Keep the Long View

Even the best of marriages go through seasons of highs and lows. Feelings can swing from being crazy about your partner to having your partner drive you crazy. That’s natural. The key is to maihow-we-see-thingsntaina long-term perspective and not let the little things bring you down.

I recently had a day that I had to keep in perspective. Tara (my wife) had to go into the office early. She asked that I bring our son in an hour later so she could drive him to school once I started work. This was not an unusual arrangement, in fact we had done this multiple times. But on this day, I couldn’t find my car keys. Anywhere… I searched the house, checked pants pockets in the laundry hamper, looked on tables and counters. All to no avail. I tried to call Tara, but she didn’t answer.

My frustration was growing as I frantically try to figure out how to get myself to work  and my son to school. I keep trying to call her, but to no avail. I realized that I have an antique Corvair convertible in the garage that I don’t drive often (or far). Of course, on this day it is pouring down rain, so my son and I have to wrestle the top up. Because I haven’t driven it in awhile, my license plates are a couple of months expired, but I decide I’ll have to take the risk. We get the car loaded with our stuff and get ready to go.

I open the garage door and suddenly realize that my primary car (you know, the one for which I have no keys) is parked almost directly behind the Corvair. I can’t move it so my frustration increases. I try to call Tara again, but of course – still no answer.

My son convinces me that we can squeeze past the parked car and the side of the garage if I’m really careful. And with a couple of inches to spare, we did just that. So after what has taken thirty minutes to get out of the driveway, we finally head towards the office. The wipers on the old car don’t really work. They swipe once every time I hit a button, but there’s no constant on-setting that works. So I make the 15 minute drive to the office with one hand on the gear shift, one hand on the wheel and the other hand on the wiper button (I know… that’s three hands, but that’s what it felt like I needed.) Our son kept trying to call his mom to see if she by chance happened to know where my keys were in hopes I could turn around and take my legal vehicle. But no answer.

When we finally get to the office, I’m pretty perturbed, and I’m not hiding it well. After I interrogate her about where my keys might have been, she finds them in her purse, right beside her phone. Of course I ask her to check for missed calls, and she sees the fifteen that I made over the last hour. It turns out she had silenced her phone the night before and didn’t know it was ringing in her purse.  I found myself scolding her for taking my keys, for not answering her phone and throwing horrific scenarios at her. “What if there had been a real emergency?” She felt terrible about what had happened, but in that moment, I felt the need to make her feel worse.

I was furious and suppose I had every “right” to be. She left to take our son to school and I had a chance to cool down. And that’s when my long-term perspective kicked in. How bad were things really? I got to work and missed nothing. Our son got to school. And I was still married to the greatest woman that I know. When I considered my morning through this new “lens”, I realized what a lucky man I really am to have the wife that I do. When we got together that evening, I sincerely apologized for losing my temper and speaking in an unkind manner.

Keep things in perspective. Don’t let the little things turn you against your spouse. Thank God that you have a person in your life that you can love unconditionally and that can love you back. We all make mistakes. Our job is not to highlight these and punish one another. Jesus did not rub our nose in our sins, and then forgive us. He showed us grace when we deserved none. That is the model that we need to remember and follow.

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Dominance & Complacency

There’s something I’ve come to observe in most marriages. There is typically a more dominant personality, and a more submissive one. This does not seem to be gender driven at all as the roles vary from couple to couple. And there’s no one ratio that fits this pattern across the board. In some cases the dominant partner is extremely dominant and in others just slightly so. In other words, it might look like 90/10 and some and in other marriages 51/49, but I suspect there’s always one partner that holds more power than the other.

This is not a blog post on Biblical submission or spiritual leadership. There’s a ton of good material out there on that topic and I encourage you to seek it out if you are so interested. I’m writing this based on my personal experience in dealing with couples.

If the dominant partner in a marriage is “satisfied” with the way things are, there is very little motivation for change.  If, however, the dominant partner seeks to improve on their current situation, they will typically encourage / persuade their partner to consider taking action alongside them.

I personally fall into the camp that anything can be made better if you focus on making it happen. And being the egocentric blogger that I am, I fully assumed that everyone else would think like I do. Surprise! They don’t.

I’m not talking about marriages in crisis here. I know of several couples where the less dominant partner would love to improve their relationship, but they find little motivation in their spouse in doing so. Sure enough, if I talk to their spouse they are often quite content. “Things are fine” they say – in so many words. And with that attitude, things stay just the way they are. Well that’s not entirely true. Isaac Newton recognized this when he claimed that (in nature) things don’t get better when left alone, they naturally degrade. The same holds true for marriages.

So if my theory is true, no marriage can ever get better than what the dominant partner wants / expects it to. If the relationship is solid, I suppose the other partner could thoughtfully bring up their desires and hopefully be heard. But how committed can you be at resolving an issue, if you don’t see there is an issue?

I want  to encourage all married couples to focus on and improve their relationships. If you think everything is just fine in your marriage, you might fall into the dominant and complacent category. Don’t assume your spouse is right there with you. Talk about it. What is their opinion? Can you both imagine areas where you could stand to improve?Why wouldn’t you want your most important relationship on Earth to be as good as it possibly could?

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Intentionality

Ok. When it comes to creating and maintaining a Shocking Marriage, the key is Intentionality. That’s it. It’s really that simple. Think about it. We get better at those things in life that we are intentional about. If you want to improve your golf game, you take lessons and you practice. You carve time out of your week to do so. intentional imageAnd low and behold, you see your scores decreasing. You want to successfully complete a challenging project at work? You muster your resources, put in the extra hours, develop creative solutions and Bingo. You’ve achieved.

So why is it that when it comes to marriage, so many fall into the trap of “marriage happens”? They invest minimal time and  energy into the relationship, then wonder where the “magic” has gone. You wouldn’t consider walking into your job holding a cup of coffee and saying “I’m here – isn’t that enough?” And yet, how many treat their marriage exactly this way?

It’s really not that tough folks. The things in life we focus on and put energy toward generally get better. If you’re in a ho-hum marriage, ask yourself “How much time have I spent trying to make my marriage better of late?” What you typically get out of something is directly related to what you put into it. If you’re bored – Do Something! Plan a date night. Surprise your spouse with an unexpected gift. Do a chore or task that you know they hate doing. Have a meaningful conversation over dinner.

Just being there is not enough. You need to be intentional.

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Repairing A Relationship After Addiction And Infidelity: Can Your Partnership Be Saved?

This article was written by a guest blogger  – Caleb Anderson from Recovery Hope 

addiction blog

When a relationship is impacted by addiction, it can be difficult to navigate the problems that develop alongside the addiction. Those struggling with alcohol or drug use may also engage in risky behaviors like infidelity or fraud, and repairing a partnership under these conditions is not always possible. How do you assist a loved one in getting help, how do you heal as a couple, and how do you determine if you need to end the relationship?

Prepare a plan and avoid judgement

Education is the first step to helping your loved one accept the need for addiction treatment. It’s important to learn the signs of addiction, and Medical News Today notes that these typically include risk taking, changes in mood, sleep, or eating patterns, and issues with secrecy and solitude. You should also explore the available treatment options and put together a plan for how to proceed.

Your partner will need your support as they consider entering treatment, and this can be difficult if there have been risky behaviors involved that leave you feeling betrayed. Don’t issue idle threats as you approach this discussion, and try to avoid judgement. Make sure your partner knows how their actions are impacting you and reach out to your doctor or a local hospital if you need resources regarding what to do next.

Healing is possible, but takes a full commitment from both parties

Healing as a couple after an addiction or infidelity takes time, honesty, and commitment. The partner who has the addiction needs to accept the complex feelings their loved one is experiencing. These may include betrayal, anger, disappointment, and devastation, and it’s essential to understand their loved one’s need for space and answers.

Maintaining sobriety while repairing a broken relationship is vital, and Huffington Post shares that honesty and accountability are necessary too. Avoid being defensive and show a willingness to regain your partner’s trust, supporting their need for information. If you are the partner who has been hurt by a loved one’s addiction and associated behaviors, allow yourself time to process what has happened.

You do have a right to information when trust has been broken and you have been betrayed, and you should be assertive in setting boundaries. However, you also need to be prepared to hear difficult answers to your questions and while it is important to be honest about your feelings and hold your partner accountable, you should avoid being passive aggressive.

Sometimes ending a relationship becomes necessary

It takes a lot of work to heal as a couple after issues with addiction and/or infidelity. Not every couple will make it through this type of situation together, and it can be difficult to tell when you need to call it quits. Counseling, both together and individually, can be helpful, and both parties need to fully commit to repairing the relationship.

You shouldn’t rush into making decisions about the future of your relationship when the damage is fresh. Allow for a cooling off period before initiating major changes, and see if both parties can dedicate themselves to working through the issues. If, however, one partner resists doing the hard work necessary, a split may be for the best.

Addiction can wreak havoc on a relationship. It takes honesty and a willingness to support one another to remain together, and not every couple can do this. Be honest and understanding with one another and reach out to professionals for help. This type of journey can be a long, emotional one, but many pairs find they become stronger as a couple as a result of the challenges they navigated together.

[Photo via Pixabay]

Author: Caleb Anderson (RecoveryHope.org)

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Should we Minimize Weddings?

I came acrwedding day imageoss some interesting statistics the other day. As of 2016, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was just under $27,000 and took about 14 months to plan. That’s probably no surprise to anyone that has recently wed, or who have helped plan / finance a wedding for their daughter.

But I kept digging. I found that during that same time period only 44% of engaged couples participated in any form of pre-marital counseling. Of those who did, the median time spent in sessions was around 8 hours.

Take a step back and think about these numbers this way. In our country (on average) we spend 14 months planning for an 8 hour day, but only an 8 hour day to plan a lifetime of marriage. Is it any wonder that our divorce rate is so high? As family and friends, we eat, drink and dance at these celebrations and then a few years later shake our heads for a moment when we hear the couple is divorcing.

There’s a natural let down after any big event is over. Think about Christmas. I know people that go through over a month of preparation, decorating, listening to music, watching Holiday movies on tv, baking and decorating cookies etc. But within days of December 25th, they are dismantling everything that was put up and packing it all away. It’s as if they can’t stand it anymore. That’s only 30-40 days of preparation, not 14 months. How many couples get past the wedding (and the honeymoon if it’s taken) only to stare at each other and say, “Now what?”

I’ve had some counter-cultural ideas in this regard. What if we spent more time in preparing for marriage and kept wedding ceremonies simple? Just a few family members and close friends in attendance to be witnesses as the couple makes a marital covenant before God. Words of encouragement, and financial blessings to get the couple started would still be appropriate.

What if we then shifted our emphasis to celebrating milestones? Imagine if the couple were to throw increasingly large parties to celebrate 5, 10 and 25 years of marriage? At 50 years, the family would throw the party on their behalf.  At each of these events, they could have slide shows, or photos or whatever made sense, depicting their lives since their last party. Dinner, dancing and celebrating a successful marriage sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The point is, we would shift our focus from a one day event to a lifetime of successful marriage. The emphasis could shift from a $10,000 wedding dress (that is worn for less than 4 hours total) to a celebratory feast that recognizes those that have been integral in making the marriage a success. Would that encourage people to reach out and support others’ marriages over time? How do you think this would change our society?

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Who Did I Marry?

3d human with a red question markPeople are funny. While they may say they hate change, they themselves change over time. Our tastes, our attitudes our lifestyles all tend to evolve as we age. As the parent of teenagers I can assure you that the pop music that I listened to back in the day was far better than the crud they listen to now! So you could argue, that my taste in music hasn’t changed… that would be untrue. When I was a teen, my taste in music was to like what every other teen liked. While I still listen to Classic Rock on occasion, my interests have broadened greatly as I have matured and been exposed to different genres. While true for music, the same holds true for foods that I love, places I want to visit and hobbies I want to try.

I’ve been happily married for thirty-five years. But I’m not the same person that I was on my wedding day (I thank God for that). And the reality is, neither is my wife. I honestly don’t know if I had somehow met my wife in her current state years ago if I would have fallen in love with her (taking the age difference out of the picture), nor do I know if she would have agreed to marry the current me. But I can honestly say that we’re happier in our marriage today than we’ve ever been. How can that be?

The key to a lasting relationship is to first recognize that change is inevitable. Embrace it. But allow yourselves to change together, supporting one another in the process over time. That takes not only commitment, but effort and awareness. It also means taking a keen interest in your partner.

So many marriages that I have seen result in divorce seemed to have failed at this. Truth be told, the pinnacle of their relationship was the wedding day, and the relationship began a slow decline from that point forward. That happens when each partner is focused primarily on their own needs, their own desires, their own careers and interests. With this self-centered focus, it seems inevitable that growth and change will occur, but what does that do to the relationship? If you’re not growing together, you’re growing apart. And that is that natural way things occur.

In nature, there is a term called entropy. It deals with energy and time. But in a very simplistic description, without an outside energy force, things to degrade over time. Think about your house. The day it was built, it may have been nearly perfect. But if you did not exert energy over time to maintain it, it would eventually fall to the ground. That’s why you paint it, clean the gutters, caulk around windows, seal your driveway and conduct other preventative maintenance type activities. Everything in the natural world acts essentially the same way. Why would a marriage be any different?

If you apply no energy to the relationship, it will fall apart in time just as your house would. If your energy is self-focused, you will grow over time. But you will grow independently of your spouse. Let this behavior happen over time and you will look up one day and wonder who that is sitting across the breakfast table from you. You may hardly recognize who they’ve become, let alone feel connected to them in any way. Apply that same energy to the relationship instead and watch what happens. Granted, energy is not unlimited. You would think this approach would slow your personal growth somewhat. But what you will find is that there is a synergy that takes place, meaning that the result of your collective efforts will be greater than the sum of the parts that went into it.

I encourage you to grow and to adapt over time. But focus on doing so as a couple. You’ll find that you both change

considerably, but at the same time, you’ll experience a closeness that you may have never dreamed possible.

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Through Richer and Poorer…

I feel called back to this blog. It’s been over a year since I’ve last posted, and I fully assume I’ve probably lost all of my followers. I’ve got to say that a lot has transpired during that time – some of which I’ll portray in the following.

I own a consulting business, and primarily focus on large companies as my customers. While it’s never been an overwhelming success (from a pure business standpoint) it’s had good years and tough years. We recently went through a tough one.

In my mind, part of having a thriving (shocking) marriage is the process of de-compartmentalizing life. Whereas some might say “My marriage is good, but I’m going through a tough time professionally”, I would argue that we’re going through a tough time. Because if I am, she is and vice versa. Acknowledging that you are going through trials together can really increase the bond of your marriage. Living in distinct boxes can actually drive you apart.

While we’ve been through tough years before, this particular time was grueling. Even though I own my own business, I was forced to put myself on unemployment for a period of about six months. For whatever reason, I couldn’t land a client if my life depended on it. And as time passed, it seemed my life was beginning to. My company had credit card debt that it couldn’t pay, a fully extended line of credit that was at risk and no employees. Of course, this doesn’t stay within the company for long before it bursts forth within the family. It’s amazing how quickly you can go from comfortable and complacent to realizing the very home you live in is at risk of being taken by the bank.

So what happens to a marriage during this time? A lot of things could happen, but I only want to speak of what happened to mine. My faith in God sustained me during this period, that is paramount. But the faith of my wife (in not only God, but in me) was equally invaluable. The pressure that I felt to provide for my family was incredible. Every time I would see her fretting over the bills, I would feel like a failure. Voices in my head were telling me that she deserved better, why was she sticking with me?

But one day she changed all of that. She forced me to sit down and really talk about what was going on. “What is the worst thing that can happen?”, she asked. At this point I broke down and said “Are you crazy?  We could lose our house, have to sell all of our stuff… we could be living under a bridge”. After all, she asked for the worst case scenario, and I totally vented. But her response to me changed everything.

“We don’t need this house” she said. “And if we end up living under a bridge, we’ll live there together. I’m there for you and with you no matter what happens or where we live. We’ll continue to trust in God’s provision and ask him to even further strengthen our marriage”. I don’t think I ever felt more love for her than I did in that moment.

Fast forward a year and we came through that storm. We still have our house and our family is intact. God showed up in a big way for us, and for that we are eternally grateful. It would have been easy for her to “pile on” during that time and add additional stress to my life. But she didn’t. At a time when I was at my weakest, she shared her strength with me.

What we didn’t realize or appreciate at the time was the number of people that were watching us go through this. Friends and family that knew our situation wondered how we would weather this storm. Seeing us lean on each other (as well as God) served as a positive testimony to them that in turn inspired their own relationships.

Shocking marriage isn’t just about living the ideal life, it’s about living life in a God-honoring manner regardless of circumstance. All marriages go though seasons. It’s natural. Use the good times to strengthen and embolden your relationship, so that when the tough times come, it’s natural to help each other through.

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