Take Care Of Your Self For A Better Marriage

We remember being brought up singing a song at Vacation Bible Schools and Christian camps that had a chorus, “J.O.Y. – Jesus first. Others second. Yourself last.” That last part is a mantra that social pressures also give young men and women. In order to succeed, you must meet all the expectations of others in your life.

When Did Self Care Become Narcissistic?

Somewhere along the way, we began to believe that anything other than meeting the expectations of others meant that we were selfish, self-absorbed, or narcissistic. We do our very best, at the expense of our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health, to perform up to expectations at school, home, work, and in our social group.

Over time, we ended up trying harder, occasionally failing, trying even harder, and occasionally failing and trying even harder. Women focus on being perfect in their jobs, marriages, parenting, churches, and social group. Men focus on meeting the expectations of leader, husband, father and masculinity.

You Can’t Take Care Of Others If You Don’t Take Care of Yourself

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” Mark 12:30-31 (Message)

Change Is So Hard In A Relationship

Change is especially difficult in our most important relationships  You will find challenges in implementing a new way of interacting with each other over the issues that cause you and your spouse so much pain. It is normal for you to struggle with the change, and in fact it can be even more difficult to make the change stick.

Change is difficult!

You did not always know how to tie your shoelaces. In fact, there was a time when you did not know that you did not know how to tie your shoelaces. You were fine with not tying shoelaces. You were unconsciously incompetent at tying shoelaces.

The Daily Check In

One of the practices that we do every day to connect at the heart level is to check in with each other.  Checking in with each other is a way to talk about all the things that are going on “out there” so that we can create “We-ness” together.  It is also a way for us to be clear about our own emotions and not cloud them with issues with our spouse.

When a spouse returns from work and has a scowl on their face, what you do think their spouse thinks about what is going on?  Usually they think that the scowling spouse is upset with them in some way.  And they might be, but most of the time that assumption is wrong.  One of the good things that happens when we check in with each other is that we learn what that emotion is about, and usually, that it is not about us.

You may have returned home one day after a very bad day at work and when your spouse asked about your day, you barked at them.  That is something that happens with all couples.  Anger or hurt about things at work get transferred and communicated, intentionally or intentionally, toward your spouse.  You end up hurting the very person whom God put in your life to help you.

The Daily Check In is a way you can become aware of and communicate what is going on in your head and heart in a way that your spouse can support you and understand you.

Check In With Yourself First

Prayer Changes Your Marriage

Donna complained that her “so called” Christian husband was a “hypocrite”. Her heart was hard and critical because she did not experience him as the spiritual leader in the home that she had always expected. When asked about how her frustration was impacting her and how she interacted with him, she shared that she does not want to be around him, she has long periods where she does not like him, and she has little interest in being physically intimate with him.

God changes you, your marriage, and your relationship with Him when you pray for your spouse!

Date Night Conversation Starters

Have you ever gone on a date that ended up being a meeting about the kids, money problems, in-laws, work, chores, etc.?

Next time you go on a date, pull up this article on your smart phone and take the conversation in a totally different direction. Take turns answering the questions first. There are no wrong answers. Make it a night of discovery!

‘Most of all, love each other steadily and unselfishly, because love makes up for many faults.’ I Peter 4:8

Rediscover your spouse and all the reasons you truly love them. Enjoy humor and discussion about things that have no emotional negativity. Take your date night to a whole other level!

Conversation Starters (adapted from Love Talk Starters by Les and Leslie Parrott)

Your Friend’s Wrong Marriage Advice

Cindy was sitting on the other side of the couch with tears running down her face.  “When I told my best friend Lisa about my unhappy marriage, she told me I should look into what it would cost for a divorce and handed me a phone number of the attorney she used.”

“All I wanted was for Lisa to give me some support.”  Cindy made that call to the attorney’s office who’s sales focused incoming calls receptionist talked her into a face to face, no obligation, free meeting with them to learn more about it.  During the appointment, the divorce attorney’s staff focused on the problems in the marriage and encouraged her to proceed with signing them as her representation just in case things ever proceeded.

Breaking Negative Patterns

Heather and Joe showed up for their scheduled Marriage Intensive almost and hour late. Heather was tired before we started the first process. She had been up since 5 AM when her 18 month old couldn’t sleep any longer. It took longer than expected to get three young children to her parents for the day. She was operating on fumes.

Stuck In A Pattern Of Interacting

Like every one of the three hundred plus couples we have taken through the Marriage Intensive, Heather and Joe were stuck in a negative pattern of interaction. Joe felt like he was not important or valued in the marriage as he experienced her unavailability for conversation, time together, affection, and physical intimacy.

Heather felt like she was not enough as a woman and not good enough as a wife and mother as she experienced any un-affirming remark he made as criticism of anything that she had done to take care of their young children and the domestic chores of the home.

Give Your Spouse Full Body Attention

Lisa was about to explode. Her husband of 8 years came home early from work, plopped down on the couch and asked, “what’s for supper?” After a full day of caregiving for her 18 month old and kindergartner, she was tired and stressed. And his first communication with her was one that really pushed her buttons.

Full body attention is how we tell our spouse they are the most important and highest priority in our world in that moment.

Too Busy To Invest In My Marriage

Franklin was so tired of her complaining. “I work 10-12 hours a day and when I get home I have to take care of the chores around the house. By the time I get to finally rest, she’s griping at me to spend time with her romantically and it feels like another chore.”

When he and Jamie came in for their Marriage Intensive, it was true that she wanted more emotional and physical connection with him. She wanted to date and to travel as they did earlier in their twenty-five year long marriage. She worked from home and took care of most of her chores and connecting with friends before he returned from work. “I feel like everything is more important to him than me.”

Setting Up A Life With No Thought About Relationship

Attempt To Connect

We have been impressed with the incredible research that has come out of the Gottman Institute about relationships. We buy into one of his key theories: The health of the relationship can be determined by the small and larger interactions between spouses as one “bids” for the connection of the other and the other responds by either moving toward, away or against.

No Attempts To Connect

During the course of the relationship, there are many daily attempts to connect made by each spouse. The absence of attempts to connect usually means the relationship is in an unhealthy state.