This One Tip Revolutionized Our Marriage

Tip_1Today, welcome Kyle Gabhart, author of The Phoenix Marriage, who wanted to share how to revolutionize your marriage.  His experiential story will change how you see your spouse!

One weekend in February of 2013, my wife and I attended a weekend marriage conference that rocked our world. The workshop was presented by Dr. David and Teresa Ferguson at our local church. We had so many amazing realizations that weekend, but one of those stands out more than any other. Dr Ferguson walked the couples through a simple visualization exercise:

Imagine you are sitting next to God and both of you are gazing a short distance away toward your mate. Rather than seeing him or her as your spouse, try to imagine what God sees – His child. Uniquely created for a divine purpose, He has cared for and nurtured this child for years. Now ask Father God what He loves about His child. What is it about him or her that delights the Father? What special qualities has He uniquely placed within him or her and why did He choose this person to be your soul’s mate?

This simple exercise transformed our marriage. Our physical eyes that saw only chores and bills and schedules were exchanged for spiritual eyes to see one another with grace, compassion, and love.

How do you see your mate?

If your marriage is anything like ours used to be, you likely see your spouse in terms of his or her function. Your mate is a partner that helps with chores, finances, logistics with the kiddos, and makes sure you never have to go alone to the movies. While all of those are true, they only scratch the surface. All of those functional elements are generic qualities which would be applicable to anyone operating in the role of husband or wife. Beneath that surface layer is someone specially crafted to share a life and a mission with you. Yet, losing sight of this truth is so easy to do.

This one tip revolutionized our marriage--see like God does!

What does God see?

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” -I Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

God sees His son or His daughter. He sees a precious child whom He uniquely endowed with talents and capabilities. Your spouse didn’t come from a mold. There was no factory assembly line. This was a custom job for a specific purpose. God lovingly crafted your husband or wife and chose to trust you with loving this person for the rest of your life. Before the two of you even met, He was delighting in this person every day. Long before the two of you said your vows, He was weeping over your mate’s failures and celebrating each success. He LOVES your mate unconditionally. Do you?

Honor your mate

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose.” -Proverbs 16:3-4 (ESV)

The Lord has made EVERYTHING for its purpose, your spouse included. Those qualities that annoy you most, may actually be a side effect of the unique gifts that your spouse has been blessed with by God! My wife sometimes gets frustrated by my absent-mindedness. But this is just a natural side effect of being a thoughtful and introspective person. These are the very same qualities that I use in ministering to her heart and shepherding marriages on a daily basis! Likewise, I tend to get aggravated by Tammy’s insistence that we leave on time to get to places we need to go, and yet it’s this very quality that makes her so invaluable to managing our crazy family of eight!

Commit to honoring your mate. If one or more qualities bother you, ask God to help you see why He created them that way. Chances are, you’re missing out on an incredible aspect of your spouse. Then once you discover it, commit to celebrating this quality of your mate and praise them for it. The dynamic of your relationship will radically change when you honor your mate’s uniqueness by seeing them the way Jesus does.

Kyle and DebbieThe Phoenix Marriage: God Creates Beauty Out of AshesKyle Gabhart is a devoted husband and father of 6. He is also a blogger, public speaker, entrepreneur, and author of the the newly released The Phoenix Marriage. He and his wife Tammy, founded Equip Your Marriage, a faith-based ministry dedicated to empowering, equipping, and restoring marriages. Kyle is an avid soccer player and board game enthusiast, but he prides himself on being a constant embarrassment to his children.

WEBSITEEquip Your Marriage

BOOK: Phoenix Marriage

 

Marriage Box

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! This week I’m taking a hiatus while I finish the edits to my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and so I’ve asked  guest poster Darlene Lopez to tell us about her marriage box–and how it changed the way she saw her relationship.

When I got married 13 years ago we were given a beautiful wooden  box with this poem, Marriage Box, written in it.

Marriage Box

This box truly has been an inspiration to me in my marriage. Marriage truly is like an empty box. Many people get married for all the wrong reasons and have an abundant of expectations when they get married, I was one of them. I thought marriage was going to be filled with all sorts of companionship, sex, love, romance, intimacy, prayer, Bible studies, understanding, deep friendship and love. Boy, was I  wrong.

I found out that marriage truly is empty unless you are infusing into it daily.

The truth is marriage at the start is in fact like an empty box. There really is nothing in it at the beginning. All the things you look for in marriage is really what is in the other person and it is up to both of you to infuse those things into your marriage lest it become an empty box. You can not day after day take out of your box if you don’t put something in it to withdrawal from. It reminds of a bank account. You can not keep spending and withdrawing money from your bank account if you have not deposited any money into it. If you attempt to do so, you will find your account over drawn and eventually the account will need to be closed because you were irresponsible and unable to maintain it.Early on in my marriage I would complain about my husband not being romantic enough, affectionate enough, serving enough, loving enough, not spiritual enough etc.

I remember being reminded daily as I saw the wooden box sit on our bedroom dresser, that marriage was like an empty box. As I complained about how “empty” my marriage felt and how lonely I felt, God showed me that it was because I was withdrawing more than I had deposited. I was in the “negative” so to speak.

I remember calling my husband during the day frustrated and overwhelmed with homeschooling and housework. I’d want him to drop all he was doing to pray with me, I had no consideration that he was working nor did I care that he didn’t need the added stress. To top it off when he would get home, dinner wouldn’t be ready, I’d have him make dinner because after all I had been with 5 children all day. I wanted him to rub my feet while I relaxed, I was very selfish always wanting to be served, even sex became all about me and my needs. I was taking so much out our marriage box and would rarely deposit anything in it. If I did manage to make a deposit I was sure to take out my portion before my husband took out a with-drawl.
I would daily look at that box and it would serve as a reminder to daily pour into my marriage.When I would take out, there was a sense of entitlement, after all I had infused whatever I took out into my marriage so I had every right to take out my fair share.

I remember keeping a running tab and account on how much my husband was infusing and putting it.

It was terrible. Can you imagine the kind of wife my husband had to endure?  Just thinking about how I behaved makes me sick.I remember if he wanted to be intimate sexually, I would check our marriage box to see if he had infused romance lately and it had to be in the form that I approved. If he didn’t read or pray with me, then he had no right to to tell me how to behave spiritually. If he didn’t listen to me then I wouldn’t listen to him.Marriage isnt 50-50 its 100-100

Our marriage became this you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of love.  The only problem,  I was so quick to point out when he wasn’t scratching my back and therefore I would withhold scratching his.

How horrible to live this way. I was so judgmental, always pointing out his faults/failures as a man and leader of our home.  We both were miserable.

I knew the scriptures, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love thy neighbor as thy self.

You see,  It was not a love issue for me, I loved my husband. I loved him the same way and as much as he loved me.

Until one day, I was reading and the words of Jesus to His disciples really penetrated my heart so deep. They were the words in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

I was hit with the pondering truth of the love of Jesus.

Jesus was calling me to a different kind of love, a gospel kind of love. If I was going to love my husband the way Jesus said to, then I would need to think about how he loved me.

This led me to the cross. The cross is where love was demonstrated and ultimately on display for all to see. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Scarcely, would one die for a righteous man but Jesus laid his life down willingly for the joy that was set before him.

He showed us what love is. He loves without condition, without reservation, and without wanting anything in return. His love is unconditional.  This is gospel centered love.

Jesus love isn’t a if you do this or that then I will love you, but rather nothing can separate us from the love of God neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a glorious love indeed. I remember after reading and thinking about the way Jesus loved me the next question was this, “Is this enough for me?”  Was the way Jesus loved me enough to compel me to love my husband the same way, or would I continue to love my way, the way I had been, the if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back kind of way?  Was Jesus enough for me?

This is what it boils down to in marriage, it isn’t about putting in–in order to take out.  It isn’t about serving to be served, loving to be loved, nor giving to get.

It’s about sacrificially laying down your life, saying my life is yours.

Marriage represents Christ and the Church, we wives represent the bride of Christ to an unsaved world. Therefore, the way we love our husbands shows the world our love to Christ.

The gospel in marriage changes our attitudes from a serve me attitude to a glorify God and love my spouse attitude.

The gospel is enough and until Jesus satisfies you, you will continue to love selfishly.

 

WIN_20140829_115619 (2)Darlene Lopez  I am vintage_retro_women_kitsch_50s_kitchen_magic_postcard-r1bc589a962f149588e409401d9d4f2c9_vgbaq_8byvr_512a wife of 13 years, mother to 5 (including a set of twins), keeper of my home but most of all I am a  blood bought saint.  By the grace of God I am raising a generation of  future homemakers and men. I am passionate about herbalism/natural living and love to inspire and motivate other homemakers to love their husbands and chidlren. I am learning that I am more sinful than I ever knew yet more loved than I ever imagined. You can read more about my journey at http://homemakingforrealwomen.blogspot.com/.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now it’s your turn! What marriage thoughts do you have for us? Just enter the URL of your marriage post in the linky below!

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Wifey Wednesday: When You Blow It

Perspective in Marriage: Why Us Matters More Than Me

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage–and then I give you a chance to link up your own marriage posts at the bottom. Today I want to talk about perspective in marriage by being a little vulnerable and telling you about how I blew it this week–and how a birthday party reminded me what was important.

My husband and I have been tired, stressed, and apart quite a bit lately, which is never a good combination. We both have too much on our plates (I’m doing the final edits for 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and booking four speaking tours, and he’s working hard at the hospital), and Keith has been away at a conference and on call a lot, so we’ve seen each other maybe 3 nights in two weeks. It’s not normal, this too shall pass, but it’s tough. It’s a season of distance in a marriage. It’s inevitable, it’s no one’s fault, but it can impact you.

The root of a lot of my stress is that I’m naturally an extroverted person living an introverted life. An extrovert isn’t just a “people person” who is the life of the party (I’d often rather hang back in large groups); an extrovert is someone who processes things by talking about them, not just by thinking about them. Yet I spend my day making little decision upon little decision, by myself at my computer in my living room. When Keith does get home, I’d love to fill him in, but it would take so much time, and quite frankly I’d rather put it behind me and just be US.

But what that means is that I sometimes feel like there are few people in the world who understand all the things that are on my mind. So it’s a little isolating.

And when you’re feeling isolated, hurts are magnified.

The other night a hurt was magnified. It was an old hurt, and Keith did nothing to magnify it. It was something that happened a long time ago that Keith is sorry for, but that still affects me quite a bit.

It was not even something particularly awful; it was just something that happened that hurt me. And I fixated on it again and couldn’t sleep.

We talked about it (it’s often a bad idea to talk about things late at night; they totally get magnified), and I got overly emotional and it was rather embarrassing looking back now. But at one point Keith in utter frustration said something important. He said:

I just need to know that US matters more than YOU.

He wasn’t trying to get me to see his point of view; he was trying to get me to say OUR point of view. I had a right to be hurt, but I had to stop thinking about what was best for me and start thinking about what was best for us. And he was completely and utterly right. It isn’t about what’s fair; it’s about what brings oneness, and focusing on how Keith loves me now is far more important than looking at a series of hurts that I experienced earlier (of which he was only a part).

That was Incident #1.

Now I’d like to give you Incident #2.

It’s a Friday night, and the banquet room in the restaurant is full of laughter and clinking glasses and loud greetings whenever someone else enters the room. It’s my father-in-law’s seventieth birthday, and certainly family is there, but also friend after friend after friend.

I looked around that room and my mind went back to their twenty-fifth anniversary, just a year or two after Keith and I married. Keith and I had hosted that surprise party and had invited all of their friends, and pretty much everyone in that room had been at that party. In fact, I remembered pretty much everyone in that room from when Keith and I married. My in-laws are loyal friends, and their friends stick around, even twenty years later.

But what really struck me was not that they had all these individual, loyal friends. It was that these friends were all couples.

There were Bob and Sheila, who took my kids fishing one year when we were camping; Jack and Marilyn, who let us borrow their canoe (and Marilyn taught my kids to quilt!); John and Marie who were adopted grandparents for my husband (and I still remember Keith sitting up with Marie one night in the hospital when we almost lost John a few years back); Linda and Karl; Paul and Cheyenne; Willard and Shirley; and the list goes on and on and on. In fact, I can’t think of a single couple friend that I knew twenty years ago who is not still a couple today (except for Tony, who is now remarried, because Claudette, my mother-in-law’s best friend, passed away a few years back. But everyone is so happy for Tony!).

Last week I wrote about The Good News About Marriage; how the divorce rate is not, and never has been, anywhere close to 50%. It’s actually closer to 28%. And looking around that table, it looked close to 0% for these people–these couples who had had euchre parties and done midnight walks for cancer and had been at each other’s kids’ weddings and baby showers for years. And lately, increasingly, they’ve been at the hospital, holding one half of a couple’s hand as they made it through a stressful night after a heart attack or a mini-stroke.

I’m sure those couples had tiffs in the middle of the night, too, especially during inevitable occasional seasons of distance.

But they all learned something important: US is more important than ME.

May "Us" Always Matter More than "Me" in our #marriage - Sheila Wray Gregoire

It’s not even that YOU are more important than ME; it’s that US is more important than ME. We fight for the “us”, so that years later we will still have a best friend, a confidante, a gem.

It’s easy to lose perspective in marriage because it’s so hard to get our eyes off of “me”, especially when you’re tired and stressed. But what good does it do to hold on to ME if you lose US? Us is such a gift, and I will fight for it. Just not necessarily again at one in the morning.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, what do you have to share with us today? Just put the URL of a marriage post in the linky below!

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Top 10 Ways to Embrace Your Future InLaws

Embrace Your InlawsToday’s guest post is from Lauren Hanna from The Encouragement Express–a great blog site for engaged couples.

10 Great Ways to Embrace Your Inlaws

I think for most of us when we hear the word “in-laws”, something akin to the music in Jaws or Psycho starts playing in our heads. We immediately think of every awful, judging scenario Ben Stiller had to deal with in Meet the Parents, and we cringe.

As an engaged person, one wonders: What am I getting myself into? Meeting and dealing with the in-laws is a whole different ball game. I personally think it can be a wonderful experience. My fiancé, Will, and I are now two months out from our wedding, and by the grace of God, we have had remarkable success in this area. Getting married is one of the biggest transitions in life we’re ever going to have. Emotions are high, and that’s when the best and worst often come out in people. So here’s some tips that Will and I have learned on how to navigate the in-laws, so that everyone is left feeling valued and important. Also, I HIGHLY recommend Danny Silk’s book, Keep Your Love On. It has been a life saver for me through this experience and is all about how to communicate and confront others lovingly and with honor.

1. Set Boundaries

This is the number one thing I have heard as marriage advice in dealing with family members. You and your fiancé are going to have to set boundaries with each of your parents, together. It may not sound fun at the time, but it will pay off! A few weeks ago my family was trying to change my entire wedding, because it didn’t meet their expectations. I got this long phone call from my mother, telling me the 101 reasons why I needed to change it. Instead of getting all upset, I thanked her for her opinions, let her know that I valued them, and let her know that for us that the current option we have is the best one. Get this, she then apologized for stepping over the line and has been better since. Now not all boundary setting interactions will go this smoothly, but as long as you honor them and stand your ground, they will respect you – even if they don’t agree with you. To quote from Danny Silk’s Keep Your Love On: “It’s your responsibility to set a boundary for how many disrespectful or damaging exchanges you will endure. The moment you pick up a dueling sword, you are equally guilty for whatever blood is shed.”

2. Be Slow to Offense

Like I said earlier, emotions are high during this time. Unfortunately more often than not, something is going to get said that is offensive. Instead of taking the bait of provocation, take a deep breath and ask yourself “Is this worth getting upset over?” I guarantee you, 99% of the time that answer will be “No.” The deep breath is a miracle worker, because it calms you down instantly. Instead of acting out of emotion, you’ll now have a better chance of being reasonable. Furthermore, when you choose not to take offense to something, and set a boundary if needed in that situation, you are setting a standard for your relationship with that person. You are saying, “I choose to value our relationship above all else.”

3. Remember, They’re Grieving

This piece of advice given to me, before I was engaged, has been a HUGE help to me during this time. Getting married is a time of celebrating what God has put together in you and your fiancé. Although your parents and in-laws will be happy for you, for them there is often another emotion… loss. For them it is the final thing reminding them that their baby is all grown up and moving on with life. That can create a sense of grief, which can manifest itself through control, manipulation, distance and selfishness. Once you realize it’s actually grief, then you can help assuage that by reminding them that no one is losing anything. You’re creating your own family now, and that is an exciting thing. “Each display of love, no matter how seemingly small, is a powerful act of spiritual warfare that removes anxiety from the environment and replaces it with freedom and safety.” – Danny Silk.

4. Plan Things for You All to Do Together

A great way to ease the tension with the in-laws is to do stuff together. Get to know each other better. Try and find some common ground. You and your fiancé can take them out to dinner or to a movie or some fun activity. For example, one of the things that Will and I are going to do for his parents is take them whale-watching. Neither of them have ever been, and it’s been something they have both been wanting to do. So ask about their interests and do stuff together! If you’re in different places, talk on the phone or have Skype dates! It’ll show them that you are excited to become a part of their family, as well as welcoming them into yours.

5. Have Them Be A Part of the Wedding Planning Process

I know some of you just cringed at this, especially if you’ve been dealing with controlling in-laws. My wedding planner suggested to me to have each set of parents in charge of something when this happens. If they’ve been unpleasant in the planning part so far, make it a small thing. Something that won’t be the end of the world to you if it isn’t exactly what you want. Since our parents are so different, we decided to do that, so there would be no toes stepped on. We made my parents in charge of table decor. We made his parents in charge of hotel services. We also sent them pictures/info on decisions we were making and asked their opinion. Each time we thanked them for their opinion, regardless of whether or not we went with it. This makes them feel valued and included, as they should be.

6. What’s Their Love Language?

Watch your in-laws. How do they receive/give affection? Is it through words of affirmation, acts of service, spending time with you, gift-giving, or physical touch? When you notice, respond in like manner. This will communicate to them that you value and appreciate them.

7. Be Thankful

Make sure to sincerely thank them every time they bless you. If they give you a gift or pay for something, send a thank you note at least. This is so simple, but it is not done very often and will go much farther than you realize. When our parents let us know that they wanted to help us out financially with the wedding, Will and I each sent them flowers with a thank you note in them. They loved it! I mean who wouldn’t? So gratitude… it’s a big deal.

8. Value Relationship Over Being Right

To quote Danny Silk again, “Refuse to let disagreements intimidate you into moving away from one another. Prioritize the connection above the argument.” You’re going to disagree with your in-laws on things. You are different people, and therefore see the world in a different light. That’s okay. Differences are supposed to be used to strengthen us. Don’t let your need to be right kill an important relationship before you even get married. You’re going to be connected to your in-laws for a long time. Is it worth being right if it damages your relationship?

9. Pick Your Battles

Here’s another life-saver piece of advice that someone gave me–it goes hand-in-hand with being slow to offense: Pick your battles. Not everything needs to be fought, and it’ll make your life and their lives a lot easier. Now I’m not saying to let them walk all over you in the name of “getting along.” However, just as there are some battles to stand up and fight, there are also ones that you don’t need to. The ones that don’t need to, are usually dealing with the little things that might be irritating. They might not know that they are bugging you, and think they are helping you out. So give them a break every once in a while. It’ll save your relationship. One more thing, don’t dwell on the battles you decided not to pick. As women we tend to go over things again and again and again in our heads. That’s still choosing to fight that battle. Only now it’s being fought internally. You have enough stuff to do and focus on during this time. Just let it go.

10. Be Excited

You are getting married! I mean that is exciting! The one that you have waited for, dreamed of, thought about constantly is finally here. Be excited! Try not to let all of the stress of planning a wedding, and going through this transition rob you of the joy you should be feeling. The more excited you are, the more fun you have, the more everyone else around you will feel the same thing. Joy is highly contagious. An unsure in-law will come around so quickly when they are dealing with a joyful and excited bride. After all, the joy of the Lord is your strength!

So have fun in the process of being engaged! It is possible to have great relationships with your in-laws, and I pray that each and every one of you feel valued and favored by them. Relationships do take work, sometimes a lot of work, but they are so worth it!

 

Lauren HannaLauren Hanna is a 25 year old composer based out of LA. She took up blog writing about five years ago when people started asking her to send them daily encouragements. One thing lead to another and now she is the writer of a successful blog called The Encouragement Express. She loves God with all her heart, and loves seeing people become who He made them to be. She is currently engaged to her best friend, and very excited to start this new season of her life.

 

6 Ways to Listen Well

6 ways to listen

Today, please welcome Time-Warp Wife,  Darlene Schacht. She has a way with telling truth–in a way that packs a punch. Here she is talking about learning how to listen.

Poetry… I’ve read Dr. Seuss. Does that count?

Ask me to write a poem, and I’m lost. Seriously. I wouldn’t know a good poem if it was staring me in the face. On the other hand, my niece Stephanie is an incredible poet. At least I think she is. I’ve never known enough about poems to tell for sure, but she puts pen to paper and off she goes creating beautiful words. The fact that she does it with ease tells me she knows what she’s doing.

A few years ago, she told me they were having an “open-mic night” at a bookstore downtown, and asked me to come along.

Why not? I figured it would be a fun way to spend an evening with her. The only problem was that it wasn’t exactly fun. It was kind of boring to be honest with you. Every writer had about 10 minutes to read while the rest of us spent the time picking at hang nails, surveying the crowd, and counting the number of chairs in the room–anything to keep us from falling asleep.

The only people who seemed to be enjoying themselves were the ones standing up at the podium. One by one they took their place up on stage excited to share their words with the world. Once their ten minutes of fame came to a close, they had a few of their own hangnails to pull.

Later that week, I asked Stephanie why she hadn’t stepped up with the rest of the writers. Why didn’t she read her poems?

Her answer is one that stuck with me…

She said that she used to be a big part of that crowd, but what she realized after a while was that everyone was there to be heard, but few came to listen. She made a choice that she wanted to give herself to the art instead of taking something away. Sounds like a true poet to me.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. – James 1:19

It’s true to life too, isn’t it?

While most of us want to be heard, few of us take the time to listen as much as we speak.

Sure I listen, but to tell you the truth most of the time that I’m listening to someone, I’m thinking about what I’m going to say next.

It’s hard to “hear” when you’re not listening, isn’t it?

We had a friend once who had the gift of listening. Did you know that listening was a gift? Neither did I, but I’m calling it one today, okay? We could be in a room full of people, but as soon as I opened my mouth to speak he leaned in, focused on what I was saying, and hung on every word that I said. Not just me, it was my husband, it was our friends–it was anyone and everyone that wanted to talk.

I’m not so gifted, which is why I have to exercise myself in this area.

 Stopping to listen to someone with both ears, is a way of showing compassion. It tells them that you care about their words. Whether they have good news to share or they’re looking for a listening ear, what they’re really wanting from you is someone who’s present in the moment. What they need is someone who values them enough to consider their words.

When Michael and I used to talk–in the early years of marriage–I didn’t understand what he needed from me. My idea of listening to him was searching for a solution, before having my turn on the soapbox.

Some days he’d tell me about a bad day at work and by the end of the conversation we were both more frustrated than we were at the start.

It wasn’t until he finally said to me,I just need you to listen to me. That’s all. I’m not looking for a magic solution–I just need my wife.” 

exchanging ideasAnd so when it comes to our marriage, listening has become a part of my vow.

My goal is to listen to him and to consider his words, before I speak an encouraging word.

And how do I do that?

Here are six ways to listen well, that I have been learning:

1.  Practice – Listening takes patience and it takes restraint. Neither of those things come easy without practice.

2.  Get Focused – Carve out time to listen to each other in a quiet place free of distractions. Maybe go for a walk or grab a coffee together.

3.  Remember, You’re Not a Therapist – Listening well doesn’t mean that you have to have all of the answers. In fact some times advice is the last thing they want. What the person needs more than anything is empathy first. Just being there for them is a gift in itself.

4.  Ask Questions – The best way to continue a conversation and keep the ball in their court is to ask questions about the situation. And don’t forget about these questions as well: Is there anything I can do? How would you like me to pray?

5.  Don’t Bathe in the Spotlight – One of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome as a listener is my tendency to ignore what they’re saying while I’m thinking of my own story to tell.

6.  Lean in to Give Eye Contact – Two of the best listeners I’ve ever met have great body language. You could be standing in the midst of a multitude and feel like you’re the only two people on earth.

Learning how to listen isn’t hard. It just takes practice.

Stop what you’re doing to listen. Don’t sit there looking around at other people or hailing down a waitress for more sugar. Engage with the person you’re talking to. Give them eye contact. Immerse yourself in their words.

Lord, teach how to listen, how to be present in the moment, so that I too might bring a gift.

 

Messy Beautiful LoveDarlene SchachtDarlene Schacht is the original founder of Christian Women Online Magazine and The Internet Café Devotions and writes the popular blog Time-Warp Wife. She is coauthor of Candace Cameron Bure’s New York Time’s best-selling book, Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness. Darlene has been married to Michael Schacht for more than 25 years. They have four children.

Check out Darlene’s new book, Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages, which releases today!

 

Wifey Wednesday: The Truth In Love Marriage Challenge!

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wednesday–the day when we always talk marriage! And today I’ve got a bit of a challenge for you. I know you’re up to it!

Yesterday I was talking about the balance between Truth and Love in our marriage. Truth is standing up for what’s right, and confronting sin. Love is showing mercy and grace. Both are necessary. As Micah 6:8 says,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.

We are to act justy (Truth) while loving mercy (Love). And Jesus was the perfect balance of both.

But as I explained yesterday, truth in love is rare. Most of us tend naturally towards one or the other. Some of us are quick to debate and bring up issues, and often seem critical. Others of us let things slide a little too much, and often seem like pushovers. How do we find the middle?

The Truth in Love Challenge from To Love, Honor and VacuumJulie, one of my frequent commenters, had this great insight yesterday:

[A book I once read] talked about our speech in terms of color – love being red, and truth being true-blue. I’m definitely on the blue side. The visual picture was to “speak purple”. I’ve been trying harder to bring in more “red” – more kind, loving, affirming words in the conflict.

So how do we speak PURPLE–and find that Truth/Love balance?

Well, today I want to look at a scenario, and see how Truthers would react, and then how Lovers would react, and then I’ll ask you all to write in the comments what you think a Truth/Love balance response would be. And I’ll randomly pick from the comments I like (because I think there will be plenty)! to win a collection of ebooks, including my own.

Here’s the marriage scenario:

Jane sighs as she wipes down the counter after doing a mountain of dishes. For the last few days it had been almost impossible to get the kitchen clean. She’d been called in to fill-in for a sick colleague at the library, and so her part-time job had suddenly become a full-time job this week. And while her mother-in-law was amazing with Jimmy, the toddler, it meant that the laundry didn’t get done and the lunches weren’t really packed. Monica, her 11-year-old, was supposed to pack lunches for herself and her 8-year-old brother, but Jane had been too tired to force the issue last night, and she’d had to do it herself.

But tonight, in a pique of frustration, she decided she couldn’t handle it anymore. After making a full spaghetti dinner even after working 8 hours, she had cleaned up the kitchen, threw on some laundry, and somehow managed to supervise Jimmy having his bath.

Yet her husband, Greg, had been playing his video game for the last 3 hours. The older two kids were ready for bed, and Greg hadn’t even looked up. Jane had been cleaning up, and Greg had been playing. If he had just helped her last night maybe things wouldn’t have gotten out of hand. But he was stressed from work (they were going through another round of lay-offs, and he was afraid he was going to be next), and he’d retreated from her and the kids. And Jane just didn’t feel like she could handle this all by herself anymore. This wasn’t like her husband. He occasionally went on video game binges, but he was usually really involved with the kids. But lately he’d gone into his own little world, and Jane had had enough. Why did he get to relax while she had to work all the time?

Okay, can anyone imagine that scenario? Now, what does Jane do?

The Truth Response:

Jane stares at Greg, hoping that her penetrating gaze can break through his fog and make him feel guilty. It doesn’t seem to work. So she tells Monica to take her brother upstairs and get ready for bed, because Daddy will be up to read a story in a minute.

Then she walks over to the TV and turns it off without a word. Greg becomes really agitated, and yells at her for interrupting his game.

Jane takes a deep breath and coolly says, “I know you are stressed. But you are still a father, and right now you’re a lousy one. You haven’t lifted a finger around here for days, and you are setting a lousy example for the kids. Is this what you wanted to become? A lazy couch potato who wastes his life on video games when you have three kids who need you?”

“I am done, Greg. I am done. I need some time now. You march upstairs and read to those kids and get your act together, or you’re going to come home tomorrow and find that all your precious video games have been thrown out.”

The Love Response:

Jane glances at Greg, biting her fingernails that are way too soft from all the dishwashing, and wonders what to do. Quietly she asks Monica to take her brother upstairs and get ready for bed, telling her she’ll be up in a minute to read to them.

Then Jane approaches Greg on the couch and sits down beside him. She puts her hand on his leg, and he doesn’t even seem to notice.

“Greg,” she says. “I know you’re really stressed, and I’m worried about you. But the kids miss you. They need their dad. Do you think you can put the game away and come upstairs and say good night to them with me?”

Greg replies, “Jane, I just need to unwind. I’ll finish this level in a minute and then I’ll go upstairs, okay?”

“Thanks, Honey,” Jane replies as she gets up and follows Monica. She reads her two older ones a story, and then another one, and then another, but still no Greg. Finally she kisses them both and says prayers with them, and goes back downstairs. Greg hasn’t moved.

Jane bites her lip again, and then turns around and goes back upstairs, heading to bed herself.

Has either scenario solved the problem? Nope. The Truth response has treated Greg like he’s a child and will just build walls between the two of them, as well as likely starting a tit-for-tat retaliation cycle. The Love response leaves them both feeling isolated and alone.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

So here’s my challenge to you: What SHOULD Jane do? What would be a Truth IN Love response? Leave your suggestions in the comments section. I’ll write down the ones I think are all good and valid (I don’t think there’s just one possible response, so anything that sounds plausible to me rocks!), and then I’ll randomly draw from there using random.org.

Good Girls Guide My SiteThe winner will receive these ebooks:

  • 31 Days to Great Sex (by me!)
  • How Big Is Your Umbrella (also by me, about walking through hard times)
  • Another Reality Check (by me–a collection of 90 of my favourite columns)
  • The Cherished Home: Protecting What’s Important by Mary Clendenin (with printables)
  • Taming the Laundry Monster by Angi Schneider
  • When Motherhood Feels Too Hard by Kelly Crawford
  • Herbal Remedies for Children by Rosalee de la Foret

AND an autographed paperback copy of The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex–which makes a wonderful wedding gift for any new bride (or a gift for any married woman, actually!)

I’ll choose the winner this Saturday at 9 a.m. EST, so get your comment in before then!

There’s such a wealth of wisdom in my readers, so I’d love to hear what you come up with about how to speak PURPLE in your marriage!

Note: if you feel like what you would have said has already been said by someone else, that’s okay! Just say “I agree with so and so” and explain why, and that will count! And the answers don’t have to be elaborate. Just give us an idea of what you think a truth in love approach would be.

The Truth In Love: Finding the Balance During Marriage Conflict

The Truth in Love Challenge from To Love, Honor and VacuumTruth and love don’t seem like opposites, but they can be. Someone can use truth as a weapon, hurting others. Someone else can try so hard to save someone’s feelings that they fail to confront some serious sin.

All of us veer more towards one or the other. For those of you familiar with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator personality test, you could see them as the Thinking/Feeling dichotomy (though it doesn’t always fall along these lines). But some of us will be more prone to fight for the truth, no matter what gets blown up in the process, and some of us will want to avoid truth to minimize casualties.

Jesus, though, wasn’t on the side of truth OR love; like with everything, Jesus found the balance of confronting sin while upholding the dignity of the person.

Unfortunately, there are two competing philosophies which encourage us not to emulate Jesus, but instead to lean to one side or the other–and both philosophies are wrong.

First, there’s the secular feminist one, which goes something like this:

You are an adult human being, and as such, you should never take any crap from anyone–especially your husband! Stand up for yourself, no matter what, or you’ll become a doormat. Put a firm line in the sand, and DO NOT let him cross it.

Then there’s the hyper-conservative Christian one, like Debi Pearl, that says this:

Wives are to submit to their husbands in EVERYTHING–even if their husbands ask them to do something the wife is uncomfortable with. He is the leader; what he says goes, and if you continue to disagree after you have shared your views, you are sinning.

(Interestingly, this perspective seems to ignore the fact that Sapphira was struck dead in Acts for obeying her husband, and Abigail was rewarded for disobeying her husband in 1 Samuel 25. See Visionary Womanhood for a great rundown of these and other examples.) 

Here’s the problem: When our fundamental personality matches with a philosophy we follow, we will tend to stay stuck on the extreme, unable to find a healthy balance.

Here’s a very insightful comment that was left here last week in my post about Mark Driscoll’s mess. Commenting to a DIFFERENT blogger who was also active in the comments, Tracy wrote:

Lori, I read your blog, too. You almost seem legalistic about submission. By my very nature I am very introverted. I find it difficult to express myself to most people, and most especially to my husband. When I read your posts about wifely submission I get more of the same of what I already do: Shut Up, Put Up, and Cover Up. So when I disagree with my husband I shut up, put up with whatever he wants and cover up my thoughts and emotions. What I need are more posts like Shelia’s (what I probably need is counseling but I know me and I know I likely won’t), but I gravitate more to yours because through yours I can justify not communicating like I should with my husband.

Commenter Tracy says that it’s in her nature to put up with stuff and not speak up for truth, and so when she reads something encouraging her to do that very thing, she does it. It justifies her own fallen nature.

God Wants Two Primary Things From Us: Worship and Spiritual Growth

He wants us to worship Him, and He wants us to reflect Christ more and more everyday (Romans 8:29). Or you could phrase it, we are to love God and we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. Two things.

Now, if we’re to look more and more like Christ, then that also means that we are to have a balance between truth and love. We are to stand up for truth while also loving others. Indeed, I think that’s what submission boils down to; we submit ourselves to God, and then we willingly love and serve others in accordance with our love for God. But that service would never, ever contravene God.

In fact, let’s take it one step further.

It is not only God’s purpose that WE look more and more like Christ; it is also God’s purpose that OUR HUSBANDS look more and more like Christ.

  • When we speak the truth in love we urge husbands towards godliness;
  • When we speak only truth, we push them away through nagging, criticizing and blaming;
  • And when we speak only love, we allow husbands to continue in selfishness and sin.

If God wants BOTH you and your husband to grow, then that means that God wants you to move towards a balance of truth and love. If we are followers of Christ, God is always stretching us, even just a little bit. If you’re not being stretched, then maybe God is asking you to step outside of your comfort zone and find that proper balance. Here are some practical steps to take to do that:

Finding the Truth in Love Balance For “Truthers” (that’s ME!!!)

  • Practice listening before you speak. Let the other person finish talking before you open your mouth
  • Ask about emotions: what do you need from me right now? What are you feeling right now? Understand the emotions behind the issue before you try to tackle the issue
  • Use a quiet voice
  • Before you mention something critical, say two encouraging things
  • Periodically (say once a week), invite your spouse to share some concerns for five minutes and say nothing at all. At the end, just give him a hug. Still say nothing. Seriously. Zip it.

Finding the Truth in Love Balance For “Lovers”

  • Learn to say no to others. Say, “I don’t think I will enjoy that particular Bible study this week”, or “I’m not able to attend that women’s social because I have too much on my plate right now.”
  • Make it a habit of expressing your feelings. If you are upset at your husband, communicate that in a non-blaming way. “I feel lonely when you play video games for hours after coming home”, or “I feel taken for granted when you don’t do any dinner prep or clean up, and leave me with the food mess and the children.”
  • Use a confident voice
  • Do not end a conversation about a conflict unless you have agreed on something practical to do about it or have agreed to talk about it another time. If he wants to end it, you can say, “I understand you want to be finished talking about this, but I still think this is a serious issue. When would you like to continue our conversation?”

It will be very difficult to say these things if you are a “Lover”, and it will be very difficult to say nothing if you are a “Truther”. But if we don’t grow in life, what’s the point? If you stay comfortable with your own personality, choosing a misguided philosophy which doesn’t stretch you and which doesn’t promote health in your relationship, you’ve accomplished nothing.

God wants to mold you, and that means taking you out of your Truth or Love comfort zone.

I have a committee meeting later this month for a ministry I’m involved in. In the past, I have really pushed my agenda, because I was sure I was right (I still am, actually). But I didn’t get what I wanted, and I burned some bridges in the process. There has been much healing, but as I was praying last weekend on how I should handle this meeting, one thing I was told clearly is that I am not to bring anything up. I can express my opinions if there is a discussion, but I am not to bring up new issues. I won’t pursue my agenda; I will step back. More love (and listening), less truth (and lecturing). That is what I am doing to try to find that godly balance.

What about you? Let me know in the comments if you’re a Truther or a Lover, and tell me how you think God wants to stretch you!

And come back tomorrow for my great Truth in Love Comments challenge–with a prize, too!

Does Marriage Counseling Help?

Does Marriage Counseling Help

WifeyWednesday175It’s Wifey Wednesday, the day that we always talk marriage! Today I thought I’d address a question I often get when I advice people to find a third party to talk to about their marriage. Does marriage counseling help?

A few years after our son Christopher died, Keith and I relocated to the small town we live in now. We were established in our own home (finally!), Keith started his pediatric practice, and I was home with our two young daughters. We were finally out of student mode and into adult mode.

And perhaps because of that, a lot of “stuff” started surfacing. All the feelings that we hadn’t dealt with when we were always in crisis mode with babies and school and training bubbled up, and I, especially, had a hard time coping.

So for about 6 weeks we went to see a marriage counselor.

It was really very helpful. We managed to talk through a lot of issues, work through a lot of pain, and get some new tools to help us process things, especially the grief we were feeling after our son Christopher died.

For us, marriage counseling helped. We weren’t at any risk of divorce, but we simply had some bumps in the road that needed to be smoothed over.

All couples go through rough patches.

Some of the patches are rougher than others. Sometimes you need to work through a major sin that needs to be forgiven, like a physical or emotional affair, or addiction, or porn use. Sometimes you need to talk about boundaries. Sometimes you just need to figure out how to resolve conflict and make sure you’re truly listening–and hearing–one another.

I think more couples should likely go to counseling, and when I talk to counselors, most of them say, “I just wish this couple had come in three years ago when the problems could be more easily addressed, rather than now when it’s such a big mess!”

And so I want to encourage you today that if you need help, go get it. It doesn’t mean your marriage is failing or at risk of failing; it simply means you want it to be the best it can be.

At the same time, not all marriage counseling is equal. So if you want to get the most out of it, here are 4 things I think you should look for:

1. Marriage Counseling Works Best When It’s Time Limited

Does your counselor want to see you on a weekly basis forever and ever until you announce you’re done? Or does your counselor tend to see people for 6-12 sessions to sort out a specific issue?

Unless you have deep seated psychological issues, I think time-limited counseling is more helpful. It says, “we’re addressing one problem, not everything that could possibly make you sad under the sun.”

When you focus on ways to make things better, you tend to make them better. When you focus on everything that’s wrong, all you’ll see is all the problems.

I’ve written at length on my issue with counseling that doesn’t work well, and this is the heart of it. If the counselor wants to talk through all of your problems and psychological issues, then you’re really just focusing on the bad. It’s better to focus on solutions.

2. Marriage Counseling Helps Most When It’s Solutions-Oriented

And that’s what good marriage counselors do: they find solutions. The key is to modify behavior and thought patterns rather than trying to figure out every single root cause for why you’re insecure and why he’s controlling, or vice versa. Certainly a good counselor will probe this a little bit, but understanding why you’re insecure can only go so far. Ultimately you have to figure out what to do differently in your marriage to make both of you feel accepted and loved.

Ask your counselor, then, if they are solutions-focused rather than therapy focused, and ask for some examples of what kinds of solutions they suggest to their clients. Counselors who give homework and who teach you how to communicate are focused on solutions; counselors who only want to talk about emotions usually aren’t.

Happily, counseling has really changed in the last twenty years, and more counselors are now focused on solutions. And that’s great!

3. Marriage Counselors Should Be Committed to Marriage

Nevertheless, not all marriage counselors are created equally, and not all marriage counselors believe in marriage. Many marriage counselors, especially secular ones, are more focused on words like “happiness, inner peace, identity, strength, fulfillment.” They really don’t like words like guilt, fault, and shame.

A counselor who is focused on helping clients find their fulfillment and happiness may not be committed to helping a struggling marriage survive. They may too quickly decide that fulfillment is best found separately. If you are committed to the marriage, make sure you find a counselor who is as well.

4. Marriage Counselors Should Be Committed to Health and Wholeness

At the same time, don’t get a counselor who veers too much to the other extreme. Yes, I believe in marriage, and yes, I believe that God hates divorce. But do you know what God also hates? God also hates abuse, and He hates people hiding behind their marriage vows to avoid growth or repentance or doing what’s right.

A marriage counselor should have a healthy respect for boundaries, and should not want her clients to violate their boundaries by not holding someone accountable for violence or for controlling behavior, even if the one who is violent or controlling is a spouse. A counselor should not believe that marriage vows mean that if a man refuses to stop using porn, or if a woman refuses to stop her emotional affair, that the spouse should just do the Love Dare and leave it at that. The Love Dare is great–don’t get me wrong. But sometimes people need to be told: you need to stop what you are doing; it’s not acceptable; and just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can treat your spouse like this.

So, yes, a marriage counselor should believe in marriage. But they should not believe in marriage at all costs. They should believe in working towards wholeness and health within the marriage–and sometimes that wholeness and health can’t be found without setting some clear boundaries and even separating for a time (though this is only in extreme circumstances. James Dobson in Love Must Be Tough talks a lot about this, too).

Why don’t more people do marriage counseling? It’s often a combination of fear, embarrassment, lack of funds, and a fear that it won’t actually work. But I’d encourage more couples to try it. Sure, it may cost $1500 or so for your sessions in total , but that’s a lot less money than a divorce lawyer will charge. And if you and your husband will get on good ground, it will likely help you succeed more at your careers, too. It’s really worth it if you need it and have the funds at hand. I know many of you don’t, but if your marriage matters and you need it, plan on putting it in the budget for the coming months, if at all possible.

I was sent this great infographic on how marriage counseling helps couples from a couples counselor in Austin, TX: Louis Laves-Webb. It’s great, and he said I could share it with you. I hope it dispels some myths about whether or not marriage counseling works, and I hope it may encourage some of you to give it a try before issues get too big–and before you give up.

How Marriage Counseling Can Help Your Marriage Infographic

 

Now let me know: have you ever tried marriage counseling? How did it work for you? Tell us in the comments!

A Testimony of Marriage, Anorexia, and Healing

healing in marriage battling anorexia

Today, please welcome guest reader, Alyssa, as she shares her story of healing in marriage battling anorexia, and how God and her husband are daily helping her.  No battle is too big for God!

I grew up in a small town in Australia. I loved life in the country, there is something so freeing and satisfying about the open space, the fresh air and creation all around. It brings a peace and happiness to my heart! I was one of four kids to two amazing God centred parents. For as long as I can remember, my mum and Dad taught us about God’s word, what it meant to forgive, serve and love others. Growing up in one of the only Christian families in our small country town presented its challenges though. I was a sensitive child and from the age of 9+ I don’t really remember a time where I didn’t feel pressured or even taken advantage of. Some days I would return from school in tears only to have my mother and father sit beside me, warm me with their hugs and gently tell me to keep on loving and keep on forgiving. So I did.

But not dealing with these emotions properly left me more emotionally scarred then I could ever imagine.

Our family was different, and I knew that… but there was always a part of me, just like everyone I guess, that wanted to be accepted and fit in. By the time I hit high school, I felt an immense amount of pressure to not just be like everyone but also please everyone. I felt very insecure, timid and ugly… Along with this I had a perfectionist personality, was very quick to forgive and show kindness to everyone and therefore was walked all over. Amongst the bullying and identity issues, I was also sexually abused by several different boys/men throughout my teen years. Not only did I neglect to tell people about it, I didn’t deal with it properly, I didn’t understand it and I chose to keep forgiving and loving. When I turned 16, I moved out of home, taking myself to live in Sydney to study music and dance. I wanted to sing more than anything. Those few years in Sydney, although holding some of the greatest memories of my life, also hold some of the darkest. In those three years in Sydney, I studied full time, worked in the office of the performing arts school I attended, and went to a church that left me feeling lonely and left out. I got in a serious relationship with someone who did not want to know God at all, I had very little to no money, and I lost all four of my grandparents, whom I loved very much.

At the end of the year I left that school. I felt lonely, very isolated, overwhelmed. This is where my eating disorder came in.

At the time I didn’t realize what was wrong with me, just that I was slowly losing sight of who I was. It is now eight years later….And those last few years are also a blur. I have been in and out of treatment, private hospitals, have seen countless psychologists and counselors. In 2011, I went into a Christian Rehabilitation centre for Women struggling with addictions. It was the only program that worked for me and for a whole year I was walking free of the illness. It was in that year that my now husband proposed to me. Matt and I dated long distance.

He knew I struggled with an eating disorder, but we spent little time with each other so he was unaware of its deception, struggle and the hold it can have on one’s life.

But he knew I loved God and that despite my illness and current troubles, I persevered to love God and serve Him the best I could. At the end of 2011 I ventured into the Christian Rehabilitation. The program required me being cut off from all things, I went and lived on a farm with a dozen other women. We had no phone, access to internet and we were only allowed to watch TV on weekends for a movie night, or the news in between 4-6pm on weekdays. I communicated to people through letters. I spent my time learning to enjoy life, all of God’s goodness and meditated on His word day and night. This is what I believe healed me. I spent the next year celebrating life, enjoying peoples’ company and being thankful for what our Great God had done and would continue to do in me. I don’t know what went wrong; I have maybe spent too much time thinking about it.

But 2 weeks after we got married in November 2012, I suddenly fell back into old habits.

It wasn’t a gradual fall, it was quick and left us both feeling lost and unable to comprehend it. We had moved to Sydney, left all the people we knew and who supported us, we had very little money and struggled getting jobs. Life had thrown all different things at us, when marriage in itself seemed enough. So what has the last two years been like? Well, as most of you who are reading this would know, an eating disorder is a life threatening, serious, destructive illness. It’s a tyrant, its based on denial and deception. It involves stealing, lying, wasting money, time and life. For those who do not overcome it, unfortunately it results in death.

I am 24 years old, I weigh 37 kgs and am 174cm tall. I have Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. In my spare time, I live under the control of this terrible illness… I steal money, I steal food, I throw it up. Sometimes a whole day will pass and I will not remember any of it, under the trance of this illness. I have spent hundreds of dollars in days, all on food that no one ever got to see.

When we have arranged to go out and be with people, I end up cancelling, either because I am too anxious about what they are going to think of me or because secretly I have been binge eating on food and cannot go anywhere because I need to throw it up. My husband has continuously forgiven me, time and time again. He has done nothing but love me with unconditional love. He has held me, both in tears and prayed. He has bought me flowers just to see me smile, he gave up an excellent job so that I could be closer to people for support, he has filled rooms full of balloons and filled them with tiny messages to remind me that he is here and isn’t giving up. He deliberately hops into bed before me to warm my side up, as I feel the cold. During a fight, I was still upset going to bed so I resided on the couch, half way through the night I felt someone’s arms pick me up and carry me to bed.

I heard a small whisper, ‘The only time we will ever sleep in separate beds is when we are apart and cannot be in the same bed together.’

He then wrapped his arms around me and held me until I had fallen back asleep. He has put up with the mood swings that come with the illness. Sometimes I say the most terrible, heart breaking and mean things, and he will sit there and simply respond with ‘Alyssa, I love you and I am not going anywhere.’ Matt has been so sacrificial. He has stayed with me through this, when most men in our day and age would probably walk away. He has been a wonderful witness and example of Christ’s love for us. He is a beautiful man. God has been so good to me.

My husband without a doubt is the greatest gift, other than God’s grace, that I have ever been given.

When we moved this year, I decided I didn’t want this illness any longer. I want to be free of it. It has been a hard journey so far, but by God’s grace I am very slowly getting there. We take each day as it comes, and we thank the Lord for the good days and the bad days. We are so grateful and see so many blessings around us and we want to focus on those things. Please keep us in your prayers as I learn to lean, whole-heartedly serve and depend upon God and find my satisfaction, worth and contentment in him. Please keep praying for my husband, Matt, that he will continue to find the strength he needs from God and that he would have wisdom to know how to love me best and look after me best.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

commit to staying in the fight

Today Rajdeep Paulus talks about how in marriage, we need to commit to staying in the fight with our spouses. There are rich rewards to be discovered!

Standing at the ticket counter at Miami International Airport to check in for our return flight to New York City, the Jet Blues Attendant shakes his head several times before saying, “I’m sorry. There’s no record of your names booked on this flight. Or at all for that matter.”

Words hubby and I don’t exactly want to hear when the plane takes off in less than an hour. It has to be a mistake. I’m just not ready to admit that it was probably my mistake. “Can you double check?” I say, watching hubby’s eyebrows raise in disagreement.

But then he says, “Yes, could you please double check? I’m sure this is just some kind of error.”

“Nope. Oh wait…” A flicker of hope. “I see that you did book a different flight. Out of Orlando. But you cancelled that one.” Hope extinguished.

I’m starting to wonder if I only thought about booking the alternative leg of our return flight, and didn’t actually do it. Even though in my memory, I followed through and finished the job.

Hubby looks at me and I know what he’s thinking as he shakes his head, but in a moment that could have gotten Walking Dead bloody, he says nothing. Several grueling minutes later, the gentleman working on our situation hangs up the phone and smiles. “It’s your lucky day. My boss agreed to rebook your family at the original price, but this flight’s full, so you’ll be on the 9:00PM one out of Gate C-8. Will that work for you?”

Umm…yes to the yes! Anything besides paying astronomical prices for a last second reservation or staying in Miami when we need to get home will work. Hubby exhales a sigh of relief, and brushes a kiss across my lips, saying softly, “Thanks for keeping quiet while he worked it out.”

Which I wanted to take offense at, because I’m the girl who screams when I’m upset.

I freak out, and I’m good at it. But I refrain from saying anything, because I’m in a different sort of shock. We, hubby and I, in the middle of a Bermuda-Triangle sized crisis, did not freak out and enter a blame game tennis match that never ends well. And as much as Hubby wanted to say the obvious, that it was most probably my fault that the tickets were never booked, he didn’t. He could have. He would have been right. But in that moment, the fact of my careless oversight would not have changed a thing. We, as in he, I and the kids, were in this mess together, and never once, in the middle of a mud pile has throwing mud made the situation less messy. If anything, it makes matters worse. Much worse.

And then the other night, we’re driving away from a lovely anniversary dinner at Prime in Huntington, and Hubby says, “So I accidentally booked three movie tickets instead of two when I bought the X-men seats on line.”

I took a deep breath, wanting to ask the obvious. “So you didn’t try to reverse it? Call Fandango? Cancel the transaction and book it over?” I refrained, and in that moment, when the matter of a fifteen dollar oversight could cost us a fifteen hour angry end to a near perfect date night, I Google’d Fandango and asked myself. They directed me to call the movie theater.

And a guy at Regal Cinemas in Westbury said, “No worries. Just mention the problem when you come up to pick up your tickets and we’ll refund the difference.”

Really? That was fun. But it might not have been. So often, hubby or I put on our boxing gloves and lash out verbally, throwing plenty of punches before we recall that we’re on the same team. In this life together. Trying to make it through this mess of a world. Together.

Three days later, we’re on route to a picnic with the kids on Memorial Day weekend, and we get into the classic driving fight.

Because I rarely drive, and Hubs wants to be my driver’s Ed teacher, my dad, and my GPS, all wrapped in one. So it gets ugly. Fast. And we’re only half way there when I pull over on a side street, throw on the brakes and exit the car. “I can’t. I can’t do this. I refuse to drive.” Slam.

Hubs pulls his baseball cap over his eyes and slouches down in the passenger seat. He’s getting over the flu. And from the looks of his non-verbal communication, he isn’t driving either.

So I blow off some steam outside the car, get back into the driver’s seat and spin the car around. Rather unsafely, I’ll admit, but I wasn’t planning to drive my family off a cliff, Thelma and Louise style. I was just having a road rage moment for about fifty feet of quiet side street. Hubs did not approve, sat up in his chair, and demanded I stop the car. With a few choice words. I did. We switched places.

He drove. I cried. And in the midst of the madness, my ten-year old passes me my phone with a text message she typed for me. “No one’s mad at you, Mommy. We love you. And we can still have a great time at the picnic. Okay?” I cry some more.

And we get through the day. Hubs walked to the beach with the girls. I grilled up some food. The festivities carried on with friends. Then I drove home, and the day was over. And when all the girls went to bed, hubby says, “That was not cool today.”

I want to say, “You. We’re not cool today.” But I just wait.

“I’m sorry for screaming at you like that in the car,” he says. “If you would just listen to me…”

And that’s when I tune out, because it doesn’t feel like an apology any more. I apologize for slamming the car door. But then I add, “You know, you could have said sorry a little sooner,” to which he pushes back his chair, rises from the table, and says, “I’m not you, okay. I never have been, nor will I ever be. You can do that. Roll with it. Jump back into life right away. That’s not me.” And he storms off.

That went well. And then I thought about it. I wasn’t asking him to be me. I was asking him to acknowledge that it wasn’t just me who screwed up. He can take all the time he needs to forgive me. But I don’t think it’s fair to take his sweet time to say sorry. That was my point.

We talked some more as I explained my side. And told him how I don’t want our girls to grow up thinking a man can just run them over with words and walk away, never admitting that he spoke disrespectfully. He shot me a glare. “You have no idea what I talked to the girls about when I walked with them to the beach.” That’s true. I assumed he didn’t talk about it. “I apologized to them for the way I spoke to their mother.”

But, and this is the part that hurts. “But, you took all day to say sorry to me. That kinda sucks.”

And he acknowledged that. And we went to bed in each other’s arms. Life was fine again. But, sheesh, is it hard some days.

Like it takes all of you just to commit to staying in the fight.

And that’s the part that makes us stronger the next morning. We stayed. We chose to stay, even when we didn’t feel like it. We pushed through another mud pile, and in the end, we helped pull each other out. And believe you me, I know there are plenty more in our future to wade through.

But it’s the moments at the airport and on route to the movies that remind me that we don’t always resort to our bad habits. We don’t always forget how hard it is to mess up and wait for grace’s rescue. Sometimes, we remember the sweet hand held out to us in the moment of disappointment, hurt, or failure, and we offer a similar hand to our loved ones. It’s a life long quest, but it’s worth every step.

And that’s probably why I love to slow dance with my Sunshine. Sure, sometimes we step on each other’s toes.

And many times, we are out of sync, he turning right and me spinning left, but those tender moments when my head rests on his shoulder, his heartbeat pounds against mine, and the lyrics to a love song stream into my ears, I’m reminded once again that he’s worth it. We’re worth it. And worth fighting for. Marriage.

 

Rajdeep PaulusswimmingthroughcloudsRajdeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of June 2013, she’s also a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via FacebookTwitterPinterest,Tumblr, or Instagram.

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