How to Love Two Spouses

No, this post is not about polygamy or sister wives. It’s just that sometimes it can feel like you’re married to two spouses at the same time; the one you fell in love with, and the one you didn’t.

Let me explain by using a story from the ancient book of Genesis…

A STORY

Starting in chapter 27 of Genesis, you read about a man named Jacob. Jacob is ambitious and cheats his brother out of his inheritance. Consequently, Jacob winds up on the run. He runs to the far country and begins working for his uncle Laban.

Now Jacob’s uncle had two daughters. One was a rather plain-looking girl named Leah and the other was a beautiful girl named Racheal. One course, Jacob falls head over heels for Racheal and strikes a deal with Laban, to work seven years for Racheal’s hand in marriage.

At the end of those seven years, there’s a wedding ceremony. But, the next morning Jacob wakes up to find that Laban had somehow switched daughters and Jacob was now married to Leah instead of Racheal. (Don’t ask me how that happened!)

Laban gives Jacob some excuse and tells him that if he will agree to work for another seven years, he will go ahead and give him Racheal as well. Jacob agrees and suddenly He finds himself married to two spouses…the one he wanted and the one he didn’t!

A TRUTH

In some ways, this is true for almost every marriage. We all get a spouse we want and one we don’t. It’s a package deal!

When we’re dating, we become convinced that this is the person we want. We like their looks, their personality, and the way they make us feel. So we become convinced that they are the one for us.

But sometime after we’ve married, we wake up to discover we’re also married to a second spouse…and it’s not the one we chose. This spouse does things we don’t like. They correct us when we don’t want them to. Sometimes they take an attitude with us. This spouse doesn’t always look good or act appropriately. And sometimes, they’re just hard to get along with.

Now, occasionally, we still see the spouse we wanted; the spouse that’s easy to love. But then the other one shows up and reminds us that we got more than we bargained for.

AN APPROACH

So, you have to learn to love the spouse you don’t want. But how do you do this?

Here are some things you need to do in order to live with and love the spouse you don’t want:

Quit trying to change the one you don’t want.

Understand that you need the spouse you don’t want as much as the one you do. The spouse you don’t want brings gifts, helps, and perspectives that are much needed…even if they don’t feel good.

You would not be able to become the person you need to be if it weren’t for the spouse you don’t want. So quit trying to change them into the one you do.

Learn to appreciate the spouse you don’t want.

When you realize that the spouse you don’t want actually helps to make you and the marriage better, then it’s easier to appreciate them for what they do.

And…when you appreciate people for who they are and what they bring, they tend to rise to the occasion and become better than they would normally be. Isn’t it true that when your spouse shows you appreciation, it makes you want to be better and do more? If so, then do that for the spouse you don’t want.

Serve the spouse you don’t want.

It’s easy to serve someone who’s saying what you want to hear and acting the way you want them to act. It’s also easy to stop serving someone who’s not saying what you want to hear or not acting the way you want them to act.

But when you stop serving your spouse because they’re not the one you want, you usually get more of the behavior you don’t want. Remember…the way you treat them actually trains them on how to act toward you. So serve them like they’re the spouse you want.

IN SHORT…

Treat the spouse you don’t want as if they’re the one you do, and you might just find out they really are!

And finally, you’re reading these words to figure out how to live with the spouse you don’t want. But remember…they’re also reading these words to figure out how to live with the spouse they don’t want.  Because you’re not the only one who got the spouse they wanted and the one they didn’t.

Firing Up Your Marriage the Right Kindling

Sometimes, my wife and I will meet our kids and grandkids out on a wooded piece of property they own. There, the kids fish in the pond and play in the woods, while the adults take it easy and visit.

As evening falls, the task turns to building a fire, and the kids are sent out to gather kindling. They come back with armloads of twigs and sticks, proudly presenting them to the adults for approval. Then, the adults help them arrange the kindling in the best way to start the fire. The kids learn it takes small kindling to start big fires.

This is not true only for campfires but it’s also true for marriage.

MARRIAGE KINDLING

So often, spouses look for that one big thing that will turn things around in their marriage and reignite the fire of their relationship. But just like it takes small kindling to get a campfire going, it takes small things to get a marriage fire going.

What kind of kindling can you use to build the fire of your marriage? Here are a few kindling starters:

Smile.

You would be surprised how a simple smile can warm up your spouse and your marriage. When I come home from work, my wife can change my whole outlook and attitude in a second when she greets me with a smile. It’s a small thing, but just smiling more will spark good things in your marriage.

Help without being asked.

Now if you don’t typically do this, don’t be surprised if your spouse questions your motives at first. But just keep doing it, because it shows your spouse that you see what they’re going through and that you care enough to want to help them. It’s a great way to build a marriage fire.

Love your children well.

This is especially something husbands need to do. Guys, the quickest way to your wife’s heart is through the children. When they see you spending time, listening, playing, and loving on the kids, it will fire up their heart towards you.

Compliment.

People thrive on honest compliments, and compliments are some of the simplest kindling you can use to get a marriage fire going. But, the longer we’re married, the less we tend to compliment one another. It’s been said that the best thing a parent can do is to catch their kids doing something right/good and compliment them on it. But it’s also one of the best things spouses can do for each other. Compliment something they’ve done, the way they look, or a character trait they have. Just compliment them.

Run errands together.

This may seem mundane, but it shows your spouse you want to hang out with them…even if it’s just doing something as commonplace as running errands. It gives you a simple way to spend time together, to talk, or just listen to the radio together. You don’t have to run every errand together, but doing it more often than not will add warmth to the relationship.

Do something they want to do.

When you were dating, you were interested in the things that interested them. That’s part of kindling that helped them fell in love with you. So why would you stop now? Doing things your spouse wants to do is a clear “I love you” to them. Especially if you’re doing something they know you don’t like to do. (It’s extra points!)

Leave a note.

It’s simple, cheap, and easy to leave a note for your spouse. Yet few things make as much impact on a spouse as leaving them a note. Yes, you can send them a text, but it’s not as good as taking out a pen and leaving a sticky note for them to find. It can be a loving thought, a sentimental memory, or something hot and steamy. Leaving notes for them to find will help to build a fire in your marriage. (Just don’t make it a reminder of something they need to do. That will rain on the fire.)

Flirt.

Playful flirting can spark a fire in your relationship. And it’s something you can do despite the age and stage of your marriage. You don’t have to be young and look like models to playfully flirt with one another. But a word to husbands…If the only time you flirt with your spouse is when you want sex, your flirting will backfire on you and have the opposite effect. So learn to flirt for the sake of flirting…and not always for a desired outcome.

Take initiative.

Whether it be something they want or someplace they want to go, if there’s something important to them, take initiative on it. Don’t wait for them to repeat it over and over, and don’t wait for them to ask you to. Taking the initiative, without having to be told, will spark something in your spouse and your relationship.

These are just some of the small kindling you can use to start a fire between you and your spouse. And you will be surprised at how such small things can build such a big love between the two of you. You can probably think of other kindling ideas, and I would love for you to leave those in the comments. We could all use the help.

A FINAL WORD OF CAUTION

As you apply this kindling to your marriage, do it without expectation of anything in return. Make sure it’s the kindling of appreciation and not manipulation.

Here’s to building some fire in your marriage.

What Can You Do If You’re Dissatisfied With Your Marriage?

If you’re dissatisfied with your spouse or your marriage, you’re not alone. As we saw in the last post, it’s not that uncommon. But the big question is, what do you do about it?

In this post, we’ll look at what you can do if you’re dissatisfied with your marriage.

ARE YOU DOOMED TO BE DISSATISFIED IN MARRIAGE?

Just because every marriage experiences occasional dissatisfaction doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be dissatisfied in marriage.

I once knew a couple who had been married for 74 years. One day, I asked them how they had managed to have such a long and strong marriage.  The husband told me, “Son, sometimes when I would get frustrated with her, I had to learn to shut my mouth and go for a long walk.” His wife started laughing, and said, “He wasn’t the only one who had to go for a long walk!”

Despite times of dissatisfaction, this couple had a wonderful marriage of 74 years. So, even though you may experience some dissatisfaction from time to time, know that you can still have a great and lasting marriage.

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR DISSATISFIED WITH YOUR MARRIAGE?

Being dissatisfied in your marriage doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad marriage, but it does mean you have some changes to make. You may think your spouse is the source of your dissatisfaction, but a lot of your dissatisfaction has as much to do with you as it does with your spouse.

So if you want to turn your dissatisfaction around, you (not your spouse) need to start making some changes. Here are a few things you can do:

Stop Comparing Your Marriage to Others.

It’s easy to be envious of other marriages that seem to have it all together. When you see them out to dinner, at church, or on social media, they look happy and seem to have a great marriage. But you would probably be surprised if you could see behind the scenes. No couple is perfect, and every couple has their own struggles.

I am not saying there aren’t couples out there who have great marriages. There are. But their marriage is great because they have learned what works for them. And what works for them won’t necessarily work for you and your spouse.

So stop comparing your marriage to other marriages that look great, and instead, start making your marriage great.

Curb Your Expectations.

We all have expectations about how we think our spouse and marriage should be. Expectations are a part of being human.

But too often, our expectations are unrealistic. Just as you would be hurt and frustrated if your spouse held you to their expectations of the perfect spouse, so will they feel hurt and frustrated if you do the same.

So learn to curb your unrealistic expectations.

Give Your Spouse the Benefit of the Doubt.

Your spouse didn’t marry you so they could make you miserable. That was not their intention when they uttered their wedding vows, and it is probably not their intention now.

It’s easy to get our feelings hurt and then to take everything personally. But most of the things you take personally, have little to do with you, and more to do with your spouse.

So assume that your spouse loves you, that they didn’t mean it in the way you heard it, and that they’re not just trying to get your goat.

If it continues to bother you, kindly ask them about it, but otherwise, give your spouse what you would want…the benefit of the doubt.

Stop Seeing Differences As a Threat.

We talked about this in the last post. When we’re dating, we believe we’re attracted to our partner by all we have in common. But in reality, it’s our differences that attract us.

Those differences seem novel at the time. But, after the “I do’s,” those differences start to lose their appeal. Rather than attracting us, those differences begin to aggravate us. They get under our skin, and we start seeing the differences as flaws in our spouse that we need to correct.  (By the way…trying to correct your spouse’s “flaws” won’t win you any points. Trust me!)

The differences between you and your spouse are not there to aggravate you. They are there to grow you. Those differences are there to help strengthen your weak areas and to compliment the things you lack.  Those differences are also there to teach you how to be humble and gracious. In reality, your spouse’s differences are a gift, rather than a threat.  The more you can see this, the less dissatisfied you’ll be.

Change Your Focus.

Many of us are better at pointing out what’s wrong than celebrating what’s right. It’s easier to focus on what we don’t like about our spouse and our marriage, than on what’s good about our spouse and our marriage. This can be caustic.

Whatever you focus on tends to set your attitude and approach to things. So if you focus on that with which you’re dissatisfied, you wind up fueling your dissatisfaction and killing your gratitude.

Philippians 4:8 encourages us to focus on what’s good and right and commendable. If you learn to do this in marriage, you’ll be surprised at the difference it will make.

Show More Appreciation than Disappointment.

If you’re experiencing dissatisfaction in your marriage, you probably feel under-appreciated. But I’m betting your spouse feels the same way.

It is so easy to stop showing appreciation to your spouse and to start taking them for granted…leaving them starved for appreciation. How do you know if your spouse needs appreciation? If they’re breathing, they need appreciation.

Appreciation is the one gift that costs you nothing to give and produces tremendous benefits when you do. Be lavish in showing your spouse appreciation…even for the small things.

IN THE END…

Will doing these things make every day of marriage as happy as a broadway musical number? Nope! But doing these things will make you more aware and grateful for the great things about your spouse and your marriage. And as your gratitude increases your dissatisfaction decreases.

So, laugh in the face of your dissatisfaction and get to work!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a brief reminder on this Thanksgiving Day that giving thanks should be more than just a day on the calendar. It should be the practice of our life and marriage. It’s true that some people seem more naturally thankful than others, but giving thanks is something at which you can practice and get better. I’m thankful to each of you for reading Normal Marriage. Happy Thanksgiving!

How Indifference Can Wreck a Dream and a Marriage

A Disturbing Dream

The other night I had a disturbing dream. I don’t have many disturbing dreams, but this one shook me to my core.

In my dream, my wife and I were separate…and she initiated it! She seemed to have little interest in being around me, and asked me not to contact her. Her indifference toward me was beyond painful, and it was clear that her indifference towards me was going to end our marriage.  But that was not the most disturbing part of the dream.

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Gratitude is a Great Attitude for Marriage

On Thanksgiving Day, it’s good to look at the role gratitude plays in marriage. Many marriages are unhappy, not because of big things like abuse or affairs, but because of a little thing like a lack of gratitude.

Around 2008, Neil Pasricha was having a difficult time in life. His marriage was failing, his best friend committed suicide, and the market was threatening his job. Falling into depression, Neil realized he needed to do something to turn his attitude and life around. So, as a first step, he started a seemingly insignificant website called 1000awesomethings.com.

There, Neil began to build a list of things he was grateful for…both big and small. Things like:

  • When the police car that’s been following you for miles finally goes around you.
  • When the mug you’re warming up in the microwave stops with the handle facing you.
  • When the nostril that’s been plugged up for so long, suddenly opens up.
  • When you hit something with your car and there’s somehow no damage.
  • When you pick the fastest moving line at the grocery store.
  • When you’re on vacation and finally forget what day of the week it is.

He listed one thousand such things, and so many people resonated with these often overlooked reasons for gratitude that Neil’s website exploded. Eventually, his website generated a book entitled The Book of Awesome, which made the New York Times best seller list. All because he pointed out that we have more for which to be grateful than we stop to realize.

In marriage, we are often more unhappy with what we don’t have, than happy with what we do have. We have so many things in our marriages to be grateful for, yet when we don’t get something we want, we feel slighted and cheated. And the more we have, the less grateful we seem to be.

“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” – Eric Hoffer.

But gratitude is important in marriage, because…

  • It changes your focus. Gratitude causes you to focus on all the good things you like and have, rather than all the things you don’t like or don’t have.
  • It leads you to appreciate who and what you have. The more you focus on the things for which you have to be grateful, the more you appreciate them.
  • It lightens your mood. Your appreciation for what you have will begin to root out your complaining and frustration…which will lighten your mood. This will make you easier to live with, not to mention more attractive.
  • It makes you more of a giving spouse. When you see all you have to be grateful for, you tend to be less self-centered and self-focused. It’s more easy to give of yourself, because you see how much you’ve been given.

Even Scripture stresses the importance of gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us:

 “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 

I know there are a lot of things that go into marital unhappiness, that don’t elicit our gratitude. But note that the passage doesn’t say to be thankful for every circumstance, but rather to be thankful in every circumstance…which would include the difficult ones.

What if you could begin to turn around your dissatisfaction in marriage with something as simple as learning to be more grateful for the many good things you have. What if you could enjoy your marriage more simply by changing your attitude to gratitude?

If you need to be more grateful in your marriage, take these two simple steps:

  • Assess. Begin by making a list of all the things you have to be thankful for in your marriage. Big and small, don’t leave anything out. As you make your list, ask yourself what would life be like if you didn’t have these things, or if your spouse didn’t do those things for which you’re grateful.
  • Express. William A. Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Get in the habit of expressing gratitude for the things on your list. You would be surprised by the power a simple, heartfelt “thank you” has on your spouse. Not only will expressing gratitude affirm and encourage your spouse, it will improve your attitude as well. Donald Curtis said, “It is impossible to be negative while we are giving thanks.”

So many marriages could be strengthened if spouses simply became more grateful for what they have and more faithful to express that gratitude. When it comes to marriage, gratitude is a great attitude!

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” – William A. Ward.

If you or your marriage needs a does of gratitude, let me challenge you to do the following: Get a small notebook. Everyday, list five things about your spouse and/or your marriage for which you’re grateful. Don’t repeat anything on your list. Everyday, express your gratitude to your spouse. Do this for 30 days. I can almost guarantee that by the end of 30 days, you will be different, and consequently so will your marriage.

Copyright © 2017 Bret Legg

Is Your Marriage Approaching Zero Gravity? – Part 2

Gravity is an essential part of life. Without it, things would drift away into space. Likewise, gravity is an essential part of marriage. Without marital gravity, spouses begin to drift apart. And if they drift too far apart, it can bring an end to the marriage.

In my last post, I talked about four things you needed to increase your marital gravity. They were four things that would help draw you closer to one another and keep you from drifting apart. (Check out my last post, “Is Your Marriage Approaching Zero Gravity – Part 1.”)

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Change Your Gratitude

Have you ever wished you could change your marriage? Maybe you were at odds with your spouse or maybe your marriage had just become mundane and predictable. Whatever it was, you didn’t like the way things were and you wished you could change things.

In a TED Talk entitled “The 3 A’s of Awesome,” Neil Pasricha tells of a time when his life needed a change. A difficult economy had cost him his job, his best friend had committed suicide and his marriage was falling apart.

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Thank You

“Thank you.” Two simple words that cost us nothing in time or energy, yet they can change the outlook and life of those who hear them.

We all love to hear these words. We can all remember life-changing moments when someone sent us a note or looked us in the eye and said, “Thank you.” In that moment, those words were powerful. They stuck with us, soothed us, and sent us off to be a better person.

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Accumulation or Appreciation?

Depositphotos_18473781_xsMaybe you’ve seen this…a preschooler is sitting on the floor playing with a toy. They’re perfectly content with the toy they have, until they see another child playing with a different toy. Then the preschooler wants the toy the other child has. They don’t want to just exchange toys. They want both toys!

It’s funny in preschoolers, but it’s not so funny in adults. Yet so many of us get caught up in accumulating things rather than appreciating what we have.

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