Does Your Marriage Need A Holiday?

Marriage Monday

Jill: December is a full month for most of us. Shopping. Christmas entertainment and school programs. Holiday parties. Church Programs. Baking. Decorating the tree. Holiday gatherings with extended family. Travel. New Years.

Mark: We’re adding a wedding in there, too. Our youngest is getting married on December 21, just about 2 and a half weeks away.

Jill: So we’ve decided that it is healthy for us to take a holiday from our weekly Marriage Monday posts for the month of December.  I’ll be doing the same with my blogging. We’ll start back up in January.

Mark: A holiday is a time we set aside to stop work and rest. It’s a time to re-energize and refuel. To move our focus from one thing to another.  While we rarely think about it from a marriage perspective, we need to sometimes.

Jill: Where does our marriage need to experience a holiday? Do we need to set aside a little time and money for a getaway for the two of us? Do we need to stop going to choir practice on Wednesday nights for a month so we can have a sit down family meal one night a week? Should we commit to set aside one night a week or one night a month for a date night in 2018?

Mark: So while we’re taking our holiday, we hope you’ll think about where you need to re-energize and refuel as it relates to your marriage. Where do you need to move your focus from one thing to another?

Jill: As you look ahead to 2018, we also want to invite you to attend (or bring to your area!) one of our events.  Why not put “attend a No More Perfect Marriages event” on your Christmas list?  Here are the Spring events we currently have on the calendar that we’d love to see you at!

February 9-10, Springfield, IL No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
February 17, Scottsdale, AZ, No More Perfect Marriages Night Out
March 2-3, Galesburg, IL, No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
April 6-7, Claremore, OK, No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
May 19, Westerville, OH, No More Perfect Marriage Morning Out

We’re also speaking at Maranatha Family Camp in Muskegan, Michigan, June 30-July 7. If you’ve been looking for a unique family vacation experience, come join us! We’ll be talking about marriage and family all week!

Mark: Oh and one more thing. For the month of December only, our publisher (Moody) is offering a great Buy One Get One Free offer on our No More Perfect Marriages book!

They’ve paired it with Ashleigh Slater’s book Team Us. It’s a great opportunity to pick up something for  yourself and for a gift! It’s an even sweeter deal with FREE Shipping when you buy $25 or more!

Jill: We hope you’re able to enjoy December to the fullest and you’re making plans for 2018 to be the best year ever!

Welcome!

We live life better when we live life together. Openly authentic. Incredibly transparent. Masks removed.

God often does His best work through the cracks in our lives. We’ve certainly experienced that.

That’s why Mark and I hang out here in the blog world with our Marriage Monday posts. That’s the heart of our authenticity when we speak. That’s what drives us when we write.

I’m glad you’ve dropped by for a visit. Poke around a bit and stay a while! There are all kinds of goodies to be found on the topics of marriage, parenting, living with less, faith, and self-care (especially for moms who often put themselves last)!

I’m a breast cancer survivor–if you or someone you love is walking that road, you’ll find hope and help here.

I also LOVE to encourage beginning speakers who often tap into my Inspire Speaker Course or my speaker coaching.

Lead a moms group or a small group of couples? You might like to know that our No More Perfect Moms, No More Perfect Kids, No More Perfect Marriages, and Better Together books all come with FREE video curriculum that can be accessed in Right Now Media or over on our No More Perfect and Better Together websites!

I also LOVE to provide focused help with these FREE eChallenges:

With the release of our No More Perfect Marriages book in 2017, we’ve got some great resources and opportunities to keep your marriage headed in the right direction:

Pick up a copy of No More Perfect Marriages. Moody Publishers is offering a fantastic BOGO offer of our book packaged with another wonderful marriage book during the month of December only!

Become a No More Perfect Date Night member! It’s a mini-marriage seminar brought into your living room every week! (Membership is normally open only twice a year but is available in December/January only for Samaritan Ministry members–and those who happen upon this post during that time!)

Check out the Flirt Alert to put flirty fun back in your marriage!

See if a No More Perfect Marriages event is in your area or bring one to your church!

Find out about our marriage coaching and intensives we offer both online and in our Central Illinois farmhouse. We love helping couples!

Check out our No More Perfect Marriages 10 Day Blog Series we wrote after our affair recovery.

If infidelity has been part of your story, you might want to check out my short ebook Your Next Steps: What To Do When Your Spouse is Unfaithful.

Finally, if you’re looking for a regular dose of encouragement, you can subscribe to the blog here. I also love hanging out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest!

I’m your biggest cheerleader! Say hello and introduce yourself in the comments. I look forward to meeting you! 

How To Let It Go

Marriage Monday

Hello Jill and Mark:

I need advice on how to learn to “let it go” when it comes to marriage. This is in relation to things like broken promises about household projects and such. I realized this morning that I need to figure out how to let it go.

Signed,

Hurting

 

Dear Hurting,

It’s so hard when our spouse’s imperfect affects our life.  If their mistakes, shortcomings, and poor choices only affected them it would be much easier. However, most of the time it affects us, too. The opposite is also true–our imperfect affects our spouse’s life, too.

Mark and I talk about 8 God-Tools in our No More Perfect Marriages book. It’s in times like this when we need to pick up two of our God-Tools: Forgiveness and either Grace or Courage, depending on the situation.

Forgiveness is the first God-Tool we need to handle these situations. Forgiveness keeps our heart uncluttered and available to God. It’s how we “let it go.” But it’s a choice…not a feeling. You won’t ever “feel” like forgiving. You’ll have to choose to forgive.

Forgiveness is also not once and done. When your spouse’s imperfect hurts you in some way, you’ll need to forgive. And then if you bump into another consequence of his/her actions, you’ll have to forgive…again.

Forgiveness is only the first tool though. You’ll have to pick up a second tool and that’s going to be either Courage or Grace. How do you know which one?

Does what happened hurt you or just irritate you? 

If it hurt you, you need to forgive and have the courage to tell your spouse how his or her actions hurt you.  Of course, you can’t control how your spouse will respond, but the conversation will have a much better chance of going well if you’ve already forgiven him or her and aren’t emotionally ramped up yourself.

If it irritates you, you need to forgive and offer your spouse grace–grace space–the space to be human, make mistakes, and not get raked over the coals for being imperfect.

Most of the challenges in marriage require hard, internal work. Forgiveness, grace, and courage are all difficult choices to make. They require us to be willing to do things God’s way rather than our way. Ultimately they give us the ability to experience the “peace that passes understanding” the Bible talks about in Philippians 4:7.

So how do we let go? We pick up our God-Tools and do the hard internal work of forgiveness and grace or courage.

Because we’re all imperfect,

 

 

So what about you? Where do you need to use your God-Tools of forgiveness, grace, or courage? 

Are You Looking Through A Lens of Lack?

Marriage Monday

Jill: It all started with a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about marriage and the topic turned to sex. In their marriage she has a higher sex drive than her husband. Their physical intimacy happens only 6-8 times a year. This is something that frustrates her greatly. When I asked her how she handles the disappointment she said, “I’ve made the decision this is not the framework I’m going to use to look at my marriage through.”

Mark: Wow! Those are some powerful words that deserve some attention. This is a wise woman and we can learn so much from her.

Jill:  We all have things that disappoint us in marriage. We all have things we wish were different. Our human nature tends to lean towards looking through the lens of lack in marriage. We see only what we don’t have and become blind to what we do have.

Mark: I did this the first half of our marriage. I was bound by this view and it nearly destroyed my marriage and me personally. How did it affect me personally? I saw all of life through the lens of lack and doing so fueled discontentment. Eventually discontentment becomes disillusionment which led to disconnection. Not only that but when you’re perpetually discontent, you’re ripe for feeling hopeless and giving up.

Jill: The Bible tells us to take our thoughts captive. This friend of mine is living out that truth. It would be easy to look at her marriage through the lens of a lack of sex. She chooses, however, not to worship her circumstances. She chooses not to make sex an idol of her heart. And she chooses to look at her husband and see the abundance in him. There are other areas of life he does well. He’s a wonderful father. He provides for their family. They share their Christian faith together. He keeps the wheels on the bus when she isn’t home or is out of town. That’s not to say that they never discuss the differing sexual desires they have. It’s just that when they discuss it, she’s able to believe the best in him.

Mark: I’m learning to see life and my marriage through the lens of abundance. It’s a daily decision I have to make. In doing so, I’m finding the peace and contentment I always craved. Do I occasionally slip back into only seeing the lack? Absolutely. This often happens when I’m tired or overwhelmed or I’m not being intentional about nurturing gratefulness.

Jill: It’s the same for me.  While I naturally have more of an abundance mindset, I can still slip into that critical spirit place that zooms in on what Mark doesn’t do. This is when the slow fade of not accepting begins to pull our hearts apart. That’s why we have to be vigilant about pushing our thoughts in the right direction.

What about you? Where are you looking at your spouse through the lens of lack? Where do you need to move your eyes to see him or her through the lens of abundance? Start today by making a list of all the things you are grateful for in your spouse!

What Are You Getting Your Marriage For Christmas?

Marriage Monday

Jill: Years ago, Mark and I made a decision to not exchange physical gifts at Christmas. Instead we try to give our marriage time, energy, and focus in some way.

Mark: So what are you getting your marriage for Christmas? Seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? Yet it’s really something to consider. Your marriage is the foundation of your parenting. Your marriage is designed to last a lifetime. Your marriage is one tool God uses to grow and mature you.

Jill: We spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on weddings, yet we struggle to prioritize the time, energy, and finances to keep the marriage fresh and growing. We set the cruise control on our relationship, never stopping to fill up the tank, schedule preventative maintenance, or fix the things that are broken.

Mark: That’s why Jill and I created No More Perfect Date Night. When you’re a Date Night member, you’re reminded to stop and fill up your marriage tank with our weekly short, but power-packed content. You’re learning about things like stopping the slow marriage fades with marriage-changing God-tools. You’re also learning about communication tools that make your marriage emotionally safe for both of you. And those places where you have recurring conflict? You’re digging into the root of those issues to better understand why they happen and how change can take place.

Jill: If you enjoy Marriage Mondays and aren’t already a member, we want to invite you to become a No More Perfect Date Night member! This is a resource we only offer once or twice a year so we can spend the rest of our time giving our members our very best! Membership is only available THIS WEEK and will close at midnight next Sunday, November 12.

Mark: For the first time ever we’re offering a FREE 7-day trial so you can experience all that No More Perfect Date Night offers you! Your membership is RISK FREE and you can cancel at any time. We don’t think you’ll want to though! We share even more of our own journey, plus we pull back the curtain on other marriages to better understand the challenges all relationships face. We also provide monthly creative date nights, offer a monthly live webinar, and bring experts like Dr. Gary Chapman, Dr. Juli Slattery, Greg and Julie Gorman and dozens others into your living room!

Jill: So what are you getting your marriage for Christmas? Make it a Christmas to remember. Put No More Perfect Date Night underneath the tree so you can make 2018 the year you found the marriage you were looking for!

Hop over and learn a little more about No More Perfect Date Night today!

The Hard Work Of Marriage

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I are in Orlando, Florida today because I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of some dear friends of ours last night. While we were there we had a little bit of fun in the photo booth at the reception!

Jill: As Mark was doing the ceremony he talked about marriage being hard work. I thought about his words a bit and exactly what “hard work” in marriage really means. What struck me is that most of the hard work of marriage is actually hard individual work. Personal work. Adjusting our own head and heart in some way.

Mark: Sure there’s the hard work of communication and cooperation that requires two people to work together, but even those often require hard individual work to work together easier.  What are we talking about?  Here are just a few individual pieces of the hard work of marriage:

  • Selfishness to Selflessness: Demanding our own way and not serving each other hurts our marriage. We have to be willing to serve our spouse even when we don’t feel like it. We have to allow our spouse’s likes and dislikes to be considered just as much as ours are considered.
  • My Way to God’s Way: When we’re in the driver’s seat of our life, we respond and react to our spouse based upon feelings. When God is in the driver’s seat of our life, we respond and react to our spouse based upon truth–using our God-Tools of compassion, love, grace, forgiveness, wisdom, and courage. We do the right thing rather than what we feel like doing.
  • Loose Lips to Self-Control: When we’re careless with our words we cause unneeded pain and conflict in our marriage. When we learn to measure our words and speak kindly and carefully–even in conflict–it nurtures our relationship.
  • Criticism to Acceptance: When we only see what our spouse doesn’t do we are blind to what he or she does do. When we use our God-Tool of acceptance and stop trying to change our spouse, our marriage contentment increases.

Jill: These are just a few of the many options of the hard work of marriage we always need to be working on no matter how long we’ve been married! Can you think of anymore you’d add to the list?

So what about you? What hard internal work of marriage do you to do today? 

Be The Change You Want To See In Your Marriage

Marriage Monday

Mark: “I’m just tired and I want to be done.” I’ve heard that from two long-married, currently separated couples in the last month. I understand those feelings. I was there seven years ago, too.

Jill: That’s really how the slow fades work. We put up with things, minimize them, sweep them under the rug, don’t really resolve conflict, resist asking for help, and tell ourselves “it isn’t worth it.” Add to that our tendency over time to only see what our spouse doesn’t do–which causes us to be blind to the good they bring to our life–and we’re set up for “being tired and wanting to be done.”

Mark: Being done isn’t the answer though. You’ll simply leave one relationship filled with challenges and likely someday enter another relationship filled with challenges. When any two people try to build a life together, it’s hard!  Another relationship isn’t the answer because it will take about 2.5 years (according to research) for you to find yourself just as frustrated in the new relationship as you were in the old.

Jill: So what’s a person to do when they’re “tired and ready to be done?”  We need to BE the change we want in our marriage.

Be kind. Feel like your spouse isn’t treating you kindly? Take a look at how you’re really treating him/her.  Be the kind you’re looking for.

Be attentive. If your spouse isn’t “meeting your needs” dig deep and really look at what you’re bringing to the game. Are you attentive to the things that truly are important to him or her? Be the attentive spouse you’re looking for.

Be faith-filled. If you long for spiritual connection with your spouse, take an honest evaluation about whether you’re walking by faith way more than walking in anger, walking in blame, walking in shame, or walking in criticism.

Be grateful. If you’re feeling taken advantage of or not valued, take a hard look at where you focus your thoughts about your spouse. Start a list today of all the positive things your spouse brings to the marriage.

Be humble. Are you waiting for your partner to apologize? Determined that you won’t apologize one more time until he or she does?  We’re responsible only for the messes we make. Even if you make 5% of the mess and your spouse makes 95% of the mess (from your perspective), then you need to clean up your 5% regardless of whether your spouse tends to his or her 95% or not.

Be compassionate. Instead of seeing your spouse’s issues as a personal offense to you, see them as a representation of his or her blind spot or lost-ness–especially if he or she isn’t walking with Christ.

Be willing to ask for help. Stop trying to put the pieces back together alone. And if you’re the only one who seems to be willing to tend to the broken pieces then get yourself in counseling, or working with a marriage coach, or digging into your own “junk in the trunk.”  You’ve probably been carrying stuff from when you were 12 into your adult years and ultimately into your marriage. It’s time to stop dragging all that around and letting it poison the relationships that mean the most to you.

Mark: When we dig into God’s Word we don’t see quitting as an option. Instead we see commitment,  long-suffering, and perseverance being what God calls us to. He doesn’t say that it will be easy…He just promises we won’t walk it alone.

Jill: It’s okay to feel tired and long for something different than what you have. Recognize, however, that you can change that today. YOU can be the change you want to see in your marriage.

Surprise or No Surprise?

Marriage Monday

Mark: One of the ways Jill and I are different has to do with surprises. I love surprises. Jill….not so much.

Jill: If you’ve taken our free No More Perfect Marriages E-Challenge, you’ll take a quiz that helps you determine if you’re spontaneous or structured.  Mark is spontaneous and I am structured. Often folks who are spontaneous love surprises and folks that are structured do not like surprises.

Mark: This is important to understand. If you’re spontaneous and think a surprise birthday party would be a great gift for your structured spouse, you might stop and think again!

Jill: At the same time, if you don’t like surprises but your spouse does like them, you need to step out of your box and make surprises happen!  That’s what I did this past weekend.

Mark: Jill was speaking in St. Louis until Saturday afternoon. We had decided that we would take a little 24 hour getaway in the area before we returned home Sunday night. Jill said she’d explore possibilities and find something.

Jill: After asking Facebook friends for ideas of places to go, I learned about Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, IL.  It looked like a great place to explore so I decided to search for AirBnb’s in the general area. I ran across a unique place to stay: a 1960’s Shasta camper on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Mark: I love to camp. I particularly love to camp on water, however, our camper that I inherited from my dad bit the dust several years ago.

Jill: I don’t particularly enjoy camping. We live in the middle of the country where it’s quiet and private. Honestly when you camp, you’re often in campgrounds right on top of other campers. It’s like living in a busy neighborhood which I don’t find relaxing at all.  But when I saw this unique place, I thought, “THIS IS IT! MARK WILL LOVE THIS!”

Mark: Jill said that she found a place, but it was a surprise. I thought that was great and I couldn’t wait to see what it was.

Jill: When we arrived, Mark was soooooo surprised and so blessed! This was exactly the setting he loves and hadn’t had in years.  And honestly, I found it very relaxing because the campsites were secluded away from other campers.

Mark: I loved it! I loved that Jill knew me so well. I knew that she did something out of her comfort zone. And I loved that she surprised me!

Jill: Do you know if your spouse likes surprises or not?  If you don’t, then have the conversation today! Talk about it and discover something new about it each other.