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.

Who Will I Be?

We heard a talk by Gayle Haggard, wife of Ted Haggard, and she challenged us to ask ourselves the question, “Who am I going to be in this story?”  She had to answer that question when her husband was accused of a secret life of infidelity and drug use.  Her perfect world turned upside down and she chose to stay and fight for her marriage, not give up on it.  The story would be told one way or another; she decided to be a part of a hopeful healing story, not one of division and defeat.  Such a courageous decision!  And the story she now tells is of the power of Jesus to heal deep wounds between spouses.

All spouses are actors in the story of their marriage and we all have a choice of who we will be in that story.  The script is not written for us; we make it up as we go.

Personally, I spent a lot of years blocking progress and closeness in my marriage because of wrong thinking.  Our marriage wasn’t a happy story and I was not doing my part to change that.  Here are some of the destructive ways of thinking that I employed:

  • Black and white thinking– it was either all right or all wrong, a total success or failure, all good or all bad.  I didn’t acknowledge the little bit of progress or good along the way.
  • Overgeneralization– when a negative thing happened I thought nothing would ever go right.
  • Awfulizing– thinking the worst, everything is just awful.
  • Negative mental filter– I could always see the negatives, seldom the positives. I filtered out the good things and ignored the positives.
  • Magnifying and minimizing– blowing things out of proportion, magnifying my weaknesses and minimizing strengths.
  • Blaming– I blamed myself for things whether it made sense or not just to reduce the stress level.  Some people blame others for the same reason.
  • Labeling– accusing ourselves or others of wrongdoing based on a few negative instances.
  • Emotional reasonings– I let my feelings guide how I interpreted reality. For example: “I feel like I am a failure so I am a failure.”

I’m sure you see how destructive these patterns are.  They are ingrained and we use them because they seem to reduce our stress level at the moment.  But in the long run they only increase it.  They block good constructive conversation.  And if you do get some clarity and resolution at times, it will all be forgotten when caught in the negativity trap again!

Do you see yourself in any of these negative thinking patterns?  If so, be encouraged that you can change your thinking and the story of your marriage in the process.  We can decide to be intentional about the way we react to things.  Start by thinking about the positive things about you, your spouse, and your lives together.  Give yourself and your spouse some slack.  We all make mistakes and we need forgiveness. Remember that the next time one of you hurts the other.

Decide to be a positive, constructive actor in the story of your marriage.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Many of have been to the Doctor’s office for one thing or another over the years.  We get a physical exam and we get poked and prodded here and there.  On occasion, we leave with a prescription for just the right medication that will fix what ails us.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could get a Doctor’s prescription for our marriage, some practical advice to apply on a daily basis that would help us to be close to our spouse, something that would provide the basic ground rules to get us to the happily ever after part?  I checked my book shelf and guess what?  The Doctor is in!

In his book Love Life  For Every Married Couple, Ed Wheat, M.D. set out four basic principles that will enable us to have a superb marriage.  Sounds like a great idea, right?  A superb marriage.  Fortunately, this author has simplified the process for us.  As a matter of fact, he has reduced the complexities of having a fulfilling love life to four simple actions.  Let’s take a look at what the good doctor has to say, with my editorial comments, of course.

Here is his B.  E.  S.  T. prescription:

  • Blessing – Our words, what we say and how we say it, set a tone for our relationship.  We can be totally in control of what we say.  We are reminded from scripture that we should not let any unwholesome word proceed out of our mouths but only such a word that edifies the listener.  We should speak well of our spouse even when we are confronted with harsh words that are critical and even insulting.  You can also bless with acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and appreciation.  Dr. Wheat reminds us to be a blessing by praying for our spouse.  In thought, word, and in deed, be a blessing to your beloved.
  • Edifying – Here we are told that it is essential to lift one another up.  This concept can best be understood in the context of cheerleader.  You need to be the most supportive and positive person to your spouse.  Notice their every success and build their self-worth.  You are the voice that says “I believe in you” and “You can do it.”  You are vigilant to look for things for which you can praise your spouse, and things that make you thankful.  And you are generous with your verbal expression of that praise.  We need to be thoughtful about what we speak and ask ourselves, “Does this build up, or tear down?  What can I say that will encourage, strengthen and build up my spouse?”  The Doctor reminds wives to show respect and esteem their husbands and affirm and appreciate them.

Stay tuned.  Next time we’ll look further into the Doctor’s prescription.

Daily Doses

Isn’t it amazing how much we love to hear words of encouragement?  All too often our day is overloaded with critical comments.  We hear how we haven’t done this or that correctly, or we missed completing a certain task on time at work, or why didn’t we do something a particular way.  Before you know it, we are overwhelmed with feeling inadequate.  The negatives are surely outweighing the positives.  Come to think of it, what positives?

How would you like to make a huge impact on your spouse every day?  Well, it really is quite simple.  Think of something that you appreciate about your spouse and just send them a text.  “I really love it when you wear that special perfume!  It makes me think about you all day.  I can’t wait to see you later.  Love you, Your snuggle Bear!”  Now that may sound silly, but love can be silly.  It can be fun. It can make you laugh and put a big smile on your face.  Be happy together.  Send a crazy endearing little text once a day and see how it can light up your love for each other.  Wouldn’t it be great to send a daily dose of love and affection?  Well, the reality is that you can.  Just decide to do it.

How about taking a picture with your phone of your wedding ring on your hand and sending it to your spouse with a text that says, “Every time I see this ring it reminds me of you and I think to myself how happy I am that I married you.  I love you more each day.”  Is that mushy or what?  Sure it is.  But love should be mushy.  It’s cuddles and giggles and laughter and fun.  Life is too short to be serious all the time.  Sure, we need to pay the bills, and fix those broken things around the house.  But we’ll have those kinds of issues to deal with on a regular basis.  We can put some light spots in along the way by showing loving affection to each other daily.

Try a Daily Dose of love and see what happens.  You may find yourself feeling those mushy love feelings.  Oh my!

We’ll Never Solve This Issue!

Sometimes progress in your marriage relationship can be a very slow process and the same issue comes up over and over. If we talked it through and came to an understanding, why do we have to go back through it again and again?  There are a couple of obvious reasons:

  • We are all human!  We have habits that are hard to break, baggage that is hard to overcome.  Sometimes we forget or struggle with selfishness.  We need reminding just how important this is to our spouse.
  • Problems are complex and they evolve.  We may think we have resolved an issue but in fact we have addressed only an aspect of it.  Next time we’ll focus on a different aspect.  It is like layers of an onion getting peeled away.  Each time you peel a layer you get closer to the heart of the issue and the final resolution.
  • And we change!  Something important to your spouse now may not be so key at a different stage in life.  We change as our circumstances change and that is just a part of life.

My challenge to you is to think of these recurring problems differently.  As I look back on my life-long struggle with weight, I see a yo-yo pattern of limited success followed by failure again and again.  That is how I looked at it and it became very discouraging.  Why try when failure would follow?

Now I can see the layers of the onion were peeling off and the whole process brought personal growth.  And recently I have learned some things about my stinking thinking that have opened the doors to a hopeful attitude. If I continue thinking of relapse as failure then I will be discouraged and stuck.

Look at it this way… when you take 5 steps forward that is success, and 2 backwards is failure right?  No! 5 forward and 2 back will still get you to your goal if you keep moving!!   It is wrong to see failure when we or our spouse are not perfect.  We should never expect perfection from ourselves or others.  So when those pesky issues recur, don’t be surprised.  Talk them through again, practice forgiveness, and get moving in the right direction, step by step!

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,                        not lacking anything.                       
James 1:4

Some Thoughts on Marriage

The wonders and joys and trials of marriage have been written about for many centuries.  Ever since Adam and Eve first kissed in the garden, it has been an ongoing challenge to turn a marriage into a good marriage and then to turn a good marriage into a GREAT MARRIAGE.  I would suggest to you that we all have the ability to have and enjoy a GREAT MARRIAGE.  There are many things that are critical to making that a reality.  Here are just a few for you to consider:

1.  Commit Entirely – After you have said “I do” and you take those first steps towards life together, it is so important to lock into the vision of “life together.”  If we have the understanding that our commitment will last only until the problems begin, then our relationship is bound to fail.  Our commitment needs to be unconditional.  It needs to be “I Love You” and not “I love you if…”  A love based on conditions will eventually fail.  Columnist Doug Larson wrote this about marriage: “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.”  Have a commitment to get through the early years of marriage so you can enjoy the “better years.”  Mark Twain said it this way: “Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”

2. Love Selflessly – All too often the primary reason that marriages end in divorce is that one or both partners feel that their needs aren’t being met.  “I’m not getting what I want out of this marriage.”  It’s the My and I syndrome.

          • My needs
          • My wants
          • My expectations.

Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner said of marriage: “Success in marriage  does  not  come  merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.”  Get outside of yourself for a minute.  Are you being “the right mate” for your partner?  Are your selflessly loving?  Professor Jerry McCant said, “You can never be happily married to another until you get a divorce from yourself. Successful marriage demands a certain death to self.”  If we invest ourselves in building up our spouse and truly loving our spouse, we begin building a lasting marriage.

3.  Forgive Endlessly – Another cornerstone of a GREAT MARRIAGE is becoming a master at forgiveness.  Much like commitment, forgiveness needs to be unconditional.  If we can have the grace to forgive, we extend love and acceptance to an imperfect spouse.  In an environment of unconditional love and forgiveness, we experience both giving and receiving the Godly quality of grace.  Billy Graham’s daughter Ruth Bell Graham said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  Forgive one another… as I have forgiven you –  Colossians 3:13.

Just a few Common Sense basics on how to have a GREAT MARRIAGE.