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.

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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.

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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…

 

2014: The Year of Friendship

We wanted to start off the new year by being a little transparent.  2013 was a rough year for our family.  Probably the most challenging year we’ve ever experienced.  We’ve seen a family member we love very much suffer from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  She’s gone from having laugh-filled conversations to needing a feeding tube and an inability to speak or move within a year’s time.  And her diagnosis was just the start to our 2013.  We’ve had other family members we love very much commit adultery against their spouse.  In one of those situations divorce immediately followed.  In another, something much different. Polygamy.  And no, we’re not making this up.  It all happened, and to be completely honest, it’s not getting any better.  Family members we dearly love have essentially cut-off communication with us and many others.

While none of these situations have occurred under our own roof, the impact it’s had in our lives is tremendous.  We’ve re-learned a valuable life lesson: The decisions we make don’t only impact our own lives, but the lives of everyone around us.  In fact, if there’s one thing we hope you take from this post it’s this:
Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 11.12.38 AMYou may want to write it down on an index card and put it on your bathroom mirror so you can memorize it.  The decisions you make will not only impact your own life, but the lives of others around you.

Where exactly are we going with this?  Well, if there’s just one New Year’s Resolution you can make this year, if there’s just one thing about your marriage you can look to change or improve, make it your friendship.  Make the decision today to become a better friend to your spouse.

Outside of improving your relationship with God, this is the one decision you can make that will have the greatest impact in your life.  It will impact yourself, your spouse, your children, and everybody else you come in contact with on a regular basis.

Some of you may be reading this and you’re thinking, “That’s a great idea, but HOW can I become a better friend for my spouse?”  Well, there’s no easy answer to that question.  You know him/her better than we do.  All we can do is offer a few suggestions.

1. Find something in common you enjoy doing together.

Megan and I are about as different as two people can be.  Many of the interests and hobbies I have are completely uninteresting to her.  Likewise, many of the interests and hobbies she has are completely uninteresting to me.  So over the years we’ve worked really hard on finding some things we enjoy doing together.  One is that we work on this blog…together.  Another is that every year we read at least one book on the subject of marriage, and we discuss it…together.  We’ve also found some specific games that we can both enjoy…together.  Through this process we’ve both put aside some of our personal interests for the sake of our own friendship.  This decision helped us get through the challenges we experienced in 2013…together.

If you’re anything like us and you don’t feel that you have much in common with your spouse, take some opportunities this year to work on that.  You’ll both have to give up some things in the process, but the end result will greatly benefit your marriage.

2. Grow in your love and knowledge of God.

There are a whole bunch of One Year Bible Reading plans online.  Most people fizzle out somewhere around Leviticus.  Others keep going and learn a whole lot about themselves and the plan God has for their life.  Dare I say it, but these are the ones that usually have stronger marriages, too.

If you’re never read the entire Bible, start with the New Testament, then go to the Old.  Or if you’d like, find a reading plan that includes something from the Old Testament / New Testament / Psalms / Proverbs each day.  Or find some other Bible and/or Marriage study to work on with your spouse, together.  Taking daily, or at least weekly opportunities to talk about what you’re learning will help your marriage grow to a whole new level.

3. Enjoy sex together regularly.

Need we say more?  OK, we will.  Sex can be done for a number of wrong reasons in a marriage.  It can be used as a control mechanism to selfishly get what you want in another area of your relationship.  It can be used for your own personal fulfillment and not the fulfillment of your spouse.  It can be used in a number of ways that can bring more harm to your relationship than benefit.  But it can also be used to reconnect.  To reaffirm your love for one another.  To remind your spouse that your main desire in life is for their satisfaction, pleasure and joy.  To remind you both that you’re in this life together.  That you’re one flesh.

If you’re not connecting on a sexual basis regularly (and by regularly we mean at least 1-2 times a week), make that a goal for 2014.  Here’s a good read for the month of January to help you start the new year off right.

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There’s just one more thing we wish to note on this subject of friendship: every marriage we’ve seen fail has failed because the friendship failed.  Think about all the couples you know who have had their marriage fail.  Were they good friends?  Or did somebody make a decision to become better friends with somebody of the opposite sex instead of becoming a better friend to their spouse?

Make the decision to improve your friendship this year.  Your friendship is THE decision that will most greatly impact your marriage and the lives of everybody around you.  So what are you waiting for?  Don’t just be there, be their friend.

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ~Elbert Hubbard