Posts tagged John Gottman

Marriage Monday: I’m Not Committed to Marriage

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not committedHave you ever heard someone say, “Well, I am committed to marriage”? “Things aren’t going the best, but I am one hundred percent committed to marriage.” I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that I’m not committed to marriage; I am committed to a person. I didn’t marry marriage; I married this wonderful woman that sat at the table across from me in graduate school.

I don’t want a marriage where my wife and I have to say, “Well, we are committed to marriage.” I want a marriage that we are both excited to be in together. Granted, there are times in relationships where commitment is the only thing that holds two people together, and at least that is something, but it isn’t what I want. Even if my wife and I head into some dark days, I want her committed to me, not just the idea of marriage.

But what I really want is for my wife to be excited to hear the garage door go up because she knows I am pulling up the drive. I want her to look forward to weekends when I have time off that we get to spend together. I want her to look at the future with anticipation as we plan our lives together. I want her to rest at night filled with happiness instead of regret. I want her to be thankful for the person she married, not that she was simply able to change her Facebook status from “single” to “married”.

I see plenty of couples that sit down for marriage counseling and say, “We are committed to marriage” through clenched teeth. How do people get there? Once upon a time, these same two people were happy. They enjoyed life together. They felt strongly enough to make a commitment to one another. They couldn’t imagine life apart. How does a couple start off in love with one another and end up simply being “committed to marriage”? A big part of the answer to that question is that they stopped making the other person a priority. They got married and stop fostering the friendship that brought them together in the first place.

Marriage expert John Gottman says that friendship is at the core of a strong marriage. Happy marriages place an emphasis on maintaining a friendship. They invest in one another emotionally. They listen to the others fears, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They take mental notes of what the other person likes and dislikes. They think about the other person in a positive light and overlook their shortcomings. In other words, they make the other person a priority. They keep things personal. They don’t invest in an idea. They invest in a person.

I don’t simply want to be committed to marriage. I want to enjoy a friendship with my wife that grows over time. This can only be accomplished if we are both willing to invest significantly in one another. A friendship of this nature requires constant attention and self sacrifice.

Are you investing in the person that you married? Are you taking the time and sacrificing your own wants and needs at times to grow the friendship with your spouse? Doing so will keep you enjoying a person instead of simply being “committed to a marriage.”

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Love Believes the Best.

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Love Believes the BestI strongly believe that a large portion of our lives are driven by our thoughts. What goes on in our minds comes out in our lives. How we think about other people determines how we feel about them. This applies to our marriages as well. If you think good thoughts about your spouse, you will feel positive emotions toward them. If you are constantly downgrading your spouse in your mind, you will feel frustrated with them. Marriage expert, John Gottman, affirms this idea in his research on marital relationships. Spouses that think about or view their spouse in a positive light are much more satisfied in their relationship. When bad things happen in the relationship, the fact that they think good thoughts about each other gives them an added boost to overcome the trouble. He calls it “Positive Sentiment Overide.” That is, the positive thoughts, and feelings that result, override the negative and troublesome times.

In his “love letter” to the Corinthians, Paul weighs in on this idea. He crafts this amazingly complex, yet simple, definition of love. He writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Then he adds what is relevant for our discussion on our thought life as it relates to our spouse, “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

You see, throughout our married lives there will be many different situations where we could call into question our spouses motives, intentions or decisions. There are also times when we have expectations that do not get met how we thought they should. “Why did he do that?” “Why did she do it this way? I figured for sure she would do it like this.” “Why didn’t he come through like he said he would?” “Is he just doing this for some self serving reason?” “I thought we were going to do this, and the plan got changed?” Unhealthy marriages are fraught with suspicion. That is, one or both spouses question the intentions, motives or decisions of the other.

Sometimes, in our marriage there is a gap in our knowledge between what we expected and what actually happens. We determine what goes in that gap. Unhealthy marriages choose to believe the worst. “You said we would do this, and we didn’t. You are just being selfish.” “You said you would be home by five and its six-thirty. You just don’t care.” You can probably come up with your own example from your own marriage just fine. Sometimes, our spouses fall short of our expectations.

But, when that happens we can choose to believe the best about our spouse or we can assume the worst. Maybe our partner has a good reason for why they behave in certain ways. So why not find out the reasons that underlie their behavior instead of assuming the worst about them. If you assume the worst in every situation, you will begin to view your partner in a negative light.

That is where Paul comes back in. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love looks for an opportunity to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Love doesn’t jump to conclusions, it waits for an explanation. Love tries to protect and guard the relationship. It doesn’t allow negative thoughts to seep in. It trusts, even when it’s difficult. Love hopes, it doesn’t write the other person off prematurely. Love chooses trust over suspicion. Love gives the other person the benefit of the doubt. Love looks for the most generation explanation of the other person’s behavior.

How we think about our spouse really determines the temperature of the relationship. We can assume the worst about their behavior and intentions or we can believe the best. Now, I am not saying we gloss over problems. I am not saying we ignore evidence of trouble. I am saying when it comes to how we think about our spouse and their actions; we choose to believe the best about them instead of assuming the worst.

How is your thought life? Maybe we need to start believing the best about our spouse. We might see them in a whole new light.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Some Problems Can’t Be Solved

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There are two kinds of problems in a marriage, those that can be solved and those that cannot. It is critical that we learn to distinguish between the two. Why? Because when couples spend exorbitant energy trying to “solve” an unsolvable problem they generally end up feeling exhausted, frustrated, and defeated.  They futilely spin their wheels round and round trying to bury the problem, and it keeps pushing through to the surface.

Marital expert John Gottman, says that 69% of problems within a marriage are unsolvable. Whoa! That is an awfully high number. He labels these as perpetual problems because they never find complete resolution and continually arise in one form or another throughout the course of the relationship.

It is important that we realize early on in our relationships that we cannot change our spouse. The fact of the matter is that they are different people and think differently to some degree. A couple may be very similar, but there are always differences in how people see the world, what they enjoy, what is important to them, and how they think. We also know that temperament is pretty consistent across the lifespan and does not change. It should seem obvious that if you cannot change your personality to a large degree it is impossible to change someone else’s.

Some of these gridlocked problems we sign ourselves up for. Such as the woman who wants to marry the “strong silent type” and then spends the rest of her marriage agitated because he doesn’t talk to her, or the man who wants an outgoing girl and then gripes because she never wants to stay home on Friday nights. They then spend the rest of their marriage trying to change the other person, forgetting that they willingly signed themselves up for what they got!

So what are some examples of gridlocked or unsolvable problems? It might be that one spouse wants kids and the other does not. One wants to travel and the other is content to enjoy local activities. One wants to save considerable amounts of money and the other enjoys being more of a free spirit. One partner might be a clean freak and the other is a bit of a slob. Problems like these are likely to continually crop up throughout the relationship. There is no simple fix.

So what do you do with unsolvable problems, whether it is differences in temperament, personality, values, goals, and interests? A couple must do two things when it comes to their perpetual problems. First, they must learn to live with the problem to a certain degree, understanding that it will always be there. It is the same in when it comes to our physical health. Colds and broken bones can be healed and corrected, but bad backs and trick knees generally persist. You simply learn to live with them.  As Psychologist Dan Wiles puts it, “When choosing a long-term partner…you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you will be grappling with for the next 10, 20, or 50 years.” When it comes to unsolvable problems in our marriages we have to stop trying to change the other person or eradicate the problem, instead we must learn to live with it, adjust to it, and work around it.

Second, the couple must continually dialogue about the gridlocked problems. Gottman states that generally beneath these perpetual problems are larger issues, such as life dreams, goals, or core values that each partner holds. Majority of the time, our spouses are not being unreasonable for the sake of making our lives miserable, there is something important to them that they are fighting for and hanging on to. We must discover what the problem underneath the problem actually is.

What may seem like an argument over how to celebrate Christmas could really be tied to important traditions that one or both spouses hold dear. What seems like a simple argument over finances could actually represent security and stability for one and freedom and fun for the other. What is the conflict underneath the surface conflict?

The couple must learn to dialogue about the problem, unearth what the core conflicts are, and then seek to respect the other person’s dreams and values. Often, after this is done certain compromises can be made that make the unsolvable problems easier to leave with. While the problems will still remain, each partner feels respected, heard, and understood, and some middle ground can be found.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: The Communication Window

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A very significant part of any discussion that you have with your spouse (or anyone for that matter) is how it begins. Marriage expert John Gottman asserts that the first three minutes of a conversation will determine where the discussion ends up. If a conversation begins with what he calls “harsh start up” odds are it will go nowhere, and fast. Actually, it will go somewhere, downhill.

What is harsh start up? It is exactly what it sounds like. It is when you approach your partner to talk about something, but do so in a harsh manner. It is where you go into the conversation with both gun barrels a’blazin. It usually involves an attack, placing blame, or just criticizing the other person for something they have done.

In fact, if the first three minutes of the conversation start badly, the plane will be very difficult to pull up, if not impossible. Conversations that start of harsh usually end on a bad note. So often, we go straight for the jugular in our exchange, and are then surprised that we have to clean the blood off the walls afterwards.

When we don’t approach our spouses with respect, even on hot button issues for us, the desired result of our discussion with them will always be elusive. When we hit our partners with our heavy firepower, a barrage of words that is anything but respectful, generally they are defensive and their first tendency is to fire back. It becomes a ping pong match, with each batting back an angrier word until things self destruct.

The interesting thing is, when a conversation becomes heated, and one or both partners become emotionally overwhelmed, the ability to listen reduces. In fact, our bodies undergo a physiological change to where our brains cannot receive and process information. So if we continue having conversations once it gets to this point, we will not be heard and the exchange will pull us farther away from our spouse.

We must remember, when it comes to communicating, we have a small window for the conversation to be effective. When we don’t begin with respect that window gets boarded up quick. We must approach our spouse the way we would like to be approached. Call it the golden rule of conversation, if you will. Begin all discussions in a soft way, regardless of how disgruntled, overwhelmed, fed up, or angry you are.

And if your spouse approaches you with harsh start up, instead of un-holstering your own guns for a word duel, respond with respect. Perhaps suggest that you both take a break and resume the conversation later. It might just turn the tides and then something meaningful can come from the discussion.

If we begin the discussion in a harsh way, we will crash and burn every time!

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. – Proverbs 15:1

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Part 4

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Over the past four weeks we have been examining what John Gottman labels “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in marriage. Each of these unhealthy marital interactions inflicts deadly wounds to the health and stability of any marriage in which they are present. Thus far, we have seen the damage that can be done by criticism and contempt. We also noticed where these first two horsemen are present; defensiveness does not linger far behind.

When criticism, contempt, and defensiveness have remained present over long periods of time, the marriage reaches a potent toxicity level that allows the fourth and final horsemen to stroll into the relationship. This last horseman is known as stonewalling, and he is very capable of giving marriages a death blow.

Stonewalling takes place when one partner completely unplugs and tunes the other out. It occurs when one spouse becomes so overwhelmed by the amount of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness in the relationship that the need to be removed from the hostility becomes of utmost importance. When stonewalling makes its way into a marriage, the couple has reached a point where little opportunity for change can take place without immediate and extreme intervention.

When one simply blocks out what the other is saying; here is born a negative cycle of marital interaction. One partner criticizes the other, and the other retreats. The less one partner pays attention and the more aloof they are, the greater the other spouse screams, attacks, and criticizes.

Ray Stedman asks, “Hear about the fellow who had the nagging wife? ‘Talk, talk, talk, talk, he said to his friend. ‘That’s all my wife ever does is talk, talk, talk, talk.” His friend responded, ‘Well, what does she talk about?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘she don’t say.’” It is likely the reason he no longer hears what she says is because he is stonewalling her. He has heard enough of the nagging that he no longer listens. As we said before, this leads to more nagging. The cycle perpetuates itself until either the couple goes their separate way or they become roommates living under the same roof that rarely interact.

Besides the obvious problems they create, the reason criticism, contempt, and defensiveness are so deadly is because they lead to stonewalling. When stonewalling attains s a presence in the marriage, avoiding conflict at all cost through disengagement becomes the priority, and as a byproduct, one spouse avoids the partner altogether.

It is imperative that we continually monitor our own hearts, the hearts of our spouse, the way we interact, and what we say toward one another. Let’s keep these four poisonous interactions out of our marriages and avoid Armageddon in our homes.

Are you critical toward your spouse? Have any feelings of contempt? Feel the need to be defensive? Find that you want to avoid conflict? Does your spouse seem to not want to hear what you have to say? Maybe there are some things we need to change. Let’s look deep inside. If we find any of these present in our marriages, let’s send them out. Our marriages are far too important to let unravel, and our lives are too short not to enjoy the person we are committed to.

And be kindand compassionateto one another, forgivingone another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. -Ephesians 4:32

Walk good, live wise, be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Part 3

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We have been examining four marital interactions that cause significant problems within a marriage, which John Gottman aptly labels “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” The first rider was criticism, followed closely by contempt. The next horseman to come riding is defensiveness. It should be noted that these riders do not always march single file into a relationship; instead they take turns inflicting damage within the marriage.

In the middle of conflict, our gut-level reaction is to put on the boxing gloves. We want to defend our every action. Sometimes we get defensive by denying that we are responsible, making excuses or trying to one-up our partner’s complaint with a complaint of our own. We are masters at removing our own culpability in problematic interactions.

While it is quite normal to get defensive when conflict arises, it is a detriment to our relationships. In the middle of an argument, or as most people prefer to label them a “discussion”, we give ample reason as to why something is not our fault. This is how these “discussions” generally go when defensiveness is involved:

One spouse says to the other, “You did ______ (feel free to fill in the blank).” The other spouse replies, “Well, that wasn’t my fault. I would not have had to do ______ if you would not have done _______.” Then the other spouse says, “Oh, well that makes perfect sense.” End of argument.

It never works that way, does it? Being defensive continues to perpetuate an argument. Being defensive is really just blame shifting. It places the problem back on the other person. We blame them for the course of action we chose to take. “Well, if you hadn’t, then I wouldn’t have.” The truth is, no one else is to blame for our behavior. We always choose our behavior. How we act is always a choice. Yes, we can even choose to react in a way that is not defensive.

Defensiveness, criticism, and contempt, here we have a perfect storm brewing, and the final horseman has not yet ridden into town. So how can we deal with defensiveness?

First, what if we really listened to our partner when they had a complaint? We know it is easy to sidestep a complaint with shifting the blame, but this doesn’t address any problems. What if we listened to what our spouse had to say and examined our lives to see what needs to change? What if, instead of spending all of our energy coming up with excuses or trying to be heard, we simply focused on hearing what they are saying? Sometimes, we do mess up. At times, things are our fault.

When issuing a complaint of our own, maybe we can examine the nature of that complaint. Are we being critical? How can we let our spouse know there is a problem without attacking their character or demeaning them?

The goal of a “discussion” is to resolve problems in our relationships. Going on the attack or being defensive will never allow us to focus on and fix the difficulties in our marriages.

Marriage is about two people playing on the same team. It is impossible to be on the same team while one plays offense and the other defense. Maybe it is time to stop shifting the blame and look in the mirror. Sometimes we do mess up after all.

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? -Matthew 7:3-4

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Part 2

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Last week, we began looking at what John Gottman labels “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. “ These are four specific interactions between spouses that, if not alleviated, will wreak havoc in a marriage and pave the way for divorce. Criticism is the first horse that rides with destructive intent. The second horse that comes close on the heels of criticism is contempt. Contempt can be described as open disrespect from one spouse toward the other. It one-ups criticism in a vile way, and involves tearing or putting down your partner in painful ways.

We have all been around couples where one spouse berates the other. The tension in these situations is palpable. Contempt takes many forms, such as: put-downs, rolling of the eyes, biting humor, name-calling or pointing out inadequacies. It is the communication of general disgust with one’s partner. The form I see most often is where one spouse will use harsh “humor” toward the other all in “good fun” but really means every word.

When contempt enters the relationship, the partner does not point out things in order to fix them. He or she acts in a contemptuous manner simply for the sake of hurting the other, degrading the other, and having an argument.  Invariably, it escalates the conflict within a marriage instead of solving any problems. Isn’t it interesting that two people, who started life together, with an attitude of wanting to be together, can reach this point? It happens extremely often.

So what is the cause of this second horse flaring his nostrils in a relationship? Contempt builds up from criticism and unresolved issues within a relationship. It occurs when problems, disappointments, annoyances, or whatever are continually swept under the rug and percolate in the mind of the partner until the only feelings one has for the other are disdain and disgust. It is evident when contempt has galloped into the relationship.

Generally, at this point it takes pretty drastic intervention to get things back on the right track. When one finds that all of their thoughts toward their spouse are negative it is past time to act. Do something! One of the biggest problems in marriages is that people wait until the ship has sunk before they start trying to bail water.

We must not wait to resolve issues. Deal with them when they arise. The mere passage of time does nothing to resolve problems. In fact, time just keeps the problems bogged down and allows bitterness and contempt to creep in.

My wife and I (who just like everyone else have our stuff to deal with at times) have a question that we ask each other almost daily. We constantly inquire “How is everything in your heart?” Why do we do this? Because we have worked with enough people to know that once things get lodged in a person’s heart without being addressed, it always leads to problems.

How is everything in your heart? How is everything in your marriage? Is there criticism? Has contempt moved in? Things don’t change unless we work to change them. Nothing moves unless it’s shoved. Deal with things in the present.

Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. –Ephesians 4:26-27

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Bald, Fat, and Happy

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There is an old Arab proverb that essentially says marriage begins with a prince kissing an angel and ends with a bald headed man sitting across the table from a fat lady. One might interpret this proverb in one of two ways. For some, the man will be happier sitting across from a fat lady than kissing an angel. For others, it means that marriage begins with youth, glitz, and razzmatazz and ends with familiarity, blandness, and a longing for better years gone by.

So what is a defining feature of a marriage that enables contentment and lifelong romance? It is when a couple turns toward one another daily throughout the course of their lives. So often, Romance is painted in passionate colors by the likes of Cary Grant or Brad Pitt. Relational enchantment is often portrayed in a lavish manner that leaves your average couple feeling as if their relationship is romantically impoverished.

So what does it mean for a couple to turn toward one another? John Gottman describes it this way. “Romance is fueled by a far more humdrum approach to staying connected. It is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life…In a marriage people periodically make ‘bids’ for their partner’s attention, affection, humor, or support. People either turn toward one another after these bids or they turn away.”

Turning toward one another can look differently, but it involves the couple constantly orienting themselves toward one another. It might be grocery shopping together instead of simply letting your spouse do it alone. Perhaps it is a text in the middle of a hectic day. It is taking a few minutes to connect in the morning before rushing out the door. Sometimes it is paying attention to what gets your spouse excited, even though it might not interest you. These are the humdrum ways that romance is fueled on a daily basis.  It is turning toward your spouse when they make a bid for connection.

Turning toward your spouse also involves reconnecting when you would prefer not to emotionally. It is digging deep to connect, even when you don’t feel like doing so. Sometimes this is due to fatigue, busyness, or being focused on your task at the moment. Turning toward your spouse is a deliberate act at times, while sometimes it requires little thought.

During difficult times turning toward your spouse does not seem intuitive, but it is a requirement for a relationship to flourish. Listen to how Ravi Zacharias describes this idea of turning toward one’s partner when he talks about his wife, Margie. “Anytime there has been a disagreement or anytime there has been a point of tension of some sort, and the feelings want you to proudly turn away and not make it right because somehow you want to appear strong. I have watched her reach out, every time, and take my hand and put it all back in perspective. It is the love that is going to carry us through. Obedience precedes the emotion.” This is a perfect example of what it means to turn toward one another. During every day life, each partner seeks to reorient the relationship into a posture of facing one another. Sometimes it involves turning toward one another within humdrum daily interactions, and at other times it means forcing oneself to turn toward the other when the emotions say to do otherwise.

It is this idea of turning toward each other that makes an aging bald man and his aging fat wife happy. It is turning toward one another that keeps romance within a relationship. It is turning toward your spouse that keeps familiarity from turning into blandness.

Rejoice with the wife of your youth… And always be enraptured with her love.
-Proverbs 5:18-19

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

How do you “turn toward” your spouse? How do you stay connected?

Marriage Monday: Let’s Be Friends.

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There is a classic scene in the 1965 movie Shenandoah, where Charlie Anderson, played by Jimmy Stewart has a conversation with his daughter’s suitor, Lieutenant Sam. In the film, Sam approaches Charlie Anderson to ask for his daughters hand in marriage. The conversation goes like this:

Sam: I want to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.
Charlie: Why? Why do you want to marry her?
Sam: Well, I love her.
Charlie: That’s not good enough. Do you like her?
Sam: I just said I….
Charlie: No, no. You said you loved her. There is some difference between love and like. You see, Sam, when you love a woman without likin’ her, the night can be long and cold, and contempt comes up with the sun.

Marriages, like all relationships, are multifaceted and complex. There are many things that go into keeping them healthy and running smoothly. Many couples suddenly realize that they have grown unhappy in their marriage over the years. It is often a slow fade. What takes years to get into a state of despair is never a quick fix. It takes much effort to repair and restore a relationship with each partner adjusting and making alterations to the way they think, behave, and relate to their spouse.

There are scores of books available to help one improve their marriage, along with competing theories to do so. I agree with some of what is written and probably disagree with more. I wholeheartedly agree that couples definitely need to learn tools to improve their relationships. This is one reason I enjoy working with couples so much. Yet, at the risk of oversimplifying marriage, there is something that often gets overlooked, friendship.

Jimmy Stewart’s character really hones in on this concept. He asks his would be son-in-law “Do you like her?” In other words, is there a strong friendship there? Not are you committed. Not do you want to sleep with her. Not do you think she is a wonderful woman. He asks, “Do you like her?”

Happy marriages are based on friendship. Sure, communication, compatibility, common values, character, and a host of other words that start with “C” are incredibly important, but without friendship marriages tend to fall flat.

According to John Gottman, “The determining factor in whether wives and husbands feel satisfied with sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship.”

Think about Adam. The very first man created. He had God to walk with daily, but God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Then he created companionship for Adam. He gave him a wife. God saw the importance of friendship.

Friendship helps keep couple’s playing on the same team. Friendship helps generate positive thoughts toward one’s spouse. Friendship keeps that live spark ever present.

Friends look forward to seeing each other. Friends like to do things together. Friends stay up talking, even though they are tired, because they love to hear the other laugh. Friends confide in each other. Friends dream together. Friends find adventure in life.

There is an old saying. “In marriage there are three rings, the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and the suffer-ring.” But that is not the case when it is done correctly, and friendship is a big part of doing it right.

Do you love like your spouse? Are you working on the friendship? Regardless of whether you have a thriving friendship or a shallow one, it can be grown into something greater. Pay attention to the friendship in your marriage. It’s true, the happiest couples are wonderful friends.

“There is no more lovely, friendly or charming relationship, communion or company, than a good marriage.” –Martin Luther

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Love Maps

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How well do you know your spouse? One important aspect of loving your partner is to become mentally familiar with their world. Remember when you first started getting to know your spouse? You would sit with them for hours over cold coffee and ask question after question. It is an exciting part of the courtship process. Just like with anything else, things change; old information must be replaced with new knowledge. At times, we even do a poor job of getting to really know our spouse in the first place.

John Gottman calls knowing your helpmate in this mental capacity a “love map.” He says, “Without such a map, you can’t really know your spouse. And if you don’t really know someone, how can you truly love them? No wonder the biblical term for sexual love is to ‘know’.”

So what exactly is a love map? Well, actually the Statler Brothers, of all people,  give us an excellent example of what a love map looks like in their song “The Official Historian of Shirley Jean Burrell.” Now, I get this is cornball stuff, but humor me. It is spot on.

I’m the official historian of Shirley Jean Burrell.
I’ve known her since Lord only knows and I won’t tell;
I caught her the first time she stumbled and fell,
And Shirley, she knows me just as well.
I can tell you her birthday and her daddy’s middle name,
The uncles on her momma’s side and ones they don’t claim
What she got from Christmas since nineteen fifty-two
And that’s just the beginning of the things I could tell you.
I can tell you her fav’rite song and where she’d like to park,
And why to this very day she’s scared of the dark;
How she got her nickname and the scar behind her knee,
If there’s anything you need to know ‘bout Shirley, just ask me.
I know where she’s ticklish and her every little quirk,
The funnies she don’t read, and her number at work;
I know what she stands for and what she won’t allow.
The only thing I don’t know is where, where she is right now.

The guy singing this song knows Shirley quite well! Knowing your spouse is a vital aspect to loving your spouse. Become a student of your partner. Ask questions. Watch their behavior. The more you two know about each other, the easier it is to remain plugged in as life does it’s best to disorient and distract. Part of a healthy marriage is creating your own love map. It is knowing what makes your spouse tick, their passions, fears, dreams, favorite flavors, treasured memories, and insecurities.

Do you know your spouse? If not, maybe it’s time to do some studying.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

I love to hear people’s stories. What is something you know about your spouse that no one else does? It is your perfect chance to do some bragging.

I know that Devon loves to be artistic. It is her therapy.
She can’t stay awake through movies.
She sleeps on her right side by default.
I know the patterns in Vera Bradley that she likes.
I know better than to say “Everyone knows that” to her.
I know she secretly likes that I make up songs that she pretends to be annoyed by.
That she loves people.
That she got her teeth stuck in pavement riding a bike when she was a kid.
I am learning to become the Historian of Devon Fults and having a lot of fun doing it.

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