Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Marriage Survival Tips

Would it be weird to applaud Jake's blog? Because I didn't read it until he wrote it and frankly, it made me feel better! I keep reading in all these psychology books and magazines that say it's a sure sign of doom when a couple can't find anything to talk about. And it's kinda been freaking me out! I feel like it's actually really normal to find yourselves stumped for conversation and one of those things that naturally ebbs and flows with life. So kudos husband, your blog helped me :)

So it's the holiday season. A season that can bring us spouses together, but also find crafty little ways of driving us apart. There are a lot of emotions that go along with holidays, much more than many of us realize. We all have pasts, families, traditions, certain foods we're used to eating, certain times we're used to celebrating. It's not guaranteed that you and your spouse will want to do things the same way.
So how can you enjoy this time of celebration without killing each other? Here are couple survival tips that Jake and I have learned so far:

1. Be preemptive - Have conversations about where you want to spend the holidays, who you want to spend them with, how long you want to be there, what traditions you want to honor and so forth...BUT! Have them before you're actually in the middle of friends and family nudging each other under the table or having a fight on the car ride home.

2. Consider each other's feelings - Traditions mean something. Ask your spouse to explain what traditions they want to observe this coming year and why that tradition is important to them. It's important to understand each other's feelings because it helps both spouses work through compromises sensitively.

3. Compromise - I guarantee the way your family always did things growing up is not the way your spouses family did things growing up. Find ways that you can honor both families...and also remember you and your hubby are also a family. It'd be good to start some new traditions that are special to you both.

4. Be a team - Family is great. But they often have a way of pushing the exact button that really ticks us off. It's easy for feelings to get hurt during holiday gatherings and for families to possibly step over boundaries that you and your husband/wife had previously agreed upon. If that happens it's important to back one another up. (Unless one of you is being truly horrible..and even then wait until you're alone to deal with it). Your hubby needs to feel that you love them and they can trust you to support them if things gets tense. The marriage is more important than Aunt Frieda's twisted desire to call your wife "That girl Tommy married," or Uncle Bob's slobbery lip kisses (both fictional). Be a team, you won't regret it.

5. Rest - It can be exhausting to go to everyone's house and parties during the holidays. Make sure you and the hubs have some time together to relax to refresh. Easier said then done, when you're trying to please everyone's families. But who wants to go back to work exhausted? A wise woman once told me, "Sometimes you will have to say no to good things and good people." Exercise the power of saying "no" to a couple things and take a nap.

6. Budget - Nothing creates an argument faster than how to spend money! Jake and I have already had several this 2010 Christmas season. Even though it might seem easier and more peaceful to avoid, have a good talk about how much money you have to spend, how you want to spend it, and then compromise. This will also be one of those areas where it's almost guaranteed you and your spouse will have differing opinions. Try to think wisely about how you decide to spend and be flexible. It will go a long way towards not having the post-Christmas "oh my gosh HOW much did YOU spend?!!" credit card bill fight.

7. Eat cookies - There really isn't a lot of wisdom behind this. But cookies are fun and they make people happy. You can't end a holiday list without cookies :)

-Melissa

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reverse First Date

Within any relationship, you have good times and you have  more difficult times. One thing that we struggle with often is talking...not stalking...but talking.

First off, we have both been pretty busy lately and when that happens we don't tend to have a very broad range of topics to discuss. We can talk about work/church related things pretty easily, but beyond that we struggle with other topics.

Second, diving into emotional topics has still been a little difficult (more so for me than Melissa) because of the miscarriage and fertility issues. Questions like, "How are you doing?" and "What are you thinking about?" almost feel like landmines. It's important to check in and care for one another but sometimes you just need to focus on other things in order to stay hopeful.

Third, after being together for 9 years, we know pretty much everything about one another. What's left for us to ask?

With all of these things going on right now, we went on a date last week to a really cool restaurant and could just sense that it felt like conversation was gunna be tough. Melissa threw out a question we've asked before: "What did we talk about when we would stay up all hours of the night talking when we started dating?"

I replied, "We got to know one another - family, growing up, favorite things etc. But we know everything about each other now."

So we got this idea to test how much we really knew about the other person and decided we would have a bit of a reverse first date that evening. In a sense, we would quiz each others knowledge about the other. I would ask Melissa, "What are my three biggest goals in life?" and she would have to come up with what she thought I would answer.  And vice versa.

A pretty simple idea, but it ended up providing a great night of conversation. Actually some of our best in a while. Not only did we find out that we in fact didn't know (or at least remember) everything, but we had some great spin off conversations based on the different questions.

So, if you ever have trouble talking with your spouse or even boyfriend/girlfriend and feel like you know each other too well, put it to the test. You might be surprised.

Jake

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lessons on Suffering and Marriage

I know Melissa has already briefly shared about the miscarriage that happened about a month ago now. I'd like to take a few moments to share some thoughts of what we have learned throughout the last month in regards to marriage, faith and dealing with the emotions of a miscarriages.

One thing that we have both commented on a couple of times over the past month is how fertility issues and miscarriages are things that some couples get divorced over. After experiencing both first hand, I can totally see why. Both create many stirring emotions in you and your spouse that can feel pretty overwhelming. We have both also found it really difficult because it's this weird in-between place concerning death.

What I mean by that is on the one hand we lost a baby. A life that once was, is no longer here on earth. But on the other hand it's really hard to fully comprehend because we never physically saw anything, never heard a heart beat and never held a baby in our arms. It's almost this weird feeling of losing something you never had, which makes it really hard to articulate and fully comprehend (which, when it comes to emotions, is something I have a hard time with in general).

With emotions this high, it is completely natural to experience blow ups and break downs at some point along the way (of which we had both). It's almost impossible to avoid with such heavy situations happening. We both had to be quick to forgive and figure out how to patient with one another during the process of mourning and coping.

Given the high emotions, I think the other thing that we have had to catch ourselves with is the aspect of putting blame on one another. It sounds bad but it's a reality...and I'd venture to guess one of the big reasons things like this cause so much marital strife. When dealing with suffering, it's only natural to want to explain it, figure it out and understand why it happened. Sometimes, the fact that it just simply did, isn't good enough. But, it's the truth! It's not one person's fault (usually - unless irresponsible behavior is involved) and communicating blame will not only be misplaced but simply an emotional response you will later regret.

The last thing that has been difficult is focusing our attention forward and thinking about trying again. "Do we really want to put ourselves through this again?" "What if we have another miscarriage?" "What if we don't get pregnant this time?" All of these questions have raced through our heads over the last month and continue to sit at the forefront of our minds. The reality is, all those questions are valid. We might get hurt again. We might not get pregnant. But, living life involves risk. If you never put your foot forward because you are afraid to fall, you won't go anywhere!

The important thing is that, no matter what, we have one another. If you are struggling through any difficult time, let alone fertility issues, I think the biggest thing I have learned is the importance of doing the best we can to remain a team and to look out for one another.

Jake

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reading the Bible Together

Hey all,

Finally getting to a reader question about reading the Bible together as a couple: "What are some good ways that you guys have found that allow couples can get into the bible together?"

This has been an issue that Melissa and I have struggled with ourselves throughout the course of our relationship. From the day we started dating, we have tried to make reading the Bible together a priority in our relationship.

Here are a handful of the things we have learned:

1) Just like an individual relationship with God has ups and downs, so will your combined time with God. We have had stretches that we have done fantastic with setting aside time and we have had other times that we have done a horrible job. As you talk about your collective relationship with God, keep in mind this will be a conversation that will need to be revisited from time to time.

2) People connect with God differently. This was, and continues to be, the biggest struggle for us with spending time reading the Bible together. We simply approach and respond to the Bible differently. I like to read and then dive deeper into the notes or a commentary and then discuss it at length. Melissa likes to read a passage and then just let it sink it. We had to learn, and continue to learn, that this is ok and that one approach is not right or wrong, just different. At times we do it my preferred way, other times we do it her way and other times we find something in the middle. (For more about this, check out our past blog called "The Best Present Ever."

3) Unfortunately, we have not found very many resources to be helpful. We have tried a handful of devotionals written for couples and tend to find most of them rather annoying and shallow…but we’re both pretty picky when it comes to these kind of materials. The one that we have found to like the most is Closer by Jim and Cathy Burns. Each devotional starts off with Scripture and then has a story to go along with the message. Personally, I think the discussion questions at the end are the best I have seen in a couple’s devotional as they are really practical and have led to some great conversations.

The biggest thing I’d recommend as far as devotionals or Bible Study materials is simply to try different things and see what works for you. Head to www.cbd.com and do a search for books and guides and see what you find.

A couple of hints for those on a tight budget:

- Many libraries will order books suggested through a very simply request process. That way you can try a handful of books without cost to you.

- Most publishers, and even Christian Book Distributors or Amazon, will provide a sample of their content online. This way you can go through a couple of devotionals for free to get a feel for the material.

4) We also like to listen to sermons and then talk about them afterwards. Sometimes we’ll listen to them together, especially during long car rides, and other times we’ll listen to them apart (even different ones) and then discuss them later. Some of our favorites are Rob Bell and Shane Hipps from Mars Hill Bible Church and Perry Noble from New Spring Church.

Hope this helps! We’d love to hear what devotionals, resources or books others have tried and enjoyed…we’re always looking for new ideas ourselves.

Jake

How do you and your significant other spend time together with God?
Is there a devotional or book you have used that you really enjoy?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Article on RelevantMagizine.com...

Taking the Missionary Position: Is It OK for Christians to Date non-Christians?

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationship/features/23202-taking-the-missionary-position

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sex and Babies

So, this is a reader question posted back in mid-September.  We're wicked sorry to not have gotten to it yet, things have been a bit nuts for Jake and I the past month, which I will share about in a moment.

Question is: "What is normal sex frequency? As you mentioned in your last post there is the idea that newlyweds should be having sex all the time. Should I be worried that we only have sex once a week? What is normal?"

Well, I can say from experience,  extensive reading, loads of counseling, and talking to many other couples at all stages of married life: There is no normal.  Sex is different for every single couple.  There is the mainstream ideal that newlyweds go at it like rabbits.  The truth is, some people might have a lot of sex, some people might have a medium amount of sex, and some very little.  What we have found very important in creating a satisfying sex life (which is still very much a work in progress) is communication and information. You can figure out what is "normal" for you and your hubby by discussing how much sex each of you expects and desires per week and what types of sex that means (slow, quickie, precluded by a date or a day out together, etc.) Our counselor back in MA told us not to freak out if you find you have different desires, most people do.  Sometimes women want it more, sometimes men do.  Try and work out a compromise that satisfies both of you. 

Secondly, arm yourselves with information.  Talk to other couples (only if you feel comfortable doing so). Jake and I are super open, sorry Dad-In-Law who prob. will not read this post, and find that relating to other people opens up a huge wealth of helpful tips.  Second, read all you can about sex.  There's a lot out there that is trash and but there are some really good books.  For a scientific understanding of sex that totally blew our minds and completely changed how we viewed sex try, "Hooked" by Joe S. McIlhaney, Jr. & Freda McKissic Bush, MD. There is a link to it on if you scroll down to the bottom right of this blog and click on "recommended reading".  Another great book about how men and women view sex and how to make sex work with those differences is, "Mars and Venus in the Bedroom" by John Gray Ph.D." which you can also find on Amazon or his web-site: www.marsvenus.com.

We hope this helps you and your spouse to open up some lines of communication and create an enjoyable sex life.

And finally along the same lines Jake and I would like to briefly share about our last month.  We want to be open about things here, in hopes that it helps other couples dealing with similar issues to not feel alone and to gain hope.  As many of you know Jake and I have been hoping to start a family for about two years now.  Last month with the help of a very often used fertility drug, Clomid, I found out that I was pregnant.  Obviously we were both very excited as we had been waiting and trying so long.  About a week and a half later,  I had to go into the doctors because of a cyst and they did blood-work which indicated that the pregnancy was not a healthy one and that I would miscarry the baby.  The next day I did end up having a miscarriage.  This is something very normal and happens much more than most people realize.

Many women go through this alone and I find that heartbreaking.  I was glad that we had told people.  Even though I process things by myself, knowing that all our friends and family were praying was so encouraging.  We had a sad week, but Jake and I felt the Lord's love and provision for us every day.  We are doing well and the doctors are very positive and hopeful that we will at some point be able to have a healthy baby.  God is good and his timing is perfect. He designed our bodies to have this happen when a baby will not be able to survive in this world, and we know (even though it's just really weird to think about) that our little one is fully healthy and happy with Him right now.  We'll let you all know when there is hopefully some good news to share and until then we would love prayers for....well for fertility I guess!  

-Melissa



Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Sickening Couple Syndrome

Before I get into a question sent in by one of our readers, I'd like to share a quick book review. Good marriage resources can be hard to find, so when Jake or I find one we're going to be sharing it with ya'll!

The book I'd like to share is called, "Have a New Husband by Friday" by Dr. Kevin Leman. Dr. Leman is a nationally known psychologist who has talked about relationships and marriage on The View, Fox & Friends, Today, The Early Show, American Morning, Life Today, and The 700 Club. He has also served as a contributing family psychologist to Good Morning America.

Contrary to it's title, this book does not tell us wives how to change our husbands into the men of our dreams by the end of the week. But what it DOES do is provide in-depth explanations of how many different types of men function and how women can understand their men better. Dr. Leman does not sugarcoat things. He dives deep into both the negative & positive issues that have helped form our men into who they are today. He doesn't hold back on challenging women to communicate to men in ways that their gender will understand and respond to. In striving for a better understanding of their spouses, women can then change how they act and communicate towards them....this produces the "new husband". Dr. Leman's goal in this book is for wives to gain the change in their marriages that they desire, but to gain it by having a clear understanding of who their unique spouse is and how that spouse communicates and functions in daily life. Great read. If you'd like to find this book, click here "Recommended Reading." What comes up on page 1 always changes so just scroll through the books if you don't see it right away.

A blog reader sent Jake and I the following question: "My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year and are now dating more seriously - I question how much autonomy is necessary and good as far as time with others, serving in different arenas (at church or in the community) when you are dating with the intention of marriage or does it depend on the people and stage of dating?"


Our Thoughts:

At some point in any relationship a couple will go through the "Sickening Couple Syndrome."

This is when a couple can't get enough of each other. They spend all their time together, talk about the other constantly, and spend nights dreaming about the perfect person they have found. Usually people ditch their friends for a while at this juncture and can really seem to forget they have a life outside of Mr. or Miss love of the moment. This is normal, it's the infatuation stage of love and after about 6 months or so it usually wears off. (*Note - As all Gordon people going to school with Jake and I will tell you, this stage lasted waaaaayyy longer than normal for us. We were annoyingly too much together...and honestly much more involved than we should have been at that point.)

It seems as though you and your boyfriend are past the infatuation stage as you have an awareness that time and friends need to be at a healthy place. This is good. As I mentioned above, Jake and I learned about autonomy the hard way. Meaning we ditched our friends, meshed our entire lives together, and spent all our time together by the end of year one and stayed that way until right about the time we got engaged, 3 years later. So from experience what I can say is this. If you are dating make sure that you both keep your friends. Guy friends and girlfriends are invaluable to you as individuals and to your relationship. You should discuss and decide for yourselves how much time you think is healthy for your relationship to be spent apart on separate friendships. Every relationship is different.

The same goes for serving in ministries or engaging in activities. If you're not married, there should be some separation of those things. It's important to maintain who you are as individuals. That being said, it's also ok to do some of those things together. Shared interests and goals probably have a lot to do with why you two are dating in the fist place.

The key is balance. If you have a mindset towards balance, then you're on the right path. Yeah, sometimes you'll choose your man over your girlfriend and sometimes you'll find that you've spent the entire week together. Just make time the next week for friends and doing some things apart. It's always a work in progress.

Once you get married, you'll find that you have to mesh more of your lives together and spend more time together. But balance is important even in marriage. Jake and I have found how important it is to have separate friend and interests. It keeps things healthy and gives us stuff to talk about!

Hope that helps. - Melissa


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Follow the Money

A few weeks I ago, I found this article on Yahoo's front page about the 20 Worst Paying College Degrees this past year which got me thinking about money issues and vocation.

As I looked over the list, it actually made me really sad for our society and what we value. The first sentence of the article says it all: "If you want to avoid the worst-paying college degrees, think twice before choosing a college major that involves children." Beyond industries with children, food and health, jobs took the second biggest hit followed by the art industry and then religion.

It seems to me that these four areas are some of the most important things in our lives so why are they so undervalued when it comes to what people are willing to pay for them?

The fact that teachers and child service people are underpaid is nothing new. It's always been that way but yet these people are crucial to our culture and society. Our children are the leaders of tomorrow and we need to be pouring into them, loving them and helping them become the men and women that God has destined them to be. Without the teachers that you had in childhood, where would you be now?

The food industry surprised me to be honest, especially in light of the push over the last couple years about getting America healthier. Why is our health and nutrition something we take so lightly? America is insanely over weight as a nation and the health of many people is a grave concerned. Scripture talks about our bodies as the Temple of God and many of us don't take care of them the way we should...myself included on that one!

The last two weren't much of a surprise but yet are so important and undervalues within our culture. For more about the importance of art I'd encourage you to check out an article Melissa just wrote for RelevantMagizine.com called: Why Art Should Matter to Christians. When it comes to religious studies, we really need people in life who have taken the time and energy to understand God and His Word. People like Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Peter and Paul all represent this field. Where would we be with church and religion without them?

Now that I have taken enough time to wax on about these under appreciated fields, what do we do with this?

First, I think there needs to be a reminder to all of us that money isn't everything in life.

In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus says, "Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal."

The article has a tone of "don't go into these fields" but I would argue that making less money to invest in areas like the above are so important and worth it in the end. Our jobs are #12 and #13 on that list  but we wouldn't trade that for anything. Sure, things get tight every so often and we talk about how it would be nice for one of us to make $100,000 a year but when we really get down to it, 1) we'd rather do what we love and 2) we understand the value of what we're doing in other people's lives. This can be a huge point of tension within a marriage and relationship, as we have learned, so it's important as a couple to set our priorities on supporting one another in our passions and skill set rather than just what brings in a paycheck.

The second thing I think we need to do with this information is realize that these positions are so under- paid and under-valued because we have allowed certain industries to be more important in society and others to be less important. The more we spend and drive a market the more focus and attention is going to be put there. That's where the business saying "follow the money" comes from.

As Christians, we need to follow something (or someone) else and that's Jesus and the things He stands for. That's not to say that other jobs or markets aren't important but we need to think critically about how we support those industries and how it compares to things that you could argue are of greater importance in life.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 5:21 that, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." By taking some time to explore your spending habits as a couple, will help bring the things we really treasure to greater light - as a society, families and as individuals.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Engagement Woes

A reader asked, "What were some of the struggles you guys went through during the engagement process; how did you get through them? After getting engaged, I feel like some issues that my fiance and I had were magnified times a bazillion. My sister who has been married for over 2 years now said that arguments with her now-hubby got worse after getting engaged. How come nobody talks about the fact that this could happen?! It feels like everyone just expects you to be 100% joyous all the time because now you get to plan a wedding."

Good question! We've actually been talking to engaged couples lately who are going through the exact same thing.

To be honest our engagement wasn't super stressful. Mostly because dating had been a hell ride of dealing with pasts and problems.

However, we know a ton of couples find that getting engaged seems to create more tension. It makes sense that this would happen because now the relationship is much more serious. Now you two have to get down and dirty on important life issues. Engagement is the time where a couple truly starts to mesh their lives together....and realistically this takes a lot of work and solution finding.

It can seem that maybe you're not "meant" for each other, but most likely you and future hubby are totally normal. Sometimes engagement can bring out problems or issues that couples actually can't seem to work though and they call the marriage off. But usually most issues can be worked through and compromised on.

It just seems so much worse because everyone expects you to be blissfully happy. Oh, and on top of all that planning a wedding in this day and age is ridiculous. It's intense and uber time-consuming. Many brides get engrossed in wedding details and couples fight more about wedding stuff then actual relationship issues.

I don't know why there is the social stereotype of crazy-happy engaged couples and sex monkey newlyweds (yep I said it!) when realistically these are the years of your life together when you should be expecting the most tension in the relationship.

The good news: It's normal! Just ride it through, work on the issues, and have hope. Being married 5 years now, I can say (knock on wood) that things do settle down and get to a much calmer place.

Hope that helps!

-Melissa

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dating Someone With A Different Faith

In one of our previous blogs, Melissa talked about five signs that you are not ready to be married. For one of them, she said the following: "You're not ready to marry if you don't have the same religious beliefs." (To see that full blog, How Do You Know When You're Ready To Marry, click here.)

Because of that comment, the following question was sent along by a reader: "What are your opinions on dating someone who has no faith, or at least not yet."

This is a great question and one that I think has a couple of different things to think about.

When deciding to date someone of another faith we need to explore what the purpose of dating is. In my opinion the purpose of dating is to find a spouse. The whole process of dating is beginning to mesh two lives together with experiences and conversations that could one day lead to marriage. One problem that dating someone of an opposite faith is that a major aspect of your lives simply doesn't mesh. There can be equal respect for your differing opinions but faith is something that effects too many aspects of life for it to just be a casual "agree to disagree" issue within a committed relationship.

Think about some of the different issues different faiths would having on a dating relationship:
  • Should you have sex or not?
  • Should you live together?
  • Should you go to church together?
  • Should you pray together?
  • Do you seek God's discernment in your decision to get engaged?
  • Where should you get married and who should marry you?
Melissa and I have found a shared faith simply invaluable to our relationship - both while we dated and in marriage - and one of the main reasons we are still together. We just celebrated our five year anniversary and in September 26 will mark us being together as couple for nine years and we both know that God is the top reason for that. We have often commented how we don't know who those who don't know Christ do it. Prayer, Christ's call to humility, purity and serving, as well as seeking God's wisdom and discernment all play such an important role in the life of any Christian (or should anyways) and a committed relationship with someone who has different values will prove to be a difficult thing.

Now, there are some people who would disagree with my definition of dating and would argue that there is such thing as casual dating. The focus here isn't on anything long term or deeply committed but yet simply going on dates with different people. If this is where you are with dating, I would say there is nothing wrong with having dates with someone who has a different faith. It gives you the opportunity to learn about relationships and interactions as well as provides a context for witnessing and sharing Christ.

The other big issue our reader brought with their question concerns the topic of dating someone who has no faith as a way of sharing Jesus with them, aka missionary dating. Here are a few thoughts on that issue.

1) In my experience, missionary dating doesn't work very well. I've seen many people try and in almost every situation the Christian ends compromising their faith and standards more often than not.

2) When it comes to missionary dating, I have always asked people the question, "Why do you have to date the person in order to share your faith with them?" What's wrong with being friends, or even good friends, and sharing your faith in many of the same ways but yet without opening yourself up to some of the deeper questions that I mentioned above.

3) The last thing I will say is that in everything I have said, I am always very leery of establishing hard and fast rules about dating. That being said, I think prayer and wisdom should be huge factors to discerning whether to start a dating relationship to begin with. Regardless of who the person is or what their faith is, take some time to pray and ask God for direction and take some time to talk to trusted friends or mentors as well. As much as I would warn against missionary dating, I am not closed to the idea that God could possibly lead in that direction.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Let's Get Together

Today at work I listened to two sermons (I'm allowed to..which is sweeeeet). One was from New Spring Church in South Carolina. The other sermon was from Mars Hill Church in Michigan. Curiously they were podcasts from the exact same week (namely, last week) and they talked about exactly the same thing. So across the country...or diagonally the country...whatever, I'm not good at geography. What I'm trying to say is that it left me with a feeling of, "This is something to pay attention to. This is a problem and it needs to be addressed."

What both these pastors made very evident is that there is a HUGE generational gap spreading in our churches. Younger and older people are being split apart into different services, different events, and different small groups. And we're losing something. We're losing true community and we're losing the wisdom, understanding and experience of older generations.

Both pastors said something to the extent of, "There are people in this service who have been married for 40 years. And we NEED you. We have other people in this room who have been married for one year and are thinking of divorce. They NEED you. There are all kinds of things you have gotten through and us young folk could sure use a hug and a lifetime of experience from which to draw. It is vital that older and younger generations interact more."

I tell you what, I could not more whole-heartedly agree. It doesn't even need to be in the context of church. You got some neighbors who've been married a long time? Get to know 'em. They'll teach you things you didn't even know you needed to know.

As a married person I can say with weight that mentors or relationships with older people really matter when it comes to keeping a marriage together. There is so much that we haven't lived through yet and we desperately need to know how other people made it through. Sometimes solutions can only come from others because we get so stuck in our own endless circles of emotion and hurt, we need older, wiser couples to speak up and speak into our marriages.

Because honestly, our generation is not doing so hot with the whole marriage thing right now. We can agree on that right?

So if you're a younger couple, really be persistant in reaching out to older folks. A lot of people shy away from the word "mentor"....so just have them over for dinner and ask questions about their lives. I'm not saying to be sneaky...but really mentoring is by nature relationships between generations. So go get yourself a relationship.

If you're an older couple. Please, please, please put yourself out there. We young 'uns would love to have someone to talk to. To get to know. To hear about your life and what you've learned so far. We would really value your advice.

Let's do something about this together.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Do You Know You're Ready For Marriage?

One of our blog readers sent in the following question:

How do you know when you're ready to get married to the person you're dating? When is the "right" time?

There are simple answers for this question and also complicated ones. Bear with me.

Simple answers:
1. You're ready if both you and your significant other both want to get married. This seems silly but many times couples tie the knot when one or the other isn't quite sure if they're ready to take this step, but feel pressured by the other person, by their age, or by a fear that they might not find anyone else to marry.

2. You're ready as long as both of you have a realistic understanding that marriage really is "for better or worse." This commitment means that you'll feel great when things are better....but you'll definitely feel like escaping when things are worse. Most people within their first year of marriage find themselves thinking, "Oh holy crap, what did I get myself into?" If you understand that this feeling is normal and that marriage means sticking it out through the "worse" times when it would be easier and less painful to leave, I'd say you're ready.

3. Having a good relationship with God really helps. Jake and I feel that it's a pre-requisite. You'd have to make up your own mind, but since you asked, we'll tell ya what we think! Marriage takes extreme acts of unselfishness on a nearly constant basis. Having a divine source of strength, love, and unselfishness from which to draw is something we feel necessary to keep marriages together.

Many times Christians (and non-Christians) agonize over finding the right time to marry or if they're ready for marriage. We feel this agonizing is unnecessary. The more complicated answer to your question...is another question.

When is it the wrong time or when are you not ready for marriage?

1. Many people want God to give them a clear, resounding, and specific "yes" about marriage or about a potential spouse. This doesn't happen a lot. If you're walking in relationship with God, you have the freedom and God-given wisdom to choose your spouse. More often, people hear a "no" from God and don't like it. You're not ready for marriage if you're feeling like God's told you no to marriage, no to a specific person, or that He wants you to wait. A wise couple trusts the no's from God because while it's painful to turn away from a relationship, it might be more painful to push onwards with something that He knows isn't best for you. And believe me, you will know when God says "no"....He's usually pretty darn loud and persistant about it!

2. You're probably not ready if trusted family members and friends are cautioning you that marriage to this person is not a good idea. The chances of people in love listening to this advice are slim, but really they should! Your close friends and family have your best interests at heart. If they express concern about marriage for you right now or marriage to your current boyfriend/girlfriend....you might want to pay attention. Listen to their concerns and ask yourself if maybe they have some valid and realistic points.

3. If your life goals are incompatible, it's not wise to marry. I'm talking about really obvious things like one of you wants an open marriage, while the other expects fidelity. One of you feels called to be a missionary in Africa, while the other strongly wants to live in a suburb in Idaho. One of you wants children and the other firmly does not want children. These things are deal-breakers.

4. If the relationship is at all abusive, you're not ready to marry. This includes sexual, physical, verbal, and mental abuse. God does not want you to be treated less than the wonderful person He made you. If you experience any type of abuse, do not marry or continue in a relationship unless the person struggling with abusive behavior has gotten significant professional help and has demonstrated healing and changed behavior for a good amount of time. Even then, exert caution.

5. You're not ready to marry if you don't have the same religious beliefs. This really offends many people. It's not PC. But I really believe it's wise. It's not about being intolerant. It's about realizing that one's religious beliefs seriously contribute to how one thinks about morality, lifestyle, money, child-rearing, and so forth. Opposing beliefs on any of those things can really tear apart a marriage. I'm not saying you should not date people with different faiths or no faith at all....but really think long and hard about what it would look like to marry someone with another faith. Faith should be your first love and your shared foundation for marriage.

Hope this helps! - Melissa

P.S. For more on these questions, check out our recent blog at RelevantMagazine.com - How to Find the One

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We Need Your Help

Hey everyone,

We have been discussing some additions we want to make to our blog, but in order to do so we need your help. We would like to add two pages to our site one listing creative date ideas and the other listing good counselors as a resource to those looking. We only have a limited number of ideas to add to the pages ourselves so we really need your help. All ideas will be listed without names connected to them.

Creative Date Ideas:

Dates are so important in a marriage but sometimes, the busyness of life - work, kids, school, etc. just kills some of the creative juices.

If you could help by sending creative ideas that you have done or plan to do to jakeandmelissakircher@gmail.com. Just indicate what the idea was, the time involved for prep and execution and how much it cost.

Counseling

We'll have an article coming out soon about counseling at RelevantMagizine.com and can not express the importance that counseling has played in our lives and in our marriage. The hardest part though tends to be picking up the phone and finding someone. We have found that the best way has been word of mouth so we'd like to build a list to help make that process easier for others.

If you have had a healthy experience with a counselor, please just send us an e-mail at jakeandmelissakircher@gmail.com with the following information:

1) Name of counselor
2) City and State they are located
3) Contact Info: website, phone number, email, etc.
4) Did they accept insurance? Work on a pay scale? Etc?
5) Describe the counselors personality and/or the counseling style.

Thanks so much for your help! We really think and hope that these two pages will help many other people.

Jake and Melissa

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fighting on Facebook?

I came across this really intriguing article in the New York Times recently that I thought I would share:

When Couples Fight on Facebook

If you don't have time to read the whole article, the gist of it is the growing population of couples who have taken their fights to Facebook in the form of status updates and wall posts. The article highlights one couple who got so direct and blunt in their Facebook argument that a friend had to double check that they knew they were posting things that everybody could read. Another friend expressed concern about their relationship and felt that all they did was fight, based on their Facebook activity.

It's a really interesting article that asks the question if this is healthy activity or not. Never before have marriages been able to air disagreements as quickly and as publicly as they can on Facebook. What do you think? Healthy or not?

Here are some thoughts:

First, what would be the motives of posting an argument on Facebook? For many, as expressed in the article, I think the motive would be to make a case for your argument and gathering support to help you win the argument. This is really not a healthy way too fight. One of the best pieces of advice we have ever gotten about fighting was that too many couples put an issue in between them and both try to win the other person over to their side. But what is better, is to take an issue and put it in front of both of you as you then sit side-by-side to work through an issue together. The previous makes the issue about being right and winning. The later makes the issue about, well...the issue and working through it together.

Second, knowing what it is like to try and work something out over e-mail or text, I would assume that Facebook would be just as difficult, if not worse. You can't read body language and tones; nor can you facial expressions or see emotion in the other person's eyes.

On top of those things being missed, you will also have multiple other voices speaking into your argument. Which, on the one hand can sometimes be helpful but on the other hand we're not talking about a good friend sitting down for an hour or two to give you some honest advice. We're talking about Bill from work whose been divorced twice and is currently dating two girls without their knowing. Do we really want to give him space to respond to our arguments with advice?

I think I would lean towards fighting on Facebook not being a healthy thing.

What do you think?

Jake

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Discussing Pornography

So an issue that we feel strongly about is the detrimental affects that pornography has on marriages. I think that it's helpful to understand that pornography is often a curiosity, that turns into a liking, that turns into a habit, that turns into an addiction. And it can become a very destructive addiction. I would wager that most men and many women have looked at porn, whether on the internet or in print and so we all need some practical, Biblical advice on how to treat porn, what to do with it, and if it's a problem, how to stop. We dealt with this issue when dating and know countless friends and family who have also painfully struggled with this particular problem.

I am reading a book by Beth Moore called, "So Long Insecurity." And while I don't endorse everything within the book, I have to say her chapters that deal with pornography are great. I would like to simply share an excerpt from her book as she puts things better than I think I could. One very important thing to keep in mind is that men and women who struggle with porn are God's children just like the rest of us. We all need to be treated with love, respect, and compassion, as we all have our own different struggles. And now Mrs. Moore:

(Paraphrased) "Anything that keeps our relational lives in a whimsical world and requires absolutely nothing from us but further self-absorption is a severe detriment to our security. The human psyche was designed for real relationships and cannot flourish amid nothing but fantasy. The plan to keep pornography at bay and not allow it to affect relationships is a bigger fantasy than the one on the screen or page. Countless pornography addicts reach a point where they can no longer have sexual intimacy with a spouse.

A pornography addiction...cannot get enough. It constantly demands something more. Something deeper....[It] also turns the lock ever so quietly on the cell of solitary confinement. The irony is that it promises company but ultimately leaves its victim with all the psychological fulfillment of caressing a ghost. Contrary to the claims of our sensual culture, we were not created merely for sexual gratification. We were created for affection, and that requires another person.

If you are in this position, the first thing I want to tell you is this: there really is life after pornography for many couples. I am pro-marriage, pro-forgiveness, and pro-doing what it takes to work things out.....I believe that with God's help and centrality a couple can move through almost anything and flourish once again. To state the obvious, however, doing nothing will never accomplish anything.

The second thing I want to tell you is to seek face-to-face counsel from someone you know to be wise and discreet. No book can ever take the place of good, solid, sound-minded counseling, because it lacks the framework of individuality and accountability. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that you need to find a safe place to tell the secret, or you'll never get your ankle out of the trap. If the two of you could fix it by yourselves, you probably already would have. Get help for yourself whether or not your spose or fiance accompanies you. The third thing I beg you to hear is that you are not doing your man [or woman struggling with pornography] any favors by letting [them] continue to get away with something so destructive to [them] and your relationship.

Here's some advice from Rob Jackson, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in intimacy disorders like these: 'You confront because you care. Armed with knowledge that your spouse is acting out sexually, you have no other responsible option. Your information may be incomplete, but any verifiable evidence of illicit sex is enough. This could include but is not limited to viewing pornographic materials, visiting sexually explicit chat rooms, browsing adult bookstores or going to strip clubs, frequenting prostitues, engaging in voyeurism, exhibitionism, or sexual behavior with others. Indecisiveness won't do - not if you hope to save your marriage. When done correctly and motivated by love, confrontation becomes an act of profound compassion. Frankly, it's easier in the short run to look the other way. If you intend, however, for your marriage to overcome adultery of any type, you must confront if your spouse fails to confess. To quote Dr. Dobson, "love must be tough" - and consistant. In addition to love, confrontation must be centered on principle. The dialogue should never degenerate into who is right, but what is right.'

To stand back and watch a spouse spin further and further out of control without ever attempting to confront, set a boundary, or permit consequences is not in [their] or your best interests." - .pgs 250-255 "So Long Insecurity"

Food for thought from Beth Moore. I hope her words are as challenging, compassionate, and practical to you all as I have found them.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sometimes you just need a little break

Yes, it's Melissa again. I promise Jake is still alive. Summers tend to be busy for youth pastors and Jake is no exception. This week he is in Philadelphia, PA with a group of middle schoolers. I'm sure he would appreciate prayers that the trip goes well. Jake will be blogging more once the summers settles down. For now, I'm just writing down the conversations we've been having.

It's funny when Jake leaves for his trips. Everyone is so kind and offers their help and asks if I'm going to be ok. I think it's super sweet for people to care and it's much appreciated, but I always laugh a bit on the inside. Because I LOVE it when he goes away!

Elizabeth Gilbert (she of the "Eat, Pray, Love" rage going on now) puts this humorously in her new book "Committed." I feel like she understands my soul. "Because here was something I already knew about myself; Just as some wives occasionally need a break from their husbands in order to visit a spa for the weekend with their girlfriends, I will always be the sort of wife who occasionally needs a break from her husband in order to visit Cambodia." pg. 227

Ha! Love it. I know just how Elizabeth Gilbert feels. No matter how much I love my husband and enjoy spending time with him...it is heaven to have the house all to myself for a week. I love being alone, cooking what I want, watching as many girl movies as I want without groaning and suggestions of sports alternatives, having extra time to work and sketch. I love reading without having to answer questions. I just love not having to answer questions period...like "What are you thinking?" Two weeks out of the year, I don't have to tell Jake what I'm thinking. It's fantastic.

So I'm sittin' just fine ya'll. And I think it's taken a couple years of marriage to feel ok about needing a break from each other. My idealistic picture of domestic bliss did not really include checking out every once in a while. I used to freak when Jake wanted to get away with the guys. "Did he not love me anymore?" "Why didn't he want to spend time with me?" If you think those thoughts too much, spending any kind of time apart can easily turn into, "Something must be wrong with our marriage!"

But as time has mellowed me out a bit, I can see how much spouses are still individuals despite an intense level of intimacy with each other. Your marriage could be great....but you still might need to get away to Cambodia for a couple of days. Jake and I have really been trying to give each other space lately. Space to have time with our separate friends. Space to play video games or space to read. Space to have our own ways of doing things. We're trying to put less expectations on making the other person live like we live, spend time like we spend time. To let each other be different. It's a constant process of evaluating needs vs. wants. But I feel like it's chilling us out a bit. We seem to be settling down more into the comfortable-ness of marriage and I rather like it.

Which is why I am proud to say that I am going to miss Jake this week. But I am going to enjoy the heck out of being alone while he's gone!

Monday, July 26, 2010

New RelevantMagizine.com Feature & Sleep Stories

We have a new feature up on relevantmagazine.com check it out:


Hey everyone! We just got back from a week in Ocean City, MD. Great fun and relaxation. Nothing super insightful about marriage was learned on this vacation, which was kinda nice because insightful learning can be tiring!

We did have one funny night at 2:30am where I woke up to a loud (very loud) banshee type yell and when I turned on the light I found Jake had fallen off the side of his bed. He was peaking up at me from the floor with these shifty eyes. I sighed and asked him what happened to which I got incoherent replies. So I told him to get up and go back to sleep. The next morning we found out that he was having a dream that flying swordfish were going to impale him.

I never expected to have to sleep in two twin beds when I got married. We push them next to each other so it's mostly like a King. It's not the end of the world, but it does kinda stink at times. However, it's nights like swordfish night that remind me all the reasons we need to do the twin bed thing!! I love Jake...but he's crazy when he sleeps...talking, thrashing, twitching, snoring, and a weird nose/mouth popping noise. Jake loves me, but I'm a crazy light sleeper and I just can't sleep in the same bed with him. We love each other...but we love sleep too! So we make it work, and instead of flying swordfish dreams being a huge fight (like it used to be because we were both so sleep deprived), now we can laugh about it :)


Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Burger Joint Story

So sometimes the fun part of marriage is the mess part right? We're with this person day in - day out....week in - week out. And we get to experience some pretty hilarious stuff with each other. I think this is the greatest, because it's really not that fun to laugh by yourself. And besides, if you do that people think you're crazy.

So I have to share the "Burger Joint Story" because it's just so funny.

Jake took me to this burger joint near us called, "Five Guys Burger and Fries". It's seriously good stuff...all organic I think, but not quite sure on that. We had a nice date gorging ourselves of fattening food (the fries with vinegar are killer!) and headed out the door.

Just as we got outside Jake stepped on my foot, hard. (*Note - this next part contains swearing) It hurt a lot and so I said, "Son of a!!!" OK. Normally I always stop there. I don't like the "B-word" and don't say it. I don't think it's good to swear, but I slip and say things I should not more than I care to admit. Be assured, me and Jesus are working on fixing this particular habit. But anyways, normally I would have just said, "Son of a!!!" and left it at that.

But it really hurt and so the "B" word just slipped out.....but it slipped out delayed by about 30 seconds and well, I yelled it. This is because as I was saying, "Son of a!!" a man almost walked right into me coming into the restaurant. And so my brain went, "No! No! don't swear! Stop!" At the same time it had also told my mouth to say the naughty word....so I ended up yelling the "B" word into this man's face. He looked at me like I had five heads...kinda chuckled...and said, "Uh, hi." Then he left Jake standing on the sidewalk bedside his wife with the crazy mouth.

We laughed so hard we had to sit down on the sidewalk, in front of the restaurant. It was hilarious. And it made me glad to be married. Because if I wasn't married, I wouldn't have a husband to step on my foot so I act like a crazy person in public. But I also wouldn't laugh so much:)


Friday, July 9, 2010

Fear and Inconvenience

So, fresh back from Tijuana, Mexico with some of my high school students has got me thinking about the roles of fear and inconvenience in our lives for the sake of community in general, but also for marriage.

On Tuesday, our group got to build a house for a sweet, elderly woman named Maria (on right with one of our group members). She had taken the bus to meet us at the mission where we were saying and because of that, couldn't remember how to get back to where her new house would be built. We drove around, stopping twice for her to jump out and ask for directions and the second time really challenged our groups thinking about community.

We had stopped at a barber shop where she jumped out and talked to a man outside. He explained directions to her and then came up to our van and explained them to me - I speak very little Spanish though and had NO IDEA what he said and simply smiled, nodded my head and said "Si."

As we turned around to head the opposite direction, the man waved us down and actually jumped in the truck with the mission staff and Maria and took us to where we needed to go. It took us about 20 minutes to get there and then he simply said, "Adios" and took the bus back to the barber shop. Our group reflected that this would never happen in our area (Fairfield County, CT) for two reasons:

1) First, either party would always assume the worst about the other. We would hesitate to let a person jump in our car or offer to jump in someone else's car just to help with directions. The thought would be that it would be too dangerous, too much of a risk and just plain stupid. We'd rather drive around frustrated and lost than take the risk of letting a person in our cars.

2) Second, how many people are willing to just stop what they are doing and give up an hour of their time to help someone else? Most of us are too busy and too concerned with whatever we are doing to do this.

With a holy sense of irony, the speaker the next morning ended up speaking about this idea in his talk exclaiming that, "If we want to have true community in our lives, we have to allow ourselves to be inconvenienced. God uses people to reach people and all too often we let so many things get in the way of this."

Both of these lessons about fear and inconvenience apply to marriage in a few ways:

First, within a healthy marriage, there needs to be give give and take. There needs to be sacrifice on the part of both spouses for the other. This really is the definition of being inconvenienced. Being put into a spot or a situation that would not suit your needs or your desires but someone else's. It is never an easy thing to do but it is in these moments that not only help strengthen a marriage but also strengthen ourselves as individuals.

Second, we have learned that a big part of growing in marriage is being willing to admit our own failures and struggles to others. Sometimes, we have to be willing to stop and ask for directions. And then, we have to be willing to let someone jump in the car with us and help us get to where we need to go.

Many of us have fears about sharing the difficulties we face in marriage:

What are people going to think of us?
What if we're the only one's dealing with it?
People will think we are crazy?

We've thought these questions before ourselves. But we can also tell you that when we have gotten past them and opened up to a friend, pastor, counselor or another party we have been met with compassion and got the advice and help we really needed. It's a humbling thing to open up to others but, alas, God uses people to reach people.

Third, flipping around the previous thought and back to the issue of being inconvenienced, as we grow in our own marriages we must be willing to be there for others who are struggling. We have to be willing to be interrupted and stop what we're doing to hop in the car with others and help them find their way.

Have you ever noticed that the times where your friend is having a crisis and needs to talk are hardly ever good times for us. Those times interrupt our meals, our down time, and our time with our family. Being willing to be that listening ear, offer advice and challenge one another in our marriages is crucial to them being able to survive.

God uses people to reach people. God uses spouses to help spouses. God uses marriages to help marriages.

Some questions to think/talk about:
  • How much are you willing to be inconvenienced by your spouse? By others?
  • Are you dealing with an issue you are scared to get help with? Why?
  • Is there a line between being inconvenienced and being walked over?
Jake

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Empowering Women

Can ya'll tell that Jake is gone for the week? I have all this extra time for introspection! I guarantee he's going to get back and say something like, "Babe! What the heck is with all the blogs?"

Well since I have more time to be inside my own head than normal (and normal is quite a lot for an introvert like me) and because I woke up at 4am this morning worrying about apartment hunting for my mom.....I read a blog on Relevant Magazine Online that was talking about being a single woman and society's expectations for women. Now, the blog was rather confusing in that I couldn't tell exactly what stance the author was taking...but it provoked some good 4am musing about a topic I am very passionate about.


This topic is important to marriages...as half of married people are women. Here's the things I can't get my brain around. Throughout history women were seen as lesser than men, we couldn't vote, hold property, speak up even. Our role was to be an obedient wife and produce offspring. We were not expected to hold down a job, the men took care of things. We minded the household and did womanly things like sew and stuff.

Now society has flipped almost to the other extreme and women are expected to have a career, support themselves...and usually it's expected on top of being a wife and a mother. Single women find themselves older and older as sexual practices in society change as well. Men don't need to get married to get laid....both men and women can find satisfaction without a marriage commitment.

I find that stay-at-home moms almost have the stigma of being lazy...which is so far from the case! I also find that a woman without career aspirations is looked down on and that single woman are desperately trying to talk themselves into believing they are empowered and more than happy all on their own.

My heart...my brain....my soul cries out for some flipping balance! I am so happy to live in an age where woman can climb the corporate ladder and vote and be treated as the equals God created us to be. But I can't stand that we all have to fit into one kind of mold. What if I don't want a career? What if I really enjoy keeping house and eventually staying home with my kids?
What if you're 25 and you really want a husband? Should you have to feel bad about that? Isn't that ok?

All I'm saying is that society ends up shaping how women view themselves and what we think is expected of us. But I'd like to see more woman get in touch with who God created them to be as unique individuals. I think we'd see much more of us peaceful, better wives, better mothers, and better people overall.

I know I am super blessed to have a husband who supports that I am a free spirit, non 9-5er, creative, thinker, introvert, listener, writer, artist, hopefully mother at some point, OCD cleaner, gardener, grocery shopper, thrifty to a fault, dreamer. But I think lots of our husbands, boyfriends, brothers, dads....would be supportive if we women became more empowered to find who we are and who God created each of us to be regardless of what society and other people think about it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Success

I feel like any sort of success, even at the smallest level, is like a hungry beast that can never be fed enough. Once you achieve what you're striving for, you often find it's not quite as great as you thought it would be. Suddenly, a new goal appears before you...a better one...one with more promise of success and fulfillment. Now there is something new to strive for. Or else the next effort falls flat and earlier success now feels empty in light of the present failure. The beast always craves more from you.

It leaves me feeling at a loss...and very much less than. How do I truly break free? Where is the line between worldly wisdom and following God's voice? What if God's voice does not lead towards success?

How does this all relate to marriage? I've been feeling like so much of our world and every day life is based on being successful. You have to be successful spiritually, in your job, monetarily, and in relationships. I don't know if any one else out there is like me though....I often am not successful. And I don't know how to feel about that...mostly I feel like crap about that to be honest.

So much emphasis is put on having a successful marriage. But what does successful marriage mean? So much of my marriage is trial and error...mainly error..and trying to learn from error. It can feel so deflating to be in the midst of problems or issues and look around and see every other happy married couple. It feels like they have attained the success I crave....and my husband and I are just alone in our un-successfulness.

I've been sitting with my heavy heart though and letting God speak to me about it. And I feel like He has been whispering that none of us are truly a success...we're all works in progress and so are all of our marriages. It made me feel better to think about God loving me just exactly where I am....no matter how successful I am at some things...or un-successful I am at others.
I feel like a successful marriage is one where love, forgiveness, and commitment are present...and maybe I can learn to be happy with just that. Thanks God :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vacations and Feature for www.relevantmagazine.com

As some of you know Jake and I are now relationship columnists for Relevant Magazine Online. There's a new feature up called, "Talking About Sex While Dating." Check it out at:


It's summer finally...and it's when most of us go on vacation. Vacations are meant as times of relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation. Sometimes though, marriage seems to get in the way of all this rest and wonderfulness. In all honesty I never expected to have relationship issues about vacationing. I mean, come on, how can you fight when you're at the beach? But after five years I've learned; marriage can turn anything into an issue!

How then, do we make sure that vacations are reasonably drama free and relaxing?
Some helpful things to agree upon would be: place, living arrangements, time spent on vacation, a budget, and what kinds of things you will do. Duh! Right? Yes, most of us would think of these things...but what Jake and I have found is that agreeing on all of them and trying to not be selfish about what we each individually expect out of vacation is hard! Like, really much harder than I thought. I know I'm selfish...but don't realize how selfish until someone(namely Jake) intrudes on how I would like to spend my time off.

Jake loves to keep moving...to plan, plan, plan and then do, do, do. I, on the other hand could spend all day lying about, reading, and eating. Jake is pretty relaxed about money and I stick to a budget. I give up after ten minutes of researching vacation destinations while Jake is a master at this and can search for hours. We rather clash on most vacationing things.

We each want our own way though....and who doesn't when it comes to relaxing? So it actually does take sacrifice, compromise, and understanding to make vacations times that both of you can enjoy. Annoying though it is.

There are also family traditions and expectations to consider. Will you vacation with either of your in-laws? Is that going to be an every year thing or just once in a while? Do you or your spouse expect to spend all of your time together on vacation? Or do some things separately?

These things can be really easy to work through if you just do it ahead of time. We've found that feelings often get hurt or mis-understandings happen when we leave discussions until we're actually on vacation. Soooo many fights could have been avoided! Try to be pro-active about talking through what vacation will look like that year and what you both expect out of it. (Before you go away)

Time off is so important in marriage. We all need time away with our significant other to re-connect, relax, and remind ourselves how much fun we have together. We hope that you all have great times this summer to play and enjoy your relationship!





Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to Untangle a Knot

Perhaps some conflicts that marriages encounter are like knots in a rope. It never helps to get impatient and pull on the rope. This only knots things tighter and makes one's job of untangling much harder. The best way to get out a knot is to stop pulling and gently work at the knot, slowly unwinding one cord at a time. Then the knot is free!

When challenges in marriage appear like a spouse losing a job, or dealing with ADD, or confronting an issue that seems unsolvable; it can seem like a huge knot. You want it to be untangled as fast as possible (because knots are annoying) so you start pulling and getting impatient and getting even more tangled up. I'm finding that when I can step back, take a breath and gather up some patience, I can start seeing the places where I can untangle the knot a little here.....then a little there....then a little more over there.

Time and patience are so very key in marriage. As much as we'd all love to simply pull at the knot have have it *snap* disappear, it usually takes both spouses calming down and slowly working through issues together to reach a resolution and accepting however long that takes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rest, Sabbath, Breaks and Other Synonyms

As Melissa mentioned in her last blog, we have both just finished reading this book called Married to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Sue George Hallowell, LICSW. The book argues that we as a culture are so over loaded with technology, schedules and things to do that most people are living with a self -created form of environmental ADD...and this is greatly affecting our relationships.

One of the points that the book continually came back to was the idea of creating boundaries in our lives when it comes to technology. I have talked about some simple ideas in other blogs to help bring about this in my relationship with Melissa:
  • I take one whole day and one evening a week where my phone is off
  • I avoid my work e-mail in the evenings at all costs
  • I have a phone without internet on it and don't get my e-mail sent to my phone
  • We don't have cable TV (we watch on hulu.com instead)
For the sake of this blog I want to talk about the importance of taking time off together.

Engaging in a relationship together takes time and there is no way around that. We need time to talk, to process and, as the Hallowell's write, time to connect. Within our culture, we have the opportunity to connect very quickly with a mass quantity of people but all that has done is make our connections shallow and weak. A serious relationship and marriage must take more time than what we traditionally give many of our relationships.

Over the course of our marriage, Melissa and I have found it invaluable to have one day off a week where our priority is rest and spending time together. Some times we do day long activities like hiking or going to the beach. Other days, like today, we slept in and have just stayed in bed all morning reading, writing, sleeping off and on and relaxing. Regardless of exactly what we do, we try to make the emphasis rest and connecting.

In his book and similar sermon series entitled, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, Rob Bell talks about the command of sabbath rest in a really interesting way. He reminds us that the context of the Ten Commandments was given as the Israelites were being rescued from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. Part of why the Ten Commandments were given was to remind the people not to live like they were in Egypt anymore.

Specifically, when it came to the idea of Sabbath, Bell talked about the fact that the Israelites were forced to work around the clock, 7 days a week. Why? Because the Egyptians were pursing power and wealth and everything was in the hands of them as men. When God called the Israelites out of Egypt he was trying to tell them to live differently. "You don't need to work around the clock to provide because I will provide for you. You don't need to pursue power and wealth because I am more valuable than anything else you could find."

When we really think about it, this is the exact same spirit that we fight again when thinking of taking time to rest in our own lives. This is exactly what the Hallowell's describe in their book.

So...in our fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world; how do me make time for rest, Sabbath and connecting with our significant others? Here is some of what we have learned:
  1. Start small. If you aren't taking much time right now it will be really hard in most cases to jump all the way to a full day right off the bat. Start with just a few hours a week or an evening as your first step.

  2. Find a great resource to help. At the end of the Hollowell's book they have a great "30 Day Reconnection Plan" to help facilitate just 30 minute conversations that have been really good. Both Melis and I really love Jim and Kathy Burn's book, Closer. It is by far the best couples devotional we have read.

  3. Set a weekly date night. Try to pick one night a week and make it off limits to technology, work and chores. We have found it best to make it a set evening (Thursday's) because trying to adjust it week to week puts the priority on our busy schedules and not on spending time together. We also though aren't legalistic about it so if a friend's birthday party comes up or some other rare event, we adjust for that given week. We try not to as much as possible though.

  4. From there, the next step is to set aside one day a week. To to figure out one day that can be focused on resting, connecting with friends and each other, playing together and changing the pace of life. We try to avoid chores, errands and work at all costs on our day off. Most people have two days off from work (Saturday and Sunday) so in most cases I would recommend using Saturday as a day for work around the house and errands and then leaving Sunday to a day of rest and relaxation.
Taking this time isn't easy in our culture and face paced world but it is so important. God is in control...not us. It's ok to take some time for ourselves and the people around us and leave some things for later. In fact, it's more than ok. It's necessary.

Jake

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Becoming More Aware

So, Jake and I have been reading this book called "Married to Distraction" by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. and Sue George Hallowell, LICSW. It's kinda blowing my mind. The hubs (or Jake) has mild ADD and it's been affecting our marriage a lot. This book is fascinating in describing the ways in which technology and our fast-paced culture have created new kinds of ADD and ADD-like processing. There is scientific research that says our ipod, internet, cell phone, twitter, information at the speed of light, choices until our brain explodes, nano-second attention span world that we live in.....can cause our brains to form processing patterns that mimic ADD.

So people that don't really have ADD, are acting like they have ADD because everything around them is pulling at their attention and their brains learn to shift attention at faster and faster rates. It becomes harder and harder to actually pay attention to anything......it's crazy stuff.

We'll go into this deeper in further blogs, as Jake and I learn more how to navigate all this and how it applies directly to marriage.

But this week as I was thinking about the busy, multi-tasking world we live in, I found myself listening to a sermon where I was asked to stop....and spend a minute breathing.

Sometimes I freelance at a fine arts publishing company. I work in a little studio in an office building and I'm blessed to have this space all to myself. While I'm painting, I listen to my ipod. Usually it's music, but lately I've been listening to Rob Bell or Shane Hipps (from Mars Hill Bible Church) sermons. This week I was listening to a sermon by Rob Bell and he was talking about breathing. He hooked himself up to a breathing monitor and asked his congregation to be silent, watch the screen, and breathe along with him.

So I painted, but I matched my breathing to Rob Bell's breathing for about a minute or two. In......Out......In.....Out.....In.....Out.

Do you know what happened? I started crying. Breathing slowly for a couple of minutes made me relax so much that I felt more alive and so much more aware of myself, my feelings and thoughts. Just breathing slowly for one minute let me release more stress and become more focused than I've been in a long time.

According to Rob Bell (I'm assuming he researched this) the human body is designed to breathe at 6 breaths per minute. The average American breathes 16-20 breathes per minute. This 16-20 breaths per minute actually uses up energy and signals panic and distress to the rest of the body.

So let's think about this....we live in ADD world. We're living our lives so busy, so full, so fast...we're breathing InOutInOutInOut.

Our average American breaths per minute is saying something, our record high ADD levels are saying something. We are going too fast....and we can't even pay attention anymore. We're going so fast and we're processing so much everyday that we don't have the time to sit....and breathe...and relax.

When you can relax, you can focus, when you can focus you can start paying attention to the things that matter...like your family, like your friends, like your marriage.

Be challenged this week to spend at least 5 minutes a day breathing...6 breaths per minute. It's actually really hard to do when you are so used to breathing fast. See how it makes you feel, notice how it makes you slow down and relax. Ask yourself what you feel more aware of during those five minutes. What emotions do you feel? What thoughts do you have?

I'm doin' it with ya'll....it's an experiment!

-Melissa
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.