Saturday, August 22, 2015

Better together

This past February my husband and I went away for the weekend for the first time ever! That may seem like a big deal until I tell you that we have been married for over 17 years!! My church has an annual couples retreat in Gatlinburg and thanks to some awesome friends of ours we were able to attend this year. Having now gone away together it is something we will for sure plan again!
    The speakers were Scott and Elizabeth Sheppard, and they were fantastic! I took a ton of notes which I will be referring to for this article. It was all about respect and love and I wanted to write a little about what I learned so you guys can have a more awesome relationship with your spouse.
The main lesson was that men need respect and women need love.  When the man doesn't feel respected by his wife he does not show love and when the wife doesn't feel loved she will act disrespectfully. See the problem? We create a vicious cycle that we can't escape. The only way to end cycle is for one of the adults to actually act like an adult and show love when they feel disrespected or show respect when they feel love. I will be real honest here and tell you that this is the exact problem my husband and I have had in our marriage. We haven't intentionally done these things, it just happens. I don't think you could find a couple more opposite than my husband and myself. Our love languages are very different and every other aspect of how we respond to life is different. The great thing is that we are in this together and we keep learning more about each other. We want to be better together.
    Here are some points we learned that weekend:
1. We love and react different not wrong just different.
2. We need to hear what is in each other's heart and not always what their words or actions are showing.
3.You cannot be disrespectful to motivate love, and you cannot be unloving to motivate respect.
4. The one who sees himself or herself as the most mature moves first. Regardless of who's responsible.
    Some of the mistakes couples make are thinking that he can be unloving and get respect and that she can be disrespectful to get love. A man's greatest need is to be respected by his wife and family. He needs it like he needs air. If she is putting him down and not letting him be the man of the house the vicious cycle starts. He won't in turn show the love his wife desperately needs and craves. Same is true in the opposite. If the husband is indifferent and unloving to his wife she will not desire to respect him. Again the vicious cycle starts.
   Here are a few tips from the other couples who attended the retreat on how to keep your marriage on the right track were:
1. Communicate-Don't be afraid to tell the truth.
2. Honesty-always be honest with each other.
3. Watch your body language. It can say so much.
4. Replace selfishness with selflessness
5. Always speak highly about each other in front of others.
6. Do not compare yourselves to others.
7. Celebrate wins and losses together.
8. Be intentional with your time.
    You are responsible for your own response. You cannot blame your emotions on someone else. When we are mad and feel unloved we lash out. It is our responsibility to keep our words in check and our emotions under control. Show respect regardless how what you are feeling. Is this easy? No way!! I still haven't mastered it completely! I do know though that fights are much shorter when you aren't both yelling and disrespecting each other. I want to make my relationship with my husband a goal for my children to strive for when they are married. I want them to also know how they should be loved and treated.
    Giving your all to your spouse is so hard. You are giving them your heart and they need to protect, honor, and not drop it. You are also not a mind reader so ask your husband what specifically makes them feel respected. Guys,  ask your ladies how do they feel loved. Do you know their love language? I highly recommend the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Husband's your job is to bring out the radiance of your wife. Wives when you are genuinely concerned about your husband they will become radiant. Remember respect is shown in our words and our actions.
    In order to stop the cycle someone has to be the "bigger person" and not react with an emotional response. You have to decide that this marriage is more important than this fight. One tip that was given was to have a time out that you can use during a fight. If you see that you are arguing and your point is not being heard or your spouse is completely misunderstanding you, then call a time out. Determine the time before hand and step away. For instance you decide upon 10 minutes so you walk away, during that time you think about the argument from the perspective of your spouse. This can give you each a chance to cool down and see from their point of view.
     Wives, you have to respect even when he does not deserve it. God never ask us if we are deserving of being loved or forgiven he simply does it. Who are we to not do the same thing?  Being submissive is a Godly strength. We are different, but equal and being submissive does not make you less than your husband. You will be judged on what you do not on what your spouse does. So if they are being unloving and you are being respectful through it all God will notice. He sees you attempts. He hears your cries. He knows the desires of your heart.
    Men, love your wives with every ounce of your being and wives respect those husbands every second of the day. It may take time, but your marriage will benefit from this.
Ephesians 5:33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 

Dating your spouse

      Ask any professional athlete and they will tell you that in order to become the best in their field you have to put in years of hard work. That old saying of Practice makes perfect is true. Why is it then that when it comes to our marriages we have the tendency to do a mediocre job of it? Sure it usually starts out nicely while we are dating. We dress up, we put our best foot forward and we are always on our best behavior. The words we say to each other are thought out before we say them and we easily forgive. Some where along the way we let all that go. Between the kids, bills, and general responsibilities of life we forget that practice makes perfect. The word perfect is such a broad term in my opinion because it can mean something different to each of us. Marriage done right means compromise, communication, investing, and practice. To be an Olympic athlete we must invest years of hard work. To have a great marriage we must also invest years of hard work. Nothing worth earning comes easy so why do we just seem to quit when it comes to our marriages?
    One thing we forget to do is date each other. That's right the good ole fashion dating. We get some caught up in life that we forget who we were before we became mothers and fathers. We forget that we were once newlyweds and in love. We forget why we feel in love and we lose our sense of identity. I challenge you to start dating your spouse. At first you may find it awkward and will only talk about the weather and your job. Eventually you will find that you start talking about other stuff and you may start to get to know each other again. For my husband and I it was a struggle to hire a babysitter and be able to afford to go out and I am sure some of you are in the same boat. An idea that could be helpful is to find other  mothers out there that would like to start dating their spouses again and you two swap out child care. For example they watch your kids the first Friday of  the month and you watch theirs the second Saturday. Dating/investing in your marriage makes it easier when you come to the rough patches. If you have been staying connected then the rough patch will be just that patch and not a road block or dead end.
     I heard on the radio the other day that the Devil wants to divide marriages. He wants us to fight each other instead of the issues. Dating brings you back to the excitement of waiting for a kiss goodnight and the feel of holding  their hand. Dating requires us to connect as husband and wives and not as parents. Dating helps us to see each other in a new light and remind us of all the reasons  you fell in love with each other. Dating gives us something to look forward to amongst the hustle and bustle of life. Dating can help remind you that your spouse is hot and looks mighty fine dressed up! Dating gives you adult conversation and that for stay at home moms is crucial to keeping them sane!
    My husband and I have been married for 17 years and just started dating each other again a year ago. We had gotten complacent with life and each other and even though we were fine and we were still married we were not taking full advantage of all the great things a connected marriage has to offer. Dating my husband has brought back the excitement of seeing him come through the door after work. Dating my spouse has allowed me to see him as a much older, mature, caring, funny, husband and father. Not just the man who leaves his shoes, socks, etc. on the ground and quite surely has a book of 101 ways to aggravate the wife. Dating has brought back the joy that had been missing. I didn't want to be complacent in my marriage anymore I wanted to be passionate about my husband. I wanted to enjoy talking to him, miss him when he is gone, anxious to talk to him about our days, and anticipate his hugs when he walks in the door. Dating is the practice that my marriage needs to be my level of perfect. I encourage you to date your spouse and find your level. 

I see you

       Hey mom driving in the mini van yawning at 3pm. I see you. I see you struggling to get through the day without a nap. I see you making trips to Target with your crew right beside you. I see you herding your kids like cattle  to get in the store while holding their hands, pulling up purse straps, and carrying that infant seat. I have seen you at home cleaning the living room only to find the kids have made a mess in the just cleaned bathroom. I have seen you struggle to stay awake past 7pm and I have seen you up all night tending to sick ones. I have seen you feel alone, overwhelmed, and loved all on the same instant.
        I have seen you not because I am there, but  because I have been there. I have done the early mornings, late nights, diaper changes, spit up cleaner, dish, hair, and clothes washer, fixers of all things broken, mender of broken hearts, lover of all things possible, discipliner, best friend, worst enemy, story reader, prayer warrior, seamstress, chauffeur, chef, and  house cleaner. You are not alone momma. Those moments when you feel like you can't handle another day at home cleaning up poop and left over lunch, remember you are not alone. When you think you are the only one who just wants to sit quietly for 5 minutes in the bathroom or take an extra long stroll around the grocery store please remember you are not alone. Other moms have been in your shoes before and so many are in your shoes now! You are not alone little momma! Your job is worth it! So hard, but so worth it! I know it seems like you are doing the same thing over and over and with no end in sight. It may seem like those precious, beautiful, bratty, wonderful, perfect kids of yours aren't learning anything. Trust me they are! Every mess you clean up, meal you make, outfit you wash, and  problem you solve is appreciated and seen.
        God created each of us to raise these amazing little beings into self sufficient, God loving, contributors to society. As a mother myself so often I feel like I am failing at the biggest job God has given me. The days that I want to pull my hair out and quit I just have to remember to hand it over the Creator himself and let him take over. Raising children is a full time job and God did not intend for us to do it alone. Turn to your fellow mothers for help and turn to God for guidance.  You are not alone momma! I see you and I am praying for you!
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” – Isaiah 41:13And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9