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.

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.