Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Snowbound Marriage?

     With temps in the upper 60's in the middle of last week, it seems hard to believe that this weekend we are snowbound, with virtually everything coming to a standstill.
     When the snow hit, my wife and I had a layer of ice on our front porch and driveway, the back yard was covered in ice and snow, everything looked white and frozen, and it was pretty easy to believe that we were cut off and alone.
     But the reality was there were tire tracks in the snow on the road in front of our house, and at the end of that road the ice had already turned slushy.  The next road was even more clear, and by the time I got to the main thoroughfares, traffic was humming along almost like normal.  But, until we could see beyond our front porch, we made some pretty dire assumptions about our situation.
     Has that ever happened to you in your marriage?  You feel isolated and cut off?  Because you only see what’s closest to you, your perspective narrows.  All you can see is the ice and snow surrounding your house.  You want it to be different, but you don’t even know where to begin to imagine different.  The worry, or fear, or anger, or guilt, or disappointment keeps you from recognizing that there are other possibilities.
     Sometimes our isolation is of our own doing.  One spouse throws out an ill-timed, poorly thought-out comment, and the cold front moves in.  The other spouse responds out of anger rather than engaging in healthy discussion, and the precipitation begins.  Pride sets in, escalation occurs, and the situation grows steadily worse until both mates begin to feel alone and cut off from everything else, especially each other.  As hurt feelings linger, it becomes harder and harder to see anything other than the ice and snow immediately surrounding the situation.
     And sometimes, our isolation is a result of circumstances we have no control over.  He receives the diagnosis he didn’t want to hear.  But rather than letting his wife in to walk with him through the dark valley, he pushes her away.  And the layer of ice begins to form.  She thinks nobody could ever understand the pain she is going through as the conflict between her and her mother deepens, so she takes out her frustration on her husband, and path to togetherness gets more inaccessible.  A teen’s behavior creates tension in the house, and husband and wife are at odds over how to handle it.  So as the wedge widens, each spouse begin to feel lost and alone.
     When tension rises, it is easy for spouses to begin to isolate themselves.  Something happens that raises our hackles, and our brains kick in the “fight, flight, or freeze” response.  Rather than engaging in godly, healthy productive communication and conflict management, we throw up protective walls, or hurl back hurtful words shot-for-shot, or run away and try to hide.
     But you don’t have to remain snowbound.  You can get unstuck.  Here are a few things to help:

  • Take a deep breath—I know it sounds cliché, but rather than letting your “survival instincts” take over, give a second for your reasoning-brain-responses to engage.  You probably still won’t like what’s going on, but at least you can respond rationally and calmly.
  • Remember that this is a single incident, not your entire marriage—The snow will melt and life will eventually resume.  Don’t do more damage while you are snowbound by escalating the conflict.
  • Humility and selflessness go a long way—When both spouses feel trapped and feelings are running high, go out of your way to take care of your mate’s emotional needs.
  • Continually return to the “one flesh” principle—“One flesh” means that I will not do or say anything to you that I would not want done or said to me, because to hurt you is to hurt me.  You will survive best together, not alone.
  • And finally, seek help if necessary—You might feel trapped, but there are still others out there who are willing and able to help you walk through whatever issues you’re struggling with.  Have the courage to seek them out.  (Please note, this is NOT finding someone to side with you.  It is finding a person or a couple you and your spouse both know loves you enough to help—even if the truth hurts.)

     It’s tough to be trapped, wondering when the bread and milk are going to run out, and when the ice and snow will finally melt.  But in marriage, you’re not alone.  Don’t let conflict cause you to lose your perspective and become snowbound.

Monday, January 8, 2018

10 (good) things...

Shared prayer
Don’t just pray for each other, pray with each other.  Through your spouse’s voice of prayer, you will hear his/her heart in ways you cannot imagine.

“Thank you” truly is one of the most powerful sentiments possible.

Help your lover to recognize his/her potential, dream together, and regularly let him/her know they are beautiful, special, and appreciated.

Never underestimate the power of play for increasing communication, healing hurts, and creating a lasting bond.

Physical affection
Not everyone’s love language is physical touch, but physical affection, especially sex, is a gift from God meant to create a unique and special bond within a marriage.

Being honest, owning your short-comings, and seeking to do better creates an unparalleled safety for your mate.

Forgiveness is the lifeblood of any relationship between two fallen, imperfect people.

Truly seek to hear and understand your mate’s perspective.  To listen is to give your mate value and worth that connects with him/her at a deeply spiritual level.

It doesn’t have to be expensive outings, but keep seeking to woo and wow each other.

Shared service
Make your marriage mean something for the Kingdom of God together. It will bless you, your spouse, and your marriage in ways you cannot even imagine, while still blessing others too.

Don't wait for your mate to begin these things.  You be the one to get the ball rolling in 2018.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

10 (bad) things...

Secrets kill a relationship.  Period.

The more I insist that the focus be on me, the more I starve my marriage.

Trivializing the important
Pay attention to the things that need attention.

Aggrandizing the trivial
Don’t make mountains out of mole hills just to satisfy your ego.

Pet sins
We all have them, so be honest with yourself and get rid of them for the sake of your marriage.

“Stuff” will not make your marriage better.

Badgering your spouse about his/her “imperfections” will only drive a wedge between you.

Nothing good comes from uncontrolled anger.  Ever.

A lack of accountability will destroy trust.

Whether it is your spouse, your parents, your boss, your friends, or some unnamed “they,” the victim mentality will continually circumvent a healthy marriage.

This is not a list of things your mate needs to change.  It is a list of things you need to tend to so that 2018 will be a better year for your marriage.