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!

By |2019-03-01T10:21:00-06:00February 5th, 2018|Communication, Conflict Resolution|Comments Off on Love Is

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 |2018-02-08T22:10:47-06:00January 15th, 2018|Communication, Conflict Resolution, Intimacy|Comments Off on For Better or For Worse

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 |2018-02-08T22:17:42-06:00December 29th, 2017|Communication, Finances, Intimacy|Comments Off on On Guard!

Romance Novel Kind of Love

When I was a teenager I grew infatuated with romance novels. I loved love. I loved the thought of love, the look of love and most of all being in love with the one who loved me most. Those novels craftily sucked me into the fairytale of romantic love and I’m willing to bet some of you too. I desperately wanted to have that INTENSE love I grew to admire! Believe it or not I am still very much a romantic after twenty+ years of marriage. However, I am fully aware of the pitfalls of my fantasy. Reality has a way of ruining even the best intended dreams. Don’t get me wrong, I still love love. I just now love it differently.

Living together brings interesting challenges to the ideal of love. It tests the depth and fabric of the love you profess. We say we got married because we deeply loved one another but how much is the question. When encountered by the habits and upbringing of another adult, love can quickly turn into frustration, anger and dislike. I had not prepared for the differences, conflict and confusion that arise in marriage. I figured if Ray would just do what I wanted; when I wanted it and how I wanted it done all would be back to fantasy land. I had no idea he would have the same thoughts about me. As time went by, I became angry with what I wasn’t getting from Ray. I was easily frustrated by the littlest of things he would do that were different from me. I couldn’t believe this was the man who claimed to intensely love me more than anyone. I was so wrong about wanting this INTENSE love. It wasn’t all that the romance novels pictured it to be.

When I settled down and did some research, I realized I had it all wrong. The love I wanted was still achievable and, in fact, was present and alive. I just didn’t see it. The word intense comes from the Latin word intendere meaning “to stretch out.” I wasn’t happy because to do things Ray’s way required some compromises or even changes and change is hard. It caused me to open my eyes to different perspectives rather than sticking with what I already know. It made me reach deep inside myself and face the fact that I am an imperfect human being capable of improvement. This love I wanted so desperately challenged me to stretch beyond the single me to the 2.0 me, the married me. Relationships are hard whether at work with your boss, at home with your child or extended family like in-laws. As difficult as they may be the pressure to fix them daunts your existence and fractures your inner peace. Your only choice is to figure out how to make them better, especially your 24/7 marriage. You can choose to fight the pressure of modification or allow the process to transform you into something new and beautiful. As you open yourself up to change, you allow your journey to inspire your husband, children, family and friends to do the same.

You see I had it right after all (pun intended, ha)! Intense love is not only what I wanted but what I needed. And although it may not always be romantic, it is always right in the arms of the one you love! My hope is that you too allow yourself to be ever-changing, ever-growing into the new and improved you with the gentle nudge by the love of your life, your superman, pool boy or whatever he is to you tonight (wink, wink).

By |2018-01-19T20:08:42-06:00November 7th, 2017|Communication, Conflict Resolution, Intimacy|Comments Off on Romance Novel Kind of Love

10 Steps to Effective Couples Communication

Effective communication is vital to a successful relationship. Here are 10 steps to assist in your success.

1) Value- Determine if the topic/subject or situation is 1-10. 1=small stuff & unnecessary to communicate; 10=urgent and MUST communicate; 5=you could handle independently or it could snowball into something worse so WATCH CAREFULLY. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No one wants to be labeled as a nagging wife or a judgmental husband. Everyone wants to feel loved and accepted for who they are. Over communicating can cause your spouse to feel criticized and shut down communication altogether. Choose when to communicate wisely. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

2) Transparency- We must be willing to share our depth of feelings and emotions without FEAR of rejection. As difficult as it is to let your guard down, it is essential in building a bond to last a lifetime. The marital relationship is the one place where you and your spouse should feel safety. Create a spousal communication culture that is free of judgment/criticism and open to vulnerability.

3) Honesty- Be honest with yourself recognizing that you only have one perspective; be honest in your evaluation of the situation and the circumstances surrounding it; be honest with your spouse by truthfully sharing your needs and be honest by taking responsibility for the role you played in the current state of the relationship.

4) Timing- There’s no perfect time but there is bad timing for difficult conversations. Think it through before approaching your spouse with a difficult conversation. Anger has no place in solution oriented resolutions. I would even suggest setting an agreed upon place and time, therefore giving both parties an opportunity to collect their thoughts and prepare for the upcoming conversation.

5) Active Listening- Listen to understand versus to defend. Easy to intellectualize but difficult to execute. All things worth achieving require work. Practice being an active listener until you achieve it. I have found I am most successful when I write down the points my spouse is trying to make. It frees me from trying to memorize his points and from trying to think of my response. It deactivates the analytical part of my brain and allows me to absorb the information being shared.

6) Reiteration- Repeating what you heard for clarity, understanding and unity (being on the same page). Oftentimes what we hear our spouse say is different than what they were trying to communicate. Simply say, “What I heard you say is… Is that correct?” This simple statement decreases the probability of misunderstandings and mishaps due to incorrect interpretation of what was communicated.

7) Facts- Be fact driven. Don’t let emotions cloud the situation. Sometimes you may have to collectively jot down the facts in order to stay on topic or point. However, don’t let facts discount feelings. Feelings are important and should be validated.

8) Validation- Agreement isn’t necessary to validate your spouses feelings or emotional reaction to a situation. Sometimes validation of feelings is all your spouse needs to recover from an uncomfortable experience. Facts are important, however the way you communicate them or even the timing of your communication can be inappropriate and cause unnecessary stress on your relationship.

9) Follow up- Some conversations require a follow up to ensure follow through. Agree on a day and time for further discussion. It shows commitment to resolve.

10) Politeness/Positivity- DO NOT use harsh, negative words when describing or discussing a situation, your spouse or your spouses behavior. Being rude only causes your spouse to become more emotional which further clouds the discussion. Name calling breeds resentment and contempt which can become detrimental to a marital relationship.

By |2018-02-23T09:48:26-06:00August 7th, 2017|Communication|Comments Off on 10 Steps to Effective Couples Communication

Inclusive Teamwork

I wonder how many newly married men were like me with a slightly skewed view of what it looks like to be the head of the household and the leader of the family unit. You see I thought leadership was a man who makes all the decisions, protects his wife and family from situations and information that he feels is above their head or that they cannot handle, and when everything goes the way he plans he is looked upon as a hero and admired by his wife, his children, and all those who are looking intravenously at his relationship and family.  This picture looks real good from Hollywood’s perspective, but real life isn’t scripted like a perfectly drafted screen play with minor twist and turns but always ends happily ever after.  In my 21 years of marriage I have discovered life to be extremely unpredictable, and the times where I thought I had an amazing plan of how to move our family forward, convinced that everything would work out exactly the way I planned it, and even at the pleading of my wife (the few times I actually did include her in my personal planning sessions) to not move in the direction I was determined to take us in…more often than not I found myself having to pick up the pieces of the disastrous situation. A scenario that was full of problems that I did not account for, and ultimately a situation that broke down trust between my wife and I and that shook her confidence in my ability to make sound decisions and lead our family properly.

This is such a common issue in so many marriages that

Michelle and I have worked with over the years and even in our own relationship.  Men, it is so important that we remember what marriage is… Marriage is all about teamwork!  Now every great team has people fulfilling different roles, but no one role makes one person more valuable than the other.  In sports, the quarterback is considered by many as the most important person on the team. He is the face of the franchise in many respects. However, if he doesn’t make his offensive line feel they are just as important, if not more important than he is, he will be very ineffective in his ability to lead his team because he’ll get clobbered on every single play!  Great leadership is the ability to make everyone on your team feel valued and appreciated for what they bring to the team. Great marital leadership is the ability to make your wife feel valued and appreciated for what she brings to the marriage.

Using every single attribute that benefits your family should be your ultimate goal.  In college, NFL recruiters would watch me practice and chart my strengths and abilities to evaluate if I would be an asset to their team. Likewise, we as husbands have the same opportunity to sit back and observe our wives’ individual skillsets that when brought to the marriage relationship those gifts enhance our marital team.

In 2006, during the Indianapolis Colts Super bowl run, Peyton Manning was in the huddle with his team against the New England Patriots trying to put them away. While discussing the most crucial play of the game, the most unassuming usually quiet wide receiver Marvin Harrison spoke up and differed saying, “I think we should run the ball!” This decision required sacrifice and humility from the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The best way to lead our wives is to make sure they have equal say in the choices and decisions that we make. This will require sacrifice and humility on our part, but I have found that when we as husbands are inclusive with are wives in these types of conversations and decisions it creates more unity, greater trust, deeper intimacy, and a more healthy marriage. Why? Because when everything goes according to plan we get to celebrate together because we were in it together. And if by chance things don’t work out as planned, you work through it together, because you made the decision to move in that direction together. If we as men are inclusive like this with our wives trust me when I say fellas, our women will love us more for it, and will follow us wherever we lead them.

The great teams win together and they lose together but the common theme of those types of teams is they stay together. One of my favorite moments as a chaplain was after the game several players gathered on the 50 yard line as one to give thanks for the opportunity to play this game we love together whether we won or lost. The same applies to marriage. If what we do is done together with an attitude of gratefulness and thanksgiving the end result will always be a win.

By |2018-01-19T20:08:42-06:00August 7th, 2017|Communication, Finances, Intimacy|Comments Off on Inclusive Teamwork

What is Beautiful?

I asked my wife the other day if she ever gets tired of me telling her how unbelievably gorgeous I think she is. She smiled and said, “NO!” However, I also realize a thing that is truly beautiful cannot holistically be appreciated by just its mere appearance. What is beautiful to me is a Sunday afternoon, on the field, 3rd down and 15 and you know the quarterback has to throw the ball for a first down. You see the wide receiver running his route, you see the quarterback release the ball in his direction, and just before the receiver makes the catch….BOOOMMM!!!! The defender lights up the intended target with a thunderous hit that jars the ball harmlessly to the turf. That is just beautiful to me…but here’s what you don’t get to see in that moment. You don’t get to see the work that went into making that play happen; the long hours of practice, meetings, and film study spent. The early morning commutes day after day to the practice facility all while nursing nagging aches and pains from the intense contest just days earlier. Not to mention the ability to block out the family drama going on behind the scenes. What we see as beautiful when it happens live rarely reveals the struggle and the effort and the work that actually went into making it happen.

And I think that’s what I appreciate most about my marriage. Michelle and I hear people say to us all the time, “You two are so beautiful together. You guys are the perfect couple. I want to have a marriage just like you two!” Well, I will tell you it is possible. And though I would agree with everyone that our marriage is phenomenal, I would also share in all transparency that the beauty of our relationship is a result of the willingness to have the hard conversations, the work of listening to the other person and walking in their shoes versus standing intently on our own ground, and a mindset of blocking out the issues that would try to divide us, but rather be resolute in searching for the principles, the people, or the products that encourage togetherness. A great artist, a great actor, a great athlete….those amazing individuals who we would pay top dollar to see perform leave us in awe with the beauty in which they perform. But that’s the thing with the great ones…they make the hard things look easy. My friends what is beautiful to me is when I see couples not only committed to marriage, not only committed to looking good to the onlookers on the outside, but they are also committed to the work, the pain, the discomfort, the battle of what it takes to stay together successfully within the relationship. To me that is absolutely beautiful; yeah that’s what great marriages look like to me…but hey, the great ones, they make the hard stuff look easy.

By |2018-01-20T17:35:23-06:00June 10th, 2017|Communication, Conflict Resolution, Intimacy|Comments Off on What is Beautiful?
Go to Top