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.

I Just Want to Quit, Part 2

Last time we looked at the frustration of dealing with a sensitive issue in your relationship, one that you have been working on for years, many many years.

Here are a few of my thoughts on how to proactively step through the process of working it out.

Photo by Ryan Forkel

Photo by Ryan Forkel

1. Pray. Understand that at the core, this is a spiritual battle. You need to pray for your spouse every day. Even if you are convinced that they are “the problem”, pray for him. Pray for her. And not a prayer like “God, would you open his eyes to see his problem” but rather a prayer lifting her up, thanking God for the spouse given to you. You can check out these two great books by Stormie Omartian,

2. Understand God’s desire is for you to have a GREAT relationship. That’s right! He wants your marriage to be an example to the world, your neighbors, fellow workers, of what His relationship is to His church. He doesn’t want you to have a mediocre or tolerable relationship. He wants you to be in love, full of joy and passion.

3. As you are praying, God may open YOUR eyes to see something in yourself that YOU must change. At the core of a close Godly relationship is a belief that we are to selflessly love one another. Love your spouse as Christ loves you. This is sacrificial love, forsaking yourself and following Christ’s example to love unconditionally.

4. Try again to lovingly discuss the issue with your spouse. Never get angry, threaten, or force yourself. Understand that it is OUR issue. In order for your relationship to be close, you both need to work toward a resolution.

5. If you are still at an impasse, seek Godly help. Get with another couple that you respect and see if you can work together to get to the bottom of the issue and resolution.

6. Never give up. Try to picture your relationship in the future when you are no longer dealing with this issue, when you have a loving and healthy relationship filled with joy. Keep that picture in mind and work at it. Work takes time, so never give up along the way.

I am reminded of a song by Jesus Culture, One Things Remains. Click to hear it…

 

That’s Christ’s love for us. He will never fail us, He will never give up on us, and He will never run out on us. Never. Love your spouse with that kind of love, and I believe you will be able to work through ANY issue by His grace. Pray and believe, and watch the miracles that God can do in your relationship.

 

I Just Want to Quit!

Have you had a time in your relationship when things got so frustrating with a particular issue that you start telling yourself “I’m so done with this. I’m just so tired of trying to make this work.”

You feel alone, you work on the issue by yourself and your spouse is either insensitive, oblivious, or maybe even communicates they just don’t care. They brush off or turn around your efforts and say you’re the problem. You feel like they are saying “If you would just change then the issue would go away.” It seems hopeless that it will ever get resolved.

Maybe you have tried to be loving and communicate your frustration. You’ve tried the “Can we talk about this?” and “I’m not getting through to you, am I?” And how about the “You’re just not listening to me!”

The issue starts to cloud other parts of your relationship. You were once pretty close, but now the unresolved issue hangs like a black cloud over other areas of your relationship. You’ve tried so hard to make it work, yet you are still drifting apart.

A pretty dark picture, isn’t it? Pretty dark indeed.

Photo by dafna avra

Photo by dafna avra

If you’ve read our blog for any length of time, you already know that Darleen and I experienced up close and personal the dark cloud described above. We refer to it as “The Desert Years”. Our relationship had drifted apart. I would go through long periods of apathy telling myself “I just don’t care anymore.” I tried to cope by emotionally turning off and becoming distant. But inside I was frustrated to the core. I DID care and I was so frustrated that we could not work out the issues that were keeping us apart.

  • So, what do you do when you are faced with trying to work through an issue and it just never gets resolved?
  • What do you do with the feelings of anger and frustration that dominate you?
  • How do you live in the dichotomy of wanting to love your spouse and at the same time feeling isolated and so hurt?
  • How can this be worked through?

Because if it isn’t worked through, it will weaken the very foundation of your relationship.

In part 2, we’ll look at some things that you can do, by God’s grace, to work to a positive resolution.

Hey, I Need Help! Part 2

Last time we looked at how chores around the house can cause major stress in your marriage. If one spouse feels they do a majority of the chores while their partner relaxes, this can lead to resentment and anger.

So how do you divide these chores up so  no one is feeling  they are doing an unfair percentage of the work load?

First, do either or both of you need an attitude change?

Photo by Rachael Ball

Photo by Rachael Ball

Maybe you do most of the work…. But do you have expectations of your spouse that cause you to demand things your way? Have you lost your servant heart in all the resentment? Fix your attitude and get in a place where you can forgive and start a new discussion with a servant heart.

And if you suddenly realize that you are the one relaxing, then it’s time for you to think through why that is. Do you notice when things need to be done or your spouse is exhausted? Do you wish he or she was more relaxed? When you think of helping out with chores, how does that make you feel? Maybe you are OK with messiness, or maybe you just don’t want to help out. Figure it out and make a decision to be a servant to your spouse and take part in keeping your household orderly.

Now you can have a discussion to clear the air and start fresh. Listen to understand each other. Forgive if needed. Bend if that helps. Throw out any unrealistic expectations.

List all of the tasks that you both do around the house by frequency.

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Decide which tasks you each prefer to do on a regular basis. For example: One may prefer to cook. That’s great. You’re probably better at it and don’t mind doing it. Narrow the list this way.

The rest you need to creatively work at dividing up.

Maybe neither of you want to vacuum. But you can trade off every other week. One may decide to do the vacuuming if the other spouse mops. You can horse trade. I’ll do this if you do that. Try to work through the list with this give and take cooperative attitude. Be creative. The goal is to equitably share the chores.

If there are items left on the list still, you could agree to do those together. Four hands work faster!

Every family is unique. Your situation may determine who does what chore. If only one spouse is working, the other spouse will usually have more on their list. Find a way to work at sharing the work load around the house so that no one feels they are doing an unfair amount of the work.

Hey, I Need Help!

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

How many have fights and arguments about who does what chore around the house?  Who’s responsible for each chore and do you divide up responsibilities equitably?  What if you feel that you’re doing more than your fair share?

You get up at 5:30 in the morning, work an eight-hour day with an hour commute each way, arrive home, start dinner, then you clean up the dishes, get the kids ready for bed, and put in a load of laundry, get a quick shower before collapsing in bed around eleven, set the alarm and get ready to do it again tomorrow.  If your spouse gets home from work around the same time you do, eats dinner, watches the news, plays a few video games before his favorite sport on TV, then manages to arrive in bed about the same time you do and asks if you got the laundry done today because he’s out of clean socks, you would probably feel that something is wrong with this picture.

Since every family situation is unique, there is no right answer to how to divide up the chores that we do every day.  Unless you have the luxury of 24/7 maid service, most families share the common chores around the house.  We have to shop, clean, vacuum, laundry, yard work, the trash, feed the dog, pay the bills, cooking, caring for the kids, and more day to day tasks.

If there’s an imbalance, one spouse will feel resentful that they are doing more of the work.  What do you do with those feelings?

Some may internalize these feelings, play the martyr, and not voice the frustration they feel.  It will seem unfair and unloving, and cause them to be overwhelmed, exhausted, and resentful.  When that request for clean socks comes at the end of the day, it is easy to act out the resentment that has been building. A simple discussion balloons to a big fight over fairness.

Others will express their feelings, but come across as nagging. When they constantly badger their spouse, it puts a guilt trip on them.  And if the spouse does the chore, they may feel resentful about being forced into it or not having a choice of timing or method. It is not a good feeling to be forced into doing something so some  may just refuse and that provokes a fight.

Either dynamic will be a major source of conflict and separation in a marriage.

So how do you divide these chores up so that no one is feeling that they are doing an unfairly large percentage of the work load?

Next time we’ll take a look at some solutions to this age old problem.

Weekend Away

How important is it to have a scheduled weekend getaway with your spouse? Should you try to sneak a time in once a year? Would that be enough? After all, we are so busy and it’s really hard to get a full three days away. Who will take care of the kids? And what about all the projects that we need to get done? Who has the time?

Do the excuses sound familiar? Why is it that we schedule other things but time away together gets pushed into the “maybe someday” category? Let me ask you this, in the past three or four years has “someday” ever come? Or are you like so many couples who never take time away. Life and circumstances determine your schedule.

Here’s an analogy: your laptop. How long can you use it on battery alone? A full day, or maybe several hours? Before long, you need to plug it in and get recharged. It has used all of its reserve power. It is running on empty. And what if it just kept running, but very slowly. It would take forever to process. (I know; it sounds like your laptop even when fully charged!) But think about it. How long would you tolerate it running so slow? And after running slow for so long, you would begin thinking that’s normal.

Photo by franckreporter

Photo by franckreporter

I think our relationship with our spouse is like the laptop. It needs to be recharged because after a while, it starts running on empty. For many of us, we are so used to running on empty, it seems normal. It would be great if we had an ap with a meter that would pop up and say, “Danger. Danger. Relationship running on empty. Need time away. Would you like me to schedule that for you?”

I believe most importantly, you need to predetermine that time away together is a priority. And you should try to work it in every three months.

Here are some important reasons for time away together:

  • Relax – No phones, noise, laptops, emails – Take a deep breath and relax.
  • Reconnect – You’ll have time to talk. Take a long walk on the beach and talk.
  • Remember – You can share favorite memories together over dinner.
  • Rejuvenate – Focus on making your relationship fresh again.
  • Recharge – Get your energy level back up and feel renewed, ready for life.
  • Reignite – Take time to stoke the flames of passion and let things heat up.

Well, now it’s time to do something. Resolve to make it happen. Tell your wife you want to go out for dinner and get out your calendars and schedule a weekend away. Sure, there’ll be details to work out, but it will be worth it.

More From Dr. Gottman – Stonewalling

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage by John Gottman, Ph.D.  Today we’ll take a look at the fourth and final of the four negative relational interactions, Stonewalling.

When the cycle of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness continues for an extended period, one spouse may eventually just tune out and give up.  They no longer engage inthe argument, they stop trying to give an answer, and will usually just walk away.  They stop the back and forth pattern in the

By cal-retroart

By cal-retroart

critical and contemptuous cycles, and give up trying to defend themselves.  They shut down, walk away, and hide.  But in so doing they also walk away from a meaningful relationship.

Stonewalling is avoiding.  You avoid the fights, arguments, bickering, and critical hurtful comments.  You avoid tension, hostility, and anger.  Your defensiveness has found a new tactic as you seek the peace that comes from silence, but it’s at the cost of your relationship.

You avoid the conflicts, but give up hope for being close.

I remember the years of being apathetic in my relationship.  I tried many times to find a way to get closer to Darleen, but something wasn’t right.  After reading books and going to seminars and still not being able to get close, I thought to myself, “I don’t care anymore.”  There would be long periods of stonewalling when I would not engage.  I was distant, cold, and unapproachable.

I look back on these years as the desert years.  I was telling myself a lie that I didn’t care, when I really cared very much.  I wanted a closeness in our relationship but I would get frustrated and distance myself, believing the lie.

After many years, I rejected that lie, and embraced the truth that I loved Darleen very much, and I needed to act on that belief every day by praying for a healing in our relationship.  No more stonewalling.  It was a time to be fully engaged and to pursue removing the barriers that kept us apart.

I was confronted with a choice: that I could remain apathetic and we’d have another 30 years of a marriage characterized by distance and separation, or I could determine to work on it and we could spend the next 30 years as soulmates.

I chose soulmates, and by God’s grace, we are now enjoying years of closeness like we never had before.

Stonewalling kills a relationship.  It signals I would rather be away from you in silence than to be close to you working on being soulmates.

If you see a pattern of stonewalling in your relationship, I hope this has helped you see the need to work through your issues so you can enjoy a soulmate relationship.  You must be willing to take the steps to grow personally.

I truly hope that you choose to grow.