Mr. Clean

There’s nothing sexier than a man helping out in the kitchen. Ever heard that before? I have but at the time I didn’t understand the full meaning of the quote. Prior to marriage during our engagement season, Ray and I would ask many people how to be successful in marriage. To our surprise, many said don’t get married. There were some who gave more applicable advice because at this point we were getting married despite the naysayers. We observed the patterns of behavior of various couples from newlyweds to seasoned veterans. We monitored their communication, interaction, and behavior. We took it all in and came back together to discuss what we saw from our individual perspectives.

We both noticed too many older couples who didn’t speak to each other with loving-kindness. I realized the women worked outside of the home and came home to a ton of additional responsibility. Ray detected the men were dissatisfied with the quantity of sexual interaction between the spouses. At this discovery, our conversation came to a halt. Ray was unhappy with his discovery. He wanted to further dialogue about this with the hope that our relationship would not land on the planet of NoSex. Have you heard of NoSex? Me either. I obviously just made that up. LOL. However, his concern was legitimate. “What do I have to do so we don’t stop having sex?”, he seriously and worriedly asked. I chuckled on the inside but externally recognized the importance of his question. Little did he know, this conversation was important to me as well but for a different reason. My reply was simple. “Help out with the home responsibilities.”

Interest in sexual intimacy decreases for women when they are exhausted. It diminishes by leaps and bounds when she is exhausted servicing you in other ways (i.e. picking up after you, doing your laundry, cleaning the home, preparing meals, etc…). Enter children and attention to your needs has been moved further to the end of her ‘to-do list’. So, if you are unhappy with the quantity of affection you are receiving I guarantee it isn’t personal. Your wife is just butt tired and has no energy left for pleasure, not even her own. If you are interested in changing that dynamic grab some rubber gloves, take out dinner or a bottle of milk from the refrigerator and help her out. In due time, I promise you will become the reference in the saying, “There’s nothing sexier than a man helping out in the kitchen!”

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What Have I Done?

We all have had a time or two where we have said the wrong thing to our spouse. Maybe it was due to a spontaneous conversation we weren’t prepared to discuss or a touchy topic that caused our blood pressure to rise and we blurted out the first thing that came to mind. No matter the situation or reasoning behind those unkind words, they still hurt. In fact, they may still hurt after days, months, or years have gone by. The sting of the offense may be lingering in your spouses thoughts. Due to the stench, it may have caused your spouse to build a wall in an area of their life that you may not enter. Whether you said something about their weight, appearance, way of doing things, or thought process it doesn’t matter. What matters most is the aftermath. How did you recover from that situation? Have you recovered? Have you tried to recover?

Recovery is important. If you’re an athlete who tore your ACL, recovery would be needed for it to heal properly. If you’re an investor and you lost your client a lot of money, a process of recovery would be put in place to not only retain the customer but also to maintain the relationship. If your pipes burst due to the frigid conditions in Chicago this winter, the plumber assesses the situation and develops a repair and recovery plan. Are you following me? In all areas of life we are capable of making mistakes that require repairing and recovery. Our marriages are no different and quite frankly more important. Jobs come and go, things breakdown, and our bodies fail us at times but our marriages are meant to last until we die. I think that commitment deserves the energy, effort, and attention necessary to produce the longevity we said we wanted prior to saying ‘I do”.

I’m not writing this to beat anyone up. Well maybe just a little. However, I am attempting to encourage you to consider what you have done to cause your spouse to revoke you access to their heart. Develop a plan that leads to recovery. Be kind. Be loving. Most importantly, be PATIENT. Your spouse could have been internalizing an insecurity that you didn’t know about. They could have told you about their pain and you used it as a weapon and now trust is broken. The topic or situation is not as important as regaining trust, tearing down that wall, and raising a new fortress with the both of you on the inside. What a covenant!

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Good Grief

Today is the day! The dreaded day we commit my father in law to his resting place. This is a hard day. This day is the culmination of mixed emotions over the past few months. The snowball of Dad just being sick quickly turned into the avalanche also known as cancer. It wiped me out!

I have experienced loss before. My grandmother, our family giant passed away a few years ago after living with dementia for 10 years. It was heartbreaking but expected for many years. With Dad, as I affectionately call him, it was different. It was six months from him not feeling well to not recovering to diagnosis to departure. Devastation. I cried because life will never be the same. I cried because of the piercing wail of his wife of 49 years as they took his body away. I cried because my husband no longer has his hero with him. I cried because I love him so and will miss him dearly. I’m crying still as I write this blog. He was a great man. He stood 6’2” tall. He was the McElroy family giant. He was our patriarch. He was a real man. He was Dad.

As I struggle with this reality I turn to scripture for comfort. “How did Jesus handle grief?”, I asked myself. The Lord led me to Mark 3:1-6 where His enemies were criticizing Him for healing on the Sabbath. “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath,…” Jesus asked his enemies. He also took me to John 2:13-20 where Jesus forcefully clears the merchants and dealers who were defiling the temple. I meditated on these scriptures. Read them then read them again. I read before and after to make sure my understanding of the context was clear. I searched for applicable meaning and then it hit me.

Grief like anger is challenging. It’s a difficult emotion to control which is why we think of it so negatively. However, grief is good. It’s not only good because it is a healthy release of emotion, a natural way to express your love for someone, or it’s what everyone does. Grief is good because of what we do afterwards. Grief is good by what follows it. If Jesus would have stopped healing due to criticism from the Pharisees and if Jesus would have given up on us because of the poor behavior of the merchants and dealers we would never have seen the good deeds, good actions, and good results of his anger. As a result of this passage, today I choose to continue the legacy of ‘Dad’. Today I choose to focus on the gift of Dad. He blessed us with so many joyful memories, words of wisdom and examples of leadership. He equipped us to carry on the baton of life with integrity, strength, and most importantly faith in God almighty. For these and many other reasons, I will trust in the Lord with all my might. I will press toward the mark of the High Calling. I will cherish Dad forever and fight to carry on the McElroy legacy that he began. Good grief!

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Love Is

Michelle and I have asked many young couples to complete this sentence, “Love is…..?” We both often chuckle at the answers we hear from them. “Love is that warm and fuzzy feeling when you are with your boo, or even when you’re not together the mere thought of them brings a smile to your face.” Or, “Love is the goose bumps I get when he touches my hand or the high I feel when I’m standing in a room full of people, she walks in and smiles, and I know that smile is just for me!” Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat do some kind of job capturing these images of what love is because after all who wants to ‘like’ a picture or a video of someone crying because of a hurt they may be feeling, or some present pain caused by the one you love, or a disappointment that has happened more than once and you thought would never happen again? You see, I almost think we need to redo the wedding day because I’m not sure it is a proper representation of what we are walking into as a married couple. I mean you have the groom standing at the altar freshly groomed, suited and booted, and smiling without seemingly a care in the world. You are surrounded by family, friends, and well-wishers pulling for your success. The ceremony is held in a beautiful venue, decorated perfectly to all those looking on…and let’s not forget the bride! Walking down the aisle like an angel from heaven, literally glowing as she gracefully floats to her position next to her soon to be husband…I mean everything is perfect! Except, the venue is actually pushing us along because they have another 3 groups right after yours, half of the friends and family are only there for the free food and drink, and the bride and the groom who look so perfect and amazing at that moment are unable to see all of the invisible baggage that they are bringing into the relationship that they either failed to mention or they themselves don’t even know is an issue yet.

And that friends is what true love is…it’s not just about what or how your feel, it’s about what and how your serve. Love is not just about what you get, but more importantly it’s about what you give. Please understand, it’s easy to feel warm and fuzzy when you are both on the same page and everything is flowing as planned. She agrees with everything you say and he is taking out the trash without having to be reminded. How enamored are you with her when she walks down the stairs with a sweat suit on that’s 3 times bigger than she is, or how warm and fuzzy do you feel when he seems to get fresh and clean for any and everyone but you? Where is love when she seemingly has a rebuttal for every decision you wish to make and how special and cherished do you feel when he can’t seem to remember to put the toilet seat down after the 50th reminder! What is love? Real, true love? Love is having the patience to walk through the tough times, recognizing that tough times don’t last but tough people do. It is having the kindness to not make your spouse feel like an idiot because they may not be as knowledgeable or well- versed about certain topics as you are. Love is sacrificing what you want in order to make sure your spouse gets what they need from you….it isn’t always warm and fuzzy, it isn’t always glitz and glamour…love sometimes hurts. It can be downright painful sometimes. However, it is the most rewarding and fulfilling of all human emotions and if done correctly by two good willed people committed to loving each other properly, love can literally conquer anything. So yes, love is warm, fuzzy, goosebumps, and smiles…but love is also tough, stressful, painful, and frustrating. But I can honestly say after almost 22 years of marriage, though love and marriage is NOT for the weak minded, ill-equipped, and for the faint of heart….Love is an amazing adventure, it is the ultimate challenge, it is a thrilling roller coaster ride full of ups and downs and twists and turns, and love is….absolutely worth every bit of it!

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For Better or For Worse

On the wedding day two people stand in front of a minister or officiant and are absolutely lost in the moment. I have conducted several weddings and I have seen it first-hand; the groom absolutely mesmerized by the dazzling beauty of his soon to be bride. The bride, who once she enters the space knowing every eye is on her, only has eyes for her true love and who is ready to give her whole heart to her dapper, debonair groom. It is oh so magical, and though the couple has gone through pre-marital counseling and has received advice and wisdom from seasoned married professionals and veteran couples on how to hang in there through the tough times, in that moment that is the last thing on the soon-to-be-bride and groom’s mind. They are going to conquer the world together! Problems…issues… challenges…sickness…divorce? Those are situations other couples deal with, but not us! Can you blame them though? I mean who wants to go into a brand new relationship or enter into a brand new season of life focused on worse-case scenarios? In fact, even though the pastor says to the couple in their vows, “do you take this man/woman to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife for better OR for worse, for richer OR for poorer, in sickness OR in health so long as you both shall live,” I believe most folks feel like the more they can avoid problems and negative circumstances in their relationship the better.

Now, I don’t think anyone enjoys going through hard times. It’s neither fun nor is it energizing, however it is telling. You see no one learns much about their spouse when everything is perfect. It’s easy to say how much you love someone when things in your life are “better.” However it’s in the times of “worse” where you find out who is really in your corner, it’s during the times of “worse” where you have an opportunity to put your commitment on display, and it’s during the times of “worse” where you get to find out what you and your relationship is made of. The tough times present couples with the chance to cry together, to fight together, and to grow together. Personally, I have come to appreciate the challenges I’ve experienced in my marriage. Now I reiterate, those times aren’t the most fun and energizing, but when you have two well intended people willing to continue to put in the work, it is amazing the character it builds both individually and corporately as husband and wife. It also provides a depth of intimacy that you just cannot experience without some level of adversity. So to all of my fellow married couples I say enjoy the times of “better.” However during the time of “worse” I say do not miss the opportunity it presents. Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

By |Categories: Communication, Conflict Resolution, Intimacy|

On Guard!

There is an amazing phenomenon that happens when two people from two different backgrounds and two different upbringings come together to become one. However, in so many marriages today, the bride and the groom will come together as far as sharing a home together or sharing monthly expenses but many will still insist on keeping some things separate from their spouse. Some couples don’t give their partner access to their email or social media pages. I know some couples who don’t have access to their spouse’s vehicle. There are also many couples who are adamant about keeping their finances separate. Their attitude is, “I do what I want with my money and you can do what you want with your money.” And as I have inquired with many of these couples as to their rationale behind why they operate this way, the most common answer I get is, “Well I need to still have my own stuff independent of my spouse. My business and my privacy are my own to enjoy. It’s important to have some money over to the side just in case things don’t work out in the marriage.” And while I understand wanting to exercise wisdom from previously poor relationships and the rationale behind putting certain personal affairs in place to protect your own self-interests “just in case,” marriage was NEVER supposed to be a space where a husband or a wife felt the need to have to protect themselves from the other…IN ANY AREA! And I believe there are entirely too many well-intentioned folks who walk into the institution of marriage with a warped view of what marriage really is. Now while I cannot tell people how to run their lives and conduct their relationships I will tell you that in my experience this mindset of putting in safe guards is one the quickest ways to create division and discord in your relationship.

Unlike other human relationships, marriage is supposed to be the one place where you are free to relax and let your guards down. It is a supreme sharing of time, talent, and resources. It’s not what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. It very much is I’m bringing my 100% and you bring your 100%…IN EVERY AREA… and how can we collectively make sure we both benefit? My hope is that our goal is to achieve true oneness and intimacy in our relationships. Well that doesn’t get accomplished by withholding from one another, but true intimacy is unhindered access to the other person. Your spouse should feel like there is no one or no thing that is more important than they are; not money, cars, business, parents, or friends…and at any given moment, within reason, they can have access to you if they need you. This type of connection says I have access to your thoughts, your body, your assets, and your emotions. Now I realize if you have come from a poor and abusive relationship you will not gravitate to the messaging in this blog because this type of love and this type of relationship opens you up to some level of exposure. The truth is living and loving this way does hurt deeply when things don’t go as planned, however I will also tell you that if you don’t open yourself up to this type of lifestyle you will NEVER experience the deepest levels of love and intimacy that marriage has to offer you. So many folks focus on the thought process, “Well what if my worst fears are realized and things fall apart?” Here’s another thought process, “What if they don’t?” Folks you can’t commit most of yourself and hold back some of yourself and think you’re going to have a great relationship. It doesn’t work that way. I can guarantee this, whatever it is you choose to withhold from your spouse will eventually become an object and a symbol of resentment to them, because that will be the thing they view that you value more than them. True oneness is an amazing opportunity to love and to allow yourself to be loved. It is an opportunity to open yourself up to a love and intimacy that quite honestly very few people get to experience because of fear. Friends there is no way you can fully open your heart if you’re on guard. I want to challenge you to examine areas of your marriage where you can begin to let go your safety net, allow yourself to be vulnerable, and give yourself the opportunity to experience true love and intimacy the way it was meant to be. Is it risky, yes. Is it scary, it sure it! Is it easy, no it isn’t. However the rewards of putting yourself out there to achieve true oneness far outweigh the risks.

By |Categories: Communication, Finances, Intimacy|

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