As I write this, we are in the process of getting ready to move to a new state.
It’s a lot to prepare for, and to be honest….I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. That is until I sat down and sketched out a plan. Putting all the “to-do’s” in sequence helped me relax. Seeing that certain things would happen, that would allow for other things to happen later helped me find focus.
This same holds true in marriage.
A lot of us believe that once the honeymoon is over, our marriage is complete. But marriage is a forever journey. It’s a complex relationship that grows and changes. Because it’s two people who hopefully grow, but for sure will change.
My wife and I didn’t want to just date forever, we wanted more for and from our relationship.
So, we got engaged. But, we still wanted more for and from our relationship….so we got married.
And today, we still want more for and from our marriage. But what is it? How do we get it?
Isn’t the sequence of marriage; Date -> Engagement -> Marriage? I mean, most people think that’s all there is to it. I know I did.
Author Jackie Bledsoe Jr and his wife Stephana have captured the stages all marriages could and should experience. I believe stagnating in any of these stages (“rings”) is the open door to failure in marriage.
Stop at one ring, and your marriage is dead.
As you read through each ring of marriage, you’ll see marriages around you and your marriage in new light. You and your spouse will have a shared and common language to use in evaluating your marriage, in fact there is a tool at the end of the book to help you with this.
Helping couples get on the same page of where their marriage is is one of the most powerful outcomes of reading this book. Once you know where you are you can decide where you want to go. Then, you can develop a plan. And in your plan, find peace and focus in your marriage journey.
Updated 12/18/2015. I first wrote this in 2013, today I update the numbers but not the content.
I want to focus my mind and heart today.
I want to focus them on my wife.
In fact, I like to think about her every day.
But today, today is special.
Not because of any specific date on the calendar.
Not because it’s an anniversary of anything.
Not because society says it’s special.
Today is special like yesterday, because today…I’m married to my best friend.
I want to think about and write down some things I love about her…things I’ve never told her.
I like to say silly things to make her raise her eyes to the sky and smile just so…I love her smile.
I love the way she rushes out of bed at the first sound of one of our kids. She’s been doing this for 5 years. She wants me to sleep so I can wake up at 5 AM and chase our dreams. I love that she sacrifices her sleep for our family.
I love watching her talk to others about our kids and parenting. She doesn’t know this, but she can’t do it without smiling. Have I mentioned that I love her smile?
I love when she puts her feet on my lap while we are watching TV and asks me to rub them.
I love how she talks about Jesus to our kids.
I love when she whispers at night just as we climb into bed, “Will you pray?”
I love how she sits at the kitchen table with her Bible and journal and studies God’s words.
I love how she experiments with recipes and tries new things for us to eat.
I love that her dreams are bigger than mine. I love that we chase them together.
I love how she cares and talks about our friends everyday.
Marissa, I love you.
Start a list like I did above of things you love about your spouse. Next time you are angry with them; get the list out and start reading through all the reasons you love them. You’ll be amazed at how this will help you.
Brag about your spouse today to someone.
Leave a new note everyday in the same place telling your spouse one thing you love about them or the two of you together.
Plan a “tell all” date. Take your spouse out on a date and tell him/her all the things you haven’t yet.
Write a letter, email, note, text message, blog post, Facebook post, Tweet…whatever…but just write something right now to your spouse. SERIOUSLY, STOP READING AND WRITE SOMETHING RIGHT NOW. Come on, write just one sentence. WHY ARE YOU STILL READING?
Call your spouse right now and tell them you love them.
and share 3 tips to help husbands communicate their wife matters.
Screen Free Time – Set aside 1 hour after the kids go to bed of zero screen time. No TV, no phones, no tablets, nothing. Just talk, play a board game, help clean up the kitchen. Whatever your wife wants.
Her First – The first person I talk to (or ask to talk to) when I get home is my wife. After her and I exchange a quick kiss, then I reconnect with my kids. But to me, my wife is first. Her and I are one flesh. Without her, I’m only half of what I can be. (Bonus Tip: I’m sitting the bar for my future son-in-law real high, good luck boy!)
Random Card Day – Pick a random day right now and mark “Random Card Day” on your calendar. Whatever happens that day, bring your wife home a card with a handwritten love note inside.
Real men never stop pursuing their wives. The chase didn’t end at the wedding alter, that was just a pitstop in our never ending race.
I’d love to hear your idea or thoughts on Facebook.
Goals and desires are found in all areas of our lives, including marriage. Knowing the difference between a goal and desire, and creating action steps for your goals, will eliminate the anger from your life. Plus, you will also increase the influence you have to see your desires come true.
How Can This Help My Marriage?
Well, like we say all the time, this will not help your relationship with your spouse at all if all you do is read it. But if you read it and take some action steps to apply it, THEN you can see growth in your marriage in the following ways:
Eliminate the anger in your marriage.
Learn the difference between a goal and desire.
Understand that you need goals for your relationships.
Understand that you can leverage the influence you have with others to increase the likelihood of your desires coming true.
The Big Point
In your marriage you have “wants” and that’s totally fine, we aren’t going to tell you to stop wanting things. There are 2 different types of “wants” in the world.
Goals: predetermined outcomes you want that only rely on you (and God) to complete and make choices in.
Desires: these outcomes rely on the choices and actions of you and/or other people.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you want to have dinner every night as a family. This is a desire. Everyone in the family needs to make a choice to be at dinner every night. If you set this as a goal for your family; you are going to get angry sooner or later. Your spouse is going to miss because of work one night. Or, older kids will need to miss a night for any number of reasons.
Instead, label that want for what it is. A desire. You desire for everyone in your family to eat dinner together every night. Now, you have to answer the question; what can you…AND ONLY YOU….do to try and get this to happen?
You can make sure that everyone knows what time dinner is.
You can make sure that dinner is always ready on time and at the same time every night.
You can have a weekly / monthly meeting with the family to look at everyones calendar to see if an evening is coming up that someone can’t make it. Maybe you can adjust the time or location of dinner. Or, maybe for that one night…not everyone is there.
You saw in the video one example of when we use to deal with anger in our marriage. Eric had a goal, something that only relied on his input. I, Marissa, had a desire. Something that relied on Eric to make a decision that aligned with my desired outcome. Eric didn’t get angry, I did.
This is what I would do in this situation now.
Realize that I have a desire for the family to have some time together outside because of a break in the weather.
As soon as Eric says; “I think I’m going to put the bike trailer together this afternoon.” I would say; “great. I’d like for us to cook dinner on the campfire and hangout in the backyard since the weather is nice. What time do you think you’ll be finished with the bike trailer by?”
Bam; Eric get’s to accomplish his goal to assemble the bike trailer. I get my desire to have a family fun evening. OR, Eric could say…”geez my beautiful, smart, funny wife. I was thinking I might clean the garage since it’s nice…and I might wash the cars.” At least then, I’d be able to have a clear expectation for the evening; or I could continue having a conversation encouraging Eric to clean the car and garage the next nice day of spring.
Anger comes when you have a blocked goal, you aren’t getting something you WANT.
When You Start To Feel Yourself Getting Angry
When you get upset the first thing you need to ask yourself is “What do I want that is being blocked?” Then you need to test and see whether that “want” is a desire or a goal.
If you decide that what’s being blocked is a goal (something that relies only on your decisions and actions), you then need to look at the action steps you are taking (or not taking) and make adjustments.
If your “want” that’s being blocked in a desire (something that relies the input of others) you need to change your mindset. You have mistaken a desire for a goal. This happens A LOT in marriages so don’t be surprised when you see it in yours. What you need to do the is:
Communicate your desires to your spouse.
Make small goals to increase the likelihood of the desire coming true.
Complete those goals.
Understand that you may still be disappointed if the desire goes unfulfilled, but you will tend to not get angry about it.
If I, Marissa, would have understood this concept that nice spring day, I wouldn’t have gotten angry with Eric. I never told him my desires, I didn’t take any actions steps to increase the chances of having an outdoor family evening. I was both angry and disappointed that night.
When thinking about goals and desires and the differences between them, God is a “go-to” example of this. God, in His almighty power, created man and in the beginning He gave Adam and Eve a choice. They could follow His plan and stay in His presence, or follow their own way. Well, we know what they chose.
God has a desire for us to follow him. It’s not His goal however. Adam and Eve (and even us today) have a decision to make in regards to following or not following God.
God COULD have taken free will out of the picture. And if that was the case, God would have had a goal for Adam and Eve to follow Him. There would have been no opportunity for Adam and Eve (or us today) to have an impact on the relationship.. But God understood that even though it’s risky to have desires, it mean’s more when we choose to participate.
When God sent Jesus, He was going one step further. He was taking an action step in His desire for a relationship with us. He knew that He wasn’t going to MAKE us love and follow Him, but He could take steps in increase the influence He has on the desire.
You see, here’s the point: Goals will decrease the anger in your life, and that’s GREAT and we 100% encourage you to make goals. But we are made in God’s image, and if God in His perfection has desires then you better bet your bottom dollar that we will too! The key is to understand that even thought it might not come true (not everyone will accept God and follow Him) we can take steps to show our love and our longing to influence the choice of another (just like God sending Jesus).
Recommended Products for this Meaningful Marriage Article
I’m writing this post on my iPhone. Why? I guess because it’s about my phone.
I was struggling with a self control issue….nothing new for me.
I struggle to keep my hands, eyes and thoughts off my social media and blog stats.
I love engaging with my online community.
Plus, we are trying to expand our online community. My wife, and I have a big project we are putting together. It will help parents have more fun in their parenting, make family fun easier and equip parents with tools to build their children’s character. (I can’t wait to tell you more about it in the next couple of months)
With all that going on, a full time career I’m dedicated to in Christian camping and conferencing….I need to be completely focused during our family time. I also have a goal to be “unplugged” once a week when I practice the spiritual discipline of a Sabbath.
I had been utterly failing at both of these goals, until recently.
What has been helping…
Using Do Not Disturb function on iPhone and iPad to turn off notifications from Twitter and my blog Comments.
I created a folder I called iFamily & iSabbath. I dragged the apps into that folder that I needed to remind myself not to look at during certain times. I was surprised the first several days how many times I grabbed my phone out of habit to check stats, comments, etc.
I don’t open this folder during predetermined times.
I tell my wife when these times are.
If you don’t struggle with self-control. This will sound silly to you. But for me, it’s a lifehack I need.