The Super Bowl and Marriage

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The biggest and most-watched sporting event of the year has hit America again – the Super Bowl. It is the ultimate convergence of popular culture and athletics. From the star-studded halftime show to the multi-million dollar commercial time slots, the spectacle is unprecedented in sports. Two football teams have worked and endured injuries since early summer to achieve their mid-winter dreams.

But what does this have to do with marriage? What do marriage and football have in common? Winning the Super Bowl of relationships (marriage) requires some of the same things required to win the Super Bowl of football. To win the Super Bowl, football teams must be focused on some key fundamentals of the game.

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi started every season with a team meeting and the same speech. Surrounded by veterans and rookies alike, he would hold a football high above his head so that each player could see it. With all eyes on him, he simply said: “Gentlemen, this is a football.” In only five words, Lombardi communicated his point – We’re going to start with the basics and make sure we’re executing all the fundamentals.

nflIn marriage, it’s not enough to simply hope your marriage will be a life-long success. You must know the basics and make sure you are executing all the fundamentals of a great marriage. So, here are three fundamentals that can help you win the Super Bowl of relationships. To help you remember them, just think NFL.

N – Nurture a Shared Goal for Your Marriage

Everyone on the football team wants to win. They have a singular focus. They are committed to moving the ball in the same direction.

This shared goal and focus is a major ingredient of being a “team.” Dr. Howard Hendricks, a noted author and speaker, said that one of the things he learned from working with the Dallas Cowboys was the importance of the team. “When you are on a team,” he said, “you play off the strengths of your teammates. You don’t tackle the guys who wear the same color uniforms.”

To win the Super Bowl, football players work as a team. They help each other do their job. They double team and cover for each other. They work at getting along with each other on the field and off the field. When there is discord between players or coaches there will be trouble on the playing field. Discord blurs your vision of the goal.

To win the Super Bowl of relationships also requires a shared goal and a singular focus. An old man was asked why he chose his wife to be his wife. His response was, “She was the one I wanted to grow old with.” That’s a singular focus.

What is your goal in marriage? To have your own way? To win all the arguments? To have your every need met? Selfishness destroys football teams and marital teams.

Jesus spoke about the marriage goal…

“Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

Oneness – Unity – Bonded – Lasting a Lifetime.

F – Fight for Your Marriage

Expectations are high at the beginning of the Super Bowl. Each team is confident that all will go their way. There will be setbacks – fumbles, interceptions, quarterback sacks, and penalties. The opposition will try to keep the other team from gaining yardage, scoring touchdowns, and ultimately from winning the game. There are people on and off the field fully committed to making sure the other team does not win.

couple-hugging_canstockphoto7194135aOur marriages are worked out on the pressure-cooker fields of our lives. We have more than our share of daily stress. On top of career demands, there is a spouse to love, kids to raise, and perhaps aging parents to care for in their golden years. Marriages have been blown apart by unfulfilled and unrealistic expectations, unfortunate circumstances, and unwise choices.

You have to fight for your marriage daily. It begins with an all-out commitment to each other. Your marriage is bigger than any issue. You will stand together no matter what (or who) is lined up against you. Why? Because you promised.

A research study of more than 5,000 couples by the National Survey of Family and Households found that two-thirds of unhappy married spouses who stayed married reported their marriages were happy five years later. Researchers found that the couples that endured and overcame problems in their relationships found the strength to persevere because of their intense commitment to their marriages.

No marriage is perfect, but what are you going to do to protect what is good about your marriage from whatever opposition is coming at you?

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
(1 Corinthians 13:7, New Living Translation)

L – Listen to the Coach

Winning football teams pay attention to the coach. He makes the rules. He gives the instructions. He knows what must be done to win. Even the greatest quarterback needs input from the coach. They need an outside perspective. A great coach knows it is about the team, not about him/her.

Who is coaching your marriage? Whose rules are you following? Who do you go to for an outside perspective?

Jesus is our marital Head Coach. He knows all about how to have successful relationships. His Word, the Bible, is our “play-book.” This is where the strategies for the game are written. There are offensive and defensive strategies. In the Bible, you find the dos and don’ts of a healthy relationship.

  • Be kind and compassionate to one another. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Confess your sins to each other. (James 5:16)
  • Don’t grumble against each other. (James 5:9)
  • Do not lie to each other. (Colossians 3:9)
  • Encourage one another. (Ephesians 4:32; 1 Thessalonians 4:18; Hebrews 3:13)
  • Honor one another. (Romans 12:10)
  • Love one another. (John 13:34)
  • Offer kindness to one another. (1 Peter 4:9)
  • Pray for each other. (James 5:16)
  • Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
  • Teach and admonish one another. (Colossians 3:16; Romans 15:14)

Our marriages are won or lost on our ability and willingness to carry out the coach’s game plan.

Marriage is indeed the Super Bowl of relationships. Winning football teams are unwavering and have an enduring commitment to reach their goal. Are you as determined to win the Super Bowl of relationships?

Discuss: What are some other fundamentals of football that would help you win the Super Bowl of relationships?

Standing for My Marriage

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Years ago I found this affirmation written by someone who wasn’t ready to give up on a difficult marriage. Imagine the strength and joy of a marriage where both the husband and wife are standing strong together.

I am standing for the healing of my marriage!

 

I won’t give up, give in, give out, or give over till that healing takes place.

 

I made a vow; I said the words; I gave the pledge; I gave a ring; I took a ring; I gave myself; I trusted God; and said the words and meant the words…in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad; so I’m standing now, and won’t sit down, let down, slow down, calm down, fall down, look down, or be down till the breakdown is torn down!

 

I refuse to put my eyes on outward circumstances; or listen to prophets of doom, or buy into what’s trendy, worldly, popular, convenient, easy, quick, thrifty, or advantageous.

 

Nor will I settle for a cheap imitation of God’s real thing. Nor will I seek to lower God’s standard, twist God’s will, rewrite God’s Word, violate God’s covenant, or accept what God hates, namely divorce.

 

In a world of filth, I will stay pure.
Surrounded by lies, I will speak the truth.
Where hopelessness abounds, I will hope in God.
Where revenge is easier, I will bless instead of curse, and when the odds are stacked against me, I’ll trust in God’s faithfulness.

 

I’m a stander, and I won’t acquiesce, compromise, quarrel, or quit.

 

I have made the choice, set my face, entered the race, believed the Word, and trusted God for all the outcome.

 

I will allow neither the reaction of my spouse, nor the urging of my friends, nor the advice of my loved ones, nor the economic hardship, nor the prompting of the devil to make me let up, slow up, blow up, or give up till my marriage is healed up.

 

AMEN!

Author unknown

Let’s Discuss It: What do you think about this affirmation? (comment below)

Dancing in the Minefields

When it comes to living out our marriage vows in a chronic illness marriage (or any marriage for that matter), this song from Andrew Peterson says it all. I’m really impressed with the quality of the lyrics and the simplicity of the music. It is a great reminder to all of us married folks. Enjoy and celebrate!

Simple Advice for Spousal Caregivers

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Many family members fail to realize how mentally and physically exhausting caregiving can be, especially if one member of the family is doing most of the caregiving. It may not look that difficult on the outside.

However, if the “well spouse” is not careful, he/she can begin to feel “burned out.” This can be dangerous to both the well and ill/disabled spouse.

Feeling stressed over long periods of time WILL affect your health, motivation, attitude and mood, as well as your ability to cope with your daily responsibilities. But, it can be avoided and is not permanent.

The Caregiver Action Network (formerly the National Family Caregivers Association) offers the following suggestions for those caring for a spouse with a chronic illness or disability:

  • Accept offers of help: Do not carry your burden alone. Build a support system from friends, neighbors, family and church groups.
  • Give yourself a break: Make a schedule that provides you with some off time to focus on your own needs.
  • Watch your own health: Don’t put off doctor appointments. Be sure to eat right and get your exercise — even a few minutes a day can make a difference.
  • Review your loved one’s health care coverage: Some health plans for people on Medicare and Medicaid provide support to family caregivers, such as respite care and transportation help.
  • Seek expert advice: Care managers offered by some health plans can help you shoulder your caregiving responsibilities by guiding you to resources and services. Joining a support group in your community may also be a major benefit.

Are you the primary caregiver for your spouse? What are you doing to stay healthy and positive?

Are the spouse with a chronic condition or disability? What are you doing to encourage your spouse to stay healthy?

Marriage Maintenance

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Many people rarely think about improving their marriage unless it is in trouble. “People get so caught up in careers, raising kids and satisfying their own souls,” says Gloria Richfield, co-author of Together Forever, “that they forget their marriage needs to be fed too.” Over the years that I have been involved in marriage education and enrichment ministries I have observed that people take care of their marriages in ways similar to caring for their cars and trucks.

Preventive MaintenanceLike those who zealously perform the preventive maintenance rituals upon their cars, there are couples who focus creative energy on their marriage as a means of preventing trouble. A husband once told me that for 30 years he had made sure that his automobile’s oil was changed regularly, the tire pressure kept at factory specifications, and various fluid levels maintained according to the owner’s manual. However, it was not until after attending one of our marriage seminars that he realized he had neglected to keep his marriage running smoothly through regular check-ups. Couples who take this path will have intentional discussions about how their marriage is going, read books together on how to improve communication, spend time having fun, and attend marriage conferences and classes.

Warning Ticket One night I was stopped in my car by a police officer because a headlight and the license plate light in the rear were burned out.  He gave me a warning ticket that stated I had a certain amount of time to correct the problem. I hoped to be able to make it home without being stopped again. No such luck! About 5 miles from the first stop and in a different town the now familiar flashing lights rolled up behind me.  When I showed the officer the warning ticket from the other town he laughed and said, “Must be a slow night.” As I drove away I wondered why I had not asked him to call ahead to the next town I would pass through and let them know I had already been warned – not once, but twice. I made it home and took steps to repair the broken lights before the next nightfall.

Some people don’t take the time to invest considerable energy in marital preventive maintenance. It’s the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They just keep going about their own agendas until something happens to get their attention. It may be an argument that leads to abuse or a close call with sexual temptation or a health-related issue that causes one to refocus his or her priorities.  While not ideal, couples who wait until they are issued a warning ticket often will seek help. They will talk to a pastor or they will return to the positive patterns of relating or they will attend a marriage class to regain some footing.

Waiting to be TowedOther people pay no attention to the preventive maintenance schedule of their cars, ignore the odd rumbling sounds coming from underneath, and are convinced they have an adequate fuel supply regardless of what the gauge reads. They often find themselves broken down by the side of the road or being towed into a service center. I’ve seen the same thing in marriage ministry. One spouse refuses to heed the warnings and lacks the motivation or interest in preventing trouble. The next thing you know they are being dragged into a counselor’s office or a marriage seminar as a means of repairing the problem. This is often costly, as it is when we neglect to take care of our cars. Years of neglect will require major changes in behavior and attitude.

You can save yourself a huge chunk of time and emotional energy trying to repair a big problem later on. A little preventive maintenance can make your marriage run smoother and be more fun in the years ahead.  Consider a few suggestions:

  • Become your spouse’s biggest fan. Encourage him or her with your sincere words of appreciation and thankfulness on a daily basis.
  • Carve out quantity time in your schedules to be together. Marital research tells us that anything that increases the amount of time a couple spends together will increase their level of marital satisfaction.
  • Be kind to one another.  Small courtesies that were a regular part of the early years of marriage often fall by the wayside when other career and family demands come along.
  • Become involved in a marriage class or couples Bible study that can help you keep your marriage fine-tuned. You may also want to attend a weekend marriage enrichment conference where you can spend significant time with each other talking about how to improve and protect the most important human relationship you have.

Cindi McMenamin (www.strengthforthesoul.com) suggests that you ask your spouse the following questions to help you set marriage enrichment goals for the coming year:

  1. What did you most enjoy about our dating days?
  2. What do you wish we could do as a couple that we rarely or no longer take the time to do?
  3. What have you always wanted to do, as a couple, that we haven’t yet done?
  4. Where would be the ideal getaway for you and I to go someday?
  5. What, specifically, would you like to see us accomplish together in the next year?

Most married people will say that their marriage is important to them. The truth of that statement is seen in the care given to build a lasting marriage.

Question:  What are you doing this year to improve your marriage?

Bedtime Grumblings

 

We went to bed unhappy with each other. Oh, we gave each other a kiss good night, and we said, “I love you.” However, there wasn’t much passion in that kiss, nor in those words.

It all started as we were getting ready for bed. The day had been long and exhausting for both of us. I said, “There’s an MS conference coming up. Can we go to it?”

“No, we have a seminar that day,” he said.

“Maybe it will be cancelled and then we can go to the MS conference.” (Wrong thing to say!)

“Cindy, I can’t believe you said that! I don’t think you care about this ministry.” (Wrong thing for him to say!)

Back and forth we went, each saying things we would be sorry for later. We eventually calmed down and realized that our words came out of our mouths without thinking of their impact on the other.

Sometimes when you are living with chronic pain, it can wear you down and you say things you should not say, nor really mean to say. Sometimes when you are the caregiver living with someone with chronic pain, you may get impatient and say things you should not say or mean to say.

Next time we find ourselves bickering with each other, we are going to try to remember the following:

  • Don’t mind read, assuming you know what your spouse means or is really thinking.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • Give your spouse grace.

Continue the Conversation:  What’s your story? Do you identify with what happened to us? What other suggestions would you make on how to keep from grumbling?

Stronger Together – Married with a Chronic Illness

The stress of a chronic illness can be challenging to a marriage, even when two people have been deeply in love for decades. Just knowing that they will live their entire lives (except for a healing miracle) having to cope with the ravages of a disease – such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, lupus, heart disease, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a host of others – is an enormous burden to carry. They constantly deal with questions like these:

How do I juggle my needs with the needs of my chronically ill spouse?
• How can I fight feelings of inadequacy and guilt?
• Am I a burden to my spouse?
• How do I keep it together for my spouse who has a chronic illness?
• What do I do when I find myself thinking, “This is more than I bargained for?”

 

Cindy & Willie Batson

We are well acquainted with these thoughts and feelings. Twenty-one years ago Cindy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an auto-immune disease that has progressively disabled her to the point of spending most of her waking hours in a wheelchair. We wrestle with the challenges this chronic illness presents daily in our marriage.

(Read what I wrote about this experience here.)

Most marriage ministries are not focused on the unique needs of couples with chronic illnesses. God has called us to reach out to those facing these stressors in their relationships. There are limited resources and expertise to guide them on those occasions when they hit major relational road blocks.

This urgent need was apparent at a large men’s conference where I spoke on how to make your marriage work when your spouse has a chronic illness – physical, mental, or emotional. A small room with 35 chairs was assigned. I wondered if anyone would come. Ten minutes before the seminar, I walked into a room overflowing with guys in every chair, sitting on the floor, and standing against the walls. There were more than 60 men there! A room filled with husbands whose wives are living with life-changing and lifethreatening illnesses. They longed to know how to navigate this journey with courage, understanding, and compassion. Afterwards, they stood in line to tell their stories and ask the raw, candid questions that could only be asked in that room. Cindy was moved deeply by the comments and tears of men who communicated their gratitude to her for suggesting this seminar topic.

These are couples that are in need of help and not everyone can do this type of ministry. Not everyone can speak into their hearts and marriages the way we can. God has given us a distinctive gift and opportunity and that is why we are initiating this new ministry focus in 2012. With God’s help, we will achieve the following:

  • Provide weekend marriage enrichment events specifically for couples with a chronic illness. Because a couple’s finances are impaired by extraordinary medical and living costs, we will need to underwrite a large portion of the expenses for these events.
  • Reproduce ourselves by equipping couples globally with the tools to help others living with chronic health issues in their churches and communities.
  • Expand our online seminar offerings to include specific issues related to marriage and sickness.
  • Partner with organizations such as the National MS Society, Joni and Friends, and Rest Ministries to provide marriage relationship education and training to couples within their associations.

Your financial and prayer support now will help us reach this special group of couples before they become part of that heartbreaking and horrific 75% divorce statistic. Cindy and I are passionate about doing our part, with God’s help, so couples on this challenging journey can be more effective servants of God, minister to others, and proclaim the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thank you for prayerfully considering a generous donation to this new outreach at Family Builders Ministries. As we celebrate more than 25 years of ministry, Cindy and I will continue to invest our energies in serving all couples, but with a special emphasis on those with chronic health issues.