Encourage

When was the last time you spoke life into your spouse?  When was the last time you affirmed them, encouraged them, and spoke words that built them up?  How often do you do so?  Has it become a habit in your marriage?

Ephesians 4: 29 says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

I am amazed how often I hear people complaining about their spouse to others, often times while their spouse is standing nearby.  They are frustrated with something in their marriage, maybe they have suffered a disappointment or a need hasn’t been met, and in their frustration they lash out.  Instead of complaining in private and working through the issue, they criticize in public and drive a steak in the heart of their partner.

The Bible teaches that death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).  If you want to kill your marriage, speak critical words overflowing with condemnation.  If you want to breath life into your marriage, speak positively about your spouse both in private and in public.  Proverbs 16:24 says that Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. The power of encouragement or discouragement is magnified in a marriage because the words are coming from someone who knows you intimately.    Every day we make a choice to build up our spouse with words of encouragement, love, grace and kindness; or undermine our relationship with words of bitterness, criticism and condemnation.  What will you speak into your spouse this week?

 

Fighting the Four

There is no shortage of advice that can be found concerning marriage.  Advice that ranges from learning how to effectively listen to your spouse to how to spice up your sex life with nutritional additives.  People mean well and many times the advice worked out well for them.  In fact, many counselors base their advice on what has worked in their relationships more than on scripture and longitudinal research.  I often refer to these as Capitol “T” truth (what God says) and Little “t” truth (what science says).  I love it when both of these “truths” align and can shed light on what works in marriage.

If you have been to one of our Love and Respect Workshops, you have heard the facilitator, Dr. Eggerich, refer to research from the University of Washington.  This research, that spans 4 decades,  time and time again supports what God says in his word, especially the scripture in Ephesians that deals with the need of a woman to be sacrificially loved by her husband and the need of a husband to be sacrificially respected by his wife.   I have started the process of reviewing this research and am amazed at its accuracy and how our marriage seems to reflect the findings of this research. Time and again his research points out how kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and being tenderhearted provide a significant defense against what the research calls The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in regards to marriage.  The four horseman are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.  Every marriage has at least a small dosage of these poisons in them.  However, when any or all of them run rampant,  a marriage veers towards destruction.

Ephesians 4:32 is not what we would consider a “marriage” scripture.  It is a call for all brothers and sisters in Christ to treat each other as God has treated them.  If you have an accurate understanding of how much God loves you, is kind to you, is tenderhearted towards you, and how much God has forgiven you; if you understand his grace towards you; you will find that it is easier to treat others in the same way.  If we are called to treat our brothers and sisters with forgiveness and kindness,  how much more are we called to treat our spouse in the same way.

Kindness

Do you regularly express kindness to your spouse.  Do you turn towards them when they seek to get your attention for conversation, a gentle touch or a quick kiss; or do you continue reading the pinterest post on how to make Lemon Drops.  Do you look for opportunities to serve and express love, or do you hide behind social media or video games.  Do you bring up complaints gently and humbly, or do you bring up complaints by criticizing and attacking.  Kindness is the foundation of friendship, and friendship is the foundations of a successful marriage.

Tenderhearted

Are you open to the problems and complaints in a marriage or have you crossed over into contempt.  Contempt often surfaces when expectations go unmet and no attempt at working on an issue takes place.  People become frustrated, angry and can sometimes just be mean.  When complaints turn to criticism, and people start attacking each other’s character, it is like driving a stake into your partner’s heart.  People then become hard-hearted and withdraw to a defensive position.  The opposite of this is a tender-hearted person.  They see a problem but instead of attacking the other person, they commit to attacking the problem.  They understand that both partners in the marriage have baggage, that both partners are being “transformed” into the image of Christ, and that they are part of that transformational process.  They are there to sacrificially love the other, being patient as God works out the changes that need to take place.

Forgiving

All marriages have problems as both partners are influenced by sin.  Your spouse is not perfect, and neither are you.  God is in the process  of perfecting us but all of us have a ways to go.  Understanding this, and understanding what you have been forgiven in Christ, allows you to approach marital problems with forgiveness.  The greatest growth in a marriage comes from repenting and forgiveness.  Confessing, or realigning your perception with the reality of God’s word, is key to this cycle.  It is this that protects you from being defensive and then stonewalling your partner in a bid to protect yourself.

The scripture ends with Paul reminding us of what Christ has done for us.  While it is often easy to focus on the horsemen, this week I am going to challenge you to focus on the treatment.  How are you (in Christ) fighting criticism with thanksgiving?  How are you (in Christ) fighting contempt with kindness?  Have you withdrawn to a defensive position, stonewalling your partner or are you (in Christ) committing to deal with your problems with confession, repentance and forgiveness?

Save the Date

One of the turning points in our marriage was when we attended the Love and Respect Workshop several years ago.  We went to learn how to work on fixing your marriage and learned we had some work to do ourselves. (-:  We still do.   Join us as we continue down that road together.  Click here for more information.

Give Thanks

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thess. 5:8

“It will never be good enough.”  If we don’t hear it audibly we often hear this from our internal conversation.  The fact is that our culture and our world loves to focus on what is wrong instead of what is going well; we like to complain instead of giving thanks; we focus on the shortcomings instead of our strengths.  In doing so we develop a marriage-defeating attitude that is constantly eroding the intimacy between couples.  We would never think about criticizing our friends about their shortcomings but feel free to do so with our spouse.

Commit today to making a change.  Take time each day to give a small prayer of thanksgiving concerning your spouse.  Spend some time thinking/journaling about the positives in your marriage and then periodically follow up by taking 30 seconds to send a text telling your spouse what you appreciate about them.  Doing so creates a mindset of gratitude and refocuses what may have previously been a negative view of your marriage towards a positive view.  Over time this creates what researchers at the University of Washington call a “positive sentiment override (POS).”  The positive sentiment helps by allowing you to see your marriage and your spouse in a more positive light overall and provides a barrier of protection when things are strained in a marriage.  Work on your POS today and tell your spouse what you appreciate about them.

A Canoe Date

There is no easier way to go on an adventure as a couple than in a canoe.  A canoe is a floating microcosm of a close relationship. You got two people in the same boat, each equipped to move the vessel. Sometimes they glide through perfectly calm waters together.  Sometimes they are carried along by strong currents. Sometimes they are buffeted by waves. And sometimes they must make their way against the stream.

When they work together, heading towards the same destination, they can make their way through any conditions. When they try to work separately or head in different directions, things get unstable.

To illustrate the point– and to enjoy some time on the water together– plan a canoe trip for two.  We live in an area where their are many lakes.  If you have had some experiences canoeing on a lake, one of the best lakes to canoe is Lake Caddo near Jefferson.   If you have not had much experience on the water you may want to choose a place where you can easily get to shore.

How to Prepare

Ahead of time determine where you will go to rent or borrow a canoe. You will want to make sure you have safety equipment including a life vest, a small first aid kit, flashlights, a water proof container for your phone, and some food for the day. A well packed picnic lunch can be the key for a great day on the water.  Remember bug spray and sunscreen. If you are accident prone, you may also want to pack an extra change of clothes in a water tight bag.  Tie the bag to the canoe so you don’t lose it in the event the canoe tips over.  Let someone know where you will be going and when they can expect your return.

Before  your canoe date, spent some time in prayer together. Thank God for the privilege of sharing a boat with your significant other on the river of life.  Ask him to bless the time you spend together in the canoe; give you safe travels; help you work together as partners keeping your boat pointed in the right direction.

If you have not paddled before you may want to get some introductory lessons from a friend.  Be prepared to laugh as you learn to row towards a common goal and extend grace when you begin to row in a circle because someone won’t follow your instructions.  Laughing at each other is better than screaming at each other.

During the Trip

A canoe trip, especially in remote areas, is a great way to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Look for wildlife, spend some time fishing, or simply explore tributaries in the area.  Give yourself plenty of time to make it back before dark. This is a great time to talk about your future, dream about your next vacation, or simply relax in each other’s presence.

Make sure you take some time for the picnic.  A well packed lunch with plenty of hydration can make all the difference in the world concerning whether you have a great day on the lake or spend the day hangry. Make sure you clean up after yourselves leaving nothing that can harm the wildlife.  A nap after a picnic is always a good idea.   You may need to use the bug repellent to create an area where you can eat and nap bug-free.

One the Way Back

On your way back spend a few minutes talking about the experience and what you will take away from it.  Use the following questions as needed to guide your discussion.

  1.  When was the last time we”paddle together” in dealing with a situation or circumstance in our relationship? What were the results?
  2. When was the last time we paddled separately? What were the results?
  3. If our relationship is a canoe, how can we keep it pointed in the direction God wants us to go?

This makes for a great all-day date and if you add a trip to Jefferson after Lake Caddo it makes an excellent weekender.  Jefferson has some great Bed and Breakfasts and there are plenty of places to eat, spend some time checking out their shops or listening to music in one of their venues.

Want some other great ideas?  Check out 52 Uncommon Dates by Randy Southern.  This date idea was adapted from that book.

Time Spent Together

Last week we discussed date night.  This week I want to expand on the idea of spending time together each week focused on one another.  Here is the question:  What is one thing you can do to remind your spouse that they are still special to you, that you do not take them for granted, and that they are an important part of your life?  Millions of marriages each week fall closer and closer to a boring, disintegrating marriage where they have become just roommates going through life together. Taking time each week to reinforce your spouse’s importance to you is time well spent.

Ideas:

-Write a letter telling your spouse how much you love her or why you respect him.

-Buy a card that says it all or make your own that shares your heart’s desire.

-The classics never die, bring home some flowers.

-Purchase glow in the dark stars and put them on the ceiling.  Later, make love under the stars.

-Take your wife on a weekend adventure.  Bring your spouse into your world.  Give your spouse the gift of time.

  • Camp in a local park, campground, state park, etc.
  • Rent canoes, kayaks, or paddle-boards and explore the local lake.
  • Go on a hike or walk in a local park or sanctuary.
  • Walk the local arboretum or go to the zoo.
  • Get in the car, drive to a new place, stop somewhere along the way and have a picnic.

Remember:

Guys, remember…women often need the gift of attention, listening and sharing.

Women, remember…men need the gift of friendship, encouragement, presence and sexual intimacy.

Date nights and time spent together each week should reflect your willingness to serve your spouse in a way that is important to them.

Resources:

If you go on outings and have trouble thinking of something to talk about, find a list of conversation starters on the internet.  Make small cards with each topic, put all the topics in a bowl, and choose one to discuss over dinner or desert or while driving.  Here is one I found that has a gabizilion tons  (technical measurement) of questions.

Finally, if you are having trouble coming up with ideas on your own, simply ask each other what you would enjoy doing together.  In fact, this can be your first date night conversation.  Make a list of those things that would be special to you or your spouse and refer back to it as needed.  Remember, neither of you are  a mind reader so it is important to give your spouse the gift of insight into your heart.  Don’t expect they will just know what you want.  Open up and share.

Keeping the Love Alive

Eight thousand five hundred and forty-four.  That is how many hours you will find in three out of every four years. No matter how much you “manage” your time the best you can hope for is to better manage the choices you make in the time you have been given.  One investment of your time that will always have excellent returns is investing in date nights.  Early in a relationship this is not much of an issue but as the size of the family increases, discretionary funds decrease and job demands press for more of your time, you may find it a challenge to think of creative date ideas to try.  

This week I would like to share some ideas created by some of the women on our team.  Karen Vaughan and Nancy O’Sullivan put on their thinking caps and have provided you 20+ great date ideas that vary based on interests, budget and time.  Look over these ideas and check back periodically as we add more to the list.  A couple of things to think about before I give you the link:

  1. Date night is really about intimacy.  While you certainly want some fun and romance, date night offers you the opportunity to “catch up” with your spouse.  This often means spending some time just talking about the challenges of the day, week or month.  Ryan & Selena Frederick at www.fiercemarriage.com engage every week in one of two activities; highs and lows or heart checks.  Highs and lows consist of simply answering the questions; What was the best part of your week and what was the lowest part of your week?  The heart check consist of answering three questions:  1.  What book is in your hand?; 2.  What voice is in your ear (what are you listening to)? ; 3.  What’s moving on your heart?  These questions allow you and your spouse to engage in a deeper level of conversation than the passing conversation that makes up much of our communication.  Who’s taking the kids to dance and what time will dinner be ready may give important planning information, but it does not increase intimacy.  If you are having trouble thinking of things to talk about, you are not alone.  However, simply do a search for date night discussion topics and you will literally find hundreds of questions to use as starters for conversations.  
  2. Date night needs to be planned.  Your first date night conversation may include the following questions:
    1. How often should we have date night?
    2. Who should do the planning for date night?
    3. Should we always go alone or should we sometimes invite another couple?
    4. Can we work with another couple to coordinate child care?
    5. What are the limits on date nights?  Are movies OK?  Should we turn off the technology? etc.
  3. Date night needs to be protected.  Once you have set the boundaries make a schedule, put it in your calendar and then protect it at all costs.  Many things will try to pry you away from this time.  Many of those things will be “good” things like extended family, church events, etc.  In the famous words of Nancy Reagan, former First Lady, just say no.  Make sure date night remains one of those things that you put first in regards to how you spend your time.  

OK, enough build-up.  If you would like some great date night ideas click here.  Good luck and I hope you get some new ideas for dates.   BTW, if you would like to add some of your own ideas for others to try, please feel free to add them in the comments below or e-mail them to me at threestrandmin@gmail.com