A Resolution for GREAT Communication

In this new year, make a resolution for better communication with your spouse! Communication is the process of sharing yourself verbally and non-verbally in such a way that your spouse both understands and accepts—though not necessarily agrees with—what you are sharing.

Photo by Inna Lesyk from Pexels

Photo by Inna Lesyk from Pexels

Studies show that couples who communicate frequently have a more satisfying relationship. And couples who achieve deep levels of communication enjoy the most satisfaction of all.

Try these communication skills:

1.  Take one issue at a time. A full day’s worth of news and experiences and troubles can be overwhelming. Pouring everything out at once seldom gives your spouse much information about anything. It’s one way we tend to skim over our issues and never get to the core of them. You can help your spouse stay on track with a few helpful phrases: “Tell me more about . . .” or “What were you saying about . . ?” or “That sounds like another issue. Let’s talk about the other one first and come back to this one later.”

2.  Allow one person to speak at a time. When you are communicating with your spouse, keep him or her in the spotlight. When your spouse is expressing, give him or her room for full expression—no interruptions, no feedback. If you both fight to be heard at the same time, communication is bound to break down.

3.  Be specific and to the point. One of you may start at the main point and go from there. The other may talk around a topic until eventually arriving at the point. You need to take the time to hear each other.

4.  Listen. The biggest single step you can take to improve communication in your marriage is to improve listening. James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” If you want your spouse to freely share his or her heart with you, you must convey with absolute certainty that he or she has your undivided attention. Listening attentively isn’t easy. Maintaining eye contact may be unnerving to you and jumping in with a solution may be hard to resist. However, listening is the key to understanding your spouse’s needs.

5. Respond appropriately. At some point after listening, of course, you must respond. The point is not for you to introduce your own agenda, but to clarify and fully understand what your spouse is expressing. You can get into trouble at this point if you fail to look out for your spouse’s best interest.

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

'I Miss My Godly Spouse'

Q: My spouse is struggling spiritually. What can I do to help?

A: Have you ever felt like something was missing in your life, like a part of your marriage is empty and you don’t know what? Maybe you can relate to this e-mail we received:

“My marriage is going through a crisis. I was first attracted to my husband because of his vibrant love for the Lord and his willingness to serve through worship bands and Bible studies. He was on fire. Then, after we had our children, he stopped sharing what God was doing in his heart. He would still attend church, but he definitely seemed preoccupied with responsibilities at work. Now it’s as if he purposely fails to connect spiritually with me. I know that something is going on in his heart. I fear that he has been hiding something from me to protect himself from some sin—perhaps a worry or a lie. My children are showing signs of his spiritual apathy. I miss my godly husband. How can I  support him when he is struggling so deeply and won’t open up to me?”

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

We encouraged this wife to intercede on behalf of her husband through prayer. Before you try to fix it, before you try to express what you think is wrong, before you step into any horizontal communication with a struggling spouse, you pray. Perhaps you sense that your spouse is doubting the faith or is deeply discouraged; perhaps you fear that the presence of sin is keeping your mate from intimacy with Jesus Christ. You may not know if your spouse won’t communicate. He or she may not even know what’s triggering the problem. The best thing you can do is intercede in prayer.

Let your spouse know that you’re there for him or her. Be an encouragement. You could say something like, “I know that you’re faltering, you’re scared, you’re afraid, you don’t have the faith right now, but let me allow you to ride on my faith for a while.” That is empowering. 

First Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage each other and build each other up.” When your spouse is faint at heart, you can be “God with skin on” to him or her. You can comfort, pray with, and encourage your spouse. Besides, somewhere down the road, you may hit a dry patch and need your spouse to do the same for you.

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

A Marathon in Tandem

The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. What’s the difference? Think about the running events in the Olympics as an example. The sprints are between 100 and 400 meters in length, little more than a quarter mile, once around the track. A marathon is 42.2 kilometers (26 miles plus 385 yards). Sprinters burst from the starting line and run at top speed a race that is measured in seconds. Marathoners pace themselves to run with concentration and endurance for two to three hours. Sprints require leg power; marathons require great lung power and capacity.

Photo by medtatdgt from Pexels

Photo by medtatdgt from Pexels

As a Christian, you may feel like a sprinter at times, racing through a myriad of tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines. You say things like, “I just have to make it through this week,” or “If I can just hold it together until the kids are out of school.” But in reality, Christ has called us to remain faithful and obedient over the long haul, through the grueling marathon of a lifetime. You can see it in the following passages:

“Remain in my [Christ’s] love.” (John 15:9)

“By God’s grace, remain faithful.” (Acts 13:43)

“[Christ] will keep you strong right up to the end.” (1Corinthians 1:8)

“Let this encourage God’s holy people to endure persecution patiently and remain firm to the end, obeying his commands and trusting in Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12)

Christian marriage is a marathon in tandem. You and your spouse have linked hearts to serve God and get through life—with all its joys and pains—together. Your long-distance race isn’t about winning as individuals; it’s about helping each other go the distance and finish well. And aren’t you thrilled to have a running mate, a partner, and a helper?

You have probably discovered by now that the love that brought the two of you together—that passionate, fiery, romantic love—may be alright for a sprint, but it’s not enough to get you to the finish line. You need passion, fire, and romance, to be sure. But you also need persevering love, long-term concentration, dedication, patience, and endurance. Here are several important qualities of persevering love:

Total commitment.

The starting point for persevering love is an all-out commitment to each other. It’s the tough stance that says, “Our marriage is bigger than any issue. No matter what is arrayed against us, we will stand together. Neither of us will ever go through a trial alone. We will stay the course—not because we have to, not even because we promised to. Rather, we will hang in there because we care for each other more than anything in this world.”

Unconditional acceptance.

Persevering love says, “No matter how good or bad you look, no matter how much money you make or lose, no matter how smart or feebleminded you are, I will still love you.” That’s the essence of our wedding vows—for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health. Unconditional acceptance chooses to continue loving even when life dumps on us a world of excuses for falling out of love.

Deep trust.

Persevering love is the product of deep trust between you and your spouse. Trust says, “I will

depend on you to guard my heart and my life, to fight beside me always.” You may need a lot of people to pull you through a crisis. But more than anyone on earth, husbands and wives should rely on each other. This level of trust grows richer over time and under the pressure of trials, as you each prove yourselves trustworthy to each other.

Tenacious endurance.

Every kind of trial in life—emotional burdens, financial difficulties, spiritual doubts, physical pain, relational stresses—presents a new opportunity for you and your spouse to hang on together. Commitment helps you stay connected to each other through trials; endurance is the determination to outlast the problems, to help each other get to the other side. Think of the intimacy and friendship that can develop in your relationship when both of you are committed to getting through every trial.

Abiding faith.

In order for your love to finish well through life’s pressures, it needs to be grounded in a sincere, abiding faith in the God who designed marriage. Any of us can stubbornly pursue a lifestyle that our culture deems important and live independent of God. Sometimes a severe trial moves us to let God have his way with us and to see what truly matters in life. We often don’t really appreciate the important role faith plays in our marriage until a crisis forces us to throw ourselves on God.

Diligent preparation.

Whenever you and your spouse find yourselves in a lull between the storms of life, take the opportunity to prepare for potential stormy weather ahead. The lull between the storms is the time to shore up your marriage. Work on a Bible study together. Take a second honeymoon—or third, or fourth. Read some good books on marriage enrichment and discuss them together. Attend a Christian marriage conference together. Seek out a Christian counselor and ask him or her for pointers on how to deepen your friendship for the long haul. The more you invest in your marriage between the storms, the better prepared you will be to endure the storms together—and even come through them stronger.

*For more helpful insights on how to connect with your spouse, check out Renewing Your Love: Devotions for Couples in our online bookstore.

Safe Within the Castle Walls

Guarding your heart can be compared to protecting the castles of the Middle Ages, which protected the lives and property of those who lived within their walls.

Photo by pixabay.com

Photo by pixabay.com

These family strongholds were typically built on high ground, positioned to command a view of the approaches on all sides. Boiled down to the basics, medieval military science involved the attack and defense of castles. Castles were constructed to defend, and enemies were determined to attack. As the sophistication of the defenses grew, so did the schemes of the attackers. 

Castles could be attacked in one of two ways. The most overt was the frontal attack. That’s where the bad guys rolled right up to the walls and started hammering away with catapults, battering rams, flaming arrows, and hordes of invaders scrambling up long ladders.

If the frontal attack failed, a second approach might be employed: the sneak attack. These sorts of tactics were limited only by the craftiness of an enemy’s imagination. If they couldn’t knock down the walls, they might attempt to starve the inhabitants out by cutting off their provisions from the outside or, even worse, by damming up or poisoning the castle’s water supply. Another ploy was to take the castle dwellers by surprise with a ruse, something like the famous Trojan horse. 

When a castle was under siege by a powerful or clever invader, it was too late to shore up the defenses. The castle’s defenses had to be maintained at all times so that it would be ready for any attack that would come.

The Enemies of Your Heart 

Just like the castles of old, your heart and the hearts of your spouse and children are vulnerable to a variety of dangers from without and within. Solomon exhorts us to shore up the castle of our hearts against the enemies of our relationship with Christ, with our spouse, and with our children.

A vital prerequisite to shoring up the defense of your heart is to identify the enemies of your heart. The more you know about the nature of the assault, the better prepared you will be to defend against it. Here is a brief overview of the six critical enemies of your heart:

1. Job and home pressures.

Many couples allow the pressures of pursuing a career and maintaining a home to push marriage and family relationships to the back burner. When you focus too narrowly on your next promotion or the responsibilities of home management and children’s activities, you leave your heart unguarded. 

2. Material distractions.

Most people find the affluence of our culture difficult to resist. The dizzying lust for pleasure, power, money, and position can turn your heart away from the lasting values of nurturing loving relationships. 

3. Relationship pressures.

Everyone around you seems to need something from you—your attention, your support, your energy, your resources. Failing to prioritize your relationships can fragment your heart’s devotion. 

4. Sexual temptation.

Both men and women are vulnerable to the temptations of physical and/or emotional infidelity. Failing to establish and maintain relational guardrails can lead to heartbreak in a marriage. 

5. Misguided view of success.

The drive to succeed in this world often prompts healthy competition fueled by pride, envy, and greed. Buy into the world’s warped view of success, and you may leave your heart behind. 

6. Passivity and control.

Many marriages are pulled apart from one of two opposite poles: passivity and control. A passive partner abdicates the responsibility of nurturing marriage and family relationships. A controlling partner foists his or her agenda on other family members. Passivity and control in marriage can kill the heart. 

Can you feel the battering ram crashing against the gate of your castle? Can you hear the flaming arrows hissing over your head? Can you see the angry army advancing outside the walls? Yes, your heart is under siege—and your spouse’s heart is as well! Your marriage hangs in the balance. How can you be sure your defenses will hold up against the multifaceted attack? Is it possible to guard your hearts against the onslaught? 

Yes, it is possible—and it is imperative.

Here are three things you can count on. 

  1. You have a marriage relationship that is worth guarding with your life.

  2. Living in a world that is largely hostile to healthy marriages, your hearts will come under attack. 

  3. You cannot survive these attacks on your own. You and your spouse must stand together against your common foe. You must guard your heart and guard each other’s heart. And you need others to stand with you over the long haul—Christians who share your desire for a lasting marriage. 

We want to be counted among your group of supporters.  That’s why we offer coaching in so many different ways — via our blog, podcast, videos and books. We want to see your marriage thrive and stand strong!

*Our book, Guard Your Heart, can help equip you and your spouse with the tools to protect your marriage. It's available in our online bookstore! 

Healthy Habits of Loving Couples

Q: What can we do to develop a healthy marriage right from the start? 

A: To develop a healthy marriage, it is important that two vital elements come together.  

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

First, at some point you must draw a line in the sand. In so many words, proclaim to God and to each other, “We are committed to building a Christian marriage and family. Divorce is not an option. We will have nothing of the world’s approach to marriage. We are committed to keep our love fresh, new, and growing—for the sake of our marriage, for the sake of our children, and for the cause of Jesus Christ. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” In the way you talk to each other—today and every day, you affirm the fact that you would choose each other all over again. You say to each other, by words and actions, “You are my one and only.”

Second, God took you at your word when you said your wedding vows and is working through 

you to fulfill that commitment. Your marriage will grow deeper and stronger because God will 

empower you to strengthen your marriage. The two of you are not alone in this battle to ward off the world’s twisted view of marriage because yours is a marriage of three—you, your spouse, and Jesus. We urge you both to settle for nothing less than God’s best in your relationship.

How can you do that? One thing we suggest in our counseling is something we call “The Love List.” The Love List begins by enumerating things you can do once each day, once each week, and once each month. Finally, it also points you to important exercises to conduct on a yearly basis.

The Love List: Healthy Habits of Loving Couples 

Once a day 

  • Touch. Cultivate the valuable practice of tender touch on a daily basis.  

  • Hug for at least five seconds.  

  • Remember the two most important minutes of your marriage: right when you meet at the end of the day.  

  • Laugh. The more you laugh together, the more you love your spouse. Humor helps you cope.  

Once a week 

  • Do something active that lifts your spirits. This is an insurance policy against boredom.  

  • Broaden your sphere of interest. Make a list of activities and circle those you might find pleasurable. Make time to do them. 

  • Give your mate space to enjoy certain activities that are his/hers alone.  

  • Boost your mate’s self-esteem. When your soul mate helps you reach your potential and boosts your self-confidence, your options seem limitless. Look for diamonds—dig through the rough to look for the good in each other. Compliment your spouse. 

Once a month 

  • Rid yourselves of harmful residue. Explore unfinished business (unpaid bills, how long in-laws stay for Christmas, disciplining the kids). Talk about it and do your best to make decisions.  

  • Talk about your money. Admit to any deception and set up safeguards that will keep you honest.  

  • Talk about your emotional needs and anger. Forgive when you feel hurt.

  • Protect each other from over-commitment. Decide together what you and your family can handle. 

  • Update how well you know your spouse. Check in with your spouse—what would he or she like you to know? 

  • Fire up passion in the bedroom. Schedule a sex date at least once a month. Guard your time fiercely. 

Once a year 

  • Review your top ten highlights of the year. Decide together what constitutes a highlight. Make the review a memorable tradition.  

  • Chart your course for the coming year. Be proactive about where you’d like to be as a couple twelve months from now. Ask God for guidance. Take time to consider what really matters most to both of you in your relationship.  

  • Write a mission statement and revisit it yearly. Begin with “Our purpose is . . .” Use this statement to keep your marriage on track. Consider what you’d like to change.  

  • Think of six things you wish were different and set ways to improve them in the next year. Set specific goals. Understand the power of making resolutions together. Awaken your can-do attitude and trust God in your coming year together as a couple.

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