Why We Stay Married
This is what the lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest in your souls." —Jeremiah 6:16
My husband and I reached a crisis point, dealing with an issue that had to be resolved one way or the other. I wasn't sure how I could stay in the marriage if things continued as they were.
We sought the help of a counselor, and I was surprised when he asked, "Do you know why you're staying together, or is it just an unquestioned sense of duty? Why have you chosen to stick it out?"
Staying together, I realized, was not the same as "sticking it out, no matter what." In sticking things out, we only seemed to remain stuck. But I believed that God could do anything, didn't I? Was I really trusting him with my marriage?
My husband and I came to the point where we could focus on working though our problems with all the energy and commitment we had. I chose our marriage above all the other possibilities—leaving, ignoring the problems, going my own way while living under the same roof—and I continue to make that choice every day.
Love is both risky and immensely rewarding precisely because it is something freely chosen and freely given. Remove the element of choice and you cut out the very heart of love. Marriage that does not rest on this kind of love may be tight-lipped commitment, but it's not all that God had in mind when he created marriage.
By Diane Eble from The Couples' Devotional Bible (Zondervan)
Try these 4 tips to enjoy new activities together:
Plan your time. Studies show that marital happiness is highly correlated with the amount of time spent together. So get out your calendars and find a time slot you two can call your own.
Broaden your sphere of interest. List the recreational activities or hobbies your spouse likes. Circle the ones you also enjoy. Then schedule one or more into your free time together.
Recognize what you bring to the picture. Your presence means more to your mate than you may think. Don't be afraid to jump into an activity you previously avoided.
Do something crazy. Browse model homes you'd love to own and dream together how you'd decorate the rooms. Don't let yourselves fall into a rut! Come up with an outing that might push your limits.
Adapted from The Love List by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott (Zondervan)
What are you really saying?
Nonverbal signals carry five times the impact of spoken words. So understanding your mate's body language can go a long way to avoiding arguments and strengthening your relationship. Here are six strategies for communicating without words.
- Watch your mate's shoulders. Hunched shoulders may indicate defeat, or that she's feeling overwhelmed. Squared shoulders convey confidence and could mean he's ready for battle. Observing the difference can defuse potential conflict before it strikes.
- Sit and tilt your head when asking your mate to share what's upsetting him. Sitting shows you're open and ready to listen, and inclining your head indicates sincere interest.
- While making dinner, puttering around the house, or when on a date, lean your body toward your spouse. Leaning conveys, I want to be closer to you.
- Pupils dilate when you experience attraction, so gaze deeply into your mate's eyes to signal your love.
- If you're arguing, hand over a glass of water. Gestures and emotions are directly linked. If your wife is defensive, her arms will likely be crossed. Getting her to uncross them (to accept a cold drink) will help dissipate the tension.
- Smile. Science has proven that smiling causes others to react more positively to you. Just smiling at your mate can generate good feelings for you both.
Summer travel tips
5 strategies for smooth sailing and great bargains on that getaway:
Call an airline 60 seconds after midnight on Wednesdays—that's when rates are lowered.
Pack some of your kids' clothes in your suitcase and vice versa, so if one bag is lost, everybody will have a change of outfit.
Before buying rental-car insurance, check your own policies. You may be covered.
Bypass travelers' checks for ATMs, which are often free.
Make lunch your main meal. Restaurants often serve the same fare for less than at night. Then you can snack or just order appetizers for your evening meal.
Source: Redbook (April 2003)
Exercise your way to better sex
We've all heard regular exercise can lower your weight and cholesterol. Now Dr. Jim Pfaus, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal who studies the biology of sexual desire, gives a new reason to hit the gym. "A single good workout can prime the body for sex," he says. "When you increase your blood flow, you'll have a much easier time getting aroused."
But don't feel you have to race from your workout to the bedroom. "The high will remain for a few hours afterward. Enough time for a nice dinner," Pfaus says.
Spouse-proof your diet
Marriage can be hazardous to your weight. The reason? Most couples don't know how to negotiate food issues, such as how, what, and when they eat. Try these three ways to avoid packing on pounds while spending time with your mate:
- Don't view food as entertainment. Plan outings where the focus isn't on eating, such as seeing a comedy show or playing cards with friends.
- Eat like you did before you were married. Since couples share more meals after getting hitched, and men tend to eat more than women, women often unconsciously munch extra calories. Aim for a palm-sized portion of protein, a fist-size of whole grains, and a half plate of veggies.
- Get a move on.Working out together is a great motivator. Join a health club or start biking and plan a weekend cycling trip. You'll get your heart rate up in more ways than one!
Source:Woman's Day (January 2006)
Work it out
Morning person vs. night person
If you're a morning person but your spouse is a night owl, how do you cope with differing internal clocks?
Chad and I have been married 35 years. I can still remember the shock of being awakened early on Saturday mornings by my new husband, who was bright-eyed and ready to tackle a myriad of chores. After a long work week,
I was used to sleeping in on Saturdays! Although it took a couple years, Chad finally figured out how to get me out of bed—he took me to breakfast.
Now that's our tradition. We go to breakfast, have a nice, leisurely talk, and then go about our errands for the day. I actually look forward to getting up and having that time with him, so I don't mind getting up on Saturdays anymore.
—Chad and Marty White, Illinois
Jeremy will stay up until all hours of the night folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, taking out trash—you name it. And I've learned to do "quiet" chores while he sleeps in on Saturdays—scrubbing the bathroom, washing clothes, grocery shopping. Just not vacuuming!
—Jeremy and Amanda Solt, Minnesota
Alastair bounces out of bed at his peak; I crawl out an hour later and do everything at half-speed for the first hour of my day. During the week we function on our own schedules and never eat breakfast together. But on weekends and vacations he uses that extra energy for an hour of exercise, then comes back to shower and eat breakfast with a wife who has had time to wake up!
—Alastair and Lynne Tait, Australia
that thing we do
My husband, Michael, and I are both avid baseball fans—in fact, one of the first things we did together before we were even dating was attend a game. When we got married we decided to combine that passion with our love for traveling. It became one of our goals to see a game in every active stadium sometime during our marriage—and to collect a pennant from each one to display in our home.
When work brought us the opportunity to travel, we were thrilled because it enabled us to collect six pennants in one season. But more than that, we enjoyed making memories together by visiting so many different places and ballparks.
Doing so much in such a short period of time made it seem as if we'd been married longer because we had so many "Remember when …" stories we could tell, such as when we were on the big screen at a Marlins game, or had to walk the last mile to Wrigley Field because of a broken bus.
Our pennant collecting has become part of who we are as a couple, and as the collection grows, so will the love behind it. Every game we go to together makes us hope for just one more. Because no matter what stadium we're sitting in, when Michael and I are side by side with our Yankee hats atop our heads, it's always clear that in baseball and in life he and I are on the same team—forever.
Shannon and Michael Primicerio have been married two years and live in California.
What fun things do you and your spouse do together to enhance your marriage? Send your stories to email@example.com.
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Between the covers
Desperate Pastors' Wivesby Ginger Kolbaba and Christy Scannell (Howard)
Meet four PWs (pastor's wives) who've formed a friendship in the sleepy midwest Ohio town where their husbands minister. To avoid the "fish bowl" existences they endure in their hometown, the ladies travel to the out-of-the way refuge of Lulu's Café;. There, in the capable hands of their favorite waitress, they nosh, rant, confess, laugh, and cry over issues such as infertility, parenting, career, and love. Thankfully, this is the first novel in the Secrets from Lulu's Café; series, because you'll want to meet up with these fabulously sincere ladies again and again.
The First Five Years of Marriage
(Tyndale) Looking for the perfect wedding present? Focus on the Family has assembled more than a dozen marriage experts to tackle the most common issues newlyweds face in areas such as finance, sex, communication, faith, and family. Each themed chapter is divided into short (2-3 pages) question/answer segments to make it easy to find the advice you need. This practical and biblical resource will be like the gift of a remarkable mentor or counselor to newly married couples.
by Joy Jordan-Lake (WaterBrook Press)
When God puts a passion—a calling—in our heart, what does he expect us to do when the demands of marriage and parenting are added to our life? Jordan-Lake, a professor and former chaplain, shares honestly about her family's struggles to find balance, as well as those of couples she interviewed. Topics include the potential for marital drift in an overscheduled family and the do's and don'ts of relocating for a spouse's career. Although most of the solutions are definitely not "one-size fits all," the raw emotional journey Joy shares will encourage many couples in similar circumstances.
Everybody enters marriage with assumptions of what a spouse is supposed to be and do. The problem comes when we hold our spouse accountable for not meeting the needs we never verbalized.
If you're disappointed because your spouse isn't meeting your needs, try this exercise.
Step 1: List individually your most important needs/expectations.
Step 2: Swap lists and prayerfully consider what your spouse desires from your relationship.
Step 3: Discuss each item. Ask:
- Is my expectation realistic or idealistic?
- Tell me about a time when I met that need.
- When did I disappoint you by failing to meet this need?
- How can I better meet this need?
When your spouse has finished responding, give feedback. Say, "I hear you telling me that I met/failed to meet your need for_____ when I ____."
Step 4: Brainstorm specific ways to meet that need.
Step 5: Do it!
Step 6: Affirm your spouse's attempts. Practice being grateful for any effort made, even if it doesn't measure up to the fantasy level you'd hoped.
Step 7: Even with the best attempts, sometimes your spouse will let you down. The most effective way to resolve disappointment is to give permission to express those feelings as soon as it's appropriate. Be specific about what your spouse did or failed to do. Without open communication, your spouse may not even realize he or she let you down.
"Not tonight, honey, I'm on the computer." Sound crazy? A recent study by Kelton Research found 65 percent of us spend more time with the computer than with our significant other. The Center for Online Addiction (www.netaddiction.com) lists these eight warning symptoms:
Lying about online time. It may seem like only an hour or two. But the truth may be you're on every evening and don't realize it (but your spouse does).
Decreased physical activity and social life. You no longer take a walk, hit the gym, or get together with friends.
Neglected obligations at home or work. The house is a mess, the yard is overgrown, and you're surfing the Net.
Spending too much money on computer equipment or internet activities. You buy a powerful computer loaded with music services, video services, and club memberships—and never tell your spouse how much you're spending.
Yearning to be on the computer when you're away. You avoid vacations or family visits because there's no place to go online or play games. You go online to escape real world problems and ignore conflicts at home or work by losing yourself in the ideal online persona you've created.
Disregarding physical consequences. Too much stationary posture can cause back problems; too much keyboard, carpal tunnel syndrome.
Denying the problem. You pass off overwhelming evidence of addiction as normal.
You can overcome internet addiction. A productivity or time-tracking program can be helpful—especially when paired with strictly limited computer usage. Helpful time-tracker programs are WorkTime (www.nestersoft.com/worktime) and Project Clock (www.cybermatrix.com/project_clock.html).
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.