Ask the right question for a stronger marriage

This week, I want to encourage you to examine and possibly change the way you think about your mate. Many couples are disappointed and frustrated with marriage. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife as they say. In these homes, the threat of a big argument is always present. They live under the constant stress of knowing that just one wrong word, one wrong deed, or one wrong facial expression could light the fuse on a terrible blowup. Marriage seems impossibly miserable to them.
In these relationships, there is a lot of time spent asking the wrong questions like:
“ Why do I have to married to someone who is so difficult?”, “Why can’t my mate just understand me?”, or “Why can’t he/she just do what I want?”. These questions lead to more wrong questions like, “ I wonder if I would be happier as a single person?”, “I wonder why I couldn’t be married to someone like him/her?”, or “I wonder if I married the wrong person?”. This line of thinking leads us away from the solution and deeper into the problem.
This line of thinking causes us to

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Are you giving your mate your best self?

One of the wonderful things about marriage is that we have someone who loves and accepts us as we are. We can come home and let down and just be ourselves with our mate. Out in the world, we have to always be careful to look our best, use our best manners, and speak wisely. We feel pressured to keep our fears and limitations hidden. However, one of the joys of marriage is that we can simply be ourselves with our mate. However, in that benefit lies a danger that we need to safeguard against. We need to be careful not to overdo it. Some couples get so comfortable with each other that it does harm to the relationship. Let’s think about it a little. It is possible to give ourselves permission to be moody, unpredictable, touchy, irritable, angry, impatient, demanding, harsh with our words, inattentive, and impossible to please. Most of us define this overall attitude as “taking our mate for granted”. In most cases, this happens when we settle into the routines of life and forget to appreciate our mate. All of the special deeds of love begin to slip away. Then, the compliments and words of love begin to fade away. Then, we give ourselves permission to express our mood and feelings thinking that our mate has to learn to understand and tolerate all of this because we are simply being ourself.
The problem with this logic is that it leads to

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Pursue Contentment for a Happy Marriage

I want to encourage you to avoid the slippery slope of unhealthy comparisons. When we get into the habit of making unhealthy comparisons, it leads to a world of trouble. These comparisons create sadness, depression, isolation, hopelessness, and conflict as well as a lot of other negative dynamics in our families.
First of all, let’s identify what we mean by unhealthy comparisons. They would be expressed in statements like, “ Why can’t you behave as well as your brother?”, “You aren’t as pretty as your sister.”, “Why can’t you make the honor roll like your friend?”, “Why can’t my husband be more successful like him?”, “Why can’t my wife be more exciting like her?”, “Why can’t we have a better marriage like them?”, “Why doesn’t God bless me like He blesses them?” and the list goes on and on.
When we make unhealthy comparisons, we are expressing hurt, disappointment, and fear in a way that is guaranteed to make things worse. Our hurtful words might result in some temporary result, but it creates an undercurrent that will be bad in the future. For example, our children might get better grades or clean their room better for a while, but the sting of being measured against another and found lacking will plant a seed of insecurity and bitterness that might produce a destructive fruit in the future. Girls and women already have

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Perspective makes all the difference

This week, I want to encourage you to examine your perspective on your life, your mate, and your children. Perspective has to do with the way we view things. This may seem insignificant at first, but I have found that it is one of the key components needed to maintain a healthy family.
I have often been puzzled as couples are explaining to me how they simply can’t stand each other and are looking forward to a divorce. The thing that is puzzling to me is that in most of these instances, there was a time when the two love birds were driving everyone around them crazy with their infatuation with each other. They were inseparable, now they can hardly bear to be in the same room. They had high hopes for a future together, now they dream of getting rid of each other like an old worn out car or clothes that were once exciting but now have gone out of style. I bet you have seen and heard this too from friends or family members… or maybe yourself. Have you ever wondered how this change of heart can happen??
Well, it’s usually complicated, but somewhere in the core of the change of heart is a change of perspective. So, to protect ourselves and our family from a similar problem, let’s explore this concept.
The Bible, offers a great example of perspective differences found in Numbers 13. Moses sent 12 spies in to scope out the promised land that God was giving them. They spent 40 days traveling around and scoping out the land. Remember that all 12 saw and experienced the exact same things, but when they returned to Moses, they gave very different reports. All of them agreed that the land was fruitful and abundant. However, 10 of them were convinced that the land was impossible to possess because of the giants and the fortified cities.To Moses’ amazement, these 10 began to tell everyone that a life of slavery in Egypt would be much better than trying to press forward into this land that God had promised them. Only 2 of the men, Joshua and Caleb, resisted that idea and tried to encourage the people to move forward into the blessing God had promised them. Unfortunately, the people were inclined to believe the bad report of the 10 spies and began to complain to God that He should have left them in slavery in Egypt. Their perspective went from looking forward to a bright future to longing for a painful past. They gave up on their dreams because of an obstacle. They lost faith in God’s ability in spite of all He had done for them.
Every one of us are susceptible to the same problem. Be careful because a bad perspective can transform the answer to your prayers into a terrible burden that you long to get rid of. However, a good perspective can start the healing process in a family that is hurting!

Remember, perspective is

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Add Commitment for a great Marriage

This week, I want to think about the importance of commitment in a marriage. Commitment is important in achieving anything valuable in life. Commitment is necessary in order to overcome the challenges of life and enjoy success. Commitment is needed to achieve career goals. Commitment is needed to see dreams become reality. Commitment sets the stage for the unfolding of awe-inspiring stories. Commitment is the backbone of any solid group whether it be a company, a music group, a church family, a nation, or a marriage.
One of my favorite things to do in New Orleans is to visit the World War 2 Museum with my son. The thing that always strikes me is the enormity of the challenge that was facing our nation. We were fighting to protect our freedom and sovereignty as a nation from two attacking nations, Germany and Japan. There is a display that illustrates how outmanned and outgunned we were by each of these nations. It is quite staggering. However, as you walk through the displays it becomes obvious that the thing that gave us victory was the unified commitment of our people. Of course, our military was committed. They went far above and beyond anything expected to protect our freedom. The stories of our military personnel are amazing and awe-inspiring. However, it wasn’t just our military. The whole country banded together and exerted the power of commitment toward the cause. Rosie the Riveter was born as thousands of women poured into factories to make the weapons, vehicles,and supplies needed for our military to put up a good fight. Right here in New Orleans, Andrew Jackson Higgins invented the amphibious landing craft that allowed our soldiers to be shuttled from ship to shore to fight. Not only that, but our citizens donated raw materials to be recycled for the cause. They gave paper, rubber, and steel. In fact some farmers donated their tractors and returned to farming with mules for the cause. An important factor in our unlikely victory was the unified commitment of our entire nation. My point is that commitment releases power to do the impossible. This applies in every aspect of life, but for our purposes this week, I want us to think about what commitment can do for marriage.
Commitment is the foundation of love. Commitment is the glue that holds families together as they pass through the storms of life. Commitment is the security and comfort that makes life bearable. Commitment is inspirational. Commitment makes no room for retreat or escape. Commitment is a priceless gift that couples can give each other. So, this week, as we think about this important topic, I hope you will determine to give the gift of commitment to your husband/wife.
An important factor in staying committed is to eliminate all retreat and escape options. When my wife and I were getting married, shortly before the wedding,

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I want my marriage to be better!

This week, I want to encourage you to pursue growth and improvement in your marriage. Surveys show that most married couples want to see improvement in their marriage. Most married couples are quick to say that they would like to see growth or improvement in companionship, friendship, communication, unity, and intimacy in their marriage. This is the all – important foundational ingredient to experience growth… desire. However, many are frustrated because they feel that no matter how badly they want improvement, pray for it, hope for it, and wish for it, it remains elusive and just out of grasp. So, this week, I want to share some principles that will bring the much desired improvement into your marriage.
I think the place to start is by thinking about the pre-conceived ideas we have about how growth will happen. Most of us think about growth in our marriage in terms of, “If only my mate would change these things about himself or herself, then our marriage would be better”. We tend to think about the changes our mate needs to make in order for our marriage to improve. In the process, we overlook any changes that we might need to make, or at least determine that any changes we need to make are insignificant and secondary to changes our mate needs to make. This sets us into a pattern of placing the responsibility for the health of our marriage solely on our mate.
This pattern always ends in frustration. This turns into an endless cycle of the blame game that creates hopelessness, isolation, and lots of angry outbursts. The solution is quite simple, but not always easy to implement. The solution is to accept the reality that the only person I can change is me. While we need to communicate our needs to our mate, we need to embrace the fact that we can’t change our mate…only he/she can do that. So, our focus needs to be on changing self.
The problem with changing self is that we don’t always

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Security System for your Marriage

This week, I want to encourage you to think about protecting your marriage. Whether you realize it or not, there are forces at work everyday that threaten your marriage. The good news is that we can protect ourselves from these forces in order to enjoy a marriage that stands the test of time.
To set the stage, I want you to think about how we treat the things that are valuable to us. We buy security systems and high quality locks to protect our homes. We take special care of valuable jewelry. We are careful to take care of expensive clothes and shoes. We are very careful to keep our cars serviced and in well maintained. In short, we exert energy and spend money to protect and take care of things that are valuable to us. Today, I want to remind you that the most valuable asset you have is your marriage. If your marriage fails, your entire lifestyle will be turned upside down. If your marriage fails, all these material things will be lost, sold, or divided. If your marriage fails, your children will have to deal with the pain and fallout for a lifetime. If your marriage fails, your job will be threatened and your friendships will be affected. We need to focus on providing security for our marriages… our real treasure. Our problem is that we have a bad habit of forgetting that. We get too busy or too tired to put effort into polishing and maintaining our marriage, then we are surprised when it begins to struggle under the wear and tear.
Luke 12:39, “But understand this, if the owner of the house had known what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into”. This passage is a command for us to live for Christ in an attitude of readiness for His return, however it also has a principle that applies to marriage. We need to invest in caring for our marriage everyday, not just when trouble is breaking the window. Too many of us, take our marriage for granted. We assume that everything is ok and will continue to be ok. This attitude causes us to be pre-occupied with chores, careers, friends, the pursuit of material things, the children, and other things while the flame of our connection with our mate gets smaller and weaker. When we realize that the flame is nearly out, we fly into a panic to do whatever is necessary to get the fire going again. Finally, after years of resistance, we are ready to talk, go to counselling, give up habits, go on a vacation, anything to keep the marriage alive. Sometimes the fire can be re-kindled, but sometimes it can’t. The solution is to take care of the connection everyday and don’t let it die down. Not only is that a safer plan, but it is also much easier.
One of the most common forces working to undermine marriage today is busyness.

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Serving Your Mate for a Better Marriage

This week, I want to encourage you to cultivate a servant heart toward your mate. The world tells husbands to see themselves as kings of their home who bark orders at their wife and children. The idea is to have everyone serving the desires of the man. The world then tells the woman that she does not have to put up with that. The world urges the woman to resist doing anything for her husband. The message of the world to the woman is to be completely independent of the man and rely on him for nothing. Of course, this has led to a big amount of strife in homes as both husband and wife try to defend their rights and interests. The Bible has a clear solution for this dilemma and I want to share that with you this week.
The solution offered by the Bible is for both the husband and the wife to develop the attitude of a servant toward their mate. Truthfully, we are commanded to have a servant mentality toward all others, however this is especially important in our homes.
In John 13, Jesus took the role of a servant and washed the feet of his disciples. This was the lowest and one of the most unpleasant jobs that needed to be done. Jesus summed up His actions by telling the disciples that He did it as an example for them to follow. He told them that if He, the Son of God, could serve them in humility, then how much more should they serve each other. In Philippians 2, we are commanded to remember the servant attitude of Jesus and imitate His attitude by putting there interests of others first. Ephesians 6 tells us that if we serve as if we are serving God, then we will be blessed.
In many marriages, the conflict rages as husbands and wives fight over who is going to take out the trash, cook supper, wash the dishes, bathe the children, and put the children to bed. We resist the pressure to be the one who does these things hoping that our mate will cave in and be the one. This creates resentment and conflict in the marriage. Many couples find themselves entrenched in a competition to see how much they can avoid doing. This is a negative cycle that takes the joy out of marriage.
A better attitude is to

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Finding the power of Agreement

I find that many couples are in a constant state of tug of war. They have not yet learned how to find the power of agreement and so they are going around and around in a cycle of bickering and arguments. They disagree about handling money, raising the children, chores, extended family interactions, and nearly everything else under the sun. This cycle leaves both of them feeling hurt, lonely, exhausted, and full of doubts about the relationship. So, this week, I want to share a few practical ideas to help you negotiate agreement with your mate.
The place to start is by acknowledging that agreement is important. The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 4 that two working together is far better and safer than one working alone. In Amos 3, we are told that if two are going to travel together, they must be in agreement. Jesus told us in Matthew 18 that when two agree in prayer that the power of prayer is greatly multiplied. In the book of Acts, we are told that the followers of Jesus were in agreement as they waited for the promise of the Holy Spirit. My point is that agreement is highly valued in the Kingdom of Heaven. So, agreement should be highly sought after by us in our relationship with our mate. If you and your mate are in disagreement, I would like to suggest that you make it a personal goal to pursue agreement instead of muddling through life together in a constant state of disagreement.
The first step toward finding agreement is to embrace this reality, “I will not get my way all the time”. When two people get married, they are each giving up the opportunity to put self first and are volunteering to put the best interests of the couple first. Marriage is about sacrificing self for the benefit of the other. When we cling to the idea that every decision has to suit me and make me happy, we are setting the stage for bickering and a power struggle.

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Magnifying Glass or Mirror?

This week, I want to ask you to consider this question, do you spend more time inspecting your mate looking for flaws or do you spend more time inspecting yourself in an effort to be a better husband/wife? It is easy to fall into the trap of carrying a magnifying glass when we should be carrying a mirror. Proverbs 11:27 tells us, “ He who seeks good finds favor, but trouble comes to him who seeks evil”. In other words, we find what we search for. So, what are you searching for in your mate?
I have found that it seems to be part of the human condition to shift into fault – finding mode when we finally get what we dream of. We seem to do it in every area of life. We dream of a car and soon after we get it, we are dreaming of a better car. We dream of a job and soon after getting it, we are complaining about its flaws. We get all excited about the latest fashion styles and then a few years later we are embarrassed by the pictures of us in these formerly awesome clothes. The list goes on. We do this in nearly every area of life and most of it is harmless, but when we begin to approach our husband/wife this way it is a big problem.
This involves false expectations, fear, and some pride. Let’s start by looking at the false expectations. Many have the idea that marriage will create a life of happiness and rainbows that will be free of disappointments. They have the expectation that their husband/wife will be like a genie in a bottle that will always meet their every need. So, when their mate is unable to fill that role, they begin to look for flaws in their mate and spend their time thinking about the many flaws of their mate. In some instances, they convince themselves that they made a mistake in marrying someone so flawed. Some feel angry because they feel tricked. Others set out to control or fix their mate. All of these are toxic approaches that will create distance in the relationship.
The truth about marriage is that two flawed people are living life together. There will be fatigue, sickness, disappointments,

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