Memories of the Way We Were

  • What are some of your favorite memories with your spouse?
    • Do you often revisit them together?
      • Do you savor them fondly?
        • Do you ever say, “I remember when…?”

Photo by Gabriel Craciun

Good memories can be the glue to hold us together.  During a struggle or impasse in our relationship, cherished memories can provide a cooling place of respite, an oasis of sorts.  As we remember the happy times of closeness and connection, we also remember how we felt loved and appreciated and how we in turn loved.

Good memories give hope and provide a safe harbor in a troublesome storm.

Some of you may remember the 1973 movie “The Way We Were” with Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand.  It was a sad chronicle of a troubled young couple, from infatuation, courtship, marriage and unfortunately, final separation.  The theme song, sung by Barbra Streisand, is very poignant:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju29bXJDHDk

In the song, she remembers

“the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave one another.”

She is reflecting on the happy times in their relationship, when they laughed and smiled together.  The times were easy and life wasn’t complicated.  They had few troubles and worries and their relationship wasn’t torn by changing desires and directions.  And she asks,

“Can it be that it was so simple then?”

Most of our relationships do start out simple.  We are in love.  You love me and I love you. Simple.  No children, no big financial issues, no career crisis.  Just simple.

And then life happens.

We get married, have a few kids, get into debt.  We find that we don’t have enough time to talk.  No date nights.  No weekends away.  No time for each other.  And we drift.  Then we look back to those happy memories.  Happy times.  The laughter.  And so the song ends with,

“So it’s the laughter, We will remember,

The way we were, The way we were.”

Here are my thoughts on memories.  Not only should you cherish them and hold them dear, but you should revisit them often.  Turn off the TV, laptop, and  phones and set aside a snuggle time together.  Put on a few candles and some soft background music.  Cuddle up and one of you can begin to share some of your favorite memories together.  The special weekend away a few years ago when Grandma had the kids.  Your first date.  Your first kiss.  Each of you share and take time to savor the memories.  Tell your spouse why each memory was so special for you.

And then make it a point to make new memories you can add to your library of memories.

They are like deposits to a bank account that you can withdraw anytime you need some hope in the midst of a struggle, or just a smile and a laugh together.

Memories of “The Way We Were!”

Hugging for Connection

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

How important is a hug? How often do you hug? How long does your hug last? Are you comfortable while hugging?

So, what’s all the fuss over a hug? We give hugs all the time, right? When family comes over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, we automatically give them each a hug and a warm greeting. When we meet a friend for coffee we exchange a quick hug. When the grandkids come over, everyone gets a hug. Even when the guys get together for a football game they often exchange a high five and a quick hug. Guys are careful though with their hugs. Just a one arm hug. Don’t want to get too close or too long. No lingering hug here.

Then there are the hugs that are full of emotion. The hug of sympathy at a funeral that lingers for several long moments, a hug that says “I am so sorry for your loss”.

Have you experienced the “stiff as a board” hug? You know the one. You reach out to hug a relative who is mad at you for something and you get the cold, stiff, lifeless embrace that says “I’m still mad at you, but I have to give some kind of hug, so this is all you get”.

Isn’t it amazing that this one customary act of giving a hug can say so much?

So how often do you and your spouse hug? Think about this for a few minutes. How do you hug? Is it quick and generally lifeless, or is it lingering and warm and comfortable?

In the book, Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, we are enlightened to the many nuances of hugging. He even goes into detail about “Hugging till Relaxed” in chapter six of his book. He speaks at great length about hugging as a form of connection and he asks his patients to practice hugging for extended periods of time. The object is to hug until you can relax in a close embrace with your spouse for an extended period. Let your energy and your body tension relax as you hold one another. Close your eyes and truly try to “feel” your spouse while hugging each other.

Some will find this exercise extremely difficult. They cannot be that close to their spouse without feeling tension and dissonance, so they break off hugging or stiffen up and refuse to relax. Dr. Schnarch sees that as an expression of the underlying emotional distance in their relationship. The tension is revealed in the inability to stay close in a simple extended hug.

So, go ahead and give this a try. Hug each other. Hold on and relax together. If it is difficult and you find yourself backing away, ask yourself why. Try to uncover what may be hidden and try to open up with your spouse and share what you’re feeling. Work at getting close and reconnecting.

A great lingering and relaxed hug can convey love, warmth, and acceptance. It can say that I am comfortable with you. I enjoy being close to you. I feel secure in your arms.

Hugging – what a great idea.

Love is an Action Verb

This week our Marriage Ministry at church began a series by Andy Stanley called Staying In Love. He says falling in love is the easy part, because you only need a pulse. But staying in love requires much more.

Our culture allows for an easy out if a relationship has struggles and he explains many have a very low pain threshold when it comes to working through the inevitable relationship struggles all couples face. Many end a relationship because they just don’t get along anymore. Others say they have lost their loving feelings.

Andy points out love starts as a feeling, but later should become an action. That is, love should be a verb and not a noun. As a noun, falling IN LOVE, is often based on chemistry, beauty, and the best behavior people maintain during the dating phase.

But Andy reminds us love is an action verb and to love one another as Christ loved the church.

  • We need to actively seek HOW to love our spouse.
  • We need to selflessly LOVE them.

And when we do, we build the core of a truly remarkable relationship. We are giving to one another and the very act of giving creates an atmosphere for love to be returned.

Photo by Joanna Kopik

Photo by Joanna Kopik

I have often used this illustration: Imagine that you are each a plant, with a unique need for certain ingredients to survive. You can check out my previous blog, “Water Often.” People need affirmation, care, help, understanding, and physical love just as plants need soil, water, nutrients, and sunlight. If you do not give these ingredients in the right quantity, your spouse cannot flourish and will die just like a deprived plant. You are the only one who can give these ingredients to your spouse. He depends on you to love and nurture him in his unique way.

The message is this: pay careful attention to what your spouse needs and lovingly supply their needs. Become a student of what your spouse needs to grow and flourish.

Love in action requires us to do the things that demonstrate our love. Expressing love to your spouse verbally may be good, and even needed. It is important to tell your spouse that you do indeed love them. “Honey, I love you”.

But if the words are never followed by action, the words become meaningless and hollow. So not only should we tell our spouse we love them, we must also selflessly do the things that show them. Ask them what things you could do on a regular basis to show them your love, and actively work at giving to them the very things that demonstrate love.

In this case, helping them turn green is a loving thing!

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.

Why is Date Night Important?

Most books that cover marriage and relationships come around to the importance of regular date nights.  Some go further and suggest quarterly weekends away and a week-long vacation once a year.  You may be asking date night weekly, quarterly weekends, vacations alone?  Who has the time for all that?  And what about the kids?  That’s just unrealistic.  We don’t have time!  We’re just too busy.  We don’t have any free time during the week.  Our schedule is full.

If you recognize any of the above reasons and are feeling that you really are just too busy, then I think it is best to go down a path of evaluation together.

Photo by yalcin Eren

Photo by yalcin Eren

With what are you too busy?  Understand that your relationship is your most important life commitment.  You can change jobs, where you live, and what house you live in, but you have committed to make this journey through life with your spouse and you want to enjoy that journey together.  We need to invest the time we have in what is most important to us.  Nothing is more important than a strong well-nourished marriage.

Times away on a weekly basis to connect help refresh and restore your relationship.  It is a time for recharging, reconnecting, laughing, and reminiscing about favorite times together.

For some reason when you think back to when you were dating, you did have time to be together.  You looked forward to it.  Now you’re married and those times together are needed even more to keep your relationship strong, vibrant, growing, and to keep you connected and in touch with each other.

If you are not having regular dates nights weekly, then I want you to stop and honestly ask yourself why.  Why is it that other things are always taking priority?

You may find that you need to cancel something else.  Yes, that’s right.  You may need to cancel some other scheduled meeting and in place of it put “our time.”

red-sunset-1397904

Photo by James White

Don’t let the excuse of the children keep you from date nights. Enlist some relatives, a trustworthy teen, or set up a couple to trade child care duties.  They need a date night just as much as you do and you can do each other a great favor that way.

If you reschedule so you have a consistent date night, you’ll find over time that it is well worth it.  Relationships need to be nourished in order to thrive.  Even your children will benefit from you committing to taking time away together.  It may be tough to coordinate if you have kids, but it will be a blessing to them if you do.

Fables and Fairy Tales

There is a long tradition of teaching life principles with short stories like Aesop’s fables, parables, and fairy tales.  I ran across one such pithy tale in a book by Mort Fertel, Marriage FitnessAmazon.  The story is one of love and sacrifice.  I was struck with how well it illustrated the concept of Selfless Serving, a cornerstone principle of our blog.  Here’s a brief summary of the tale.

There once was a brave knight in King Arthur’s court, Sir Gawain, who uncovered a plot to kill the King.  To save the King’s life, he had to agree to marry Ragnell, the unsightliest maid in the kingdom.  On their wedding night, she was amazed that he never showed revulsion or pity for her and she asked one thing of him.  She asked for only one kiss.                                                                                  

Photo by Gabor Palla

Photo by Gabor Palla

Sir Gawain gently kissed his bride.  When he opened his eyes the most beautiful women he had ever seen was lying next to him and he asked, “Where is my wife Ragnell?”  She replied, “I am your wife Ragnell and now I must tell you the rest of my story”.

Ragnell told him her evil jealous stepbrother had a sorceress put a curse on her, turning her into the ugliest woman in the kingdom and because he had treated her with love and not pity, she could give him a choice.  She could be beautiful by day so that all would see Sir Gawain was a lucky man married to a beautiful woman, or she could be beautiful by night when they were together.  Ugly by day, beautiful by night, or beautiful by day and ugly by night.  It was his choice.                                                        

Sir Gawain immediately declined to make that choice.  He said that she must choose and he would accept her decision.  And at that, the curse on Ragnell was lifted and she was once again beautiful by day and night.

In this simple tale, we are shown that we have choices.  Gawain gave up his right to choose and let his wife choose the best for her.  We can also choose to serve our own needs and wants, or we can choose to surrender our desires and selflessly give to our spouse.

Here’s a Date Night idea.  Take turns asking your spouse these questions:

  1. Do you feel that I am attentive enough to your needs?
  2. Do you think I take the time to really hear what’s important to you?
  3. What would you say are your four most important needs?
  4. What can I do to better meet those needs?

Remember marriage is a “We” relationship.  No one is perfect.  We can all improve and we need each other.  Help each other so that you can better serve and love one another.

Who knows, you may make a fairy tale marriage!

The Affection Connection

Did you see one of the latest videos that hit the internet?? Check this one out:

Who said romance is dead? This video was viewed 60 MILLION times!

Bernie Mills, 80, was caught on camera waiting for his wife, Carol, 75, at Los Angeles International Airport.  When he saw her, he broke out into a smile, gave her flowers, a hug, and a kiss. The couple met on eHarmony after their spouses of 50 years died and have been married to each other  about 5 years.

Did you see it?? OK, You’re right. I’m a big mush. But I guess I’m not alone… 60 MILLION other people wanted to see this one touching video of an old guy being affectionate, at the airport, in public, in broad daylight, and he doesn’t seem to care that anyone else is looking. Yep. They call it PDA… Public displays of affection.

So what about you?? Do you ever get all squishy in public and show your spouse that they’re the best thing in your life and you can’t live without them? I know, maybe the “in public thing” is just not your style. What about at home, when no one is looking? Do you get affectionate then?

Do you know what kinds of affectionate things your spouse likes? Think about it. Some like holding hands. Others appreciate a handwritten note expressing some endearing thoughts. Or a spontaneous neck rub or foot massage. Even just a couple of scratches on an itchy back. Bringing home a few flowers, even free wild flowers that you picked next to the parking lot at work (for those of you who need to do romance on a budget). What about it? What does your spouse like? What would make him or her smile. What would make them happy that you thought of them?

And how often should you do these squishy endearing romantic little gestures? How about every day!!! You can easily stoke the fire of your love for each other by just doing a few little affectionate things on a regular basis. Make a habit of it.

Little gestures of your love for your spouse let them know that to you, they’re really special and you want to have that one to one connection. You really do care about them and you enjoy making them happy.  To be cherished in this way can make a huge difference in your spouse’s psyche and their outlook on life.

So what about it? Are you ready to show your love? Who knows, maybe someday YOU’LL show up on a You Tube video and 60 million people will be inspired…..