Family, Personal Development

How Differences with Your Spouse Can Make Your Marriage Stronger

3 Ways to Turn Your Biggest Annoyance into Your Greatest Advantage

I hear this all the time: “My husband or wife doesn’t understand me. We are so different. We don’t really have anything in common. How can we make this work when we don’t see eye-to-eye?” In the midst of conflict, it’s easy for us to forget the real reason that opposites attract–because it’s good for us.

Think about it. If you married someone just like you, then you wouldn’t have to grow, you wouldn’t have to budge from your comfort zone, and you wouldn’t have to enter into someone else’s world—and grow yours in the process.

In the long term, differences are precisely what you need. They can add richness, depth, and texture to your marriage if you embrace them. As someone who married a woman who is very different from me, let me share three ways that we learned to navigate our differences.

1. Identify your differences

You know you are different than your spouse, but that is not enough. I am talking about more specificity. In what ways are you different? For example, Gail and I are the exact opposite on the Myers-Briggs. I am an INFJ. She is an ESTP. This means:

  • We approach the world differently. I prefer introversion; she prefers extroversion.
  • We gather information differently. I prefer intuition; she prefers sensing.
  • We make decisions differently. I prefer feeling; she prefers thinking.
  • We approach structure differently. I prefer judging; she prefers perceiving.

And that’s not the end of our differences. According to the StrengthsFinder test, we have completely different strengths. My top-five are:

  • Achiever
  • Intellection
  • Strategic
  • Futuristic
  • Relator

Gail’s top-five are:

  • Positivity
  • Woo
  • Developer
  • Connectedness
  • Adaptability

From these tests—and forty years of observing her—I know the specific ways that we are different.

2. Acknowledge your differences

It’s not enough to identify your differences and then file away what you’ve observed. No, you must acknowledge these—and celebrate them—in real time.

Let me give you a practical example. As an extrovert, Gail draws her energy from being with people. As an introvert, people can wear me out. I prefer being alone.

But because we love one another, we make sure that we help the other person get what they need. Recently, we went to a dinner party. I would have preferred to stay home and read, but I know Gail needs to connect with others to remain emotionally healthy. (And I need it too; I just don’t always recognize the need.)

On the other hand, she knows I can’t be with people every night or I will burn out. So, because she loves me, she sometimes chooses to stay home so I can recharge. (She also needs this; she just doesn’t always recognize it.)

3. Leverage your differences

Differences are not something to be resented. They are something to celebrate and be used. Think of it this way: If Gail and I were exactly the same on the Myers-Briggs results, we would only have four tools at our disposal. But since we are completely opposite, we have eight. It’s as if we have more colors on our palette with which to paint the canvas of our lives!

The real test of this is in making decisions. As a J on the Myers-Briggs, I like an orderly, structured world. I want to make decisions quickly and get them behind me. Gail is just the opposite. She doesn’t have the same need for structure. She wants to explore all the options. She prefers to have her decisions in front of her.

Left to myself, I can be impulsive, making decisions I later regret. Left to herself, Gail can procrastinate, missing opportunities she later regrets. Together, we ensure that we explore all our options but then make a decision.

Fall down, lift up

King Solomon once observed that two are, in fact, “better than one because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.”

We usually think of this in terms of friendship, but it applies equally to marriage. We have different strengths that can help hold up our partners through difficult times.

Especially in times of marital stress, it’s good to remember that you weren’t attracted to your spouse by accident. Embracing your differences can help you both to realize your God-given potential, in marriage and so much else.

Article by Michael Hyatt

faith, Family

7 Ways to Communicate Love

communicating-loveLove is the most important part of life.

We all tend to agree on that, but we can rarely seem to agree on what “love” actually means. 

Here are some of the most famous words ever written about love.

Within in them, God is giving us a timeless road map for building stronger relationships. Below are seven very simple and practical ways to put these words into action in our daily lives and our relationships.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Here’s how we put love into practice (it’s simpler than you might think):

1. Love is patient, so in our rushed world, be patient with people.

2. Love is kind, so in our sarcastic and often rude world, show genuine kindness to people.

3. Love is not jealous or proud, so in our self-focused world, put the needs of others ahead of your own.

4. Love keeps no record of wrongs, so in our world full of grudges and bitterness, choose to offer grace.

5. Love rejoices in the truth, so in our world of dishonesty, always tell the truth and fight for trust in relationships.

6. Love never loses faith, so in our world of skeptics and cynics, choose to believe in the presence of God and the power of love.

7. Love endures through every circumstance, so in our world of quitters, stay committed and never give up on yourself or your loved ones!

 

Dave Willis of Stronger Marriages recently wrote a book called The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships where he started by looking at everything the Bible (the ultimately love and relationship manual) has to say on the subject. He gets full credit for this article. 

Fortitude, Personal Development

Going for the Bronze Medal

having-an-i-am-third-marriage

The Winter Olympic Games is interesting whether you appreciate figure skating and curling or not. Have you been watching? There are so many great stories of people beating all odds to fulfill their Olympic dream. Hearing the athletes explain the sacrifices made and injuries overcome to be the very best at the one specific event for the Olympic games is inspiring.

For most athletes competing in the games, their dream is to compete at the highest level of their sport and they don’t really expect to win. For others though, the pressure to win gold is astronomical. Can you imagine having worked your entire life, literally, for one event – one race at a specific time and place and you know you must perform better than you’ve ever done before for a chance at gold? Your family, friends, and your entire country (it feels) are counting on you to win. Phew!

In a similar way though, we are all trying to win gold. We live in a world that covets, pursues, and praises achievement above pretty much everything else. Think about it. Everyone has the “gold medal” they must achieve. For some it’s financial freedom or being rich. For others it’s the perfect body, perfect mate, perfect house, perfect kids. Maybe it’s the dream job, dream experience, or dream retirement. Maybe it’s just having your way or being happy – whatever that means to you. For everyone, there is that thing. The personal gold medal. What’s yours?

In my personal study I’ve come to realize that all these typical “gold medals” we have for ourselves are ultimately unsatisfying. There are stories of Olympians who sell their medals, just as there are stories of people like you and me who work themselves sick to achieve their gold medal only to find out it wasn’t so great after all and they are left feeling discouraged and disappointed. Can you relate?

I think there is a better way. What if we went for the bronze medal – 3rd place, instead of gold? Try to follow me here. The pursuit of gold is very selfish. Yes, Olympians are racing for their country and maybe for a special cause or person, but ultimately it’s a selfish pursuit. All our “gold medal” pursuits are equally selfish. And they leave us wanting more. What if we didn’t live for ourselves and the “looking out for #1” and “it’s all about me” mindset? Gasp! How could we?!?

Ever heard of the I Am Second movement? It basically says that we should live for God, submitting ourselves to his purposes, his ways and by doing so we reap the benefits of living a fully satisfied life. Thousands of people including many celebrities are on board. They put themselves second instead of first. Silver instead of gold. If you are a Christian, this is the way we should live. God first, me second.

But we can take it a step further, which brings us to the point of this blog. By pursuing the bronze medal, 3rd place, we are saying God first, others second, then me. Ka-Pow!

Equation for you math wizards: Love God + Love Others = Fully Satisfied Life

Imagine if we applied this to our marriages… instead of an “I’m Number One” mindset, we chose to love our spouses with an “I am third” attitude… first and foremost comes our Savior, than you (my husband/my wife) whom I am called to joyfully serve, and then me. Oh, to be sure, there is a time and place for appropriate self-care, but more often than not, things are a bit out of balance in that department. #preachingtomyself

“Just as selfishness is a sure marriage killer, an attitude of service and sacrifice—the “I’m Third” philosophy—is an indisputable marriage builder.” –Dr. James Dobson

This is servant leadership, and it’s the best way to live. Amen? Can you imagine what marriage would be like if the heart’s desire of both partners was to joyfully serve the other? How might our work relationships improve? Dang, if everyone lived this way think what the Facebook news feed would look like!

Part of my personal journey is learning how to live this out. I’ve got a long way to go for sure, but I’ve been around enough to know my gold medals do not satisfy. “I’m Third” is unconventional, counter cultural, and radical – which is why I’m betting it works. Seems like this kind of mindset shift is just what the world needs right about now, don’t you think?

faith, Family

4 Things Married Men Should Never Do

jan3_orig

So, you’re a married man. Congratulations! Being married can be awesome and liberating. You get to spend the rest of your life with your best friend and someone who complements you completely – it’s tremendous.

The thing about marriage is that it actually provides a framework for you to thrive and flourish, to become your true self rather than someone who is just angling for another score.

But even though marriage is a time for you to feel free, there are a few things that married men should never do. Here are four of them.

1) Get emotionally vulnerable with a member of the opposite sex

Whether you’re unburdening yourself or whether they’re pouring out their heart to you, this is just a bad idea. Look, we all want to be the person who is kind and loving and who is “there” for those in need. And that’s a great person to be!

Just don’t be that person for a member of the opposite sex. Especially if it’s just the two of you.

Look, we’re not afraid of a man being friends or even being close with a woman that he’s not married to. But we also understand the realities of the way the human heart works, and we know that emotional vulnerability can wind up leading either – or both – of you to places you shouldn’t be going.

Someone else can be there for them. Or there for you. It’s not worth it.

2) Keep score

Hey, you want to know a great way to kill intimacy with your wife? Try keeping score!

When you get into a heated conversation (i.e. argument), don’t try to find resolution – just try to win. When your wife asks you to do something for her, remember it so you can use it later to force her to do something for you.

Oh, and when it comes to sex, definitely keep track of who initiates and when and then take it personally.

Of course we’re being sarcastic here. Keeping score is great when you’re playing actual games, but a terrible thing to do in marriage. You and your spouse are in this together, meaning you either both win or you both lose. Grow up.

3) Try to fix your wife

The great thing about your wife is that she is a wonderful puzzle of occasional contradictions who sometimes just needs to think out loud.

And at the risk of generalizing, we’re going to say that when she does think out loud, she’s not really looking for answers so much as a confidant and someone to back up the way she feels about something.

She probably doesn’t really want you to fix her situation, and she definitely doesn’t want you to fix her.

She wants an advocate.

You aren’t responsible for your wife’s emotions or actions. You know who is? She is. Let her be. Listen, be kind, back her up, and let her vent.

4) Stop doing the little things

You know how when you were dating you did all kinds of cool, fun, romantic little things? And you know how that made her feel?

Yeah, you should keep doing that stuff.

You probably already know this, because it’s in, like, every marriage book, blog, video course, conference, and getaway weekend. But there’s a reason for that: because it’s true.

You have to keep doing that stuff to let your wife know you still cherish her and respect her and have a desperate desire to continue surprising her, even after all these years.

And now it’s your turn, married guys. We’ve given you some ideas – take them as a springboard and start thinking of what you shouldn’t do as a married man, as well as all the many, many things that you can do. Get started. Live free.**

 

**This entire article was written by Craig Gross who started http://www.xxxchurch.com. He provides excellent resources for marriage and common struggles men in particular face. I enjoy sharing helpful and encouraging content from other subject matter experts. I hope this is helpful to you as it is to me.

 

 

faith, Family

Why Fear Is Worse Than Greed

fear is a liar

To be honest, I didn’t want to share this article. It sat in my inbox for months while I read and re-read it several times with an ever increasing conviction that it was written directly to me. Has that ever happened to you?

This hits me right between the eyes. Not every detail of course, but Dr. Raymond Force pretty much nails the subject. I’ve never thought about fear this way, even once I admitted that I had some fears (fear of rejection/ failure primarily) that keep me from being an awesome husband.

It is because of my fear that I don’t want to share this with you. So here I am facing my fear head on making myself vulnerable to you. Dr. Force’s complete article is below (in red). My personal comments follow that. Read on.

Dr. Force’s Article

There are two emotions in life that cause hardships in our relationship with God, our spouses, and our children. Though one seems to get a pass on many an occasion, both are extremely destructive. These menaces are fear and greed.

If fear and greed were villains, greed would probably have a higher price on its head. However, I believe fear to be a little worse for the following reasons:

Fear is not as easily identified as a problem in the mind of the fearful

Everyone that is fearful feels justified in their fear-based approach to life and relationships. In their mind, they are protecting their marriage and the ones they love. However, it should be noted that though we should be cautious in some areas, there is a fear based in our unbelief, our idiosyncrasies, and our insecurities that can destroy healthy relationships. 

A fear-based spouse will often see darkness where there is simply light, feel hostility when there is peace, or read something into a situation while others are just doing life. Nonetheless, the results can lead to as many fights as a marriage that is plagued with a greedy, self-centered spouse.

Fear-based people do not take the blame 

People that are prone to fear-based actions are more likely to blame others around them for not being equally afraid. Thus, it is harder to identify the true culprit in the relationship because the focus of the blame is often misguided at best.

Fear-based people often have logic and scriptures to back up their actions 

Though their logic and scriptures will often be faulty or out of context, they seem all the more believable and sincere because of their arguments.

Dr. Raymond Force’s Story

I like to tell people that I have better me-sight than insight on subjects like this. In other words, I was a horrible fear-monger in our marriage during the early days, and I still have to watch my thoughts and actions. There was a time when my wife was afraid to be herself. She hid behind a shell of stoicism as she never knew when the next fear-based bomb was about to drop. To make matters worse, my fear was cloaked with religion (which is the worst kind), and I failed to see how debilitating it was to our marriage until about 5 years into the marriage.

Here is what I found that helped me to move into a more loving approach to my marriage and life in general:

  1. I had to enter into a John 14:21-23 relationship with the Lord.

In other words, sensing the presence of my Heavenly Father helped me to relax and see goodness where previously I saw the opposite.

  1. I had to stop blaming others in the marriage and home.

The Greek word for devil in the scriptures is diabolos. The word is actually translated slanderer or accuser in a few places. I had to realize that though I was religious, I had many of the characteristics of the evil one in that I was proud and a slanderer of those around me.

  1. I had to become a man.

Manhood means taking sole responsibility for your actions instead of blaming others. It also involves taking the consequences of your actions on the chin and doing whatever it takes to ensure that the original actions that caused negative reactions from others are no longer in play.

  1. I had to detox my mind.

I often encourage spouses and families to do what I call a Philippians 4:8 detox. In this passage, Paul tells us to think on things that are praiseworthy. Mark it down. When you stop beating dead horses of negativity in your mind, you will see a release of tension in your spirit, marriage, and the rest of your home.

  1. I had to realize that fear was greed.

When people are fearful, their focus is hardly ever on God’s glory. In fact, the energy swirls within them and around them, but it hardly ever is an energy that causes the focus to be on God and the true betterment of others. Truly, love, agape love, never fails and it certainly “casts out fear”.

Chad’s Story

I believe most people are quite unaware, clueless really, of their negative behaviors and how they impact their relationships. I am no different, having spent the majority of my adult life believing that most of the relationship problems I faced were the fault of my circumstances or someone else. In just the last few years though I finally discovered something radical. A key part of my healthy living journey is to become more self-aware through a frequent process of “sober self-assessment” (Romans 12:3) that I learned in a really good Bible study resource.

It is by this prayerful self-assessment, the therapeutic exercise of journaling, and a study on the topic of hidden idols in my heart that the Lord revealed to me my issue with fear of rejection. I realized that I had made an idol out of approval/ acceptance from others- particularly from my wife Angie. I won’t get into the details about fear as an idol here, but if you are intrigued how they are connected, I recommend you take a close look at the last link about hidden idols. Read the book.

My point is that it’s humbling to learn that the source of my problems in life and relationships is my own fault and I’m responsible to make it better. What hits me hard about this article is that fear is actually very selfish. Greed is selfish obviously. But fear is even more selfish than greed. Ouch. Here’s what my fear of rejection looks like: (Gulp)

  1. I work really hard to earn approval or acceptance from Angie. I work my butt off because I NEED her approval like a fish needs water. I feel like I can’t live without her acceptance & approval. I fear failing her and I fear her rejection of me, so I knock myself out by doing things that I think will win her. My self-esteem is based upon how I perceive Angie feels about me & my performance.
  2. My fear of rejection and my NEED of her acceptance/ approval are tied together. What happens is inevitably I do not receive the acceptance/approval I EXPECTED for all my “sacrificial efforts” so I feel rejected. My expectation is entirely selfish. I am not working my butt off for her sake; I’m doing it for me. I’m trying to feed my idol of “acceptance/ approval of others.”
  3. Once rejected, I reason that I must protect myself from this horrible feeling so I quit doing anything for Angie. I blame her for rejecting me. “How dare she?!” I foolishly believe I will feel better if I don’t do anything for Angie because I will save myself all the hard work and I won’t be rejected. How ridiculous is that?
  4. The results are obvious. Angie does not feel loved in the least. She loses. She does not accept or approve of my behavior at all. Her rejection of me continues. She is conditioned to wonder if anything I do is really for her, or just for my own selfish motives. I am a mess, because from my point of view I can’t avoid rejection no matter what I do. I lose too.
  5. We both lose and our relationship is stuck in a rut because I am afraid of rejection.

To remedy this, I have to keep reminding myself of the list of items above. Particularly the ideas of ownership of my behavior, detoxing my mind from all the lies Satan tell me about my value, claiming key Scriptures like Phil 4:8, Psalm 23, 27 & 139, Romans 8:28-39, Joshua 1:9, 2 Timothy 1:7, etc., and realizing how selfish my fear really is. Fighting my fears is a battle that I expect to fight to my grave, but I know I will get better with practice. And the truth is that I have an awesome advocate on my side. His name is Jesus. His great love for me wipes out all my fear – if I let him. I wonder, do you know him?

I’m embarrassed to share all this with you. I feel like I should have it all figured out by now.  The truth is, the older I get, the more I find that I don’t have figured out. But here is what I know for sure:

-Fear is real and it can be debilitating.

-Fear is a selfish choice.

-The perfect love of Jesus casts out fear, so I will forever cling to him.

-Focusing on Jesus, his love for me, his attributes like mercy, grace, & forgiveness, instead of my fears is a key way to experience victory over it.

I’m so thankful to have Jesus on my side to help me through my life journey. I can’t imagine how I would handle this struggle without him. If what I’m saying here sounds completely foreign to you, or you think I’m crazy, I welcome your feedback. I would love to chat with you personally to discuss your thoughts on fear, faith, marriage, etc.