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Entries in Marriage (22)

Thursday
Jan192017

Have You Been Skimpy with Gratitude?

Dianne Barker is a super-practical woman of God who cares about relationships. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she offers practical wisdom for better spousal interaction (but the basic premise of expressing gratitude is true for all relationships).

"Marriage can bring out the worst in us," Dianne says.

I (Dawn) don't think anyone will dispute that. While marriage has the potential to grow and bless us, it certainly does point out all the rough spots in our character. Dianne's post today is a good way to deal with some of those "worst in us" days.

Dianne continues . . . 

In younger days, when things didn’t go my way, I’d “have it out” with my husband—in my thoughts. I didn’t dare put my annoyance into words, but in my mind I gave him a hearty tongue-lashing. He had no idea.

And then I’d silently settle my ruffled feelings and sulk a while.

One day the Lord caught me sulking over a disappointed expectation and interrupted my pity party.

You could be praying about bigger things.

I’ve heard the stories.

  • Husband leaves a devoted wife for someone else.
  • Another wife struggles to stay with a husband addicted to pornography.
  • Huge challenges overwhelm the grieving widow.

Yes. I could be praying about bigger things.

I wasted a lot of life pouting over small irritations—wishing I could change this husband of mine. The Lord has a way of putting things in perspective.

Instead of letting marriage bring out the worst in me, I decided to let it bring out the best.

Two choices changed me from the inside out: prayer and praise. I learned to pray about what my husband isn’t, and praise him for what he is.

Grumbling about everything he does wrong isn’t beneficial. Praying—taking concerns to my Father—is a positive use of emotional energy wasted on anger and pouting, which never bring change.

I looked for reasons to praise my husband, express appreciation, and compliment him. I wasn’t sure he noticed until I overheard him say to a friend, “My wife has a gift of encouragement. She brags about everything I do!”

Why not thank him for carrying out the garbage, mowing the lawn, filling my gas tank, and changing the oil?

A heart overflowing with praise and gratitude to the Lord can’t help expressing gratefulness in other relationships.

Listen to this.

“Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Yes, be rooted in him and founded upon him, continually strengthened by the faith as you were taught it and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7, Phillips).

Marriage needs constant nourishment. Does your relationship suffer the tatters of neglect?

Like a soothing ointment on a raw wound, gratitude promotes healing.

Begin here:

  • List seven qualities about your spouse to praise God for daily (character qualities, talents, good deeds, spiritual commitment, love for the children, sacrificial work, financial contribution to the family).
  • Pray, thanking the Lord daily for each of those qualities.
  • Verbalize to your spouse at least one genuine compliment every day. “Honey, I really appreciate…” (a deed performed, wisdom shown, patience extended).
  • Express affection every day through words and touch. Say “I love you” and hug each morning before leaving for work. Say “I missed you” and hug each evening after work.
  • Find time to cuddle. If you’ve been ignoring each other, this may feel awkward. Do it anyway. God intended for us to enjoy marriage, not merely endure it.

Going overboard with gratitude will bring out the best in you!

Have you been skimpy with gratitude? If you're married, why not try these five steps to "overboard gratitude" today?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage TruckDown the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media. (Post adapted from Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, available soon at www.diannebarker.com.)

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Ben White, Morguefile.

Thursday
Jan122017

What to Do When Your Marriage Seems Stuck

Sharon Jaynes has captured my imagination and challenged my life with a number of books. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she challenges those who have a spouse to consider whether the "romance" has faded ... and what we can do about that.

"Sometimes we can get so busy taking care of life," Sharon says, "that we forget to take care of love."

I (Dawn) know without a doubt how busyness can kill the spark of married love. I've seen it happen too many times. But it's not enough to diagnose a problem; we need a solution.

Sharon continues . . .

What do you do when you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ in your marriage?

Maybe you truly adored your husband in the beginning, but now you can’t remember why. Maybe you honestly admired his finer qualities, but now you can’t remember what they were. Maybe you appreciated his wonderful attributes, but now you take them for granted.

Between taking out the garbage, paying the bills, running the car pool, mowing the lawn, disciplining the kids, and folding the laundry, sometimes the passion of marriage gets lost.

It happens to all of us at one time or another.

We can get so busy taking care of life that we forget to take care of love.

None of us got married so we could have a long list of chores.

If you’re like me, most likely you got married because you were madly in-love and couldn’t imagine life without your man! You got married because your heart skipped a beat every time you laid eyes on him. You couldn’t wait to tie the knot and build a life with this incredible person God had miraculously brought into your life.

Maybe you still feel that way. But maybe you could use a little reminder—a re-stoking of the romance.

In the book of Revelation in the Bible, God had this to say to the church at Ephesus:

“I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4, NIV).

Ephesus was one of the most loving churches in the New Testament, and yet somewhere along the way they lost that initial thrill of knowing Christ. Their love for each other and for God had grown cold.

So how do you get that lovin’ feelin’ back?

God gave the church two simple steps, and I believe we can apply them to our marriages as well. “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Revelation 2:5a, NIV).

REMEMBER how it was in the beginning.

RETURN and do the things you did at first.

For most of us, life is just daily. However, the accumulation of small struggles can nibble like termites to undermine the foundation of what appears to be a healthy structure as surely as the unexpected, earth-shaking rumble of sudden disaster. And routine, even good routine, can rob us of the joy and passion of marriage… if we let it.

One day I took John’s words in Revelation to heart, and decided to remember and return by romancing my husband for fourteen days straight.

Everyday wasn’t earth-shaking romance, even though there was some of that.

  • One day I simply put a sticky note on his bathroom mirror that said, “I love you.”
  • Another day I placed a box of Red Hot candy on his car seat with a note that said, “You’re a hottie.”
  • One morning I warmed up his towel in the dryer and had it ready when he got out of the shower.

And you know what happened? At the end of the fourteen days, Steve had a skip in his step and smile on his face like a Cheshire cat.

And what happened in me? I can hardly describe the love that welled up in me, as I loved my man well.

Hear this… I changed.

I don’t have a big, bad personal story of how God took a terrible, tumultuous marriage and miraculously transformed it into a storybook romance filled with white-knight rescues, relentless romance, and rides into the sunset leaving all danger and darkness behind. Although our marriage has been all that at one time or another, it’s no fairy tale.

Our marriage is a daily journal, one page after another, one day after another. I'm guessing just like yours.

Some entries are smudged with tears; others are dog-eared as favorites.

Some days are marred by unsuccessful erasures that couldn’t quite rub away hurtful the words said; others are finger-worn by the reading of precious events time and time again.

But on those days when I see my marriage slipping back into the mundane cadence of passionless routine, I pull out my list of ideas, and put a smile on Steve’s face.

And that’s my challenge to you and to me today.

What do you need to do to love your husband well today?

Sharon Jaynes is a conference speaker and author of 21 books. Click here to read a sample chapter, watch a video, or download free resources for her latest book, A 14-Day Romance Challenge: Reigniting Passion in Your Marriage; or visit Sharon’s blog and learn about her other resources.

 

Thursday
Sep152016

3 Ways to Make Nice in Your Marriage

Elaine W. Miller wrote a book with a funny title, We all Married Idiots. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she gives a little insight into why that’s true!

“Why are we such idiots?” Elaine said. “We smile, open doors, and run to rescue strangers. In the workplace we hold our tempers, fearing a job loss if we don’t. Yet when we enter our homes, we frown, slam doors and lose our tempers with no fear of the consequences.”

Oh ugh. I (Dawn) am guilty as charged. Why do we hurt the ones we love?

Elaine continues . . .

As married men and women, we should make every effort to make nice behind closed doors as well as in public. I know we can control our tempers. We do what we need to.

In the heat of anger, we politely answered the phone, “Good morning!” Yes, it is under our control. But for some reason I don’t understand (except that we are all sinners), we find it easier to make mean than to make nice to the ones we love. How foolish!

Making nice is something we need to do; it may not necessarily just happen. I like the synonym “do.” Just do it.

Do nice. Cause nice. Build nice. Create nice. Accomplish nice.

Making nice is a choice.

“Nice,” it turns out, comes from the Latin nescius, meaning “ignorant.” The computer dictionary defines “ignorant” as “unaware.” When our loved ones do something idiotic, be unaware of it. Ignore it. Overlook the mistake. Make nice.

One day I watched a husband make nice when he certainly could have made mean. He and his wife and my husband and I climbed an Adirondack mountain together. Inexperienced at climbing, the other wife wore sandals. What a mistake! This trip required sneakers at the very least – hiking boots at best.

As we trekked up the mountain, her discomfort became evident. Reaching the summit, her feet Rob with blisters, she agonized about her ability to descend the mountain.

What was your husband to do? He had a choice. He could yell from the top of the mountain, “I married an idiot! Why didn’t she wear better shoes?” He could have humiliated her with words like, “You are such a wimp! Stop your complaining.”

This husband didn’t choose those options. He chose to make nice. Without a word, he lovingly scooped up his love and carried her down the mountain.

This man realize the truth that on his wedding day he and his wife became one. When her feet hurt, it hurt him. Instead of making the pain grow deeper with thoughtless words, he decided to alleviate the pain.

I once wrote,

“Every day we decide the words and actions that will serve or suffocate our marriages.”

Every new day begins with choices. We choose what clothes to wear and what to eat for breakfast. We choose to sin. We choose to act like idiots. We choose to make nice or not.

Making nice is an investment that pays big dividends. Kind words and considerate deeds deposit love into our marriage love bank. Mean remarks and thoughtless actions count as love withdrawals. Take out too much, and there is no love left.

Making nice manifests itself in every aspect of your life, but especially in the bedroom. When you are unkind or unfaithful, it affects sexual intimacy. You can’t treat your spouse shabbily and then expect your beloved to jump into the sacred marriage bed.

Making nice makes a nice marriage. When meanness becomes the norm, marriages fail to thrive.

Here are three ways to make nice in your marriage:

1. Watch your words

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

If in our desire to build ourselves up we put our spouse’s down, every derogatory remark registers in the brain creating a chill in the marriage vault. Negative words are like icicles stabbed into your loved one's heart that only kindness and forgiveness and making nice can melt.

When unkind words come from our condemning mouth, who benefits? No one. Certainly not the little ears that listen. Most are aghast when their children repeat words to the world that their parents say in private.

2. Don’t Demand Your Own Way

Love strives to live in peace (Hebrews 12:14), and God says love does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5). When we become angry and impatient and rude, most likely it is because we have not gotten our way. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

When we choose not to be self-seeking, we then become more patient and kind and not so easily angered. Then, as much as it depends on us, our homes will be peaceful.

3. Root out bitter roots

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that… no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Our bad behavior does not come without consequences. It destroys our marriages.

The hurt of bitterness hurts not only the one the arrow is aimed at, but also others we love. That arrow penetrates our children’s hearts. Sometimes the wounds never heal, and the scars remain for a lifetime.

Marriage is not a competitive sport. The one who gives the most verbal punches does not win. You both lose because condemning your spouse is condemning yourself. God has declared you to be one flesh.

Verbal punches leave you both knocked out and too tired to fight for your marriage. Don’t let it happen. Make nice!

What did you say today that built up your spouse? What did you say that put down your partner? How can you make every effort to live at peace?

Elaine W. Miller is an international author and speaker known for sharing biblical insights with warmth, enthusiasm, and humor. She is the author of three books including her latest We All Married Idiots: Three Things You Will Never Change AboutYour Marriage and Ten Things You Can (available in English, Spanish, and Bosnian). Residing in upstate  New York with her husband of 45 years, she enjoys having three married children and 11 grandchildren close by. Visit Elaine's website/blog to learn more about her unique ministry.

This blog post was adapted from Chapter 9 in We All Married Idiots.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of christinevitved for Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul282016

Invest in Your Prime Relationships - Part 2

What are your "Prime Relationships"? In the last UPGRADE post, Dawn asked this question and said we can all invest more in our prime relationships. First we invest in our relationship with the Lord, and then we invest in ourselves (so we will be strong and ready to serve God).

There are three other priority relationships, and investments in each of them can make a huge difference in OUR lives - and in THEIRS!

[Note: for a more detailed version of this post with scriptures, see my other blog: Heart Choices Today.]

          Investment #3: INVEST in YOUR SPOUSE

If you are married, this is your prime relationship after your relationship with God. 

There are so many ways to invest in a spouse. Here are only a few:

1. Communicate Love and Appreciation.

2. Develop a Partnership.

  • Don't try to go it alone. You are "heirs of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). 
  • Become friendly warriors together in the battle against temptation.
  • Seek the Lord together for His purposes in your home.
  • Ask, "How can I help?"

3. Value Gifts and Skills.

  • Discover your Partner's spiritual gifts
  • Notice your partner's skills. 
  • Help cultivate these gifts.
  • Appreciate and value your partner in public.

4. Fulfill Your Role.

  • Husbands can protect, provide for, lead with love and wisdom; respond in gentle, loving, kind and respectful ways to honor their wives; express appropriate public praise; and study their wives and help them become the women God purposed them to be.
  • Wives can support and encourage his leadership in the home; appreciate their work; manage their home well; show respect; trust God with her highest hopes for her man; and understand and appreciate her husband's God-given sexual needs.

          Investment #4: INVEST in YOUR CHILDREN

After your spouse, your children are the next priority investment—not the other way around.

1. Love Them Unconditionally.

  • Don't expect perfection. Your kids are going to mess up. They're kids!
  • Express your love privately and publicly.
  • Help them see the value of "family." 

2. Teach Them to Seek the Lord.

  • Help them see their need for the Lord.
  • Don't give answers too quickly. Challenge them to search the scripture.
  • Teach them how to pray.
  • Promote a godly legacy.

3. Discipline Wisely.

  • Distinguish between immaturity and defiance. 
  • Discipline quickly and wisely. 
  • Encourage proper respect.
  • Encourage growth and change.

4. Model Good Character.

  • Model behavior you want repeated. .
  • Reward good behavior.
  • Train them to be responsible.
  • Help them cultivate godly friendships.

5. Encourage Creative Growth.

  • Don't overschedule their lives.
  • Encourage their creativity.
  • Help them stretch.
  • Give them space to pursue their dreams.

          Investment #5: INVEST in YOUR FRIENDSHIPS

Good friends don't just happen. Friendship requires intentional investment.

1. Practice Committed Encouragement.

  • Be intentional.
  • Practice loyalty.
  • Be generous.
  • Build into their lives. .

2. Listen More and Better.

  • Listen to their heart.
  • Listen with compassion.
  • Ask questions. Seek to understand so you can encourage.

3. Challenge Greater Growth.

  • Go deeper, with purpose. If youi've developed the kind of friendship that can bear the weight of accountability, ask deeper questions that challenge your friend to greater growth.
  • Come alongside.
  • Pray for your friend regularly.

Can you apply any of these strategies to your own prime relationships? Which one would make the biggest difference today?

Note: There was a lot of territory covered in these two posts, and by all means, it does not cover everything that will encourage wise investments in your relationships. I encourage you to discover more as you "read the manual" for all relationships: the Word of God.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is contracted researcher for Revive Our Hearts. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

 

Thursday
Apr142016

Thugs Are Trying to Kill Your Marriage

Dianne Barker INVESTS her live in women, encouraging them in their lives and families and teaching them how to live an abundant life. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she points out some nasty "thugs" trying to destroy our marriages!

"Watch out!" she says. "Snares, Tares, and Tumbleweeds are out to kill your marriage!"

Snares, tares and tumbleweeds? I (Dawn) wonder what she means? She certainly got my attention.

Dianne continues . . .

Who ARE those thugs?

Stress ... wearing many disguises.

And if you’re not careful, they’ll bludgeon your marriage to death.

Let’s remove the masks and see who’s there.

1. SNARES

Snares are things that entangle us or impede our progress—daily-living stuff that keeps us distracted.

(1) Job pressures.

When both husband and wife have high-stress careers, the pressure doubles—project overload and deadlines, continued training, personality conflicts in the office, irresponsibility or jealousy of co-workers, irritability when overlooked for promotion, indecision about changing jobs, hassles of a job search and moving to a new location. And don’t forget the stress of getting fired or laid off due to downsizing.

Physical and mental exhaustion come home from work with you, sit at your dinner table, and accompany you to bed.

(2) Financial pressure.

Living within our means may be an out-of-date concept. We don’t have to do that anymore, thanks to the availability of credit cards.

Overspending catapults us into deep water before we can say “credit score.”

When that bulging budget cannot be balanced, distress and dissension cast a permeating gloom over your home and family.

(3) Outside relationships.

Relationships with other people affect the marriage. When we’re angry or distracted over a disagreement or misunderstanding with someone else—boss, co-worker, neighbor, relative, child’s teacher, friend—we become preoccupied and irritable. And if your mother-in-law provokes you, those feelings of annoyance can spill over to your husband. He’s just like his mother!

Anger and resentment, like a contagious disease, ­­infect all who come in contact with you.

(4) Special circumstances.

Care-giving is inevitable in the later years of marriage. Elderly parents decline in health. Couples are stretched to the limit, trying to maintain normal life with added responsibility, possibly while dealing with health issues themselves. Many also find themselves rearing grandchildren.

There isn’t enough energy to go around…and the marriage becomes the sacrifice.

2. TARES

Tares are the work of our unseen Enemy whose goal is to destroy us, using every tactic he can come up with.

His favorite tools include misunderstanding, weariness, and negative thinking.  

3. TUMBLEWEEDS

Tumbleweeds are children, rooted in our family briefly then whisked by the wind to distant places. With immeasurable love, we pour out our lives for them.

Stress during their young years—teaching obedience and refereeing sibling spats—doesn’t compare with the stress of parenting teenagers. Be aware of the power of peer influence.

Stand firm, parents, or the kids will divide you.

Are snares, tares, and tumbleweeds weakening your marriage foundation and boosting your stress load to infinity-plus?

Don’t give up on the marriage. Evaluate. Eliminate the stress you can eliminate. Simplify. Do less. Say no.

Begin paring down your stress to what seems a manageable level. And then hand it to Jesus because you’re not able to manage it at any level.

He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for our souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

He can handle those thugs!

A final question: How are you dealing with stress in all its disguises?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage TruckDown the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media. 

(Post adapted from Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, available soon at www.diannebarker.com.)

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.com.