How to Spot an Immature Spouse

 

This is my wedding photo. When I look at this photo, I can’t help but notice how young and immature I was.

  • I was only 21 years old.
  • I was a country boy who had hardly been out of the county in which I lived.
  • I had little education.
  • I had never seen a wedding, let alone been in one.
  • My parent’s marriage was difficult rather than exemplary.
  • I didn’t have a close relationship with my father and had no instruction on how to be a man, let alone a husband or father.
  • The 3 years my bride and I had dated were mostly long-distance; leaving me with no idea of what it was like to spend extended periods of time together.
  • And to top it all off…a few hours after this photo was taken, we moved 600 miles away from home and family to start new jobs.

It’s frightening to think of my level of immaturity at the time. Looking back on it now, it seemed like a train wreck waiting to happen.

But somehow, we made it. We learned to overcome our immaturity and put each other first. It didn’t happen overnight, and immaturity still shows its face occasionally…even after 41 years of marriage.

IS IMMATURITY WRONG?

Here’s the thing. We’re all a little immature when we get married. Before we’re married, life is about “me.” “After we’re married, life is about “us.” And it can be a steep learning curve to shift from “me” to “us.”

The point is this…It’s ok to be a little immature when you get married, but it’s not ok to stay that way!

THE TREND OF IMMATURITY.

I’m concerned about a trend I see in my pastoral counseling practice. I feel like I’m seeing an upswing in marital strife, and more and more of it seems to be about immature spouses. These spouses are not young newlyweds. They are older and have been married for a while! And while immaturity in marriage is not gender-specific, I tend to see it more in husbands than in wives. (Sorry guys!)

THE SIGNS OF IMMATURITY.

So, how can you spot an immature spouse?

Below are some of the signs you can look for to spot an immature spouse. (Note: Use this list to identify immaturity in yourself first, and don’t use it as a club with which to beat up your spouse.)

  • They focus more of their non-work time and energy on themselves than on their spouse.
  • They usually feel they’re right and need things to go their way.
  • They’re quick to blame others, rather than own their responsibility.
  • They feel a sense of entitlement, more than a sense of gratitude.
  • They have to be forced to be sacrificial, rather than freely offering it.
  • They want their spouse to understand them more than they want to understand their spouse.
  • They tend to see things as either right or wrong, and can’t see possibilities in-between.
  • They expect to receive more apologies from their spouse than they’re willing to give.
  • They get mad, pout, or withdraw, rather than talking things out.
  • They spend more time talking about respect than they do earning it.
  • They feel they have to be dominant to get what they want.
  • They become passive-aggressive if they don’t get what they want.
  • They make decisions that affect their spouse, without checking with them.
  • They give more ultimatums that compromises.
  • Their wants and needs tend to come before their spouse’s wants and needs.

SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THIS LIST…

This is a brutal list.

No one wants to be associated with such a list. So when reading through it, it’s easy to quickly apply it to your spouse rather than yourself. It’s also easy to quickly defend why we might fit some of the things on the list. But look over the list again, and try to be as honest as you can about yourself before reacting.

All of us are guilty of these on occasion.

I’ve been guilty of everything on that list at times. (And I’ve got the scars to show for it!) But if you find one or more of these to be true frequently, or more often than not…then you may have an immaturity problem.

It’s not easy to see these things in ourselves.

If you’re brave and really want to know your immaturity level, ask someone who knows and loves you to weigh in. And if you’re really brave, ask your spouse. Don’t be surprised if your spouse is hesitant to respond. But assure them that it’s not a trick and you really want to know. Then listen openly and carefully. Don’t react. It could be a good time of growth for both of you.

A FINAL THOUGHT…

The cure for immaturity is to get your eyes off of yourself. See your spouse for who they are and what they need. Serve your spouse in ways that put them first and lift them up.

I’m not talking about being a subservient doormat. I’m talking about being a mature, loving, adult partner. At times, this may require having some hard conversations which will not always be received well…especially if your spouse has an immature issue.

But growing up and being mature (no matter your age) is the best way to have a real, honest, and lasting marriage that goes the distance.

UPS Can Clear Up Your Communication

IT’S NOT A LACK OF COMMUNICATION

You’ve heard it a million times. “Communication is the key to a good marriage.” This cliché statement has caused many an eye-roll in marriage, but here’s the problem…there’s communication in every marriage. Even when you’re not saying anything, you’re saying something.

It’s not a lack of communication that erodes a marriage. It’s a lack of good communication. (I can almost see your eyes glazing over as your mind begins to drift off to more interesting things, but stick with me for just a minute.)

I want to give you a simple approach to communication that will clear up miscommunication, cut down on conflict, and help keep you out of the doghouse. Interested?

Here it is. To clear up your communication you need UPS.

UPS

I’m not saying UPS can deliver a package that will clear up all your communication problems. (If that were so, I would have already placed my order and have my nose pressed up against the window awaiting delivery.)

In communication, the big key is in receiving what your spouse is trying to deliver to you. So we’re going to use the letters U-P-S to help you with receiving your spouse’s messages.

U – Understand.

Any good communication starts with understanding. Too often we jump in to add our 2 cents before we really understand what our spouse is trying to say. If you’ve done that, you have the scars and horror stories to show for it.

To make sure you truly understand what your spouse is telling you, you need to:

  • Listen. I’m not talking about listening for where they’re wrong. Neither am I talking about listening for an opening so you can jump in. These don’t work…trust me! I’m talking about really listening to what they’re saying, to how they’re saying it, and to the emotions behind their words. This is hard work. You can’t assume and you can’t check out.
  • Ask. If there’s something you don’t understand or something that’s unclear to you about what your spouse is saying, then kindly ask your spouse for clarification. It’s important to ask for needed clarification because responding to your spouse before you understand them is a sure way to make things worse.
  • Feedback. Before you respond to your spouse, repeat back to them what you think they’re trying to say to you. Tell them what you’ve heard them say and how you think they are feeling. If you get something wrong, then give them a chance to correct it. This is a good way to ensure you know exactly what they’re trying to say to you before you respond.

Having done all of this, you would think it would now be your time to talk. But not yet! Be patient young Jedi. Next, you need to…

P – Ponder.

Once your spouse has communicated and you’re sure you know what they’re trying to tell you, you need to take a second to ponder what they’ve said. Not ten minutes…just a second. Take a second to ponder:

  • Their message. – Think about what they’ve said. Could there be some truth to it? Do they have a valid point? How would you feel in their situation? These and similar questions will not only help you empathize and connect with your spouse, but they will also keep you from becoming defensive and formulating an argument too quickly.
  • Your response. – Once you’ve pondered the validity and importance of their message, then you’re ready to ponder your response. That’s right. You don’t need to jump in and start talking until you’ve thought about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Ask yourself, “How will it come across to my spouse?” “Could it be misread?” “Will it help, or make matters worse?” “Is there a better way to say what I want to say?”

I know all this pondering sounds like it will take a lot of time, but really it only takes a second or two to do, and it will save you hours of misunderstandings and arguments.

And now…finally…it’s your chance to speak. This brings us to the final letter to finish out our UPS communication.

S- Speak.

There are two things you must do when you respond to your spouse…

  • Speak the truth. – Too many times we avoid speaking the truth.  Why do we do this? Sometimes, we don’t want to upset our spouse. Other times, we’re trying to avoid conflict. And sometimes, it just seems easier not to say anything. The classic example of this is what happens when a spouse says, “Where do you want to go to eat?” A lack of truth perpetuates mental game-playing and an eventual distance between spouses, so learn to tell each other the truth.
  • Speak in love. – Yes, we need to be truthful with our spouse, but that does not give us a license to be brutally honest or to use the truth as a scorched-earth policy. If you speak the truth without love, you’re intentionally being hurtful and they won’t be able to hear you. Your spouse may not like what they hear, but if you deliver it with a heart and attitude of love, it will be easier for them to digest. Take some advice from Mary Poppins… “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

When you get to this point in the process, the cycle starts over with your spouse going through the UPS steps. And you continue this until you both reach some sort of resolution.

A FINAL WORD…

Writing all of this out makes it look complicated, but it’s not as complicated as it looks. Trust me. Just remember: you need to UNDERSTAND what your spouse is trying to tell you, then you need to PONDER what they said and what you want to say, and finally, you need to SPEAK truthfully and lovingly.

If you learn to do this, it will be better than having UPS deliver packages to your door!

The One Thing No Spouse Wants To Deal With

No one wants them. We try to avoid them. But if you’re married, you can’t avoid them. So we skirt them and try to spend as little time as possible with them.

I am not talking about in-laws. I’m talking about hard conversations.

If you’re married, there are going to be some hard conversations. You can’t avoid them. In fact, the more you try to avoid them, the worse they become.

WHAT MAKES CONVERSATIONS HARD AND WHAT YOU CAN DO

Hard conversations are just that…they’re hard. And there are some good reasons for that. Here are a few things that can make conversations hard…

Topics.

There are some topics in marriage that are just hard to talk about. Some of the the more common hard topics are:

  • Money.
  • Children.
  • Sex.
  • In-laws.
  • Personal Habits.

These types of topics make for hard conversations because they feel personal and they highlight our differences and disagreements.

If a topic is uncomfortable for you, admit that to your spouse, upfront. Let them know why it’s uncomfortable for you, and ask them to be patient with you as you have the conversation.

Temperaments.

Our temperaments also make certain conversations hard. We tend to avoid hard conversations if we are:

  • Fearful.
  • Anxious.
  • Angry.
  • Insecure.
  • Depressed.
  • Have low self-esteem.
  • Feel insignificant.

These are traits that cause people to avoid, withdraw, or conceed; as well as to aggressively and angrily overpower the other person so as to silence the conversation.

If this is you, and a hard conversation is on the horizon, you need to:

  • Take a moment to calm yourself. Get comfortable and breathe deeply and slowly until you’re more relaxed.
  • Remind yourself you’re not adversaries. You’re just normal people who have different views and needs.
  • Think of all the difficult things you’ve successfully worked through in the past. Tell yourself that this will eventually be another one of those things.
  • Start the conversation by telling your spouse that you love them. Tell them you are committed to trying to meet their needs and having a marriage you both will enjoy.
  • Agree to take a break if needed. If the conversation gets bogged down or negative, agree to take a break from it and return to it at a set time.

These steps will help you take control of your temperament.

Timing.

Many conversations are made more difficult because of poor timing.

Sometimes we choose a poor time to have the conversation. Here are some examples of poor times to start a hard conversation:

  • At bedtime, or late at night.
  • When your spouse is busy or focused on something else.
  • If your spouse is already upset or angry.
  • When your spouse is exhausted.

You may feel these are the only times you have, but you would be able to find a good time to talk to your kids about something important, and you can do the same for your spouse.

Another problem with timing is that we procrastinate and wait too long to have the conversation.

We put off the conversation. We convince ourselves it’s too small of a thing to deal with. Or we hope it will get better on its own. But when we wait too long to have a hard conversation, two things happen:

  • First, the problem builds up within us over time and we are too emotional when we finally bring up the subject.
  • Second, so much time has passed between the incident that called for the conversation and the actual conversation that the other spouse feels blind-sided and wonders where it’s coming from.

Pick a time when things are relatively calm and good. Tell your spouse you would like to talk to them about something, and ask for a good time to do that. This might put them on high alert, but assure them it’s ok. Ask if you could go out for dinner or dessert to talk. If their curiosity can’t take the suspense, give them a very general idea of what you want to talk about, but don’t get into it right then and there.

Your spouse may try to keep putting you off, but stay lovingly persistent.

Talking.

Here, I’m referring to talking too much or too little.

If you’re someone who handles hard conversations by talking a lot, then you need to talk less and listen more. This will communicate to your spouse that you care about what they think and feel.

If you’re someone who handles hard conversations by withdrawing and not saying anything,  you need to open up more, so that your spouse knows what you’re thinking and feeling. When you open up, it keeps your spouse from feeling shut out.

Twisting.

Finally, conversations become hard when we twist what our spouse is trying to say. We do this when we get so defensive and caught up in our own emotions we don’t hear what our spouse is truly saying to us.

To keep from twisting what your spouse is saying, try the following…

  • Listen without interrupting.
  • If your spouse is going on and on, and you’re losing track of what they’re saying, then hold up your hand and tell them you really want to follow what they’re saying, but you’re starting to lose track.
  • Then, tell them what you think they’re trying to say to you at that point.
  • If your spouse agrees that you’ve heard them correctly, then take a moment to respond to that…and only that. Keep it short and don’t start adding other things to it. Stay on topic.

If the two of you will keep repeating this process, it will help to keep the two of you from twisting each other’s words. It will also make hard conversations less difficult and more productive.

A FINAL WORD

To sum it all up, you can’t avoid having hard conversations in marriage, but you can make those hard conversations a “TAD” easier by remembering the acronym T-A-D. Be careful with your Timing, your Attitude, and your Delivery.

So don’t be afraid of hard conversations, and don’t avoid them. You can do this. And when you do, you and your spouse will grow closer for it.

The Pandemic of Pornography

A Pandemic Problem.

We have seen a lot of loss in recent days due to a worldwide pandemic, but we have been suffering from a virus that is much more devastating than COVID-19. Since the birth of Playboy magazine in 1953 and the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the entertainment industry has constantly pushed the envelope when it comes to sex. For years, sexual content became bolder and more mainstream. Then in 1993, the World Wide Web became public. And this newfound digital access comes with a virus that has permeated our homes and churches and has put influenza to shame.

Defining the Problem.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, pornography is defined as:

“Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”

But chances are I don’t need to define it. We all know what it is and probably have all seen or watched some version of it.

  • Over 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites.
  • 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis.
  • And the average age a child is first exposed to porn is 11 years old.

Porn is truly a pandemic worse than COVID. It is destroying our homes and families right under our noses. Why? It kills the desire for true intimacy and leads to sexual addiction.

You may be reading this and thinking that porn is not a problem. You may believe that porn is a normal part of life and something everyone does. But the truth is that once you begin to use pornography for sexual gratification, you start training your brain to attach to the fantasy world through pornography and masturbation.

Sex addiction can cause some serious challenges in relational sex, because you have neurologically attached your brain to a fantasy image or act. So when you have sex in real life, you have to close your eyes and/or disconnect from reality. Fantasy simply becomes more enticing, because it requires no work or relational intimacy. It is a false intimacy that sinks it claws deep into you, and you cannot pull away.

Do I Have a Problem?

Now you may be asking yourself, “Do I have a pornography problem?” Or “Am I a sex addict?”

First, let’s help define what a sex addiction looks like. Sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates your life. It causes you to make sex a bigger priority than family, friends, and work. Everything revolves around sex, and you are willing to sacrifice what you cherish most to preserve and continue your unhealthy behavior.

There are also patterns of out-of-control sexual behavior, such as: compulsive masturbation, indulgence in pornography, chronic affairs, dangerous sexual practices, prostitution, anonymous sex, and compulsive sexual episodes.

For sex addicts, sex is the same as food or drugs in other addictions. It provides the “high” that addicts depend on for feeling normal. Temporary pleasure and unhealthy relationships become more important than forming healthy, intimate relationships. A sexual addict may begin to isolate themselves either emotionally or literally. There is a repetitive struggle to control behavior, which is followed by a deep sense of despair for continuously failing to do so. Self-esteem gradually decreases, increasing the need to escape into the addictive behavior all the more. It’s a vicious cycle.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are wondering whether you might be an addict:

  • Do I have secret sexual behaviors with myself, pornography or others?
  • Am I unable to be honest about my sexual behavior?
  • Have I caused pain in my relationships due to my sexual behavior?
  • Have I had consequences financially, relationally or socially due to my sexual behavior?
  • Do I continue my sexual behavior regardless of consequences or attempts to stop the behavior?
  • Do I have difficulty not lusting or objectifying people?

If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, you really need to seek help. It’s hard to admit weakness and ask for help, but it is absolutely crucial. One of the biggest lies that lust tells us is, “You can handle this by yourself.” Once you believe that, all hope of getting better is gone.

Addressing the Problem.

For the Christians reading this post, you may be telling yourself, “I will just pray harder or increase my faith.” I am here to tell you that this is not enough. I know that may sound blasphemous, but I am not the one who said that—God did. The Bible tells us in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise is absolutely true, but it only offers forgiveness. There is a vast difference between forgiveness and healing. The key to healing is not found here. It is found in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed….”

Forgiveness is immediate and comes from God, but healing takes place over time and is gradual. Forgiveness comes when we confess our sins to God, but healing comes when we confess our sins to one another. You CANNOT heal from a sex addiction on your own or even just you and God. Others must be involved. Start by finding one person you can trust and confide in, and ask them to help you by being accountable to them.

If you find yourself bound to pornography and sex addiction, there is hope. Find someone you can be accountable to or find a recovery group that encourages behavior change. The road ahead is long and the work is hard, but the result is absolute freedom to live the addiction-free life God has called you to live.

Erik Almodovar, Pastoral Counselor.

Watching the Titanic Sink…Over and Over Again

 

No matter how many times I see Jame Cameron’s movie “Titanic,” I am always uneasy each time I watch that ship slowly submerge, violently break apart, and then disappear to the dark depths. The fear, the panic, the finality…with each viewing, it’s unnerving.

Not long ago, I counseled 6 people who were either divorcing or headed towards divorce. And this was over the course of just two days! It was like watching the Titanic sink over and over again as I watched these marriages slowly submerge, violently break apart, and begin to disappear into the dark depths.

I’m not trying to be melodramatic here, but each time a marriage ends in divorce it’s a tragedy of Titanic proportion. And the similarities are unsettling.

INITIAL ARROGANCE.

The Titanic was believed to be different than any other ship because it was reported to be unsinkable.

In every premarital counseling session I’ve ever done, as well as every wedding ceremony I’ve ever officiated, the couple before me believes they are different from other couples. They are convinced in their heart of hearts that their relationship is different and impervious to sinking.

But every marriage will encounter “icebergs” that will threaten even the thickest of marital hulls. And assuming that your marriage is exempt puts you even more at risk.

NOT TAKING PROPER PRECAUTIONS.

The company that designed and owned the Titanic was so sure of its superiority that they failed to take proper precautions. For example, they cut back on the number of lifeboats needed, and when they were in dangerous waters, they were over-confident, increasing their speed and dropping their guard.

Too many married couples are too sure of themselves. They are over-confident in that they fail to bring enough people into their lives who could serve as lifeboats in times of need. And they are so busy that they fail to slow down when they’re in difficult and dangerous waters. They just assume they can power through.

A LAST MINUTE PANIC AND SCRAMBLE.

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, they were unprepared and ill-equipped. They fell into an every-man-for-himself panic. They even ignored innocent lives by not filling the lifeboats to the capacity to save as many as they could.

The icebergs that threaten a marriage are many: financial icebergs, infidelity icebergs, relational icebergs, parenting icebergs, as well as others. Too many couples are unprepared and ill-equipped for the icebergs. So when they strike one, they fall into panicking, scrambling, blaming, and an every-man/woman-for-themselves mentality.

THE RESULTS.

There are two images from Cameron’s “Titanic” that haunt me. The first is when the camera seamlessly morphs from Titanic’s polished decks gleaming in the sunlight to its ghostly, rusted wreckage strewn across the bottom of the dark ocean floor. And the second image that haunts me is the image of all the victims strewn across the surface of the Atlantic.

The results of divorce are similar. What once was a polished and shiny new marriage morphs into unsalvageable wreckage. And those who were once joyful passengers on this marriage voyage became victims of the tragedy.

Let me say this…I’m not trying to depress anyone, nor am I trying to heap guilt upon anyone who has been through a divorce. If this post has done either of those things, I sincerely apologize. Maybe it’s me processing a tough week of sinking marriages and sad wreckage.

But almost always, divorce – like the sinking of the Titanic – is a preventable tragedy. Yes, there are a percentage of marriages where abuses, abandonment, and adultery may doom a marriage to divorce…even if one spouse doesn’t want it. But those percentages are small in comparison to the overall divorce rate.

SO, WHAT CAN WE DO?

Just as shipbuilders and captains learned from the sinking of the Titanic, we need to learn from the marriages that are sinking around us.

  • Don’t be arrogant or over-confident. No matter how strongly you love one another…no matter how long you’ve been married…divorce can happen to you. There are many “icebergs” out there that can and will threaten your marriage. Assuming that your marriage will be exempt puts you even more at risk. Be in love, but be realistic.
  • Take proper precautions. When you know there are “icebergs” out there that will threaten your marriage, then take precautions ahead of time.
    • Establish regular date nights for just you and your spouse, and fiercely protect them.
    • Create a financial plan that will secure your present and your future.
    • Give as much attention to romance and sex as you do to paying bills and raising kids.
    • Fix any problems you may have in communication and conflict resolution.
    • Make sure your expectations are realistic.
  • Don’t panic and scramble. If your marriage hits an “iceberg,” don’t panic and scramble. As a couple, turn to the lifeboats that are available to you: parents, friends, counselors, pastors, your church, etc. And don’t forget the other potential casualties around you. As a couple, gather up and protect the kids, family, and friends involved and keep them as safe as possible.

TO SUM IT UP…

I don’t mean to be all gloom and doom. Nor am I trying to scare you. But I want your marriage to safely navigate the sometimes difficult waters of life so that the two of you arrive at your destination together and intact.

So let me sum things up this way: Love each other like it was your last day together, and then your days together will last.

How to Lose a Fight

When it comes to marital fights, I know two things…

FIRST – EVERY COUPLE FIGHTS.

Some spouses fight like a hurricane, while some spouses fight like a gentle spring storm. Some are heated and loud, while others are icy and quiet. Some spouses are measured and careful with their words, while others are vicious and wounding with their words. But all couples fight.

For instance, my wife and I are not typical “fighters.” We don’t raise our voices and we don’t draw battle lines on which we’re willing to die. This doesn’t mean we don’t fight. It’s just that when things start to ramp up, she tends to withdraw and tend to be a peacemaker. We still fight, but it’s just low and muffled.

SECOND – NO SPOUSE WANTS TO LOSE.

Here’s the problem with fighting…if you’re not careful, winning the argument will become more important than the problem you’re fighting over in the first place. And a stubborn determination to win the fight sets up your spouse to be the loser. And no spouse wants to lose – even if they’re wrong.

When this happens, you may win the argument, but you will lose the fight because you’ve created a rift between the two of you that’s even harder to repair than the thing you were originally arguing about.

HOW TO LOSE A FIGHT.

A sure way to lose a fight (and the relationship) is to focus more on winning the argument than winning your spouse. Here are some ways in which you might inadvertently lose a fight…

Raising Your Voice.

When you raise your voice, you immediately raise the stakes of the argument. Raising your voice raises the tension and the hurt, making it harder for your spouse to respond favorably. Raise your voice when your cheering on your favorite team, but not when you’re fighting.

Name-Calling.

I don’t care how upset you are, there is never a good reason or excuse for you to engage in name-calling! You don’t allow your children to call other people names, and you shouldn’t do it either; especially to the one you promised to love and honor. If you’re calling your spouse names, you’ve crossed a line and you’re losing the fight…and your spouse.

Condescension.

You’re being condescending when you exhibit an attitude of superiority over your spouse. Condescension is when you infer that they just don’t know what they’re talking about and that you know better. It’s a form of pride that puts your spouse down for the sake of elevating yourself. It inflicts a wound that’s hard to heal.

Sarcasm.

Sarcasm is often passed off as humor, but usually, it’s a veil for hurt and anger. Sarcasm can be corrosive to a marriage because it’s a passive-aggressive way of showing contempt for your spouse. Dr. John Gottman, one of the country’s leading marriage experts, says that the presence of contempt in a marriage is a major sign that the marriage is in trouble. (See The Four Horsemen: Contempt.)

Backing Them in a Corner.

This happens when refuse to make room for your spouse’s ideas or opinions. When you give your spouse no other option but to agree with you or be wrong, you back them into a corner, leave them no choice but to withdraw or to come out fighting.

Stonewalling.

Stonewalling is when a spouse shuts down and refuses to address the issue. They may change the subject, clam up, or even get up and walk out. Another form of stonewalling is constantly responding to questions with “I don’t know.” Stonewalling is a form of avoidance and it leaves the other spouse frustrated and with no way to find any resolution. It leaves them with a wound they can’t heal.

Not Listening.

Not listening to your spouse communicates that they and their ideas are unimportant and not worth listening to. It’s demeaning and not a good way to win them or the argument. Think about how it feels when someone won’t listen to you. Not listening to your spouse is a blatant act of disrespect, and a sure way to lose a fight.

The reason these behaviors are defeating is that they cause your spouse to become defensive. And when your spouse gets defensive, they will engage in similar defeating behaviors. In short…everyone loses!

HOW TO WIN A FIGHT.

So, let’s look at the best way to win a fight with your spouse. As you might suspect, you win a fight with your spouse by doing the opposite of the above list. Here’s how you truly win a fight with your spouse…

  • Stay calm and keep your voice at conversational levels. (Proverbs 15:1)
  • Never call your spouse derogatory names! (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Shelve the condescension and sarcasm and show your spouse respect. (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Stay lovingly engaged rather than withdrawing or running. (3 John 1:8)
  • Listen to them more than you talk at them. (James1:19)
  • Offer solutions that make room for your spouse’s wants and needs. (Phil. 2:3-4)

FINAL THOUGHT.

So the next time you’re with your spouse and you feel a fight coming on, don’t do the things that will cause you to lose the fight, and eventually the relationship. Determine you’re going to win the fight…THE RIGHT WAY.

The Pandemic Marriage

 

You may think this post on marriage in a pandemic is a little late. But, when the pandemic first broke, I like many others, expected it to be a fleeting thing. Then, when it continued to dominate life, there were so many people writing about marriage in a pandemic I didn’t see the need to add to that. But now that it is still dragging on, and some of the voices have died down, I thought I would finally contribute something.

MARRIAGE AND A PANDEMIC

I typically look at what it means to have a “normal marriage.” But these days, “normal“ has kind of gone out the window. We are all operating under a new normal.

Couples who have typically been franticly busy, running from one obligation to the next, are not going out like they used to, and some are even forced to shelter in place. A sort of forced companionship if you will.

And this forced companionship can be difficult because it can amplify irritations. We were able to avoid these irritations as long as we stayed on the go, but now there’s nowhere to go!

Here are some things that can make the pandemic marriage a challenge:

BIG DIFFERENCES.

It’s no news flash that couples are usually very different from one another. We have different personalities, different ways of working, different likes, different approaches to children, different stressors, and different triggers. Being together all day, every day gives a lot of opportunities for those differences to bump into one another. If spouses can’t allow for each other’s differences without feeling disrespected or inconvenienced, then pandemics and quarantines are going to be experiences that feel more like waterboarding than togetherness.

POOR COMMUNICATION.

Again, most couples are used to staying so busy they have an excuse for not stopping and communicating with one another. Before the pandemic, we could get by on shallow conversations about our day. But in a pandemic, we have less to talk about…because we’re either quarantined or we have our daily lives severely restricted. This forces us to talk to one another about other things, for longer periods of time. This can reveal that something we used to be phenomenal at when we were dating (talking), now needs a little work.

INCREASED ANXIETY.

This one is a given. There is much for us to worry about these days. The big worry is whether we or our loved ones will catch the virus. Another big source of anxiety is whether we will have a job and be able to pay our bills. But then, there are the smaller worries. Where before we had to worry about whether our kids were good students, now we have to worry about whether we’re good teachers. Before, we had to worry about who was going to the store to pick up supplies. Now we have to worry about whether the supplies we need will be there when we get there. These, and a host of other worries, can raise our anxiety, increase our stress, and make our marriage more difficult.

LACK OF PURPOSE.

This one is not so obvious. Before, we were able to confuse business with purpose. Before, it felt like our purpose was to put a roof over our heads and food on the table, to raise and protect our children, to build our careers, etc. But when our ability to do these things has been temporarily taken off the table, we eventually have to face the question, “Why are we married and what’s our real purpose for being married?”

A PANDEMIC AND MARRIAGE TRAINING

So a pandemic can certainly test your marriage. But you can also use it as a time to train your marriage. I want to encourage you to use this time to do the following:

  • Learn that your spouse’s differences are not about you. They’re about them. Your spouse is different from you, not because they’re trying to get your goat, but because that’s the way God made them. They are not out to get you, so stop taking their differences so personally. Begin to think of their differences more as tools that can be added to the marriage toolbox.
  • Learn how to talk again. It doesn’t have to be life-changing, gut-wrenching conversations on a Dr. Phil level. Just talk about anything and everything. You use to do this when you were dating. So if you’re having trouble with this, go back and remember those times. The more you talk about little things, the easier it will be to talk about bigger things.
  • Learn to calm your anxieties by noting them, but not living by them. Some anxiety is natural and even healthy in times like these. But if you find your anxiety is causing you more problems than solutions, you need to learn how to deal with your anxiety. I know this is hard if you’re prone to anxiety. So you may need some help. A close friend who can talk you off the roof. Scriptures can calm your heart. And if you can’t find anything to calm your anxiety, you may need to talk to your physician or a counselor. But take this time of pandemic as a time to train your anxiety.
  • Learn to live for something greater than just the immediate. Surely you got married for more than just raising kids and paying bills. What is it about your marriage that can’t be stopped by a pandemic? What is it you want to accomplish in your marriage and with your marriage? Spend some time together tossing that question around and dreaming about that.

SO…

When it comes to marriage, you can look at this time of pandemic as a time of testing or a time of training. What will you choose?

Minding the Gaps:Dealing with the Differences Between Spouses

Dealing with the differences between you and your spouse is one of the most common frustrations in marriage. It’s funny how the differences we found so attractive when we were dating can become so irritating later.

In this week’s Normal Marriage post, I’m going to point you to one of my Quick Counsel podcast episodes that deal with the differences between spouses. You can click here to get the podcast. It’s only 7 minutes long, so check it out and learn about navigating the differences between you and your spouse.

I hope you’ll listen to some of the other Quick Counsel episodes and subscribe to get future episodes. You can find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Here’s to minding the gaps in your marriage.

Are You A Good Kisser?

Are you a good kisser? Probably not a question you’re asked a lot – if at all! And how do you answer such a question? If you answer “no,” you sound incompetent and inept. And if you answer “yes,” you sound arrogant and narcissistic. Besides, how do you judge a kiss? Is there a preferred method? An optimal technique?

Kissing is an individual and subjective art form. Everyone has different tastes. (See what I did there?)

A GOOD KISS

But there is a KISS that you can master that will get you high marks every time. Its technique can be measured and improved, and it’s a KISS that will leave your spouse wanting more.

You’ve probably already skimmed ahead enough to know that I’m not talking about a literal kiss. (I’m not about to stick my neck in that noose.) Instead, I’m talking about an acronym to help you remember how to “kiss” your spouse every day. It goes like this…

K – KEEP YOUR WORD.

We underestimate the importance of keeping our word. We say we’re going to do something, and then we don’t get around to it. We say we’re coming right home, but then we get sidetrack. Or we tell our spouse we’ll call when we’re leaving, but we forget.

Here’s another one you might be familiar with. Your spouse asks you, “Where do you want to eat?” You tell them, “Anywhere is fine.” But then you complain when they pick somewhere you don’t like. When you do that, you’re not keeping your word.

Yes, these are small things, but the more you fail to keep your word in the small things, the less your spouse can trust you in the big things.

Consistently keeping your word, even in the small things, builds trust. And when your spouse can trust you, that builds security for them. Trust and security are the bedrock of a kissable marriage.

I – INVEST IN THEIR HAPPINESS.

Look for ways to make your spouse happy. And one way to do that is to learn how to speak their love language.

If you’re not familiar with this, Gary Chapman wrote a book called The Five Love Languages. In this book, he says that everyone wants to feel loved in some primary way. For some, they really feel loved when they’re given words of affirmation. For others, what makes them feel loved is when you spend quality time with them. Then there are those who feel loved when you give them gifts. Others feel loved when you perform acts of service for them. And finally, there are those who feel love through physical touch.

If you want to invest in your spouse’s happiness, learn their primary love language and “speak” that language frequently!

S – SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE.

You may be thinking, “Whoa…wait a minute. When I speak the truth, I usually get in trouble!” Granted, having truthful conversations can be difficult at times. But if speaking the truth gets you in trouble, it’s usually because of one of three things:

  • You’re speaking the truth bluntly, harshly, or angrily…rather than speaking the truth lovingly.
  • You haven’t practiced lovingly speaking the truth long enough for it to feel normal.
  • You’ve not been doing the other KISS items so that your spouse can know you truly love them, despite how the truth might sound to them.

It’s important that you not only speak the truth but that you do it as lovingly as you can. One without the other can be harmful. Speaking the truth without love can be brutal. And speaking lovingly, without being truthful, can be deceptive.

As I said, speaking the truth is not always easy, but the more you learn to speak the truth lovingly the stronger your marriage will be, and the more kissable you’ll be…even in the face of difficult truth. (Ok…that kissable part may not immediately follow the truth, but eventually, it will.)

S – SERVE YOUR SPOUSE.

We live in a world where the idea of serving your spouse is often confused with servitude. The thought of serving your spouse can be interpreted as demeaning or demoting.

But when you love someone, you serve them. You serve your children every day, yet that doesn’t feel demeaning. (Ok…maybe sometimes.) But you serve them because you love them.

Anyone can say, “I love you” to their spouse, but when you serve your spouse, you’re backing up your words with action. You’re adding tangible weight to your “I love you.” And when you demonstrate your love for your spouse by serving them, that makes you very kissable!

A FINAL THOUGHT

These four things might not sound as romantic or as passionate as actually kissing your spouse on the lips. But consistently doing these things will make you more “kiss-able” to your spouse, by making your spouse feel more important, more secure, and more loved.  And this will make them want to kiss you more. (And I’m not talking about one of those peck-on-the-cheek kisses.)

When you KISS your spouse in these ways, it will make them want to KISS you back. And who doesn’t want that!

So KISS your spouse every day. Who knows where it might lead?

Are You a Doer or a Waiter?

When your car needs serviced, do you take initiative to get it serviced, or do you wait, hoping your spouse will do it? Or, when there are dirty dishes in the sink, do you take initiative to put them in the dishwasher, or do you wait to see if your spouse will do it? If you and your spouse haven’t had sex in a while, do you take the initiative to make something happen, or do you wait for your spouse to initiate?

DOERS AND WAITERS

There are typically two types of people in marriage: doers and waiters.

Doers.

Doers take initiative to get things moving and to make things better. Sometimes their intentions are good. They want to be helpful, they want to serve their spouse, or they simply want to make things better.

But sometimes a doer’s intentions are not good. They want to control the situation or make sure things are the way they want them, or they just don’t trust the other person to take care of something.

Waiters.

Waiters do exactly that…they wait for things to move and become better. Sometimes their intentions are good. They don’t want to overstep their bounds, they don’t want to leave someone out of a decision, or they don’t want to come across as controlling.

But sometimes a waiter’s intentions are not good. They wait because they are afraid of making a mistake, or they’re avoiding taking responsibility, or they don’t want to humble themselves to be the first one to move.

THE COMBINATIONS

Every marriage has some combination of doers and waiters:

Combination #1 – Both are waiters.

There are some situations when it’s good for both spouses to be waiters. For example…

  • When money is tight, it’s good for both of you to be waiters when it comes to expensive purchases.
  • When you both have reservations about a major decision, it can be good for both of you to be waiters.
  • When life is trying to teach one of your kids a major lesson, it can be good for the two of you to be waiters and not rush in to bail them out.

But usually, having two waiters in a marriage can be a problem, because nothing gets done and each spouse blames the other for not acting.

Combination #2 – There’s one doer and one waiter.

This is the typical situation. And it’s not all bad.

Doing can be good when the doer has strengths in an area the other doesn’t. Or when the doer steps in to give the other a break. And waiting can be good when the waiter holds back out of honor and respect for the other. Or when the waiter pulls back so as to not enable the other’s lethargy.

The problem comes when one spouse does most of the doing and the other does most of the waiting. When this happens, the doer can either become controlling, or they can become resentful that they have to always take the initiative. And the waiter can become resentful because they feel controlled, or they learn not to take initiative and responsibility.

Combination #3 – Both are doers.

This final combination can be great if both spouses are looking out for the needs and the interests of the other. This can provide for a caring, well-kept relationship.

But when both spouses are doers because they like things their way, or they don’t trust the other, then the marriage turns into a competition and a battle for control.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

No matter whether you’re a doer or a waiter, learn to stretch yourself and grow in your marriage.

If you’re predominantly a doer, then teach yourself to wait more, allowing your spouse more involvement and collaboration. You’ll probably need to wait longer than feels comfortable, and you’ll need to invite your spouse into the process. But don’t fall for the old “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done” routine. Not everything hinges on you.

And if you’re predominantly a waiter, force yourself to take more initiative. Don’t take a lot of time to think about it. Move more quickly than you usually do. Your spouse may not be used to you taking the initiative. It may even feel like an imposition to them at times. But they will get used to sharing the initiative.

A good marriage requires spouses to smoothly shift back and forth from doing and waiting. But, whether you’re a doer or a waiter, both of you should strive to be a doer for the other. Marriage is at its best when both spouses are trying to out serve the other.

So, doers and waiters…unite!