If There’s Something You Want Your Spouse To Know…

I’m going to let you in on one of my many failures in marriage. But, I warn you…it’s not pretty! In fact it’s quite embarrassing! (If my wife is reading this, she’s probably pretty nervous at this point.)

Here’s the story…

Read moreIf There’s Something You Want Your Spouse To Know…

The Quarantined Marriage

I typically talk about what it means to have a “normal marriage.” But in these days of social distancing, “normal“ has become a thing of the past. We are all operating under a new normal now. And that new normal is…quarantine!

Couples who have typically been franticly busy, running from one obligation too the next, are now forced to shelter in place, under the same roof, 24/7. A sort of forced companionship if you will.

But this forced companionship can be difficult. It can introduce irritations that we were able to avoid, as long as we stayed on the go. But now there’s nowhere to go!

Here are some things that can make the quarantined 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, provides a lot of opportunity for those differences to bump into one another. If you can’t allow for your spouse’s differences without feeling disrespected or inconvenienced, then quarantine is going to be an experience that feels more like water boarding than togetherness.
  • POOR COMMUNICATION – Again, most couples are use to staying busy enough they have an excuse for not stopping and communicating with one another. Before the quarantine, we could get by on shallow conversations about our day. But during the quarantine, we can’t talk about our day…because we are both there in the middle of it! Quarantine forces us to talk about other things for longer periods of time. And this often reveals that the communication we used to do so phenomenally when we were dating, 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 and our loved ones will avoid catching the virus. Another big source of anxiety is whether we will have a job and be able to pay our bills. Then, there’s the smaller worries. 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 get milk. Now we have to worry about whether there will be any milk when we get to the store. These, and a host of other worries, can raise our anxiety, increase our stress, and make marriage more difficult.
  • LACK OF PURPOSE – This one is not so obvious. Before the quarantine, we were able to confuse taking care of business with having a purpose. It felt like our marriage was here to put a roof over our heads and food on the table, to raise and protect children, to build our careers, etc. But with our ability to do these things now on pause, we have to face the question…why are we married and what’s our real purpose for being married?

As you can see, this quarantine can certainly test your marriage. But you can also use the quarantine as a time to train your marriage. Let me encourage you to use this time to do the following:

  • Learn that your spouse’s differences are not about you. Their differences are about them. Your spouse is different from you, not because they’re trying to get your goat, but because that’s the way God and life has made them. They are not out to get you, so stop taking their differences so personally. Begin to think of their differences as more tools that can be added to the marriage tool box.
  • 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 to calm your anxieties. Anxieties are like the warning lights on the dashboard of your car. They tell you something might need attention, but they don’t tell you to drive your car off a bridge! Note your anxieties, but don’t live 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. Find a close friend who can talk you off the roof. Read Scriptures than can calm your heart. Pray. And if you can’t find anything to calm your anxiety, you may need to talk to your physician. But use this time of quarantine to train your anxiety.
  • Learn to live for something greater then just the immediate. Surely you got married for more than just raising kids and paying bills. What is it about your marriage that con’t be stopped by a quarantine? 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.

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

I Learned 3 Simple Marriage Rules From a Preschooler

Last weekend, I learned three simple marriage rules from a preschooler when I picked up my four-year-old granddaughter for a much needed date. It was a standard date for us: getting some much-needed essentials from the toy store, catching up on the latest children’s literature at the bookstore, and topping it all off with some elegant dining at the local Chick-fil-A.

Among all the things she talked about (and she had a lot to talk about,) she filled me in on the latest news from her pre-K class. As she was catching me up on all the juicy Pre-K news, she told me her teacher expected everyone in her class to follow three rules:

Read moreI Learned 3 Simple Marriage Rules From a Preschooler

Marital Drift and How to Stop It.

Have you ever had the experience of looking at your spouse in thinking, “We use to be so close. How did we drift apart? What happened?” If you have, you are not alone. I think that thought crosses the mind of nearly every spouse at one time or another.

Marriage can be like a boat without an anchor. It has a tendency to drift. In the beginning, when you’re close to shore, it doesn’t seem like a problem. But the further you get from shore the more prominent and problematic the drift can be. You start to experience things like:

Read moreMarital Drift and How to Stop It.

What If We Built Our Marriage On Pooh?

Winnie the Pooh is a classic in children’s literature. As young children, we listened to adults read the great adventures of Pooh and his friends. As older children, we sat transfixed in front of a screen as Walt Disney made those adventures come to life. Then, as parents, we read those same adventures to our children.

But we rarely inject these stories into our marriage. What if the stories of Winnie the Pooh have something to say to our marriage? What if we built our marriage on Pooh?

Read moreWhat If We Built Our Marriage On Pooh?

Mishaps in Messaging

My wife is not much for talking on the phone. She prefers to text, so she often texts rather than calls. The problem is, if she’s texting someone when we’re together, I have no idea who she’s talking to, because I can’t hear her part of the conversation. This leads me to frequently ask her, “Who are you texting?” (I’m pretty sure she hates this question.)

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Have You Lost the Magic?

Couples come into my counseling office for many reasons. Some are having on-going conflicts they can’t resolve. Others are having trouble with their parents or in-laws. Some are struggling in their sexual relationship. Others are at odds over finances. And some just seem to have different ideas about what makes for a good marriage.

But there was one couple who came into my office who summed up marital issues in one simple sentence. “We have lost the magic.“

Ever feel like your marriage has lost the magic? If so, maybe it’s because: 

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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

How to Fight the Good Fight

Some of my favorite movies (much to my wife’s dismay) are “The Matrix” trilogy of movies. They never get old to me. I can watch them over and over and still find new thing in them that I didn’t see before.

This happened a while back when I was watching “The Matrix Reloaded (2003). In this movie, the hero (Neo) has been summoned by someone who is supposedly on Neo’s side…Seraph. But when Neo gets there, Seraph begins to fight with him. When the fight is over, Neo asks Seraph why, and Seraph replies, “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”

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What A Two-Year Old Taught Me About Listening

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my two-year old granddaughter, and boy does this little girl loves to talk! She starts when she wakes up and doesn’t stop until she’s asleep.

This morning, as I was taking her to school (Mothers Day Out), she was talking non-stop. So to give my ears a rest, I turned on some music and turned up the volume. But she would not be deterred. She promptly told me it was too loud and to turn it off!

Read moreWhat A Two-Year Old Taught Me About Listening