Married Couples Need Friends

Married Couples Need Friends

There’s a lot to be said about the need for married couples to have other married couples as friends in their lives. It’s so important for couples to acknowledge that they  need them, and that they aren’t just fine on their own. We must remember that the very heart of the gospel itself is relational. Relationships are so important to God that He sent His Son to die so we could be in relationship with Him. Beyond that, Jesus Himself chose His 12 friends, and then also chose his inner 3 from that group. Relationships mattered to Jesus, and anything that was important to Jesus should be important to us too.

The two most basic needs and desires of every human is to be loved and to be accepted. Genuine friendship provides both of these. Our innate desire for these very things is enough to give us fair warning that the enemy will come after them. He will do his best to attack not only our marital relationship, but also our friendships. His best work is done in isolation. Therefore, we can be assured that he will use disengagement with friends as a tool for his benefit. 

Just like any predator in the wild, he seeks to isolate so he can attack. Rarely will a lion go after a tribe. He always looks for the lone straggler. This is why, as silly as it seems,  it would be wise to do as good ol’ Buzz Lightyear says, and always stick together.

We need friends in our lives. They lift us up and encourage us (Ecc. 4:9-10), they help us grow in wisdom (Prov 13:20), they speak truth even when we don’t want it (Prov 27:5-6) and they help carry our burdens (Gal 6:2). So, by all means, yes, we need friends, but we also need discernment over the friends we choose. Not all of our “friends” will truly be friends. They don’t always encourage us, or lead us in wisdom, and sometimes they just tell us what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear. 

Friends are so much more than the party throwers down the street or the people you follow on social media. Friends are the ones who know you, truly know you. The good, the bad and the ugly you. They know your marriage, your struggles and your strengths as a couple.

If you are reading this and thinking that you’re not so sure you want that. Perhaps, you don’t want people to know the real you or your real marriage. If that’s you, then can I just tell you that you especially need it. 

We come alive most when we’re fully known. Vulnerability is scary but also life giving, and it’s also very contagious. It does seem scary knowing that another couple might know your relational flaws or struggles, BUT, how great would it be to know theirs too? Not in a cruel judgmental way, but in a “us too” kind of way. Wouldn’t you be more encouraged in your struggles if you knew you weren’t alone in them?  This is the beauty of community. It spurs us on!

If you and your spouse are lacking in friendships, it’s time to change that. Invite another couple you admire out, have them over for dinner, join a life group of some form. Do something to get around other couples, but just be sure to choose them wisely. You’re likely not going to find your people in superficial atmospheres, so this will involve some bravery on your part. The real you will need to show up, but If that scares you, just go back to where we began and recognize that ALL OF US need love and acceptance. 

They’re in need of the very thing you’re searching for too. You’re just the one willing to go first!

It’s time to start enjoying the journey…..TOGETHER!

5 Reasons to Focus on Yourself in a Struggling Marriage

5 Reasons to Focus on Yourself in a Struggling Marriage

Let’s just get right down to it–marriage is hard. Fortunately, it can also be blissful, filled with love, and one of the most gratifying relationships in your life. But, then again, it’s still hard. The worst thing is, we often make it that way ourselves. We enter into this thing called marriage with these great expectations; we expect the “feelings” of love to always be present, and we expect that our spouse will always meet all of our needs and make us never want for anything again. We have found our soul mate  and they will complete us. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that theory? Pure bliss. 

Well, if you’ve been married for even a short time, I’m sure you quickly realized how flawed this belief system is, and you’ve probably also noticed how flawed your spouse is too. What you probably don’t notice however, is how flawed YOU are. I know, OUCH! Sorry about that one (well, sort of). Don’t worry, the pain is purposeful, keep reading…

If you’re struggling in your marriage, or even if you’re not, it is crucial that you pay attention to yourself first. Let me tell you the 5 reasons why.

1) Looking at and evaluating yourself first increases your humility.

So, what’s the big deal about that? For starters, humility shows your spouse you are willing to bear with them in love (Eph 4:2). Humility lets your spouse know they are important, and that you are willing to sacrifice for them (Phil 2:3). Humility comes with wisdom, (Prov 11:2) and it increases harmony in your relationships (Rom 12:16). Most importantly, humility offers honor to God, and shows that you are willing to trust Him IN and WITH your marriage (Prov 22:4).

2)  Focusing on yourself will help you become a better person.

Even if your spouse never does correct their own behavior or take ownership of their part of the problem, you can still become a better person. You will never regret working on yourself. Go ahead and take an honest look at yourself, your behaviors, your words, and your thoughts. Ask yourself what you are contributing to the problem, and then pray about it. Ask for God’s guidance, and then get to work on those things. If you begin to change for the better, it’s almost guaranteed that your spouse will take notice, and perhaps even be inspired by you to start changing themselves.

3) It shows your spouse grace, and who doesn’t love that?

If your spouse has an annoying habit or a poor behavior they struggle with, it’s likely that other people have pointed it out to them already (mom and dad may have for years!). You pointing it out for the hundredth time is not going to be the magic number where they receive an aha moment and suddenly change. It’s also likely that your spouse already hates this habit or behavior themselves, but, for whatever reason, struggles to let it go or, perhaps is afraid to. Your grace could be the very safety that they need to come to you or to the Lord for help with it. Focusing on you allows quiet time from all of the fighting and permits grace to enter in. Extending the grace that God gave you to your spouse, is after all, God’s design (1 Pet 4:10).

4) It helps you set boundaries.

When you focus on yourself, you decide what is acceptable and what is not. Perhaps, if your spouse is involved in an affair, an addictive behavior, or even speaks to you inappropriately, that is not the best time to extend grace, but nor is it the time to blow up. Instead, it is the time to decide if those behaviors are okay with you or not, and then set boundaries or make appropriate next steps. You have to focus on yourself in order to do this, or else you will continuously respond out of your emotions and keep all the focus on them, and in turn get absolutely nowhere. Even the worst case scenarios can be healed when handled correctly AND when repentance is present (<< This is a MUST!). Sometimes, focusing on yourself means you have to quit acting like a doormat. This might be the area where professional or pastoral help is needed. If it is, GET IT!

5)  It helps you to know that YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR SPOUSE.

Quit trying to fix someone else, it is not your job, and, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you already know you’re not any good at it! Just work on you, and leave room for God to work on them. You can only control your responses. You can’t control what others do, say or feel. Remember though, you can put up boundaries, but ultimately, the only person you can change is yourself!

The final word is this, no matter what troubles are brewing in your marriage or what problems are already there, your marriage is never without hope. Before you throw in the towel, do it some justice, and get the help you need before it’s too late. Don’t let problems linger, address them before they take root and start growing. 

Here’s to Enjoying the Journey!

Back to the Basics

Back to the Basics

Back is not the direction we usually want to head in, but sometimes it is only in moving backwards that we can begin to move forward.

It’s that age old adage that we have to learn to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run. It’s the crawling that builds the muscles and gives us necessary strength for the next step, literally. 

There’s a proper order to things, and if we skip over something as foundational as building muscle strength before we start off on a journey, we might find ourselves in some trouble, and perhaps falling a bit more than we normally would. The same is true if we were to run a race without practicing or training. We might survive it, but it will likely not be a new personal record, and we will also more than likely pull a hamstring. This is true in our physical world as much as it is in our emotional and relational worlds too.

In our marriages, we always want to keep practicing, and we don’t ever want to feel as if we have arrived at mastery. Mastery is one of those things that we will never achieve this side of heaven. Especially over something that is constantly changing, like a marital relationship. Let’s face it, we’re all vulnerable to failure and to making mistakes. Mistakingly believing that we have reached mastery can breed not only arrogance, but also complacency.  Achieving mastery, fools us into thinking we need not do any more work because we have arrived. It is in that moment that we let our guards down and become vulnerable. 

If you want to revamp your marriage, or if you need to get back on course, take the time today to go back to the basics. Go back to the fundamental place in your marriage where it all once began, the sharing of your vows. Whether you wrote your own or used traditional ones, pull them out, re-read them. You now have experience in your marriage  that gives you a new lens to view your vows from. When you originally promised them to one another I’m sure you believed they would come with ease, but I’m betting your “experience” now tells you otherwise. There may even be some that you haven’t been putting into practice for a while.

Take the time to read those words that you declared and promised to your spouse in the sight of God, your family and your friends. (You can even google some vows for a reference.) As you do, ask yourselves and one another these questions…

What exactly was it that we promised to each other?

What did we each say that we, as individuals would do and how am I, and how are we, living up to it?

What kind of spouse did I say I was going to be, and to what ends?

Do I still mean and take action on these things today, or does our marriage need help? Honestly.

Are we willing to return to the basics of loving one another as we once declared?

In light of our vows, what is at least one practical thing we can begin to change?

It’s probably been a while since most of you said those vows. I’m sure you’ve realized that time, circumstances and aging, changes people. Some of that change is good and some, perhaps not so good, but regardless, change doesn’t release us from our covenants. 

Take an honest look back, reboot those fundamental promises in your marriage. Make a realistic plan for getting back to the basics with your spouse. Even if you choose one thing to change, that’s a great start in the right direction. Honor that covenant you made to your spouse and to God. You won’t regret it!

Every once in a while it’s good to restart your journey!

Spring Clean Your Marriage

Spring Clean Your Marriage

Nothing inspires us to simplify, clean and start afresh quite like Spring does. Why not make use of all that motivation and get some cleaning done in your marriage too? Let’s be honest, it probably got a little dusty over the winter. Holidays, the bitter cold, flu season, all demanding your relationship be placed on the back shelf, or shoved into a closet somewhere.

Spring is here now, and it’s time to take it down, dust it off and give it a good ol’ spit shine (well, maybe not that, but you get the point!). Seriously though, when is the last time you’ve evaluated what’s in your marriage like you do what’s in your garage every year? What is lying around not being put to good use, what have you forgotten you even had, and what can you get rid of? 

Let’s go ahead and find out…

First step is to evaluate. Have a good look around. Is there anything you’ve swept under the rug? If so, now is the time to clear it out. If you’re holding any resentments because issues weren’t dealt with, take the time to sweep those out and talk about them too. Do you have any problems that you are currently sweeping under the rug? Well, guess what? It’s time for them to also be seen and known. 

Lumps under the rug just get bigger over time. Decide together to be a couple that shares with one another. Talk about the hard things and work together to keep those marital lumps from under all the rugs. Avoiding communication is not communication at all. 

Next…Do you have anything broken that needs to be repaired? Ask one another what isn’t working in your marriage? Check in and see if there’s anything you could be working on to make your marriage better. How is communication between the two of you going? Conflict resolution? Do you both feel emotionally safe with each other? If you identify something that needs repair, fix it! Your marriage isn’t just like an old broken rake in the garage that can be trashed, it’s a one of a kind treasure. Fix it! 

Lastly, while you’re looking around, is there anything you misplaced or forgot you had? What’s that back in the corner underneath all the things? A date night? Go get it! Dust off the cobwebs and start enjoying that time together again! 

How about some lofty dreams you shared together? Have you been taking action going after those? 

When’s the last time you’ve sat and chatted about memories? I’m sure there are some great times you’ve shared that could be once again put on display. Spend some time together planning new dreams, new memories and reliving old ones. Your time together through the years are those rare hidden gems. They are the diamonds in the rough. Polish them off and enjoy their hidden beauty. Let them serve as reminders of your love.

Spring is always a time of new growth, new life and new beginnings. It’s a time to be inspired! And while you are, don’t just reorganize your linen closet and your garage. Refresh your marriage. Declutter, clean and repair. Trust us, you’ll really love the before and after!

Now, go on and Enjoy the Journey!