Friday, 28 May 2010

Romance is an Art - or is It?

I recently read that “romance is an art.” As one who consistently scores low on psychological scales that measure such things as creativity and artistic ability, this does not bode well for me. My “roommate” is an artist and when I consider her painstaking attention to detail and the skill it takes to turn a canvas into a vibrant work of art I thought “goodbye romance”.

Then I had another thought – hey thoughts don’t usually come that close together for me. I recalled some trips that we have made to museums. I remembered some “works of art” that looked like something I turned in to my third grade teacher. I remember one work that was nothing but a pile of rocks, and another that was made of light bulbs. Needless to say this buoyed my spirits, perhaps art is in the eyes of the beholder and my flawed attempts at being romantic might be seen as master pieces in the eyes of the one I love.

In an attempt to be romantic, on our first date I brought Kathleen a piece of frozen tofu mounted on a chop stick. Behind that is a very long story and her initial reaction probably matched yours when you read that. Fortunately I also had one red rose on the front seat of the car.

I am coming to the conclusion that anything that is an attempt to convey “I love you”, or “I’ve been thinking about you” is a form of romance. It might be a note left on a pillow, or a dry erase message left on the bathroom mirror. It might be one rose or an impromptu picnic. It might be just a call just to say how much you care (that could be a song). Candle light dinners, strolls on the beach, a hot oil massage, a piece of gourmet chocolate or watching “Sleepless in Seattle” for the third time can all contribute to sustaining that intimacy that so often couples neglect after they have been married for a year or two.

Often there is wisdom in old cliches like “it’s the thought that counts.” They got to be old for a reason. If you tend to be romantically challenged as I am you could even resort to putting “romantic ideas” in your search engine and you’ll get a plethora of ideas.

What are some of your favorite expressions of love?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Is Your Marriage Defying the Odds - Part II

In my last posting I began sharing what I believe to be some of the critical elements that exist in a marriage that lasts.

The ability to Forgive one another is a huge help when attempting to navigate the rough seas that can be part of any marriage. By harboring a grudge it not only affects one’s relationship with the other person, it has the potential to physically or emotionally take its toll on the person unwilling to forgive. Resentment and bitterness escalate over time. Ken Sande, author of Peacemaker, gives depth to what it means to forgive:

…forgiveness is undeserved and cannot be earned…forgiveness requires that you absorb certain effects of another person’s actions (sins) and release the person from liability to punishment.”

By granting forgiveness we are committing that we will not bring up the person’s offense in our thoughts, words, or actions toward him or her at any point in the future for the purpose of accusation. I didn’t say this was easy.

According to several studies Praying together is statistically off the charts for predicting whether or not couples will stay together. The statistics are at once shocking and intriguing. According to FamilyLife surveys of thousands of Christian couples less than eight percent pray together on a regular basis (excluding meal time prayer). Here’s the clincher – of Christian couples who actively pray together, the divorce rate is less than one percent. Obviously this has to make my list. I suspect that praying together is just a subset of this couples spiritual disciplines.

My favorite, though perhaps the least important on the list is Humor. This includes the ability to laugh at oneself and most certainly to laugh together as a couple. Finding humor in those things that befall us in the course of a each day is great marriage therapy. Being able to laugh together when your spouse finds your car keys in the refrigerator or being able to good naturedly needle each other when an idiosyncrasy shows up makes for a most enjoyable life.

How about Sex why hasn’t that made your list? You did ask that question didn’t you? As a counselor I find that one of the first places marital dissatisfaction rears its ugly head is in the bedroom. The couple has all but given up on being intimate. I doubt that there are many marriages that are built on fantastic sex. I would venture to say however that if the husband and wife are displaying love and respect; if they are exceptional friends; if each strive to be selfless; if they are able to truly forgive one another; and if they laugh and pray together the sex will be incredible!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Is Your Marriage Defying the Odds - Part I

Why do some couples make it and some don’t? If you are willing to accept as fact that somewhere around fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce then surely you ought to accept that some percentage of couples are staying together but are (a) most unhappy or (b) have come to a living arrangement that would resemble roommates. I have arbitrarily assumed that twenty-five percent of marriages fall into this latter category. So if your marriage is healthy and vibrant then you are defying the odds                                                                                                                                              

Love and Respect head my list. The Bible has few commands that are specifically addressed to husbands and wives, “husbands love your wives as yourself and wives respect your husband.” What makes my wife feel loved might be totally different than what makes another man’s wife feel loved. And guess what, we are dynamic creatures and as my wife continues to grow I may need to show my love to her in different ways than I do today. Love might manifest itself in time spent 

together, it might be an eager willingness to help with household chores, for another wife it might be a reassurance or lots of hugs. Husbands you need to ask your wife, “How can I best show you how much I love you?” Guys are a little simpler (there’s a huge understatement). Men want to be respected, again this is person specific. Respect might take the form of admiration, affirmation, deferring to him, esteeming him or praising him. You need to ask him.

Exceptional Friends might be the next thing on my list. True friends enjoy being with one another and look for as many opportunities as feasible to be together. They feel as though they can be transparent and not be judged. They genuinely care about one another. They have earned the right to speak into the other person’s life. There is total trust. There are no hidden agendas, no manipulation, no need to impress. Are you and your spouse best of friends? If not, were you good friends when you were dating?

I believe Selflessness is also high on the list. It is my contention that most conflict arises because each of us is totally self-centered. It is all about my needs, my desires, my happiness, my fulfillment – well I think you get the picture. The more I am able to put my wife’s needs ahead of my own the happier she will be and vice versa. As husbands and wives we must learn to die to self.

More to come – but what is on your list? What do you think makes marriages work?