I Want, I Want

You have to give it to Dr. Tripp, he can really hit the nail on the head.  We missed the first couple of weeks of “What Did You Expect,” a marriage study based on the book by the same name.  I have read the book twice and been convicted and challenged with every turn of the page.  Last night we discussed how sin is basically self centered and anti-social. When we allow sin to influence us, our relationships become less about us and become a means of simply getting what we want.  And we want a lot.  You may have heard the analogy that this type of relationship become like two ticks and no dog.  We are so needy and when we go to our spouse to meet all those needs we start to suck them dry.  Two people doing that in a marriage will soon find themselves at a crossroad with their needs being left unmet.

However, when we focus on God as our source, he provides all we need and more.  As we turn to God to meet our needs we soon discover that he calls us to focus less on our needs (he is meeting them anyway) and focus on the needs of others, including our spouse.  As we pull from the infinite source that is God, he uses us as a resource to love, delight in, respect, value, appreciate and serve our spouse and others.  It is when we turn to God as our source that we start down the path to a joyful marriage.

“He has invaded your marriage with his powerful love and transforming grace.”

Paul David Tripp, What Did You Expect?: Redeeming The Realities Of Marriage

Shout out to Reb and Tammy Bowers.  Great job leading the class last night.  You guys rock.

The Death of The Dream

The death of the dream happens to every couple. None of us gets our dream in the way that we dreamt it, because none of us is writing our own story. God, in his love, writes a better story than we could ever write for ourselves. He has a better dream than the one we conceive. He knows much better than we do what is best for us. He will take us places that we never intended to go because, in doing so, we become more of what he re-created us in Christ to be. Could it be that as we begin to face the harsh reality of the death of our individual and shared dreams, we are not struggling to love one another but are being given the opportunity to love one another more than ever before? It is when attraction wanes, flaws show, and the dream dies that real love has its best opportunity to germinate and grow. This sad and disillusioning moment is not the end of it all, but the beginning of something wonderful. We could argue that God now has us right where He wants us. We are no longer attracted to one another out of self-centered desire. We are no longer holding onto our dream, because it has melted away before our very eyes. We are hurt and frightened because what had fueled our relationship is gone, and we don’t know what to do. But this is not a defeat; this is an opportunity to exit the small space of the kingdom of self and to begin to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the kingdom of God. What appears to be love may not be love, and when God reveals that, it is a very good thing. What happened to us did not happen because God was absent from our marriage. No, it happened precisely because God was present and was rescuing us from ourselves and giving us what we could not produce on our own. 1

February 20th begins a six week study of What Did You Expect, an amazing study of what God intended marriage for.  The above paragraph is a paraphrase of a section in chapter three.  It was hugely impactful because it was reflective of our marriage and is reflective of every marriage I have ever known.

Interested in joining us, click here.

  1. Tripp, Paul David. What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (pp. 49-50). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Guard His Reputation-A Word for Wives

Proverbs 12:4

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,

but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

What is your husband’s reputation with your friends?  When they meet him do they expect to meet Superman or Homer Simpson?  When you speak of your husband in his absence do you focus on his strengths or do you complain about his shortcomings.  No one knows him as you do and his reputation is often at your mercy.  Ephesians 4:29 commands “ 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.”  There is no place where this is more important than in your marriage.

Today think about how you talk about and to your husband.  Do you build him up or destroy him when you speak about him?  Today, commit to building his reputation in his absence and telling him at least one thing you admire about his character in his presence.  Is he committed to attending the kid’s school activities, tell him how much you appreciate his commitment to the children.  Does he work long hours to provide for his family, tell him how much you appreciate his sacrifice.  The ongoing habit of thanksgiving and encouragement is a significant long term investment in a marriage, especially when you are investing in your man.

Accessing The Power For Marriage

Ephesians is considered the cornerstone scripture for marriage. Ephesians 5:22 starts the instructions concerning wives and husbands specifically.  In this passage we hear the often quoted “love your wife as Christ loved the church” and the controversial quote of “wives submit to your husband in all thing.”  I have heard these scriptures often throughout my marriage but it was literally decades before I started looking not only how I should be loving, but instead, where I would get the ability to love that sacrificially.  If love and submission are the light that comes from the flashlight of marriage, what are batteries?

The answer is found a few scriptures back, in Ephesians 5:18 where we are instructed to be “filled with the spirit.” The subsequent scriptures provide guidance concerning how you will act towards your spouse, children, servants and masters but it is being “filled with the spirit” that provides the resources you need for these relationships. The spirit is the source of power for a Christian marriage.  So, what does it mean to be filled with the spirit?

John McArthur in his commentary on Ephesians says this: “To be filled with the Spirit is to live in the consciousness of the personal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, as if we were standing next to Him, and to let His mind dominate our life. It is to fill ourselves with God’s Word, so that His thoughts will be our thoughts, His standards our standards, His work our work, and His will our will. As we yield to the truth of Christ, the Holy Spirit will lead us to say, do, and be what God wants us to say, do, and be. “We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Christ consciousness leads to Christ likeness.” 1

It is when we think with the mind of Christ and submit to the will of Christ that we can express the life of Christ to our spouse.  Our thinking influences our emotions, our emotions influence our actions.  Marital problems give us the opportunity to explore the source we are living from like no other relationship.  When Patty and I are arguing I have the opportunity to ask myself “am I expressing the desires of the Spirit, or am I expressing the desires of the flesh (what I want)?”  Some times I am living from the Spirit and what I am advocating is needed.  More often I am living from the flesh and what I am advocating is what I want or feel I need.  The good news is, now that I know I need to check the battery, I can redirect my thinking to where God is calling me faster than I used to.  During all of the trials we face in life, especially the trials we face in marriage, we need to be checking the source of our thinking and actions.

1 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Set of 30 volumes (Macarthur New Testament Commentary Serie) (Kindle Locations 170024-170029). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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?

Gender Roles

Have you ever really sat down and thought about gender roles? Or… do you just rely on the stereotypical roles set by society?  The roles set by society are fickle at best and always changing.  Should we change with them or should our roles stay the same? What does the bible say?

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church.” Ephesians 5:21-23 NLT

One thing for certain is the bible says the man is to be the head of the household.  The man is to be the leader of the family as Christ is the head of the church. Wives are to submit to the husband as they submit to Christ. But it also says they are to submit to each other out of reverence for Christ.

Ok… Hmm.  Well…

Tim and Kathy Keller in “The Meaning of Marriage” gives us a different take on this meaning of submission, leadership, and gender roles.  They tell us that marriage is all about love, respect, and service. That if we play our designated role in the marriage there is a freedom that comes with it.

THINK

Each of us have been given different gifts.  We are to operate within our gifts for the betterment of the family and church.  Having a specific gender role is different from this. If a woman has the gift of leadership, and her man doesn’t, that doesn’t mean she becomes the leader of the family.  It just means she is gifted in that area and can be a great helpmate for her husband and a great leader for the children, but the man is still the head of the household.

Tony Evans says the man and the woman are both equal in their value and worth in the sight of the Lord and this is clear in scripture.  Example: The man is the manager and the woman is the assistant manager so when an issue arises they both get to weigh in on the issue.  While the man has the ultimate responsibility concerning the family, both pay a critical role in decision making.  In those rare instances where a decision has to be made, and there is conflict concerning which option to choose, the man is burdened with the decision. This is actually quite freeing for a woman to know the man is the burden bearer in this situation.  Yet the man can take the problem to the owner who is Jesus Christ who ultimately bears all of our burdens. This is freeing for the man because Jesus is the final authority on every situation and the ultimate burden bearer.  After all he took all of our burdens to the cross and died for them so we could live forever with Christ in heaven.

So as you can see there is a freedom when you yield to the role Christ has designated for you.

Marriage is also to be a picture to the world of Christ’s relationship with the church.

Let’s take a closer look at each role.

Ephesians 5:25-33 shows us how the husband’s role is like Jesus’ role with the church.

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Jesus sacrifices his life for the church.  Husbands are commanded to sacrifice their life for the wife.  This is how much husbands are to love their wives just as Christ loved the church.  A man goes about doing this by serving the wife. Think of Jesus washing the disciples feet.  This was an act of service and love.

Philippians 2:5-11 shows us how the wife’s role is like Jesus’ role with the church.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is equal with God.  They are one and the same.  However, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to God and died on the cross for you and me.  This is an example of how much Jesus respected God and his authority. Wives are equal with their husbands and both have the same value and worth. But… the wife is commanded to humble herself and become obedient to the husband by submitting to him.  This shows how much the wife respects her husband and his God given authority. Additionally, it shows how much she trusts God, the writer of this scripture.  Wives can go about doing this by serving their husbands. Think of Jesus washing his disciples feet.  He humbled himself and became as a servant when he washed their feet.

We need to pray to have God’s perspective and viewpoint on these things.  Tim and Kathy show us that both the husband and wife accomplish their role through serving each other as Christ served the church.  Both the husband and wife become like Jesus when they submit to their God given role. Which is why God starts Ephesians with submit to one another out of respect, honor, and reverence for Jesus Christ.  Meaning don’t do it for each other, do it for Jesus because you love him and he loves you. I like what Kathy says, “If Jesus can do it, then I can do it. If he wasn’t too good to serve, then I’m not too good to serve.”  

God is so funny.  He commands us love, respect and serve our spouse and then gives us cravings for them. We are called to be like Jesus and give them unconditionally whether they are deserved or not.

As you can see the ultimate goal is to be like Jesus.  God uses our spouses to make us more like Jesus. Anytime we can do what we are called to do, then all glory and honor are given to God for working in and through us to make us more like Jesus.

The Laying of Bricks- Building a Marriage That Lasts

Marriages are not built on grand moments and larger than life memories.  They are built on the foundation of Christ in the context of friendship.  Your marriage grows through the laying of bricks; the bricks of kind words said; the bricks of a honest compliments given.  The bricks of little decisions and kind thoughts shared day in and day out build a gentle and sweet relationship.  It is these small bricks that forms the wall that bears the sometimes hurricane force winds of life.  It is these daily commitments that build a relationship capable of standing the test of time.  While the big trips and family vacations make great memories, it is the small, daily acts of kindness, humor and thoughtfulness that progressively build a marriage.

This week seek out ways you can serve your spouse in little ways.  Make their coffee for them in the morning, offer a foot rub, fold the clothes or take the dishes from the dishwasher and put them away.  Get up early and fix breakfast or stop on the way home and bring home their favorite takeout.  Find one small way daily to express your love, show your respect and build the relationship that God has given you through your marriage.  Daily acts of service build relationships, strengthen your friendship and fuel the fires of romance.

Fight the Good Fight – Unity

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how to fight better.  We have discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts, compromise,  influence and soothing.  This week we will wrap up this series by considering the overall goal of your fight.  When a fight kicks off there is a gap between the time something happens to anger you and your response.  In this gap you have a choice to make.  Will I fight for getting what I want or will I fight for the unity of my marriage?  When the wrong choice us made, especially over the long haul, it is disastrous to a marriage.

In marriage, we are called to sacrificially serve one another in a way that builds unity in a marriage.  We are called to submit to one another looking out for the best interests of the other.  We are called to humility; admitting wrongs and asking for forgiveness when needed.  We are called to pursue each other in ways that show how much the other person means to us.  We are called to “die” to self and seek the other person’s needs before we seek our own.  When we do this we turn towards one another instead of away from each other.  We understand that when we fight, we are fighting for our marriage,  not to get our own way.  We recognize that our spouse is not our enemy but is our ally.

If you get married you will have trouble (1 Cor 7:28).  God will often use your marriage to change you more and more into the image of His son, Jesus.  That growth is not an easy process and we often fight against it by fighting with our spouse.  Additionally, you have an enemy that hates your marriage.  Satan stands against your marriage as it is a reminder of God’s relationship with His people.  Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world.”  Though selfishness, pride, hatred, disunity and Satan all stand against your marriage, they are no threat to the God of the universe that is holding your marriage together.  In unity, with each other and with God, we can stand against the powers of this world that seek to undermine our marriages.  In unity we can stand together, lifting the shield of faith against the arrows of the enemy, and overcome any attempt to undermine our marriage.  In unity, we can turn towards each other, rely on each other, and bear each others burdens instead of turning away from each other and accepting defeat.

This mindset requires the power of the Holy Spirit and a commitment to following his lead.  Considering this before you get into a fight helps frame the fight in a way that builds your marriage instead of undermining it.  Being thankful for the blessing you have been given in marriage on the good days helps you remember the blessings on the bad days.  Listening to the Holy Spirit at the beginning of a fight helps resolve the issue more effectively.

The Musical Date – A Date Night at Home

Date Night Doesn’t Have to be  Challenging

Need a quick date night idea for this weekend that has minimal cost and big impact.  Spend an evening creating a playlist of the songs of your marriage.  Of course, the longer you have been married the more music you have to choose from.  However, even if you have only been together for a few months this date will work for you.

Order your favorite Pizza to be delivered or grab one you can throw in the oven when you get home.  Minimize distractions (turn off the TV, set phone to Airplane Mode, lock the kids in the closet) and look through your music collection (playlists, cassette, 8 tracks, records).   Start with two songs from your days of dating and then review music in three year increments until you have a list of music that reflect different periods of your relationship.  You may have a few from your dating days, a few from your newlywed days, a few from the early years of raising children; you get the idea.  Next, start “whittling down” your list until you have 12 to 15 songs.  Once you have your songs selected download them and create a new playlist on your phone.

The act of reviewing this music will bring back memories and make for a fun evening.  Remember to keep the distractions to a minimum and spend some time thinking about where you were living and what you were doing when these songs came out.  Here are a few of ours:

Take Me Down – Alabama

Feels So Right – Alabama

Love In The First Degree – Alabama

Faithfully – Journey

Wonderful World – Sam Cook

Unforgettable – Nat King Cole

Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

She Drives Me Crazy – Fine Young Cannibals.

Fields of Gold – Sting

Everything – Wasis Diop

Keeper of the Stars – Tracy Byrd

World on Fire – Sarah McLaughlan

Come Away With Me – Norah Jones

Moon Dance – Carmel

Duet – Penny and Sparrow

Use the comments to share yours.

Fighting the Good Fight – Soothing

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts, compromise,  and influence.  This week 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 earlier, fighting often leads to flooding.  As emotions increase we enter the “fight or flight” 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 withdrawal 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

A couple of weeks ago 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 they 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.

Honey We Need to Talk

We normally think of these words as negative. The first thing that runs through your mind may be “What have I done now?”  But… they can actually be a great thing. David Clarke wrote a book called “Honey We Need to Talk”. In this book he talks about how a man can use these words to control the conversation and prevent the inevitable spider webbing that results from talking to a woman. David created a formula for having successful deep intimate conversation with your spouse.

*The wife thinks of 3 topics she would like to discuss with her husband.

*The husband schedules three,  thirty minute “Couple Talk Time” meetings with his wife the following week to discuss one of the topics,

*The same topic is discussed at each meeting.

*The husband sends his wife reminders before each meeting.

*The meeting spot needs to be a neutral zone that feels safe for both people.  The bedroom is not an option.

*The husband begins the meeting and ends the meeting.

This puts the husband in charge of the topic of conversation and allows him the freedom to talk about one topic without being subjected to a wide variety of other issues.  It allows him to focus on one thing at a time which is more in tune with his natural abilities.  It also allows the couple to go deeper into a topic knowing that it will be discussed at each meeting. If research on the subject needs to be done, they have the time and freedom to do that before the next meeting. This gives both the husband and wife a sense of control over the topic of conversation because they both get input into what topic is. It also keeps the conversation in small manageable chunks of information.  This is a great tool to use for times of conflict, but it can also be used as a time for you to set aside to get to know your wife on a deeper more intimate level.

Example

Sally is concerned about not having a budget, the need for car repairs and her mother coming over for Thanksgiving.  She sends these three topics to Frank on Saturday.  Frank chooses the topic of budgeting and sets a time Monday night for the conversation.

Monday night they look at their bank accounts and discuss different ways they might set up a budget.  Sally agrees to research other ways and Frank agrees to bring account information concerning their spending over the past six months.  Next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

Wednesday night Franks shows Sally where they have been spending their money and expresses concern over how much they spend on eating out.  Sally shares a way they could budget using envelopes and Frank agrees to try this method.  Sally points out that Frank has been spending money on video games and expresses concern that he might not be willing to limit his spending on this hobby.  Frank gets a little mad but agrees to think about it until their next meeting, Friday night.

Friday night Frank has a number of envelopes and they divide their weekly budget placing the amounts budgeted for food, entertainment, rent, bills, etc in each envelope.  Frank has thought about his gaming and agrees to buy only 1 game per month.  This money is placed in the entertainment envelop.

Three conversations on a sensitive topic with Frank having time to process each step and both of them having a conversation on their financial goals and resources.  Both influence the other.  Both feel heard.  Both feel progress towards mutual goals have been made.  Win/Win/Win.

Using this Time to Share Your Life

Men you are aware that your woman wants to hear about your day and what is going on in your life. What is really going on inside of you spiritually, your thoughts, feelings, goals, life ambitions,etc. David suggests that men keep a notepad or electronic device with them to record events that happen during the day or of thoughts and feelings that might interest their wife. Then share these tidbits of information during Couple Talk Time.  Sharing your thoughts and feelings gives your wife the emotional support she needs to feel secure in the relationship.

This is a communication tool to put in your tool belt to assist you with that deep emotional connection that is desired by your spouse.

My husband and I have tried this and found it to be very beneficial in discussing topics that are often swept under the rug. I highly recommend you try this with your spouse.

Fighting the Good Fight – Influence

Over the last few weeks we have been exploring how to fight better.  We discussed the soft start-up, repair attempts and compromise.  This week let’s take a look at how we allow our spouse to influence us.

Recently I was sharing with some friends that when I was much younger I got a little depressed about my work situation and joined the Air Force without discussing it with Patty.  In essence, I made a life-changing decision that took a newly married young woman away from her family of origin without allowing her to influence my decision.  I didn’t even ask her opinion.   I returned home and advised that within 3-5 days I would be in a uniform being yelled at by a training instructor and within a few months we would be moving.  Destination – Unknown.  Looking back I am surprised I didn’t show up to basic training with hand prints on my throat.

In the end, it worked out.  Looking back I am surprised it did.

When couples fight one of the things that they are often trying to do is influence their spouse.  According to research, couples who resist influence are much more likely to divorce.  When a man is not willing to share power with their wife the couple is 81% more likely to end up in divorce court.  A marriage is a commitment to allow the other person input into those issues that effect them.  Couples who share power, who allow their partner to influence them during an argument, feel like they are part of a unified marriage.

Common sense should tell you that you need to allow your spouse to influence you.  Patty sees things from such a different perspective than I do.   Wisdom would dictate that I not only take her insight into consideration, but that I seek it out regularly.  She is more relational where I am task oriented.  In our ministry both are needed and her strength offsets my weakness.  She was made a helpmate for me, and I am blessed to have her and blessed when she “weighs in” on issues.

However, when emotions are running high and a fight ensues we often withdraw and refuse to listen.  We feel we have the right viewpoint and then work hard, sometimes too hard, to defend it.  When that happens people feel disrespected and unappreciated.  Then it is on like donkey-kong.

Before the crazy cycle starts take a moment and ask yourself if you are resisting influence and if so, why.  Are you embarrassed over a decision you have made and now feel the need to defend yourself?  Do you really feel that your spouse has no valid viewpoint on the situation?  Are you really so filled with pride that you feel you don’t need input from your spouse?  Beware, you are crossing into dangerous territory.

Strong couples value the opinion of their spouse and seek influence often.  They may not always choose to take the advice when provided, but they seek the advice and consider it when making a decision.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.  (Proverbs 12:15)

Fighting the Good Fight – Compromise

A couple of weeks ago we started this series with an intro to Fighting the Good Fight and discussed a Soft Startup.  Last week we discussed Repair Attempts.  This week we want to focus on compromise.

Work to Compromise

Since 69% of arguments will never be completely resolved, compromise is often the best we can expect from some of our differences.  Compromise takes place when we attempt to understand our conflicting needs and then explore ways those needs can be better met. One of the best examples is frequency of sex.  Research indicates that over a lifetime a man will desire sex six times more often than women. Tommy Nelson, author of The Book of Romance, said that if God had given man and woman the same sex drive as the man, there would be children everywhere but we would all live in caves because we would never have time for planning or building houses.  If God had given both man and woman the same sex drive as a woman, we would have lived in a very highly advanced culture, for one generation. Then mankind would have disappeared from the face of the earth because we would seldom have sex.  This, of course, requires compromise. Ryan and Celina Fredericks,  authors of Fierce Marriage, often talk about how they resolved this issue themselves. He determined he needed intimacy/sex 3-4 times a week. She did not need it anywhere near that often and was often exhausted raising two children.  The compromise, their goal would be three times a week and he would settle for two times a week when she had a rough week with the children. They then entered the time for twice a week in their calendar as a reminder so she did not forget, which had been a problem historically. He agreed to be flexible based on her needs and challenges of the day.  This is a great example of how couples can talk through issues and then come to a compromise.

Have a Plan

When issues arise, take the following actions:

  1. Work to identify the real need – As we have discussed before, often our fights are not what our fights are about.  Try and work together to discover what the real issue is.
  2. Explore possibilities of how those needs can be better met.  Allow the other person to influence your thinking and agree to try different ways until something works.
  3. Choose an option and try it for a short period of time until you find something that works.

This course of action often requires patience, sacrifice, compromise, a dedication to peace, a gentle approach and not just a little self control.  Sound familiar?  Remember, a really joyous marriage is not possible without the indwelling spirit of Christ, and that always produces the fruits listed above.

A Final Note

If the topic is an emotional one, the three steps above may requires three separate conversation.  One to identify the problem, one to brainstorm solutions and a third to choose an option to try.  There is nothing wrong with breaking these into three different discussions as you work through your issue.  In fact, many therapist recommend that very thing.

Preparation

We have learned over the years that before a meal we need to prepare our food to be cooked. If we wash it first, the food taste better, it is cleaner, and therefore healthier after removing the dirt, grime, and possible diseases that come with harvested crops.
We have also learned, the hard way at times, that a surgeon needs to prepare before performing a surgery. Again, we have figured out that if we wash the dirt, grime, and possible diseases off of the hands before the surgery, the risk is a lot lower that the patient will be infected with bacteria or worse and have a harder time recovering, if they recover at all.
A teacher, before presenting a lesson, should prepare the lesson. Reading over it, making notes, making sure the audience will understand the information being presented.
With each of these examples one can easily see the benefits of taking time to prepare for the tasks at hand. Why is it, when it comes to marriage, that we do so little to prepare. The bible says in Ephesians 5:26 for husbands to make your wives holy and clean by washing her with the word. We should be open and communicate with our spouses often and intimately. We should share in the daily decisions that are presented to us. Be a student of your spouse, learn your spouses love language and talk to them in that language so they understand and receive the message. Prepare for the tasks at hand. We know there is an enemy trying to steal, kill, and destroy our marriages. Put on the armor of God that He has given us to use. Help your spouse each morning be ready to enter the day. Encourage them with who they are in Christ. If we will help our spouses each day to face the day at hand, we will increase intimacy and closeness in the relationship.   More victories and fewer defeats. I believe it is well worth the preparation to get the benefits of the results, what about you?

Fighting the Good Fight – Repair Attempts

After three plus decades of marriage research John Gottman, from the University of Washington, was able to identify a number of strategies that help when couples are already engaged in a fight.  One of those strategies involves repair attempts.

Fighting the Good Fight – Intro

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.  In addition, 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.

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

A Renewing of the Mind

A few years back, Patty and I were reading a marriage book. The author spent a lot of time focused on behavior. At one point while reading the book I was supposed to stop and ask Patty what I could do to make her feel romanced. She shared a couple of things that were helpful. One way I could express romance was to open the door for her when she got in a car or entered a building. According to the book, I needed to make sure I did these things so she would feel loved.  Now that she had shared,  I should open the door for her every time.  That is when the issue of door opening became complicated.

There were two issues at play; I now felt I was required to open the door for her whether I wanted to or not;  In addition, she had an expectation on her part that I would follow through with the action because she had shared a simple way for me to romance her.  She then determined she would help me by standing at the door waiting for me to open it when I forgot.  I would be starting the car and she would be standing there, waiting.  I would look at her waiting by the door frustration settling in.  I would think, “God gave her hands so I don’t know why she can’t use them.” Then I would get out, walk around the car, and open the door all the while grumbling under my breath. Resentment started to build.

One morning I was thinking about who God says I am.  You have probably heard it but if not God says I am loved, accepted, valued, a favored son, a servant, a saint, etc. Great way to start the day.  Then, He started telling me who Patty is.  I had not asked but apparently I don’t always ask the right questions.  Patty is a child of the King (that makes her a princess), a person He delights in, His favorite daughter, passionately loved, completely accepted, and highly valued. When you start thinking about it you have to come to the conclusion that God had given this favored daughter to me and, furthermore, had given me to her. I was to be one of his expressions of love to her. One of the ways I could express that love was to open the door for her. I can’t fully explain, but as this realization sank in there was a change in the way I saw both who she was and who I was in relation to our marriage. This realization changed the way I thought about opening the door for her. It was no longer a response to an expectation or a chore, but something I wanted to do because it was part of who God calls me to be. Part of my identify in Christ is that I am an expression of God’s love to Patty and one way I can express that love is by opening the door for her. This is the business God is involved in, renewing minds and changing hearts.

I know people who really don’t want to be married, people who have given up on their relationships, or people who simply live together as room-mates. They may try all kinds of things from the Love Dare Challenge to the Respect Dare Challenge to regain that spark in their marriage, and these are all well and good in their place. Many times, however, what they really need is a new way of thinking. A new way of seeing their spouse, their marriage and even themselves. What they need is a revelation from God so they can see their spouse, marriage, and self from God’s eyes. They need His perspective and point of view.

This week meditate on how God sees you and your role in your marriage to his favored child. Be open to hear from Him concerning how He wants to change the way you see your spouse. Once you start to see these truths the behaviors can’t help but follow.

Thought for the Week: Am I open to seeing my spouse the way God sees my spouse. Am I open to being a expression of His love for them.

Romans 12: 12 – Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

Note:  Patty no longer waits for me to open the door.  If I do, she is thankful.   If I forget, she uses the arms God gave her and opens her own door…and is thankful.  God worked on her expectations while he was working on my point of view.  I am constantly amazed at His ability to multi-task.  God Bless.

A Wife Does Not Recognize What Her Complaints and Criticisms Do

Can you relate at all with the following scenario?

A husband says to himself early in the marriage, “I’ll pray with her and we can be in a Bible study together with other couples.”

As the months pass, he experiences something that de-energizes him: Immediately after one of their regular prayer times together, his wife comments, “You forgot to pray for my mother who isn’t feeling well.” After another prayer time a short time later, she accused him, “You didn’t pray for me. Do you ever pray for me?” Then a couple weeks later, after their couples Bible study one night she says to her husband, “I can’t believe you said what you did to Mary about her son swinging from the rafters at church and needing a time-out. She is struggling as a mother. That was insensitive.”

A Wife Does Not Recognize What Her Complaints and Criticisms Do

It doesn’t take long for the husband to pull back from his wife spiritually. As a result, he stops offering to pray with her and grows quiet at the Bible study.

Thousands of Christian wives are complaining their husbands are not the spiritual leaders in the family that they desire them to be. Certainly that is true for an alarming number of families and an important topic to discuss with men and challenge them unashamedly to step up and become the leaders God calls them to be. But could it also be true that many wives have not given proper thought to the ways that they have unknowingly contributed to the lack of male spiritual leadership in their home?

Most wives expect their husbands to support them when they are emotionally vulnerable. Day after day they expect their husbands to be their burden bearer. They want to talk to their husbands about their emotional needs and experiences as wives, mothers, and women.

Yet, when it comes to empathizing and affirming a male in the area of his struggles, which few women have, it is amazing to me how many wives tend to confront their husband’s behavior from the point of view of a mother. Instead of building on the man’s spiritual strengths and continually affirming these, many women look at what he is not doing and tries to change him.

Bottom line, a husband loses energy in his efforts to be a spiritual leader in the same way an overweight wife loses energy every time her husband says something negative to her about how she looks or what she is eating. God did not design the nature of the female to respond positively when the husband continually has an attitude about her body image. Instead, she’ll shut down. So too, God did not design men to respond positively to a woman who continually has an attitude about his spiritual image.

What makes the latter point worse is that a man can love his wife’s spirit while challenging her to be healthier. But, when a wife judges a man’s spirit, she has gone to the core of his being. Where does he go now? He stonewalls. He closes off. He protects himself from her. She, of course, feels unloved and cannot imagine why he is treating her this way. All of her girlfriends and her mother and sisters agree. And the Crazy Cycle spins even faster. Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love.

I do not share this in order to excuse husbands from serving in their families as the spiritual leader. The husband is called to serve in such a way no matter the response of his wife and children.

Scripture does not allow space for the husband to place blame on others and become slack in his leadership responsibility.

However, what is his wife doing to affirm his strengths? How does she encourage him when he begins to take even the smallest of strides in leading their family spiritually? Does she allow him grace when he comes up short in the standards that she has set for how she wants him to lead?

-Dr. E

Originally posted at www.loveandrespect.com

Author:  Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

The Thick of Thin Things

Thursday Patty and I were headed west, separately.  She was heading west to visit her dad, a monthly visit now that he has recently moved; and I was headed west to my Mom’s house to mow the desert (no rain for weeks).  Somehow we ended up west bound on Interstate 20 in the same location.  She pulled up behind me, flashed her lights, then pulled up beside me trying to get my attention.  She honked, flashed her lights, started singing Mama Mia, all to no avail.  I was talking  to one of my team members after she had experienced a challenging day in the classroom and apparently it negatively effected my situational awareness.

Is it just me or does that happen a lot with the ones we love.  Not necessarily on Interstate 20, but in the day-to-day practice of living and loving.   We get focused on almost anything else and fail to pay attention to the ones we love the most.  We get caught up in what Steven Covey called the “thick of thin things.”  We pay more attention to the lawn mower repair than the little princess wanting to share high tea with dad; the game instead of the bride of our youth; we waste time on the next episode of House Hunters instead of noticing that our spouse has had a really rough day.

Part of the challenge with us guys is that we get focused.  While women may be able to multi-task to some degree, we men are programed to focus on one thing at a time.  When that one thing takes a few days, we may fail to notice the needs of our spouse.  I read an article recently about how a husband had fought with his wife over his insensitivity towards her need for some attention.  She had become irritated that he was simply not paying any attention to her as he was spending the weekend completing a paint job on his car.  As the fight progressed she used the “A” word (always) as in “You always pay more attention to (fill in the blank) than you do to me.” She was not feeling cherished, loved or appreciated.  After some thought he realized that he simply got swept away in his activities and often went days without really expressing appreciation or engaging with her in any meaningful way.  His answer was simple, set two reminders.  The first reminder goes of every morning at 9 am and reminds him to think about how lucky he is to have such a great wife.  Periodically, he follows the thought up with a quick text telling her how lucky he is and why.  He knows that words of encouragement mean something to her and so, being the wise man he is, he uses this time to invest in their relationship.  The second reminder goes off at 8 p.m. and reminds him to kiss and hug his wife.  Sometimes it is  quick kiss, sometimes a chance to catch-up, sometimes a little more; but each time he is reminded that he needs to focus on the most important human relationship in his life, the one with his wife.

I know ladies, not overly romantic.  Richard Gere didn’t have reminders in Pretty Woman.  Maybe so, but  God made men and women different, and one of those differences is the ability to focus intently on one thing at a time.  While focus is extremely helpful when hunting for dinner on the great plains, it may work against us a little when we need to focus on relationships.  Help a brother out and just kiss us when the alarm goes off.

Have a great week all.