Summer Blog Tour — Marriage Inside Out

Older Couple at ParkThe years that our marriage was a disaster, each of us believed that a change in behavior or attitude of the other person was the key to our happier future.  At some points we could have said that the change in the other person was the key to our future relationship status. We were thinking Outside-In. We nearly divorced.

She had a list of things that needed to change about him.  He needed to be more organized, dead-line efficient, trustworthy and connected.  That’s the short list.  Since she is a nurse, she had a care-plan for each of marital health goals and she was determined that he would be a compliant patient.

He had only one thing on his list of things she needed to change.  She needed to quit being so negative about all those things she wanted to change about him.  By the time the worst came, he lost hope in her ever being more positive; the marital health would increase exponentially, he conceded, if she would just be less negative.

Paul’s instructions to wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves and masters in the Letter to the Colossians begins with this: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17).

The pursuit of a whole, healthy, holy relationship begins, not with the adjustments of a spouse, but with the commitment to a mindset; the mindset that everything done will be done because Jesus wants it done.  Any growth starts inside the mind and heart of a husband or wife.  Moreover, since the motivation is about what Jesus wants, then, no less-than-desirable response from the other spouse changes the behavior.  After all, it’s not about them; it’s about Jesus.

Someone asked leadership guru Zig Ziglar about marrying the wrong person and he replied with this:

“I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person, but I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make that marriage happy and successful. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible that you did marry the wrong person. However, if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. On the other hand, if you marry the right person, and treat that person wrong, you certainly will have ended up marrying the wrong person. I also know that it is far more important to be the right person than it is to marry the right person. In short, whether you married the right or wrong person is primarily up to you.”

Choose your mindset. Your mindset will guide your behavior and that will create renewed feelings about your spouse and your marriage.

We tried the experiment of developing a strong relationship by getting the other spouse to behave like we wanted.  It was a failed experiment.  It was an outside-in attempt.  Start in your mind and heart. Decide you will be who you ought to be regardless of the behavior of your spouse. For us, “being the right person” means doing what Jesus wants. Do everything, including marriage, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father.

That’s an Inside-Out marriage.

Richard and JeannaLynn May

Laid Off

Layoff NoticeLaid off.  Cutbacks include you or your spouse. In a few cases, both spouses.

Some get a warning that softens the blow.  Well, softens it a little. Maybe.

Others get an unexpected hit right between the eyes.

Either way, you have to respond.  When the blow knocks you down, you can’t stay down. You have to get up and move.  Move this way.

Get on this as a team.

God’s first words about family about leaving and cleaving are not just about cutting the umbilical cord. They are about tightly tying the cords around both of you.  Cleave to each other. That mean, as you stick it out, stick to each other!  Be united! So when Jesus repeated those words centuries later, he added, “Therefore what God has joined, let no one (or nothing) separate.” The text doesn’t say “or nothing” but it means it.  You are in this together so:

  1. Talk like it. Use language like we and us; not I and me.
  2. Plan what you will do together to pursue the “next” and overcome the obstacles.
  3. Support each other. Two are better than one! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Attach the issue, not the person.

There will be plenty of frustrating, and perhaps, frightening moments ahead.  Do not attack each other. Write the problem on a post-it note and express all of your anger, irritation, and frustration at the problem on the paper.  This gives you an opportunity to yell, if you are a yeller, and your spouse can join in the emotion with you because it is directed at the problem, not at him or her.

The emotional hits, the financial struggles, deflating letters from the former employer and from potential ones that don’t work out, are often devastating to a relationship. That devastation only happens, though, when the husband and wife act in unkind, unholy ways toward each other.  Plenty of marriages have survived and even grown though a layoff season because they fought with each other instead of against each other.

Commit to Dreaming and Avoid Panicking

Panic isn’t pretty.  So don’t do it.

Breathe – that’s always important, but especially when you have to have very clear thinking.

While you’re thinking don’t think same-ole, same-ole.

In 2007, JeannaLynn was the lead nurse for a Women’s Health doctor.  She had led in the establishment and growth of the practice and was very successful.  The doctor hired a new staffer on a Thursday and told JeannaLynn that because of her excellent work, she was going to pursue covering her portion of our private health insurance.  On Friday, out of the blue, the doctor called JeannaLynn and told her that she was shutting down her office and that JeannaLynn could pick up her belongings the following Monday – they were already packed up.

We were shocked! Then we were confused. Then we were mad!

Then, we got to praying, breathing, considering, listening and coming together.

We thought about what was good or our marriage.  We thought about how God was moving around us.  We thought about our life purpose statements and our purpose as a couple. We thought about the passions and gifts that God had placed in us.

Now, because we were forced to reconsider our path due to the surprising closing of a door we ultimately began a non-profit Marriage Mission that has been effectively moving couples from bad to good, good to great and great to service for 6 years.

We are a real couple with a real passion for real marriages.

And we discovered it because JeannaLynn was laid off.

Use the IRA Goal Model (Interest, Results, Action Plan)

I – When considering an idea, dream, or goal, ask yourself first, “What’s my Interest on a 1-10 scale.”

R – Then consider the Results of accomplishing the goal. Consider both pros and cons. Listen to each other completely.  Each of you paint the picture of the results completely to the other, then switch speakers and listeners.  Information is power.  Now, ask yourself if the number regarding your interest has changed.  Is the number at this point high enough that you’ll want to take action? Our magic number is 8 – we both have to be there to move forward.

A – Now, develop your Action plan.  Write it down. It’s not real if it’s not written.  There were likely be particular parts of the action plan that you will use the IRA Goal Model with.  Take your time with it.  Your investment of thoughtfulness will lead to the best harvest.

Sex Tips for Couples

Cheerful young couple in bedSex Tips for Couples

  1. Practice unconditional love and respect in the bedroom, too.
  2. Educate yourselves together. Read books (Sacred Sex, When Two Become One, Sheet Music), listen to audio books, and subscribe to marriage related podcasts. This will help you create an atmosphere in which open communication about sex is the norm for you.
  3. Pray together before and after sex specifically about your sexual intimacy. Sex is an amazing gift from God, so let him know about your gratitude.
  4. If either of you finds yourself stuck in “No” mode, seek help together. Be a team as you talk with your doctor and or marriage coach. Explore the possibility of meds that might be impacting you and let your doctors know that you don’t want your medicines to negatively impact your libido.
  5. Keep your sexual relationship fresh and alive throughout your seasons of life.
  6. During seasons when sex might be difficult, define what intimacy is together rather than abandoning all intimacy due to embarrassment or misinformation.
  7. Create a “Sacred Space” bedroom that generates sexual energy. Keep a clean bed, use a diffuser with scented oils, and keep it uncluttered. Don’t pay bills in your bedroom.
  8. Be still to know each other. Sexual intimacy is about much more than just the physical pleasure. Good connection outside the bedroom creates great connection inside the bedroom.  When you know each other deeply, you honor marriage (Hebrews 13:4).
  9. Read the Song of Solomon – out loud – together and otherwise learn how God sees sex. Make sure your mindset about sex matches up with view of the one who created it for us. The Bible says a good bit about the sexual relationship.
  10. Sleep naked.
  11. Forget about who initiates. It doesn’t matter who starts it, the point is to do it! Enjoy pursuing and getting caught.
  12. Make sure that your sexual intimacy doesn’t become an issue in your marriage. Keep it at the heart of your relationship and protect it.
  13. Remember your vows – to give to each other and to never pursue sexual fulfillment outside your marriage. So denial of sex to your spouse is absolute denial for him or her. They have nowhere else to go.  Bless each other with great sexual intimacy and fulfillment.

Honesty and Gentle Answers

Better Than Acting Annoyed
Better Than Acting Annoyed

When a husband says to his wife, “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to upset you,” most often, he’s not telling the real truth. He may not know it, but often something else is behind withholding information.

The truth usually is, he didn’t tell his wife because he didn’t want to deal with her being upset.

Then when his wife finds out anyway and gets upset, for him it’s kind of like a “This-is-why-I-didn’t- tell-you” kind of feeling.

Now that doesn’t make a lot of sense to most wives and that’s OK. A lot of things women do don’t make a lot of sense to husbands either.

Men often don’t handle elevated emotional conversations very well, particularly if some mess up on their part caused the elevated emotion.

Wives, if you can let your husband know how angry you are with words spoken more gently, your conversation may go much better. There is powerful wisdom behind that. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

So, express the anger and express your desire to not get harsh. Then try your hardest to keep the looks, gestures, and tones at a level at which he can engage.

What if the Kids Got the House?

Difficult choiceWe’ve seen so many divided homes over the years. A divorce (or two) has happened. Parents split up; sometimes moving states away from each other and others living just down the street from each other.

From a kid’s perspective, it seems like everybody gets to move on, but them. Parents marry somebody new. The parents move into different homes and establish themselves. They sleep in the same bed every night. They eat in the same kitchen every morning. Settled.

You know what is happening in the lives of the kids, though. They’re switching beds. They’re eating at different tables. Unsettled.

What if when parents divorced, the kids got to stay in the home and the parents had to switch in and out? What if the kids got to go to the same church every Sunday as before, play in the same neighborhood every day as before, got to sleep in their bed every night and eat breakfast in the kitchen that has been theirs? What if the determination was to make sure the kids are the ones who get settled and the adults who divorce have to move in and out every week or every three days?

Knowing that kind of arrangement would be ordered by the court might give some a little more pause before divorcing in the first place.

We know that this short post doesn’t deal with every issue or answer every question. We’re just wondering what could happen to keep kids in their place and let the parents be resilient.

Richard and JeannaLynn

Others have written about this.

There has been a movie about the idea called Who Gets the House?

Praying for Change

Young beautiful girl praying with tears in her eyes. The structure of the old burnt paper

We’ve read a lot recently from people who are praying for a turn-around in their marriage and are not seeing the results they desire.  Not only are they sad about the continued struggle in the relationship, but they are losing their belief in the power of prayer.

When the positive change you are praying for doesn’t seem to be happening, keep in mind that God’s work might not be absent as much as it might be unseen to you.  God’s work is not always a quick fix. Some of his work has taken years to accomplish.

It’s also true, though, that there are only a few times recorded in the Bible when God manipulated someone’s heart to make them do something that they were not otherwise bent to do.  When what we are praying for demands repentance by somebody else – the spouse you want to see change, for example – the change might not ever happen.  People are changing every day, but not every person changes.

Pray for your spouse to repent. Pray for your marriage to thrive. Be sure, too, that you are praying for God to change you. Changing you will still demand some repentance, but it will be in the life of someone you can actually impact.

Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).

 

Richard and JeannaLynn May

Marriage Missionaries and Coaches

Marriage Events and Coaching Fill First Half of 2015

We’ve have marriage events (classes, Roadshows, etc.) in Oklahoma, Mississourippi, Alabama (X2), Maryland, Texas and Tennessee (X2).

We’ve Keynoted at the Christian Children and Family Services Association on the campus of Harding University.

We’ve learned from leaders in Marriage Ministry at the Marriage Ministry Conference hosted by Watermark Community Church in Dallas.

We’ve coached in close to 210 sessions this year that usually last 1.5 to 2 hours (sometimes longer) and then engaged in countless hours of texts, calls and emails.  Couples are reaching out and the faith-focused, forward-pressing coaching we offer is giving them just what they need to succeed.  Contact between sessions is an important part of the coaching relationship.

We’ve spoken at Summer Series in the OKC area getting to talk about marriage and our marriage ministry vision.

Last week, a man who told his wife a month ago that he was filing for divorce told us at the end of a session, “I believe you have saved our marriage and I want you to know that I will never divorce my wife.”

Amen.

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2015 Hooked on Marriage Crowd at Full Bubble.
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Sometimes your upgrade is better than you can imagine.
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The Hooked on Marriage Group from S. Huntington Street Church in Kosy.
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An M&M gift from a friend at the Roadshow in Kosy.
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While we were in Maryland…
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While we were in Maryland…
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A great retreat in Texas!

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The Inoculation Against MADD

Backs of Couple Reading the Bible“Marriage should be honored by everyone…” (Hebrews 13:4).

Many marriages suffer from MADD (Marriage Attention Deficit Disorder). When we are honoring our marriage like scripture calls us to do, we are giving our marriage the attention that it deserves.  The cure for MADD is DPT. Not a diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus shot, but shots of DPT (Daily Predictable Time).

Daily predictable time for a husband and wife is action that builds your emotional connection (read friendship), spiritual connection, and physical connection.  Twenty minutes together for DPT is what you need. If you don’t have time for that, you are too busy – and you are neglecting the most important human relationship you have.

Try these. For your emotional connection, each of you secretly write down a random noun on a piece of paper. Then reveal your words and do a YouTube search with the word combination.  You are bound to laugh a little.  For your spiritual connection, go to www.crosswalk.com and follow the links to the couple’s devotional. Read one and tell each other what you get from it.  Finally, for your spiritual connection, enjoy a 30 second hug and a 10 second kiss with each other.

Twenty minutes to do three things that will inoculate your marriage against MADD.  Go do it!

Joy and Pain

iStock_000017507571XXXLargeNobody rushes the field after an easy victory.

Paul advised, “If you marry, you will have trouble.” When we emphasize, then, that marriage takes work and involves much difficulty we are not suggesting that marriage is not filled with joy, too.

It’s not an either/or deal. In fact, when a couple overcomes the difficulties together the potential for joy is greater!

Work hard, endure the pain, and CELEBRATE!

The E429 Filter

Parents swear, and children suffer

The boy asked his dad, “Dad, how do wars get started?”

The dad replied, “Well, Son, suppose a US leader made a comment that made a Great Britain leader mad…”

About that time, the mom walked through the room and said, “What happened?”

The dad replied, “I’m telling him how wars get started. Nothing happened.  Good grief.”

The mom retorted, “Well, that’s dumb. The US and Great Britain are allies.”

“I’m just giving the boy an illustration.”

“Well it’s a stupid illustration. Why not give him something realistic?”

“It’s not stupid,” the dad replied angrily, “what’s stupid is you feeling like you have to….”

About that time, the boy interrupted them and said, “Never mind, Dad. I see how wars get started.”

Too many husbands and wives have no filters for what comes out of their mouths. We hurt, tear down, embarrass, judge, criticize, and put down the person we promised we would love, honor, and cherish.

We suggest (and use) the E429 filter. We call it that because is practices what the Holy Spirit commanded in Ephesians 4:29.

We must say “… only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Helpful?
Builds up?
Beneficial?

Run your words through the E429 filter before you run them out of your mouth.