Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

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Do not underestimate the power of prayer in your marriage. It is by prayer that we enlist the influence of God in our lives. We ask him to do what we cannot do. When a couple prays, it has several effects.

It helps you with your perspective on problems, and clears your vision so you can see what God wants in the foggy, murky moments of your lives. Your heart is quieted. You cannot worry and pray at the same time. The Bible says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Through sincere prayer, you can gain God’s perspective on an issue, which often helps you discover the solution to your dilemma.

Prayer helps you reorder your priorities. It activates your faith in God, puts him and his plan first in your lives, and forces you to leave the situation with him. Through prayer, you can also find that what you highly value may be a deterrent to God’s blessings in your home.

Prayer gives you a sense of purpose. Through contact with God, you discover how he wants to use your marriage for his glory.

Your prayers reduce your daily cares and keep you in a place where God can use you most effectively.

Let’s talk:  How has prayer helped you and your spouse build a stronger marriage relationship?  Please leave a comment below.

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

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Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you find it hard to get excited about telling your spouse about your day? Listen to what John Maxwell did that changed his conversations with his wife at the end of the day:

Years ago, when something exciting happened during the day, I’d share it with colleagues and friends. By the time I got home, I had little enthusiasm for sharing it with Margaret. I purposely began keeping things to myself until I could share them with her first. That way she never got the leftovers.

You might be eating leftovers, but you can make the conversation fresh and encouraging.

Let’s talk:  What do you do to keep your communication interesting?  Please leave a comment below.

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

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Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

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The seemingly routine moments of your day can be more meaningful when you have a desire to communicate with your spouse.

For instance, what’s it like when you come home at the end of the day? Do you greet each other with warm words or with complaints?

Did you know that the first four minutes you are together will set the tone for the rest of the evening? It’s true! A loving greeting, a tender kiss, or a lingering embrace will help set the environment for love talk.

One busy husband found it helpful to use his long commute home to talk to his wife on his cell phone (using the hands-free attachment, of course). They discussed the day’s events and prepared to reconnect at home. It turned their previously frustrating re-entry time into a more pleasant experience.

Let’s talk: How do you use the “routine” moments of the day to communicate with your spouse? Please leave a comment below.

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

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Stepping into My Spouse’s Shoes (Guest Post)

This is a guest post from Helena Madsen of Chronic Marriage (www.chronicmarriage.com), a website dedicated to helping couples with chronic illness build extraordinary marriages. I have followed her postings for about a year now and found them to be inspiring and practical. The original posting was titled, Stepping into My Husband’s Shoes.

Photo by Alan Witikoski
Photo by Alan Witikoski

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to step into your spouse’s shoes and view your marriage from his or her perspective?

I’ve often wondered just how patient and understanding I’d be if I were the healthy spouse and my husband lived with muscular dystrophy.

This week I bravely decided to interview Jeff to hear his take on what it’s been like being married to me for the last ten years.  I also wanted to give him the opportunity to speak from the caregiver’s perspective on what works and what doesn’t work so well in a chronic marriage.

When we first met and I told you I had muscular dystrophy, what were your initial thoughts?

I was certainly familiar with the term muscular dystrophy but I didn’t understand what it meant to be honest.  Because I was attracted to you, I had a curiosity to find out more.  The disease definitely didn’t diminish my interest in you.  I remember thinking that whatever this disease is, I’m not afraid of it.  The way I’m going to tackle it is to find out more about it.

Once we married, what surprised you or caught you off guard about living with someone with chronic illness?

Well, early on in our marriage, your symptoms weren’t real obvious but after a couple of years, I started to see limitations e.g. you couldn’t run, climb stairs well, etc.  We had to start monitoring what we did physically.  As the disease has progressed, we’ve had to change the way we approach things.  In some ways, it’s actually been a blessing.  I’ve always been someone who rushes through life, always on the go, and moving on to the next thing quickly.  Muscular dystrophy has made me slow down in a good way.

One of the things I’ve learned about the disease is that we have to be very intentional about the choices we make.  For example, if we’re going out, I always call ahead to make sure the building is accessible and easy for you to get in and out of.  I don’t want our experiences to be diminished because of accessibility issues.  I’ve also signed up to the fact that we can’t be everything to everyone.   We can’t live the jet set life and that’s fine with me because I like the simplicity and groundedness that a slower pace brings to our lives.

What have been the biggest challenges for you?

The biggest challenge for me has been seeing your disease progress and trying to stay one step ahead of it.  For example, two years ago, I saw a clear need for you to start using a power wheelchair in order to increase your mobility.  You and I didn’t see eye to eye on that and it was a struggle for me.  I wasn’t necessarily factoring in your feelings or what kind of emotional decision it might have been for you at the time.  For me, it was more of an objective decision about what was best for you.  My attitude was if it will ensure your safety then why not do it?  I know that caused some friction between us.

In your opinion, what has helped us weather some of the storms and challenges?

I think communication has been the biggest thing.  I think we’re open and honest about what’s working and what’s not.  I think you set good boundaries with me.  I tend to be a very social person and I like to include you in a lot of activities.  When you laid down a boundary at first, I viewed it as a threat.  For example, if we were going out with friends and you didn’t want to go because you were tired or worried about accessibility issues, it was hard for me to understand.  But now that we’ve opened up the communication channels and are honest with each other, I realize it’s not a personal rejection.  I think giving each other permission to do things independently of each other is also helpful.

What advice would you give to a caretaker spouse like yourself?

First and foremost is to keep the lines of communication open.  For the caregiver, it’s just as important for you to express what you’re feeling.  Just because you’re the caregiver doesn’t mean you have to stuff your feelings deep down inside and not share them.  You shouldn’t view them as unimportant or that you’d be burdening your spouse.  You’re not being selfish if you share what’s bothering you.

The second thing is that as a caregiver, you’ve also got to take care of yourself.  If you’re not in a place where you’re caring for yourself physically, emotionally or spiritually, you’re not going to be very good at caring for your spouse in any capacity.  You can’t be there 24/7 and that doesn’t mean you’re bad, weak or a failure in any way.  You just need to be honest with your spouse about your physical and emotional capacity.

And maybe a third point would be to seek out a community of people to provide physical, emotional or spiritual support for you as the caregiver so that you can remain healthy.

What advice would you give to a chronically ill person regarding their healthy spouse?

The big one would be to extend empathy which is not always easy.  Empathy understandably ebbs and flows depending on the day and/or situation.  The tendency is to focus on you, the ill spouse because you’re the one struggling with pain and limitations.  You need to feel loved and cared for by your spouse as well as assured that you won’t be abandoned because of your illness.

At the same time, it’s important for you to put yourself in the caregiver’s shoes.  The caregiver’s life has been turned upside down too.  The world as they knew it has changed and it’s going to take weeks, months and most likely years to get a handle on it.  My advice would be to show a great deal of empathy for your spouse and try to understand how your illness is impacting them as well.  Affirm them, thank them and let them know you appreciate what they’re doing for you.  Tell them if a specific act of service makes you feel well loved and express your gratitude.  Lastly, give them permission to take care of themselves too.

Thank you Jeff for being open and transparent and for offering wisdom to other chronic couples like ourselves!

Are there questions you’d like to ask your spouse but are afraid to?  What might some of those questions be?  Please leave a comment!

For help in talking with your spouse about all kinds of health related issues, check out Helena’s new ebook “For Better or Worse: A Guide to Talking About Illness in Your Marriage”.

Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

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The way you relate to God shapes your motivation in building a healthy relationship with your spouse. Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Marriage, has greatly encouraged Cindy and me. We have read it separately, studied it together with other couples, passed it on to others, and continue to find it beneficial. In a devotional book based on Sacred Marriage, he writes about our spiritual motivation to build a great marriage:

It all comes down to this: Are you a God-centered spouse or a spouse-centered spouse? A spouse-centered spouse acts nicely toward her husband when he acts nicely toward her. She is accommodating, as long as her husband pays her attention. A spouse-centered husband will go out of his way for his wife, as long as she remains agreeable and affectionate. He’ll romance her, as long as he feels rewarded for doing so.

 

A God-centered spouse feels more motivated by his or her commitment to God than by whatever response a spouse may give.

God-centered spouses are more satisfied in their marriages. They consistently rate their marriages as stronger and more satisfying spiritually, emotionally, socially, and sexually. The source of that strength is seen in this verse, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). You, your spouse, and God form an unbreakable cord. As long as you hear and obey His words, your marriage will be all that He designed it to be.

Let’s talk: Do your spiritual values make a difference in your marriage? Please leave a comment below.

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

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Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

dont-forgetCouples let many things intrude on their marriage relationship – careers, hobbies, friends, and even children. So much energy is put into these other roles; there is nothing left for their relationship.

In time, they stop playing, laughing, touching, and communicating with each other. The sad thing is that these couples settle for a functional relationship, putting aside the romance, passion, and intimacy of marriage. They may live under the same roof and sleep in the same bed, but their marriage is lost in the myriad duties and demands of daily life.

To keep love alive in your marriage, you must give top priority to maintaining a loving relationship with your spouse.

If your work or even your children have become the primary focus of your life, you need to refocus on your spouse, rather than looking to another individual or group of people to meet your emotional needs.

Each area of your life must be put into proper perspective. Whatever is important to you in this life, other than your relationship with God, should be less important than your marriage.

There is much to enjoy and do in this life, but don’t forget to be married.

Let’s talk: How have you protected your marriage from becoming more than a functional relationship? (I appreciate your comments below.)

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

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Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

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Cecil Osborne wrote in The Art of Understanding Your Mate, “There are many reasons for the breakup of marriages, but the most common one is never found in divorce complaints: both of the marriage partners are waiting for each other to meet their needs.”

A vital tool in building a great marriage is mutual servanthood, or becoming a host. It’s one of the fundamental things that makes a marriage work and last for a lifetime. When you are a guest, everything is done for you. You feel no sense of responsibility or initiative. It’s nice to be a guest, to be entertained and pampered, just to relax, indulge, and enjoy.

However, if each marriage partner is hoping to be a guest, expecting the other to exercise initiative for his or her benefit, there will be big trouble. Both will be disappointed. The marriage becomes stale, loses its attractiveness, and an affair becomes tempting.

In a great marriage, each spouse focuses on becoming a host, not a guest in the relationship.

Let’s talk: What are your thoughts about being a host in your marriage? (I appreciate your comments below.)

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

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