By Ben McGuire
I curled up in a ball next to my wife on our living room floor, and we wept together. After two and a half years of infertility, we’d lost our first baby to miscarriage.
Like a failing wick, our hope dwindled to near extinction.
She felt abandoned by God. She sank into despair with thoughts of being damaged and broken. She was at a tipping point.
I didn’t know how to respond. How could I comfort my wife when I didn’t have any answers to why we were going through this?
She didn’t need fluffy clichés. That would be like trying to satisfy her appetite with cotton candy.
She needed substantial, weighty truth. Real food for her soul.
Because our faith is grounded in a Person, my wife’s hopelessness (and my own) could only be corrected by a true view of Him.
My wife and I clung especially close to one another after the miscarriage.
I never had “answers.” But I walked alongside her. I prayed with her and over her and for her. And we hid God’s Word in our hearts—memorizing, reading, meditating—to guard our thoughts.
Like a fire on a winter night, kindle rest and safety for your spouse. Help her scatter despair’s darkness. Envelop her in the warm, comforting light of Christ.
The Good Stuff: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5-6)
Not to throw my husband under the bus, but when I need words of affirmation, I usually have to ask. In fact, a few birthdays in a row, I did ask for my gift to include a heartfelt note. Because with few exceptions, the only times he tells me I’m physically attractive to him is if I express my attraction to him. Or if I ask him about a specific outfit and he happens to like it (since he’s actually honest in his evaluations).
At one point, this bothered me. I don’t hate hearing I’m not bad to look at or that I’m an enjoyable person to be around without prompting. Right?
But now? It doesn’t bother me so much. Because I’ve learned a couple of things about my husband and how he operates, and I’ve learned to turn up the volume on the ways he does consistently show me how he feels.
He’s the kind of guy who’s quite content to research and read and sit with his thoughts (Enneagram 5, #iykyk). The flip side of this personality is that sometimes it’s hard for him to share his time, energy, and attention.
When I realized that, his choosing to give his time and energy to sit and talk with me became its own kind of love letter.
When he initiates conversation with me, listens to what’s on my mind, and wants to be close to me, it all speaks loud and clear: He wants me and cares deeply about me.
Not to mention the meals he cooks, the coffee he has waiting on the counter for me every morning (dude, that is sexy), the errands he runs, and the countless ways he steps in and serves me and our children—these all speak volumes about the way he’s choosing me, the ways he’s loving me.
If I don’t have weekly love notes or whispered sweet nothings on the regular, it’s really okay. The daily ways he shows me he’s thinking of me and cares for me spell out a love story that’s actually much more romantic than words on a page or a semi-robotic “Hey, Beautiful.”
When our kids were little and life resembled a 24-hour paper-towel commercial, wild horses couldn’t have stopped sleep once I got horizontal, provided said horses had clean pants and a sippy cup.
My body wasn’t my own enough for me to take a shower. Let’s say sex was more of a “to do” than a “get to.”
Now that my kids can both bathe themselves and microwave a plate of nachos, it’s easier to prize and cultivate the gift of sex. Like money or time, sex is a microcosm of any marriage.
It was true when our kids were young, amplifying my burnout and the marital need to mutually see and sacrifice in a thin season.
Why’s sex matter so much?
Sex restates our connectedness.
Our married relationships furiously need the marital glue that is sex—that refrain of “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25), the mini-vacations to our private kingdom, the return to the lush, steamy garden of Song of Solomon. Sex replays intimate unity.
And, like all of marriage, when we’re not turning toward each other, we’re turning away.
Sex expresses our story together.
One of the beauties of healthy, married lovemaking is graduate-level sex: honed communication, creative variety, fine-tuned adjustments and technique. Memories that make you blush.
Yes, we still purposefully fan passion. But we need sex also to express the ways we’ve journeyed and locked arms just as much as lips: returning from that isolation of deployment or a work trip. Rolling over toward each other for consolation after a tough day, or the texture of each other’s skin. Navigating hormones, body changes, pregnancy.
For me, fulfilling sex is about traveling with the same person, loving them in every stage.
And in that rich, time-cultivated tenderness, I witness God’s fidelity in my body, heart, and soul: His steady companionship, attentiveness, generosity, and intimate communion.
Wondering if there could be more to your marital sex life? Check out “The (Nearly) Complete Guide to Better Married Sex.”
The Good Stuff: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Action Points: At this holistic, intimate level, trauma and pervasive damage mar us. We need exceedingly safe, gentle, tender places that facilitate the long process of healing from the inside out. In fact, pursuing sex without addressing some deeply rooted emotional pain can create more harm.
If sex isn’t happening in your marriage, what could be damaged?
Have infidelity, porn, or other trust issues fractured your sense of safety? Could you use counseling to find where your lack of sex stems from?
By Lisa Lakey
“I hate when you do that,” he uttered after I jokingly smacked his arm.
By his tone, he could have been talking about the weather, my choice of paint color, or even the waffle he had for breakfast. But his words were clear, direct, and to the point. He was referring to me.
For some strange reason, his words hurt.
Didn’t he think everything I did was adorable? Apparently not.
We hadn’t been married long, and I was sure we were still supposed to be in the honeymoon phase. Apparently that ship had sailed.
But not two weeks later, we were snuggling on the couch (honeymooners do that, right?) and my dear husband started cracking his knuckles. Ugh. Nails on a chalkboard.
Before I could stop myself, I said, “I hate when you do that!”
He didn’t take offense the way I did (no shock there). But looking back, there was an important lesson about marriage in those knuckles: Your spouse will not adore everything about you. And vice versa.
At some point, a bad habit or some quirky personality trait comes out that you do not adore. Maybe they clip their toenails in bed (no, you cannot divorce them over this) or they never place the laundry in the hamper. Or they make a weird whistling sound when they sleep.
But guess what? You’ve got something quirky and maybe even annoying about yourself, too. And you probably hope your spouse overlooks those to see the great catch you are.
So next time you feel your skin crawling (and maybe even your temper rising) over something that just isn’t a big deal, look past the quirks to see what’s really great about your spouse instead. Like, at least they made it within a foot of the hamper.
All marriages require a little tweaking. Read more in “Making Those Early-Marriage Adjustments.”
The Good Stuff: Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. (Micah 7:18)
Action Points: What’s one thing that bugs you about your spouse? What’s one way to look past it to the person you fell in love with? For example, my knuckle-cracking husband has the two hardest-working hands I know.
Remember being engaged and saying things like, “I can’t wait till we don’t have to say goodbye!” or “I can’t wait till we can just be together”?
I do. I also remember my new husband heading out the door to play basketball with friends.
I (of course!) felt betrayed. I just got dumped for an inanimate object and some sweaty dudes?
It took months before I realized when he chose basketball, he chose us.
He came back energized and connected and—critical for him/us—able to stave off the minor depression occasionally stalking him.
Our schedule has evolved a bit since then, with four squirrely kids, 9-5s, and living in a house with a bike-strewn lawn. But I’ve still got the same guy who’s healed by alone time, workouts, or a movie by himself.
I get it now. Sometimes the better “us” doesn’t translate to “joined at the hip.” Sometimes it means championing the other, even in ways that won’t put us in the same room—like the personal retreats he’s gifted me.
Sure. Sometimes you’re just wrestling for some quality time together. You need face time (the low-tech kind).
But other times, rather than having him home with the kids or her knocking out that to-do list that makes your home run like a well-oiled machine, choosing the better “us” could look drastically different. Maybe it looks like her hiking with just God. Or whacking a tennis ball. Or him laughing with a trusted friend.
Jesus modeled this, pulling away from even his disciples to pursue the intimacy and rest He needed most.
Instead of being hurt by thinking your spouse chose something over you, think more broadly. And choose both of you.
Is self-care the same as selfishness? Listen to this FamilyLife Blended® Minute.
The Good Stuff: And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35)
By Leigh Harper
I always dreamed of having at least two kids. Our first baby began sleeping through the night after a mere seven weeks (hallelujah!) and smiled constantly.
So you can imagine my shock when my husband, John, who adored her just as much as I did, decided he didn’t want additional children.
I asked God to change John’s mind. But I grew confused and bitter as time passed. How could God give me this longing but not my husband?!
Subconsciously, I blamed John for keeping me from my dream. I felt like we were on different teams. And mine was losing.
As I processed with my counselor, friends, and mentors, I grieved the dream slipping from my white-knuckled grasp.
Then a friend challenged me gently by asking, “What if God wants to change your mind, not John’s?”
Harrumph. An idea I hadn’t thought of and didn’t like. But as I chewed on this, I realized how selfish I’d been for clinging to my own desires. I was holding my idea of our family so tightly it blinded me to the possibility my dream might not be God’s dream for me.
I decided to change my prayer.
Instead of asking God to change John, I prayed for unity. I asked God to give us the same desires and vision for our family.
Months later, our church held a foster care information session. John suggested we attend. I was stunned but cautiously optimistic.
Fast forward: We now have a 12-year-old daughter we adopted through foster care. Our biological daughter is 5. Our family looks nothing like I thought it would, and I’m so thankful. His plan has been so much better for all four of us.
Making decisions together isn’t always easy.Read “Q&A: Making Decisions When You Disagree.”
The Good Stuff: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9.)
Action Points: Is there an unresolved issue in your marriage you still don’t see eye-to-eye on? Ask God for unity in your marriage, and that both of your desires would align with God’s plan.
True romance, flirtation, and crazy-fun dates begin in marriage.
When you’re thinking “Whew! I’m married now. Glad I sealed the deal. Time to sit back and chill”—prepare yourself for an epic fail.
Marriages that deconstruct into divorce or that cold numbness we all fear have forgotten how to have fun as a couple.
Fun is downright essential to every marriage. Which is why dating—crazy-fun, expectation-shattering dating—is paramount.
God intends every spouse to be a pursuing spouse. We are to “live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7), implying a lifetime of pursuing a greater knowledge of her!
When I take a good look at my wife, I gotta start dreaming: “Hmm, what can I do this week to make her feel like a million bucks?”
Here’s the key: it’s all about that next step. Just think, next step.
So planning a dinner date is good. Especially if they’re not expecting it. But you can do better. Take the next step.
Call the restaurant ahead and arrange a romantic (or silly!) shtick that the waiter is in on. Get creative. And crazy. Then, if you’re daring enough, take the next step!
Have a hand-written, romantic letter leaning against their pillow when you return home.
Honestly, it just takes a bit of thought. Go ahead and unchain that romantic monster within.
Jesus pursues us with abundant love. I can’t help but think of the woman in Matthew 9 who touched Jesus’ garment. He stopped what He was doing to pursue her: “Take heart, daughter,” He says. Jesus is intentional. He sees her; enters into her private pain.
Pursue your spouse in such a way that they can actually believe God pursues them!
And here’s what’s cool. As much as they will benefit from it, you will benefit, too. They’ll tell everyone how romantic you are, reciting old dating stories around the family table for decades to come.
All it took was that next step. Stay fun and pursue, you romantic beast.
What do you do when the “Romance is Gone”?
The Good Stuff: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1-2)
Action Points: Plan a date for this month where you can think through at least two “next steps.” Then enjoy your spouse’s delight in your intentional pursuit!
My wife was deep into telling a story to a group of our friends. She had everyone’s attention and was building to a dramatic climax, but one of her details didn’t feel right to me. Since accuracy is important, I interjected with a quick correction and the conversation moved on.
I thought I was being helpful. The last thing I wanted was for my wife to communicate something she didn’t intend. But my decision to publicly correct her wound up communicating something I didn’t intend.
Later that evening, she explained how I had embarrassed her. Unintentionally, my words told her:
None of this was my intention, but it didn’t matter. Our friends heard the same thing.
After that conversation, I was forced to examine my heart. I wondered, if my boss had been telling the same story, would I have interrupted him like that? Or would I have let it go and talked to him later in private?
Maybe I didn’t respect her as much as I thought…
Ever since that day, whenever I hear my wife telling a story differently than I would, I remind myself to think twice before interrupting, especially if my words are going to make her look bad.
In marriage, your words can encourage and give life, or they can destroy and kill. Learn more by listening to “The Power of the Tongue.”
The Good Stuff: There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
Action Points: Do you correct your spouse in front of others, or even your kids? If you can’t remember, ask your spouse. If they can easily recall a time, chances are your words hurt more than you realized. Genuinely apologize and make every effort to not correct your spouse in front of others.
I used to think I was a perfectionist. My husband finds this amusing.
Because for me, following recipes exactly feels restrictive. Math, though necessary, is vexing and high-maintenance. And when it comes to housekeeping, occasionally I fail to see filth.
Eventually I pinpointed something: The reason I thought I was a perfectionist was actually because … I hated my own failure.
(I’m not speaking for other perfectionists. You obnoxiously detailed people can relax.)
To use a math term (ugh), who I am and who I thought I was were incongruent.
It’s part of the human condition. Our desires and identities don’t line up.
We might want to be the kind of parent who’s home, loving on our kids. But work or distraction or image or money pull our very selves apart. Like Gumby in mom jeans.
In the intimate closeness of marriage, we have the ability to see our spouses’ incongruence. As Thomas Merton pleads, “Ask me what I think I am living for … and … what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”*
Compare this to the beginning of the shema, the most important Jewish prayer:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
God is described, of all things, as One. He is utterly congruent.
And then we, too, are commanded to be utterly unified, loving God with all of us.
In fact, James 1:6-8 describes the person who doesn’t have faith as double-minded.
Ruth Barton writes that in transforming relationships, we’re “increasingly able to see what is truest and most essential to us and call us to it over time.”** The intimacy of marriage allows us to see the ways our spouse’s desires war inside of them—and beckon them to a truer, higher version of themselves.
Together in marriage, let’s help each other live what we long for most deeply. (Unlike the rest of math, this kind of congruence matters.)
Read more about accountability and honesty in marriage in “Just Tell Me What I Want to Hear.”
The Good Stuff: Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)
*My Argument with the Gestapo (New York: Doubleday, 1969), pp. 160-161.
**Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community. Downers Grove, Illinois (2014), p. 75.
By Lisa Lakey
I was lunching with a friend just after my husband’s and my biggest fight to date. My head hurt. But my heart hurt worse. Yet here I was … faking smiles and laughter over sandwiches on a downtown patio.
But she knew.
“Is everything alright, Lisa?” I assured her it was.
“What about your hubby? Is he OK?”
“Yes,” I quickly responded. “He’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine!”
But it wasn’t fine. As my friend (and perhaps those closest to us on the patio that day) soon realized.
I left out a good bit of the details (I’ll tell you why in tomorrow’s devo), but I did let her know we had argued and I was still feeling the sting of it. She didn’t pry, but she gave me the freedom to process.
I enjoyed the rest of my meal without fake smiles. And even though nothing was resolved between my husband and me in that moment, I didn’t feel quite so bogged down.
When we refuse to let anyone in on our pain, to admit things are not OK, we shoulder that burden alone. And it sits and festers.
I’m not saying air your dirty laundry all over town (and most definitely not on social media). But is there someone you trust enough to just not be OK with? Think about where your walls can come down, let in a little air maybe, and your shoulders don’t feel quite so heavy.
It’s Ok to not be OK. Just don’t do it alone.
Read more in, “Marriage Is Not an Island.”
The Good Stuff: The sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. (Proverbs 27:9)
Action Points: Do you have a friend to turn to when life’s is less than OK? Pray for God to send you a trustworthy friend.
By Lisa Lakey
Yesterday we talked about the importance of dropping your guard and admitting to a trusted someone when things aren’t going as smoothly as we hope. It feels like a breakthrough of sorts in that moment you can finally say, “We aren’t OK.”
But here’s something I hinted at yesterday: Be careful what you say (and to whom) when talking about your spouse.
A friend of mine told her mother she and her husband were separating. She had caught him in an emotional affair and needed time to see if they could work it out.
She gave her mother all the tawdry details: the emails between the two, where they met, even what the woman looked like. Their anger was a solidifying mother-daughter bonding moment. Until…
My friend decided to reconcile with her husband and forgive him. Her mother, however, did not.
I’m super close to my own mom, but she just can’t be my sounding board when I’m ticked at the hubby. (Though it’s tempting. She’s always got my back.)
Your mom (or dad, bestie, brother, whoever you think of when you read this) might not be the best person to confide in when you are angry at your spouse. Those most loyal to us are often the ones most ready to fight for us.
Even when a fight isn’t needed.
When you are ready to confide your struggles in a trusted confidante, find someone who will:
I’m thankful for my mama, but I’m also thankful for friends who hold my marriage and me accountable.
The good stuff: Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.(Proverbs 22:24-25)
Action points: Who’s your person? The one guy or gal (if not family, it should be the same gender) who you can talk openly about your struggles with and know you will be met with honesty and prayer? If no one comes to mind, pray and ask God to send you such a friend in your life.
By Bruce Goff
One time, we were in front of a beautiful mountain vista on a gorgeous spring day, and I asked Maria to marry me.
Another time, she found out someone bought the I-didn’t-know-they-could-cost-that-much blender on our registry.
Guess which time made her cry? Go ahead, guess.
I mean I get it—it’s a really nice blender. It’s just that I kind of had different expectations.
When unexpressed expectations are not met, they can pulverize a marriage.
Ever done something for your spouse, expecting a certain response, and not received it?
Maybe you did the laundry, cleaned the kitchen, gave lots of quality time, lots of non-sexual physical touch, and still at the end of the night there was no sex. Come on!
Or on the flip side, maybe you noticed the trash needs to be taken out and you expect your spouse will do it while you’re out. You come home and the trash is still there. Come on!
Neither scenario is very loving toward your spouse. And both can build up resentment over time.
When I do something for Maria so that she’ll do something for me in return, that’s not love. That’s more like a business transaction.
Or when I hold her to an unexpressed expectation in my mind, how fair is that? That’s like leaving a college-tuition-priced blender off of your wedding registry and then getting mad at someone for not buying it for you.
Love, like the kind God shows us, cares about the other—no strings attached (see Romans 5:8).
God loves us by communicating His expectations clearly (through the Bible and conscience) and by loving His people without expectation of something in return (through the cross).
If you’ve been loved that way, can you love your spouse that way?
I’m able to joke about Maria crying about the blender (but not our engagement) because I didn’t ask her to marry me so she’d cry. I asked her to marry me because I love her—even more than she loves our blender.
The Good Stuff: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10-11 ESV)
Think of a way you can bless your spouse today for the simple joy of doing him or her good.
Ask God to reveal any bitterness in your heart toward your spouse for things he or she isn’t even aware of, and ask Him for help to let it go.
Ask God to help you love your spouse like He loves.
By Sherri Oehme
Last night, my husband and I settled into the couch cushions for movie night—my pick. (I oblige him with the occasional Fast & Furious… they’re on sequel 34 now, right?)
In the romance flick, a vineyard owner and a winemaker partnered for the upcoming town wine festival. (The producers had to ditch the Christmas tree farm for now.)
The couple divided work according to their skills.
She shined in making the wine, while he cared for the vines. Each held tight to their own responsibility.
Until … her wine wasn’t going to mature in time. And his vines were dying from an experimental chemical application.
We do this in marriage too.
Often, we divide the work according to what culture dictates or by skill set, then hold our jobs close—even during difficulties—because admitting problems might make us appear weak or incompetent.
Pride? Yeah. But like in the movie, your partner might hold the golden key to all your problems.
First Corinthians 12:21 says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”
Simply put, we need each other. Verse 26 sums it up: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
So let’s stop keeping secret failures from one another, and instead, ask for help.
“I went too far with disciplining our son today. Can you help me make it right?”
“I had a run-in with [insert coworker} this morning. I’ve been stewing about it all day. Can you help me process?”
“I didn’t get the gas bill paid on time and now we’ve got a threatening letter that they’re going to turn it off. Can you call them?”
Working together through the difficult times helps you both win. Communication and trust are keys to a great marriage, so put away the pride and ask for help.
The Good Stuff: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
Action Points: Ask your spouse what their day looks like before they walk out the door each morning. Then, offer a “How can I be in your corner today?”
Maybe you can tell I’m one of those naturally more … exuberant people. I drink decaf, and at least one friend has said, “Makes sense. People like you shouldn’t be caffeinated.”
God, in His wisdom, paired me with someone wonderfully even-keeled, who occasionally (gently) asks me to “stop encouraging so much.”
But despite our vast temperament divide, good news doesn’t feel quite complete until I share it with him.
After a long, dark season in my life (yes, perky people have those)—I recently, at last, had some exhilarating news. We were both in different countries and it was midnight, but he answered the phone.
There was nothing like that call. The two of us, drowsy but elated over a win at last.
Turns out this is actually a phenomenon studied by psychologists. They call it “capitalization” (I like that! I’m a capitalizing sort of person!)—sharing good news with someone else.
In fact, two studies show there’s a close correlation between a couple sharing good news and their happiness. It’s a better indicator of relational satisfaction than talking about what’s hard.*
I see this in today’s “good stuff” verse. John talks about how his joy is “made complete” by telling what he’s seen and heard about God. He’s capitalizing: sharing the greatest win ever. And I’m actually commanded to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15)—whether I’m feeling enthusiastic or not.
So I’ve been thinking about the little ways the two of us can celebrate the wins lately. Like the ways we swap stories over the good decisions a child makes (not a given). The compliment my husband mentions from a coworker. Or a mutual decision we arrive at after long deliberation.
Together? Take a minute for that victory lap today.
The Good Stuff: That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:3-4)
Action Points: Part of celebration involves training our eyes to see what’s celebration-worthy. (In that way, it’s linked to gratitude.) Challenge yourself to celebrate three wins with your spouse each day this week—and thank God for them.
By Judy Burrows
I broke my pelvis during a recent fall. It was painful to even move my left leg, so finding a comfortable position was a challenge. At night, I had to sleep on our sofa.
But on the second night of my living-room solitude, I was awakened by a loud snore.
I couldn’t believe it. My husband’s snoring has kept me awake many, many nights. (I’ve complained about it for years.) But he was in our bedroom. How could I still hear him?
I soon realized … I couldn’t.
It was me. I snored loud enough to wake myself up!
Apparently, I can snore just as loudly as he can given the right circumstances. After all of those years complaining, there was no one to blame except myself.
This was humbling to admit. I felt guilty for getting mad at him for doing something he had no control over.
It made me realize: I can easily share the same faults I see in others.
That slip on my driveway was painful, but it taught me a valuable lesson.
My broken bone will mend. Hopefully my broken pride won’t.
Your spouse will never be perfect. Read more on “Giving Your Spouse the Freedom to Fail.”
For FL: https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/forgiveness/giving-your-spouse-the-freedom-to-fail/?utm_campaign=IDED&utm_medium=email&utm_source=FamilyLife&utm_content=March 14
The Good Stuff: Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2:1)
Action Points: What could you be criticizing your spouse for that you might be doing as well? Have you asked your spouse about any blind spots you are unaware of?
One night, my dad asked his fresh-home-from-work question: “What’s for dinner?”
Busy prepping, my mom replied, “Barbecue chicken.”
Mom’s culinary skills in the early days of their marriage were … sub par. But she possessed great skill in quartering a chicken. This, plus barbecue sauce, created the aforementioned signature dish.
Dad usually moved on. That night, he audibly sighed. “Again?”
Like a pro-pitcher, my mom seized the chicken by its leg, hurling it directly at my dad’s head. He dodged. The chicken smacked the wall squarely, sliding a few juicy inches before thudding on the ground.
This story is family gold. And while I can’t quarter a chicken, I have definitely inherited my mom’s … creative approach … to dealing with frustration.
When I feel undervalued, I need perspective. Recently God drew my attention to minor verses like, “Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee…” (Matthew 4:18, NAS). Days upon days of His glory-filled ministry on earth were spent doing seemingly mundane things.
He walked to gather disciples, rowed from town to town, slept with rocks as pillows. No doubt those days He heard grumbles from disciples, much like my dad’s, “Again?”
But to Jesus that next step, the next row, the traveling sleepless night—those were one step, row, and sleep closer to a blind man who would be healed, to the thousands He’d feed five loaves and two fish, and to a cross that would offer humanity (complaining disciples included) salvation.
This is where I hope to walk in marriage like He did on earth: remembering each lackluster meal I serve, carpool I drive, or ballgame I attend can be one step closer to raising a family that experiences—embodies—the glory of God.
And on occasion, when chickens fly? I hope to accept the grace offered by God and family, and move on with laughter and love.
Often our frustrations reveal a deeper issue. Read more in“Attitude Check: Do You Have a Heart Problem?”
The Good Stuff: Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:17, NAS)
Action Points: In what areas of your life are you struggling with discontentment? Are you able to joyfully serve your family? How can you connect the dots between the mundane and seeking God’s glory in your life and your family’s?
“Honey, could you hand me my medicine?”
A simple request from my sick wife, right?
Except it’s 2:30 a.m. and she woke me up to ask, and the meds are in the car, which is parked across the apartment complex. And it’s (literally!) snowing outside.
But this is a crucial moment in our marriage.
Is my knee-jerk reaction an anger-saturated shock at even being asked?
Or is it (once I’ve actually woken up) a servant-minded, joy-seeking, “Sure thing, Babe. But next time bring in your prescription with you. I was just dreaming of a Jamaican beach.”
Most humans pursue their own interests. So our marriages follow suit.
But everything changes when we hand our marriage over to Jesus.
Jesus is leading every one of us to joy. It’s what we want, right?
What makes marriage so unbelievably difficult is the trail to that joy. “I’m gonna look out for me, me, me!” is natural, yet miserable.
Instead, joy is uncovered on the thorn-ridden trail of self-denial, self-forgetfulness, sacrificial love. When Jesus cements two sinners together, He says, “Your joy is now linked to theirs.”
Remember, Christ is the infinitely self-denying One and the infinitely joyful One. They are linked together.
Pay attention to the selfish groanings of your heart. Release just one of them today, in exchange for something your spouse wants.
It’ll be something ordinary, like fetching some medicine. Slowly, you’ll become more joyful because they will become more joyful.
And in the event they don’t—gradual, increased Christ-likeness will give you more joy.
Sure, these thorns will make you bleed a little. But Jesus Himself is leading you.
He’s no stranger to thorns.
The Good Stuff: The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)
Action Points: The above parable concerns the kingdom of heaven, but apply a similar principle to your marriage. What might you sacrifice of yourself today for the joy of your marriage tomorrow?
Marshall, a friend of mine, is 6’3″. In high school, he was upwards of 190 pounds. He was a big dude.
Maybe that’s why I was surprised at his most formidable wrestling opponents in those years: The team from the school for the blind.
One of them was the state champ during Marshall’s years in competition. At the time, their school offered no sports other than swimming, so they competed year-round.
Perhaps part of their success on the mat was the blind wrestlers’ exaggerated sense of touch.
The Scientific American reports the brain actually rewires itself to boost the other senses: “If one sense is lost, the areas of the brain normally devoted to handling that sensory information do not go unused—they get rewired and put to work processing other senses.”*
What if our marriages, too, are rewired in struggle?
Could a chronic lack of something or encountering obstacles and pain cause other senses, like faith and gratitude and perseverance, to kick into high gear?
I think of a professor in college, whose wife had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The couple’s affection and care for one another were radiant, inspiring all of us to want that kind of marriage.
That couple who labored under the burden of one spouse’s depression? They have a joy all their own, a quiet devotion. A heightened sense of God.
This doesn’t mean, in that pain that doubles us over, that the reasons are easy, trite, or even understandable. But perhaps they’re bigger and more powerful than we are.
Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.
-Mary Oliver, “Thirst”
The Good Stuff: Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Action Points: What’s a perpetual weakness or difficulty your marriage faces? How do you see God creating something formidable and beautiful through your pain?
By Judy Borrows
“It’s too much!” I proclaimed in the Kroger parking lot after my husband offered to make cookies and dinner for our group of friends.
“Too much money, or too much work?” he asked.
It was a clarifying question that made me stop and think—not just feel.
“Too much work!” I was already spent by the constant demands of showing our house to sell.
But my “aha” moment came when I finally realized I was stifling my husband’s gift and desire to serve. “I’ll do it. I enjoy hospitality,” he shrugged.
I’d declared what was too much for me was also too much for him—asserted my boundaries as his.
Finally understanding his desire, I released my attempt to control. I gave him space to move.
He worked happily in the kitchen cutting potatoes, carrots, chicken, and onion. And I prepared for guests by resting guilt-free in the living room.
Releasing control of him was liberating for both of us.
If we aren’t careful, not understanding our boundaries can lead to bitterness. Can you relate? Learn more in this episode of FamilyLife Today®.
The Good Stuff: Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. Romans 12:6
Actions Points: When you and your spouse are not seeing eye to eye on a matter, use clarifying questions to get to the heart of what is bothering each of you. Many words can have subjective meanings, and learning your spouse’s personal dictionary can be very freeing in communication.
By Lisa Lakey
I’m a fantastic multitasker.
Seriously. As I write this, I am also feeding the dog, meal-prepping for the week, paying bills, and knitting scarves for children in Antarctica. Or I’m Netflixing. Yeah, that’s probably it.
So maybe I’m not that extreme. But I do tend to try to knock out two or three things at a time. Hey, a working mom only has so many hours in the day, right?
So if I don’t watch myself, I’ll be replying to work emails after the kids are home. Or I’ll be mapping out the following day when my husband is telling me something.
But I hate when it’s done to me.
Like when my husband is playing on his phone when I try to talk to him. I feel indignant self-righteousness flare inside of me.
But less than five minutes later, I’m checking the kids’ homework while absently nodding along to a story about the guys at my husband’s work.
Jesus had something to say about issues like this.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
Maybe a fantastic multitasker is not what my husband needs in a wife. Maybe a fantastic listener would serve him better.
Now excuse me. I have something in my eye.
Does something about you need to change? Read five gospel perspectives to help in“What Does it Take to Change?”
The Good Stuff: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Action Points: Multitasking may seem like wise stewardship of your time, but focusing on your spouse may be better. Today, pray to have better focus for others. Then set aside some time (and distractions) to really give your full attention to your better half.
In front of your spouse, you’ve finally laid down that big rock your brain or heart’s been carrying around. But they respond with … crickets chirping. Distraction. Interruption.
You’re wishing to be emotionally held. They’re oblivious.
Sometimes what’s in us feels so sacred, we’re ready to run at the faintest raise of eyebrows. What if she doesn’t understand, or know how valuable this is to me?
But those of us who wait for perfect friends may end up isolated.
Comforts to keep in mind when opening up to your spouse:
Sharing your story is a step to finally healing.
That untold pain is likely a bottleneck between your slavery and your freedom. Past abuse, addiction, vivid shame, scathing anger?
None of it has to determine your future. Or that of your marriage.
The Good Stuff: We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
Action Points: When you’re honest, what keeps you from the next step of vulnerability with your spouse? Could it be unforgiveness? Trust issues? Inability to acknowledge need? Distill your core reasons for hiding from vulnerability, and assign yourself one next courageous step.
By Ben McGuire
We sat on our blanket at the drive-in movie, not speaking. Not touching. Icy silence blew through the gap between us.
This was our first real argument. Not the simple disagreements or miscommunications of marriage.
The kind that wounds.
During our marriage prep, the pastor said, “If you ranked highs and lows on a scale from 0-10, your relationships with others will top out at 7 and bottom out at 3. Your spouse, though, will bring you as high as 10 and as low as 0: highs that are unimaginable and pain you didn’t think possible.”
At the drive-in, where we might have been amorous newlyweds, that moment had arrived.
Before our wedding, our pastor gave a simple assignment. Create “Rules of Engagement”: our own pre-established guidelines for conflict resolution.
You probably think of “Rules of Engagement” when it comes to war and fighting an enemy.
You have a very real enemy who desires to drive you apart. And conflict is a favorite weapon.
Prepare for his schemes and determine to fight them at all costs. Battling the enemy’s lies is impossible, however, if you view your spouse as the enemy.
Instead, fight for your spouse and your marriage.
Here are seven guidelines that have framed our resolve to fight fair throughout our marriage.
1. Don’t avoid conflict by walking away.
2. We will talk everything out honestly before saying we’re “OK.”
3. Don’t criticize the other person in public.
4. Don’t wait for the other person to ask what’s wrong.
5. Avoid “You always…” or “You never…” statements.
6. Don’t bring up past issues (see #2).
7. Don’t talk to other people before talking with each other.
Guidelines don’t always guarantee quick and simple resolution. We left the drive-in with tension hanging between us and talked for hours, implementing our “rules.”
And before our heads hit our pillows, we found grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
For more thoughts on this read Ben’s article “When Your Spouse Rejects Your Love.”
The Good Stuff: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Action Points: Reflect on how you approach conflict with your spouse. Take some time to create your own “Rules of Engagement.” Commit to pursuing your spouse in a loving manner in resolving conflict.
By Lisa Lakey
I can’t recall the reason for the fight, but I do remember going to bed angry at my new husband. On our honeymoon.
Even then, doubt crept into my mind. I wasn’t so sure we were well suited for each other, or this thing called marriage.
I didn’t have a clue what the purpose for marriage was. I didn’t know God’s plan for marriage was to reflect the fullness of who He is in an increasingly empty world. And He gives us a captivating example of what that should look like through Jesus’ life—and death—on earth.
Here are three things I’ve learned about marriage from the Easter story.
A good marriage involves a lot of asking for, giving, and receiving forgiveness. Even in the midst of pain.
There’ve been times I wanted proof my marriage could get better. Holding on when you want to let go takes faith. But Jesus is holding out His hands to us. Believe in His power to save.
Not long after our honeymoon, we realized our marriage needed something bigger than both of us. Stronger. Like the criminal hanging next to Jesus who said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).
Read more in “7 Things the Easter Story Teaches Us About Marriage.”
The good stuff: He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. (Matthew 28:6)
Action points: Have you given up hope on your marriage? Thank God for the gift of life through His Son. Then ask for the same power that rose Jesus from His grave to work within your marriage.
By Laura Way
“Fighting” doesn’t really describe my marital conflict style. By nature, my husband and I are both fairly soft spoken, easygoing, and conflict averse. That being said, we can quickly go from chill and calm to snippy and sarcastic—zero to 60 in seconds.
The thing is, sarcasm can actually be a form of contempt, the feeling that something (or someone) is vile or worthless. It can also take the form of eye-rolling, mimicking, and hostile humor. It says “you are bad” instead of “an action was bad.”
And contempt is absolute poison to marriage.
Yet, when I’m feeling defensive or affronted, a subtle sense of superiority can translate to exasperated sighs, eye rolls, or smart-aleck remarks. It stings to realize my pride will use something as toxic and destructive as contempt for self-protection.
Even in high-stress situations, my husband and I have to make every effort to “use our words” (as we so often tell our children) and to use them carefully. Saying, “Love, I need some help with the kids. Can you please come?” during a meltdown will go down a lot smoother than, “Earth to Aubrey? Can you not hear this madness?”
Will we sometimes fail at this? Most definitely. So we make sure to repair after we slip up and make a point—outside tense moments—to think about the qualities we admire in each other. Over time, focusing energy (inwardly and outwardly) on our spouse’s positive traits and behaviors nourishes the relationship. And slows the speed on sarcasm slipping out.
Looking for more information on the poisonous effect of contempt and its anecdote? Check out, “How About Giving up ‘Contempt’ for Lent?”
The Good Stuff: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Action Points: Today, think of something specific you admire about your spouse and tell them! Be sure to treat them in a way that conveys your appreciation for things they do or who they are. If you catch yourself responding to your spouse with any trace of contempt, sincerely apologize and reaffirm your love and appreciation for them.
Nearly every new marriage struggles under the weight of two common loads:
Our learning curve for how to load the dishwasher while maintaining marital harmony was longer than the norm. But ours is not a typical dishwasher story.
Chris grew up deeply Southern, around sweet tea and even sweeter women. I admire his female relatives for many virtues, but one in particular: They handwash dishes. That being the case, he had literally never loaded a dishwasher in his life when we got married.
Hardly a week into my husband’s loving new habit of cleaning our kitchen, he mentioned us needing more “blue stuff.” In his hand, he held a tiny blue bottle.
My laughter bubbled over like suds in a dishwasher. He had been using our teeny bottle of rinse aid as the dishwasher detergent!
I cackled until I realized I was the only one laughing. My husband was silent … and mad.
He was hurt. I was confused. This was funny, right?
Later, a wise friend gently revealed the problem: “You hurt his feelings and his pride. You disrespected him.”
I saw the scene all over again in my head, through different eyes. My husband learning something new, kindly and tenderly doing a household chore I detest.
Then me laughing … like a bully.
I backended my way into a lesson about how love and respect works. Biblically, I understood men desire respect and women crave love.
Laughing with my husband bonds us. Laughing at him destroys our connection.
What change could kindness make in your life? Listen to “The Kindness Revolution.”
The Good Stuff: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
We were 30 minutes into the argument. The gloves were off.
At this point we were acting more like demons than humans. You resonate, don’t you? Literal screaming. Name-calling. Warping each other’s words to mean different things.
Then she opened the pantry door too fast. It smacked her right on the nose.
She whimpered, turned toward me, and buried her head in my chest. Then we went and watched a movie.
Conflict in marriage is inevitable. Let’s just say it. But there are different kinds. There’s the serious conflict and the stupid conflict. In my marriage, stupid conflict is more frequent.
Here, we were brawling, yes. But it was ultimately over nothing.
On rewind: a single misunderstanding, leading to a defensive reaction, leading to a flare of pride, leading to a mean word, leading to a rush of emotion, leading to a “you always do this!”, leading to a “you never do this!”, leading to…
You get it.
In the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to lose perspective. To forget we’re on the same team. To not sacrifice my own pride.
Losing perspective is, in my experience, the primary cause of “stupid” fighting. This is why the Bible emphasizes self-control (Titus 1:8). This is why the Holy Spirit graciously produces this fruit within us (Galatians 5:22-23).
When Jesus cleanses the temple in John 2, overturning the tables and dumping out the money, He is greatly angered. But God’s purposes and kingdom—not Jesus’ own agenda—are front and center.
He had perspective. And, in grace, with the Holy Spirit tasked as our Helper, so can we. Even when we’re tempted to get stupid.
The Good Stuff: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Action Points: Take a moment and think through three to five things your spouse does that set you off. Then, pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen your self-control next time he/she does one of them.
It was in a passing conversation, see. Finally all the dots were connected, and I knew.
I realized what his pet sin was. He probably didn’t even see it, considering just how conniving and blinding these things tend to be.
For at least 24 hours, I felt no compassion for such an egregious error. I didn’t pray for him. I didn’t use it to understand him more. I didn’t examine my life for similar corrosive habits.
Instead, I used his weakness to subtly slot myself above him. I mentally shook my fist, then my head: That’s too bad.
I considered how it affected his closest relationships, and how fortunate it was that I didn’t have the same problem. I considered how I would manipulate, I mean navigate, our relationship so I didn’t fall prey, and maybe would have a chance to help him see the error of his ways.
Maybe it was something like, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11).
I think back to a night in a foreign country around 3 a.m., when I was infuriated, grieved, and traumatized beyond anything in my lifetime. I’d witnessed a fatal accident, and the police spent hours trying to bribe me to keep quiet about what I’d seen.
Opportunists through someone’s demise. I was outraged. How could they?
But on a lesser level—this is me when I leverage weakness for the sake of superiority. Or ammo. Or leveling the playing field.
I capitalize on a source of death.
What will you do with the knowledge of your spouse’s sin?
The Good Stuff: If you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? (Romans 2:19-21)
Action Points: Annoyed by a spouse’s sin pattern? Don’t abandon the need to spur him or her toward holiness. But consider what attitudes Jesus was calling us to when he said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).
Create greater awareness in yourself of your own faults more than your spouse’s.
By: James Metsger
Before you get any ideas, the fireworks in our bedroom were coming from the teenagers outside. It was early July. My 4-month-old son and wife were craving sleep, but not getting any.
After hearing the fireworks go off like a cannon with little hope of a ceasefire, Melissa had enough. She asked me to go talk to the neighbors.
I had two options: Go outside and kindly ask the teenage boys to stop lighting up the July sky, or try to fall asleep, hoping it would all just go away.
I chose wrong.
I didn’t want conversation—or confrontation—with a bunch of teenagers I’d never met. I wanted sleep.
So that’s what I did. Blessed with the unique ability to fall asleep faster than an Olympic sprinter, I drifted off.
When I opened my eyes, I sensed something was off. I turned over and noticed the place she previously occupied was empty. I got out of bed and headed upstairs.
That’s when I saw her. The front door opened and Melissa walked through. She had done the dirty work for the sake of our son’s sleep and her sanity.
Passivity is defined as “acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance.” You don’t need a dictionary definition, though. I’ll just send you my picture.
I should’ve moved and I didn’t. That night I made a commitment to change.
I wish I could say since that night I’ve maintained a 14-year undefeated initiation streak. But I’m still tempted to accept what happens “without active response or resistance.”
But God is gracious in giving me more opportunities to move, to initiate, to press in. Maybe today is that day for you.
Go ahead. It’s your move.
Know the difference between men and boys? Listen to Dave Wilson talk about the makings of a REAL man.
The Good Stuff: So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17)
Action Points: Is there a conversation you need to have? Is there work that needs to be done? Is there a move you need to make?
By: Laura Way
“Every day doesn’t have to be a good day,” my husband graciously said as I lay deflated on the couch after he returned from work.
It had been a hard day. More accurately, it had been a hard few years. Unexpected and unwanted transitions. Unanticipated challenges with our kids. And uninvited struggles with depression and anxiety.
When we get married, we vow to love our spouses for better or for worse, in sickness and in health—but we can’t plan for mental illness, cancer, car wrecks, housefires, the death of a child, or infidelity.
So when we find ourselves in a worse-rather-than-better spot, it’s an opportunity to give (and receive) unconditional love—to live out the vow we made when we got married.
“Every day doesn’t have to be a good day,” was the best thing my husband could’ve said to me at that moment. It reminded me he chose to love me through the bad days and the bad years, through sickness and in health, forever.
Is your spouse struggling with anxiety or depression? Read more in, “5 Ways My Husband Supports My Mental Health.”
The Good Stuff: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11)
Action Points: Is your marriage going through a tough season? Search your heart. Do you believe the best about your spouse? What do you believe about God? Is it time to ask a trusted friend for help?
By Justin Talbert
People will remember the day Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River.
(Or at least they’ll remember Tom Hanks doing it.)
Sully’s plane barreled into a flock of geese—which shut off the engine. He didn’t frantically flip through the manual: “Geese … geese … What do I do?!”
For decades, Sully had memorized the manual for each and every nuanced scenario. His response was second nature. Anything less would have spelled disaster for 155 passengers.
We all took flight in marriage with the best of intentions, desiring a godly, biblical marriage. But life gets busy. Assorted geese screw things up.
And most days, we’re just wingin’ it.
But if Scripture really is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105), then without it, we’re missing something substantial.
But how does one master the Bible even more than a flight manual?
Not easily. There is no shortcut to learning Scripture. Just like there’s no easy way to land a plane on water.
But if your goal is innate knowledge of the marriage flight manual, even five minutes today matters. Stick to it tomorrow, too.
Soon, marriage without constant touch with the Bible makes no sense.
And even when the touches don’t mean survival—your marriage just works better.
I remember driving to our small group Bible study and telling my wife how much I liked her—not just loved, but liked her. I was specific. She beamed (check out Proverbs 16:24).
But an hour later, she honored me in front of the whole group.
She explained, “Sorry, Babe. Romans 12:10 commands me to outdo you in showing honor. That verb is competitive. I had to beat you.”
God wrote the Bible for you: to help and guide and instruct this adventure as husband and wife. He longs to meet with you in it and transform you through it.
Need more on where to start? Read “5 Important Scriptures for My Family.”
The Good Stuff: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. (Psalm 119:105-106)
Action Points: Develop a plan to study the Bible more than you ever have this year. Choose a book of the Bible, purchase a gospel-saturated commentary, and study verse by verse. Take your time!
By Jim Mitchell
Ever play the telephone game? Everyone lines up and whispers the same sentence down the row, each repeat giggled over and jumbled more than the previous.
Remember how it always turns out? The kid at the end inherits all those misunderstandings compounded into something so nonsensical, everyone cracks up at his retelling.
Sometimes I feel like my wife and I are playing that game at home. Just the two of us.
Hint: I’m the kid at the end.
Her mind will get to racing. She’ll start talking faster than my brain can listen to four rotating topics at a time.
In an effort to slow things down and understand, I’ll ask her to repeat something she just said.
Too late. Words spoken have already been replaced. We’re going around the horn.
“I need to shop for groceries, but I’m not sure what to cook this week,” morphs into, “I need to stop at the grocery store later, because all the kids ever eat is junk food.”
Close, but that subtle change at the end feels important.
I’ll push in further, only to hear, “We never talk about our budget, and I’m worried about my mom.”
Aaaaaand I’m completely lost.
Live with my wife in an understanding way, you say? (1 Peter 3:7)
The harder I strive to understand, the more I drill into her words … and the more I drill into her words, the less she feels understood. It’s our own communication death spiral.
Fortunately, this only happens when we try to talk to one another.
Seriously, the struggle is real. I’m trying! But my trying is often word-centric, not person-centric.
In my mind, I’m parsing and analyzing sentences. In her mind, I’m parsing and analyzing her. It’s like dissecting a frog—the teacher is impressed I’ve labeled everything correctly, but the frog isn’t.
So where does this leave me? Frustrated, but determined to learn and grow.
More on what I’m learning tomorrow in Part II.
The Good Stuff: Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:14)
Action Points: Think of your most common frustrations in talking with your spouse. What Christ-honoring pattern interruption can you throw into the mix to begin charting a new course?
By Jim Mitchell
“The problem isn’t you and the problem isn’t me; the problem is us.”*
Can you relate? I sure can.
Yesterday, I explained how my laser focus on words, coupled with my wife’s more laissez-faire style, sends us into a communication death spiral.
Not a spiral in the sense of some uncontrollable twister spun into motion by our poor choices (although we make plenty of those).
It’s more like a DNA helix tightly woven into our instincts, stubbornly setting us up for friction.
But, it turns out, it’s also setting us up to display God’s likeness: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Proverbs (1:20-33) personifies Wisdom as a woman, let’s call her Ms. Understanding, who raises her voice in the noisy streets, longing to be heard.
Here’s what I’m learning from Ms. Understanding:
Imagine your wife walking away from a conversation actually understanding herself better. Talk about a game changer! This kind of intimacy isn’t learned in five minutes, and that’s what makes it special.
Husbands, you’re not commanded to “understand your wife,” but to “live with her in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7).
It’s a mind-blowing, life-altering, marriage-defining difference. And you can learn how.
Read more on understanding your spouse in “Embracing Your Differences in Marriage.”
The Good Stuff: The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Proverbs 20:5)
Action Points: In what ways might “Ms. Understanding” be causing communication issues in your marriage? In your next argument (we hope it’s not today, but no judgment here), consider which of the four above lessons you might apply.
*Tim and Joy Downs, The Seven Conflicts