Systems Are Sexy

Couple Planning

Systems may not sound “sexy” at first (all right—they don’t sound sexy at all!), but stick with us and we believe you’ll agree that systems ARE sexy!

There are systems for nearly everything in life. Whenever a specific outcome is desired, a system is in place to achieve it. From the production of cattle for beef to the production of a burger in McDonald’s, systems are in place. Systems are used in offices management, in personnel development, and in military deployment. Systems make the right things happen.

If we are intentional in our marriage and desire a certain outcome, it makes sense to develop a system that will yield the result, doesn’t it? “But wait a minute!” you exclaim. “If our love is true then those things should just flow out of our love for each other and not need some ‘cold’ and ‘sterile’ system to make it happen!” That would be nice in the theory, but it doesn’t fit the reality of most marriages, does it?

The truth is, our feelings follow our actions. If we create the systems for the right actions, the feelings will come into being. And at that point you will realize as we have that systems ARE sexy! Here are some simple ideas for a few systems you might consider. Perhaps they will be a catalyst in thinking up a few of your own!

Calendar

Our first kiss was August 11th, 1977. One of us has trouble remembering the date and it isn’t Heidi. 🙂 But even though it’s calendared, the fact that it’s written down, recalled, and celebrated still stimulates romance. Remember: it’s not illegal in romance to write down important dates in your relationship. Include the year that special day came into being so that you can recall how many years you’ve been celebrating. If you use a smart phone or an electronic calendar this is even easier to do by setting them up as recurring appointments.

You can also schedule recurring tasks that need to be done around the house—especially the ones that are important to your spouse. Once it’s in the calendar and a weekly alarm goes off, you can take care of it without being asked. That kind of attentiveness over time shows love, caring, and faithfulness.

Accountability

Systems can also involve other people. If there’s a behavior that you need to deal with, create an accountability system. Recruit a trusted friend, confident, or mentor to contact you on a set day(s) of the week about your behavior. Allow them to contact your spouse to check in on how you’re doing from their perspective. Knowing that you will have regular accountability can create the check in your spirit to change your behavior. It also gives your spouse confidence that you are intent on improving yourself—which in turn makes them feel valued.

You might also create a system to memorize Bible verses pertaining to that area of your life that you want to change. Learn one verse a week and see how the power of Scripture can transform your thoughts and behavior.

Notebook

Keep a “Romance” folder on your computer or smartphone. If you use Evernote then create a folder with your spouse’s name. Start collecting gift ideas for you to give your spouse. Through the year they will express things of interest or that they wish they could have. Write it down, putting it into your folder.

Develop a list of your spouse’s favorite foods, beverages, and restaurants. Is there a certain type of flower she enjoys or movie he has been wanting to see? Write it down!

You may see something in your spouse that makes you drawn to them a bit more than normal. There will be traits that you notice that others might miss. Write them down in your romance folder. Later, formulate a note to your spouse using the things you recalled. That will communicate value because of your specific affirmation. It will also create an affection by them toward you because of your attentiveness to them.

What other systems can you use in your marriage? As you can see, systems ARE sexy and are important as you build your marriage!

10 Keys for Choosing Friends That Build Your Marriage

couple-friends

 

One of the wisest choices you can make to build your marriage is being careful with the friends you choose. Your marriage is vulnerable to attack—just ask the 50+% who have walked through the valley of divorce and those who were nearly divorced. The friends around you is a significant determiner to the success of your marriage!

Here are 10 keys to guide you in evaluating the friends you choose. Pursue people who fit these criteria and build a wall of allies around your relationship. Who you have as your friends is up to you!

1) Choose a friend who is the same gender.

Cross-gender friendships grow in intimacy over time. Confidential stories are shared. Embraces, words of understanding, consolation, tenderness—may begin with good intentions—but can wreak havoc on one or both person’s hearts. Wisdom says to build hedges around your marriage and pare down your choice of friends to your gender.

2) Choose a friend you enjoy.

You want someone who brings joy and energy into your life. VDP’s (Very Draining People) generally are not good reciprocal friends and allies.

3) Choose a friend who is pro-marriage.

You want a someone whose basic values are for a husband and wife to be united for life. You don’t need a confidant whispering in your ear that, “Divorce is an option. Get out and get happy!”

4) Choose a friend who will fight for your marriage.

We need a friend who will prop us up when we feel like giving up. We need someone who will encourage us to stand strong, trust God, and do whatever it takes to build…or re-build…our marriage.

5) Choose a friend who will challenge you to be a better spouse.

Perhaps your friend will recommend a book or a blog that will help you grow as a husband or wife. Or they will recommend a retreat you can attend as couples. Maybe they set an example for you in some ways that you can emulate.

6) Choose a friend who will hold you accountable.

We all need someone who will speak truth to us—even at the risk of losing the friendship. The Bible says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted.” (Proverbs 27:6) Be sure to have people in your life who love you and your marriage so much that they will point out where your thinking is flawed, your character is in jeopardy, or your actions are astray.

7) Choose a friend who has been married longer than you.

There is wisdom and hope to be found in the lives of those who are a few steps ahead of us on the journey. Ask questions. Learn deeply from them.

8) Choose a friend who has been married less years than you.

When someone is looking up to you for direction, there is a greater attentiveness to the marriage example you set. They need you to be in their life!

9) Choose a friend you can count on.

The world is full of “fair-weather” friends who are there when it’s convenient for them. You want a friend whom you can depend upon—and who can depend on you as well!

10) Choose a friend who will pray for you.

Victory in marriage is won on our knees. Ask your friend if they will pray for you in your role in your marriage. Ask them to pray for you and your spouse.

Your friends will, in large measure, chart your future in your marriage. Do whatever it takes to have friends who will help you build your marriage!

Focused Desire in Marriage

Couple Talking

When most people think about “desire” in marriage, the spotlight of their focus is on sexual desire. But expressing desire for one’s spouse begins far before the physical act of making love.

Have you ever felt like your spouse only showed desire for you when they “wanted something?” How did that make you feel? Or put another way, has your spouse ever said to you that the only time you show focused desire for them is when you want to jump in bed or get your way?

Our challenge to husbands and wives is to learn how to create focused desire for one another throughout each day. Notice we didn’t say you would necessarily “feel” that desire…at least, not at first. But desire can be cultivated by intentional choices of expression to your spouse. It’s the continual deposits of affection that create acceptance, value, honor, respect, and connectedness.

Dangers

Here’s why this is so important: unless we make the conscious choice every day to move toward our spouse, we will naturally begin to drift from our spouse. We will become disconnected emotionally and relationally. That drift eventually turns into a rift creating two lonely people under one roof.

After a while, our children pick up that we are divided. This can create insecurity for them because we aren’t united. They may assume a “divide and conquer” mentality in their approach to each parent.

In addition, our hearts become vulnerable to someone else’s focused desire for us. They give us time, listen, affirm, encourage, empathize—and the table is set for an affair.

Direction

Ted Huston, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. He evaluated 168 couples over 13 years of marriage. Dr. Huston found that the happiest married couples maintained the same level of affection they had for each other in their first two years of marriage.

So what was affection like when you dated? When you were first married? Initiate a conversation around those memories and see how much you both can recall. Enjoy the memories without blaming one another for the desire drift you’ve experienced. Talk about what the two of you can re-instill into your marriage.

Ask your spouse, “What are two or three things I can do for you on a regular basis to show my desire for you?” Listen carefully, and then follow through consistently. If you need to set up daily repeating reminders in your smart phone or on your computer—do it! Whatever system needs to be in place for you to establish focused desire for you spouse is worth it.

Lovingly describe to your spouse how you would like to be shown affection. What are two or three things they can do every day that can make you feel more desired? We know this can seem like buying yourself a Christmas gift, wrapping it up, and having your spouse give it to you. You’d rather have them do it all perfectly on their own. But as we have learned in our marriage, having clear and precise communication can save hours if not years of misunderstanding and hurt.

Over time as you show focused desire to each other, you will experience a growing love and passion for your spouse as you build your marriage.

7 Keys to Rebuild Your Marriage

photo by Jennifer Clark

photo by Jennifer Clark

Have you ever needed to rebuild something? A few years ago dear friends of ours had their home demolished by fire. After the shock came the grieving and eventually, the rebuilding. Through their loss they experienced the power of friends and community supporting them and meeting various needs. Eventually, they were able to use the same foundation and construct a beautiful and even more functional home for their family.

Rebuilding in marriage is like that. Something has been damaged or demolished. Some of the areas of marital breakdown include: trust, friendship, communication, hope, affection, intimacy, and understanding. It’s a time when the power of friends and community  can be expressed and experienced. There is always some sort of foundation to build upon and what results from the rebuilding can be even more beautiful than what was shared before.

Here are seven keys to rebuild your marriage that we have found to be important in our marriage and that we teach at retreats and to the couples we coach:

1) God is all about restoration and reconciliation

It’s always good to know who is on your “side,” and when it comes to rebuilding any area of our marriage, God’s help is available. He is FOR your marriage! So commit your efforts to Him, pray consistently as you take significant steps, and give Him the credit (glory) for all of the positive steps you take.

2) Be humble and learn

This is the time to listen to your spouse more than you speak. What do they need from you? What do you need to “own” that got you where you are? Ask questions. Drop defensiveness. Seek wisdom from books and blogs to help you improve.

3) Trust is paramount

At the core of every breakdown is the loss of trust. We counsel men and women to do whatever is necessary to restore trust. Depending on the devastation the marriage has experienced, it could take months or years. But the humility, the ownership, and realization that God is helping you makes trust building not only doable, but healing as well. You can do it!

4) Expect to work at it

To rebuild takes effort: emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual. Some days you may feel your self tapped-out at all levels. Progress seems like you are swimming in peanut butter. But your marriage is worth every ounce of effort. What you will receive at the other end of the process will be a marriage that brings joy to you, leaves a legacy for your family, and will be an encouragement to a watching world.

5) Press through the obstacles

We have good friends who are fighting for their marriage and working on rebuilding. None of their other friends are supporting them. But they know that it is worth the fight even of opposition from those close to them. Your schedules can be an obstacle. Perhaps your obstacle is proximity due to travel or limited time alone together—whatever is in your way, stay faithful to your commitment to the marriage and press ahead!

6) It’s ok to get help

There are gifted and trained men and women who can help you find the path toward wholeness. Don’t be afraid to find a good counselor who lines up with your shared values and who will fight with you for your marriage. Pull in a mutually trusted friend or two who will be encouragers in your journey as well. We all need someone who can cheer us on in our race toward victory.

7) Remember: you CAN do all things through Christ

To rebuild requires a recognition that our personal effort alone isn’t enough. We need to ask Jesus to help us. The Bible says that “I can do ALL things through him who strengthens me.”  With Jesus strengthening you in your steps to rebuild, you will experience satisfaction, peace, and joy as you build your marriage!

For Husbands Only: How To Connect

 

Men, your wife wants to connect with you. Think of it this way: you know that when the terminals get corroded on your car battery, your car won’t start. The posts need to be cleaned, greased, and then reconnected. When you take care of the connection, the current flows and the engine runs!

Over time corrosion can build up in your relationship with your wife. Men, it is your responsibility to do all you can to connect with your wife. No one else can do this for you and you cannot shift the blame—not even to her.

In the Bible, Peter admonishes men saying, “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way….” (1 Peter 3:7a) It’s interesting that there’s nothing here about being sure she understands you, but that she feels understood.

Remember, your marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. It may take time for the corrosion that has built up to be cleaned off. So be patient with your wife as you begin to reconnect.

Here are three steps to begin to clean off the corrosion and connect with your wife:

Pray Faithfully

Someone once said, “A shared burden is half a burden.” Ask your wife what you can pray about for her. Write down what she says. Follow through in prayer and then every few days ask her about those requests. It will remind her that she isn’t alone and that you are helping her carry that burden.

Listen Carefully

As men we tend to want to be solution finders. We solve problems all day, we fix things that are broken, and then we move on to the next thing that needs our attention. But our wives don’t always want something fixed or a solution given. Sometimes they just want us to pay attention as they describe what is happening in their world.

Listening and understanding is a skill every man can learn. Again, this is your responsibility to work on so that you and your wife can connect more consistently. We’ve written previously about how connect through listening here and here.

Love Sacrificially

In the Bible the description of how a man is to love his wife reads: “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) So when something corrosive starts to well up inside you (pride, selfishness, impatience, etc.), shoot up a prayer and ask, “How can I honor Christ in my marriage right now? How can I love my wife sacrificially right now?” You can be sure God won’t hide the answer from you!

There are a myriad of different ways a man can learn to connect with his wife. Start with these three. Keep the “terminals” clean so the electricity can flow between you as you build your marriage!