We're on the Same Side

Do you sometimes find yourself competing with your spouse over who is right or whose way will prevail in a decision or conflict? This type of friction is present in many marriage relationships.

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When conflict arises, many couples are quick to take opposite positions on the “battle line.” Husband and wife see each other as adversaries to be defeated. We’re out to score a victory for “our side,” to show the enemy who’s boss, to make sure our cause is vindicated—even if it’s only where we squeeze the toothpaste tube.

We have borrowed a saying from our friend Dennis Rainey that we often share at our marriage conferences: “My spouse is not my enemy.” Isn’t that a freeing thought? Marriage is not a war. Personal preferences are not beachheads to be conquered at all costs. Differences of opinion are not battles to be won. Hey, you’re on the same team! Conflicts and difficulties are things to be worked out together in a spirit of teamwork and cooperation for the mutual good. Yet so often we chip away at each other, jostling to come out ahead. And we end up offending and hurting each other in the process.

Here is a starting point for any confrontation, a starting point that virtually guarantees your confrontation won’t turn into a battle. Begin with these four words: “Let’s pray together first.” These words will not only disarm any conflict but also set the stage for a constructive, decision-making discussion.

“Wait a minute,” you may be saying, “are you suggesting we should stop to pray over stuff as minor as which way to hang the toilet tissue and which end of the toothpaste to squeeze?”

To be sure, you need to be praying about the significant decisions you must make, such as a possible job change, where to attend church, whether or not to homeschool your children, major financial decisions. But you probably don’t need to pray specifically about minor details like toilet tissue and toothpaste. However, usually lurking behind even these small conflicts is an issue of control: Who will decide between two relatively equal but minor options? Whose preference will be honored? At this point, a moment of prayer can unify the two of you and clarify your goals.

Prayer makes a positive impact on the resolution of conflict. It welcomes into the debate a third party—Jesus—and determines that you are willing to play by his rules. When you both decide to meet on Jesus’ turf, you are naturally opening yourself up to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit as the grounds for making your decision and resolving your conflict. You will be challenged to ask, “What does the Bible say about our situation? Are there clear commands we need to obey? What other biblical principles apply to the issue?” When you look to God’s Word, you level the playing field by welcoming God’s solution.

When you find the courage to say, “Let’s pray together first,” be prepared to say a few more things in order to clear up the conflict and heal any hurt you may have caused.

“I was wrong.” When the Holy Spirit reveals your part in offending your spouse, it’s not enough to say, “If you think I did something wrong, let’s talk about it.” Nor is it appropriate to say, “I don’t think it was such a big deal, but if you think it was...” Tell it as it is with statements like these: “I was wrong”; “What I did/said was wrong”; “I offended you, and it was wrong”; “I need to talk to you about what I did to hurt you.”

“I’m sorry.” Admitting you were wrong is very important, but you also need to express your sorrow over the hurt your wrong behavior caused: “I was wrong, and I’m so sorry that I hurt you.” By expressing your sorrow, you demonstrate empathy for your hurting spouse.

“I don’t ever want to hurt you this badly again.” Saying you were wrong is a statement of confession. Saying you are sorry is a statement of contrition or sorrow. They must be followed by a statement of repentance, which expresses your desire to turn from your hurtful ways. “I don’t want to hurt you again” is a way of saying any hurt you cause is unintentional and distressing to you. Repentance opens the door to deep healing.

“Will you forgive me?” Here you place yourself at your spouse’s feet, taking the servant’s position. It is a demonstration of your humility. Anything less than acknowledging your wrong, your sorrow, your repentance, and your humility is cheap forgiveness. The full approach, which is bathed in prayer together, is forgiving love at its best.

If there’s a conflict brewing in your marriage, take the initiative today to bring the two of you together in prayer and find a resolution that will heal that hurt.

*For more practical advice on connecting with your spouse, we'd recommend the Renewing Your Love devotional. It's available in our online bookstore!

The Danger of Unhealed Hurts

We know military families face stressors civilian families don’t. Military families move an average of every two to three years, and face unpredictable schedules of deployments and separations.

Photo by   burak kostak   from   Pexels

Photo by burak kostak from Pexels

In the average marriage, many things can come up to cause hurt. In a military marriage, you face all those things and more. Research has shown that active-duty military families can have a “spill-over” effect of anxiety which flows from the marital system into sub-systems and even extended family systems.

(source: Daniel Dashnaw, “Military Marriage Counseling and Marital Conflict,” https://couplestherapyinc.com/military-marriage-counseling-and-marital-conflict/)

Unhealed hurt from a conflict in your relationship can trigger anger. Anger is a secondary emotion, typically following hurt, disappointment, or fear. It’s what grows out of the offense and the hurt when they are not dealt with quickly. Unleashed anger only makes things worse in a conflict and becomes another hindrance to resolving it peacefully. 

When we talk about anger in a marriage relationship, we share what we call the “baked potato syndrome.” Picture a big, brown russet potato in the oven. You turn on the heat and the potato begins to warm. Given sufficient time, it bakes to a fluffy white inside, ready for butter, sour cream, chives, and bacon bits. But if you forget about the potato and let it bake too long, it could explode and make a mess in your oven. This illustrates what can happen when offenses, hurts, and anger are allowed to heat up through lack of loving action. The result can be a disaster.

You will be better equipped to deal with anger in your marriage if you understand the different types of anger and identify why you respond the way you do. There are three varieties of the “baked potato” of anger: situational anger, displaced anger, and chronic anger. Each one has a different cause.

Some anger responses are situational, triggered by specific events. You can almost predict it: When a certain something happens, one of you reacts with anger. Behind every eruption of situational anger are offenses and hurts that have not been resolved. The sooner you close the loop on offenses and hurts, the less damage you will suffer—or inflict—from anger.

Another variety of anger is one counselors refer to as displaced anger. Rather than confronting and dealing with the direct cause of the anger in a situation, the offended spouse expresses his or her feelings indirectly. Displaced anger may not be as damaging as other forms, but it still leaves a painful open loop in the relationship.

A third type of anger resulting from unhealed hurts is chronic anger. When an open loop is not closed in a timely manner, the hurt and anger are often shoved to the background and ignored. Because it is unresolved, this anger can flare up again and again. Buried wounds and anger generate an assortment of psychological and physical stresses that can ruin a person’s perspective on life and eat away at the soul. People with chronic anger are like loose cannons, ready to blast away whenever someone unwittingly touches off the fuse.

Unless you and your spouse learn how to work through your hurt and anger, you will likely find yourself on an emotional roller coaster that never slows down. Stuffing anger into some dark corner of your heart may temporarily help you skirt past a conflict, but the anger doesn’t go away. Venting anger through a verbal tirade, an argument, screaming, crying, or slamming doors may help you let off a little steam, but it won’t solve the root problem and you will explode again and again. The longer you allow the cycles of stuffing and exploding to continue, the more you will hurt yourself and your spouse.

Much of the hurt and anger you experience in your marriage relationship are the result of unresolved conflicts between you and your spouse. They are all part of open loops, and the longer the loops remain open, the greater will be the turmoil in your marriage. Closing every loop as soon as possible is vital to divorce-proofing your marriage. And dealing with those hurts and resolving them will help you and your spouse grow closer in your relationship.

*Our book, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage, can help you understand different conflict styles and teach you how to move toward forgiveness and healing!

Dual-Military Marriages Face Unique Stressors

The number of dual-military married couples has gone up over the past few years. There are now about 84,000 service members who are married to another military member. Because of this increase, a Pentagon advisory committee issued a report in 2017 calling on the Department of Defense to do more to accommodate the needs of dual-military couples.

The good news: Many couples report that, despite the challenges, they’re satisfied with both their military careers and their dual-military marriage. In fact, a handful of studies have found there’s not a greater rate of marital discord for dual-military couples.

But a report from the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services does not that dual-military couples are subject to “unique stressors in navigating their work and family roles because they must contend with family separations resulting from deployments, temporary duty, and Permanent Change of Station.”

(source: “Troops are Marrying Each Other More Often, Creating New Challenges for the Pentagon,” by Steve Walsh, Texas Public Radio: https://www.tpr.org/post/troops-are-marrying-each-other-more-often-creating-new-challenges-pentagon) 

For all couples – military, non-military, dual-military, first-responder – developing a healthy marriage relies heavily on two vital elements coming together.

First, at some point you must draw a line in the sand. In so many words, proclaim to God and to each other, “We are committed to building a Christian marriage and family. Divorce is not an option. We will have nothing of the world’s approach to marriage. We are committed to keep our love fresh, new, and growing—for the sake of our marriage, for the sake of our children, and for the cause of Jesus Christ. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” In the way you talk to each other—today and every day, you affirm the fact that you would choose each other all over again. You say to each other, by words and actions, “You are my one and only.”

Second, God took you at your word when you said your wedding vows and is working through you to fulfill that commitment. Your marriage will grow deeper and stronger because God will empower you to strengthen your marriage. The two of you are not alone in this battle to ward off the world’s twisted view of marriage because yours is a marriage of three—you, your spouse, and Jesus. We urge you both to settle for nothing less than God’s best in your relationship.

Here are some other guidelines for building a thriving marriage:

  • Assist your spouse with his or her more menial tasks, such as making the beds, taking out the trash, cleaning, yard work, or whatever.

  • Communicate how important your spouse is when you talk about him or her instead of grabbing the spotlight for yourself. Always speak positively and constructively about your spouse around your children. When you are with other adults, make a point to bring up complimentary tidbits about your spouse. And you should share your positive comments as generously in private—alone with your spouse—as you do in public.

  • Never berate, demean, or humiliate your spouse in public or private.

  • Try to outdo your spouse with courtesy and kindness.

  • Make time alone a priority. Nothing says ‘You are number one in my life” like putting your spouse first with your time. And nothing communicates second-class status (or third or fourth) more than elevating your schedule and activities above time spent with your spouse. You would be wise to carve out significant portions of your week for one-on-one conversation

  • If you want your marriage to thrive for the long haul, you can start by putting your spouse first.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Finding Time for the Family

A career firefighter will spend one-third of his or her working life at the fire station. That’s a lot of time away from their spouses and children. Those times of long separation can lead to friction in a marriage, so what can you do to fight back?

Photo by  Ibrahim Mushan  on  Unsplash

When the job is causing problems—and because the job is vital to your family’s livelihood—you need to make it a priority to work together on this issue. The firefighter spouse needs to understand that he/she is wanted and needed at home. Approach each other with love and understanding—not blame. By all means, simply communicate.

When the job is depleting you, how can you save some time and energy for your family so they don’t feel disconnected from you?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

Affirm your family. Communicate the good you see in your family, and welcome the good they’ll in turn see in you. Let them into your work life by talking about what’s going on. Discuss your work with them. Talk with them about what you’re doing while you’re away from them.

Learn what satisfies your mate and your kids. Respect your family’s needs by putting their needs before your own. They’re not asking you to quit your job and, depending on their ages, they don’t expect you to be with them every waking moment. Find out what’s important. It’s a no-brainer that you should be at your children’s sports or artistic activities. What else would they like from you? Your teenage daughter may just need a breakfast with you on Saturday mornings once a month. Your spouse needs a date night once a month. What else is important? Then get these on your calendar.

When we did our book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women, we talked to people all around the country. We asked the question, “What do you need from your mate in order to feel love? What do you need in order to have a great marriage?” The number one thing we learned—and it’s from men and women alike—was that they desired unconditional love and acceptance above all else.

Does your spouse experience unconditional love from you? Does he or she receive love no matter what? Begin there. Begin by loving unconditionally. Be honest. Be sincere. Be loving.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

 

What's Good (and Bad) about Jealousy?

It’s something we already know: Military couples face unique relationship challenges. The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center found in a review of research that distressed military couples are more vulnerable than civilian couples to conflict – or jealousy – regarding relationships with other men and women.

Photo by    Vera Arsic    from Pexels

Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

Research shows 27 percent of civilian males say they want their wives to increase their number of relationships with other men and women. That number is only three percent for military husbands.

(source: National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/review_mmilitarylife.pdf)

That is quite the difference! So, if you’re a military couple – how should you navigate these conflicts and jealousies? First, let us tell you this: There are different kinds of jealousy.

You feel jealousy when you experience the unpleasant sensation of a rival. No matter how much your spouse may attempt to reassure you, another person’s interest in your spouse raises all your red flags.

Jealousy comes in different levels. Legitimate jealousy is a means to guard your territory. This comes from a sincere care and commitment to a relationship. Occasional jealousy includes occasional suspicions, like being uncomfortable when your spouse is with certain friends of the opposite sex. Chronic jealousy includes lies, threats, self-pity, and feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and insecurity.

Legitimate jealousy guards the heart of a marriage. God calls you to respect jealousy that comes from your spouse in the form of warnings of danger up ahead. When your spouse is a secure person and desires to protect your marriage against cracks, you need to listen. Confront the issue head on by finding the reason for the jealousy and then making changes to keep you both out of danger and guard your marriage.

Healthy jealousy:

  • Shows you care and are committed to the relationship.

  • Protects your marriage by putting safeguards in your relationship against evil attacks.

  • Keeps each other (and your marriage) accountable through honest communication.

  • Helps you confront major issues and head them off before they become major problems.

Regard healthy jealousy as a gift from God that will keep you out of danger. Men: Trust your wife’s instincts. If she suggests that another woman is behaving inappropriately, your wife is probably right. Most women have radar, an innate alertness to nonverbal communication and an ability to translate body language into emotional facts. Your wife is probably able to see these things clearly, so don’t criticize or blame her warnings on insecurity. Women: Trust your husband’s instincts. He knows what men want and how they pursue it.

Unhealthy jealousy is altogether different. It stems from comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate, unimportant, inferior, and pitiful. When you carry this jealousy to pathological extremes, it will dominate your relationship. Some spouses have experienced a lot of loss in life (divorce, death, abandonment in childhood) and may bring unresolved issues into the relationship through jealousy.

A chronically jealous spouse will use self-pity, lies, threats, and manipulation to control a relationship. When the other partner resists, the jealous person reacts by becoming more controlling. Then the other partner resists further by confiding in a friend or seeking relief outside the marriage. Sometimes this leads to more jealousy and worst-case predictions.

If you have a jealous spouse, do some self-evaluation.

  1. Assess whether you are doing something that provokes the jealousy.

  2. Stop that activity for a time to show your spouse that you’re committed to the relationship.

  3. Increase your loving actions toward your spouse.

  4. Talk honestly with your spouse about the problem. Get his/her take on it (the feelings may be legitimate) and work together to find a solution.

If you are dealing with jealousy:

  1. Listen to others. If your friends comment on your jealousy, it must be a problem.

  2. Be honest with yourself. Ask what is causing the feelings. Are you trying to manipulate?

  3. Spend time with God.

  4. Think about your spouse more positively. Jealous people use their anxious thoughts and suspicions as cues to misread anything that their spouses do. Instead, take a deep breath and pray—for yourself and for your spouse.

  5. Express your feelings to your spouse. Own up to the fact. Be honest without being blaming or manipulative.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

How to Bridge Emotional Distance

Photo by  freestocks.org  from  Pexels

Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

It’s something that is tough for many husbands and wives: Getting your spouse to open up to you. Many have asked us how to get their spouse to share what they’re thinking or feeling. Others feel as though their spouse never really listens to them. This can be a big issue for any couple, but for the spouses of first-responders it may seem to happen more frequently.

Many first-responder spouses have experienced their mate being more emotionally distant. A 2008 study by Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen discussed how, physiologically, being exposed to danger puts the brain on autopilot, raises the blood pressure and suppresses the digestive system. This is an abnormal state, built for the quick bursts needed to make a successful fight or flight. But it can be potentially harmful over long periods of time. When the danger has passed and your first-responder spouse comes home, their body needs time to stabilize.

This state can, of course, affect their emotions. It can leave your mate coming home exhausted and detached – perhaps even seeming apathetic. But this is when you as their spouse can come alongside them, show love and compassion, and strengthen your relationship instead of letting these circumstances push you apart.

(source: “The Challenges of the Firefighter Wife” – American Addiction Centers https://americanaddictioncenters.org/blog/the-challenges-of-the-firefighter-wife)

The marriage relationship is the place that God gives us to have security to begin to sort through issues when we begin to hit them. Your love, compassion, grace can give your spouse the freedom to get through to the other side of whatever is keeping him or her from opening up. Your unconditional love for your spouse is the place it starts. Try to create a safe place for your spouse to open up to and talk about things.

The next step is to begin to do some communicating. Help your spouse to go below the surface and talk about what’s going on inside. Give him or her the sense of security that you will walk alongside, wherever it takes you.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

Happy Marriage? Better Life!

Did you know a happy marriage affects more than just your family? It’s true!

A review of research by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center found that happily married soldiers have a leg-up! Research shows soldiers in happy marriages had better rates from their supervisors than single soldiers and they were promoted faster. The review also showed married soldiers had fewer job-related problems and fewer issues with drugs and alcohol.

(source: “Military Service and Marriage: A Review of Research” Reviewed by Emily L. Hull National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, https://www.healthymarriageinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/review_mmilitarylife.pdf)

So how can you cultivate some healthy habits to keep your marriage happy and loving through the years? Check out our “Love List”:

Once a day

  • Touch. Cultivate the valuable practice of tender touch on a daily basis.

  • Hug for at least five seconds.

  • Remember the two most important minutes of your marriage: right when you meet at the end of the day.

  • Laugh. The more you laugh together, the more you love your spouse. Humor helps you cope.

 Once a week

  • Do something active that lifts your spirits. This is an insurance policy against boredom.

  • Broaden your sphere of interest. Make a list of activities and circle those you might find pleasurable. Make time to do them.

  • Give your mate space to enjoy certain activities that are his/hers alone.

  • Boost your mate’s self-esteem. When your soul mate helps you reach your potential and boosts your self-confidence, your options seem limitless. Look for diamonds—dig through the rough to look for the good in each other.

  • Compliment your spouse.

Once a month

  • Rid yourselves of harmful residue. Explore unfinished business (unpaid bills, how long in-laws stay for Christmas, disciplining the kids). Talk about it and do your best to make decisions.

  • Talk about your money. Admit to any deception and set up safeguards that will keep you honest.

  • Talk about your emotional needs and anger. Forgive when you feel hurt.

  • Protect each other from over-commitment. Decide together what you and your family can handle.

  • Update how well you know your spouse. Check in with your spouse—what would he or she like you to know?

  • Fire up passion in the bedroom. Schedule a sex date at least once a month. Guard your time fiercely.

Once a year

  • Review your top ten highlights of the year. Decide together what constitutes a highlight. Make the review a memorable tradition.

  • Chart your course for the coming year. Be proactive about where you’d like to be as a couple twelve months from now. Ask God for guidance. Take time to consider what really matters most to both of you in your relationship.

  • Write a mission statement and revisit it yearly. Begin with “Our purpose is . . .” Use this statement to keep your marriage on track. Consider what you’d like to change.

  • Think of six things you wish were different and set ways to improve them in the next year. Set specific goals. Understand the power of making resolutions together. Awaken your can-do attitude and trust God in your coming year together as a couple.

*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore! 

Navigating 'Boundary Ambiguity'

Whether it’s full-time military personnel or reservists or national guard, many military families have experienced what’s called “boundary ambiguity.” Boundary ambiguity is a state in which family members are uncertain in their perception about who is in or out of the family and who is performing which roles and tasks within the family.

Photo by  Katie McNaught  from  Pexels

Photo by Katie McNaught from Pexels

A study that examined military reserve families over time found that, during deployment, all family members experienced boundary ambiguity. The study, which was published in the Journal of Family Psycology, found that gathering information and attending a family support group provided some relief for families. However, couples – as well as those who had experienced additional life events or losses – experienced the highest levels of boundary ambiguity. The study showed this discipated over time, as families tended to re-stabilize once the reservists had returned to work and a routine had been established.

(Source: American Psycological Association; Faber, A. J., Willerton, E., Clymer, S. R., MacDermid, S. M., & Weiss, H. M. (2008). Ambiguous absence, ambiguous presence: A qualitative study of military reserve families in wartime. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(2), 222-230., http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0893-3200.22.2.222)

If you have had to navigate a situation like this, you know it can be tough to figure out roles and routines in your house again. We would give you this piece of advice: Don’t try to be 50/50 on this. Don’t set yourselves up for fights and failure by trying to delineate all the responsibilities. Sure, a list of chores might help (if you’ve got kids—then you’ve got that much more help!), but everyone should be encouraged to see what needs to be done and do it.

Talk about realistic expectations. Think of ways to get the job done together. Use it as a connecting time. Talk to each other. Seek to lighten each other’s loads and then willingly follow through because you love your spouse so much!

One of the biggest problems among the couples we talk to is husbands and wives who measure out their need-meeting service for each other in reciprocal portions. The best many marriages ever do is operate according to the popular “50/50 plan,” the “I’ll-meet-your-needs-if-you-meet-mine” philosophy. In this plan, marriage becomes an issue of trade-offs and compromises, with spouses keeping score so one person never gets or gives more than the other. The goal is to meet each other halfway.

To be fair, some couples who live by this rule are generous to each other and even moderately happy. But apportioning love usually doesn’t result in spouses feeling honored and understood. The problem usually arises when neither of you can agree on where “halfway” is.

There’s a better way. It’s the 100/100 marriage, which is God’s design for a husband and a wife. Listen to what Paul said: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). When a husband loves in this way, he chooses to serve his wife because of his desire to be obedient to God’s design for him. He is stirred not only by pleasing her but also by pleasing God. The same is true of the wife. When you serve each other, trying with 100 percent of yourself to love and serve your spouse, you will find joy and fulfillment beyond what you can imagine.

 *For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!

Communicate to Reduce Stress

A job in law enforcement is one of the most stressful occupations. Officers often deal with things in their day-to-day that most others couldn’t imagine. Things like fatalities, domestic abuse, crimes against children and the ever-present danger of personal injury or death on duty.

Photo by  Christin Hume  on  Unsplash

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Over time, these daily occurrences can result in physiological and psychological issues that might not be fully understood by an officer’s family. And the truth is, their spouse often suffers, too. According to an article by Dr. Jarrod Sadulski on PoliceOne.com, spousal stress can also result from media criticism of police officers, an apparent rise in violence against officers and the fear of the always present dangers their spouse faces while on duty.

Dr. Sadulski emphasizes something we readily agree with: Communication is one of the most effective ways spouses can reduce their own stress and the stress within their marriage and family. He points out that officers and their spouses should communicate regularly and talk about specific factors that cause the stress.

(Source: “How Police Spouses Can Manage Stress (And Why They Need To)”

by Dr. Jarrod Sadulski via PoliceOne.com, posted May 14, 2018)

When couples don’t share their lives and hearts with each other consistently, the atmosphere in the home can get colder than an arctic winter. Without communication we fall out of sync and disconnect, leaving plenty of room for chilly distance and selfishness to grow.

Communication is the process of sharing yourself verbally and nonverbally in a way that your spouse both understands and accepts—though not necessarily agrees with—what you are sharing. Studies show that couples who communicate frequently have a more satisfying relationship. And couples who achieve deep levels of communication enjoy the most satisfaction of all.

So what does effective, meaningful communication look like in an intimate relationship? To answer that question, we must look at God’s model of communication with us, his beloved. Throughout Scripture we see at least three basic levels on which God has communicated with us. You and your spouse can evaluate the effectiveness of your communication by asking yourselves if these three levels are fully operational in your day-to-day interaction.

Information and History

God went to great lengths in Scripture to share with us volumes of important and interesting information. He tells us how the heavens and the earth were created. He includes countless biographies not only of godly men and women but also individuals who refused relationship with him. He recites in painstaking detail how his Son was born, lived, died, and was raised again to redeem fallen mankind. He describes the early decades of church history. In Scripture, God has provided information for us in panoramic, overarching summaries and jot-and-tittle details.

Effective communication in a marriage must include information of many kinds. Obviously, you need to be talking constantly about the details of personal schedules, finances, and childcare, for example. But your spouse also needs to know on a daily basis about your activities away from home, your work projects, your interactions with other people, the surprises that happen to you, and any number of events and happenings you encounter while apart. By sharing information with your spouse, you are welcoming him or her into your world, which encourages intimacy.

Opinions and Beliefs

In addition to the information in Scripture, God generously shares with us his opinions and beliefs about our life here on earth. He left with us the law and commandments of the Old Testament, the sermons and parables of Christ, and the instruction of the Epistles. And because God is God, his opinions and beliefs on any topic constitute truth. He is always right. His opinions and beliefs are moral absolutes for us, defining what is right and what is wrong.

Our opinions and beliefs are not perfect like God’s, but they are no less valuable to intimacy in a marriage relationship. Your spouse needs to hear what you believe about what is happening in your family, your community, your church, and the world. When you share your opinions and beliefs, you are welcoming your spouse into your thoughts, which encourages intimacy.

Feelings and Desires

Throughout the Bible, God reveals a wide scope of emotions—joy, anger, jealousy, love, grief, disappointment, and others. Jesus wept. Jesus became angry. Jesus loved. Jesus also held little children on his knee and participated in joyful weddings. God has emotions, and he chose not to hide his feelings from us in Scripture. We also sense the yearnings of God’s heart in his Word, his deep desire for a relationship with us, his sorrow when we do not respond to his love.

Your spouse needs to hear not only your information and your convictions, but also your feelings and desires about what is happening in your life. This doesn’t just mean that you express your emotions by laughing, crying, or venting in front of him or her. It also means describing what is going on in your heart with words such as, “I feel like...,” “It hurts me when...,” “I’m so happy about...,” or, “I really wish that...” When you share your deep emotions and yearnings with your spouse, you are welcoming him or her into your heart, which encourages intimacy.

A key to meaningful, intimacy-building communication is to develop proficiency at all three levels. Become an expert in the serving love of sharing with your spouse what you know, what you think, and what you feel. Your marriage will be richer for it.

*For more helpful insights on how to connect with your spouse, check out Renewing Your Love: Devotions for Couples in our online bookstore.

Guard the Heart of Your Marriage Against Divorce

There are many things that can come between you and your spouse, which is why it is so important to guard your heart – and the heart of your marriage. Stress can cause fractures in any marriage relationship, but a first-responder is likely to bring a higher about of stress home. According to a report on Emergency Responder Exhaustion Syndrome, divorce rates among emergency responders range from 35% to 75%. The report states that is likely due to job stress that is taken home. (source: Emergency Responder Exhaustion Syndrome (ERES): A perspective on stress, coping and treatment in the emergency responder milieu. Fay, J. PsyD, Kamena, M. D PhD, Benner, A. PhD, Buscho, A. PhD & Nagle, D)

Photo by  Aidan Bartos  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aidan Bartos on Unsplash

So what are some ways you can protect your marriage against the threat of separation or divorce?

The very survival of your marriage depends on your recognizing the scope of the covenant you made on your wedding day. You must say with absolute conviction, “Divorce is not an option. We are married for life.” Without this firm pledge to God and to each other, your marriage is vulnerable to defeat from every angle. But when you take a stand on your lifetime promise, your marriage can survive anything. Banish the idea of divorce from your thinking. Your marriage is only safely divorce-proofed when you commit to never using the “D word.” Before you can ever know the deep security and confidence God intends for you to enjoy as a couple, you need to be certain that your relationship is rooted in a love that will never give up.

Why is that so important? Listen to Malachi 2:16 where God says, “I hate divorce!” If God hates something, wouldn’t it be wise to put it on your hate list, too? God is very serious about the covenant you made with him and with your spouse on your wedding day. He is unequivocal on this topic: Marriage is to be a lifelong commitment—period. Divorce should not even be considered an option.

Notice that God does not say, “I hate divorced people.” On the contrary, he loves all people, including divorced people. That’s precisely why he is so vehement on the divorce issue—he knows the pain it brings to the people he loves. It’s as if he pleads with us, “Divorce deeply wounds everyone involved. I don’t want to see you hurt. Do yourself a favor: Avoid the hurt by honoring your lifetime commitment.”

In the same breath as his denouncement of divorce in Malachi 2:16, God provides a two-pronged antidote to divorce. As you apply these commands to your relationship, you take major steps toward divorce-proofing your marriage.

First, he says, “Guard your heart.” This command suggests that there is something threatening marriage and you need to keep up your guard. Our culture openly condones and facilitates divorce. A person can get a divorce for practically no reason at all. It’s an easy out for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with even the normal conflicts and adjustments of married life. Our culture seems to say, “If your marriage isn’t working out the way you like, just divorce your spouse and look for one you like better.” The “wisdom” of the world, disseminated through such dubious channels as tabloids and talk shows, says, “Divorce is the solution to your marriage problems.” But God says, “I hate divorce,” and he warns us to avoid this casual attitude toward the solemn vows we recited before him.

God’s second antidote for divorce in Malachi 2:16 is, “Do not be unfaithful.” You promised to love, honor, and cherish your spouse. He or she is counting on you to keep your word. Don’t break faith by going back on your vow. Pour your energies into unqualified love and faithfulness in marriage instead of making excuses and looking for loopholes. Continually ask yourself, “How can I help make our relationship richer, deeper, and more fulfilling despite our conflicts and struggles?”

*For more about how to unlock the biblical secrets to a marriage that stays vibrant and strong for a lifetime check out our book 6 Secrets to a Lasting Love in our online bookstore!