Why Water Often?

In our previous blog “Water Often” we discussed the importance of nurturing your spouse by making sure that you provide for them daily, much like a plant needs water to survive.  But why it is so important to provide that on a daily basis?  Why is it needed?

All of you engineer types will really like this:  Our relationships can be impacted with two types of charges – positive charges or negative charges.  When we do or say things that convey love, support, and encouragement, those are positive charges that energize the relationship in a positive way.  When we say or do things that belittle each other or make hurtful comments, those are negative charges that harm the relationship and decrease our connection.

So if I make one unkind, thoughtless comment to my wife, I only need to make one kind comment and she’ll be fine, right?  One act of kindness balances the effects of one unkind act; that sounds logical.  NOT!!!

In his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, tells us that it takes FIVE positive actions/interactions to overcome the effect of ONE negative interaction.  From his findings we can see that it is not a one to one ratio.

Think about it from your own personal experience.  Think back to a time when someone made a particularly negative remark to you.  It may have been when you were in school, or perhaps it was something one of your parents said to you.  As you reflect on it I’m sure that you will remember how much it hurt you.  Certainly, one positive comment would not begin to outweigh the deep hurt that you felt.  Even if the person apologized and asked for forgiveness, it didn’t immediately take away the pain that you felt.  Reflect on these:

  •   1 Thessalonians 5:15 “…but always try to be kind to each other…”
  •    2 Timothy 2:24 “… (he) must not quarrel; instead he must be kind to everyone…”
  •    1 Corinthians 13:4-5 “Love is patient, love is kind… It is not self-seeking…  It keeps no record of  wrongs…”

Many authors in their books on marriage refer to this dynamic being like a bank account.  You need to continually make deposits in order to keep a positive balance.  If all you make are withdrawals, you will soon overdraw your account.  To complete the analogy, you will need to make at least five deposits for every withdrawal.

  • “You really look nice today” – Ding – Deposit.
  • “That was such a great dinner” – Ding – Deposit.
  • “I love spending time away with you” – Ding – Deposit.
  • “Thanks for taking care of me when I was sick. You’re the best nurse  ever” – Ding – Deposit.
  • “How come you never get the dishes done” – BONG – Withdrawal.  BIG withdrawal.

Remember that we all put our foot in our mouth occasionally.  Just remember to have plenty of positive deposits in the account so it is never empty.

And try to keep your foot out of your mouth!

Next time:  Some great ideas on how to have a full Bank Account

Conditional Watering

Previously we talked about our spouse being like a plant.  We each have the ability to properly “water” our spouse so that they can flourish.  We need to actively grow in our understanding of what unique needs our spouse has so that we can meet those needs.  We have been given the unique responsibility to provide for the nurturing of our spouse and therefore you must look every day at what you can do to help your spouse grow and mature, even if it means putting aside your own needs.

What if you withhold the “watering” that your spouse needs?  What if you are waiting on your spouse to “water” you first?  What if you adopt the attitude, “My needs aren’t being met.  Why should I pay attention to your needs when you aren’t paying attention to mine?”

This is what I call “Conditional Watering”.  In other words, I’ll only pay attention to your needs “IF” you first pay attention to mine.

Does this kind of selfish standoff ever work?  Doesn’t this reduce the relationship to a kind of blackmail:  I’ll give you what you want only if and when I get what I want?  That doesn’t sound like a foundation on which to build a soul mate relationship.

Why is it important to adopt the principle of unconditional love?  Think that through for a minute.  If we give to our spouse only if and when they give first to us, then we are telling our spouse that I’m only willing to give to you “IF” you give to me.  That’s not love.

That’s similar to a business contract.  I’ll give you some money if you give me a widget that I want.  No money, no widget.  Relationships do not work best in a contractual environment, because a contract is by nature self-seeking and self-protecting.  I’ll only give if I get something back.

We all want to be loved unconditionally, not because we do something, but because of who we are.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God acted in love, not out of contractual obligation.  Moreover, God acted in love when we were utterly undeserving!   Our relationship with our spouse will grow and flourish if we begin by modeling that kind of selfless love to our spouse.  Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  They are commanded to love unconditionally, to love “no matter what!”  Just as God did.

In Luke 6:38 we are told, “Give and it will be given to you.”  The context of this verse is dealing with money, but I feel that the principle of “giving first” applies here as well.  We are to consider the needs of others first.  In the context of selfless serving we can create a foundation for a relationship that will last for years, grow in quality, and be the place where we experience unconditional love.  It’s not “I love you if,” but rather “I love you no matter what.”

Water often and always be willing to water first.

Time can be on your side

We’ve all heard it said over and over again that the biggest gift that you can give someone is your time, and for some reason, mostly by default, we have our spouse on a rationing program.  We seem to have time for work, kids, chores, volunteer programs at church and school, and we rarely miss out on watching that baseball or football game.  We have time for so many things and for many of us the day ends with us crawling in to bed at night exhausted, having spent precious few minutes with the most important person in our life.  When we consider a weekly date night with our spouse we lament there is no time left for that.  How does that happen?

Remember in an earlier blog on Common Sense I spoke about the couple that had enough money to buy two packs of cigarettes a day and then complained that they didn’t have enough money to buy milk for the kids?  In reality, they had more than enough money; they were just smoking the milk money.   In relation to time available each day, there is no rich or poor.  No one has more or less time per day.  Much like the cigarette smoker, you already have the time.  The question is better put, “What are we doing with the time that we have?”

How is it then that as we look back over the day or the past week, we have spent so few of those hours in meaningful relating with our spouse?

As with finances, we need to make choices.  And right choices follow right priorities.  The first thing that you need to do is determine what your priorities are.  For example, a financial planner will tell you that savings should be a priority in your monthly budget.  So they recommend taking 10% right off the top and put it into a saving program.  They don’t say to wait until the end of the month and see what’s left over.  That would be foolish.  You take your savings off the top and then live on what’s left.  Why?  Because you predetermined that saving was a priority.

And isn’t that what we need to do with our most important relationship? Why give your time and energy to everything else and then give your spouse the leftovers?  Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Here’s a challenge:  Do you want to have your relationship with your spouse be the number one priority?  Great!  Commit to this:  Set aside two evenings per week – two to three uninterrupted hours, for “special time” with each other.  No phone calls, no emails, no TV, no ball games (you can record them!), no Face Book, no blogging, just time for each other.  Later in the evening is fine, especially if you have kids.   And at home is fine too.   Remember:  water often. Trust me.  Your spouse will love you for making them your number one priority.

Water Often

Previously we spoke about your relationship being like a plant that needs water every day to flourish and stay green and beautiful.  Let’s expand upon that.

Let’s pretend that you and your spouse are like “people plants”.  You’re both standing in large pots with beautiful dark soil and you look like leafy green ivy growing strong and tall.  Each of you has a large watering can with a spout and your pots are close enough that you can reach over and water your spouse’s soil.  Now let’s further imagine that your watering can has the exact additives that your spouse’s plant needs to flourish, including the nitrogen, and the perfect dash of phosphate, potash, zinc and iron.  In other words, you have the perfect mixture of ingredients uniquely blended and balanced to make your spouse grow beautiful and strong and green.  The best looking spouse plant on the whole block.

What happens when we withhold water from a plant?  It begins to turn brown and the leaves begin to fall.  It becomes limp and weak.  Withholding nutrients will eventually cause the plant to die.  And remember this:  When you properly provide nutrients to your spouse, they then have the strength to be able to give back to you the nutrients that you need.  It’s a cycle – water them and they are strong enough to water you.

I believe that God wants each of us to have a watering pot uniquely blended with the exact nutrients and ingredients to enable our spouse to flourish, grow, and blossom.  We need to take seriously our responsibility to figure out what those unique things are that our spouse needs.  For example, the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman talks about how each of us has a special love language.  We can express and receive love through quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch.  When you know which of these five love languages your spouse prefers, you can begin to express your love for them in their unique language.

Seek to understand your spouse.  Know what their particular needs are and what fills them with joy.  Does she prefer a red rose or help with the dishes?  Does he prefer to chat about his day when he comes home from work, or does he appreciate 15 – 20 minutes of quiet time to unwind?  How do you know?  You can know because you can ask.  Agree with your spouse to take a few minutes and write down ten things that your spouse could do on a daily or weekly basis that would make you feel really special.  “I really appreciate it when you_________. It makes me feel so loved by you”.  Discuss the lists with each other and really listen to your spouse.  You could also read The 5 Love Languages book together.  Work at it every day.  What can I do to bless you today?  After all, I love it when you get all green and leafy!!!

Say it Often

It’s been a fairly typical day at work.  The usual projects that needed to get done and emails answered, nothing too pressing.  When you get home you immediately notice the kids shoes are in a muddy heap by the front door.  The kitchen sink is filled with dishes and the kitchen table is covered with bags of groceries.  You put down the mail and go over to the family room for a moment of relaxation.  Grabbing the remote to catch up on the news you see the sofa covered with three baskets of laundry.  Your wife is just coming down the hall and the first thing you say is, “What have you been doing all day?  The place is a mess.”  No warm “Hello” or “How has your day been?” or “Can I help you with anything?”  Nope.  Just go for the jugular.  Assume the worst and point out the obvious.

Pause for a moment and picture the same getting home from work scenario.  But this time the house is neatly kept, the shoes are put away, the floor is clean, the groceries are put away and the sink has no dishes piled up. Your wife comes down the hall and you ask the same question that every man asks when he gets home, “What are we having for dinner?”  Not a word about how neat and clean the house is, or how wonderful and beautiful your wife looks.  Nope.  First things first.  What are we going to eat?

If we are honest, this sounds all too familiar.  Why is it that we are so quick to see the flaws and blurt out a rebuke or a harsh word, but we hardly ever notice when things are good and deliver a compliment?  We can be so quick to harshly remind him that his socks are on the floor AGAIN but do we remember to encourage him when he remembers where the hamper is?

There’s an old story about a wife who said that she wished that her husband would say more often that he loved her.  He replied, “When we got married I told you that I loved you.  If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”  Hey Guys:  Let her know… and let her know often!!  Encourage her every day.  Look for things that you appreciate and verbalize it to your spouse.  Shower her with words of love and affirmation.  Your words will be like the cool water that a plant needs every day to flourish and stay green and beautiful.

In Hebrews 3:13 it says, “But encourage one another daily”.  In Ephesians 4:29 it says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but  only what is helpful for building each other up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Encouraging words are helpful and they build us up and they are just what we need.  Use them often.

Personal Growth item:  Work every day on being quick to compliment and slow to be critical.