It’s Time to Be Positive

Remember the story of Chicken Little who ran around wailing that the sky was falling?And Winnie the Pooh’s friend Eeyore who always sees things from a pessimistic perspective. Poor Eeyore, the glass was always half empty and the grass was greener in someone else’s yard.

Here’s a personal growth lesson – work on you! It’s amazing that we can come up with all sorts of advice that would make our spouse a better person. If only they would change this, learn to say things differently, dress better, or if they would just have some manners! Wow, life could be so much easier. It’s easy to see what others could change.

Instead, we need to be better at seeing what we can change in ourselves to improve our relationship with our spouse.

Let me ask you this: Have you arrived? Or are you a work in progress? Hopefully you chose the second and see there are things YOU need to change to improve your relationship. Take responsibility for those things right now. Don’t wait until “they” get “their” stuff together. You get your stuff together! Work on you. Be positive. Change takes time but you can make small incremental positive steps forward .

Do you need some ideas of what to work on? That’s really simple. ASK! That’s it. Ask

Photo by Lorinc Nyitrai

Photo by Lorinc Nyitrai

your spouse this question,

“Honey, what are a few things that I can work on to show you I love you?”

Then add this,

“No, really, I would like to know because I want to work at those things you need from me to help us have a closer relationship.”

She will probably be skeptical because she’s been telling you for years. But, be positive. Even if she has a “Yeah, right, you’re going to work on it” attitude. Commit to work on changing YOU.

For example, your wife may need a “break time.” Away from kids, chores, dishes and floors. So, plan ahead and give her a note saying you will watch the kids while she has the day with friends, shopping, or whatever she’d like. One husband packed her suitcase, checked  her into a hotel room, said good night, and left. He told her he wanted her to have some alone time to relax, read, and just take a break. She loved it.

Find out what would make your wife feel loved and just do it!

Photo by  Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Photo by
Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Here’s another example: your husband may really appreciate it you would take the lead in the bedroom some time. For some of you ladies, that may be a stretch. Just go for it. You know what he likes! Make him feel special. Be positive and see what a wonderful response you get.

And finally, we all need to remember the story of the Little Engine that said over and over again, “I think I can, I think I can”. Work on those things in you that will have a positive impact on your relationship and see what happens.

Yes, You Need To Share

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Photo by Benjamin Earwicker

Do you remember when you were dating? The two of you could talk for hours. You would laugh and share stories. You would talk about plans and goals. You would share your emotions and feelings and never doubted you were being heard. You felt what you said really mattered and you were taken seriously. If you shared a fear or doubt, it was met with understanding, kindness and sensitivity. You didn’t feel ignored or belittled. You were comfortable sharing. And so you talked, shared, laughed and played. Life was good.

And then you got married….

Now you talk, sometimes. It’s about the rudimentary things of life: the chores, bills, the busy schedule and issues with the kids, the car needs an oil change, grass needs to be mowed, and who gets the house ready for Saturday because company’s coming.

You know. Life.

What happened to the times of sharing together? Did the busyness of life rob you of the closeness you used to experience? Can you ever get that closeness back?

Unfortunately we live in a time of hyper-paced everything. We text, email, blog, and every now and then we actually call and talk to someone. But not for long. Brief calls are almost mandatory because we get five texts while on the phone call. The quality of our relationships suffers because we are so busy. We don’t invest the time necessary to nurture the connection needed for us to experience a truly soul-mate relationship.

How we spend our time is a choice. We can and should carefully manage how we invest our time. We need to choose to allocate time to the most important relationship we have and that’s our relationship with our spouse. If it is deprived of the necessary time, it will suffer and over time it will die.

Stop right now and evaluate how much quality time you spend with your spouse, one on one. No kids, phones, parties, work; just one on one with your spouse.

Are you afraid of that? A one on one alone time may just lead to a fight. That says something, doesn’t it? And some of you would welcome the time as a refreshing oasis that would bring back memories of your times together.

Decide right now to set aside time each week to have quality time together. Share what you are feeling and thinking with each other. Open your heart and lives, your hopes and dreams. Connect as you share and don’t be afraid of opening up with each other.

I Just Want to Quit, Part 2

Last time we looked at the frustration of dealing with a sensitive issue in your relationship, one that you have been working on for years, many many years.

Here are a few of my thoughts on how to proactively step through the process of working it out.

Photo by Ryan Forkel

Photo by Ryan Forkel

1. Pray. Understand that at the core, this is a spiritual battle. You need to pray for your spouse every day. Even if you are convinced that they are “the problem”, pray for him. Pray for her. And not a prayer like “God, would you open his eyes to see his problem” but rather a prayer lifting her up, thanking God for the spouse given to you. You can check out these two great books by Stormie Omartian,

2. Understand God’s desire is for you to have a GREAT relationship. That’s right! He wants your marriage to be an example to the world, your neighbors, fellow workers, of what His relationship is to His church. He doesn’t want you to have a mediocre or tolerable relationship. He wants you to be in love, full of joy and passion.

3. As you are praying, God may open YOUR eyes to see something in yourself that YOU must change. At the core of a close Godly relationship is a belief that we are to selflessly love one another. Love your spouse as Christ loves you. This is sacrificial love, forsaking yourself and following Christ’s example to love unconditionally.

4. Try again to lovingly discuss the issue with your spouse. Never get angry, threaten, or force yourself. Understand that it is OUR issue. In order for your relationship to be close, you both need to work toward a resolution.

5. If you are still at an impasse, seek Godly help. Get with another couple that you respect and see if you can work together to get to the bottom of the issue and resolution.

6. Never give up. Try to picture your relationship in the future when you are no longer dealing with this issue, when you have a loving and healthy relationship filled with joy. Keep that picture in mind and work at it. Work takes time, so never give up along the way.

I am reminded of a song by Jesus Culture, One Things Remains. Click to hear it…

 

That’s Christ’s love for us. He will never fail us, He will never give up on us, and He will never run out on us. Never. Love your spouse with that kind of love, and I believe you will be able to work through ANY issue by His grace. Pray and believe, and watch the miracles that God can do in your relationship.

 

Hey, I Need Help! Part 2

Last time we looked at how chores around the house can cause major stress in your marriage. If one spouse feels they do a majority of the chores while their partner relaxes, this can lead to resentment and anger.

So how do you divide these chores up so  no one is feeling  they are doing an unfair percentage of the work load?

First, do either or both of you need an attitude change?

Photo by Rachael Ball

Photo by Rachael Ball

Maybe you do most of the work…. But do you have expectations of your spouse that cause you to demand things your way? Have you lost your servant heart in all the resentment? Fix your attitude and get in a place where you can forgive and start a new discussion with a servant heart.

And if you suddenly realize that you are the one relaxing, then it’s time for you to think through why that is. Do you notice when things need to be done or your spouse is exhausted? Do you wish he or she was more relaxed? When you think of helping out with chores, how does that make you feel? Maybe you are OK with messiness, or maybe you just don’t want to help out. Figure it out and make a decision to be a servant to your spouse and take part in keeping your household orderly.

Now you can have a discussion to clear the air and start fresh. Listen to understand each other. Forgive if needed. Bend if that helps. Throw out any unrealistic expectations.

List all of the tasks that you both do around the house by frequency.

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Photo by Belinda Bohlken

Decide which tasks you each prefer to do on a regular basis. For example: One may prefer to cook. That’s great. You’re probably better at it and don’t mind doing it. Narrow the list this way.

The rest you need to creatively work at dividing up.

Maybe neither of you want to vacuum. But you can trade off every other week. One may decide to do the vacuuming if the other spouse mops. You can horse trade. I’ll do this if you do that. Try to work through the list with this give and take cooperative attitude. Be creative. The goal is to equitably share the chores.

If there are items left on the list still, you could agree to do those together. Four hands work faster!

Every family is unique. Your situation may determine who does what chore. If only one spouse is working, the other spouse will usually have more on their list. Find a way to work at sharing the work load around the house so that no one feels they are doing an unfair amount of the work.

More From Dr. Gottman – Stonewalling

We’ve been looking at the Four Horsemen from The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage by John Gottman, Ph.D.  Today we’ll take a look at the fourth and final of the four negative relational interactions, Stonewalling.

When the cycle of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness continues for an extended period, one spouse may eventually just tune out and give up.  They no longer engage inthe argument, they stop trying to give an answer, and will usually just walk away.  They stop the back and forth pattern in the

By cal-retroart

By cal-retroart

critical and contemptuous cycles, and give up trying to defend themselves.  They shut down, walk away, and hide.  But in so doing they also walk away from a meaningful relationship.

Stonewalling is avoiding.  You avoid the fights, arguments, bickering, and critical hurtful comments.  You avoid tension, hostility, and anger.  Your defensiveness has found a new tactic as you seek the peace that comes from silence, but it’s at the cost of your relationship.

You avoid the conflicts, but give up hope for being close.

I remember the years of being apathetic in my relationship.  I tried many times to find a way to get closer to Darleen, but something wasn’t right.  After reading books and going to seminars and still not being able to get close, I thought to myself, “I don’t care anymore.”  There would be long periods of stonewalling when I would not engage.  I was distant, cold, and unapproachable.

I look back on these years as the desert years.  I was telling myself a lie that I didn’t care, when I really cared very much.  I wanted a closeness in our relationship but I would get frustrated and distance myself, believing the lie.

After many years, I rejected that lie, and embraced the truth that I loved Darleen very much, and I needed to act on that belief every day by praying for a healing in our relationship.  No more stonewalling.  It was a time to be fully engaged and to pursue removing the barriers that kept us apart.

I was confronted with a choice: that I could remain apathetic and we’d have another 30 years of a marriage characterized by distance and separation, or I could determine to work on it and we could spend the next 30 years as soulmates.

I chose soulmates, and by God’s grace, we are now enjoying years of closeness like we never had before.

Stonewalling kills a relationship.  It signals I would rather be away from you in silence than to be close to you working on being soulmates.

If you see a pattern of stonewalling in your relationship, I hope this has helped you see the need to work through your issues so you can enjoy a soulmate relationship.  You must be willing to take the steps to grow personally.

I truly hope that you choose to grow.

More From Dr. Gottman- Criticism

In several of our previous posts we got some interesting insights from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D. In the next four blogs we’ll look further in to what he refers to as The Four Horsemen – characteristic negative interactions between spouses.

Dr. Gottman acknowledges that all relationships have disagreements that can escalate into harsh and bitter exchanges. In his studies of couples over a twenty-five-year period, he found that there are four distinct negative interactions that are lethal to a relationship. In order, they are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. We’ll look at each of these Four Horseman separately.

But before we dig in, we must understand that we can all be overcomers. We can all choose to take the path of personal growth and reject our negative tendencies. We can choose to forgive even when we have been hurt repeatedly. We can choose to love, even when we have been hated. Jesus said on the cross,

“Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. Luke 23:34

We can choose words of life and reject a carnal tendency that speaks words of destruction. By God’s grace we can all find the way to overcome and respond in love.

Now let’s take a look at Horseman number one, criticism.

Dr. Gottman makes a distinction between making a complaint and criticizing. A complaint focuses on a specific action like the trash not being taken out. “Why didn’t you take out the trash?” A complaint looks at the problem and asks for an explanation. More like data gathering without judgement.

Photo by Zdeslav Schreiber

Photo by Zdeslav Schreiber

On the other hand, criticism looks at the specific action but adds a character assault tothe complaint. “You didn’t take out the trash again like you said you would. What’s the matter with you? You always forget and have some lame excuse”.

Criticism attacks the character. It judges, then blames and demeans. Criticism can be extremely hurtful because it attacks the person. Yes, the trash wasn’t taken out on time and the person may have been wrong, neglectful, lazy, selfish, repeatedly forgetful, and defensive. But when we move from dealing with the problem itself to attacking the person, we put our relationship in danger. We move from being able to work on the problem with an eye to a positive solution to an attack on our spouse which is unloving and hurtful.

If you find that you are in a pattern of criticizing your spouse and not just lodging a complaint, you need to reflect on what you say and how you say it. You need to break the pattern and make a daily conscious choice to withhold critical remarks. Pray for a change of heart.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

Hey You! Listen Up!

Has your wife ever said, “You’re not listening to me!”

There are times when these words come out tearfully and loaded with overwhelming emotion or with anger and frustration.  Either way, the message is clear:  All of us guys can do a better job at listening to our wives.

Photo by CELAL TEBER

Photo by CELAL TEBER

The familiar scenario has the husband getting home, rummaging through the mail for bills, making a quick run to the bathroom, and returning to the family room to open his laptop to check the last few work emails. He yells back to his wife in the kitchen the obligatory, “How did your day go?”  She reviews the challenges of raising 3 active kids, and the stressful issues that came up.  When she looks around the corner to discover her husband with his gaze fixed on the laptop, she asks, “Have you been listening to me?” to which he replies, “Of course.  I just have to get this one email done.”  And that means he should be done in 20 to 30 minutes.  She walks back to the kitchen thinking, “Right! One email.”

Has this scenario ever happened in your home? Some of us, habitually turn on the TV or read the newspaper.  Still others disappear to the office to put things away, emerging in 45 minutes.  So much is vying for our attention, we often are drawn away from attending to the ones we love.

And then we hear that this pattern of behavior is justified because, well…. Men just need some time to unwind.

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

We basically just get our priorities all wrong.

Am I guilty?  Convicted to the core.  I have done this for years.  It is a worn-in pattern.  But it can and should be changed.  If we love our wives, we should first look to their needs, giving them our undivided attention.  How did their day really go?  We should actively listen to hear not only the message but the heart.  Maybe she revealed the facts about her day, but if you listen to hear her heart she is really saying “I just need a hug.  Today was rough.”

I have a bad habit of “kind of” listening.  That means I do something else and listen in the background.  I have even caught myself needing to “play back” what Darleen has said, as if I have a tape recording in my head.  Ouch!!!  Yes, I do love you, but I only half listen when you talk to me.

So here’s the deal.  listen and pay full attention to your spouse.  No more half-baked efforts.  On the way home from work, decompress and use the time to transition your mind to the people love. If this applies to some of you ladies out there, then so be it.

It is often said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak!