I was watching Dancing With the Stars this week. I had not watched it for the last couple of seasons, but for some reason I was hooked as I watched the three couples perform. It was amazing to me how good these non-professional dancers were. I realize they are matched with a Pro, but they knew their stuff.
As I watched this it hit me that learning to dance is much like learning how to have good relationships with other people. In marriage especially, learning to dance is important. I am not talking about actual dancing, although that could be really good for your marriage. Just doing something together is often a good first step. What I am talking about is learning new dance steps for your relationship.
You see each of us has some dance steps we have learned from other people growing up about how relationships or marriages should work. We develop certain attitudes, expectations and mindsets on our relationships.
Most of these dance steps are flawed or outright wrong, and so we stumble along trying to dance with someone instead we step on each others toes and sometimes even fall down. Many times instead of learning new better dance steps we just try harder with to old ones and make it worse.
I am officiating a wedding on Saturday and I will be sharing some new dance steps for this couple to work on as they start a new life together. I want to share one of those steps.
The first dance step is to from Proverbs 12:18 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”. Words are powerful and dangerous. Your words can hurt, tear down and destroy a relationship, but your words can also encourage, lift up and bring life to your relationship. The first dance step is to choose your words wisely. Words like; please, thank you, I am proud of you, you did a great job, you look amazing, I love you, your the best and on and on.
Sincere words of encouragement bring healing to a relationship. Start practicing this dance step in all your relationships. It is the beginning of a beautiful dance.
Everyone defines success a little differently, it depends on your filter or how you view the world. In marriage success can mean many things as well. To some a successful marriage is not getting divorced or maybe not fighting too much. To others it may be having a family and a house and two cars. To someone else it may be a close friendship with their spouse. Think about what a successful marriage looks like to you.
I thought I would talk about what good marriages have in common. If you don’t know what a strong healthy marriage looks like you can’t work toward it. In a landmark twenty-five year research project that studied 14,000 families around the world, Dr. Nick Stinnett, a marriage expert, found that strong families have at least six major things in common.
1. Commitment: trust, honesty, dependability, faithfulness
2. Appreciation and Affection: caring for each other, friendship, respect for individuality, playfulness and humor
3. Positive Communication: sharing feelings, giving compliments, avoiding blame, compromise, agreeing to disagree
4. Time Together: quality time in great quantities, enjoying each other’s company, simple good times, and sharing fun times
5. Spiritual well-being: faith, compassion, shared ethical values, oneness with mankind
6. Ability to cope with stress: adaptability, growing through crisis together, openness to change, resilience.
This information came from a book by Dr. Greg Smalley “The Marriage You’ve Always Dreamed Of.”
I want to focus on two of the most important factors for a successful marriage.
The first is spending time together. Most of the couples I talk to that are struggling in their marriage are not spending much if any time together. When you are not spending time together you quickly fill your time with other things and people. Soon your needs are being met without your spouse and over time you feel you don’t need your spouse around. You are doing your own thing and she is doing her own thing and you are no longer a team. Between work schedules and children and other busy stuff you don’t find time for each other. It becomes easy to not talk or go on a date or schedule a time to get away. You cannot become intimate with someone if you are not spending significant time together.
Think back to when you were dating. You spent a lot of time together. You talked on the phone, went on dates and spent every free moment together. When you got married that began to change. If you stop spending time together you don’t communicate about money, children, faith, work, family and most everything else. Time together is a big deal in successful marriages.
The second thing I want to mention is this; In the most successful marriages learning about each other is a high priority. Dr. Smalley surveyed 10,000 couples and the second thing on their list behind time together was “getting to know each other on a deeper level”.
I call this being curious about your spouse. Trying to figure out what makes them tick. Discovering what their love language is and what their top 5 needs are. Talking about your past, your childhood, your dreams, your hurts, your fears, your core beliefs, your goals, sex, religion. Basically everything and anything that will help you gain a better window into the soul of your spouse.
That sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? You are exactly right. Every couple I meet with I tell them they are going to have to put in a lot of work because a lot of damage has been done to get where they are at. If you don’t work on things for years you need more than a tune up, you need an engine overhaul. You can’t fix it in a month or two. You need to dig down into the relationship and rebuild it. That is why it is so important to start working on it today. Don’t wait for the right time to make changes in your marriage, don’t wait for your spouse to change. It starts with you and your willingness to change and grow.
Remember your wedding vows: I, Chad take you, Vikki, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part, and thereto I pledge you my faith.
Are you keeping your vows? Are you loving and cherishing? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to build a successful relationship with your spouse?
As promised here are some thoughts about marriage. I do some marriage counseling and it has forced me to examine my marriage and work on my marriage as well. On May 27, 2007 my wife Vikki and I will celebrate 18 years together. It has gone fast and we have learned a lot. I have made so many mistakes in our relationship, but each time we work through the issue as best we can. I have to say that when I started being less selfish is when our relationship began to improve. I knew I had to change before our relationship could change.
Ever marriage will have some tough times. Some of those are brought on because we make bad decisions or are selfish. Other times it is out of our control, like a tragedy, sickness or accident. Part of life is facing the hard times, and as a married couple you do that together. God created marriage for us, to be a team; Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Becoming one flesh means you are a team, two people acting as one. You are still distinct individuals and have to make your own choices, but you are also connected to your spouse in a relationship like no other human relationship. It is like two pieces of paper coming together, the marriage is the glue that bonds the two together. Have you ever tried to separate two pieces of paper that are glued together? You can’t without ripping and tearing it apart.
Part of working together as a team means training. Many marriages start without any training, we fall “in love” and think that is all that matters. Wrong! Love is not all that matters feelings come and go, love is up and down. Some days I don’t feel like I am in love with my wife. It takes more than love to make a marriage work. That is why it is so important to put the work in before you get married. Couples that go through a mentoring program before they get married have a much lower divorce rate than those that do not. At NewPointe we require couples to go through mentoring before we will marry them. It has been very successful and we have received great feedback from the mentors and the mentee’s. Call me if you want to know more about premarital mentoring.
But what if we are already married and are having problems now? Well there is hope, I believe that nearly all troubled marriages can be saved and healed. God has given us the tools we need to develop strong solid marriages. It may take some time and some real work but it is doable. The greatest counselor in the world is God and HE is the one that can work a miracle in your marriage.
It all starts with your relationship with Jesus Christ. Can you sit down with your spouse or a friend and share your story of salvation? Can you share with them the exact moment in your life that you made the decision to believe and follow Jesus? If you can’t, then maybe you have not truly experienced salvation. That is step one for most people or at least beginning to explore who Jesus is and discover what He has for you. When your relationship with God is right, your heart begins to change as you become more like Christ. You treat people differently and your attitude is different because you have a new perspective on life, people and eternity.
If you are a born again Christian then working on your marriage is not an option, it is a requirement of marriage. Begin that process of talking with your spouse about how you can improve your relationship, maybe it is getting help from your pastor or a Christian counselor. Maybe it is committing to read a book on marriage together. Whatever it is start today. Even if your spouse does not want to work on it you can. You can begin to make changes in yourself and seek help for yourself.
Begin to pray for your spouse daily, not that he or she will change, but that you will change and that your spouse will grow spiritually and emotionally. Pray for God to give them wisdom and courage and that God will bring the right people along to influence and encourage both of you along the way. Then start praying together, as a couple and a family.
Next time I will talk about the five love languages and the love bank and how you can win back your spouse before its too late.
Lately I have talking with quite a few people about marriage problems and relationship problems. That is part of what I do at NewPointe and I really enjoy working with couples or individuals that want to work on their relationships.
I have been married myself for almost 18 years and I have had my share of very difficult times. Vikki and I have had to work on a lot of stuff and continue to do so. As I think about marriage, I am reminded that God created marriage. He designed it to be for a lifetime and for our enjoyment. Of course we messed all that up with our “hard hearts”. All relationships are difficult at times, but the marriage relationship is unlike any other. Our spouse is the closest we will be with any other human being. When you are that close to someone there will be problems.
Most of us tend to be selfish and look out for ourselves and our wants and needs. As soon as you lose sight that a marriage is a team and you begin to oppose each other instead work together you are in trouble.
Over the next several weeks I will be blogging about marriage. I will attempt to share some of the things I have been learning and some of the things I tell couples when I meet with them to counsel them.
If you are experiencing problems in your marriage, don’t give up. Start working on yourself by getting some help. If you don’t know where to start give me a call and hopefully I can point you in the right direction.
Many of you are going to Married Life Live on Saturday. That is a great investment in your marriage, but don’t stop there. Keep learning and growing by studying about relationships and how you can better serve your spouse.
More to come
Many of you have heard about Group Link. We do this event four times a year to help people connect in community. On Saturday night I went to Group Link as a small group leader(I am starting a new men’s group). It was a great experience for me and I think for the others attending as well. There were around 50 people there and we had a lot of fun. John Bunn and Celeste Honigford did a great job hosting. As I talked with the folks there I realized how much people desire to get connected and build friendships. I am reminded how much small groups have helped me in my spiritual journey. I have been in several men’s groups over the years and have made some great long lasting friendships. I am excited about the new friendships I will be developing this year with other men and other couples. I look forward to Sunday nights of hanging out with my couples group. We laugh a lot and eat together. We share stories about our lives, children, pets and jobs. It is so easy to get distracted and busy with our lives and forget about building community with other people. Some times it is difficult to have community within our own families. The question to ask is what is making us busy? We make time for what is important to us, and I have discovered that community is vitally important. When we isolate ourselves we tend to not grow. We also miss out on incredible ministry opportunities. It is amazing how God uses community to minister and care for people. That encouraging word, knowing someone cares and will listen and having people on your side is a tremendous advantage in this world we live in.
So if you have been thinking about getting connected in a small group I encourage you to take the risk, take the plunge and see how God will work in your life.