Saturday, May 23, 2009

Selfish Little Bugger

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” - C.S. Lewis

Our small group for church is listening to a CD series on marriage by Tim Keller. The very first session we listened to was about selfishness within relationships. Keller proposed an interesting concept that has totally thrown me for a loop. He states, "The root of all problems in relationships is selfishness." And damn it all if the man isn't right!

I didn't want to admit it at first. I came up with a bunch of different scenarios in my head that created "problems" that selfishness had nothing to do with. Hurrah! I didn't have to re-evaluate myself now. Yeah, except that as I thought it over more....in every one of my scenarios, I could dig deeper, find deeper issues at work....and at the very bottom of every one, the problem was selfishness. Snarky little bugger! It made me mad to be honest. I'm a Christian so my answer up until this point has always been, "Sin! Sin is the cause of problems in relationships."

Sin is an easy generalization. When you want to really get real...you (or I at this point) realized that the "sin" was either Jake being selfish or me being selfish. And our problems..our communication problems, sex problems, money problems, emotional problems...whatever...stem from the fact that I need, want, desire things one way and Jake needs, wants, desires them another way. And our sinful "selfish" nature's are constantly at war with one another.

Crap! Now I had to figure out how I was being selfish. You know the funny thing about figuring out the ways you are selfish....you never want to change any of them. Take, for instance, my example:

I realized one of my selfish tendencies was loving Jake by giving him what I wanted, lots of quality time together. But what he needs from me are verbal affirmations...alot of them. And I realized I was being selfish by giving him time, which is what I want, and not encouragement, which is what he wants.

Any of you that know me, know that I am sarcastic and blunt. I must be missing a woman gene or something because the idea of saying, "Great job honey for paying those bills!" is as stupid to me as saying, "Great job for breathing!" The bills need to be paid...so pay em'. Why do you need a pat on the back and two thumbs up for doing something that has to be done? I don't get it, I don't want to get it, I really think it's stupid.....but Jake doesn't. He feels loved when I encourage him or thank him for doing things. So Tim Keller (and God too) has won. I am really trying to find things to encourage Jake about.

Why does this help? Because I am not being selfish when I encourage Jake. I am giving of myself, I am doing something I don't want to do...for the good and benefit of another person. I'm not doing great at this yet...but I am trying. C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller and God (with God being obviously more important) are right...if we don't recognize that our nature is to be selfish we are in danger of hurting ourselves and our relationships. A selfish person has no love to give...they can't be hurt or vulnerable....but they won't be able to be in relationship with other people. Relationships of any kind. It's super hard to realize how selfish we are...but worth it to recognize and make efforts to give, when we'd all much rather receive.

-Melissa

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Split Personality Disorder

This past Sunday with my youth group, we talked about personality as a means to understanding the person God has made each of us to be. It ended up leaning to quite an interesting conversation with Melissa about our individual personalities and how they affect our marriage.

Genesis defines marriage as two people becoming one flesh...and the two people can really rub each other the wrong way. Suddenly everything is shared, decisions have to be made together, you actually have to talk about your feelings and you spend alot more time together. Given the amount of change that happens in a relationship once two people get married, I think it's safe to say that that this new "one-flesh unit" struggles with a good dose of personality disorder. Melissa and I found the following to be really helpful in understanding ourselves better (not completely of course) and understanding why we might have struggles or areas where we seem to get along great.

Each persons personality is made of four different aspects of life:

1) How do you get energized?
- Extroverted - meaning being around people fills you up
- Introverted - meaning being alone fills you up.

2) How do you process information?
- Sensing - meaning you look for facts, things that can be determined with your five senses
- iNtuitive - meaning you look for abstract things and process theories

3) How do you make decisions?
- Thinking - meaning a factual process of A+B=C
- Feeling - meaning emotion based and more sympathetic

4) How do you live your life?
- Judging - meaning you like structure, plans and order
- Perceiving - meaning you like to go with the flow and spontaneity

Each persons personality is based upon those four categories and how they work as a combination.

My type is an INFJ and one of the descriptions explained that I have a "mysterious, intricately woven personality which sometimes puzzles even them." Which explains a lot and why I have a hard time sharing with Melissa about what I'm thinking and feeling - I tend to not even know myself. It frustrates Melissa to no end. "What do you mean you don't know how you feel?" she asks. She thinks I'm nuts that I can't figure out sometimes what is going on inside of me. But this test really helped her understand that I'm not holding back anything from her..it's just part of my personality that I need to work with.

Melissa, is an ISNTFJP...yep, that's right...when she took the test her scores all tied on every catagory except for the Introvert/Extrovert. She is wholly and completely an Introvert!! However even though her tied scores were unusual...and she joked that maybe it just meant she is crazy....the results of the test really made sense. She is very much emotional, go with the flow, and spontaneous; but her parents were very serious, factual, planned, and organized. She said she feels an internal struggle all the time...sometimes she needs things planned...sometimes not...sometimes she makes logical decisions...and sometimes not. It's sooo fun for me trying to figure out which planet she's on!

We read through the more detailed personality descriptions though and eventually decided she was an ISFP - she picked which ones she felt were stronger. Our differences explained a lot of the struggles we have given how I like things structured, ordered and planned and she likes to go with the flow. I process information abstractly, she processes information with her senses which plays itself out nicely as we evaluate life and how we see our relationship. There are pluses as well! We work together in some areas great by balancing each other out.

I would highly suggest for you all to take a personality test and explore about the way you are wired. It may lead to some interesting discoveries about your relationships and provide some hope that you're not crazy or messed up but just simply different.

To take a test and learn more, check out www.keirsey.com. Or, you can send me an e-mail (pastorjake10@gmail.com) and I can give you a test to take...

Have fun with it!

Jake

Crazy quote of the week:
Jake- "What about zoo's?" (in reference to a date night idea)
Melissa - "Zeriously?"

Saturday, May 9, 2009

You Can't Have Holy Without Mess

Watch almost any movie or TV show. Listen to popular music that poetically talks about relationships. Read some self help books. What do the majority of these things tell us is the secret to life? You being happy and taking care of your needs. And when it comes to marriage it’s all about you having those warm fuzzy feelings of butterflies when you are around your spouse and you being able to be turned on sexually by your significant other. What happens when you don’t have that loving feeling anymore? It’s time to move on to the next relationship…that will fulfill YOU!

Living this way is so hard not to fall into as Melissa and I consistently find one another looking out for ourselves first. We’ve never actually said these words in a fight but it’s like we are saying to the other, “I’ll unconditionally love you when you unconditionally love me.” This idea will never produce a healthy marriage. In fact, I believe it is destroying our families today as over 50% of marriages end in divorce, but it is also stunting our growth as individuals. What do I mean by that?

In my opinion, it is more so the tough times, the times of suffering and the challenges that we face that mold and shape us. We learn from those times so much more than if life were easy all the time. When we choose to avoid confrontation or to play it safe, we lose out on a natural process of growth and deepening of wisdom, understanding, and faith.

The circumstances that Melissa and I have had to deal with in the first three and a half years of our marriage were really hard. The time we spent dating was no picnic either. It was a pretty messy time in our relationship. People in college thought we were crazy (and they were right). We were asked to move out of our first apartment because we weren’t fighting well and our landlord’s kids could hear us yelling. We have had to deal with a bout of pornography that I struggled with back in college. Bottom line: that warm fuzzy feeling didn’t follow us for very long and we had plenty of very good reasons to throw in the towel. Truth is we probably should have at least taken a break during our Sophomore Year of Hell. Although that didn’t really work for Ross and Rachel, so maybe it wouldn’t have worked for us either.

But you know what? As I sit here now and reflect, I wouldn’t change one thing and I know Melissa wouldn’t either! Sure, there are plenty of stupid things we both said or did that we wish we could take back. But overall each of these very difficult situations that we have dealt with have made us stronger and taught us a lot about ourselves, each other and God.

Getting kicked out of our first apartment helped us to get over the fear of asking for help and going to see a counselor. It taught us humility, how to begin to listen to one another, and how to be self controlled. Dealing with the pornography issue taught us forgiveness, compassion, and honestly. The issues we dealt with in college taught us about friendship, how to balance time together with the rest of life, and more. And I could keep going on and on.

We have stuck things out and are both better because of it. Individually, we are a little more loving and more like Jesus. And these things don’t just affect our marriage today, but also impact how we deal with life and other people. This is what makes marriage so holy, awesome and unique.

Jake

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Like Rabbits Right?

Jake, I, and a bunch of our friends were hanging out last Saturday night at this local diner. It was pretty late and we were kinda punchy....so we started talking about sex! All of us were married at the table, so it wasn't too uncomfortable (except for me...I get a little squirmy using certain words!) We started talking about the difference that most of us felt in our sex drives once the ring was on the finger. Our friend Larissa summed it up pretty well when she said, "You think you can't keep your hands off each other? Well, guess what? YOU CAN! Just get married."

We've talked to a lot of couples who have found that the insane sex drive they had while dating...seems to get lost somewhere after the marriage ceremony. For some people (and I know some..wink) they have no problems with their sex drive at all. That's totally great! But many of us do. Jake and I had pretty high expectations about sex when we were dating and engaged. It had been a long.....long.....long....hard battle to keep our hands off each other until we got married. And we failed oh so miserably. Anything that wasn't "technically" sex....yeah we did it. It wasn't the best for our relationship and created a lot of guilty feelings, but thank goodness God forgives lots of mistakes.

But we had managed somehow to not have sex until after the wedding. And we expected it to be this awesome, fulfilling, romantic, and passionate thing that we were going to do ALL THE TIME; at least for the first year or so. It took exactly one night together for us to realize that reality doesn’t live up to the fantasies that can be built up in our minds. We found that in reality, sex after marriage takes work, just like every other part of a relationship.

Work is not sexy. And once you're married, sex isn't "forbidden" anymore. There's no dangerous, excitement of "oh we shouldn't be doing this...but it feels so good." That's not a bad thing....but for some reason it does impact sexual desire. Jake and I are almost 4 years into marriage...and we're still working on this sex thing! I think, in talking to a lot of other people about this, that it's totally normal to see fluctuations in sexual desire and frequency. Life throws a lot of different things at us....and that stuff affects sex. If you and your spouse are having it a lot and you're both happy with that (and not too tired)...fantastic. If you're having sex a moderate amount...and you're both happy with it....great. Even if sex is only here and there...if you're both satisfied....I think it's totally normal. We've found it helpful...as awkward as it feels...to check in with each other and see if we're both happy with how much sex is happening. If one person is not...we try...and fail....and try some more...to adjust so that we're both getting our needs met. Talking about sex with each other and other people is hard, but it helps us to communicate better and not feel so alone when we face problems or have questions.

Our crazy quote of the week: Jake is dancing around like a maniac. Melissa - "I think God is regretting you just a little bit right now." Jake - "No He's not, I'm using all my muscle groups!"
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.