse. Eventually, buying  the same flowers doesn’t convey the intended message of love. Gregory Godek’s book, “1001 Ways to be Romantic” is a great resource for new and varied ideas! Click to view as a PDF

His Needs/Her Needs: It’s not surprise that the needs of a husband are very different from the needs of a wife. But knowing that fact doesn’t help unless we are able to identify the needs in our spouse. That’s where the book “His Needs/Her Needs” is a great resource! Dr. Williard Harley identifies the top needs for husbands and wives. Click to view it out on amazon!

Ask Questions: We are not mind-readers, no matter how long we have been married. If you want to get the right answers…ask the right questions. Ask your spouse how things are going…really going. How is our marriage? How am I loving you? When was the last time you really felt loved by me? What needs am I meeting well? What needs am I not meeting? When asking the right questions, be sure to ask them in the right environment. Asking these questions on your way out the door, right before going to sleep or while playing with the kids probably isn’t the best time or setting. Create space and time for these discussions. Make it a date night or a morning coffee conversation when it’s just the two of you. The more regular these conversations are, the more honest you become and the better spouse you grow to be.

 Giving while on Empty:

Relationships are a give AND take. If we are in a relationship that feels like a one-way street we quickly become deprived and depleted…feeling like we are running on empty with nothing left to give our spouse or anyone else. That is why it is vital that we are growing in intimacy with God. When we have a growing and intimate relationship with God we are filled with His love and His grace and it is out of the OVERFLOW of that love and grace that we are able to give love and grace to those around us. If you are in a relationship (married or not) and you feel like you have nothing left to give. Ask God for the grace you need so you can give grace. Relationships require much grace! But it also requires a conversation. Be open and honest about the reality of your relationship. It is our tendency to withdraw and withhold when we find ourselves depleted and deprived. Instead, press further into the relationship by selflessly serving and having open and honest conversations while allowing God to pour more into you

Roommate or Spouse?

Just a heads up: This is not a discussion on should romantic partners live together or not. Instead, this is for any married couple that at some point has felt like they have a roommate instead of a spouse. First of all, it happens to us all. Secondly, it doesn’t have to be like that!

Falling into Roommates

We all have a great story about how we fell in love with our spouse. But the story we don’t want to share is how we slid into being roommates. Over time life can become so routine that we can feel like we live with a roommate instead of a spouse. Conversations are focused around schedules and to do’s instead of hopes and dreams. The spark has dwindled, the butterflies are gone. Date nights keep getting pushed back and rescheduled. You lay in bed as you each do your own thing, in your own world, by yourself with a roommate who happens to sleep next to you. This describes every marriage at some point…so how do you get a spouse instead of a roommate?

Pursue

While dating…the game is on! It is a game of pursuit! Everyone loves being and feeling pursued. We like it when others ask us questions and are interested in what we are interested in. The pursuit makes us feel valued, needed and loved. But once you get settled into married life the pursuit tends to become less and less. The lack of pursuit tends to be the common denominator is  all “roommate marriages”. The rest of this article will unpack how to continually pursue your spouse. Pursue your spouse often and in different ways: through the questions you ask, the way you act, the way you touch, and even the way you look. Do your words and actions say, “I am pursuing you; I love you, I want you, I need you” or do they say “I already have you, so it doesn’t really matter”? You are never married long enough to stop pursuing your spouse!

Work Hard

Dating could also be called, “the hunt”. It’s during the dating stage of a relationship that the guys are trying to capture and ladies are trying to be caught (yes, this sounds somewhat crass and primal but is generally true). The point here is both are TRYING! Guys go out of their way to be on their best behavior and to play the romantic as they sneak up on their prey while ladies bat their eyes and seem to be interested in anything and everything her pursuer says and does! We all do a little fibbing and masquerading while dating. But once a dating couple becomes a married couple…the hunt is over, the excitement and thrill of the hunt is done. Guards are let down, the facade is dropped and the effort decreases exponentially…maybe not at first but over time. We think, “why try anymore, I already have him/her.” The reality is marriage is work, hard work! Without putting the necessary work into your marriage you will undoubtedly sink into a marriage that feels and looks more like two roommates that share a bed. Working on your marriage means the hunt is still on! You go out of your way for her, you listen intently, you share ideas, dreams and goals, you make time for dates and open the door for her. Working hard means you go back to dating…except this time it takes even more effort, time, and intentionality.

Make Time

One of the top problems I hear from couples regarding their marriage is time, or lack of time. “We just don’t have time”, “life gets too busy”, “there are so many other things that need to get done”. While I am sure these are all true, I cannot think of anything else (other than your relationship with God) that would be more important or worth spending your time on than your spouse! Andy Stanley wrote a book titled, “Choosing to Cheat” in which he asks, “when it comes to your time who do you end up cheating?” We only have so much time in a day, week, month and year…and so who gets the short end of the stick at the end of the day? Do you give more to work and therefore cheat your spouse and family? Because we cannot just add more time to our day we are left with a choice…who or what will get our time, whether it be quality or quantity of time. Roommates do not have a priority to make time for one another. Roommates are there when they are there, no priority or promises given. In a marriage, we must make time for one another.

Side note on making time for one another: it will be vital that the time you give your spouse be the kind of time that they need! For example, does your spouse need your undivided time, time spent talking together, time spent being active together, etc…What kind of time and how much time does your spouse need?

Not I

Selfishness extinguishes the flame in a marriage. Does it feel like the spark just isn’t there anymore? Has that once burning flame of love dwindled to smoldering ashes? Most likely, acts of selfishness have slowly been suffocating your romance and love. Love means to “meet needs”. To love your spouse means to “meet the needs of your spouse”. As I mentioned previously, that is somewhat natural in the dating stage of a relationship but tends to change over time in marriage. Reignite the romance and love in your relationship by humbly and selflessly loving your spouse as you probably once did. Being humble isn’t the idea of thinking less of yourself, it’s not thinking of yourself at all! Roommates have no real obligation to one another than a few respectful rules and paying rent on time. Going out of your way for a roommate is a nice thing to do on occasion but not needed. Selfishness is make-it or break-it in a marriage! Try it! What you say, do, even think…does it love, encourage, help your spouse or you?

Pillow Talk

How is it that the person you once had so many things in common with seems to be a stranger to you now? How did the person you once found interesting and fascinating seems normal and dull. Did they change? Did you change? Probably, we do change as we go through different life stages but that isn’t the deeper issue. I would encourage you to take an honest look at your communication in your marriage. We fail to see commonalities because we fail to talk deep enough to discover and rediscover our spouse. However those types of conversations usually don’t take place on the way to work, while making dinner or in front of the TV. Those deep conversation require time, no distractions and a level of intimacy.  We must continue to rediscover who we married! We all have dreams and goals and those dreams and goals can and most likely will change over time! Just because you asked the question when you got married doesn’t mean they have the same answer today! We all want to be known! Be intentional about getting to know your spouse, to give time and effort for pillow talk.

Reality Check

I have a car that looks pretty nice on the outside. In fact, it’s only a few years old and has very low mileage! Even on the inside, the interior is in great shape! In many ways, it still looks semi-brand new! But if you were to start-up the car, the first thing you would notice is the odd engine vibration. Then you would see the check engine light on and a few other dashboard notifications telling me that something isn’t quite right. If you put it in gear and pulled out of the drive way you would notice the oil leak stain where the car had been parked. The reality is my car is in pretty bad shape but I’m hesitant to take it in to the shop because A) I’m afraid of what they will tell me and B) how much it’s going to cost me!

We treat our marriage the same way. From the outside, the relationship looks pretty good, maybe even really good compared to some others! But if you were to step inside their home or be a fly on the wall you would see some warning lights that indicate things aren’t as healthy as it would seem. When was the last time you had a reality check in your marriage; a “marriage check-up”?!

1. Reality Check: You go to the doctor for your annual physical, you take your car in for a tune-up and oil change, you do spring cleaning. You do those check ups regularly because if something is wrong you want to be able to catch it early to fix it before it becomes catastrophic or life threatening! Why are we so hesitant to do regular “check ups” in our marriage? Maybe we are afraid of what we might discover? If you don’t know the true state, the reality of your marriage then how do you know what to work on, fix or adjust? And if you don’t know what to work on, fix or adjust the problem will not go away but continue to get worse and worse until it falls apart. Keep in mind, this is not an opportunity to point the finger at your spouse but share how you feel and to ask your spouse how they feel and to see what they see. This requires much grace, love, understanding and humility!

2. The Cost: One you take a reality check of your marriage and you and your spouse have had a loving, honest and candid conversation on the state of your marriage you can begin to take the next steps in growing the health of your marriage…but it will cost you! Are you willing to pay the price, are you willing to sacrifice for the health of your marriage and your spouse? (Remember, selfishness will suck the life out of a marriage). This is a chance to show that your spouse is more important than anything else in your life!

Marriages are work…all relationships require work, time and effort! There is a cost. There is never a point when you can hit the auto-pilot button and coast on through. The result will be a gradual but inevitable slide into spouses becoming roommates. The good news is that it is never too late! Start today! Begin to pursue and rediscover your spouse! Make time and take time to have the conversations you once had. Be honest with yourself and your spouse about the current state of your relationship and approach your spouse with humility and selfless love!

My Marriage This Month: May

Marriage is a relationship and relationships require work and effort. Here are practical ways for you and your spouse to continue to work on and put effort into your marriage throughout the month that relates to what was discussed at the last Adventures in Marriage!

Adventures in Marriage: Getting to Know Your Spouse (Click for a Recap)

Week 1: Personality (May 11-17)

Why are you the way you are? It’s not a question we ask often or ever really have an answer for. The reality is our personalities play a major role in not just who we are but how we go about life and relationships. Gaining insight into your own personality and the personality of your spouse will better help you both understand and communicate with one another. Remember, the goal here is to learn and understand…not try to change your spouse! So this week…take a personality test and share it with your spouse!

Here’s a few recommended assessments:
http://16personalities.com (free assessment)
https://www.discprofile.com ($$)
http://strengths.gallup.com ($$)

Week 2: Love Language (May 18-23)

Are you loving your spouse the way they feel loved or the way you feel loved? We tend to show love in ways we naturally feel loved or want to be loved. Gary Chapman has identified 5 love languages that will change the way you think about showing and receiving love with your spouse! This week, take the love language test and discuss with your spouse. Then work on loving your spouse in their love language!

Take the Test: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

Week 3: Replenishment Cycle (May 25-31)

You are constantly pouring into others and being drained by some. Relationships and life take so much from us it is vital that we find ways to get refilled or replenished! If you do not maintain your replenishment cycle you will be running on fumes and will not be able to love and give to those you care most about. It is important to not just know your own replenishment cycle but also for you to know your spouse’s to help them stay healthy and refueled. This week, fill out your replenishment cycle and share it with your spouse!

Click Here for Replenishment Cycle Chart

Week 4: Future Dreams & Goals (June 1-7)

Take time to get out of the every day, normal conversation and dream together! This week share what the ideal would look like in each of the following relationships in the next 5 years. You can also share what you would like to see, do, accomplish, etc..in 1, 5, 10, 20 years

God, Self, Marriage, Family, Friends, Work, Church, Finances, Society/Community, Enemies

 

From Adventures in Marriage, May 8th

7 Things You Should Know About Yourself and Your Spouse

1. Personality

Knowing your personality and your spouse’s personality gives you the “oh, that’s why are you the way you are”.

Some great personality assessments are the DISC and StrengthFinders (both cost $$). A good free personality assessment is online at: http://16personalities.com

2. Love Language

Gary Chapman has identified five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, Physical Touch. Once you discover your top two love languages you will understand what makes you feel loved and how you naturally show love to others. Knowing your spouse’s love language will allow you to discover how he/she FEELS loved!

Read more and discover your love language online at: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

3. Replenishment Cycle

We have multiple relationships that require us to give and pour out. We give to our jobs, coworkers, friends, kids, family, neighbors and of course our spouse. But what happens when you give and give and give…and are left with nothing left to give? We cannot have healthy relationships if we are running on empty, personally speaking. It is vital to your marriage that you as an individual remain healthy and “full”. Knowing your replenishment cycle will allow you to continually be filled up which then allows you to continue to pour into others. Knowing your spouse’s replenishment cycle will allow you to identify why she comes home moody, or he is irritable…it’s probably because something(s) are missing in their replenishment cycle. For more on the replenishment cycle click here

4. Family of Origin

If you were involved in pre-marital counseling, this probably came up. If you haven’t had these conversations…what better time to start that now!? If you have had this discussion it can still be valuable to revisit. First understand that the past does not define you but it does influence you. We are all products of our past…for better or worse. Whether you had a great or terrible childhood…both have influence on who you are today. It is important that you are aware of those influences as well as your spouse. We carry a lot of baggage into our marriage, many times unaware and unintentionally. So take the time to share and discuss your Family of Origin. Here are some links that will help you start the conversation:
http://www.foryourmarriage.org/family-of-origin-exercise/
http://timwoodroof.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Family-of-Origin.pdf

5. Expectations

We all have expectations. The question isn’t IF we have expectations but rather have we expressed and vocalized our expectations. Most conflict in marriages can be traced back to a lack of communicating expectations and misalignment of expectations. Make it a point to share your expectations and ask your spouse about their expectations. This gives the opportunity to align your expectations which keeps everyone on the same page.

6. Personal Systems

A system is a set of multiple components making up a whole. A personal system is the “how” we each do things. We have systems for just about everything from how you get ready in the morning, how you make decisions to how you deal with stress. Most of our systems are so ingrained and natural that we tend to not even notice. When you know your own systems and the systems of your spouse you will be better work together and communicate. This also gives an opportunity for your spouse to help you adjust or even change any unhealthy systems. This becomes even more important in parenting. Every system you have will be observed and adopted by your kids.

7. Future Dreams & Goals

When was the last time you and your spouse dreamed together? Remember when you were dating…you would sit and talk for hours about what your life would look like, where you would visit, what you would be doing. But as life goes on our conversations get cluttered with the everyday. Even if we don’t talk about our future dreams and goals…that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. When you ask your spouse about their future dreams and goals you are pursuing their soul. This takes you beyond the typical end of the day conversation. A great exercise for you and your spouse to do together is to answer the following question:
“What would the ideal look like 5 years from now in each of the following relationships”:
God, Self, Marriage, Family, Friends, Work, Church, Finances, Community/Society, Enemies

From Adventures in Marriage, May 8th

My Marriage This Month – April

Marriage is a relationship and relationships require work and effort. Here’s a practical way for you and your spouse to continue to work on and put effort into your marriage throughout the month that relates to what was discussed at the last Adventures in Marriage!

Week 1: Hopes & Dreams (April 13-19)

THIS WEEK: Take time to ask your spouse what his/her hopes and dreams for the future are. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routines of marriage and life. This question will help break through the mundane and allow you to pursue your spouse’s soul!

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
  • Is there a job or career that you would like to try and work towards?
  • What would you like to accomplish by next year? 5 years? 10 years?

 

Week 2: Another Couple (April 20-26)

THIS WEEK: Find another couple to hang out with! Go to dinner, coffee, dessert or invite them over to your house. It’s easy to forget that we don’t know it all. One of the best ways to learn and grow in your marriage is by learning from others! Allow other couples to speak into your life and marriage and learn from them. 

 

Week 3: Values (April 27-May 3)

THIS WEEK: We all have values but most of us haven’t intentionally identified or recognized them. It will be important for you and your spouse to intentionally identify the important values of your marriage. These values will be a kind of guide and reminder throughout all aspects of your marriage! Take time this week to identify and come up with your own “Marriage Values”!

Examples:

  1. We see our differences as God’s gift to each other.
  2. We schedule time together.
  3. We have learned each others language of love.
  4. We never consider divorce as an option.

Week 4: Daily A’s (May 4-10)

THIS WEEK: Dr. Roger Tirabassi is a counselor who specializes in marriage and family. He discovered that most couples tend to be more courteous before and during the honeymoon. Then after it becomes work to be intentionally courteous with their responses to one another. Dr. Tirabassi developed a simple system that creates a healthy habit in a marriage which he calls “The Daily 5 A’s”. This week, try to do all 5 A’s each day…

The Daily 5 A’s (from Dr. Roger Tirabassi)

  1. Affirmation: “Thank you for _____”, “I appreciated it today when you _______”
  2. Affection: A hug, kiss, massage, etc…
  3. Apology: “Is there anyway I irritated, frustrated or hurt you today?”, “I’m sorry for _______. Will you please forgive me?”
  4. Ask: “Is there anything you would like me to do for you today, tomorrow or this week?”
  5. Amen: “How can I specifically pray for you today?”

From April’s Adventures in Marriage
adventurechurch.org/Couples
Meets the 2nd Thursday of every month
6:30-8pm (Free Childcare)

 

 

Conflict and Your Two Buckets

Conflict is inevitable in a marriage, and all other relationships. We will disagree, we will say and do what we shouldn’t and neglect to do what we should. A healthy relationship is not one that never experiences conflict but rather a healthy relationship is one that walks through conflict together in a healthy way. Instead of avoiding conflict at all costs, may we learn to engage in conflict in a healthy and productive way.

Everyone carries around two buckets: one filled with gasoline and the other filled with water. When we encounter conflict within a relationship we will choose to pour gas or water onto that fire!

Gasoline: Emotions are not bad or evil…unless we become controlled by our emotions. When our emotions take over we revert to immaturity and become blinded by our own feelings and wants. We blindly say and do things which cause us to win and our partner to lose. This escalates the conflict and further separates spouses from one another. Our emotions have the potential to blow up a small kitchen fire into a full blown house fire.

Water: Pouring water onto a fire will extinguish the fire although it may continue to smoke, smolder or remain hot for a time. The idea here is to take control of your emotions, keep a clear mind and remain loving (as defined in 1 Corinthians 13). Even in conflict we must choose to love: to be patient, kind, selfless, not rude, not keeping record of wrongs, etc… This does not imply that the hurt is immediately healed but it does mean you and your spouse will be able to have healthy dialogue to work through the conflict leading to forgiveness and ultimately growing and strengthening your marriage while increasing your intimacy.

Pour Water instead of Gasoline:

1. Take Time and Calm Down: If emotions begin to take over respectfully and lovingly request your need to cool off. This is not a way to avoid dealing with the conflict but giving you the time to gain control and composure.

2. Identify the Enemy: It is natural for us to quickly point to our spouse as the problem or the cause of the problem. In that scenario we end up making our spouse our enemy which leads to fighting against each other. The other option is to draw the line so you and your spouse remain on the same side and you both are able to identify a common enemy. This approach allows you and your spouse to attack the problem together instead of making one another the problem.

3. Quickly Apologize: We will hurt those we love. Most of the time it will be unintentional, but it is inevitable. When we hurt our partner we need to be willing to quickly apologize. The typical response when we cause hurt is, “I didn’t mean to”, “Oh come on, toughen up” or “There’s no way that really hurt you!?” Our intentions become irrelevant if our spouse felt hurt. In other words, perception is reality. We must learn to have a first response of empathy and apology. Keep in mind that apologizing is more than just “I’m sorry”. When we apologize we are 1) Recognizing and admitting we hurt the other person and 2) Committing to change so that we don’t continue to hurt them in that way again.

4. Forgive Freely: On the flip side, It’s also important to learn to quickly forgive and to not hold grudges. Forgiveness doesn’t indicate that everything is ok and the hurt is all gone. You may require additional time to process through the hurt but it begins with forgiving and vocalizing that forgiveness to your partner.

7 Choices for The Ups and Downs of Marriage

From Adventures in Marriage on March 13, 2014Image

On our wedding day, we all said something along the lines of,

“…for better or worse, in sickness and in health, whether rich or poor..”

But the reality is when we experience a down in our marriage we easily forget those vows or at least it becomes more difficult to live them out. So how do we maximize the ups and survive the downs of our marriage? It begins with understanding that it is a choice. The choices we make will result in a healthy marriage or one that falls apart. The choices we make in the midst of the ups and downs are ours to own. So what choices should we make in the Ups and Downs of Marriage?

7 Choices for the Ups and Downs of Marriage:

Choose to Remember and Celebrate the Ups:

We are in control of what we choose to focus on and talk about with our spouse. Spend lots of time reminiscing and remembering the great memories together. Take lots of pictures and look at them often!

Choose to Intentionally Create Ups:

We shouldn’t wait for life to throw us random UPs. Rather, let’s take matters into our own hands and create Ups. Plan a vacation, schedule in date nights, surprise her with a note or make dinner. Keep in mind, your definition of an Up may be different from your spouse’s. Talk about what an Up is for you and work together to create those moments regularly instead of waiting around for them!

Choose to Expect the Downs:

There will always be ups and downs in our marriage as well as our individual lives. We may not know exactly what will happen…but we know something will happen eventually. You can either ignore the inevitable or be prepared to the best of your ability.  Dave Ramsey has great principles to prepare for financial downs (i.e. The Emergency Fund). But there are other plans and ways you and your spouse can expect potential downs. Talk openly with your spouse about your concerns and how you plan to work through the downs together.

Choose Positivity:

Attitudes are a choice…our choice. We are not given an attitude. We do not fall into an attitude. Even though we may say it we don’t actually wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Whether in a down or an up you choose your attitude. Dr. John Gottman has researched couples and marriages for over 20 years and has uncovered an incredible common thread among all healthy marriages. He calls it “The Magic Ratio 5:1”. According to Dr. Gottman and his research findings a healthy marriage has 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death..” We must choose life!
More info regarding Dr. Gottman’s research visit: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200910/what-makes-marriage-work

Choose to Remain a Team:

One of our first reactions during a marriage down is to identify the problem, this is especially true for husbands. Find the problem, fix or eliminate the problem…problem solved! However, it is all to easy to see our spouse as the problem. The goal here is for both spouses to always be on the same side (outside of abuse situations). Draw the line so that you and your spouse are looking at the problem together not fighting against each other. If you and your spouse are on the same side then you can plan and work together rather than against one another. This may take some creativity. Even if it seems that your spouse IS the problem…can you find a common ground together that keeps you both on the same side.

Example #1:

Him vs. Her: “Our house is falling apart because HE isn’t staying on top of the repairs”
Him & Her vs. Problem: “Our stuff just isn’t lasting like we thought! What could we do to keep our stuff maintained?”

Example #2:
Him vs Her: “We keep going deeper in debt because SHE is over spending!”
Him & Her vs. Problem: “Our money just isn’t going as far as it used to because prices keep going up. How can we live within our means?”

Choose to Love:

Of course it’s cliche but nonetheless it’s important and true. 1 Corinthians 13 gives us God’s definition of love (and not just in regards to marriages but in all our relationships). We must choose to love even we don’t feel loved or loving.

Choose Christ as your Foundation:

Jesus gives us a parable in Matthew 7:24-29 about how to survive the storms. Notice, He never gives us a formula for avoiding the storms…only surviving them. Expect to have downs and storms in your marriage. Expect to survive those storms if you build your foundation and your marriage on Jesus.