Tag Archives: love

What have I learned in 15 years of marriage?

It’s unfortunate that celebrating a day like today is seemingly becoming more and more rare. I’ve found that for Theresa and I, there have been some crucial, hard lessons we’ve had to learn as a couple that have helped us get to where we’re at today. There are certain things in a marriage relationship that are unique to the individuals, but I think there are things that are universal, if you ever expect to spend the rest of your life with someone. This is what I’ve learned over 15 years. Let it be said, though, that some of the things I’ve learned continue to be struggles, continue to be worked on, and take constant, proactive effort. This is by no means a “I’ve figured it all out” list.

1. Communication. One of the most vital things we’ve learned is to communicate. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about menial day-to-day catching up, or discussing major decisions and events in our lives. If you do not communicate with your spouse, you do not succeed.

2. Compromise. Give and take has to occur if you’re going to thrive in the closest interpersonal relationship you will have with another human on this earth. And I’m not talking about wives who act like Stepford Wives, or guys who are so spineless they do everything their wife demands without question. Either of those scenarios do NOT lead to a healthy marriage, they lead to resentment. They lead to grumbling, complaining, and eventually, a volcano eruption that stifles #1. Furthermore, expecting either a Stepford Wife, or an unquestioning, always accomodating husband is unrealistic and unhealthy. By doing so, you’re stealing away a little bit of who that person is by the demand you put on them.

3. Patience. Face it, it’s going to take patience to deal with the idiosyncrasies in your spouse after Cupid goes away, the dust settles, the honeymoon ends, and it’s just the two of you. One of the worst things dating couples do in a relationship is to only reveal their best side. Doing so is a disservice to you significant other, and unfair. It shows them nothing of who you are in the good and bad times, it only shows what you want them to see. And if there’s one things we as people are good at, it’s hiding who we really are, and giving others only the perception of who we want them to think we are. When that fades away (and it WILL fade away), you’re going to need patience and grace. God knows Theresa has needed it in spades with me over the years.

4. Understanding. If your relationship is going to work, you’re going to need to try understanding their side, even when you don’t want to. This kinda goes along with communicating well, but in my estimation, relationships that work are such that each person understands and is pliable enough to entertain a perspective that is not their own.

5. Be Selfless. Something I’ve said for years now, is that the primary cause of any any ANY divorce or seperation is selfishness on one, but more often than not, both sides. One person’s selfishness often precipitates it, but at the core, it’s a selfish attitude on the part of both. We live in a selfish society, and selfishness is ingrained in us as part of the “American Dream” (the part few want to acknowledge exists). So it’s no surprise that a selfish attitude pervades in our relationships. Pride is a marriage killer, and it’s rampant. You’re a team, not an island.

6. Faith. I have found, for Theresa and I, that our shared faith in God has been a sustaining force in our marriage being what it is today. Knowing that not everyone shares our set of beliefs, I will say that at the very least, you should be on common ground with your spouse theologically. If you are not, you’re fighting an uphill battle. It will be difficult, especially if/when children come into the picture, to maintain commonality if a shared faith isn’t present. When kids hit the scene, suddenly the questions of “how are we going to raise this child?” come into play. It happened with Theresa and I, but we were on somewhat common ground throughout (even though our upbringings were different), and much of our spiritual journey happened in unison. I know that’s not the case with everyone though.

7. Realistic Expectations Another one that dovetails with a few previously listed. It’s amazing to me how relationships are so strained and broken apart as a result of unrealistic expectations put on the other person. Here’s a newsflash: At least to a certain degree, you KNEW what you were getting into when you got married. If you didn’t, then you’re silly for going in with unrealistic expectations. If you did know, then you have the responsibility to work at it, and MAKE it work. If that means you drop some of what you think the other person should be, or your “perfect” idea of what you want them to be, then drop it. It’s unfair to them, and again, it’s a resentment-builder for you. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. By doing so, you’re just giving yourself less room to be let down, and you’re operating in a little more of the grace you need just as much as the other person.

8. Apologize. If you’re never willing to admit you’re wrong (another selfish trait), you’re never going to have strong relationships with anyone, let alone a spouse. And while both sides need to know how to apologize, this one’s especially for the guys. Guys, have that macho pride thing going that women don’t deal with (at least not in the same ways, or to the same extent). So guys, when you say, “I’m sorry, but…” you’ve already disqualified your apology. Use any counterpoint or perspective to argue that, but I assure you, you’re wrong. I have found, over and over and over and…….that the times I’ve ONLY said, “I’m sorry”, are the times I didn’t have to worry about Theresa’s response or if she would “fess up” to her side of things. Trying to qualify your actions puts up a wall between you and your spouse. When you show that you are sorry, without trying to explain yourself away, your spouse will do the same (or at least should). Think of it as killing them with kindness. There are times I had to say sorry and leave it at that. There are times Theresa did as well. Do yourself a favor: Say you’re sorry. Then SHUT. UP.

I’ve told people for years now, that I know for a fact that my wife and I will never, ever separate, except by death. The response has always been, “Oh man, don’t say that. You never know what might happen.” If I can be frank, the people who most often say that to me are the ones who have failed at a marriage. I know that we won’t, because we both have practiced the things above. I know that we won’t because after 15 years, the last thing I would ever, ever do would be to intentionally hurt her or do something idiotic and selfish to damage our relationship. And I know the same can be said by her. THAT is what marriage is about, and that’s what a self-less, two-way, successful relationship is about. And I know that the truth of that will never, ever change with us.

Marriage is tough, no doubt. Another thing I think anyone who’s made it any length of time can authoritatively say is that if you can make it through the early years, you can make it. I think much of what I’m talking about here is most vital in the early (first 7-8) years of marriage. When we had issues early on (and believe me, we DID have issues) we resolved that we could either split, seek counseling, or sit down, drop the gloves, and put everything out on the table in an attempt to work through our issues, find reconciliation, grow, learn, and move forward together. So we did. We worked hard at it, had arguments, didn’t always agree, but worked through it and were better for it. If you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to get the result. It’s simple, but it’s true. An NBA player doesn’t become so by not practicing, and a marriage isn’t successful without endless, tiring but rewarding effort. Again, not saying this is some end-all, be-all list of how to make it work. But being married means you’re going to become a statistic. It’s just a matter of what kind of statistic you’re going to be.

I’m thankful for my wife. I’m thankful for the trials, the arguments, the rough patches, the fun, the joy, and the happiness she brings. And I’m thankful that she puts up with all the same with me.

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Paradox

Today I’ve seen and heard things that anger, sadden, and sicken me about humanity, and things that give me hope. I won’t go into it tonight for the sake of reprisal. What I will say, is that the paradigms come from the opposite sources of what one might expect. I’m choosing hope, because I won’t let despair have the last word.

Joy comes in the morning.

Happy Easter.

Colony Collapse & One Night Stands

About 2 1/2 years ago, a book idea was birthed by Mike Signorelli and myself called “Real On Nine”. It’s been a work in progress for some time. We’re hoping to let it see the light of day soon. The following is from a chapter called “Colony Collapse & One Night Stands”. Hope you enjoy.

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Honey bee colony collapse is a phenomenon that is believed to be caused by bee keepers that take too much of the honey for commercial uses. The bees are then given high fructose corn syrup in place of their own honey. Pushing these bees, taking the best of their product, and replacing with a lesser substitute is causing “colony collapse”. This is essentially what I see happening in our church world today. This one night stand mentality is the epitome of our throwaway society. We have to remember that souls coming into the kingdom aren’t another tally on Sunday, or even a confirmation that we’re right. How often do we forget about the workers in taking their product?

In this extravagant attempt to extract mass quantities of honey from bees, we have removed their sense of belonging, ownership, and appreciation. It’s not just new converts that are being abandoned–it’s the men and women who help run the show. We have to be very careful in our taking. What may eventually happen is that members are no longer stakeholders, but rather a means to serve self.

Humanity has proven that it has this way of misappropriating resources. We’ve proven that we crave excess at any cost. The idea that we can make money from “honey” is far more tantalizing than the thought of preserving the workers that make it possible. I’m afraid far too many churches have sought to exploit the creations of talented individuals without any regard for the longevity of the creator’s career. When the product is valued more than the producer—you can expect abandonment, bitterness, and resentment.

Many have turned in search of other colonies when they realize that their conversion was just another tally for attendance, or that their youth was just another public relations ploy. People want to know that they are in service of something real. They want to know that they will be developed, pruned, and molded in tender compassion. Colony collapse happens when the myth of genuine concern unravels. When people have been used at maximum potential, discarded, and forgotten, they come to the conclusion that the colony is in fact, not their own.

Historically, industrialization plays a major role in our collective mentality. This idea that “numbers” matter isn’t the stance that Christ would take. The most captivating moments in His ministry occurred when He crossed the line of socially appropriate and found someone alone. He wasn’t concerned with a pastor’s opinion about his productivity, youth retreat’s effectiveness, or minimum church attendance requirements. He was staring into the windows of a creation that longs for nothing more than only one inhabitant. He understood that their seemingly trivial affairs were paramount to unlocking potential. To disentangle an individual from their worries was to unleash a believer.

Isn’t this a model for ministry; that Christ would care most for the individual, that He would know each hair on our head? That He would care for each bird that annoyingly scavenges and chirps outside our ledge of luxury? That He would clothe each lily? But somehow, we’ve forgotten to take care of our brother who is infinitely valuable to the kingdom of heaven. Are his needs not our needs? Be careful not to misidentify what is waste and what is not. Don’t discard the china with the scraps. We are losing multitudes at the cost of a phone call. We are misdirecting passions at the cost of a letter. We cannot afford to return the riches of glory (people, not things) back to the wicked, because the Church couldn’t find time to care. Don’t take the busy bees for granted. Don’t take their product without reciprocating appreciation.

As soon as you accept Christ, you receive a mission. Religion has never, and will never accomplish the task. Start a dialogue with non-Christians in your life. Listen to them. Allow them the freedom to explain themselves without fear of judgment. After you’ve emptied your hand, you may empty your mouth. Christians have done a far better job of talking than listening. When you meet the physical and emotional needs of those around you, they are far more likely to believe in your Christ. The monologue must become a dialogue if we are ever going to successfully engage this generation. The Holy Spirit’s job is to change us. We will be far more effective when our friends are friends (rather than a potential number in the congregation). And we will never make a lasting impression on people if all we express of our faith is a works-based, morality driven theology that stresses a list of rules over a relationship based in love for our Creator.

Matt. 3:8 – “Prove by the way that you live that you have repented.”

Earlier we said that evangelism is most effective when it’s beginning and ending is found in our love for others. This is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. The Church has tapped into a truth that is impossible to the outside world. When we truly have a faith in Christ, we know that we can only love others to the degree that we love Christ. Our love we find through a faith in Christ comes from the basis of knowing His love for us (even though we sometimes forget it). What we forget is that we can only extend love to others around us to the extent that we love God.

I wonder if this truth hasn’t been forgotten in the 21st century, even in the church world. We search everywhere, some endlessly, to fill the void left by people who were absent from our lives. From the neglectful parent, the abusive relationship, and the abuse and neglect that came not from being absent, but from being present without speaking into our lives. Those scars have bore an indelible mark on who we are as humanity; a humanity that cries out for love, who looks countless places to fill the voids left by lack of relationship, or relationship that was not as it should have been.

If we are ever going to effect the change we say we want in the Church of the 21st century, we have to realize that we will never know how to love horizontally (other people) before we know how to love vertically (our Heavenly Father). We have to first love God before we can love others. This is the reason for so many shallow relationships in the world, but are we also making it the norm inside the Church? As time has progressed, we have become more impersonal, rather than doing life together, sharing in community, and looking out for our fellow man. We have not been a community like the prophet Nehemiah spoke about. We are not standing on the wall, ready to lift up our brothers and sisters when they fall. We’ve allowed gaps, entertained a divisive spirit, and looked out for ourselves, rather than helping one another and lifting each other up in love.

We are the body of Christ; we should act like it. The book of Acts illustrated a culture of community that wasn’t forced. Relationship was formed as a result of a desire for fellowship. We are most effective when we come together. In the spirit of fellowship and community is where we will thrive in truly fulfilling everything Christ has commanded us to be. It’s when we change our outlook on humanity that people around us will notice a love inside of us that extends beyond the differences that separate us. It is only then that true reconciliation with our fellow man can take place, and we can who God called us to be.