I once heard a story that stuck with me. It was about three masons who were going about their jobs building a church. Each was doing his job but the real story was how each viewed his job. When asked “What are you doing?” the first man said, “I’m doing my job collecting a pay check”. The second man replied, “I’m laying brick, building this wall”. The third man responded, “I’m building a Cathedral where people will come to give praise to God for their many blessings.” Which of those guys would you rather have on your payroll? Which would you rather work beside day in and day out?
What perspective do you have on your marriage relationship? Are you just doing what it takes to get by or are you building a Cathedral? The perspective you have will determine how you go about building the relationship which will determine the result. Have you given any thought to how you look at your marriage relationship? Is it “Just what it is”? Are you “Putting in time” (or even just serving out your time!)? At the end of your work day do you say things like “I guess I go back to the grind” or “I’d better get back in the trenches”? Do you refer to your spouse as your “old lady” or “old man”? (Hint: You may think that is a term of endearment but I assure you your spouse does not share your feelings!)
Flight Simulator Exercise: Practice spiritual pattern and principle #1: change the way you think about the things you think about. Instead of viewing your marriage relationship as “the grind” or “in the trenches” try to picture your relationship as it could be. (That’s different from “as it should be”. Mainly because “should” usually is defined by you! As it “Could be” carries with it the connotation that with a little work, a little effort on your part, things “Can be” better than they are. If you did “this” or quit doing “that” your spouse would act and react differently which would bring about a better result. Instead of picturing your spouse as the monster that stands between you and the happiness you deserve view them as you did when you first fell in love. (You remember when you felt that they were the one person you wanted to spend your life with, don’t you? . Once upon a time you thought they had this potential. (even though your mother tried to tell you differently!) Try to go back there. In your mental preparation for a beautiful intentional marriage relationship Change the way you think about your spouse. Don’t just do your job! Don’t just lay bricks! Build a Cathedral! Remember spiritual pattern and principle #10: YOUR decisions will determine YOUR destination.
We live in a flip top, zip lock, instant nanosecond throw away world. Somewhere, I’m not sure where, we got the idea that everything should happen instantly. We want everything and we want it now. We have instant everything in the food world. When the computer takes more than two seconds to find what we are looking for it sends us into fits of impatience. We even have a joke about it in our prayer lives, “God give me patience and I want it now!” Everything in our lives is designed to be faster, to get us there “the firstest with the mostest”! Our lives are filled with “time saving devices” (vacuums, microwaves, cell phones, ipads, ipods, etc.)
I have a theory that this all started years ago with the advent of television programming. On T.V. we can experience a world crisis, all the characters get to put in their two cents worth and they solve the problem averting the catastrophe just in the nick of time. And all this happens in a 30 minute episode! Wow, what a world we live in! But has that set us up for failure in achieving the greatness that life holds in store for each of us? Have we settled for speed and comfort at the expense of not reaching our full God-given potential? (Not to mention at the expense of polluting the environment, poisoning the water and desecrating the earth!)
I think the answer is YES, especially when it comes to our marriage relationships. We want the fairytale but we are not willing to put in the effort, energy and time required to develop that relationship. We want to rip open the package, just add water, stir and voila you have a bowl of happiness! (Just in case you haven’t noticed, it doesn’t work that way! I’m just saying!)
The basic truth we’ve missed is that life is a “Skill” and not an academic exercise. We ONLY learn skills by practicing them, over and over and over until they become second nature and we don’t have to consciously think about them. These skills that produce success and happiness become automatic reflexes over time. This intentional marriage relationship is developed over time. You don’t have an instant great marriage. (We like that “automatic reflex” idea! We just don’t deal well with the “Over Time” thing!)
Let me illustrate. Before couples participate in the “Becoming an Intentional Family” series that I facilitate for married couples and those who are contemplating marriage I usually have to answer a number of questions. What does it cost? Where will it be? Do I have to read anything? Is it too religious? Does my spouse really have to participate? And ALWAYS the kicker is, How much time does it take? After learning that the skills and building blocks to developing an Intentional Family will require them to participate in one hour sessions plus practice sessions at home over an eight week period some decide not to participat. The time requirement is more often the reason that couples don’t participate than the financial cost. (How about you? Do you think eight hours of learning the spiritual patterns and principles and the building blocks to developing an intentional family is too much? Does it bother you that you will need to practice these skills and utilize these building blocks over the course of your marriage to build that relationship?)
Helpful hint: Building an Intentional Family can only happen over time. There are no short cuts! Don’t sell your marriage relationship short. Don’t look for the quick fix! If someone offers you an instant marriage happiness pill don’t take it! Develop a long term perspective. Give your relationship the time, effort and energy it deservies.
Have you ever tried to “Fast Track” your relationship only to find it is something that needed more time and attention? Share your “lessons learned” in the comment section.
Most couples are on the same page. That page reads like this: “I’m right, you’re wrong and the world would be a better place if you would just see things my way!” So, you see, being on the “Same” page is not the issue, it’s more important to be on the “RIGHT” page.
There are a number of factors to consider in getting on the “RIGHT” page:
Having goals not only helps you know where you’re going it helps you map out how you will get from here to there. (Written goals are more likely to be followed than ideas you keep in the back of your mind.)
(see blog for 06/13/2012) Being able to discuss things on which you disagree without the emotional and mental trauma is worth its weight in gold! You will get more done in less time without all the excess baggage that goes with uncontrolled arguments.
Having an agreed upon set of behavioral expectations when you disagree will guide your discussion and keep the peace. Both of which are invaluable!
Flight Simulator Exercise: Sit down with your spouse and go over the list above. Begin to write a NEW PAGE for the two of you to get on! This is a process and will happen over time. It won’t go well at first but if you stick to it you will be amazed at the end result.
Question: Can you think of a time when you and your spouse were on the “Same” page but just not the “RIGHT” page? Leave us a comment (no names or name calling, please!)
Since 2002 when Rick Warren came out with his best- selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” the catch phrase “It’s not about you” has resonated with millions of people. In the context of determining your purpose in life that is the starting place. However, if you are trying to build a meaningful relationship with your spouse (or anyone for that matter) it is about you! That’s why spiritual pattern and principle #4 of Becoming An Intentional Family is, “It is about you. ‘THEY’ are NOT the problem!”
If your intent is to build a meaningful relationship with your spouse then your approach must be, “I have to examine, critique and change the way I act and react. I can’t remember where or from whom but some time ago I read a variation of Reinhold Niebuhr’s “ Serenity Prayer” that struck me as perfect for relationship building in the context of pattern & principle #4. I like to call it: “The Marriage Serenity Prayer”.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change; The courage to change the people I can; And the wisdom to know IT’S ME!” (author unknown)
The fact of the matter is, you will never be held responsible for your spouse’s actions and reactions. You will most definitely be held accountable for yours! You will be held accountable in the here and now because each of your actions and reactions produces an action or reaction (often more than equal and opposite!) from your spouse. If that is not enough, we know that one day we will give an account of our lives when we meet God face to face. (Think about that part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Forgive us of our trespasses ‘AS’ we forgive our trespassers”! [emphasis added] How is that going to work for you?) All of the Ten Commandments dealt with relationship building. The first four are about man’s relationship with God. The remaining six (1 and 1/2 times as many!) are about man’s relationship with his fellow man. (That includes your spouse!) The point is driven even deeper in The Golden Rule, which is more completely translated, “Do unto others that which is in their best interest”. How often are your actions and reactions couched in terms of what’s in your spouse’s best interest?
Flight Simulator Exercise: For the next seven days pay close attention to the way you react to things your spouse says and does. Note those reactions that don’t BUILD your relationship and give some serious thought to ways you can change the way you react.
“It is about you. ‘THEY’ are NOT the problem!” It is about how you “Act” and “React” to situations!
Has your marriage relationship turned out the way you thought it would way back when you first decided he/she was the one for you? If it has great! But for most couples, even those who are “happily married”, there is still some sense of “Is that all there is?” Not having your marriage relationship be all it can be doesn’t mean it is a failure. It simply means “That is not all there is.” God, the creator of the universe, also created the concept of marriage and established the spiritual patterns and principles and building blocks to develop that relationship. His concept of the marriage relationship is so much greater than yours (and mine). He didn’t intend for you to have a failed relationship or even a good relationship. His design calls for a GREAT marriage relationship.
We are told in Matthew 22:36-39 that the first step to successful relationship building (and life) is to “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind”. The second step is to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Hint: In this case, your spouse is your neighbor!) On these two principles hinges all of successful living.
Now that we’ve established that basic building block, let’s examine why we don’t get what we want. The simple truth is, it’s because most people don’t know what they want. When asked “What do you want out of life”, how do you answer? Do you say things like: “I want to be happy”, “I want to be successful”, “I want to be rich”, “I want to be taken care of”, etc. The problem with those answers is, they have no way to be measured. You can’t know when you’ve reached your goal. Even worse is the fact that many people are using someone else’s definition of “Happy” or “Success” or “Rich”. Don’t use your mother’s definition. Don’t let it be defined by your In-laws or even your friends (and please, please don’t use socitety’s definition!) If that is the extent to which you have set goals in your marriage relationship it’s no wonder you are at the “Is that all there is?” phase.
The best goal setting gurus in the business world will tell you to set S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely). How is that working for your “I want to be happy, rich, taken care of” kind of goals? The fact is those are not goals, they are more like day dreams (or even nightmares!) The goal setting gurus also tell you that if it isn’t written down and easily accessible so you can look at them, think about them and work on them often they aren’t goals. You need to spend a little more time giving thought to what it is that you and your spouse really want out of your relationship.
You may be thinking that this is “too hard” or “too time consuming” or “I’m too busy taking care of our day-to-day lives to be bothered with all this. Taking this approach to your marriage relationship is saying to yourself and your spouse, “I’m too busy to give US the attention WE deserve”. Let me encourage you, before you dismiss this as hogwash or just plain foolish to go to the mirror, look yourself in the eye and repeat that statement: “I’m too busy to give our marriage relationship the time, effort and energy it needs to be successful”. How does that make you feel? How would that sit with your spouse?
Flight Simulator Exercise: Sit down with your spouse and begin to talk about and write down specific ideas about what you want your marriage relationship to look like, to feel like, to sound like, to do and provide. This will take some time, months at least. A great start would be a weekend get-away retreat for the two of you. It will not “Come to you over night”. You will have to visit and revisit this exercise with some regularity over time. This process will take time, maybe months. There are no short cuts! Think of it as practice! You have to practice, practice and practice some more before you really get the hang of it. Once you have some written goals (you don’t need to have a perfectly completed working document in order to get started achieving your goals.) begin an action plan to achieve them. Start small and work your way up to bigger and better things. Celebrate your successes along the way. Don’t wait until you have the “perfect marriage” to celebrate. That’s never going to happen (mainly because you are involved!) but that is no reason to give up. Keep working at making your marriage relationship better than it was yesterday but not as good as it will be tomorrow. (Sounds like a great country music song to me!)
When you slipped that ring on her finger and said, “Will you marry me?” I’ll bet somewhere prior to that moment you said “I love you” (Maybe hundreds of times). When he knelt in front of you (o.k., now you know how really old I am!) and asked you to marry him I’ll bet you had spoken that phrase a few times as well. Was there a particular part of that phrase that eluded you? The meaning of love is the topic for another blog but today we’ll simply raise the question, “What part of ‘I love you’ did you not understand?”
What part was it that led you to believe that after a few years (or maybe months) it would be acceptable to take each other for granted? Where is permission given to cut each other down at every comment they make or to totally ignore them, as if they didn’t even exist? What was it that suggested that if would be o.k. to hide behind “I’m making a living to provide you with all the things you want” and totally ignore what your spouse really needs – To Feel Loved (not just to feel “in love”, that doesn’t last)? Where did the idea come from that if you are successful enough at your company or if you are busy enough in your community (P.T.A., soccer games, dance recitals, Jr. League, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) then you don’t have to honor your spouse with the time and attention REQUIRED to build an intentional relationship?
Society has tried to stack the deck against marriage. (see blog for 2/22 and 2/23 of 2012) Our culture of “Keeping of with the Joneses”, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world” and “Only the strong survive” has turned our attention to things and not relationships. We’re told that if we buy her an expensive enough present we can expect to be forgiven for ignoring her basic need to feel loved. “Isn’t that expensive piece of jewelry, car, house or lavish vacation enough?” Will that make up for all the forgotten birthdays, anniversaries, children’s special events you’ve missed? It doesn’t matter what the latest “self-help” marriage book tells you dressing up in that slinky lingerie will not make up for all the times you cut your spouse down in front of your friends, made jokes at his expense (although he will push it out of his mind for the moment!). The hurt and emptiness that result from this socially acceptable abuse of our loved ones cannot be replaced nor erased by these gifts and acts of instant gratification.
Ephesians chapter 5, verse 33 gives us a great clue about how to correct and overcome the ills of such socially acceptable emotional rape of each other . It gives both spouses specific help in this area. It says, “So again I say, each man must LOVE his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must RESPECT her husband”. What this means is that men and women have different drivers in their quest for self-worth and feeling loved. Men absolutely crave “RESPECT”. Women are more driven by the need to “FEEL LOVED”. That does not mean that men don’t need to feel loved and women don’t need to be respected. It simply means that these are the major drivers for each in achieving their desired goal of happiness and fulfillment. Helping each other reach that desired goal is what God had in mind when He conceived the concept of intentional families (“The two shall become one”).
Flight Simulator Exercise:1. During the next week intentionally spend 15 minutes sitting with your spouse (T.V. & computer, Ipad, Ipod, Kindle, MP3, etc. off) and asking him/her about their day. Talk about things that interest them regardless of whether or not that topic “Floats your boat”. (And don’t keep looking at your watch to see when this will be over.)
2. A must read for every married couple is Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book, “Love and Respect – The love she most desires and the respect he desperately needs”.