Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Making It 30 Years and Beyond - Time Together

Yesterday was our thirty-third anniversary. Periodically, I'll joke with Jackie and say something like, "And they've been thirty of the happiest years of my life." And she'll typically respond with, "And which three years weren't happy?"

Of course, there really weren't three miserable years although I know that's not true for everyone. But there have been hard times, bad days and moments when marriage wasn't so much fun. We're far from perfect and I certainly got the better part of the deal on June 26, 1976. I married way above my pay grade!

But as I look back on more than three decades of marriage and the fact that we've been married longer than we were single, I can't help but reflect on some of the things that have helped us stay married this long. And yes, we're all different, so how you live out these principles and practical helps will likely differ from us. However, as you read the next several posts see if any of them might be helpful in keeping your marriage going "until death do us part."

First, we have made time for us a priority. Even before we had children we had dates, regular lunches together, and activities that we both enjoyed. Over the years we've had to take time to discover some new things we would both enjoy or one of us had to learn a little more about the other's areas of interest. Nonetheless, the effort was worth it.

The good thing is that both husband and wife do not have to enjoy a particular activity to the same degree to spend time at it with each other. For example, I love the mountains and have since I was a kid. But as my kids got older I committed to climb some 14ers (14,000 foot peaks) with them and as a result have done several with both Amy and Tim individually and one with them together just a few years ago.

Jackie, however, wasn't too interested in summitting bigger mountains but she's learned to love to hike. Interestingly, she actually did climb a 14er a few years ago and I'm very proud of her for that. But most of the time, even here in the hill country of Texas, she and I just enjoy hiking, some of it challenging, some of it not. We do that together on a regular basis. So while, yes, at times we enjoy the mountains in different ways according to our interests and abilities, we can also enjoy part of the experience together.

We've had a regular day of the week during all of my ministry years that was just ours because ministry involves weekend time so much. And we had this while our kids were in the house as well. When they were little and we didn't have a lot of money (we still don't have a lot!) we would trade Saturday mornings with another couple so every other Saturday we could have time to ourselves while they watched our kids and vice versa.

Finding time together is possible and the sooner you start that practice the better. Yes, there will be seasons when having couple time will be harder than others. But don't let those times allow your time together habit to simply vanish. Fight for it, model it to your children, cherish it. Time together allows you to talk, to share your struggles, to appreciate each other and to grow emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

And when your children are grown and out of the house as ours are now, you will hit the ground running and enjoy being together even more.

More tips next time.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Economic Pressures Often Breed Marital Challenges

It can be scary when money is tight, can't it? We get more tense, worry and fear the unknown. Unfortunately, financial pressures often carry over into our relationships, most notably our marriage. We can easily add an extra edge into our words, we may start using the silent treatment more or we can see little irritations which would normally be no big deal explode into major arguments.

The good news is that financial hardships don't have to implode our marriages. Instead, this can be a time when husband and wife come together even more intimately than ever and see their bonds strengthened. Couples must face all of life as a team. That's what you committed to be on your wedding day, a team, "for better or for worst." Financially rough seasons are no exception.

So how do we make the most of these days when the economy and its implications put extra strain on our marriage?

First of all, talk about what's going on. Men are especially prone to use the silent treatment, hold everything in and hope that everything will work itself out. But remaining mute is the worst thing you can do. First of all, we need the encouragement of others, especially our mate. It's ok to be angry, discouraged, overwhelmed, confused or panicky. But keeping all that to ourselves is not the answer. Part of enjoying full intimacy in a marriage is being able to tell the other person about our deepest feelings, even when they're negative.

It can also be helpful to have another same-sex confidante to talk with on a regular basis. Sometimes they can bring another helpful perspective to your interactions with your spouse. And if necessary, get counseling.

Second, take some simple next steps together. You need to understand that you're not paralyzed or stuck. The feeling of not being able to move typically leads to depression or major discouragement at best. If you're out of work get involved in a networking group at your church or in the community. Think of the process of getting your next job as a volunteer position that you and your spouse are committed to for the next few months. Enjoy the victories and positives together.

Or if you're working but things are tough, do something that moves you forward anyway. Re-do your budget. Cut something that was an extra but will easily save you money. Enjoy doing some local activities instead of going to the theme park and have fun doing it!

Third, pray. I don't know of any couples who can fight while they're praying! But more importantly, praying brings you closer together spiritually and invites God's power to your situation. You and your family get an opportunity to see God work even through your struggles as He provides and gives you wisdom. If you have children, let them pray with you for God's direction. They may not understand it all but they'll learn lessons for life about trusting God.

And don't forget to stop and thank God for some things you DO have. No matter what our situation is we are still blessed in ways beyond measure.

So, no, the economy doesn't have to economize your marriage. If anything, hard times have the potential to make us stronger. Re-commit yourselves as husband and wife to be a team, to be partners as you face our uncertain future. God will honor you for it and your marriage will become richer. Keep climbing!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Our words are powerful

Today Jackie and I were walking back to our car after picking up a few things at the store. However, as we opened the doors to our car and were placing things in the backseat, I heard a man say to his wife, "Well, if you go around that way you're just stupid."

Apparently they had ventured down the wrong lane only to find that their car was one section over and had to navigate a curb and some landscaping to get there. OK, that might be a little frustrating and perhaps his wife did take the long way (ironically, she was pushing the cart and he was just carrying one small item).

But did that require calling her "stupid?" I don't think anything does. My hunch is that his name-calling wasn't the first or the last time - sadly. We have to remember that our words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 says that "death and life are in the power of the tongue." "Words of death" are the kind the man in the parking lot used, words that attack the others character or personhood, that label them rather than merely address what they do.

Even if you would argue that you could never say something like that to your spouse, ask yourself what your vocabulary likely sounds like most of the time, knowing that none of us are perfect. Would your words largely be: encouraging, critical, contemptuous or simply non-existent? So much about communication is as much about HOW we say things as it is WHAT we say.

Become more of an encourager of your spouse and others and speak some "words of life" today.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.