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?

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”.

Standing for My Marriage

standing strong w cross
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)

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?

Myths of Marriage

Myth #1:  Marriage is the key to a fulfilled and happy life.

The key to a fulfilled life is a growing, vibrant relationship with God who created you. Seeking to gain fulfillment through any other means, including marriage to a loving partner, is futile. If you think of marriage as the key to your personal fulfillment, what you’re really doing is demanding that your spouse make you happy.Depending on someone else to make you happy and fulfilled is unfair to both of you.  This attitude will eventually lead to resentment on the part of both spouse.

Myth #2:  Happiness is the main purpose of marriage.

The main purpose of marriage is to glorify God by demonstrating a self-sacrificing love and commitment to each other. If you think that God invented marriage as a means of making us happy, then it’s easy to walk away from a marriage that doesn’t make you happy.  God wants us to work together to overcome whatever problems might be causing a couple to be unhappy with each other. No relationship is happy all the time.

Myth #3:  My commitment to Christ will guarantee that my marriage will work.

God doesn’t force people to respond to each other in a godly manner. Just because you are a Christian doesn’t guarantee that your spouse will be one or act like one. It take two people to make a marriage work.

Myth #4:  If our relationship takes hard work, we must not be right for each other.

Some people think that good relationships happen spontaneously. The truth is that anything that looks effortless generally takes a great deal of work. Watching pairs ice skating looks so easy. What we see is the result of days, weeks, months, and years of practice that went into perfecting the routine. Marriages may be made in heaven, but the details are work out on earth. Old-fashioned hard work and perseverance are major elements of a lasting marriage.  Once we marry, we are all very hard to live with.

Myth #5:  My spouse can and should meet most, if not all, of my needs.

God has created us in such a way that no one person can meet all or most of our needs.  We need a relationship with God, we need interdependent friendships outside of marriage, we need hobbies, exercise, etc. This kind of expectation develops a performance-based marriage where if my spouse doesn’t meet all my needs then I am disappointed.

Myth #6:  If my spouse and I don’t always feel love for each other, that means our relationship is in trouble.

Love is more than a feeling.  Feelings of romance come and go. The deeper aspects of true love transcend feelings and have more to do with commitment than emotion.

QUESTION: What other myths have you heard about marriage? What myths did you believe when you got married (or still do!)?