7 Habits of a Hot Marriage in the Middle of Monotony

He pulled me into the closet. And closed the door. I could hear kids calling. We ignored them.

He whispered, “I miss Hawaii. I miss you.”

We promised each other back in August, sand between our toes, loving a carefree togetherness we hardly recognized that we wouldn’t slip back into the hurried routine and forget each other. It was free company trip and we took advantage of every second. And now all we have left are the amazing sunglasses his company gifted us.

It’s easy to make promises when it doesn’t seem to cost anything and when this is your view:

7 Habits of a Hot Marriage in the Middle of Monotony

And it’s easy to forget them when this is your view:

reality

Promises are much harder to keep in the making-breakfast-doing-laundry-carline-and-work filled days. I believe it’s called monotony. And it can kill your marriage.

20 years and we are still each other’s favorite person most days. We miss one another when we’re apart and can’t get enough when we’re together. Usually. But we also let a messy house, a cold dinner, a parenting dispute, that unexpected bill, you know life, come between us.

And our whispered white sand promises are lost in the busy monotony of our lives.

Yet we still vie for a hot marriage. I actually think about it. I see him through the kitchen window mowing the lawn, shirt off, hot and sticky, flecks of mud and grass stuck to his chest. And I think “hmmm….” He walks in from a long day of work, tie at his throat and sits with our little girl and reads with her. It’s just plain sexy.

photo

But then dinner boils over and milk is spilled at the table, I scrub pots and pans, mop up messes, call out Science lab terms to my 6th grader, turn over a load of laundry, and remind someone to feed the dog again. I walk outside to dump half empty water bottles into my pots of wilted flowers and I’m greeted with the foul odor of the septic system. My husband heads out to Home Depot for chemicals because some things that stink just can’t wait. I’m left to do baths and devotions and by the time he returns, I can hardly keep my eyes open. Tomorrow is filled with much of the same, a lesson here, a church group there, it has a way of going from Monday to Thursday in a snap and I can hardly remember that hot guy mowing the lawn.

I can confirm the temperature because I have known the extremes: a cold marriage, filled with contempt and misery. And a lukewarm marriage, perhaps the worst, filled with idle days, stagnant affection and distant intimacy.

We have lived every season. Our favorite by far: white hot. It’s also the most difficult to maintain.

Marriage is hard hard hard work. We never arrive and kick up our feet and ride the waves of hot monogamy. It takes faithful, committed, selfless habit-forming work in the middle of a boring routine. They say it takes 21 days or more to create a habit. I dare you to try the following 7 habits for the next month and see what happens:

7 things we try to do every day:

  1. Touch everyday: Make a conscious effort to grab his hand, run your hands thru her hair, kiss for a couple of seconds. Set a goal to physically touch his arm when you’re talking, tackle him in a hug in your closet, pat her butt on the way out the door. 
  2. Be good forgivers: Perhaps the most crucial key is forgiveness. Listen, marriage is the union of two people prone to mistakes and sin, you can’t control your spouse, but you can forgive. Refuse to pick them apart, turn molehills into mountains and wave the banner of unforgiveness.
  3. Make the little things big: The other day, my husband gave me a card and a new wallet, just because. It was a small thing, but it made a big impression. I knew he was thinking about me when we were apart. Connecting with your spouse in small ways that makes them feel loved is a big deal.
  4. Fill our head with thoughts of each other. Let’s be honest, we live in a world where it’s easy to fill up our tank with outside influences. From the pretty girl in the office or in the magazine to the romantic, handsome guy in the novel we’re reading or movie we’re watching, there are many ways to get satisfaction outside of our spouse. Lust is ignited with a second look. But when we only let our mate fill up our tank, we are on the path to a marriage that is not only white hot, but Godly.
  5. Go to bed at the same time: While this might not be possible every night, this habit is important because it is a quiet time to connect. Nearly missing each other constantly brings a chaos to your home that isn’t healthy for your marriage or family.
  6. Pray for one other. My husband is under a great strain most days. He recognizes my own burden often. Knowing that we are lifting each other up to God is not only selfless, it’s powerful. Hearing my name on his lips in prayer is not only meaningful, it strengthens our union.
  7. Compliment each other. This might sound like a no-brainer, but five-hundred people can like my new hair cut (my kids not included) and none of the compliments mean as much as his. Seeing him look at me–really look and watch attraction ignite in his eyes, is amazing. We were grocery shopping at Sam’s the other day and I casually pointed out the green t-shirt on sale and said, that would look good on you. My daughter tried to convince him to get the red one and I overheard him tell her, “No, mom likes the green.” Your influence over your spouse is powerful, use it to bless them.

We get it right some days and miss the mark other days. But we never give up.

Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith Is No Longer Enough

Four Things I Wish I’d Known When I Got Married

He was assigned to row 26 seat B and my ticket put me 6 rows behind him in 32D. We wanted to sit next to each other on the five-hour flight back to the mainland from Hawaii, so we waited in line at the ticket counter to see if that was a possibility.

A young honeymooning couple from Switzerland stood behind us for the same reason. The airline attendant shuffled computer numbers and told us we were all stuck in our assigned seats due to a full flight.

My husband shrugged a, “Well, we tried” and I said, “I’ll see you in 5 hours” and we made our way to separate rows. I put my bag under my seat and fastened my seat belt. I looked up to the aisle across from me and saw the separated honeymooners. The new bride was crying her eyes out, looking longingly at her new husband a row over. It was probably the first time in a week they’d been more than 6 feet from each other.

I smiled, not at her sorrow, but because I would have probably done the same thing 19 years ago this December. I smiled because I knew something she hadn’t discovered yet: separation makes being together even better.

I couldn’t help but remember coming home from my honeymoon so long ago.

4things

Here are 4 things I wish I had known then:

  1. Marriage Doesn’t Complete You-I remember being a doe-eyed virgin thinking if I could just get married, I would be complete. People don’t complete people, no matter how many romantic movies try to prove otherwise.  Because it didn’t take long for those thoughts to transition to “if I could just be a mom.” God completes people. He fills in the gaps and heals the wounds that people leave. Marriage is amazing, but it’s imperfect and it wasn’t created to make us whole. If anything, it reveals our selfishness and brokenness. Only God completes us.
  2. You Can’t Give Too Much-For many years, I kept record. I reciprocated what was done for me. But once I realized the more you give in marriage, the more you get, it changed how I viewed my relationship with my husband. The union of two inherently selfish people produces a selfish marriage. But when we understand we can’t give too much, it not only makes us want to give more. It makes our union a selfless place of service and joy.
  3. He is Home, but He is not My Happily Ever After- We just have to watch a chick flick to believe that getting married puts you on the road to living a fairy tale. But that’s not true: because my husband and I get on each other’s nerves. And lo and behold, we disagree. We’ve learned while there isn’t really a permanent happily ever after, there is hard work and selfless love that leads to a beautiful journey of commitment and peace. Sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s not. Happiness is temporary, but the abiding joy that comes from faithful commitment is what it’s really about. And that feels like home.
  4. Marriage Gets Better With Age– I don’t have flat abs or the energy of a 20 year old. I’m over the hill and I would have never believed after nearly two decades my marriage would be the best it’s ever been-from communication to sex to our comfortable friendship. The act of becoming one takes years of selfless living and limitless forgiveness. We learn that occasional separation is good for us. Many marriages breakdown in the middle place, but if we can keep our holy commitment to each other and God, it just keeps getting better.

The new bride across the aisle wiped her eyes and wrote thank you notes for most of the remaining flight. She winked at her husband and got up to go to the bathroom so she could brush by him a couple of times. At the end of the flight, they clung to each other like they had been a part for five months.

I smiled her way. She was already learning.

Marriage can be amazing. Marriage can be hard. I’ve been thru both with my husband and sometimes life is the best lesson. Check out my new Marriage Resource Page to help with both seasons.

What Every Husband Needs to Hear

 

husband

I wrote this to honor my husband on Father’s Day, but didn’t have a chance to post it last week. Thanks for all the emails and love.

 

When he walked thru the door, I let out the breath I’d been holding for days. The pinch in-between my shoulders eased and the throbbing in my head paused.

My husband was home.

He is my other half, the calm to my temper, the quiet to my chatter, the hard shoulder for my weary head.

Grief has changed us this year. The easy ebb and flow of our union has been harder, but our love has gone deeper. I can feel it in my bones and when we are away from each other, it’s like I’m split in two.

I let the day spill out. Just mom stuff mixed with work and weariness. I hadn’t started dinner, I had one kid pouting, the laundry in various stages, there was even a twin mattress on my front porch from sickness and a dog in need of another bath because she insists on rolling in dead things. He put his hands on my shoulders and he listened. Then he sent me to Target.

He’d gotten up hours before the sun that day, spent the remainder in a pressure pot at work, rushed in to lend a hand and the first thing he does is touch my soul.

What Every Husband Needs to Hear:

(I filled in the blanks for my husband, you fill them in for yours)

  • I Appreciate You: In the nearly 19 years we’ve been married, you have been a bank teller, a pastor, a church custodian (while being a pastor), mowed lawns, worked for my dad, been a salesman and a part time, volunteer bookkeeper. In all our seasons, the good, the bad and the ugly (I’ll let you guess), I have never once doubted your ability or desire to provide for our family. Husband-you have helped me pursue my dream of being a writer, while sidelining your own. You said yes to a crazy dream that changed our lives. You are the rock of our family because you put your faith in The Rock of Jesus.
  • I Love You for Being the Fun Parent: You’ve rolled down grassy hills, dressed up for Halloween, played Princess Makeover (you look great in pink) and rough-housed with kids at bedtime for over a decade. Being fun comes easy for you. You don’t worry about messes or your agenda, you simply enjoy your children. And all your fun with all my rules, make us a pretty good parenting pair.
  • Thank You for Doing all the Stuff I Don’t (or Can’t) (or Won’t):You’ve carried my too-heavy floral purse without batting an eye, you are the Master Ninja of cleaning up vomit and hairballs and poop (and you name it) and you unload the dishwasher because you know it’s my least favorite job. I love that you do it because you love me and us and I love that about you.
  • I Still Want You: We’ve endured years of painful infertility, a failed adoption, a miscarriage, two strong-willed girls, a child who is afraid of the dark and years of children in and out of our bed. You give me B-12 shots every Monday and don’t mind my mommy middle. You’ve wanted me through various sizes and moods and years and it thrills me. I may not say it often or show it enough, but never doubt I still long for you. Marriage is like fine wine, it’s getting better with age.
  • Thanks for Being Here: I know that you’re not perfect. You might read this and think of all the things you’re not, but in a fatherless culture,  and a society of broken marriages, you have stayed. When our marriage nearly ended, you fought to stay. When we got on the roller coaster ride of parenting, you dug in your heels. You are here and most days, even when we have no idea what we’re doing, you never leave. And that’s enough every day.
  • Trials Will Make Us Stronger: The past six months have been difficult in so many ways. I know you are tired. Challenges leave us on edge and sometimes broken. But the adversity and trials we face strengthen us and I know we will make it.

Pick one or two and tell your husband. He needs to hear encouraging words from you.

Quiet Faithfulness and Its Reward

He gets up at 4:30 a.m. most mornings, gets dressed in the dark, returns from pushing his body to its limits with Crossfit in his fight against diabetes. I start my day nearly 2 hours later, often to the bath water he runs for me or the sound of him making school lunches.

I am married to a good man.

We met in Bible College more than 20 years ago. I married a Pastor, we served The Church together the first nine years of our marriage.

When we left full time ministry nearly a decade ago, we were desperate for a break and a breakthrough. We ended up discovering a whole lot of brokenness. While we loved working together (offices next door and some killer youth illustrated sermons and vacation bible schools), our glass house needed some attention.

So we quit the only thing we knew how to do.

And spent the next five years finding Jesus in the broken places.

faithful

What started out temporary ended up being transforming and more permanent than we could have imagined.

Those first 5 months out of ministry were like a breath of fresh air. They were also terrifying. We were jobless and homeless (staying in a family member’s rent house). On the sixth month, my husband got a job offer.

He took it and has had the same job for 9 years and 4 months. That’s sort of a long break. And I’m pretty sure we can’t call it a break any longer.

So, this pastor-turned-sales-rep reinvented himself. He is smart and hard-working. And his daily faithfulness to the mundane takes my breath away.

My husband’s dedication to his secular job is the only reason we were able to start Mercy House three years ago. His hard work and consistency provides for our family, and has offered me the freedom to serve without being paid.

I’m still married to a pastor. He shepherds our family. He prays with co-workers and shines Jesus in his work. He is a light in our dark world. He spends evenings and many weekends quietly serving in the work of Mercy House.

It has been a hard road. One with turns and obstacles we didn’t expect.

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” -John Piper

But Jesus has been with us down every path. And as we dream of the future and ask God for direction, His invisible hand guides us. For His glory.

Hindsight is enlightening. God rewards faithfulness. Here’s what I’m learning:

  • God uses our brokenness for His purpose
  • What He puts back together, heals stronger.
  • Loving people is a full time ministry (title, position, pay, not necessary)
  • God plots our course for His glory.
  • There are setbacks and tragedies in our journey.
  • But there are also rewards (and sometimes they look like Hawaii!)

[P.S. We just found out that after nearly 10 years on the job, my husband earned a once-in-a-lifetime trip for two to Hawaii in August for being one of the top 10 sales reps in his company.. We are going to Hawaii!]

What Your Husband Really Wants Today

I never had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day as a teenager. Or most other days for that matter.

When I saw my friends and frenemies with flowers and balloons, I acted like I didn’t care. But every girl cares a little. And then in the 11th grade, a boy I liked gave me a handmade card. It was a doomed relationship of 6 days, but I might still have that carefully crafted red and pink construction paper card in my attic.

My 13 year old who is just noticing these things asked me the other day, “Momma, did you have a lot of boyfriends before Daddy?”

I smile and I tell her of a crush or two, and of the unrequited love that makes up my romantic history. Until her Daddy. He was the first one who loved me for me.

Back then, I wanted what I didn’t have…attention, affection, admiration from a boy. Now as a momma of daughters, I’m so happy to tell them I waited for real love.

She smiles a goofy grin, the dreamy-kind, “I like that story. I like that you waited for Daddy and he was your first real love.”

I like it too, honey.

Because he was worth every lonely Valentine’s Day.

There’s a lot of unspoken pressure to give and receive today, even as an adult.

I’m not going to turn away flowers or flush chocolate down the sink, but it’s not really about all that.

We all know what our husbands want today, right? I bet many of us would say it starts with S and ends with X.

Close. (It’s actually an easy gift to give and it’s free (hola!) )

But really our men want more than sex. Our husbands are deeper than that. It’s really opportunity they are seeking, it’s the chance to please their wives.

“Women, this might surprise you, but even more than your husband wants to have sex with you for his own sexual relief, the truth is, he wants to please you even more than he wants to be pleasured. It might seem like it’s all about him, but what he really wants, emotionally, is to see how much you enjoy the pleasure he can give you. If he fails to do that, for any reason, he’ll end up feeling inadequate, lonely, and unloved.” -Dr. Kevin Lehman, Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage

Knowing that under the layers of desire, there’s the simple fact that he wants the chance to please me is just about the best gift we can give each other.

“And believe it or not, getting enough sex isn’t the point. Nearly all the men surveyed – 97 per cent – said that even if their wives agreed to have sex every time husbands wanted, sex would still be empty if their wives didn’t seem to desire them.

When we say no to sex, we’re usually saying we don’t want sex at that moment. But he hears the much more painful message that we don’t want him. One man said, “When she says no, I feel rejected. ‘No’ is not no to sex; it’s no to me as I am.” By contrast, making the first move once in a while sends a powerful and affirming message to your man.” -Shaunti Feldhahn, For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men

Alrighty, girls. I’ve said enough.

Y’all have a sweet day.

100 Ways to Make Your Marriage Mediocre

This time last year, I wrote this post. I had no idea it would be so popular (pinned more than 180,000 times) or so controversial (comments, whoa). Bottom line: there are a lot of people who want to make their marriage rock. I started thinking about all the things we do (out of habit, ignorance or selfishness) that make our marriages mediocre. Sometimes we just need to see them in black and white.

  1. Stop pursuing each other
  2. Discourage your spouse’s dreams
  3. Don’t worry about romance
  4. Doubt your husband’s word
  5. Remind your wife of the past on a regular basis
  6. Fight unfair
  7. Don’t pray together
  8. Skip church
  9. Play the blame game
  10. Pout often
  11. Let a film of dust cover your Bible
  12. Don’t show affection in front of your kids
  13. Keep secrets
  14. Believe that your spouse would never be tempted to look at pornography
  15. Compare your husband to your friend’s perfect husband
  16. Have sex out of duty
  17. Stay up and watch TV while your wife goes to bed
  18. Never make time for a date night
  19. Overspend
  20. Use the silent treatment often
  21. Disrespect your husband
  22. Criticize your mate on a regular basis
  23. Flirt with old friends on Facebook
  24. Talk badly about your spouse behind their back
  25. Make a mess and never clean it up
  26. Focus only on your hobbies
  27. Be a name caller
  28. Complain about how often he wants to have sex
  29. Complain about how often she never wants to have it
  30. Fall out of love
  31. Don’t ever bring her flowers
  32. Never attend counseling
  33. Or read a marriage book
  34. Look at your smart phone while she is talking to you
  35. Only touch when absolutely necessary
  36. Pick him apart and make every little thing a big deal
  37. Hide your feelings
  38. And then resent your spouse for not knowing them
  39. Use sarcasm constantly
  40. Start an emotional affair
  41. Say “It’s not my fault” often
  42. Over commit your kids and fall into bed exhausted every night
  43. Take a long second (and third) look at your attractive co-worker
  44. Make your life all about you
  45. Nag
  46. Lie about how much you really spent on your shopping trip to the mall
  47. Hold onto unforgiveness
  48. Don’t apologize
  49. Try to change your mate, but never yourself
  50. Be defensive
  51. Make her feel like she’s not a good mother
  52. Withdraw
  53. Be immature
  54. Ignore what God is asking you to do
  55. Doubt your husband’s role as a father
  56. Yell
  57. Live with unrealistic expectations
  58. Get into debt
  59. Be a tease
  60. Don’t do what you say you will do
  61. Read 50 Shades of Gray
  62. Let your spouse carry most of the workload
  63. Use the words “always” and “never” when you’re disagreeing
  64. Don’t call when you’re going to be late
  65. Overreact
  66. Choose anger
  67. Don’t do fun things together
  68. Don’t give your spouse attention
  69. Put your kids before your marriage
  70. Give your children permission when your spouse doesn’t
  71. Resent her
  72. Ignore him
  73. Tell the inlaws all the details of your arguments
  74. Don’t communicate as lovers
  75. Fantasize about other people
  76. Put your job before your family
  77. Don’t work on your friendship with your spouse
  78. Act like you really don’t like your mate
  79. When he compliments you, don’t receive it
  80. Do what you’ve always done
  81. When your spouse asks you to help out or serve them, say no.
  82. Don’t try to make her happy
  83. Don’t try anything new together
  84. Undermine your spouse
  85. Try to fix all her problems
  86. Talk all the time and never let him say a word
  87. Make listening optional
  88. Don’t kiss
  89. Threaten divorce
  90. Collect unresolved issues
  91. Don’t make family dinners a priority
  92. Let the TV stay on constantly
  93. Keep God out of your day-to-day living
  94. Don’t be vulnerable
  95. Or share intimacy
  96. Forget why you fell in love
  97. Be ungrateful
  98. Stop loving and believing in yourself
  99. Believe that your marriage will never be better than it is right now
  100. Give up

What would you add in the comments?

We Go Together {Giveaway}

UPDATE: Melissa E., comment #28, is the winner of this giveaway.

I’ve been working on a project for months in the cracks of my time.

My husband has listened patiently and pushed me gently.

And then last week, some pieces fell together and while I was helping my Kindergartner with sight words after school, I moved one step closer to my goal and that made me squeal. Literally.

She just looked at me like I was crazy.

She’s a perceptive child.

But I knew I wouldn’t be able to truly rejoice until I talked with my best friend. I called my husband at work. His response made my joy complete because he has been with me on the journey.

My husband lost his sister and one of his closest friends a month ago this week. His sorrow is great and there is a cloud of sadness that hangs heavy. It’s unchartered waters, this grief that invades every space at the most unexpected moments. It comes in waves and just when you think you can laugh again, you cry. But he isn’t grieving alone.

We don’t always agree.

We don’t always get along.

But we are one.

We go together. His grief is mine. My joy is his. It’s the sacred gift of marriage, this unexplainable, undeniable act of becoming One. It’s the most precious gift we share.

It’s what helps us thru the valleys and the mountaintops, the sheer pleasure of facing them together.

And that’s why I love Union 28‘s new Valentine’s marriage shirts.

Today, I’m giving away a set of these new ONENESS his and hers shirts. Plus, get 10% off with this code U28LoveMH10  (reader gets 10% off AND Mercy House gets 10% of sale) Code is valid thru 2/16/13

Simply enter code at checkout to get 10% off & give 10% to Mercy House!

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite shirt.

Giveaway ends on Tuesday.

Secrets to a Successful Marriage {FREE PRINTABLE}

I lay in the curve of his arm and breathe deep. He smoothes my hair away from my face and replaces it with a soft kiss.

And after so many years together, we rarely hold back what’s in our heart. “I feel like I’m falling in love with you,” I whisper.

Again?” he smiles with raised eyebrows and pulls me closer.

Five Things that Have Made Our Marriage Successful:

We are good forgivers: Let’s be honest, if you’ve been married for a week or 230 of them, you’ve been given the opportunity to forgive your spouse. Forgiveness releases the other person from their offense, but more importantly, it frees you to choose love. And there’s been a lot to forgive in our 942 weeks together, but we are getting good at it.

We fight fair (except when we don’t): Marriage is the perfect breeding ground for arguments. Couples who aren’t occasionally disagreeing, probably aren’t communicating well. It’s not if we fight, it’s when. Further damage occurs in the how. We can literally destroy each other with words. But when we let kindness be our guide, our disagreements actually move us further along in our marriage.

We write each other letters: He gave me this box years ago. He puts letters in it. I write him notes and blog posts and our words find their mark. There’s just something powerful that happens when you write your heart on a page and give it to your mate. “To write a good love letter, you ought to begin without knowing what you mean to say, and to finish without knowing what you have written.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

We work on our friendship: We play hard, we laugh hard, we spend time together (on purpose), we have so many inside jokes it’s not even funny…only really it is. He’s my best friend…the one person in this life I want to be with. We are deeply bound by friendships that comes with communication, communion and care.

We choose to fall in love again (and again): You’ve heard it before–love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice. It’s true. We have had irreconcilable differences and breaches of trust and oh, some really hard days, but we’ve decided on love even when we didn’t feel it or couldn’t find it.

It’s really not a secret at all. It’s deciding to fall in love again and again, with the same person.

Enjoy this free 8×10 printable:

Download here for free.