More on Daily Doses of Selfless Serving

Everyone wants to have a great marriage. When dating, couples will often think “How can our relationship be anything but perfect? We are so in love and we have no problems.” So what happens? Why is the illusion of uninterrupted bliss destroyed?

There is a component in most dating relationships that is unique. While dating, we tend to be other centered. We are generally more thoughtful, kind, and considerate. We go out of our way to do special things for each other. We are less inclined to make a big problem and have a long discussion over minor disagreements. We tend to see the best in each other. We are more forgiving and less apt to hold a grudge. There is a high degree of serving and loving each other selflessly.

What happens to relationships over time? Why does the euphoria of dating disappear to be replaced by the doldrums of daily life? Quite simply, for many couples, making their spouse a priority is replaced with other priorities.

Here’s how to keep the love alive and growing. Get in the habit; yes make it a habit, of doing kind selfless acts of service for your spouse. This can be accomplished in word and deed.

Praise and compliments should be the ordinary.

“Thank you, honey. That was a wonderful dinner. You’re such a good cook.”   or…

“Thanks so much for fixing that. It really helps me.”

The daily things we do for each other are often taken for granted. Verbalize your appreciation. Express your thankfulness with a hug and a kiss. Look for opportunities to verbalize your awareness that your spouse has done something for which you are thankful.

Selfless acts of service can take many forms. Never underestimate the power of a neck or foot rub. After a long day at work, if your spouse has to bring home some of that day’s work and is hunched over the computer long after dinner, sneak up behind him/her and begin a five or ten minute neck and shoulder message. Whisper something endearing about how his/her efforts every day are really appreciated.

And since I am a firm believer in reciprocity, the thoughtful selfless spouse can offer a relaxing foot massage to the wife who has been on her feet all day at work or taking care of the kids and shopping and cleaning. These simple deeds profoundly nourish the relationship. They offer daily doses of love.

You need to be the expert on your spouse. What acts of service or words of affirmation are most meaningful to them? ASK them and make a habit of making these a priority in your day.  Each day, find ways to serve your spouse. Nurture your love daily and before long it will seem like your still dating.

A Time For Everything

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailYou will find quite a list concerning time in Ecclesiastes 3. Take a few minutes to read it.

Consider these:

A time to Heal
A time to Build up
A time to Laugh
A time to Dance
A time to Plant
A time to Embrace
A time to Keep
A time to Mend
A time to be Silent
A time to Speak
A time to Love

 

How have you been using your time in relationship to your marriage? For many of us our relationship with our spouse gets the left overs.

We get it that we have to go to work and pay the bills and do the laundry and take care of the kids and fix the broken things around the house and mow the lawn and… and… and… The list has no end. There is always another item to add to the over-filled list.

Somehow, we accomplish so much but we are exhausted. Our spouse is exhausted. And when we find a few minutes here and there to give, we are emotionally empty and have little left for the most important person in our life. Leftovers!

How does this happen?

In Ephesians 3 :15-16 we are admonished to

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.

Sometimes we let others set our priorities for how we spend our time. Begin to make the most of your time by setting your own priorities and limits. If you are pulled in many directions by your boss, or friends, ex, children, and extended family, then take time to consider your priorities and honestly assess how much quality time you are spending together with your spouse. Maybe you could set some limits so that your spouse gets more than just the leftovers. Be intentional with your use of time.

So, what about it? Want a better relationship? Look at the next three or four weeks and plan what days and times you will set aside for each other. Then, and this can be a little tough, especially for the hyper busy among us, set aside a weekend away together. No kids, no phones, no laptops, no leftovers. A full meal deal, so to speak!

Yes, a real getaway!  And here’s your   To Do List:

♥  a time to laugh

Photo by John Nyberg♥  a time to build up

♥  a time to dance

♥  a time to embrace

♥  a time to love

Frustration Fatigue

What about it? Have you ever been frustrated with your spouse about a particular issue that just keeps coming up over and over? Have you had prolonged periods of dialogue (arguing) that end with you telling yourself,

“That’s it! I’ve had it. I am so done talking about this. I’ll not say another word. It’s no use. Nothing’s going to change. Just forget about it.”

You vow that’s the last time you’ll bring it up because it’s futile. You resolve to yourself that you just don’t care.

“That’s it! I just don’t care.”

An apathetic spirit becomes your “safe place”. You tell yourself you don’t care and at least for a while, your feelings are dulled. If you don’t care, there is nothing to be anxious about, nothing to work through. Nothing to frustrate you again…..

The “apathy coping mechanism” is a strategy employed by many faced with relational impasses. We use it to shield ourselves from the hurt of dealing with a nagging problem with our spouse. It’s similar to putting medication on an open wound to numb the pain, but ignoring the cause of the wound. We self-medicate with apathy to avoid the underlying issues that are causing the pain.

So how do we deal with a nagging issue that just seems impossible to resolve?

Here are several steps you can take to begin the journey to resolution:

  1. Pray – Understand that an ongoing problem decreases the closeness you experience as a couple. Separation is a spiritual issue. You need to take the matter to God in prayer. Ask for wisdom and understanding. Ask for His direction.
  2. Commit – Renew your commitment to your relationship. Confirm in your heart there is no issue so big that it should divide you as a couple. Commit to work on restoring your relationship. Commit daily to not let an issue be divisive and destroy closeness with your spouse.
  3. Examine – In your time of prayer, ask God to open your heart to introspection. Ask Him to show you if there is something in you that needs to be revealed. Are you the one that needs to change?
  4. Ask – Ask for uninterrupted time to communicate with your spouse. Confirm your love for your spouse. Share your desire to restore your relationship to wholeness and to work though the issue so that there is nothing between you. Pray together, asking God to bless your efforts. Then work together to find a selfless resolution. Be open to compromise, creative alternatives, and to confessing your own culpability. Allow a generous amount of time to work through to a mutually acceptable solution, which may take weeks, months, or longer. Be patient with each other. It takes time to resolve a complex issue.

Set your mind to not let frustration fatigue divide your relationship. Earnestly work at issues that keep you from closeness….         So that your joy may be complete.

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)