7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 5 – Friendship

I really love my wife, and I like her too. I think Patty would say the same though I am unsure if this was always the case. The fact is we go through seasons where selfishness, baggage, pride, hardheadedness and apathy create a divide in a couple’s relationship which can often be the start of a serious problem. One of the first things to go when these problems arise is friendship. However, friendship is one of the core aspects of a healthy couple’s life.
Adam was in the garden, naming the animals, working the soil and walking with God. However, no “suitable helper could be found for him.” God created woman from man and Adam was no longer alone. He had a companion, a helpmate, a friend. Most of us can remember the feeling of being alone without that special person to share our life with and how amazing it was when they came into our lives. We visited, chatted, dated, and finally the day came when our family and friends witnessed as we entered into a covenant relationship with that person, till death do us part. We became lovers, family and friends with our whole lives ahead of us to share.
Then the world pressed in. Jobs, children, church events, separate interests, and differing hobbies. Soon, we were growing distant, and the first thing we compromised was our friendship. Business and its cost is one of the most effective tools of the enemy and many, if not most of us fall for it at one time or another. So how do we fight the enemy?

Find a Common Interest

Look for those things that interest both of you and find a way to spend time engaged in these activities. Maybe its painting minions on rocks, collecting bugs, shooting civil war revolvers or simply watching movies. Find the common ground and then invest your time, money and energy in those pursuits.

Carve Out the Time

Once you have found the “something” to do, carve out some time to make it happen. Calendar the item and let nothing short of an emergency room visit get in the way. If it is in your calendar and the Pastor calls to see if you will referee a Upwards Basketball game this weekend you can honestly say “I have another commitment on my calendar.” Protect this time!!!

Look for Something New

Always keep a lookout for something new to do together. As we get older we change so what we enjoyed in one season of life may need to be re-assessed in another. A decade ago Patty and I enjoyed disk golf on a Sunday afternoon after a marriage workshop. Now we enjoy a three hour nap. Seriously, look for new hobbies and try new things. New adventures and hobbies keep the fire alive in a relationship.
Protecting your friendship is one key to a long-term relationship that lasts throughout the many seasons of life you face as a couple.

His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, this is my friend. daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Songs 5:16

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4D – Fighting the Good Fight

So far this week we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts, compromise,  and influence.  Today, let’s take a look at how we can self-soothe and soothe our spouse when anger and fighting get the best of us.

As we have discussed before, fighting often leads to flooding.  As emotions increase we enter the “fight, flight or freeze” response.  Blood flows from our brain to our extremities, blood pressure increases, heart rate increases and our ability to reason decreases.  If not dealt with, flooding can result in lashing out in anger or engaging in defensiveness and stonewalling.  None of these are good for a relationship.

To resolve flooding a couple can engage in two activities, self-soothing and soothing each other.

Use Your Time-Out Effectively – Soothing

Earlier this week we discussed how and when to take a time out.  A time out allows you the time to self-soothe with the goal of calming down and restoring blood flow to the brain where you can reason through an issue.  People do this in many ways.  Reading the bible, praying, meditation, deep breathing exercises or listening to calming music are all ways to calm yourself.  Remember, it takes longer for men to exit flooding than women so additional time may be required for self-soothing.  Once you have calmed down, helping to soothe your partner can have even more benefits.

Dr. Gottman, author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work explains: ” Soothing your partner is of enormous benefits to a marriage because it is really a form of reverse conditioning. In other words, if you frequently have the experience of being calmed by your spouse, you come to associate him or her with feelings of relaxation rather than stress. This automatically increases the positivity of your relationship.”  Soothing can take many forms but normally the first step is simply discussing why the flooding took place in the first place.  There are many ways to soothe your spouse but what is important is you choose the method and enjoy it.  A husband might give his wife a foot massage or they may take turns guiding each other through meditation activities. Whatever the activity, it is important that, in the end, both of you are calmer and better able to engage in the discussion that started the fight.

Prepare for Battle

One of the things that I heard in the military was that it was better to sweat in peace than bleed in war. In other words, preparing during peace allows you to be more effective in combat. This also applies to soothing. Taking some time before your next fight to think about how you will soothe one another can pay huge dividends.  Simply think about your last fight and what it was that resulted in flooding.  Discuss how you can prevent flooding in the first place, recognize flooding as it is happening, and what it is you need to do when things have spiraled out of control. Finally, discuss how you can serve one another by soothing each other during your next fight.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4A – Fighting the Good Fight

The funny thing is I knew I was in trouble as the words left my mouth. Mentally I was reaching out trying to capture the offending question and return it to the depths from which it came. No luck.

7 Weeks to a Better Marriage Week 4 – Fighting the Good Fight

The great philosopher Jack Sparrow said “It’s not the problem that’s the problem, it’s your response to the problem that’s the problem.”  That guy is a genius.

Did you know that 69% of all of the things you and your spouse fight about are perpetual problems.  By that I mean they are problems that will most likely resurface throughout your marriage.  If you are like most couples in their first three decades of marriage you will be fighting about:

– Division of Housework

– What a clean house looks like

– Finances and other issues of security

-In-Laws

– How to raise your children

– Frequency of Sex

These issues often have a lot to do with deep seated expectations, roles played in family of origin (how your mom and dad did it) and preferences around security and money.  Over time, as your marital relationship matures and God works within your marriage towards unity, these issues may come to some resolution.  However, these changes do not take place quickly.  As a result, you will have fights.

The question is not if you will have a fight, it is how you choose to fight that makes all the difference.  If you want to have a fight which results in anger, disharmony, disunity, demeaning behavior and possibly homicide (because divorce is not an option), try one or more of these methods:

  • Wait until your husband has been working three hours in 102 degree weather under the hood of a car and is hungry, then ask him about the $20 he spent at Academy with an accusatory tone;
  • Come home from work after your spouse has spent the day with two sick children then roll your eyes when she asks if you can run and pick up dinner for the family;
  • Try to motivate your spouse to look for a better job by comparing him to the neighbor that just pulled up in a new Vet.  In fact, it will be even more effective if you wait until the neighbor can see you and then turn around, point your finger at your hubby and yell “You need a job like his so I can get a new car;”
  • Start asking him hundreds of questions just as he walks into the house after a long day at work.

A second option is to use scripturally supported and time tested methods to have conversations with your spouse that have a better chance at resolving conflict.  This week let’s explore the first one.

Slow Your Roll

Proverbs 15:15 says “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. ”  In short, make sure you have your temper and emotions under control before engaging in a conversation that may result in a fight.  In addition, give your spouse the opportunity to prepare for the discussion.

Let’s Throw Down

Sally walks into the house after a long Monday to find John standing there with his phone.  He has just seen a $200 charge she made over the weekend and is angry because they had agreed to watch their spending so they would have funds for a vacation next summer.  As she walks in he holds up the phone and in an accusatory voice says “You never keep our agreements.  Can’t you control your spending for even one month?  You’re just so irresponsible!”

What went wrong?

  1. You should never point a phone  at someone, it’s rude.
  2. He does not know what she spent the money on or why.
  3. Terms like “always” and “never” put people on the defensive, primarily because they are an untrue accusation.
  4. He jumped her at the door and did not give her the emotional room to prepare for the conversation.

As a result, she feels attacked and in self-defense says something like “If you had a real job I wouldn’t have to worry about a few hundred dollars.”  She goes on the attack and treats him with disrespect because he was unloving towards her.  It’s on like Donkey-Kong.

A Better Way

When John sees the charge and starts to get angry, he should ask himself two questions:  Why am I so angry and what do I not know about this situation.  In most cases we get angry because we are not getting our way.  He forgets that as a believer we are patient, other focused, and dedicated to his spouse’s best interest.  Additionally, he has very little information concerning the “what” and “why” of the situation.  Instead of waiting at the door to pounce he could simply wait for her to come home and let her know he wants to talk to her about their finances later that night.  Then, in a calm manner point out that he had seen the charge made on the credit card and felt like it might violate their agreement concerning finances.  This is known as a “soft approach” and allows a couple to start a conversation that has a better chance of a positive outcome.  Yes it requires some self control and patience.  However, as a follower of Jesus you have both (Gal 5:22-23).

So here is the first step towards better fights;  Choose a good time and place for a discussion and then give your spouse some warning so they can prepare for an emotional conversation.  In the event your spouse has had a long day, give them some grace and choose another time for the conversation.  Don’t wait too long and stand firm on the need to have the conversation, but be sensitive to your spouse.  A friend of mine used to use the phrase “I need to enter your garden” when he needed to talk about an emotional topic with his wife.  She then could proceed with the discussion or take a few minutes to get mentally prepared.  If she postponed the discussion, she was responsible for “reengaging” before the evening was over.  Patty and  I simply say “I need to talk you about something that might get emotional, is this a good time?”  By being patient and letting both parties mentally prepare, there is a much better chance of a positive outcome.

Tomorrow:  When things get out of control – attempting to repair hurt feeling in the middle of a fight.

The Purpose of Marriage

“Strengthening your ministry by strengthening your marriage.”  This is the mission statement of Three Strands Ministry and is founded on Biblical principles regarding marriage.  These foundational scriptures can be discovered in Genesis, Colossians, Corinthians, Ephesians, and 1st Timothy.  I have been thinking a lot about these scriptures and recently heard a podcast from our friends at Fierce Marriage concerning scripture and marriage.   This has motivated me to think a little deeper about what scripture says about our marriage.   I personally love the science behind marriage; communication, sexuality, emotion, etc.   However, as believers, we need a strong understanding about what scripture has to say about a covenant marriage.  Over the next few weeks we will explore what scripture says about the purpose of marriage, the joy of marriage, the power for marriage, the enemy of marriage and the ultimate marriage.  Come back weekly for more.

Your Marriage is not About Your Marriage

A strong marriage is not an end to itself.  A strong marriage creates a foundation from which to minister and serve.  A strong marriage reflects the image of Christ and the Church.  A strong marriage creates a fellowship between two people which strengthens both partners and allows them to better express their giftedness and talents.  A strong marriage forms the foundation of a stable church and therefore creates a stronger foundation for cities, states and countries.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Fellowship

In Genesis we see the first purpose of marriage, fellowship.  God created the heavens and earth, placed man in the garden, gave him a job and said “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18)  It is the first time that God created and did not say “It is good.”  This is often referred to the “pregnant pause” in creation where God focuses on his preparation for woman.  He puts Adam to work naming animals and as Adam does so, he finds that there is a female for every male, “but no suitable helper could be found.”  (Genesis 2:20)  God made sure Adam knew what it was like to be alone so he would appreciate the fellowship of his wife.  When she was created he was so happy he actually broke out into song.

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

Genesis 2:23

Additionally, marriage is about woman being created for man as a loving partner (Genesis 2, Proverbs 5:19), a wise adviser (Proverbs 31),  and as a family manager (1 Timothy 5:14).  Husband and wife together, acting as best friends, serving one another in unique ways, makes up the fellowship of marriage.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Procreation and Sexual Purity

One of the first commands God gave man was to “subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28)  For this purpose God created a sexual drive, usually stronger in men than women, for the purpose of intimacy and procreation.  As with many things, the enemy uses this drive, originally meant for good and blessing, to tempt people into sin.  Paul, writing to the Corinthians, recognizes this and says that the answer if for each man to have sexual relations with his own wife  (1 Corinthians 7:2) He goes so far as to tell each spouse that their body is not their own and that they cannot withhold themselves from one another unless there is mutual agreement and for a short time. (1 Corinthians 7:5)  Marriage is the place where sexual expression, child-rearing, and the nuclear family dynamic is held together for the glory of the creator of the family, God.

The Purpose of Your Marriage is Sanctification

I can say it no better than Tim Keller, Author of The Meaning of Marriage, so I will not try.

“What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.”

Later her writes:

Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’” Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel.“1

Marriage is about God utilizing the joy of marriage to teach you appreciations and thanksgiving, and using the struggles of marriage to teach you sacrificial love, respect and patience.  In short, he uses us as a couple, both in our obedience and in our rebellion, to grow the image of Christ in each of us.

Challenge:  This week think about the blessings of your marriage.  This may be difficult for about 25% of us as a quarter of couples are stressed and challenged at any given time.  Do it anyway.  Give thanks to God for the blessings you have (1 Thess. 5:18) and give a word of encouragement to your spouse for what they bring into your life (1 Thess. 5:11).

Stretch Challenge:  Do this daily for the next week.

1  Keller, Timothy. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (p. vi). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Social Media and Marriage

How does your relationship compare to other couples in your life. Consciously or unconsciously this is the question we often ask as we look at social media. Is social media really a problem for relationships?