Complacency Kills Marriages

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It is natural for us to fall into routines, it’s a natural way for our brains to organize complex actions into repeatable patterns. But when we allow routines to govern our lives, complacency sets in. If you don’t have to think about what you’re doing, where you’re going or what you want to say you are in dangerous territory. Many couples equate complacency with lack of growth. The reality is the opposite. No marriage stays constant. It’s either growing stronger or degrading. Complacency is simply a smoke screen hiding the fact that a marriage is going downhill.

It’s not easy to break out of complacency. It typically takes an outside force to make this happen. Imagine this, you are bored with your spouse, potentially even aggravated with them. Conversation is minimal, intimacy – non-existent. Then one day you are sitting at home and get a phone call, your spouse has been in an accident and has been admitted to a local hospital. Suddenly, complacency is gone, as is your anger and frustration. You rush to the hospital to see them, and pray passionately for their immediate recovery. That’s an extreme example of an outside force, but one you can probably identify with.

In a similar vein, have you ever noticed that most dead people are regarded as perfect? Once someone has been suddenly taken from your life, it is only their good traits that you remember and talk about. Why do we wait for someone to pass before we appreciate the blessings they provide?

I focus on marriage, and taking marriages to a Shocking Level of happiness and satisfaction. But I am human and fall into the same traps that others do. This Covid quarantine found my wife Tara and I falling into a rut. Routine, boredom, call it what you will – we certainly weren’t seeing the best side of each other. Little quirks were beginning to irritate and meaningful conversations were diminishing. We found ourselves sitting in front of the television each evening, phones in hand, living parallel lives. Topping things off, there were areas of frustration within each of us (unrealized goals, unfulfilled dreams) that we were not dealing with. These were all areas that could easily be addressed, but complacency has a way of paralyzing action.

The good news is, I have a fantastic wife that won’t settle for status quo over an extended period of time. Tara suggested the two of us get away for a couple of nights to refocus. We drove ninety minutes to a neighboring city and got an inexpensive hotel room. We divided out time over the next couple of days very intentionally. We spent time praying together (which we had fallen out of the habit of doing). At each meal and a couple of break times during the day, we focused on specific topics. We focused on me, then we focused on her, then we focused on us then on the family. We agreed to be active listeners, drop any defensiveness and truly hear the other’s perspective.

By our final breakfast, we compiled a list of actions each of us would commit to once we returned home, based on our discussions the previous couple of days. That was just the external force that we needed! It was not an exotic, expensive vacation. It was simply a change of scenery and a break in our routines. Complacency Buster! This simple action allowed us to take the time to both express our appreciation of one another as well as our frustrations (both personal and marriage). Most importantly, it allowed us the chance to recommit to supporting one another in achieving our personal goals.

If you find yourself struggling with complacency in your own marriage, take a proactive step to break the routine and regain the spark that you once had. Stop the downward slide and turn things around for the better. You’ll find there’s an incredible return on that investment.

My book “Rules of Engagement” can provide you with tools to keep your marriage alive and vibrant. If you are interested, you can purchase the book directly from Amazon at this link.

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A Lesser Appreciated Benefit to Working from Home

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This is not my typical blog focused on marriage – sorry in advance for that. But it is about relationships, and you may see a connection.

For the past few months, most of us that still have jobs have found ourselves working from home. Much has been written and discussed about both the benefits and the drawbacks of this unique situation. But I want to focus on one area that I have not seen discussed.

Let me start this by saying that for years I have worked with Corporate Teams, in an effort to improve their effectiveness and their efficiency. One of the key areas I have focused on is the relationship that team members have with one another. I am a big believer that trust and respect are huge, though somewhat hard to measure aspects of a high performance team. When I’ve worked with teams, I try to help individuals see their co-workers as a “complete” person, not just the guy with the desk next to them. There are benefits related to this. You may not appreciate some of the skills or aptitudes your teammate has if they are not directly related to their job description.

Let me give you an example. I have a friend that is an accountant. As soon as I give his job title, you immediately form impressions of him in your mind – it’s natural. You think of a person that is black and white, very precise, numbers oriented and highly structured. In terms of his job performance, those may all be accurate. But I don’t work with him, I see him as a friend and as a family guy. He is very creative, and can build practically anything in his workshop at home. Be it parade floats for his daughter’s girl scout troop, or rebuilding an old Jeep for his son, there seems to be no type of home or construction project he won’t undertake.So imagine his company undertaking a special project, that involves creativity, problem solving and the ability to make something out of nothing. Most companies would go straight to marketing or product development, they’d never consider talking to the accounting department. And in this case, that would be their loss.

As people begin to understand and appreciate the families, interests and abilities of their co-workers, they begin to see them as a whole person. This can be tough under the day to day pressures of getting the job done. That’s where this whole working from home thing could become a blessing.

As I have worked with a variety of people via video conferencing, I feel I learn a lot about them just through observation. I may have already appreciated their technical abilities, but I had no idea they had three dogs, until they ran across the screen. My opinions have changed when I have seen what I considered to be a harsh, no-nonsense individual show tenderness to their special needs child when they came into the view of the camera. I may have never thought about a person being married and having a family until I see life happening in the background.

I think unveiling peoples’ lives a bit will transform the relationship between coworkers once they are back in the same office. Empathy will increase and appreciation of the whole person will begin to take root.

We’re in a strange time, but I think we can all grow and benefit from it if we just allow ourselves to.

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Covid Boredom

Covid Boredom

I’m bored. I’m way behind on writing blogs or on recording podcasts. It’s not because I’ve been too busy – because I haven’t. I sit in my office, and I try to think of inspiring things to write / talk about and I get… nothing. The reality is, my mind is stimulated through the interaction with other people. When I look back at my over 10 years of blogs and 2 years of podcasts I come to the realization that I’m typically talking about people and relationships that I observe. It’s not always through direct interaction, sometimes it’s just being in the same room with others and seeing how they interact with one another that inspires me.

I’ve not been as strict as some at staying home. We did for awhile, but I have made many trips to the grocery or to Lowes. I don’t mean to get political, but I don’t wear a mask when I’m out unless it is demanded. What I hate to see is how people relate to each other in these public places. I understand social distancing, but people don’t even seem to want to make eye contact. People turn their heads and walk to another aisle to avoid walking by. It’s not just mask-less me they’re avoiding, it seems they’re avoiding everyone.

We went hiking at a state park a few weeks ago. Strangest feeling ever. It was a nice day, so the trails were crowded. I’ve been going to this park for years. There’s always been a sort of unwritten rule that when you pass someone on a trail going the other way, you exchange pleasantries. “Nice day, huh?” or “How you doin?'” No extensive conversation, but rather an acknowledgement that you’ve encountered another person. On this day, there was none of that. Diverted gazes, hands covering faces… it was if people were genuinely terrified of each other. You would have thought we were in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, rather than a highly contagious flu.

I look forward to the day when people can intermingle again and treat each other as fellow humans. Hopefully then I can get re-inspired to write and podcast about marriages that I observe.

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Submission is Not a Four Letter Word

No word in marriage ministry draws more angst than the word submission. Women despise it, men use it as a theological hammer. What Paul intended when he discussed this was far different than what is often perceived today. In this podcast you will hear how submission fits in to God’s overall plan for marriage, and how it can take things to another level.

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Appreciate Your Unique Spouse

How many times do we get frustrated when we ask our spouse for help only to find they don’t do things our way? In this episode, learn why it is important to take a step back and allow them to contribute their own perspective and ideas. It may not be the way you’d do things… but it will probably be better!

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A Lesson in Humility

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We had a nasty storm come through our area last week. Not a tornado per se, but crazy strong winds. One of the casualties of this storm was a tree in our yard. I went out with my chainsaw to begin cutting up the branches so they could be hauled to the burn pile. As I was cutting in to one of the larger sections, my chain saw got bound up when the wood shifted. I looked at the situation for a while before determining what I would have to do to get the chainsaw free. Since there was so much weight on the end of the branch, it was creating an upward force causing the bind. So, in my mind, all I had to do was to apply a new force directly under the section that I was cutting and that would free the chainsaw so I could continue to work. If I’d had an auto jack, it would have been perfect, but I don’t. So, I started looking around and figured out that if I could just find a long, thick straight branch, I could use it as a lever and serve the same purpose. By the time I had the lever in place and began pushing it down, I had no hands to grab and pull on the chainsaw. After fussing with this for about fifteen minutes, I came to the realization, that what I now needed was another set of hands.

I went in to the house to get Tara. It took her a while to change out of her pandemic, pajama attire, which increased my frustration. As she walked up to the scene, I explained to her – “All I need you to do is to grab the handle on the chainsaw. When I get this lever in place and push down, just pull it out, okay?” She began to ask me what the problem was and what else I had considered. My impatience and frustration came out as I snapped at her “Please just do as I’ve asked!”

She silently nodded her head and grabbed the handle. I worked feverishly to force the lever into place and put all my weight on it to free up the bind. “Pull”, I shouted. She pulled and pulled, but could not get the saw free. I tried to reposition the lever and tried again, but ended up with the same result. Knowing how much more work there was to be done, my frustration with being paralyzed was driving me crazy. I finally took a step back and determined my best bet was to walk to the garage and get a hand saw. I knew that if I just cut the branch close to the chain saw incision that I could free it that way.

It took me five minutes to go to the garage, find my (seldom used) hand saw and walk back to the fallen tree. As I walked up to her, Tara was standing there with the chainsaw in her hands! There I stood, saw in hand, mouth agape. “How did you do that?” I asked meekly. “I just walked down the end of the branch and took some of the weight off of it. As soon as I did, the saw came right out.” I stood in silence not knowing what to say… “I was going to suggest that when I walked out here, but you insisted that I merely do as you asked – so I did.”What a slap in the face. Did I ever feel stupid. We both began to laugh out loud, then I apologized, thanked her and gave her a hug.

Nearly forty years of marriage and I still do stupid things like that. In my mind, the solution was clear. I’m a degreed engineer, I recognize things like force vectors and understand the importance of levers and fulcrums. All I needed (or so I told myself) was one more set of hands to get this problem fixed. I neither wanted nor appreciated another opinion at that point. Discussion was only going to slow me down…

How often are we guilty of this attitude in our marriages. We don’t view our spouse as having a unique perspective that could benefit us. We form our opinions and make decisions on our own, then just ask that they support us. I believe in this instance God used this to teach (or at least remind me of) a lesson. I did not marry myself, I married someone with a unique perspective and a mind of her own. How egocentric to think that I had the ultimate solution by myself. She had her idea as soon as she walked up, but I wasn’t willing to hear it. She kept quiet in order to keep peace. She didn’t doubt that my solution would work, she just had additional thoughts as well.

When you find yourselves facing a challenge that involves both you and your spouse, remember that your two minds together can come up with a solution better than what either one of you could do on your own. Take the time to hear each other out, don’t dominate the situation and demand your direction be followed.

I am very blessed to have a wife that is sometimes willing to step back and let God teach me a lesson. And yes, as much as I hate to admit it, I love the smirk on her face when it happens!

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Communication in a Pandemic

Being stuck in the same house for an extended period of time will try anyone’s nerves. It is critical for couples to maintain effective communication – especially during these times.

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Marriage during a Pandemic

We are in the throes of a global pandemic. Families are forced to self-quarantine, stay at home and practice social distancing. This is quite a disruption to most of our routines. Even the strongest of marriages will find themselves struggling with the tensions the situation forces upon us. Hear in this episode some ways you can stay sane, and keep your marriage strong – even while dealing with this unnatural time.

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Helping Your Marriage Survive the Corona Virus

Fear not, this is not a post filled with medical / social warnings. Nor is it post down-playing the significance of the current virus…

There was a time in your relationship when you couldn’t wait to be alone with your partner. Hours could fly by just sitting together, or staring at a sunset. Conversation came easily as you came to know each other and to discover the incredible life that your partner had. Remember those days?

But things are different now. You’ve been married for a while (maybe even a long while). You probably have kids, a career, outside hobbies and interests and a group of friends that you meet with regularly. The recent call for social distancing has driven many of us to stay in our homes, with only the occasional outing to buy groceries or essential supplies. We’re working from home. School is cancelled. Restaurants, movie theaters, bars and stores are all closed. Our normal life-distractions have been removed against our will. That leaves us in our homes, with our families for days and weeks on end.

For years I’ve laughed at older couples that complain when the always working spouse is suddenly home “all of the time” and becomes a problem. It seemed like an insignificant issue that should be easily overcome. Yet suddenly, most of us find ourselves in this situation with no advance warning.

I pray that you endure / survive the physical effects of the virus. They say for most, it will be symptomatic of a bad cold. The reality is, if it’s in your home, you’ll likely all get it. And in a week or so, you’ll all recover. But beyond the physical toll, there’s the emotional toll that will surely take place.

Experts are predicting that couples being forced to stay home together will lead to a new, significant baby boom in the coming year. That’s certainly not a bad thing. My concern is that this time will also lead to significant marital stress and separation for others.

It’s easy to hide dysfunction in a relationship when both partners are busy, apart from one another due to individual commitments. They may both know its there, but it is easy to ignore and keep on the back burner. But put both spouses in the home for an extended period and these issues become much harder to avoid. Little annoyances can become major points of contention. Boredom can lead to frustration. Inability to resolve conflict can lead to a house of silence which can lead to further aggravation.

The following are some things that you might consider during this “down-time” with your spouse.

Cast a Vision

  • Take some time to sit and talk face to face. Put the phones down, turn the television off and make eye contact.
  • Take turns assessing where you see your marriage today. What’s going well? Where might you be struggling?
  • Discuss where you would like for your marriage to be in some future period (3 months, 5 years, 10 years).
  • What obstacles must be overcome to reach this vision? What are steps you could take to overcome them?

It’s amazing how focusing on and committing to a future, shared goal can bring a couple together. This is a critical activity that couple’s don’t allow time for under normal circumstances. Take advantage of this time to dream together. Put together a plan that you can refer back to over time to check your progress.

Reminisce

  • Play a game of “remember when…?” Ask each other fun questions like, remember when we first kissed? or “What was the best vacation we’ve ever taken in your mind?” or “What was the most embarrassing moment we’ve had as a couple?”

Sometimes we forget why we first fell in love. We get so bogged down in day to day issues that we lose sight of the blessing that our spouse is. Thinking back and remembering positive times can rekindle feelings that may have grown dormant.

Family Time

  • Play board games, do some family projects around the house, watch movies, get everyone involved.

Believe it or not, this now trying time will become a memory, not just for you but for the whole family. I remember being snowed into my home for a couple of weeks during the Blizzard of 1978. It was tough at the time, but everyone I know that endured it looks back on it as a positive memory now.

Bottom Line

You will be spending more time with your spouse in the near term than you probably have in quite a while. You can let this annoy you and create a wedge in your relationship, or you can be intentional about investing effort in this time to making things better. Who knows when you’ll have an opportunity like this again (if ever)? Make the most of it. Repair your relationship, but don’t stop there. Reinforce it to make it stronger than ever. It’s all in your hands. Make a positive choice.

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How Hot is Your Marriage?

Everybody thinks they desire a “hot” relationship. Steamy, passionate, physical… These aren’t bad things, but are they sustainable? In this episode, learn how to create a bed of coals in your marriage that will keep your fire burning even amidst storms or seasons of neglect.

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