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Looking for our No More Perfect Marriages 10 Day Blog series on how we restored our marriage after infidelity?  You’ll find that here!

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? 

You Have To Try

Marriage Monday

Mark: It seems like it’s nearly daily that we hear about another marriage breaking up. What’s so hard for me is knowing that a large percentage of those divorces don’t really need to happen.

Jill: Sometimes it’s folks we know and sometimes it’s folks we only know about. However, there’s often one common denominator that we’ve observed: they spend more energy on pursuing divorce than they spend on pursuing marriage. 

Mark: I understand hopelessness. If you know any of my story, I also believed at one time that divorce was the answer. Looking back, however, I can now see that I spent way more time in my head focused on ending our relationship than I did on healing our relationship. I didn’t believe it could be healed so I quit trying. In doing so, I nearly destroyed us.

Jill: What goes on inside our head and our heart really makes a difference in what goes on inside our marriage relationship.  Here are some questions you can ask yourself today:

  • Am I focusing more on what my spouse does wrong than what my spouse does right?
  • Am I spending a lot of energy trying to change him/her?
  • What if I took the amount of energy I’m spending on the wrong things and put it on the right things?
  • What if instead of securing the services of a lawyer, I secured the services of a marriage counselor?
  • What if I took the money it will cost to divorce and invested it into getting help for our marriage instead?
  • Have I spent the time needed to really figure out what’s going on inside of me that’s contributing to the dysfunction or frustrations in our marriage?
  • Have we read books, gone to marriage retreats, and sought out the help of someone who can help us hear each other better?
  • Am I being honest with my spouse about how I’m really feeling? (Stop that slow fade of minimizing today!)

Mark: Even if your marriage is in a good place asking yourself what you’re focusing on most can make a big difference in how you see your spouse.

Jill: And if you’re marriage is in a hard place, please don’t give up before giving it all you’ve got.

Drum Roll Please….

Announcing the Winners of the No More Perfect Marriages Giveaway

Thank you to everyone who entered the No More Perfect Marriages Marriage Enrichment Giveaway!  We’re so excited about this resource and putting it in the hands of not only married couples, but also engaged couples and those dating and considering marriage!  Thanks to our partnership with Moody Publishers, we were able to make this special giveaway possible!

If your name is listed below, you’ll receive an email today with next step information on claiming your prizes!

If you didn’t win, but still want to attend a No More Perfect Marriages Marriage Enrichment Event, keep your eyes here on the blog for our announcement of dates and registration information of the upcoming event!

Drum Roll please….

Our Grand Prize “Marriage Enrichment Getaway” Winners are…

Kathleen and Lonnie Hansen

Kelly and Tim Bowers

Heather and Keith Mosher

Michelle and Chris Webster

 

Our Runner Up “No More Perfect Date Night Subscription” Winners are…

Michael and Janet Wilson

Diane and Jon Wier

Christina and Jack Howell

Margaret and Randy Miller

Darlene and Bill Reed

Joy and Greg Jones

Heather and Rob Young

Laura and Jim Nichols

Michelle and Drew Nietert

Rachael and Jason Trovillian

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

A Little FOMO in Marriage Is Healthy!

Marriage Monday

Jill: It was one of the first holidays after our son moved from Illinois to California. He wasn’t making enough money to come home quite yet so he had to spend the holiday far from home and family.

Mark: When we talked to him that day he said he was dealing with FOMO. Neither Jill nor I had ever heard of that. When we asked him what it meant, he said, “Fear of Missing Out.”

Jill: While FOMO is no fun when you’re far from family on the holidays, we do think that a little FOMO could actually be healthy in marriage.

  • What are we missing out on learning by not going to marriage counseling?
  • If I keep this wall up, what will I be missing out on in emotional intimacy in my marriage?
  • What am I missing out on experiencing in our marriage by staying in the same bad communication habits I’ve had for years?
  • What am I missing out on by not pursuing learning opportunities for marriage?
  • If I don’t learn to really share what I’m feeling or thinking, what will I miss out on in our marriage?

Mark: Marriage requires a lifetime of learning. Even folks that have been married for many years have things to learn about themselves, each other, communication, conflict, and more!

Jill: Got a little healthy marriage FOMO? Want to take your marriage to the next step?  Here are some opportunities we’re a part of that will keep you growing:

Today: pick up a copy of No More Perfect Marriages!

Today: You can sign up for the No More Perfect Marriages FREE E-Challenge! This four week challenge will help you get to know yourself and your spouse even better! You can sign up here.

March 18, 2017–Mark and I will be doing a No More Perfect Marriages morning out event in the Chicago area. It’s open to the public and we’d love to have you join us!  Info and registration can be found at www.imetevents.org/

April 21-22, 2017–Mark and I are both speaking at the Hearts at Home Conference for moms in Peoria, IL. Info and registration can be found at www.HeartsatHome.org.

May 2017 — Our No More Perfect Marriage Date Night site will launch. We’re way excited about this new resource for marriages! It will be the perfect way to invest in your marriage without having to leave the house!  If you’d like to be notified when the site becomes available you can sign up at www.NoMorePerfectDateNight.com!

(We’re currently booking marriage events in partnership with local churches. Watch for events in Tyler, TX in May 2017, Springfield, IL in Feb 2018, and Fargo, SD in May 2018!  Would your church like to partner with us on bringing a No More Perfect Marriages Seminar to your community? We’d love to link arms with you to make a difference in marriages! You can request info here!)

What about you? Are you ready to take some steps to reduce the FOMO in your marriage? 

What About YOU Makes Marriage Hard?

Marriage Monday

Jill has been very sick with the stomach flu for the weekend so I get the privilege of sharing Marriage Monday with you this week.

After sharing with a group of guys about our marriage challenges and the restoration we’ve experienced, I was asked the question, “After all that, what is hard about marriage NOW?”

As I thought about his question, I found myself going through a variety of thoughts. In the past, I could easily create a list of what was hard and what was wrong in our marriage. Most often this type of question would cause me to focus on what’s wrong with Jill and most likely not include me at all. I didn’t (and don’t) want to go back to that way of thinking.

I decided to answer the question in a different way. I decided to answer it as if this is what had been asked: What about ME makes marriage hard? We all need to look at ourselves and what we bring to the table.

What makes marriage hard now? My flesh and my idealism.

My flesh: I have to work hard to keep this guy down. I’m so thankful that Jesus Christ has rescued me from me, and am thankful for His Holy Spirit who teaches and leads me. When I’m in my God zone, I do well in marriage. When I’m in my flesh zone, I am selfish, frustrated…and the toddler tirades come out.

How do I stay in the God zone? I do that by committing to grow, spending most mornings reading some Andrew Murray (my favorite is The Essential Works of Andrew Murray including Absolute Surrender) and my Bible. I journal and pray. I wake up and have coffee with Father God. This really helps me be the Spirit man and not the flesh man.

My idealism: I am doing so much better with this than I have in the past, but it is still there taunting me. If I’m not careful, the negative messages like “Marriage shouldn’t be hard.” “We’re too different.” and this weekend, with Jill being sick, “Will this ever be easy?”  Idealism wants to draw me back into discontentment and  I am deeply committed to not letting myself go back there.

What do I do to battle the idealism? I have to keep kicking out the unrealistic expectations and replacing them with realistic ones. “Marriage shouldn’t be this hard,” becomes “Marriage is hard work, Mark. You know that.”  “We’re too different,” becomes “Every married couple is incompatible in some way.” And this weekend, “Will this ever be easy?,” became, “It’s not her fault she’s so sick. Jill’s usually high capacity and is rarely down. I just need to let her heal. Let’s face it Mark, life is not always easy.” I also keep idealism in check by focusing on what is right in our marriage and what God has done.

SO I ask you today. What about YOU makes marriage hard? What challenges do you bring to your marriage and how are you willing to grow?

P.S. Pick up your copy of No More Perfect Marriages today!