Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If only YOU would...

     In years of counseling and talking with couples, it’s amazing how many times I’ve listened to a husband or wife be able to immediately point out their spouse’s faults:

  • “Our relationship would be great if she would only...”
  • “If he would just listen we wouldn’t have these arguments.”
  • “Why can’t she be a more forgiving person.”
  • “I wish he would care more about my feelings.”
  • “She never tries to meet my needs.”
It is a very, very rare occasion when someone will actually say, “I’m the problem, and I need to change.”  (But usually, even if someone admits to being the problem, the more common responses are “…but I can’t do anything about it,” or “…but he/she knew I was that way when we got married.”)
     While we do need to be attentive to our mate's well-being mentally and physically, the victim mentality and entitlement mentality of our culture has bled into marriages.  It is not abnormal for early concepts of marriage to be self-centered, romanticized, and unrealistic.  Initially, it is not unusual for someone’s view of marriage to include a spouse who conforms to my wants and needs, my dreams, and my perspective of what would make a happy relationship.  But regrettably, too many people never outgrow this mindset.  When two individuals enter a marriage selfishly expecting the other to change, both will walk away disappointed.
     Ideally, as a couple grows and matures in their relationship with each other—in communication, handling conflict, intimacy, and most significantly spiritually—they will grow more realistic in their expectations of themselves and their mates.  Marriage is a holy relationship that forms us more in the image of Christ, as we learn to think selflessly rather than selfishly.  Jesus said before you try to pick the speck out of someone else’s eye (i.e.- listing your spouse's faults), you might want to do something about that wooden pole sticking out of your own eye.  (Matthew 7:3-5)
     So, next time your marriage isn’t measuring up to what you think it ought to be, take a good long look in the mirror and you just might see a speck—or a plank—that you need to take care of first.


The Marriage-Friendly Church is available now and gives you the questions every church needs to be asking.  Available at 21st Century Christian or on

Image credit: <a href=''>auremar / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Friday, March 14, 2014

Controlling the Thermostat

     My wife’s internal thermostat is broken.  At least that’s what I tell her, because whenever I am hot, she is cold, and when I am cold, she is hot.  This leads to covers being pulled up and kicked off all night, clothes being put on in layers, and the fireplace being turned on and off multiple times throughout the cooler evenings.  We both want to be comfortable, so we do the best we can to control our environment.
     Conflict is inevitable in any healthy relationship.  Because God created us as unique individuals with differing perspectives, in a relationship as close and intimate as marriage there will always be some level of disagreement.  Sometimes that disagreement is minor, and sometimes it is major.  There are multiple methods couples can utilize to handle conflict in a healthy and productive way, but one that is often overlooked is being very intentional about cultivating and controlling the environment prior to the conflict.
     What environment are you cultivating and controlling in your home?  Undoubtedly, during a conflict it will get heated, but what about on a day-to-day basis?  Do you show kindness to your spouse regularly, without any thought of what you’ll get in return?  Are you patient when he/she takes longer to do something than it takes you?  Does your mate hear positive and encouraging words from you every day?  Do you play together and laugh together often?  When you give up something you want to do to help your love, do you do so with joy?  Does your love know he/she can count on your word?  When mistakes happen, does your spouse know he/she can be honest with you even when it might hurt to do so?  Do you verbalize and show your love for your mate?  If you regularly live in an environment of forgiveness, encouragement, selflessness, care, and integrity before a conflict occurs, then when conflict happens it becomes a much easier road to travel, because you know you are traveling it together.
     Please understand that controlling the environment in your home is NOT controlling your mate.  Cultivating a good environment cannot include manipulation, guilt, passive-aggressive games, or other forms of forced control.  Cultivating a good environment in your home means you recognize that you are responsible for your choices and how you live in relation to your spouse.  Are you proactively doing things to create a healthy climate for your marriage?  You cannot make you spouse say or do anything he/she doesn’t want to do.  And from time to time, your spouse will do things you don’t like.  But, if you both are committed to Christ, committed to each other, and committed to the marriage, then you will work together to create an ongoing environment that will bless both of you.
     Holding on to grudges, anger, pride, and selfishness will kill a marriage.  Recognize that you will both make mistakes from time to time, and decide now what you both need to do to cultivate and ongoing environment of forgiveness, encouragement, selflessness, care, and integrity.  Then when conflict does come, the heat won’t get turned up quite so quickly.  Are you "controlling the thermostat" together?


The Marriage-Friendly Church is available now and gives you the questions every church needs to be asking.  Available at 21st Century Christian or on

Top photo Image credit: <a href=''>wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo</a> 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

40 Days

     Today, Wednesday, March 5th is Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent.  Lent is a tradition observed by many Christians to mark the 40 days leading up to Easter weekend.  Many think of Lent as a time of self-denial; giving up bad habits or luxuries that might distract you from focusing on Christ.  But Lent isn’t just about getting rid of the bad, it can also be a time to incorporate positive actions and attitudes.
     Most people focus on personal improvement during Lent (which is not a bad thing), but this year, how about deciding with your spouse on something the two of you can do together to improve your marriage and refocus on having a Christ-centered relationship.  It might be leaving behind something that has distracted you from maximizing your marriage relationship, or it might be starting (or restarting) something that proves good for you and your spouse.
     Obviously, you need to talk with your spouse about what you’re going to do, and it will look different for every couple, but here are some possibilities for the next 40 days during Lent:

  • Pray with each other (not just for each other, but actually
    with each other)
  • Read scripture together each day
  • Make each other laugh as often as possible
  • Say encouraging things to your mate multiple times daily
  • Give up time spent watching TV or looking at the computer to talk to your spouse undistracted
  • Verbally express a specific reason you love your spouse—and give a different reason each day
  • Give your spouse a handwritten note each day
  • Hold hands, hug, kiss, or have some other type of prolonged physical contact each day (that isn’t necessarily intended to lead to sex)
  • Share at least one meal together every day (if one of you travels, use Facetime or Skype to be together as you eat)
  • Devote the time you would have given to your hobby to sharing in your spouse’s interests
  • Find a new way to connect intimately each day (not just physical intimacy, but also emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual intimacy)

Certainly, you could add so many more things to this list, but maybe this will get you thinking about what you can do together.  Just be intentional and don’t give up.
     Changing a behavior, whether you’re adding or taking away, takes discipline and effort.  But let 40 days during Lent this year lead to a lifetime of marriage improving action.  If you read this after Lent has already begun, don’t use that as an excuse not to start right now doing whatever you can together to make your marriage better.  And, if you don’t celebrate Lent, that’s okay—call it whatever you want, but 40 days of intentional, Christ-centered focus together can renew your marriage in amazing ways.