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.

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.

Weekend Away

How important is it to have a scheduled weekend getaway with your spouse? Should you try to sneak a time in once a year? Would that be enough? After all, we are so busy and it’s really hard to get a full three days away. Who will take care of the kids? And what about all the projects that we need to get done? Who has the time?

Do the excuses sound familiar? Why is it that we schedule other things but time away together gets pushed into the “maybe someday” category? Let me ask you this, in the past three or four years has “someday” ever come? Or are you like so many couples who never take time away. Life and circumstances determine your schedule.

Here’s an analogy: your laptop. How long can you use it on battery alone? A full day, or maybe several hours? Before long, you need to plug it in and get recharged. It has used all of its reserve power. It is running on empty. And what if it just kept running, but very slowly. It would take forever to process. (I know; it sounds like your laptop even when fully charged!) But think about it. How long would you tolerate it running so slow? And after running slow for so long, you would begin thinking that’s normal.

Photo by franckreporter

Photo by franckreporter

I think our relationship with our spouse is like the laptop. It needs to be recharged because after a while, it starts running on empty. For many of us, we are so used to running on empty, it seems normal. It would be great if we had an ap with a meter that would pop up and say, “Danger. Danger. Relationship running on empty. Need time away. Would you like me to schedule that for you?”

I believe most importantly, you need to predetermine that time away together is a priority. And you should try to work it in every three months.

Here are some important reasons for time away together:

  • Relax – No phones, noise, laptops, emails – Take a deep breath and relax.
  • Reconnect – You’ll have time to talk. Take a long walk on the beach and talk.
  • Remember – You can share favorite memories together over dinner.
  • Rejuvenate – Focus on making your relationship fresh again.
  • Recharge – Get your energy level back up and feel renewed, ready for life.
  • Reignite – Take time to stoke the flames of passion and let things heat up.

Well, now it’s time to do something. Resolve to make it happen. Tell your wife you want to go out for dinner and get out your calendars and schedule a weekend away. Sure, there’ll be details to work out, but it will be worth it.

Navigating a Life Changing Event

Recently, and fairly suddenly, Alan and I chose to embrace some changes in our life that are having a big impact on us. Alan was laid off his job late last year and was pursuing another job. If that wasn’t enough our church’s leadership team fell apart and urgently needed help to fill in the blanks. Never ever did we contemplate Alan volunteering for the board of directors of a large church, but that’s what he did after we prayed, sought counsel, and agreed together that the Lord was leading him there.

Photo by Andy Stafiniak

Photo by Andy Stafiniak

Within a week he was attending several meetings a week. Evenings, mornings, long meetings, emergency meetings. Lots of phone calls, email and text communications. It was a very different schedule, sort of like when we prepared for our daughter’s wedding. Those last few months were non-stop and we never felt caught up.

We have always been extremely protective of our time alone for dates and intimacy and it took a few weeks to notice that this new schedule was taking a toll. We also felt the effect on our exercise goals that fell to a lower priority. We were tending to eat fast food on the fly. The long hours, less exercise, and poor food choices meant less energy for intimate time and getting everyday chores done.

Though this has been a big change for us, I know that some couples live in this state of busyness constantly and it doesn’t ease up for them. So temporary or constant, how can we navigate these times and keep our marriages fresh and passionate?

There are the obvious things:

  • Is there anything you can let go of?
  • Decide together if you should add something new.
  • Intentionally shut the phones off for time to connect.
  • Stop things that just waste time- TV, web surfing, gaming.

And schedule intimate time if you have to but be open to unconventional or spontaneous times. When a meeting cancels, don’t waste the opportunity! On the other hand, let go and be content if your time together gets postponed once in a while.

Most important are your attitudes. It’s easy to blame and resent your spouse when they change the plans. But that attitude will only hurt you both if you hold on to it. Don’t ever doubt your spouse’s commitment and love. Making assumptions about their intentions never helps. When your feelings get hurt or your hopes dashed, talk about how you feel

Photo by John Nyberg

Photo by John Nyberg

and work together to get the time you need.

And finally, don’t forget to plan for and go on that get-away time where you can relax and enjoy each other without any interruptions!

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.

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!

Need vs Wants

One of the great debates when discussing finances is how do we determine whether the item we’re considering is a need or a want?

This discussion has so many possible right answers because every situation is different. We  have a unique level of income relative to our debt and expenses. Usually our income is a set amount each month. We allocate about the same amount to bills every month and we have a certain amount left over after the bills have been paid. Some have nothing left over, largely because of accumulated debt. In either situation, we need to decide how to spend on items that are in the grey area.

 Michal Zacharzewski

Michal Zacharzewski

Do you really need that new widget? For example, many would have no issue saying their six year old, well maintained, dependable car “needs” to be replaced with a “new” car because it’s “old”. And we haven’t had a new car in years. Others would see the added expense of a new car as a definite “want” item.

Face it. If we asked what we NEED to spend money on each month, the list would be quite short. Basics like food, utility bills, house payments, insurance would all make the list. But what about the $425 on average that you spend each month on dinners out? Is that a need or a want? Can that be cut back to a modest $125 thus saving $300 per month? What about the amount spent on vacations each year? If you look back, do you spend a few hundred dollars per year or is it thousands?

How about new furniture? Do you regularly spend money to modernize the household furnishings like a new bigger and better TV, sofa,  remodeled kitchen, new backyard furniture, new family room stereo equipment . This list can go on and on.

Each of you needs to determine what level of discretionary spending fits your budget. I believe that most WANT items should be OFF the list until ALL debt is paid off. Any money spent for “wanted” items could be used to pay down debt faster. We need to get in a position of being debt free. When you are debt free, then you can conscientiously decide what amount is “reasonable” to spend on items that are in the “want” category.

Discuss all of this with your spouse and come to a joint decision. Collaborate and be willing to compromise. You may not see the NEED for something that your spouse would really like to have. It’s OK to find a balance. But agree on this together.

You NEED to be in a place where you each WANT what is best for both of you.