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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Connecting with your spouse when Time, Money and Circumstances tell you not to.

Dan and Amy
Striving to love each other well.

I once told my husband "I love you like crazy, but sometimes I just don't LIKE you"

Has anyone else ever been in this situation? I have found myself here on a few occasions over the past 20 years and while I admire and love the open and honest relationship I have with my husband, I also know how hurtful my words can be.

I usually find myself in this place when I am tired, emotional or when I focus on my needs instead of his. This is a dangerous place to be and I know it instantly after those words leave my mouth. Immediate conviction of not being the wife I want to be.

The world will feed you lies. It will entice you by whispering in your ear "You need to take care of YOU", it will deceive your heart by suggesting "YOU deserve this - think of yourself" or it will frighten you with "If you don't take care of YOU, who will?"

It would be easy to buy those platitudes if we were married to the mirror, but most of us choose to embrace someone other than ourselves.

So the question emerges... "How do I bond with my spouse in a healthy manner when I feel tired, broke, busy and just plain don't feel like it?"

Here are a few suggestions that have helped my own 20 year relationship. I hope you find them helpful too.

1. Stop Disconnecting! Get on the same page:
It is really REALLY difficult to connect with your spouse when the two of you are not heading in the same direction. I'm not saying be a carbon copy of each other, I'm simply suggesting that you know and understand what direction you are progressing toward in life regarding your goals, relationship, parenting duties, values and ambitions.

Feeling confused about what your goals/ambitions/values are? An easy way to quickly determine what is important to you is to ask yourself the following questions.

A. How do I spend my time/money? (Seriously look at your checkbook and calendar to see- We tend to invest in what we love.)

B. Who am I? /What are my roles? (Wife, mom, daughter, employee, friend, teacher at church, volunteer, etc)

C. When I am no longer in this world, how do I want to be remembered in each of those roles?


D. (This is the action step... ) Set some goals and priorities (with your spouse) regarding what you discovered in both A, B and C in order to satisfy D.

2. Serve Together
This is the easiest way to bond with your spouse (and your children). Find an area in your church or community where you can serve and reach out to others TOGETHER as a couple and/or family. This not only strengthens your bond as a family, but it also helps you to focus on someone/something other than yourself. Pouring into others via service is extremely therapeutic and increases an individual's level of gratitude.

(One note of caution: Be sure to protect and guard your relationship. Do not over schedule your time. Keep a healthy balance)

3. Use your time purposefully to add value to your relationship.
Analyze your day and find blocks of time that you can fill more purposefully.

One of the ways I have found to do this is to read aloud to my husband when we drive. We have read entire series of books and my family loves this so much that I am barely in my seat and attempting to buckle my seatbelt when the book we are reading is being pushed toward me.

 This is not only a bonding opportunity but it is a way to invest in my family by giving of myself.

Reading together also gives us more shared experiences, conversation starters and mutual knowledge on a certain topic.

4. Don't be so serious
Learn how to laugh at yourself. Some of the things that seem so pressing in our every day, simply, aren't.

For example: My husband has a car that really frustrates him.
3 of the 4 doors don't open from the outside. The driver's window doesn't roll down. The car has no heat or air conditioning. It is a pitiful situation. But, while my husband is super frustrated about the situation, I think it is hilarious! This man has some seriously funny stories to tell because of that junk heap on wheels. Someday, I know he will also think it is funny- we will have many laughs in our rocking chair years because of it! (Right now he calls it the "humble mobile")

I once read a book based on the concept of "Praise the Lord Anyway!" - Our second car may be a humble mobile, but praise the Lord anyway because it runs. Our car has no heat but praise the Lord anyway because we aren't sleeping in the weather!

I sure wish I remembered the name or author of that book, because I'd love to recommend it to everyone- it really changed my life and my perspective on hard times.

5. Foster Interests/Shared Experiences
Try to find activities that you can do together.

 Is your husband a football fanatic? Throw a super bowl party. Does your wife love to cook? Take a Chinese cooking class together.

Always be willing and eager to learn and grow through your spouse. If you can't possibly actively participate in their interest, then just be there.

My husband and I learned early on that compromise is the key to a happy marriage.

 Dan loves "March Madness" (In our first year of marriage he was super excited for March Madness - so was I cause I thought we were going shopping!! I had never heard of the College Basketball Tournaments- I got educated real quick!!).

While I don't really get into the basketball games, I have learned to enjoy filling out the brackets (and mine usually triumph over his - heh, heh, heh. It's even better when we have a little marital wager on the line).

To keep us both happy, Dan will set up our smaller TV in the living room right next to our main TV. On one TV, we will broadcast the games and on the other TV, we can watch the news, movies or whatever the rest of the family enjoys. It has worked fabulously for over 19 years!

My hubby is brilliant (and wisely knows how to invest in his martial happiness bank)!!

6. Don't let "Being Broke" be a barrier to connecting with your spouse.
My husband went through a recent season of unemployment that spanned a 2 year time frame. Things were TOUGH. However, that didn't mean we stopped investing in our relationship or bonding with one another, we just had to get more creative.

One of our favorite ways to do this was creating a drive-in movie date. While Kylie was having fun with her respite provider, we rented a $1 movie from the local convenient movie box, popped popcorn, poured cold glasses of soda and sat in our car in the driveway and watched our movie on my daughter's portable DVD player. We were alone, it was quiet, it was dark (as it was evening) and we had a BLAST trying to steady the DVD player on the dash (while not spilling popcorn or soda).

We created a memory on a dime and you can do it too!!

There are so many tips and pieces of advice I could add, but the most important thing is Loving each other. And I'm not talking flowers and chocolates.

I John 4:7 says that Love comes from God. If we don't know God, we don't know love. We need to follow God's example where True Love is concerned. This means loving each other sacrificially, unconditionally and honestly. Love is esteeming the individual of our affection better/more than ourselves- Setting our own needs aside to meet their needs.

Think of a cupcake. Love is the cake foundation and romance is the frosting and sprinkles! The frosting and sprinkles won't mean anything if we don't have the foundation. Frosting and sprinkles are not near as tasty sitting on a paper plate as they are on a cupcake. A truly scrumptious dessert has the combined balance of cake and frosting. YUM!

I know this is especially difficult with a situation that involves care giving. Sometimes, this kind of love isn't sweet or pretty, sometimes it is pretty stinky (I am thinking of all the poo I clean up). But God says it is LOVE.

 Care giving is a painting of love like no other. Every task you do adds a brush stroke to the masterpiece God is creating in you. Are your colors vibrant and true? Are they blurred and sloppy? Or, dare I wonder, not there at all?

The exciting thing is that we have a choice. We get to decide what our painting will look like! We get to be the artist of our own relationships! I encourage you to pick up that paintbrush and paint your canvas with purpose and meaning. Set your heart and mind to leave a mark on this world that will impact generations to come. Strive to make it a masterpiece.

Determine that you won't be a statistic.

Determine that you will make a difference for something that is truly meaningful!

Determine that you will love expecting nothing in return.

THEN you will know what it is to LOVE WELL. To be obedient to a calling that is greater than any of us can achieve on our own. To know contentment and meaning in our lives and experience a fullness of joy and peace in our hearts.

It is worth it! I can assure you with confidence; it is most definitely worth it!!

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