Tag Archive for marriage

With An Eye to the Future

One of my daughter’s dearest friends (and a close family friend as well) got married in September. They arranged a beautiful wedding and reception. There were two unique aspects of their wedding that revealed their hearts and the direction of their life together. First, they invited all of us to not only witness their marriage but to join with them in worship during the ceremony. We sang praise to the God of Love. It was a time to remember that the love they share is a gift from the Giver and Sustainer of Love.

 

Second, they shared in the Lord’s Supper with one another after exchanging their vows. In essence, their first act as a married couple was to share in the memory of the One who “gave Himself” for His Bride, to make her holy and blameless.

 

These two acts, worship and sharing the Lord’s Supper, not only represent a moment in their ceremony but, I pray, set the direction for their marriage as well. I hope they engaged in these two acts with an eye to the future. Marriage is beautiful, a wonderful glimpse of heaven. In those times when marriage is good, I hope they remember to worship the One who gives the gift of love. But, marriage can prove difficult at times. It is not always easy to “give ourselves” to our spouse, to sacrifice our own desires in order to bring our spouses into a closer relationship with us. I pray that during those times they will remember the Lord’s Supper and how He gave Himself for His Bride, sacrificing Himself to bring His Bride closer in relationship to Him. With these thoughts in mind, I offer this pray for you, Anthony and Alyssa, a blessing for your marriage.

 

May your way, when it is easy,

Be filled with humble praise;

But when it’s rocky or obstructed

Or trying or just plain tough

Let your strength be found in worship

Of the One who feeds your love;

The One who gave Himself to make 

His True Love’s charms shine forth.

 

May you, as well, give of your selves

And so release the seed of

Love to blossom in full sight 

So all her charms are known.

Then, turn again to worship

And offer humble praise

To Him who nurtures your true love

In times of joy and pain.     

 

Anthony and Alyssa, I pray you find the joy of your lifetime in one another and in the God you chose to worship and remember during your wedding ceremony, the God who gave you this wonderful gift of love.

The Happiness of Quadrupling Your Salary

Imagine getting called into your boss’s office the moment you walk into work. Hesitantly, you enter her office and sit down. Butterflies flit about in your stomach as your boss, with a very serious look in her eyes, leans forward to say, “I am so pleased with your work that I decided to quadruple your salary.” Relief chases away the butterflies from your stomach and joy spreads a smile across your face. Can you imagine the happiness you’d feel?  Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sadly, it will probably never happen.  But, what would you say if I told you another way to increase your happiness the same amount as quadrupling your income? Putman, a professor of public policy at Harvard University, knows a way.  He quantifies how marriage can impact happiness. “The strongest predictors of happiness by far are our social relationships” and “marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary.” (Read more here.) Isn’t that amazing? Marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to quadrupling your salary.  I agree… with one caveat. Happiness is not increased by any old marriage. Only healthy marriages increase happiness; unhealthy marriages, on the other hand, rob couples of happiness. So, if you want a marriage that increases happiness as much as quadrupling your income, build a healthy marriage. To help you do that, here are ten simple ways to build a healthy marriage.

  1. Greet each morning with a positive and loving statement like “Good morning. I love you.”
  2. Share a kiss any time you part during the day.
  3. Share a hug and a kiss each time you reunite. Make it an intentional 10-second oxytocin hug at least on time each day.
  4. Express gratitude for your spouse every day. Thank them for something they did, compliment something about their appearance, share a character trait you admire, etc. You get the idea. Express gratitude for your spouse every day.
  5. Look at your partner and listen when they talk to you. Put down the newspaper, get off the cell phone, look away from the TV, and look at your spouse. Let them know you understand.
  6. Do one nice thing for your spouse every day. Take out the garbage. Wash the dishes. Make the bed. Wash the car. Clean the kitty litter. Anything. Just do something nice!
  7. Remain polite toward your spouse, even when you’re angry or tired. Remember to use words like “please” and “thank you.” Hold the door open. Let your spouse go first.
  8. Touch…in and out of the bedroom.
  9. Celebrate the good moments of each day together. Take a moment at the end of each day to recall the good and joyous moments of the day.
  10. Ask your spouse what else you could do to make them feel more secure in your relationships, what you can do to show them how much you love them.

I’m sorry I can’t manage to quadruple your salary, but you’ll find the same increase in happiness by increasing the quality of your marriage. Give those 10 tips a try and enjoy the increase in happiness.

The T.A.P. Garden Could Save Your Marriage

A couple of friends recently went to Haiti with Team Tassy to “Run Across Haiti.” His wife sent beautiful pictures and wonderful descriptions of the work they did while in Haiti. One post in particular caught my attention. I wanted to share it with you. With her permission (thank you Kristen Mauclair), here it is…a gardening metaphor that could save your marriage!

No relationship is easy… including ours. Today, after taking a tour of SAKALA (an educational, community center and beautiful garden in Cite Soleil), I had the honor to teach a lesson of agriculture to Haitian students. Children so eager to learn what it means to make a garden grow.

It came to me that there are really 3 basic principles to cultivating plants 🌱 or crops… fruits 🍉 or vegetables 🥒 … Time, Attention, and Patience.

  • TIME to see the results…
  • ATTENTION to detail: watering, nourishing, harvesting the good…
  • PATIENCE when planting fails; starting over is a must… and patience to wait until the effort shows!

This was something I hoped the kids would take with them after our lesson… because ultimately… these 3 principles apply to life in many ways… developing a garden, excelling in school, growing a business, maintaining relationships… and as I thought after our garden visit… TEN YEARS OF MARRIAGE!

And, as it is, marriage is not easy. It takes TIME, ATTENTION, and PATIENCE. Our ten years have not been easy, but we’ve learned it takes work. Days have come where I’ve worked more than him and days when he’s worked more than me. There have been times when we’re on the same page, and MANY where we aren’t even in the same library. 😉 And… lots of days were spent NOT working at all.

Marriage is incredibly difficult AND rewarding. It’s uncomfortable AND comforting. It’s the best days AND worst days, but if there is NO effort from both parties, the garden will die. Time… with one another. Attention… to who we are together and who we are as individuals.  Patience… in knowing we will FALL, but will not FAIL… because starting over IS an option.

I’ve learned…’I am sorry’… ‘I forgive you’… and ‘I love you’ … are the most powerful 3-word phrases when used wisely. 10 years of marriage… work. I’m proud of myself and proud of us. I’m proud of what we stand for and what we’ve been through.  No relationship is easy… including ours.

I (John from Honor Grace Celebrate) would only add …the marriage that grows from an investment of time, attention, and patience is a joyful garden filled with beautiful plants bearing amazing fruit.

Aww, That’s So Cute!!

Did you ever watch and listen to a group of teen women (or any age really) looking at pictures of puppies, bunnies, or babies? Each picture is followed by the unsolicited chorus of “Aww, that’s so cute.” If you’ve never had that experience, stop by my house sometime and watch my daughter looking at pictures.  Anyway, a grant given by the Department of Defense explored similar pictures to help married couples “cope with the stress of separation and deployment.” They recruited 144 couples and showed each spouse a stream of images in which pictures of their spouse were embedded. In one group they embedded images of their spouse within a stream of neutral images like a button. In a second group they embedded images of their spouse within a stream of “positive” pictures like puppies, bunnies, or the word “wonderful.”  Both groups viewed the stream of images every three days for six weeks. The group who saw their spouse’s image among the pictures of puppies, bunnies, and words like “wonderful…”

  • Showed more positive reactions to their spouse over the six week study than the other group, and,
  • The spouses reported greater overall marriage quality. (Read more about this study here.)

So, what does this mean for your marriage? How can you use this information to benefit your marriage? First, remember that “interactions between spouses are actually the most important factor” in building a strong marriage. Even the researchers conducting this study agreed with that statement. Beyond that, you can use begin to incorporate cute objects like “puppies and bunnies” into your pictures to enhance the quality of your marriage. Take pictures of one another with cute puppies, bunnies, stuffed animals, or babies. Superimpose words of admiration on the photos of your spouse. If your spouse has to go out of town, send a picture of you holding the family pet, a favorite stuffed animal, or with a word like “wonderful” written on it. You might even hide pictures like that around the house. This could add a whole new dimension to taking pictures at the zoo. You might pose with a koala bear in the background or stand next to a friendly peacock. The cuteness factor may just enhance your marriage. Have fun with this idea. Be creative. Enjoy combining pictures of your spouse (and pictures of the two of you as a couple) with various cute animals and admiring words. You might just find yourself falling in love even more!  “Aww, that’s so cute!”

A Provocative Secret for a More Satisfying Sex Life

I am amazed at society’s obsessive search for a satisfying sex life. Well…I’m not surprised people want a great sex life; but I am surprised about the focus of that search for a great sex life. The main thrust of society’s search for a satisfying sex life remains focused on the physical aspects of sex—the technique, physical prowess, and self-awareness. Sure, these can help, but without a firm foundation to build upon, these superficial answers merely build a house of cards on shifting sand.  In reality, research suggests a satisfying sex life is stimulated by aspects much deeper than physical prowess, techniques, or ability. The most satisfying sex life erupts from an intimate, emotional connection between two people committed to one another. In fact, a study out of George Mason University revealed that the more spouses appreciate each other’s strengths, the more satisfied they were with their relationship overall and their sex life in particular. They were also more committed and invested in their relationship. They experienced greater intimacy. Even more alluring, valuing a spouse’s strengths led the appreciated spouse to experience a greater sense of personal growth. Let me summarize these exciting results in a format that might more readily stimulate your appreciation of their implications. Appreciating your spouse’s strengths:

  1. Leads to a more satisfying relationship overall,
  2. Greater intimacy in general,
  3. A greater commitment to and investment in the relationship,
  4. A spouse who experiences the joy of personal growth, and yes,
  5. A more satisfying sex life!

Hopefully, the provocative findings of this study arouse your latent desire to acknowledge and admire your spouse’s strengths. By doing so, you lay a firm foundation of intimacy and appreciation that will stimulate your sex life to blossom into a satisfying experience.

The Power of Action

My family likes to tease me…sometimes. It’s all in love and we all have fun…. Nonetheless, they like to mess with me. Don’t feel bad; I do give them reason. For instance, they tease me when I announce “I’m going to bed” but remain seated in the family room talking and watching TV.  After a few minutes, at the next commercial, I say it again, even explaining why I need to go to bed. “I’m tired. I’m going to bed” “or “It’s been a long day. I better hit the hay” or “Getting late. Bedtime.” Still, no movement. They begin to snicker, even make comments like “Tired Dad?” “Going to bed are you?” “Dad, you look tired. You better go to bed.” They laugh; I smile. I might even start to cast some jovial blame back on my family by saying, “Now you’re holding me back. I’m trying to go to bed and you’re keeping me up by talking to me.” It’s all done in jest, just a silly game in which we have some family fun. But, I often hear married couples caught in a vicious cycle that sounds very similar to my bedtime “routine.” They have talked about their struggles. They know what bothers their spouse. They have expressed emotions of sorrow and hurt. They can explain the history of their vulnerabilities and sensitivities. But, nothing seems to change because they do nothing but talk about it. No one has taken the step to get “off their proverbial…eh…couch” and do something different. Making a marriage strong and healthy takes more than talking and hearing the words spoken; it takes action. Moving a struggling marriage from an unhealthy position to a strong and healthy one requires doing something different. Here are four actions you can take to build a strong, healthy marriage:

  1. Let your spouse’s needs and requests influence your actions. If they ask for a drink, get it for them. If they are upset, comfort them. When your spouse asks you to help around the house, help. Do a chore. Wash the dishes. Run the vacuum. If your spouse is worried, support them. If they need to talk about a difficult situation, listen. Give a back rub. You get the idea. Serve one another. (Read Start a Revolution for Valentine’s Day to learn more about accepting influence.)
  2. Engage in daily actions that show honor and build trust with your spouse. Trust in marriage is built on small every day actions. Compliment your spouse. Tell them what you adore about them. Offer words of encouragement, admiration, and love. Express how much you enjoy your spouse’s company. (Read Building Trust in Family Relationships for more.)
  3. Court your spouse. Do what you did when “love was young.” Remember how you worked to “woo” your spouse while dating? Do it again. Write love notes. Dress up for them. Talk with courtesy and kindness. Do little things you know they will enjoy. Sit together. Hold hands. Make small talk. Learn about them, their day, their fears, their dreams. In words and actions express how much you delight in your spouse.
  4. Grow as an individual by engaging in activities that make you more mature and honorable. Keep your promises. Be truthful. Apologize and forgive. Remain faithful. (Read more in  Build 6 Pillars of Trust.)

By practicing these four actions you can build a stronger, healthier marriage.

A Math Equation to Save Your Marriage (& it’s not new math!)

I have a friend who loves math. Me? …Not so much. But, I love this equation. It is practical and user friendly. Anyone can do it and the results are amazing.

Here it is: 10 X 32 + 1 = A More Intimate Marriage!

This formula will do wonders for your marriage. Let me explain each part.

  1. Take 10 seconds
  2. 3 times a day (set an alarm on your phone as a reminder)
  3. Each time write 3 positive things you admire about your spouse
  4. At the end of the day, tell your spouse 1 of the things you wrote.

That’s it, the equation I love: 10 (seconds) X 32 (3 times/day X 3 positive things you admire) + 1 (admiration to tell your spouse).

By practicing this equation, you will keep positive thoughts about your spouse in mind throughout the day. By sharing your thought at the end of the day, you encourage your spouse. You also let your spouse know you admire them; and, you develop a habit of mind that will strengthen your marriage. Overall, you will find yourself in a marriage growing more intimate every day. Now that’s an equation I can love!

31 Acts of Kindness to Strengthen Your Marriage

Marriages thrive when spouses honor one another on a daily basis. In fact, spouses who honor one another exhibit more humor and affection during conflict. They make-up with one another more effectively after negative interactions. They also report more romance, passion, and better sex when they honor and feel honored. I don’t know about you, but I want more humor, affection, easier repair, more romance, and better sex in my marriage. So, how can we honor our spouses? One great way to honor our spouses is to show them kindness. It’s that simple: show them kindness. In case you have difficulty thinking of kind things to do for your spouse I’ve listed 30 below, one for each day of the next month. (I must admit, I did get some help coming up with ideas because I couldn’t think of 30 on my own.) Hopefully, this list will give us all a good start.

  1. Get up early and make breakfast for your spouse.
  2. Go one step further and serve your spouse breakfast in bed.
  3. Clean your spouse’s car, inside and out.
  4. Text your spouse throughout the day just to let him know you’re thinking about him.
  5. Give your spouse a sincere compliment.
  6. Help your spouse with a project she is working on.
  7. Learn about something that interests your spouse (a hobby or special topic) and show your love for him by talk with him about his interest.
  8. Give your spouse a back rub.
  9. Tell your spouse something you admire about her.
  10. Make a list of 10-15 things you love about your spouse and leave it under his pillow.
  11. Do one of your spouse’s chores.
  12. Surprise your spouse with a small gift.
  13. Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal or desert.
  14. Watch your spouse’s favorite show or movie with her.
  15. Call or text your spouse during the day just to say, “I love you” or “I was thinking about you.”
  16. Thank your spouse for something he/she did today.
  17. Tell your spouse some character trait your truly appreciate or admire in him/her.
  18. Plan a date with your spouse and enjoy the time together.
  19. Smile at your spouse.
  20. Give your spouse a long, loving hug.
  21. Hide love notes for your spouse throughout the house for her to find during the week.
  22. Leave a special note of appreciation in your spouse’s car.
  23. Ask your spouse about her day and listen with interest.
  24. Share a favorite memory of your time together.
  25. Get dressed up to greet your spouse at the end of the day.
  26. Hold the door open for your spouse.
  27. Let your spouse control the remote for the evening.
  28. Offer to get your spouse a snack or drink…and bring it to her.
  29. Mail your spouse a card telling him how much you love him. (I know you could just hand it to him, but everyone likes to get mail!)
  30. Hold hands.
  31. And for those months with 31 days…make your spouse laugh.

Give these acts of kindness a go. Maybe do one a day for the next month or double them up for a day.  And, please give us your ideas for kind deeds in the comment section below. We might start a Kindness-in-Marriage-Revolution that could flow from our marriages to our families to our communities to our world.

Old School Romance: The Spectacular Date Night

Date can boost intimacy and fun in a marriage…or it can lead to a cul-de-sac of frustration and loneliness. Consider these statements, four of the many I’ve heard over the years, describing date nights gone awry.

  • “We were having a great date until he got drunk and ruined it all.”
  • “She just can’t go one night focused on us. All she talks about is the kids and the house and the kids and the kids and the house.”
  • “We used to go out and have a blast just hanging out and talking. Now we go to a movie or the bar and neither of us says a word.”
  • We don’t have fun on dates anymore. They just turn into arguments over money, politics, and tattoos, whatever…. All we do is argue.”

Do any of these sound familiar. Maybe you’ve heard similar statements…or even made a few of them yourself. These comments do not reflect dates that helped to boost intimacy and joy. If you do want to boost intimacy and joy with a spectacular date night, remember these 8 tips!

  1. Prepare for your date ahead of time. Don’t wait until date night to ask, “What do you want to do?” Plan ahead. Maybe you want to surprise your spouse. Great. Let them know you’ll plan it all. Or, maybe you want to plan your date night together. Wonderful. Have fun planning it out. Pick the activity. Make the necessary reservations. Then just enjoy the night!
  2. Build anticipation for your date. Start talking about your date before it begins. Talk about it for the day before or even the week before. Flirt with your spouse about the details. Let your spouse know you are excited to spend time alone with them.
  3. When date night arrives, dress up for your spouse. Everyone likes to see their spouse “looking good.” Remember how you dressed and primped to make an impression on your spouse when you were dating? Do it again. Dress to catch their eye. Doing so will let them know how much you value them and your time together. It will also draw your spouse’s attention to you…and that’s always a good thing.
  4. Make time to talk on your date. Whatever activity or venue you choose for your date night, be sure to include time and space for conversation. If you go to a concert or movie, allow for time to talk afterwards. Talk about hopes and dreams, favorite vacations together, or a trip you’d like to take together in the future. Talk about other possible date night activities. Talk like “old friends” who want to nurture their friendships.
  5. Postpone arguments. Avoid talking about areas that might result in arguments and bad feelings. Save those discussions for another time. Date night is to nurture a deeper connection, not create feelings of frustration and distance. So save the sensitive discussions for another time and focus on topics you can both enjoy. If you have trouble coming up with conversation ideas, refer to bullet #4. One other comment. Planning and kids are bound to come up, just don’t let them monopolize your date night. Stick with topics like those discuss in bullet #4.
  6. Stay sober. Nothing wrong with having a drink, but don’t get intoxicated or even buzzed. It’s not safe. Even more, it robs you of the joy of completely clearheaded intimacy. It also increases the chance of experiencing conflict on your date. Stay sober and enjoy your spouse “to the max.”
  7. Enjoy physical touch. Physical touch adds a flare of excitement to your intimacy and anticipation to the joy of your date night. Hold hands. Walk arm in arm. Sit touching shoulders. Play footsies. Put your arm around your spouse. Enjoy physical touch.
  8. Try something new. Don’t get stuck in the “same old date night rut.” Be creative. Try a breakfast date, a picnic date, a night at the museum date, a walk in the woods date…you get the idea. There is no limit to what you might enjoy on a date.

Eight tips to make your date night spectacular. Give them a try. Then share your date night ideas with us so we can all make date night spectacular!

Why Thank Your Spouse for Doing Chores?

I’ve heard it a thousand times (well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I have heard it a lot!): “Why should I thank her for doing what she’s supposed to do?” Or, “I’m not going to thank him for doing what a man’s supposed to do!” Or, “Why should I thank him for taking out the garbage when I cook the meals, clean the house, and do the dishes!” The short answer is because it’s polite and it will encourage them to do more.  But, that answer is incomplete and short-sighted. Let me explain what I feel is a more compelling answer.

We all want to feel appreciated, especially by our family. Thanking our spouse for doing some routine, expected chores gives them the gift of feeling appreciated. Appreciation is a gift of love you give your spouse. But wait…that’s not all. There are even BETTER REASONS to appreciate your spouse!

A series of studies from the University of Massachusetts (click here to read the studies) explored the impact of appreciation in romantic relationships. They looked at two types of behaviors, each involving an expenditure of time, effort, and resources to meet the needs of a one’s partner or home. One type of behavior involved “partner favors,” behaviors engaged in directly for your spouse. The second type of behavior involved “family chores,” the mundane, tedious tasks not done directly for your spouse but still needing done. “Family chores” included activities like cleaning the bathroom, paying the bills, or taking out the garbage. In a series of studies and questionnaires, the researchers asked couples how often the engaged in specific “partner favors” and “family chores,” how appreciated they felt, and how satisfied they were in their marriage. The couples’ answers revealed some surprising results.

  1. When a person felt appreciated for doing the mundane, tedious “family chores,” the chore became more of a “want to do” activity rather than a “should do” activity. People crave appreciation so much that even mundane tasks become more desirable when we know our spouse will appreciate them. Chores become a positive investment in the relationship, not just another tedious job. As a result, the appreciated person is more likely to keep doing chores…and to do them happily!
  2. Appreciation for “family chores” led to greater relationship satisfaction. When “family chores” were appreciated, couples described their relationship as more satisfying and intimate.

Put these two points together and you find that appreciating our spouse sets a positive cycle in motion. The doer feels appreciated and the chore takes on new meaning. It becomes a positive investment in the relationship. Rather than another tedious task, it is an expression of love sown into the relationship. The doer then desires to do more chores, to sow more love into the relationship of appreciation. The appreciator delights in a helpful spouse. They enjoy a spouse who participates in maintaining the household and becomes even more appreciative as a result. When both spouses become doers and appreciators, you create a cyclone of appreciation pulling your marriage toward greater levels of mutual appreciation and joyous service.

So, why thank your spouse for doing chores? To create a cyclone of appreciation, an environment of joyous service and mutual gratitude! Sounds like a pretty sweet spot, doesn’t it? Get the cyclone of appreciation started today by simply voicing your appreciation for the chores your spouse has done.

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