Resolutely Protect Your Marriage, Part 5

Spiritually

spouse praying

Whether your marriage is strong or struggling, you need to know that there is an all-out war being waged against the two of you. At the heart of every effort to drive a wedge between you and your spouse is a sinister, cunning enemy. He is literally hell-bent on bringing division and death to your marriage.

This may sound like an extreme exaggeration to make a point. It is not.

Resolutely Protect Your Marriage, Part 4

Relationships

Protect your marriage


It is absolutely vital that you be vigilant in protecting your marriage. No one else will care as much as you for your marriage. One of the dangerous attack points that the Enemy can use against you is through personal relationships with the opposite gender.

We all have friendships of the opposite gender. God created us to be in community with one another. But Satan likes to take anything that God created for good and turn it around for evil. We have seen unhealthy relationships develop in church settings, work environments, at the gym, or within friendships with other couples.

We are going to provide seven hedges to put around you and your spouse to help you maintain vigilance in protecting your marriage relationally.

Who’s Cheering For Your Marriage?

group-cheering

Who do you have cheering for your marriage? Are the voices speaking into your marriage offering words of support, encouragement, respect, wisdom, truth and hope? Or do they tend to offer up only what you want to hear?

On a regular basis we are seeing marriages undermined by family, friends, and co-workers who are for the individual but not for the couple. As a result, their conversation doesn’t build the marriage and support commitment. Rather, advice is given to seek happiness and fulfillment even at the expense of the marriage.

In that context, read these words from Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse man (or woman) stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.” In your marriage, anyone who sows seeds of division between you and your spouse is not your friend!

When you choose to build your marriage, life and Satan will throw everything at you to keep you from succeeding. To counter those pressures you need people who are lifting you up, cheering for you, and supporting your commitment to your spouse.

Three things you can do to build a “cheering section”

 

1. Be respectful

Speak well of your spouse in front of others. Let them know that your marriage matters to you. Tell others the positive traits you respect in your spouse. Share good stories about your mate and your marriage. This sets the tone for others’ support for the two of you.

2. Be committed

Make sure everyone knows of your love for your spouse and your commitment to your marriage. Your verbal boundary around your marriage will steer others’ advice and conversation toward your stated desires.

3. Be pure

Build your close friendships with the same gender as you. You may relate better with the opposite sex, but you cannot guarantee what will happen with another person’s affections toward you—or yours toward them if the conditions were right. Your marriage is worth you focusing on same-gender friendships.

Four factors in identifying your “cheering section”

 

1. They commit to pray for your marriage

When a friend commits to be your marital cheering section before God, you can be certain they will do all they can to see those prayers answered in your life!

2. They speak respectfully of your spouse

If someone uses derisive language about your spouse, gently correct them and set the record straight about who your spouse really is! If they continue to degrade your spouse, make the decision to distance yourself because this person is stirring up dissension in your marriage. (Proverbs 16:28) It’s time to find a new friend.

3. They are personally pro-marriage

If you aren’t sure where a person stands in their position about marriage, ask them!

4. They encourage you to spend time with your spouse

This can be subtle but people who are cheering for your marriage will encourage you to be with your spouse, not away from them. It’s great to have and build friendships—we certainly work on that as well. But we’ve watched as husbands and wives get pulled by guy-friends or girl-friends who put undue pressure on spouses to “get away” on a regular basis from their spouse. Your marriage cheering section will respect when you say you need to be with your spouse.

What else would you add to the lists? When you are intentional in developing your marriage cheering section you will have momentum and support as you build your marriage!

You Can Do It!

You Can Do It

As we raised our three children there were numerous times when they needed a boost of confidence from us. They trusted what we said because we knew them the best. Our encouragement often gave them the gumption to press ahead whether it was:

  • Learning to ride a bike
  • Trying out for a team
  • Auditioning for a play or musical
  • Struggling in a class at school
  • Working through a relationship struggle
  • Applying for a job
  • Or simply a word of affirmation

Our children drew strength from our belief in them.

It’s the same in marriage, isn’t it? We have observed far too many couples where one or both have lapsed into beating the other down verbally. It may not be outright abuse, but little demeaning digs which wear down the other’s spirit. Statements like:

  • “You can try it, but I don’ think you can do it.”
  • “Do you really believe you’d even get the opportunity/job/promotion?”
  • “Don’t even try.”
  • “Just give up.”

Will eventually kill the spirit and keep our spouse from achieving their potential. And when our spouse doesn’t reach their potential they lose and we lose.

Compare those comments with these nuggets of wisdom from Proverbs:

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (12:25)

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (16:24)

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (25:11)

Here are three things you can communicate to your spouse that over time will lift you both to a higher level:

1. You have character

What do you see in your spouse’s character that you admire and respect? Character is the heart and soul of who a person is. When you acknowledge their character, you bless them at the deepest level.

Give careful thought and write down the character traits that come to mind. We found a very helpful list here (click the link and scroll down) if you need some creative help.

Make a conscious decision to affirm one of those traits in your spouse every day. You are the closest person to them. You see your spouse and know them intimately. What you say matters to them. God has placed you in their life to be the one to cheer them on!

2. You have strengths

There are all kinds of books out today to help people discover their personal strengths and how they are wired. The tools and ideas in many of these books are helpful, yet the greatest strength-finder your spouse has is YOU.

What do they do well? Where are they gifted and specially suited to excel? Tell them what you see in them. Talk about ways they might lean into and develop those strengths. Brainstorm ways you can support and encourage their next steps in exercising their strengths.

Do you know their dreams? Ask—and listen. Then follow up with, “You can do it!”

3. You have…my heart.

The ongoing confidence of unconditional love and commitment regardless of success or failure is vital for you spouse in knowing you believe they can do whatever they set their mind to do.

Practice saying, “You can do it!” and watch how your spouse responds as you build your marriage!

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!

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!

Living the Dream

couple talking intmately

Do you have achievable dreams for your life that are unfulfilled? Do you know your spouse’s dreams that are yet to be realized? If you want your marriage to grow in love, connection and partnership, this post is vital for you and your spouse to read!

Dr. John Gottman, famed marriage specialist and author, says that acknowledging and respecting your spouse’s dreams is a key to enriching your marriage. Taking the simple points outlined below and using them as a framework for you and your spouse can provide the framework needed to intentionally build your marriage.

Here are four steps to get you started:

1) Describe the dream

Choose time when you can talk—a date night, a drive in the car, a walk in the neighborhood—and initiate the conversation. Ask your spouse questions like:

  • When you were younger, what were your dreams that you wanted to accomplish?
  • What’s on your bucket list?
  • If you could do something and know it had a good probability of working out, what would it be?

We are in the process of a shared dream to strengthen marriages around the world through the ministry God has given us through Build Your Marriage. In addition, we have dreams to visit every presidential museum (we’ve been to nine so far!), take an around the world trip, own a Harley and learn to scuba dive (those last two are Brad’s!).

Maybe your spouse wants to: finish their degree, write a book, start a business, run a marathon, record music, parachute, start a non-profit. Find out what it is and then:

2) Affirm the dream

Your spouse needs to hear you value what matters to them. Repeat back what you heard them say and why it is important to them. “So your dream is to someday __________ and this matters to you because _____________.”

As you are able to articulate their dream, you communicate that you are listening and actually hearing the intimate desires of their heart. Let them know that you love them and that what is important to them is important to you.

3) Support the dream

It’s easy to be negative and shut a dream down. Breathe the prayer of Psalm 141:3 quietly “ Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” and keep negativity to yourself.

While not all dreams are achievable (i.e. “I’ve always wanted to walk on the moon!”), most are pursuable. Your first sign of support is to speak positively and hopefully about your spouse’s dream. Let them know that you want them to live life to the fullest of their ability and potential.

4) Partner in the dream

While this is your spouse’s dream, they need to know that they have your support to see it realized. Let them know that you are willing to sacrifice to see their dream realized.

Being realistic, break down the next steps into manageable increments that the two of you can take together. What can you accomplish in the next 30-60 days? Write it down. “By ___________ we will ___________ toward the goal (save X dollars, research, look into, begin, etc).

Experience the fullness of your marriage partnership as you dream—and pursue dreams—as you build your marriage!