Friday, 19 October 2012

Ordinary Moments

In his book Marriage Matters Winston Smith, author, counselor and lecturer, says “God is in the ordinary moments.”  Furthermore he states that “there is a connection between the details of (our) marriage relationship and the reality of our relationship with God.  Thus we are to see a bigger purpose and new possibilities in the ordinary moments of our marriage.”

 In chapter one he sets for the following three premises:

1.    Marriages change when we recognize God’s agenda for so-called ordinary moments.

A lack of love should prompt us to not just look more closely at our marriage but at our relationship with God.  Having more love in your marriage means having more of God in your marriage.  If you are having trouble loving it is because you either don’t know God or that something is interfering in your relationship with God.  If God is love he must be part of the solution.

2.    Marriages change when we’re willing to love in practical Christlike ways, especially in the difficult moments.

Love is not an experience it is a person – Jesus.  There are two ingredients to loving in a Christlike way.  First we must connect with and depend on Christ, the Son of the living God who is able to help you in the most difficult of moments.  Second is to know what love looks like in the details of the moment.  Jesus teaches us what that looks like.  While this requires that we have faith that Christ will help us, we must take concrete steps.  Some of the biggest giants in our marriages are the sins that reside in our hearts.  For love to make a difference in our marriages it must be more than an emotion, it can only be found in Jesus and must show up in the details of our marriage.

Winston Smith
3.    Marriages change when we’re willing to love consistently, over time, not because our spouses change but because we’re in a growing relationship with God.

We must come to the realization that we can’t change our spouse.  We are doomed if our happiness hinges on our ability to control our spouse.  God offers something better, He offers to change us.  It doesn’t mean that your spouse won’t change.  It does mean that we get to have God living in us such that his love becomes visible.  Most likely our spouse will change when we make different choices and keep making those choices in light of our relationship with God.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Quick to Hear - Slow to Speak

This you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19

Joe White
It is becoming a little clearer to me why communication problems exist in marriage.  Take the following great advice from Joe White, former football coach, noted author and lecturer, on how a husband should approach his wife when it is obvious she has had a bad day:

 The gift of warmth in a marriage conversation says, “I hear you. I understand.  My shoulder is soft and available.

The gift of empathy says, “I feel your pain.  I’m hurting for you.  I’m hurting with you.  My heart is filled with care.”

The gift of unconditional regard says, “I am safe for you to unload on.  I will love you and accept you no matter what.”
Then the clincher:

“By the way, leave your ‘fix it’ skills at the office!”

If “normal” men are from Mars, Joe must be from Pluto.  First of all nothing is obvious to the typical man, particularly in the arena of emotions.  Secondly most men don’t easily exude warmth and empathy and even less likely under stressful conditions.  Lastly most of us men are wired with “fix it” skills, fixing things is what we do.  To tell a man to leave his fix it skills at the office would be like telling a woman to go shopping without her purse.  Finally can’t you just see a six foot two man with a deep booming voice who has exhibited some anger issues in the past, announcing to his five foot two wife that he is safe haven, a place for her to come and unload.

 The reality is that whether or not it is difficult for a man to be nurturing it is a skill worth developing. Women, more than men, connect relationally.  For many women the best form of connecting is talking.  And for all of us the most satisfying conversation is when the person we are talking to is truly listening to what is being said.  
Listening goes beyond the spoken word.  It may be even more important to hear what is not being said.  Your wife’s tone of voice and her body language may send an entirely different message than her literal words convey.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Marriage Is Not a Competitive Event

Outside the marriage:
Some couples compare their marriage to other couples, sometimes favorably and sometimes unfavorably. “Her husband opens the car door for her.”  “Did you see how affectionate his wife is to him?”  “All they do is bicker.” 

News flash – comparing your marriage to that of other couples serves no purpose.  Marriages that look rock solid on the outside may be a train wreck when they are behind closed doors.  Couples that seem to argue a lot may in fact communicate well, resolve issues, and have a healthy relationship.  In reality the purpose of comparing is to feel better about yourself or to attempt to manipulate your partner.  In either case such a comparison is self-centered. 

Just be direct with your partner.  “I’d like it if you opened the car door for me when we go out, it would make me feel special.”  “I really like it when you take my arm or hold my hand when we are out walking.”  Was that so hard?

Inside the Marriage:
This form of competition is probably more destructive but often pride and self-centeredness are the culprits here as well.  Some couples vie for being the “favorite parent” among the children, trying to win them over by being more lenient, spending more time with them, buying them what they want, giving in to their whims and desires, etc.

Some compete financially, with the one earning the higher salary making sure to mention it any time it is to their advantage.  Or maybe the one who perceives they have the more “important” job uses every opportunity to flaunt it.

 Another way of competing, in a sense, is to keep score of how much of the work you do around the house; or how much you are doing for your spouse that goes unappreciated; or how often you give in to the wishes of your spouse.  This only leads to a buildup of resentment.

So much for love and respect!
I have always prided myself (that’s the first problem) on being a good loser.  I was born in an era when it was said, “It is not whether you win or lose its how you play the game.”  When you lose a lot it is helpful if you’re good at it.  A few years after my wife and I married we began to play Scrabble.  I began to realize that I wasn’t such a good loser and that she was highly competitive.

This became a valuable lesson for me as I began to look at my heart.  I’ve gotten better at losing at Scrabble, in part because I came to realize that my relationship with my wife in all areas of our life is far more important to me than playing one-upmanship in any area of our life.