Do You Know Your Spouse?

Maybe you read the title of this post and thought, “I don’t need this post. I know my spouse.”

I’ve thought the same thing. I’ve been married for over forty years, and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on knowing my wife. But there are still times when she will say or do something that makes me think, “Who are you, and do I even know you?!”

Spouses are complex. Their situations, likes, dislikes, emotions, bodies, thoughts, and needs are continually changing. And that means if we want to know our spouse, we have to be on-going learners.

So here are a few tips and reminders (in no specific order) that will help you continue to know your spouse better.

Don’t assume you know them.

Assuming you’re an expert on your spouse is both arrogant and disrespectful. Think about it. You wouldn’t like it if you over-heard your spouse telling someone that they know you completely. Assuming you know your spouse completely will get you in trouble. And I’m telling you, the minute you assume you know them, they’re going to change something just to throw you off!

You don’t know them if you don’t listen to them.

I sit with so many couples who interrupt their spouse, complete their spouse’s sentences, and interpret what they believe their spouse is saying…but never really listen to them. No matter how well you think you know your spouse, there are things on their heart and mind that you will never know if you don’t give them a chance to speak and really listen to what they have to say.

You must listen past their words before you know them.

I have a sign hanging outside my counseling office that says: “No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is NOT saying.”

If all you do is listen to the words your spouse is saying, you don’t really know what they’re saying. Research tells us that only 7% of what your spouse is telling you is found in their words. 38% of their message is in their tone of voice and 55% is in their nonverbal signals.  So listen to more than just the words they are saying.

If they don’t say it, you don’t know it.

I know you know this, but if you’re like me, you probably need to hear it again. You can’t read your spouse’s mind. You may think you can, and you may have been together long enough to make some good educated guesses. But they are still guesses. If they haven’t said it, then you don’t really know it. (By the way…they can’t read your mind either, so don’t make them guess. Tell them clearly and lovingly what you’re thinking and feeling.)

If you don’t know, ask.

Going along with the last tip, if your spouse tells you something, and you’re not quite sure what they mean, don’t guess. Ask for clarification. Your spouse would rather have you ask them for clarification than for you to go off on an assumption that’s wrong.

Just because you know them now doesn’t ensure that you will know them later.

As I said at the beginning of this post…spouses are complex and constantly changing. Just because you know some things about them now, don’t assume those things will be the same a year from now. For as long as I’ve known her, my wife has always wanted to live near the beach. But recently I found out that she now wants to live in the mountains. There was no warning. There was no turn signal. She just changed! This is why you have to keep striving to know your spouse.

Know what they like, but know it will change.

Knowing that your spouse will change later is not an excuse to not know them now.  Get to know your spouse as well as you can now. Just know that you’ll have to keep learning and adding to what you know about them.

Finally, if I could wrap all this up in one last reminder, it would be this:

Know that you don’t know all there is to know about your spouse, but know that you can know them better.

So stay at it and stay curious.

Things I Would Tell My Newly Married Self

I have done a lot of premarital counseling, and I’ve found it to be both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable, because you get the opportunity to walk with a couple and to speak into their present and future lives. Frustrating, because many of these couples have no frame of reference for what you’re telling them…and they’re often too “in love” to hear it anyway.

Engaged couples mean well and they want to have the best marriage possible. It’s just that the excitement of becoming Mr. and Mrs. makes it hard from them to really imagine the feelings and frustrations they will face down the road. The light in their fiancé’s eyes blinds them to the issues that are there. The blood that rushes to their head (and other places) keeps them from hearing things they need to hear.

Remember when you first realized that marriage wasn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe it was the first time you realized those quirky parts of your spouse’s personality weren’t going to change like you thought/hoped they would. Perhaps it was when you discovered that their approach to money felt less like pulling together and more like tug-of-war. Maybe it was when you realized the sexual tension and excitement you felt during the honeymoon phase had morphed into a dull predictability that was just a notch above doing the laundry.

We’ve all encountered things in marriage and found ourselves thinking, “I wish someone had told me about this.” So I’ve thought about it, and here are some things I would tell my newly married self:

  • You don’t need to be right all the time…even if you think you are.
  • Dirty clothes go in the hamper, not on the floor beside the hamper.
  • Just because they say they’re fine, doesn’t mean they are.
  • “I wish we were closer” probably means something different to them than it does for you.
  • When they say, “There’s nothing in this house to eat,” it doesn’t they want to go get groceries.
  • They can criticize their parents. You cannot!
  • People’s standards for cleanliness vary greatly.
  • Just because their personality is different from yours doesn’t mean they are brain damaged.
  • Your sex life will occasionally ebb and flow, but it will always take work.
  • If you don’t look at them, you’re not really listening to them.
  • It’s ok to disagree on how to raise children. They will grow up anyway.
  • Compromise is not surrender.
  • It won’t hurt you to watch what they like to watch. (I’m still learning this one.)
  • The more you’re willing to release, the more you’re able to receive.
  • When you say, “Where do you want to eat,” and they say, “Anywhere’s fine,” DON’T BELIEVE IT!

These are just a few of the things I would tell my newly married self. I’ll bet you could add to the list. What would you tell your newly married self? Leave your ideas in the comments and let’s see how many of these we can collect…for all those people who don’t know what they’re getting into!

Numbers 9 – Unquestioning Obedience

When I was a child, “because I said so” never felt like a good reason to comply. That’s because there’s something in us that resists being told what to do. We would rather give the orders, than take them.

But that’s not the message of Numbers chapter 9. There, you find a picture of immediate and unquestioning obedience. When the cloud moved, the people moved; no questions asked.

Can you imagine what that would be like? You hear a knock on your door. You open the door and see a man with a clipboard who says, “It’s time.” So you pack up your entire household and set out. Twelve hours later, you pull in somewhere at the man’s direction. It appears you’ve arrived, so you unpack and set up house.

After a week or so, you’ve finally settled in and have things where you can find them. Then one Saturday morning, there’s a knock on your door. You open the door and see the same man with the same clip board who tells you, “It’s time.” So once again, you begin to pack things up and load them in the truck.

This routine continues…for the rest of your life! Sometimes you get to stay for a long time, and sometimes you just get to stay for the night. And you never know when you’re going to hear the knock on the door and face the man with the clip board saying, “It’s time.”

Can you imagine the obedience this would take? I’d like to say my life is characterized by such obedience, but I know better.

The key to such obedience is becoming convinced that obeying God…because He said so…is more beneficial that anything else you can do. (Deut. 6:3) When you become convinced of this, “because I said so,” will be enough for you.

How Parenting Can Improve Partnering

In my last post (How Partnering Can Improve Parenting,) we looked at how improving your marriage could improve your parenting. It stressed the importance of making sure your partnering takes precedence over your parenting. (If you’ve not read that post, I encourage you to go back and read it.)

Now, we need to answer how parenting can improve partnering, and the answer is simply this…

 “Your parenting should instruct your partnering.” 

Yes, your partnering should take priority over your parenting, but your parenting can teach you to be a better partner. Here’s what I mean by this. If you listed the things you do for your kids, your list would look something like this…

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How Parents Can Bring Out the Best in Their Teenagers

In my last post, How Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents, I talked abut the very difficult job of raising teenagers, and how it can effect parents.

In this post, let’s talk about how parents can bring out the best in their teens. It starts when you’re aware of your own issues of control, self-esteem, memory loss, fears, and aspirations. (Check out the previous post for more on this.)

Once you have addressed those things in yourself, there are some things you can do to bring out the best in those opinionated, strong-willed, hormonally challenged aliens we refer to as teenagers:

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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!

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How to Avoid that Fishy Smell in Marriage

Even if you’re not particularly religious, you’re probably familiar with the biblical story of Jonah.

Jonah was a guy who didn’t want to do what God wanted him to do. God wanted Jonah to go to the Ninevites (the ruthless and bloody enemy of his people) and encourage them to change their ways and turn to God. It would be like God asking you to go to ISIS to tell them, “God loves you and you need to convert to Christianity.”

Jonah didn’t want this suicide mission, because Jonah hated the Ninevites and didn’t want God to go easy on them. So Jonah ran.

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Are You Listening?

“Are you listening to me?” “You never listen to me.” “I’ve tried to tell you, but you just don’t listen.” “If you would listen you would know.”

Have you ever heard your spouse say something like this? If so, join the ranks of the many. Not listening is one of the most common complaints I hear from spouses. I’m sure my spouse has complained about it also, but I probably wasn’t listening at the time. Why do so many of us drop the ball when it comes to listening?

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