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Becoming a parent taught me a lot. It revealed areas of immaturity and prompted (dare I say compelled) me to grow up. Areas in which I didn’t practice what I preached made themselves known. I had to learn to “walk the talk” and live a life that modeled what I wanted my children to learn. Let me share a few examples you might relate to (at least, I hope I’m not the only one!). These examples come by way of statements parents say to their children, statements we need to practice ourselves.
- “Don’t yell at me.” Have you ever said that to your child? If you have, there’s a good chance you said it in anger, with a raised voice. I remember my children arguing with one another, yelling at one another. In frustration I yelled, “We don’t yell in this house!” Yes, I’m embarrassed to say I yelled at them to stop yelling. I yelled, “We don’t yell in this house.” Fortunately, I heard myself and decided to make a change, to grow up. I decided to learn to express my frustrations in a more mature manner, not like an impetuous child yelling.
- “Be patient;” or “You need to be more patient.” It’s true. Children need to learn patience. It doesn’t seem to be a skill we’re born with. But I fear many of us don’t outgrow our childhood impatience. When we sit in traffic and impatiently growl about the driver in front of us, are we modeling adult patience for our children? When we impatiently accuse our children of taking too long to get ready or of eating too slowly at a restaurant, is it them or us who need to develop a more mature level of patience? I know I need to grow in patience so that my children will have a patient parent to emulate. Perhaps I need to heed my parental statement, “Be patient.”
- “You can’t always get your way” and “The world doesn’t revolve around you!” Ouch, that hurts. Children will learn this best when we model it, when we do not pout because our spouse asked us to help clean the kitchen (consider how you show The Full Extent of Love to your family)… or moan and complain as we watch a show our spouse likes… or grumble about go to a restaurant our spouse chooses. Time to grow up and model for our children how to graciously accept that the world doesn’t revolve around us either.
- “Don’t you get angry with me.” That’s easy to say…but do your children ever see you get angry with your parent (their grandparent) or your spouse (their other parent)? In fact, there’s nothing wrong with your children getting angry with you. After all, effective parents place healthy limits and demands on their children and their children don’t always like them. In addition, we have all misunderstood our children at times. I know I get upset, even angry, when I feel misunderstood. What we really mean to say is, “It hurts me (and maybe even makes me angry) when you get angry with me.” So, rather than make a childish demand like, “Don’t be mean to me by being angry with me,” take the role of an adult who is not overwhelmed by a child’s anger. Respond with healthy empathy and love. Let them see that no matter how mad they get with you, you still love them enough to listen AND maintain healthy limits and expectations.
Sometimes in the midst of listening to myself parent I have to wonder, “Who am I really parenting?” Who am I encouraging to grow more mature? Sure, I want my child to grow more mature. But sometimes I think I’m talking to myself and encouraging myself to mature, to become a better parent, to become the kind of person I want my children to emulate.
“I have a headache” has become a somewhat iconic excuse to avoid sexual intimacy…along with “I have to get up early” or “I’m not in the mood.” I recognize these may be true statements at times and they need to be accepted as such. However, at times, they can also represent a lack of desire for sexual intimacy. In such cases, one needs to ask a question: what could be contributing to a lack of sexual desire in my marriage? One study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, offers an interesting answer to consider, especially for women with a low sexual desire. So…husbands, listen up.
This study looked at the division of labor in the home and how it might impact a woman’s sexual desire for her husband. Specifically, the study used two online surveys to ask women about three things: 1) their sexual desire for their husband (the study utilized heterosexual couples), 2) the division of household labor and how they felt about that division, and 3) how dependent they felt their spouse was on them. Household labor in this study fell into one of several categories including finances, social planning, cleaning, clothing care, food (shopping, prepping, cooking), outdoor maintenance, house and car maintenance, general decision-making, childcare, initiating discussions, and contacting people.
Interestingly, the results revealed that women who did the lion’s share of the household labor had a decreased sexual desire. However, that decrease in sexual desire did not occur simply because they did more of the work. The decreased sexual desire seemed to arise because of two factors associated with doing the lion’s share of the work:
- They felt it unfair that they did the majority of the work. The greater the perceived unfairness, the lower the sexual desire. In healthy marriages, both partners engage in the tasks necessary to maintain a home and family.
- They felt their partner was dependent on them. The greater the perceived dependence, the lower the sexual desire. To state this in a different way, women want to be their husband’s wife, not their mother. They want a partner, not a child they have to care for. The more of the household labor a woman does, the more she feels like the caretaker, the mother…not the wife.
Men, if you want a healthy, satisfying life of sexual intimacy in your marriage, do your share of the housework. Women, if you want a healthy, satisfying life of sexual intimacy in your marriage, let your husband do their share of the housework. Men and women, if you want a healthy, satisfying sex life in your marriage, acknowledge what your spouse does to maintain your home and family. If you struggle to divide the household labor equally…
- Get curious about what you could do around the house. Remember, household chores involve more than mopping floors and washing dishes. It involves finances, social planning, cleaning, food shopping, cooking, childcare, decision-making, yard maintenance, house/car maintenance, and initiating discussions. It’s important that both spouses participate in household labor, not that the labor is divided between “male” and “female” duties. For instance, in our home it would not be surprising to see me (the male) washing dishes while my wife was painting the porch railing. The important factor is that both spouses are actively engaged in maintaining the home and family.
- Sit down as a couple and discuss who does what and areas where you can both become actively involved. Ask your spouse what they would like you to do to help around the house. Ask them what you can do to “lighten their load” and work together to build the kind of home you both desire. Remember, you are a team of two adults building a home together.
- Take action. Don’t just talk about what you can do. Do it. Get involved in the maintenance of your home and family life in ways you discussed.
- Give thanks. Take the time to look for the ways in which your spouse is participating in the household tasks. Verbally acknowledge their effort and their involvement. Thank them for what they have done and continue to do. (If you wonder why you should thank your spouse for doing what they are supposed to do, read Why Thank Your Spouse for Doing Chores.)
Men, I want to add one, maybe two caveats to this. First, serving your wife and family through active involvement in household labor is almost a kind of aphrodisiac. I’m not talking about trading work for sexual intimacy. I’m talking about the way in which actively serving your wife through household labor reveals a love that will promote your wife’s sense of security and one which she will find attractive. So, forget the flowers and wash some dishes to reveal the full depth of your love. Even some products knew to use this idea in their advertisements.
Second, women are especially attracted to those who show kindness and affection to “their” children. Who isn’t? With that in mind, childcare is a crucial household task for men to participate in…and not just for your spouse. After all, they are your children too. You are their parent—their father. Change some diapers. Feed the baby. Take care of the children while your wife takes a break. Become actively involved in your children’s lives. Doing so is a part of the household labor your wife will love to see. And, you will cherish the time you spent with your children.
It is a new year and a new opportunity to fill your family with honor, grace, and celebration.
We honor what we value so honor your family. Fill your home with honor by sharing words and actions that express value and love to each family member. Honor fills our homes when our actions reveal how much we value and appreciation each family member. Acts of kindness and service honor by communicating the “full extent of our love.” Words that acknowledge strengths and effort, words that express gratitude, and words that communicate admiration express honor to all who hear them. These words of honor pour a sense of value and worth into our family members.
A home filled with grace becomes a safe haven, a place where each person knows they will find acceptance with no strings attached. Grace apologizes for wrongs committed and forgives generously. Grace disciplines in love, teaching us to live a healthy life emotionally, physically, and mentally. Grace reveals love in the sacrifice of “my” desires to meet the needs of my family. Grace keeps us available, attentive, and emotionally connected to one another.
A home filled with celebration flows out of a home filled with honor and grace. When honor and grace undergird our interactions, we can “let our hair down,” reveal ourselves fully, and know one another intimately. We can laugh freely and play with abandon. Overall, celebration fosters an abundant life, refreshes our perspective of others, and restores intimacy. Filling our family with celebration intimacy and culminates in a renewed vitality for life.
Take the opportunity provided by a new year to fill your home with honor, grace, and celebration. You can find many ideas for sharing honor, grace, & celebration under the Family Bank of Honor. You will love it and your family will love it…for years to come.
Is your marriage under siege? Has an invisible enemy cut off the essential emotional and relational supplies that give life to your marriage? Maybe your own actions have unknowingly put your marriage under siege. It’s easy to do. Whether under siege from within or without, you need to recognize the siege artillery used to sap your marriage of the loving nutrients and sustenance it needs to survive. Then you can respond and overcome the siege to build a healthy marriage. Here are four strategies the enemy of marriage uses to set siege on your marriage…so you can address & defeat them!
- TV, phones, and other screens. If you find yourself sitting in the same room with your spouse in silence as you both scroll through social media apps, your marriage is under siege. If you watch TV more than you interact with your spouse, your marriage is under siege. Excessive screen time will sap your marriage of the necessary interactions and emotional connection you need to build a healthy marriage.
Turn off the TV. Put down the phone and forget about social media for a while. Look your spouse in the eye and talk about your day, your dreams, your life. Converse with one another. Dream together. Doing so will nurture the emotional connection every marriage needs to survive.
- Defensiveness. If you find you and your spouse caught in a cycle of blame and defensiveness every time something goes awry, your marriage is under siege. We reap what we sow, even in marital disagreements. Blame and defensiveness prevent growth. They create an environment in which both parties deny responsibility and so become powerless to change, powerless to strengthen their marriage. Instead, blame and defensiveness poison marriages with anger and resentment, slowly draining it of health.
Stop blaming. Look at yourself. Take the log out of your own eye. As you do, your spouse is more likely to do the same. Your marriage will grow as both people take responsibility for their contribution to the problem and so take hold of the power to change themselves as individuals within the marriage.
- The primacy of “my.” When one or both people in a marriage focus on “my wants,” “my way,” “my desires,” “my,” “my,” “my…” your marriage is under the siege of pride and selfishness. It will soon die of starvation for real connection and mutual regard for one another’s needs.
Take a step back. Remember what you love about your spouse. Recall what you did when love was young and do it again. Show kindness. Give preference to your spouse’s wants and wishes. Serve them. Seek to please them. Your marital joy will be nurtured. And your relationship will grow stronger as a result.
- Unrealistic expectations. Many people enter marriage with unrealistic expectations. We learn unrealistic expectations from family and TV. Unrealistic expectations may include things like “my spouse completes me” or “we will live happily ever after—all the time” or “we should want to spend all our free time together” or “my spouse will change to be everything I want and need.” Unrealistic expectations will drain your marriage of joy and build walls of resentment.
Face the truth. You and your spouse are two different people, each with your own faults, shortcomings, and eccentricities. You will make one another angry at times. You will feel lonely at times, even though you’re married. Accept these truths. And accept your spouse for who they are, shortcomings and all. Focus on those aspects you love about your spouse and celebrate those strengths. And intentionally work to grow as a person your spouse can love more.
The family celebration of Christmas has always been a bit rebellious. But, given the events of this year, celebrating Christmas with your family is even more rebellious than usual. Successfully engaging in this Christmas rebellion requires the proper handling of 3 Christmas weapons. Learning to use these Christmas weapons effectively begins in our families.
The first weapon of Christmas is peace. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus who came to bring “peace on earth.” Teaching our families to pursue peace is countercultural today. No, pursuing peace is rebellious in our world of confusion, agitation, & conflict.
- Pursuing peace involves doing the work to resolve differences with one another in a loving, just manner. This ability starts in the family and is practiced among family members. You can better resolve differences and conflict with the Ten Commandments for Effective Conflict.
- Pursuing peace involves seeking the good of each family member rather than simply looking out for your individual wants and desires.
- Pursuing peace means apologizing for wrongs done to one another as well as keeping a short account of wrongs done by others. Once again, family offers us a training ground where we learn to do this well.
The second weapon of Christmas is joy. The angels told the shepherds they were bringing them “good news of GREAT JOY….” Today, teaching our families to celebrate joy is a form of rebellion in a world that seeks to rob us of joy by filling us with fear and sadness.
- Celebrating joy takes intentional effort to see those things around us that are worthy of praise, things that are honorable. Then, after recognizing those things, acknowledging them with celebration. What has your spouse, parent, or child done today for which you can praise them? I’m sure there are numerous things to note.
- Celebrating joy involves sharing gratitude with one another for even the “little things.” We can begin sharing gratitude within our families, thanking one another for even the mundane things done for one another every day.
- Celebrating joy overflows when we intentionally share acts of kindness with each family member and the community around us.
The final weapon of Christmas is unity. Today the norm seems to be hatred, self-promotion, and division. But Jesus came to bring unity between man and God as well as unity between man and one another in Him. So, in the Christmas rebellion we continue to seek unity.
- Unity is found in seeking truth and living in that truth. Within the family, we speak the truth to one another in love. We discipline one another to live in truth and integrity.
- Unity is undergirded with the radical acceptance of one another in spite of differences or disagreements. Learning to practice this type of acceptance begins with accepting our family members in this way.
- Unity is promoted through serving one another, showing each family member the full extent of our love.
Christmas has always been a bit rebellious, but it is time to make the Christmas rebellion a revolution. Will your family join the cause of the Christmas rebellion this year?
What does romance have to do with breast cancer? According to research published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, there is a definite relationship. Researchers from Ohio State University found a “clear trend” between romance and breast cancer after reviewing the data obtained through questionnaires and three separate blood samples taken from 139 women diagnosed with breast cancer. A “clear trend”? Yes. The more satisfied a woman felt about her romantic relationship, the lower her perceived stress and the lower her inflammation. Elevated levels of inflammation are associated with cancer recurrence and other illness such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. In fact, women’s inflammation markers were even lower at individual visits in which they reported satisfaction with their partner than during individual visits in which the same women reported less satisfaction. In other words, this research suggests a “clear trend” that a strong, healthy marriage reduces the chances of breast cancer recurrence and promotes positive overall health by reducing a woman’s perceived stress and inflammation markers in the blood.
Of course, this “clear trend” is not a cure-all. But it does provide us with important information. A healthy marriage can promote your spouse’s physical health. With that in mind, here are a dozen ways to build a healthy marriage, to keep your marriage strong and intimate.
- Share time together. Intimacy and health within any relationship, especially marital relationships, are built upon time spent together.
- Dream together. What do you want to do in five years? Ten years? What dreams do you want to fulfill with one another? For one another?
- Share physical affection that includes non-sexual touch and sexual intimacy. (Is Your Marriage Like Chocolate Without Icing?)
- Express gratitude. Even if you think your spouse simply did what they are supposed to do, thank them anyway. Gratitude builds relationship.
- Expand your “love maps” of one another. Learn about one another’s world of ideas, friends, and activities.
- Express adoration and admiration for one another. Keep the adorable parts of your spouse in mind and make it a habit to compliment them often. (Here is an adoring Math Equation to Strengthen Your Marriage.)
- Talk about problems as they arise and working to resolving them with your spouse’s best interest in mind. After all, to “shut up and put up” will destroy your marriage.
- Apologize when necessary. Notice it says “when” not “if.” You will make mistakes. We all do. Be willing to eat a little humble pie and apologize for your mistakes and wrongdoings.
- Forgive graciously. As Desmond Tutu’s book is famously titled, there is “no future without forgiveness.”
- Honor your spouse by serving them. There is no greater way to show the full extent of your love than through the simple, daily, menial tasks of life.
- Start a hobby you can both enjoy. This can help you enjoy time together.
- Encourage your spouse’s dreams. Ask your spouse about their dream. Then do what you can to support that dream. Encourage them. Accompany them. Finance them. Dream with them.
Engaging in these activities will help you build a stronger, healthier marriage with your spouse. And that will promote your spouse’s health. That’s the power of love!
My friend stood at an ATM machine getting money when someone walked up behind her and began to “grope her.” She was furious. Being an independent strong woman, she turned around and hit him with her purse in one smooth movement. He fell to the ground. She prepared to tell him off when he held up his red and white cane saying, “Wait…I’m blind. I was trying to find the ATM machine.” Now, my friend, being a kind and compassionate woman, suddenly felt guilty for having decked a blind man. She apologized and helped him up. What changed? Her perspective of the situation changed. She went from thinking someone was trying to take advantage of her to thinking someone was in need due to physical challenges. How many times does this happen in marriage (perhaps to a lesser extent and with no physical attacks I mean)?
- You walk into the house and say “hi” to your spouse. He ignores you. As your irritation swell up and you get ready to yell, you realize he is on the phone. He looks your direction and smiles as he mouths, “I love you.” In a moment, your realization meets his smile and your irritation turns to joy.
- You and your spouse are having a discussion in the kitchen while you cook dinner. As you look at the pan stirring noodles, you hear your spouse say, “That was stupid.” Thinking you were called “stupid,” you look up to complain. Your spouse is standing over a jar of spaghetti sauce with sauce dripping down her shirt. She smiles, “I forgot it was already opened.” Anger turns to laughter.
- You walk into the kitchen to find the sink full of dishes. Frustrated, you begin to rinse them and slam them into the dishwasher. When your spouse walks into the room you say sarcastically, “Thanks for cleaning the kitchen.” Your spouse apologizes and explains that the children have been sick and throwing up all day. You notice the stain of vomit on her shirt. Anger becomes compassion as you give her a hug.
In each situation the only thing that changed was the perspective of the situation. Sometimes we need to take a breath before reacting. We need to take a sacred pause, to slow down and practice a little patience before we explode. The sacred pause allows us look to our spouse and ask a few questions, find out more about the situation, and learn more about what’s happening from their point of view. That sacred pause, that moment of patience, can turn anger into compassion or frustration into joy. That sacred pause can save your marriage.