We are surprised when relationships become difficult. It is confusing for some couples how something that used to feel so natural and easy starts to struggle. Don’t be surprised when you have to work at the relationship to keep it vibrant. The “work” of marriage is compromise and connection.
- Compromise – You both have an opinion and a preference. You don’t want to marry someone just like you, because your differences create attraction. Every marriage will need to learn how to compromise. You will not always get your way.
- Connection – The area that surprises people the most is staying connected and close. The busyness of life pulls us apart making connection a constant struggle. Lean to be intentional with time together. Intimacy is shared experiences together, so create experiences that include laughter, play and touch.
A great marriage is when two people work together and create compromise and connection.
If you want something to last a lifetime, you treat it differently. You will protect it from the elements. You will give it the care it needs. If something breaks you will repair it – you will not avoid it, or scream at it. It will become more special over time because of all the effort you have put into it. It will become more beautiful as it ages. Marriage should be no different, make it last a lifetime. Have the marriage that others admire in a way that makes them ask questions about God.
A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24 – NKJV
“You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours – closer than you yourself keep it. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is. We know most of what Gandalf has told you. We know a good deal about the ring. We are horribly afraid–but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Do you have friends like this? I know to quote Lord of the Rings is kind of nerdy but I love the idea of friendship that sticks closer than a brother.
We want to live safe. We avoid risk, but to live from a place of passion and desire we have to risk. We have to move toward something. It is love and desire that moves us. What we push away from, what we dislike, sometimes even hate, only moves or motivates us for a brief period of time. What we love is like gravity, constantly pulling us. It is our response to this constant pull, that changes us.
There are two approaches to how we live out passion and desire:
- Decide to pursue what you love and become what that pursuit makes of you.
- “The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” – Matthew 6:21
- “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” – Psalms 37:4
- Determine what you wish to become, and pursue what will get you there, to what you love.
Both of these have to lead you to something larger than yourself. If your passion and desire is only about you or your comfort than it is to small. You have to find something that requires risk and community. Take some time, think it through, and pursue what you love. Anticipate what it will do to you, as it shapes and fashions you, and plan accordingly. Live the life you want, live the life you plan.
We are always building something. The problem is most of the time we are building careers and building our bank account but we seem to never get around to building our marriage, until we get in a crisis.
Sometimes the most dangerous word in any relationship, especially marriage is…. Tomorrow
We all begin to believe, “After all… tomorrow is another day” we will deal with this tomorrow. Tomorrow you will go on a date night. Tomorrow you will find a babysitter and spend quality time together. Tomorrow you will be home from work on time. Tomorrow you will sit down for dinner together. Tomorrow you will work on your budget. Tomorrow you’ll take time for sexual intimacy. Tomorrow you’ll resolve that conflict.
Tomorrow you promise yourself will be different, yet tomorrow is too often a repetition of today. Tomorrow always promises more than it delivers and delays the marriage you truly desire.
Most marriages are nearly destroyed by, “tomorrow.” Tomorrow we’ll go to counseling. Tomorrow we’ll make time for each other. Tomorrow we’ll make changes. Tomorrow we’ll be intentional…until there was almost no tomorrow.
We can’t get better at anything today by waiting until tomorrow. Pushing things to tomorrow creates the “under promise and over deliver” sham. It doesn’t work.
Today is the day to:
- Go for a walk
- Send that text over lunch saying you miss her / him
- Set media aside for an hour and talk
- Go see a movie or date night
- Have dinner around the table and not on the couch
Do something different, so you can have something different.
So many feel stuck and powerless because they won’t accept themselves. So many are so gifted and talented, but they won’t express themselves because they fear rejection. Because it attacks the very person that we are. It destroys our self-esteem, and attacks who we are and our purpose in life. This is why it is one of the most common tools the devil will use to destroy a person’s life.
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Rejection hurts. Here are some effects that rejection has on our emotions, thinking, and behavior.
You are a priceless treasure.
“God feeds the birds and you are far more valuable to Him than any birds!” Luke 12:24 NLT
God thinks you matter, Jesus thought this was so important that he told three parables to illustrate how important you are. In Luke 15 he tells the stories of — the lost son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep. It’s the same emphasis in each story. Jesus says, “You matter!”
You matter to God. You are important. You are valuable. God says you are valuable because he loves you and he has accepted you in Christ.
Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings…It’s something we make inside ourselves…. with God. The problem is that I am surprised at where my thoughts go to. Not toward happiness. I worry and stress with my thoughts and argue with people in my head. Here are some ways to help you pay attention to happiness:
- Learn to create positive affirmations – Talk to yourself in a positive nurturing way. Don’t demean or belittle yourself. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
- Count your joys and blessings – Focus on what you do have rather then what you don’t have. Appreciate and enjoy what you already have. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” – Isaiah 26:3
- Allow yourself to be playful and childlike – Learn to let go and play. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4
- Focus on changing yourself instead of changing the world around you – Wake up with a resolve to stay happy during the day. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” – Romans 12:2
- Your body is God’s temple, honor it – Give yourself proper rest, nutrition and pleasure. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Couples usually have slightly different variations of the same fight over and over again. They unconsciously repeat old patterns as a way to cling to the familiar while at the same time hoping that it will turn out differently this time. It may have to do with an attempt to heal old wounds, often from their arguments around these topics:
- families that you grew up in
- struggles with the kids
- how money is handled
- the quantity or quality of sex
- whether or not you are helping each other around the house
Once you start seeing and understanding the pattern, an opportunity for real healing and growth can occur in your relationship. I also often tell couples that creating a strong connection to your partner doesn’t happen in a dramatic crescendo like in the movies. Healthy couples have daily acts and small moments of letting one another into their internal worlds.
Very seldom do we listen to understand. Many arguments would never happen if we would:
- First understand someone has to speak and someone has to listen. You can only do one at a time – speak or listen.
- Decide who is going to listen and who is going to speak.
- When you get stuck slow down and use these steps.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear,slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19
- Stop and focus on the words, tone and body language.
- Listen to understand without the pressure of agreement.
- Repeat what we think we heard to the person speaking.
- Allow the speaker to confirm or correct your understanding
- Switch roles then repeat.
- When you both confirm that you understand each other then brainstorm solutions
Every couple has to get to understanding, but they may not get to agreement. Relax and listen with the goal to understand.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
The way to “show up” everyday for your marriage and make it thrive, not just survive is by doing small things every day to show you care. Adopt the motto “small things often.” Each day look for small ways to engage and respond to your spouse. Look for simple ways to acknowledge them, and show support. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Give them their first cup of coffee in the morning
- Greet them or say goodbye each day with a hug and kiss
- Do the dishes, or at least load or unload the dishwasher.
- Do their chores when you notice they are stressed or tired
- Leave small encouraging notes
Your small actions and behaviors will display love and increase intimacy. Small consistent displays of love and affection will help you build and maintain mutual respect and create a happy, healthy and successful relationship.