Friday, January 21, 2011

Penny for Your thoughts? (P90X part 2)

Installment two in this series on making a stronger marriage...

Ask your husband how he would like the kids to be raised.

What values does he want his kids to have deep inside them? Where does he want the family's top 2 or 3 "Big Rocks" to be? (being smart? working hard? faith in God? Grace of God? Good stewardship of time and money? Getting along with others? Sibling harmony? Missions awareness? Athleticism? Being beautiful on the inside? the list goes on and on...)

When I asked Ryan this, I really did not expect him to have an answer immediately. I figured he would need some time to think about it but as it turns out, he HAD already thought about it - I had just never asked. He was glad to be able to share his thoughts and honestly it was helpful to me to have a conversation about where I should (and should not) be focusing my efforts with the kids. There are so many wonderful things to focus on - and in the world of blogging and even in the church community there is a great deal of pressure to "keep up" with the star moms out there. But you are raising your kids with your husband, not with some amazing mom you look up to.

Then, when you ask him have a healthy conversation where the goal is for you to understand HIM on this. So long as his priorities do not cause you or the kids to sin, do your best to represent your husband during the day by making his priorities your priorities.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

P90X for the Marriage: Fight Fair

Ok, first an explanation of the title of this series. P90X is this grueling exercise program that, if you stick to it for 90+ days, promises to give you the beach body you have always wanted. Its intense. Its painful. Its hard work. And, according to its creator, TOTALLY WORTH IT. While I am not convinced I will look like the ripped people I sweat with on that DVD series, can't help but believe I will notice some marked difference when I am through.

Working out consistently is not really all that much fun for most people. If you are a smidgen like me, you avoid the hard work of exercising and reach instead for a frosting-covered brownie when given the chance. It is hard to exercise our feeble arms and weak knees. It is even harder to do it over a long haul but that is the only way you will see results, right? (Yes ma'am.) You can't and don't expect to see tight abs after a week of an Ab Ripper DVD. You would never dare to run a half-marathon without spending some serious time on the pavement starting weeks beforehand.

You see by now the parallel I am drawing, right? The morsels I am recording here won't solve a broken or hurting marriage in a week, month, or even a year. But I am convinced that over a long haul the new "muscles" you have worked will start showing in the form of a strengthened marriage. Ryan and I will have been married for fourteen years this September. Some of the things I will bring up are new to me just in the past 18 months; others have been things I have focused on for five years; still others for a decade. So flex those muscles over the long haul - and get those expectations set appropriately!

Even the wisest, coolest sounding tips for marriage are empty caverns without the sustaining help of the Lord. If I were reading these tips and did not know the Lord or did not regularly depend on Him as my Provider and Savior I am convinced that I would fall on my face too many times to bother getting up again. (As it is I fall on my face plenty anyway!)  If you look to strengthen your marriage do it in the power of the Holy Spirit first and foremost. HE will give you what you need in the moment much more than any silly tip I offer here on this blog.

Without further ado, tip #1: Learn how to have a successful argument

If you have been married for more than 10 minutes you know that arguments come with the package. You can't put two humans in a house together and not get under each other's skin! One of the best things that Ryan and I have done for each other is give each other PLENTY of opportunity to practice resolving conflict. (Too bad that has to involve angry voices, adrenaline and boiling blood.)

Anyway you, as one of two grown-ups in the fight, should act like one. Don't make excuses in your head for everything you say in an argument. ("Well he's out of control - I will be too!" "He hit below the belt, now it's my turn!" "He brought this up, so I will bring that up!") Remember the reason you began arguing in the first place: it probably started out in some attempt to solve a problem. Do what you can to NOT escalate the original problem. Don't say things to your husband that you would scold your children for saying to each other.

Instead, begin to give your husband what you really want in an argument: You want to be heard, so make sure you get across to him that you "get" what he is trying to say (even if you don't agree, give him the chance to explain and communicate to him what you think you heard). Show compassion for his side of things.

When you know you messed up in some way, you want to be able to walk away from the argument with dignity (nothing worse than being shamed or made to feel worse than you already do), so give him dignity by not pushing-pushing-pushing until he "finally admits all" that he screwed up.

Any married person knows how to push their spouse's buttons and get them riled up; study up on the other side of that: what buttons can you push that will diffuse his anger and help him calm down? Wouldn't that be helpful to you? Do that for him.

There are lots of good books out there about conflict resolution and listening skills and such. If this is a real problem in your marriage for either of you, check out a book from the library on the subject. Add another tool to your toolbelt!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New series!

I am excited to write a new series in 2011. Last series was on parenting; this one will be all about marriage. I compiled a list of six "marriage strengtheners" last month. Today I shared them with Ryan and he added another six. It was fun to come up with this list together and now I am looking forward to getting it written as I have the opportunity.

I hope you enjoy it too!