The Day Before Christmas

For many, today is a day dedicated to ‘last minute shopping’. I’m often wondered what God was doing the day before Christ was born? Probably guiding each step as Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem. The most profound event of human history was about to happen. The theologians call it the ‘incarnation’. God becoming human in the form of a baby.

God had communicated for hundreds of years through the prophets. But now He sends His own Son. To use the words of John, “The Word became flesh and we observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” In the midst of today’s busyness, let’s make time to reflect upon God’s greatest gift.

My Side of the Wall

Many couples are at a stalemate because they have allowed a wall to develop between them. Walls are erected one block at a time. It may be as small as failing to take out the garbage or as large as failing to meet sexual needs. Instead of dealing with the failure, we ignore it. One failure after another is ignored. The wall becomes high and thick. We were once “in love” but now only resentment remains.

There is only one way to remove a wall. We must tear down the blocks on our side. Someone must take the initiative. Will your spouse forgive you? I don’t know, but it’s worth a try. Confess your past failures and ask God to help you make the future different. The wall is not as thick when your remove the blocks on your side.

You Can’t Create a Perfect Marriage.

You can’t create a perfect marriage, but you can have a better marriage. And, it all begins with you. Most of us think that if our spouse would change we could have a better marriage. But that’s the wrong place to start.

When I counsel couples, I often give them paper and pencil and ask them to write for me the things they dislike about their spouse. You should see the lists. Some have to request additional paper. A bit later, I ask them to list for me what they feel to be their own weaknesses. Usually, they can think of one right away, but I have seen them think and think trying to come up with number two. The message is clear. “I’m not perfect, but the real problem is with my spouse.”

Jesus had a different idea: “First, get the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see more clearly how to get the speck out of eye of your spouse.” Begin by identifying your own failures and consider praying this prayer: “Lord, where am I failing in my marriage.”. Confess your discoveries to God and then to your spouse. You now have a clear conscience and you are free to change your own behavior and become a loving spouse.

You Can't Create a Perfect Marriage.

You can’t create a perfect marriage, but you can have a better marriage. And, it all begins with you. Most of us think that if our spouse would change we could have a better marriage. But that’s the wrong place to start.

When I counsel couples, I often give them paper and pencil and ask them to write for me the things they dislike about their spouse. You should see the lists. Some have to request additional paper. A bit later, I ask them to list for me what they feel to be their own weaknesses. Usually, they can think of one right away, but I have seen them think and think trying to come up with number two. The message is clear. “I’m not perfect, but the real problem is with my spouse.”

Jesus had a different idea: “First, get the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see more clearly how to get the speck out of eye of your spouse.” Begin by identifying your own failures and consider praying this prayer: “Lord, where am I failing in my marriage.”. Confess your discoveries to God and then to your spouse. You now have a clear conscience and you are free to change your own behavior and become a loving spouse.

Would you like your spouse to change?

In my thirty years as a marriage counselor, I’ve drawn one conclusion: Everyone wishes their spouse would change. “We could have a good marriage if he would just help me more around the house.” Or, “Our marriage would be great if we could have sex more than once a month.” She wants him to change and he wants her to change. Both of them feel condemned and resentful. There is a better way.

Start with you own failures. Admit that you’re not perfect. Confess some of your most obvious failures to your spouse and tell them that you want to change. Ask your spouse for one suggestion each week on how you could be a better husband or wife. To the best of your ability make changes. Chances are, your spouse will reciprocate.

Why is Communication So Hard?

Why does communication break down after marriage? Often, the answer lies in emotions. Before marriage we felt one over-powering emotion . . . love. But now the emotions of hurt, anger, disappointment, and fear often dominate. These emotions do not encourage us to communicate. Or, if we communicate it is likely to be critical.

We speak out of our anger and create even more negative feelings. The key is learning how share emotions without condemnation. “I’m feeling hurt and when you have time, I need your help.” Identifying your feelings and choosing to share them is step one. Step two is accepting the feelings of your mate and asking, “What can I do to help?”

Why is communication so important in a relationship? Because we are not mind readers. The apostle Paul recognized this reality when he asked the question, “Who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” The reason we know what God is like is because God has chosen to reveal Himself. If we reciprocate, we can have a love relationship with God.

Likewise, when we reveal ourselves to another, and they listen and reciprocate, we can build an intimate relationship with that person. Communication is to a relationship what breathing is to the body. Don’t stop talking and don’t stop listening.

*adapted from The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Dr. Gary Chapman

Do You Have Elephant Ears?

When two people are talking at the same time, no one is listening. Consequently, there is no communication. For conversation to be meaningful it requires talking and listening. How hard can that be? Yet, 87 % of those who divorce say their main problem was that they could not communicate.

Listening begins with an attitude. If I choose to believe that every person I encounter is made in God’s image; that their thoughts and feelings are important, then I am prepared to listen. If I think that the world revolves around me; that my ideas are all that counts, then why should I listen to anyone else? Many couples don’t have a communication problem, they have an attitude problem.

If you want to have a healthy marriage, you must learn to listen. Listening leads to understanding. Once I understand what my spouse is thinking and feeling, I can have a meaningful response. When I speak before I listen, I’m simply throwing words into the wind.

May I give you a practical suggestion? When your spouse begins talking, about anything, imagine yourself having huge elephant ears. Have you heard the expression, “I’m all ears”? That’s what I’m talking about. Don’t think about how you are going to respond. Focus on making sure you understand the thoughts and feelings of your spouse. Then, when it’s your turn to talk, your spouse can put on the elephant ears.

*Adapted from Everybody Wins: Solving Conflicts Without Arguing by Dr. Gary Chapman

Are You Getting the Point?

Communication is not easy until you have a disagreement. So, how do we process conflicts without arguing? As I was writing my book The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, one of the great discoveries I made was the awesome power of listening. Most of us are far better at “making our point” than in “getting the point” of the other person. Listening has to do with trying to look at the world through the other person’s eyes. It’s not difficult if you try.

Once you can truthfully say, “I think I understand what you are saying, and it makes sense.” Then you can say, “Let me tell you how I’m thinking, and if it makes sense to you.” Two people who listen long enough to affirm each other can then find a win-win solution.

Arguments reveal the heart. Almost all arguments grow out of unmet emotional needs. One wife said, “Little things like getting the old newspapers out of the garage for recycling is not a big deal to him, but it is important to me because I hate clutter. It’s kind of a visual thing.” What is she saying? One of her emotional needs is to have order in the house. Clutter is emotionally upsetting to her.

The wise husband and wife will look for the emotional need behind the argument. Why is my spouse so upset over what seems trivial to me? The answer to that question will help  you understand your spouse. Meeting emotional needs for each other is one way to create a positive climate for communication.

Becoming Friends with Your Feelings

I often hear people ask, “How are you feeling today?” The common answer is, “Fine.” It was a good question, but not a good answer. Why do we ignore our feelings, or camouflage them with such words as “fine” or “not so well”? Feelings are a part of who we are. We have emotions because we are made in the image of God.

How dull life would be if we had no feelings. Imagine watching a sunset, a ball game, or the ocean and feeling no emotion. Feelings are a gift from God to help us enjoy life and process life and pain. Certainly at times we feel lonely, disappointed, and frustrated, but these emotions push us to take constructive action. Pause and thank God for whatever emotion you are presently feeling. Ask Him to guide your actions.

Some Christians are critical of their emotions. They will say, “Don’t trust your emotions. Faith, not feelings, is the road to spiritual growth.” Why are we so critical of our emotions? In Mark chapter 3, Jesus felt anger and sorrow. Is that bad? I don’t think any of us would condemn Jesus for having emotions. Then why do we condemn ourselves.

God gave us emotions for growth, maturity, fulfillment, and enjoyment. Feelings were made to be our friends. If it is a negative emotion, it means something needs attention. It is like the red light that appears on the dash when the car needs oil. We don’t curse the light; we give attention to the problem. Why not do the same with your emotions? If you take constructive action, emotions have served their purpose.

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FACEBOOK CONTEST! (ends Oct. 1, 2010)

You could WIN 2 SIGNED copies of Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married + a $100 Amazon Giftcard!

Official Rules:

(1) Upload a video of you asking someone who is married what is one thing they wish they knew before they got married. Then upload to www.facebook.com/5lovelanguages or YouTube and link at Facebook page.

(2) Email 5ll.giveaways @ gmail.com and let us know you uploaded your video…. Include the subject line “Video Contest” and in the body: your Facebook profile name.

Contest will end October 1st, 5 winners will be chosen to receive 2 signed copies of the book (one for yourself, and the other for whoever was featured in the video) with 1 GRAND PRIZE WINNER receiving the 2 books + a $100 GIFTCARD for Amazon.com.

Winners will be considered based on content, creativity, and # of LIKES and announced on the following Monday.

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