This Daily Practice Can Improve Your Marriage!

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Experts say that one of the keys to a happy marriage is daily time sharing with each other. If you can spend just 10-20 minutes each day connecting with each other, you can develop empathy, and research shows that empathy is such a crucial ingredient in a thriving marriage. In fact, I explored the importance of empathy in THIS post.

I’ve recently learned and started a practice developed years ago by famed therapist Virginia Satir called “The Daily Temperature Reading”. This simple practice, which takes just minutes a day, helps couples create and sustain strong, healthy, loving relationships. When you do these, make sure you are holding hands and look each other in the eye. Each person has the chance to share in each section and the other person listens without interrupting, before moving on to the next section.

Now you can get the full breakdown HERE, but I’m going to walk you through each step:

1/Appreciations: This is where you share just a couple of things that you appreciate about each other. This can be as simple as “I like your smile” to “I appreciate you doing the dishes after dinner tonight”. It can be a really nice surprise to realize just how much our spouse notices and appreciates.

2/New Information. This is just meant for keeping each other” in the loop” on day to day stuff. You can start this by saying things like “I want to tell you about…” or “I heard today that…” or “I need to remind you that…”. It’s just about keeping each other informed, which is crucial to staying in synch and feeling connected.

3/Puzzles. This is just an opportunity to clear up any big or little mysteries in and around your collective worlds. With puzzles, you can clear up any big or little mysteries before they become suspicions, jealousy, false assumptions or resentments.

4/Concerns with Request for Change. This is where you get in the habit of saying what you want instead of what you don’t want. Basically, you can just describe a specific behavior that bothers you and explain how you’d like it done. This is a chance for you to make a REASONABLE request. Instead of saying something like “I hate it when you spew toothpaste all over the sink”, say something like “Could you do me a favor and clean up after yourself in the sink after you brush your teeth, so that there’s not any leftover toothpaste still in the sink?”

5/Hopes, Wishes, and Dreams. This is an opportunity to let your spouse know some things you are hoping for in the long run and in the short term. A partner who understands your dreams is able to help make them happen. Just like any of the rest of the items on this list, these things change, so it’s important to keep each other current.

Arrange a time that suits both of you to do these every day, Now it may feel a bit uncomfortable and awkward at first, but once you get in the groove of doing this on a regular basis, you’ll find it very helpful, and a real key to keeping your relationship strong and healthy. You can even do it with your kids. It’s a big help to just about any relationship!

Here it is in practice (with some audio difficulty):

Two Minutes a Day Doing This Will Change Your Marriage!

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In my weekly hunt to find marriage teachings and encouragements I can present to our marriage class, I came across this absolute gem that has the power to transform any marriage. It comes from Gary Thomas and the website Homeward.

Gary has a new book entitled “Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for your Marriage”. While working on the book, Gary interviewed a woman who told him about an amazing marital “exercise” she put into practice. She spent an entire year working on her husband’s Christmas present. She kept a journal that recorded something she was thankful for about her husband that particular day. These were very specific, day-by-day accounts of what the husband did and why she was thankful to be married to him:  things like, putting up the Christmas lights when it was very cold, coming home and playing with the kids after a long business trip even though he was obviously tired, that kind of thing.

When she gave her husband the journal he immediately sat down and read it in one sitting. Later, when recounting this gift to a friend, he told him, “Reading that journal makes me aspire to be the man she thinks I am.”

So, you’d think that the real winner here is the recipient of the journal. But, if take a closer look, you might think differently. See, Gary tried this little marital “exercise” himself, taking a few minutes each day to write down something positive about his wife for which he was thankful.

Gary says that because he had to find something new to write about every day, he had to watch his wife throughout the day, trying to “catch” her doing something wonderful, or making sure he remembered something positive that she said. So, he was always on the lookout for the best, her most excellent qualities and characteristics. If he saw something displeasing, it wasn’t relevant to me, so he’d forget it and keep looking for the good.

He says it changed the way he thought about, looked at, acted toward, and spoke about his wife. He says it was an early gift to his wife because it changed the way he treated her, appreciated her, and spoke to and about her. And it was a gift to him to be reminded and filled with such gratitude that he’s blessed to be married to a woman who gives him something new to praise every day.

As you might remember from THIS post of mine, there is so much good to see in others, in circumstances, in everything, IF we just take the time to look for it. And if you take the few minutes to write down, every day, the positives you can find in your spouse, you just may take your marriage to the next level. Try it!!

I’ve Started a New Job

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So, many of you might have been wondering why I’m cutting back on my usual daily podcasts. Well, I’ll tell you. I have accepted a job with a non-profit organization called “Live the Life”, which works with local churches in the communities they serve to…among other things, reduce the divorce rate. They do this by helping to establish and promote marriage ministries largely in local churches.

The job I will be tasked with is to help reduce the divorce rate in Panama City and Bay County by 50 percent. Did you know that Panama City has more divorces per capita than any other city in the entire country? That’s right, Panama City is the divorce capital of the United States.

Why is this such an important mission? Because in communities  where there is marital success, children enjoy better physical and emotional health, greater success in school and there’s lower rates of crime, domestic violence, and teen pregnancy. Conversely, where there are great rates of marital failure there’s more domestic violence, more sexual assault, higher delinquency and crimes, higher rates of suicides, and many societal ills.**

I could really use your prayers as I embark on this mission. I feel like this job is an answered prayer and would allow me, God willing, to make a huge impact in our local community, and possibly neighboring communities as well.

Meanwhile, I will be doing my best to keep bringing you encouragement, inspiration, and practical tips through this little blog and podcast. Until then, THANK YOU in advance for your prayers. May God richly bless you and your family!

 

**Source: Administration for Children and Families, Health and Human Services, Washington D.C.

 

Take the Love Style Quiz!

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Like it or not, when we enter into marriage with someone, we bring baggage. Some of us bring LOTS of baggage. All our past hurts. All our struggles. So many of those come from our past and how we grew up.

You may have heard of “The 5 Love Languages” and you can take the quiz to identify YOUR personal “love language” RIGHT HERE. Up until now, that quiz was one of my favorite tools to help couples grow closer and for marriages to really thrive. I mean it is so important to love someone the way that they want to be loved. Empathy and understanding are crucial to any marriage.

I think I have now found a tool that may be more effective than even the love languages in understanding your spouse. It’s called the LOVE STYLE QUIZ. When you can identify your own “love style”, you can start to work on those deep seeded issues that continue to plague you and your marriage. What’s more, when you discover your spouses’s “love style”, you can empathize with them as they work on their own issues.

What’s cool about the quiz is that it not only helps you identify your “love style”, but it also offers tips and resources to help you deal with all that baggage from your past. So, go ahead and take the quiz RIGHT HERE. And in case you are wondering, my predominant love style is “The Pleaser”.

You knew I had issues, right?

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The 1 Skill Needed In Most Marriages

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I just finished reading a fantastic article from Phil Carson at Connectedmarriage.org on the importance of empathy in marriage. Empathy isn’t just important to the health and success of a marriage, it’s critical. Seeing things from your spouse’s point of view helps to grow a level of compassion, trust, and intimacy that you might not have together otherwise.

Scripture tells us to:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 (NIV)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

So, what’s the best way to keep the “bond of peace”? Empathy.

In the article Phil outlines 4 key ways we can increase empathy in our marriage. I would encourage you to read the entire article, but here they are, in a nutshell:

1/Effective Validation: Phil says the point of validation is to be able to understand and to feel your partner’s thoughts and feelings.

Everett Worthington explains that there are three levels of empathy**

Level 1: Understanding – You understand the point of view of the other person.
Level 2: Emotional Identification – You feel with and think with the other person.
Level 3: Compassionate Empathy – You feel compassion for the other person as well as emotional identification.

2/Understand Your Partner’s Past: Phill says it’s so important for couples to identify their emotional triggers and how they came about. For instance, I suffered a good bit of emotional abuse growing up, and as such I tend to be overly sensitive to personal criticism. That’s probably the reason my LOVE LANGUAGE is “Words of Affirmation”. My wife, Leanne, understands this and she’s quick to praise me when I do well, and affirm any accomplishment of mine. As well, she understands when her words may hurt me without her intending them to.

Phil says that when we understand our partners emotional triggers, it helps us both to manage how we respond and how we react. It produces compassion.

3/Use a Journal:  When couples have built up a great deal of resentment and anger, Phil says, forgiveness is always a step in the healing process. When you are hurt deeply, write it in a journal. Writing down thoughts and feelings can help you to process your hurt. Processing your hurt can lead you to compassionate empathy. Compassionate empathy, in turn, helps with the deeper hurts to move the person towards forgiveness.

4/Switch Sides: The goal of empathy,  Phil says,  is to experience the world from the other person’s feelings and thoughts. It doesn’t mean that you agree with their actions, but it can help to increase compassion. So, how do you put yourself in their shoes? You can switch sides in your expression of thoughts and feelings. For example, pick out a specific incident and write a letter to yourself from the perspective of your partner. I could write a letter from the perspective of my wife. I could include in it my wife’s thoughts, feelings and motivations. Putting yourself into their perspective can be very healing. It’s true even if you don’t get actually get it right. It can help to see a specific incident through their eyes.

That perspective will build empathy.

 

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**as cited in Levenson and Ruef, 1992

 

The 1 Thing Missing From Most Marriages

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Justin Davis and his wife Trisha have a marriage blog called www.refineus.org. Justin was asked at signing of their book call “Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Enough” what is the one avoidable mistake you see couples make that I can learn from? After dealing with initial pressure of having to pinpoint just one thing, Justin wisely answered that the one thing missing from most marriages is gentleness.

There really is such wisdom in that. Philippians 4:5 exhorts us to “let your gentleness be evident to all”. So, what exactly IS true gentleness? Well, Justin says it’s a disposition. The dictionary defines gentleness as “the quality of being kind, tender, or mild-mannered.” Justin says in your marriage relationship that “gentleness refuses to give level ten responses to level two issues”. Gentleness, also translated “meekness,” in the Bible does not mean weakness. We know true gentleness when we see it, it is strength under control. We are all strong. We are all powerful. We can speak words to influence others and act in ways that help or hurt others.  True gentleness contains the power that we have and uses it for good, and not evil.

Justin says “Harshness might make someone obedient or compliant, but gentleness wins their heart.”

Many of us are familiar with the scripture passage from Galatians 5:22-23 which says:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

For those of us who follow God, the longer we do walk with Him, the more gentle we should become. Truth is, we should strive to show gentleness not just in our marriage relationship, but in all our relationships. Think how that would impact our world?

 

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7 Ways to Improve Your Marriage in 2018

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If there’s ONE resolution we married couples should strive to make and complete in 2018, it’s to make our marriages stronger. As you may know, my wife and I lead a marriage class at our church. We firmly believe that a strong marriage creates a strong family and that in turn has ripple effects on extended family, friends, and our communities. The very foundation of society at large is the marriage relationship because it all flows from there. Not to mention, it was God’s design, and God’s ways are always the best.

Most of the content for today’s blog comes from Dave Willis at www.patheos.com. Dave and his wife Ashley have a very successful marriage ministry that reaches thousands upon thousands of marriages. I use their resources in my class at church. I highly recommend signing up for their e-mails and following them social media.

Dave put together a great list of 7 Ways to Make 2018 The Best Year of Marriage Yet. Much of these tips are common sense and some are things you may not of heard of, but let me share a few of my favorites:

Create some shared goals.

The New Year is usually marked by individual goals, but it’s rewarding to work towards shared goals in partnership with your spouse. The shared encouragement and accountability can also make success more likely than when we do it on our own. Sit down together and create some BIG goals for 2018!

Plan some celebrations.

Once you’ve made your shared goals, plan ahead what you’ll do to celebrate once the goal is reached. This will give you something new to look forward to. For instance, “We’re going to eliminate $1000 in debt, and when we do, we’re getting a babysitter and going out to dinner at our favorite place (and paying cash instead of charging it).”
This requires some logistical planning, but it’s SO worth it…

Plan at least one getaway together without kids (out of town).
The year is wide open so get the calendar out and mark a getaway for you and your spouse with no kids. You can figure out the logistics later. Make it happen. It will give you something to look forward to and it will create some great new memories together. The out of town trip could be a “celebration” to make the achievement of one of your shared goals.

Turn the electronics OFF and spend more real “Face Time” together. 
Create more time together without digital distractions, smart phones and TV’s competing for your attention. Talking with your spouse is always more beneficial than staring at a screen. Block off certain time(s) that will be “unplugged” this year. It will make a huge difference. It might be the simplest goal on this list, but it could also prove to be the most helpful!

Like Dave says, if both you and your spouse COMMIT to these steps and make them a real part of your life, you will be surprised at the results! God bless you and your spouse and here’s to the BEST year yet for your marriage!

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