When Being “Right” is “Wrong”

I was talking to a long-term, married couple the other day. I’ve not known them long, but they certainly appear to be in a shocking marriage. The wife was

Right and Wrongrecounting a story of something that had occurred during the week.  Truth be told, the story went on for considerably longer than it needed to. There were starts, stops, corrections and endless details that had little to do with the point she was making. But her husband patiently stood at her side, listening and nodding his head in support.

As I observed this, I felt quite convicted. He was very intentionally supporting his wife through his presence and his silence. This is something I honestly struggle with. If my wife is in a similar situation, I find myself far too often interrupting to correct her (if her “facts” aren’t exactly as I recall them). I’ve even jumped in to bring a story to a close, if I felt she was going on too long. In my mind, I was doing this as a “service” for her listening audience, trying to prevent them from hearing wrong information or from being trapped in a seemingly endless story.

Without intentionally doing so, I was sending a strong message to all present that the audience was of far more importance to me than my own wife was. Somehow I was trying to spare them from her, as if my perspective or version was somehow superior to hers. My interruptions not only disrespected her but also embarrassed her in front of her friends. In my mind, getting the story “right” was more important than honoring her or protecting her feelings.

In my mind these instances weren’t a big deal, it was just part of normal group conversation. I’m usually made aware that she doesn’t share this same view after the party or on the drive home. Sometimes she’ll tell me outright how I upset her, but most often I notice her mood has fallen and she is very quiet. Even once I notice that, I often don’t make the connection between her silence and my specific infraction. With a little prodding, she’ll open up and let me know – in no uncertain terms.

When I think about it, it doesn’t really matter if she saw somebody on Maple street instead of Oak street nor is it  important if she talked to someone on Friday night instead of Saturday night? The reality is, half the time I’m wrong on my facts and she is proven right, after we’ve had an embarrassing dispute in front of our friends. Unless she is recounting details of a crime to a police detective or something of similar importance it doesn’t affect the story at all. But it does affect the relationship.

It just goes to show you that every relationship can be made better. As often as I’ve vowed to not interrupt her stories again, it took seeing this behavior modeled in another couple to really appreciate what it should look like. I’m pretty sure that he and his wife went home happy.

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Wake Up Call

It’s funny. I’ve been very focused on marriage of late. I have my first book at the publisher ablog image wake up callnd I’m in the beginning stages of starting a marriage ministry at my church. I’ve beenresearching it, reading about it, looking at conferences and planning to attend marriage encounter weekends. All of this in an effort to get myself fully up to speed on the topic and to prepare me for a future that will have me (hopefully) transitioning into full time marriage ministry. With all of this attention I’ve been putting on the subject, imagine my surprise when my wife recently came into my office and sat across from me. She told me that she was feeling neglected and was beginning to regret that she and I were spending so little meaningful time together. “How could that be?”, I wondered.

There was a time when I would have justified my behavior and attempted to convince her that her perceptions were… wrong. I would have pointed out  a number of recent situations where she and I had done something together, and I should be credited for those efforts. After “clearing the air” with my explanations, I would have gone back to my schedule and quickly forgotten her complaint.

Fortunately, that is not what I did this time. The fact that she expressed this concern made it very real. While I could have swept the matter under the rug, there was no way i could change her perception. So in spite of the fact that I didn’t see the situation the same way she did, I committed to focusing on the issue moving forward.

I scheduled a date night. I turned off my phone for a few evenings and focused my attention on her. On Saturday it was cool outside. I was doing some cleanup in the yard and burned a brush pile. When I saw that the burning waste was becoming a nice fire, I grabbed a couple of camp chairs and a bottle of wine and invited her to join me outside to enjoy it.

None of these actions were hard to pull off, and none of them were out of character for me. The key is, I heard a concern and addressed it early. I didn’t wait for the fourth or fifth time she expressed it before doing something. Likewise, I hope that her seeing a prompt response from me would encourage her to continue to bring up concerns early on – before they become significant issues.

Things are better now. They were never bad, but they are definitely better. I talk a lot about being intentional in a marriage. This was an instance where I followed my own advice. And it worked!

 

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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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