5 Tips for Having Hard Conversations

5 Tips for Having Hard Conversations

Do you struggle with talking about difficult topics with your spouse because you’re worried about how it will go? Or maybe it’s a conversation you’ve had before that keeps on turning into an argument? We all know that difficult conversations can be stressful, but they really don’t have to be. 

How to Have Hard Conversations with your Spouse

Step one is to plan for it. Decide in advance what exactly it is you want to talk about. Ask yourself these questions before you have your chat; “What is it I want my spouse to understand?” and “What am I hoping the outcome of this conversation will be and am I willing to allow it to look differently than I’d like?”. By having a plan it is less likely for you to experience a blindside that will trigger you to avoid or to lash out. 

Next,
choose your timing. Having a hard conversation when your spouse just got home from work, is tired, already bothered, or hungry, will rarely produce a positive outcome. Oftentimes we try to have these conversations when emotions are already elevated because something happened to remind us of them. Don’t take the bait on that one. Instead, pick a time to talk when it’s calm, when the kids aren’t around, and when both of you are in decent moods. The least number of interruptions you can have, the better.

You also don’t want to forget to
set the tone. Be clear before you begin by saying something like,”I want to share this with you and my intention is to not argue, but instead to have a good conversation.” Have open and positive body language and tone of voice. You want to come across as sincere and non-accusatory. A shift in your body such as crossed arms or an eye roll can change the entire direction of a conversation. 

Next, you want to be sure to
stay on track. It’s easy to get baited into getting off topic. Remember to address one issue at a time and mentally decide in advance to stay on topic. This should be part of your planning process too. 

Finally, invite grace and understanding to the conversation. Be intentional about listening to your spouse and offering lots of grace as they absorb and process the conversation. Remember, you planned for this, they didn’t. Make room for their reactions and allow them to have their own feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

At the end of the day, if you want to get good at having hard conversations, you will need to make a lot of room for pausing, listening, and understanding, and last of all practice. Be willing to fail your way forward with this. Keep trying and you’ll get there!

If you need more communication tips, be sure to check out the Expedition Marriage podcast and their series on Communication Killers and their Kryptonite. You can find it here. 

Why Just Having More Sex Is NOT The Answer

Why Just Having More Sex Is NOT The Answer

Have you ever come across a blog, a social media post, or even heard from a well-meaning friend or even pastor, to not withhold sex from your husband or to make sure you’re having more of it to meet his needs? 

We see these posts and hear these messages all the time as marriage counselors and let us tell you, while there may be times when a wife is withholding sex as manipulation or a form of punishment, in most accounts, that is not the case. Many women are withholding sex for many other reasons and telling them just to have more of it to satisfy their husbands is harmful.

When there are sexual problems in a marriage it seems that a lot of the responsibility for correcting them is placed upon the wife. This should not be the case. Wives are told if they don’t want their husband to cheat or look at porn, just have more sex. If they’re too tired at the end of the day, just give in so his needs can be met. After all, sex seems to be this primal need for a man so it’s important to keep him happy.

Why Having More Sex Is Not The Answer

Good grief…

This is such a poor message for the husband and the wife. Husbands statistically have a higher sex drive, not always, but in most cases, however this does not make them some uncontrolled animal who always is in search of sex. Sure, they may desire it a little more, but men don’t need sex any more than a woman does. How do we know that? Because God made it for BOTH, and for both of their pleasure.

As a wife, you don’t have to be responsible for the sexual sin of your husband – whether he looks at porn or dives into an affair. That is 100% on him. God gave him self-control and the ability to flee from temptation. If he doesn’t feel you’re giving him enough sex for his liking, then here’s what he should do instead…. Ask you if you and/or everything is ok and ask what you need from him! 

Here’s an example:
“Babe, I really miss making love to you and would love for that to happen a little more. I was just wondering since we’re not having sex as much, if you’re ok or is there something I can help with? I want us both to be satisfied with our love life and just wanted to check in.”

You see, most women aren’t withholding out of spite and control. It’s just that “duty sex” just isn’t appealing, not to mention it’s also not what God intended. And it’s likely there are other reasons for the lack of desire.

Just to name a few:

  • Exhaustion—Many wives are drained physically, mentally, and emotionally.
  • Physical pain—Sex physically hurts some women. 
  • Hormones—Hormones fluctuate and affect mood and energy on a regular basis, and even more when there’s chronic dysregulation happening.
  • Past trauma—If there’s ever been abuse, especially sexual abuse in their life.
  • Emotional disconnection—A lack of emotional intimacy is common and always a barrier for women. Being married and lonely is never going to be arousing.

At the end of the day should we be asking exhausted, hurting, traumatized, hormonally dysregulated, emotionally disconnected women to just fall on the altar of sex because their husband needs it? 

That’s a resounding NO!

What we should be doing instead is having husbands who love their wives like Christ loves the church. Husbands that care for them and ask them how they can help them be less exhausted. Husbands who support their wives in getting any medical care they need. Husbands who talk and connect with their wives. And husbands who help their wives get the help they need while they heal from any past trauma. 

Just having more sex may keep the husband happy, but why isn’t anyone asking what will that do for the wife? 

It’s time to quit treating sex like a duty for the wife to keep her man satisfied and return it to its original design; pleasurable, fulfilling, and connecting body, soul, and mind for BOTH husband and wife. We want you both to experience a fulfilling and satisfied sex life.

Check out the Expedition Marriage podcast to learn ways to communicate, connect, and make God the center of your marriage. 

When Prayer Isn’t Enough for Your Destructive Marriage

When Prayer Isn’t Enough for Your Destructive Marriage

As husband-and-wife marriage therapists, we are as big of proponents for marriage than most anyone is. As Christian marriage therapists we are even bigger believers in prayer and the redeeming power of God. We believe there is nothing that He can’t do and that nothing is impossible for Him.

But does that always mean He will heal and redeem every marriage? Sadly, no.
While God is indeed a miracle worker, often when it comes to our relationships, He wants us to play a role in the redemption process too.

He can bring forth change, and we’re all capable of being changed. In fact, He is the only One who never changes. As for our change, He can prompt us, intervene, and call us to obedience, but we have ownership in listening, receiving, and applying what He invites us to do. 
So, should you stop praying? No, of course not—but what you pray may need to change, and where you’re praying from may need to change too.

If you’ve been praying over and over for your husband, your husband who consistently and chronically, calls you names, belittles you, gaslights you, or emotionally, physically, or spiritually abuses you; your husband who blames you for everything and takes no ownership for anything or makes no changes whatsoever, it’s time to pause. He is not a man who is listening to or responding to God.

God can and will change the heart of a husband who listens and responds, but He will never force his heart to change. Your husband must be a willing participant. 

Praying for your husband and marriage will never be wrong, but sometimes it needs to involve some action, too. You can pray while you decide not to tolerate any more abuse or toxicity. The hard truth is that even while praying, you still often get what you’re willing to tolerate, and that’s why it’s important to know that you can pray while you also place boundaries. You can even pray while you’re separated. And if you’re confused about any of it, you can change your prayer to “God, help me to see the truth.” He will show you.
So many times, Christian women stay in a destructive marriage because it’s the Godly wife thing to do. Sometimes they stay because they’re confused, and sometimes they stay because they’re in denial and want so badly for their marriage to work. And, sometimes they stay because no one has told them that the Lord loves them more than He loves marriage.

If this is you, let us be the first to tell you that God will never ask you to be abused in His name. You are His daughter and how you are treated matters. 

Now, let’s close on some good news, shall we? God still does answer prayer, but sometimes what He uses the most to bring forth change is the consequences of unchanged and unrepented behavior and choices. You taking a stand and saying, “No more!”, may very well be the exact thing He uses to bring forth that change you’ve been praying for the whole time. In fact, those boundaries are your husband’s best chance at becoming the man God called him to be in the first place, and without them he’s just incentivized to stay the same.

God knows what your husband and your marriage need. Pray, act if needed, and trust His process. 

If you need some more help and resources for your marriage, check out the Expedition Marriage website and podcast. 

And, if you really want to specifically pray for your husband, check out our free 30 day Praying for your Husband Challenge.

Reasons Not to Divorce

Reasons Not to Divorce

Just recently my husband and I had the opportunity to return to our home state to the exact spot that he got down on one knee and proposed almost 30 years ago. We couldn’t help but think about how much we had gone through as a couple and how much there was that we were simply not prepared for.

We knew marriage would be a journey, but we had no idea how many valleys it would take us through. We also had no idea how much refinement we were both going to need, and we certainly didn’t know that it would be our spouse who would be helping with those refining moments!
As we looked back we realized how much we would have missed had we given up, and boy were we tempted! We thought about how different our children’s lives would be, and how different their own marriages would be if we had called it quits. 

We certainly know that not all marriages survive, and in fact some shouldn’t because of how toxic or abusive they are. We also know that far more end that shouldn’t, and we’re so glad ours wasn’t one of them, despite how hard it got at times. In light of all our pondering we have this to share with you…

Bad Reasons to Divorce

As Christian marriage counselors, we hear an awful lot of, “I just don’t love them anymore.” Falling out of love is something we believe is a bad reason for divorce. Instead of a call for divorce, it can be an opportunity to grow a mature, deeper love—a love that is based on action, actions of patience, kindness, humility, and selflessness. You didn’t start off loving your spouse when you met them, you intentionally grew it. That can happen again with some effort and the right mindset.

Another thought is, “I need to find myself”. To put it more bluntly, in a loving and honest way, that thought process is a selfish one. Your marriage should be helping you become more of who you are and you helping your spouse become more of who they should be too. You can work on yourself and your marriage together. You should not be in your marriage with a self-focus. That’s always a recipe for disaster.

Here’s another one, “God wants me to be happy”. We hear this one all the time and the truth is, God will never use the sin of divorce (divorce without a justifiable cause) to achieve happiness. He will not break apart something He joined together for the sake of something so wavering and temporal. Happiness is the icing on the cake of marriage, not the goal. 

Finally, the old, “We grew apart”. What this really means is perhaps you didn’t invest in your marriage and intentionally grow together. The only way to grow apart is to head in different directions, and if you can do that, then you can certainly turn it around and begin to grow back together. 

So, here’s the deal, your marriage is going to have problems, and abuse and adultery aside, it’s not the problems that get you into divorce court, it’s what you do with those problems that’s the real culprit.

The majority of marriage struggles, including those listed above, can be corrected and overcome. It will take some work, some effort, and perhaps some humility, mindset shifting, and grace, but when you walked down the aisle this was truly what you signed up for. What the Enemy is using for harm, God is big enough to turn it around and use it for good. Divorce will never fix your problems, especially if done unnecessarily. In fact, it will only bring you more.

Lean in, get some help, and give your marriage your best efforts. 

If you want to hear more of what we learned about marriage from our engagement spot, check out The Expedition Marriage podcast, episode 65, What We Didn’t Know about Marriage. Be sure to check out the other episodes for more practical help and encouragement too!

xoxo, Chris & Jamie

3 Things That Might be Destroying Your Marriage

3 Things That Might be Destroying Your Marriage

When I look back on our early years of marriage I often wonder how in the world we made it to year 28! I’ve told my husband on more than one occasion how grateful I am that God chose to put blinders on him for him to marry me. While that sounds self-deprecating, it’s honest. I came with tons of red flags that should have steered him clear of me for a while. 

But, here we are, 28 married years later, thriving and abounding in the grace of God.

Aside from the grace of God—and those blinders – I can say with confidence that had we not worked on these specific things our marriage would have surely been doomed. In fact, as marriage counselors, we see these things take out couples all the time. 

Ready to know what they are?

3 Things that Might Destroy your Marriage

  • Past trauma– I came into my marriage with a lot of baggage, baggage that came from my family of origin. All kinds of stuff that I was glad to walk away from hoping to never deal with again—except that is not how trauma works. It stays with you until you deal with it. Not dealing with your past, no matter how significant or insignificant, will always trip you up. Your past will always bring forth triggers and if you don’t make yourself aware of them or process through them, they’ll eat away at your marriage. 

Working on your past may involve professional help, pastoral counsel, or just some solid chats with a friend, or even your spouse. The healthiest marriages contain two healthy individuals. It’s worth it to do what you need to do to find healing.

  • Trying to change your spouse- If you flip this one around and ponder on what it might feel like to have someone constantly trying to fix you, change you, or remind you that you’re not good enough, that might be all the perspective change you need to not do this to your spouse. No one changes, at least in a healthy way, by reminding them how inadequate they are. Learn to love your spouse where they’re at. Inspire growth in them by growing yourself. And if they’re truly unhealthy, it might be time for some boundaries. We always recommend Boundaries in Marriage to help with that. Finally, this leads us to what I think is the most important one…
  • Not taking personal responsibility. When you get caught up in the blame game there are no winners, and your marriage can really take a hit. When you fail to own what you need to own, you’re giving up opportunities for change and growth—and the thing about marriage is that there is no remaining the same, it’s either moving forward or it’s moving backward.

Humility in marriage is a game changer. It will draw you closer to one another and you will have more individual and more marital peace. Pride always comes before the fall—be humble enough to grow, learn, and get better. You’ll be a better spouse and you’ll be in a better marriage.

If you’re feeling like you’re on a downhill spiral and need to get on the same page again, you might want to check out our Restoring Connection 4-week Plan. It will be sure to get you back on track in just 10 short minutes a day!

3 Must Have Marriage Habits

3 Must Have Marriage Habits

Do you have any habits in your marriage? Have you ever even thought about whether you do, and if so, what they even are?

There’s always been a whole lot of focus on motivation and goals, but the real key to changing your life and your marriage is found in your daily habits. It’s those little things you do—or don’t do, over time that impact your life the most.

If you want your marriage to last, a big part of that will be investing in habits that will encourage longevity. It’s about making daily, weekly, monthly efforts in caring for one another and your marriage.

 3 Must Have Habits

 Are you in the habit of treating one another with respect, or have you found yourself lately being kinder to strangers than each other? How you speak to one another is huge. Proverbs 18:21a tells us that, “The tongue has power of life and death”. Respect speaks life, disrespect doesn’t. Speaking life also avoids a lot of unnecessary conflict. If you want to learn how to do that in 3 minutes, check out How to Avoid Conflict in your Marriage in 3 Minutes. 

Are you making physical contact each day, or are your heads hitting the pillows at night with the realization that you never shared one kiss or one hug all day—or maybe you just read this and had the thought that “I can’t even remember the last time we touched.”

Those good morning and goodnight kisses, those car ride handholds, and those hugs for no special reason, add up over time and all make for healthy marriages. They also make for healthier and longer physical connections too! Don’t let a 5 second kiss be too much to invest—make physical contact a daily habit.

Lastly, are you communicating each day? Do you discuss your day, your thoughts, and feelings with one another? Is your communication stagnant, or does it seem to keep getting stolen by the busyness of running a home and having children?

 Communication is foundational for marriage. So much so, that if you don’t have it, we strongly recommend you grab our Restoring Connection Plan, a 4-week, 10 minute a day, strategy to get connection and communication back to where they need to be. Go ahead and use code PINTEREST10 for 10% off

 Good communication breeds great connection, and great connection breeds trust, marital satisfaction, and longevity.

Take a moment to pause and evaluate your daily habits and ask yourself what direction they’re taking you and your marriage in? Is it a direction you want to go?

Next Step–Discuss this topic with your spouse. 

Do you feel like you are all alone in your marriage?

Are your schedules so busy with work and taking care of your family that you are simply too tired to connect?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could move from exhausted and alone to connected and supported?

To feel like you were part of a team?

Use Coupon Code: PINTEREST10
for 10% off the regular price.

Verses for a Christ Centered Marriage

Verses for a Christ Centered Marriage

One of the best ways to have a Christ centered marriage is to become two individuals who seek to follow Him. This rightfully places the Lord directly in the center of your marriage. Having Him in the center allows direction, growth, and humility to flow freely, all while making your marriage one of the most rewarding relationships you have.

5 Scriptures for a Christ-Centered Marriage

  • You are better and stronger together, and even better and stronger with the Lord. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 
  • You will always have things vying for your attention, time, and efforts. Make sure your marriage remains one of your highest priorities. Many marriages drift apart long before they ever explode in destruction. Stay on guard. “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10”9
  • The more you love your spouse as a verb in action, the easier it will be to forgive and to let go of some of their flaws and mistakes. “Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
  • Setting up appropriate boundaries with extended family is a must. You’re living a 2 becoming 1 life, not a 2 becoming 3, 4,5 & 6 life. This can be tricky. If you’re getting stuck with this, check out The Expedition Marriage podcast, Episode 44, Setting Boundaries with In Laws. “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
  • Always remember what real love is. It’s so much more than the big feelings you had that led you into your marriage. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
    1 Corinthians 13:4-5

When you seek to follow Jesus, you will forever be being transformed more and more to his likeness. Your goal as a spouse is to help support your spouse in doing the same. If you’d like a great way to make Christ the center of your marriage, be sure to check out the Newlywed Couples Devotional, a 52 week biblically based devotional filled with scripture and application. It’s practical, it’s filled with truth, conversation starters and prayer… and it’s not just for newlyweds!  

3 Warning Signs of Bad Communication in Your Marriage

3 Warning Signs of Bad Communication in Your Marriage

How is communication going in your marriage?
Are you finding yourselves frequently going round and round and never arriving at a point of resolution?
Do you keep getting caught up in the same arguments over and over?
How about this one—you just can’t seem to have a discussion that doesn’t involve elevated emotions or things rapidly getting escalated…

The bad news is that you’re likely stuck in a rut, BUT, the good news is, you can get out! 

The truth is, there actually might be good reasons why you’re getting stuck. You might be simply missing these 3 big warning signs in your communication pattern. (For more on this topic, check out the Expedition Marriage podcast series on Communication Killers and their Kryptonite).

3 Warning Signs of Bad Communication

Harsh startups—You may not even know it, but you might be creating a bad outcome within the first few minutes of your conversation. It will serve you well to pay attention to how you might be initiating when you’re trying to communicate things to your spouse. How is your tone? Are your words accusatory? Are you complaining or blaming right out of the gate? 

If so, these are sure fire ways to position your spouse on the defense instead of positioning them to listen and receive. Be sure that when you start a conversation you pause beforehand long enough to gather your thoughts and be intentional. Speak with kindness and purpose from a non-accusatory place. This will help make it much easier for your spouse to listen to whatever it is you have to say.

Making Assumptions—This one is easy to fall prey to. You may not even realize how much you might be labeling your spouse’s intentions, motives, and actions. You might assume without any confirmation that they’re doing or saying things to intentionally upset you, or perhaps because they don’t care.
When assumptions enter in it becomes very easy to switch over to a harsh set up instead of a soft one. “You never help around the house. You could care less how tired I am!”, “I’m tired of your work being more important than me. Your job is all you care about.” 
Instead of assuming things about your spouse, which by the way, assumptions are often negative, why not try clarifying with them. “I’m frustrated that you don’t help around the house. It feels like you don’t care about how tired I am. Is that true?”, “It upsets me how much time you spend working. It’s beginning to feel like your job is more important than your family. Is that what’s happening?”

Ask a clarifying question and put assumptions to rest. Those negative assumptions will otherwise always lead you in a communication ditch.

Emotional reactivity—Emotions can get the best of you, and me, if we’re not careful. They will lead us to react instead of respond. The second you get emotionally elevated is the same second you stop being productive in communication. Emotional reactivity shuts down your problem-solving skills, your empathy, and your ability to move towards listening and resolving. 

Before you initiate communication, take all the time you need to gather yourself and regroup. Being upset is ok and often necessary, but communicating while being emotionally elevated is just not productive and often will encourage your spouse to back away from you more than it will encourage them to move towards you.

 

Good communication in marriage is a must. It’s a big component to keeping you connected and secure as a couple. If you’re interested in learning more on how to have healthy communication and how to reconnect as a couple, be sure to check out our Restoring Connection Plan, a 4 week communication journey to deeper and richer connection between you and your spouse. For a 15% discount use code SUBSCRIBER15.

How to Avoid Conflict in Your Marriage in 3 Minutes

How to Avoid Conflict in Your Marriage in 3 Minutes

Did you know that the first 3 minutes of a disagreement determines how that conversation will end? It’s true, 96% of the time it’s what takes place in those minutes that will dictate whether resolution is found, or conflict is started. 
Think about it; with 55% of communication being your body language, 38% of it being your tone, and only 7% of it your words, that gives you a lot of likely unused potential to have more healthy communication.

It is clear that the “how” of your argument is more powerful than the “what” of it. So, any of that “right fighting” you may have been doing, isn’t your friend if resolution is your goal. Which btw, if you find yourself falling into the trap of right fighting, you need to check out Episode 59 of the podcast, The Problem with Right Fighting.
With all that being said, let’s make this practical. If getting to resolution is your desired outcome, here are some ways to help you achieve that goal, especially if you incorporate them within that 3-minute time zone.

How to set up a disagreement for success:

  • Watch your body language. Relax your arms, face forward, don’t roll those eyes around, and make eye contact.
  • Control your tone. Speak to one another as if someone you greatly respect was listening to this interaction. As Christians, this is always how we should respond because we do have someone very important always watching us. 
  • Don’t interrupt. That includes not interrupting with body language and tone too. Huffing and puffing, turning away, picking up your phone, or walking away to give your attention elsewhere. These will all indicate that you don’t care how your spouse feels.
  • Lean in and listen. If you start these 3-minutes well, there will be time to share your side and your thoughts too. No need to rush to get your point across first.
  • Stick to the topic at hand. Don’t get derailed into what’s happened before or how things used to be, or what your spouse has done in the past.

Your goal in your marriage shouldn’t be just to prove your points or have your side of the story heard, it should be about trying to achieve a win for both of you. You’re going to be different, you’re going to have different thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and that’s entirely okay, its actually good. Two whole individuals will always make the healthiest of marriages.

If you’ve been struggling with communication in your marriage or just feel disconnected from your spouse, be sure to check out the Restoring Connection Plan, a 4 week strategy to enjoying deeper and richer connection in your marriage. Find out more below.

3 Habits to Start for a Healthy and Happy Marriage

3 Habits to Start for a Healthy and Happy Marriage

Healthy marriages don’t just happen by chance. That may be one of the biggest blindsides you learned after getting married. You, like me, probably fell prey to thinking that this wonderful love connection you have as a couple will carry you through to your happily ever after, only to find out that your Mr. Wonderful isn’t always so wonderful, and this marriage thing is going to require patience and some work.
But no worries, that’s where the incredibly beautiful things happen in marriage. Love will require work, but it’s that work that changes you and that often changes them. 

To have a healthy and successful marriage, you’re going to need more than just a wish and some goals. It’s going to require instilling some good habits into your daily married life. There are things you can do every day that will set your marriage up to be one of the most thriving and connected relationships you’ll have. 

3 Habits for a Healthy Marriage

Daily communication—Relationships aren’t silent. Life can get mundane, busy, and put on auto pilot. You must make the daily habit of coming together and talking face to face without distraction. You can do this in the morning with your coffee, over a lunch break or when you put the kids down in the evening. Just pause long enough to give one another undivided attention.

Honesty and vulnerability—Every day you must choose to be honest with one another with how you’re feeling, what’s bothering you, and what your real needs are. Don’t withhold or hide things going on in your life, invite your spouse in on these things. Be honest with them if they’re doing something that is bothering you. If you withhold these things, you will only be allowing bitterness and resentment an open invitation in your marriage.

Active listening—If you want connection in your marriage, you will need a lot of intentional listening. This one seems simple, but really, none of us are truly naturally good at it. Listening is a practiced skill, but it can be a game changer in your marriage.

 

These three habits for a healthy marriage are foundational, but above them all, keeping Christ in the center of your marriage is most important. Two individuals who invest in personal one on one time with the Lord will always make for the best marriages. As for executing these daily habits into your marriage, if you’d love some specific and intentional focus on these areas that will keep you connected as a couple, be sure to check out the Restoring Connection Plan, a 4 week daily plan to re-igniting your connection through intentional communication. It might be just what your marriage needs!