Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We’ve all heard this verse. I for one am convinced I live by this verse. After all, all my conflicts are someone else’s fault, right? But Matthew 7:1-5 says I should be more concerned about the log in my own eye than the speck in yours. Maybe I need to dig a little deeper and examine myself a little more closely.
Okay, I admit it. I went for shock value in the original version of yesterday’s blog post title. You may be happy to know it didn’t produce the curiosity and traffic I had hoped. Maybe there’s hope for us yet. But some of the folks who came to the blog were thinking, “Oh, this would have been great to hear 20 years ago. But I didn’t do this. Now I’m married and things are a mess.” I get that. Why? Because I didn’t follow those 7 steps either. I blew it and I know how tough it is to overcome that. While it is harder to have a great sex life in marriage if you didn’t follow these 7 steps, your marriage can still be great and so can the sex. But how? What if I already blew the 7 steps, what do I do now?
I was mad at my wife a few weeks ago. The reason why is unimportant. I felt like she had wronged me. That happens in marriage some times. Because of this, I was starting to get into resentment and bitterness. The more I resented her and became embittered, the more reasons I could think of to resent her and be embittered. The more things I thought of that made me mad at her, the more my own sins seemed attractive. In fact, I was entitled to them.
Fortunately, by the grace of God, I have some friends I turn to for accountability. [Read more…] about The 1st Key for Dealing with Marital Strife
I’m reading Jim Burns’ book, Creating an Intimate Marriage. (Yes, that is an affiliate link. Go ahead and click on it. While working on your marriage, you’ll be helping mine.) I’d like to share a paragraph from chapter 5, “Becoming a Better Communicator with Your Spouse.”
It took me a very long time in my marriage to understand that Cathy didn’t need me to fix her problems. All she wanted was for me to care. My natural tendency is to be a fix-it person. I would get fully engaged with whatever her problem was and immediately start looking for the cure. What Cathy would rather have had was a sympathetic hug and a sense that I understood and cared about her. After I became comfortable in not always trying to be her fix-it man, I realized it was much easier on our relationship to simply let her know I value her feelings.
I’m sure, husbands, this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this. It wasn’t for me either. But even though I’ve heard this over and over and over again, I keep missing it. Somehow, I think it is my job to fix her or her problems. I want to be her knight in shining armor who rides in to sweep her away from all that troubles her, destroying her would-be attackers with my cleverness. But my job is not to fix her. That is God’s job. My job is nourish and cherish her (Ephesians 5:28-29).
When my wife is stressed about about something, even if it causes her to blow up at me, what is my job? Is my job to point out all the things she did wrong that caused this? That may be my natural reaction, but that is not my job. My job is to let her know that she is really doing a great job as a wife and mother, to let her know that what she feels is valid and acceptable, and to let her know that I love her anyway. I can do that through my words or my actions or, preferably, both.
When I come home and she’s had a bad day with the kids (imagine that, having a tough day because you’re dealing with a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 2-year-old) and she starts unloading her frustrations, my natural reaction is to get defensive and start unloading back or to try to calmly explain what she did wrong all day to cause all this frustration. Guess what I’ve learned. Neither of those options ever work. First, it doesn’t relieve her frustration. Second, it doesn’t bring us closer. Third, it usually ruins the whole evening. Fourth, even on the rare occassion when I’m right about why she is frustrated, it doesn’t help her at all. Yet, over and over again, that is the way I respond. Has anyone read that definition about insanity lately?
So, here’s what I’m going to start trying to do. Hold me accountable on this one fellows (and ladies). When that happens, I want to give my wife a big hug. I want to let her cry on my shoulder if that is what she’s feeling. I want to let her know that I can tell things have been tough for her and I’m sorry about that. I want to let her know that I love her and I really do think she is a great wife and mother (I do think that). I want to see if I can take something off of her plate so the rest of her day can be easier. And I’m going to do all of that without expecting anything* in return.
What do you think? Do you think that might have a better impact on our marriage? I’m guessing it will. The fact is, my wife is pretty smart. She doesn’t generally need me to fix her problems. She can usually come up with pretty good solutions on her own. She just needs someone to let her know that having a bad day doesn’t mean she’s a bad wife and mother. It means she’s pretty normal and I love her anyway.
Alright guys, who will take on this challenge with me? Let’s quit trying to fix our wives and start turn our great ability to fix things on to fixing how we treat our wives even when they don’t act exactly the way we want.
Have a great day and remember God’s way really does work for your family.
*When I say anything, I really mean sex.
It’s not enough to love someone. You have to tell them. Have you told your wife/husband/children/parents you love them today?
Keep in mind that if you’re going to tell them you love them, make sure your actions back up your words. Make sure you use a language they can understand. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Gary Chapman’s book (yes, it’s coming, wait for it…wait for it…BAM an associate link) The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.
We’ve been learning about the importance of cleaning up our side of the street and four keys to accomplishing that goal. However, we can only keep our side of the street clean by pursuing actions of love in all our relationships. In fact, that was step 4 of keeping our side of the street clean.
The burning question is how? How do we pursue the actions of love in all our relationships. Let me share 5 keys that will help you pursue the actions of love in all your relationships.
Key #1: Give, don’t take.
Sadly, the number one way we junk up our side of the street is by taking from others. Perhaps we cheat someone in a business deal. Perhaps we lie to them to get our way. Perhaps we lust after them and store their image in our minds for our own purposes. Perhaps we manipulate them to get what we want. When we are bound by self we take and take and take. We may never actually steal something physically from them, but we are taking from others all the time.
All the stuff we take goes somewhere. It goes right on our side of the street. How do we get rid of all that? Change the very nature of our relationships. Instead of viewing others for what we can get from them, we need to see what we can give to them. We need to give and not take.
Give time. Give support. Give love. Give prayers. Give money. Give material things. Give honesty. Give honor. Give credit. Give whatever you can, to whoever you can, whenever you can.
Key #2: Serve, don’t rule
Too many of us walk around like despots of our own little kingdom, acting as if everyone in our family, on our job, at our school, in our neighborhood is here to support and serve us. When we do, relationships run amok. Our street is junked up by all the wounded people we have tread on in our attempts to be the king of the hill.
Taking the actions of love means serving instead of ruling. Taking the actions of love means going out of our way to help others. When someone asks for help, don’t roll your eyes, exhale your frustration, or passive aggressively rebel. Just do it. Do it because you love them. View it as an excellent opportunity to show them you care.
But don’t always wait until they ask for help. Find ways you can serve. If you look around the house and see a mess, don’t get upset at everyone else who hasn’t cleaned up. Just clean up and show love. Is something broken? Don’t start a witch hunt to find the culprit, just fix it. Yes, yes, I do understand that while dealing with children there is a time to teach them about cleaning up and not breaking things. But even then, make sure your attitude is not one of getting vengeance on them, but rather one of serving them by helping them grow to maturity.
Key #3: Sacrifice
We take giving to a new level here. This means giving even when it hurts. This means taking of our own and giving to others.
Maybe we don’t want to watch the game, go to the store, eat at that restaurant, watch the kids, etc. That is when we are really put to the test about pursuing the actions of love. When we go to the opposite of our selfish nature, we are going to be sacrificing a lot. We may not get everything we want. We may give up some of our precious time. We may not achieve all our desires.
Jesus said the greatest love is to lay down our lives for a friend. That is the ultimate sacrifice. Many of us claim we would lay down our lives for our friends and family. Yet, we won’t even take the trash out for them. We won’t give up our favorite tv show to help them. We won’t take the time to drive across town to give them a lift. If we won’t give up a few minutes of our life for them, what makes us think we would give up our entire lives for them.
Key #4: Acts as if
The hardest part is there are times when we just don’t feel the love for all these other people. Perhaps they have hurt us. Or perhaps our selfishness is just kicking in and instead of demonstrating love we’d rather lick our wounds, defend ourselves, pursue our rage. This is time for one of those great pieces of advice that helps in numerous ways. Act as if.
Act as if you loved them. In other words, don’t act the way you feel. Stop and ask, “If I actually loved this person, what would I do next?” Then do that, whether you feel it or not.
Good strong feelings of love will grow if you pursue the actions of love. If you are going to wait around for the right feeling, you are probably going to be in big trouble.
Key #5: Do all of this without expectations
Here is the real clincher that makes any and all of this a true action of love. Do it without expectations. If you are only doing these things because you expect something in return, you are pursuing actions of manipulation, not love.
Fix the leaky faucet without expecting a thank you. Cook supper and clean up the kitchen without expecting accolades of praise. Offer praise and honor to others without expecting them to return the favor. Guys, clean up after the kids without expecting your wife to pay you back in the bedroom later. Pursue the actions of love without expecting everyone else to pursue actions of love with you.
I have no doubt that in most cases, when you pursue actions of love, you relationships will improve. You will be noticed. You will be praised. But if that is the only reason you are doing these things, it will be short lived. It will be especially short lived because you won’t likely make it out of the phase in which everyone else is saying, “What on earth do you want?” At first, everyone will assume you are manipulating them. But if you keep it up because you weren’t expecting anything, some of your relationships will really change for the better.
A friend once told me that expectations are just premeditated resentment. The fact is, expectations are actually us working on someone else’s side of the street. We expect them to have a clean street. When they don’t we get bitter. Don’t go down that side of the road. Stay on your side.
Of course, I need to offer the caveat to those who are on the receiving end. Even though the one pursuing actions of love is not doing this to receive a thank you, be noticed, or get rewarded. You really should at least say thank you. If you don’t, then you aren’t pursuing actions of love, are you?
If you want great relationships, quit trying to fix everyone else. Clean up your side of the street. Pursue actions of love no matter what anyone else is doing. I can’t promise every relationship will be stellar. However, you will have the serenity of knowing that you are working on and growing in what is right.