For Better or For Worse~

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When we were graduating college students, preparing to get married over the summer, we engaged in a solid Pre-Marriage course at our university.  The leader addressed all the hard questions to which we responded with twitterpated eyes, ” yes, we understand, but we won’t struggle with “that”. When our wedding day arrived Greg looked so handsome and I felt like a beauty queen in the wedding dress my mother had made.  Towards the end of the ceremony the pastor asked if I would marry Greg “For Better or For Worse”.  I think I probably giggled and said an emphatic “Yes!”

On the front side of a committed relationship we cannot imaging not seeing eye to eye, we can’t envision hurting one another or experiencing extreme challenge; it’s just not a reality we had come to experience at that point in our relationship.

However, the “For Better or For Worse” is the most important sentence in the traditional wedding vows!  For Greg and I, we experienced being very poor, getting pregnant 3 months after being married, moving 7 times in 5 years, health issues, and relational strife.  The reality of what “For Better or For Worse” began to sink in.

Greg and I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by incredible friends and family who were “for ” us in every way; even if that meant speaking the truth to us directly. After 16 years we knew we had hit a challenge we couldn’t fix on our own. Could we navigate this “For Better or For Worse” or would we crumble under the weight of our relational challenges?  We had to decide we were going to work, and work hard to be faithful to those words we had committed to so many years before.

IF we had given up and thrown in the towel during those most challenging times we would have missed the incredibly precious season we are experiencing now.  It would have been so very sad!

Greg and I had to learn new skills to appreciate our differences, learn to communicate and know that we were heard, and we needed to check in with each other asking key questions to help us begin to protect and care for our relationship.  I want to share a couple with you:

  1.  Take time every week to sit together in a quiet place ( before you are exhausted by the  day) and ask one another these three questions:   A.  This week did you feel loved by me?  B. This week did you feel that I truly listened to you?  C.  This week did you feel respected by me?   IF you will answer honestly letting your partner know how you feel and what you need from them you WILL grow closer!  It’s a commitment that will rock your relationship!
  2. Learn Active Listening!  So much of our interaction at home is impacted by kids, TV, Phones, Computers, Sports, Etc.   It’s so easy to assume we have had a good conversation and yet, no one really paid close attention to what each other said.  We assumed we have passed on information well only to find out that you may not have.  Ever heard your partner say this,:  ” Did you ever tell me that?”  😦  Active Listening is about sitting across from each other and while our partner is sharing we just listen and WRITE!  When they are done sharing the listener repeats what they’ve heard and asks of they have “gotten it”.  When there is agreement that the one partner has been heard~ SWITCH ~ and start the process over with the one who was listening before!  Sounds a bit intimidating and new but it will revolutionize your relationship!
  3. Make sure you have some shoulder to shoulder activities on the calendar: go to the gym, take in a movie, go to a cooking class, ride bikes or hike together, play cards, or just simply read books side by side while sipping on a favorite beverage. You need time to play, laugh, and have fresh experiences!

Certainly there are many tools to help build your relationship and to make it easier to navigate any of the ” For Better or For Worse” experiences you may have but these are a few we have found to be tried and true!

This Valentines Day- beyond the flowers, dinners, and chocolate- how about making a commitment to having a rock solid marriage to your Best Friend!

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”  Nicholas Sparks

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!!

Happy Valentines Day! Keeping it Real!

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So Blissful! So in love! 

It was 1984  Greg and I had just graduated from S.C.C.  (now Vanguard University) we got married in August,  and we were headed for our first ministry post.  Greg and I loved people, loved God, and hoped to make a difference in the world.

But … we were naive and tried so hard to have a GREAT marriage without having the tools we would need to have a successful marriage!  Caring for our young sons, pouring into our church body, living on pennies, and trying to stay positive in the process became challenging emotionally and relationally.  We meant well, but we were still lacking tools to help us to find joy in our marriage!

After 16 years of marriage, 16 years of sweeping our challenges under the carpet, 16 years of living with hurt feelings, offenses, and anger in our home–I threw my hands up and realized that without a real change Greg and I would not end well. We needed tools to help us build the kind of marriage we encouraged others to have!  There had to be a change!

As I pulled out of the driveway with a packed suitcase in the second seat; the garage door rose and I saw my youngest son standing there with tears and I KNEW that my willful behaviour was not the answer.  We needed tools.

It was at this time that Greg and I put ourselves in counseling, solicited higher accountability, took a true assessment of where our marriage was, and began the needed hard work to move from where we were to where we needed to be.   Anyone who talks to me now will hear me say that I have two marriages: the one before we had tools and the one after we had tools!

Here are the tools we gained:

  1. Active Listening:  With pad and paper we learned to listen and hear one another.  After repeating what we felt we had heard one another say we would then respond by saying “In light of what I have heard you say I imagine you must feel…….”  SO POWERFUL!!  Empathy, hearing each others heart!!
  2. Timing and Tone: Greg and I have learned that conversations, challenging ones, are completely unfruitful after 9 pm.!  AND our tone of voice can sabotage a positive end result.  Therefore, our timing and tone in our marriage makes a huge difference!
  3.  We are responsible for our own self-care:  Greg and I have learned that if our life rhythms are off-balance then our marriage will be adversely affected!  Each of us needs to build our Spiritual Connection, build into our physical and emotional health, and modify our schedules in order to have quality time with one another.
  4. We must choose kindness!  Greg and I are similar and yet very different.  We compliment each other; we fill the gap for each other.  However, unless this is something we embrace we can become offended by one others differences!  Learning to appreciate our differences, learning to show kindness; even appreciation, for our distinctiveness helps to build great equity in our marriage.

It was in 2003 when Greg and I renewed our wedding vows.  We had learned to listen, appreciate one another, to value our differences, and to approach one another with a fresh understanding of the impact of “timing and tone”.  If we had not stayed the course, if we had abandoned ship; we would have missed the richest years of our lives!!

How do you feel this Valentines Day?  is it time to really dig in and grow?  to get wise counsel? to acquire tools to help you move from a strife-filled marriage to a friendship-filled marriage??  Then DO IT!! gather the tools you need and watch how the dynamics of your marriage begin to change!  It’s never too late!!

So grateful we didn’t give up; just keeping it real!

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