That Really Bugs Me!

Do some of the things your spouse does really bug you?  You know those little habits that are so annoying.  For the most part, you have probably developed a coping mechanism that keeps things on an even keel.  Well, most of the time things stay on an even keel.  But in reality, you are just coping.  You are burying it.  You keep yourself from saying anything because you just don’t want to have another argument over a simple little thing.  Why bring it up again and make a mess out of things.  It’s easier to ignore it and forget it.

It certainly can be handled by using the “ignore it” method.  Is that really the best way to deal with it though?  Remember, when you “bury” things, even little things, it creates an unspoken barrier between you and your spouse.  It may even be a little barrier, but nevertheless a barrier.  These small unspoken issues can dampen the spark in your relationship.  You need to be on guard and not allow the little things to grow into big things.

Let’s look at an example like the classic clothes on the floor.  To be sure, he’s gotten better over the years but for some reason he still can’t seem to remember where the clothes hamper is.  Home from work, he goes in to change and sure enough, he leaves his clothes strewn on the floor again.  So, what do you do?  If you pick them up  —  again  —  and say nothing, what will change?  If you bring it up, you feel like you’re just nagging, again.

How about a new strategy?  Remember, many of life’s issues need to be lovingly negotiated.  You need to collaborate together to come to a positive resolution.  Try to be optimistic without being overly expectant.  In other words, be hopeful that things can change, but be realistic.  Some habits take years to change.  Be willing to work together without a harsh or negative attitude.  Try opening a discussion with “Can we talk about something later when you have a little time?”  Set aside uninterrupted time to have a talk together.  Bring the subject up with a spirit of wanting to work things out so that you can enjoy a closer relationship. The goal should be that you are closer and have a better relationship, not just that he remembers to pick up his clothes.

When you have time, try to work out some possible solutions to the issue.  Let him know how you feel and why it is important to you.  Be willing to work toward a solution over time.  Usually there is no need for an immediate fix.  Things truly can get better over time.

Also, always apply the rule of loving each other, even when daily annoyances bug you.  Work at resolving your issues, but work more at committing to love and forgive one another.

Housecleaning 101

Every now and then we need to do some house cleaning.  Usually, due to life’s ever expanding busy schedule and just because things pile up, we need to stop for a few minutes and clean up.  We need to put things back where they belong, wash the dishes, mop the floor, clean off the clutter from the kitchen counters, put the gardens tool back where they go in the garage, and throw away all the mess that has been accumulating around the house.  Ah, doesn’t it feel good?!  Just cleaning up a little here and there can make the heaviness go away!  It even feels good just writing about it. 

How do we apply the House Cleaning 101 lesson to our relationships?  Do we build up messy issues that tend to clutter things up?  Do we leave unresolved sticky problems that, well, we just don’t want to get in to?  Clutter in your relationship is worse than clutter in the house.  In the house, you can just step over it.  No harm no foul, right?  OK!  OK!  Some of you ladies are not agreeing with that one.  But my point is that clutter in your relationship is way worse because it robs us of the ability to be close and intimate with someone special that you really love.  Clutter keeps you at a distance, alone and lonely. 

So what clutter do you have in your relationship?  This takes courage.  Take some time and do some self-assessment of issues that you may have buried and need to discuss.  What are some hurtful things that have happened in the past that aren’t fully resolved? 

One simple exercise is to ask your spouse to honestly let you know the three or four things that you do, maybe out of habit, laziness, insensitivity, or whatever, that really bothers her or him.  The person asking has to be vulnerable and open to hearing about themselves and they must have a willingness to try to understand the other person’s perspective.  This is not a time for self-defense, but rather a time for self-appraisal:  how do the things I do irritate you?  How do they bother you or make you upset?  I really want to understand how my actions make you feel.  Then, ask your spouse what you can do to help improve the situation.  What can you do to change?  This is a very important part of a maturing relationship, when you can exercise personal growth and work at changing those things in your life that are having a negative impact on your spouse.  By beginning to change these things, you can remove some of the relationship clutter and allow your relationship to become closer and more intimate. 

House Cleaning 101.  Try it!  You’ll like the results.        

Imagine, Part 2

In my previous blog I spoke about the need to imagine a better marriage, a closer more fulfilling relationship in which you enjoy being together and where you truly feel like best friends.  How is that possible?  How do you get close to each other when there are so many nagging issues making you so annoyed you could just spit?  How many times have I told him about…?  I wish she would just… and get over it already?  Why does she have to keep nagging and nagging about the same old things?  Why don’t we ever just hug and cuddle like we used to?  It seems that we are so busy and we never get enough time together.  Why does it seem like we are drifting apart?

Why indeed.  Relationship Drift is seldom caused by one or two incidents.  It develops over a long period of time, with many of the same incidents happening over and over again.  The painful hurts caused by words spoken in anger or insults and insensitivity add up into a heaping pile of pain that now you just ignore and bury.  This leads to a dull numb lifeless relationship.  Too much pain and too many issues have broken your relationship apart so that a cool distance now dominates your day to day interaction.  Moments of intimacy are few and far between and usually accented by another fight or disagreement.   If this sounds like your relationship with your spouse, then you have choices to make.  “Really?  I have choices?”  Yes, you do have choices.

First Choice:  Accept the status quo and live with a lifeless loveless relationship that will eventually get worse.  Keep in mind that doing doing nothing rarely results in the relationship getting better.  This is a fatalistic approach that builds on the lie that “it will never change”.  Have you ever heard that lie?  Maybe you’ve spoken that lie to yourself in the past.  Maybe you’re still speaking that lie to yourself even now.  During these moments when we listen to the lie, we usually drop into apathy, telling ourselves that it’s really bad and it will never change, but I don’t care anymore.  Or we attack our spouse to force them to change or else.  Attacking and apathy are not recommended solutions.

 Second Choice:  This is a tough one.  It requires that you sooth yourself and calm yourself down.   Visualize a better relationship.  Imagine a closeness that approaches a nine or nine and a half on a scale of ten.  Now, the next two steps are really tough.  First, work every day at loving and accepting your spouse.  See the positive and verbally relate your appreciation daily.  Surely the things that annoy you won’t immediately go away, but purpose to focus on the positive.  Second, reflect on what you can change about yourself that will make the relationship better.  Focus on personal growth.  What can I do to be a better husband or better wife?  Finally, work at these two EVERY DAY.  Be patient.  Don’t expect immediate change.  Be thankful for any progress.  Love unconditionally. 

 Yes, you can imagine it if you try.

The Importance of Friends

A while ago we took a trip to the beach with friends for a few days and I was deciding which games to bring to pass the time since it looked like there would be rain.  That led me to ponder how much fun we were likely to have no matter what we did!   We went with 2 of the couples we meet with weekly.  One of the husbands, a teacher,  celebrated the last day of the school year.  The rest of us were just happy to get away from the daily grind for a while.

I am so thankful for the couples we meet with weekly.  We talk a lot on this blog about communication between husband and wife, about selfless service, listening and meeting needs.  That is all so essential for a good relationship.  But have you ever thought about how important it is to have other like-minded committed couples that you know well, and who know you well too?  They can add so much to our lives that we’d miss without them.

It takes time to develop the closeness I’m talking about but it is worth it.  Being a good friend will go a long way towards building  the trust needed  to have a relationship where all couples can share openly.  We all tend to open up at different rates depending on our background, but a good friend will be patient.

The benefits go both ways when couples relate on a deeper level.

Of course there are the fun times like we had.  Laughing and joking around lower our stress levels.  Often, playing together will open us up for sharing of trials and struggles, and problem solving together.

Sometimes we include families and other friends.  Then we get to see our friends relating to their loved ones, deepening our knowledge of them.  We begin to see creative and amazing ways they relate to their family; things we may want to adopt for ourselves to improve.  In the process we will notice hurtful or destructive habits and behaviors also.  If our relationship is close we can see those blind spots, point them out gently, and share ideas about what might work better.

And most importantly, we will know how to specifically pray for our friends.  We’ll be able to uphold them in their struggles and help in times of need.  In turn, they will do the same for us!  Our marriages will be improved and our lives enriched in the way that only serving others can do.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.       Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

It Only Takes 5 Minutes

Sometimes when time is short we tend to focus on the urgent tasks and not on our loved ones.  But being busy isn’t an excuse to ignore our spouse.  He or she is just as important to us in busy times and really, when aren’t we busy?  If it is a chronic state for you, then it is crucial for you to think of some easy  and quick ways to show  your spouse you cherish him!

Here are some fun things you can do:

  • Going to the grocery today?  Walk through the bakery section to pick up a cupcake, a chocolate éclair, or something else your spouse likes. Share it after the kids go down.  Make sure to tell him why he’s getting treated.
  • When he is at the desk doing the bills give him a quick neck rub because you appreciate his efforts.
  • Make a big sign (the bigger the better) and hang it up in front of where he parks his car at home.  Say something endearing, like you’re glad he’s home.
  • Text him or leave a voice message during the day saying how you miss him.
  • Send him a love note in the mail to his place of employment.  Your perfume on the envelope is good!
  • Make a coupon for something he really likes, a massage, back itching, favorite dinner, or intimate activities. You know what he likes!  Be creative, but no expiration date…

None of these things take more than 5 minutes, yet they will speak volumes about your love and affection.  The fact that you took time and effort to think of your spouse during your busy day will confirm to him that he is important to you and everyone craves that feeling of being cherished.

So put your spouse on your task list and make him an “A” priority!

Imagine

Often song writers are able to capture the essence of some of life’s most perplexing issues.  In a few simple lyrics they can capture the complexity of life, touch our hearts, and move our souls.  I’ll date myself here, but one such songwriter that accomplished this mystical feat was none other than John Lennon of the Beatles.  He wrote a dreamy, idyllic tale of how peaceful life could be in his song Imagine, written in 1971.  He envisioned a utopian world at peace with no hunger or war, nothing to kill or die for; a fanciful happy world where mankind lives with neither territorial boundaries nor possessions.  He admits that he’s a dreamer and invites us to dream with him.  (A footnote here for my purest brethren – He also wanted us to imagine no heaven or hell, something with which I disagree.)

In a world where the only breaking news is bad news and where critical comments dominate our dialogue, we are often caught up in the negative onslaught that bombards our lives every day.  A local town in the Midwest has actually passed a law to fine people for swearing in public because public swearing reached epidemic levels.

Can you imagine a world less negative?  Can you imagine a marriage less negative?

I believe that we need to have a vision for a better marriage.  If you are like most couples, your relationship with your spouse is, to one degree or another, less than perfect.  To be honest, some of you would probably admit that your marriage has hit a few bumps along the way.  And some may further admit that the bumps are so severe that you feel like you’re driving in the ditch.  Still others just feel like giving up.

Here’s where I need all of you to take a step of faith.  Take a step and imagine.  Open your mind and your heart to see a better marriage, to see a closer more fulfilling relationship.  Open up to seeing yourselves as best friends and lovers.  Envision a time when your communication with each other is effortless.  He really does understand you and takes time to hear you and even empathizes with your feelings.  You both have found a way to quickly forgive when wrongs are done and hurtful words are spoken.  There is a daily joy of being together because you know just how to build each other up and encourage each other.  Words of praise are easily spoken; hurts and fears are shared with love and respect.  You have a deep desire to enjoy a passionate intimate relationship and you long to share the joy of holding each other close.  Imagine and have a vision for a marriage that improves and grows better every day.

Now for the reality check.  Don’t get lost in the daydream.  Imagine where your marriage can be and take responsibility each day to do what you can do to make that dream a reality.  Yes!  Do what you can do and day by day you can transform your marriage into what you imagined it to be.

Just What the Doctor Ordered, Part 2

Last time we looked into the prescription for a superb marriage as presented by Ed Wheat, M.D. in his book Love Life For Every Married Couple.  His prescription calls for four therapeutic activities to enhance your relationship with your spouse and get the B.  E.  S.  T.  results.  Here they are:

Blessing, Edifying, Sharing,    Touching.

 

Let take a look at the last two, again with my editorial comments:

  • Sharing – We are reminded here that we are to share our lives.  A growing thriving relationship is built up when we do things together.  We can share our time, our interests, and hobbies.  We also should share our deepest concerns and fears.  Our spouse should be our closest friend and confidant, someone who knows deeply our innermost emotional, physical and spiritual needs and desires.  This level of intimacy only happens in an open and honest relationship that strives for ways to selflessly serve one another.  Why is selfless serving so important?  If your relationship is built upon each partner trying to get his or her needs met in a selfish demand context, then the very nature of sharing will be based upon “What can I get out of this?”  But when we build our relationship around serving one another, then our shared experiences can be enriched by knowing that our spouse is lovingly seeking to serve us.  By contrast, a dysfunctional relationship will have each spouse pursuing self-interests at the expense of a shared context.  This is what can be referred to as the “roommate relationship.”  You share the same living space you just don’t share your lives.
  • Touching – Physical touch is a cornerstone need for every human being.  We all long for the emotional connection of touch.  A gentle touch of the hand says, without a word, that we care.  We can communicate comfort, calm fears, and soothe pain.  A superb marriage will have daily doses of comforting and heartwarming non-sexual touch.  Holding hands while on a walk.  A gentle neck rub.  A soft touch of the cheek before a good morning kiss.  These forms of touch are especially important to women who often feel that men only touch in a sexual context.  Women generally appreciate the simple cuddling, snuggling, and soft gentle touches.  These touches warm the heart and emotions.  And when we are emotionally open and satisfied, we can enjoy the beauty of the more intimate touching between spouses.  Be generous with your touches.  This is clearly the most intimate way of having a shared life.  The dysfunctional couple will withhold touching as a sort of blackmail to get what they want driving a wedge into the relationship.  Selfishness is usually the culprit behind withholding physical touch.  Touch selflessly and generously and you will enjoy a deep and truly blessed relationship.

The B  E  S  T  prescription:   Blessing – Edifying  –  Sharing  –  Touching!  The good doctor has spoken.