Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: The Top Ten


Last Sunday, I  cuddle close to my husband as he sits next to me on our sofa. It is our babysitter-free date. It only requires intentionality.

We ignore the bills waiting to be paid, and the vacuum cleaner begging for attention.
For the past few years, on and off, we slow, and connect on Sunday night. We ask what was a highlight, and what was a down point for the day and/or the week.

Some days roll into each other to become a seamless ball of weeks. In the past, several Sundays have whizzed by without any deep heart connection. We give grace when we fail to slow and savor each other's presence.

The day to day talk about doctor's appointments, paying bills, and what's for dinner is necessary; but it won't create the deep soul-to-soul touching needed for a thriving marriage.
It is crucial to set aside time to have fun together, and to connect emotionally. It doesn't always have to be a deep conversation. The main thing is to focus on each other exclusively - even if it is only for 15 minutes.

Marriages have seasons, and some seasons are more challenging than others in terms of carving time out for a date. Be gracious to each other in the process.

I can hardly believe we celebrated 21 years of marriage. As I wrote this post, I recognized I am still a student in the art of marriage.

I write from the perspective of two sinners seeking God's wisdom in their relationship. My husband has never been abusive, so I am not qualified to address that situation.

Confession: I am a better encourager today, than I was 21 years ago, and I was not very good at encouraging him when we married.

We are all in-process, and in need of God's grace daily.

My top 10 lessons I have learned, and am still relearning some days.

1.      Your husband needs you to encourage him more than he or you may realize. Men are fighting an uphill battle to be faithful to their families. I didn't grow up in an uplifting environment, so I had to learn how to encourage him.
         He needs you to tell him that you still find him attractive. We hold each other accountable to exercise, and eat healthy (usually...wink). He's better than me at exercising, and I tell him I appreciate his efforts.

2.      The little things matter more than you think. Saying "thank you" for taking out the trash, working hard at a job (or taking care of the kids), and for being faithful. Saying "please" when you make a request, instead of demanding, or nagging.
         The longer you've been married, the more important the little things become. Unfortunately, the longer you've been together, the easier it is to take each other for granted, and neglect the little things.

3.      Discover your husband's love language. Is it time together, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, or gifts? Ask him: what floats his boat?
         You can learn more about the five love languages as taught by Gary Chapman at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ 

4.      Love/encourage him using his love language. My husband's main love language is acts of service, so he feels loved and encouraged, when I cook a meal with his favorite foods. He loves mushrooms so I make an effort to cook mushrooms.

5.      You will not be able to love your husband well in the long-term if you do not let God fill your love tank. Only God is unconditional Love. So if you want to love well, then make time with the Lover of your soul a priority.
         Check in with God, daily, even if it is only for a few minutes. The more I spend time with God, the more my soul craves His presence. Left on my own, I cannot love well. But when I let God love me, He gives me the love I need.

6.      Pray for your husband. Instead of nagging my husband about joining a men's group, I prayed. I knew he would benefit from the friendships, and from studying the Bible with other men.
         If you don't know what to pray for, ask your man how you can pray for him. It may open up a window into his heart.
         I like to pray Scripture. For example, I pray that he will grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

7.      Do not expect your husband to read your mind. Don't get mad at him, because if he really loved you, then he should have known to do/say, or buy "X" for you. Your man doesn't think like you.
         If something really makes you feel loved, please tell (not nag) your husband. I am assuming, he cares about what makes you happy.
         At this point, we know each other well enough to surprise each other, but sometimes, we will tell each other what we need.

8.      When you blow it, apologize without any excuses. Even he is not modeling grace, you can still give grace when you rely on the Grace-giver, God. It may soften his heart, and help him to own up to his share of the conflict.
         "A hot-tempered wo/man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute." Proverbs 15:18 This is very hard. This is why spending time with God is crucial. Only He can change my heart.
         It is also why my husband and I agree to step away if tempers are flaring hot. We agree to table our, ahem, discussion, until we are both calm enough to disagree and talk in a productive way.
         As long as we know we are not burying the issue forever, it is wise to have a cool-down period.

9.      Respect your husband in your communication. Never ever criticize your man in front of anyone. Ever. Even if you are justifiably irritated, and upset with him, do not publicly correct him.
         Likewise, a husband should always treat his wife with the utmost respect (publicly and privately).
         Talk to him in private, and not in front of the kids. I'm not talking about minor disagreements, and where kids can learn healthy conflict resolution. If you were a kettle, you would be steaming hot and ringing loud, then speak to him alone.
         You must find a way to communicate your anger, and disappointment in a respectful manner. We have basic rules on how we deal with conflict before it arises. The rules help even if we sometimes break them.
         When you talk, focus on how you felt, and not on labeling him as an "uncaring brute," or worse. Never ever name call.

          Healthy conflict resolution leads to a greater awareness of what makes your spouse feel loved. Marital conflict is inevitable, but constructive conflict resolution requires both parties to work.
One can learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. We have read books, and attended marriage seminars.

10.    Study your husband, and become an expert on what makes him feel loved.
         If you ask your husband, what encourages him, or what you can do to better love him, he will tell you. I also observe and note what makes him happy.

A few years ago, I read Shaunti Feldhahn's book, for women only: what you need to know about the inner lives of men. As I read, I asked my man if what the research said about men was true. He agreed with most of it. We recommend her book to you.

What lessons have you learned from either your marriage, or by observing another marriage?

Which of the 10 lessons resonated with you?

Thanks, Jen, for the honor of guest posting here.

About Dolly:
Hello, I’m Dolly… Wife to my best friend, and mother to our answer-to-prayer girl. Passionate about time with God, prayer, and making a difference: one small thing at a time. Spending time with friends, blooming hydrangeas, and reading always make me smile. You can connect with her online at http://soulstops.com, where she writes about what God reveals when she stops and listens, or follow her on Twitter @soulstops.

Copyright. Dolly M. Lee 2012.

28 comments :

  1. Beautiful witness and guidelines, Dolly. Lots of wisdom here.

    I love how the focus in outward on others, on him, not just on ourselves. Bill and I have always said we are partners - we give 100% to each other and don't keep score.

    You are so right to remind us to say thank you and to appreciate the little things too. So often we get blinded and take those things for granted.

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    1. Our college Sunday School teachers did a series on marriage and that was one tip, I remembered and tried to apply. Thanks, Jean, for sharing what spoke to you.

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  2. Dolly, I really enjoyed this. Such great reminders here, and it's interesting to me how easy it is for me to let one or more areas that you mentioned slide in my own marriage from time to time. It's almost like juggling. I'll be handling a few areas well and neglecting others without realizing it. But then I love what you said about still being a student. I feel that way for sure even after 15 years. Enjoyed your post!

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    1. Yes, definitely still a student...I forgot to put in my post that some of the lessons were learned by watching other marriages, such as #9 as it is painful to watch someone publicly speak badly about her spouse...glad you enjoyed it, Lori :)

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  3. Beautiful post, friend.
    let God fill your love tank....that took me so long to learn! it's now the #1 advice I give to newlyweds (if they ask) ;)

    and I love games. Once I viewed it as an ongoing game to discover what makes my hubby's heart beat brighter, joy abounded.

    It's all about getting over ourselves, isn't it. Letting go.

    Love and hugs to you! Thanks for making me ponder today.

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    1. I agree with your #1 advice to newlyweds, if they ask...marriage reveals how much we need His love and grace to love well...love and hugs, sweet Nikki :)

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  4. Great words of wisdom and especially love #5. Thanks so much for sharing how God has taught you about the fine art of marriage, Dolly. :)

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    1. Grateful that He has taught, and is still teaching me about marriage and loving well...Good to see you, Beth, and thanks :)

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  5. Dolly, the fist word of advice, about not taking for granted how important it is for me to encourage him, is what I always need to hold onto. And yes, it takes ignoring all the other things on the to-do list regularly . . These marriages require intentionality, and I so appreciate your wise words here. {And I especially love the big photo of you and your hubby!!} :)

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    1. yes, intentionality...need His grace to be able to do so...you're too funny: Hubby picked out the picture as I was scrambling to write this post...I will pass the word onto him ...thanks, Jennifer :)

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  6. dolly these are great....and honestly this is one of the big challenges that my wife and i faced a few years back...not being intentional when it comes to these things.....and this is one kinda studying that can be pretty fun too...smiles.

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    1. oh...grateful for the fun God gives us in marriage :)

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  7. Become a student of your husband! I have to admit I struggle there. Thanks for linking up your post!

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    1. Thanks for hosting and reading, Mary Beth :)

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  8. Dolly, these are really great lessons. Many of which I do take for granted and could be more intentional in. Thank you for sharing here!

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    1. Thanks, Theresa...I'm with you on learning to be more intentional...such a moment by moment thing :)

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  9. Amen! I love your list, Dolly, it's so full of wisdom and so much speaks to my heart. Congratulations on 21 years!! And thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. oh,so glad it spoke to your heart, Jacqui :) Thanks for letting me know

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  10. I love #9-Respect your husband! I think that is a lynch pin to a successful relationship. Everywhere I have ever worked the wives gather to compare how stupid, annoying and inept their husbands are. It makes me cringe!

    This is a great how-to for a successful marriage list, Dolly. Beautifully done!

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    1. Yes, respect is so crucial...thank you, Kim :)

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  11. Dolly, your list is full of wisdom. For me, the top of the list would be to walk in forgiveness, something I am working on all the time because of my pride. To ask for my husband's forgiveness when I sin against him, whether I can see the hurt or not.

    And #9 Respect your husband. The book Love and Respect for me was a real turning point in understanding that respect IS my husband's love language.

    Thanks for sharing

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    1. I was thinking about that book as I heard the author speaking on the radio...Oh, forgiveness...yes, part of love, but now that you mention it, maybe I could have called it out more...appreciate your thoughts, Jody :)

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  12. I love this, Dolly. We read the Five Love Languages book and it made all the difference in our marriage.

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    1. That's so good to know that Gary's book made a difference in your marriage...yes to speaking the love language that your spouse can actually hear and take in...Thanks, Gaby :) Still praying for you re: your Haiti adoption.

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  13. love the entire list, dolly. . .but "apologize without excuses". boy, even though i rarely do it TO him, in my head i often think, "well, if you hadn't done _____, then i wouldn't have done ____." while that may be helpful in my understanding my reactions in the situation, my sin is MY sin. regardless of his actions. and an apology falls very flat and short when it's offered up as a reaction to someone else's behavior.
    such good reminders, and it's so easy to forget that we owe each other these things even after so many years of marriage. thanks so much for this!
    steph

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    1. that is a great insight on your part, Steph...Holy Spirit inspired to your teachable soul, yes? Love it...thanks for sharing :)

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  14. Love, love this. I, too, have been married almost 21 years. Sometimes, in the midst of life, parenting, work, etc, it is easy to forget to "work" on your marriage. Things get comfortable and the husband/wife relationship coasts along in mediocrity (or sometimes survival mode). Thank you for the reminder to not forget :) I am going to spend some extra time on #10.

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  15. Congrats, Shelly, on almost 21 years...Happy to cheer another sister along in the art of marriage...Thanks for sharing, and blessings as you study your husband :)

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