Without a doubt a couple tends to put more time into planning a wedding than they do their marriage. Now I totally understand. In one sense they assume they are completely ready for what’s coming. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Now I don’t want to add to the bad press that marriage gets. I only want to point out that we can do better.
However, that does not mean that marriage is destined to be hard and difficult. Could it be that too many of us make it more difficult than is necessary?
One exercise that I encourage and find helpful is to simply take the ABC’s and come up with 26 helpful principles that will add value to the marriage.
So here is a sample. But I would encourage you to come up with your own.
A – Attitude. We all know that our attitudes can change for the worse quickly, even over small things. Just getting cut off in traffic can ruin our whole day. It shouldn’t. Chose to maintain a positive attitude. You will be glad you did.
B – Books. I once heard someone say that they had never encountered a problem that they could not read their way out of. So read some good books on marriage. Before you have problems. Keep one on the night stand next to your bed.
C – Communication. Some have called this the KEY to a great marriage. The reason this is sometimes difficult is that men communicate facts and women communicate feelings. Those are very different. But the only way to understand your spouse is to communicate.
D – Dream. Together. Plan your next vacation. Have a bucket list of things you want to do together. Start planning next summer’s vacation today. Why wait? I love doing this with Carol. She is better at some things. I am better at others. I can plan schedules, driving distances to be covered, and where we need to stay. Carol fills in the details, those things I forget about. And she is better at packing cars and suitcases. Marriage is better together.
In my next post we will look at more of The ABC’s of Marriage.
Are you ready to write your own list?
This summer I will be officiating three weddings. During premarital counseling, the topic of love always surfaces. Is love simply a feeling, or is it an action — something you do? What does love look like? I Corinthians 13 gives a pretty good definition.
1. Love is patient.
2. Love is kind.
3. Love does not envy.
4. Love does not boast and is not proud.
5. Love is not rude.
6. Love is not easily angered.
7. Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
8. Love always looks for the good.
Sounds like some good stuff to blog about and live out.
So, How’s your love life?
A while back I lost my driver’s license. First time that has ever happened to me. No big deal, right? After all, how many times have I had to pull it out and show it to a police officer in the last two decades? None. Actually the only time I need to pull out my license is when I go up to Skyline Drive. And if I fly I need it. So I was not too worried or in a big hurry to go to DMV.
While driving home I get a call from Dick’s. Evidently I dropped my license in the store, and it was picked up and put in the safe. Finally someone figured I could probably use it. So now I won’t have to ruin a day with a painful visit to the DMV.
When I first lost my license I did not even notice. It could take weeks or months before I actually realize it is missing. Life is sometimes like that. Way too often I hear of another marriage breaking up. Wonder how long it took the couple to realize they had lost ‘it.’ Wonder if they remember when the wheels started coming off.
Think with me. What things are often lost but never found or recovered.
1. Integrity. You can build it over a lifetime and lose it in an instant.
2. Marriage. Fortunately my driver’s license was found and restored, but if it had not, a replacement could have been made. But too often in life things get lost, relationships start heading south, and there is no quick recovery. The pain may last for years and even intensify.
3. Devotion to Christ. Even Christ-followers have been known to lose their first love for their Savior (Revelation 2:4). Scary. Because not everything that gets lost gets found.
Check your wallet and make sure you have not lost something important.
The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.
Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of. It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.
While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.
Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it? God did. And He set the example for all of us.
At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities. Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.
Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.
To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun. Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them? No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture. We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.
Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church. One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”
In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.
Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll. I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker. You will be glad you did.
Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.
Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?
Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.
We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!
Let me illustrate. I have watched people be rude in relationships to the point where it eventually ended a friendship.
There have been marriages which were destroyed over time by a controlling spouse.
And there have been habits, or little things, that others have tolerated or perhaps been unaware of that led to a downfall.
So which is it? Are we good at ignoring, and thus tolerating the little things? Or are we rationalizing, which any of us have done at some point? Is it a big deal or is it no big deal?
Case in point. A few years ago I was having a cup of coffee at Starbucks with a friend. While we were talking an attractive woman walked in. No problem. The fact is a guy can’t not notice an attractive woman.
However, the guy I was with did not simply notice the woman. He turned around a complete 180 degrees in his chair to continue to look. Noticing is far different than staring.
Now that’s a problem. I did not say anything, but I could see the handwriting on the wall. That is not healthy. Some would say, “It’s no big deal–guys do that all the time.”
Two problems. That is rationalization and toleration all wrapped up in one. The Bible says that “The wages of sin is death.” In other words, sin or destructive habits must not be tolerated or rationalized. Because you will not like the end result.
That is sin’s ultimate end. Death or destruction. Over time I watched this guy’s marriage fall apart as he eventually went after another woman. As I think back perhaps I should have said something because I have been around lots of guys, but this was a first for me. Most married guys tend to be a little more discreet.
Think about it. Turning around and continually watching attractive women must have become such a habit that he no longer thought about it, whether I was sitting there or not.
Take inventory of your own life. What small things are you tolerating? Take action today before they destroy something tomorrow.
It just seems to me we should put that kind of effort into our current marriage.
So here is a short list of 20 things.
Obviously as you read the following list you will think of many more. For instance, Carol likes to sum up the list with just two words: Be Nice.
Those two words are often found in short supply in many marriages. One of my professors used to always reference the old country song line, “You never know what goes on behind closed doors.” How true that is. Marriage can look so good on the outside, but in reality the relationship is about to crash and burn.
The following list is in no particular order, however, #1 may be the most important. At any rate, it is huge and I practice it on a regular basis.
1. Talk favorably of your spouse all the time.
2. Once you say I do, you must do.
3. Your spouse comes before your children.
4. If you are keeping a secret, you are not being truthful.
5. Love the one you are with (Success in marriage goes down with each successive marriage. In your first marriage you have a 50% chance of success, your second marriage 33%, your third 25%).
6. Don’t wait until it’s too late to ask for help.
7. You must get away with your spouse.
8. You can destroy trust in your marriage with just one stupid decision.
9. Always work to be who you want to be married to (patient, kind, etc.)
10. Trust can be rebuilt, but it will take lots of intentionality, changes, and time.
11. Do not underestimate the importance of sex.
12. The grass is greener where it is watered more.
13. Your sex life reveals a lot about your marriage.
14. Marriage counseling is cheaper than divorce.
15. Read books on marriage together.
16. Do life together.
17. Losing at love doesn’t have to be.
18. It’s easier to walk out than it is to work on your marriage.
19. Courting will keep your marriage out of court.
20. Summary: Be Nice.
As little kids we were taught, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Wow! Who thought that one up? And who passed that rhyme along? There is absolutely no truth in it, yet it gets repeated continually.
We all know it’s a lie. Words do hurt. We have been hurt by words. Right now you are recalling some hurtful words that were said to you.
Perhaps you are also recalling words that you said. It’s too late to take them back. Yes, you wish you could. But once they come out there is no taking back.
Plus they are rarely forgotten. Sadly, some we take all the way to the grave.
Many are said due to anger. We allow anger to take over and we let the words fly. Later we apologize, but the damage is done.
In 2 Samuel 16:5-14 David has lost the throne and is on his way out of town. One of his enemies, Shimei, berates him. His criticism of David goes over the top. There are some relational issues going on as Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin just like Saul. Saul is now dead, but Shimei is still loyal to Saul, not David.
Time moves on. In 1 Kings 2:8-10 David comes toward the end of his life and gives his son Solomon some final counsel. Here David recounts the hurtful words Shimei leveled against him years earlier.
Those words still hurt. David had not forgotten them.
He took those hurtful words all the way to the grave. That’s sad. Perhaps even in your own life, perhaps even in your marriage you have said some words that you can’t take back.
We have all said things we wish we hadn’t. It’s time to move on. From here on out you can do a couple of things.
1. Stop. You don’t have to immediately say what has come into your mind.
2. Think. Not everything has to be said. Some things are better left unsaid. That little zinger you want to let fly will add nothing to the relationship.
3. Multiply. Research suggests that one negative can undo twenty positives. Do you realize now the power of hurtful words?
4. Ask. Is it helpful? Will this help the situation or exasperate it? Am I saying this while I am still upset and angry?
5. Proceed. If it is helpful and you have control over your emotions you will do a much better job communicating.
Just remember, if you fail to do these things your words may very well hurt…all the way to the grave!
Is there a cure for the common cold? Well, not exactly. But we all wish there was. And there are some things you can do to prevent from getting one. If you don’t do those things, you are likely to get a cold. When do colds tend to hit you? At the worst possible time.
While Carol and I were in Rome, just before we were to come home, I came down with the dreaded common cold. Thankfully it was not as bad as it could have been and did not interfere with the things we wanted to do. However, I still wanted to be prepared in case it got bad, so I went to a local pharmacy and picked up some nasal spray. Fortunately, they had one bottle written in English so I knew what I was getting.
When I’m at home, my game plan for curing the common cold is to not get one in the first place.
Not long ago my son Gabe came down with a cold. Now, everyone in our house knows I get paranoid when someone gets a cold. Actually, they would say that paranoid is an understatement.
After all, I have to speak every Sunday and I want to be at my best. Plus, I just don’t like colds.
So in my typical fanatical fashion, I questioned everyone to check up on how often they were washing their hands. And I monitored what they were touching. I don’t even touch door knobs when this kind of thing hits our house!
To top it off, Gabe was banned from using my iPad. Yes, I go a little over the top. But, hey, I don’t get very many colds.
Sadly, most of us are not very fanatical about things that contaminate our marriages, our health, or our finances.
We could sit down and come up with a long list of things that destroy us and our relationships or our physical health.
Things like sugar, but who wants to cut down on sugar? And no one is touting it as a great food source.
I can’t believe how many marriages have been affected by an unhealthy overdose of sports. For many, sports is contaminating their relationships.
My spiritual walk with God can be contaminated by busyness, overcommitment, bad attitudes, and irresponsibility.
We could go on, but you get the point. Go radical on contamination. We allow way too many things into our lives that should not be allowed.
And don’t forget that even good things can contaminate. It could be a person, a food group, or a thing.
The bottom line is this: Are you taking contamination seriously?
While there I was impressed with Tommy and LaDel’s marriage. The culture actually helped them build some healthy rhythms into their marriage.
They lived in Eldoret, Kenya which is just above the equator. Sunrise and sunset are about the same time year around, 7am and 7pm.
A typical day included Tommy and me getting up around 5am, having our quiet time and then he attempting to teach me Swahili.
After breakfast we headed out to either frame up church buildings or hold various meetings. Then we would call it a day and have dinner. After dinner that was it. I mean there were no distractions. No TV (this was the early 80’s in a third world country), no outdoor activities (not the safest thing to do) and nowhere to go. When the sun went down everything was locked up. They had iron gates to get onto their property and another iron gate at the front door.
But this allowed them to build in some deliberate practices into their marriage. For instance, after dinner they would typically sit on the couch and talk. Also, there was some minimal British TV (definitely not my style of humor) which they had adapted to. When there is none, even bad TV is watchable, I guess.
They also planned 2-3 day getaways. Once again, even in a culture with almost zero distractions, they were deliberate.
For the rest of us, you would think that all the deliberation that was evident during our dating time would carry over. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Think of all the distractions we have here in the States. We have hundreds of TV channels, Gold’s Gym, Starbucks, Sunday afternoon football, sporting events for our kids, cleaning house, and yard work.
These distractions lead to drift. The only way to overcome the drift is to be aware of the distractions and be more deliberate in your marriage.
Every marriage is different. Some have little kids, some have grown kids. Sometimes both spouses work. Schedules get complicated. Priorities shift. And drift happens.
Today is Valentine’s Day. Today you are deliberate. That’s the scary part. Too many are ready to pat themselves on the back for thinking ahead and planning a great evening. But this is just one day.
Tomorrow and every day after that the distractions will once again begin to pile up. Marriages will drift.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Are Aware of Distractions
Do Deliberate Things
You can be deliberate. The question is… Are you?
Now that is all fine and good. And I’m not suggesting you don’t celebrate the day. Just don’t get caught up in the moment of the day. What I mean is you can’t create a life time of romance around the big days.
One of the sad realities of marriage is that romance dwindles simply due to natural drift. We simply don’t think about it. Until a big day arrives. Then we make some reservations at a restaurant and order some flowers.
If marriage was that easy we could all take a one week cruise to the Caribbean and be done for the year. Which all points to daily romance, not monthly or yearly romance.
Romance is built everyday.
Romance is in the every day things. Romance is…
Running to the store to pick up some lettuce.
Sitting around chit chatting.
Listening to my spouse’s viewpoint.
Sending a text that encourages.
Cooking a favorite dish.
Watching a TV show together.
Hiking in the mountains.
Planning your next trip.
Sharing feelings with one another.
All of the above actually cost nothing. Yet Valentine’s Day is THE day to buy flowers and go out to dinner. But if you are not careful, your investment on that one day can go south in a hurry, if you ignore what romance is really built on: Daily things.
What have you done today to build a romance filled marriage?