Hugging for Connection

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

How important is a hug? How often do you hug? How long does your hug last? Are you comfortable while hugging?

So, what’s all the fuss over a hug? We give hugs all the time, right? When family comes over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, we automatically give them each a hug and a warm greeting. When we meet a friend for coffee we exchange a quick hug. When the grandkids come over, everyone gets a hug. Even when the guys get together for a football game they often exchange a high five and a quick hug. Guys are careful though with their hugs. Just a one arm hug. Don’t want to get too close or too long. No lingering hug here.

Then there are the hugs that are full of emotion. The hug of sympathy at a funeral that lingers for several long moments, a hug that says “I am so sorry for your loss”.

Have you experienced the “stiff as a board” hug? You know the one. You reach out to hug a relative who is mad at you for something and you get the cold, stiff, lifeless embrace that says “I’m still mad at you, but I have to give some kind of hug, so this is all you get”.

Isn’t it amazing that this one customary act of giving a hug can say so much?

So how often do you and your spouse hug? Think about this for a few minutes. How do you hug? Is it quick and generally lifeless, or is it lingering and warm and comfortable?

In the book, Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, we are enlightened to the many nuances of hugging. He even goes into detail about “Hugging till Relaxed” in chapter six of his book. He speaks at great length about hugging as a form of connection and he asks his patients to practice hugging for extended periods of time. The object is to hug until you can relax in a close embrace with your spouse for an extended period. Let your energy and your body tension relax as you hold one another. Close your eyes and truly try to “feel” your spouse while hugging each other.

Some will find this exercise extremely difficult. They cannot be that close to their spouse without feeling tension and dissonance, so they break off hugging or stiffen up and refuse to relax. Dr. Schnarch sees that as an expression of the underlying emotional distance in their relationship. The tension is revealed in the inability to stay close in a simple extended hug.

So, go ahead and give this a try. Hug each other. Hold on and relax together. If it is difficult and you find yourself backing away, ask yourself why. Try to uncover what may be hidden and try to open up with your spouse and share what you’re feeling. Work at getting close and reconnecting.

A great lingering and relaxed hug can convey love, warmth, and acceptance. It can say that I am comfortable with you. I enjoy being close to you. I feel secure in your arms.

Hugging – what a great idea.

Thankfulness

Photo by monmart

Photo by monmart

This week we celebrate the annual tradition of Thanksgiving Day. We gather with family and friends and partake of far too many calories in the finest turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, and of course pies and other treats. We enjoy each other’s company and engage in lively dinner time chats.

I am reminded during these times to be thankful for the wonderful blessing I have been given in my wife, Darleen. Come to think about it, each day has something to be thankful for. Here are just a few of the many things that come to mind:

Darleen has been a wonderful wife for the past 40 years. I often call her my “Proverbs 31” wife. She is thoughtful, kind, and considerate. She does so many special things for me and around the house I can hardly begin to count. She is an amazing cook and can make anything from an elaborate Christmas dinner to a simple backyard BBQ. She decorates the house for special occasions and keeps our home neat and clean for when guests are over. She is a thrifty shopper always on the lookout for bargains and specials. She is patient and long-suffering (I added this because she mostly needs patience for me. I am often slow on the uptake with tasks around the house that need to be done.)

Oh yes, she’s my live-in nurse, on duty twenty-four hours a day. I once got a deep cut on my finger, and passed out after seeing my blood. I hit my head and cut open my chin as I fell over. Yes, I know, it sounds funny now, but I could have bled to death had my nurse not been there to take care of Mr. Wimpy. Now you see why I have a lot to be thankful for.

Photo by Armin Hanisch

Photo by Armin Hanisch

She has not only been a fantastic mother to our three children, but now she has the role of best Grandma Bear ever. Just the other night, the evening before Thanksgiving Day when we had a house full of family and friends coming over for dinner, she was up until 11:30 making doll house furniture for a doll house she bought for our granddaughters. She hand-crafted elegant beds preparing the doll house for the next day when our granddaughter was coming over. Wow!  What a woman I have been given. And she has made a point to make a quilt for each grandchild when they get to two years old, each with a special verse sewn in to the corner.

In Proverbs 18:22 it says,

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing”.

My special wife. Truly a good thing. I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with such a wonderful soulmate, best friend and lover. She is truly the most special gift in my life and I love her now more than ever.

So, to all you men out there, take some time and think about your wife and what you are thankful for, and then tell her, over and over. Be thankful for the blessing God has given to you.

Love is an Action Verb

This week our Marriage Ministry at church began a series by Andy Stanley called Staying In Love. He says falling in love is the easy part, because you only need a pulse. But staying in love requires much more.

Our culture allows for an easy out if a relationship has struggles and he explains many have a very low pain threshold when it comes to working through the inevitable relationship struggles all couples face. Many end a relationship because they just don’t get along anymore. Others say they have lost their loving feelings.

Andy points out love starts as a feeling, but later should become an action. That is, love should be a verb and not a noun. As a noun, falling IN LOVE, is often based on chemistry, beauty, and the best behavior people maintain during the dating phase.

But Andy reminds us love is an action verb and to love one another as Christ loved the church.

  • We need to actively seek HOW to love our spouse.
  • We need to selflessly LOVE them.

And when we do, we build the core of a truly remarkable relationship. We are giving to one another and the very act of giving creates an atmosphere for love to be returned.

Photo by Joanna Kopik

Photo by Joanna Kopik

I have often used this illustration: Imagine that you are each a plant, with a unique need for certain ingredients to survive. You can check out my previous blog, “Water Often.” People need affirmation, care, help, understanding, and physical love just as plants need soil, water, nutrients, and sunlight. If you do not give these ingredients in the right quantity, your spouse cannot flourish and will die just like a deprived plant. You are the only one who can give these ingredients to your spouse. He depends on you to love and nurture him in his unique way.

The message is this: pay careful attention to what your spouse needs and lovingly supply their needs. Become a student of what your spouse needs to grow and flourish.

Love in action requires us to do the things that demonstrate our love. Expressing love to your spouse verbally may be good, and even needed. It is important to tell your spouse that you do indeed love them. “Honey, I love you”.

But if the words are never followed by action, the words become meaningless and hollow. So not only should we tell our spouse we love them, we must also selflessly do the things that show them. Ask them what things you could do on a regular basis to show them your love, and actively work at giving to them the very things that demonstrate love.

In this case, helping them turn green is a loving thing!

I Forgive You

Photo by Kinga

Photo by Kinga

When we first met our spouse, we dated for a season of time. For most of us, dating was an exhilarating time filled with fun and excitement, surprises, happy moments, and getting to know each other. We were each at our best. We were kind, thoughtful and considerate. Guys remembered to be on their best behavior and the ladies took that extra time to be were pleasant and accepting, even if he did do a stupid thing that made you cringe for the tenth time.

We made allowances for each other and maintained a positive demeanor. We smiled and maybe even laughed at the failings we endured because, well, we were dating. We overlooked those “slight flaws” and didn’t make a big deal about it.

Do you remember those days?

And then we got married. The joy we experienced in dating continued for a while until we began to settle in to life. The life long journey of togetherness. Things that we used to overlook got elevated to the major leagues. We no longer laugh at the “funny little way he does that” because now it’s not so funny. How many times do you have to ask that they just stop doing that? When will they realize what they are doing is really hurtful? It’s just not funny anymore.

In some relationships it’s much more than a few inconsiderate actions every now and then.

There’s been a major violation that has rocked the core of your relationship. Some thoughtless action hurt you so deeply that you’ve withdrawn from your spouse and you can no longer even talk about it. You have been truly hurt and it seems they’ll never understand how much pain you are in, how it cuts you so deeply that you are numb and even deeply depressed.

Adding further to your dilemma, your spouse admits he was wrong. He’s expressed to you how sorry he is for hurting you. Yet the pain and memory of what he did just won’t go away. It’s hard to move on when you have been hurt so deeply. In your mind you know that he feels badly about what he did or said, but you just can’t seem to get over the pain. It remains an open wound, still raw and bleeding.

To begin to heal, you need to make a choice. An admittedly difficult choice to begin a journey of forgiveness and to find the strength and courage to say those three words, “I forgive you.” And you’ll need to say it in your heart over and over until, by the grace of God, you begin to experience the freedom of letting go of the hurt. I believe that your relationship can begin the journey of restoration once you make the choice to truly forgive as you would want others to forgive you. Not an easy journey of personal growth, but one that God promises to walk with us.

In Our Lord’s Prayer that we know so well, it says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Ask God to open your heart to forgive and you can begin restoring your relationship so that you can return to the joy you once knew.

It’s Time to Be Positive

Remember the story of Chicken Little who ran around wailing that the sky was falling?And Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore who always sees things from a pessimistic perspective. Poor Eeyore, the glass was always half empty and the grass was greener in someone else’s yard.

Here’s a personal growth lesson – work on you! It’s amazing that we can come up with all sorts of advice that would make our spouse a better person. If only they would change this, learn to say things differently, dress better, or if they would just have some manners! Wow, life could be so much easier. It’s easy to see what others could change.

Instead, we need to be better at seeing what we can change in ourselves to improve our relationship with our spouse.

Let me ask you this: Have you arrived? Or are you a work in progress? Hopefully you chose the second and see there are things YOU need to change to improve your relationship. Take responsibility for those things right now. Don’t wait until “they” get “their” stuff together. You get your stuff together! Work on you. Be positive. Change takes time but you can make small incremental positive steps forward .

Do you need some ideas of what to work on? That’s really simple. ASK! That’s it. Ask

Photo by Lorinc Nyitrai

Photo by Lorinc Nyitrai

your spouse this question,

“Honey, what are a few things that I can work on to show you I love you?”

Then add this,

“No, really, I would like to know because I want to work at those things you need from me to help us have a closer relationship.”

She will probably be skeptical because she’s been telling you for years. But, be positive. Even if she has a “Yeah, right, you’re going to work on it” attitude. Commit to work on changing YOU.

For example, your wife may need a “break time.” Away from kids, chores, dishes and floors. So, plan ahead and give her a note saying you will watch the kids while she has the day with friends, shopping, or whatever she’d like. One husband packed her suitcase, checked  her into a hotel room, said good night, and left. He told her he wanted her to have some alone time to relax, read, and just take a break. She loved it.

Find out what would make your wife feel loved and just do it!

Photo by  Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Photo by
Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Here’s another example: your husband may really appreciate it you would take the lead in the bedroom some time. For some of you ladies, that may be a stretch. Just go for it. You know what he likes! Make him feel special. Be positive and see what a wonderful response you get.

And finally, we all need to remember the story of the Little Engine that said over and over again, “I think I can, I think I can”. Work on those things in you that will have a positive impact on your relationship and see what happens.

Yes, You Need Share

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Do you remember when you were dating? The two of you could talk for hours. You would laugh and share stories. You would talk about plans and goals. You would share your emotions and feelings and never doubted you were being heard. You felt what you said really mattered and you were taken seriously. If you shared a fear or doubt, it was met with understanding, kindness and sensitivity. You didn’t feel ignored or belittled. You were comfortable sharing. And so you talked, shared, laughed and played. Life was good.

And then you got married….

Now you talk, sometimes. It’s about the rudimentary things of life: the chores, bills, the busy schedule and issues with the kids, the car needs an oil change, grass needs to be mowed, and who gets the house ready for Saturday because company’s coming.

You know. Life.

What happened to the times of sharing together? Did the busyness of life rob you of the closeness you used to experience? Can you ever get that closeness back?

Unfortunately we live in a time of hyper-paced everything. We text, email, blog, and every now and then we actually call and talk to someone. But not for long. Brief calls are almost mandatory because we get five texts while on the phone call. The quality of our relationships suffers because we are so busy. We don’t invest the time necessary to nurture the connection needed for us to experience a truly soul-mate relationship.

How we spend our time is a choice. We can and should carefully manage how we invest our time. We need to choose to allocate time to the most important relationship we have and that’s our relationship with our spouse. If it is deprived of the necessary time, it will suffer and over time it will die.

Stop right now and evaluate how much quality time you spend with your spouse, one on one. No kids, phones, parties, work; just one on one with your spouse.

Are you afraid of that? A one on one alone time may just lead to a fight. That says something, doesn’t it? And some of you would welcome the time as a refreshing oasis that would bring back memories of your times together.

Decide right now to set aside time each week to have quality time together. Share what you are feeling and thinking with each other. Open your heart and lives, your hopes and dreams. Connect as you share and don’t be afraid of opening up with each other.

Fun Times Together

Life is so busy sometimes we forget to just take time to have fun together. It’s Saturday morning and you both have the day off, but you have a mental list of all the chores around the house that need to be done. If there’s nothing too urgent though, no leaking pipes or broken refrigerator needing immediate attention, then take the day off and have some fun. Here are a few ideas for a fun day off together.

Photo by Izabela Keppler

Photo by Izabela Keppler

You can take the day and browse at a few garage sales if you’re the kind of couple who likes hunting for deals. Darleen and I regularly stop this time of year at garage sales. She looks for material to make the next quilt and I look for a DVD’s I don’t already have. And we are always checking out things for the grandkids and every now and then will run across a prize. Just this past weekend we saw a wood chipper for sale and called our son Jim. It was a 5 horse power model that ran great and it was only $45. Jim said “Get it!” We left a deposit and Jim stopped by later and picked it up. I sure he’s been chipping all weekend. We’ve found toys, clothes, cast iron skillets, and furniture, you name it. Garage sales can be a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

Photo by Cheryl Scott

Photo by Cheryl Scott

If you have kids, you can take a hike. For sure, just take a hike. Find a local park, river, mountain, or waterfront and go for a hike together. Pick up a few things for a quick lunch on the trail. Just pack up and go. Be adventurous and have some fun.

How about a drive to local waterfall? That would be fun. If it’s a warm day, you can kick off your shoes and take a walk in the stream. If there’s a flat spot in the water, you can skip some rocks. Just make a fun day of it. Stop for some ice cream on the way home.

Or you can take along a book you’ve been meaning to read and take turns watching the kids. When it’s not your turn to keep an eye on the kids, you can sit back and relax and read a few chapters while enjoying an afternoon in a park you haven’t been to before.

If you have the kids taken care of for the day, you can go out to lunch together and talk about what you appreciate most about each other.

Every now and then it is OK to have a Fun Day. No chores, no lists, no pressure, and no expectations. Just a day to kick back and enjoy each other.

Try it, you’ll like it.