Turn the Lights On in Your Marriage

pexels-photo-132340.jpegJohn 3:20 says “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed”. In many instances, spouses have numerous secrets that they keep from one another. There’s just certain things that they want to keep in the dark.

In some cases, marriages start off with an agreement to this effect with separate checking accounts, separate social circles, even separate vacations. It’s an attitude of “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours”.  It could be argued that when taken to this extreme a marriage doesn’t really exist. There’s no coming together, no one-flesh attitude. It’s strictly an arrangement to live together as long as each partner sees some benefit. It’s easy to bring together and its easy to dissolve later.

But for most marriages, the separateness is far less obvious.  Darkness creeps in. It could start out simply enough; a small purchase that he doesn’t need to know about or innocent flirtation with a secretary at work. It might involve parenting – “Okay, I’ll let you do this, but don’t tell your mother…” The thinking is there is no reason to raise an issue that could cause strife or conflict. The act is justified in the name of protecting the spouse from angst.

Technology plays a big role in our culture and in our attitudes toward privacy. It used to be that you had to have physical contact with another person in order to get involved in a compromising manner. Not any more.  How many couples do you know have had issues with “emotional affairs” online? They start out innocently enough – just connecting with an old “friend” on Facebook. Until such a time that you find that friend is now divorced and begins expressing their long suppressed feelings for you. Suddenly, you’re getting flirtation and compliments that you don’t receive from your spouse… And you get sucked in to feelings and behaviors that were never intended.

Physical affairs still happen as well. How often are those discovered when a string of text messages are found on a cell phone? I can personally think of five different marriages where a discovery of this type either started the path toward divorce or at least significant damage.

So how can this be avoided? First, by recognizing that marriage is unlike any other relationship. God designed marriage and intended for two people to become one-flesh. One of the keys to this notion is that one flesh cannot keep secrets from itself! In a true one-flesh relationship, there is no “mine” and “yours”, there is simply “ours”. The light shines on everything.

My marriage is not perfect (none are), but we really try to not keep secrets by keeping our lives in the light. We have a joint checking account, we know each other’s passwords for our cell phones, emails and all social media accounts. We don’t spend time regularly checking out each others accounts, but we know that we could if we wanted to.

When we’re struggling with an issue, we openly share it with the other. My wife knows immediately if something is bothering me – as if she can sense it in herself and vice versa. That leads to a conversation – bringing the issue into the light.

What areas of darkness exist within your marriage? How can you eliminate these by shining light on them? Total trust can only exist within the light, something every marriage should strive for.

 

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Rules of Engagement – Available Now!!

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 1.47.50 PM       God designed marriage to be like no other relationship, yet most couples go through life taking their spouse for granted. No matter where your marriage is today, this book will help you take it to the next level.

This is the perfect book to work through with your spouse or to study as a small group. In this you will find life-tested advice to help you get the most out of your marriage. You deserve a Shocking Marriage – let me help you get there today!

Click here to purchase your copy now!

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There is now Here

navigation-car-drive-road.jpghad an epiphany this morning. (I love the word epiphany – it is clearly a $5 word). I am an inherently impatient person. I’m the guy that when he plans a vacation would almost always prefer to fly – I just want to get there. I fail to enjoy or embrace the journey when I drive. That mindset carries over to other aspects of my life as well. If I sense that God is calling me to a new place I just want to be there. But this is simply not the way that He operates.

There is no final destination (“there”), at least while we’re here on Earth because God is never through with us. Unlike a vacation destination, we are never able to truly arrive to where God is leading us. As soon as we think we’re approaching our “there”, we realize that He has moved our target further down the road.

But it’s really more than just about an ever-changing destination. I can get so focused on a goal that I can be blind to God’s influence around me in the meantime. A typical conversation between God and I looks something like this.

God: Jerry I want you to leave where you are and go in this direction

Jerry: Okay God, I’m on it. Heading “there” now.

Imagine some time passing, me forging through life with my head down focused on the goal…

Jerry: Uhmm, God, am I ever going to get “there”?

God: Define “there”

Jerry: Where you told me to head, you know… “there”

God: Silly man, yesterday’s “there” is now today’s “here”. Stay faithful and keep going in the direction I told you.

The point of this dialogue is this. We may envision a “there” in our lives or in our marriages, but as long as we’re breathing, God is not done with us yet. It is important for us to not be so focused on an ultimate goal – as if we’ll meet God there. We must realize that God is present with us every step of the journey. He is bringing things into our lives that clearly shape our present and continue to direct our future. It’s easy to miss these if we’re not taking the time to encounter God along the way. Practically speaking, how many times are we looking for a specific answered prayer only to miss the variety of answers God is providing all around us?

My goal is to stop living for a future state, but to enjoy each and every day as God provides it. It doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning the vision that He has created for me, but it does mean that I will attempt to recognize His answers to me all along the journey.

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No Marriage is Perfect

 

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I work with people in various levels of marital distress. I like to think that I provide them with Godly counsel and practical advice on how to make their situation better. But the key here is the word – “better”. I didn’t say “perfect”.

I am blessed with having a great marriage. But it is not perfect. Truth be told, there are some days (week/seasons?) where it much farther from perfection than others. Over the course of time, our relationship is clearly trending “up and to the right”, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some short declines from time to time.

If you want to put your marriage to a real test (and who doesn’t – insert sarcastic, laughing emoji here), lead a marriage workshop, mentor another couple or just give advice to a friend in need. As soon as you step out to help others, you put your own marriage in the crosshairs of the enemy. I’m a firm believer that the spiritual realm surrounding us operates much in the same way as the physical realm in which live does. In physics, you learn that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction…”. When we step out in faith, when we share our own real-life examples of marriage trials and successes we often find there is an unseen, but very real push back.

NOTE: I am not implying that God and Satan are equal and opposite, God the creator is clearly superior, but that doesn’t eliminate efforts from “the dark side” to thwart us.

I distinctly remember the days in the past when Tara and I would lead a marriage workshop at our church. Inevitably, on the drive there, we would get into some type of ridiculous argument about who knows what. By the time we would arrive, we would both be so flustered and aggravated that it was all we could do to stop, pray together and go lead the sessions. We might not have argued all week, but sure enough – on that day we would fight passionately.

It should come as no surprise that as I went through the process of writing “Rules of Engagement”, we would find ourselves once again disagreeing on a number of issues. There were days when I felt like a complete hypocrite. “How can I release a book instructing couples on how to fight fair when we can’t do it ourselves?” I would ask. Several times, I questioned my own qualifications in writing it.

But I’m convinced that God doesn’t want us to focus on the little things. He wants us to keep the big picture in mind. Truth be told, our marriage is in a better place than it was when I started writing. I remain convinced that it will be better yet this time next year.

When you read my book (and I really hope you will), I want you to remember that it was not written by a person that has perfected marriage. And if we have the chance to meet, please know that I struggle from time to time in my relationship, just like you do. But do remember – this is a guy that is committed to making it better. At least over the long run…

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New Book Coming!

Screen Shot 2018-03-08 at 1.47.50 PM             After writing this blog for 10+ years, I finally decided to write a book. The Shocking Marriage Series will include books that contain many of the life lessons provided in this blog over the years. The first book “Rules of Engagement” provides a structured way to be proactive in a marriage by anticipating and planning for issues before they arise. While the notion for this concept originated in marital conflict, the book provides readers with suggested approaches to topics such as communication, intimacy, grief, dealing with outside influences and parenting. Life has taught me that the “heat of the moment” is not the ideal time to figure out how to act or know what to say or do. Taking the time to create some guidelines for your relationship in a “calm” time is an essential step in creating a Shocking Marriage that continues to get better over the years.

Using scripture and God’s design for marriage as a backdrop, this book will enable couples to incorporate tactical agreements in their marriage that can help them get through rough times and ensure that great times remain plentiful.

The book should be available in bookstores and on Amazon.com starting in May 2018.

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5 Steps to a Shocking Marriage: #5

shutterstock_342885284Step 5 – Be Prepared

The Boy Scout motto is – Be Prepared. As an Eagle Scout myself, incorporating that motto has helped me across a variety of scenarios in my life. In a nutshell, this motto suggests that you look ahead and anticipate the possible issues that could arise in a given situation. For something like camping, that means looking at the weather forecast and packing foul weather gear. In terms of emergency preparedness, it might include having a first aid kit, smoke alarms and a family escape plan from your house. In most instances it pays to look ahead and plan for contingencies. It is much better to be prepared for a situation when it arises as opposed to having to scramble to improvise a solution in the heat of the moment.

This is every bit as true for marriage as it is in other aspects of life. Let’s look at one issue that every couple goes through from time to time: conflict. Disagreements within a marriage are inevitable. When two distinct personalities come together there are going to be times when they don’t see eye to eye. In the heat of an argument, our natural tendency is to try to convince our spouse that our perspective is superior and our thoughts should be pursued. When a conflicting line of thought is raised, it needs to be “shot down” as it must be inferior. Tensions raise, the volume increases and judgment ensues. Sometimes these issues get heated. In these times, words may be said that cause damage to the relationship. While apologies may follow later, the damage has already been done.

How often have you been in a situation like this with your spouse only to look back later and wonder how things escalated so quickly? Sometimes you wonder what you were even fighting about. It started out as one thing and quickly morphed into another. In reality, this situation is really no different than being in a smoke-filled home and wondering how to get out. Without a plan, everyone is running in a different direction. It’s tough to make good decisions in the heat of the moment when emotions are running high. That’s where preparation comes in.

So, how do you prepare for an argument? What if in a calm time you and your spouse were to sit down and openly discuss conflict? Talking about it in a calm time would allow each of you to express your opinions of how arguments unfold, and where they often derail. You may also discover that you each have a distinctive style of confrontation, which on the surface may be incompatible.

An example of this would be when one partner wants to get things off their chest as soon as they arise and the other is more contemplative. When they hear something new, they need time to process it before they can react. In this case, the first partner tries to force the issue to quick resolution before the second has really considered all the options. This can lead to an argument, even if the latter partner might ultimately agree if just given the time to process. Suddenly the argument is not really about the topic initially raised at all…

Imagine discussing this scenario in a relaxed manner. When both of these perspectives are raised (when no issue is at hand) the couple can realize and agree to fight differently. The spouse can still raise issues, but now understands they need to give their partner time to process and think before they begin serious discussion. This could become a “rule” that is followed in the marriage.

Other proactive guidelines can be established as well and followed by the couple. Examples could include things like:

  • Never threaten divorce
  • Avoid words like “always” and “never”
  • Focus on the issue not the person

There are many more that you might create within your marriage. Having these in place will change the way you argue forever.

Proactivity need not stop at conflict however. What if you developed guidelines to guide you through parental issues before you face them (e.g. discipline, curfews, allowances, etc.). Imagine how much better your marriage will be if you are in agreement on these items before you’re approached by your child needing an immediate answer. Other areas could be covered as well, from financial management, to communication, even to intimacy!

Being prepared for a situation before it arises puts you a great step ahead and, when combined with the previous four steps, will help you to create a shocking marriage.

Note: Jerry McColgin’s first book in his Shocking Marriage Series – “Rules of Engagement” will be released this spring. In it, he details out a proactive approach to creating the types of rules and guidelines described in this post. Watch for it on on his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/shockingmarriage or on Amazon.com

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5 Steps to a Shocking Marriage: #4

shutterstock_742358413Step #4 – Set Goals

A shocking marriage is one that improves over time. As we’ve already discussed, this doesn’t happen naturally, it takes prioritization and intentionality. Without a concerted effort to improve, marriages simply degrade over time. Anyone who has been in any type of corporate or non-profit setting has experienced the act of setting goals. Typically this is done once per year and your performance is based upon how well you achieved the goals that were set. In some cases your annual increase or bonus is determined based upon this rating. Marital goals are not about performance evaluation and reward. However, they are still critical for ongoing improvement.

Every year my wife and I go out for dinner on our anniversary. It’s one of my favorite nights of the year. We typically go to a nice restaurant that is quiet and romantic – the kind of place that is conducive to intimate conversation. We’re in no hurry on these evenings and let the wait staff know that upon our arrival. As we enjoy our meal, we’ll talk about a variety of things, but one of the key topics is a look back at the past year. We’ll talk about the goals that we set a year ago and openly discuss how we progressed toward them. What went well? What did not go so well? Where have we grown as a couple? Where have we digressed? It’s not like we have a flip chart at our table and are capturing each topic in bullet point form – it’s merely a conversation. But it’s always illuminating. Inevitably, there will be an area that I was blind to that impacted her in a negative way. Again, I’m not talking about earth-shattering discovery here… Typically it’s something far more subtle like “You don’t call me from work everyday like you used to. I miss that.” From my perspective those words told me two things. First, she appreciated when I would call (sometimes I felt like I was bothering her or interrupting her day). Secondly, without realizing it, I had fallen out of the habit of calling. That’s an easy fix!

In addition to sharing “concerns” (that feels like too strong a word for the situation), we celebrate growth and success from the year. As an example I might say, “We went through a rough couple of months financially, but we really pulled together and made it through”. Bringing attention to accomplishments is a great way to increase the bond between spouses.  Sometimes it’s only when you look back that you can appreciate what you really did and how you benefited from it. Acknowledging those victories is critical to moving a marriage forward in a positive way.

Once we’ve  finished looking backward, we begin to look forward to the coming year. We know much of what we will be facing (e.g. a child going to college, or an aging parent that needs care) and we acknowledge that there is much that we don’t know. We discuss plans for the known. But in addition, we focus on areas that we collectively feel we could improve upon. Some years it’s specific items (e.g. we need to pay off the car loan) and other years it’s more of a theme (e.g let’s focus on keeping the spark in our relationship alive). In either case, by agreeing on a direction, we both tend to focus on the same thing in the coming months. Trust me, it feels great the following year when you can look back and say “Wow! We did it”. That typically leads to the realization that we’ve just completed our best year of marriage yet, only to be surpassed by the coming year.

Let me recap. You want a Shocking Marriage? Understand that if you do nothing, it will erode. Be intentional, make your spouse a priority in your life and set some collective goals that the two of you can focus on to take things to another level.

 

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