Six Practices To Grow In Patience

Impatience

Have you ever prayed to become more patient only to regret that prayer later? Almost immediately after praying it can seem like God threw all kinds of things your way to strengthen your patience when that wasn’t the plan you had in mind!

This is the first of a series of posts looking at the descriptions of love in the “love” chapter in the Bible found in 1 Corinthians 13. If you would like to have them emailed directly to you, just enter your email address in the box on the right and be sure to click the confirmation link that is sent to you.

It’s been said that “patience is a virtue,” and it is…but in marriage it can also be elusive. The word “patience” literally means “long-suffering.” It carries the idea of enduring when things are hard, unjust, or unresolved. Disappointments, tension, stress, annoying behaviors, habits that get worse through the years, neglect, high expectations…and so much more can create the fuel of a nuclear bomb called impatience that is ready to explode in your marriage.

So how do you defuse the bomb? You can’t control your spouse’s behaviors, but you can control your response. Here are six ways to grow in patience and, as a result, infuse a greater expression of love in your marriage.

1. Pray

Patience is an outer reflection of the work of God in you. The first step in developing patience is to tell God that you want to grow in patience. Yes, it could mean more challenges will come your way :), but more likely what will happen is you will be increasingly attuned to God’s promptings, guidance and strengthening.

2. Practice Self-Awareness

Would your spouse think you are impatient? If you asked, would they be afraid to answer? (That may be a clue right there!)

When you “lose it” or have a sharp edge in your voice, what are the triggers that set you off? Being mindful of the triggers is an important step to growing in patience. When you are aware of a situation that could ignite a flare up of emotions in you, immediately say a prayer and ask God to help you be patient in the moment. What you cannot do on your own you can do with His help.

Be aware of your body language and tone of voice as well. Are you scowling? Looking with displeasure? Raising your volume or speaking with an edge? Patience is more than your inner emotions. Patience is expressed in your entire demeanor.

3. Practice Self-Control

Often we lose patience because we cannot control our spouse. We may not like what they did, how they did it, when they did it or why they did it. Resolve the fact that while you cannot control your spouse, you can control YOU. If you tend to react quickly, try to get alone to calm down before responding.

4. Practice Laughing More

One way to practice patience with your spouse is to smile when you might otherwise show displeasure. Let your face lead the way for your emotions. A gentle laugh, a pat on the hand or rub on the back may be all it takes to lighten the mood. Before long, you’ll find yourselves laughing about things that months earlier would have created a wall.

5. Practice Keeping Short Accounts

If something truly needs to be discussed and worked through, then do so with the best timing to achieve understanding and resolution. Choosing not to talk things through can allow them to build up inside like an over blown up tire that eventually explodes.

6. Practice Giving Grace

Grace is giving what is undeserved or unearned. It’s what God has given to you through Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf on the cross. It’s what God shows to you as you continue to make mistakes, sin, and disappoint him. He loves you unconditionally. He is patient with you. And He expects you to show the same grace to your spouse.

So which practices do you need to focus on to grow in patience? This is a great place to start as you build your marriage!

Practicing the “You First” Principle

Photo by Petruzzo Photography

Photo by Petruzzo Photography

Who is first in your marriage? Yes, we all know that the “right” answer is always “Jesus,” 🙂 but in the relationship between you and your spouse—who is first in your marriage?

In the “love” chapter of the Bible it says that love “does not insist on its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) This is what we call the “You First” principle of marriage. So how do we practically live it out?

Here are three ways to implement this expression of love:

1. You First…To Speak While I Listen

This is one that we have had to work on…hard…over the years. We are two first-born verbal people who like to get our point across. Early in our marriage we were more interested in stating our point than actually having a meaningful dialogue. That was selfish and unloving of us.

Now we try to practice “You First” in our conversations by encouraging our spouse to speak their mind and share their heart. It’s pretty easy to get started. We simply say, “I’d like to hear what you have to say first.” Then we try to truly listen, ask follow up questions, and respond thoughtfully.

Simply allowing your spouse to speak first can increase their trust in you and in the relationship. The feeling of actually being heard is sadly rare in marriages, but you have the ability to give that gift of love when you say, “You first.”

2. You First…To Express Your Preference

All around us in the media and relationships people try to tell us what we should want. We’ve even seen spouses do this with each other. We’ve been in awkward situations where perhaps a husband tries to convince his wife of what she really wanted, instead of respecting the her stated desire. (We’ve seen wives do the same.)

It’s true that some spouses have difficulty stating what they would like to do/eat/watch/listen to. In fact, they may actually have no preference—but being given the opportunity to even express that is respectful and loving.

Practice saying, “I’d really like to know what you would prefer” to your spouse. This doesn’t mean you can’t express your desires as well…but draw your spouse out first. Then talk together and decide where to go with it. Try not to “insist on your own way” but show deference when possible.

3. You First…To Hear “Please Forgive Me…”

All too often couples will come to an impasse of reconciliation and restoration because they are stubbornly waiting for the other spouse to come forward and apologize. Simply put: that is selfish, unloving, and doesn’t reflect the initiative of reconciliation that Jesus showed us via the cross.

Start by asking God to reveal to you all of the areas where you have been wrong in attitude, tone of voice, words, gestures, actions, etc. Then confess whatever He reveals to you and ask His forgiveness for how you treated His gift to…your spouse.

Once you have asked God for his forgiveness, go to immediately to your spouse. Tell them that you want to ask their forgiveness, and when they are ready to listen be specific, listing out the things about which God convicted you. How they respond isn’t your concern. Their response is their responsibility. You just do what is right.

Practicing the “You First” principle in marriage is a relationship changer. What are some other ways to practice the “You First” principle in marriage? Share them below and start taking the next steps as you Build Your Marriage!

5 Places to Protect Your Marriage

 

Heart on window

We have a service that monitors our financial accounts to protect against identity theft. We warn our children when they drift toward danger. We make sure our cell phones are secure and our homes locked up. We are vigilant to protect what’s important to us.

We are vigilant to protect what’s important to us aren’t we? Maybe not.

You see, many marriages are rocked because one or both partners have failed to protect their heart. The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) But what–specifically–do we protect our heart from?

Here are five places to protect our hearts followed by what we gain by being diligent. See which ones resonate with you. Then, with God’s help, do everything possible to protect your heart!

Protect your heart from:

1. Curiosity

The door of temptation gets flung wide open when we allow ourselves to “wonder” about an old fling from high school, college, or previous employment. Out of curiosity, we look them up on Facebook. We read all we can, and then…perhaps in a moment of impulse shoot them a private “hello” and eagerly look for a response. The old phrase that “curiosity killed the cat” is more true in marriage than anywhere else. A counselor friend of ours tells us that with 90% of all couples he sees about infidelity, Facebook was involved.

Certainly curiosity can have multiple applications of danger beyond Facebook. The point is, protect your heart against unhealthy curiosity. When in doubt, DON’T.

2. Discontentment

When we dwell on what we don’t have, we open ourselves up for ongoing dissatisfaction in our marriage. We wish we had a spouse that was like our friend’s spouse. If only they were more fun, more engaging, a better listener, enjoyed our hobbies, were different from how they are.

Protect your heart. Focus on what you are thankful for in your spouse and verbalize it to them. Listen to yourself affirm your spouse and it will coat your heart with teflon and protect you from discontentment.

3. Sexual Temptation

Protect your heart from seeking images and videos on the web that will only erode your character and drag you into a dark abyss of shame and guilt.

Sexual temptation with another often starts with a longing for a deeper connection with someone who “cares” for us. Protect your heart from the opposite gender who seems to desire a deep connection and interest in you. Put up walls, boundaries, and RUN into the arms of Jesus and your spouse.

4. Criticism

This is closely associated with discontentment. A critical heart achieves the opposite effect of what is desired. We want change, but we seek it by consistently pointing out what’s wrong.

Don’t misunderstand, sometimes we have to honestly point things out. But excessive criticism can create a critical spirit which will push our spouse away from us rather than draw them close.

5. Entitlement

It doesn’t take much to want to treat, reward or comfort ourselves. Stress, conflict, criticism, and over-work are some of the contributors that can make us think, “I deserve this.” What happens next is we start focusing on our needs as primary and our spouse’s needs as secondary. Making the situation more volatile, we expect our spouse to meet our entitled desires and if they can’t we seek to have them filled through someone or something else.

We have to protect against entitlement thinking. When you recognize an entitlement thought, acknowledge it as such. Then ask God to help you fight entitlement thinking by choosing to do something loving for your spouse!

What we gain

Here are a few things we gain when we protect our heart:

  • We have God’s favor and blessing on our life.
  • We are content because we have kept our affections in check.
  • We are filled with peace because we are living with integrity.
  • We gain deeper appreciation for our spouse because they alone have our earthly affection.
  • We are empowered by God because he has a pure person to work through.
  • We build our legacy of a healthy, honoring marriage.

What other places can you think of where spouses should protect their hearts? Leave your comments below. And make the commitment in your heart to protect your heart as you build your marriage!

How To Give Hope In Marriage

 

Giving Hope in Marriage

Life can throw unexpected situations at us in a myriad of different ways creating a loss of hope in either spouse. In our marriage we’ve experienced health issues, financial struggles, loss of employment, consequences of sin, vocational challenges—and one or the other of us has had to be to hold the other up.

We recognize that situations and relationships are complex, so the following suggestions are simply signs pointing in the direction you can head in your marriage. We also know that hope is different from wishful thinking. Hope is based on certainty. It’s something in which you can have confidence. So take what seems to fit your marriage from these three categories and use them to bring hope to your spouse!

Focus UP

Bringing hope to your spouse begins by redirecting their attention above whatever is bringing them down. In Psalm 121 the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  His point is that his true help isn’t coming over the next hill–it’s coming from the Maker of the hills! Whatever is looming and bringing fear is brought into perspective when we remember the One who is far greater than the issue at hand.

Your mate needs to hear that from you. In Psalm 46 the psalmist declared that God is “an ever-present help in trouble.” You can remind your spouse that God will not leave them. Tell them that God promises to give the strength and wisdom they need as they seek to honor him.

Fear, loss, pain, grieving, uncertainty—these are all times when you can guide your spouse to recall the times that God provided in the past. God hasn’t deserted them even when things may feel like it. Some of the greatest men and women in the Bible were people who were molded through the fires of life. There can be purpose even in the deepest pain, as the cross of Christ reminds us.

Your spouse needs your faithful prayers for hope to be re-instilled into their life. We strongly recommend that you ask your spouse if you can pray out loud for them. You can pray and simply ask God to give them the strength and hope they need.

Focus IN

When hope begins to wane, so does one’s confidence. In marriage, you have the unique front-row opportunity to inject hope into your spouse’s life. Let them know that you believe in them. Be specific about the good you see in them. Affirm the qualities of their character that are the bedrock of who they are.

Reaffirm your unconditional acceptance of your spouse. Let them know that you have never regretted saying, “I do” and you’d marry them all over again no matter what you two are facing. Tell them in your words, your touch, and your tone of voice that you love them and respect them.

You have the opportunity to be your mate’s biggest cheerleader. Your belief and support will help to billow their sails to move forward in greater confidence and hope.

Focus OUT

This is the time when you let your spouse know that you are inseparably linked shoulder-to-shoulder as you face the future together. Knowing that they have a teammate who is committed to them will bring hope to their spirit and lift their countenance. Tell them that you are by their side no matter what may come. Give them confidence in the stability of your marriage, and they will have hope even as they face the valleys of life.

Being a hope-giver requires perseverance because your spouse will need multiple infusions of hope from you. Your spouse may struggle for a long time to believe you or trust things can be better, but God has called you to this role. You can have hope because God will give you what you need as you Build Your Marriage with hope!