Tag Archive for marriage

“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”

You’ve heard songs lament, “You’ve lost that loving feeling….” You’ve probably even heard people you know declare, “I love you; I just don’t feel the love anymore.” That’s great news. Now those “loving feelings” won’t interfere with you revealing your true level of love. After all, true love is a verb, not an emotion. Feelings wax and wane. Emotions come and go. But true love includes more than emotion. True love is a verb that involves decisions and actions. True love engages in loving acts toward the one you love even when the feelings of love weaken or seem nonexistent. Think of those loving actions you engaged in when you first met and began to pursue a relationship.

  • The effort you made to spend time engaged in conversation and getting to know one another.
  • The time spent sharing interests and opinions over a cup of coffee or a meal. 
  • Think about how often you “picked up a little something” you thought “the one you loved” might like and gave it to them when you met. It might have been anything from flowers to a pack of gum to a picture of something you thought they’d enjoy.
  • Recall how often you complimented them on their appearance, their cooking, an achievement, or something they did for another.
  • Remember the times you admired their character as you saw it in action.
  • Think about the simple acts of physical affection like holding hands, sitting snuggled up in one another’s arms, or walking arm in arm.
  • Consider how often you offered to do something nice for them. You might have offered to get them a drink while you were in the kitchen, pick up milk on your way to their apartment, or carry a bag for them while they opened the door.

The acts of love go on. There are many more. Not so surprisingly, engaging in these acts of love reignites those dormant feelings of love.  I fear we often put the cart before the horse when thinking about love. We think loving feelings drive loving actions. While that might be true at times, real growth, real movement toward a stronger marriage, occurs when the horse of loving action drives the cart of loving feelings to a new and better place in our relationship. Of course, the one steering the cart and directing the horse, the coachman, is you and your decision to go in the direction of love. So, if you’re singing the blues (“I’ve lost that loving feeling”), cheer up.  Rejoice in the great opportunity presenting itself to you. Jump in the driver’s seat and take the challenge of driving the horse…eh, I mean, your loving actions. Engage in loving actions, the same type of actions you engaged in when you first “fell in love.” Celebrate the opportunity to reveal your true love in action and the cart of “loving feelings” will follow into an even more beautiful love than ever before.

Married to Burger King?

Remember the old Burger King commercials?  I used to sing their moto, “Have It Your Way…,” such a catchy tune.

Unfortunately, some people think they’re married to Burger King. They want to always “have it their way” in marriage, treating their spouse like Burger King. They want their “Burger King spouse” to accept their way and agree with it, or at least act as though they do. They always believe their way “is right” and will argue their point in an effort to make their “Burger King spouse” toes the line and complies with their way. They do this by insisting on “their way” with vigor and passion, often overwhelming their spouse with their energy. They persist in this persuasion until their “Burger King spouse” accepts their conclusion as the right conclusion. What they don’t admit to themselves is “their Burger King spouse” often does this just to end the conflict and not have to talk about it anymore. As soon as the “Burger King spouse” gives in, a wedge (not a pickle wedge or a lettuce wedge but a solid, distancing wedge) is forced between them. That wedge will grow and fester, hindering intimacy and even leading to more conflict in the future.

“Having it your way” doesn’t work in marriage because none of us are married to Burger King. (Well, accept maybe Mrs. Burger King.)  Our spouse has their own opinions, perspectives, and ideas. Maybe you “hold the lettuce” and she piles it on…or you “hold the pickles” while he asks for extra pickles. More significantly, maybe she wants a minivan and you want an SUV…or you want to spend some money on a few weekend vacations each year, but he wants to skip the weekend getaways and save all the money for retirement. I won’t list possible differences you and your spouse may hold. I’m sure you can think of a few on your own. The point is, when we insist on always being right, when we demand to “have it our way,” we push our spouse away. In the words of a more marriage friendly moto, “You can be right…or you can be in relationship.” “Being in relationship” requires that we accept our spouse’s point of view as valid, just like our point of view. It means we don’t demand to “have it our way,” but honor our differences by listening and compromising instead.  It means having the grace to “have it their way” now and again instead of “our way.” In short, you’re not married to Burger King so don’t expect to “have it your way” all the time.  Learn to listen, compromise, and turn toward one another in discovering a third alternative that can satisfy each of you. After all, isn’t it more important to have a satisfying marriage than to “have it your way.”

Communicating As An “Us”

The party was long and I was getting tired; but, I didn’t want to rudely get up and leave. My wife was across the room enjoying a conversation with another guest. When I looked her way, she caught my eye. She made a very subtle motion with her head and changed the expression on her face ever so slightly for a brief second. Then she returned to her conversation. I knew exactly what she had said. I walked over to the table where I could get a drink and carried it over to her. I handed her the drink and said, “Thirsty?” She nodded and took the drink. “Getting kind of late. I’m tired. Are you ready to leave?” A look of relief spread across her face. “Yes,” she replied, “I’m tired too.”  We quickly said our good-byes and headed home. She thanked me for “hearing” her request from across the room and added, “I thought I saw the same in your face.”

I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience in your marriage. The experience of working as a team, of remaining attuned and attentive to one another in a way no one else is. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s time to learn this crucial skill for a happy marriage. It’s a skill developed and practiced every day in a healthy marriage. Here are some tips to help you get started…or to get even better at it than you already are.

  • Get curious about your spouse. Follow their lead. Learn what they like and don’t like. Learn about their dreams and their fears. Never stop learning. Your spouse will offer new things to learn every day. Get curious and enjoy learning about your spouse. (Develop a “Love Map” with these questions.)
  • Be open & transparent in speaking about what impacts you and how. Talk about your opinions and your feelings. It’s ok to differ in opinion so allow your spouse to know your thoughts.
  • Learn to listen intently—not just for words but for inflection, tone, and cadence as well. Not just with ears but with eyes & touch as well. Listen intently. (Learn the The Gracious Art of Listening.)
  • Turn toward your spouse to work together. Problem solve together. Make compromises. Look for win/win solutions. Function as a team. (RSVP for Intimacy can help you do so.)
  • Develop an identity as a couple. Consider what you like to do together? How do you fit into world as couple? How do you balance couple time with individual time & identity? How can you create overlap? To help you do this, take time to develop a couple’s mission statement. (Include these 6 Traits for an Intimate Marriage in your mission statement.)

Want to have a better relationship, a happier marriage? Begin to practice by communicating a sense of “us” by practicing these tips. Go ahead and get started. You’ll have fun and grow a more intimate relationship along the way!

Cuddle Up A Little Closer

Ah, the cuddle. Whether it be a hug, a snuggle, hand-holding, or a “smooch,” we love ’em all. And why not? Cuddling does wonderful things for us and our relationship. Let me just name a few: 

  • Cuddling releases a “bonding” hormone (oxytocin). When we cuddle, we bond with the one to whom we cuddle. In other words, we feel closer to one another. So, snuggle up and bond. Enjoy the intimacy. You might even find yourself talking a little more.
  • Cuddling increases happiness. Who can stay grumpy when snuggled up with the one you love?
  • Cuddling reduces stress and anxiety. There’s just something about snuggling into the arms of our love and feeling the stress melt away.
  • Cuddling also lowers blood pressure. Increased happiness, reduced stress, and lowered blood pressure all add up to increased heart health too!
  • Cuddling releases oxytocin which helps block pain signals. As a result, cuddling reduces pain.
  • Cuddling also helps us fight colds and other infections. When we feel good our body doesn’t want illness to interfere. So, it fights infections even more.
  • Cuddling helps us sleep too.

Is it any wonder we like to cuddle? It soothes us and lifts our mood. It melts away the strain and stress of the day. It relieves the pain. All the while it bonds us to the one with whom we snuggle. So, grab your spouse and “cuddle up a little closer.” You know you want to. Sing along with Andy Burrows with full sincerity, “I’d rather have cuddle than a video; I’d rather have cuddle than anything I know. I’d rather have a cuddle than ketchup, chips, or peas. A computer can be lovely, but a cuddle’s what I need!”

Nude Doing What?!! No…Way!

My friend sent me a…well, rather surprising news article from CNN (I spared you this article to avoid pictures of the golfers). How do I describe it? Let me just ask…Did you know the “Wandering Bares” just had a nude golf event in Australia? Well, not completely nude…they did wear shoes to protect their feet and hats to protect their hairline from the sun. If that’s not enough, the 11th Annual “World Naked Bike Ride” was held on June 23 this year (2018). That’s right, 11th annual! I discovered “naturists” promote nude volleyball, tennis, and trail running as well. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to participate in any sport nude…especially in public. There is only one place I want to stand “naked and unafraid.” That is in the presence of my spouse. Only in marriage can we truly stand before one another “naked and unafraid.” Even that proves difficult enough! Maybe I better explain that a little more.

“Naked and unafraid” with our spouse involves an intimacy much deeper than simple physical nudity.  Standing before our spouse “naked and unafraid” is not simply standing physically nude but being present with our spouse in complete emotional vulnerability, mental transparency, and spiritual acceptance. The freedom to stand before each other emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically “naked yet unafraid” flows from mutual acceptance, warts and all. It demands a shared commitment to live our lives as one. How do we develop the sense of acceptance, commitment, and intimacy that will allow us to stand with our spouse emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically “naked and unafraid”? Here are some tips.

  1. Commit to your marriage and your spouse. Assure your spouse that you “only have eyes for” them. Stick with them in the good times and the bad. Share the joys and the sorrows. Also, look to the future you will share together. Do you have infants? Talk about your shared future as parents of teens. Do you have teens? Talk about your future together in the “empty nest.”  Do you have young adult children? Talk about how you will grandparent together. Do you have a dream vacation? Plan to take it in the next five years. You get the idea. Look to the future and plan your future together.
  2. Share your dreams with one another. Even more, support one another’s dreams. Learn about those things that interest your spouse and grow with them in those areas of interest. This also adds to the idea of committing to your spouse “for the long run.” 
  3. Show your spouse unconditional acceptance. Take time to admire the traits you love in your spouse. When you have disagreements, reaffirm your love. When you discuss those little irritations, let your spouse know how much you love them anyway.
  4. Share your ideas with one another. Talk with your spouse about a book you’re reading. Discuss the politics of the day with your spouse. Share an inspiring verse or a lesson learned. Become mentally transparent before your spouse.
  5. Share your fears and your joys with your spouse. Become emotionally vulnerable. Talk to your spouse about the movie that “brought tears to your eyes” (yes guys, I’m even talking about us) and the act of kindness from the random stranger that “touched you.” Express your frustration over the injustices you witness or read about in the news. Don’t forget to share stories of joy and inspiration as well—the gift that made you “so happy,” or the love that changed you. In other words, become emotionally vulnerable before your spouse. After all, you know they offer you unconditional acceptance (see #3).

When we do these things, we will find ourselves standing before our spouses emotionally vulnerable, mentally transparent, spiritually united…and unafraid. We will find ourselves “naked and unafraid.”  I long for that intimacy with my spouse. Don’t you? BUT, you still won’t find me playing golf (or any other sport for that matter) in the nude…and we’re all glad about that!

Fruits of a Healthy Marriage

Healthy marriages flow from healthy individuals who continue to learn and grow. Sure, each person will make mistakes. But, in the long run, each spouse in a healthy marriage grows and reveals these healthy fruits in their lives. As a result, their marriages flourish. Here are some fruits that nurture a healthy marriage along with some practical ways to enjoy that fruit

  • Love. Love is an action. It seeks the best for one’s spouse. It maintains a long-term view of the marriage. So, plan a vacation, a 5-year anniversary, an extra big trip for next year. Spend this year planning a special romantic getaway

    for next year. Take time to prepare for it, save for it, and work for it together to make it happen. Love also thinks the best of one’s spouse. So, find a way to compliment your spouse every day. Show your spouse appreciation daily. Tell them how much you admire them for all they do. (If you want to apply this to your whole family, try the 30-Day Family Happiness Challenge!)

  • Joy. Healthy marriages share joy. Each spouse shares joyful experiences from their days. Joyful marriages are filled with play. So, play together, laugh together, and share adventures together. Enjoy a card game or a baseball game together. Celebrate an achievement, a milestone, or just the day for no other reason than you enjoy your spouse. Tell a joke. Share your joys.
  • Peace. In a healthy marriage each spouse pursues peace, not drama. Mole hills remain mole hills and mountains are excavated to become gentle slopes or terraced hillsides filled with lookouts over awesome vistas. Healthy couples learn to use conflict for grow and so promote peace. (Read The Secret to Family Peace and apply the principles to your marriage.)
  • Patience. Those who enjoy a healthy marriage practice patience. Each spouse puts his or her agenda aside and patiently listen to understand their spouse. They are patient with misunderstandings, disagreements, and mistakes. They listen intently and fully. Patience doesn’t mean letting everything slide. It does mean trusting your spouse’s love for you and patiently engaging them to create change.
  • Kindness. Who doesn’t want a kind spouse? A spouse who serves in kindness and speaks words of kindness nurtures a healthy marriage. So, serve your spouse. Speak words of kindness, respect, and gratitude to your spouse.
  • Sincerity. Healthy marriages put aside sarcasm and left-handed compliments. Instead, offer sincere compliments, honest encouragement, and beneficial words.
  • Faithfulness. Healthy marriages focus on truth. They do not hide things from one another. They do not lie to one another. Be truthful and honest. Keep your promises. If you promise to do something, do it as soon as you can. Faithful marriages have an eye on the long-term investment of their relationship. They know they will be together in the future and they work for that end.
  • Gentleness. People in healthy marriages tend to be humble. They do not take themselves too seriously. They are humble enough to serve one another. Rather than expect their spouse to bring them a drink, they offer to bring their spouse a drink. Rather than ask “What have you done for me lately?” they ask, “What can I do for you today?” (Check out Today’s Family Question is… for more.)
  • Self-control. Spouses who enjoy a healthy marriage practice self-control. They soothe themselves during arguments or disagreements. They are not easily angered and when they become angry they manage that anger. In addition, they practice self-control when they “only have eyes for” their spouse, no one else!

We could talk about each of these traits more, but I think you get the idea…and a few practical ideas on how to put these traits into practice. Now get out there and grow the fruits of a healthy marriage.

Humility & Your Marriage…Now That’s HOT!!!

“Oh lord it’s hard to be humble when your perfect in every way…” or so said Mac Davis in 1980.  Maybe it’s even harder today. We live in a world that encourages self-promotion. Teens base their self-worth on the number of “likes” they receive for their most recent selfie…and so work to look “perfect in every way” before posting the “spontaneous” selfie.  But, when it comes to creating long-term marital bliss humility is hot! A study published in 2015 explored the role of humility in relationships (Humility and Relationship Outcomes in Couples). They compared how a person perceived their partner’s humility to their relationship satisfaction and forgiveness. They also explored whether commitment played a role. They discovered that as one’s perception of their partner’s humility increased so did forgiveness and satisfaction in the relationship. In other words, a partner’s humility contributes to their partners sense of relational commitment, satisfaction, and willingness to forgive.

This begs the question…what exactly is humility and how do we increase it in our relationship? First, humility involves having an accurate view of ourselves. It means we recognize our strengths and our weaknesses. Second, humility involves having an “other-oriented” perspective rather than a selfish perspective. A humble person does not boast or act prideful. They also show a willingness to sacrifice self-gratification to meet their partner’s needs. They make self-promotion secondary to partner-promotion.

The question remains: how do we develop humility in our marriages? Based on the definition above, here are several ideas to get you started.

  1. Acknowledge your own strengths AND weaknesses. We all have them…so admit it. If you don’t know what they are, ask your spouse and maybe a few other people who love you and know you well. Put on a tough skin and listen carefully. Don’t think so highly of your strengths that you ignore your weaknesses; don’t obsess over your weaknesses so much you neglect your strengths. Acknowledge both.
  2. Put your spouse first. In communication your first goal is to understand your spouse because what they have to say is important. In living a healthy life your first goal is to assure your spouse has what they need to live healthy (opportunities for healthy food, rest, exercise). In entertainment your first goal is for your spouse, not yourself. In all areas, put your spouse and their needs first. You can still take care of yourself. After all, your spouse needs a healthy partner. So by all means, take care of yourself because your spouse is of utmost importance and they need a healthy partner.
  3. Accept your spouse’s influence in your life. Let their needs and vulnerabilities, fears and joys influence your decisions, your words, and your actions. Allow their requests to influence your behavior and daily chores. Allowing your spouse to influence your words and deeds is an amazing expression of humble love.
  4. Admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness when necessary. We all make mistakes. A humble person acknowledges their mistakes and seeks forgiveness. They apologize for their wrong doings, even when those wrong doings are unintentional.
  5. Offer forgiveness. A humble person is gracious in offering forgiveness. They do not demand undue retribution. They recognize that all of us (including me) have “fallen short” and made mistakes. As a result, they do not hold a grudge. They accept the other person’s apology and seek to restore the relationship.

One last thing to remember. Beauty fades over time. Skin sags, body shapes change. But, humility grow and flourishes over time. Outward beauty is hot for the moment, but humility…now that’s hot for a lifetime!

This Pattern Will Kill Your Marriage

Every marriage relationship develops patterns of interaction. Some patterns help marriages grow. Some can kill marriage. An analysis of 74 separate studies that included over 14,000 people discovered one pattern that can kill our marriages! This negative relationship pattern lowers relationship satisfaction, decreases intimacy, and contributes to poorer communication. It is often lovingly referred to as the demand-withdraw pattern. In this pattern one partner makes criticisms, complaints, and requests while the other withdraws and gives the silent treatment (The Most Toxic Relationship Pattern). Knowing this pattern can destroy your marriage is a start. Learning what you can do to replace it is even better. That’s the real solution. Here are a couple of ideas.

  1. Instead of criticizing, use what Gottman calls a “gentle startup.” Rather than verbally attacking your partner’s personality, stick to describing the situation causing the stress. Find a way to explain the positive need inherent in your complaint rather than “harping” on what your partner’s doing wrong. Coming up with a positive need opens the door to discovering a solution and building intimacy.
  2. Rather than creating an environment of abuse in which you insult your partner or show contempt for your partner, create an environment of appreciation. Maintain your awareness of your partner’s positive qualities. Speak words of affirmation and adoration to your partner every day.
  3. Rather than making excessive demands and requests on your partner, practice serving one another. Build a culture of service, a culture in which both partners serve one another.
  4. It’s easy to begin taking a “tit-for-tat” position when you feel like your partner blames you for something. Our first instinct is often to return blame for blame, attack for attack. Rather than do so, take responsibility for your own mistakes. Own up to your shortcomings. Admit your wrongdoings and seek forgiveness for your mistakes.
  5. Rather than shutting down, practice calming yourself and your partner. Don’t push buttons. Breath. Take a break. Distract yourself. Then, after you have soothed yourself, return to #2 and tell your partner what you love about them.

The demand-withdraw pattern could destroy your marriage. But you can end it. You can replace it with something better by beginning to practice the 5 actions above. Why not start today!

A Sense of Belonging “Phubbed” & the Power of Your Thumb

We all desire to have a sense of belonging, the feeling we have when we find unconditional acceptance in relationship to others. A sense of belonging is a crucial aspect in healthy relationships. It leads to greater happiness in family relationships. Children flourish when they grow up with a sense of belonging in their families. It is also foundational for healthy romantic relationships.  Marriages thrive when both spouses have a sense of belonging in their relationship. But, a Contender has arisen to rival our sense of belonging, especially within the family. This Contender challenges our efforts to build a sense of belonging among our family members. Amazingly, we have welcomed the Contender into our living rooms and our bedrooms. We have invited the Contender to our meals and our activities. In each area, the Contender seeks to spoil the sense of belonging between husband and wife, parent and child, brother and sister. And, the Contender will defeat our sense of belonging unless we battle wisely. Let me introduce the Contender: YOUR cellphone. Research completed by Kent’s School of Psychology explored how “phubbing” (snubbing someone by ignoring them to respond to your cell phone) impacts relationships. They found that “phubbing” a person threatened their sense of belonging. They greater the “phubbing,” the greater the threat to one’s sense of belonging. (Read “Phubbing” Can Threaten Our Basic Human Needs, Research Shows for more.)

In other words, when you reach for your phone during time with your spouse, you threaten your spouse’s sense of belonging. Do this often enough and your spouse begins to question how much your value them or if you even accept them at all. Romance will dwindle. Marital happiness will drift.  Pick up your phone while engaging with your children and their sense of belonging gets called into question. “Am I more important than that call or text?” Your children may even begin to resent your relationship to your phone just as you might grow to resent their relationship to their phone.

I must admit…the Contender is strong. It exerts a mighty pull. It can hold great power over you. But, there is good news. Every one of your family members (including you) have a secret weapon to defeat the power of the Contender. It’s true. In fact, you have two secret weapons that the Contender cannot defeat. The secret weapon is YOUR thumb! You can silence your cell phone.  You can put it on “do not disturb.” You can even turn it off with the power of your thumb! When you do, the Contender’s power dwindles to off (literally and figuratively).  It cannot disturb your interactions. It cannot intrude upon our conversations. It will do nothing but sit silently…preferably in another room and out of sight. Even more, you are free to look your spouse in the eye and talk. You are free to engage your children with no distraction. You are free to celebrate your relationships and build a stronger sense of belonging!

What’s Love In Your Marriage?

Love…we have a lot of confusion around love in our society.

  • From Tina Turner telling us, somewhat cynically about love, you “must understand though the touch of your hand makes my pulse react, that it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl. Opposites attract. It’s physical, only logical. You must try to ignore that it means more than that. What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”
  • To John Legend, who speaks of throwing his all into love “cause all of me loves all of you. Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfection…. You’re my end and my beginning; even when I lose I’m winning ’cause I give you all, all of me…and you give me all, all of you.”
  • To Blake Shelton speaking of needing the one he loves “Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs. God gave me you for the days of doubt. For when I think I’ve lost my way there are no words here left to say, it’s true…God gave me you.”
  • To the J. Geils Band telling us “…this thing they call love, it’s gonna make you cry…Love stinks.”

All in all, we get a montage of love that leaves us confused and unsure of what true love really is.

In wedding ceremonies, I often hear another description of love, an ancient description written by Paul, a follower of Christ, to the church in Corinth. It begins with “Love is patient” and continues to offer a wonderful, inclusive definition of love. 

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous;

 

Love does not brag and is not arrogant,

 

Does not at unbecomingly;

 

It does not seek its own, is not provoked,

 

Does not take into account a wrong suffered,

 

Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

 

Bears all things, believes all things,

 

Does all things, endures all things.

 

Love never fails…

But now faith, hope, and love, abide these three;

 

But the greatest of these is love.”

Love as described in this passage can make or break your marriage. It lays the foundation for a intimate marriage filled with joy. It’s a beautiful passage, but if fear we don’t take the time to really explore what it tells us about love. For instance, consider the first word: love.  The word for love in the original language of this passage is “agape.”  The author could have chosen “eros,” “phileo,” or “storge,” all Greek words for love; but he didn’t. He chose to use “agape,” a word that speaks of a higher love, the love of God. “Agape” is more than a feeling and more than an action based on feelings. “Agape” takes great pleasure in the person it loves and is willing to pay a personal price to continue seeking that person’s good. It sets aside pride, self-interest, and personal possessions to benefit the one loved. Although “agape” can include physical love, emotions, and natural connection, it goes…

  • beyond passion to commitment,
  • beyond the physical to intentional self-giving,
  • beyond feelings to an act of will,
  • beyond natural connection to a connection that requires self-sacrificing development.

As we implement this type of love in our marriages, our marriages will grow stronger and more intimate.

PS: Stay tuned as we explore more about this type of love in future blogs.

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