How to Be More Resilient in Marriage

IS YOUR GLASS HALF-EMPTY OR HALF-FULL?

I tend to be a glass-half-full person. But there are still times when demands, difficulties, and disappointments can easily drain my glass. It happens to all of us.

But resilient people seem to be more impervious to the glass-half-empty mindset. They seem more steady and unflappable in the face of things that would drag others down.

The other day I read a book called “The Power of Optimism” by Alan McGinnis. To be honest, I had been avoiding this book because it sounded like one of those books that would promise rainbow and unicorns to anyone who would just think happy thoughts hard enough.

But once I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised and wound up reading the book in one afternoon. Thought the book is more than 20 years old, it offered very realistic and practical insight for anyone who wanted to redirect their pessimism and become more positively resilient.

HOW TO BUILD RESILIENCE

Here are some things I picked up from this book that can help you be more resilient in marriage…and in life.

Don’t be surprised by trouble.

You don’t have to go looking for trouble, but you don’t have to be caught off guard by it. We live in a world where things go wrong…even to the best of people. And acting like trouble will never happen won’t make it go away.

So, face reality and be realistic. When trouble comes, don’t stick your head in the sand. Address it.

Realize there’s always something you can do.

When trouble comes, approach it as a problem solver. Change what you can change. If you can’t change something…work with it or work around it.

You don’t have to change everything or get everything right all at once. Don’t be a perfectionist. Take incremental steps toward change. The small steps add up to big change. Also, remember that if something you try doesn’t work, it’s not a failure…it’s a learning curve.

Take time for renewal.

Life can be hard, and it’s easy to wind up depleted, burned out, and exhausted. So regularly do things that will put some fresh wind in your sails.

Hang out with fun and hopeful people. Read a good book. Meet new people. Take a regular sabbatical for rest. Play with a child. Do whatever recharges you and renews you. This a key part of resilience.

Take control of your thinking.

So many of us have thinking habits that work against us, rather than for us. Here are just a few of the thinking habits we need to control:

  • Catastrophizing. – This when we take a negative experience and we blow it up out of proportion and make it worse than it really is.
  • Generalizing. – This is when something happens, and we act like this kind of things always happens to us.
  • Filtering. – This is when we tend to filter out positive things and only look at the negative things.
  • Personalizing. – This is when we take everything as if it’s a personal affront…even if it has nothing to do with us.

There are just a few of the unhelpful thinking habits we can have. For more on this, I encourage you to listen to Quick Counsel episode #56.

Express more gratitude.

Focusing on the negative is easy. The negative seems to scream at us from every direction. But if you start experiencing and expressing gratitude for the good things in your life, it will shift your focus from the negative to the positive.

Learn to savor the good things in your life. Good food. Good company. A cool breeze. Children playing. The roof over your head. The list is practically limitless. So take note. Make a list. It will change your attitude and make you more resilient.

Stretch yourself.

Did you know that your brain can continue to grow, and stretch, and amass knowledge…no matter how old you are? So learn new things. Watch documentaries. Pick up a new hobby. Take a different route home. Learn a new language. The more you stretch yourself, the more resilient you’ll be.

Swap hostility for happy.

Our world seems awash in hostility. Whether it’s special interest groups, news outlets, or Congress, hostility is everywhere you turn. Don’t add to the hostility. It will wear you out, ruin your health, and get you nowhere.

Replace anger and frustration with interest and compassion. Rather than giving grief, give the benefit of the doubt. Rather than judge someone, pray for them.

Celebrate more. Listen to music that pick you up. Watch movies that make you laugh.

If you’re having trouble with being happy, try the following:

  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Find out what starts your day off well, and do that often.
  • Regularly get in a brisk walk or some exercise.
  • Even “act-as-if” you’re happy, and it just might rub off on you.

Share more good news than bad news.

Complaining is a habit, and many of us have learned that habit well. Don’t feed your negativity by sharing it. Talk more about the good things than the bad things.

You can choose your focus and your communications. So don’t be like the news outlets that share 95% bad things and 5% good things. Turn that around and learn to share as many good things as you can.

Lean into love.

By this, I’m talking about actively loving others by serving them, encouraging them, and helping them. When you lovingly serve others, it helps them, but it changes you. Loving others may be the highest contributor to resilience.

A FINAL WORD…

If you’re a glass-half-empty person, the above steps can actually help to rewire your brain and keep you from being shaped and stopped by the difficulties of life. These actions will make you more resilient in marriage…and in life.

And if you’re already a glass-half-full person…couldn’t you use a little more?

Signs of Life

I was talking to a friend who is somewhat particular about his yard, and he told me there are two parts of his yard that are his favorite spots. I thought to myself, “These must be particularly lush and manicured parts of his yard to be his favorite.

But actually, his two favorite spots in his yard are spots where the grass is worn down to the point where many would see them as blemishes in his yard.

But my friend doesn’t see them as blemishes. He sees them as signs of life. The first spot is where he stands to throw pitches to his daughter. And the second spot is where his daughter stands and practices swinging at those pitches. He said these spots are more important than the rest of his nice green lawn because it’s where he and his daughter have great conversations and make lasting memories.

This got me thinking. My friend gets it! He knows that the important thing is not the grass, but rather what happens on the grass. He knows it’s not the possessions, but the people that are important.

Now there’s nothing wrong with taking care of the things you have. My parents taught me to do this, so those things would last. Yet so often we work hard to keep things looking nice and new because we think they were the centerpieces of our life.

But our focus should be more on the people in our lives, than the possessions in our lives. And people are not always neat and clean. They leave behind messes, scuffs, and blemishes. And yes, this can be frustrating, but never forget…these are the signs of life.

Some of the signs of life at my house are…

  • A nicked baseboard from a grandchild rounding a corner on a tricycle.
  • A yellow highlighter mark on the carpet from a grandchild who was more zealous about coloring the picture than staying on the paper.
  • A wall with stains from the stickers a grandchild used to decorate the room.
  • A milkshake stain on the armrest of my brand new car, from an after-school trip to DQ with grandkids who just couldn’t sit still.
  • Black marks on a bathroom wall from my 88-year-old mother’s walker…who got the chance to hang out at our house with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Where are the signs of life in your house, your yard, your car…your life? I’m guessing they are not the pristine spots that are shiny and like new. I’m guessing they are the spots and blemishes that mark a well-lived and well-loved life.

You will either see the blemishes, dents, dings, and worn places as points of frustration or signs of life. It depends on your perspective. Just remember this…someday, when these places are more empty than you would like, it will be these signs of life and the memories associated with them that will mean more to you than having things that are pristine and perfect.

2 Samuel 24 – Righting Your Wrongs

Have you ever done something you knew was not right? Maybe others even told you it wasn’t wise, but you did it anyway. Then afterwards, things began to unravel. Your conscience began to trouble you. Your situation got worse. And you began to realize you needed to right your wrong.

Oddly enough, God ends the book of 2 Samuel with just such a situation. In 2 Samuel chapter 24, Israel has sinned and David falls to temptation, taking an unnecessary and uncalled for census. (1 Chronicles 21:1) Perhaps David’s act of taking a census was an act of pride and arrogance, but afterwards David knows he has done wrong. God, being just, brings judgement on the sin of David and Israel…graciously allowing David some say in the judgement.

Then, in mercy, God relents. He tells David to offer a sacrifice at the very place where David experienced mercy.  Though the owner of the land, the oxen, and the wood needed for the sacrifice offers it all to David for free, David insists on buying them instead…knowing that by its very nature and definition, a sacrifice must cost us something.

Why would God put such an account at the end of 2 Samuel? Why would He conclude the story of David in such a way? Perhaps its a reminder to us that no matter how much God blesses us, we should never get “too big for our britches.” Perhaps its a reminder to listen to wise counsel, no matter how successful we’ve become. (Proverbs 13:10) (Proverbs 21:11) (Proverbs 11:14) And perhaps it’s a reminder that God will not ignore sin…no matter who you are. (Numbers 32:23)

We must not forget that how our story ends will depend on whether we heed these same reminders and remain humble before the Lord.

Age: It’s Spiritual

In the first post on age, we dealt with the fact that young and old alike struggle with issues of age. We talked about a sort of age related dementia that goes along with youth, adulthood, and old age, and we gave you some things to remember and do that will help with these dilemmas of age. (If you missed that post, click here and catch up before you read further.)

Read more

Age: It’s Natural

Note – Though this post does not specifically target marriage, it addresses something every marriage has to deal with.

Age. Whether you’re young or old, everyone grapples with their age. The young wish they were older. The old wish they were younger. Even the terms “young” and “old” are relative to our age. When we’re ten, thirty seems old. When we’re thirty, fifty seems old. And when we’re fifty, we’re just hoping we can make it to retirement!

Read more

Control, Coronavirus, and Other Complications of Life

In these day when our news, our social media, and our lives are consumed with the Coronavirus, one thing is painfully clear…

WE ARE NOT AS IN CONTROL AS WE WANT TO BE.

We never have been. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we have done whatever we could to subjugate and eradicate the feeling of not being in control. And we’re still doing that.

Some try to convince themselves that the government will get control of this. Others repeatedly tell themselves that God is in control of this. And others militantly follow social distancing plans and hand washing procedures to stay in control of this. These are all good things, but they still fall short of putting us at ease and quenching our thirst for control.

 

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO FEEL LIKE WE HAVE CONTROL?

  • We want to feel in control to keep our fear at bay. There’s a lot of fear out there. Health fear. Economic fear. Scholastic fear. Fear is swelling because we feel we can’t control these things.
  • We want to feel in control because we lack trust. We don’t trust our government to make the right calls at the right time. We don’t trust others to do what they should do to keep their distance, or to keep food on the shelves, or to keep helping when we’re in need. Then we don’t trust God to intervene as we hope…despite what we might profess.
  • We want to feel in control, because it helps us maintain a sense of self importance. We want to feel that we’re different and special. But we feel out of control when we realize we’re no different from everyone else.

 

In one way or another, there’s a bit of control freak in all of us. But here’s the thing…

WE ARE NEVER IN COMPLETE CONTROL!

There will always be things we can’t control. It’s a given in life. The quality of our life is not dependent on keeping control of everything, but rather in how we respond to the things we can’t control.

  • It’s not about making fear go away, but rather about going on in the face of fear.
  • It’s not about trusting someone to fix the problem, but rather trusting someone in the midst of the problem.
  • It’s not about being above everyone else, but rather being in it with everyone else.

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN WE’RE NOT IN CONTROL.

Even Christians have control issues at times, but we don’t need to strive for control, because…

  • In the face of fear, we’re told…“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV.
  • In the face of mistrust, we’re told…“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5 ESV.
  • In the face of self-importance, we’re told…“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12 ESV.

Like the rapids in a white water rafting trip, the Coronavirus is part of the trip down stream. It may raise our adrenaline, but we don’t have to be in control of the rapids. We just need to stay in the boat and listen to our guide.

In times of trials, you may not be able to control anything else, but you can control to whom you listen. Whether you’re struggling for control over work, marriage, children,  finances, or pandemics, the questions is still the same…to whom is your heart listening?

3 Small Changes to Raise Your Discouragement Tolerance

Everybody has a different level of pain tolerance. Some have a high tolerance for pain. They have the ability to tolerate pain that others might find intolerable.

Still, other people have a very low tolerance for pain. Even a small pain feels big to them. They don’t wait to see if the headache will get worse. They take something at the first sign of a headache to make it go away. The same can be said about discouragement.

Read more

Relaxed Time

When you hear the term “relaxed time,” what do you think. Does it sound like a fantasy or an unreachable luxury? Does it sound unrealistic? Does it sound lazy or unnecessary?

Relaxed time is time that’s free from demand or expectation. It’s time when you don’t have to do, fix, or produce something. It’s time you can truly and unhurriedly be present.

I believe we need regular relaxed time and that a lack of relaxed time can contribute to increased stress, missed opportunities, and mounting health issues.

Read more

Looking for Peace

Insurance ProtectionThere’s a shortage of peace in the world. Terrorist invade and ravage our world like cancer cells invading and ravaging a body. Countries are on edge over territorial, trade, and nuclear issues. Racial tensions tear apart our communities and country. Political parties bicker and battle over every little issue. Husbands and wives divorce and fight battles over children and property. There’s a shortage of peace in the world.

Read more