Are You Looking Through A Lens of Lack?

Marriage Monday

Jill: It all started with a conversation I had with a friend. We were talking about marriage and the topic turned to sex. In their marriage she has a higher sex drive than her husband. Their physical intimacy happens only 6-8 times a year. This is something that frustrates her greatly. When I asked her how she handles the disappointment she said, “I’ve made the decision this is not the framework I’m going to use to look at my marriage through.”

Mark: Wow! Those are some powerful words that deserve some attention. This is a wise woman and we can learn so much from her.

Jill:  We all have things that disappoint us in marriage. We all have things we wish were different. Our human nature tends to lean towards looking through the lens of lack in marriage. We see only what we don’t have and become blind to what we do have.

Mark: I did this the first half of our marriage. I was bound by this view and it nearly destroyed my marriage and me personally. How did it affect me personally? I saw all of life through the lens of lack and doing so fueled discontentment. Eventually discontentment becomes disillusionment which led to disconnection. Not only that but when you’re perpetually discontent, you’re ripe for feeling hopeless and giving up.

Jill: The Bible tells us to take our thoughts captive. This friend of mine is living out that truth. It would be easy to look at her marriage through the lens of a lack of sex. She chooses, however, not to worship her circumstances. She chooses not to make sex an idol of her heart. And she chooses to look at her husband and see the abundance in him. There are other areas of life he does well. He’s a wonderful father. He provides for their family. They share their Christian faith together. He keeps the wheels on the bus when she isn’t home or is out of town. That’s not to say that they never discuss the differing sexual desires they have. It’s just that when they discuss it, she’s able to believe the best in him.

Mark: I’m learning to see life and my marriage through the lens of abundance. It’s a daily decision I have to make. In doing so, I’m finding the peace and contentment I always craved. Do I occasionally slip back into only seeing the lack? Absolutely. This often happens when I’m tired or overwhelmed or I’m not being intentional about nurturing gratefulness.

Jill: It’s the same for me.  While I naturally have more of an abundance mindset, I can still slip into that critical spirit place that zooms in on what Mark doesn’t do. This is when the slow fade of not accepting begins to pull our hearts apart. That’s why we have to be vigilant about pushing our thoughts in the right direction.

What about you? Where are you looking at your spouse through the lens of lack? Where do you need to move your eyes to see him or her through the lens of abundance? Start today by making a list of all the things you are grateful for in your spouse!

What Are You Getting Your Marriage For Christmas?

Marriage Monday

Jill: Years ago, Mark and I made a decision to not exchange physical gifts at Christmas. Instead we try to give our marriage time, energy, and focus in some way.

Mark: So what are you getting your marriage for Christmas? Seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? Yet it’s really something to consider. Your marriage is the foundation of your parenting. Your marriage is designed to last a lifetime. Your marriage is one tool God uses to grow and mature you.

Jill: We spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on weddings, yet we struggle to prioritize the time, energy, and finances to keep the marriage fresh and growing. We set the cruise control on our relationship, never stopping to fill up the tank, schedule preventative maintenance, or fix the things that are broken.

Mark: That’s why Jill and I created No More Perfect Date Night. When you’re a Date Night member, you’re reminded to stop and fill up your marriage tank with our weekly short, but power-packed content. You’re learning about things like stopping the slow marriage fades with marriage-changing God-tools. You’re also learning about communication tools that make your marriage emotionally safe for both of you. And those places where you have recurring conflict? You’re digging into the root of those issues to better understand why they happen and how change can take place.

Jill: If you enjoy Marriage Mondays and aren’t already a member, we want to invite you to become a No More Perfect Date Night member! This is a resource we only offer once or twice a year so we can spend the rest of our time giving our members our very best! Membership is only available THIS WEEK and will close at midnight next Sunday, November 12.

Mark: For the first time ever we’re offering a FREE 7-day trial so you can experience all that No More Perfect Date Night offers you! Your membership is RISK FREE and you can cancel at any time. We don’t think you’ll want to though! We share even more of our own journey, plus we pull back the curtain on other marriages to better understand the challenges all relationships face. We also provide monthly creative date nights, offer a monthly live webinar, and bring experts like Dr. Gary Chapman, Dr. Juli Slattery, Greg and Julie Gorman and dozens others into your living room!

Jill: So what are you getting your marriage for Christmas? Make it a Christmas to remember. Put No More Perfect Date Night underneath the tree so you can make 2018 the year you found the marriage you were looking for!

Hop over and learn a little more about No More Perfect Date Night today!

The Hard Work Of Marriage

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I are in Orlando, Florida today because I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of some dear friends of ours last night. While we were there we had a little bit of fun in the photo booth at the reception!

Jill: As Mark was doing the ceremony he talked about marriage being hard work. I thought about his words a bit and exactly what “hard work” in marriage really means. What struck me is that most of the hard work of marriage is actually hard individual work. Personal work. Adjusting our own head and heart in some way.

Mark: Sure there’s the hard work of communication and cooperation that requires two people to work together, but even those often require hard individual work to work together easier.  What are we talking about?  Here are just a few individual pieces of the hard work of marriage:

  • Selfishness to Selflessness: Demanding our own way and not serving each other hurts our marriage. We have to be willing to serve our spouse even when we don’t feel like it. We have to allow our spouse’s likes and dislikes to be considered just as much as ours are considered.
  • My Way to God’s Way: When we’re in the driver’s seat of our life, we respond and react to our spouse based upon feelings. When God is in the driver’s seat of our life, we respond and react to our spouse based upon truth–using our God-Tools of compassion, love, grace, forgiveness, wisdom, and courage. We do the right thing rather than what we feel like doing.
  • Loose Lips to Self-Control: When we’re careless with our words we cause unneeded pain and conflict in our marriage. When we learn to measure our words and speak kindly and carefully–even in conflict–it nurtures our relationship.
  • Criticism to Acceptance: When we only see what our spouse doesn’t do we are blind to what he or she does do. When we use our God-Tool of acceptance and stop trying to change our spouse, our marriage contentment increases.

Jill: These are just a few of the many options of the hard work of marriage we always need to be working on no matter how long we’ve been married! Can you think of anymore you’d add to the list?

So what about you? What hard internal work of marriage do you to do today? 

Be The Change You Want To See In Your Marriage

Marriage Monday

Mark: “I’m just tired and I want to be done.” I’ve heard that from two long-married, currently separated couples in the last month. I understand those feelings. I was there seven years ago, too.

Jill: That’s really how the slow fades work. We put up with things, minimize them, sweep them under the rug, don’t really resolve conflict, resist asking for help, and tell ourselves “it isn’t worth it.” Add to that our tendency over time to only see what our spouse doesn’t do–which causes us to be blind to the good they bring to our life–and we’re set up for “being tired and wanting to be done.”

Mark: Being done isn’t the answer though. You’ll simply leave one relationship filled with challenges and likely someday enter another relationship filled with challenges. When any two people try to build a life together, it’s hard!  Another relationship isn’t the answer because it will take about 2.5 years (according to research) for you to find yourself just as frustrated in the new relationship as you were in the old.

Jill: So what’s a person to do when they’re “tired and ready to be done?”  We need to BE the change we want in our marriage.

Be kind. Feel like your spouse isn’t treating you kindly? Take a look at how you’re really treating him/her.  Be the kind you’re looking for.

Be attentive. If your spouse isn’t “meeting your needs” dig deep and really look at what you’re bringing to the game. Are you attentive to the things that truly are important to him or her? Be the attentive spouse you’re looking for.

Be faith-filled. If you long for spiritual connection with your spouse, take an honest evaluation about whether you’re walking by faith way more than walking in anger, walking in blame, walking in shame, or walking in criticism.

Be grateful. If you’re feeling taken advantage of or not valued, take a hard look at where you focus your thoughts about your spouse. Start a list today of all the positive things your spouse brings to the marriage.

Be humble. Are you waiting for your partner to apologize? Determined that you won’t apologize one more time until he or she does?  We’re responsible only for the messes we make. Even if you make 5% of the mess and your spouse makes 95% of the mess (from your perspective), then you need to clean up your 5% regardless of whether your spouse tends to his or her 95% or not.

Be compassionate. Instead of seeing your spouse’s issues as a personal offense to you, see them as a representation of his or her blind spot or lost-ness–especially if he or she isn’t walking with Christ.

Be willing to ask for help. Stop trying to put the pieces back together alone. And if you’re the only one who seems to be willing to tend to the broken pieces then get yourself in counseling, or working with a marriage coach, or digging into your own “junk in the trunk.”  You’ve probably been carrying stuff from when you were 12 into your adult years and ultimately into your marriage. It’s time to stop dragging all that around and letting it poison the relationships that mean the most to you.

Mark: When we dig into God’s Word we don’t see quitting as an option. Instead we see commitment,  long-suffering, and perseverance being what God calls us to. He doesn’t say that it will be easy…He just promises we won’t walk it alone.

Jill: It’s okay to feel tired and long for something different than what you have. Recognize, however, that you can change that today. YOU can be the change you want to see in your marriage.

Surprise or No Surprise?

Marriage Monday

Mark: One of the ways Jill and I are different has to do with surprises. I love surprises. Jill….not so much.

Jill: If you’ve taken our free No More Perfect Marriages E-Challenge, you’ll take a quiz that helps you determine if you’re spontaneous or structured.  Mark is spontaneous and I am structured. Often folks who are spontaneous love surprises and folks that are structured do not like surprises.

Mark: This is important to understand. If you’re spontaneous and think a surprise birthday party would be a great gift for your structured spouse, you might stop and think again!

Jill: At the same time, if you don’t like surprises but your spouse does like them, you need to step out of your box and make surprises happen!  That’s what I did this past weekend.

Mark: Jill was speaking in St. Louis until Saturday afternoon. We had decided that we would take a little 24 hour getaway in the area before we returned home Sunday night. Jill said she’d explore possibilities and find something.

Jill: After asking Facebook friends for ideas of places to go, I learned about Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, IL.  It looked like a great place to explore so I decided to search for AirBnb’s in the general area. I ran across a unique place to stay: a 1960’s Shasta camper on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Mark: I love to camp. I particularly love to camp on water, however, our camper that I inherited from my dad bit the dust several years ago.

Jill: I don’t particularly enjoy camping. We live in the middle of the country where it’s quiet and private. Honestly when you camp, you’re often in campgrounds right on top of other campers. It’s like living in a busy neighborhood which I don’t find relaxing at all.  But when I saw this unique place, I thought, “THIS IS IT! MARK WILL LOVE THIS!”

Mark: Jill said that she found a place, but it was a surprise. I thought that was great and I couldn’t wait to see what it was.

Jill: When we arrived, Mark was soooooo surprised and so blessed! This was exactly the setting he loves and hadn’t had in years.  And honestly, I found it very relaxing because the campsites were secluded away from other campers.

Mark: I loved it! I loved that Jill knew me so well. I knew that she did something out of her comfort zone. And I loved that she surprised me!

Jill: Do you know if your spouse likes surprises or not?  If you don’t, then have the conversation today! Talk about it and discover something new about it each other.

 

Staying Connected While Apart

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill had a unique opportunity for a girlfriend trip to Florida this past week so we spent the week apart.  When one of us travels, we’ve found it very important to have a plan for staying connected.

Jill: As a recovering avoider, I have to work to think about staying connected. I have a low personal need to touch base when we’re apart. I know Mark will be there when I return and trust that we’ll catch up then.

Mark: For me, however, staying in touch daily…if not several times a day…is important to me. I need that connection. I like to know what’s happening in Jill’s world and I like her to know what’s happening in mine.

Jill: Connecting more often is in the best interest of our marriage, so that’s where we’ve landed in our plan for staying connected while we’re apart.  Here are the strategies we use:

Text: We text throughout the day just letting each other what’s going on in each other’s world.

Bitmoji: The Bitmoji app on our smartphones let’s us send quick messages back and forth in a fun way.

Phone: If it works for our schedules, we try to talk or Facetime each day.

Pray: We pray for each other intentionally while we’re apart.

Pictures: We text pictures of what is happening in each of our worlds.

GIFs: Sharing GIFs is fun way to bring a smile to each other’s face. One of the friends Jill was away with, her husband was the GIF king during their trip. When she mentioned to him they were going shopping, he sent a hilarious shopping GIF. Whatever they were doing, he found a GIF to match it. It was a great way to stay connected.

Mark: It’s likely that in your marriage, one of you desires to stay connected more often when you’re apart and one of you doesn’t think about it as much.  The most important thing is to agree upon a plan of connection and to make that plan a priority.

Jill: If you’re the one who needs less connection, you may have to do some very practical things like set a timer on your phone or make a calendar reminder to prioritize connection.

Mark: Staying connected is valuable even throughout the workday, but it’s even more important when you’re apart for a longer timeframe.

What about you? How do you intentionally stay connected when you’re apart? 

It’s a Daily Decision

Marriage Monday

Mark: It happens every time we travel. I throw clothes in a suitcase and walk out the door. For Jill it’s not that easy. She has a list she wants to do before we leave: water the flowers, run the vacuum, fold the laundry, and sometimes pay a few bills. That difference used to drive me crazy. These days, however, I go into those trips with a better appreciation for the details Jill thinks about. It is nice to things in order. I make a decision to accept her desires to get these things done. Most often, I’m able to help her with the list so we can get out the door a little sooner.

Jill: It happens every time we go somewhere together. I’m out of the car and in the building before Mark has even exited the car. During the summer months, I make myself wait for him, but during the winter when it’s freezing cold outside, I wait inside where it’s warm!  My default speed is fast and furious. I think with anticipation before any transition—even getting out of the car. Mark’s default speed is slow and steady. He thinks in the moment and is rarely in a hurry. That difference used to drive me nuts. These days, however, I make a daily decision of acceptance. This is who he is…this is who I am…neither is right or wrong…just different.

Mark:  We don’t always do it well. Sometimes I forget that Jill’s going to have that list in her head and I start to get frustrated that we can’t just leave. Sometimes she gets tired of waiting on me. But we’re working to increase our awareness of these differences and choosing more often to use our God-tool of ACCEPTANCE.

Jill: In our book No More Perfect Marriages, we talk about the seven slow fades and the eight God-tools that stop those fades from pulling us apart. The slow fade of disagreement is stopped by the God-tool of acceptance. Of course, acceptance isn’t the God-tool we need to use when sin is happening. Acceptance is what we need to use when we’re dealing with differing approaches to life that tend to frustrate or irritate.

Mark: We’re constantly bumping into our differences. When our differences clash we tend to do one of two things: we reject or accept. When we reject, we usually work hard to change our spouse into who we want him or her to be. I spent years trying to change Jill. My disapproval of her fueled my discontentment, engaged the slow fade of not accepting, and pulled our hearts farther from each other.

Jill: The Bible tells us to “Take our thoughts captive…” and this is exactly what we have to do in order to use our God-tool of acceptance. We have to be willing to do a ruthless self-evaluation and be willing to call out criticism, judgment, rejection, and control. We have to be willing to call a spade a spade. No rationalizing. No explaining it away. We have to take off the old relationship-damaging attitude and put on the new relationship-building decisions of acceptance.

Mark: It’s a daily decision. Sometimes it’s an hourly decision. But when we use our God-tool of acceptance, it makes our marriage an emotionally safe place to be. Not only that, but it makes us a much better person to live with. One who cares, is kind, and more accepting to others in general.

What about you? Where do you need to make a daily decision of acceptance? 

P.S. We just released a new marriage resource to keep the flirty fun in your marriage! Check out the Flirt Alert!

A Death We All Need to Experience

#MarriageMonday

Mark: I remember when I first became a Christian, I heard about the concept of “dying to self.” It was often used to describe those times when we wrestle with God between doing things our way versus doing things His way.  It was “dying to self” that motivated me to stop partying and stop smoking cigarettes some 37 years ago when I said yes to Jesus. I had no idea, however, how much marriage would uncover how much “self” still needed to be put to death.

Jill: I would agree. And I think parenting is a close second for providing that “refining fire” that reveals the places “self” reigns and needs to be put to death. Marriage, however, gets the number 1 spot because we’re having to navigate life so closely together that our “selves” just keep bumping into each other.

Mark: Have you ever found yourself mumbling under your breath about something your spouse did? Well that self-righteous mumbling is your “self” raising up.

Jill: Have you ever found yourself thinking that your way is the right way? That pride is your “self” raising up.

Mark: Have you found yourself thinking about someone outside of your marriage? That lust and temptation is your “self” raising it’s ugly head.

Jill: Do you more often think of what your spouse does wrong than what he/she does right? That critical spirit is your “self” that needs to experience a quick death.

Mark: Do you control situations with your anger? That’s a red flag that your uncontrolled “self” needs to die.

Jill: Do you disregard or minimize concerns your spouse expresses?  It’s time to raise the white flag and surrender your “self”ishness that explains away the concerns and responds with defensiveness.

Mark: My affair was the epitome of “self.” Oh I wanted to make it all about Jill, but that was a smoke screen that kept me from looking at me. Sure Jill had some changes to make just like I did, but my “self” was most definitely leading my thoughts and decisions.

Jill: It seems that nearly everyday God shines a light on some way I need to die to myself. Sometimes it has to do with my thought life. Other days it has to do with my temptations. Sometimes it’s my attitudes or my actions. When we die to self it means we set aside what we want in any given moment in order to do what God wants me to do. It also means that we value others as much as we value ourselves.

Mark: When we die to self we’re no longer obsessed with having things our way. Our marriage improves because we no longer bring selfishness, control, and even addictions to the table. Conflict doesn’t go away because you’re still two very different people trying to live life together, but conflict does decrease because we’re no longer lobbying to get our own way or controlling to make sure things go the way we want them to.

So what do you need to die to? Where is your SELF causing pain in your marriage? Where do you need to stop pointing the finger at your spouse and start looking at what part of SELF you’re bringing to the party?