Compromise, Part Two

In our last blog, we looked at several core beliefs in our lives that should never be compromised, such as our faith and commitment to marriage and family. These are central core beliefs that deserve our undying commitment. We also looked at day to day choices that need to be negotiated. We are both individuals with unique preferences and family history. Our traditions may be at odds with our spouse’s traditions. What to do at Christmas each year is an example. How do we meld our traditions?

A good quality relationship that is maturing and growing, requires you to navigate your differences, culminating in a peaceful and loving union.

Let’s look at it this way… We can either HOLD or YEILD.

Each of you should be willing to yield. If you truly love your spouse, you’ll be willing to sacrifice what you want, deferring to the desires of your spouse. By this I mean that each of you should be willing to move from your position in the direction of your spouse’s.

Photo by Kaan Tanriover

There are times when you need to yield. You need to humble yourself and just yield to your spouse. Simple example: It’s important for your spouse to clean the dishes and kitchen before going to bed. You’re ok with letting it go until the morning. Here’s a chance for you to stretch and yield, to be loving, kind, helping her get it done. No big deal. Just fifteen minutes of selfless service because it’s important to her.

By contrast, you might want to hold your own position, and demand that your spouse change and conform to what you want. This does not demonstrate a selfless love for your spouse. You have hardened your heart, unyielding and demanding. If both of you hold opposing positions, it will sow seeds of bitterness and resentment.

Photo by Mikas Vitkauskas

There may be times when you should hold on things that are important to you. For example, you thrive on affection and hugs and your spouse doesn’t hug you at all. Clearly and respectfully express this VERY important thing in your life and make every effort to be understood. If you always yield out of fear or just give up, this will sow seeds of discouragement and despair. Stand up and be firm; express the importance of this particular issue. Work lovingly to find a suitable and acceptable compromise.

No matter what the issue, you should work toward a selfless attitude and a willingness to move to a middle ground solution. Talk through possible solutions to the unresolved difference. This may take time and more than one conversation. Patiently work at it over time.

In our relationships, we need to find a way to balance the HOLD and the YIELD. It’s a give and take. But in all circumstances, we should be governed by an attitude of love and a willingness to serve.

Viva la Difference!

When they got married, they thought it was wonderful having so much in common.  They liked the same movies and music, and went to the same church. They both liked the Seahawks, and thought baseball was slow and boring.  They liked the same coffee and thought it was fantastic they liked each other’s friends. She laughed at his jokes and he told her all the time she was beautiful.  Life was great.  They had so much in common.

But now they’ve been married for six years and see so many differences.  He stays up late and sleeps in till lunchtime.  She can’t stay up past ten and gets up every morning, six sharp.  He likes a cold beer and she won’t drink anything stronger than lemonade.  He can wear the same clothes for a week and she can’t stand wearing anything twice.  He’s OK with a lot of things lying around and she is Miss Neat and Orderly.

How did it happen that when they got married, they didn’t see all the differences between them?

Many times, when we are “IN LOVE” we see only the things we share in common and overlook the differences.  We have grace for (or overlook) the differences in each other.  We tend not to notice he doesn’t pick anything up or she is always cleaning something.

Photo by Katia Grimmer-Laversanne

But keep this in mind:  Many couples marry someone who is their opposite.  He is loud, boisterous, and the life of the party and she is quiet, thoughtful, and reserved.  He is careless with spending and she is frugal, and tracks bills and expenses.  He likes camping and being in the outdoors, and she likes the kind of camping that looks a just like a condo.

Some of you have probably heard the expression “viva la difference” which means it is good that there is a difference between two people, especially  between a man and a woman.  The difference is good.  Where he is weak, she is probably strong.  He’s not good at balancing the checkbook but she is.  He can’t even open a can of beans and you’re Martha Stewart in the kitchen.  You can’t fix the leaky faucet and he’s Mister Handyman on steroids.

Yes!  Your differences can be a blessing.

Celebrate your differences and don’t look at them as a liability but rather an asset.

Together you accomplish more.

Photo by Otávio Brito

And where your differences cause conflict, work at loving compromise.  For example, you may not like camping, but he enjoys the outdoors.  Make a special effort to be accommodating.  Show your love by stretching and do those things out of your norm.  It will communicate love and a willingness to share your lives together.

Both of you should be willing to say, “Viva la Difference!”

A New Year

Photo by Shondra Hull

Photo by Shondra Hull

Can it be? 2016 is almost over! It’s amazing to me how fast each year goes by. And many of us engage in the practice of making a list of what we want to get done in the next year. The “Resolutions” list.

Admit it! You’ve done it. Some of you even write them down. You cross off a few. And by February you’ve lost the list.

Some of you have a mental list. That’s easier to dispose of since you don’t even have to lose it. You can just quietly forget about it.

OK, I’m be being a little hard on you. Actually, I’m being hard on me. I have done this over and over. My resolving is a habit. But, to be fair, I have done some of what I resolved. But some things keep showing up, year after year. Ah, some day, I will have the old things done and will start the new year with a fresh list.

Optimism is what we need. An optimistic view. We can do this. Yes, we can!

So, this year, let me help you with a basic ready-made

Resolutions List for My Marriage

I Resolve to Love my spouse, not just in word but in action.

  1. I will look for ways to demonstrate my love to my spouse.
  2. I will actively seek what tangible acts I can do to show my love.
  3. I will make a point of saying “I love You” every day.

I hereby RESOLVE to love my spouse.

I Resolve to Forgive my spouse.

  1. Let this be the year I truly let go of anything I am harboring against my spouse.
  2. I will forgive my spouse.
  3. I will just “Let it go.”
  4. I will pray for God to give me the grace to forgive as I have been forgiven.

I hereby RESOLVE to forgive my spouse.

I Resolve to take time with my spouse.

  1. I will spend quality time with my spouse each week.
  2. I will get a babysitter if needed to get alone time with my spouse.
  3. I will not allow my time with my spouse to be second, third, or fourth on my priority list.
  4. My time with my spouse will be number one.
  5. I will plan a weekend away once every three months.
  6. I will plan a week away once this year.

I hereby RESOLVE to spend time with my spouse.

I Resolve to work on my marriage.

  1. I will make my marriage a priority.
  2. I will work on better communication.
  3. I will read a book or two on marriage.
  4. I will attend a marriage seminar.
  5. I will make every effort to make my marriage better this year than last.

I hereby RESOLVE to work on my marriage.

Photo by Roger Kirby

Photo by Roger Kirby

That’s a great start!

Prayerfully consider the above list and modify if you must, but do RESOLVE to get closer to the wonderful spouse the Lord has given you.

Christmas Time Again

image by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski

image by Krzysztof Szkurlatowski

What a wonderful time of year when the sights and sounds of Christmas are everywhere. Trees are decorated with beautiful lights, the nativity is placed for all to see, familiar songs play in the background every place you visit. Christmas cards are sent and received with letters updating us on how other families are doing. Gifts are wrapped and ready to give. The grandkids are all excited about coming over to visit. The plans for dinner are made and the house has the familiar decorations here and there. Ah, what a wonderful time of the year.

At this time of year, we are reminded about peace and goodwill to all which brings back a particular memory for me. In high school one year, I was privileged to get the part of Scrooge in the play “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.

What a wonderful story of a man who lived his life in pain and total lack of peace and joy, consumed by greed and self-interest. He was filled with regrets and despair. He was isolated and separated from his world. The name Ebenezer Scrooge has become synonymous with selfishness and greed.

A sad tale in one sense. On the one hand he had everything. Rich and wealthy, he could have anything he wanted. Money was no object. And yet, he had nothing. His life was empty. He did not open his heart to relationships. He closed himself off and walled himself in. He was a bitter and angry man who lacked compassion and understanding.

A sad broken man.

But this is also a story of redemption. A story about how this sad lonely man chose to turn from his despicable ways and be transformed. He got a glimpse into his past life to reflect on how things were before he hardened his heart. He could see he did at one time have joy in his life. He also had a glimpse into his present life, a life filled with selfishness, greed and a total lack of compassion. Finally, he was allowed to look into the future. A bleak, dismal, and dark future.

And then he made a choice.

“I can choose this day to change. I can choose to open my heart.”

Scrooge was redeemed. He was filled with joy, compassion, and love for others.

Photo by G-Man

Photo by G-Man

My prayer for each of you this Christmas, is for you to open your heart to the wonderful spouse the Lord gave you. Or if you are in a strained relationship with someone in your family, then open your heart to them. Seek forgiveness, restoration, and healing. And open your heart to your friends. Seek to heal the hurts of the past and let go of the bits of “Scrooge” in you.

And then we can all say with joy the last lines in the play,

             “God Bless us, Every One!”

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!

I Forgive You

Photo by Kinga

Photo by Kinga

When we first met our spouse, we dated for a season of time. For most of us, dating was an exhilarating time filled with fun and excitement, surprises, happy moments, and getting to know each other. We were each at our best. We were kind, thoughtful and considerate. Guys remembered to be on their best behavior and the ladies took that extra time to be were pleasant and accepting, even if he did do a stupid thing that made you cringe for the tenth time.

We made allowances for each other and maintained a positive demeanor. We smiled and maybe even laughed at the failings we endured because, well, we were dating. We overlooked those “slight flaws” and didn’t make a big deal about it.

Do you remember those days?

And then we got married. The joy we experienced in dating continued for a while until we began to settle in to life. The life long journey of togetherness. Things that we used to overlook got elevated to the major leagues. We no longer laugh at the “funny little way he does that” because now it’s not so funny. How many times do you have to ask that they just stop doing that? When will they realize what they are doing is really hurtful? It’s just not funny anymore.

In some relationships it’s much more than a few inconsiderate actions every now and then.

There’s been a major violation that has rocked the core of your relationship. Some thoughtless action hurt you so deeply that you’ve withdrawn from your spouse and you can no longer even talk about it. You have been truly hurt and it seems they’ll never understand how much pain you are in, how it cuts you so deeply that you are numb and even deeply depressed.

Adding further to your dilemma, your spouse admits he was wrong. He’s expressed to you how sorry he is for hurting you. Yet the pain and memory of what he did just won’t go away. It’s hard to move on when you have been hurt so deeply. In your mind you know that he feels badly about what he did or said, but you just can’t seem to get over the pain. It remains an open wound, still raw and bleeding.

To begin to heal, you need to make a choice. An admittedly difficult choice to begin a journey of forgiveness and to find the strength and courage to say those three words, “I forgive you.” And you’ll need to say it in your heart over and over until, by the grace of God, you begin to experience the freedom of letting go of the hurt. I believe that your relationship can begin the journey of restoration once you make the choice to truly forgive as you would want others to forgive you. Not an easy journey of personal growth, but one that God promises to walk with us.

In Our Lord’s Prayer that we know so well, it says “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Ask God to open your heart to forgive and you can begin restoring your relationship so that you can return to the joy you once knew.