Monday, September 29, 2014

Enduring OUR Trials Well

            Most people talk about having a love like Romeo & Juliet, but this isn't exactly who we should be idealize; after all their union ended in double suicide.  Their marriage didn't last long due to their early deaths, nor was it tested. Love is meant to be tested!

            It’s unrealistic to think that marriage is going to be all roses and love poems.  Marriages, often tested as couples experience the ups and downs of life together. Unlike other relationships marriages are set up to last and withstand these trials. 

For example, infertility is a common trial that some married couples face.  There are countless others that could be listed.  So what about marriage keeps a couple together?  One guess could be wedding vows.  The vows we make the day we are married strengthen our commitment to one another and help us through the challenges of life.  You may be asking, “How can a bunch of words said aloud offer support to a marriage?”  I believe our promise to one another and God greatly affects our thoughts and actions after marriage. 

Our wedding vows become more than just words when we think about them in this manner.  It is our wedding vows when held in such regard that dictate our actual commitment to one another.  That commitment ultimately keeps us working on our marriage and holding tight to one another instead of jumping ship at the first, fifth, or even the 100th trial.  Married couples make it through that 100th trial all the time, but maybe the world is too focused on those that don’t last past their fifth.  It is up to you to notice and cling to the GREAT examples out there.  Marriage is meant to last, so what will you do to ensure that yours becomes one of the GREATS?

            After you watch the video clip below answer the discussion questions with your spouse.

            GREAT Example

- Think about a time when you and your spouse struggled together?  Share how it brought you closer together.  If it did not bring you closer, then talk about what you could have done to allow it to strengthen your relationship.

- What is one thing you can do today to strengthen your marriage, so that it may last as long as Carl & Ellie’s from ‘Up’?

- Ponder how married couples can go through life’s challenges without any damage to their own marriage & be strengthened by these hardships that might otherwise end in divorce with other couples?

Remember its not the word but what the word mean to us.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Path to Better Communication: Starting with Listening

Have you ever had a conversation with your spouse where you were completely absorbed in what you had to say, but not in what your spouse was saying?  I have to admit I’ve been guilty of this and after remembering the conversation.  I would realize that I was so focused on what I wanted to say next that I didn’t even bother to “listen” to my husband.  Maybe you can relate?

Like a typical Bad Listener you may hear your spouse speaking, but may not be “listening” to what they are actually saying.  I’m sure we all understand that this is NOT how we should have conversations with our spouse.  If bad listening is an unhealthy habit what healthy habit should we be using within our marriage?

One healthy habit,  Active Listening.  Instead of merely hearing, actively seek to understand what your spouse is saying.  Focus your full attention on them and what they are saying; do not be thinking of what you will say next or why they are wrong while they are still speaking.  You can save time and solve more problems by ensuring that your spouse feels understood than by trying to get in as many words as possible or cutting them off.

Which path will you take as you work toward strengthen your marriage, the path to better communication or the path that ruins any chance of real communication?  Will you continue to be a “Sheldon” or a “Raymond”?

*My challenge to YOU this week is to practice Active Listening in your conversations with your spouse?  What have you got to lose but a bad habit; you can gain a new skill, if you put what you’ve learned into practice.  (Remember: practice makes perfect, so don’t give up.)

If you’re looking for more of a challenge, then do the activity below WITH your spouse.

1. Discuss what you now realize you can work on to improve your listening with your spouse.
2. Have your spouse identify a time when you were guilty of bad listening and a time when you used active listening.
3. Have a “practice” conversation with your spouse where you each practice active listening. (If you need help with this one, maybe discuss how you both feel about hand washing dishes vs. dishwashers.)

I’ve also included the links to the three video clips below for those of you who might have missed the hyperlinks above.  Enjoy!

Example of bad listening

Active listening learned

Active listening in action