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!

 

 

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Special Registration Opportunity for Family Life, Heidi St. John, and Focus on the Family Listeners!

Join the No More Perfect Date Night Community today!
Find out more info at www.NoMorePerfectDateNight.com!

Spring Registration is closed but we’re opening it just for Family Life, Heidi St. John podcast, and Focus on the Family listeners until Friday, May 19, 2017!

(Public registration only opens twice a year…don’t miss out!)

Margin For Marriage

Marriage Monday

Jill: I’m most impatient when I’m overscheduled.

Mark: I tend to take things personally when I am tired.

Jill: My tone of voice has exasperation in it most often when I’m running late.

Mark: I lack the ability to listen well when I’m trying to do too much.

Jill: Just like the margins in a computer document or the pages of a book, the white space arounds the words allow us to read the black typewritten words. The white space is critical to keeping our eyes seeing what’s most important.

Mark: Our lives need margin—white space—in order for us to live and love well. When we get too busy, too overcommitted, or spread too thin, we become too impatient, too self-focused, and too easily irritated than what is healthy for relationships.

Jill: Marriage needs margin. We need to slow the pace to give love space.

Mark: Need to increase margin in your marriage? Here are three types of marriage margin you need to consider:

  • Time Margin: Are you overcommitted? Are your kids overcommitted?  Do you need to learn to say no to good things so you can say yes to the most important relationships in your life? What do you need to start earlier to allow space for kindness and patience in your communication?
  • Energy Margin: Are you giving your best energy away and coming up empty for marriage? Do you need to take a short nap in the afternoon so you have the energy for intimacy in the evening? Do you need to submit your resignation for some volunteer positions so you can be the best you for your family?
  • Financial Margin: Are you budgeting for marriage? Setting aside money each paycheck to take regular time for the two of you? Do you have a “getaway dream” trip for the two of you that you’re saving for? Are you trading sitting with another couple to make date nights more affordable?

Jill: A marginless marriage is a slow fade waiting to happen.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll slow down later. Decide today to do whatever it takes to increase the white space in your marriage.

What about you? Where do you need to increase margin for the sake of your marriage?

Oh and one more thing…We’re on Focus on the Family Tuesday and Wednesday this week talking about marriage!  If you’d like to catch the programs, you can listen online at www.focusonthefamily.com!

Listen To Hear

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill was telling me about something that we needed to do this weekend. I was busy answering an email on my phone and I absentmindedly said a few “Uh huh’s” to feign interest in what she was saying. When she said, “Mark, did you hear me?” I had to admit that I didn’t. I was listening to pacify her, not listening to hear.

Jill: Mark was telling me how he wanted to lay out the garden this year. As soon as he started to share his thoughts, I began to think about why his way wouldn’t work. As soon as he stopped sharing his thoughts, I began to disagree. I was listening to debate, not listening to hear.

Mark: We all do it. We listen to do everything BUT listen! We’re distracted, tired, prideful, or irritated when we need to be focused, alert, humble, and kind.

Jill: Listening is one of the most important skills in marriage, but it’s one of the least developed skills for most of us. We can debate like the best of them. We can rationalize nonstop. We respond with snide or sarcastic remarks. But listen to really hear our spouse? That doesn’t come so easy.

Mark: Want to become a better listener? Here are three ways:

  • Stop, Look, and Listen. Get in the habit of stopping what you’re doing when your spouse (or child) says something to you. Then look him/her in the eyes and listen with your ears and your eyes.
  • Respond, Don’t React. Just this week, try to slow your conversations down to respond lovingly instead of reacting impatiently.
  • Repeat back to your spouse what he or she said to you. You don’t have to agree with them, just respond with “What I hear you saying is…” This assures them that you really did hear what they said.

Jill: When we improve our listening skills our spouse feels loved, cared for, and valued. Want to improve your marriage? Start by improving your listening skills today.

What about you? Which of the three ways to become a better listener can you use today?

Conviction or Condemnation?

Marriage Monday

Jill: Last weekend at the Hearts at Home conference, I spent some time with a woman whose marriage was at seven years of healing from her infidelity. There is still so much pain in their marriage, though, and it seems they are stuck.  The more we talked the more I realized that one reason they were not moving forward is that they were living in condemnation rather than conviction.

Mark: Very simply, conviction says “I did a bad thing.” Condemnation says, “I did a bad thing, therefore I’m a bad person.” Ever so slight difference, yet HUGE when it comes to moving past an issue.

Jill: Conviction is from the God and it is designed to turn us around when we’re headed in the wrong direction. It allows us to identify our sin, learn from it, and make a 180 degree turn in the other direction. Conviction allows us to own our stuff, apologize, ask for forgiveness, but NOT BE DEFINED BY IT.

Mark: Condemnation, however, is from the enemy. It makes us feel guilty, ashamed, and even depressed. We stew, regret, blame, and shame until we believe we’re no good and no one will want us or forgive us.  In condemnation, the enemy twists and turns our thoughts in an effort to keep us stuck, isolated, and unable to heal.  Many who deal with condemnation in adulthood had the seeds planted in childhood or in previous relationships. That was certainly the case for me as I struggled with low self-esteem and self doubt.  In my early years, I was told my voice didn’t matter, I was a screw up, and I couldn’t think for myself. Condemnation started early and I carried those “voices” into adulthood. I didn’t need someone else saying them…I could now recite them to myself.

Jill: When we make a mistake, sin, or head in the wrong direction, God’s conviction is like the GPS saying “recalculating” or “return to route” or “make a U-turn.”  It doesn’t beat us up, or nag us. God simply wants us to make the adjustment (repent), head in the right direction, and move on. If we were just a little off track, it’s not a big deal. If we were a lot off track, it will likely require more healing time both personally and in the relationships that were affected, but at least healing can take place.

Mark: I’ve walked in condemnation most of my life. Thankfully, when I made my u-turn after the affair, I’ve worked hard and stayed committed to only walked in conviction. I’ve seen it make a HUGE difference in my ability to heal as an individual and our ability to heal as a couple.  Not only that, but it’s conviction that has allowed me to share the story so publicly. I’m not defined by my sin. Conviction got me back on the right path. Condemnation would have stopped me from healing and from sharing my story with so many others.

Jill: For the woman I spent time talking to at the conference, she had yet to forgive herself, which is key to moving out of condemnation. She also didn’t have any self-compassion.  And her husband was continuing to ask “why?” and “how could you?” which was also keeping her in a place of condemnation.  However, as she shared just a little bit about her husband it seemed that he also may be sitting in condemnation. He may feel “defined” by his wife’s actions, taking them personally, rather than seeing them as evidence of her own confusion.

Mark: Marriage causes us to bump into each other’s imperfect. When that happens we need to experience conviction to clean up the mess and move on. However, we have to resist the enemy’s whispers of condemnation that keep us in self-pity, bitterness, blame, and shame. Our God is a God of second chances. He’s filled with love and grace and forgiveness.  That’s what He models for us and how we need to learn to respond to ourselves and others when one of us gets off track.

What about you? Do you experience conviction or condemnation more often? What can you do to intentionally keep from tripping over the condemnation line? 

Lose Those Expectations

Marriage Monday

Last week we opened up our new No More Perfect Date Night Community and then we spent this past weekend with about 2700 women at the Illinois Hearts at Home conference. It was a full week and a great weekend but it will take us both about a week to recover! We’re grateful that Jerusha Clark wanted to share with you about her expectations of the No More Perfect Marriages book and how it ended up changing her expectations in marriage.

Jerusha Clark is the author or co-author of twelve books, including Your Teenager is Not Crazy: Understanding Your Teen’s Brain Can Make You a Better Parent and When I Get Married: Surrendering the Fantasy, Embracing the Reality.  Her book Every Piece of Me: Shattering Toxic Beliefs and Learning to Love the Real You hits bookshelves in August.

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“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

“I do.”

“Do you expect him to know what you need and think without having to ask, hold you close when you’re hurting without hoping it will lead to sex, and always put the silverware in the dishwasher the right way?”

“I do.”

Wait.  Hold on.  This is not how my vows sounded nineteen years ago.  But let me tell you: though I didn’t know it at the time, all of this was definitely in my heart.

Expectations…Our marriages live and die by them.  And if I’m perfectly honest, a lot of my expectations have been, for lack of a better phrase, completely impossible.

When I read Mark and Jill’s latest book, No More Perfect Marriages, my marriage was in a healthy place.  I read the book because I love and appreciate Jill, not because I thought I “desperately needed” it.   But as He so often does, God showed me how very wrong I was; I needed to reevaluate my expectations and align them more intentionally with His truth and grace.  No More Perfect Marriages helped me do that.

At the very beginning of the book, Mark and Jill reveal the truth that most of us (and I am certainly in this camp) compare the inside of our marriage to the outside of others’.  When I evaluate the health of my relationship by looking at what my friends—or even random strangers and celebrities—are posting, “liking,” or hashtagging, I’m headed for disaster.

Disaster?  Really?  Isn’t that a bit extreme?

No, my friend; it’s not.

Disaster comes to us in many forms, but the Savages make clear that it’s the slow fades that threaten our marriages most: “It’s the nature of relationships,” they write, “we naturally pull apart unless we work to stay together.”  I don’t usually intend to separate myself; I just allow the different ways my husband and I love, and the hurt that can result, to drive us a little further apart.  You and I don’t often determine to undermine our own happiness, but we open the door to distance and disillusionment by—as the Savages put it—“remembering what we need to forget and forgetting what we need to remember.”  That quote literally stopped me in my reading tracks.  How true that is!

I’m so grateful to Jill and Mark for pointing out the “soul mirages” that even good Christian boys and girls fall prey to, lies that entrap us as we repeat them to ourselves over and over.  Most of my soul mirages have to do with expectations—expectations that I may or may not ever have verbalized, expectations that I often don’t even recognize are there until they’re disappointed in some way.

My husband is an incredible man.  He’s a godly man.  I know that not everyone reading this blog can say that about their spouse.  Even being married to a really fantastic guy doesn’t make my marriage bulletproof, though.  Exposing lies, deliberately living in Truth, and choosing Love again and again makes my marriage strong.  Like Jill and Mark point out, “love isn’t just a choice; it’s a series of choices.”  So good!  So true!!  I need to remember this and expect this every day.

Perhaps you noticed that I capitalized Truth and Love in that last paragraph.  I did so because both truth and love only and always come from Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith and the cornerstone of our marriages.  The Savages are convinced—and I am, too—that with God’s grace and through the power of His Spirit, hurting marriages can heal and good marriages can become great.  Whether you’re struggling with your spouse today or feeling strong and secure in your relationship, I urge you to read No More Perfect Marriages

Honestly, what do you have to lose?  Except maybe a few unhealthy expectations…

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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?