The Work Of Love

My wife and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. This makes 21 years. I could add the term “Lucky 21,” but that would be misleading and incorrect. This wouldn’t be a term that applies to our marriage and shouldn’t apply to any marriage.

No, to reach 21 years of marriage takes much more than chance or luck. In fact, depending on luck would guarantee only failure. It takes work. The work involved in a marriage relationship, where two become “won,” requires grace, understanding and sacrifice.  

Grace allows us to accept one another’s faults without condemnation. Understanding allows us to respect one another in spite of our imperfections. Through understanding, we also encourage each other to not settle in our mistakes. And by sacrificing we count the other more important than ourselves.  

And all of these are bound by love. In love we work at grace, understanding and sacrifice. None of these exist without the framework of love.  

I look forward to the next 21 years of loving my bride and becoming a better man.  

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My Longest Night

I don’t know if anybody else has been through this, but I; well my wife and I, were recently in a spirited disagreement which led us to do the unthinkable: go to bed mad at each other with our backs towards each other.

You know that moment in a “discussion” when an impasse is reached and there’s no going backwards. There is an option of saying “I’m sorry,” whether or not you’re to blame, another option would be to say “I think we should agree to disagree.” Yet another option would be to stay angry and not communicate at all. You know, the mature thing to do.
Well, we’ve been there recently. The topic of the argument or discussion doesn’t really matter. I don’t know if it really ever does. But on this particular day, for some reason, the topic mattered either because of pride, stubbornness, or stupidity. You know, there has to be a winner and a loser. So our voices got louder as if there was a third-party listening to declare the person with the loudest voice a winner.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, nightfall come and then the awkward time of going to bed without resolution. Do I say good night, do I not say good night, do I say “I love you?”

Do I say anything at all? Do I even sleep in the same bed? What are the rules of engagement? Well, we actually said nothing at all. And it was one of the longest nights of my life.  

You see, even if our anger is justified, it should not supersede love. Just as Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26, we should not “let the sun go down in our anger.” The anger to which Paul refers is justified anger against injustice or against the precepts of God. Even this anger however, cannot go unchecked or be long lasting. Therefore, our default  (what ours should have been) should  be to swallow pride, engage our spouse and say, “Because I love you, I would like for us to discuss this later. I love you, goodnight.”

In this manner the fellowship of love is not broken. In this manner two can stay at “won.” And to put it simply, tomorrow is not guaranteed for anybody.

We don’t feed the Machine

Roses

We don’t Feed the Machine

So what are you getting your wife for Valentines Day? Are you getting your wife flowers? Every year these questions are asked of me by some women at the work. There is such an expectation to hear some great, elaborate story that it almost seems like a chance to live vicariously through a romantic tale. The irony of it all is that usually these questions are asked by ladies who openly complain of their married lives and how much their husbands don’t do. The interviewers are almost dumfounded when they hear my response: “We don’t feed the machine.”

I understand about doing something special for the one you love, which sweeps her off her feet all over again. But why should this be relegated to one day of the year that dates back to the 5th century? Why should the expectation of treating the one you love, the one with whom you became “won” be for only 1 out of 365 days?

Well, before I get labeled as a curmudgeon, I will say that I like to do special things for the love of my life. I like to be spontaneous, romantic and do things that just make my wife feel as if she were a newlywed. But I enjoy doing these things throughout the year instead of one day where society has created an expectation that a husband’s love is to be proved with flowers, chocolate and cards. The only spontaneous, romantic thing I cannot do is breakfast in bed. Why you ask. Unfortunately I cannot cook. : (

However, I like to clean after my wife cooks. I like to vacuum, sweep and mop the floor. What I like even more is to hear my wife say, “Thank you honey,” after I do these things. Not that she needs to say this but to know that I did something special for my beautiful wife is GREAT! To see the look of relief on my love’s face as if she were to say, “I am so glad I don’t have to do that after I’ve just done…,” is so satisfying that if makes me want to do it again. Why? Because I love her and she deserves it. You see, the Bible is clear on how I should treat my wife: with respect and in a way that protects her. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter states that if we neglect this, a husband’s prayer will not be answered.  This refers to how a husband treats his wife on a daily basis.  Not on special occasions.

By telling my wife that I love her throughout the year, two can truly become “won.” This is not necessarily done with words, although saying “I love you” everyday is important, but with actions. This is especially true since love is a verb not a feeling. If this is practiced often it is easy to continue. It takes a lot more inertia to do this once a year. Just sayin’…. Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Loving To Infinity and Beyond

Rob nd Lisa-Southern Adventure

I have to take a break from my regular post to share the fact that I recently celebrated 17 years of marriage. Neither of us did anything extremely special. Neither of us got cards, I didn’t get flowers, there were no gifts and there was no special celebration.
You would think that after 17 years of marriage I would have sent my wife flowers and a card. You would think that I would’ve made her breakfast in bed; scratch that, I don’t cook.
Instead, we gave each other our past 17 years. Sure, it is nice to get flowers, go out to dinner, a bed & breakfast or a meaningful gift. But nothing says “I love you” more than truly showing love to each other 365 days a year. How do you show love that many days you ask? Well, it’s about more than saying “I love you.” It’s about showing your love to her by being a strong leader, by being her rock, by helping her cook/clean and occasionally saying, “honey, I got the kids and the house. You go have some alone time.”

And sometimes it’s sipping coffee on the front porch and just listening to her. But most of the times it’s by encouraging and affirming each other in everything you do. It’s about being there in tangible ways. But I would like to give a word to the wise: do not attempt this if you have not nurtured your marriage relationship.

That is how a marriage should be celebrated; like everyday is your anniversary. After all, don’t we invest time on ourselves? How is this different from daily investing in your marriage? If two have truly become “won,” it is not different at all. Because investing in a marriage is investing in yourself. Scriptures says it like this in Ephesians 5:28-29: “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church…”

Marriage Communication: Problems and Solutions

ImageBefore I move on to other aspects of marriage, I would like to take a more serious look at communication in marriage.  Because my last post regarding this topic, “The 3 C’s in Communication,” was a little tongue in cheek and because I am so passionate about marriage, I did not want to gloss over this important aspect of the marriage relationship. 

As I stated previously, communication is important in any relationship.  It is especially vital in a relationship where two become “won.”  Without communication there cannot be understanding and without understanding any relationship will struggle.  I would like to point out some areas that can plague a marriage and some tools on how men can address these. 

  • Arguments: Just because two people say “I do” doesn’t mean they will agree on everything.  So what should we do when arguments arise?  The first step would be to determine the true importance of the argument. The second would be to think about your role in this argument. Was this caused by a harsh answer, an unmet expectation, or a forgotten promise? Did you truly listen to your spouse’s point or were you just so intent on making your point?  One thing that is very tempting to do is to raise your voice in response to the other person’s tone.  This is a COLLOSAL mistake and only serves to satisfy you. This is contradictory to the idea of two becoming “won.”  So what is the best thing to do?  Sit there and listen until your spouse has gotten her load off her chest.  Your next response is EXTREMELY important and this is it:  Say “I hear what you are saying and I understand.”  Right or wrong does not matter at this point.  Nobody wins if the two of you are trying to have the other understand at the same time. When the “temperature cools down” you can both discuss the issue calmly.   
  • Anger:  There will be times in a marriage relationship where anger will set in.  This may be as a result from an argument, a harsh response or an unmet expectation.  No matter what the cause, it is important to take 5 minutes, breathe deep and consider the possibility that you may have caused an anger response.  If you thought about it and find that there is absolutely no way that you could have caused the anger issue, take 5 minutes, breathe deep and forgive your spouse.  The sooner this is done the better.  A loving, kind word will diffuse a train wreck of a situation.  The most important aspect relating to anger is actually mentioned in Ephesians 4:26, Paul wrote:  “Do not let the sun go down in your anger.” A husband should never, ever go to sleep without kissing his wife good night no matter what has transpired. Although this may feel awkward, what is communicated is “I know we just had a disagreement, but I love you.”
  • Disagreements:  Is the item of the disagreement vital in the relationship as a whole? Is compromise an option?    Listen carefully before you speak and for the love of God, DO NOT interrupt your wife while she is talking.  When people feel like they are heard, they tend to be calmer.  This is because there is a general feeling that the other person genuinely cares and wants to listen. Furthermore, your spouse will be more willing to listen to you if she feels that you have listened to her.  For men, as the leader in the marriage relationship, it is really important that we do not abuse this position in disagreements. In the latter part of Ephesians 5, Paul continues his thought on mutual submission in marriage and how the husband should love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church.  And in verse 28 he wrote, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies, he who loves his wife loves himself.”   
  • One and Done: We are all imperfect and fall short of the glory of our Creator.  This couldn’t be any truer than in times of stress or arguments.  Sometimes, when in a new argument, we can have a tendency to bring up past hurts or mistakes.  This is should NEVER be done.  Once a hurtful comment or a mistake has been forgiven, it must not be brought up again.  Doing so only serves to satisfy our momentary feelings of anger and can only fuel an already bad situation.
  • Peace:  It is very important to remember that peace does not always mean absence of conflict.  There will be some tension occasionally in any relationship.  This is especially true in marriage.  When two imperfect people become a part of each other they do not magically perfect themselves.  How we handle occasionally tense situations is the key to maintaining peace.  This may mean being the first to say those dreaded words:  “I’m sorry.”  But the idea of saving face and pride has no place in a marriage relationship.  So always try to diffuse a small problem before it becomes a bigger problem.

So to recap, it is vital to listen first then speak. Although arguments and disagreements may arise, do no let your emotions control your response. In disagreements remember to treat your spouse with the respect that you yourself would like to have.  And finally, remember that even with peace there may be conflict.  But it is in the proper handling of the little problems that we avoid bigger ones.  Most importantly, remember that love is not a feeling so your love for your spouse should always determine your thoughts, actions and responses.  I would like to close with one of my favorite passages of scripture that was recited in our wedding:

            1 Corinthians 13:4-8- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

We’ve got work to do…

So in my last post I alluded to the fact that marriage takes work. Everything that is worth having is worth working for.  I want to expand on this and share my view of the kind of work that is involved in a marriage.  I have tried to condense the work involved in marriage into the three C’s.

 Communication:

        Whether it’s work, organizations, or relationships they all require communication to function.  In marriages this is vital in order for a couple to survive.  In too many marriages however, this communication is one sided.  The stereotypical picture is a woman talking to her husband while he stares aimlessly and dumbfounded at the TV. But is it really true that women talk more than men? Actually, it turns out to be an urban legend according to a study by researchers at the University of Arizona. But I digress.

         Without a two way communication it is impossible for the institution of marriage to function as it should.  Where there is poor communication there is misunderstanding.  Where there is misunderstanding there is bitterness.  Unresolved bitterness over time leads to divorces.  If we can communicate at our jobs and within groups, shouldn’t we work just as hard in our marriages? 

This may be occasionally difficult at times but it is worth it. Remember if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!   : )

 Compromise:

The Rolling Stones had a hit song called “you can’t always get what you want.” This couldn’t be any truer in the marriage relationship.  But should it be about getting what we want?  If two are truly becoming “won”, then the focus will be her or him instead of me or I.   When a couple can compromise, communication improves. When communication improves there is understanding.  The focus then shifts from getting what I want to getting what’s best for “won”. Don’t we look for athletes to think of the team rather than themselves? Why should the thinking be any different for a marriage relationship which is so much more important? This does take work but again, it is worth it!

 Customize:

Finally, we arrived at the last C of marriage work.  In a marriage relationship there can be a lot of distracters such as work issues, children activities, family issues and emotional issues (No disrespect ladies) that can alter or change communication and compromise.  What happens then? Well, we must be flexible.  Also men – we must be sensitive to times when our wives may require a little “extra grace.”  One thing to remember during these times is the following: Chocolate saves lives.

 I hope you enjoyed reading about the 3 C’s of marriage work.  Sure, this may be an over simplification. But the 3 C’s are at the starting point for everything else. Next we can tackle roles in a marriage.

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Because I love being married…

I wanted to start a blog about marriage mostly because I love my wife and I love being married to her.  I can’t imagine another life.  We love our life together.   We complete each other and we feel that us two have become “won.”

That is not to say that we have a perfect marriage.  I think that concept is impossible when you consider that none of us are perfect and two imperfect people cannot a perfect marriage make.   In addition to our imperfections, the most striking aspect about our life is that we both come from broken marriages.  So how is it possible that two people with such a past have been able to form such a happy union?  

Well, there is no short answer to this question.  But first and foremost is that God is at the center of our marriage.  In addition, just like an athlete who may have incredible physical gifts and abilities can’t become great at a sport without practice, a happy and successful marriage isn’t possible without work.Image

Why start this blog?   Because having come from a broken marriage, I know the pain that is involved when ones parents’ divorce.   Because I wish my parents would have had some tools in their “marriage bag” that may have been able to repair what was broken.  Because I wish my father would have understood what it means to be a leader in the house.  But most of all, because I would like everyone to be able to say that they have “won” in their married lives.