When Work Travel Creates Distance in Your Relationship

Some careers require a lot of travel and sometimes that can mean not as much time with your spouse or kids as you’d like. Or if you’re the one at home, you may be feeling a little neglected. But just because you are physically distance while one of you is traveling—it doesn’t mean you have to grow distant in your relationship.

We hear from truck drivers and from people who fly across the country every week. They’re separated from their spouses and from their kids for lengths of time. And you know what they tell us? They say that one of the most important things to do is to connect emotionally to your spouse and your kids on the telephone every evening.

 Photo by Roman Carey from Pexels

Photo by Roman Carey from Pexels

That means connection— not only sharing data about what you did that day, but also sharing emotions and feelings. In fact, one person told us that he would make that connection by saying to his son, “If you were here right now, I would be tickling you and chasing you around. Then I’d carry you up to bed and tuck you in. I will do that again when I’m home on Thursday, okay?” 

Help your spouse to stay connected. Encourage him or her to call home when the kids are still up. Send e-mails. Write notes. Always be available.

If you’re the one traveling, make sure your spouse and kids know that you can be reached at any time. If you have a cell phone, tell them to call any time. If you’re in a meeting, you will call right back. If you don’t have a cell phone, leave as many phone numbers as you can. Your spouse and kids need to know that you are available to them anytime, anywhere.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

The Greatest Kind of Connection

Your husband, like every Christian husband, needs to be growing spiritually. He needs spiritual connection—with God, with you, and with other believers. This need came in #5 for men in our survey of 700 couples. Your husband desires spiritual connection with you and others — and he needs your help and support to meet this need!

If husbands are going to take the Bible seriously, then they know that one of the key dimensions of their spiritual life is the spiritual leadership they must provide. (Eph. 5:25-31) And if you could read the hearts and minds of most Christian men, you would find that leadership—real servant leadership—is the biggest challenge they face on a daily basis.

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Servant leadership is a two-sided coin. On one side is the great honor and opportunity that kind of leadership offers: honor in being entrusted with such a high call and opportunity to help meet our family’s deepest needs. However, the other side of the coin is that servant leadership is a very tough job!

This spiritual responsibility weighs heavily on your husband when he recognizes that you and your children are relying on him to take the lead.

Your Husband Needs Your Help

Many women are ignorant of the role they play in the spiritual connection between husband and wife. They haven’t seen it modeled by their own parents, or they haven’t learned it in their churches.

Other women try to play Junior Holy Spirit. They so desperately want their husbands to be the spiritual leaders in the home that they try to shame them into action.  

Still other women struggle because they aren’t doing so well in their own spiritual lives. For these women, husbands who are spiritually on fire are more like a guilt-producing reminder than an inspiration.

In my life, Barb isn’t the Junior Holy Spirit, but God does use her consistently to help me when I struggle. But that’s because I trust her, and she does it with honor and respect for my role in our relationship, and without a critical spirit.

Meeting Your Husband’s Need for Spiritual Connection

If your husband is going to experience spiritual intimacy and connection with God, which in turn will produce spiritual intimacy and connection with you, he must be grounded in four basic areas. If any of these areas is missing or inadequate, it will be reflected in both relationships.

Personal Time in the Word

Since the Word of God is a believer’s spiritual food and drink, your husband needs to be reading the Word of God daily. Many husbands are on solid ground in their personal Bible reading. If your husband is, reinforce him. Let him know that you love his thirst for the Word. If your husband is not reading the Word, realize that you don’t want to irritate the situation by nagging. What you can do is pray for your husband to have a thirst for the Scriptures. You can model your own thirst and share with him what you are learning.

If you and your husband do not read the Bible together, talk with him about starting that habit. Some husbands will take the suggestion and run with it. Others may be hesitant. If that is the case, suggest that you start by including a Scripture reading as a part of your mealtime. Or you could suggest that you read a passage together before going to bed. Do whatever seems like a natural first step for you.

Prayer

Consistent prayer is one of the most elusive spiritual disciplines for men. Let me offer you a good hands-on way to approach prayer. This will help you in your own prayer life, but it will also be helpful to your husband. It is the acronym ACTA. 

A is for adoration. Pour your adoration and worship on God for what he is doing in your life.

C is for confession. Lay open your heart for the surgery God needs to do in your life. He is always faithful to forgive. 

T is for thanksgiving. It is honoring to God when you come to him with a thankful heart for all the blessings he has given to you and your family.

A is for asking. Make your petitions known to God. He already knows them, but he wants you to tell him your needs.

Fellowship and Worship

The need for spiritual connection extends to the entire family of God. We need each other, and your family needs to worship God and grow in relationship to others in the family of God. This is best done in the local church. Does that mean you should never miss a Sunday service or a Wednesday-night prayer group? No. That would border on legalism. But if we are not worshipping and fellowshipping on a regular basis with the people of God, our spiritual growth will diminish. You and your husband need to be in a strong Bible-teaching church that is presenting the Word of God week in and week out. You need it. Your husband needs it. Your kids need it.

Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage and Family

When a husband and a wife are both studying God’s Word, praying, and in fellowship, then spiritual connection in the family is the natural out-growth. When a husband and a wife are sharing what God is teaching them in the Word, the family will benefit. When a husband reaches out and takes his wife’s hand and prays with her, whether in crisis or in calm, then spiritual intimacy in the marriage is the natural outgrowth. When a husband assumes his God-ordained role of servant leadership in the home with his wife and his children, the family will flourish.

Spiritual intimacy and connection in a marriage is the greatest kind of connection of all. If you are living it, rejoice. If you are seeking it, never give up. Keep at it. If you are just getting started, welcome to the journey. God is at work in you

A Decision to Love

Q: I know that I love my spouse, but some days I really don’t like him/her very much. Are we in trouble or is this normal?

A: It’s perfectly normal. No two people can live together for any length of time without once in a while rubbing each other the wrong way. So how do you handle these kinds of times? Well, obviously you can’t count on feeling loving. Instead, you have to decide to love. You will need unconditional love.

Unconditional love is necessary for a strong marriage. Have you accepted your spouse’s failures or weaknesses? Do you support your spouse, or see his or her weaknesses as a project to fix? Are you afraid to be honest because your spouse might not accept you? There is a monstrous difference between unconditional love and conditional love. Conditional love blames the person, expects things in return, and asks for more. Unconditional love loves the person, expects nothing in return, and sacrifices.

Your spouse isn’t perfect. You are the one person who sees all his or her faults and fears. What do you do with what you know about your spouse? Do you tease your spouse with hurtful words? Worse, do you tease your spouse with hurtful words in front of others? Do you put your spouse down? Do you withhold your love until your spouse corrects certain faults? If you answered yes to a majority of these, you are loving conditionally and creating a huge fault line in your relationship—a fault line that will at any moment open up and destroy your marriage.

Your response, initiative, and connection to your spouse are crucial to the health of your marriage and family. Your expression of your unconditional love and acceptance is the force that will drive you together in the midst of the testing times in your marriage. Your standing with each other in the painful times as well as the good times is one of the primary elements of a great marriage.

This becomes especially important for those of you who are in situations right now where the need to demonstrate unconditional love is a daily concern or struggle. Your spouse may be hard hearted (or hard headed!). Or perhaps your dreams and desires have been put on hold while you work to help your spouse’s dreams come true. Your spouse may have wounded or betrayed you. Or you may be married to a person who is spiritually passive.

Whether you are in the midst of a crisis, living with an ongoing circumstance, or just responding to the normal routine of married life, giving your spouse the security of your unwavering love requires grace; patience, affirmation of the good things, encouragement, respect, and time together. Remember that even when you don’t feel like showing love, do it anyway. You need it; your spouse needs it; your marriage needs it.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

How Can a Husband be a Spiritual Leader?

Q: I know I’m supposed to be the spiritual leader in my home, but I’m just not comfortable doing that. What can I do?

A: The Bible clearly indicates that a believing husband should accept his God-given responsibilities to love, lead, and honor his family. This kind of leadership is a balance between leading and serving. When a man steps into this role, he protects and provides for each member of the family. Biblical leadership is a responsibility that God has given to you. It’s an opportunity for you to serve your family. Jesus’ words in Mark 10:45 beautifully illustrate biblical leadership: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus left his place of honor at the right hand of God and came to earth in humility to save the world and show what God is really like. Your role is to learn from him and demonstrate the same humility to your wife. Serving your wife at her deepest needs and sacrificing so that she might see more of Jesus will bring a comfort and security that she has never known.

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Since you are given the responsibility to be the spiritual leader, you must cultivate your spirit to be sensitive to the gentle leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. But the challenge doesn’t end there. Before you are really able to minister to your wife, you must be sensitive to her spirit. It takes real discernment—and patience—on your part to be able to read the complex emotional needs of your wife. But that’s why God gives you a lifetime to do it! It takes humility for a man to become sensitive to the Spirit of God, as well as to his wife. As he learns this humility, however, he’ll enjoy his marriage more than he ever thought possible.

Servant leadership leads to spiritual intimacy, and this attainable goal can transform you from a husband and wife struggling with egos and battling for control to a loving couple that experiences marriage teamwork at its best!

Just read what this husband had to say:

“If every married man was told that there was ONE exercise that he could do on a daily basis that would improve his life, improve his attitude, improve his health, improve his marriage, improve his looks, increase his joy, decrease his stress level, and decrease his blood pressure—and that this ONE thing would take about ten minutes a day (give or take a few minutes), and that these improvements were GUARANTEED, and this one thing is available to everyone, it’s FREE, it’s painless and easy, WHY WOULDN’T EVERY MAN JUMP AT THE CHANCE? In addition to the aforementioned attributes, this ONE thing will also: soften a hardened heart, regenerate affection, enhance a gentle spirit, rekindle that flickering romance, restore trust, revive the passion, revitalize the affection, reclaim the love, rebuild the marriage, and resurrect the vows. Just what is this ONE thing? How is this exercise performed? Well, it goes like this . . . the husband takes his wife’s hand into his own, looks tenderly into her eyes, and says, ‘Let’s pray together.’”

Of course, leading your family in prayer can be difficult to get started if you’re not used to it. We suggest that you start with you and your wife privately. Sometimes a man will get a greater sense of success and will feel more comfortable when he does it one on one. If you have kids and they’re all different ages and all sorts of different demands and schedules, sometimes trying to work out prayer time against all those odds can undermine even your best-laid plans.

Start tonight. Go to your wife, but don’t say, “We’re going to do this every night for the rest of our lives.” Don’t set up that expectation. Just say, “I desire to pray with you this evening. Can I just have a few minutes with you?” Take her into a quiet place of the house or maybe take her on a walk. Take her hand and say, “Can I pray over you and just ask God for a blessing in our marriage and a greater sense of understanding together?” Allow the Holy Spirit to speak through you as you pray.

Find a time that works. Not when she’s trying to make dinner. Not when the kids are clamoring and she looks exhausted. If she’s a morning person, do it with her early. If she’s a night person, do it before you go to sleep. Pray out loud for things that you are thankful for in your wife’s life. Then try it again tomorrow night and the next night.  

As the two of you are developing the spiritual discipline of prayer as a married couple, your children will see that. They may be a little surprised, but it’s a good thing. You can invite them into your prayer times. The key is to take it slowly.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Issues to Watch Out for - and Resolve - While Dating

Q: If you’re dating and things are getting serious - how do you prepare yourselves for marriage?

A: The best way to prepare for marriage is to begin now, in your dating relationship, to be the best-future spouse you can be and to learn how to work together on the inevitable conflicts that will arise. How do you treat each other now? How do you deal with differences of opinion? How do you handle each other’s ups and downs?

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A wedding lasts for only a few hours; marriage is for the rest of your life. As you look past what you hope will be a beautiful wedding day, are you looking into spending the rest of your life with this person? If not, then you may need to spend some time doing serious thinking about this potential spouse. Do you have some doubts or reservations? If so, what are these? How important are they to you? Talk to someone who can give you an objective opinion. If your potential spouse has addiction or anger issues, obviously these are going to come into play across the years of your marriage. Are you thinking you’ll be able to change this person once you get married? Better think again—it’s not going to happen. Can you see this person becoming an irritant in years to come? Are you barreling toward a wedding without real thought about how the marriage is going to work out? If so, then you need to put on the brakes and slow down. 

There are 10 issues you should watch for - and resolve - before you walk down the aisle.

1. A critical spirit. Admit your frustrations. Affirm each other, listen, and encourage. Be teachable. Say you’re sorry.

2. Lack of skill in resolving conflict. Too often, people in conflict refuse to move toward each other in humility. Choose to forgive, accept responsibility for your mistakes, and ask for forgiveness.

3. Not dealing with fatigue and burnout. Learn to say no; learn how to encourage each other to say no. Decide what is really important, choose your priorities, and live for them. Remember your limits.

4. Lacking boundaries with in-laws. How are you getting along with your future spouse’s parents? How is he or she getting along with yours? How does your future spouse relate to his/her parents? How involved are those parents in your day-to-day lives? Sons and daughters seek counsel from parents and in-laws, not control.

5. Keeping secrets. To combat secrets, confess issues that you think might damage your marriage. Practice honesty and ask for honesty. 

6. Having a relationship of two, not three. Invite God into your dating relationship. When you build your marriage on the words and promises of God, your marriage will withstand the strongest storm. Begin the practice of praying together. Thank God for each other. Worship together. Serve together.

7. Not supporting each other in the face of daily living. After the wedding and the honeymoon comes—well—life. You’ll both go back to your jobs and feel financial pressures. Keep each other on your radar. Prioritize your married life—and put your relationship first. Stay in touch during the day with phone calls or e-mail. Give and receive support.

8. Allowing excesses to overwhelm. Recognize two kinds of excesses: first is the drive to have more; the second reveals itself in destructive behaviors or addictions. Deal with excessive behaviors now. Be willing to get help for addictions.

9. Being selfish—are you a giver or a taker? To combat selfishness, you’ll need to ask Jesus to teach you how to sacrifice and serve. You can learn to be a giver by learning to walk as Jesus did. Learning to serve now will carry you through many a dry time ahead.

10. Carrying unrealistic expectations. Ask yourself, what expectations do I have, and which ones are unrealistic? Which ones do I need to get rid of in order to learn to work with my future spouse and build our marriage together? 

Admittedly, it’s extremely tough to be objective—especially when you’re already in love; even worse when the wedding invitations are already printed. But far better to think about this now than to spend your life sorry for that vow you made at that beautiful wedding. Marriage is tough enough; plan to start it with as much going for you both as possible.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!