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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Season of Giving Love

Hello Uplifting Love Readers,

I am not the famous Tyson that so eloquently writes this blog.  I am his wife, Cami.

Tyson is off and about currently and I had a sudden urge to write about Christmas.  I LOVE Christmas.  I love presents and packages and mail and hot chocolate and surprises.  So seriously, I just relish in this season.  I am kind of self centered too, so having lots of gifts for me is the best.  Tyson is so great about finding or creating something for me that I will love.  Every year he surprises me with something better than the year before.

I am not writing this to tell you all how wonderful my husband is (okay, a little) and make all you women jealous.  But I just wanted to remind everyone (including myself), that we should really focus on other people right now.  Especially our spouse, the person we love most.  Think about what they love and enjoy and do something special for them.  Make them know they are loved.  If you are having a hard time thinking of something great to do, there are so many ideas online or in books just ready to be shared. (For example here and here

So go be great and give your love the gift that will light a giant smile on their face.

You will be happy you did.

And Merry Christmas from Uplifting Love!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Catchy Title

We were coming home from church meetings on Sunday and another driver tried to be kind to us. We were attempting to make a left turn and a driver in an oncoming traffic lane stopped to let us turn in front of him. The problem is that his side of the road was two lanes so it wasn’t safe for us to turn even though he had stopped. After a few seconds of him being patient and waiting for us he got agitated and aggressively waived us forward. I suddenly lost my temper and decided to turn to please the guy. Almost immediately I realized that I was sacrificing the safety of my family to please some stranger in a truck and I became angry at myself. My level of anger/irritation at the entire situation escalated yet again when a car almost t-boned us as we crossed the second lane. All of this because someone, trying to do a nice thing, became irritated and I reacted.

As I have reflected on this over the last two days I have wondered how often this happens. How often do I get upset and make unwise decisions because of someone else? I suspect it is far more than I care to admit.

Last night as my wife and I were winding down our evening activities and beginning to prepare to retire to bed I had an idea that I wanted to flesh out a little bit more for a project I am managing at work. I sat down at the computer to ensure that I emailed my idea and corresponding details to myself before I forgot. While I did so my wife finished getting ready for bed, asked that I do the same, and then proceeded to bed. Once there she sweetly and gently reminded me that she missed me and wanted me to join her. After the second or third reminder I, once again, suddenly became irritated and responded aggressively to her that I would come in a minute indicating that this would only be possible if she stopped harassing me (she wasn’t harassing me, I was being absurd). This hurt her feelings, I felt ashamed to have treated my beautiful and wonderful wife so poorly, and I immediately ended what I was doing and went to seek her forgiveness.

Both of these experiences have led me to ask these questions: “How often am I unkind to those that I love most? Why do I do it?” I believe the answers are: far too often and because they will still love me. How dumb is that?! I am unkind to those that I am closest to because they will still love me. I believe this should be the other way around. I should be nicest to those I love most because they love me. Often I do or say silly/unkind things to my loved ones because I am irritated by what another said or did. How absurd.

Admittedly, I have a lot to work on in my struggle to become a better person but I believe that this is common among most people, that we are often unkind to those we care most about. I invite your thoughts on why this is and what can be done to do better.

(Don’t worry, I have a wonderfully forgiving wife who, after a sincerely apology from me, promptly forgave me. Isn’t she amazing?)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mariachi Mayhem

Last night my wife called me and asked what I wanted for dinner. She’s been a little under the weather again and wasn’t really feeling up to making dinner so I suggested that we go out to eat. There is this new Mexican restaurant in a neighboring town that I have heard good things about so we decided take the kids and go and try it out. 

When we arrived there was a sign just outside the front door that read “Thursday night: live mariachi band.” My first reaction was “cool!” We went inside and were seated really quickly. Then it happened. The music started. From that point for a straight 45 minutes the music was so loud in this small restaurant that I couldn’t hear myself think. I had to read the menu items three or four times before my brain would grasp what I was reading because of the noise. They were a good band and played quite a few different songs. They would move from table to table in the restaurant serenading the patrons. It was neat, except I found myself getting irritated. At first I thought it was because of the noise but after we had been there for twenty minutes or so I realized it was because it was so loud that I couldn’t talk to my beautiful wife or our children. Literally, when the waitress came to take our order I pointed to the menu items I ordered for myself and my son. I didn’t even try to talk because I would have had to yell. This realization, that I was annoyed because I couldn’t talk with my family, really surprised me. I thought about it some more (as much as I was able with the noise) and realized that I underappreciate just how much I enjoy talking with my wife and children and just how much fun and how important it really is.

When the band finally made its way to the far side of the restaurant and the noise died down I quickly seized the opportunity to strike up a conversation with my wife and sons. I complimented my wife on how lovely she looked and thanked her for going out to dinner with me. I asked my sons if they were enjoying their food and if they liked the music (they responded affirmatively. They LOVED watching the band and listening to the music). And I simply enjoyed being able to have a conversation with my family again. I am grateful for the reminder of the importance of talking with our spouses and families and will remember this lesson for some time to come.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Moral Support

About a year and a half ago I decided that I needed to lose some weight. I’m not terribly overweight (though my wife saw a chart at her doctor’s office and, according to it, I am obese. She likes to tease me about it) but I have gained some weight since we were married. I started to walk in the mornings before work and recently I’ve finally decided to modify my diet slightly. When I ran across this cartoon by Randy Glasbergen I had to share it. He’s got some really good cartoons on his site (glasbergen.com) but this one rang true to me. This just reminded me so much of my wife and how she is supportive of my “creative” approach to losing weight. Enjoy!

glasbergen.com


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Out of Sickness, Gratitude

 
My family has been sick for the last few days.  I mean really sick.  They have all had those colds that just put you out of commission.  I have been fighting hard to not get it as well (I think I'm losing that battle though) as I have tried to take care of them.  Sunday was the worst day of it.  My wife was feeling really horrible; exhausted, achy, stuffed-up, with a really bad cough.  I stayed home with her and the children most of the day caring for them so that she could rest up and recover.  Thankfully it worked.  By yesterday morning she was feeling much better, not 100% but better.

As I tried to take care of everyone I reflected on how much my wife does to keep our home and family running.  I know that she is amazing and does a lot, much more than I even know, but sometimes I need a reminder of just how tirelessly she works.  Sunday was that reminder.  The dishes are never done.  Each time you finish washing them within minutes there is a new dirty dish in the sink.  The kids need and demand nearly constant attention and with three children it is difficult to balance getting things done and dedicating sufficient time to them.  If you clean a room and then leave it the kids will have it messy again within ten minutes.  I think that children have some kind of internal mechanism that helps them sense when a table or counter is clean because you barely finish wiping it off and suddenly it's sticky again or has crayon shavings or bread crumbs on it.  It is a constant battle to keep our home habitable.  She fights this battle everyday (typically with far too little help from me) and wins almost every day.  After one day of this struggle I was exhausted.  I truly do not know how she does it day in and day out.

I am grateful that my wife and family got sick this past weekend.  Not because I enjoy them being sick (or because I enjoy getting sick whenever they do) but because of the increased appreciation I have for my beautiful and capable wife.  I could never do all that she does with half the expertise and any of the positive attitude that she maintains.  She is amazing.  I am grateful for her and all moms everywhere like her that put their families first and work so diligently to care for them.  I love you sweetheart.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Autumn is a Beautiful Season

 
Autumn is such a beautiful season. I love where we live in Virginia because the leaves always change into such incredible and beautiful colors. It is amazing to look at the hills around us and see them seemingly on fire with color. The reds, yellows, oranges, and greens combined are breathtaking. Along with fall also come cooler temperatures, a little bit more rain, and shorter days. It’s harder to get things done in the yard but we have fun playing in the leaves as a family (we have several large oak trees in our yard so we have tens of thousands of leaves each year). My favorite part of fall, however, is spending time with my wife. With the cooler temperatures she is more amenable to cuddling with me so throughout the winter and early spring I get to snuggle with her on the couch as we watch movies together. The shorter days give us the opportunity to read more books together since we can’t really do anything outside in the dark. There is also a scenic drive through the hills in our area that we take together each year to enjoy the fall foliage. Despite all of this our spending time together is not unique to the fall. We find different ways and times to spend time with each other year round. Picnics in the summer, going out to dinner and theatre productions in the winter, long walks admiring the flowers in the spring; any time is a good time to spend with your spouse. Just find an excuse and seize it. Go have some fun.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No kids, boring!

I don’t have much “spare” time anymore. Between work, volunteering in my church, taking care of my family, and taking care of my house and yard I don’t have much time for anything else. Often my wife and I try and remember what it was like before we had children because they take up so much of our time now and we really can’t remember. Sometimes I try imagine what it would be like if we still didn’t have children (just out of curiosity, I love all three of them). What I picture is awfully empty and boring. While the children are exhausting and time consuming we know that not having them in our lives would be sad and boring. I don’t know what we did before our children were born. We laugh so hard each day because of the things they do and say. Here are a few of the more recent sayings and doings that we laughed about as we fell asleep last night (we do this often).

Our oldest will be five next month. He is in preschool and this week they are learning about the letter “T” so they cut out a letter T from some paper and then colored it like a tiger. I get home from work yesterday and he comes running up to me, T in hand, and here’s the conversation that follows:

Son: “Dad, we made a tiger today. Look tiger for T.”
Me: “That’s awesome! But you mean T for tiger, right?”
Son: “Yeah, that’s what I said. Tiger for T.”
Me: “T for tiger?”
Son (giving me an irritated and quizzical look at the same time): “yeah, tiger for T.”
Me: “Right, tiger for T. You did a great job.” And he walks away satisfied.

Our second son (we have three boys) is sitting next to his great-grandfather listening to him read stories. It’s early evening, a couple of hours before our son’s bedtime, and all of a sudden he just falls over, sound asleep. We call his name a couple of times; no response. It’s common for the kids to be playing, wide awake, and then all of sudden pass-out. It’s always adorable.

Our youngest, who is one, decided to put a large plastic bowl on his head yesterday afternoon and walk around the house. If he saw someone he would tip it forward so that it covered his face and then act a little bit sneakier; he was convinced that if he couldn’t see us then we couldn’t see him. It was like he had a bowl of invisibility. Then, suddenly, he would throw the bowl back and squeal. We, of course, were obliged to act surprised and he would laugh and laugh and then quickly pull the bowl back over his face and wander away returning every couple of minutes to “surprise us” again.

Children are wonderful. My wife and I try to record as much of their childhood as we can so they can see how weird/funny they were when they are older.  But also, so that we don’t forget many of these small and simple experiences that make us love them even more. I’m grateful for my sons and don’t have any idea what I would do without them.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Turn it off!

 
It’s important to spend time with your spouse but how do we find the time? Here’s a suggestion, turn it off. What is “it” that I am referring to? Anything that comes in between you or interrupts, or has the potential to interrupt, your time together. If you are in the car, even for a few minutes, turn off the radio. Don’t force a conversation but sincerely ask your spouse what they are thinking about or how they are feeling. If they don’t feel like just opening up immediately (which may often be the case) that’s okay. Leave the radio off and wait. Most likely nine times out of ten they’ll open up and begin talking. And WHAMMO! you have a conversation.

Another suggestion is to turn off your cell phones or take the landline off the hook. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out to dinner with my wife or simply at home watching a movie and snuggling and the phone will ring. Sometimes I suspect that the world is conspiring against us because we’ll be in the middle of a great conversation or just got comfortable in front of the television and RING! So turn it off.

Close your laptop or put away your iPad or smartphone. How many times I have seen couples together that are miles apart. Each of them surfing the internet looking at different things every few minutes saying “huh” and the other goes “what?” and then they share and both go back to being apart. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this but if the goal is to spend time together this isn’t the way.

The next time you and your spouse are trying to spend time together, consider turning “it” off, whatever “it” is. You’ll actually get to spend time with each other, mentally as well as physically.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doing the Dishes and Other Things

 
I was speaking with a friend yesterday about his workplace and he shared some of the conversations that go on there on a regular basis. The one that intrigued me the most was about two of his co-workers, both married, and their conversations about marriage. The younger individual hasn’t been married for very long and seeks the advice of the other because he has been married for several years. My friend related that he often overhears the advice that is given to this newly wed which at times makes him cringe. This got me thinking about marriage advice in general and how abysmal much of it is. After six years of marriage (which I recognize does not make me an expert) the best advice I have is two-fold: make sure your priorities are correct and remember the small and simple things.

The hierarchy of priorities in one’s life should be first, their relationship with God; second, their relationship with their spouse; third, their relationship with their children; fourth, providing for and taking care of their family; then everything else. When our relationships are arranged in this order we will be able to receive direction from God that helps us show love for our spouse and family and care for them. God will bless our relationships and efforts and our capacity to love and accomplish will be enhanced.

Remembering the small and simple things is critical to finding and maintaining happiness in our lives and marriages. Expressing gratitude, carrying out random acts of kindness, saying “l love you,” spending time with those we love, doing the dishes and other household chores; these are the kinds of things that are simple to do but make all the difference in our lives. The more we do these things the happier we will be and the more satisfying our relationships, including marriage, will be. It’s simple, do the small things often.

That’s my advice: keep your priorities straight and do the small and simple things. While that sounds simple doing it takes effort, constant effort, but it’s worth it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What an Endeavor

My wife and I have a young family. With three children under the age of five most days are quite hectic. My sweet wife also began babysitting another child, two years old, recently to provide our family with a few additional dollars each month. Let’s just say that some days are hard. Sometimes she feels like she is at the breaking point.

Being a young father trying to establish my career, provide for my family, and give back to the community my days aren’t always simple and fun either. Sometimes I feel like I am at the breaking point. 

Yesterday was one of those days for both of us. I came home for lunch frustrated and tired to an exhausted and stressed wife. I vented, then she vented, then we told the children they had to stay in the front room and we went back to our bedroom to talk through it. She teared up, I listened and comforted. I complained and she encouraged. By the end of it (slightly over my allotted hour for lunch) we felt better. We were smiling and laughing. Yet, nothing in our lives had changed.

As I reflected on this throughout the afternoon and evening I realized that life is easier, and just plain better, when we smile and laugh. Laughter seems to lessen life’s burdens and provides me strength. It diffuses tension and stress. Interestingly, some time after we were married, an older lady whom we consider a friend and who also happened to have been married for 15+ years told us that she didn’t worry about our marriage succeeding because we know how to laugh together. Families who laugh together stay together.

I am grateful that I can laugh. I am grateful that my wife can laugh. I am most grateful that we can laugh together. As long as we are laughing I know we’ll make it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Marketing, Apple, and Marriage

Marketing has always been a weakness of mine. I look at people around me who seem to be good at marketing and sales and they appear to be self-confident, smart, exciting, maybe even a bit flashy. They know how to work a crowd and feel at home with strangers and friends alike. I, however, have never enjoyed being around strangers and do not feel “flashy” at all. I believe that I am self-confident and smart but that just doesn’t seem to be enough. I really struggled with this in high school because my best friend was definitely a salesman. All of the girls paid attention to him; sometimes I was even worried that my girlfriend liked him more than me. He was a huge flirt. 

Some of these concerns about whether I was exciting enough or “flashy” carried over into college. I tried to overcome this and be someone I wasn’t but it didn’t feel right. I was afraid that I might not have a chance with the girls because of it. What I learned, however, was that marketing is less about groups of people and more about one person. You don’t need a group of people to know who you are when you’re in the “dating game,” rather, you need each person in the group to know who you are. Marketing is about relationships, one-on-one relationships. That’s how I won over my wife. I was introduced to a group of young ladies, began to get to know them individually, and picked my wife from their midst. 

We can learn a lot about this from Apple. Just look what has been happening with the iPhone 5 the last few days. They have made it to the individual level. I bet you, like me, can think of someone who mentioned the iPhone 5 to you today.

Individuals, it’s what marketing is all about. How about helping me market this post? Go on, share it with your friends. Let’s pretend it’s the iPhone 5.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The World Famous San Diego Zoo

Last month I traveled with my family to San Diego to attend my little sister’s wedding. It was wonderful to spend a few days with family and get caught up with some old friends whose home we were able to stay at. We also got to go to the world famous San Diego Zoo. It was a ton of fun. My sons loved seeing all of the animals and I found myself getting caught up in their excitement, running from animal to animal and telling them all about each one. However, as the day wore on, I found my energy beginning to run low but realizing that we still had a lot to see. After another hour or two in the hot sun I found myself getting irritated by little things those around did or did not do, things that normally wouldn’t bother me at all. Finally, my wife and I had a little disagreement over whether one of the boys was too old to ride in the stroller and I snapped. I ended the discussion like a child and just walked away. Well, of course she was tired too and so she let me walk away (in fact she was probably thinking something like “what a little baby” as I walked away). It took me about five minutes to realize I had just disrespected the person that I care most about in the world and had walked away from her. Then, to top it all off, I was forced to accept that I was wrong and she was right and I now needed to apologize to her to make things right again. After that realization it was probably another five minutes before I mustered the courage to swallow my pride and walk back over to her and grovel for forgiveness. Thankfully she is a much better person than I am and she did not make me grovel, but she did agree with me that I was wrong. And I was.

This is one of the things that I love most about my relationship with my wife. We trust one another and we want to ensure that nothing damages that trust. We are quick to ask and extend forgiveness when it is needed. That takes humility and trust. Forgiveness, both asking for it and giving it, is necessary to enjoying uplifting love.

(The zoo was wonderful, by the way. If you ever get the chance to go, do)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE!

Sometimes we just need to be alone. My wife and I love being together. We spend every minute we can together. We wish that I didn’t have to go to work every day so that we could spend even more time together. But sometimes, we each just need to take some time for ourselves and be alone. This is something that even Jesus Christ did from time to time. We see this in Matthew chapter 14, Mark chapter 6, and John chapter 6. He leaves behind the multitudes and His disciples and spends some time alone. If the Savior of the world needed some time alone I am confident that we do too.

Recently my wife spent the evening at a Girls Night Out event put on by the local chapter of the MOMS Club of which she is a member. I was at home with the children. Other evenings I am attending a church function or service project and she is at home. I go on walks some mornings before work to give myself some time to think. When I am in the car alone I often leave the radio off so that I can have some time to ponder and reflect.  

We need to make sure that we have alone time. Often it is when we are alone that we can best think, review recent events, release stress and tension, pray, and mentally and emotionally work through things that are normally swirling around us. Each person needs a different amount of alone time and different kinds of alone time. I have a friend that just needs to get away from the house, children, her husband, routine, etc. every week or so. She needs the time to unwind so that she can tackle the challenges and opportunities ahead of her. I have other friends that never seem to be alone. They are always in meetings, working, helping others, and any free time they have is spent with their family. None of these things are bad, in fact, they’re all pretty great. I just don’t know when they get time to themselves. Maybe they don’t need as much as most of us.

A word of caution, there is a line between needing time alone to recharge and regroup mentally and emotionally and being selfish. We must avoid being selfish with our time. Our spouse needs us, our families need us. The balance for each of us is different so must each learn what it is on our own. However, I use the following rule of thumb to gauge whether I am being selfish with my time or not. If something keeps me from my alone time do I feel angry or irritated or just disappointed. If disappointed I think I’m doing okay; if angry I’m being selfish.

Spend a few minutes alone this week and reflect on your life. Recharge your batteries. It will give you more energy to devote to developing uplifting love in your marriage.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

“to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.”

The title of the post is the definition, found at dictionary.com, of a word. Can you guess what word it is? If you guessed sacrifice, you are correct. If not, well…

Is sacrifice important in a marriage? Absolutely not. It is vital to a marriage. When my wife and I were wed we both sacrificed some of our freedoms to come and go as we please and traded it for increased accountability to one another. I now share with my wife where I am going, with whom, and approximate return times, etc. and she does the same with me. Sometimes I have to forgo participating in an activity or staying later at work so that she can go somewhere or because she needs someone to talk to. She sacrificed her career so that she could stay home and raise our children. We have passed up pursuing job opportunities because we felt that they would take us away from one another. We have made sacrifices. However, I believe that there is one piece missing from the definition above. I would amend it to the end so that the definition would read:

“to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else OF GREATER VALUE.”

It’s that “greater value” part that I think is the key. If our spouse and marriage were not worth more than ourselves but were of equal value and provided equal happiness there wouldn’t be much point to marriage. I mean you don’t see people twitterpated with themselves (this is a shout out to Bambi). So relationships bring more happiness which is of greater value than less happiness. This means that sacrifice in a relationship, the right kinds of sacrifice, brings greater happiness. Sacrifice is essential to a happy marriage. Making sacrifices in marriage demonstrates that our spouse and our marriage are more important than we are; when we make the right sacrifices our individual and collective happiness increase.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

"You'll Just Have to Trust Me"

Have you ever heard anyone say this phrase, “you’ll just have to trust me”? Have you said it yourself? I have seen in used in countless books, movies, and television shows and it seems that it is most commonly used within a marriage with one spouse asserting it to the other. This statement has always bothered me. Why should I just have to trust my wife? Why should she just have to trust me? While I do not deny that there MAY be a justifiable situation in which this phrase would be appropriate to employ I believe it is used far, far too often.

Think about the phrase. Really spend a minute taking it apart and analyzing it looking for the message it conveys. What its saying is: “there was a situation that I was a part of that appears to be incongruent with how I should act as your spouse/as a human being but it isn’t like it looks.” Did you put yourself in that situation? For example, shortly after my wife and I were wed one of my friends needed a ride and asked if I could give her one. I agreed glad to help a friend. I dropped her off and headed home. When I arrived my wife would barely speak to me. I was thoroughly confused. I could tell she was angry but, as is common among husbands, did not know why. After a few minutes and persistent effort she divulged that a friend of hers saw me in the car with another woman. Cami trusted me but was upset that I one of her friends would think that I was being unfaithful to her. She quoted the Bible and told me to “avoid the appearance of evil.” This is great advice. Thankfully I was able to explain what had actually happened and she believed me but it could have just as easily gone the other way. I might have had to use the phrase “you’ll just have to trust me.” Heaven forbid. Literally.

My personal philosophy and practice changed that day. I committed to myself and to her that I would never be in a situation where I would need to rely on her trust in me. I want to give her reasons TO trust me, not doubts about whether she SHOULD trust me. Trust is one of the pillars of love and marriage. Without it, no marriage can be truly happy and without trust it is impossible to cultivate uplifting love.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Frenzied Parenting

Which came first the chicken or the egg? The rooster, obviously.

Now, which came first the wedding or the first child? Almost always the answer is the wedding.

Alright, final question. Which COMES first: the marriage or the children?

I hope that you answered the marriage. In many families today that is not the case. The children are seen as the higher priority. You may ask “why is that?” The answer is actually quite simple. Steven Covey spoke and wrote about this throughout his life. He called it the Time Management Matrix. There are four quadrants in this matrix: important and urgent, important and not urgent, urgent and not important, and not urgent and not important. There is a picture of it here as well as a very detailed explanation of the four quadrants and examples of things that could fall into each one of them. In our example children would definitely be in one of the important categories, but which one? In my experience children also impress a sense of urgency on those around them. Whether it is simply that they want something NOW or that they grow up so quickly there always seems to be a sense of urgency surrounding them. As human beings we often tend to focus on the urgent and neglect everything else. Sometimes this is okay. For example, if your child falls out of a tree and runs into the house with a broken arm. This would be the time to definitely focus on the child, regardless of what you had planned. However, Covey explains that in order to accomplish our long term goals and objectives (I would say that marriage and staying in love should be one of them) we must be sure to spend time in quadrant two: important and not urgent. We can put off our marriage for years while the children grow but this is neglecting the important and not urgent. Our marriages are of utmost importance. They are the foundation of the family. If they are weak the family will be weak, but if they are strong the family will be as well.

Focus on the important and not urgent, your spouse, beginning today. While the children are undoubtedly important they are not more important than your marriage. Keep it strong. Set one goal today, with your spouse, to put your marriage first. In the long run, you’ll be happy that you did.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Oxen & Marriage

That tree that we had fall in our yard in June? It’s still there. We’ve been cleaning it up slowly and while we’re making progress it’s still going to be a while until we’re done. Thankfully I have a wonderful, loving wife who is willing to work alongside me both in the home and in the yard. In order to get rid of all of the small branches that aren’t any good for firewood we have been hauling them across our yard to the far side of the house where there is a little copse of trees and leaving them there. We figure they’ll decompose and the circle of life will continue. Another thing that needs to be understood about me is that I am by nature lazy. So, I want to make as few trips as possible across the yard. The easiest, fastest way I have thought of is to lay out a tarp next to the tree and pile it as high as I can with the branches I’ve cut. Then pull the tarp, with the branches on top, across the yard and throw them into the copse. Sometimes I get carried away and pile the tarp too high and it gets too heavy for me. This is where my sweetheart comes in. She dives in by my side and grabs the other corner of the tarp and together we are able to pull it across the yard. On the second to last trip (yeah!) I had really overdone it. Cami was pulling as hard as she could and the tarp wouldn’t budge. As soon as we began pulling together it was like there wasn’t any weight on it at all (okay, not quite, but it was SO much easier). As we pulled she remarked “you should write about this on the blog.” “Huh?” was my reply. “Talk about how when we work together in marriage life is easier just like when two oxen are yoked together and pull they can pull many times more weight than they could individually. We can endure and achieve more with our spouse” she responded. While I could not verify if the oxen thing is true (I looked and looked and no definitive answer anywhere I found) I agree with her. So, here you are my dear. When two people work together the loads that they bear individually become lighter because there is someone to share it with. With marriage, the capacity to bear the weights that come to us is strengthened even further when we purposefully “pull together.” Think “OXEN.”


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Swim, little fish, swim!"

More Olympics analogies. I find the Olympics inspiring I guess. This time it’s swimming.

I love to swim and always have. Every time I get the opportunity I’m in the water and someday I want to live near water (either have a pool or be by a lake or ocean) so that I can swim every day. As I watched the swimming competitions at the Olympics I realized that swimming can be an analogy for marriage as well. Whenever I swim I am exhausted. It’s not like when I do other athletic activities like tennis or running where a certain set of muscles is sore or tired afterward. My whole body is tired. Swimming manages to exercise what seems to be every muscle in my body simultaneously. It is a wonderful way to exercise and increase strength.

Marriage is like swimming. It works out every area of your being. Marriage exercises you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. You must learn to read your spouse’s non-verbal cues, the tone of their voice, and their background and personal history in order to understand where they are coming from and then use all of that information, along with the words they are actually saying, to construct the context for the conversation. And they do the same for you. That’s a lot of work for a simple conversation. Then you add in having patience with them, learning and practicing selflessness and self-sacrifice to make your spouse happy and meet their needs, and on top of all of it you add financial strains, friendships, families, and children. It is like the perfect recipe, along with all of the ingredients, for a mental breakdown.

But a mental breakdown doesn’t need to happen. Just as swimmers take breaks and rest from their strenuous routines so should we. Go on a date, read a book alone or together, get adequate sleep, remind each other of your love and never lose faith that it is all worth it. Just remember that no workout lasts forever. Eventually it must end and when it does you will be so much stronger because of. And best of all, you will be stronger together.

In closing I leave with you the encouragement that my wife’s college swim instructor provided to her when she was struggling: “Swim, little fish, swim!” Just keep swimming.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

I’ve been watching the Olympics and absolutely love seeing some of the most talented athletes in the world compete with one another. It brings out the best in them and in many ways showcases how the nations of the Earth should act toward one another. The athletes understand that they are competing for medals but if you watch them they are friendly and respectful with each other. It’s a great example for the leaders of nations. But I digress...

This last week I was able to catch the women’s rowing competition. Great Britain won, by a lot. After it ended I had the thought “is rowing like marriage?” I concluded that yes, it is. It is a two person team (at least the competition I watched). Each had one oar and was entirely responsible for the propulsion of that side of the craft. They had to go in a straight line for 2,000 meters. I marveled that they were able to go in a straight line for so long. If one of them had pulled even a fraction less on the oar at any point they would have deviated from that straight line and it would have slowed them down. They could have even lost the race.

How is this like marriage, you’re probably asking. A marriage is a team of two, just like rowing. It requires both partners to “pull on the oars” or put equal amounts of effort into the marriage. If one pulls harder than the other the marriage immediately begins to veer off-course. Also, both team members, each spouse, has a responsibility to pull on their oar. However, it is not the same oar. In marriage both husband and wife have responsibilities and while they are equal partners they do not have all of the same responsibilities. The really important thing is that both recognize the necessary part that they play in the marriage and respect their spouse for the role that he/she plays.

Row, row, row your boat... Work together. Marriage is far more important and infinitely more rewarding than an Olympic medal. So go for the gold!

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Play Time

My wife is a lot of things to me including my best friend, companion, confidant.  One in particular, however, is especially important.  She is my favorite person to play with.  


Learn to play with your spouse.  Since we were married we have always enjoyed teasing one another.  Recently while I was drinking water she teased me about something that I had said so I spit the water that was in my mouth at her.  When we were first married she used to fill a cup with cold water while I was in the shower and dump it on me.  That’s a shocking experience.  We also used to try to take pictures of each other in the shower without the other one knowing.  One of the games that we play sometimes is trying to kiss the other.  Let me explain.  One of us will try to kiss the other.  The kiss will be playfully resisted and a wrestling match ensues trying to force the other to kiss you.  It’s quite fun.

Playing together is important to keeping your relationship young and fresh.  Playing together adds energy to your marriage.  You will usually end up laughing together as well (be careful not to go too far and be sensitive to each other’s feelings to gauge when it is okay to be playful).  I am grateful that my wife and I are able to play.  We tease, kid, and joke with one another every day.  Especially when life gets stressful or we feel tension creeping into our marriage we turn to laughter and playing to diffuse it.  I can’t fathom how a marriage could survive for long without a daily infusion of fun.


Now go have some!




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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

United We Stand (Against the Children)

(Image courtesy of http://soddermusic.com/parenting-episode-4/)
In the years that my wife and I have been married nothing has caused greater contention and disagreement between us than our children.

Prior to our first son’s birth we had never really discussed parenting styles. We had talked about how strange it would be to be parents and how excited and nervous we were to bring a child into the world. Our discussions centered around names, how we would pay for another person, and how much we would love him. Again, however, we didn’t talk about how we would raise him.

When he was born I realized just how selfish I still was (I thought after a year and a half of marriage I had become pretty selfless). It frustrated me that I was now second in line for my wife’s time. I knew that while he was a newborn and infant it would have to be that way but I still didn’t like that. After a few months we needed to begin teaching him and preparing him for life. We began to establish little rules for him, things like don’t play in the toilet and don’t lick the electrical outlets, and teach him some sign language so that he could tell us he wanted more food or to say thank-you. This was the phase that the disagreements really started.

I felt that our son was exceptionally intelligent (I believe this is a typical opinion among parents) and that we could hold him to a higher standard than my wife did (she also thought he was intelligent she was just worried that I was being unrealistic). As our other children came along I continued to feel this way about each of them and over the years we have had to blend our parenting styles to accommodate one another and adapt them to each child. I have had to learn to be more lenient with the children and more patient. She has had to learn to enforce more discipline than she is naturally inclined to do. I adjusted to spending less time one-on-one with my wife. She learned to how to help me see when I am choosing the wrong battles with the children. But the key here is that we learned to work together and support one another.

Unity. That is the key. Yes, having children has increased the contention in our marriage. However, the unity has increased exponentially because of it. We see disagreements about parenting as opportunities to come closer and love each other more. We have begun to learn how to present a united front to the children and support one another in decisions (rules, punishments, and rewards). We are better individually and as a couple because we chose to have children and use parenthood to strengthen our marriage. We love our children, but more importantly, we love each other.
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Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Moments (Brad Paisley)

Here's a fun music video my wife suggested.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 27, 2012

T.E.E.

I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, that it was and is ordained of God to be that way, and that therein, lays the greatest happiness available to men and women. In other words, I assert that the greatest happiness in this life is achieved through marriage and the relationship with your spouse. Therefore, we should invest the most into this relationship; the most time, the most effort, the most energy (T.E.E).

The most time. Take a day this week and keep track of everything you did and how long you spent doing it every thirty minutes. Then the next day tally up each activity and the total amount of time spent on it. If spending time with your spouse, or doing nice things for him/her, isn’t in the top three rearrange your priorities. Take a half an hour to sit and talk with them, go on a walk, watch a movie together, or do the dishes/take out the trash. Doing this daily is the best investment you will ever make and will pay the greatest dividends.

The most effort. What was the last thing you did for your spouse? How hard was it for you to do? All of the things we do for our spouse do not have to be herculean but regularly we should do something that is to show them our love. Perhaps you’ve had a really long day and are exhausted. One of your children begins to cry late at night after you are in bed. Make the sacrifice and go and put them back to sleep (especially if this isn’t something you normally would do). Is there a project that your spouse has been trying to get to but hasn’t yet found the time? Do it for them or help make sure that they have the time to tackle it.

The most energy. Planning ahead to demonstrate your love to your spouse requires energy. It requires forethought and planning. It requires diligence and patience. My wife is notorious for somehow guessing what I am going to get her or do for her on her birthday and our anniversary. What I have learned to do is create a plan A, B, and C to make sure I can still surprise her. Only once has she guessed all three. But this takes considerable energy on my part. I have to be three-times as creative and plan for three different possibilities. On the flip side, the smile on her face, the giddy giggles, and the light in her eyes when I succeed is worth every ounce of energy invested (and I then have extra ideas for the next time).

I love my wife. She is the most amazing person in the world. I would do anything for her. My job, and all of our jobs, is to make sure that first, we feel that way about our spouse, and second, that our spouse knows it. Now, go show them.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Bonfires of Love, Part Two



(Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Keeping the fire raging. That was another name I considered for these posts. I think it’s clever.

Continuing the fire analogy to keep a fire going strong there are two things that need to happen: you need to stoke the fire and add more fuel. In other words we can categorize what we do to keep our marriages strong and healthy into two categories. We’ll address the first, stoking the fire, in this post and then the second in the last post in the “series.”

How do we “stoke the fire” of our love? This is also referred to as “shaking things up” or “spicing up the relationship.” When you stoke a fire you poke it and prod it and mix it up a little bit to expose parts of the wood to the flame and heat that weren’t previously exposed. Doing this also gives the fire better access to oxygen which also causes it to burn bigger, brighter, and hotter. The big question again, how do we “stoke the fire” of our love?

Here are two tested and proven suggestions.

First, do something you normally do differently. For example, my wife and I go on a walk together in the evenings several times a week. Every few days we change the route that we take. We don’t plan it out just while we’re walking we’ll take a left instead of a right. This causes our conversations to change. We talk about the houses and yards that we pass, memories that are evoked by the images we take in, and what we like and don’t like and what we want to incorporate into our dream home someday. I learn something new about my wife’s childhood almost every time we change our route or I gain some new insight into how she thinks or what she likes and dislikes, sometimes both. Doing something differently together shakes things up and allows you the opportunity to learn more about the person you love most. The more you know your spouse the greater joy is possible in marriage.

Second, discuss with your spouse something that makes one or both of you uncomfortable but that you have to do anyway. Maybe it’s making phone calls or going to the dentist. Then do it together. You are exposing part of the “logs” (your marriage) that were not previously exposed to the “flames” (your love for each other). This allows the flame to grow brighter, stronger, and hotter. And, by doing it together you strengthen trust in each other and your joy increases.

Don’t just take my word for it. Try it.

In our next and last post in the “Bonfire of Love” series we’ll tackle “adding more fuel to the fire.” 

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

Last week I was asked to lead a discussion regarding customer service, what it is and how to do it better, for a local organization’s director level employees. While preparing to lead this discussion I reviewed much of what I have read and taught about customer service over the last few years. One of the books I read a few years back has a chapter entitled “Random Acts of Kindness.” The author, Dr. Neal Raisman, describes the benefits that flow to a staff and then to customers from a leader that is regularly doing nice things for his or her employees. As I reread the chapter early last week the thought occurred to me that all of us like it when others do kind things for us and wondered “would this work in marriage too?”

OF COURSE! Just today my wife made dinner. So I thanked her, kissed her, and told her how much I appreciate her efforts to prepare our food. Then, as we prayed over our food, I thanked Heavenly Father for my wife and her willingness to prepare food for me and our children. At the conclusion of the prayer I glanced over at her and I’m pretty sure I saw a twinkle in her eye. My back was feeling sore recently and my wife, without any overt request on my part, walked up behind me and gave me a quick massage. It was a random act of kindness. I love her all the more because of it.

Think back to the last time you did something random to show kindness for your spouse. When was it? Has it been more than twenty-four hours? If so, stop reading and go do something NOW. I suggest saying “I love you.” Then just walk away. Maybe combine it with a quick peck on the cheek.
Now, set a goal to perpetrate at least one random act of kindness for your spouse every day for the next week. Sit down in one week and briefly reflect on your feelings toward your spouse. Has anything changed? Then share your experience with me. I look forward to hearing from you. Good luck being random!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bonfires of Love

Have you ever known two people that fall madly in love with each other?

You know, where the world seems to stop for them because of their special someone? That’s all they think about, talk about, and dream about. You probably thought something like “they were made for each other.”

Then when they announced that they were engaged and going to be married you weren’t really surprised because they were so perfect for each other. They had a wonderful wedding and married life started off full of bliss and happiness. Maybe they had a kid or two.


Then, after a few years, you notice that they don’t seem head-over-heels for each other anymore. Their happiness seems to have withered, perhaps even evaporated completely. They were so in love and as far as you could tell they really didn’t have any big marital problems. What happened?

While I do not presume to understand all of the complexities of why marriages dissolve and all of the causes behind love that withers and sometimes dies may I suggest that one of the reasons is a lack of conscious effort. What I mean by this is that if we are not deliberate in keeping our love and marriage alive it can wither and, if neglected too long, even die.

Let’s use a quick analogy of a campfire. A raging campfire starts with a single spark (or a small match for most of us). But within minutes, and with a well prepared base, the flame can quickly spread and the fire can grow very large and burn bright and hot.

However, if more wood isn’t added to the fire the flame dies down and, after extended neglect, the embers are extinguished. The same thing can happen with the love we feel in our marriages.

If neglected the flame dies down slowly so that if we aren’t paying attention we might not even notice. We must exert conscious and concerted effort to ensure that the flame keeps burning. But that’s the topic for a future post.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rotten to the Core, Part Two

 
Remember the tree that fell down on my wife’s and my property (we discussed it in our last post)? It was susceptible to the storm that came through town because its core was rotten and therefore weak. My wife compared the tree to marriage and said that if we aren’t careful what appears to be a healthy and strong marriage could actually be weak and ready to collapse because its core isn’t strong. In this post I’ll mention three of the ideas that my wife and I came up with that can be used to make sure the core of our marriages stays healthy and strong. 
  1. Play together. Playing is important to keeping our relationships strong. What did you do with your spouse when you first met? What are a few of the first dates that you went on? Chances are they were fun and designed to be that way. You probably laughed and talked and learned more about each other. You may not have been totally comfortable but definitely more at ease the more fun that you two had. If our relationships begin with playing, shouldn’t that then remain a key component or our marriages? Continue having fun together, it relieves the tension and accompanying stress that develops in marriage and relaxes both of you. By having fun and playing together you will get to know each other better and better, no matter how long you have been married.
  2. Pray together. Get on your knees and pray. Pray for your spouse verbally so that they can hear your concern for them and express gratitude that God blessed you with them. Pray for the things that are important to your husband or wife and ask for increased ability to help them overcome the challenges that they face and achieve their goals. There are few things that can bring two people as closely together as quickly as prayer.
  3. Work together. There is a lot of work in marriage. Establishing and maintaining a home requires a great deal of effort. There are dishes to do, children to care for, yards to maintain, and the list goes on. Share the load. Switch up responsibilities sometimes. My wife is really good at this. We have a large yard to mow and she has established a section of it that is “hers.” I’m not allowed to mow it because she wants to help and whenever I am outside working she joins me and works right alongside me. I help her vacuum and do the dishes and we work together to put the children in bed. Work unifies us. There is no one I would rather work with than my wife.  
What ideas do you have for ensuring that our marriages stay strong? What has been your experience? Share them with us and we’ll try to include them in an upcoming edition of our FREE newsletter (if you haven’t signed up for it yet, do it now! It is FREE after all). 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rotten to the Core, Part One

A few weeks ago a big windstorm swept through our area. It inflicted quite a bit of damage blowing off shingles, knocking down hundreds of trees, and leaving debris scattered everywhere. Emergency crews worked through the night to ensure that as many roads as possible would be usable the next day. 

My wife and I own a home and property that has several beautiful trees. The trees were a big part of the reason we decided to purchase our home. We have several large oak trees, two of which are more than one hundred years old, and a two wonderful black walnut trees. The trees have appeared to be large and strong and able to withstand just about anything and we love them.

The night of the storm, right in the midst of it, we heard our car alarm sound. We looked out the window and used the remote to turn it off. I figured a branch had just blown into the car. We went back to what we were doing. When the winds subsided I went out to see if I could determine why the alarm when off. To my utter amazement one of our largest and most beautiful white oak trees had fallen on top of our carport which had collapsed on our car setting off the car alarm. Thankfully, and miraculously, our car sustained just a few scrapes but the carport will need to be rebuilt. We were in shock that such a large and seemingly strong tree would just fall over; it looked so healthy from the outside. I mean it had been there for over a hundred years!
We had a logger come and look at it the next afternoon to give us an idea of what it was going to take to remove the tree. During his inspection I asked him why he thought that it had fallen and he said that the trunk was rotten and had been for twenty years or more. Again we were shocked; the tree had appeared to be so healthy.

A day or two later my wife made a fascinating and shrewd observation: many marriages are like our once great white oak. While they appear healthy from the outside, full of life and vigor, they may be rotting from the inside out. Often the couple may not even realize that their marriage is weakening. Then one day, out of the blue, one of life’s storms hit their marriage and it just collapses. Everyone around them is shocked to watch the marriage suddenly fail. Children and others that relied on the protection of the tree, like our carport, are damaged, sometimes beyond repair.

We discussed her observation for a time and identified some ways to make sure that the “trunk” of our marriage stays strong and healthy. In my next post we’ll talk about some of these…

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Love Like Crazy

A few years ago I was in the car running some errands and a song came on the radio. My wife loves country music and over the years that we have been married I've built up a tolerance for it. There wasn't anything worth listening to on any of the other stations so I had the radio tuned to country music. At first I didn't pay much attention to the song or its lyrics but after thirty seconds or so I realized that I was listening intently. By the end of the song I was impressed and wanted to share it with my wife. When I got home I immediately grabbed the computer and Googled part of the chorus. Thankfully I was able to find it on YouTube with relative ease and had my wife listen to it with me. I think the advice in the chorus is dead on. The music video is below. Give it a chance, even if you don’t like country, and let me know what you think.


(In case you missed it, the advice is:
“Be a best friend, tell the truth
And overuse I love you
Go to work, do your best
Don't outsmart your commonsense
Never let your prayin' knees get lazy
And love like crazy”)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"I love you"

When was the last time you looked at your spouse and said “I love you”?

If you can’t remember the last time stop reading immediately and tell your spouse. It doesn’t matter if it is via text message, posting it on their Facebook wall, calling them, sending an email, or walking into the other room and simply saying “I love you.”

If you do remember the last time go and tell them again, right now.

I’m not sure if there are three more powerful words in marriage. I do know that they should be said as often as possible. My wife and I feel that it is so important to constantly remind each other how we feel that we made a “rule” for ourselves early on in our marriage that we were going to end every conversation with “I love you.” And we do. 

(Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

It’s actually kind of fun trying to find as many ways and as many situations as possible to tell my sweet wife that I love her. Sometimes it is at random times during the day. I’ll be sitting on the couch reading a book to the children and pause for a second to yell “I LOVE YOU!” to my wife who is in the other room. Sometimes she’ll yell back that she loves me too. Other times she’ll jump into the front room with a gigantic smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye and gently and sweetly reply “I love you too.” Just the other day she went into Subway to buy some sandwiches and I stayed in the car with the children (it’s just too much hassle sometimes to unpack and repack them all). While she was in Subway I sent her a text message telling her I loved her. When she returned she had that same sweet smile and twinkle in her eye. In order to paint an accurate picture I must relate that she is actually far better at telling me that she loves me than I am about telling her. For every one time I tell her she probably tells me twice. I’ve got a good woman.

Why should we tell our spouse we love them so often? Shouldn’t they already know? Yeah, they should already know…because we tell them so often and show them so frequently. 

No matter how often you currently tell your spouse that you love them, whether it be once a month or once an hour, double it. Tell them twice as often. I guarantee that you will see a change in your marriage, increased unity and love, for the better very soon.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finances & Friction -- Part Two

In the first installment of this series on finances and marriage we discussed finances and the contention that often results in marriage because of them. Basically, because we are different and have different outlooks on how to manage money friction often results. For the most part you can categorize almost everyone into one of two personalities: planners and fun-lovers.

My wife and I read a book by Dave Ramsey, Total Money Makeover, in the second year of our marriage. We were very impressed with his teachings and advice and decided to implement them in our marriage. Perhaps the most significant teaching in the book for us was about budgeting. Dave discusses this issue of different personalities, instead of the words planner and fun-lover he uses nerd and free-spirit. The nerd loves to plan and organize and does detailed budgets. The free-spirit likes to play and have fun and resists organization and detailed planning. Budgets don’t go over well with free-spirits because they feel like their freedom is being curtailed.

Dave recommends that couples play to their strengths. If one spouse is a nerd or planner they should make the budget. However, they should not dictate what the budget should be. They merely plan the budget. Then the couple sits down together and reviews the budget. The free-spirit (or fun-lover) provides their input, the nerd listens, and the two of them come to an agreement on what a reasonable budget would be, something that both can live with. With this agreement they move forward in unity in the management of their money.

The advice that Dave Ramsey provides have brought great blessings to my marriage. By consciously and cooperatively working to prevent money from causing contention in our marriage we have enjoyed not only peace at home but also greater unity in our marriage. We know that we are working together toward common financial goals. We both make sacrifices in order to get there. This brings us closer together and helps us to be more united. We feel dignified that we are working toward a shared purpose, albeit slowly sometimes, and when we go without we know it will be worth it in the long run.

These are the fruits of uplifting love: unity, joy, and dignity. If working together on our finances in this way brings these fruits then it should be pursued. While we have found Dave Ramsey’s teachings to be of great value in our marriage the same may be true for you in your marriage. Give Total Money Makeover a look. If it works for you, great! If not, keep looking and praying. You’ll find a way to manage your money that works for the two of you.  

Working together to manage your money is worth the time and effort required. It will prevent a multitude of disagreements and friction and, more importantly, further unite you as a couple.

Now that you have a budget, do you ever find that there just isn’t enough flexibility in it? You want more freedom because having a budget it just too restrictive? In our next installment of this series on finances and marriage we’ll discuss one way of how to do just that.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Centrality of Marriage


I see these vinyl stickers on the back windows of cars all the time these days. Normally they are laid out like the one above (from my wife’s car) with the father or mother first and then the children followed by pets. But I never thought much about the placement of the family members before today.

I had the day off of work and so we thought we would take a drive to a part of the county that we hadn’t been before. It’s a beautiful lake with a campground and swimming pool. As we drove through the campground we saw a car with these same vinyl family stickers on their back window. However, they were arranged in a unique way.


Do you notice the difference?

The mother and father are in the middle with the children and pets around them! I’m not sure if this was intentional, that the family carefully considered the placement of each vinyl family member, but they hit on a truth.

The family should be organized around the marriage.

The husband and wife should be each other’s first priority. The children (and pets) are important but if they become more important than the marriage then there will be problems. They will not be evident immediately but over time they will manifest themselves.

Have you ever heard of or known one of those couples that after the children leave home realize that they have nothing in common and separate or get a divorce? What happened? The marriage seemed happy and healthy when the children were home.

The problem: something other than the marriage was at the center of the home and when that thing, whether the children or something else, was gone there wasn’t much, if anything, left of the relationship. 

This is one reason why it is so important to keep our marriages at the center of our families. Children, pets, jobs, and friends all come and go in our homes but our marriages don’t, or at least they shouldn’t.

Take a look at your home. Is your marriage at the center? Are your spouse and your relationship with your spouse more important to you than your children, pets, etc.? If not, make a change. If so, congratulations! Make sure it stays that way.

The vinyl family decal says it all.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Fun & Family Activities

Since it is summer time and generally all of us are enjoying nicer weather I thought I would take a few moments and share some fun, simple, and creative ideas for having a bit of fun outside with our families (they are cheap as well). Here you are:
  • Set up a slip-n-slide in your yard. Find a place that has some incline and put down a tarp. Get some dish soap and squirt some on your skin. Turn on the hose at the top and jump!
  • Go ice-blocking. Again, this involves a small hill. Get a block of ice (either make your own or by one at a convenience store, they typically have them). Put a towel on top of it, sit down, and slide down the hill. This is a great both as a date and with the family.
  • Invite some friends or another family or two to play human foosball at a local park or in a large backyard. You could also do human checkers or chess.
  • Set up your own “drive-in” movie theater. Grab your digital projector, laptop, and a white sheet and you’ve got everything you need. Hang the sheet up outside so that it is flat, set up the projector and laptop, pop some popcorn, layout the sleeping bags on the lawn, and pop in a movie.  
Go geocaching. Here’s a cool video explaining what it is.
There is a lot to do this time of year so take advantage of it. Get outside and have some fun!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Finances & Friction

Money.

Have you ever had a disagreement with your spouse about money?

Does it happen often? Is it causing a strain on your marriage? Do you find yourself being frustrated with your spouse because they spend frivolously or because they are too uptight about money? Does your wife make you do a “budget” every month? Does your husband constantly have a new idea for how to spend the money you don’t have?

These are common points of contention in marriage and I hear them regularly as I speak with people I know and meet. My wife and I had one friend several years ago that found a few extra dollars and on the way home to tell his wife the good news he spent the money. He was thrilled with his purchase and his wife was beside herself. She couldn’t understand how in the financial situation they were in her husband could find money (which would have helped quite a bit) and then spent it without at least consulting with her. His feeling was that since they didn’t expect the money to begin with it wouldn’t be a problem to spend it buying her a surprise. It was a sweet thought but didn’t go as he had expected.

What was the problem? Why does money cause such conflict in marriage? Well, simply put, because we are different. No matter how long two people are married they approach money and view money differently. My parents have been married for nearly thirty years and they still don’t see eye to eye on finances. In order to keep harmony each month my dad gives my mom a spending allowance and every month she exceeds it. And somehow they are still happy (her biggest complaint the last few years is that he won’t let her buy enough things for the grandchildren).

There are essentially two types of people in the world: those that are fun-loving and those that are planners (this is, of course, an oversimplification but it gets the point across). The fun-loving people do things on a whim, get frustrated if they spend too much time planning, and, as their name implies, really are just looking to have fun. Planners are the opposite. Fun is nice but only if it is planned beforehand. The two being forced to work together can cause friction but this can be overcome.

To be continued…

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Selflessness vs Selfishness

I was speaking with a friend recently about our “first loves” and during the conversation I shared how I knew that I was in love, both the first time and later when I met my wife.

After my wife and I had been dating for a while thoughts of the future and what could happen began to float around in my head. I wondered if I loved her and after pondering this for a time I came to realize that, yes, I did love her.

I knew that I was in love with her because of one thing: I cared more about her happiness than my own.

I was not only willing but wanted to spend my life pursuing her happiness. She was more important to me than I was to myself.

This willingness and desire to be selfless is a key ingredient in a successful and happy marriage and is necessary to developing and maintaining uplifting love.

Being selfless is much harder than being selfish, especially at first. Our human nature instinctually inclines us toward selfishness because often, hundreds or even thousands of years ago, being selfish could keep you alive.

You could say that we are wired to be selfish. However, today our survival does not depend on being selfish. In fact, marriage and our lasting happiness depend on NOT being selfish.

We will not go into examples of what being selfish is or is not because it varies too much from individual to individual and couple to couple. But, we do need to make a concerted effort to put our spouses before ourselves.

Selflessness is not as hard as it can seem. It does require effort but establishing two habits will help each of us go a long way to “putting off” selfishness.

The first is to pray for help. Pray for your spouse. Pray that their needs and wants will be met. Pray that they will be blessed and that they will receive the divine assistance that they need. Pray for them. Make a conscious effort to spend more time praying for them than for you.

Second, do one thing a day that your spouse would have had to do and would normally do like take out the trash, brush the children’s teeth, walk the dog, mow the lawn, etc. The list goes on and on. Just find one thing, big or small, each day and do it. It’s that simple.

Strive for selflessness. Put your spouse before yourself. Strive to care more about helping your spouse get what he/she wants than what you want.

Pretty quickly you will realize that your love and appreciation for your spouse has multiplied and theirs for you has increased as well. Developing uplifting love is a process and to succeed your spouse must be more important to you than you are.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cell Phones & Love

In the last twenty years HUGE advances have been made with technology. I remember as a child and even into my teens I was always sure to have a couple of quarters so that I could make a phone call from a payphone in an emergency.

Now you can’t find a payphone.

I don’t recall seeing a functional one in the last couple of years. This is because today everyone has a cell phone of their own and they don’t need a payphone.

Not only can today’s cell phones make telephone calls they can text message, send pictures and videos, email, surf the internet, act as personal digital assistants (PDAs), allow their owner to play video games and much more. As the saying goes “there’s an app for that.”

One of the overlooked uses of cell phones, or at least under emphasized uses, is to express our love for our spouse. 

When was the last time you texted your husband “i luv u” out of the blue?

Just the other day my wife texted me a picture of her blowing a kiss. That made me smile. What a wonderful text to receive in the middle of the afternoon. It made me that much more anxious for work to end so that I could go home to her.

I also love it when she updates her Facebook status to something like “I am so in love. I have the most handsome husband in the world.”


When I finished my master’s degree she did a tribute to me in a post on her blog. These things make me smile. Both of these things can be done with a cell phone.

Think of the things that you can do to remind your spouse that you love them. Then do them!! 

Once you have share with me what you did and what the reaction was. There’s a good chance I’ll publish it in one of my upcoming newsletters (if you haven’t already, subscribe to my  newsletter!).

Good luck and have fun!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Child's Happiness Linked to Talking to their Father

According to British researchers, individuals who regularly speak with their father lead significantly happier lives than those who do not (Speak to your father -- secret to happiness. (2010). Therapy Today, 21(6), 6.). Based on this research parents, especially fathers, should be striving to develop relationships with their children where their children not only feel comfortable speaking with them but are inclined to do so.How can we do this?Here are three ideas to accomplish this.

First, listen to your children.Begin listening right from the start. My 9 month old “talks” all the time. Of course I can’t really understand what he is trying to communicate but I listen intently anyway and respond as if what he is telling me is really interesting. Often he will get so excited that I am listening to him that he’ll fall over. My four year old accosts me when I come home from work and if I let him will talk to me for half an hour straight telling me all about his day. I try to listen intently so that they know that I love them and that what they say is important to me. I once heard someone say “if you listen to them when they’re young, they’ll listen to you when they are old.” I think this means that if you listen when your children are little then you can talk with them as they grow older.

Second, develop shared interests. I have a friend who manages resort hotels. Because of this he has access to golf courses for relatively little cost. When his oldest son was still very young they began golfing together. They still do nearly two decades later. Another friend of mine took his daughters to a father-daughter ball each year around Valentine’s Day put on by the local Parks and Recreation Department. His daughters, though now grown and married, still go with him when they can. My mother-in-law took karate with four of her children. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just find something that you can do with your children (the key, however, is to do something that they actually want to do).

Third, make time to spend with your children. The amount of time spent with children is directly proportionate to the number of opportunities to talk with them. My father always took me to do service for others. We would work together in the yard. I remember many times crawling under our house to install insulation or make repairs to electrical or plumbing work together. He would take me to our family’s cabin, a two hour drive, so that we would be “stuck” in the car together. He would use the time together to try to start conversations by asking me how I was doing and what was going on in my life. Sometimes I would talk to him. Sometimes I wouldn’t, but he never gave up and I always knew that he cared and would listen.

The best conversations we have with our children will occur when we least expect it. They cannot be forced. Our children will initiate the conversation and we need to be ready when they do. If we practice the ideas discussed here we will be ready and our children, not mention ourselves, will be happier.
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