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The Safety Net of Romance

By Debi Walter | Communication , Romance


Cultivating romance into your marriage on a regular basis helps you stay connected heart-to-heart when you don’t see eye-to-eye.

Every marriage goes through seasons of conflict, and it’s usually quite intense when it happens. Things can be going along really well and your spouse says something that doesn’t sit right in your mind.

So, you ask a question that leads to more tension because either the question isn’t heard clearly or it isn’t understood.

So, the answer isn’t at all what you wanted to hear, which leads to more tension and more conflict. It’s a downward spiral that’s hard to correct once it begins.

Smart couples choose to go to their separate corners when tensions mount in order to think and pray before continuing the conversation.

This is a good idea, especially if you’re prone to fits of anger. Giving yourself time and distance allows the Lord to help you think with wisdom, instead of reacting with foolishness.

What does this have to do with romance?

Everything!

A couple who never takes the time to romance each other when things are going well, are going to have a harder time believing the best about their spouse when things are hard.

Romance acts like a safety net when you’re balancing on the high wire of conflict.

You know it’s a dangerous place to be, but the romance you’ve enjoyed together insures that you’ll make it through safely and together.

Romance gives you a tangible reminder of why the relationship is worth fighting for. It helps you remember the good times when the bad times are screaming at you.

I remember a time when Tom and I were going through a really difficult conflict that had no quick resolve. It went on for months, but our commitment to each other never wavered. We knew we were in this relationship together–for better or worse–and just because this was a “worse” part of our marriage, we weren’t going to give up.

The best was yet to come. It might surprise you that our lives continued on as normal; I was homeschooling our three children, Tom was leading a small care group in our home on a weekly basis, Tom had work commitments that required us both to attend with smiles on our faces, and all the while our hearts were hurting.

We did what we knew to do, which even included some romance here and there, because this was our norm. Sort of like a default setting on a computer.

It was while we were doing a normal romantic thing–slow dancing together at a work dinner–that God broke through our conflict and helped us resolve the issue once and for all.

It started with tears that lead to repentance and then, total and complete forgiveness. Had we not taken the steps to do something romantic that we both enjoyed would we have ever found resolve to our conflict?

I’m sure we would have, but because we did, it may have happened sooner because we were willing to do what we knew to do, regardless of how we felt.

Was it easy? No. Would we wish this kind of conflict on anyone? Absolutely not!

But now this story is part of our testimony, and it has helped hundreds of couples understand that a good marriage isn’t without difficulty.

In fact, if you’re doing things right, it’s not to prevent trouble, but to prepare the ground so that your love is supported through it when it comes.

What trouble are you facing today that causes you to want to pull away?

How could doing something romantic and thoughtful for your spouse help you get through the worst part to a better tomorrow?

Pray and ask God to help you come up with a plan, and then watch what He does. If He can turn water into wine, then certainly He can turn our trouble into something good.

A testimony that will help us help others who may be struggling in the same way.

Now that’s a love worth celebrating!

 

(photo source)

Faithfully Fit: How Exercise Can Keep Your Marriage Healthy

By Dustin | Communication

Faithfully Fit: How exercise can keep your marriage healthyThe American Journal of Epidemiology monitored the health behaviors of nearly 8,900 adults over several years and found that both men and women who got married during that time tended to lose a significant amount of their cardiovascular fitness.

Most husbands and wives don’t need a study to tell them that being married might derail their fitness regime. As a seasoned personal trainer, I’ve listened to many men and women stress over balancing their career, marriage, family, and health.

Though it may be difficult, staying fit is a most worthwhile endeavor for married couples. Research suggests that couples who stay fit experience benefits that contribute to the success of their marriage.

Three years ago, during a premarital counseling session with our pastor, my husband-to-be and I made a commitment to one another. We promised to make our health a priority in our marriage – we jokingly call it our “fatty clause.”

I will never forget the look of surprise on our pastor’s face when we brought up the role of fitness in our marriage. She said we were the first couple to ever select health as a priority.

At the time, I thought our “fatty clause” was just a sensible measure to help us avoid lifestyle related disease and a spreading midsection, but our mutual commitment to health has become so much more.

As a young married couple, we’ve made lots of plans. Some have worked out and others didn’t.  As I am writing this we are living in Costa Rica – that was never part of our life plan, but here we are!

Even when the world around us feels like its upside-down (a common occurrence when living outside your home country), we’re able to ride the storms of life out together. Research would suggest that our commitment to physical fitness has contributed to our healthy marriage.

  • Regular exercise can help you and your spouse maintain a healthy self image. According to a University of Arkansas study men and women who are physically fit tend to feel more sexually desirable (Penhollow & Young 2004).
  • Couples that are physically fit are more likely to respond to stress better. The American Physiological Association suggests that exercise gives your body a chance to practice responding to stress. Thus when you encounter the emotional stress of day-to-day life, you’re physiologically better at handling those stressful experiences.
  • Exercise can enhance a couples sex life. Engaging in intense physical activity can stimulate blood flow and nervous system activity that can boost sex drive.
  • Couples who share new experiences together, stay together. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, demonstrated that sharing in new and exciting activities is consistently associated with better relationships (Aron 2000). Try mixing up your workout routine by going on a weekend hike or bike ride together.

Whether you use working out as alone time or as a time together, the benefits to your well-being will affect your marriage in surprising ways. I want to encourage every couple to use physical fitness as a way to keep their marriage in shape.

After 3 years of marriage, I’m more committed to my husband and my health with each passing day. Making room in our life together for regular workouts is the second best decision we have ever made.

What role does fitness play in your marriage?

Erika VolkErika Volk is a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach who has a passion for helping people make their everyday lives just a little bit healthier. She specializes in TRX training, fitness travel, and online coaching.

Erika lives with her husband in a beautiful little beach town somewhere in Costa Rica. Visit her website at erikavolkfitness.com to learn more about how Erika can help you make the most out of your workout.

Tis the Season… For Blindsiding Your Spouse?

By E.J. Smith | Communication , Help

Wait, what? I thought this was going to be a holiday post?!  It is a holiday post, friends.  Just not the holiday post you were expecting.ID-10045265

If you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you may’ve heard of this “game” some kids thugs are “playing” in which they run up to an innocent stranger on the street and throw a punch with the goal of knocking the person out cold.  It’s termed, “The Knockout Game”.  Lovely.

If you’re like some of my friends, fans and readers of late, you may be able to empathize with these innocent victims on a much more personal and profound level.  See, the truth is that although we typically look towards the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s) as a time of great joy, love and warmth, there is a darker side to the season.   It’s the time of year when a lot of people decide to clean out their closets—namely of the secrets they’ve been stuffing in there.  Turns out, not all the skeletons are for Halloween.

Take my friend (we’ll call her “Kate”) who recently had her husband of less than a year reveal that when they were dating, he had a one night stand with a woman from “back home” while he was visiting family.  It wasn’t the fact that he’d “cheated” per se, since they were admittedly in that kinda-sorta-not-sure-if-we’re-exclusive phase when the event happened.  It was the idea that she now had to deal with the mess of this new information, and consider how its absence had influenced subsequent decisions—like, umm… getting married.

And of course there were questions.  Questions like:

Why did you do that?

Why didn’t you tell me?

Why on earth are you telling me NOW?!

And perhaps most importantly:

How do we fix this?

I can’t quite tell if the timing is a conscious one or not, but ask almost anyone in the mental health community and they’ll tell you the holidays are notorious for “stirring the pot”.  And just in case that wasn’t enough to run a chill through your hot cocoa, consider the fact that more divorces are filed in January than any other month!  If you’re a therapist, lawyer or crisis hotline worker, you probably know the holidays by another name: “busy season”.

Of course, not all instances of bad news are marriage-endingly horrific, or worthy of “bomb” status.  In fact, there are times your spouse might drop a piece of bad news on of you that’s not even their fault!  For the sake of thematic consistency, I’ll call these smaller events “grenades”.  They’re not on the same level of devastation like an affair, but they catch you off guard, and frankly—it sucks.

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Recently, my husband took our dog to the vet for his “Senior Checkup”. As you can tell from the picture—he’s still pretty spry for an old guy!  Anyway, when I got home from work, I asked about how everything went.  Our little wonder-mutt was in perfect health, however the vet bill was not.  It was $750.  Yes. You read that right… $750 to learn that our pooch was COMPLETELY FINE.

The next words out of my mouth were: “Why didn’t you call me?!”

My husband looked at me and calmly replied, “Because he’s fine and I took care of the bill right then.”

“Yes, but you didn’t call me.  It was over $300.  We have an agreement.”

Side note: We have an agreement that we always  usually discuss major purchases over a certain amount.

“Because you would’ve told me to pay it,” he replied sounding equally confused and slightly perturbed.

And really, he was right. I would’ve told him to pay it.  Of course I would’ve told him to pay it.  We had the money.  That wasn’t the issue.  He was right. I knew this.

But why could I not shake the feeling that someone had socked me in the gut?

After some careful thought, I realized it was because I would’ve called him.  To me, our agreement was sacrosanct.  Black and white.  Non-negotiable. And perhaps most importantly, it was an expression of equality.  I also realized it had stirred up some old hurts– not even remotely related to him—but rather in connection to the way I related to money.

In this case, he had dropped the “bomb,” but the mess was all mine.

So how do you survive a “bomb dropping” or even a “grenade”?

Here are a few things to consider—

1)   Give yourself time to react.

As I’m sure you know, when it comes to good communication—even in the face of some seriously disturbing, earth-shattering news, it’s good to curb your immediate response and take a few seconds to breathe.  This isn’t just some fluffy therapist-speak either.

Without getting too technical, when the brain processes an event that elicits a strong stress response, the limbic system (aka the “emotional brain”) takes over –overriding the logical part of the brain (aka the prefrontal cortex).  Giving yourself some time to process the news allows your brain to rebalance itself, and will hopefully prevent you from saying or doing anything you’ll likely regret later.

2)   Give yourself MORE time…

It seems to me that when things like this happen, the person who detonated the bad news often seems to want an immediate response and then later on, a clear-cut pathway to resolution one way or another.  Here’s why this makes sense:  Depending on the secret, your spouse may have been carrying it around for hours, days or even years! S/He has had plenty of time to mull it around, evaluate it from several– if not all– sides, and then drop it on you at his/her convenience.  Simply said, they want a resolution now, but they’ve also had a head start.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point this out to your spouse. I once listened to a professor relate an experience of working with a patient who had terminal cancer.  This patient had already come to terms with her death, and was having angry response to her family’s reaction to the news. My professor said that he had to point out to her that while it was “old news” for her, it was “new news” for them.

In my situation, my husband had already had time to process the sticker shock, make logical steps towards resolving the issue, and research pet insurance to avoid the situation in the future, well before I ever knew anything about the original bill! Of course I wasn’t going to be on the same page! He was on a different chapter!

3)   Consider the Power Differential

—it may actually be in your favor.  Yes, I just said that.

Assuming your spouse just dropped a bomb on you, like the one Kate experienced—after following the advice given in Steps 1 & 2, you’ll want to follow up with an evaluation of who’s who and what’s what.

Yes, s/he just dropped the bomb—but, if your spouse isn’t already halfway out the door towards divorce, and is interested in fixing the issue, then in many cases this puts you at an advantage for setting the terms of how, when and where the relationship will be remedied.  This is the exact advice I gave my friend Kate.

A week or so after the news, Kate’s husband thought she’d be over it.  Kate was far from feeling over it, and was struggling to appease his timeline.  In no uncertain terms, I validated her struggle.  He got to choose when to “start” the issue, and she most certainly had the right to work through it to a reasonable end.

Notice the word “reasonable”.  A reasonable end is not one where you stew and simmer for some undetermined length of time with absolutely no productivity whatsoever.  Holding grudges does not a happy marriage make.  However, processing and actively grieving the news so you can figure out where to go or what to do next is a very different story.

4)    Create a Proposal.

If you want to fix your marriage after an injury, you’ll eventually need a plan of action.  Now that the logical part of your brain is back up and running, and you’ve figured out how you fit into the equation moving forward, it’s time to make a plan.  To illustrate, let’s go back to my friend Kate:

For Kate, a day or two of feeling heard and validated by friends was enough to help her confront her husband with the painful truth that she wasn’t feeling “over it”. She calmly presented her terms:  marriage counseling, and co-reading a book I’d recommended (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work*), along with more quality time (one of her predominate love languages*) reconnecting and rekindling the trusting bond she’d come to adore and rely on as a wife and as a woman.  Her husband, being the wise man that he is, decided to accept Kate’s terms.

Have you suffered an emotional “knockout” or “bomb-dropping” by your spouse?  If so, I want to hear how you dealt with it!

Digital Image Source: http://www.freedigitalphotos.com Artist: digitalart

*links to affiliate source

Do NOT Ask This Question in Your Marriage…

By E.J. Smith | Communication , General , Help

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If there’s a gene for being blunt, I promise you that my Jersey Italian family got it two-fold.

We’re not crass or mean-spirited per se, but as my mother would put it, we’re “efficient in our honesty.” (Well, that’s one way to put it!)  Anyway, growing up in this family—this loving, open, boisterous and brutally honest family– gasps of horror at the honest answers to questions like, “Does this dress make me look fat?” or “What do you think of my new hair cut?” often resulted in the aforementioned statement:  Don’t ask the question if you’re not ready to hear the answer.

So you’re probably wondering how this piece of familial “wisdom” relates to fixing troubled relationships.

Allow me to explain:  When one partner in a marriage expresses that a need of his or hers feels unmet, such as, “I don’t feel respected at home,” a question we hope the other partner will ask is:

“What can I do to help you feel respected?”

Why is this question so critical?

This question is critical for two reasons:

#1) Notice that the question makes an offer of assistance—not ownership. 

The partner does not respond by asking what he or she can do to make the other person feel respected.  Assuming you have the power to force a change on someone’s psyche is not only the exact opposite of respect, but also robs the individual of ownership of his or her emotional experiences.

 

Are you with me so far?

 

#2) Asking for guidance as to how one may assist is — in itself–  an act that conveys respect.  You show respect when you assume your spouse is the expert on his or her needs.

So there you go– easy enough, right?  WRONG!

You must NEVER ever ask your spouse, “What can I do to help you feel respected?”  (or something similar) unless you have already considered this:

How willing are you to give your partner what he or she requests? 

How much do you trust that your spouse’s request will be reasonable?

 

Trust and believe,  these are questions worth asking yourself.  If my own past experience and the many couples I’ve met over the years are any indicator, I’m guessing there are probably some needs or compromises to which you’re more willing to acquiesce than others.

And hey,  that’s okay.  You’re allowed to have boundaries too!

The point is to know what those boundaries are, and go into that conversation with honesty.

One of the worst things you could do in this situation is promise to do something and then not do it.

Let me say that again:  One of the worst things you can do in this situation is promise to do something, and then not do it.

Do you hear me?  Worst!

 

But E.J., what if my spouse requests something of me that I truly am unwilling to give?

Well that’s certainly possible.  Assuming your spouse hasn’t asked you to be an accomplice in some illegal activity, or put your family in physical, mental, emotional or spiritual danger (because I’m assuming you married a reasonable, generally decent person):  Ask yourself what about the request feels unreasonable to you.

 

This inner exploration is wise for two reasons:

1)    You’re much more likely to have a rational, respectful discussion (as opposed to an emotion-filled rant) if you’ve done your inner homework around the request.

2)    Since compromise is an important component of any marriage or relationship, understanding your stance on the issue will also help you reach a compromise that leaves both parties feeling heard and satisfied.

If all else fails, seek mediation from a neutral, safe, and mutually agreed upon third party together.  This might be a chaplain, pastor, or even a counselor.  In this scenario, the ideal would be for you to both be present.  However, if your partner is unavailable or unwilling to meet, I think its at least important that you go.  Get that perspective.  Feel heard and be willing to listen.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and questions.  Can you relate?

Image source: www.freedigitalphotos.net; photographer: stockimages

 

How to Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage
(Talking Optional)

By Dustin | Communication

How to Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage!“We just don’t talk anymore.”

“He doesn’t listen to me.”  “She’s so defensive – I can put her in a bad mood without saying a word.”

“When we first got together, we could spend hours just hanging out and talking. How can we get that back?”

“I love her SO much, but I really struggle to make her feel it.”

“The kids require so much of my energy and attention, sometimes he gets what’s left over at the end of the day.  He deserves better.”

“On our wedding day, the advice we got over and over again was to make good communication a priority.  I never thought we’d actually need help, but I know things can get better than they are right now.”

Communication is the core of any good relationship.  And it’s especially vital to communicate well within your marriage.

Of course, effortlessly talking for hours on end like you did when you were dating is a great form of communication.  But as your relationship has matured, the need for healthy and effective communication in many forms has expanded (even if you or your spouse didn’t notice).

The way you interact in the morning, the way you argue, the decisions you make with your kids and the “feeling” you give off to the household when you get home from work are all important forms of communication.

Communicating well is not easy.  But the great news is that nothing can compare to the power of high-quality communication when it comes to serving your spouse and enjoying a fun, passionate and deeply connected marriage.

The line between great, good and bad communication can seem pretty fine sometimes, but that’s part of the fun and challenge of being married.  If you invest some effort in learning and practicing better communication, I promise you’ll enjoy a better marriage as a result.

I’m excited to share that help is on the way – real, practical help that I know is going to leave you excited and reengaged. We’re hosting a very special online event soon called “How to Communicate Your Way to a Better Marriage (Talking Optional).

I’ll be joined by my go-to resource on this topic – Dr. Corey Allan – who will be our main presenter.  Corey has helped couples across the world interact better with practical, fun and powerful tools for more effective communication . Here’s a brief bio:

Dr. Corey AllanDr. Corey Allan is a husband, father, author, speaker, as well as a Marriage and Family Therapist with a Ph.D. in Family Therapy. Corey has been married for over 20 years, and he regularly counsels individuals and couples around the world on how to have better relationships. He is also the founder of Simple Marriage, a leading online resource for practical marriage advice.

Corey is a Christian who believes that love is not a feeling, it’s a process. And marriage is no different. Prepare yourself for a powerful workshop that will give you a fresh perspective and take the communication in your marriage to new levels!

Here’s a sneak peek of what we’ll be covering in this live workshop:

  • Hear what your spouse is saying without overreacting or jumping to conclusions (and be heard by them)
  • Be crystal clear in the messages you send (with or without talking)
  • Speak more from the Best in you – both to your spouse AND children
  • Live more authentically & better connected with others
  • Get empowered with a completely different way to view communication and use effective communication tools to stop constant fighting, avoid gridlock & break out of the routine in your relationship

We’ve decided to keep the cost of this workshop very reasonable, and in addition to some awesome “take action tonight” live training and lifetime access to the recordings of the event, you’ll also have the opportunity to ask any question you’d like of Dr. Allan and me. Plus, Corey is including copies of TWO of his popular e-books – “A Simple Marriage” and “Buck Naked Marriage” for everyone who joins in the fun.

The live event takes place on Thursday evening 11/21, but if you already have plans, no worries – everyone who registers gets a full recording (both video and audio versions) to enjoy at your convenience and you can submit questions in advance.

That said, we have to limit the number of “seats” to the event because our webinar service can only accommodate so many live attendees, and we want to be able to respond to every question that’s submitted personally and thoroughly. So grab your seat soon.

Dustin and Corey Workshop

Click here to reserve your seat to this special event

By the way, I’m all about delivering the goods and making sure you love your experience with this event. So, even though I’m sure you’ll love what Corey has to share, I’m covering all attendees with a 100% guarantee. If you’re not blown away by the workshop, I’ll refund your money – and you can keep both books to enjoy!

I’m so excited for this second Engaged Marriage “How-to” Workshop, and I hope you will join us for a marriage-enriching event!

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