What are the Glory Days of Your Marriage?

Glory days. If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, those words will automatically bring a great song to mind. But the concept of glory days has been around much longer than Springsteen.

GLORY DAYS.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines glory days as a period of time when someone was very successful. You might hear someone talk about their glory days on the high school football team. And a business might refer to their glory days as a time when sales and profits were very high. In other words, glory days refers to a time when things were very good.

But how does the concept of glory days apply to marriage?

THE GLORY DAYS OF MARRIAGE.

For some spouses, if you mention their glory days, they would immediately think of their honeymoon years and the fun and the adventure they had when it was just the two of them.

For others, mention glory days and they think of their current situation. The good jobs that they have. Their nice house. Their wonderful kids. Their community involvement. For some couples, these are the glory days.

Other spouses feel like their glory days are ahead of them. They look to the days when they are empty-nesters, when their kids are happily married, when they can enjoy their grandchildren, or when they finally are able to retire and travel.

But here’s the problem. For the first group, their glory days are already behind them. So they have nothing to look forward to. For the second group, they may be experiencing their glory days, but they can’t hang onto them, so those glory days won’t last. And for the third group, their glory days are beyond their reach…and may not even come. And all of these takes on glory days are dependent on the circumstances being good.

Consequently, these three views make the glory days temporary at best and unattainable at worst.

Maybe we need a better way to achieve our glory days in marriage.

A NEW APPROACH TO GLORY DAYS.

Before my children were born I made a commitment to myself to make the most of every age and stage they went through. I wanted to drink in everything at every age and stage, so I didn’t look back and think I missed something. And for the most part, I was able to do just that. (Although, I will admit, this was slightly harder to do during their teen years. But only a little.)

That was a good strategy for parenting. But now, at 60+ years of age and 40+ years of marriage, I’m beginning to think that drinking in and making the most of every age and stage is not only a good strategy for parenting. It’s also a good strategy for marriage.

What if our strategy for marriage was to make the most of every age and stage of marriage – whether easy or hard – so that we didn’t have to look back and say we missed something? What if we learned to drink in every stage of our marriage…whether as young couples romping in our honeymoon bed, or senior adults holding hands over the rail of the hospital bed?

If we took this approach to marriage, it would probably change our view on glory days. Glory days would be…

  • Less about circumstances and more about commitment.
  • Less about how good things are for us and more about how good we are for each other.
  • Less about having what we want and more about having who we want.
  • Less about the road we travel and more about our traveling companion.

A FINAL THOUGHT…

Intentionally drinking in and making the most of every age and stage of marriage could lead you to turn your current moments into glory days. (Wouldn’t that be something?!)

So stop wistfully looking to the glory days of the past. Stop grieving the glory days you can’t hold on to. And stop longing for the glory days that may or may not come. Take each moment you have with your spouse…whether easy or difficult…and make the most of it. Drink it in and see how many glory days you can actually make!

Don’t Feel Attracted to Your Spouse? Try These 4 Principles.

It seems like attraction should be a key ingredient in marriage. After all, we all want to be attracted to our spouse, and we want our spouse to be attracted to us.

But what if that attraction isn’t there? What then?

ATTRACTION.

Attraction can fluctuate throughout the course of a marriage. It’s strong in the early days of marriage, when you’re both young, pretty, and getting to know one another. Then attraction gets tenuous a few years in, when your habits and personality traits start to wear on one another. In the middle years of marriage, attraction can easily get lost amidst the demands of building careers, raising kids, and paying bills. Attraction can surge some in the early empty-nester years, when kids leave and finances stabilize. And attraction gets redefined in your latter years, as age and physical health introduces complications and restrictions on life.

Attraction can be hard to define, but one thing’s for certain…we know when it’s not there! And if it’s not there, we often feel like all we can do is helplessly wait and hope it will eventually return.

PRINCIPLES OF ATTRACTION.

If you’re not feeling attracted to your spouse, don’t panic. Psychological studies have uncovered many principles of attraction that you can take advantage of. Here are just four of those principles and how you can apply them to your marriage. (Note: these were prompted by an article entitled, “These are the 4 Elements of Attraction, According to Psychology.” by Brooklyn Reece.)

Proximity.

This refers to the fact that you’re more likely to feel attracted to someone with whom you are in close, consistent physical proximity. It may not seem like it if you’ve been in quarantine with your spouse, but it’s easier to build attraction between people who spend a lot of time together, than between people who spend a lot of time apart. That’s why romantic relationships often occur between people who spend a lot of time working together, playing on the same team, serving in the same organizations, etc.

Yet, it’s so easy for spouses to drift apart physically. We have our own cars, our own activities, our own hobbies, and our own devices. On top of that, if you have kids who are involved in a lot of activities, you can easily find yourselves running in separate directions.

If you want to build attraction, be intentional about spending time together. Even simple things like going to the store together, sitting on the couch together, or sharing a cup of coffee together can help to gradually foster attraction.

Similarity.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old saying, “Opposites attract.” While that may be partially true when you’re dating, the reality is that marital attraction is fueled more by your similarities than your differences. If you love the outdoors, you’re more attracted to those who love the outdoors. If you love to dance, you’re more attracted to someone who loves to dance. Introverts are more attracted to introverts and educated people are more attracted to other educated people.

If you’re thinking, “Great! We’re so different we don’t stand a chance!” you’re not alone. No couple is completely similar. Most every married couple has some glaring differences between them.

The problem is, we get used to focusing on our differences. But you and your spouse are more similar than you may think. Remember, it wasn’t just your differences that attracted you to one another. It was also your similarities.

So if similarity fosters attraction, then spend more time focusing on your similarities. It will gradually help to foster attraction in your marriage.

Physical Attractiveness.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Though everyone has their own likes and ideas when it comes to what they find physically attractive, finding someone physically attractive tends to increase your attraction to them.

Now, before you look in the mirror and get discouraged, remember this…

Physical attraction is often the front door into relational attraction, but it is not the glue that maintains attraction over the long haul. Age and gravity will eventually overcome our attempts to hold onto physical attractiveness. But hopefully, a couple will build a relational and emotion attractiveness that will take over as physical attractiveness fades.

This does not mean you should let yourself go, or ignore your appearance, or quit trying to be physically attractive to your spouse. But you should also be working on the inner beauty that will continue to attract your spouse…long after the outer beauty fades.

Reciprocity.

Reciprocity refers to the fact that we tend to be attracted to people who are attracted to us. To put it simply…we tend to like people who like us. Not surprising, right?

If you’re thinking, “Oh no! We’re in trouble, because neither of us really likes the other right now,” don’t let that spook you. It actually means you have the ability to change things! Let me explain.

The principle of reciprocity infers that if you begin liking your spouse, it’s more probable that they will begin liking you…and visa versa. So, start liking your spouse and it will help them to start liking you.

I know…easier said than done, right?

Well, start with this… stop focusing on all the things you don’t like about your spouse and start focusing on all the things you do like about your spouse. This will make a big difference in your attitude. And, as you practice the other three principles we’ve listed, you will find this fourth principle starting to kick in.

THE BOTTOM LINE.

It’s easy to think that attraction to your spouse is something you have little control over. It’s easy to view attraction as some involuntary response that you either have or you don’t.

But if you believe that, you will be at the mercy of something that we’ve already seen can ebb and flow in a marriage.

Attraction is actually something that can be fostered and fanned into flame in a marriage, through the right actions and attitudes. So don’t wait for attraction to come to you. Go make it happen!

Is Your Sex Drive Running Low?

It’s normal in marriage for one spouse to have a lower sex drive than the other. But when one spouse exhibits little to no sex drive, it can be an extremely difficult thing for the marriage.

I know marriage is about more than just sex, but sex can be critical to the health of a marriage. Studies have shown a correlation between sexual satisfaction and marital satisfaction.

And even the Scripture tells us that sex is a basic drive and desire, hardwired into us by God, for enjoyment as well as procreation. You see this throughout the Song of Solomon, as well as in passages like Proverbs 5:19.

So, if your sex drive is nil to none, let’s look at some possible reasons.

THE REASONS

Though we think it should be simple, a sex drive is a complicated issue. There are many things that can snuff your sex drive. Here are a few of them:

Hormonal.

Hormones and hormonal balance are major players when it comes to sex drive. Sex drive can be affected by the time of the month, low testosterone levels, thyroid problems, and many other hormonal issues. Don’t overlook this.

Relational.

When you’re not doing well relationally, it will affect your sex drive. This is especially true for wives. If a wife is feeling insecure, unappreciated, emotionally disconnected, or hurt it will greatly suppress her sex drive. The same can be true for husbands, but typically a husband’s sex drive is not as tethered to these things. That’s why most husbands will still be interested in sex, even after having a fight with their wives.

Physical.

Because sex is very physical, physical problems can interfere with your sex drive. If sex is painful, it can very quickly dampen your sex drive and even prompt you to avoid sex. Erectile dysfunction, breathing issues, heart issues, excessive weight, back pain,  joint pain…these can all interfere with sex and your sex drive.

Age can also be a factor. It is not true that we lose our sex drive when we age,  but that drive can certainly decrease as we age.

Medical.

It can be easy to overlook, but certain medications can dampen and interfere with your sex drive. Many anti-depressants, heart medications, prostate medications, and even some over-the-counter medications for heartburn can affect your sex drive.

Historical.

Whether we like it or not, we carry our history into our present…and into our bedrooms. Past abuses and hurts can greatly affect your sex drive. What you were taught about sex (good or bad) plays into your sex drive. Past sexual experiences can be a factor. And unresolved issues between you and your spouse can dampen a sex drive.

Habitual.

Certainly, if you’re involved with someone else, it will affect your sex drive with your spouse. But if you’re involved in the on-going use of porn or masturbation, chances are you will experience a lowering of your sex drive for your spouse. You’re expending the sex drive you have on someone or something other than your spouse; leaving little to none for them. These are serious issues that will need to be addressed.

Emotional.

On-going emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, and insecurity hit at the heart of a sex drive. Body image issues are another big factor. And trust issues (often stemming from past hurts and abuses) make it difficult to freely open up in sex…thus dampening your sex drive.

Intentional.

We don’t think of this one as much as we do the others, but a lack of intentionality will slowly siphon off your sex drive. Life is busy and demanding. If we’re not intentional about maintaining and improving our sex life, our sex drive can easily wane.

THE REMEDIES

If one or more of the above issues is decreasing your sex drive and hurting your marriage, take heart. There are steps you can take:

  • See your physician. Explain your issues with low sex drive and have them do a complete workup. Have them go through all your medications to determine if they may be interfering with your sex drive.
  • Nurture the relationship in non-sexual ways. Spend time together. Have fun together. Surprise them. Serve them. Compliment your spouse. Flirt with your spouse. Put in a lot of effort outside the bedroom. Chances are, this will make it easier for you to show interest in the bedroom.
  • Get in better shape. Take care of yourself physically. It will help with mobility and stamina and lead you to feel better all the way around.
  • Work through past issues. Work with a counselor to dismantle the effects of past abuse, wrong messages, depression, anxiety, or anything else that might be interfering with your sex drive.
  • Be intentional. Don’t put sex at the back of the line of things to do. Don’t give it the left-overs of your time and energy. Think about it. Set aside time. Schedule. Plan. Be as intentional about this part of your marriage as you are with other parts.

A WORD TO THE OTHER SPOUSE

All of this has been written for the spouse who has a low sex drive.

But if you’re the one who struggles because your spouse seems to have no sex drive, then you probably feel you have little to no control over whether your spouse actively does something about their low sex drive. It can leave you feeling like you have no options when it comes to your own needs.

In the next post, we’re going to try to address the needs of the spouse who is living with someone who doesn’t seem interested in sex. So stay tuned.

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.

It’s Marriage Not Magic!

I love a good magic show. As a kid, I would practice for hours learning sleight of hand magic. And now that I’m an adult and know it’s just a series of tricks and illusions, there’s still something about the wonder and the mystery of a magic show that captivates me.

Marriage and Magic

Whether you like magic or not, there is a part of all of us that wants our marriage to be magical. And we tend to treat our marriage as if it were a magic show, in the following ways:

Making something disappear.

Magicians are known for making things disappear. From small coins to jet planes, magicians seem to be able to make things disappear right in front of our eyes.

Likewise, spouses tend to want problems in the marriage to disappear. We ignore issues, down-play conflicts, or distract from problems in hopes they will magically disappear. But marriage is not a magic show and problems don’t magically disappear. They must be faced, addressed, and worked through.

Making something appear.

This is the flip side of making something disappear. Here, the magician magically produces something…seemingly out of thin air.

Many couples hope a great marriage will just appear, without a lot of effort. It’s as if they hope for great communication, easy conflict resolution, good sex, and large bank accounts to be magically produced out of thin air. But those things don’t magically appear. They come from an abundance of long, hard work.

Sawing a person in half.

This is a classic piece of magic. An assistant climbs into a box, and the magician uses a saw or sharp blades to separate the assistant into pieces; only to reassemble the assistant moments later, without a scratch!

In marriage, spouses will cut one another, with words or actions, and expect them to bounce back as if no harm was done. But you cannot hurt your spouse without leaving some sort of scar that they will carry for a long time. And sometimes a spouse can be cut so badly they can’t be put back together. So be very careful with your words and actions.

Reading a person’s mind.

It’s amazing when a magician can tell a person what card they drew or what number they’re thinking of. A magician can call upon someone they claim to have never met, and yet tell them things about their life in amazing detail. It’s like the magician can read minds.

I want to remind you that you cannot read your spouse’s mind. So don’t make assumptions about what they’re thinking, what they’re going to say, or what they desire. To do so is disrespectful and a sure way to get yourself in trouble.  Yes, you should get to know your spouse so well, you have a pretty good guess of what they’re thinking. But you should never assume you can read their mind. Ask questions and clarify responses. You’ll be better off for it.

Escaping the impossible.

One of my favorite magicians was Harry Houdini. He became famous as an escape artist, who bragged that he could escape from any shackle, restraint, or container. And whether through trickery or physical prowess, it seemed he could escape from anything.

Too often, we tend to believe we should be able to escape problems and hardships in marriage. We will try to ignore them, avoid them, and run from them. And when those escape tactics don’t work, we will blame things on our spouse or assume we’ve married the wrong person. But unlike a magician, you cannot escape from problems and hardships in marriage. You must go through them and learn from them.

A Final Thought…

Magicians make what they do look amazing and magical. But what you don’t see is all the years of hard work and practice that went into making it look like magic.

Marriage is not a magic show. If you put in the years of hard work and practice, your marriage will look like magic to others, but you’ll know how the trick is done. You’ll know it’s not magic, but rather years of trial and error, loving and learning, serving and sacrifice.

But if you stick with it long enough, you will eventually come to the end of your life and think…TADA!

Why Did You Get Married?

WHY DO PEOPLE GET MARRIED?

When I am counseling couples, I often ask them this question: “Why did you get married?“ The answers vary…

  • I fell in love with them.
  • We had so much in common.
  • I loved spending time with them.
  • We were tired of going home at the end of the date.
  • It just felt like the right time.
  • I was ready to build a life and a family with them.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all good reasons. But eventually, they are not enough to sustain a marriage. The longer you’re married the more difficult marriage becomes…leaving the above reasons insufficient.

WHY ARE THESE REASONS ARE NOT ENOUGH?

Look again at the reasons listed above…

I fell in love with them.

It’s certainly preferable to fall in love with the person you’re going to marry. But if that’s the main reason for getting married, what happens when you fall out of love? Throughout the course of the marriage, that feeling of falling in love with your spouse will come and go. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than falling in love.

We had so much in common.

People who come to me for premarital counseling focus on how much they have in common. But people who come to me for marriage counseling focus on how different they are. Early in the relationship, we tend to maximize our similarities and minimize our differences. But eventually, the differences begin to force their way to the top. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than your similarities.

I loved spending time with them.

There is a correlation between the amount of quality time we spend together and our feelings of love for one another. Early in the marriage, we’re afforded a lot of quality time together. But the longer you’re married, the more the demands on your time mount, and the less quality time you have. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than loving to spend time together.

We were tired of going home at the end of the date.

I hear this from a lot of people in premarital counseling. The consistent feeling of not wanting to be away from the other is certainly a good sign that this person may be the one. But many couples underestimate the issues that can arise from living under the same roof day in and day out. Some spouses even start yearning for more time alone. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than wanting to spend all your time together.

It just felt like the right time.

Often, when I ask couples why now is the time to get married, they will say, “it just feels right.” But, feelings have a way of coming and going. There will be times in marriage when you might even question whether it really was right or not. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than just a gut feeling that the time is right.

I was ready to build a life and family with them.

Of all the reasons, this is probably one of the better ones. But it is still a reason that stands on shaky ground because we have no idea what that life will look like. And what happens when that family grows up and moves on? These things will change, so you need a bigger reason for marriage than just the desire to build a life and a family with this person.

SO WHAT IS THE BETTER REASON?

When our original reasons don’t work like they use to, we typically try to get our spouse to change…so that things can feel like they used to be. But this creates tension and conflict in a marriage and usually makes matters worse.

When our former reasons don’t seem to be working, the answer is not to change our spouse. It’s to change us! That’s the real reason for marriage.

We need to understand that all the above reasons are good and important, but they are merely gateways to connect us and bring us into marriage. They can’t sustain a marriage. The real reason for getting married is that God uses marriage to mold and shape us into who we need to be. This is what it means when Scripture says, “the two become one.”

God wants to use our marriage to make us less selfish and more sacrificial. To be less self-focused and more other-focused. To learn to love more for what we can give than what we can get. It’s just that we don’t tend to see this early in the relationship. It’s something we need to grow into with time and experience.

A FINAL WORD…

No matter how you answer the question, “Why did you get married?” there’s a bigger and better question for you to answer. That question is, “Why are you married now?” If your answer is so you can grow into a better person for your spouse, you’re on the right track.

An Easy Way to Spice Up Your Marriage

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “spice up your marriage,” the first thing that comes to my mind is coming home from work and finding my wife in the kitchen wearing nothing but an apron and a smile. (Sorry…too much information.)

Well, let me say before we go any further…this post is not about sex. So, wives, you can relax; and husbands, you can be disappointed.

But I believe that if you take this post to heart and begin to practice some of the things we’re going to talk about, it can be an easy way to spice up your marriage.

COMMON COURTESY

Believe it or not, one of the easiest ways to spice up your marriage is by practicing common courtesy. You’ve done this in the past when you were dating, and hopefully, you’re still doing it.

What Is Common courtesy?

Common courtesy is showing simple acts of kindness, politeness, and deference toward your spouse. It’s things like:

  • Saying thank you.
  • Holding the door.
  • Asking if you can help.
  • Complimenting.
  • Letting them go first.
  • Asking them what they would like to do.
  • Refreshing their drink.
  • Clearing the table.
  • Impromptu texts or calls to say, “I love you.”
  • Washing their car.
  • Letting them choose the movie or music.
  • Asking for forgiveness.
  • Saying excuse me.
  • Greeting them with a hug and a smile when they come home (even if your clothes are on.)

You can build your own list because common courtesy is as different and varied as marriage itself.

As I said, this is something we all did early in the relationship. It’s part of the reason we fell so in love with one another. But the longer we’re married, the more we let time, responsibilities, stressors, children, and fatigue crowd out common courtesy in our marriage.

Why is Common Courtesy Important?

When we let common courtesy slip, it begins to dull our feelings of love for one another.

You may be thinking…

“Yeah, but we’ve been married for a long time. They know I love them. Is it really that important that I keep doing these things?”

And the answer is…YES! Common courtesy is important because it adds the everyday spices a marriage needs. What are those spices?

  • Honor. Common courtesy is an everyday way of honoring your spouse.
  • Value. Common courtesy is an everyday way of showing you value your spouse.
  • Blessing. Common courtesy is an everyday way of blessing your spouse.
  • Sacrifice. Common courtesy is an everyday way of showing simple, on-going sacrifice.
  • Love. Common courtesy is an everyday way of demonstrating basic, boots-on-the-ground love.
  • Modeling. Common courtesy is an everyday way of modeling all the above, not just for your spouse, but for your children.

These are the daily spices you can add to your marriage by showing common courtesy. Doing this on a daily basis can help awaken a sleeping marriage and strengthen a good marriage because it shows your spouse they’re too important to overlook. And when they know that, they will tend to do the same for you.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Let’s be honest. This is not a big ask. It’s one of the simplest and easiest things you can do to invest in your marriage. It’s cheaper than marriage retreats, counseling, and divorce. It doesn’t cost you anything!

So do something simple, easy, and inexpensive to spice up your marriage. Spice up your marriage by showing common courtesy to your spouse. Who knows…it might lead to even spicier things!

Priming the Pump

THE FEELING

Do you feel like you’re starving in your marriage? Maybe you’ve not admitted it to anyone. Perhaps you’ve tried to downplay it, rationalize it, or ignore it. But you feel it. Inside, you’re starving for:

  • Attention.
  • Affection.
  • Time.
  • Support.
  • Appreciation.
  • Acceptance.
  • Encouragement.
  • Etc.

Whatever it may be, if you feel like you’re starving for something in marriage, there’s an allegorical story about Heaven and Hell that has a direct application for you…

THE STORY

There was a man who took a tour of Hell. There, he found the inhabitants of Hell sitting at banquet tables loaded with the richest, most desired food they could ever imagine. Each person had eating utensils in their hands, but their arms were fixed to planks of wood which prevented them from bending their arms to feed themselves. Consequently, everyone sat in the presence of all the food they wanted…yet they were starving.

Then, the man took a tour of Heaven. He was surprised to find that the situation was the same in heaven. The inhabitants of Heaven sat at banquet tables full of the most sumptuous food they could desire, but they too were unable to bend their arms to feed themselves.

Yet the inhabitants of Heaven were well fed and satisfied, while the inhabitants of Hell sat starving. Why? Because the inhabitants of Heaven focused on feeding each other rather than feeding themselves!

THE LESSON

A marriage where spouses are only focused on getting their own needs met can feel a little like Hell, while a marriage where spouses are focused on meeting each other’s needs can feel a lot like Heaven.

If you feel like you’re starving in your marriage, perhaps it’s because you’re more focused on getting your needs met than meeting your spouse’s needs.

Now I can hear some thinking, “What about my spouse? Aren’t they supposed to meet my needs? It would be a lot easier to tend to their needs if they were meeting mine!”

I know. I know. I’ve felt the same thing at times. But that line of thinking only gets you more frustrated and entrenched in your ways…which, by the way, doesn’t work! You don’t change your marriage by changing your spouse. You change your marriage by changing you!

THE HOMEWORK

To paraphrase from the ancient words of the New Testament, a person reaps what they sow. (Gal. 6:7 NIV)

Rather than complaining about what you’re not getting in your marriage, start by giving your spouse the very thing you want.

  • If you’re starving for attention, try giving attention to your spouse.
  • If you’re starving for affection, try giving your spouse affection.
  • If you’re starving for time with your spouse, try giving your spouse more time.
  • (You get the idea.)

A FINAL STORY

I grew up in the country, and in our front yard, we had an old long-handled pump. If you wanted to get water, you would pump and pump that handle, and eventually, water would come out. (And yes, I know this makes me sound ancient.)

But sometimes, you would pump and pump, and no water would come out. When this happened, you would have to prime the pump. To do this, you would have to dip some water from a nearby bucket and pour the water into the top of the pump, while you continued to pump the handle. When you did this, the pump would eventually start to give out water.

In other words, when the pump seemed to stop working, you had to put water in to get water out.

This is what you need to do in marriage when you feel like you’re starving for something. Whatever it is you desire from your spouse, you need to start pouring into your spouse. It may sound counter-intuitive, but what have you got to lose?

How to Prioritize Partnering Over Parenting

In the last post, we talked about how parenting can take its toll on partnering. If you haven’t read that post, I encourage you to check it out.

To quickly summarize…without proper care and attention, children can turn you from playmates to roommates. You can wind up focusing so much on being good parents you forget how to be good partners. This is how marital drift often starts.

But the good news is you can turn this around. Although the sooner the better, it’s never too late to prioritize your partnering over your parenting.

PRIORITIZING YOUR PARTNERING OVER YOUR PARENTING

There are many ways you can start to reclaim your partnering. Here are just a few:

Maintain a Regular Date Night.

I’m talking about a planned, scheduled, just-the-two-of-you date night. If you have to stop and think about when you last did that…it’s been too long! Budget for, and reserve, a regular sitter…even if you have to cut back somewhere financially to make this happen. It’s that important.

Carve Out Time to Be Together Each Day.

I know this is hard, but be creative. You may need to put the kids to bed a little earlier. I’m surprised by how many parents sacrifice time together just because they don’t want to go through the hassle of putting their kids to bed a little earlier.

There are other things you can do. Maybe you need to withhold the kid’s favorite videos so you can use them for those times when you want to spend some time together. My wife and I would take our kids to the park or the indoor playground at McDonald’s where they could play while we sat and talked. (Bring a friend for them to play with.)

Use your imagination, but do whatever you have to to get some daily time together.

Repeatedly Show Your Kids That Your Spouse Comes First.

When my kids were little and I would come home from work, the first thing I would do when I came through the door was to pull my wife close, give her a kiss, and hold her while we spent a few moments talking. When this happened, my children would try to worm their way between us, vying for our attention. But, like a mean father, I would make them wait their turn. (They hated it.)

This didn’t change when they were teens. They just changed their tactics. They didn’t try to worm their way between us anymore. Instead, it was, “Dad, can I have $20? Mom, would you drive me to my friend’s house? Dad, can I have the keys to the car?“ Again, I would make them wait their turn. This finally aggravated them so much they blurted out, “Why do you do this to us?!”  I told them, “Your mom was here before you were here, and she will be here long after you’re gone. You’re short-timers here and you’re not even paying rent! So you can wait your turn.” (Needless to say, this didn’t go over very well.)

There are other ways you can impress upon your children (and your spouse) that your spouse comes first. Opening the door for your wife. Giving your spouse first choice. Sitting close together and occasionally making the kids find somewhere else to sit. Always defending your spouse in front of the kids. Again, be creative, but show your kids that your spouse comes first.

Lock Your Bedroom Door.

You cannot say you’re prioritizing your partnering if you’re not prioritizing your sex life.  And one of the ways you do that is by locking your bedroom door. If you’re one of those people who feel it’s cruel to lock your children out of your bedroom, think about this…

I read a story about some parents who, after checking to ensure their child was asleep, decided it was safe to have sex. But just when things were at a climax (pun intended) they looked over to the side of the bed to find their child jumping up and down saying, “Can I ride too?!” The story ends with this couple promptly installing locks on their bedroom door.

Locks are necessary when you have small children who forget and who occasionally get scared at night. If you’re afraid they might get sick and you won’t hear them, then install a monitor. Just make sure it only works one way!

If your children are teens, locks are still a good idea. But the biggest deterrent is to tell them, “If our door is closed, you don’t want to go in there, because you might see something you can’t unsee.” (Wink, wink.) That will scare them off!

These are just a few of the ways to get your partnering back in front of your parenting. I’m sure you have others, and I would love it if you would leave comments and suggestions to help the rest of us out!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is…yes, you should love your children and yes, you should sacrifice for your children. But you shouldn’t allow your parenting to take priority over your partnering.

And the biggest reason why is that one day, your children will consciously or unconsciously pattern their marriage after yours. So set a good example of putting partnering ahead of parenting.

Is Your Marriage Out of Focus?

When you go to have your eyes checked, the first thing they do is determine your focus. They want to know what you’re able to focus on and what you’re not.

Just like your eyes, the health of your marriage has a lot to do with your focus. And just like your eyes, your focus can change over time.

IN THE BEGINING

When I officiate a wedding ceremony for a young couple, I lead them through vows that sound something like this…

“Do you promise to love and cherish (insert name) for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?”

As I’m leading a couple through these vows, I know that even though they’re repeating the words, they’re really only focusing on the “better, richer, health” side of things. And it’s this focus that produces the “honeymoon” period, where they are deeply in love with one another.

A MARRIAGE OUT OF FOCUS

But, over time, spouses begin to shift from focusing on the “better” to focusing on the “worse.” Our focus on our spouse shifts:

  • From how they build us up to how they let us down.
  • From their endearing qualities to their irritating traits.
  • From what they use to do for us to what they fail to do for us.
  • From their faithful commitment to their lack of chemistry.

It’s funny how couples start off focusing on the positive, but as time goes on, their focus shifts from the positive to the negative. It’s this shift in focus that changes their appreciation for one another and turns the tide in their marriage from high tide to low tide.

When this happens, the marriage is out of focus and the couple needs to refocus.

REFOCUSING

Always remember that when it comes to marriage:

  • Your focus determines your attitude.
  • Your attitude determines your actions.
  • And your actions determine your outcomes.

You would be surprised at how you can change your feelings about your marriage simply by changing your focus. And it is possible to change your focus. Here are a few things that will help you refocus:

  • Pull out your wedding album and spend time looking at the photos.
  • Tell stories of your wedding, your honeymoon, or the first years of your marriage.
  • Talk about what you found attractive about one another.
  • Every day, find one thing about your spouse to appreciate and be thankful for.
  • Find some act of kindness to do for your spouse each day.
  • Remember how you use to flirt with one another and put more of that in your marriage.
  • Compliment and encourage your spouse at least once a day.

Try doing these things for a month – even if you don’t feel like it! You will be surprised how this will refocus your attitudes and actions toward your spouse.

Just like the health of your eyes depends on their ability to focus properly, the health of your marriage depends on your ability to focus properly.

What are you focusing on?