A Great Marriage – The Ten Keys Part 2

Last week we looked at the first five keys from the book How to Make A Good Marriage Great –Ten Keys to a Joyous Relationship  by Victor Cline, Ph.D.

Now we’ll look at the remaining five keys.  Here is a summary with my added editorial comments:

  • Sixth Key –  Develop Effective Communication / Negotiation Skills  –  Successful communication with our spouse is essential to a happy marriage and comes with practice, patience, and hard work.  Become a student of the best communication style with your spouse.   The good Dr. has these suggestions:
    • Get quiet time ALONE together, even if that takes an overnight away together. Never discuss critical issues when tired or exhausted.
    • Be a good listener without interrupting.
    •  Don’t flee or run away, rather stick it out and work at issues peacefully.
    • Be honest with each other sharing true and honest feelings.
    • Avoid blame statements and convey how certain actions or statements are making YOU feel.
    •  Remember to be positive and express your thankfulness for what is right in your relationship.
    • Avoid criticism.
    • If it is too difficult to discuss, try writing it out and sharing this letter with your spouse so you can discuss it.  This will allow you to share all your feeling without being “run over.”
  • Seventh Key – The “Extra Dimension”  –  Remember God desires you to have a richly blessed relationship.  Pray for each other and pray together as you work at growing your relationship.  Pray that the Lord will bless you with a patient and understanding spirit and that you learn how to selflessly love your spouse.
  • Eighth Key  –  Acute Stress can Kill Love – Deal with It!  –  Our lives are filled with a variety of stressors including the usual issues of small children (or larger teenage types), job or lack of a job, financial stress, health issues, or family and extended family issues, to name a few.  These can add extreme pressure on even the best of relationships.  But don’t quit.  Look at these times as the “white water days” of your marriage.  Much like a river raft trip, there are calm water days and white water days.  During the white water days you need to really hang on.  Find ways to simplify and de-stress your lives.  I believe that God will restore us to the calm water but remember to love each other even in your white water days, for then you need each other most.
  • Ninth Key – Participate in a Marriage Enrichment / Marriage Encounter Experience – Take time to grow in your knowledge together.  A weekend seminar together should be a major priority.  Find a marriage book to read and discuss together.
  • Tenth Key – Pair-Bonding, Renewing the Magic  –  Work daily at these things:  Make a daily decision to love each other and express that love, shower each other with positives and take time daily to share feelings.

Dr. Cline has shared some valuable ideas on how to have a Great Marriage.  But head knowledge alone will not bring about the desired results.  You must commit to work at these things.  The rewards are worth the effort.

A Great Marriage – The Ten Keys

This week I’m sharing with you advice from a book that’s been on my shelf for quite some time,  How to Make  A Good Marriage Great –Ten Keys to a Joyous Relationship by Victor Cline, Ph.D.  Most of the time when I see “Ph.D.” next to the author’s name, I think, “Ugghh, another 9000 pages of endless psychobabble that will take me three years to plow through.”  But then I come across a book like this one that breaks down complicated issues into basic strategies for success.  Get a copy of this book.  I’m sure you will find it useful.  In the forward Dr. Cline says, “I have never seen a happy divorce.”  How true is that?  Broken relationships even if they end amicably are painful and leave deep lasting scars.  He goes on to say that “we are all flawed.  We make mistakes…”   But then he says, “We have choices.  If we wish, marriage can be a wonderful, exhilarating adventure with almost no limits…” So I encourage you to choose the wonderful and enjoy the adventure of marriage.

Here is a summary of his first five keys for making a marriage great – with my added editorial comments:

1.        First Key – Shower Positives, Minimize Nagging  – Too often we focus on the five percent of the daily things that happen that are negative, such as a harsh word or insensitive comment.  We overlook the positive.  We need to get in the habit of being thankful for all that is good in our spouse and have grace and patience with the negatives.  Remember: five positives overcome one negative!b

2.       Second Key – Let Your Spouse Know the Facilitators of Love – Here he encourages us to clearly and verbally let our spouse know what our needs are.  Don’t expect he will somehow read your mind.  When your spouse expresses his needs, listen and do your best to give him what he needs.

3.       Third Key – Defuse Anger  – Find a way to step away from tense boiling points when they happen.  Sometimes writing it out and sharing notes can help.  Take time to calm down and when cooler heads prevail, the issues may be easier to work out.

4.       Fourth Key –  Positive Sexuality  –  This is such an important key in marriage relationships and it is the basis of true emotional intimacy.  Men need sex to feel emotionally connected and women need to be emotionally connected to truly enjoy the richness of sexual intimacy.  Work at understanding each other’s needs.

5.       Fifth Key –  The Power of Commitment – Love is a Daily Decision  –  This is clearly a cornerstone to a lasting marriage.  We must make an unconditional commitment to each other – For richer / For poorer – For better / For worse – In sickness / and in health – ‘Till death do us part.  Familiar words.  We need to be committed to each other and committed to growing our relationship into a “joyous relationship”.  It’s not good enough to be committed to a lifeless relationship.  We also need to be committed to and working toward a joyous relationship, a soul mate relationship.

Next week we’ll look at the next five Keys according to Dr. Cline.

More Making It Count

So ladies, now it is time for us to make it count!

Did your husband ever do or say something that really made you feel special?  To have his undivided loving attention is like a refreshing shower, energizing your whole being. I bet you felt important to him, indispensable and cherished.  And you probably really liked that feeling!

So it is not hard to imagine that your husband would like to feel special too… that he is your hero, and you admire and respect him for his qualities.  Making each other feel cherished adds to the positive relational bank account that protects our marriages from the effects of negative, draining interactions that happen every now and then.

One major hindrance is busyness.  When I am working my way through an endless task list to keep the house running efficiently or get ready for an event, I tend to put relational needs on the back burner.  A few years into our marriage, Alan challenged me to think about putting him on my task list!  That was a big wake up call for me—just because there are tasks to be done doesn’t mean the people in our lives can be put on hold.  Tasks can wait.

We need to have an attitude of gratitude also.  Discontent saps our ability to see the positive in our husbands and the circumstances we’re in, causing a negative focus.  When we are thankful we are able to see what is good and true about people and situations.

So armed and motivated to make it count, what do we do?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Every man wants to be admired, especially by his wife!  Verbalize what you like about his character, his body, what a leader or father he is, and the good work he does.  It costs nothing and your man needs positive affirmations from you.  Most men don’t know what you think unless you tell him, so say it, on a regular basis!
  2. What kind of affectionate touch does your husband like?  Maybe he likes to be massaged or scratched on his back, or neck.  Or a hug and kiss with a whispered promise for more later! Spontaneous touching is soothing and conveys love and acceptance.
  3. Write your husband a note now and then, expressing something you are thankful for about him.  Give it to him in his lunch or mail to his office.
  4. Pray for him.  He may not know it but what better way to support him in all he does than to bring him before the Lord daily.  It will help him and keep you thankful and humble also.

It is not very time consuming to give a hug or tell your husband he’s an incredible father.  If you have a hard time doing it, search your heart for resentment, ingratitude, or selfishness that causes you to withhold positive affirmations.  Pray about it.  Ask Jesus to reveal what holds you back and to help you break through.  Your own personal growth will contribute so much to your marriage.

 Remember it takes 5 positive deposits to your relational bank account to counteract 1 negative withdrawal.  Keep adding deposits, every day, and you will be making it count!

Making It Count

Last week we watched the movie Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio.  It was 100 years ago today that the Titanic sank!  In the movie, at the formal dinner, Jack describes the freedom he has in his life and concludes his philosophical monologue with a toast.  As he raises his glass of champagne, he says “To Making it Count”.

Each of us has a chance every day, a choice actually, to Make it Count.  Our days are busy and the schedule is usually full with work, meetings, the usual chores, bills, and taking care of the kids.  But what are we doing each day to Make it Count with our spouse?  To Make it Count we need to be intentional and not simply reactionary.  We must choose to make it a priority to think about those special things that will make our spouse feel loved and cherished and that they truly are the most important person in our life.

I’d like to address the husbands.  All too often we husbands are short on words and many times short on actions.  We get caught in the trap of taking for granted things around the house and in our lives.  We expect our home to be well cared for, dinner to be ready, the clothes washed.  And when things are expected, they are usually not appreciated.  It’s time to Make it Count.  This week I want you husbands to put into practice three simple steps to make your wife know she is appreciated.  I want you to: Write It, to Say It, and finally to Do It.

First of all, take some time and reflect on all the things that you are really thankful for about your wife.  Let your mind reflect on even the simplest things that she says or does.  It could be something about her kindness,  thoughtfulness, or her generosity.  Then write her a note expressing three of the things that you really appreciate about her.  Give her the note before bedtime and let her know you love her.  Your wife will probably love getting a special note from you.  Somehow when it’s in writing, it speaks to her heart.

Later this week I want each of you to think of three of your favorite dating memories.  And again, before you go to sleep one evening while she’s lying next to you, tell her that you wanted to share your special memories and why those times have made you love her so much.  Just hearing you verbalize this to her will warm her heart.

And finally, you need to just Do It.  Find those special things that she loves so much and take the time to make her feel cherished.  For my wife, a twenty minute foot massage is just about the best thing ever.  Maybe it is flowers, accomplishing something on her honey-do list, or a dinner out with you.  Better yet, dinner in and you are the cook!  Find that unique thing your wife loves and just Do It.

That’s it, guys.  Write It, Say It, and Do It.  Make it Count this week.

Be Thankful For Struggles

Are there struggles in your marriage that never seem to go away in spite of many times talking it through?  When struggles happen over and over without getting resolved, we often try to bury the issue  and avoid the triggers.  Obviously nothing is solved and those issues have a way of popping up again at the most unexpected or worst times.

I think there is a better way to approach marital problems in general, and especially the recurring ones.  Let’s look at a verse from Romans that you have probably seen before…

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope… Romans 5:3-4 (NASB)

For me, being thankful in struggles is difficult!  I may feel angry or sad and thankfulness is far from my mind.  It is important to feel those emotions though; to analyze where they are coming from and what from our past prompts them.  The point is to learn from them, decide which feelings make sense and which don’t, which square with the facts and which to let go of now that we are adults.  In the process we learn about ourselves and our own personal issues.

Struggles are a constant part of life and we need to keep up the self-evaluation and discussions with our spouse to get through them.  This is perseverance.  Dictionary.com defines perseverance as a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”   Keep your purpose forefront in your minds- a better marriage with this person to whom you have committed your life.  Your course of action is to keep chipping away at the issues that plague you individually and together.  When a problem recurs for the nth time, that is the time to persevere all the more.

When we develop a habit of persevering through struggles with our spouse we have developed our character!  We have fought for a closer marriage.  Our intentions to honor our marriage vows are proven over time.  Bit by bit issues are resolved, we understand and empathize with each other, we cherish and love with greater depth.

And with proven character we acquire hope.  From Wikipedia: “Hope is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair,

  • which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to circumstances in one’s life.
  • the feeling that …events will turn out for the best
  • looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.”

It is a good thing when you really believe your marriage will get better, that all will turn out for the best, and that we have confidence in each other!  That is hope. And it is worth the persevering to get it.

Let’s go back to thankfulness now… When you have persevered through a few issues and come out with a closer relationship on the other side, then thankfulness starts to make more sense.  You begin to see that struggle is an essential part of the path to a soul mate marriage and should be accepted with gratitude.

When I hear older couples say they love each other more all the time, I think that they must have thankfully practiced perseverance over many years!  In the midst of struggle, try to remember what you have to look forward to and be thankful.

So How Did You Meet Your Spouse?

One of my favorite questions when I meet a new couple is to ask how they met.  I am always fascinated with the unusual and funny stories of how couples began their lives together.  We all have a unique story.

I thought we could join in a kind of cyber space living room and share our stories.  So for this week, instead of just reading our blog, we want each of you to hit the Reply button and send us “your story!”  It doesn’t need to take a lot of time – about ten or fifteen minutes or so.  It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a few paragraphs on how the two of you began and became “Us”.

  • How and where did you meet?
  • Where was your first date?
  • Anything really special about your dating days?
  • What do you remember most about your spouse during that time?
  • What attracted you most to him?
  • How long after you first met did you decide to get married?
  • How did you, or she, pop the question?

When we’ve collected some stories, we’d like to take a few and share them anonymously with our readers.

Here’s a snippet from our story…

Alan and I met while in college through mutual friends one evening when I was playing the part of a male radio announcer in a play on my campus.  I had made a catty-wampus mess out of my necktie and he offered to fix it right there on the courtyard steps.  That scene is burned into my memory as is his comment that I “was much too beautiful to be wearing a tie!”  Brrr, still gives me chills….

Our first date was a month or so later.  It was the height of the gas crisis then (little did we know!) so to conserve gas Alan had his brother bring me to the church dinner dance at a restaurant close to where he was working.  We had a lovely evening, he gave me flowers; I made him a boutonniere from the college rose garden.  We danced and talked on the balcony overlooking Los Angeles.  All very romantic… until Alan had his brother take me home!  What a letdown, even if gas was expensive.  But I guess I got over it because before long we were dating only each other.  In fact, Alan’s frugality was one of the things that attracted me to him along with his easy charm.  And what a romantic he is-  2 years later, on my birthday, he took me back to that same restaurant and asked me to wear the same dress— and then he asked me to marry him!  I was so stunned it took me several seconds to say “Yes!  Yes, of course!”

So for this week  —  it’s group participation.  Share in the Leave a Reply Box right below!  We’d love to hear from each of you.

I Choose Us !!

Do you want to see a great “Date Night” movie?  (OK – OK!  A chick flick.  Hey guys – remember that most of the time she watches those shoot-‘em up movies with you and so a chick flick is perfectly ok and this one even has time travel for us guys!)  Anyways, let me recommend The Family Man with Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni.  It’s a great movie with an even better message.

After a series of events the husband, played by Nicolas Cage, comes to realize he needs to pursue his dream and passion to where he feels led in life.  But it requires major life changes for the family, including moving, changing schools for the kids, and being away from grandparents.  His wife passionately argues that they just can’t do that; they would be giving up too much.  They would have to leave their house, friends, and family.  The next day after some time of reflection and soul searching, she says to her husband, “Being with you is more important for me than to hold on to anything.  Where you go, I’ll go.”  And then she says, “I choose us!”

Think about that!  “I choose us!”  I make a conscious choice to put my personal needs and wants aside for what is a better choice for “Us.”  We each come to our relationships with our own personal dreams and aspirations, our own plans and goals.  They’re my goals, my plans, my career, and my education.  And somehow we must meld those two sets of desires into one.  It can no longer be all about me. It needs to become all about “Us”.

Here are a few suggestions to help you to work at making “Us” a focus:

  • Ask your spouse “Is there something special I can do for you this week?”  And don’t just ask, remember to Do It!
  • When needed, say “I’m sorry.  Would you forgive me?”
  • Commit to two times per week for special one on one alone time together.  Read a book together, share a massage or back rub – Be creative  –  I’m sure you can come up with something!
  • Make plans for two special trips away together each year. (Camping in the backyard doesn’t count)
  • Work at overcoming “me” and “my” and instead work on “Us”!
  • Talk about your favorite memories together.
  • Talk about your dreams and future together.

In the movie, the husband was faced with a choice of “me” or “us” and he chose “me”.  He became successful and quite wealthy.  His choice led him to a lonely and isolated life.   Sure he had wealth, but also an empty unfulfilled life.  Too late, he came to see that he had made the wrong choice.

Now for today’s assignment:  Get the movie and watch it together and when the time is right, nuzzle up to your spouse and give them a nibble on that special provocative spot and whisper in his or her ear, “From now on, I choose Us!”  Can you see that special sparkle in her eyes?  That’s the “Us” sparkle!!