Category: Marriage

Are you searching for the good in your spouse, or the bad?

 

Marriages in the church have been on my heart lately. Satan is constantly seeking to destroy them.  I came across the following article by Shaunti Feldhan, and I thought it would be great to share with you. She hits the nail on the head when talking about marriage, but it can also be taken to relationships of all kinds. The key verse she is focusing on here is Proverbs 11:27 (NLT) “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”

Here’s what she says:

“My dear friend’s marriage was crumbling; her husband’s heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.

Despite my friend’s deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.

For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn’t deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn’t … he doesn’t.

Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn’t care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.

Have you ever believed someone didn’t like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?

There’s a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”

My research confirms this truth. I’ve spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?

Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person’s intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn’t completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.

And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I’ve anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don’t.

For most of us, “searching for good” when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!

Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren’t good. But in most cases, they don’t want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.

The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the “good” explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is “for” you.

Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it. And when we do, everything changes.

Lord, thank You for putting people in my life who care about me. And thank You for showing grace to me even when I don’t deserve it. Help me to have grace and see others through Your eyes. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to search for the good in each situation and not assume evil intent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

So what are your inner thoughts seeking? Are they seeking the good in your spouse, or the bad?

Pray and ask God to help you see the good in not only your spouse, but in all your relationships.

Forgiveness in Our Marriage

With Easter season here, we are reminded of Gods love for us, and the forgiveness of sins that He has given to us. Since Jesus forgave us, we too are called to forgive others….including our spouse!

I love what Dr. James Dobson says about forgiveness in our marriages. In the following blog post, he takes us back to Proverbs 8:13 where it says that He hates Pride and Arrogance. 

“In the middle of your highway to forgiveness there may be a giant roadblock called pride. You know in your heart that you offended your wife with that comment about her body, or her intelligence, or her family. You realize you hurt your husband with that remark about his selfishness or his waste of money. But something is keeping you from admitting wrong and seeking forgiveness. Even though you know you’re guilty, you can’t get the words out of your mouth. At best you can mumble, “I’m sorry,” but you don’t really want to know if your partner heard you.

Pride is terribly destructive to human relationships. It may be the sin that God hates most, because there are more than one hundred references to it in Scripture. Proverbs 6:17–19 describes seven things that God finds detestable, and the first one on the list is “a proud look.” If you or your mate have a haughty attitude that prevents you from seeking forgiveness and reconciling, it will damage your marriage. We encourage you to swallow your pride and talk to your spouse. Once you’ve done that, why not clear one more roadblock and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for your prideful heart?

Just between us . . .

• Has my pride kept us apart in the past? How?

• In what ways has swallowing our pride blessed us in the past?

• How can we break down the roadblock of pride on our way to a stronger relationship?

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your example of humility and mercy. Forgive us for our stubborn, prideful treatment of each other. We want to change. Help us to lay aside pride, admit wrongs, and humbly ask for forgiveness. Amen.”

This Easter season, lets swallow our pride, and forgive our spouse.

Is Your Smart Phone Coming Between You and Your Spouse?

This is a great question for all of us to ask ourselves. We, as a society, have become obsessed with our phones. This article by Greg Smalley tackles this issue:

How much do you love your smartphone? Probably not as much as the California man who married his phone in a Las Vegas wedding chapel during the summer of 2016!

OK, so the ceremony in Vegas may have been ridiculous, but this man made his point about how connected people are to their phones. As crazy as it sounds to wed your phone, there’s no denying the degree to which smartphones have infiltrated our daily lives. Some studies show that Americans check their phones every six and a half minutes during waking hours, or roughly 150 times each day.

Sadly, the smartphone is a jealous lover — demanding attention all day through calls, texts, Facebook, Pinterest, news feeds, sports scores, video streaming, music and endless apps (over 2 million available as of June 2016). We sleep with our phones on the nightstand, cradle them as we walk, pocket them as we travel, set them on the counter to help us make dinner and rest them comfortably on the table as we eat. They have become our constant digital companion.

Not all of this is bad for a marriage. Smartphones can help couples stay connected throughout the day via romantic texts, playful social media posts and random video chats. Frequent texting and quick phone calls help couples stay current on the day’s events. Regular communication with a spouse through calling and texting may even make couples happier and more secure in their relationship.

Still, for all the benefits smartphones provide, it would seem they have become an increasing source of frustration and conflict in marriage. The smartphone has become a “third wheel” in many marriages, causing husbands and wives to feel they are competing with their spouse’s phone for time and attention.

The threat of space invaders

Do you remember the Space Invaders, one of the earliest video games? The goal was to defeat waves of marching aliens by firing a laser cannon moving horizontally across the bottom of the screen. As the game progressed, the aliens marched faster and the music sped up, creating enormous anxiety for the gamer. Eventually the aliens would overtake your base and defeat you.

I can’t help but wonder if the smartphone has become just like those descending aliens in the video game. Except now they’re marching relentlessly toward your marriage relationship and they’re threatening four important moments — sacred spaces — in your day that usually help to keep your connection strong. Those spaces include:

Pillow-talk time — After a busy day at work or caring for children, couples desperately need meaningful conversation to help them reconnect. But for many, the habit of conversation falls by the wayside over time. They go from long, intimate talks focused on getting to know each other (discussing likes, dislikes, needs, emotions and dreams) to short exchanges focused on administrating their lives (talking about the budget and to-do lists or working through conflict and putting out the latest fire in their overcrowded schedules). Meaningful communication is often replaced by managing daily demands. Sadly, research has shown that most couples spend an average of only four minutes per day in meaningful conversation.

After 25 years of marriage, I believe the best time for meaningful communication that brings life to a relationship is at the end of the day — when you’re lying in bed together before going to sleep. This is when couples should be talking about the highs and lows of their day; discussing deep topics; snuggling, kissing or making love; and praying together. But smartphones wreck this key moment!

This has become an issue for my wife, Erin, and me. Instead of using this precious time to reconnect, we’re on our phones looking at news, playing solitaire, checking Facebook and responding to texts. We’ve created a nasty pattern of checking our phones just before we go to sleep and then as soon as we wake up. When this happens, we shift our attention from each other and unintentionally send messages about what we value most. This is exactly how sacred pillow-talk time is hijacked. A husband and wife can be lying next to each other in the same bed but feel worlds apart.

Mealtime — Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, mealtime is sacred because it promotes face-to-face conversation and eye-to-eye contact. (Most women love this type of communication.) It also provides opportunity for spiritual discussions or devotional time; fosters teamwork as you cook and clean up together; and promotes family traditions like pizza or game night. But smartphones at the table can create broken connections for couples. The constant distraction prevents good conversational rhythm, keeping spouses at a surface level of interaction and minimizing deep, intimate communication.

Leisure time — This is the “down time” you experience together when exercising, watching your favorite TV show, drinking coffee in your recliners, lounging around the house, going for a walk, having a date night, sitting on the beach, etc. Leisure time is sacred because it promotes fun, laughter, play, new activity and conversation. Using your smartphone during these special moments with your spouse can make him or her feel as if it’s a competition to get your attention. Ultimately, you send the message that you’re not fully invested in the moment.

Windshield time — The time spent driving together in your car is sacred for side-by-side conversation. (Most men love this type of communication.) It’s also time to sing together to music or listen to talk radio. If the passenger is constantly interacting with his or her smartphone, it robs the relationship of a prime communication opportunity and causes his or her spouse to feel deprioritized.

The impact of interferences

In addition to invading your sacred spaces, smartphones can have other negative impacts on your relationship. Consider the following:

  • The relational connection is severed. According to the American Psychological Association, technoference is the “everyday intrusions or interruptions in couple interactions or time spent together that occur due to technology.” For instance, in the middle of a conversation, one spouse accepts a phone call or responds to a text. Attention shifts from spouse to device. This is not only rude, it also severs the relational connection. As one author put it, “By allowing technology to interfere with or interrupt conversations, activities and time with romantic partners — even when unintentional or for brief moments — individuals may be sending implicit messages about what they value most, leading to conflict and negative outcomes in personal life and relationships.”
  • You feel ignored. The term “phubbing” was originally coined by an Australian advertising agency and reflects a blend of the words “phone” and “snubbing.” When it comes to your marriage relationship, phubbing means that a spouse feels invisible or snubbed because his or her partner is distracted by a smartphone. Your husband or wife is not fully present in the moment. Examples of phubbing occur when you pull out your phone to check the football scores while on a date with your spouse, you read a text while at the dinner table or you look at Facebook when you’re watching a movie together. Your spouse will feel like he or she is competing against a phone for your attention — and losing! Intended or not, the message conveyed is, “You are less important than my phone.”

The benefits of smartphone boundaries

Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” The term “firstfruits” refers to the first and best crops that you produce. One way to honor your spouse is to give him or her the firstfruits of your time. Instead of checking your phone as soon as you get in the car or lie down in bed together, give that attention to your spouse.

This may require the establishment of mutually agreed-upon limits for smartphones, TV, computers and tablets during your shared sacred moments. In hopes of giving 100 percent of your attention to each other, here are some tips to help you set boundaries to protect your communication spaces:

  • We will keep our pillow-talk time sacred — no phones in our bedroom before we go to sleep.
  • We will protect our mealtime — no technology at the dinner table or in the restaurant.
  • We will guard our leisure time — no checking smartphones or receiving calls (except from the baby sitter).
  • We will give each other priority during windshield time by placing our phones out of sight.
  • If during our time together we need to check our phones for a legitimate purpose, we will first provide an explanation.

Employing these simple safeguards can free your marriage from the tyranny of the smartphone. Give it a try — and you just might be surprised by how much more connected you and your spouse feel to each other.

True Romance on Valentines Day

This article is by Dr. Greg Smalley and can be found on Focus on the Family Website 

One of my most memorable, or should I say, most humiliating, Valentine’s Day experiences happened in 2014. The chain of events started with an innocent conversation I had with my wife, Erin.

I was embarking on my annual attempt to crack the code for the “right” combination of Valentine’s Day gifts. I wondered if I should get Erin flowers, chocolate, jewelry, lingerie (although that would probably be more for me), perfume or maybe a spa day.

So in addition to the gift that I already had in mind, I asked Erin if she would rather have flowers or a gift card in the amount that I would have spent on the flowers. A dozen long-stemmed roses can run about $50 on Valentine’s Day! Erin quickly replied that she would much rather receive a gift card to her favorite store than some flowers that would die anyway.

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, and Erin found herself at the grocery store. She bumped into a large display bucket full of flowers. Innocently, she thought about how beautiful the flowers were and decided to buy herself a bouquet.

In light of her having picked the gift card option, this wouldn’t have bothered me — except that Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family and my boss, was standing right behind her buying his wife a dozen long-stemmed, red roses. His only question to Erin was, “Why is your husband, the vice president of our marriage department, making you buy your own flowers?”

Since that day at the grocery store, Jim likes to “graciously” remind me (especially if we’re in front of large crowds) that I made my wife buy her own Valentine’s Day flowers.

True romance

Trying to figure out what gift to buy or where to go on Valentine’s Day is not easy. Flowers, chocolate, cards, gifts, dinner reservations — is this really the meaning of Valentine’s Day? Our culture seems to think that these things are the essence of true romance.

I understand that taking advice from a guy who made his wife buy her own flowers on Valentine’s Day might seem suspect, but I want to tell you one of the greatest truths I’ve learned about romance. True romance isn’t about flowers, chocolate or the perfect candlelit dinner. These things can enhance romance, but they do not define it.

Instead, true romance is about curiosity, fascination and intrigue. It’s about being truly interested in your spouse and your spouse being captivated by you. True romance is a deep, life-long fascination with your mate.

The gift of curiosity

Sadly, many couples feel dissatisfied in marriage because their relationship slips into the mundane — they become so accustomed to one another that they stop being curious. And this creates boredom.

Boredom is the opposite of true romance. Boredom involves the belief that you know everything there is to know about your spouse. However, an entire lifetime is not enough  to truly get to know someone. Every season of marriage is different because both people keep changing. The great mystery of marriage is that you never know what’s going to happen next. Not only is change inevitable, but it’s also a part of what makes marriage so enjoyable.

A line from one of my favorite ’80s songs says, “I get the joy of rediscovering you.” And author Mignon McLaughlin explains it this way: “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” When you make curiosity one of your goals in marriage, you get the joy of falling in love with your spouse again and again.

The initial excitement of getting to know your spouse when you were dating doesn’t have to fade. Boredom and routine don’t have to be your reality. All it takes is a decision to remain fascinated and interested in your husband or wife. Because your spouse and your marriage are always changing, there’s something to be discovered every day. This is exactly why I believe the greatest gift you can give your spouse on Valentine’s Day is the gift of curiosity.

Developing the art of curiosity is simple. Curiosity is the strong desire to know more about something or someone. The key is to daily pursue knowledge about your spouse. Ask questions. Seek out information. Deepen your understanding. Make your goal to “stay current” with your spouse.

This Valentine’s Day, use flowers, chocolate and cards to heighten your romance, but spend your time being curious and asking questions. Take joy in rediscovering your beloved as you fall in love over and over again.

A love affair: It can Happen to you

A love affair: It can Happen to you.  This is the name of the first chapter of a book by Ed Wheat, M.D. and Gloria Okes Perkins called Love Life For Every Married Couple.  Does that idea seem foreign or impossible to you at this time?  Don’t worry.  You are not alone.  Many couples, even mutually devoted Christian couples, struggle with marital issues at one time or another.  If you are currently struggling or feeling unfulfilled in your marriage, I recommend that you read this book along with the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  These books give different but united and definitive instruction on how to have a satisfying and strong marriage.  Note that I did not say happy.  As you probably know, marriage was not designed to make us happy.  Our spouses can never make us happy, because this is not their design. God, our designer, is the only One who can bring true fulfillment.  God is the only One who can satisfy our souls.  Still, our Designer designed marriage.  Gary Thomas suggests, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  This is a concept worth exploring in his book, Sacred Marriage.  He goes on to say, “If the purpose of marriage was simply to enjoy an infatuation and make me happy, then I’d have to get a new marriage every two or three years.”  He believes that much of the dissatisfaction we experience in marriage comes from expecting too much from it.  So, what do we do?  Lower our expectations?  Well, let’s not think of it in that way, but what about if we do expect less of our husbands and more of God?  Expect God to meet our needs. Expect God to fulfill that emptiness.  Expect God to be sufficient.  Expect God to love us the way we need to be loved.  He is ready to do this for us.  He is able to do this for us.  We just need to spend time with Him daily and spend time in prayer and He will provide for us!  I have seen this play out with my own two eyes.  If you begin to rely more on God, you can begin to take the pressure off of your spouse to meet your needs.  As the Holy Spirit begins to work in and through you, you will begin to see a difference in your marriage.  Please take time to read these books if you struggle in any way or if your spouse seems to be struggling.

I know that some marriages are truly troubled and the challenges seem insurmountable.  That is where we let God teach us this concept of allowing our marriage to make us holy (more like God) rather than happy.  We must stop embracing the current thought of our culture, ‘do what makes you happy.”   Gary Thomas gives an example of this with the 23 year marriage of Abraham Lincoln to Mary Todd.    Apparently, it was no picnic.  She was known for her extreme mood swings, fierce temper and public outbursts.  It is documented that Lincoln’s faith allowed him to see her through God’s eyes, as a child of God.  This enabled him to treat her with love and kindness. He chose to serve God and trust God in this area of his life.  It is believed that the difficult lessons he learned in dealing with his wife helped him then deal with a country that was divided and full of conflict and controversy.  His marriage taught him patience and endurance.  He certainly needed this as he led our country through one of the most difficult times in our country’s history.  Our 16th president is an example of Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

With God’s help, Lincoln remained a loving husband as he worked to unite a hurting and torn nation.  His marital struggles helped mold him into a humble man who relied on God for his strength and peace.  

“What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”  What if you can indeed have a love affair with your spouse that will change the current direction of your life and/or your current mindset?  It can happen to you…with God’s help! Begin praying today for your spouse and for your marriage.  Pick up one or both of these books as a starting point.  Seek Godly counsel.  I will be in prayer for those who might be reading this and with whom this struggle resounds. 

“So let us not grow tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9  

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