Do We Need Friendships with Other Couples?

Is it important to build and maintain friendships with other couples? Yes! Having friendships with other couples is very important. We tell people three things at the end of pre-marriage counseling:

Photo by  rawpixel.com  from  Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

(1)  Guard your heart.

(2)  Always exercise forgiveness.

(3)  Connect to other couples with whom you can go through life.

In our parents’ time, those couples may have been the same couples all the way through their lives because people didn’t move around as much. You may move every few years, so it will take a bit of extra work to connect with other couples in each new location. You can do it, however, by connecting to a church and its small groups, or though friendships in your neighborhood, or with the parents of your children’s friends. These need to be like-minded couples—believers who can be there for you in the tough times and understand the focus of your life in Jesus. The only caveat is that you must guard your heart in those close relationships.

We once read a story about a man who had an accident by falling off a ladder. He lost his ability to walk, but was hoping to walk again. Yet over a period of three months after the accident, not a day went by that other people didn’t show up to comfort, encourage, give a ride, or do some kind of chore that needed to be done. Those kinds of friendships are priceless. That is the body of Christ, and we are called to coach, encourage and equip one another.

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

I'm Last on My Spouse's "To-Do" List

Q: I feel like I’m the lowest priority on my spouse’s “to do” list. What can I do to change this?

A: Can you relate to this husband?

“I caught myself lately telling other guys that Satan doesn’t have to make us sin, all he’s got to do is keep us busy. When our lives are so busy and we’re going 24/7 from early in the morning to late at night, there is so much noise and so many activities that we are not able to discern or hear the voice of God. We drift apart from our spouse, and yet we try to say that we’re doing it all for her or for our families. But when we’re gone all the time, what good is that? And that’s why we’ve got to come away and we’ve got to build some things into our lives. And we all sense it down deep. But it’s a constant struggle. Constant.”

Photo by  rawpixel.com  from  Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

We often hear from men and women who feel like they just aren’t a priority in their spouse’s life. Often it’s the wife who feels that way, battling for priority against her husband’s job, board memberships, organizations, church activities, etc. However, more and more we find men feeling that their wives just don’t have time for them either. Clearly this is a problem that needs to be dealt with in modern marriages. When we hear these kinds of stories, we recognize that the spouses’ busyness often goes much deeper.

So think about your spouse for a moment. List out all the activities he or she is involved in and how much time those activities take. Then ask yourself if you think your spouse is trying to fulfill a need to feel significant in the workplace, significant in those organizations, significant in the community. If it’s not significance, maybe it’s performance. Does he or she feel the need to perform?

We ask those questions because often this kind of behavior goes way back. Your spouse may have grown up in a family where, in order to be significant and accepted, he or she had to perform well. Whether it was sports or grades or whatever, your spouse may have felt from early in life that he/she needed to always be doing everything, and do it with everything he/she had. Only then would there be love and acceptance.

When we did our book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women, we talked to people all around the country. We asked the question, “What do you need from your mate in order to feel love? What do you need in order to have a great marriage?” The number one thing we learned—and it’s from men and women alike—was that they desired unconditional love and acceptance above all else. Some people never got unconditional love and acceptance as they grew up. So they enter marriage with that baggage.

*If you want help to better understand your mate, check out our book, The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women. It’s available in our online bookstore!

Just the Way You Are

People change. Very few of us have the same figure or physique we had on our wedding day as we walked down the aisle. And even if you can still fit into your tuxedo or wedding gown on your tenth anniversary (or maybe even your twentieth or thirtieth), you’re not the same person you were when you stood at the altar. You may have a few wrinkles or an extra chin that didn’t show up in your wedding photographs. That jet black hair you had may be well on its way to gray or white. Or maybe it’s disappearing altogether.

Photo by  Esther Town  on  Unsplash

Photo by Esther Town on Unsplash

In whatever ways you and your spouse change with age, one thing about you should never change: your unconditional acceptance of one another. Acceptance is another facet of serving love. You serve your spouse by accepting him or her completely at every stage of life—wrinkles, gray hair, love handles, and all.

But aging is only part of the issue. Other changes occur in ways that are not as natural and are often more difficult to deal with.

What happens when the person you married is no longer “the person you married”? Old age takes its toll, but so do unexpected illnesses and injuries. You may have also discovered that your starry-eyed expectations for your spouse were a tad unrealistic. Or you now see a side of your spouse you were blind to when you were courting. He isn’t the corporate-ladder-climbing entrepreneur you expected him to be. After the kids were born, she never regained her girlish figure as you hoped. The social butterfly you dated has turned into a homebody.

On top of all that, you now realize that your spouse is human, not an angel. He or she makes mistakes, forgets things occasionally, and is sometimes short-tempered with you. How do you handle these disappointing changes and unwelcome surprises, great and small? Serving love continues to accept a spouse no matter what happens to him or her.

When you are trying to accept your spouse, try to remember how God responds to us in our weakness and failure. We are painfully aware of our own fumbling and bumbling as his children. But consider these passages from God’s Word describing God’s heart toward saints who are not always saintly:

“Praise the Lord, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.” Psalm 103:1-3

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does he deal with us as we deserve.” Psalm 103:8-10

“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” Psalm 130:3-4

“He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” 1 John 1:9

How does God respond to us in our imperfection? He doesn’t look down his nose at us. He doesn’t condemn us or ridicule us. He doesn’t distance himself from us. He doesn’t compare us to someone who may be more disciplined or mature. He accepts us, just as we are, warts and all. How can he do it? The apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). God forgives you and accepts you because you are in Christ, and Jesus is 100 percent acceptable to God the Father.

How does it make you feel to know that God loves you unconditionally, even when you may have trouble loving yourself? It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? This is how your spouse feels when you accept him or her despite his or her changes, imperfections, and failures. What a privilege to serve our spouses as Christ has served us.

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

Defuse Anger in Your Marriage

Q: We constantly react to each other in explosive ways. How can we learn to stop these destructive reactions?

A: You need an anger management plan. Following are some suggestions.

Be aware of anger. One of the many myths of anger is that a person with an anger problem shows it through his or her appearance and actions. However, a person with a seemingly calm demeanor can stuff anger and explode when least expected. People need to identify what makes them susceptible to anger, how their bodies respond to anger, and what physical manifestations of anger they adopt when enraged.

Accept responsibility for anger. It’s easy to blame others for our problems. You often hear people say, “So-and-so made me angry.” Blaming a personal reaction on someone else is not appropriate. People don’t “lose” their tempers; they “choose” their own tempers.

Identify the source of anger. Anger is a secondary emotion that is experienced in response to a primary emotion such as hurt, frustration, or fear. Anger is usually a defense mechanism against being hurt. Frustration is a big part of anger. Frustration occurs when expectations and personal goals aren’t met. The things that frustrate people are usually not very important. Identifying frustrating personalities or situations will prepare a person for handling similar encounters in the future.

Choose how to invest anger energy. You can’t always control when you will experience anger, but you can choose how you will express it. With God’s help, you can find creative and constructive ways to deal with anger. Handling anger well involves open, honest, and direct communication. It involves speaking the truth in love. It involves declaring truth and righting wrongs. It involves being open to an apology or explanation and seeks to work toward an agreement.

For many, both the experience and expression of anger have become a habit. Habits can take some time to change. The good news is that with God’s help, you can change and grow. As you allow the Holy Spirit to fill you, you can replace the old, unhealthy ways of responding with new, healthy and God-honoring emotional responses.

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

Neat Vs. Messy

Q: One of us is very neat, but the other is very messy. How can we keep from driving each other crazy?

Photo by  rawpixel.com  from  Pexels

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

A: You may very well face this situation—it’s not at all unusual. Why? Because often opposites attract. That guy you married because he is such a visionary is often so far in the future that he can’t manage to drop his underwear in the clothes basket. Or the woman you married because of her fun and creativity is so busy creating that the house is always a mess.

Early in your marriage you will find “hot spots” where you set each other off. That messiness that might have been quaint when you were dating is suddenly a huge problem now that it invades your own space.

We would first encourage you not to try to change each other. However, we would encourage both of you to show honor and respect to each other. A certain amount of change can happen if you’re willing to do your own part in changing yourself. A guy can train himself to drop the laundry in the basket, and if he loves his wife, he’ll try to do that. A wife can train herself to a certain amount of neatness, or at least to keep a craft mess in a separate room behind a closed door so that it doesn’t upset her husband. The point is, both of you need to let up a bit and compromise on what will be acceptable for both of you. Neither of you should say, “I’m naturally a slob and being neat is just not my gift.” That’s no more than a cop out. We would challenge you both to step beyond what comes naturally and learn to show honor and respect by sharpening your weak spots in order to honor your spouse.

The first “discussion” or conflict we ever had in our married life after we got home from the honeymoon was that Barb didn’t make the bed. Barb’s attitude was, “So what? Who cares?” Well, Gary cared. So we got into a little “discussion.” But you know what’s beautiful? On the other side of every single conflict, you have the chance to grow deeper in your relationship with each other. No pain, no gain. Use your conflicts to really take you to the next level as long as you are honoring your mate and glorifying the Lord.

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