Monthly Archives: March 2015

Mar 27

The Golden Rule of Marriage: You’re Doing it Wrong

By Dustin | Romance

Golden Rule of Marriage (2)My wife recently told me about a friend of hers who decided to give her boyfriend flowers for their anniversary.

She figured that she would love getting flowers, so why not get them for her boyfriend?

He would love them!

He was less than thrilled.

Oh, sure, he thanked her for the gift. But he definitely didn’t love the flowers.

And my wife’s friend an important lesson about relationships.

It’s a mistake we all make at times. What did she learn?

Don’t take the Golden Rule too literally.

Here is the Golden Rule, as taught by Jesus:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

So, don’t buy your husband flowers because you would like flowers.

Do think about what your husband would like and get that, because you would like him put thought into the perfect gift for you.

But you’ve probably heard or read this advice a million times already.

“Don’t buy your wife golf clubs because you would like getting them.” I’ve probably seen that exact example 100 times.

Gift giving is just one example of taking the Golden Rule too literally. There are many other, more subtle, ways for you to make this mistake.

One of the most critical areas you can get this wrong is in meeting your spouse’s core needs.

Your Spouse’s Core Needs

Have you ever met a couple that is just brimming with love?

And not a new couple, either. A couple that has been married for years but are still obviously in love.

You can see it how they talk to each other, and look at each other, and smile when they are together. They laugh and flirt and lovingly tease each other.

Or have you seen a couple that looks like they can barely stand each other?

They don’t spend much time together, but when they do sparks are flying. And not the good kind of sparks.

They bicker back and forth, treat each other sarcastically, and generally make life unpleasant for each other and anyone else unfortunate enough to witness it.

Both these couples are where they are because of how they’ve handled their core needs.

Let’s take a look at 3 different ways of looking at core needs, according to 3 authors.

Love and Respect

Love and RespectIn his book “Love and Respect”, Emerson Eggerichs explains that a wife’s core need is to feel loved and a husband’s core need is to feel respected.

He also suggests that women see the world through “love colored lenses”, meaning that a well intentioned wife will naturally be able to show love for her husband, but respecting him is more difficult.

And men see the world through “respect colored lenses”, so a man easily knows how to respect his wife, but he struggles to show her love.

The 5 Love Languages

The 5 Love LanguagesGary Chapman describes a similar problem in his book “The 5 Love Languages”.

He says that there are 5 primary ways that people communicate love, and most people have 1 or 2 primary love languages.

Spouses that have different love languages usually try to show love to their spouse in their own love language, leaving the spouse feeling unloved and neglected.

The 5 love languages are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

My wife scores high on Acts of Service, while I score high on Physical Touch. This can lead to conflict because we each want to show love in different ways.

You and your spouse can take the 5 Love Languages Survey when you pick up the book to learn what each other’s needs are so you can be more intentional about meeting them.

The Most Important Emotional Needs

His Needs, Her NeedsIn “His Needs, Her Needs” author William F. Harley Jr. outlines 10 different “most important emotional needs” and explains that husbands and wives usually have opposite scores for these needs.

Five are usually more important for women and the other five are usually more important for men.

But they can be mixed in any way in any specific relationship.

He says that feelings of romantic love are the result of your core emotional needs being met.

The 10 emotional needs are:

  • Affection
  • Sexual Fulfillment
  • Conversation
  • Recreational Companionship
  • Honesty and Openness
  • Physical Attractiveness
  • Financial Support
  • Domestic Support
  • Family Commitment
  • Admiration

You and your spouse can take the Emotional Needs Questionnaire when you pick up the book to learn about each others core emotional needs.

Do Unto Your Spouse What THEY Need to Feel Loved

While these authors have different ways of looking at core needs, they all agree that couples aren’t very good at meeting each other’s needs. It’s instinctual to try to make your spouse happy by doing what would make you happy.

One of the keys to a passionate marriage is to be intentional about learning and fulfilling your spouse’s core needs.

Another concept from Harvey’s “His Needs, Her Needs” is the love bank. When you do things to meet your spouse’s core needs you are depositing units into his or her love bank, which creates feelings of romantic love, intimacy, and trust.

Neglecting core needs and negative interactions withdraw units from the love bank, which can cause resentment, bitterness, and even hate if the balance goes too far into the negative.

So the happy couple from our example above has learned how to keep their love banks full, while the other couple has a negative balance from neglect and poor treatment.

If this couple learns to focus on meeting each other’s core needs, they can fill up their love banks again completely turn their marriage around.

Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Maybe your marriage is ok, but not full of passion and intimacy.

If you as a couple learn how to meet each other’s core needs and keep your love banks full by avoiding withdrawals, you can have a more passionate, engaged marriage.

A great way to get started is to check out the books discussed above (Love and RespectThe 5 Love Languages or His Needs, Her Needs) and pick the one that resonates the most with you. 

Read it, discuss it and put it into action – you’ll be so glad you did!

Author Bio: Daniel Robertson is a husband and father and writes to improve Christian marriages at God’s Help For Marriage. Download his free report to learn 3 Simple Keys to Create More Passion and Intimacy in Your Marriage.

Mar 23

Love & Utility:  Balancing Service & Self-Worth

By E.J. Smith | Help

daa15027-4b17-438b-9a11-1f7473eea84a_zpsn2qapt6cAs much as I try to keep my topics of discussion broad enough for the general masses, this month I need to talk to a group that is quite dear to my heart.  Would all the people pleasers on the internet raise your hands?

When you think of your spouse, what image comes to mind? In that snap shot, what are they doing?  Are they doing anything?  More importantly, are they doing something that serves you in this image? How do you feel right now, as you observe that image in your mind’s eye?

Now I want you to think of you.  If you had to take a picture that accurately represented yourself to me, what does it look like?  In this snap shot, what are you doing? Are you doing anything? More importantly, who are your actions serving— yourself? Your kids? Some one else?  While there may be a handful of self-identified people pleasers out there who’s ‘snap shot’ included no one but themselves, I’m going to trust that a majority of you pulled up an image that had you acting in service to someone else. 

“But That’s Just Who I Am!”

Well, great!  I mean, being a people pleaser isn’t a bad thing necessarily.  In my experience, people pleasers are very nice, warm and often nurturing folks.  They care about people! Who doesn’t like that? Can you imagine what this world would look like if our caring professions — teachers, nurses, mental health techs, child development workers, veterinarians & vet. assistants, & stay at home parents— didn’t include natural nurturers?  Its a scary thought.

Caring & Self Worth

So clearly I’m not out to tell you that being a nice, caring person is an inherently a bad thing.  But something I’ve noticed that I would like to invite you to consider is to what degree is your self-worth wrapped up in your care-giving for others? A true people pleaser goes beyond simply caring for others.  Caring and acts of service can often become identity and currency.

Relationship Currency

Thinking about relationships in terms of currency is built on the notion that interactions with others can be viewed as transactions of sorts— no different than when you go to the grocery store and exchange money for a bag of apples. You give the clerk your money swipe your debit card, and the people at the store let you walk out of the store with the apples.  In relationships, people will throw out what Dr. Gottman calls a “bid for connection”.  These are verbal and nonverbal invitations to connect with one’s partner. 

To put it as simple as possible: 

Partner 1:  “Pay attention to me!” 

Partner 2: “Okay! Hi, how’s it going?”  or “No.”

Obviously I don’t imagine many people go around literally shouting, “Pay attention to me,” but you might consider giving it a try just to see what happens.  I did it to my husband recently.  The look on his face was priceless.

Caring as Currency

Often, I’ve found that individuals learn (usually in childhood) that people generally respond pleasantly to one’s bids for attention when that bid includes something directly beneficial to them.  We’ll call this a service bid.  This “truth” can become problematic and create a personality trait of people pleasing.   When service-related bids become the primary or the only way in which folks receive positive attention, they may learn to believe, “I am lovable when I am useful” or worse, “I am only lovable when I am useful.”  It becomes incredibly difficult to have a healthy sense of self-worth when one places a such heavy emphasis on external service.

Some common phrases you might hear when someone’s self-worth is tied to their “utility” are:

“S/He’ll call when s/he needs something… I know this, yet I can’t stop.  I miss her/him too much.”

“I’m so lucky s/he puts up with me.  It’s the least I can do to ______ for him/her.”

“Its no trouble at all.” (When actually, it’s a giant amount of trouble for you).

Of course perfectly healthy people, who also happen to be nice people will find themselves saying these phrases or similar from time to time.  But I’ve met so many people whose entire identities were tied to sacrifice of the self in service to another.

What About Moms!?

But what about mothers?  What about professional caregivers? 

Again and again, I say the difference between unhealthy and healthy service to others is that the unhealthy version can leave a person feeling empty, drained, exhausted.  I’ve often heard it likened to drowning or feeling invisible.  The healthy or balanced version often creates the exact opposite feeling.  People report feeling energized, rejuvenated or peaceful. 

Healthy Individuals Create Healthy Marriages

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of couples counseling lately.  But that’s not say I haven’t been working with clients on their relationships.  I truly believe that people need to be healthy individuals first and foremost in order to be healthy partners involved in healthy marriages.

If you’ve read this article and think that your self-worth may be wrapped up a little too tightly in service towards others, maybe its time to work on shifting that belief a little. If your relationship is healthy enough, ask your partner to help you see that they love you for being part of their life— not solely for what you do for them.    

And lastly, if you’re interested in learning more about the types of ‘bids for connection’ you tend to use, I stumbled across this free “quiz” from The University of San Diego that utilizes the Gottman research.   

Are you or your spouse a people pleaser?

Mar 16

When Was the Last Time You Made Love?

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

Okay, I admit it.

when-was-last-time-you-made-loveThis is kind of a trick question.

On the surface, it looks like this post is only for people who can’t remember when they last had sex with their spouse.

But really, this post is for all married couples with regard to sex in their marriage.

When was the last time you made love?

Some of you can’t remember because it’s been sooooo long ago, maybe even years.

And some of you can’t remember because sex is woven into the fabric of your marriage in such a way that it really is hard to discern one time from the next.  For you, sex is not a monumental “once-in-awhile” event, but rather a vital and frequent aspect of how you do life with the person you married.

And some of you fall in between those two camps.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, could you ponder for a moment not on sex itself , but rather what sexual intimacy (or lack thereof) does to your marriage.

Sex is never just about sex.

Despite what the movies and society and the hook-up culture try to tell us, sex is never just about sex.

And interestingly, I think we see this truth most in marriage, where one life is entwined with another.

Day in and day out, this is the person with whom you navigate finances, a busy calendar, work demands, family commitments, mountaintops, valleys, laundry piles, weed-filled lawns, new tires for the car, neighborhood gatherings, holidays, dog puke, empty milk jugs, little league fields, messy garages, whiney toddlers, lying teens, birthday cakes, smiles, slights and clogged drains.

In the midst of all that, sex is never just about sex.

When there is ongoing sexual refusal in a marriage, it is difficult to ignore or escape the pain and disconnection that such refusal causes.

And, on the flip side, when there is ongoing nurtured sexual intimacy, it is difficult to ignore the reassurance and oneness such intimacy causes.

When was the last time you made love?

I’m not overly concerned with whether you can remember the last time. I’m more curious about what sex is doing to your marriage.

Is sex bringing you closer together, better equipping you to do life together and making you feel grateful that this is the person you chose as your spouse?

Or is sex a thorn in your side — a source of frustration and division, either because you are having it so rarely or because you struggle immensely with agreeing on what nurtured sexual intimacy even means?

Don’t become consumed with answering the question, “When was the last time you made love?”

Do, though, get courageous, go to your spouse and get real about what the sexual connection or sexual distance is doing to you and to the marriage.

Don’t assume your spouse knows how grateful you are for sex — or how discouraged you are because of the lack of it.

Yes, it likely feels scary to be so vulnerable. But this is the person to whom you’ve committed your life.

And you both are worth transparency that has the potential to make the marriage stronger — whether that transparency is filled with joy or drenched in a cry for healthier sexual intimacy.

When was the last time you made love?

For a few of my favorite posts along this topic, check out Extraordinary Sex In Your Ordinary Life and 5 Dangers of Regularly Saying No to Sex.

Mar 12

From Bitter Betrayal to Healing & Happiness

By Dustin | Communication

Recovering from Betrayal in MarriageYou’re married … committed.

Trust is high. Satisfaction is deep.

For some, however, unspeakable tests are given.

For some couples, the hideous fingers of Betrayal spread their bony fingers around your necks in an undisguised effort to destroy all that you have built – are building.

The impossible happened. One of you betrayed the other.

Betrayal Has Many Faces

A sexual affair. An emotional affair. Missing money.

Once conquered addictions reappear. Serious lies uncovered. The list is long.

The ripples of discovery mutate into angry, overwhelming waves of devastation.

Your initial reaction? Shock. How could this happen?

You descend into anger. Demand atonement. The piper must be paid. You designate yourself the piper.

You rage, pray, call a friend, withdraw, cry, escape into sleep, on and on.

There are as many ways to express anger as there are possibilities for expression.

Hope Begins to Return But It’s Only the Start

You both want to stay in the game.

You spend painful hours with a counselor … or your minister … alone … together … until almost imperceptibly hope returns.

You’re going to survive. You commit again.

But your work isn’t finished.

The final step — sometimes the hardest step – must be taken.

It’s Time to Forgive

It’s time to forgive – -unconditionally. Otherwise, it’s never over.

The whole experience must be buried in the deepest sea “as far as the east is from the west,” NEVER to be visited again. It’s not easy.

But the permanence of your reconciliation depends on it … literally.

Surviving and thriving after betrayal requires – demands – committing to forgive.

Betrayal is one of the most brutal experiences life can throw at us.

Betrayal is an emotional and spiritual sucker-punch. It hurts — badly.

Can you heal? Absolutely. You’re not the first couple to have survived it, and you won’t be the last.

Plus, there is a pay-off.

Forgiveness enables you to move on wiser, more forgiving, more loving, and closer to each other than you ever imagined.

How to Heal After Betrayal

Academic and religious literature alike teach the same essential healing steps for regaining emotional balance, spiritual equilibrium and, most importantly, the ability to move on.

• Be angry. It’s healthy.

• Grieve. It’s normal.

• Reflect. It’s healing.

• Get out of your shoes and slip into the shoes of the Betrayer. Try to understand the “whys.” Theologian Thomas a Kempis wisely challenges us: Be assured that if you knew all, you would pardon all.

• Remember your humanity. Draw courage from the times you were offered the grace of forgiveness.

• Then move on. Hold your head high. You and your spouse were incredibly brave. Not every couple is this strong. You survived a near-death experience

There is a pay-off. The day will come when you unexpectedly catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. Your reflection will shock you because in your reflection is someone at peace.

The bitter cup of betrayal transformed you in the best of ways. All of that relentless pain morphed you and your relationship into something more fulfilling and beautiful than you ever could have imagined.

Good marriages are sometimes messy with confusing and conflicting layers.

But when regularly given the antibiotic of forgiveness, they heal and grow into marriages that are stronger at the broken places.

And life is good again. I promise.

“The weak can never forgive, Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Dr. Gloria Wall spent her career as an educator. Currently, she and her husband, the man who inspired this entire idea, live in Edwardsville, Illinois.

She writes a blog focusing on seniors who are committed to aging intentionally, gracefully, and with dignity, no matter their outer circumstances. Her writing is generalizable to all ages. Dr. Wall is currently working on a book entitled Aging with Intention. You may visit her website at www.suddenlyseptember.com

Mar 09

Squeezing Romance Out of a Busy Life

By Debi Walter | Romance

Squeezing Romance

Face it marriage is hard work. Add to it children, a full-time job with deadlines and demanding bosses/clients, homework, sickness and bills to pay, who has time to think about romance, much less plan something special? In fact you may not want to finish reading this post because you’re afraid I’m going to add one more thing to your growing to-do list.

I get it. It is hard to find the right balance in life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Our pastor says often, “We make time to do the things we really want to do.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Case in point…

A busy mom was complaining about not having enough energy to finish her chores. She kept looking at the clock and couldn’t believe how slow the time was passing. Then, the phone rang. It was her best friend saying she had tickets to see the latest movie and had already secured a babysitter for the two of them, that is, if she wanted to come.

If? Are you kidding?

Suddenly, she had a burst of energy and the chores that had been like a root canal to do minutes before were now actually enjoyable. She had a reason to finish and finish quickly she did! She was going out with a friend. Being tired wasn’t an issue any longer because she was getting to do something she really wanted to do.

Romance is one of those things you enjoy once you do it, but it’s the planning it before hand that seems difficult. This is why Tom and I have devoted our lives to helping other couples keep the romantic fires burning. We have lots of ideas, many of them we’ve enjoyed ourselves and have the memories to prove it. And we know how it has made a lasting impact on the quality of our marriage.

So, how can we help the busy executive, the exhausted mom, the over-extended caregiver to an elderly parent, find time to romance their spouse?

Below is a list of ideas for you to print, cut into strips and place in a jar. Once a week (or more if you’re so inclined) draw a slip of paper out of the jar and purpose to do that one thing for your spouse. You can both do it or alternate weeks. The point is to start squeezing romance out of your busy life. We’ve discovered that the busier it is, the more enjoyable your times are when you’re alone. This list is to help you get started thinking more about romance in the midst of the chaos.

Why does it matter? Because one day your life will slow down, your children will grow up and move away, and your spouse will be the only one looking at you across the dinner table. My husband insisted all those years ago that we would still be as much or more in love with each other then as we were when we first started. And you know what? We are! We just celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary last month, and I am grateful for the romance he managed to squeeze out of life for the good of us.

  • Compliment your spouse in a specific way, while looking in their eyes.
  • Buy them a special treat the next time you’re in the store, and tell them you were thinking of them.
  • Find a link on You Tube to a favorite love song from your past and e-mail it to them during the day.
  • Hide a love note and say something to make them remember a special time you’ve shared.
  • Do one of their chores for a week.
  • Make dinner reservations and arrange a babysitter. Then, tell your spouse after it’s all set.
  • Plan a whole evening doing something you know your spouse enjoys–jigsaw puzzle, video game, board game, cook together.
  • Start a weekly or monthly alphabet date–where you pick a letter and center all you do and eat around that letter.
  • Go for an extended walk together holding hands. Check out 10 Ways To Hold Hands.
  • Go out for a banana split to share.
  • Play a game of Blind Man’s Bluff, with this sexy twist: Blindfold your spouse and feed them different foods.  Let them guess what it is by TASTE.  Then let them smell different things and try to guess what they are by SMELL.  Next play different sounds for them to guess by HEARING and finally let them guess what they’re touching – yeah, this one can be a lot of FUN!  You may feel cold when you begin, but we guarantee things will be warming up mighty nice by the time you make it to the touching phase.
  • Make a playlist of romantic music on your iPod or iPhone. Hook up headphones and put them on your spouse and have them lie in bed. Tell them to close their eyes while you give them a massage.
  • Your turn: _______________________________________________.

As you can see romance isn’t all about sex, but some of it can be. 🙂 Romance is about the daily choices we make to think of and pray for our spouse. It’s our way of putting their needs and wants at the top of our list of importance. It’s communicating to your spouse that no other person matters to you as much as they do, and your actions prove your words.

In what ways can you squeeze out romance this week? this month? this year? Won’t you try? 

Check out our Romantic St. Patrick’s Day ideas too: For Husbands-click here. For Wives-click here.

 

Mar 02

12 Surprising Takeaways from our Debt Freedom Journey

By Kim Hall | Finances & Careers

12 surprising takeaways from our debt freedom journeyMy husband and I were Ostriches.

You know the breed: Not exceptionally self-aware, since when they feel threatened they will try to flatten their nine foot tall, 350 pound bodies against the ground in an effort to become invisible.

Assuming that move fails, they can run like the wind from predators at sustained speeds of over 30 mph. Contrary to popular belief, however, they don’t stick their heads in the ground.

When they are doing their I’m invisible! routine, their bodies are so large, that their heads appear to be buried.

Yes, that pretty much described us.

Thankfully, we have undergone a metamorphosis, much like a caterpillar into a butterfly, except we transformed from large, ungainly, birds that hide from financial trouble into gazelles.

With our transformation into intentional spenders, savers and givers very much in our rear view mirror, we were chatting recently about the surprises we encountered along the way.

Here’s our list of 12 surprising takeaways from our debt freedom journey.

1. We didn’t know we were ostriches. It seemed there was plenty of money in the checkbook every week, so how could there be a problem? Besides, budgeting was like taking cod liver oil. Yuck.

2. Budgets can be fun. Yes, fun and satisfying. It’s a lot like coming around to loving exercise because you love the results.

Which Budgeting Software Is Best for Busy Couples?

If you're looking to get started or revamp your budget so you can become debt-free, be sure to check out You Need A Budget.

We LOVE it and it really does make budgeting fun!

3. We are both more nerdy than we ever realized. I really dislike math and never liked balancing my checkbook. But, we are list lovers. Drawing up a budget is creating a different type of list that notes where we choose to have our money go.

4. Our discussions about money got more difficult at first. We were always on the same page financially because we always spent pretty much what we wanted. When we started budgeting, we had to start saying no to some things so we could say yes to others.

5. The process gets you communicating in ways you never have before. See #4. This is truly hard if you are conflict averse, but this communication is critical to the health of your relationship.

6. Your invisible scripts about money and marriage will bubble to the surface. See #4 and #5. Beliefs on earnings, priorities, goals, rewards, etc, that you may not have known you have will create questions that must be answered and agreements that need to be reached.

7. You really do feel more hopeful the further along you go. But first, there’s the abject terror when you experience a big life event, like an accident, job loss, or a pregnancy, and realize your finances are not up to the challenge.

8. You will backslide, especially once you become debt free. We were warned about becoming complacent, and we fell off the wagon anyway. Not in a big way, but enough so our budgeting—if you can even call it that—got sloppy and even non-existent. Once we realized what we’d been doing, we got back on track and started moving forward again.

9. You can change in ways you never thought possible. If you had told me that I would love creating and living within monthly budgets, I would have had you committed. Turns out you would have been right.

10. There is an easy to follow process to get your debt freedom train rolling. Often times, even if you are aware you need to change, you are stumped by not knowing how. We used Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, as did Dustin, and he details them here on the site.

11. You are role modeling terrific money management behavior for your children. One of the greatest gifts you’ve given yourself you are now able to pass on to your children so they will be wise money managers.

12. You will have so many more opportunities and so much more freedom. When you aren’t bound by debt, you can make choices to move to a job you like better, to be a stay at home mom, or move to a different part of the country, for example. You can also give more generously if that is on your list of desires.

You, too, can make the transformation, just as we and so many thousands of others have done.

Yes, there will be difficulties to iron out, conflicts to settle, conversations to be held, and mountains to climb, and maybe even climb again when you tumble backwards. 

I have no doubt you will experience surprise, delight, frustration, hope, and so much more.

Trust me, though, when I say that it will be well worth it!

Which Budgeting Software Is Best for Busy Couples?

If you're looking to get started or revamp your budget so you can become debt-free, be sure to check out You Need A Budget.

We LOVE it and it really does make budgeting fun!