Finding the way out – weary and alone

Weariness.

Weariness is an exceptional liar. Whispering things such as, “You are alone.” “Everyone else’s marriage is going great. We are the only one’s with this struggle.” “There is no hope, stop trying.  You may as well get comfortable with misery.”

Many marriages wear this as a garment. Though it may be uncomfortable and doesn’t fit properly, it remains. No one intentionally keeps company with weariness but when it settles in like a wet blanket, shedding it is not easy and can rarely be done without help. If you find yourself in a weary place right now consider the following thoughts.

  • Give voice to your vulnerabilities – Admit that you feel isolated and alone. Admit that you are facing difficult circumstances and that you can’t see your way through. Speaking up about what you are experiencing gives you a voice and finding your voice gives you power over the weariness. Rather than the voice of weariness your own voice will begin to emerge.
  • Seek out counsel and wisdom – As you begin to find your voice find a counselor, therapist, mentor or group in which you can share and listen to other voices. Recognition is one step out of weariness but health and wholeness is only possible when the word and thought culture in your mind, heart and marriage become more positive. Your words may accurately relate where you are but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are completely true. Finding people who desire to guide you towards truth and wisdom will help you sort through the lies and truths you are believing and that will benefit your life.
  • Receive help graciously – Being willing to receive help often takes more courage and grace than offering to help others. Allow other people to love you by listening to you. Be encouraged by listening to counsel and support offered. Taking steps towards health does not make you inadequate, it proves your desire to live in freedom.

Taking off the garment of weariness will lead to health and freedom in your individual life and in your marriage. Freedom is possible and there are people willing to walk with you along the way.

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?

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?

 

Marriage Strong, Energy Poor

We started off the year being transparent about the struggles 2013 brought into our lives. Despite the turmoil the past year brought, we determined to make 2014 The Year of Friendship. We did this for a specific reason, we knew 2014 was likely to bring about a fair share of struggles of its own.  We were right.

February has brought grief and pain into our lives in the form of loss. I (Megan) lost my mother (age 63) on February 7th. An incredible legacy but a heavy loss for my heart. This past week we also lost Justin’s grandmother. A woman with whom we we were very close and visited regularly.  The pain and grief of these losses has left us raw and tired. The most common question asked of us right now is, “How are you doing?” and let me tell ya, that’s a doozie of a question. Truth is, we are comforted and well supported. We are also sad, grieving and exhausted. However, when it comes to our marriage I describe that we are marriage rich despite being energy poor.

Maybe you can relate, your marriage is strong even though you are physically and emotionally spent. Maybe for you that is wishful thinking, you can’t imagine having a strong marriage during your most difficult season. Today I want to share three things that are keeping our marriage strong during this trying and difficult time.

1. Words

Words of encouragement, comfort, support and reassurance are necessary during times of deep hurt. The words can come in form of cards, notes or be spoken but, whatever the form, using words to build up your spouse is essential to a strong marriage.

2. Actions

Sometimes even words can’t soothe the heartache of the ones we love most. During those times it’s important to show our support of them through actions that speak where words are inadequate. A listening ear, a long hug, a comforting meal, a trip to the store – all of these actions and so many more can strengthen your marriage.

In addition, lowering the “normal” expectations of what your spouse may be able to accomplish with their time is an action of love. Around our house, laundry is getting done but may not always make it to the state of being put away properly. Meals are being eaten together, but may be of the variety of store bought goods and sides as opposed to my normal more healthy and frugal meals. The burden to keep up with all of life while processing difficult circumstances is oppressive but as a spouse, we can speak with loving actions when we let go of expectations and allow our spouse to feel supported regardless of the disruption to “normal”. A new normal will settle in but patience and support until that time makes a marriage thrive during the interim.

3. Space

Not to be disregarded, even in a one flesh marriage, it is important to allow our spouse space to process. Just as a garden does not bloom within hours of the seeds being planted, a spouse cannot process and heal without some space and time. Healthy amounts of togetherness and separateness during difficult seasons is important. Be observant, patient and sensitive to what your spouse needs most. If your spouse needs you to be there, then be there. If they need some alone time to cry, sleep, write, grant them that space.  The garden will grow, not from force, but from the space to receive the nutrients essential to support it’s growth.

Of course our faith in God and our Savior Jesus Christ is giving us the greatest amount of strength and comfort during this time, but on a practical level, words, actions and space are the ways our marriage is being nurtured.  These elements can strengthen marriages in all situations and can be applied in many close relationships.

Difficult times will come in every marriage and these are just a few thoughts on how to sustain health and strength. Feel free to share how you strengthen your marriage when difficulties (especially those outside of the marriage relationship) arise.

 

Marriage Challenge: True Compliments (Giveaway winners announced)

“You had the finest, most powerful, most resonant voice of any of the young male swans in the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana.” “I did?” said the cob. “Yes, indeed. Everytime I heard you say something in that deep voice of yours, I was ready to go anywhere with you.” “You were?” said the cob. He was obviously delighted with his wife’s praise. It tickled his vanity and made him feel great. He had always fancied himself as having a fine voice, and now to hear it from his wife’s own lips was a real thrill.” 

The Cob’s wife to her husband – The Trumpet of the Swam, E.B. White

When was the last time you complimented your spouse? I mean really complimented them. Telling them something about themselves that they don’t know or even more important reminding them of something they have forgotten in the midst of the demands of everyday life. In the above example, the wife’s compliment delighted her husband and thrilled him to know how she really felt and what she really thought of him. Today’s challenge is simple, think of a way to compliment your spouse and then do it! The idea is not to go about it selfishly, desiring a compliment in return. Compliment your spouse because of the positive impact it can have on them and your marriage.

And now for the winners of our giveaway:

The Simply Romantic Wife – Katie Adauto

31 days to great sex – Lindsay Harold

Please email us your information and we will get those resources to you.

Thanks everyone for continuing to read.

Connectivity and Sex

Sex is about connection. It’s about fun and games. It’s meant to bring a married couple together to share in something that is exclusive.  An exclusive moment of knowing and being known at the deepest level.  This is what sex is all about.  However, knowing all these incredible reasons doesn’t seem to eliminate how challenging it can be to make sex a priority.  See if you can relate to any of these common reasons people choose not to have sex.

  • too tired
  • too busy
  • no energy
  • too much work to do
  • don’t feel sexy
  • relational conflict (with spouse or others)
  • lack of connection/conversation throughout the day
  • it doesn’t feel good
  • our relationship needs help!
  • demands of the day (work, kids, family, house, bills etc) are overwhelming

A long list that probably doesn’t include half the reasons and excuses that shove sex to the bottom of the “to do” list.  We are unable to address all of those issues in one post but today we are going to share 4 ways to feel connected to your spouse throughout the day.  Trying these ‘touch-points of connection’ may just revive your desire to connect physically and intimately.

1. Begin your day with a smile, a kiss and a kind word.  It seems simple, maybe too simple, but what have you got to lose?  Starting the day with affection and touch can be a good way to boost the intimacy in your relationship.  A kiss, kind word and tender moment at the beginning of the day can help set the tone for the rest of the day.  Your marriage is supposed to be set apart from the rest of your relationships, so do something that truly sets it apart.  If your spouse is used to a rushed  and hectic morning encounter, determine what changes you need to make in order to give your spouse your best.

2. Communicate with your spouse throughout the day.  There are a number of ways that you can let your spouse know that you are thinking about them throughout the day.  It could be a simple lunchbox note or handwritten note in their car.  Maybe an email or text during the day.  And though our tech savvy culture may snicker at the archaic devise called a phone, it just might be the point of connection your marriage needs.  Take into consideration what communication works best for you and your spouse then follow through and begin regularly communicating. (check out these 5 text your should send your spouse from Messy Marriage)

3. Think about your spouse throughout the day.  While it is wonderful to actually communicate with your spouse, thinking about them is also very beneficial.  Set up reminders (or what we call “triggers”) throughout your day that entice you to remember your spouse.  Simple and mundane tasks take on new meaning if you are purposefully turning your mind and heart towards your spouse.  Don’t underestimate the importance of mentally and emotionally connecting to your spouse throughout the day.

4. Pray for your spouse. There is an incredibly powerful connection that is possible when we pray for our spouse.  Whether we are praying about specific concerns our spouse has shared with us or praying for more general well being, God can change the course of our marriage when we are willing to bring our prayers to Him.  There are many great resources available to help you learn to pray for your spouse and we would encourage you to use them.  Consistency however is the key.  Consistently pray for all different aspect of your marriage and watch God work.

“This post doesn’t have anything to do with sex” you may be saying right now. That may appear true as we didn’t address many of the excuses in our list.  It’s our belief though, that these ‘touch-points of connection’ can help revive your marriage.  A great sex life comes from the overflow of a strong marriage.  So if you want a great sex life begin by working on having a stronger marriage.

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

Join the conversation:

How have you found that connectivity during the day helps you desire connectivity in the bedroom?

Linking with: To Love Honor and Vacuum, Messy Marriage, Happy Wives Club

Positive Word Culture: Creative Word Sharing Ideas

Last week we looked at 3 ways to develop a positive word culture in your marriage.  Developing a positive word culture is important to a growing marriage.  It’s not necessarily easy but it’s worth it.  Today I want to share a few practical ways you could use to communicate affirming and positive words to your spouse.

1. Create a Word Wall.  Designate a wall, mirror or even a large piece of paper as a word wall.  Write words that you believe describe the person your spouse is or is becoming.  Write out reasons you love them or character traits you admire about them.  I turned the doors of Justin’s bedroom closet into a word wall and wrote out 20-30 words that embody the man I love. Of course I had to explain some to our children (“Mommy, why did you call Daddy ‘Hot’?”) but it was totally worth it.  Whether he felt like he was living up to those characteristics or not, I wanted him to know that I love him and truly see the man he is.

2. Sweet Words Pillow Case. When my husbands head hits the pillow at the end of the day I want him to know he is my hero, my lover and my friend.  One idea to make the pillow take on an unusual role is to take a plain white pillowcase and fabric/permanent marker and write out words, phrases, or quotes that would serve to inspire and encourage your spouse.  We all want to feel confident, assured and secure in our spouses love for us, so let’s give them those same assurances while they drift off to sleep.

3. Body Word Art.  This suggestion is for the more adventurous spirit!  Write words or even a love note all over your body and have your spouse go on a scavenger hunt to find them.  Piece the words together if they are a poem and then recite them out loud to your spouse.  Enjoy the connection that positive words can bring as well as the physical connection that results from acting on that love.

Use the power of your words to bring about positive and healthy exchanges in your marriage. Encourage, uplift and inspire your spouse. When you do this, you will find you gained as much in return.

Linking with: Women Living Well.

5 Words Every Marriage Needs:

Marriages may fail, or at the very least atrophy from the over-use of negative words.  Phrases such as, “Well it’s not my fault…” or, “Do you know what your problem is?” certainly do not advocate a healthy marriage relationship.  Likewise, some negative words may be cast in a subtle way, leaving the listener to interpret them negatively.  Phrases such as, “Our house is far too cluttered for company,” may be translated as, “What have you been doing all day?”  These kinds of comments can build up over time, and piece by piece, comment by comment, they suck the life out of the marriage.  These statements are almost always individualistic in nature.  They are self-centered, not marriage centered.

In order to avoid this, there are some positive phrases every person in every relationship needs to say on a regular basis.  These words ensure that each partner sees the marriage relationship as far more important than their own pride and ego.  Five of these statements are as follows:

1. I am sorry.

Each an every one of us is going to mess up in our marriage.  None of us have life all figured out.  So, it stands to reason that the person we share our lives with most intimately will be the person who sees all the inconsistencies and fallibility in our lives. The ability to say, “I’m sorry,” shows humility. Humility is an important part of marriage because it recognizes that we have made and will make mistakes and that we care enough to recognize that our spouse can be hurt by us.  It is often easier to recognize our spouse’s need to say they are sorry, to recognize that they have inconsistencies and selfish ways.  That is the reason “I’m sorry” must be part of a good marriage.  When we recognize there is nothing we can do to control how the other person acts, thinks or views us we come to realize that we are only responsible for ourselves.  It is only our own inadequacies, failures and selfishness that we can change.  We must be willing to be humble and say we are sorry for the problems we bring to the equation.

2. I forgive you.

In marriage (as with all relationships) we must learn to forgive.  We must learn to forgive for a very fundamental reason: we so desperately need forgiveness ourselves.  There are times where we are wronged by our spouse and there are times when our spouse is wronged by us.  Withholding forgiveness locks our marriage in a prison and holds our spouse at arms length.  There is no satisfaction on either side in the absence of forgiveness, just an angry mess. Learning to forgive all offenses, whether small or large, is important to a healthy marriage.  It releases a divine power to love within the relationship and true oneness can only occur when no offense is being held.  Forgiveness is not so much a feeling as it is a choice.  Make the choice to forgive and allow the emotional side of things follow.

3. I need you.

Every human has a deep longing to understand their purpose. While marriage cannot answer that question for every individual (as that is a much deeper spiritual search) marriage is certainly part of how an individual’s purpose is to be lived out.  Admitting out loud that you need your spouse is humbling yourself before them.  It’s confessing that they bring something to the relationship that you cannot provide.  It’s owning up to the fact that you’re not as great as you think you are.  Not only that, but admitting to your spouse that you need them makes them feel appreciated in countless ways as well.  To be needed often means to be appreciated.

4. I appreciate you.

Most days are filled with the same mundane and routine tasks.  We get up, work, eat, relax, go to bed. Then the next day we do the same thing. In the moments of doing the ordinary things in life, if our spouse speaks appreciation for them, it serves to give our attitude a boost.  Laundry, dishes, mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage are tasks that can be seen as drudgery. However, when those tasks are noticed and appreciated, there is a sense of value and worth instilled. Taking time to appreciate not just the out of the ordinary but also the normal and extremely ordinary tasks our spouse does is highly beneficial to our marriages.

5. I love you.

This one may go without saying, but truly, “I love you” are words that need to inhabit the walls of our homes.  Not just the sound of them rolling off our tongues but also the actions, respect and follow through of what they mean.  Love is not given because it is deserved or earned.  Much like forgiveness, love is a choice.  Love is not attached to a certain or specific reason, it is given to the whole being. Love is a gift, and frankly at times it is one that we don’t feel much like giving.  But love is a virtue in which we must follow through.  Not only saying, “I love you,” but being loving, and always believing in it’s unending power.

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

Have any of these words made a difference in your marriage?  What would you add to the list?

Linking with: Women Living Well and To Love Honor and Vacuum

Marriage Challenge: Spread the Word

“I’m so proud of her, I just had to spread the word.”

These are the glowing words of admiration, support and appreciation from a husband about his wife.  We got an email from this proud husband telling us about a recent success his wife experienced and we were delighted to share in the joy of her accomplishment.  This husband was an example to us of what support and friendship in marriage looks like.  Being excited about your spouses success and being willing to share that happiness with others. The overflow of a great marriage is contagious.
We have talked in the past about just how important it is to speak well of your spouse and this email was a great example of how one man is doing just that.  One day last week I (Megan) spent a day running errands and hunting down every good deal our town had.  Justin showed his appreciation by tweeting these words; “My wife is amazing!”  You know what, I would never say those words about myself but coming from him I felt encouraged and built up.  Those are the kinds of words all our marriages need.

So today’s marriage challenge is this: Find one reason to compliment your spouse to someone else.  For good measure you should probably tell your spouse too!

There is no denying that marriage requires hard work and there are times when it seems impossible to see the good in your spouse.  That’s why we consider this a marriage challenge.  Find something that you can admire, respect or appreciate in your spouse then spread the word.  You may even find that as you spread the good about your spouse you are able to actually believe it more and more.

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

Feel free to use the comments to start spreading the word about how great your spouse is.  We don’t mind!