Monday, January 25, 2010

soul food: truly, madly, deeply stuck (commitment)

I genuinely believe that Charlie and I have a very good marriage.

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The reason for that is largely because I hit the jackpot in the husband department. After almost twenty years together ... and over 15 years of marital bliss ... Charlie gets me and for the most part, I get him. We go together like peas and carrots. We compliment each other well because we have learned how to draw upon each others strengths and ignore support each others weaknesses.

(Not that there are very many. At least not with me.)

Like most things in life, our marriage has had it's shares of highs and lows. But by and large, we've had more highs than lows. And there is no question in my mind or heart - this is the man I intend to spend the rest of my life with. Don't think for a minute I don't realize just how lucky I am. Oh yeah, baby!!

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Now there are so many good people I know who have had their marriages end in divorce. It is my most sincere hope that this post does not open any wounds for them, but instead - strengthens their next relationship. Not if, but when that next relationship happens. Because after witnessing my 76-year old mother marry a wonderful 85-year old man, I have seen firsthand that love is, indeed, as perennial as the grass.

So. Last night. We attended a church service and because it has become commonplace for me to download my notes following a particularly thought provoking sermon, I'm going to share what I considered the highlights of the service, here.

Are you ready for this profound message?

Marriage is a lot like a cell phone.

In the beginning, you loved your phone because it was so cool.

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Maybe your phone was cute. Or sexy. In a technological kind of way.

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But after a while, what you once thought was cool is now old and outdated. Perhaps you're noticing other people's phones and wanting what they have? There is no doubt that whatever it was that initially attracted you to your phone is now dwindling. What once sizzled now barely fizzles because it is so deadly familiar.

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Come on, who wants to be stuck with an old phone when you can get an upgrade? The time is ripe to get rid of the old (bag) phone and replace your model!

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The problem is, in no time flat, that awesome NEW model will be outdated, too.

Because it's impossible to keep up with technology.

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There was a little boy who was taking music lessons and his class was putting on a performance. The child knew all the words to all of the songs. He knew when it was his turn to sing and when it wasn't. He knew everything that he was supposed to do. But when the light was on him, he just stood there. His parents spoke to him and asked why did he not sing when it was his turn? And he very simply said, "I didn't want to."

He didn't want to be engaged in the performance and so he wasn't.

It wasn't about his inability to perform - it was about his attitude.

Changing your attitude is like changing your vision on life. Much like a new prescription for your eyes, can help you to see better, so a renewed commitment to embracing a better attitude in your marriage (and life) can help you to see things differently in your world.

Our minister spoke of his neighbor whose fence fell down in the recent rain storms. Much like his fence fell down last winter. And the winter before. And the winter before. And every year, the neighbor does a patch job. He pulls the fence up and hammers on some two by fours to keep it stable. But sure enough, the next rainstorm will inevitably knock the fence down again.

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Are you satisfied with the easy fix, while knowing full well the next storm will cause damage?

Or are you willing to make the commitment to do the hard work. To dig down, pour some concrete, and spend the time and energy required to make the structure stronger?

Do you want to maintain or thrive?

If you feel like your marriage is stuck, there are four commitments that will help to get your marriage UNSTUCK.

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Those four commitments are:

1) Commit to a long-term GROWING marriage.

Growing is an action and an investment.

Every marriage, even the good marriages, need a routine tune up.

In your marriage, are you surviving - struggling - or thriving?

Your marriage shouldn't just survive, it should thrive.

But do you know how to make your marriage thrive?

Yes? Well aren't YOU fabulous. You're excused for the day.

No? You are not alone. Please, read on.

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2) Commit to SERVING your spouse.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Roman 12:10)

...Live together in love as though you had only one mind and spirit between you ... None of you should think only of his own affairs, but consider other people's interests also. (Philippians 2:2,4)
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. (Oh damn. I've done that.) It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
The minister told a story that several years ago, his wife said to him, "It feels like you don't need me!" His first reaction was that she was correct. Of course he didn't need her. Why should he?! His father had died when he was a young boy and his mother went off to work. For the most part, he raised himself and in doing so, he learned to become fiercely independent and created a distance between himself and everyone around him.

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After a while, he didn't even consciously realize that there was a wall there. Until his wife pointed it out and slowly, but lovingly - and very deliberately - helped to break the wall down.

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To truly succeed in a marriage, you need:

A) Physical Intimacy - Hopefully, this doesn't require an explanation. If it does, read this.

B) Spiritual Intimacy - Help each other grow spiritually.

C) Mental Intimacy - Help each other problem solve.

And you also need to:

3) Commit to ENJOYING life together.
Enjoy life with your wife... (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

Enjoy life with your husband ... (Jen 1.24.10)
Marriage can become so routine and BORING. You absolutely need to enjoy the MOMENTS of life, together.

So, are YOU fun to be with?

Or are you uptight and tense?

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You must be deliberate in having fun. Every single week, carve out a day for you AND your spouse. Put it on the calendar. Write it in ink. Make this a top priority, each and every week.

Because if you do not make the time, the time will disappear.


In the book, "His Needs, Her Needs" Dr. Harley writes that the top five needs of a man are:

1) Sexual Fulfillment

2) Recreational Companionship (possibly redundant with #1, above?)

3) Attractive Spouse

4) Domestic Support (know how to run the house)

5) Admiration

And the top five needs of a woman are:

1) Affection

2) Conversation (feeling, not thinking)

3) Honesty

4) Financial Support

5) Family Commitment

Wow. Those sure are different lists, aren't they?

Do you know what the needs are of YOUR spouse?

Before you think, "Oh yeah. I know what their needs are, but what about my needs?!"

Just remember this:

Selfishness loses.

Giving wins.

If you want to win in a marriage - learn how to serve.

You might be surprised, shocked even - at how when you give love - you receive love.

And then some.

4) Commit to putting God (or, the light that shines within you!) FIRST.
.... If we are living in the light of God's presence... then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other.... (1 John 1:7)
"Remain in me, and I will remain in you... you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)
... The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Let's think about that passage above...

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control.

Do you think any of those things would help you feel better about yourself - your marriage - your life? Would any of those things help you to feel less stuck in circumstances that you believe are completely outside of your control?

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The closer you grow to God the more these fruits will be produced naturally.

Are you currently locked in to any bad habits that need to be changed?

Do you frequently withdraw from your spouse to do your own thing?

Do you go to bed at two different times?

Do you bicker and fight over the same topics?

Do you nag?

Do you spend quality time with each other during the week?

Do you routinely hug your spouse and tell them that you love and appreciate them?

Did you know that if you were to have sex 2-3 times a week, you would decrease your risk of heart disease by 45% and men would decrease their risk of heart attack by 50%?

Who thinks it's important to be healthy and live a long time?

OK then. I think that's a fairly succinct way of wrapping up this post.

Because my mother does read my blog, after all.

20 comments:

  1. Amanda E. in NC1/25/10, 9:28 AM

    10 or 11 thumbs WAY WAY UP. This is absolutely fantastic.

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  2. When I met Greg 20 years ago, he actually HAD that big giant bag phone in his Ford Granada. He just threw it out a couple months ago when we stumbled upon it in the closet. Of course we laughed ourselves silly over the size of it.

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  3. Jen,
    I love when you share your thoughts on sermons youve heard I believe it to be no coincidence that your post is about marriage when for the first time in my almost five year marriage this past weekend I felt my marriage was over, not I wanted a divorce but that possibly it was the end. We had come to an end two different people who have grown but not together as I talked and yelled with my husband I could not put into words what I needed from him with out sounding like a ungrateful B****h so what I wanted to say was expressed in so many ways in this post and Im printing it out with hopes my words will flow from your writing and my marriage will become all I had hoped it would become five years ago when I married my best friend.
    Thank you
    A.

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  4. The hubby and I are working one our marriage pretty hard. We have the added challenge of a military lifestyle and being apart every other year.

    We've been reading "We Love Each Other But" together, and it's been an eye opener. It has a lot of the same lessons you've laid out. If you and Charlie find yourselves looking for a good couple read, consider taking a look.

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  5. Ah Houston - I think I have a problem!

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  6. I loved this post. It expressed so well the thoughts that my husband and I share on marriage. I had a good example of these things in action while growing up. My parents have been married over 25 years and have been through marriage counseling 3 times. Some people look at that and think, wow, 3 times? They should just move on... but I look at and think, Wow...they must really love each other to have NOT given up. Even when they might not have liked each other or were angry at each other... their marriage was still worth it to them to fight for it, to try to work through it.

    Watching my parents grow in their marriage has given me a different perspective than most. To see them together now, and to see the obvious love that is there after so long and after all they've been through makes me very hopeful and determined to have the same committment to my own marriage.

    WONDERFUL post!

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  7. great post Jen.
    Last time you mentioned a calanedar and marking dates down... you were 8 months or so from having Henry :)
    Maybe just ONE more?

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  8. When I told Charlie I thought a fifth would be nice, he gave me a confused look and said, "Fifth of what? Scotch?!?!" And then he yelled, "Stay away from me WOMAN!" and ran away.

    I don't see there being one more.

    But you never know...

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  9. Oh Jenny Jenny Jenny...Did you know that Uncle Bill worked developing the smaller cell phone, we had a big one that fit under the seat of the car, his job was to reduce the phone by one half, and..he did. look at it now. Don't forget to hold hands nd do a lot of hugging.

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  10. Soul Indeed! Wonderful post.

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  11. Hi Jen!

    I rarely ever comment but this one really hit the nail on the head for me. My husband and I have been going through some real problems lately and were contemplating divorce. I have asked questions on some message boards asking (more like begging) for some advice on how to save my marriage. Tonight I found the inspiration to continue on, to not give up. You gave me hope and I just really want to thank you for that!

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  12. Don't give up, Rachel!

    Don't give up!!

    Make a date for yourself and your husband - even if it's something quiet that you do at home, one night. Have you read the book "Love Languages?"

    It's a great read and really helped Charlie and I last year.

    EVERYONE goes through rough patches ... but hang in there. With time, patience, communication and LOVE, you'll get through it and be stronger because of it. Promise. :)

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  13. Ok ... I need therapy :)

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  14. What does it mean if I clicked on "this" under physical intimacy? heehee I loved this post. It was excellent. I just have to add that if you can hang in there thru the bad times it is sooo worth it when you are on the other side. My DH and I were "minutes" away from a divorce after 10 yrs of marriage. And now look at us! Even with 6 kids running around and 3 of them babies were more in love with each other now than EVER! God is the biggest key and then sticking it out! It's Worth Everything You've Got!

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  15. I love when you're on a roll! Note that I said "on a roll" Jen, not eat a roll. Fabulous post! Although I'm not married, why do I suddenly feel the need to run out and find someone quickly? You know how I hate to be the last one in the pool. "Changing your attitude is like changing your vision on life." Does putting my house up for sale today count as a "change"? LOL

    XOXO AM

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  16. AM, you've got me cracking up. Surely you aren't the last one in the pool?! You, Carolyn N. and John C. can float around on rafts and sip iced tea, while trying to avoid the scores of nieces and nephews doing cannonballs off the diving board!!

    Way to go putting the house on the market. Wow - big changes are in store. I can't wait to hear what you do, next. Once everything clears, you'll start updating your blog again. Right?!

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  17. I loved Theresa's comment about her parents going through couples counseling three times. Isn't that a great example of really WORKING on your marriage? I see a therapist regularly to make sure I never need to be on anti-depressants again; surely long-term couples counseling (or a marriage mentor, or whatever you want to call it) should be as acceptable/available.

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  18. LOL Jen, you're so funny. Aside from the obvious, Carolyn N. is quite a bit older and isn't even a first cousin. Hee hee. Wait until I tell John. I'm sure he'll be thrilled at your comparison. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he drives out to California to thank you personally. He's been known to do crazy things like that. Anyway, let's not forget there are actually a few more single souls out there...your own brother is one of them, right? LOL

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  19. Thank God for that Church. I remember when we first went to that church at Christmas in a hall by the school and I loved it then and still do.
    Great Message and Auntie is right---remember to hold hands. Aunt grace and Uncle Bill have been a wonderful example of happy marriage in your life. Amen to that.
    MOM

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