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 Our unhealthy delivery methods have, most often, been replaced by healthier communication habits.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

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!


Does Your Marriage Need A Holiday?

Marriage Monday

Jill: December is a full month for most of us. Shopping. Christmas entertainment and school programs. Holiday parties. Church Programs. Baking. Decorating the tree. Holiday gatherings with extended family. Travel. New Years.

Mark: We’re adding a wedding in there, too. Our youngest is getting married on December 21, just about 2 and a half weeks away.

Jill: So we’ve decided that it is healthy for us to take a holiday from our weekly Marriage Monday posts for the month of December.  I’ll be doing the same with my blogging. We’ll start back up in January.

Mark: A holiday is a time we set aside to stop work and rest. It’s a time to re-energize and refuel. To move our focus from one thing to another.  While we rarely think about it from a marriage perspective, we need to sometimes.

Jill: Where does our marriage need to experience a holiday? Do we need to set aside a little time and money for a getaway for the two of us? Do we need to stop going to choir practice on Wednesday nights for a month so we can have a sit down family meal one night a week? Should we commit to set aside one night a week or one night a month for a date night in 2018?

Mark: So while we’re taking our holiday, we hope you’ll think about where you need to re-energize and refuel as it relates to your marriage. Where do you need to move your focus from one thing to another?

Jill: As you look ahead to 2018, we also want to invite you to attend (or bring to your area!) one of our events.  Why not put “attend a No More Perfect Marriages event” on your Christmas list?  Here are the Spring events we currently have on the calendar that we’d love to see you at!

February 9-10, Springfield, IL No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
February 17, Scottsdale, AZ, No More Perfect Marriages Night Out
March 2-3, Galesburg, IL, No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
April 6-7, Claremore, OK, No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
May 19, Westerville, OH, No More Perfect Marriage Morning Out

We’re also speaking at Maranatha Family Camp in Muskegan, Michigan, June 30-July 7. If you’ve been looking for a unique family vacation experience, come join us! We’ll be talking about marriage and family all week!

Mark: Oh and one more thing. For the month of December only, our publisher (Moody) is offering a great Buy One Get One Free offer on our No More Perfect Marriages book!

They’ve paired it with Ashleigh Slater’s book Team Us. It’s a great opportunity to pick up something for  yourself and for a gift! It’s an even sweeter deal with FREE Shipping when you buy $25 or more!

Jill: We hope you’re able to enjoy December to the fullest and you’re making plans for 2018 to be the best year ever!

How To Let It Go

Marriage Monday

Hello Jill and Mark:

I need advice on how to learn to “let it go” when it comes to marriage. This is in relation to things like broken promises about household projects and such. I realized this morning that I need to figure out how to let it go.




Dear Hurting,

It’s so hard when our spouse’s imperfect affects our life.  If their mistakes, shortcomings, and poor choices only affected them it would be much easier. However, most of the time it affects us, too. The opposite is also true–our imperfect affects our spouse’s life, too.

Mark and I talk about 8 God-Tools in our No More Perfect Marriages book. It’s in times like this when we need to pick up two of our God-Tools: Forgiveness and either Grace or Courage, depending on the situation.

Forgiveness is the first God-Tool we need to handle these situations. Forgiveness keeps our heart uncluttered and available to God. It’s how we “let it go.” But it’s a choice…not a feeling. You won’t ever “feel” like forgiving. You’ll have to choose to forgive.

Forgiveness is also not once and done. When your spouse’s imperfect hurts you in some way, you’ll need to forgive. And then if you bump into another consequence of his/her actions, you’ll have to forgive…again.

Forgiveness is only the first tool though. You’ll have to pick up a second tool and that’s going to be either Courage or Grace. How do you know which one?

Does what happened hurt you or just irritate you? 

If it hurt you, you need to forgive and have the courage to tell your spouse how his or her actions hurt you.  Of course, you can’t control how your spouse will respond, but the conversation will have a much better chance of going well if you’ve already forgiven him or her and aren’t emotionally ramped up yourself.

If it irritates you, you need to forgive and offer your spouse grace–grace space–the space to be human, make mistakes, and not get raked over the coals for being imperfect.

Most of the challenges in marriage require hard, internal work. Forgiveness, grace, and courage are all difficult choices to make. They require us to be willing to do things God’s way rather than our way. Ultimately they give us the ability to experience the “peace that passes understanding” the Bible talks about in Philippians 4:7.

So how do we let go? We pick up our God-Tools and do the hard internal work of forgiveness and grace or courage.

Because we’re all imperfect,



So what about you? Where do you need to use your God-Tools of forgiveness, grace, or courage? 

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?