Posts tagged Marriage

So, I Married A Lion

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Beaver_LionWhat do you know about your personality? Are you introverted? Do you enjoy being around people more than being alone? Adventurous? Perfectionistic? What are you like? Are you a thinker or a feeler?

There have been numerous personality tests developed to give us insight into what our overall personality is like, such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Jung Typology Test, and a score of tests based on what is known as the Five Factor Model. Before my wife and I got married, we made each other take the MMPI-II, which is the mother of all personality tests. It consists of 567 true false questions and takes quite a while to complete. When scored, it indicates whether one struggles with any psychological or emotional difficulties. It even indicates if a person is lying, trying to appear more normal, or trying to look crazy. We both passed enough to know that the other person wasn’t a serial killer.

This weekend, my wife taught a class and administered spiritual inventories and a personality test. The personality test she offered was one developed by Gary Smalley that bases personalities around animal characteristics. The categories are: lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver. It had been a while since we took the test and we laughed as we looked at the results. My wife is a Lion, and I am a Beaver. Our secondary result was Golden Retriever.

As you may suspect, Lions and Beavers are not very similar creatures. Lions, like my wife, tend to be goal oriented, direct, decisive, competitive, and enjoy a good challenge, but they are often too blunt and must temper their aggressive, goal-oriented behavior. Beavers, like myself, are orderly, respectful, have high standards, are problem solvers, steady, creative, and take their own sweet time. On the downside, Beavers often have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others, try to be to perfect, and are often inflexible.

In our household, whenever I am in true Beaver mode and my wife is being a Lioness, it looks like an episode on the Discovery Channel. Sometimes I chew on her and she growls! I say that in jest, but our differences are often what cause our conflicts.

I think there are a couple of things to remember about personality differences in marriage. Until recently, it was believed that personalities are fairly locked across one’s lifetime. That has recently come into question. I agree, I think some facets of our personalities do change, but I feel they are unlikely to dramatically change.

When it comes to marriage we often hear clichés such as “opposites attract”, but this is also contradicted by sayings like “birds of a feather flock together.” So which is it? From my experience doing a great deal of marital therapy, when couples differ greatly on important core issues this turns out to be a detriment to their marriage. Now, I am not saying if your core beliefs differ greatly from your spouses that your marriage is doomed to fail. I am simply saying it takes a great deal more work.

So marrying someone very like you when it comes to your values, worldview, and what you view as most important in life is very important. Yet, having differences in how you relate to and view the world can have its benefits. The fact that this beaver married a lion brings a set of advantages to our relationship. We temper each other. I bring some order and calm into her world and she brings adventure into mine.

You see, God uses marriage to help change us in certain areas. Marriage is like a mirror that reflects where your strengths and weaknesses are. It shows you areas of your personality that are strong, but also reveals your weaknesses.  I firmly believe that God uses marriage to make us more like Him.

I also think we should remember that we didn’t marry someone exactly like us, and this is a good thing. While sometimes our differences might be frustrating, this is how we grow and change. We must remember that we can’t change our spouse’s personality. We have to learn to accept and love their strengths and weaknesses. We must also learn to accept influence from one another. At times I need my wife to tell me that I am being too rigid and she needs me to temper her at times.

Don’t spend your marriage trying to turn a beaver into a lion or a golden retriever into an otter. Instead, appreciate what your spouse brings to the table and remember that marriage is a lifelong process where our different personalities sand the rough edges off of one another allowing us to become better people.

So what are you, a lion, otter, golden retriever or beaver? Take the test here for yourself and share your results!

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: No I’s In Us

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No Is in UsHow is it that two people that once desired to spend the rest of their lives together can come to a point where they can’t stand to be in the same room? What is it that leads to destruction in a marriage? Is it infidelity? Is it communication problems? Is it financial issues? Could it be bitterness or resentment? What is the root cause?

Most marriage problems can be traced to a single factor, yet it often goes unnoticed. It is an insidious enemy. It is something we all struggle with. No marriage is safe from it. It can crop up at anytime throughout life and is always destructive. The root cause of most marital problems is selfishness.

It is easy to be selfish, isn’t it? It comes natural. This is what makes it so difficult. While we have to take care of ourselves and meet many of our own needs, we often focus solely on ourselves. Our priority becomes our own happiness at the expense of our spouse. Often, we might not even realize that we have made ourselves the center of our own universe.

Many times, couples try to treat the symptoms. We try and improve communication, establish proper boundaries, look for unresolved conflict, deal with sexual frustrations, and curb spending habits. Yet, we have to ask, why are these problems in the first place? Is it possible that our infatuation with ourselves is what is fueling the problems in our marriage?

When we focus only on our needs we tend to manipulate others. We do what it takes to have our needs met. Selfish people communicate in a way that coerces others into seeing things their way. They use the other persons’ needs as a weapon. They withhold to punish the other and give in order to get. They use the resources of the other person on themselves when they can. They often appear to show concern for the other, but they do so when convenient or beneficial for themselves.

When we begin to see problems arise in our marriage, we tend to point the finger in our spouses direction. Instead of blaming, maybe we should take a look in the mirror. No one person is perfect within a marriage. Each side contributes to marital dissatisfaction and problems, yet often our love affair with ourselves is a substantial factor.

What needs does our spouse have that are we ignoring? Maybe it is time we stop focusing so much on ourselves. Maybe it is time we give without the expectation of getting? Maybe its time we be honest with ourselves and with the person we love.

No one wants to admit that they are selfish, yet most of us are. Selfishness is the arsenic of married life. It is a poison that we must seek to eliminate. It is time to die to ourselves for the sake of our marriages. We are to seek the good of the other, this is where we find happiness. When meet the needs of our spouse selflessly, and they do the same, we find that marriage becomes a joy and both parties feel cared for. There are no I’s in us. Let’s love our spouse more than we love ourselves.

Selfishness is the controlling force of sinful living. It is this motive which pulsates through the natural mind, emotions and will – self-pleasing, self-serving, living for self. – Walter J. Chantry

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.

Josh

Marriage Monday: Snuggle Much?

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snuggle muchThink back to when you first began dating your spouse? How often did you hold hands? Practically every spare second, right? How often did you hug or have your arms around each other? Often, no doubt. How often did you kiss, well, we won’t get too personal, but you get the point. Physical touch, especially non-sexual physical touch is often employed heavily during the dating relationship and through the honeymoon, yet as the years go by the physical touch wanes for many couples.

We should note that physical touch is an incredibly important part in relationships. It is, in fact, one of the five love languages according to Gary Chapmen. Interestingly enough, there are people out there that will even pay for it. A woman by the name of Jackie Samuel from Penfield, NY runs a business that sells “snuggles”. If you thought the guy that invented bottled water struck a gold mind (low overhead, it’s water folks) then what about Ms. Samuel’s snuggling entrepreneurial enterprise (talk about low overhead)? She charges $50 for 45 minutes of snuggle time. You can also purchase the “double cuddle” at $100 for 45 minutes and have a three way snuggle. Sounds ridiculous I know. Perhaps you are thinking the same thing I thought, “This has to be some form of prostitution.” Yet, Ms. Samuel is adamant that all clothes must stay on. It is time for snuggling only. Why? Because she believes in the power of human touch.

This is not to say that Jackie Samuel does not have her critics. Some view her as taking advantage of “lonely people”. Maybe it’s wrong to charge for a hug? Others salute her ambition and pioneering of a market that has remained untapped. Yet, the very fact that she manages to make some money doing this says something to the fact that people crave physical touch.

Back in the 1950’s, a psychologist by the name of Harry Harlow conducted some ground-breaking experiments. He took newborn Rhesus monkeys and separated them from their mothers. He then placed them into cages. Within each cage were two surrogate mothers. One was made of heavy wire mesh and held the infant monkey’s source of food, and the other was made of cuddly terry cloth. Each of the surrogate mothers was warmed by an electric light placed inside them. Guess which mother the baby monkeys preferred? It was the one with the soft, cuddly terry cloth. Even though the other wire mesh mother offered them food and warmth, the baby monkeys spent more time clinging to the soft, terry cloth mother. At times, they would even hold on to the mother made of terry cloth and stretch to the other wire mesh mother in order to drink their bottle. It lead researches to conclude that the need for closeness and affection is more than just needing warmth or sustenance.

Physical touch is a vital part of every marriage. We aren’t talking sex here. Guys, you see the words I am typing here? Your wife needs physical touch just for the sake of it. Not physical touch that always leads somewhere. Men need it as well. Yet again, often it goes out the window as schedules fill, children make demands, and chores pile up. Nights snuggling on the couch are often exchanged for a quick peck on the lips as one partner flies out the door.

So what am I saying? Guys, hug your wife. Ladies, hold your husbands hand. Spend some time snuggling. We need it. It is healthy. It relieves stress. It promotes intimacy. Five out five monkeys agree.

Oh, and it should go without saying. Your kids need it too!

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Sex and Meat Loaf

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Sex and Meat LoadWhat would you do to be loved? Back in the 90’s, the singer Meat Loaf belted, “I would do anything for love.” Doesn’t everyone want to be loved? It is a basic need that is innate. Everyone wants to receive and express love. The problem is, we are entirely willing to do too much for love and the consequences we face are devastating, both culturally and individually. Currently, about 1 out of 30 Americans successfully waits until after marriage to have sex. If that statistic is disheartening to you, remember that this represents over 10 million Americans that choose to remain abstinent until marriage, and they should be saluted.

It has been my experience as a mental health professional that women will often “do anything for love”, which often includes giving the most personal thing they possess, their virginity. Yet, if we wrote the male version of the song, it might be “I would do anything for sex”. Men will often artificially meet a need to be loved in order to enjoy a romp between the sheets. Now of course, sometimes it works the opposite way, but again, most female sexual addicts engage in sexual acts in order to meet an emotional need.

The fact of the matter is, America has become a nation of sex. It has become the driving currency. Sex has been hijacked, exploited, and manipulated to the point that it has become routine and commonplace. If one is single, having sex is the norm. Recently I was talking to a group of Christians and several made the statement, “If you are in your 20’s or 30’s then you are going to have sex. That is just the way it is.” But the truth of the matter is, we have made it that way. The remarkable thing about human beings is they have the capacity to override their sexual desires; though only 1 in 30 seem to be willing to do so.

I understand though, waiting to have sex is no longer in vogue. We are expected to enjoy sex whenever we feel like it and with whomever we like, as long as they are of age and consensual. Yet, what has this cost us? I would argue, a great deal. Scripture describes marriage, including having sexual relations, as “two becoming one flesh.” Sex is glue for the soul. Sex unites people in such a way that they become inseparable. When a couple has sex and then moves on to other partners, they carry pieces of the other person with them. This inevitably leads to problems.

A study published at Brigham Young University states, “Couples who reserve sex for marriage enjoy greater stability and communication in their relationships” and rank marital satisfaction 20% higher. According to a study at the University of Iowa, women who had sex as teens where at increased risk for divorce. Research at Western Washington University found that “having at least one other intimate relationship prior to marriage is linked to an increased risk of divorce.”

One does not need to pour over research, however, to see the adverse effects that the “sexual revolution” has had on America. To anyone that is cavalier in his or her sexual life I pose this question: Has having sex outside of marriage made your life better or more complicated? Has having sex outside of marriage brought you a sense of being loved or lead to more loneliness, emotional turmoil, and guilt? When you finally married after all of your sexual exploits, was your spouse excited to hear about the previous people you slept with or did you struggle with those memories by yourself? If your spouse had multiple previous partners do you fear being compared to those partners or feel that something that was meant for you was exploited by someone else?

Whenever I talk with youth I always like to ask them, “Do you want to have an amazing sex life after you are married?” I have never had one tell me “No, I hope my sex life after marriage is rotten.” They always look at me quizzically and respond with an enthusiastic “yes”! So I tell them the best thing they can do for their sex life later is not to have sex now. Because when two become one, they can’t become two again. You can’t unscramble eggs. Sure, God forgives us and offers us His wonderful grace, but we still face the consequences of our actions.

Meat Loaf would do anything for love, but he wouldn’t “do that”, whatever “that” was. We all want to be loved. We all want to give love. I think many of us have a fear not finding someone, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for a cheapened form of love and do “that”.

Let’s keep sex and love as two distinct entities, and allow sex to flow out of a committed, loving, marital relationship, the way it was intended to be.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Today Is A Big Day

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Big DayIt was five years ago today that my wife and I made the second greatest decision of our lives. We each chose one another. We chose to do life together until death steals one of us from the other. It is today that marks five years together. Aside from giving my life to Christ, there has been no other decision that has defined my life to a greater magnitude. I am compelled to give thanks for this amazing woman.

My wife and I’s relationship is far from perfect, but it is wonderful. It is filled with it’s share of joys and frustrations. Though I write weekly about marriage, it does not mean my marriage is the model marriage for all to see. Often I write to challenge myself to be a better person within my marriage. I write to encourage others to invest in their spouse and never slouch to maintain a status quo marriage.

With marriage being viewed in disdain by many, and the divorce rate being what it is, I simply hope to remind others that marriage is, in fact, a wonderful thing. One of the big problems with marriage is that we become selfish. We want what we want but often fail to realize that our selfishness poisons our own well. Nothing is broken about the institution of marriage. It still offers the great benefits and privileges it always has. It is we that have tarnished marriage with our egocentrism and selfishness.

Though no marriage is perfect, marriage can be such a rewarding experience. Life is incredibly short. Why not find someone that you can enjoy life with and spend your years growing old, dancing like a whirling dervish in rapture and delight? Life goes by in a blink. Enjoy the wife of your youth, as the Proverb says.

I am so incredibly thankful to love and be loved, despite both of our shortcomings. I am thankful to have someone to model grace in my life, but also hold me accountable. I am grateful that there is someone who knows my deepest fears and insecurities, but believes in me. I am glad to have someone to laugh and joke with, even if my jokes are bad. I am incredibly blessed to have someone that helps guard my heart from things that are destructive to me emotionally and spiritually. I am thankful to know that I can trust the person that raises my children to always guide them in the ways of God. I am thankful to have someone that encourages me and challenges me to be a better person.

I believe God uses marriage to do such a wonderful work in our lives. Let us hold it in high esteem. Let us approach it in a holy manner. Let us be thankful for the gift of the opposite sex. Let us not try to minimize the differences between men and women and celebrate those differences instead!

Devon, I am so incredibly thankful for you. You are a tremendous blessing. I would choose you again without hesitation. Thanks so much for choosing me. Let’s let these five years absorb into another fifty. How about it? I love you.

Marriage Monday: Giving Up My Right to Hurt You

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ForgivenessEver been hurt by your spouse? I certainly have. Is it because my wife is the wicked witch of the East? No, it is because she is human. My wife would say the same of me. There have been times where I have wounded her. If there is one thing that happens in every marriage it is this, couples hurt one another.

Though marriage is immensely satisfying, it is also somewhat messy at times. What should we expect? Marriage involves taking two imperfect, selfish people, placing them in close proximity, and highlighting every flaw and shortcoming they have. In this arrangement, someone is going to get hurt, though the degree often varies. Sometimes the emotional pain or psychological wounding is immense, leaving deep, pitted scars that will never completely heal. Other times the hurt is gotten over fairly quickly.

Regardless of when the offense is committed or the degree of severity, all relationships deal with their share of wounds, yet some allow the wounding to stall their marriage and others move past it. So what is it that determines whether a couple is able to make progress and move forward in their marriage when one or both parties have been hurt? Prepare yourself for this F-Bomb. The key to marriages that are able to heal after pain is inflicted is forgiveness. To some, the word forgiveness might as well be a bomb. “I am suppose to forgive him for what he did? Never! We can move forward, but I can’t forgive.” Yet, to not forgive is to stay stuck in marriage.

One thing I have noticed in every married couple experiencing problems that I have worked with is unforgiveness. When a couple refuses to forgive one another for hurts committed (which are inevitable, though not justifiable) they resign themselves to staying stuck. In Hebrews 12:15, the writer speaks about a “root of bitterness.” Unforgiveness is like a root. When we don’t forgive, the root presses downward ever deeper. The root of bitterness branches out in every direction and becomes more difficult to uproot. These roots send stalks upward that eventually turn into a tree which cause problems in life. The longer this plant grows the more destructive it becomes and the more difficult to remove. Unforgiveness is extremely destructive.

Despite the cancerous nature of unforgiveness, it is often present in many marriages, for one reason or another. Some couples don’t bring up past hurts because they are fearful of doing so. Some keep quiet because of their pride. Others might feel they don’t have the right to do so, or that their hurt is childish. Yet the truth us, when we are hurt we have to deal with it lest the “root of bitterness” start to grow. We must acknowledge the hurt, discuss it, work through it, and then forgive the other person.

Yet, for many, forgiving their spouse (or anyone for that matter) is a difficult task, but it is necessary if we want to be happy and free of the pain we experienced in the past. So what exactly is forgiveness? Archibald Hart captured the exact nature of forgiveness when he said, “Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you for hurting me.” You see, forgiveness is releasing someone of a debt. Often, our spouse takes something from us (it could be time, peace of mind, comfort, peace, trust, security, happiness, a dream, etc.). Due to the fact that they took something a debt/debtor relationship is established. They owe us back what they took, but often what they took cannot be repaid. They may be able to apologize and make amends, but they may not be able to return what they owe us. So forgiveness is saying, “You don’t owe me anymore. I surrender my right to hold it over your head.”

Often you will hear people say, forgive and forget. Though time often has a way of making the past hazy, much of the time we don’t forget the past. They have still yet to actually invent those neuralyzers from Men In Black that erase people’s memories. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that we forget what happened, but it means we act as though we have forgotten. It means we never reach into the past and bring it back up again. It means when things get difficult that we don’t recall past hurts, and use them as a weapon to assault our spouse.

When it comes to marriage someone is going to get hurt. It is the result of two fallen people trying to do life together. Healthy marriages employ forgiveness and are able to work past their wounds. Couples that hold on to their pain eventually self-destruct. Forgiveness is a choice. We can choose to forgive, or we can stay in bondage. The choice is ours. Yet, when we choose to forgive we choose life for ourselves and our marriage.

When I become bitter or unforgiving toward others, I’m assuming that the sins of others are more serious than my sins against God. The cross transforms my perspective. Through the cross I realize that no sin committed against me will ever be as serious as the innumerable sins I’ve committed against God. When we understand how much God has forgiven us, it’s not difficult to forgive others. -C.J. Mahaney

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Working Past the Nail In Her Head

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This video has been making its way around the Internet with great gusto. With anything like this, there are always those that see it as offensive. Obviously, it is meant to be tongue in cheek. There is also variation within the sexes as to how we handle communication and emotions. Yet, to a large extent, most can relate to this video. I cannot count the women I have heard express within couples counseling, “He just doesn’t listen. He always wants to just jump in and fix the problem.”

Undoubtedly, it isn’t always men that are fixers. Some women are quick to jump in with recommendations. There are also some men that are better listeners than most women. One cannot help but notice, however, that there is a definite difference among the sexes when it comes to this issue. On average, most women want to be heard (don’t we all?) and men are quick to jump in with solutions. It’s the way men’s minds work. When we hear a complaint/problem our minds automatically go into problem solving mode.

The guy in this video is obviously frustrated. In fact, you almost feel frustrated for him. All he wants to do is help his wife get the nail out of her head. He simply wants her problem to go away. He sees exactly what the issue is. It is pretty cut and dry. One yank and his wife’s world would improve drastically. No more head pain or snagged sweaters.

This video is fascinating because it forces us all to see things from our spouses’ perspective. It compels us to explore how well we communicate with one another and accept influence from our spouse. When it comes to this age-old issue of men being fixers and women wanting to simply be heard there are some things we should consider.

First, women are not by nature irrational (though this video candidly portrays the female that way somewhat). Sure, women are irrational at times, but so are guys. I also believe that most women want to have their problems resolved. I say most because some do not. Some want to hang on to problems because it gives them an excuse to act a certain way (again, men do this as well). I also think many women want and appreciate their husband’s input. So what is the problem? The problem is that often guys don’t LISTEN before they try to help or offer insight. How can we help if we don’t have the full story? Instead we should ask questions and make sure we understand what is going on.

Second, us guys need to remember that just because our wives are telling us about a problem does not mean that it is our job to fix it. Our wife may be painfully aware of the nail protruding from her forehead, so to speak. She may simply want to discuss it with us before she deals with it herself. Again, our job is to listen and encourage. She is aware of the problem and the solution. Sometimes she might just be wanting to process things out loud.  Just listen and let her do her thing.

Third, wives (and husbands) should accept influence from their spouse. There are times when it is incredibly obvious what the solution is to a problem. There are certain times when it is appropriate to offer help after the full story has been heard. Remember ladies, you married this person because you trusted their judgment and believed they wanted the best for you (at least I hope that is the case). So maybe he does have some helpful information?

I have learned in my own marriage to simply ask my wife what her expectations are. When she is discussing a problem I simply ask a question, “Am I suppose to just listen or help fix this?” That simple question goes a long way. There are times where she says “Just listen” and others where she openly welcomes any advice.

So what is the takeaway? We need to remember that the men and women are different, and though this can be frustrating at times it is also wonderful. Often, our differences are an asset within our marriages. Also, communication involves listening and actually hearing what the other person is communicating. We will do well to remember that our spouse wants the best for us and is eager to help. When all else fails, find out what our spouse wants. It is much easier to deliver if we know what they need in the moment.

So what are your thoughts? How do you relate to this video?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.

Josh

Marriage Monday: A Wife’s Job Description

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Recently, I shared what I feel like my job description looks like as a husband and encouraged others to sit down and do the the same. I found that I learned a great deal from putting my responsibilities on paper. This week, my gracious wife has written what she feels is her job description. I hope it is a challenge and encouragement to some of the women that read this.

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Wifes JobThe first job I ever had was working as a preschool teacher at a daycare. I was fresh out of high school, single and needed money for college. I was desperate. I met with my soon to be supervisor and reviewed the job description which ended with the phrase, “Fulfill all other duties deemed necessary…” That phrase seemed innocent enough. I agreed and was placed as the sole teacher with eight two year olds. Which, I’m sure, if I had known to check, was against some sort of licensing standard. I showed up for my first day of work, clean, excited and ready to play. I thought it was my dream job. I get paid to play and the only real requirement was to keep 8 two year olds alive for 8 hours. I could totally do that! I quickly figured out I was in way over my head. I was just like chum in the water for these snotty nosed little sharks. Don’t get me wrong, I love two year olds, I have one of my own, and spend a lot of time as a therapist working with two year olds. They are precious, when they aren’t all locked in a small room with sharp objects, glitter and non-washable markers for hours and hours on end. By noon, I had cleaned just about every bodily function off just about every surface in the class room. My day ended promptly at 5:30p with another screaming so long lunch came out of her nose. Apparently, this was a common thing, the hot dog launching, I mean. Had I known this is what the phrase, “All other duties” meant, would I have taken the job. No way!!!!

What about when it comes to marriage? Have you ever had the thought, “I didn’t sign up for this?” What instruction were you given before making one of the biggest commitments of your life? Josh and I both are very strong advocates of pre-marital counseling. We went through extensive premarital counseling and enjoy providing that counseling for others. I feel it is a requirement, but many people don’t go through the counseling process. Even for those of us that do, there is still a great deal to figure out. Learning to communicate, manage finances, establish boundaries and assign priorities all sound fine when discussed in an office with the person you love, but applying the many concepts discussed in pre-marital counseling is in itself another challenge.

This is why I think it important to identify what our “job description” should be within our marriages. If we don’t identify what our duties are and what is most important we will find ourselves doing things that are of little lasting significance, or perhaps spending our time on good things instead of great things. With that being said, here is my personal job description.

1. Respect my husband. A man’s biggest need, even ranking higher than any physical need that might come to mind, is respect. So what is respect? How do I respect my husband? Respect means when we have disagreements I don’t talk negatively about him to others. When I tell jokes, they are not at his expense. I ensure that his image and character are not torn down by me, either publically or privately. As a wife, I hold the keys to my husband’s heart in many ways. What I believe about him, is a lot of what others will also believe about him. I should be building up his character and image. When we disagree, I respect him enough, to discuss it within the boundaries of our own home. And when we do discuss those things privately I don’t attack his character. We all know those hot button issues and key phrases we can say to make our spouse fly off the handle. Respect means “not shooting below the belt” and disagreeing in a respectful way. It means, even when I’m mad, I don’t make jokes or condescending comments about his flaws or insecurities.

2. Trust in my husband’s leadership or put another way the “S” word, I submit. Sure, it is easy to say that, but what does it actually mean? It means that I spend time in prayer with and for my husband. I should trust when he speaks that he is speaking with our best interest at heart. Does this mean what he says goes all the time? No, instead we discuss big decisions together and when he speaks, we listen. We trust him to make decisions regarding our family’s well-being. Together we should pray for our children and that they would be sensitive to what God wants for them. How do I know I can trust and submit to him? I see him living out God’s word. I see him being sensitive to my needs and the needs of our children.

3. To meet the needs of my husband and family. This means investing in my husband and kids emotionally, financially and spiritually. It means having enough of me to go around. It means emotionally that I have something to offer to them. If I am so exhausted emotionally just from being a mommy to give back, then I am not doing something right. And I get it, I totally get it. I have two kids under three and wish at times I could be the one to climb up in the crib for the morning naps. It means I take care of myself, so I can take care of them. It also means I put down my phone, get off Facebook or quit watching television, to pay attention to what they are saying. I am available, truly available and present. It means I am not so wrapped up in my own insecurities and hang ups that I am able to plug into their lives. It means engaging with my toddler when he wants me to play with his Legos again. It also means being intentional with affirmation and conversation with my husband. Do I remind my husband that we love him, appreciate him and respect him? I need to take time to let him know his hard work is appreciated and our family is grateful for his leadership. Do I take time to meet his physical needs as well? Not out of obligation but in appreciation and love.

Financially, am I wise with our money? Whether I work inside and outside the home, it doesn’t matter. It is imperative I make wise decisions with the money God has blessed us with. This conveys to my husband that his work and our work is valuable and allows him to have confidence in me. We should pray daily. Pray that God continue to give him wisdom, guidance and clarity as he leads.

Spiritually speaking am I where I need to be? Do I actively seek Him on a regular basis? Am I seeking out accountability and Godly counsel in my life? This means being able to be open and honest with other women I trust about my insecurities, my doubts and my struggles. Marriage and mommyhood definitely do not come with an instruction manual. God is faithful to provide those around us to encourage us. Do my kids see me pray and live out tangibly what I speak?

4. To take care of the family. He needs to feel secure. It is imperative that he sees me working hard and knows that I am concerned about the future of our family. Making wise decisions with our money is only part of that.  I, alongside my husband, should ensure we have what we need set aside should trouble come. We should work to have money saved, supplies we need and be giving with the abundance. This allows my husband and my kids to not worry “what if?” A written budget should be generated each month because if we don’t measure it we will never manage it. A college fund and retirement plan should be invested in each month.

5. To be second. This is probably the hardest one for me, and a lot of women I would assume. This means thinking of my husband’s needs ahead of my own. It means putting the kids to bed, again, when he is working. It means putting aside my expectation for the day for the needs of my husband and family. This does not always come easy. It means not complaining when it feels like the workload in the marriage is 75% to 25% but instead serving with a joyful heart and remembering times in the past when he shouldered the weight of the work load for a time.

6. To be an encourager. I should be my husband’s biggest cheerleader. I should never make demeaning remarks, especially in front of others. My speech should be seasoned with grace and respectful. Wives we drastically underestimate the power our words has in our husband’s lives. We can speak life, encouragement and hope into their hearts, or we can be an echo of the discouragement and hopelessness that is so easily found outside the walls of our home. We have to understand what weight we carry in their lives and act accordingly. Are you encouraging your spouse? Are we choosing to be critical instead of encouraging? It means choosing to believe the best despite and not flying off the handle because of my assumptions.

7. To keep my eyes and mind pure. It means my husband is the only man meeting my emotional needs. It is not appropriate to rely on another man to listen to my issues or insecurities. Our emotions, as women, are a fast track to our hearts. Opening this door to another man is not fair to my husband. It’s having clear boundaries with whom I share my “dirty laundry” with.

When you put your job description down on paper it becomes rather sobering. This is a tremendous task to live out and live well. I think it is easy to forget just how big of a job being a wife and mother is. This is why we should sit down and figure out what is important and what our job is as a wife. Many of these areas I fail at on a daily basis, but some days I do well. Yet, if I don’t figure out what I should be doing how will I know whether I am doing well or poor?

Marriage Monday: A Husband’s Job Description

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Husbands Job DescriptionThe first job I ever had was selling “media” at Best Buy. Though I am glad to have moved on to other career endeavors, it wasn’t a bad first job for a single guy that enjoyed all things geek. My first day at work was trial by fire, my only instruction was not to wreck the forklift and to sell stuff, and I did just that. Yet, I wonder to what degree my sales would have increased had I received more input and instruction. It would have been nice to have gotten more information on various merchandise, service plans, navigating overstock, using software, and what my exact responsibilities were. More information never hurts.

What about when it comes to marriage? What instruction were you given before making one of the biggest commitments of your life? I am a strong advocate of pre-marital counseling. I feel it is a requirement, but many people don’t go through the counseling process. Even for those of us that do, there is still a great deal to figure out. Learning to communicate, manage finances, establish boundaries and assign priorities all sound fine when discussed in an office with the person you love, but applying the many concepts discussed in pre-marital counseling is in itself another challenge.

This is why I think it important to identify what our “job description” should be within our marriages. If we don’t identify what our duties are and what is most important we will find ourselves doing things that are of little lasting significance, or perhaps spending our time on good things instead of great things. With that being said, here is my personal job description.

1. To lead my families’ spiritual development. Sure, it is easy to say that, but what does it actually mean? At the foundation it means that I keep myself spiritually healthy. Am I spending time with God daily? Am I growing in my understanding and application if scripture? Am I listening to what God wants for my family and I? It also means that I spend time in prayer with my wife. Together we should pray for our children and that they would be sensitive to what God wants for them. Promoting the spiritual development of my family means that they see me applying God’s word instead of just reading it or discussing it. It also consists of teaching my children why our family lives the way we do and why we believe in the God of the Bible. It means equipping them with answers about why the Bible is trustworthy, why we should take the claims of Christ to be historically accurate, knowing the evidence for the resurrection, explaining why bad things happen to good people, and why God is trustworthy. It will involve helping them understand where they came from, what their purpose is in life, what their identity is in Christ, and where they are headed. They should also know my journey that brought me to Christ and the mistakes I have made in the past.

2. To meet the needs of my wife. This means listening to what she has to say without trying to fix things. Giving her time without being distracted. Making time to do things that make her feel special. Not trying to change her unique personality or gifting that does not coincide with my own. Allowing her time to do things that recharge and rejuvenate her. I need to invest in her emotionally and express my own emotions. Communicate that she is loved, valued, respected, and needed. She needs be understand that she is the most significant thing in my life outside of Christ.

3. To provide financially. She needs to feel secure. It is imperative that she sees me working hard and knows that I am concerned about the future of our family. Making money should not be an end in itself. The pursuit of stuff cannot come at the expense of our family. My wife and the kids should see me giving of our finances, both to God and those in need. A written budget should be generated each month because if we don’t measure it we will never manage it. A college fund and retirement plan should be invested in each month.

4. To be second. I will be honest, putting my needs on the back burner does not come naturally. Yet, Christ is to be our model here. Ephesians 5:25 admonishes us to love our wives, just as Christ loved the church. This means it is a husband’s job to make sacrifices. It means I don’t gripe when I have to take on extra responsibilities at times. It means I get up when kids scream and let her sleep at times. I will need to help her shoulder some of her duties at times even when I don’t feel like it.

5. To be an encourager. I should be my wife’s biggest cheerleader. I should never make demeaning remarks, especially in front of others. I am to control my temper and not lash out or try and manipulate by being silent. My speech should be seasoned with grace and respectful.

6. To keep my eyes and mind pure. It’s easy to find things to look at that are not honoring to God or my wife. I can choose to let my eyes linger on the low necklines or high hemlines. I can decide to entertain sinful thoughts or push them from my mind.

7. To represent Christ. My actions should reflect God’s care and concern for my wife. My son’s relationship with God will be understood by how I relate to him. My daughter will see how a man should treat a woman by how I relate to her and her mother. The biggest thing I can do for my children is to love my wife like God does.

When you put your job description down on paper it becomes rather sobering. This is a tremendous task to live out and live well. I think it is easy to forget just how big of a job being a husband and father is. This is why we should sit down and figure out what is important and what our job is as a husband. Many of these areas I fail at on a daily basis, but some days I do well. Yet, if I don’t figure out what I should be doing how will I know whether I am doing well or poor?

Take the initiative to be the spiritual leader in the home – to pray, to worship at church, and to study God’s Word.  Take the initiative to see that finances are in order, needs are met and your wife feels financially secure.  Take the initiative to ask forgiveness, resolve conflict and ensure your home is a place of encouragement and safety. –Dennis Rainey

So, what does your job description look like? What would you add or take away from this list?

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

Marriage Monday: Mad Men

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madmenRecently, I was sitting on the couch doing some reading while the rest of my family slept, when my phone chirped. It was a message from a good friend that asked, “Why do so many men struggle with anger?” While many women battle with anger, it seems that men as a whole are more susceptible when it comes to letting anger get the best of them. This is mostly because majority of men have a much lower emotional intelligence than do women. Again, there are plenty of men that have high levels of emotional intelligence, but in general, most men lack an adequate understanding of emotions and the expression thereof.

Anytime I discuss anger, I always like to give the reminder that there is nothing wrong with anger. It is just like any other emotion. God created anger, and it serves a beneficial purpose. It keeps us from getting walked on by others, it helps us stand up for injustice when we see it, and it lets us know where boundaries are too weak. Jesus got angry. There is nothing wrong with anger. It is the way that anger often gets expressed, or not expressed, that is the problem.

Anger becomes a problem when it becomes aggressive. When we try to harm others, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, or mentally, anger has become a problem. The anger has moved from being an emotion and has become an intent to wound someone else. Aggression isn’t always expressed outwardly. Many men (and women too) think “Well, I am not slamming doors, yelling, or hitting my spouse so I must not have an anger problem.” But this assumption isn’t true. We are all also familiar with the term passive-aggressive. This is where the intent to wound someone is still there, but it is done by flying under the radar. It is where the silent treatment is given to punish or manipulate the other person. The passive-aggressive person might also withhold or stop meeting the other persons needs intentionally. It can also simply be sneaky meanness. I once new a guy that scrubbed the toilet with his wife’s toothbrush because he was so mad at her and she never knew (don’t worry honey, I would never).

Anger is also a problem when a man is passive. This means he never speaks up and talks about when he gets angry. He wants to avoid conflict, so he just says, “No, big deal. It isn’t worth bringing up.” Sure, some things are worth letting go, but some issues must be dealt with. The passive man eventually gets bitter because he never speaks up and the same problems reoccur.

So why do so many men struggle with not handling anger correctly? Because many men don’t understand why they are angry in the first place. You see, anger is called a secondary emotion. This means that majority of the time; there is an emotion behind the anger. The real emotion stays hidden and the anger gets expressed.

The emotion behind the anger could be anything. A man might feel disappointed, lonely, rejected, embarrassed, hurt, fearful, or any of the other dozens of emotions, but instead of identifying and dealing with the underlying issue anger gets expressed, and often with gusto.

Women often tend to fare better at identifying emotions because they are socialized with a better understanding of emotion and taught that it is healthy to express emotions. Many men, though this trend seems to be changing some with newer generations, are taught to suppress emotion because “guys have to be tough and don’t need to talk about all that stuff.” This later comes at a great price to many men because they don’t know how to identify, much less communicate, what is wrong in their lives. In creates problems in their marriages because when anger becomes aggressive it creates a rift in the relationship, and when men are passive they become bitter and a rift is also created. Either way, distance results in the relationship.

So the first thing men must learn to do is ask, “What is the emotion behind the anger. What is it that is making me mad?” “Am I feeling disrespected, taken advantage of, hurt, lonely? Just exactly what am I feeling?” Simply being mad, and communicating that we are mad does not do anything to fix the underlying problem.

Next, once the underlying emotion behind the anger is identified, it must be communicated and dealt with. Here, another struggle arises for us guys. Many men, even though they might know what the problem is, refuse to discuss the underlying emotion because doing so comes with a certain price, being vulnerable. It is much easier to be mad and act mad than it is to say “When you talk to me that way it makes me feel small”, “When you said that it really hurt my feelings” or “When you invest time in so many areas with little left for me I feel lonely.” Having conversations about our emotional hurts, insecurities, vulnerabilities and problems is not comfortable, but unless we do, the problem will keep occurring, our anger will continue to be expressed poorly and in a damaging way, and our spouse will wonder “Why is he so mad all the time?”

So, to all of us “Mad Men” what is at the core? What emotions are we allowing our anger to hide? We must work to identify them, label them, and then discuss them. Let’s not wait until our wives and kids begin to ask, “Why is he so mad all the time.” Anger can be destructive, but it doesn’t have to be. It is healthy when used as directed.

Identify. Label. Discuss. Change. Heal. Live.

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh

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