Disagreement doesn’t Mean Division

You may never agree with each other.

When one of our kids was heading out to spend time with friends, one of two things was going to be true. Either JeannaLynn was going to feel like we let them go with way too little information about where, when and who; or I was going to feel like we just led through an unnecessarily long interrogation.

Let’em loose or tie ‘em down.

We never “got on the same page” regarding how much information to get.

We did get on the same page finally with this: We were not going to let the disagreement divide us.

Practically, that means:

  1. We quit speaking critically of the other when we didn’t get what we wanted.
  2. We prayed more often together when our kids were away.
  3. We considered the other’s interest above our own.
    1. JeannaLynn would cut back on the number of questions sometimes before she was satisfied with her information.
    2. I asked more questions than I though was necessary.
  4. I always joined her when her intuition said that we needed to check on them.
  5. I didn’t say “I told you so” when the kids were where they said they were going to be. She didn’t say “I told you so” when they weren’t.

Some disagreements will always be disagreements. Your disagreements do not have to cause division. What God has joined together, disagreements should not separate.”

15 – 15 -15

00RJLToday marks a huge milestone in our marriage! Today we celebrate our 30th Anniversary!! We are beginning a new chapter that actually started a few weeks ago.

Our first 15 years we spent miserably married!

Our last 15 we’ve spent reconciling, renewing, and refocusing; thus, Hooked on Marriage.

We will spend the next 15 with what we are calling – 15 years of Celebration!!!!!

We will take a mystery trip every Dec. – just US and just for US! No one knows exactly when, for how long, where, or mode of transportation.

On August 8th (our engagement date) for the next 15 years, we will reveal where we went the previous December, and for us we will have a confirmed new secret of where we are going the upcoming December.

We are incredibly excited about this new adventure and all the endorphins, dopamine, and the other chemical connections it is creating between us!!

Then, on our 45th Anniversary, we will have a party with a video of the past 15 years of Celebration!

We wonder what a video or whatever technical word is used will look like in 15 years?!

For today: We Celebrate “US”!! 💞

Core Essentials in Marriage — Forgiveness

Pretty mature woman hugging husband from the behind
Pretty mature woman hugging husband from the behind

“We are never more like God than when we forgive,” it’s been said.  When Jacob was forgiven by his brother Esau for his theft and dishonesty, Jacob told him, “Seeing your face is like seeing the face of God” (Genesis 33:10).

That’s why in marriage forgiveness is a core essential. No family relationship will survive without it. Grudges kill closeness. Bitterness ends intimacy. Judgment destroys unity.
But mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
To forgive doesn’t mean that what was done was OK. It doesn’t mean that the pain from the hurt is healed. Forgiveness is the cancellation of a debt. It is a decision to say:

1.      I forgive you.

2.      I won’t do anything to retaliate against you.

3.      You don’t have anything to make up to me.

Forgiveness frees the forgiven from having to live with the burden of making up for what they did.  Forgiveness frees the forgiver from the burden of needing something from the one who hurt them.  When the debt is maintained nothing can be received as an act of love. The love of the one who hurt will only be seen as an effort to get back to the black.
C. S. Lewis revealed our tendencies when he wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.”
What has your spouse done that you have not forgiven? What would be the positive results from cancelling that debt today?

Changing Feelings

Acrobatic HeartYou feel like:

You have to win this argument!!

You have to have more or less of_______ from your spouse!!

You can’t take it anymore!!

And then, in the middle of the argument, your spouse’s speech begins to slur, he loses his train of thought, the left side of her mouth suddenly turns down.  You know what is happening.

Do you still have to win the argument?  Are you still insistent on having your needs met since you seem to be the only one meeting needs in the marriage?  Have you really reached your limit?

Feelings can change in a heartbeat, literally!  They are a temporary emotional reaction to a temporary situation.  Yet, for many of us, they guide countless decisions in our marriage.  Often, we say and do things that are harmful instead of helpful based on our feelings in the moment.  Our feelings are not the voice of God!!

When you have the mindset that regardless of the circumstances, you are going to be God’s man or God’s woman in your home, your feelings take a back seat to thinking and faith.  That’s when great behavior flows freely and then here’s the added blessing; that behavior changes your feelings for the good.

Determine your mindset. Your behavior will follow.  Your feelings will change, too.

“In your relations with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… (Phil. 2:5; NIV).

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