News Flash! Ken and Barbie Aren’t Real!

I went to a wedding recently and I was struck by how perfect the bride and groom looked. They appeared to have it all together. Young, good looking, every hair in place, makeup just right, smiling perfectly. They looked just like Ken and Barbie. (Assuming Ken and Barbie are married.)

Who wouldn’t want to be Ken and Barbie. They have great looks, great bodies, great clothes, a great convertible, and let’s not forget the great dream house!

There’s just one problem…

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When You Fight, Point the Fire Extinguisher in the Right Direction

Fred and Alice (not their real names) came into my office because they had been fighting over Fred’s failure to let Alice know when he would be home from work. The fighting was damaging their marriage, so they came in for help in resolving it. By the end of the session, the three of us had agreed on a game plan to fix the problem. Everyone seemed happy with the plan, and Fred was expressing his gratitude and commitment to work the plan. Then, just when I thought everyone was going to leave happy,

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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!

If You Love Them, Prove It

When the couple walked into my counseling office, it was obvious things were not good between them. Their heads were down, there were very little pleasantries offered, they chose opposite sofas on which to sit, and neither wanted to be the first to talk. When they finally started opening up, each told story after story about how the other had overlooked them, stopped spending time with them, and failed to act lovingly toward them. And each confirmed that they had been acting that way toward the other!

Now, here’s the kicker…when I asked them why they were still in the marriage, each said, “Because I love them!” It was at that point, I wanted to say, “Prove it.”

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Has Your Marriage Lost the Magic?

It was late at night, and I was sick. It felt like someone had poured concrete in my head and chest. I had a sharp, hacking cough that sounded like a hammer on a tin roof. And though I had elevated my head in the bed, I was still tossing and turning.

My wife was in the bed, but was unable to sleep. (Gee, I wonder why.) She had spent most of the night lying in bed reading, but early in the morning she put down the book, turned off the light, and laid her head down facing me. (You can almost guess where this is going.) Unbeknownst to me, I rolled over facing her and coughed…one of those forceful, spraying coughs…right in her face!

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The Crowded Marriage.

Let’s start by stating the obvious…it’s been a little over 8 months since I have posted to Normal Marriage. I realized this when, on a trip back home, I ran into a niece who asked me if I had kicked her off my Normal Marriage mailing list, because she hadn’t gotten a new post in “forever.”

I could give you a lot of detailed reasons for why it’s been so long, but the long and the short of it is life crept in and crowded Normal Marriage out.

Ever had that happen? Ever had the demands of life crowd out your marriage? The demands of life come in all shapes and sizes…

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Deuteronomy 13 – Anything Other Than Devoted Exclusivity

Funny thing about marriage…it needs devoted exclusivity to survive. Marriage can survive all types of problems and upheavals, but it cannot survive if a spouse continues to share his or hear devotion with someone else.

Funny thing about a relationship with God…it needs devoted exclusivity to survive. A relationship with God can survive all types of problems and upheavals, but it cannot survive if a person continues to share their devotion with anyone or anything else.

This is what Deuteronomy chapter 13 is telling us. God must come first! He alone can be God in our life. He alone deserves our highest devotion; (even over our spouse and our children.) He will not share the throne of our life with anything or anyone else. And any attempt to get Him to do so will cause us to forfeit the closeness, intimacy, and trust we had with Him.

We allow so many things to fragment our devotion to God. But allowing anything else to hold the place that only God should hold in our life is an act of betrayal and infidelity on our part, and will create a serious breach in our relationship with God. Anything other than devoted exclusivity to God hurts our relationship with God.

May we examine our life and ask, “Are there any other gods in my life?”

Is Your Marriage on the Calendar?

It’s New Year’s Day (2019) and this is a picture of our new calendar. I know, it’s old-school, but, every Christmas I create a new calendar featuring pictures of my grandchildren. I saw it this morning, and I started thinking about how much calendars are a part of our lives.

They are in our phones and our computers. We hang them on our walls and put them on our desks. In them, we put things that are important to us. Things we don’t want to forget or miss.

So here’s the big question…Is your marriage on the calendar?

As a pastoral counselor and a husband of nearly 39 years, I believe a calendar is one of the most effective tools you have for strengthening your marriage.

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The Jagged Journey of Markets and Marriage.

The Stock Market is not for the faint of heart, because it’s not a smooth ride. It’s a jagged journey of ups and downs. Likewise, marriage is not for the faint of heart, because it also is a jagged journey of ups and downs.

We all want our marriage to continually and consistently get better and better. If it were a a graph, we all want a nice, straight line that keeps going up and up. But marriage is not like that. It’s a little more like the stock market. It can be doing well one minute, and then there’s a change or some new information that rocks the boat and causes some jagged dips in the line. In fact, if you took even the best of marriages and plotted their satisfaction and happiness on a graph, the line would be jagged with many ups and downs.

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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:

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