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!”

Thankfulness

Photo by monmart

Photo by monmart

This week we celebrate the annual tradition of Thanksgiving Day. We gather with family and friends and partake of far too many calories in the finest turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, and of course pies and other treats. We enjoy each other’s company and engage in lively dinner time chats.

I am reminded during these times to be thankful for the wonderful blessing I have been given in my wife, Darleen. Come to think about it, each day has something to be thankful for. Here are just a few of the many things that come to mind:

Darleen has been a wonderful wife for the past 40 years. I often call her my “Proverbs 31” wife. She is thoughtful, kind, and considerate. She does so many special things for me and around the house I can hardly begin to count. She is an amazing cook and can make anything from an elaborate Christmas dinner to a simple backyard BBQ. She decorates the house for special occasions and keeps our home neat and clean for when guests are over. She is a thrifty shopper always on the lookout for bargains and specials. She is patient and long-suffering (I added this because she mostly needs patience for me. I am often slow on the uptake with tasks around the house that need to be done.)

Oh yes, she’s my live-in nurse, on duty twenty-four hours a day. I once got a deep cut on my finger, and passed out after seeing my blood. I hit my head and cut open my chin as I fell over. Yes, I know, it sounds funny now, but I could have bled to death had my nurse not been there to take care of Mr. Wimpy. Now you see why I have a lot to be thankful for.

Photo by Armin Hanisch

Photo by Armin Hanisch

She has not only been a fantastic mother to our three children, but now she has the role of best Grandma Bear ever. Just the other night, the evening before Thanksgiving Day when we had a house full of family and friends coming over for dinner, she was up until 11:30 making doll house furniture for a doll house she bought for our granddaughters. She hand-crafted elegant beds preparing the doll house for the next day when our granddaughter was coming over. Wow!  What a woman I have been given. And she has made a point to make a quilt for each grandchild when they get to two years old, each with a special verse sewn in to the corner.

In Proverbs 18:22 it says,

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing”.

My special wife. Truly a good thing. I am so thankful that the Lord has blessed me with such a wonderful soulmate, best friend and lover. She is truly the most special gift in my life and I love her now more than ever.

So, to all you men out there, take some time and think about your wife and what you are thankful for, and then tell her, over and over. Be thankful for the blessing God has given to you.

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.

A Great Marriage – The Ten Keys

This week I’m sharing with you advice from a book that’s been on my shelf for quite some time,  How to Make  A Good Marriage Great –Ten Keys to a Joyous Relationship by Victor Cline, Ph.D.  Most of the time when I see “Ph.D.” next to the author’s name, I think, “Ugghh, another 9000 pages of endless psychobabble that will take me three years to plow through.”  But then I come across a book like this one that breaks down complicated issues into basic strategies for success.  Get a copy of this book.  I’m sure you will find it useful.  In the forward Dr. Cline says, “I have never seen a happy divorce.”  How true is that?  Broken relationships even if they end amicably are painful and leave deep lasting scars.  He goes on to say that “we are all flawed.  We make mistakes…”   But then he says, “We have choices.  If we wish, marriage can be a wonderful, exhilarating adventure with almost no limits…” So I encourage you to choose the wonderful and enjoy the adventure of marriage.

Here is a summary of his first five keys for making a marriage great – with my added editorial comments:

1.        First Key – Shower Positives, Minimize Nagging  – Too often we focus on the five percent of the daily things that happen that are negative, such as a harsh word or insensitive comment.  We overlook the positive.  We need to get in the habit of being thankful for all that is good in our spouse and have grace and patience with the negatives.  Remember: five positives overcome one negative!b

2.       Second Key – Let Your Spouse Know the Facilitators of Love – Here he encourages us to clearly and verbally let our spouse know what our needs are.  Don’t expect he will somehow read your mind.  When your spouse expresses his needs, listen and do your best to give him what he needs.

3.       Third Key – Defuse Anger  – Find a way to step away from tense boiling points when they happen.  Sometimes writing it out and sharing notes can help.  Take time to calm down and when cooler heads prevail, the issues may be easier to work out.

4.       Fourth Key –  Positive Sexuality  –  This is such an important key in marriage relationships and it is the basis of true emotional intimacy.  Men need sex to feel emotionally connected and women need to be emotionally connected to truly enjoy the richness of sexual intimacy.  Work at understanding each other’s needs.

5.       Fifth Key –  The Power of Commitment – Love is a Daily Decision  –  This is clearly a cornerstone to a lasting marriage.  We must make an unconditional commitment to each other – For richer / For poorer – For better / For worse – In sickness / and in health – ‘Till death do us part.  Familiar words.  We need to be committed to each other and committed to growing our relationship into a “joyous relationship”.  It’s not good enough to be committed to a lifeless relationship.  We also need to be committed to and working toward a joyous relationship, a soul mate relationship.

Next week we’ll look at the next five Keys according to Dr. Cline.

Be Thankful For Struggles

Are there struggles in your marriage that never seem to go away in spite of many times talking it through?  When struggles happen over and over without getting resolved, we often try to bury the issue  and avoid the triggers.  Obviously nothing is solved and those issues have a way of popping up again at the most unexpected or worst times.

I think there is a better way to approach marital problems in general, and especially the recurring ones.  Let’s look at a verse from Romans that you have probably seen before…

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope… Romans 5:3-4 (NASB)

For me, being thankful in struggles is difficult!  I may feel angry or sad and thankfulness is far from my mind.  It is important to feel those emotions though; to analyze where they are coming from and what from our past prompts them.  The point is to learn from them, decide which feelings make sense and which don’t, which square with the facts and which to let go of now that we are adults.  In the process we learn about ourselves and our own personal issues.

Struggles are a constant part of life and we need to keep up the self-evaluation and discussions with our spouse to get through them.  This is perseverance.  Dictionary.com defines perseverance as a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”   Keep your purpose forefront in your minds- a better marriage with this person to whom you have committed your life.  Your course of action is to keep chipping away at the issues that plague you individually and together.  When a problem recurs for the nth time, that is the time to persevere all the more.

When we develop a habit of persevering through struggles with our spouse we have developed our character!  We have fought for a closer marriage.  Our intentions to honor our marriage vows are proven over time.  Bit by bit issues are resolved, we understand and empathize with each other, we cherish and love with greater depth.

And with proven character we acquire hope.  From Wikipedia: “Hope is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair,

  • which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to circumstances in one’s life.
  • the feeling that …events will turn out for the best
  • looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.”

It is a good thing when you really believe your marriage will get better, that all will turn out for the best, and that we have confidence in each other!  That is hope. And it is worth the persevering to get it.

Let’s go back to thankfulness now… When you have persevered through a few issues and come out with a closer relationship on the other side, then thankfulness starts to make more sense.  You begin to see that struggle is an essential part of the path to a soul mate marriage and should be accepted with gratitude.

When I hear older couples say they love each other more all the time, I think that they must have thankfully practiced perseverance over many years!  In the midst of struggle, try to remember what you have to look forward to and be thankful.

I Choose Us !!

Do you want to see a great “Date Night” movie?  (OK – OK!  A chick flick.  Hey guys – remember that most of the time she watches those shoot-‘em up movies with you and so a chick flick is perfectly ok and this one even has time travel for us guys!)  Anyways, let me recommend The Family Man with Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni.  It’s a great movie with an even better message.

After a series of events the husband, played by Nicolas Cage, comes to realize he needs to pursue his dream and passion to where he feels led in life.  But it requires major life changes for the family, including moving, changing schools for the kids, and being away from grandparents.  His wife passionately argues that they just can’t do that; they would be giving up too much.  They would have to leave their house, friends, and family.  The next day after some time of reflection and soul searching, she says to her husband, “Being with you is more important for me than to hold on to anything.  Where you go, I’ll go.”  And then she says, “I choose us!”

Think about that!  “I choose us!”  I make a conscious choice to put my personal needs and wants aside for what is a better choice for “Us.”  We each come to our relationships with our own personal dreams and aspirations, our own plans and goals.  They’re my goals, my plans, my career, and my education.  And somehow we must meld those two sets of desires into one.  It can no longer be all about me. It needs to become all about “Us”.

Here are a few suggestions to help you to work at making “Us” a focus:

  • Ask your spouse “Is there something special I can do for you this week?”  And don’t just ask, remember to Do It!
  • When needed, say “I’m sorry.  Would you forgive me?”
  • Commit to two times per week for special one on one alone time together.  Read a book together, share a massage or back rub – Be creative  –  I’m sure you can come up with something!
  • Make plans for two special trips away together each year. (Camping in the backyard doesn’t count)
  • Work at overcoming “me” and “my” and instead work on “Us”!
  • Talk about your favorite memories together.
  • Talk about your dreams and future together.

In the movie, the husband was faced with a choice of “me” or “us” and he chose “me”.  He became successful and quite wealthy.  His choice led him to a lonely and isolated life.   Sure he had wealth, but also an empty unfulfilled life.  Too late, he came to see that he had made the wrong choice.

Now for today’s assignment:  Get the movie and watch it together and when the time is right, nuzzle up to your spouse and give them a nibble on that special provocative spot and whisper in his or her ear, “From now on, I choose Us!”  Can you see that special sparkle in her eyes?  That’s the “Us” sparkle!!

 

I Do.

Remember the day when you said “I do?”  How did you feel that day?  What were your hopes and dreams for your marriage relationship?  Do you remember what exactly you promised your new spouse at your wedding?

Most of us had a combination of the following  and maybe a few others:

  • to have and to hold from this day forward
  • for better or for worse
  • for richer, for poorer
  • in sickness and in health
  • to love and to cherish
  • from this day forward until death do us part.

We promised to love forever, in all circumstances, when things were good and when bad.  There were no ifs, ands, or buts that day.  We meant what we said and we were sure that love would conquer all in those bad times, if they ever came.  But maybe they wouldn’t because we were perfect for each other!

A ways down the road of married life reality hits and we see each other for the imperfect people that we are.  Sometimes we hurt each other with words or actions.  We disappoint our spouse.  We find out things about our spouse that we didn’t know before, like habits, coping mechanisms, addictions, and extended family. Maybe some of our dreams will never be realized because of sickness or financial strain.  These are the worst, the poorer, and the unhealthy times.

When in those hard times, some couples lose sight of their wedding vows, me included.  I acted like my vows read more like this:

  • I will have and hold you when it’s better
  • When it’s worse, I will probably keep you at arm’s length.
  • I will love you as long as you love me.
  • Maybe I will cherish you, unless you hurt me.
  • I will take care of you when you are sick
  • But I will take you for granted when healthy.

That’s not what we dreamt of ever!  How can anyone possibly undo all the damage?

If you see yourself in some of that, there is hope to turn things around.  I discovered that Jesus has the perfect remedy for the sin of selfishness—confession and repentance to him and your spouse.  And because healing rarely happens all at once—continual confession and repentance.  There was freedom from selfishness and joy in serving when I turned from sin to Jesus. And now, instead of shame and guilt after each failure, there is forgiveness and reconciliation.

At the center of our marriages there should be the same unconditional love that Jesus has for us.  His love for us does not depend on what we do, say, think, or even how we treat him!  When we can love our spouse like that then we can truly have, hold, and cherish in all times.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to the beginning to evaluate the direction of your path.  For your own growth look at how you have kept the promises you made to your spouse.  If you’re really brave, ask your spouse how you’ve done!  Listen and learn how you can be a better servant to your spouse.  You will find the path to a soul mate marriage!