7 Ways to Seek Peace First in Your Marriage

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7 Ways to Seek Peace First in Your Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18 (NIV)

Being a peacemaker isn’t easy. It’s not the passive existence of “keeping the peace,” or keeping your mouth shut to avoid confrontation. Instead, it’s an intentional, active state of existence that requires you to make careful–and sometimes difficult–decisions regarding the state of your relationship. Seeking and creating peace requires courage and fortitude.

Resolving conflict is marriage is difficult; because it can be so tricky to navigate, many couples find that unresolved issues and hurts begin to accumulate over time. In many cases, this leads to resentment and more frequent conflict. One way to combat this issue is to intentionally work to create peace in your marriage by uncovering and facing your issues head-on.

Today, we’re sharing 7 things you and your spouse can to do “seek peace and pursue it” in your marriage.

1. BE THE FIRST TO APOLOGIZE.

Whether or not your spouse is in the wrong alongside you doesn’t matter–what matters is whether you’re willing to step up and say you’re sorry first. Don’t wait around for your spouse to come to you; if you have something you need to apologize for, go ahead and do it. This will open the door for your spouse to respond in kind if he or she has been holding out. (Just be sure to only apologize if you actually have something to apologize for!)

2. OWN YOUR MISTAKES.

Avoiding responsibility for bad decisions you make or hurtful things you say to your spouse will only make wounds fester and grow worse over time. Even though you might not want to admit to any wrongdoing, it’s best to bite the bullet and admit you made a mistake. Your spouse will be more likely to extend forgiveness sooner if you’re willing to own your part when you apologize.

3. DON’T SWEEP THINGS UNDER THE RUG.

If you’ve got unresolved conflict under the surface of your marriage, sooner or later, it’s going to get bigger and bigger until you can’t handle it anymore. Don’t sweep issues under the rug, hide from them, or send them down the road; face them head-on, and acknowledge their presence so they’ll be less likely to keep growing.

4. ENCOURAGE YOUR SPOUSE TO FACE ISSUES TOGETHER.

You and your spouse can create peace together by facing down your conflicts, challenges, and issues as a team. The two of you are stronger together than you are apart, and if only one of you is fighting your battles, that could lead to resentment and conflict between the two of you. Put your heads together to create solutions and ideas that will lead you away from strife and toward a happy, peaceful existence together.

5. SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE.

Sometimes, you have to say things your spouse doesn’t want to hear. And you know it’s going to hurt you, too, when your spouse responds in pain or anger. Approach him or her in a loving way and lay all your cards on the table; if he or she has an issue that is hurting your marriage or family–or is even just harmful to them in some way–you have to put it out there. It could be addiction, hurtful behavior, or any number of things. Your spouse’s well being may depend on you speaking up. And if he or she goes down a destructive path, your marriage goes down, too.

6. BITE YOUR TONGUE.

On the flipside, sometimes you have to check yourself to keep the peace. Do you tend to speak before you think, saying hurtful things in the process? Is it sometimes hard to rein in your temper when the going gets rough? If you want to seek peace first, it will pay dividends to learn when to hold your tongue and think about what you’re about to say before it comes out of your mouth.

7. ASK FOR HELP.

If your marriage is in trouble and you can’t seem to achieve peace on your own, it’s healthy and wise to ask for help. A trusted friend, pastor, mentor, or counselor can help you determine your next steps toward establishing peace in your marriage. Do your best to get your spouse on board, and work together with that trusted person in order to get on solid ground.

If you would like help with your marriage or relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

For Better of For Worse: Dealing With Tough Times in Marriage

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For Better of For Worse: Dealing With Tough Times in Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

“More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse.”
– Anonymous

If you and your spouse know how to navigate the tough times in your marriage, you’ll come out on the other side closer than ever before. Hard times and conflict are inevitable–they’re just a part of life. When you overcome those times together, that can really deepen your sense of partnership.

Whether you’re dealing with internal conflicts (disagreement or stalemate, infidelity, health crises, mental illness, etc.) or external conflicts (loss, tragedy, job stress or loss, family or in-law issues, etc.), you’re going to come up against some mix of these challenges over the course of your marriage. The trick is knowing how to stick together through it all.

REMEMBER, YOU’RE TEAMMATES

Difficulties in your life can throw your entire marriage off kilter. While each situation must be assessed and approached in its own unique way, a good overarching idea is to remember that you’re on the same team; you aren’t enemies.

When you function as teammates, it’s easier to tackle life’s problems together–and less likely that you’ll turn on one another. Here are some tips for sticking together:

Face your conflict head-on together; don’t bury or avoid it!
Don’t assassinate one another’s character or belittle each other.
Communicate openly about what you’re going through, and listen to one another.
Be present for each other; no checking out allowed.

If you’re finding it increasingly difficult to work together as partners through this season, consider getting outside, objective help from a trusted counselor or pastor. This can help you get focused on your primary objective: sticking together and coming out of this stronger.

CULTIVATE INTIMACY

In general, every relationship has seasons; love has its own natural ebb and flow. But it’s almost a guarantee that most marriages will experience dry spells in the midst of hard times. Tough situations are very consuming, and that can drain all your energy before you’re able to give your marriage the attention it needs.

It’s pretty typical, at some point in most marriages, for spouses to express, “We were soulmates, but now we’re roommates.” When you’ve been dealing with difficult issues, you might come out of it feeling like this.

If you’ve managed to hold onto each other and get through your unique situation together, you’re one step ahead of the pack already. Clearly, your commitment to each other is still there–but it has been tested, and emotionally, it might feel pretty empty.

Just because your relationship doesn’t feel fulfilling in this season doesn’t mean it’s dead. It just needs to be revived. You’re not going to feel emotionally connected to each other 100% of the time, and that’s just how life is. The trick is getting connected again, and you can do this by cultivating intimacy.

To ignite more intimacy in your marriage:

  • Revisit things you have in common.
  • Reminisce together.
  • Invest in the interests or activities that excite your spouse.
  • Laugh together!

We can’t emphasize this enough: laughing together will help you revive the connection you’ve been lacking. Tough times can take a lot out of you, including simple things like laughter. Bring that back to life, and you’ll be amazed at what it does for your marriage.

TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME

Hard seasons in marriage make time feel like it’s dragging by. We know how hard it is to wait for a particular season to pass. Grief, heartbreak, job loss, disconnection, illness, and similar issues all have to run their course, and sometimes it feels like the pain will never end. Just take one day at a time, keep holding onto one another, and you’ll come out on the other side stronger than ever.

If you would like help with the better or for worse of your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

3 Reasons Radical Forgiveness is a Must in Marriage

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3 Reasons Radical Forgiveness is a Must in Marriage

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

It has been said that marriage is the combination of two very good forgivers. We have found this to be true in our own marriage–many times over! And we’ve observed countless successful relationships that were made up of good forgivers, as well.

When you’re in such a close relationship with another human being, it’s inevitable that you’re going to step on each other’s toes. That’s just part of life. The trick is being able to offer forgiveness to one another in a genuine, meaningful way, so that when those times come, you’ll be ready to face them head-on.

BUT WHAT IS FORGIVENESS, REALLY?

First, it’s critical to understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is surrendering the right to retaliate against someone who has hurt you. It is not the relinquishing of your boundaries and dignity, and it is not a cheap or easy thing to extend.

When you extend forgiveness to your spouse, know what you’re forgiving. Be honest about how the hurt has been detrimental to your spirit. In the process of forgiveness, don’t just forgive and forget; forgive, but extend some pointers to your spouse about how they can better handle your heart with care in the future.

Forgiveness in marriage is a must because:

1. THE ACT OF FORGIVENESS STRENGTHENS OUR LOVE.

Forgiveness is a form of love in action, and we can’t get far in marriage without it. When you love someone, you’re vulnerable with them, and vice versa. Your spouse has the power to hurt you more deeply than anyone else in the world because you value their approval and affirmation more than anyone else’s. Your spouse is also just as vulnerable to being hurt by you as you are to being hurt by them.

When we forgive one another, we extend sacrificial love. When we are forgiven, we are humbled and determined to love our spouses better going forward. This cycle challenges us to love one another more fully, completely, and selflessly. And over the years, as we continue to practice this dance of forgiveness, our bond grows deeper and stronger.

2. FORGIVENESS SETS US FREE.

Forgiveness frees us in two ways: first, it releases the offender; second, it releases the one who was hurt.

Forgiveness benefits the forgiver as much as, if not more than, the person who is being forgiven. It sets us free from being dragged down by unforgiveness, which eventually turns into resentment. And when you hold onto resentment, it does no good for anyone–especially you.

There are going to be times when we need to offer forgiveness to our spouse, whether they’ve asked for it or not. When you do this, remember that you’re freeing yourself from a prison of resentment, and graciously offer forgiveness to your spouse.

3. LESSONS WE LEARN FROM FORGIVING OUR SPOUSE CAN EXTEND BEYOND THE MARRIAGE.

Forgiving anyone can be difficult–whether it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker. But when the person you love most in the world has hurt you, the process of forgiving him or her can be incredibly difficult and painful. Once you’ve practiced forgiveness in your marriage for a time, you may find it easier to extend forgiveness to those outside your relationship.

Forgiving one another as husband and wife can also help you to teach your children how to forgive. Modeling healthy forgiveness and allowing them to see their parents live this out will give them the tools they need to practice forgiveness in their own relationships as they grow older.

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

Being able to forgive one another teaches us to love each other and those around us in a more godly way, and it helps us to become more sensitive to the effects of our actions on others. In short, it makes us better husbands, wives, parents, friends, co-workers, and people.

It’s important to note, once again, that forgiveness is a process. You can intend to forgive, but you can’t control the steps to forgiveness, or how long it takes to get there. If the hurt you want to forgive is particularly grievous, it can take a very long time to complete the process. Whatever it takes, set yourself on a path of forgiveness and trust God to meet you on that path. And give yourself grace and time as you walk it.

If you would like help with forgiveness and/or your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

10 Ways to Show Gratitude to Your Spouse

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10 Ways to Show Gratitude to Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – Les Parrott

Showing gratitude to your spouse is an important daily practice; it’s essential to nurturing a healthy marriage. There are many ways to express your thanks to your husband or wife, so today, we’re sharing 10 ideas for showing him or her your appreciation.

1.  SAY IT OUT LOUD…AND MORE OFTEN!

Intentionally saying thank you to your spouse more often is the simplest, most obvious way to show him or her your gratitude. It can be easy to neglect to thank your spouse for everyday tasks that may seem mundane. But you’ll find that your gratitude can transform your spouse’s view of these tasks, especially if he or she has been feeling bogged down. It doesn’t take much effort, but those two simple words go a long way.

2. WRITE A THOUGHTFUL CARD, NOTE, OR LETTER.

Write a sweet note of thanks to your spouse and hide it where they can easily find it: in their lunchbox, on the dashboard of their car, on the bathroom mirror, or someplace similar. It’s amazing how a little note like that can brighten someone’s day. Even scribbling a message onto a sticky note can make all their daily efforts feel more worthwhile.

3. GIVE YOUR SPOUSE A BREAK.

A few hours of quiet time might very well be #1 on your spouse’s wish list, especially if he or she is overworked or caring for young children. Or they might just want a break from their regular tasks. Whatever the case, give him or her the opportunity to get that needed time, whether it means several hours to curl up with a book, or you taking over their chores for the day. (If you have children, take care of finding child care or keep the kids yourself.)

4. COOK A SPECIAL DINNER.

Does your spouse have a favorite meal they love, or a recipe they’ve been dying to try? You do whip up a dish every once in awhile that brings back happy memories for you both? Set aside a little time to prepare a home-cooked meal just for him or her. Light some candles, play some music, and dine-in together at home.

5. PRAISE HIM OR HER TO YOUR KIDS, THEN GET THEM IN ON THE ACT.

Being outspoken to (and in front of) your children regarding your gratitude toward your spouse will rub off on them! Take the time to deliberately tell your kids about all the great things your husband or wife does for the family, and encourage them to say thank you to their other parent as well. You can even go a step further and suggest that the kids create hand-made artwork to thank their mom or dad, or that they even help out with the chores to take the load off your spouse. Cultivating this gratitude in your children will resonate throughout your entire immediate family.

6. TELL THE WORLD WHAT YOUR SPOUSE DOES FOR YOU.

Go a little further than the four walls of your house and let other know, as often as possible, how grateful you are for your husband or wife. Verbalize it among extended family, friends, or at church. Put your social media account to good use and let it be known that you are thankful for everything your spouse does for you and your family.

7. BEHAVE IN A GRATEFUL WAY.

Saying “thank you,” giving gifts, and telling others isn’t quite enough; you have to behave in a grateful way toward your spouse. Make an effort to notice what they do and to respect the work they’re putting in for you, on whatever front–whether they’re running a business, running the household, or a combination of both. Don’t take him or her for granted. Be conscientious and thoughtful, and take care to make sure that you’re not undermining or undoing their efforts in any way.

8. TAKE YOUR SPOUSE ON A ROMANTIC DATE.

A nice date is a great way to say thank you to your husband or wife for everything they do for you. Choose their favorite restaurant, a movie they’ve been dying to see, grab coffee, take a nature hike, or stop by their favorite bookstore or library. Make that time all about your spouse.

9. GIVE A “JUST BECAUSE” GIFT.

Sometimes, a gratitude gift is in order. Purchase something your spouse would like to have but might not be willing to buy for themselves, then attach a little note of thanks before you gift it. Maybe your husband has been admiring a watch or set of cufflinks, or maybe your wife has had her eye on a novel or a movie she hasn’t bought for herself. This could be the perfect opportunity to splurge for him or her.

10. STRIVE TO OFFER MORE THAN YOU TAKE.

Successful marriages are all about servanthood. Another way to show your gratitude is to avoid existing only as a “taker.” Give, give, give–your spouse is giving to you, so make sure you not only reciprocate, but go above and beyond to give back. And when you give, take care to do it selflessly, without expecting anything in return.

If you would like help with your relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

3 Reasons to Praise Your Spouse Every Day

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3 Reasons to Praise Your Spouse Every Day

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Praise is an essential ingredient to a healthy, happy marriage. Building one another up on a daily basis is a surefire way to build intimacy and keep your love alive for years to come.

Couples who praise each other feed the positive energy in their marriages. They’re happier, more secure, and more unified in their relationship. On the other hand, couples who don’t bother to give one another praise are less likely to have a successful relationship.

Today we’re going to share 3 reasons why praise is so critical to your marriage.

1. PRAISE MAKES US FEEL LOVED

It feels good to be praised–especially when that praise is coming from the most important person in our life. When our spouses praise us, it brightens our day. We feel cherished and special. Most importantly, we feel loved–and we feel motivated to repay that praise. That’s a good cycle to put into motion.

On the flipside, it’s better to give than receive: praising your spouse strengthens and intensifies your feelings of love for him or her. Putting your focus on their positive attributes, then vocalizing them, helps you to keep your attention where it needs to be: on the best things about your spouse.

We all have our faults, and there will be times when it’s appropriate to approach our spouses about issues we see…but most of the time, we need to stay focused on the good things about each other. What does your spouse do well? What do they get right? What’s something you love about them? When did they step up and do something memorable or selfless?

2. PRAISE RAISES OUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL

When we’re fed a steady diet of praise and encouragement, we naturally become more confident in our own abilities and attributes. Consistent praise could mean the difference between your spouse achieving his or her goals, or falling short. Praising your spouse (or receiving praise from them) can take a bad day and turn it on its head.

Praise lifts us up when we’re discouraged and bolsters our confidence to move forward with our endeavors. In marriage, we’re meant to be a team that works together for one another’s best interests.

Praise can take a seemingly ordinary, day-to-day routine and transform it into something extraordinary. Praise the jobs your spouse does for your family, whether that’s being a career person, taking care of the children, handling upkeep on your home, handling finances, or anything else you might consider “mundane.” Doing so will give your spouse a much-needed boost, and help them to feel more confident going forward.

Praise also remembers the extraordinary when the day-to-day has taken over. On days when you or your spouse feels stuck or in a rut, use that opportunity to remind them of the wonderful things they’ve accomplished. That simple gesture can give them the boost they need to keep pressing toward their goals.

3. PRAISE CREATES A UNITED FRONT

This benefit to praise in marriage is twofold:

  1. Praise unifies you from within your marriage
  2. Praise unifies your marriage from the outside in

When you’re spending your time and energy finding good things to say to one another, then vocalizing them, you’re building goodwill in your marriage. Praise solidifies the love you have for each other and brings the two of you closer. And the time and energy spent on praise means you won’t have the time to tear one another down.

Praise is just as important outside the marriage as it is within. Take care to only speak positively about your spouse outside your marriage. Sharing negative information with third parties can not only skew their view of your spouse; it also undermines your unity as husband and wife. Instead of complaining about each other to your friends or to others outside your relationship, be intentional about saying good and positive things about your each other to those people.

If you haven’t been taking the time to praise one another, the best time to begin is now. We’ve seen praise do powerful things in marriage; we’re confident it can pay dividends in yours, as well.

If you would like help with your relationship, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Teamwork in Marriage: Essential Ingredients For Success

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Teamwork in Marriage: Essential Ingredients For Success

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

The beauty of a strong marriage is in the details. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the most successful marriage relationships have something major in common: in the big adventures as well as the day-to-day grind, the happiest, healthiest couples do life together as a team.

We love this quote about how the best marriages have teamwork as their foundation:

“The greatest marriages are built on teamwork. A mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace.” – Fawn Weaver

Today we’re going to dig into the three major components of teamwork outlined in the above quote: respect, admiration, and grace. These are all critical ingredients to any winning team, so let’s break them down!

1. RESPECT

Respect is an essential ingredient to any team’s success, whether on the sports field or in a marriage. Merriam-Webster Online defines respect as “an act of giving particular attention; a high or special regard.”

When a team’s players respect one another, they:

  • Value each other
  • Support one another
  • Cheer each other on
  • Are considerate of one another
  • Treat each other with kindness and patience

A team built on respect has a much higher chance of winning the game because they’re not tearing one another down. Instead, each member appreciates his or her teammates for their strengths, and lifts their teammates up in moments of weakness. Team members share an end game: win, and keep winning until the very end.

In a marriage, it’s important to work together toward your end game. Root for your spouse. Support them in times of weakness. Help them keep running the race until you reach the finish line together. It’s a lifelong journey, but a worthwhile one when you stick together.

2. ADMIRATION

Admiration builds on respect and takes it to a whole new level. Merriam-Webster defines admiration as “a feeling of respect and approval; an object of esteem.” In other words, without respect, you can’t have admiration.

To admire another is to hold them in very high regard, or to find them compelling, fascinating, or amazing. The best teams are made up of players who are constantly “wowed” by their teammates’ abilities, instead of players who are in competition with one another or striving to the the star of the team.

In marriage, the concept is the same. Husbands and wives should cultivate that same “wow” factor with one another. And to take that a step farther, be vocal with each other–and with the outside world–about the characteristics and talents you admire. Let your spouse know what it is about him or her that fascinates you.

3. GRACE

When teammates have a healthy dose of grace for one another, the unit as a whole can continue moving toward their collective goal with little hindrance. But if a team falls apart over a player’s mistake, a bad play, or a lost game, it’s going to be that much harder to pick up the pieces and continue pressing forward as a unit. Feelings will be hurt, respect and admiration may be damaged, and morale will be crushed.

Every great team understands that sometimes, things won’t go as planned. Sometimes, you’ll lose a game. One of you might make a mistake or face failure. That impacts the team in the short term, but it doesn’t have to destroy what you’ve built together.

In the same way, husbands and wives must have plenty of grace for one another. There are going to be times in life that get you down: failures, disappointments, missteps, tragic events, illness, and more. Some of these things might be direct results of actions that either you or your spouse takes. And when that happens, it’s important to always have a healthy dose of grace ready.

One effective way to cultivate grace is to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Creating a sense of empathy within yourself will help you extend grace to your spouse when it’s due. And if you’re willing to do that for your spouse, they’ll be more willing to offer the same to you.

Stay in the game! No matter what happens, remember you’re on the same team.

If you would like help developing or enriching your teamwork in your relationship, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

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How to Handle Invasive In-Laws

By Drs Les and Leslie Parrott

One of the most difficult situations married couples face is dealing with invasive or controlling in-laws. Maybe they’re critical, nosy, or they monopolize your (or your spouse’s) time. Perhaps they don’t think you can take care of their “baby” as well as they did. Whatever the case, these situations can get dicey in a hurry.

In today’s blog post, we’re going to focus on how to deal with invasive in-laws who are making your life as a couple harder than it should be.

HAVE A HEART-TO-HEART…WITH YOUR SPOUSE

Is your mother-in-law rifling through your things when you’re not home? Has your father-in-law repeatedly interfered with your home repairs and handyman projects? Do your in-laws probe you both for personal information?

It’s time for a heart-to-heart talk…but not with your in-laws.

Even though you might feel tempted to address them yourself (especially if your frustration level is high), it’s best to rely on your spouse–who is their child–to be willing to draw a line in the sand. That means you need to approach your husband or wife first, and lovingly talk to them about what’s happening and how it makes you feel.

You could say something like, “I know your parents love us, but this is making it hard for me to be close to you. When they (fill in the blank), I feel (fill in the blank).”

Be patient with your spouse; it’s often difficult for a person to hear that their parents have such a negative effect on their spouse. And they may not admit it at the time, but they’re probably feeling pretty frustrated with their folks, too (maybe even more than you are).

Don’t shift the situation into an attempt to control your in-laws through your spouse; instead, say your peace, and give your spouse space to process the situation. He or she may need a little time to figure out how to approach your in-laws.

SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR INVASIVE PARENTS

If your parents are guilty of invasive or controlling behavior, it’s your responsibility to be your spouse’s advocate (and your childrens’, if you have kids). We know that approaching your parents isn’t going to be easy, but it’s essential for the health of your marriage.

Be kind when you approach your parents. You could say something to them like, “You guys are so helpful to us, and we see all the love behind what you’re doing, but we’re going to have to decide/work through this on our own.”
Let them know you understand their love for you. Acknowledge the good they do in your life, and the wonderful part they have in it. If they respond with hurt feelings, understand it’s normal for parents to mourn the loss of a large role in their adult child’s life, but remain firm.

Sometimes, we run into situations where we can’t easily set boundaries with our in-laws. For example, if you know your mother-in-law has a key to your home and has been going through your personal belongings–but you can’t prove it–you have to find a workaround, since you can’t confront her. To set a boundary around this behavior, you could lock away your personal items or send the kids to her house for babysitting, instead of having her keep them in your home.

Here are a few more quick tips for dealing with sticky in-law situations:

  • If your in-laws are monopolizing your time, ask your spouse to set aside time for you
  • If your parents and your spouse don’t get along, get out of the middle of their disagreements and let them work things out for themselves
  • If family functions are stressful, work together to maintain a sense of humor about the situation

ADVOCATE FOR YOUR SPOUSE

Remember, if your parents are the ones creating problems in your marriage, it’s up to you to change the dynamic of your relationship with your spouse for the better. A toxic relationship with in-laws can be really harmful to your marriage, so it’s up to you to be your spouse’s advocate and change your relationship with your parents on his or her behalf.

There may never be an ideal or perfect relationship, but you have the power to make your marriage the very best it can be. That includes protecting it from outside sources–parents or not–that may interfere with your peace.

We’ve included a chapter in our book, The Control Freak, that deals with invasive in-laws if you want to know more about how to navigate these tough situations.

If you would like help dealing with in-laws or other family situations, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

When I Don’t Feel Love For My Spouse

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When I Don’t Feel Love For My Spouse

By Steve Cornell

A woman once told me that she planned to leave her husband because she “just didn’t love him anymore.” I asked her to change the way she worded what she planned to do so that her decision could be understood accurately. I asked her to say it this way: “I am choosing to no longer value my husband and to break my commitment to remain faithful to him.”

She declined to word her decision this way but insisted on using terms that made her appear to be a victim of feelings she could not change. She also thought her decision was actually virtuous in its honesty and in her refusal to be a hypocrite.

Being and Behaving in Love

When performing weddings, I raise this question: “What is it that draws people together to be married?” Most answer with one word: love. Yes, love draws us together. But what is love? Is it something we can fall into and fall out of? Is it chemistry? Infatuation? Is it an emotional response or a choice?

Over the years, people have told me they want to be married because they love each other. I’ve also had people (like this woman) tell me that they want out of their marriage because they no longer feel love for their mate.

This has led me to ask some serious questions about the nature of love. In my evaluation, I’ve concluded that we need to distinguish two dimensions of love.

Being in love. This dimension is the emotional attraction of love. It’s what people mean when they speak of “falling in love.” It’s usually based on more superficial reactions to appearance and first impressions. Clearly, it’s a natural part of human attraction. Though not necessarily wrong, it’s not enough to sustain a meaningful and lasting relationship. It’s far too superficial. Deeply satisfying relationships are built on the second dimension of love.

Behaving in love. This dimension does not depend on feelings and chemistry. It’s the love of volition. It’s the choice to respond to my mate in a loving manner, regardless of feelings. This dimension of love is a choice to value my mate and seek his or her best. While I can’t always make myself feel a certain way, I can always choose to act in a loving way.

In the context of marriage, the distinction between these two dimensions is very important to understand. Most relationships start with a high dose of the being dimension of love and, in most relationships, this feeling diminishes with time. When this happens, the key to keeping the flame of love burning is not pursuing a feeling but deciding to value the other person and be devoted to his or her best—no matter what one feels.

It’s a choice to act in love even when we don’t feel love. I realize that to many people this sounds almost like a great sin. It sounds as if I am advocating some form of dishonesty but, surprisingly, when we choose to love, the feelings often follow the actions!

Cultural Barrier

We must confront a cultural barrier that threatens this understanding of love. Our culture sends a strong message telling us that above all else, we must be true to our feelings. To do anything else, we’re told, would simply be dishonest and hypocritical. So it has become a mark of good character to be true to your feelings.

This cultural ethic is often used to give people a false sense of virtue when breaking deep commitments. By “avoiding hypocrisy” and “being honest enough to admit the loss of feelings,” they feel justified—perhaps even virtuous—in breaking their wedding vows.

There is a deep and self-destructive deception in this line of reasoning. It implies that we are somehow victims of our feelings, incapable of mastering them. Feelings come and go with changes in the weather.

But do you go to work only when you feel like going? Do athletes or great musicians only practice when they feel like it? We simply cannot live a healthy and productive life if we let our feelings master us. This is especially true regarding relationships.

If we hope to experience deep and lasting relationships as intended by God, love must be understood as an action more than a feeling.

Remember that God demonstrated his love for us not because we are a warm, lovable group of people whom he could not resist. Instead, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the kind of love husbands are commanded to show toward their wives (Ephesians 5:25).

Reflect often on this distinction between being in love and behaving in love. Use this for conversation as couples, in small groups, and with those preparing for marriage.

Reflect also on the best definition of love available to humanity.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a)

If you are struggling with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

How to Thrive When One Spouse is Traveling Solo

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How to Thrive When One Spouse is Traveling Solo

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

For many couples, it’s difficult to fathom either of you traveling on your own after you get married. Especially during the early years of marriage, it feels almost painfully essential to remain in one another’s presence at all times. And while it’s ideal for you to be able to travel together as often as possible, there will be times when one of you travels alone, and the other stays home.

Some couples are perfectly comfortable with this idea; others are not. Today, we’re going to give you some tips for helping your relationship thrive when one of you is on the road (or in the air) alone.

BEFORE THE TRIP

Get it All Out in the Open: If you’re feeling uneasy about the fact that you or your spouse is going to be traveling solo in the near future, get that out in the open. Have an honest conversation with your spouse about your nervousness, and come up with a game plan to alleviate as much of that anxiety as possible. Simply discussing the things you’re feeling worried about can take a huge amount of pressure off both of you.

Tie Up Loose Ends at Home: Work together to make sure everything will be taken care of at home during the trip. If you have kids, make sure to line up adequate childcare so there will be plenty of help available for whichever of you is staying home. Stock the kitchen with disposable dishes and plasticware to reduce dish-washing, go grocery shopping beforehand, work together to get the laundry in order, and plan some meals ahead of time (make-ahead freezer meals can save a lot of time when you’re going it alone at home!).

Make a Communication Game Plan: Based on travel activities, obligations, and scheduling, make a game plan with your spouse when it comes to communicating regularly with each other. If you’re traveling to a conference or work-related event and you know you’ll have limited talk time, let your spouse know up front and make sure to be available via text message to keep the lines of communication open.

DURING THE TRIP

Pretend You’re Dating Again: Remember that old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”? And remember your dating days, where you would pine for one another when you were apart? You couldn’t wait to hear one another’s voices, and you savored each phone call. Enjoy messaging and talking to one another when you’re able to.

Share Good News: When you communicate with each other, be sure to exchange positive experiences from the road and from home. Give your good energy to one another, even while you’re separated. Be happy for one another, and cheer each other on. Being supportive and pleasant when you talk goes a long way toward making each travel experience just a little bit easier. (But, as always, lend an ear, some positive affirmations, and a giant dose of empathy for your spouse if they’re having a difficult time–at home or on the road.)

Anticipate Your Reunion: There’s something so special about the anticipation that builds as you get closer to seeing one another again after a time of being apart. Share that anticipation with each other. Let your spouse know you miss them, and that you’ll be so happy when you’re back home together. Make plans for the homecoming; a romantic evening together could be just what you need to unwind from the time apart.

AFTER THE TRIP

Enjoy One Another: You made it through the trip! Now is the perfect time to refocus on each other. Take some extra time to lavish attention on one another and enjoy being together again. If you have kids, plan a special family outing to celebrate all of you finally being home. Or go out on that special date night you’ve been dreaming about.

Talk About Next Time: What worked? What didn’t? How can you work together to make the next time easier for both of you? Chat about how things went, both on the road and at home, and look for ways to alleviate any issues that came up during the trip. Then, next time there’s an opportunity for travel, things will go more smoothly than ever!

If You Give a Husband a Kiss

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If You Give a Husband a Kiss

This mom turned “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie” into “When You Give a Husband a Kiss”… and it’s kind of amazing!

By Leah Heffner

If you give your husband a kiss, he’ll probably want a hug to go with it.

You’ll nestle your head under his chin, and just breathe him in.

The smell will remind you of when you first started dating and you didn’t want to be anywhere else but nestled under his chin.

You’ll think back on some of your favorite first dates – ice cream, pancakes, holding hands in front of your friends.

Before you can get too carried away, a toddler will probably squeeeeeeze his way in between your legs, breaking apart your hug.

You’ll open your eyes to see breakfast dishes that need cleaned up, kids who need noses or butts wiped, and the million other tiny and enormous things you do every day.

You’ll see the little babies running around and the messes and pile of bills and the work shirts.

You’ll see the rogue marker marks and mountain of laundry and the inch thick dust bunnies.

You might be so overwhelmed, you won’t know where to start.

You’ll see all the ways your life is different now than it was when it was late-night pancake dates and ice cream runs.

So you’ll take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, take a drink of coffee, and just start on something.

You’ll get so caught up in what’s going on around you, you’ll miss talking to your husband before he leaves for work.

You’ll start to say goodbye as he leaves, when you notice the baby has had a blow out.

After you change the diaper, you’ll wash your hands, and notice your wedding ring.

Your wedding ring will remind you of your wedding, and the man that you married.

You’ll think again of all the ways life is different now than it was when he slipped that ring on your finger.

And then you’ll think of all the ways it’s still the same, just like when you nestled your head under his chin.

You’ll hear the door to the garage shut and realize your husband’s leaving for work.

You’ll realize you don’t want to miss giving him one more hug before he leaves this morning.

So you’ll run out into the driveway looking like a hot mess.

He’ll smile because he thinks you’re beautiful, and you’ll still not understand how much he means it.

You’ll probably smile back, trying to pick one out of a million things you could say.

Instead, you’ll decide to give him a hug.

And chances are, if you give your husband a hug, YOU’LL want a kiss to go with it.

 

If you would like help with your marriage relationship, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.