Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Little Things

This weekend, I was blessed to be invited to conduct a Marriage Enrichment Seminar. I'm always amazed at how much I actually learn in preparing for such events and through observing and listening to the reactions of various attendees.  My wife, Missy, attended the seminar too, which was wonderful! During the Q & A session that I conducted on Sunday morning, she actually got the audience more relaxed by posing the first question. She's so awesome!

After the seminar was over, Missy asked me if there was anything she could do that would be helpful to our relationship and meaningful to me. My response was rather simple: "I would really appreciate it, and it would mean the world to me, if when I return home in the evenings after work, that you would greet me at the door with a hug and a kiss." I know right -- not a big deal, but nonetheless significant to me. I need that attention and daily re-connection.

I returned the favor by asking her what would be helpful and meaningful to her. Her response was also quite simple: "It would mean a lot to me if you would take some time daily to go walking with me. I need the exercise, but sometimes struggle to find the motivation to go." I followed up by asking her if she would prefer if I instigate us going walking if she would want to be the instigator. She said it would help if I brought it up.

So last night, upon returning home from a long day at work, I entered the house into a nice, clean kitchen (also something I appreciate) to be met by my beautiful wife with her sweet smile, warm embrace, and gentle kiss. I asked, "Hey, would you like for us to go walking around the track at the university sports center tonight?" She responded with an excited "Yes!" So we enjoyed a wonderful walk and some great conversation, without the kids listening in to each and every word or running interference.

I felt very good about it just as did she. And we felt like we had been able to reconnect in a simple, yet meaningful, way. All it took was a little bit of effort and some intentionality. 

It's amazing what a difference the little things can make in a marriage! And guess what? We already talked this morning and made plans to go walking again this evening. To be honest, it's just a good excuse for me to hold her hand! I'm looking forward to getting home this evening to be greeted again at the door by my thoughtful wife.

Note: This article originally appeared on my former blogsite (www.ryanfraser.org).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Teamwork in Marriage

Sometimes in marriage, partners can almost act as though they're playing on opposing teams. Our wills often seem to clash as we vie with our mate for power and control in the relationship. Things can quickly escalate into an ugly power struggle, a battle of the wills. If we take just a moment to think about it: that's crazy and counterproductive behavior! 

So how can we get on the same page with our spouse rather than working against him or her? Here are a just a few practical ideas:

1. Whenever possible, give your mate the benefit of the doubt. 

After all, you did marry them! (I know, what were they thinking, right?) They must surely have some redeeming qualities that initially attracted you to them in the first place. While they will likely not always be right or even "in the right," (and neither will you for that matter) it is very important that they always sense your trust for them as your partner and respect for them as a person. Our spouses may even surprise us by their great ideas and impressive insights.

2. Before getting into a face-off with your spouse, ask yourself what your motives are. 

In other words, are you simply trying to get your way and/or attempting to win a fight? Is there good reason for arguing your point in this particular situation? As humans, we often struggle internally with our selfish motives for doing and saying certain things. Often it is simply a matter of our own foolish pride getting in the way of clear thinking and common sense. Also, remember that we may sadly fall into the trap of winning the present battle but ultimately losing the war! 

3. Listen before you leap!

Before jumping to hasty conclusions and "flying off the handle," take time to try and understand your spouse's perspective. Pay attention not only the content of what they are saying to you, but also to their non-verbals that may give some valuable clues into the deeper meaning behind the words. There are often many layers to a verbal message with strong emotions lurking just beneath the surface. So give your husband or wife your undivided attention and ask questions if your need further clarification.

4. Find ways to make compromises if necessary.

When two strong-willed, bull-headed marital partners have a disagreement, it is very possible that anger and stubbornness can prevent the couple from achieving forward movement towards a mutually-satisfying solution. All relationships require some give and take. This is especially true with marriage. And, there are those times that you are just going to have to agree to disagree, without growing frustrated or becoming resentmentful.

5. Brainstorm together and generate several possible ideas on how to best resolve the issue.

Sit down at the kitchen table, take out a piece of paper (or a laptop or tablet), and come up with a number of possible ideas on how to proceed, no matter how outlandish or "off-the-wall" they may seem at first. While engaging in the initial process of brainstorming, this is not the time to make any judgments or evaluations about the merits or flaws of the various suggestions. In fact, it's often those ideas that seem somewhat humorous at first that actually turn out to possess some real merit in the end. After taking turns to articulate and write down 10-12 specific strategies, now you may revisit each idea so as to weigh out the various pros and cons of each one. The next step is to mutually determine which two or three ideas (or combination thereof) hold the most potential for a satisfactory outcome.

Of course, it is important to always remain patient, respectful, kind, and courteous while trying to work through all of this together as a couple. I'm certainly not implying that it's easy to do, but it is nonetheless possible. Moreover, those more challenging and difficult decisions should always be bathed in much prayer. 

Let us married folk make sure we're playing on the same team as our spouse. Remember, we need each other. So much is riding on it, including our own happiness as individuals and as a married couple as well as the sense of relational safety and emotional security felt by our children. So, PLAY NICE!!!

Note: This article originally appeared on my former blogsite (www.ryanfraser.org).

Friday, February 15, 2013

Marriage Matters

Next weekend (February 23-24), I am scheduled to conduct a Marriage Enrichment Seminar at the Henderson Church of Christ. The event will include five different sessions on pertinent topics, each relating to the basic question of how we can go about strengthening our marriages. I believe it's going to be an uplifting and enjoyable time for all participants. By the way, the church is providing this seminar at no cost to those who wish to attend.

Okay, so it seems like the theme of "relationships" has been on my mind a lot lately. Come to think of it, God is all about relationships! In fact, relationality is fundamental to the Trinity's intrinsic way of being. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share with one another in a depth of intimacy simply incomprehensible to our limited human understanding. That being said, marriage clearly matters deeply to God. The Bible testifies to this reality in numerous passages including, but not limited to, the following: Gen 2:24-25; Deut 24:5; Prov 12:4; Isa 62:5; Matt 19:4-6; Mark 10:12; Rom 7:2; 1 Cor 7:2-5, 39; Eph 5:22-33; 1 Tim 5:14; and Heb 13:4.
A powerful and pervasive metaphor in Scripture for God's special covenantal relationship with Israel and, later, Christ's sacred and redemptive relationship with the church is that of marital union. Human marriage is thus intended to be a reflection of the Godhead's own familial intimacy and interdependency. 
It's sad to say that in our worldly society there are multiple forces militating against the divine institution of marriage. Among these formidable foes are such things as: (1) selfishness, (2) secularism, (3) social media, (4) sexual temptation, and (5) stressors. In our daily grind, we can all-too-easily be distracted from the priority of taking enough time and energy to nurture and grow our marital bonds. Let's face it, all good marriages involve hard work! Meaningful and mutually fulfilling relationships don't just somehow happen. They require significant effort, don't they? And they are only made possible when deep commitment is present!
Yesterday, many in America celebrated Valentine's Day, another one of those overly commercialized annual events. While I certainly don't intend to knock big days like that, we must recognize that they can't possibly make up for a glaring deficiency of daily kindnesses and small, consistent acts of love demonstrated towards and received from our spouses. It's the little things that matter most in the long run. They have a cumulative effect. And, what's more, different deeds and words communicate different things to different people. For instance, I'm not really big on greeting cards, but I know that they mean a lot to my wife. So guess what? I'm going to make the effort to buy her a card. On the other hand, she knows that I appreciate a good, home-cooked meal from time to time, so she is happy to oblige. (And, man, can she ever cook!)
Each of us is unique when it comes to our preferences, desires, and needs as related to feeling appreciated and loved. One size (or style) doesn't fit all. We all crave different things from our mates. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us as husbands and wives to figure out what it is that communicates to our spouse that we love them, appreciate them, and treasure them.
After almost 25 years of "marital bliss" I must confess: I'm still learning how to meet my wife's physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and--yes--sexual needs. And believe me when I say that I still have quite a ways to go on all fronts. But that's the whole point of growing together in our "one-fleshness" as a couple. It's supposed to be a challenging and fulfilling adventure. Hear me loud and clear when I say that it is absolutely worth it!
Let's try to get more creative and much more intentional as we tune in to our spouses' needs and strive to love them with all our heart. I believe that's what God intends for us to do. That's what Christ does for the church, his bride!

Note: This article originally appeared on my former website blog (www.ryanfraser.org).