Are You Hinting and Hoping?

Mark: On Saturday, we had the privilege of spending the morning with over 80 couples at our No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in Normal, IL.  It was a great morning of working on our marriages together!

Jill: When we do our seminars, we teach a session and then we send the couples off to talk about what they learned in that session.  We give them a template for those conversations, telling them that it will likely feel awkward initially, but reassuring them it will deepen their conversation and really help them hear each other if they’ll give it a try.  By the end of the day, the evaluations speak for themselves. Many commented that they wish they’d had MORE time to talk!

Mark: After each “couple talk time” break we took a few minutes to debrief on how that experience was for anyone who wanted to share. One guy shared honestly that he’d been using the “hinting and hoping” method of communication and had found it ineffective. In just twenty minutes or so, this new way of communicating had netted better results than years of hinting and hoping, it seemed.

Jill: We tend to communicate on the go, haphazardly, too often filled with emotion. Life is crazy busy and communication is often compromised.  Without some intentionality, our reckless communication contributes to the slow fade of defensiveness, the slow fade of disagreeing, or the slow fade of minimizing. (You can find out more about the slow fades in our No More Perfect Marriages book.)

Mark: With that in mind, here are five strategies for changing the way you communicate with your spouse. Four are topics we’ve explored in the past. If you want more info on any of those, click on the topic to learn more.

Reflect Back: When your spouse says something to you, resist the urge to argue back. Instead, reflect back what he or she just said to you. Start with, “What I hear you saying is….” Then ask your spouse, “Is that correct?”  Then, “Is there more?” It’s not time to share your point; it’s just time to hear their point.  Doing so will help your spouse feel heard and valued. It will also change the dynamics of your communication patterns in a positive way.

Ask Three Questions: When you ask your spouse a question, ask him or her three MORE questions before you comment or share your thoughts about the subject.

Validate and Offer Compassion: Say things like, “I can see how that frustrated you.” or “I’m so sorry you’re so disappointed in how that happened.” Your validating, compassionate responses will allow you to build a bridge to your spouse’s heart.

Push Information To Your Spouse: Don’t hint. Clearly communicate information to your spouse. Don’t assume he or she knows information. Or that they will see things the way you see things. Let them in on what you are thinking.

Don’t Use Passive Aggressive Language: This is an ineffective, masked way of expressing anger or disappointment without actually saying you’re anger or disappointed. “Whatever.” if probably the most common passive-aggressive response found in marriage. And the silent treatment probably comes in second place. These are both just sugar-coated hostility. Instead, learn to be assertive in your communication–saying things kindly, but honestly. If you need help learning how to do that, counseling can be a good option.

Jill: Hinting never works. It’s in ineffective form of communication and only contributes to hurts and fades in your relationship. Assertive communication and intentional listening carried out with kindness and compassion will take your marriage communication in the right direction. (Want to attend a No More Perfect Marriages event in the future? Registration is now open for our Valentine’s event in Central Illinois.)

What about you? Which of the five communication strategies do you need to be more intentional about this week? 

When Is It Marriage Season?

Marriage Monday

Jill: I recently put out a question to my friends on Facebook, asking them about a date Mark and I are planning a No More Perfect Marriages Seminar. When I asked who would be interested in attending a marriage weekend on a specific date, the responses began rolling in.  There were many positive responses of interest but also a lot of folks shared the conflicts they would encounter that weekend.  Some indicated that it conflicted with hunting season (which I know is a somewhat limited timeframe). Other’s indicated it conflicted with sports season, or the harvesting season.

Mark: When Jill shared with me the mix of responses, I said to her, “So…when is it marriage season?”

Jill: When Mark said that, I knew he was on to something! You see, there’s always something that will conflict with making time for each other. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

Mark: It doesn’t matter if it’s planning a date night, setting aside time to talk, getting away for a weekend, or attending a marriage seminar, it will nearly always require some kind of sacrifice, because there will nearly always be other options for how you can spend that time.

Jill: With this in mind, here are some tips for moving your marriage to the top of the priority list:

  1. Put your marriage on the calendar FIRST.  Sit down this week and get your date nights on the calendar for the next 12 months. YES, THE NEXT TWELVE MONTHS! Plan from July 2017-July 2018. And then PROTECT those dates fiercely. Once you do that, get some sort of overnight getaway on the calendar during that 12 month period (you’ll have an anniversary in there…right?).  And what about some continuing education for your marriage? What marriage seminar can you attend together? Check out Family Life’s Weekend to Remember events or one of our No More Perfect Marriages seminars (Nov 10-11, 2017 Rochester, MN; Feb 9-10, 2018 Springfield, IL; Feb 17, 2018 Scottsdale, AZ; May 4-5, 2018, Claremore, OK; and May 18-19, 2018, Westerville, OH.)
  2. Resist the urge to think “we can do that after the kids are gone.”  You’ll likely not have much relationship after the kids are gone, if you do that. Not only that, your kids need to see you take time for your marriage. You’re being a role model for their marriage someday!
  3. Realize that you’ll likely miss out on something. Ask yourself, “Is this repeatable?” If the answer is yes, then it’s okay to miss it on the rare occasion. One of ten baseball games might be an example. However, if it’s not repeatable, like your daughter attending prom, then adjust your date night or weekend getaway to make sure you’re able to attend the “not repeatable” event.  The only way to find a “marriage season” is to interrupt another “season” that has repeatable events in it.
  4. Recognize the need to “die to self.” We’re naturally selfish beings. We want what we want. We struggle with prioritizing the right things. We hesitate committing to something because we’re afraid that something better just might come along. Jesus modeled “dying to self” in order to bring us life. We, too, have to die to self in order to bring our marriage life.

Mark: So when is it marriage season? When you and I determine it’s marriage season. When we make it a priority. When we put it on the calendar and protect. And when we’re willing to give up something good in order to invest in something better.

What about you? When will you make marriage season happen? 

Who Are You Learning From?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Yesterday Jill and I had the privilege of spending time with friends from long ago. We met Don and Alice during my first two years of Bible College where he was the pastor of the church we attended. With our closest extended family three hours away, Don and Alice sort of became surrogate grandparents to our two children.

Jill: We shared meals together. Encouraged one another. Linked arms in ministry. But for Mark and I, we also gleaned wisdom from Don and Alice. I don’t actually ever remember a specific time where they sat us down and shared wisdom with us. We just soaked it in by being with them and watching them.

Mark: It was significant that we spent time with Don and Alice yesterday. It was our 34th wedding anniversary and their 65th and 1 month wedding anniversary! When Jill and I met Don and Alice, we had just been married 4 years. They, on the other hand, had been married 35 years. I don’t remember ever really talking about that, but we knew they had years of wisdom we could benefit from.

Jill: As we shared faith strengthening stories yesterday, Mark and I realized how much our commitment to “walk by faith” had been influenced by Don and Alice when we were just beginning our own faith journey as a couple. We were also inspired yesterday by the lives they’re still changing at a time others their age would consider themselves “retired” from ministry. See…we’re still gleaning from them!

Mark: We need each other and peer relationships are important, but there’s also a place for building relationships with those who are further down the road than we are. There are lessons to learn.  There’s hope to be found. There’s truth to be shared.

Jill: Who are you hanging with that you can glean wisdom from? It doesn’t have to be a formal mentoring relationship. It can simply be a friendship forged intentionally.

Mark: And while you’re thinking about it, who are you hanging with that you can impart wisdom to? You’re further down the road than someone else. Who can you invest in and encourage along the journey?

Jill: We’re better together from both sides of the picture! Commit today to seek out the wisdom of others to help you along the expedition of intimacy.

Mark: Oh and by the way, we’re committed to living that out here on the blog, over in our No More Perfect Date Night membership site, at our No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out (register NOW for the next one in Illinois on July 15!), and with our new marriage coaching opportunities! If you need to move the needle on your marriage, take the next right step!


What Do You Need To Leave For The Sake of Your Marriage?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Yesterday at church, our pastor, Mike Baker, preached on Genesis 12:1-9. It’s the story of when God told Abram he needed to leave where he was to go where God wanted him to go. It was an 800-mile, 8-10 year journey where Abram had to depend upon God to show him where to go and what to do.

Jill: Mike shared that the journey of faith is a constant leaving from where you are and walking towards where God wants you to go. That’s what growth and maturity looks like in real life.

Mark: While God may ask us to physically “leave” and “go,” often what he asks us to leave are our hurts, habits, and hangups, as they put it in the Celebrate Recovery ministry. These are the things that get in the way of us being about to move forward in life and relationships. They keep us from reaching our full potential as a person. They knock us off course and headed in the wrong direction.

Jill: What struck Mark and I was how much yesterday’s message applied to marriage. You see, our marriage is strengthened as we grow and mature personally. As we personally reach our full potential, our marriage experiences it’s full potential as well!

Mark: So the question we need to ask ourselves is: What does God want me to leave today?  Here are some thoughts to get you started thinking in the right direction:

Hurts: abuse, rejection, fear, mistrust, self-protection, anger, unforgiveness, dysfunctional family of origin, or personal vows (“I’ll never let another man hurt me.” Or, “I’ll never let another woman control me.”)…

Habits: Pornography, steamy (erotica) novels, laziness, selfishness, drugs or alcohol, smoking, criticism, lying, workaholism, spending issues, all types of control…

Hangups: Thinking your way is the right way or the only way, greed, impatience, lack of self-control, procrastination, pride, perfectionism, people-pleasing, materialism, lack of faith in God…

Jill: At some point we need to drive a stake in the ground and say, “Today’s the day I’m getting serious about this.” Sometimes it’s just a decision that needs to be made and followed through on. Other times it will take extra effort like counseling, asking for accountability, or even attending something like Celebrate Recovery.

Mark: I remember when I knew I had to leave my affair relationship in order to go where God wanted me to go which was a restored marriage and family. It wasn’t easy because I had to die to what I wanted in order to experience what God wanted. What He wanted was best for me and I can now fully attest to that, but making that decision required a “leaving” and a “going.” It also required counseling and accountability.

Jill: I remember the day God convicted my heart of criticism. I was reading Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you see the speck that is in your husband’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your husband, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your husband’s eye.” Yes, yes, I know…that verse doesn’t say “husband.” It almost always says “brother.” But that day, I read it as husband and God took the plank in my eye and hit me over the head with it. I made a conscious decision to “leave” criticism and “go” to grace. It’s been an imperfect journey for sure, but one I’m glad I’m on.

Mark: We never stay where we’re at when we’re truly following Christ. So, for the sake of your marriage, what do you need to leave today? 

What’s Your Plan To Invest In Your Marriage This Summer?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I are in South Bend, Indiana today doing a television interview on No More Perfect Marriages (the interview starts at 8:23 if you watch it online!) It’s a 24 hour road trip, but it gave us time to talk on the 3 hour drive from our Central Illinois home.

Jill: We both brought our calendars and determined to figure out our plan for date nights this summer.

Mark: We chose Thursday nights. We talked about the fact that, because we’re in a tight financial season, we won’t be going out to dinner very often, but we’ll plan to do something after dinner each Thursday like take a motorcycle ride, enjoy a walk around a local lake, or even try out a new arcade in town (skee-ball anyone?)

Jill: Date nights don’t have to be weekly–they just need to be regular. On the calendar. Protected fiercely.

Mark: We also talked about taking a short 15-minute walk after dinner each night and maybe reading a marriage book aloud over the summer (still discussing that!). These efforts will help us connect daily.

Jill: When the kids were all home, we would often do 15 minutes on the porch swing after dinner. Now we have the freedom to take a walk since there’s no one we have to be home for!

Mark: “So what’s our plan for investing in our marriage this __________ (fill in the season)?”  This is a question we’ve learned to ask at the beginning of each “season” where new routines are created: Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Jill: Have you asked that question for summer yet? If not, put it on the table! Because if you don’t plan, it won’t happen.

Mark: Oh and by the way…how about putting “Attending the No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in your plans?  You can find more info and register for the July 15 event in Illinois at! We’d love to have you join us!

What about you? What are your plans to invest in your marriage this summer? Share your plans in the comments so we can inspire one another! 

What’s Your Summer Strategy for Connecting As A Couple?

Marriage Monday

Jill: Summer is just around the corner and it’s likely our routines will experience some changes as we head from one season to another.

Mark: Longer days in the summer allow for different ways of connecting as a couple. Jill and I enjoy sitting on the porch in the evenings or taking a walk after dinner.

Jill: It’s easy, however, to find ourselves at the end of June without a plan in place for utilizing the warm weather and extra daylight hours for our marriage. So now’s a great time to talk about our plan for the summer!

Mark: Yesterday Jill and I were talking about our routines, our pace of life, and changes we need to make as we head into summer. It’s not a finished conversation…we’ll keep talking over the next couple of weeks.

Jill: What are your strategies for connecting as a couple this summer?  Here are some ideas to put on your marriage bucket list of summer fun:

  1. Lay on a blanket and look at the stars (download a stargazing app to help!)
  2. Take a walk.
  3. Go to the drive-in movie.
  4. Picnic in the park.
  5. Have dessert by candlelight outside on the porch.
  6. Take a bike ride.
  7. Play putt-putt golf.
  8. Fly a kite together.
  9. Snuggle in a hammock.
  10. Take a shower together after a day of working in the yard.

Mark: Set up time to talk this week about how you’ll prioritize your marriage this summer. Don’t let half the summer pass by without setting a strategy in place!

What about you?  What ideas would you add to this list?  What regular routines do you do as a couple in the summer? 

Welcome Focus on the Family Listeners!

No More Perfect Marriages

Today is Day 2 of our two-day Focus on the Family No More Perfect Marriages interviews.  You can listen to Day 1 here.  

If you’re a Focus on the Family listener who has dropped by for the first time…welcome! We’d love to meet you…please take a moment to introduce yourself in the comments!

Mark and I are committed to helping marriages in any way we can.  Here are some commonly requested resources we offer:

  • Looking to bring a No More Perfect Marriages seminar to your church? You can find info on that here.
  • Looking to pick up a copy of the No More Perfect Marriages book? You can do that here. (You can find free small group curriculum videos here!)
  • Are you walking through the mess of infidelity? Need to know some essential next steps to find hope and help? Jill has written a short, but powerpacked e-book to help you with that. You can find info about that here.
  • Want to join the No More Perfect Marriages Date Night community?  Registration is currently closed and won’t open again to the public until sometime in the Fall, but we’re opening it up for Focus on the Family listeners only for this week–register by Friday, May 19! You can find that info here!
  • Looking to take our FREE No More Perfect Marriages 4 week E-Challenge?  You can sign up here for that!
  • Want to attend our next No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in July? You can find out info here.

We write Marriage Monday posts nearly every week. You can find some of our past posts here. (And you can subscribe to the blog if you want to get those in your inbox!)

No matter if your marriage is in a great place or a place of pain, we’re here for you and so glad you stopped by!

Let’s stay connected in some way so we can do this thing called marriage together!