Encouragement: Receiving

In yesterday’s post we discussed just how important encouragement is to building your friendship in marriage. Noticing and mentioning things you love and admire, enjoy and appreciate about your spouse. It’s incredibly useful to be specific and genuine as well as consistent when complimenting and encouraging your spouse.

Giving encouragement though is only half of the equation. Receiving compliments and encouragement proves difficult for many people. The reasons for the difficulties vary greatly. From the family of origin to past abuse or neglect, betrayal, lack of trust or even personal preference can all contribute to how someone receives encouraging words. Dismissal, disbelief and distrust categorize how someone may react when they struggle to receive encouragement intended to build them up.

If you have serious problems receiving encouragement from others, please take time to get to the root of why that is. For the sake of this post however, we are going to share a few ways to begin the path to accepting encouraging and complimentary words.

1. Listen with vulnerability.

Drop the defenses. Release the fear and pride. They aren’t doing you any good.

Chances are, the person speaking to you wants to connect with you and affirm you as a person. Consider the heart of the person speaking and be vulnerable enough to hear what they have to say. Allow the words to soak in and perhaps you will find that they really do have a certain undeniable power. The words spoken can soothe and heal places that are reached by little else. Vulnerability is the first step towards receiving encouragement.

2. Listen with trust.

Even if it is a new experience for your marriage, trust that your spouse wants to encourage you and is doing so for your benefit not their own gain. Have an open discussion about the merits of how to truly speak words of encouragement that your spouse is willing to hear. After that, trust that as your marriage takes steps in that direction, your spouse is for you and really wants to support you.

3. Celebrate the encouragement.

 Accept what is offered then offer encouragements in return.

Maybe your spouse isn’t being as specific as you would like. Certainly there will be mistakes and fumbles with words but it’s important to keep the cycle going. Keep moving forward in giving and receiving encouragement and you may soon find that compliments and a positive word culture are a strength in your marriage. As you learn to receive compliments return them with greater and greater ease.

Encouragement: Giving

Growing your friendship is one of the most important things you can do for your marriage. And one of the best steps you can take to increase your friendship is to appreciate your spouse on a regular basis. Simply taking time to recognize the little things they do and making mention of it can go a long way.

However, we’ve talked to a number of couples who struggle with encouraging one another in marriage. The struggle usually has the possibility of two sides, 1. a spouse who doesn’t know how to genuinely encourage and compliment their spouse and/or 2. a spouse who doesn’t know how to receive and accept the compliments from their spouse.

Today we are going to share a few ideas about how to compliment and appreciate your spouse.

1. Be Specific – Consider the “why” not just the “what”

There’s a reason a declaration of “You’re amazing!” from Justin never really satisfies me as much as “The way you keep our house running means so much to me.” Specificity! The more specific a compliment is, the bigger the benefit. If you are a person who struggles to know how to compliment and encourage your spouse, look at the things they do and uncover the reason why they do them.

2. Be genuine – No flattery allowed!

Right along with being specific is being genuine. Time and time again we talk with couples in which the husband tries to tell the woman that she is beautiful but she just won’t believe it. We will talk more about how to receive compliments tomorrow but want to add this, a wife wants to know why she is beautiful. “You are the most gorgeous woman” is harder for most women to accept than, “The way your hips sway side to side is the most gorgeous movement I’ve ever seen.” The intent is the same in both cases but one sounds more like flattery than a specific and genuine reflection of the heart. Discovering how to be more genuine with your words takes some trial and error to see what works best for your spouse. But keep at it.  It may take some time, but you’ll continually learn what speaks love to your spouse.

3. Be Consistent

“Sometimes” and “Once in awhile” don’t count here. If you want to build your friendship and live in an encouraging marriage consistency is key. Recently, The Generous Wife offered a marriage challenge to “tell your husband one thing you love and admire about him”. She encouraged wives to do this everyday for a week. Building words of encouragement, specific compliments and genuine appreciation into the culture of your marriage will grow your marriage. Set up reminders for yourself. Be quick to compliment in the moment rather than waiting till later when your more likely to forget. Be a good at noticing things both big and small.

Every friendship needs encouragement and every marriage needs friendship. Learning how to make encouragement a regular part of your marriage will strengthen and sustain your marriage.

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1. Have you learned how your spouse best receives compliments?

2. What is one compliment he/she hasn’t heard in a long time? How you can creatively, and genuinely communicate to him/her this week?

Word Culture in Marriage

The words hung in the air. The kind of words that you regret as soon as they leave your mouth.

“Why? Why? Why did I just say that?”

Next to me sat the person who received the cut from the careless utterances, my husband.  I (Megan) know the great power of words yet I still mess up, I still get it wrong.  I know the sting of causing my husband, whom I love, pain.  Everyone who is married can relate.  Words have a way of getting away from us and those same words have an incredible power to affect our spouse deeply.

Assuming that you are as much a work in progress as I am, I wanted to share a few ideas about how to consider the power of the words we use in our marriages.

1. Become aware of the word culture in your marriage.

How much time do you spend speaking encouraging words to or about your spouse? So many times there are things we find endearing and enjoyable about our spouse but do we take time to share those things with our life partner? Never take for granted that your spouse “knows how you feel.” Give them assurances about how much you love them. There is a time and a place to talk to your spouse about changes that may be necessary, but building up your spouse on a regular basis will make those difficult conversations easier. Don’t underestimate the importance of complimenting and reminding your spouse of specific things you love, admire and enjoy about them.

What about the way you speak of relationships outside your marriage? Awareness is just one step towards understanding the word culture in your marriage. It is possible that you and your spouse speak well of each other yet maintain a negative attitude and speech pattern about other people in your life. While there is a time for “venting” and being vulnerable about frustrations and difficulties we face in life, trying to maintain a positive attitude about others will increase the positive affect in your own marriage.

2. Increase positivity in the speech patterns you uncover.

If you uncovered a pattern of speaking negatively about your spouse or others on a regular basis come up with concrete ways to change the bad habit. When you catch yourself becoming negative, complaining or being overly critical about your spouse or someone else, take a time out. What other factors are adding to the negativity? Are you tired, stressed out, feeling rejected or overwhelmed? These factors impact the way you speak and are often the root cause of what comes hurtling out of your mouth. The more in touch you become with why you are saying things the better able you are to make changes in your speech patterns.

3. Accept imperfect progress.(because after all, it is progress!)

Don’t be surprised by the internal resistance to changing speech patterns. Learning to be encouraging, affirming and positive with the words we speak is no easy task. There will be setbacks and missteps. Remembering that imperfect progress is better than no progress is important. When mistakes are made, taking responsibility and making mental notes to work on it benefit and build unity in marriage.

Learning to accept and offer grace continually is the backbone of a great marriage. Words become the vehicle through which grace can navigate into the unreached areas of our lives. Speak life into your marriage and keep working on it even when setbacks come your way.

 How about you? What are ways you have found that help you keep positive speech patterns in your marriage?

 

Pause

In 2014 Justin and I (Megan) hit the pause button quite a bit in our life. We paused from writing here, paused from involvement in extra groups and activities, paused from pressuring ourselves to be something or do something we didn’t believe would help us heal, grow or rejuvenate our soul. You see, 2014 was a year of incredible loss, grief and sorrow for us. With the loss of four family members and increasingly strained relationships, we knew the things we experienced were and had changed us but we needed time to catch up and respond to those changes.

I attended a conference which featured Geri Scazzero author of The Emotionally Healthy Woman. The great thing about attending a conference is the off chance that you are able to connect with or speak to the speaker. Geri was available to listen to my story for a few minutes and encouraged that silence would be an important part of moving forward. This just confirmed that indeed, hitting the pause button and taking extended times in reflective thought, prayer and silence was necessary for me.

Hitting the Pause button is not looked upon favorably in our culture. We are pressured to do more, be more, become more. Pausing seems counter intuitive to actually accomplishing anything. Taking a look at the most common new years resolutions would seem to prove that we are obsessed with doing more, setting lofty and often unattainable goals. While the underlining goals may well be positive and healthy, the pressure we add to our lives as a result is anything but.

I would like to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the healthiest thing you could do this year would be to pause more. Pause from the pressure to become more or do more. Pause from the expectations that you put on yourself and others. Pause from the insatiable need to figure it all out. There is no doubt that marriage takes work and effort. There are things, little things you can do each day to strengthen your marriage. However, great growth occurs when you regularly take time to pause. Pausing gives you time to reflect on what is working and what needs to be fine tuned. Pausing can provide just enough quiet and calm for you to hear your own thoughts. Consider how pausing on a regular basis could impact your life and your marriage.

Divorce: What it is, What it isn’t, What it does (An Introduction)

Megan and I walked into our first pre-marriage counseling session having a little bit of an idea what to expect, but the very first question our pastor asked us caught us a little by surprise.

“Have either of your parents or grandparents been divorced,” he asked?Angry couple

“Yes. But but the ‘d-word’ just isn’t an option for us,” we replied.

“Ever?”

“Ever.”

That’s the foundation on which we began our marriage, and we continue to hold to it. And years later, we have met couple after couple who didn’t begin their marriage on that kind of foundation. Yes, some of them were extreme circumstances. Yes, some of them only agreed to divorce after doing their best to reconcile. And yes, their divorce was much more emotionally challenging than they ever thought it would be.

We’ve reached out to a number of our friends who have experienced divorce, asking them to help us out with this series.  It’s our hope that this series of posts will help those who have experienced divorce an opportunity to heal. It’s also our hope that this series of posts will help those who are considering divorce to reconsider, and to work toward reconciliation.

Three additional posts are forthcoming.

1. Divorce: What it is

2. Divorce: What it isn’t

3. Divorce: What it does

But before we get there, we’d like your help. While we’ve reached out to a number of friends to help us with this series, we’re looking for others who have experienced divorce as well.  If you would be willing, please take an opportunity to answer the following questions. Send your responses to us at the email address listed below by this time next week. We’ll then begin writing out the rest of the series.

Our sincerest thanks for anyone wishing to help.

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Below are a number of questions we would love to hear your responses on.  We should note that those of you who do agree to answer the following questions, your answers may appear in one of our posts in the series.  However, we will be sure to change your name for the sake of the post, using a first name pseudonym instead.

Our desire in this exercise is not to bring up any feelings of guilt or shame, it is solely to be an aid to others who may be contemplating divorce.  Therefore, if you find the below questions painful and do not wish to respond, we understand.  Additionally, if you would like to help us out but have any questions or concerns prior to doing so, feel free to contact us at donotdisturbblog@gmail.com – Thank you again for your help.

Questions:

1. If you could pin it down to just one thing, what ultimately led to your divorce?

2. Did you ever see divorce as an easy way out?
–  If so, has your opinion changed in any way over the years?

3. Did you attempt to get marital counseling?
–  If not, why not?
–  If so, did you find it helpful?

4. How has your divorce impacted your relationship with God?

5. How has your divorce impacted your relationships with others (outside of your immediate family)?
– i.e. Were/Are you more or less likely to trust others?  Open up to them?  etc.

6. If you have children, how did your divorce impact them?  (Short term and long term)
How did it impact your relationship with them years later?  (i.e. Negative Result: My daughter did not give me permission to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.  Positive Result: My children continue to respect me as a parent and we communicate on a regular basis.)
If you could attempt to quantify it, how many people were affected by your divorce outside of your immediate family?

7. What has your divorce taught you about friendship and marriage?  (How important is it for a couple to be good/best friends in marriage?)

8. If you committed any wrongdoing that ultimately led to your divorce, did you confess this wrongdoing to others?  If so, what was the benefit in doing so?  If not, do you think confession could have helped save your marriage?

9. What, if anything, could you have done differently to save your marriage?

10. If you had just 2-3 minutes to offer advice to a couple considering divorce, what would you say?

Laughter, Time and Care

It started out as a typical summer day. The sun came up. The sky was blue. The kids were eating their morning cereal.

But this wasn’t your typical summer day. This was the start of family vacation.  As we packed our suitcases and coolers into our cars my mother-in-law looked over at me with a smile. It was a smile she always seemed to wear. “Remember, Justin. Your only job on this vacation is to make me laugh.”

“Is there anything else I need to do,” I asked?

“No. That’s it. Just make sure I laugh.”

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On another summer afternoon I took the opportunity to mow my grandmother’s grass.  About 2/3 of the way through she came out to interrupt me. “Why in the world is my grandmother interrupting me right in the middle of mowing the grass,” I thought to myself.

“Hey, there’s a riding mower in the garage. Would that have saved you some time,” she asked?

“Ummmm…yeah, that would’ve saved me a good hour or more! But I’ve done almost all of the flat part of the yard now, so I can’t use it.”

“OK, well go ahead and finish up and then we can sit out on the porch and talk for a while.”

“Well, I really should get home to my family sometime soon.”

“I won’t keep you too long. But let’s spend at least a little bit of time catching up.”

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On yet another summer morning, I remember having breakfast with Megan’s grandparents. As we ate breakfast they were sure to ask the the normal questions.

“How are others in your family doing?”

“How is everything at the church?”

“How is that car of yours running?”

And as we began to clean up and get ready for the drive home, Gram had one final thing to say to me.

“You take good care of that bride of yours, you hear?”

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These are three simple memories I have of three women who had a tremendous influence in my life. One was my mother-in-law, who passed away earlier this year in February. Another was my grandmother, who passed away shortly after my mother-in-law. And another was my grandmother-in-law, who passed away in April.

Each spoke of and received love in different ways.

One wanted to laugh.

Another wanted time.

Another wanted to know her family was being well cared for.

Laughter. Time. And Care.

That’s all they wanted.

They didn’t want nicer houses, cars, cell phones, or anything else. They simply wanted laughter, time and care. But they didn’t see it that way. They saw it as love. They simply felt and received it in different ways.

How many of us want exactly what they wanted, we just keep looking for it in all the wrong places?  We want to know and experience love, yet we try to find it outside of relationships with others.

Maybe if I have a nicer home. Or car. Or shoes. Or a TV. Or a…(you fill in the blank.)

But we keep looking. We keep searching. Contentment runs dry. And the ‘stuff’ we own never brings us the joy we think it will.

This line of thinking always leads me to Philippians 4:13. This passage is quite possibly the most misrepresented verse in all of the Bible.  It reads:

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

But this passage isn’t about having the ‘strength’ to do really, hard, challenging tasks.  It isn’t about climbing mountains, white water rafting, or running a marathon.  It’s about contentment.  Read this passage again, but in the context of the few verses before it.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

You see, this passage is about contentment, not strength.

These three wonderful ladies who influenced my life so much, they were content with many things in their lives. They no longer cared about ‘stuff’, but about family. They cared about people. They cared about relationships.

This week, take some time to think about your level of contentment.  Are you content with what you have? Are your thoughts for ‘stuff’ consuming you? Or are you simply looking to know and experience love from others? Think — What exactly is it that you need in order to experience contentment on a regular basis?

That’s a challenging question, isn’t it?

But don’t stop there.

Take purposeful opportunities this week to bring others to laughter. Take purposeful opportunities to spend time with them.  Take purposeful opportunities to show that you care for them and their family. Provide them with laughter, time and care. Make lasting memories with the people you truly care about.

Who knows? You may just find that contentment isn’t going to be found in what you don’t have.

It’s all around you.

R.U.N. towards sex

Every once in a while there are misleading statements made about sex.  For example, we’ve heard it said, “A sex session can burn about 200 calories. This is like running 15 minutes on a treadmill!”

Even if this statements aren’t always accurate, it’s a lot of fun to think about the benefits a married couple can gain by enjoying sex.  In the spirit of this fact (proven or not!) here is an encouragement for why married couples should R.U.N. towards sex.

R – Relaxation

Days are busy. Nights are often filled with social and family obligations. This is just part of life. Sex provides a reprieve, a healthy escape from the problems of the day. When you are fully engaged in physical intimacy with your spouse there is often a complete disregard for everything else that is going on. The release of sexual exploration and orgasm for both men and women can provide a deep sense of relaxation.

U – Unity

Truly becoming one body during sex unites a couple. They can move forward in strength and agreement. Connecting physically is a great reminder that you are connected in other areas of life. Allow the physical connection during sex to remind you of the unity it takes to move forward in this life together.

N – Nurtures Intimacy

Intimacy before sex or after sex? The truth is it comes both ways. Emotional intimacy often leads one or both partners in marriage to desire sex. On the other hand, sex produces a desire to connect emotionally as a byproduct of the physical connection. Either as the culmination or the byproduct, sex nurtures intimacy in marriage.

So, there you go. Whether you are looking for some exercise or relaxation, unity and nurtured intimacy, sex was designed to benefit your marriage.

Linking with: To Love Honor and Vacuum, Messy Marriage