The Slow Fade of Unforgiveness

Marriage Monday

Jill: One of the parts of our marriage seminars that Mark and I enjoy the most is the Q&A sessions. This is where we get to hear stories of how the content and conversations are making a difference. It’s where attendees ask questions. It’s also where they offer their own thoughts and insight.

Mark: We help husbands and wives identify the seven slow fades that are robbing their marriage of intimacy. Then we explore the eight God-Tools that will stop those fades in their tracks.  Most importantly, we guide couples on how to talk about those elements in a safe conversation that drives their intimacy deeper.

Jill: At our most recent seminar in Springfield, one of the husbands said, “I think I found an eighth slow fade: the slow fade of unforgiveness.”  He then shared how during the discussion time with his wife he began to realize how much unforgiveness he harbored in his heart towards his wife from a difficult season of life. This slow fade was keeping his heart distanced from her heart…and he didn’t even realize it.

Mark: Jill and I have talked about it several times over the past few weeks and we agree. If we could re-write No More Perfect Marriages we’d add it for sure! The slow fade of unforgiveness steals from so many marriages. Unforgiveness breeds resentment and fosters bitterness. It keeps us riled up with anger, rehearsing wounds over and over. It keeps us tangled up on the inside, distanced from God and distanced from our spouse.

Jill: When we hold things against our spouse, it’s not just for big things. In fact, most often it’s for little things on top of more little things on top of still more little things. A time when your spouse didn’t help clean up the kitchen like you expected him to, a time when your spouse didn’t handle a conversation with your boss like you wanted her to, a time when he didn’t come home from work on time, a time when she didn’t accomplish a task you thought she should….the list goes on and on.

Mark: Forgiveness is a God-Tool we need to use dozens of time every day because we live with an imperfect person.  If we don’t use it, our heart calcifies and the slow fade of unforgiveness begins to pull us away from our spouse.

Jill: It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Just like our seminar attendee, you can use your God-Tool of forgiveness and stop the slow fade of unforgiveness.  It’s a choice you’ll have to make–you won’t FEEL like doing it. But the resulting freedom will be worth it!

What about you? Are you harboring hurt? Is the slow fade of unforgiveness keeping your heart distanced from your spouse? Where do you need to use your God-Tool of forgiveness? 

It’s a Valentine’s Day Pop UP!

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If you’re wanting less conflict… if you’re seeking to move the needle on your marriage… if you want to be more loving and patient with your spouse… if you want to become a better spouse or a stronger couple… if you want your marriage to grow…then we have a Valentine’s gift for you! 

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  • DOUBLE DATE WITH MARK AND JILL: This short (usually 10-15 minutes) of power-packed teaching comes from our own learning curve of moving our marriage from difficult to dynamic.
  • DIVE-DEEP INTERVIEW: A 30-35 minute interview with a marriage expert or couple pulls back the curtain on their real marriage and allows us to learn from their experience.
  • DESIGN-A-DATE: A creative date night encourages you to talk, laugh, and have fun together. Whether you do the date night exactly as it is presented or you use it to get your own creative juices flowing, the most important thing is that you’re prioritizing time together!
  • DYNAMIC DIALOGUE WEBINAR: This LIVE members-only webinar allows you to learn in real time and ask any question on any topic of marriage at anytime during the webinar.
  • DISCOUNTS: Member only discounts are available for live marriage events and marriage products.
  • BONUS WEEKS: New content comes out every Tuesday. When there are five Tuesdays in a month, you get bonus material to strengthen your marriage!

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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Dialing Down Defensiveness

Marriage Monday

Mark: For today’s Marriage Monday, we thought we’d share one of our videos from the No More Perfect Marriages Curriculum.  This is a set of videos available for free for individuals, couples, small groups, or marriage ministries.  It’s available at www.NoMorePerfect.com (there’s also free video curriculum for No More Perfect Moms and No More Perfect Kids there, too!)

Jill: This video is all about reducing defensiveness in your marriage.  It’s a skill we all need to be more intentional about!  If you’re reading this in email, you can launch the video here!  Enjoy!

If You Win You’ll Lose

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I aren’t big sports fans but we did watch some of the Super Bowl yesterday.  It was quite a game!

Jill: After the game, we were talking about the fact that there’s no marriage Super Bowl, although many times we approach marriage as if it’s a game to win.

Mark: Marriage isn’t a competition. In fact, there’s no room for competition in a loving relationship. We run the game of life together and cheer each other on.

Jill: There’s no keeping score. No 50-50. It has to be 100-100. Serving doesn’t keep score and we’re called to serve one another.

Mark: And finally there’s no winning in marriage. Even in disagreement. We can’t be motivated to win. We have to make sure that reasons never trump relationship. When we disagree, our goal needs to be understand each other’s concerns, not win the argument.

Jill: So what do we lose if we try to win? We lose our spouse’s trust. We lose our intimacy. We lose safety in our marriage. We lose out on loving well.

Mark: The next time you set out to win, stop yourself. Because if you work to win in marriage, you’ll lose for sure.

How To Clean Up A Relational Mess

Marriage Monday

Mark: Well it was bound to happen at some time. We’ve both been different people since putting back the pieces of our broken relationship six years ago. We interact differently, we respond differently, we work to think differently. But Friday night we went back to old ways.

Jill: That’s right. We had a big ‘ole fight on Friday night and both reverted back to old ways. We promise honesty here…so you’re getting it.

Mark: We even went to bed angry with each other. I know…the Bible says that you shouldn’t let the sun go down on your anger. But we did because we were each rehearsing in our head and our heart why we were right.

Jill: It was still tense on Saturday morning but God was working on each of our hearts. Finally one of us said, “I’m sorry I hurt you last night. Will you please forgive me?”  The other answered, “I forgive you,” and followed it with, “I know I hurt you too. I’m sorry for that. Will you please forgive me?” And forgiveness was extended.  We talked for a few minutes about how we fell back into old patterns we hadn’t experienced in years, but then moved on with our day putting the conflict behind us with the closure forgiveness provided.

Mark: It happens to all of us. There’s always a battle between the flesh and the Spirit going on inside of us. The flesh wants to do things “my way” and the Spirit leads us to do things God’s way. Our goal is to do things God’s way far more often than doing things our way. But sometimes we falter…and when we do, we need to know what to do.  Here are four important steps to take to clean up a relational mess:

  1. Recognize the reality of spiritual warfare. Your spouse is not the enemy. The Bible tells us that Satan comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).  He wants to divide us and will whisper lies that keep us separated when conflict happens.
  2. Take your thoughts captive. When we’re sideways with each other, we rehearse our position in our head over and over. Sometimes we have an entire argument in our head–of course we always come out on top. But being right can’t be more important than being in relationship.  In No More Perfect Marriages we talk about the fact that the “slow fade of defensiveness happens when reasons trump relationship.” Stop rehearsing your reasons and start refocusing your thoughts on the good in your spouse and the importance of your relationship.
  3. Do the right thing. Own your part. Apologize for whatever you contributed to the mess–even if it was (in your opinion) less than what your spouse contributed.
  4. Offer a full apology. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Tell him or her what you’re sorry for and then ASK FOR FORGIVENESS.  This is the part that is often forgotten. When forgiveness isn’t requested then it rarely given, and that’s what keeps us from experiencing closure to our conflict.

Jill: Conflict is a part of relationships and when it’s not handled well, the mess needs to be cleaned up. But it doesn’t have to derail our relationship. If you fall back into old ways, don’t get discouraged…just get right with each other as soon as you can.

What about you? Of the four steps above, which do you need to be most intentional about? 

P.S. Looking for something fun to get your honey for Valentine’s Day?  Check out Union 28 shirts with a special discount for our readers!

Four Ways NOT to Talk With Your Spouse

Marriage Monday

Mark: Words matter. But even more than the choice of our words, it’s the way we deliver our words that can make the biggest difference in relationships.

Jill: In marriage, the way we deliver our words can add more meaning to them than we often intend. Or in some cases, if we’re honest, it’s exactly as we intend.

Mark: Jill and I have both worked hard on this the past few years. Our unhealthy delivery methods have, most often, been replaced by healthier communication habits. We don’t always get it right but these days we get it right more often than we get it wrong.

Jill: Ephesians 4:22-24 gives us direction on this, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  We’re to “take off” the unhealthy ways of communicating and “put on” Christ-like healthy ways of talking to each other. 

Mark: Here are some practical steps:

Take off sarcasm. Put on honest, genuine communication. Sarcasm is intended to cut or wound. It’s most often used when we feel angry or frustrated but we lack the courage to speak directly about our feelings. Sarcasm is also used to cover up embarrassment or defensiveness.  Replace sarcasm with genuine communication about how you’re feeling. Push yourself to be honest with others.

Take off passive aggressive. Put on direct communication.  Passive aggressive communication is an indirect way of dealing with conflict. Withdrawing, sulking, pouting, and procrastinating can all be forms of passive aggressive communication.  Replace passive aggressive tendencies with direct communication to the other person about your hurt, struggles, or feelings.

Take off speaking under your breath. Put on grace.  When we speak under our breath it’s a form of criticism, judgment, and pride.  Replace the irritated feelings you’re expressing under your breath with grace, compassion, and understanding. Make connecting with your spouse’s heart much more important that getting your point across.

Take off exasperation. Put on kindness.  An exasperated tone says, “you’re stupid,” or “not again!” or “can’t you get it right?” It’s disrespectful. A kind response recognizes your partner’s humanness and treats him or her with respect.

Jill: Exasperation is probably my biggest downfall. I can become easily exasperated and then my tone becomes disrespectful. I’ve been working on that pretty intently the past few years.

Mark: My default is passive-aggressive communication.  I can easily move to this behavior when I’ve allowed things to build up inside of me and chosen not to be honest. Honesty is always the best way. I’m learning that putting on direct communication is always the right course of action.

What about you? When it comes to communication in your marriage, what do you need to take off and what do you need to put on? 

What’s Your Plan For Prioritizing Your Marriage In 2018?

Marriage Monday

Mark: One of the things Jill and I try to do every January is to talk about what we will do in the coming year to prioritize our marriage.  What will we do on a daily basis to stay connected? What will we do for a date night on a regular basis–that we can put on the calendar and plan for? What event will we attend to learn about marriage and each other? Is it time for us to seek help? To schedule an appointment with a counselor? To make the investment of a marriage intensive?

Jill: When the kids were little it was never easy. Every plan for us required a plan for them. Sometimes it honestly seemed easier to not do anything. Easier but not wiser. One of the best things we can do for our kids is to invest in our marriage. And marriages aren’t meant to sit on the backburner. We have to intentionally move them to the front burner.

Mark: That’s right…great marriages don’t just happen. They are created. Prioritized. Invested in.

Have you had the 2018 discussion yet?

Need some ideas?

Here are some possibilities to get you started:

Daily Ways to Connect
Breakfast together in the morning
Work out together
Phone call over lunch hour
Texting throughout the day (Need ideas? Sign up for the Flirt Alert!)
Take a walk each evening after dinner
Back rub or foot rub in the evening
Read a marriage book aloud together for 10-15 min a night

Weekly
Morning lovemaking one designated day a week
How about some “afternoon delight?”
One night a week turn off the screens and play a game together
Go to lunch together once a week
Take out dinner eaten as a picnic in the living room.

Date Night Arrangements
Ask grandparents to keep the grandkids once a week, once every other week, or once a month
Trade sitting with another couple–you watch their kids one week, they watch yours the next
Plan an evening together after the kids are in bed–snuggle on the couch and talk, have a late candlelight dinner or dessert, etc.
Set up a regular sitter on a regular schedule
Go out to dinner once a week
Even if you’re empty-nesters, set up a regular time just to focus on the two of you!

Marriage Event Options
No More Perfect Marriages Valentines Getaway Springfield, IL February 9-10, 2018
No More Perfect Marriages Retreat Galesburg, IL March 2-3, 2018
No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out, Falls Church, VA, March 17, 2018
No More Perfect Marriages Retreat, Claremore, OK, April 6-7, 2018
No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out, Westerville, OH, May 19, 2018
Family Life Marriage Conferences

Marriage Crisis Help
Full Week and Long Weekend Intensives at the Savage Home in Normal, IL
Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored Intensives

Jill: We’ve determined in 2018 our date nights are Thursday nights. Texting throughout the day is very important. We’re turning off the screens and playing more Banangrams in the evenings. And we’re pursuing a three-day intensive that will help strengthen our relationship in the midst of public ministry.

Mark: Of course, we recommitted to some afternoon delight on a regular basis, too! 😉

What about you?  What’s your plan for making your marriage a priority in 2018? 

Our Shared Purpose

Marriage Monday

Mark: Last Fall, Jill and I were challenged by our friends Greg and Julie Gorman to begin thinking about the core values of our marriage. These are shared values that help us to clarify our shared purpose.  As individuals we may have personal core values that our spouse doesn’t necessarily share. Sometimes those are fueled by our temperaments and personalities. But identifying the passions we do share, gives us a vision of why we exist as a couple.

Jill: In nearly 35 years of marriage, we had never identified our core values as a couple. We’re guessing we’re not the only ones. We began with compiling a list of possible values. We curated this list from a little bit of research we did on core values in general. As we talked through the list, some words particularly resonated with us so we highlighted those.

Mark: We made a list of the highlighted words and then let that list simmer for several months. We’d occasionally return to it when we were driving somewhere or out on a date to see if there were any values we needed to add or cross off the list.

Mark: We also talked about each one and tried to finish these sentences: We value __________________. This is why we ______________________.  Doing so helped us to eliminate a few we thought were values but we weren’t able to actually come up with a supportive statement that illustrated how we lived them out.

Jill: We’re still “marinating” these core values—trying to see if these really define us as a couple and if there are any we are missing, but we feel confident we’re on the right track! Here’s what we have so far:

We value authenticity. This is why we share our stories openly.

We value freedom. This is why we choose entrepreneurship and pursue debt free living. This is also why we occasionally pursue counseling, so we are free from our struggles and our past.

We value serving. This is why we live generously.

We value hospitality. This is why we open our home to friends and family, Airbnb guests, couples who seek out marriage coaching, speakers and writers, and those who just need a haven of rest.

We value growth. This is why we both read, listen to podcasts, and pursue personal growth to be better spouses, parents, leaders, and Christians.

We value learning together. This is why we’ve taken parenting classes, attended marriage conferences and leadership seminars together. This is why we listen to podcasts together when we drive. It’s also why we occasionally read books aloud together (it usually takes us 6-9 months to finish a book when we learn together this way!)

We value faith. This is why we are committed to Jesus Christ, have a church home, read God’s Word, and pray together.

We value family. This is why we host cousin’s weekend once a month for our grandkids. It’s why we spend time with our parents, extended family, and travel to see our kids who live out of town.

We value health. This is why we are committed to clean eating and regular exercise.

Mark: This has been a fascinating exercise for us to do together. It’s brought about great conversation and has strengthened our vision of why God has us together.

Jill: If you decide to identify your core values, here are some tips we found helpful:

  • Make the conversations about values safe conversations. In other words, don’t criticize each other’s thoughts as you brainstorm.
  • Resist the urge to get frustrated when your spouse doesn’t value something you value. Jot that down on your own personal core value list. What you’re looking for now are the values you share as a couple.
  • Don’t get caught up in numbers. It’s possible you might only be able to identify one shared core value. Or two or three. Focus on the quality of what you share, not the quantity.
  • If you need some ideas to get you started. Here’s a general core values list that can get you thinking: Sample Core Values
  • Core values can change as you change. For instance, health wasn’t one of our core values until my breast cancer journey. That experience was a gamechanger for us and put physical health on our radar screen.
  • If you have kids at home, sharing your core values with the kids can be a valuable exercise for building family identity.

Mark: So go ahead. Begin thinking about the core values you share as a couple. Talk about them, process them, and post your first draft where you can see it. When you get some initial ideas on your list, we’d love for you to come back and share them as a comment on this post so we can learn and grow together!