Choosing The Right Word

Couple talking on couch

 

Wouldn’t you agree that most arguments happen over the dumbest things? Often there’s a misunderstanding or a careless comment that is made and later regretted—but only after the damage is done.

How can we minimize the careless comments in our marriage? How can we change-up our pattern and begin to say the right word at the right time?

The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, wrote: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) In the original language, the idea is a word given at just the right time is beautiful and valuable. Wouldn’t you agree that holds true in marriage as well?

Often the right word comes at a time when we are struggling, sad, angry or needing to be lifted up. When the right thing is said there is connection, care, compassion, and encouragement. We feel understood and our spouse’s words are actually a blessing to us.

Here are four things to keep in mind this week so that your words are “aptly spoken” and become a treasure to your spouse:

1. Listen and ask

We have to hear our spouse’s heart to have the right word. What are the things that are burdening them? What do they talk about? Ask follow-up questions that help bring understanding. Sometimes a simple, “Tell me more…” or “Help me understand…” opens the door for them to go deeper in their explanation. Keep listening.

 2. Watch and ponder

Life can get busy and we can easily become self-focused on our personal to-do’s and projects. Pull back and watch your spouse. What is consuming their time and energy? Work that they brought home? Tasks or deadlines that need to be completed? Projects at home? Activities or stress with the children?

Enter their world. You know your spouse…what is life like for them right now? Perhaps you will observe them serving the household doing menial tasks no one else will do (including you!), or working hard to succeed at their job, or pouring themselves into your children.

Imagine you are in their skin. What would you like to hear?

3. Pause and pray

Before you speak the “apt word,” take a moment to breathe a prayer to God. Ask Him what your spouse needs to hear from you. It may be a word of encouragement or affirmation. Perhaps they need appreciation or even a word of advice. Maybe all they need is a hug and to hear, “I love you.”

4. Speak and repeat

When you are confident you know what to say, be sure you have eye contact and good timing, go ahead and say the right word! Once you’ve spoken the right word, go back and repeat the first step.

Fill your relationship with the right words and you will bless your spouse as you build your marriage!

8 Benefits to Long-lasting Love

Romantic Older Married Couple

We have recently been astounded at how many couples we know who are choosing to end their marriage. Are you seeing the same thing? It is breaking our hearts.

We personally know the depths of pain that can almost sink a marriage. We know the feelings of an uncertain future.

But we also know the exhilaration of a marriage that is renewed and restored. We know that God is a Healer, Reconciler, Restoring, Renewer, and Refresher. He makes the weak to become strong. He gives hope to the hopeless. He gives wisdom to those who ask. Choosing to remain in a marriage that is hurting means you are choosing to trust God to guide you toward hope and healing.

While we are seeing couples make the devastating choice to end their marriages, we thrill to see couples who choose to have a long-lasting love. They have pressed through the valleys of pain and experienced the joy of being united with the same person as mates for life.

Recently one of us had to undergo a routine medical procedure that happens when you hit a certain age. 🙁 You can’t drive yourself home after this procedure, so you had to bring somebody with you. As we were waiting in the waiting room we were struck by the fact that almost every person in the room was with their spouse.

As we pondered all of these couples walking through this procedure together, we came up with a list of some of the benefits of a long-lasting love:

1. Shared Faith

Through the highs and lows of life and marriage, your faith in God deepens together. By listening to the same sermons and other teaching, your hearts are bonded tightly as soul-mates through Jesus Christ.

2. Shared Depth

As you grow old together you share a mutual history that weaves the fabric of your lives together. You share the same friends through the years. Your paths are the same and interlocked together with shared memories and experiences.

3. Shared Familiarity

Through the years the things that bothered you early in your marital years become qualities that you are accustomed to and accept. You know your spouse’s likes and dislikes. You know their characteristics and they know yours. You adapt to one another.

4. Shared Family Bond

Because of your long-lasting commitment to love, your children have a stable home. They come home from school to mom and dad. As adults, the children come home to mom and dad. There are plenty of studies available to back up the positive exponential effect of mom and dad married and raising the children under one roof.

5. Shared Friendship

You and your spouse’s friendship deepens through the years. You talk hopes and dreams. You see some dreams come to fruition while others fade. You go on vacations together, make decisions together, discuss the day’s events. You appreciate and enjoy each other’s companionship.

6. Shared Intimacy

You know each other’s bodies regularly and intimately. You experiences the joys of making love through the years. As you age, even the physical changes of your bodies become an opportunity to show unconditional love, acceptance, and tenderness through your intimacy.

7. Shared Health Benefits

Studies repeatedly show that married people have significantly healthier lives. They are less likely to develop pneumonia, have surgery, develop cancer, experience dementia, or have heart attacks. In fact, the mortality rate for unmarried women is 50% higher and for men it is 250% percent higher than for those who are married! You can read more here.

8. Shared Legacy

You two know each other’s families: grandparents, parents, siblings and extended family. Not only do you know your shared roots, but you are building a legacy together as well. You are setting an example for the next generation that marriage matters. Commitments are kept. And that long-lasting love is really the best love there is!

What else would you add to the list? Renew your commitment today to a long-lasting love as together you build your marriage!

Little Good Things

Appreciation

LIttle things matter. Missing one ingredient in a cake can make all the difference between a mess and a masterpiece. One number off on a combination lock and it stays locked. Putting the decimal in the wrong spot on your 1040 for the IRS can be disastrous.

We notice when little things are missing and problems arise, don’t we?  In marriage, we can too easily notice the little things that bug us as well. It can be as mundane as they way our spouse chews their food, the towel or underwear left on the floor (again!), or the dishes still in the sink. Perhaps their clothes don’t match, they sneeze across the room or talk with their mouth full (and you can see it!).

All too often we can become fixated on the little wrong things, and miss all of the little good things. What happens over time is that we:

  • Get negative about our marriage
  • Turn critical toward our spouse
  • Become self-righteous about what we do right
  • Start to carry an edge of contempt
  • Lose the luster of attraction
  • And above all, fail to show the grace Christ has shown to us

We’ve been married over 31 years and we continue to express appreciation for the little things in life. The towel that is picked up for us, the initiative to sweep the kitchen, something purchased at the grocery out of thoughtfulness, a touch on the shoulder, or an encouraging word. They are the bricks and mortar that help build a strong marriage that lasts through the years…if we’ve paid attention to them.

What we have experienced as a result of noticing the little good things is we:

  • Are more positive about one another
  • Are more motivated to work on our marriage
  • Recognize the partnership we have in our marriage
  • Have hearts that are more tender toward each other
  • Are more captivated by each other
  • Show the love and grace that Christ has shown to us

Here are three keys you can apply today in your marriage:

1. Notice little good things

Retrain your eyes to see the good things your spouse does. Set your mind to look for 2-3 little good things your spouse does ever day. It could be the chore they’ve done faithfully around the house for years. Maybe a supportive statement about your parents that your appreciate. A word of wisdom or advice. Perhaps they did just a little something extra that made your day better. Look for the good things!

2. Affirm little good things

Retrain your lips to speak good things. When you note the good things, say the good things. You might say, “Thank you for faithfully taking out the trash through the years.” Or, “I appreciate your insight in that, thank you.” Hearing ourselves talk about the little good things reinforces what our spouse has done in our hearts and minds as well. The result over time are the benefits listed above.

3. Treasure little good things

Retrain your mind to think good things. Through the day and the week remind yourself of the little good things you’ve seen your spouse do. Your reflection will endear your heart toward your spouse more and more.

As you retrain your eyes, lips and mind around little good things, you will fall deeper in love and reflect Christ to your spouse as you build your marriage!

How to Grow as a Spouse

Giving Feedback in Marriage

You want to grow as a person.

In your marriage, personal flaws are naturally going to be revealed. Things like: selfishness, pride, needing to win, not listening, control, negativity, passivity—you get the idea. And so you make efforts to change and grow. Sometimes heroic efforts are made.

It is not uncommon, however, that the only one who notices the effort and the change is the one who is making the effort! That can be discouraging and disheartening, can’t it?

So how can couples come together and connect around the efforts each is making to grow in their marriage? What can bring encouragement and positive reinforcement to be certain the right focus is being made?

Marshall Goldsmith wrote a leadership book entitled What Got you Here Won’t Get You There. Though the book was written to help people in the marketplace change personal flaws to move ahead in their careers, the coaching he provides in this area is golden.

Feedforward

Goldsmith has coined the word “feedforward” as a way of getting suggestions for what one can do in the future. In marriage it is significant in acquiring mutual agreement for how growth can take place.

First, as you identify an area of growth in your life, initiate the conversation with your spouse and describe the area in which you want to improve (unless, of course, they’ve already described it to you!).

Next, ask them for two suggestions for the future that might help you achieve a positive change. If they don’t want to participate, then ask someone you trust to give you two suggestions.

Finally, say, “Thank you.” Don’t argue. Don’t counter with your own suggestions. Humbly receive what they say.

Follow-up

The key for change and mutuality is to regularly ask for feedback on your progress (in this case from your spouse). Put it in your smartphone or on the calendar to ask your spouse every couple of weeks the the following: “Last month I told you that I would try to get better at ____________. You gave me some ideas and I would like to know if you think I have effectively put them into practice.”

Goldsmith says that that question forces them “to stop what they’re doing and, once again, think about [your] efforts to change, mentally gauge [your] progress, and keep [you] focused on continued improvement.”

Follow-up  builds trust that you are actually making the effort. It says that you care about being the best spouse you can be for them. In addition, follow-up helps your spouse verbalize the positive efforts you are making and internalize what they hear themselves saying.

These two simple steps can go a long way in helping you grow as a person, and as a couple as you build your marriage!