Viva la Difference!

When they got married, they thought it was wonderful having so much in common.  They liked the same movies and music, and went to the same church. They both liked the Seahawks, and thought baseball was slow and boring.  They liked the same coffee and thought it was fantastic they liked each other’s friends. She laughed at his jokes and he told her all the time she was beautiful.  Life was great.  They had so much in common.

But now they’ve been married for six years and see so many differences.  He stays up late and sleeps in till lunchtime.  She can’t stay up past ten and gets up every morning, six sharp.  He likes a cold beer and she won’t drink anything stronger than lemonade.  He can wear the same clothes for a week and she can’t stand wearing anything twice.  He’s OK with a lot of things lying around and she is Miss Neat and Orderly.

How did it happen that when they got married, they didn’t see all the differences between them?

Many times, when we are “IN LOVE” we see only the things we share in common and overlook the differences.  We have grace for (or overlook) the differences in each other.  We tend not to notice he doesn’t pick anything up or she is always cleaning something.

Photo by Katia Grimmer-Laversanne

But keep this in mind:  Many couples marry someone who is their opposite.  He is loud, boisterous, and the life of the party and she is quiet, thoughtful, and reserved.  He is careless with spending and she is frugal, and tracks bills and expenses.  He likes camping and being in the outdoors, and she likes the kind of camping that looks a just like a condo.

Some of you have probably heard the expression “viva la difference” which means it is good that there is a difference between two people, especially  between a man and a woman.  The difference is good.  Where he is weak, she is probably strong.  He’s not good at balancing the checkbook but she is.  He can’t even open a can of beans and you’re Martha Stewart in the kitchen.  You can’t fix the leaky faucet and he’s Mister Handyman on steroids.

Yes!  Your differences can be a blessing.

Celebrate your differences and don’t look at them as a liability but rather an asset.

Together you accomplish more.

Photo by Otávio Brito

And where your differences cause conflict, work at loving compromise.  For example, you may not like camping, but he enjoys the outdoors.  Make a special effort to be accommodating.  Show your love by stretching and do those things out of your norm.  It will communicate love and a willingness to share your lives together.

Both of you should be willing to say, “Viva la Difference!”

Memories of the Way We Were

  • What are some of your favorite memories with your spouse?
    • Do you often revisit them together?
      • Do you savor them fondly?
        • Do you ever say, “I remember when…?”

Photo by Gabriel Craciun

Good memories can be the glue to hold us together.  During a struggle or impasse in our relationship, cherished memories can provide a cooling place of respite, an oasis of sorts.  As we remember the happy times of closeness and connection, we also remember how we felt loved and appreciated and how we in turn loved.

Good memories give hope and provide a safe harbor in a troublesome storm.

Some of you may remember the 1973 movie “The Way We Were” with Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand.  It was a sad chronicle of a troubled young couple, from infatuation, courtship, marriage and unfortunately, final separation.  The theme song, sung by Barbra Streisand, is very poignant:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju29bXJDHDk

In the song, she remembers

“the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave one another.”

She is reflecting on the happy times in their relationship, when they laughed and smiled together.  The times were easy and life wasn’t complicated.  They had few troubles and worries and their relationship wasn’t torn by changing desires and directions.  And she asks,

“Can it be that it was so simple then?”

Most of our relationships do start out simple.  We are in love.  You love me and I love you. Simple.  No children, no big financial issues, no career crisis.  Just simple.

And then life happens.

We get married, have a few kids, get into debt.  We find that we don’t have enough time to talk.  No date nights.  No weekends away.  No time for each other.  And we drift.  Then we look back to those happy memories.  Happy times.  The laughter.  And so the song ends with,

“So it’s the laughter, We will remember,

The way we were, The way we were.”

Here are my thoughts on memories.  Not only should you cherish them and hold them dear, but you should revisit them often.  Turn off the TV, laptop, and  phones and set aside a snuggle time together.  Put on a few candles and some soft background music.  Cuddle up and one of you can begin to share some of your favorite memories together.  The special weekend away a few years ago when Grandma had the kids.  Your first date.  Your first kiss.  Each of you share and take time to savor the memories.  Tell your spouse why each memory was so special for you.

And then make it a point to make new memories you can add to your library of memories.

They are like deposits to a bank account that you can withdraw anytime you need some hope in the midst of a struggle, or just a smile and a laugh together.

Memories of “The Way We Were!”

A New Year

Photo by Shondra Hull

Photo by Shondra Hull

Can it be? 2016 is almost over! It’s amazing to me how fast each year goes by. And many of us engage in the practice of making a list of what we want to get done in the next year. The “Resolutions” list.

Admit it! You’ve done it. Some of you even write them down. You cross off a few. And by February you’ve lost the list.

Some of you have a mental list. That’s easier to dispose of since you don’t even have to lose it. You can just quietly forget about it.

OK, I’m be being a little hard on you. Actually, I’m being hard on me. I have done this over and over. My resolving is a habit. But, to be fair, I have done some of what I resolved. But some things keep showing up, year after year. Ah, some day, I will have the old things done and will start the new year with a fresh list.

Optimism is what we need. An optimistic view. We can do this. Yes, we can!

So, this year, let me help you with a basic ready-made

Resolutions List for My Marriage

I Resolve to Love my spouse, not just in word but in action.

  1. I will look for ways to demonstrate my love to my spouse.
  2. I will actively seek what tangible acts I can do to show my love.
  3. I will make a point of saying “I love You” every day.

I hereby RESOLVE to love my spouse.

I Resolve to Forgive my spouse.

  1. Let this be the year I truly let go of anything I am harboring against my spouse.
  2. I will forgive my spouse.
  3. I will just “Let it go.”
  4. I will pray for God to give me the grace to forgive as I have been forgiven.

I hereby RESOLVE to forgive my spouse.

I Resolve to take time with my spouse.

  1. I will spend quality time with my spouse each week.
  2. I will get a babysitter if needed to get alone time with my spouse.
  3. I will not allow my time with my spouse to be second, third, or fourth on my priority list.
  4. My time with my spouse will be number one.
  5. I will plan a weekend away once every three months.
  6. I will plan a week away once this year.

I hereby RESOLVE to spend time with my spouse.

I Resolve to work on my marriage.

  1. I will make my marriage a priority.
  2. I will work on better communication.
  3. I will read a book or two on marriage.
  4. I will attend a marriage seminar.
  5. I will make every effort to make my marriage better this year than last.

I hereby RESOLVE to work on my marriage.

Photo by Roger Kirby

Photo by Roger Kirby

That’s a great start!

Prayerfully consider the above list and modify if you must, but do RESOLVE to get closer to the wonderful spouse the Lord has given you.

Christmas Time Again

image by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski

image by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski

What a wonderful time of year when the sights and sounds of Christmas are everywhere. Trees are decorated with beautiful lights, the nativity is placed for all to see, familiar songs play in the background every place you visit. Christmas cards are sent and received with letters updating us on how other families are doing. Gifts are wrapped and ready to give. The grandkids are all excited about coming over to visit. The plans for dinner are made and the house has the familiar decorations here and there. Ah, what a wonderful time of the year.

At this time of year, we are reminded about peace and goodwill to all which brings back a particular memory for me. In high school one year, I was privileged to get the part of Scrooge in the play “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

What a wonderful story of a man who lived his life in pain and total lack of peace and joy, consumed by greed and self-interest. He was filled with regrets and despair. He was isolated and separated from his world. The name Ebenezer Scrooge has become synonymous with selfishness and greed.

A sad tale in one sense. On the one hand he had everything. Rich and wealthy, he could have anything he wanted. Money was no object. And yet, he had nothing. His life was empty. He did not open his heart to relationships. He closed himself off and walled himself in. He was a bitter and angry man who lacked compassion and understanding.

A sad broken man.

But this is also a story of redemption. A story about how this sad lonely man chose to turn from his despicable ways and be transformed. He got a glimpse into his past life to reflect on how things were before he hardened his heart. He could see he did at one time have joy in his life. He also had a glimpse into his present life, a life filled with selfishness, greed and a total lack of compassion. Finally, he was allowed to look into the future. A bleak, dismal, and dark future.

And then he made a choice.

“I can choose this day to change. I can choose to open my heart.”

Scrooge was redeemed. He was filled with joy, compassion, and love for others.

Photo by G-Man

Photo by G-Man

My prayer for each of you this Christmas, is for you to open your heart to the wonderful spouse the Lord gave you. Or if you are in a strained relationship with someone in your family, then open your heart to them. Seek forgiveness, restoration, and healing. And open your heart to your friends. Seek to heal the hurts of the past and let go of the bits of “Scrooge” in you.

And then we can all say with joy the last lines in the play,

             “God Bless us, Every One!”

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!