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Wednesday, April 25, 2012


What do you notice first when you come into someone’s home? 

Chances are you’ll mostly notice the d├ęcor: furnishings, color schemes, curtains, pictures, etc. But what makes that home endure through the years has much more to do with the foundation underneath the home and the framework behind the walls.  In the end, the stuff we don’t see and tend not to pay attention to is much more important than the things we notice most. 

It’s the same for your marriage.

Foundations

Without a doubt, the foundation of your marriage is what will make it last.  And that foundation needs to be Jesus.  To quote an old hymn, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” 

So, what’s the foundation of your marriage?

It’s really easy to build your marriage on other stuff.  It could be your kids, your financial success and material possessions, or even your religious activities.  But kids grow up and move out, financial success ebbs and flows, material possessions ultimately ring hollow, and religious activities keep you busy but don’t equate to a genuine relationship with God.

A lasting marriage should be built on the foundation of a husband’s and a wife’s intimate and passionate relationship with Jesus – and nothing else.  God, the very inventor of marriage itself, is the key to a strong and enduring marriage. There is no substitute!

Your relationship with, knowledge of and intimacy with God must be your foundation.

Framework

Once a firm foundation is established, the framework of your marriage is next in importance. Just like the walls of a house determine its strength, so does the framework of your marriage.

The framework of your marriage is composed of the things you believe and how you think about your marriage and your spouse.  It’s the lens through which you see.

My personal lens is that God created marriage to be a reflection of the love relationship between Jesus, our Bridegroom, and us, the church, His bride.  This is what I call the Bridal Paradigm , it’s this framework helps me see that my marriage should be full of things like unselfish love, unconditional giving, faithfulness, passion, trust and freedom  This is what Paul call “the great mystery” of marriage in Ephesians 5:32. 

Here’s a truth:  it’s almost impossible to have a Bridal Paradigm framework without a foundation built on intimacy with the Bridegroom.  Did you ever notice how cracks in the wall usually point to problems with the foundation?

We substitute any number of belief systems for God’s intended design for marriage.  Some believe that marriage is about their personal happiness and fulfillment. Some see marriage simply as a social construct instead of a covenant relationship.  Still others acknowledge marriage is the important backbone of our civil society, but fall short of seeing it as the Divine creation that it is.

Closely coupled to your belief system is the way you think about your marriage.  How you think about your marriage and spouse can either add to the strength of the framework or take away from it.  Check out my post “What Do You Think” for more thought on the importance of right thinking and some practical tips. 

Fixtures

At last we are down to the things that people spend most of their time and attention on: the fixtures. 

The fixtures in your marriage are many: friends, family, children, finances, your home, careers, vacations, religious activities, possessions and more.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these things are bad or unimportant.  It’s just that giving most of our attention to them will do little to build a strong, stable and lasting marriage. 

The fixtures and furnishings in your marriage are what help to make it comfortable, enjoyable and inviting for you and for others.  Do your best to make it so!  Absolutely! 

Fixtures are fine, but realize that when it comes to making your marriage strong and lasting, the foundation and framework should get the bulk of your attention and effort!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I’ve pondered before whether or not happiness is really the right goal for marriage.

Lately I’ve been rethinking the whole question of happiness. I’d like to share my thoughts and get yours.

The following three statements, which may seem at first blush to conflict with each other, are the three happiness axioms I’ve landed on:
  • The primary purpose of your marriage isn’t to make you happy
  • You need to take responsibility for your own happiness
  • Love and serve your spouse as if their happiness depended on you

Happiness Defined

What does it mean to be happy? Truthfully, for some reason I’ve never much liked that word; it has always seemed a bit shallow to me. I’ve typically thought of happiness as being controlled by external circumstances and therefore fickle and fleeting. I know, I’m weird like that.

But the dictionary says that to be happy is to be “delighted, pleased, or glad” over something or someone. Happiness is “characterized by pleasure, contentment, or joy” in response to the things going on around you. These actually all sound like pretty good things.


Goal vs. By-product

So after some consideration, I’ve resolved in my mind that happiness isn’t a bad thing at all, but I still don’t believe that we should look at marriage as primarily about our personal degree of happiness.

To me happiness is still best viewed as a by-product rather than a goal. A relationship that has personal happiness as its main goal is going to miss some deeper things that underlie a long-lasting marriage. Selflessness, surrender, intimacy, joy, peace and holiness all come to mind as worthy goals, but are things that also tend produce happiness as a result.

I Am Responsible For Me

I’ve often heard folks blame their spouse for their unhappiness. I’ve heard it used as a reason for divorce. I’ve heard it used to defend some pretty cruel behavior. “I deserve to be happy” is the common mantra.

That doesn’t cut it with me.

I have learned over time that I can’t hold my wife accountable for my happiness. I have to place the burden of my happiness squarely on my own shoulders and own up to the fact that if I’m unhappy, I’m the one that has to do something about it. It’s my choice. My happiness is my responsibility.

I Act Responsible for You

By extension, then, my wife is also responsible for her own happiness.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I should act that way. Instead I should purposefully try to make her happy, as best as I know how. I should love her, serve her, lead her and cherish her in ways I know delight her.

Her happiness should be important to me, because we are one, and I get to share in any happiness I bring to her life. How cool is that? Why wouldn’t I want to make her happy?

Our Ultimate Source of Happiness

Both my wife and I know that ultimately God is our only reliable source of happiness.

We find in Jesus all the things that make marriages truly happy and enduring: selflessness, surrender, strength, intimacy, joy, peace and holiness. All these he makes available to us and to our marriages.

So next time you are feeling unhappy with your spouse or with your marriage, realize that you have the power to choose happiness, regardless of what your spouse does or doesn’t do. Realize that love, joy and peace can all be yours by the Holy Spirit. Then turn things around and choose to do something purposefully just to make your spouse happy. I think you’ll be amazed at the good fruit it produces.

Happiness in Reverse

I shared this TEDtalk with our small group a few weeks ago (thanks to The Generous Husband). It’s a compelling and humorous case for the fact that we often look to outcomes in order to gain happiness. We say things like “If I work at it then my marriage will get better. And when my marriage gets better, then I’ll be happy.” But that is actually backwards.



Direct TEDTalk Link


Shawn Achor makes the case that by choosing to be happy now, we actually stand a better change of having a better marriage. Fascinating concept. I like it.


What’s do you think of my three axioms of happiness in marriage?
  • The primary purpose of your marriage isn’t to make you happy
  • You need to take responsibility for your own happiness
  • Love and serve your spouse as if their happiness depended on you


Friday, April 6, 2012

My lovely wife summoned her courage and created another post. I hope you enjoy it.

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Well blog writing wasn’t as painful as I thought it might be and your comments were so encouraging that I thought I would try again! This time I am writing about another incredibly thoughtful gift my husband Scott gave me several Christmases ago. It was one of the best surprises I ever received and helped get me through the toughest season of my life so far.

Here’s the background: In 1997 Scott’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and moved in with us. This was a decision Scott and I made together, along with his siblings and lots of guidance from God. Becoming Mom’s caregiver meant not only dealing with the gradual loss of this incredible woman but the loss of my independence and any sense of control over my household.

As the illness progressed, I became the “bad guy”, the “other woman” to my mother-in-law. In addition I never knew what would greet me as I came through the door.  For example, once I found the refrigerator disassembled with all the food defrosting on the floor.   Another time I couldn’t find my frying pans and pots only to discover she had put one on each of the dining room chairs.  Clothing and linen weren’t safe because our dear Mom would spray them with bleach thinking it was stain remover.

We developed a saying in those years, "We don't ask why!"

The Surprise!! 

One Christmas, right in the middle of those crazy years, my daughters and I decided, with my husband’s encouragement, to actually go shopping on the day after Christmas, taking advantage of the sales . I have trained my girls to shop til we drop, and we had a grand time shopping all day long.

When we arrived home all was fairly quiet, so I made my way up the back stairs to our bedroom. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of blue and then suddenly I realized our bedroom had been completely transformed. Scott had pulled a “WHILE YOU WERE OUT” and set up my own sitting room space in our bedroom. A love seat, a desk, coffee table, a wall mounted TV, bookshelves and lamps, a new bedspread and wall hangings. Incredible!

I cried then and I still cry just thinking about how blessed I was. I had “lost” my home to my mother-in -law but Scott created a sanctuary for me. This was one place in the house that was my own, my refuge. I can remember just walking through our room and feeling peace and relief just knowing it was there for me whenever I needed it. I shed many tears in that room and prayed many prayers.

I don’t know how he did it but during those years Scott took care of both his mom and me. I never doubted that I came first but we both knew that for a season we needed to take care of the dear woman who gave me the man who I love most.

Taking Care of Each Other

My purpose in writing is to say that if your spouse is under great stress due to care giving or some other life circumstance, think of a way to create a haven for them.
  • You can create a separate space in your home, as Scott did for me that Christmas. It doesn’t have to be a whole room; it can be a corner of a room or any other area set aside for them, decorated in their favorite way.
  • If that’s not feasible, consider specifically granting him or her designated “escape time.” Thirty minutes after dinner or after they get home from work where no demands are placed on them, where they can do whatever relaxes and reinvigorates them.
  • Arrange for a weekend getaway. Even if your circumstances prevent you from both being gone at once, you can take turns!
Can you think of other ways to create a haven for your weary, stressed-out spouse? Leave your ideas in the comments.

Being a long term care giver can place great demands and stress on your marriage. Even though there are tremendous physical and emotional demands on you both, make sure you make it a priority to also take care of each other.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Facebook ad recently caught my eye. Next to a picture of a broken heart were these words: “Divorced? Get your wife back. It’s easy, just follow the video instructions.” Of course the link was to one of the many sites/products promising instant and easy “marriage miracles.”

You have probably heard or seen other similar ads: lose weight without changing your eating habits, get out of debt without reducing your lifestyle, get a sculpted body in five minutes a day, win the lottery, get rich quick.

Everybody is offering easy, pain-free fixes for the worst of life’s problems.

Something for Nothing

Something-for-nothing promises are everywhere. Some would say they play on our hopes and optimism. Others would say they play on our laziness and sense of entitlement. It’s probably some of both.

Don’t be fooled by the hype! Building an intimate, passionate, enduring marriage takes effort. It will cost you, and it will require you to make sacrifices. Sometimes you‘ll have to lay down your rights for the sake of your relationship. A great marriage requires you to be diligent and attentive to your spouse, to be purposeful in how you do your marriage.

When it comes to marriage, as for so many other important things in your life, you get out of it what you put into it.  It's a little like the spiritual principle of "you reap what you sow."

No it’s not easy, but it is so very worth it!

The Payoff

What are the long-term benefits of investing consistently in your marriage?

In a 2009 study published by the American Psychological Association, author Bianca Acevedo explains that long-term marriages that are able to maintain intensity, engagement and sexual interest are associated with overall well-being and high self-esteem, in addition to marital satisfaction.

In short, a good marriage is good for you!

According to the APA study, the key to keeping that romance alive is simple: hard work. No, simple is not the same as easy.  “Research has suggested these couples spend time and really care about the relationship; they seem to be able to resolve conflicts relatively smoothly,” said Acevedo.

The Lie of Inevitable Decline

There’s a popular misconception that long-term marriage is a path to inevitable decline in passion and intimacy. There’s a belief that the fiery love of early marriage fades eventually into a safer, more comfortable kind of relationship. I call it the “roommate syndrome.” Don’t believe it.

The same APA study quoted above challenges the roommate syndrome. By examining a number of prior marriage studies, they found significant evidence that what they referred to as romantic love (consisting of intensity, engagement and sexual interest) can be maintained for the long haul. They challenge the assumption that romantic love cannot endure, and point to this prevalent notion as being to blame for so many “status quo” relationships. "It's to be expected."

Some couples are satisfied with barely avoiding divorce “for the sake of the kids.” But how much better would it be for the kids to see their parents passionately, demonstrably in love? We are seeing what happens to married roommates once the kids are gone by way of the recent significant increase in divorce rates among empty nesters.

Could a culture chock-full of vibrant marriages reverse the widespread societal discouragement over marriage, with its accompanying decline in the marriage rate and dramatic increase in cohabitation and out-of-wedlock births? 

I think so.  Do you?

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