WFMW: 3 Things You Can Do Today to Make Your Marriage Better

I know what strain on a marriage feels like.

And it’s easy to see how the big stuff can damage a union.

But the true danger for many of us lies in the small things.

The day-to-day strain that comes with busy schedules, sick kids, work stress, unexpected bills, broken appliances and parenting growing children in new phases (hormones in the house, yo).

So, you know normal stuff.

In these seasons (and we all have them), there’s a tendency to let life lead you instead of the other way around. There’s the temptation to get everything else done and forget about each other. And when you do that, you feel the pulling in your marriage.

This year, I will celebrate being married for two decades. Crazy, since I’m still obviously so young.

There’s a lot of water under the old bridge. I have shared the best days of my life with this guy and also the very worst. And I’ve learned this one thing is true: every day is a new chance to make my marriage better.

Here are 3 things you can do today:

1. Connect :: It might sound basic, but with busy lives, parenting, jobs and life filling every hour of the day, it’s too easy to go an entire day or even week without connecting with your spouse.

  • Talk.
  • Don’t go to bed without asking your husband or wife about their day.
  • Wait for them to answer. Last week I heard on the radio that you should wait 30 seconds after you ask your husband a question without saying a word. It’s harder than I thought it would be.
  • Turn off the late night TV shows and communicate. You might be surprised what your spouse will say if you ask them.

2. Compromise :: Oh, yes. This. Even after so many years together, this is still what keeps peace. We are two totally different people and we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything (or anything some days).

  • You don’t have to agree on everything. We don’t. Just last week we were on opposite sides and we agreed to disagree.
  • Love despite your differences.
  • Don’t pick or nag or insist on your way.
  • Compromising on the small stuff has a huge impact on your marriage. You don’t have to win every argument or be right about everything. Getting along for the long haul is about meeting in the middle.

3. Care :: If a friend needs a favor, I try to be there. It’s often easier to care for a sick neighbor or show love to a girlfriend than it is to show kindness to our spouse. Being kind, going the extra mile for our partners speaks volumes of love.

  • Be nice.
  • Be quiet. I’m bossy and sometimes it’s better to just hush.
  • Do the little things. I noticed recently my husband filled up my car with gasoline and plugged in my phone to charge when I forgot. These little things show just how much he loves me and it makes me want to care for him in the same way. If we make it our goal to show kindness to our husbands as we do others, they will notice.

The relationships in my life are good. But I long to make them better. Sometimes the most profound way to do this isn’t as complicated as we might think. Sure, sometimes we just need a good old fashioned counseling session. I’m certainly not against getting help when we need it, but often we can turn the tide in our marriage by simply treating our spouse like we want to be treated.

It turns strain into something stronger.

It works for me!

If Your Marriage is Broken

It was 8:30 in the morning on a Saturday in January and we were still in bed.

Is there a better way to begin a weekend?

My husband flipped to his side and said, “I’m sorry.”

I stretched and yawned myself awake and that’s when I remembered we’d gone to bed the night before irritated at each other.

It was a stupid little fight. Aren’t they always? It wasn’t really about the price of ski pants (don’t ask). It was simply the result of two thick-headed people who both wanted their way and refused to budge.

We’ve been married 19 years. You’d think we would have moved past this stage–the one where we argue over insignificant things, get mad and pout. And we have in many ways. It happens less often and we get less angry and over it more quickly, but every once in awhile, I want my way more than I want to get along.

“I’m sorry, too,” I whispered.

And then we talked about why we got mad in the first place. It’s always a deeper issue. Most arguments about money are really about fear. Most arguments about parenting boil down to control or the lack of it. But on this particular lazy Saturday morning, the conversation led to a long talk about things we were struggling with personally.

When I reluctantly left the cozy down comforter for a quick shower, I felt like I knew my husband a bit more. I could see the stress and burden he carried more clearly. And I wanted to bless him. He understand why I was on edge and we vowed to love each other better.

That pillow talk wouldn’t have happened without first the struggle. When we can push past our little grievances and irritations and lift the veil of life and circumstances, we can grow together towards God, instead of apart.

Our world used to fix broken things, remember that? Our grandmothers darned socks with holes in them. Our grandfathers rebuilt and repaired damaged things. Our moms superglued little $1 store figurines.

Now we throw things away.

We live in a disposable culture that tosses damaged things because it’s easier. It’s quicker, it doesn’t require hard work or humility.

if your marriage is broken, don't throw it away. Fix it

If your marriage is broken, don’t throw it away.

Fix it.

Take your marriage back and fight for it. Talk. Forgive. Change. Confess. Laugh. Counsel. I understand that not every marriage is repairable. But for those who let little issues become bigger than they should, I urge you to fix what’s broken, instead of starting over.

We don’t do a lot for Valentine’s Day at our house. But we proudly show off our love all year long–there are less repairs that way when the storms of life hit.

While these shirts won’t fix a broken marriage, they are an easy way to get started–new Union28 “My Husband/Wife Rocks” T-shirts!

2014-Valentine-HomePage

[Updated with winner, Rachel, random commenter #34]

One couple will receive a his and her shirt and a pair of *ahem* these or these (winner’s choice).  Leave a comment if you’d like to win.

Discount Code:  Use Code U28LOVE5 at checkout for $5 OFF any Union28.net order of $25 or more.  (Does not include Clearance items or Gift Certificate purchases) OFFER VALID THUR February 14, 2014.

Make every day special, even the broken ones.

The Kind of Fight Every Marriage Needs to Have

This is the one where I’ve been married 19 years and turn 41 years old all in the same week.

This is the one where I tell you we didn’t get to this place in our marriage because we are lucky. We aren’t celebrating 988 weeks because we are blessed or holy or because we beat the odds.

We have been married for nearly two decades because we haven’t quit.

That’s not to say there haven’t been a few times we haven’t wanted to.

But we are fighting our way to a lifetime together.

DSC_2607

The other day I got an email, the kind l I dread reading.

The ones that say, “My husband is leaving me. He won’t go to counseling. He won’t try. We are Christians, we love God, just not each other any more.”

I don’t know how to answer heartbreaking words. I’m not a healer. Or even that good of a listener. But people reach out because they recognize a miracle marriage.

When I wrote this post about divorce in America a few weeks ago, many were shocked by the hard facts. How can 50% of all marriages–among Christians and non-Christians, even atheists-all end? How can the statistics be the same for believers and non-believers?

I don’t know. But I think the answer might be simple: Christians are human.

Christians fight. Christians are tempted and often give in to sin. Christians have emotional affairs. They look at pornography. They hold grudges. Christians stop trying.

I’m not excusing these choices. They are sinful and can destroy a marriage. But a marriage filled with forgiveness, fight and God can overcome even the worst humanity.

marriage

Our marriage has been filled with some pretty hard days. One of them was last week. We haven’t arrived into some heavenly level of married bliss. Some days, weeks, lo, months, we claw our way back to each other. We fight hell itself to see eye to eye and to keep loving.

When I look at the mosaic of our 19 years, there are a lot of broken, mismatched pieces. There are jagged rough edges. Up close and personal, it’s not that pretty. But when I step back, I see that we’re still creating and the picture only gets lovelier with time. We are still forgiving, we are still committed and I can see a glorious picture of redemption. It’s bits and pieces of both of us glued together with a lot of God.

I urge you today to fight. Sometimes we don’t have a choice and the sin of divorce is committed against us or it’s the only option for peace in a bad situation.

But that’s not the norm, many many marriages end simply because people stop trying.

Don’t be a statistic.

Happy anniversary, Terrell. Thank you for being a fighter. I love you.

How to Stay Married In America

Exactly eight years ago, my marriage fell apart and my world with it.

My husband confessed a secret struggle and I was crushed under the weight of it.

One day we were discussing fun, romantic ways to celebrate 11 years of marriage without our two preschoolers and the next I was wondering how we would make it to our 12th anniversary.

Because while his confession floored me, the real devastation was the realization that my marriage wasn’t what I thought it was.

11 years is a lot of making beds and making ends meet. It’s a lot of working things out and working things in. It’s countless hours of saying I do. I will. It’s a lot of time to grow up or grow apart.

We both come from a long line of married people, couples who dug in and fought hard, but on this day 8 years ago, for the first time in my 33 years, I thought divorce might be the easiest option.

For the first time, I understood why people divorced. It was the day I stopped judging broken marriages and saw the two broken people behind them.

With our sleeping children tucked in beds upstairs, we stood across the room from each other that night, both quietly sobbing. Terrell had laid his burden down and I had picked it up. The knowledge of this devastated both of us.

We could feel the severity, this make-or-break-crossroad moment. It was agonizing.

I was contemplating if I could continue. Could I keep loving? Could I keep saying I do? Could I forgive? Was I strong enough to fix what was broken? I was weighing the cost of fighting for my marriage, considering the frightening road ahead filled with hard heart work, self doubt and daily forgiveness.

But in my grief, I knew I wasn’t capable of saying yes to any of these questions. I understood that our marriage could only succeed with God’s help and if both of us were willing to fight hell itself for a second chance.

I took a step towards Terrell that night.

Eight years is a long time to lay down pride, to walk in freedom, to forgive. It’s countless hours of hard, deep soul labor, but I thank God for that night, for the miraculous, for the fight. I understand not everyone can or will make the same choice. It takes three (two willing partners and God) and often the choice is made for us. I could easily have a completely different story…

Staying married doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional, purposeful daily work.

And honestly, it’s harder to stay married in America now than ever before. The odds are not in our favor.
divorce2-640x2670

Eight Ways to Defeat the Odds and Stay Married:

  1. Talk it out: Poor communication is the biggest factor in the statistics above. Stuffing questions and concerns, keeping secrets, clamming up, internalizing hurts contribute. I would add a three-way conversation, praying for your spouse, communicating with God alone and together is a great way to open clogged communication lines.
  2. Put money in it’s place: Money matters and it’s been known to break apart countless marriages. But I think it’s the love of money that is our downfall. Overspending and debt bring a lot of pressure to a marriage. Don’t let money rule you or it will rule you.
  3. Be attractive to each other: For better or worse, includes that receding hairline and that stubborn baby weight. Being attracted to each other is more about your commitment than a pant size. Choosing a healthy lifestyle can be super sexy, but again, this is a heart issue because we are aging and changing daily. Serve your spouse and reignite your marriage.
  4. Keep your eyes and heart at home: Flirting at the office, comparing your spouse to others, pouring into Facebook friendships with people you feel attracted to, these are a recipe for infidelity.
  5. Share responsibilities: Marriage is a partnership. And in the busyness of life and parenting, this can often get out of balance. But when it stays off-kilter, it can add stress and strain. Give more than you take with your mate. You’ll never regret it.
  6. Think of your kids, but don’t put them first: Statistics prove that divorce is devastating to children. Some divorces are unavoidable, but if you’re considering leaving your spouse because you aren’t attracted to them or because they don’t do enough around the house, consider the lifelong impact your choice has on your kids. But don’t just stay together because of the kids, find ways and reasons to fall together.
  7. Don’t tempt yourself: The Internet is destroying marriages every minute by way of online affairs and pornography. It’s not just a weakness, it’s destruction. Set up accountability, real life and with filters. Don’t play with fire.
  8. Learn self control: It’s not just about filtering bad thoughts and images out of your mind and off your screens. The key is asking God for self control and displaying it. We live in a sinful world and are exposed to things daily that could be a temptation. Getting closer to God will provide more self control.

Whether you are on your first marriage or second, I urge you to fight to stay married. It’s worth it.

 

infographic source

How to Fall Together Instead of Apart: Married {with} Kids

Marriage, according to kids:

HOW WOULD THE WORLD BE DIFFERENT IF PEOPLE DIDN’T GET MARRIED?

(1) There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there?
– Kelvin, age 8

HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?

(1) Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.
- Ricky, age 10                                                                                                                                                   [source]

 

It’s an early morning breakfast-packing backpacks-lunches and kisses on the cheek-out the door kind of life.

We separate. We work hard. All day long. There is homework and poster board projects, reading logs and flute rehearsal. There’s the tapping of drumsticks and the bounce of the trampoline. There’s coloring at the table. Carrots on the cutting board.

I hear the door click and I take a long deep breath. He’s home.

And though the world and work and life pull us apart. Our family longs to be together–so we can live crazy-beautiful.

h7n6EJYoG_pOzlf_IxpAAZFubWT8HvZO18waFU9M0kk

We pile around the kitchen table. We pray and are thankful. Sometimes. We wipe a spill. Always. We laugh at highs and lows and we open a book together. We reread sentences that weren’t listened to the first time. And we try and stay around the table as long as we can. I start to tell him All The Things on my mind and I don’t have the energy to compete with my kid’s stories or interruptions. It can wait.

Dinner ends and we scatter: there’s sibling rivalry over who should unload the dishes, who should feed the dog, a load of clothes is started, last bits of homework are done. I pick up shoes and a doll and the pieces of our lives and start preparing for another day. He reads another chapter to our youngest and puts her to bed.

My husband walks into our bedroom and he looks tired. I can’t wait to curl up and talk. Because some days, I feel like I’m going to fall apart.

But just about then the water spout in the upstairs bath breaks mid-stream and it won’t shut off and water pours, my oldest panics with a towel on, he runs with a toolbox and I don’t have a chance to pour at my heart. Instead our tween son who can’t sleep lays in his father’s spot for a few minutes pouring out his heart.

It’s nearly midnight when we hold each other and there’s nothing to say to the everything we’re too tired to say. We speak in the tangles of sheets and beating hearts. We fall together.

Life on repeat. The next day is filled with tacos for the 25 who show up to community group and spill into every seat in the house. There are basketball tryouts, grocery store visits and unexpected bills.

As our kids get older and stay up later and need us more emotionally, the window of time with my husband gets smaller everyday. We are married with kids and while we wouldn’t change it for a second, it’s entirely too easy for our marriage to get lost in the demands of parenting and jobs and serving and we find the day is over and we haven’t had one conversation. It threatens to pull us apart. Can anyone relate?

With every season of parenting, it affects our marriage…from newborns and unthinkable sleep deprivation to worries about a wayward teen or a hard-hearted tween, it’s tempting to work against each other instead of together. And those are the easy days, that don’t even include the scary moments when serious illness threatens or outside influences tempt our children away. I’ve watched so many marriages simply fall apart after the kids leave, as if they were the glue holding the union together.

Here are 5 things we are doing to stay married long after kids leave:

Regular date nights::My favorite part of this connected time is talking with my best friend. It’s not uncommon for me to start a conversation in the morning and finish is after dinner because of distractions or interruptions. Date night is the perfect time to talk about everything and nothing. We sit on the same sides of the booth and hold hands under the table. We are desperate to connect because we have lived unconnected before. Our dates might be a 30 minute coffee between appointments or a swing on the hammock with the kids inside. It doesn’t matter what they look like, it matters that they happen.

Making space for alone time at home:: Let’s face it, one date a week isn’t always possible. Or likely. I am envious of those who can pull it off. But you can still pull off space together. Terrell has always had this thing–the minute he walks in the door, he doesn’t stop at the kid’s questions or clamoring for attention, he walks straight to me. We usually hug and kiss and then he’ll turn to the kids’ demands. And we aren’t afraid to tell our kids we need alone time together. We lock our door and make it happen.

Spend overnight time away together:: This is a fairly new goal for us. And we decided (after doing it) it’s a pretty important way to refresh and reset our marriage. It won’t always look like this (sob), but even one night away on our anniversary or sending the kids to their grandparents is something we look forward to. Once a year is our goal, but we’ll take more!

Connecting beyond the kids:: Perhaps the most important thing we can do beyond spending one-on-one time together, is relating beyond our children. It’s so easy in our culture to focus all our attention on our kids that we stop doing some of the things that brought us together in the first place. Carving out time to support each other’s hobbies, chase one another’s dreams is important now and in the future.

Let Jesus be the middle ground:: Let’s face it, life and love and loss are mingled with joy and tears. Sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye or don’t know where to go or which way to turn. That’s when we fall to Jesus. Because He holds our lives, our kids, our future and He turns two independent, willful parents into One.

Children are a precious gift from God. They fill our homes with laughter and love and give us a reason to keep buying fun cereal. Children can deepen and enhance our marriages, they teach us so much about God and even more about ourselves, but the parenting bumps in the journey can add stress to our marriages. It’s crucial we take steps to grow together as our kids grow up.

So we can fall together.

Instead of apart.