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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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