Understanding, Kindness, and Grace

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I spent a few days in Colorado Springs this past week interviewing with Focus On the Family, spending time with friends, and, of course, spending time in the mountains. One couple we spent time with have been married 36 years and they shared they had had some conflict the day before. The comment one of them said to the other was, “Really? That’s what you were thinking?”  It was evident their conflict had been fueled by personality differences and communication.

Jill:  Differences and communication are an ongoing opportunity for relationships to deepen and mature. This has been true for us, as well, and we’re going on 34 years of marriage this year. While conflict over difference may decrease the longer you’re married (and it may not!), learning to respond with kindness and grace is a lifelong journey.

Mark: We have to keep right-minded when it comes to our differences. If we aren’t keeping our thoughts in check they can become flash points that cause us to ignite towards each other.  Differences have been a flashpoint for me in the past, but I’m really learning to embrace the beauty of differences. Our differences include thinker (Jill) and feeler (Mark), internal processor (Jill) and external processor (Mark), introvert (Jill) or extrovert (Mark), medium-high capacity (Jill) or medium-low capacity (Mark), structured (Jill) or spontaneous (Mark), and the list goes on. (If you haven’t already taken our FREE four-week No More Perfect Marriages E-Challenge, sign up today to better understand your differences!)

Jill: So here’s how this played out in real life just this past week. After a busy day of people, riding in the car, and running in and out of a few shops, Mark was exhausted. I found myself at the crossroads of either being frustrated or mindful that He has a lower capacity then I do. While I don’t always get it right, this week I did and I gave him understanding, kindnessm and grace when he wore out sooner than I did.

Mark: Jill is a black and white thinker and she can be short and direct in her communication. I can take this personal or I can remind myself that this isn’t about me. This part of Jill is also what keeps our family organized. It’s her high-capacity-juggle-12-things-at-once ability that helps me so much of the time.  This week I also found myself at a crossroads of taking her blunt communication personally or offering grace and responding with kindness. In the past my default would have been to take it personally allowing it to be a flashpoint for conflict. This week I got it right and responded with grace.

What about you? What differences are a flashpoint for you? How could you change your response and work to respond with understanding, kindness, and grace?

5 Ways To Think the Best Of Your Spouse

Marriage Monday

Jill: I lose my sunglasses. Every. Single. Pair.

Mark: I forget to lock the doors at night.

Jill: I’m imperfect and I am married to an imperfect human being. How we think about that imperfection makes all the difference in the world.

Mark: Some of the most important work in marriage doesn’t happen between the two of us. Some of the most important work in marriage happens between my two ears…inside my head.

Jill: What we think about our spouse, determines what we feel about our spouse. What we feel determines what we do. The mind is a powerful tool that we can use positively or negatively. How are you using your mind when it comes to your marriage?

Mark: One of the places we’ve both worked hard to change is what we’re thinking about each other.  Need some encouragement to push your thoughts in the right direction?  Here are five steps you can take:

  1. Don’t name-call. Our mind so easily accuses and labels. It’s often our human “default” model. Instead of assigning a demeaning label such as “she’s so stupid,” or “he’s such a loser,” simply say to yourself, “she’s an imperfect human being and so am I.”
  2. Don’t take it personal. When we make our spouse’s actions about us, we make the issue bigger than it needs to be. In fact, we often complicate it. When I (Jill) find the doors unlocked on my way to bed (after Mark has already gone to bed), I have to fight the urge to personalize it and make it about him “not protecting me.” The truth is I’m a sequential thinker and Mark’s a random thinker. As a sequential, there’s a logical routine that one goes through on the way to bed. My brain thinks that way…Mark’s brain does not.
  3. Believe the best. Trust in your spouse’s good intentions towards you and your marriage. This keeps the atmosphere of the marriage one of love and respect. It also keeps judgement out of your heart and mind.
  4. Allow for honest mistakes. If you ask your spouse to take the trash out in the evening, but you get up in the morning and find it wasn’t taken out, resist the urge to move into “martyr” mode and think that “I’m the only responsible one around here.” Don’t say to yourself, “he just doesn’t care,” but instead, “I know he’s had a lot on his mind.”
  5. Forgive. Get in the habit of forgiving. When two imperfect people marry, the most important tool in their toolbox is forgiveness. Forgiveness is how you handle each other’s imperfections. It’s a choice…and one we need to make often.

What about you? Are you using your mind positively or negatively in marriage? 

The Power of NonSexual Touch In Your Marriage

Marriage Monday

Mark: It was quite a few years ago when I first heard the phrase, “nonsexual touch.” I thought, “You’re kidding me. Those two words don’t even belong in the same sentence!”

Jill: I remember Mark’s reaction to it. I craved non-sexual touch, but it seemed that Mark only touched me with sexual expectations.

Mark: What’s wrong with that?  Ok…all joking aside. I now know how much hurt I caused by this. I didn’t believe I was guilty of any wrong doing. I wanted to be touched as much as Jill did. I just didn’t understand that healthy touch was also non-sexual.

Jill: Equally, I didn’t realize how important sexual touch was either. I didn’t understand that in the same way I craved nonsexual touch, Mark craved sexual touch….but that’s a topic for another day.

Mark: Looking back, I realize I didn’t grow up in a culture of healthy touch. I now understand that healthy touch is vital. I wish, however, I didn’t have to learn so many important lessons in the second half of my life. Knowing so many of these things earlier would have made marriage so much easier.

Jill: That’s why Mark and I are so committed to sharing what we’ve learned. If we can save other couples some of the pain we’ve walked through, it will have not been for nothing. Physical touch is one of my top love languages, but when it felt like every single touch has a sexual connotation to it, I shut down my desire for touch.

Mark: Non-sexual touch is vital for all of us. It’s an essential part of connecting with another human being. As much of a culture of freedom we seem to live in, we, too, are a culture of fear. We’re afraid of healthy touch, fearing it might send a wrong message. Men are afraid to hug other men in brotherly love. Dad’s resist hugging their children fearing it will grow something unhealthy inside of them. We stop hugging our older children thinking they are not kids anymore and don’t need hugs. To turn this around I believe we need to become a culture that will be intentional about “reaching out and touching someone.”

Jill: Years ago, a single friend of mine shared with me that if I didn’t give her a hug every Sunday morning, no one would touch her for months. That’s so sad, honestly!  But we digress. We’re talking today about nonsexual touch in marriage today.

Mark: Nonsexual touch is about connecting emotionally in marriage. Sexual touch is about connecting sexually in marriage. Both are needed! However, we have to resist the urge to mix them together.

Jill: Let’s be intentional about increasing our nonsexual touch this week. Need some practical ideas of how to make that happen?  Here are a few:

  1. Hug your spouse for one full minute every day. Just hold him or her closely, resisting the lie that “you have things to do and this is a waste of time.”
  2. Reach over and hold your spouse’s hand when you’re close to each other.
  3. Snuggle on the couch.
  4. If tears are flowing, just hold your loved one.
  5. Put your arm around her.
  6. Tuck your arm under his arm as you’re walking.
  7. Increase your eye contact—while it’s not actually touch, it accomplishes the same thing.

Mark: More than anything, resist the urge to have any ulterior motive for your touch other than connecting with your mate.

What about you? What do you need to do to increase nonsexual touch? Which practical idea listed above do you need to make happen today? Do you have any practical ideas to add to this list?

Are You Looking Through “The World of Me” Lens?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I were teaching a No More Perfect Marriages seminar a week ago, and it was such a powerful event. My favorite part was when we had people stand representing how many years they had been married. Of the nearly 200 people in attendance, nearly 30 couples remained standing who had been married over 40 years.

Jill: Mark and I were amazed!  Such wisdom to see these couples who have been married for so long STILL investing in their marriage.

Mark: During our teaching God gave me another huge awareness of me. I went “off script” and was inspired to share about “The World of Me” that used to drive me. This world (in my mind), exists as I expect it, plan it, want it, and believe I should experience it. It was ME that was driving ME. Is that messed up or what?

Jill: Before we speak, Mark and I pray that if God has something for us to share that’s not in our notes, we’ll be sensitive to the Spirit and allow God to lead. God was definitely doing that with Mark. I really tuned into Mark’s description of “The World of Me” because before our crisis, I truly felt the weight of his “World of Me!” It was crushing!

Mark: After the seminar, I continued to think more about this and determined that outside of this World of Me” exists the “World As It Is.” In the “World As It Is,” God and people respond, lead, love, engage, serve, and give.  But because I was looking through the lens of “The World of Me” and expected things to look a certain way, I missed how God was working around me.  I also missed the blessings around me. I missed all of them.

Jill: We all have a “World of Me” to some extent. It’s the lens we see life and relationships—specifically our marriage and our spouse—through. Sometimes it’s a lens of pain, sometimes a lens of expectations, sometimes a lens of selfishness, sometimes a lens of insecurity….I’m sure there are dozens more.

Mark: I missed the beauty around me including what Jill brought to my life because I filtered every experience that wasn’t taking place in the “World of Me,” through my filter of control. My filter included unquenchable demands, deceitful desires, false accusations, false intentions, anger, rejection, and blame.  I was blind to reality because of me.

Jill: When we are able to remove the “World of Me” lens, we come to understand these powerful words of the hymn Amazing Grace: “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

Mark: I found myself pondering deeply this week just how much of life I have truly missed because of me. I have thought deeper about how much I have put my family through, how much I have put Jill through, and how tough I have been for God!  I’ve looked at this through eyes of humility. Conviction not condemnation.  Just a reminder of where I’ve been and where I do not ever want to return.

Jill: As Mark and I processed this week, I’ve been reminded that my “World of Me” can see things through a lens of pride, selfishness, and control. When I move into the driver’s seat of my life, the “World of Me” returns. When God sits in the driver’s seat of my life, “The World of Me” disappears and the blinders that keep me seeing the blessings around me are removed.

Mark: It was the decision to surrender when I began the journey of being free of me. My commitment and my pledge is to keep distancing myself from the selfish, self-centered man who once was, and keep surrendering myself to Father God who wants me to abide in Him, to love Him, to find myself in Him.

What about you? What “World of Me” lens is keeping you from seeing the blessings your spouse brings to your life? What selfishness needs to become selflessness?  

Welcome KTIS listeners!

Welcome KTIS listeners!  We’re so glad you’ve stopped by! Here are some additional resources you may find helpful!

You can sign up for the FREE No More Perfect Marriages eChallenge by clicking the graphic! 

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Can Kindness Change A Marriage?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I have begun the behind-the-scenes work for our new No More Perfect Date Night site.  This new resource–coming in late April–will allow you invest in your marriage without hiring a sitter or leaving your house! More info to come!)  One of the things we’re doing is interviewing couples, authors, specialists in marriage to provide insight, knowledge, and honest discussion about the real stuff of marriage.

Jill: This past Saturday, we had the privilege of talking with Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn about the power of kindness in marriage. The conversation was so good!  It was challenging to both Mark and I in so many ways!

Mark: Jeff shared a story about a time when he was angry with Shaunti. He was feeding his anger with negative thoughts about her that he happened to be journaling . Then he stopped himself, re-reading his words and experiencing a sense of conviction. Even in the midst of his frustration, he began to think about all the good things Shaunti brings to his life, how well she takes care of their family, and all the good qualities she has.

Jill: He began to “push his thoughts” in the right direction. In time, he actually changed his feelings about Shaunti. That experience planted the seeds for years of research on the power of kindness which resulted in Shaunti’s new book The Kindness Challenge: Thirty Days to Change Any Relationship.

Mark: Jeff and Shaunti challenge us to pick one person that drives you crazy (one of your kids, your mother-in-law, a neighbor, or your spouse!) and for thirty days do these three things:

  • Say nothing negative about your person, either to them or to someone else.
  • Every day, find one positive thing that you can sincerely raise or affirm about your person and tell them, and tell someone else.
  • Every day, do a small act of kindness or generosity for your person.

Jill: A challenge like this helps us live out Philippians 4:8,  “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

When we fuel our negative thoughts about our spouse, we sabotage how we feel about him or her. When we intentionally focus on the positive and extend intentional acts of kindness, we actually increase our satisfaction in the relationship!  There are some powerful principles there for marriage!

Mark: This is exactly what happened to me when I recommitted to our marriage. I stopped fueling the negative thoughts and started focusing on Jill’s positive qualities. In time I even had trouble remembering what my issues with her even were!

Jill: So today we encourage you to feed the positive and starve the negative when it comes to your marriage. And if you’re looking for some extra encouragement along the way, register for one of the 2017 Hearts at Home conferences where Shaunti will be keynoting about the power of kindness, or pick up a copy of her book. Small++++++++, but powerful, kindness can be a gamechanger in your marriage.

Why Did I Get Married?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I were talking about marriage the other day with some friends.  He said, “You know I think most of us get married for the wrong reason.”  I asked him to explain.

Jill: He went on to say that if we’re honest most of us get married to have our needs met. Deep down we believe this person will do that. Initially, it may seem that he or she does meet our needs. Over time, however, when life begins to be more predictable and routine, it often feels like we no longer are getting our needs met.

Mark: That’s when we either bail on the relationship or dig deeper to see if there is a bigger reason for marriage.  As we talked with our friends two of those reasons came to mind:

  • To serve. We get married to bring kindness, joy, companionship, help, a servant heart, and sacrifice to our loved one. The Bible talks about this “mutual submission” in Ephesians 5:22-23. When we get married, we’re usually looking out for number one (me).  Unknowingly, we even bring needs that weren’t met in childhood into our marriage. Instead of looking to have our needs met, we need to be looking at how we can serve our spouse.
  • To grow. When we get married our sin nature rises to the top. Selfishness, pride, control, deceit, and other actions that protect “me” and watch out for “me” make an appearance. It isn’t easy to live under the same roof with someone so different. It isn’t easy to compromise. It isn’t easy to sacrifice your wants and desires to accommodate your spouse’s wants and desire.

Jill:  When it comes to needs in our marriage, too often we’re expecting a spouse to fill needs that only God can fill. Our expectations might appear genuine but with a closer look we’ll discover they actually aren’t. We end up putting so much pressure upon our spouses and each of us end up discouraged and disappointed.

Mark: Jill sure did feel that from me. I placed so much pressure upon her to fill my love tank, to want sex more, to be different than she was, and honestly to be what I wanted her to be. She really began to feel that she could never be enough.

Jill: That is how I felt. I was actually making an effort to do many of the things Mark desired but it was never enough. Mark was expecting me to fill his needs and cravings that only God could fill.

Mark:  It wasn’t until I genuinely surrendered and did a U-turn in my head and my heart that everything between us began to change. Jill could be herself and I could be me. Wow was that a time of transformation!

Jill: So today, we bring these questions to you: Why did you get married? Was it for the wrong reason?

Mark: Can you see how God wants us to use marriage to serve and to grow?  If you’re even considering bailing, can we ask you to instead dig deeper and examine what’s driving your discontent?

Jill: Oh and one more thing, Mark and I recently talked with Dr. Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) about all things marriage. If you, or you and your spouse, would like to listen to the conversation, you can do that here.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Marriage on the Altar of Efficiency

Marriage Monday

Jill: In most marriages, one partner is more “efficient” than the other. One of you thinks about how to do things quickly, swiftly, more intentionally. In our marriage that would be me.

Mark: I meander through life. I get from point A to point B but if I do it one way on Monday and a different way on Tuesday, that’s no big deal to me. However, once Jill determines the most efficient way to do things, she will never do it a different way.

Jill: In the early years of marriage, this was most evident when we were driving somewhere. When I get in a car, I immediately think about the most efficient way to get where we are going. This would be the way with the least number of stoplights, left turns, and slow speed limits.

Mark: My brain just doesn’t even go there. I didn’t even know that some people thought about that kind of stuff until Jill became a part of my life.

Jill: It doesn’t show up just with driving, but also with things like bathing the kids, making meals, and accomplishing tasks. Mark does all those things slower and without much strategy….it appears to me.

Mark: I am strategic…just not nearly to the degree that Jill is. Apparently Jill isn’t the only one who thinks this way because many years ago at a Hearts at Home conference, Liz Curtis Higgs shared a story about riding in a car when her husband was driving. When they pulled into a parking lot, he would say, “Why don’t you just tell me where to park, I know you’ve already picked out a spot.”

Jill: I remember Liz sharing that story and it stepping on my toes a bit. Then it was several years later when a dear friend challenged me on my frustrations with this in our relationship. She said, “Jill, don’t sacrifice your marriage on the altar of efficiency.”  Wow! That was a very powerful statement and God used it to catch my attention.  I began, over time, to allow Mark to be Mark and to let my desire for efficiency to fall by the wayside. It wasn’t easy, but it was important.

Mark: Because I better understand Jill and how her brain thinks, I try to be a little more intentional about strategy and about communicating my strategy.  So she’s letting me be me and I’m letting her be her. We’re not trying to change each other, but instead trying to honor each other.

What about you? Are you sacrificing your marriage on the altar of efficiency? Do you need to honor your spouse instead of trying to change him or her?