Embrace The Moment

Happy Couple

When we suddenly lose someone close to us, we are reminded anew that we need to embrace the moment we still have with those we love. Last year we lost a dear friend at our church. He was just 36 and a father of twin girls aged seven. He was a good man, a godly man, and an encourager to us in our ministry at Build Your Marriage.

In the following 24 hours after hearing the news, we noticed that we were hugging each other more, giving increased affirmation, and checking in on each other just a little more often than normal. The Psalmist wrote, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Ps. 139:16) None of us knows how long we—or our spouse–has to live. While we should never live in fear or dread, we can live with a greater appreciation of the time and opportunity presented to us now.

We can embrace each moment we have together by remembering these three simple actions:

Look

To embrace the moment, we have to see the moment. Life can hurtle past us at warp speed: careers, kids to tend to and raise, chores to get done, bills to pay, Facebook to keep up with, and building blocks to read :-). By the end of the day we’ve been so focused on what we needed to get done that we’ve barely noticed what our spouse has been busy doing.

For the next 48 hours, make a conscious effort to notice your spouse. Watch what they do. Are they tired, harried, frustrated, lonely, happy, chipper, joy-filled? How can you join them in their joy? Encourage them in their exhaustion? Bring peace to your partner?

Look deeply into your spouse’s eyes. What do you see? How can you enter their world and let them know that they are loved and you embrace them as they are?

The Bible says the very hairs of you head are numbered—that’s the kind of attention God gives to you! So maybe you can breathe a simple prayer saying, “God help me be attentive to my spouse through Your eyes.”

Listen

Knowing how fragile life is, make the conscious choice to actually listen and hear what your spouse is saying. Give them your undivided attention. No emailing, texting, Facebook, Twitter, or Sports Center. (We do, however, make an exception for the Super Bowl!)

As you listen, embrace the opportunity to hear their heart. Ask questions. Dig deeper. Show active interest in what is being communicated to you.

If the conversation is over an area of conflict, then follow the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi who said, “Lord! Grant that I may seek more to understand than to be understood.” Embracing your spouse’s tension-points will not only ease their frustration, but it will enable you to respond wisely to the core issue at hand.

You have been given the gift of being able to listen to your spouse—embrace the moment of hearing their voice and their heart. You can read more about listening in an earlier post of ours here.

Love

When we heard of our friend’s death yesterday our conversation eventually went to regrets. We talked about how we could have been even better friends. When it comes to your marriage, regret is not something you want to live with–and you don’t have to!

Embrace your spouse by showering them with love. Follow through on promptings.  You may be prompted to write them a note, give a hug, or offer a back or foot rub. Tell them you want to go out on a date this weekend—dinner, a walk, even a drive so you can just be together. Maybe your date is a candlelight picnic in the living room after the children are asleep!

Isn’t it true that often we know what to do, but we put it off until “later?” What we were reminded of yesterday is that “later” may not come—so do it now!

Make the decision to embrace the moment with your spouse now as you Build Your Marriage!

 

How to Express Appreciation

www.gottmanblog.com

www.gottmanblog.com

“Married couples who regularly express appreciation for each other have much happier, stronger marriages.” Dr. John Gottman @gottmaninst

We cannot think of a single divorce we know of where each spouse was mutually, sincerely, and regularly showing appreciation for the other. Can you? The reason is that when we show appreciation for our spouse it not only builds them up in their sense of worth, it does a couple of other things as well.

First, when we express appreciation it draws our heart closer to our spouse. Verbalizing, writing, or recording what is on our heart reframes our thinking about our mate. It reminds us once again about the treasure and worth of the person God has given to us.

Second, when we express appreciation it pulls our spouse toward us. We know them most intimately—we see the good, the bad, and the ugly—and yet we are still saying, “You matter, you have value, and I see it expressed in so many ways.”  When someone is “for” us, we are naturally drawn to them.

Here are three levels of appreciation that you can bring into your marriage today so that it is strengthened and draws you and your spouse closer together. At each level, be specific in what you see and appreciate. Be creative in how you communicate it: words either written or spoken, a drawing, poetry, a video—you get the idea.

1. Good: What they DO

Start by being ruthlessly observant of your spouse. Sometimes we can see them in their day to day life—but not really SEE what they are doing. Perhaps you might even whisper a prayer like, “God, help me to see the things that my spouse has secretly longed for me to notice.”

Now, what did you observe that you need to affirm? Perhaps there are regular household tasks that are thankless, but shouldn’t stay that way. Or your spouse faithfully works to provide income and security. It may be an area where they serve in the community or at church that makes a difference.

2. Better: Who they ARE

When we show appreciation for who our spouse IS we are bringing value to the core of their being. Appreciating who they are means that we notice their character, their values, the things that drive them and make them rise above the noise of activity to a place of stature.

When you affirm who your spouse is, you are communicating appreciation for qualities like: integrity, honesty, joy-filled, deep thinker, nurturer, courage, creativity, faithfulness, humility, thoughtfulness, loyalty.

You can affirm who they are in their relationship with God. They are forgiven, empowered, free of shame, a child of God, a servant, a loved sheep, a restored prodigal, a child of the King.

3. BEST: What they CAN be

This level of appreciation lifts your spouse up and gives them hope for the future. It reminds them that they have a partner who is dreaming with them, who believes that their dreams can be achieved together with God’s help.

Your regular ability to believe in your spouse will inject them with the confidence they need to press ahead in life. They need to know that you believe they can be successful. They need to hear you say that you know that they can fulfill all of the potential that God has for them. They need to be assured that you want to hear their dreams and partner with them to achieve those dreams.

How can you show appreciation to your spouse today? Take the initiative as together, you Build Your Marriage!

Five Ways to Cultivate Organic Romance

Romance-at-home

There are some simple, natural, and healthy ways to cultivate romance into your marriage every day. These things don’t take money, nor do they require a lot of time. But when practiced, they can create a soil that grows and abundant harvest of romance in your marriage.

When you were dating you were careful about how you treated each other. But through the years of marriage, some of those practices which seemed to come naturally to you may have begun to fade away. It’s time to re-instill the things you did before. It’s time to implement purposeful courtesy into your marriage.

When our marriage lacks courtesy, it’s like sowing weeds and chemicals into our relationship. It isn’t healthy, it gets choked, and slowly the love and romance begins to wilt.

Bringing courtesy into our marriage infuses our relationship with respect. It displays how we honor our spouse in front of our children. Here are five ways to cultivate organic romance in your marriage:

1. Texting etiquette

When your spouse is talking to you, give them your fullest attention. Allowing text messages to interrupt your spouse dishonors them. It says that whatever random person chooses to send you a message at their leisure is more important than what your spouse has to say. It sends a subtle non-text message to your spouse that what they have to say isn’t important to you. Giving your full attention cultivates romance.

2.  “What’s the magic word?”

Do you remember when your parents or adults would ask you that question? The answer was, “please!” When you ask your spouse to do something for you, remember the “magic word!” Saying please cultivates romance.

3. “What did you forget to say?”

Alright, there were TWO questions our parents or adults would ask us. 😉 And you know the answer—“thank you!” Show gratitude for even the simple things—like providing dinner, clean underwear, bringing you a glass of water. Saying thank you cultivates romance.

(See? These courtesies aren’t that hard to pick up!)

4. Who enters first?

Men, when you and your wife get to a door, step up your pace and open it for her. It will make her feel honored and cherished that you are preparing the way for her. (And she doesn’t have to get the door germs on her hands!) Opening doors cultivates romance.

5. Remember the chair

And while we’re talking to the guys, when was the last time you pulled the chair out for (not from) your wife? How about at home? Showing simply courtesy like this at home sets and example if you have children at home, and it communicates that your spouse is worthy of your effort to serve her like a queen. Remembering the chair cultivates romance.

So how’s the organic romance in your marriage? Planting and cultivating organic romance in your marriage is something you can do every day. So get busy and build your marriage!

Learning Forgiveness

Forgiveness freedom

Have you ever had to forgive your spouse but really didn’t want to? What happened when you didn’t? When you did?

One of the lessons we have had to learn repeatedly in our marriage is the art of forgiveness. We are both first borns and our basic nature is to be driven, focused, goal-oriented, have a desire to win and dominate until we succeed. When we are focused together on an outcome our drive is a powerful force for good. When we are focused on getting our way….well, that’s a concoction for a marital nuclear disaster!

Through our 30+ years of marriage we’ve grown in grace, patience, and the art of forgiving. As we coach couples, we watch them struggle to forgive one another. It’s usually not over the huge sins that can devastate, but the daily irritants that we allow to get under our skin.

As couples, we all need to learn how to forgive.

Why is forgiveness so important?

Quick! If you know it—rattle off the Lord’s prayer right now—GO!

Alright, now about that “and forgive us our sins/debts as we forgive those who’ve sinned against us (our debtors).”  We can’t appreciate the depth of God’s forgiveness given to us until we are willing to experience what it’s like to forgive. Even if it’s forgiving repeatedly. Even if we were unjustly treated. Even if what was done was deliberate.

The only person we hurt by not forgiving is ourselves. Forgiveness protects our heart from bitterness. Anne Lamott writes that, “not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”

Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is an act of the will. It is saying, “I am not going to hold this against them, but instead I’m going to trust God to deal with the situation in his time and his way. I’m choosing to show grace.”

How do I show forgiveness in injustice?

Injustice will happen in marriage. You’ll be accused of something you didn’t do. A confidence will be broken. Money spent without mutual agreement. Betrayal of trust at any level may occur.

Peter writes about this using Jesus as an example saying, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

You may hurt. You may grieve. There may be consequences to your spouse’s actions (i.e. a rebuilding of trust, or possibly the loss of a marriage). But the choice to forgive is about your heart before God.

Forgiveness is often not a once and done event. The indignant feelings of being done wrong can come up at any moment. Each time, you make the conscious choice to say, “I have chosen forgiveness. I will not hold this against them. I am trusting God who judges justly.”

Do I tell them?

Often the question arises of whether or not to tell someone that you forgiven them. Our answer is: it depends.

  • Will telling them reveal to them a hurt that they unknowingly caused you? If so, it’s better to discuss with them what took place and why it hurt so that there is better understanding. In that context you will have to discern if you need to verbalize your forgiveness.
  • Are you telling them you forgive them to induce guilt in them—as a form of payback? Then it’s better to remain silent.
  • If they have expressed repentance on their own initiative to you…then offer forgiveness immediately and be willing to talk about what broke down between you and how to guard against it.

It’s up to you, and our challenge is to make the choice to forgive in the little or big things as you Build Your Marriage!