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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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?

Boundaries: Friendship

This weekend Megan and I had an opportunity to do something extraordinary. It wasn’t planned out weeks in advance. It wasn’t even planned out days or hours in advance.  It was 100% spontaneous (and just so you know, we are NOT spontaneous people.) And it was one of the best weekends of our marriage.

Where we went and what we did is relatively unimportant. (Though if you really must know, we took a weekend out of town with our girls, enjoying parks, disc golf, and even swimming in a lake.) What is important, is that we’ve both placed certain boundaries in our lives in order to keep our friendship going strong.

Boundaries.

It’s the one word everybody knows and understands, but few apply it well.  Having boundaries in your life means you have clear lines in place that you won’t cross. Stay within those boundaries and you’ll likely enjoy a healthier, happier life. But if you cross those lines too many times, you’ll likely feel as if you’re doing a lot yet accomplishing nothing. Keep going and some of your friendships may take a hit. Further still, your friendship with your spouse becomes non-existent.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there’s just to much to do. You’re thinking you’ll let others down. You’re thinking you’ll miss a deadline. You’re thinking…

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. But here are a few things you may want to consider as well.

All of Life Is Ministry:

With all of the challenges Megan and I have experienced over the past year, this is something we’ve come to understand so clearly. Did you know that swimming in a lake, or hiking on a trail, or playing a board game with your spouse (and kids) is no less Godly than attending every church service every weekend? Did you know that it’s OK to say, “no” to some really good ministry opportunities in order to do something even better with your family?  Did you know that spending true quality time with your family can even be considered ‘ministry’?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m in full-time ministry and Megan volunteers a tremendous amount of time and energy. But we’ve learned that we don’t have to be there for every service, every meeting, every…everything. We can say, “no” to some things and remain 100% confident that we’re accomplishing all that God has for us to accomplish.

Emotional Health is Important:

This past year we’ve taken an opportunity to read a great book called, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. If you’re ever feeling a bit overwhelmed, read this book immediately. It’s fantastic.

I know that men don’t like to talk about ’emotions’, but there’s tremendous benefit in both men and women understanding their emotional health and making decisions to keep their emotional health at the highest possible level.  Why? Well, because when you’re not feeling well on an emotional level then it doesn’t matter how much you’re doing, because the people you’re doing it for aren’t getting your best. If you truly want others to always get your very best, keep appropriate boundaries in place and hold firm to them. Remember, saying, “no” to some things means that others can get more of your very best. And you’ll feel better about what you’re able to accomplish.

Friendship First:

Your friendship with your spouse is far more important than any other friendship you may have. It’s more important than any meeting or deadline. It’s more important than coaching your son’s soccer team or driving your daughter to her dance recital. Your friendship with your spouse is the rock on which the rest of your marriage is built.  If you hold firm on boundaries to keep your marriage-friendship strong, everybody will get your very best in everything else you do.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feel free to answer at least one of these questions in the comments below:

1. What are some things you have a really hard time saying, “no” to?

    Would saying, “no” bring you more joy?

2. What are 2-3 things you do to keep your marriage-friendship strong at all times?

The Mid-Summer Marriage Amusement Ride

Awwww summer. Swimming pools. Mountains. Oceans. Hiking. Walking. Cycling. Roller Coasters. Driving. Here one day…there the next. And if the day allows it, you may even be able to relax a little. (Yeah, right!)

Yes, summer is a busy time of year. In fact, the past 4-5 summers for me have been busier than the other nine months of the year.  With all this busy-ness going on, how can a couple regularly focus on their friendship?  And why start now?  Why not begin in September, once the Summer officially ends?

Well, there are a number of reasons for a couple to focus on their friendship. We’ve already outlined some reasons on how to focus on Friendship all year long (this includes the summer months as well.)

But now that we’ve reached the 1/2 point of the summer, we thought it may be a good idea to have a fun Mid-Summer Checkup.  Here are a few suggestions that we hope will provide some Mid-Summer Amusement in your marriage.

Create a Summer Bucket List:

starsMaybe you haven’t gone hiking yet, or you’ve only had an opportunity to do it with the kids in tow, not on a friendly date.  Or maybe you’d like to stay up late stargazing one night.  Whatever it is, take a brief opportunity to write down three things you would each like to do before the end of the summer.  That’s SIX Bucket List ideas for the two of you.  Then be sure to put dates on the calendar as to when you can schedule them in.

Read a Marriage Book Together:

If you’re planning a week-long trip to the mountains, beach, or some other kind of travel plans, take an opportunity to read a Marriage book and discuss it. It doesn’t have to be a real brain-burner, and there are some options out there even hubby wouldn’t mind reading.

Begin Fun Conversations:

Take a few opportunities to answer some of the following questions. By simply answering one or two a day one day a week will help you both remember why you’re already best friends.

  1. The most fun I’ve ever had together was when we…
  2. The last time I laughed so hard that I cried was when…
  3. The one thing I love most about the time we spend together is…
  4. The one couple that has influenced us the most is…
  5. If I could travel with you anywhere in the world I’d go…
  6. If I could get you to join me in something outrageous (i.e. skydiving, bungee jumping, etc.) I’d ask you to…
  7. What I enjoyed most about our wedding day was…
  8. What I enjoyed most about our wedding night was…
  9. If I could do one thing to bring a smile to your face this week, what could I do?
  10. If we could have sex someplace other than the bedroom this summer, it would be…

Remember, you and your spouse have lots of time this summer to create purposeful opportunities to enjoy life together. Play together. Learn together. Love together.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Feel free to answer at least one of these questions in the comments below:

  1. The most fun my spouse and I have had this summer is when we…
  2. The one thing I’m most looking forward to doing with him/her before the end of this summer is…
  3. Our friendship is important to us because…