Wednesday, July 18, 2012

30 Ways to Inspire Your Marriage







30 Ways To Inspire Your Marriage!
(note: this is written from a Catholic/Christian perspective, but most of it is valid for any marriage!)

In the beautiful relationship of marriage, a couple has a unique ability to build up or tear down their beloved in a profound way.  The ones who we love can touch us most deeply.  This is why it is important to be reminded of the hundred little ways we can love and enrich the life of our spouse: if we take our eyes off the ball, even without a real negative action, just the lack of a loving one can cause hurt in our loved one.
    
Unity is the key to having a happy, fulfilling marriage.  When a husband and wife are truly united, they can face anything, overcome any obstacle and keep a joyful control in their family (despite the unending mutiny attempts by their children!).  Unity hinges on love, which is bound to communication.  One cannot be unified to another if they feel rejected, depressed or distant from their beloved.  What you will see in these little “ways” are examples of communication, expressing love (which must be communicated – verbally, physically or emotionally – to be felt), and fun ideas to bring your level of unity and intimacy even deeper. 
   
Our marital unity comes from the joining of two individuals, whose individual needs must be cared for or there can be no unity.  One more thought before the list, there are five levels of communication & with each level, comes more vulnerability (revealing more about oneself) and therefore a deeper intimacy:  1) cliché or small talk, 2) sharing of facts, 3) sharing of opinions, 4) sharing of feelings, & 5) sharing of needs.  The deeper the level of communication is, the more intimate the relationship will be.  A married couple should practice communicating in the last two levels (at least once a day).  This is especially true since we will only feel truly loved if our deepest needs are met
Our needs can only been met when we learn what they are, how to articulate them and how to respond to our spouse articulating his or her needs.

So, without further ado, 30 Ways To Inspire Your Marriage!

1.  Have a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself.  Make jokes (though avoid negative humor that can tear each other down); having inside jokes that are you & your spouse’s secret laughter is so fun and unifying!

2.  Flirt.  Be playful!  Think about what you said/ did when you were first dating.  (It might be worth it to have a fun redo of the very first date you ever went on!  Try to remember what you said, what you did – it will make you laugh for sure!)

3.  Schedule a “date night” once a week.  Come hell or high water, you’ve GOT to have it.  (Because THIS is where the communicating happens and begins to blossom despite our busy life!) Can’t afford to go out?  Not a problem!  Just plan one night a week when after the kids are in bed, you don’t do anything else, but sit and talk (well, maybe have a glass of wine too!).

4.  Food.  Do you know your wife’s or husband’s favorite thing to eat?  It goes a long way to show the care and appreciation of knowing their favorite thing and making it for him or her. (Or buying it! ;-)

5.  Pray.  Pray together and on your own.  (A Christian marriage calls both husband and wife to “be subject to one another out of reference for Christ.”[i]  No spouse is boss of the other, they are servants and lovers of each other and let Christ be the boss.  But how can He be the boss of your marriage if you don’t know Him?)

6.  Forgive readily.  (Sometimes it’s important to say the words “I forgive you.”  Saying, “it’s okay” could allow the possibility of bringing back this discussion at another time when you’re ticked at him or her again.  But saying “I forgive you” relinquishes the right to bring it back, and that’s why it is so healing for a relationship.  It gives the security that your wife or your husband is loved – unconditionally.) 

7.  Eliminate hurtful criticism.  (There is so much good that your spouse does for you!  If something does need to be pointed out, sandwich any criticism in between praise.  But most of the time, he or she already knows what they’ve done wrong and are just looking for forgiveness, acceptance and love…)

8.  Text away!  (texting can be a way to keep you laughing, keep you flirting, keep you united even while apart without it having to be a formal phone call or even email.)

9-13.  Do one small thing working towards fulfilling your spouse’s deepest emotional need.   
Seems like a loaded one right?  Ah, but here’s the thing: “Most conflicts are caused by spouses feeling that their primary emotional needs are not being met.  The primary emotional need for a woman is security – not necessarily financial security but a sense of security that stems from knowing that she is truly first in her husband’s thoughts, priorities and affections.  The primary emotional need for a man is a sense of adequacy – a feeling adequate to the task of being a good husband, father, provider, lover or whatever other role is important to him.
“When a wife senses she is no longer first in her husband’s life, she tends to criticize and attack those activities or persons who are usurping her place.  Faced with such criticism, many husbands respond by feeling very inadequate and either erupt in anger or withdraw emotionally from the relationship which effectively fans the flames of the wife’s feelings of insecurity. The wife’s pursuit of her sense of security and a husband’s need to assert his adequacy can create a downward spiral that explodes in bitter conflict. 
“Understanding this pattern and being able to verbalize our unmet needs can help to douse the flames of a raging conflict and lead to a deeper understanding.”[ii]

[so, let’s unpack what that would look like!]


Ladies:
9.  When your husband gets home from work (or when you get home – the first time you see him after a day’s work let’s say), let concern for how he is doing, affection and appreciation be the first thing he receives from you.  (When was the last time you told your husband you appreciated his work?  Or is your first thought when he gets home, “here take a kid” or “how could you forget ____!” ?  Do you look to get your break first or to find out about his day?)

10.  Pray for God’s eyes.  God sees only goodness and beauty.  Ask God for His vision of your husband’s goodness and great qualities.

11.  Tell him!  We know you appreciate your man’s style of being a husband and all the little things he does around the house to make it better for you and your family, does he know it?  Tell him!

12.   Whether voicing it out loud, writing notes, or scribbling with lipstick on your mirror, let him know you still find him attractive and sexy!  (Let him know he is well “up to the task”.  Because men do more initiating sexually, women can take it for granted that they feel adequate in the area of sex.  They think “well, we made love didn’t we?  That affirms him!”  But not always.  Just the simplest comments go a long way to building up your man.)

13.  When you see him struggle, affirm his efforts and encourage him.  (Be careful not to give advice, unless asked for, because this can feel like you don’t think he’s doing a good job.)

Men:
9.  When you are involved in one of the activities that keeps you separate from your wife, maintain contact!  Text her in the middle of the day (ex. “I love you! just sayin’ ;-)” or “miss you! this is so boring!”), send her an email, call her – just to check in and affirm in her mind she IS numero uno in your life.

10.  When you get home at the end of the day, let kissing your wife be the VERY first thing you do!  (Yep, that’s right.  Before taking care of the yard, the dog, the house, the kids, changing your clothes, even putting your things away…let HER be #1!)

11.  Respond, don’t react.  (When she is nagging you, which yes – she should work to avoid, but when she is, work hard to see beyond it.  She is really missing your attention and feeling insecure in her position in your life.  Resist the urge to retaliate; let her know how much you love her.)

12.  Before planning a night with the guys or a guy get-away, check with her.  (This lets her know that her concerns are first in your life, even above your best guy friends.)

13.  Remember, plan, and prepare for Date Night.  (When you work at putting your wife and your marriage first, both will be filled with joy!)

**************** 

14.  Use “I” statements when communicating with each other.  (Avoid “you” statements.  Avoid, “why do you waste so much time watching tv?” say instead, “I feel pushed aside like I’m not first in your life when you spend so much of your free time watching tv.”)

15 – 20: Ideas for Date Nights! (IDN)  [caution! The Date Night atmosphere should be a “safe zone”.  Where you or your spouse can share whatever and be met only with love, acceptance & forgiveness if needed…and maybe flirtatious laughter.  This will come a little easier to the ladies than to the men, but it is really important for unity in your marriage.  It’s also important for the wife’s level of security, if she knows that she can bring things up in Date Night she doesn’t feel a pending doom over her relationship whenever something is not quite right.  She is at peace, knowing she will be able to share her thoughts and feelings; she feels cared for.]

15.  IDN: Dream together.  Share ideas of what you want your life together to look like in 10, 20, 30 years from now.  (Jotting them down would be fun too!  You could even add doodling of little hearts and such…wait, no…that’s just for me. ;-)

16.  IDN: From your dreams, which are truly dreams you yearn for – that you would be sad if it never happened?  Share those and ways you could together take steps now to make them a reality.

17. IDN:  “Ten Statement Autobiography”.  (If someone wanted to know you, what are the ten most essential things he/she would have to know about you?  In these statements please don’t include obvious external facts that anyone would know.   Rather they should reveal the person you are hiding behind the masks and cover-ups.  What is your deepest reality?  Let these statements reveal fears, hopes, trials, joys, circumstances and perceptions which make you the unique person you are.  To READ them: exchange statements.  Read it TWICE.  Once with your head, once with your heart.  And dialogue about them.  You take one at a time. Ex) husband talks about the wife’s statements.  Not to discuss, dispute or question the statements! But ONLY to understand them and how your beloved feels about it…and how much you love him or her… and when the wife feels he completely understands what she wrote, then and only then it is her turn to understand his.)

18.  IDN:  “I” method practice. (Answer the questions, and share as above, reading twice and understanding… 1. I feel grateful when you _________.  2. When I think of our future, I feel _________.  3. Lately I have felt some anxiety about _______________ because ___________.  4. An emotion I have trouble sharing with you is ________ I usually feel this emotion when _________.  5. I feel close and connected with you when _________.)

19. IDN:  “Hot Spot Sharing” (This one is sensitive, so only go there when there is no tension from anything else.  We all have “hot spots” areas that when brought up strike a sensitive nerve & creates an emotional response – which happens so reactively, almost before we know it!  In marriage, it’s helpful to know these hot spots so we might be sensitive to them.   1. What are some of my hot spots?   2. What are some of my spouse’s hot spots?  3. How does your “hot spot” affect your self-worth?  Ex) when you tease me about my weight (hot spot), I feel sexually unattractive (self worth).  I feel _________ when you _____________.  Remember: this is not a judgment on your spouse, but a sharing of a deep feeling.  Refrain from saying, “but I think you look beautiful! I was just kidding!”   It’s not about the intent; it’s about the feeling of the person sharing.)

20. IDN:  Share deeper ideas.  (What do I think about God? How do I feel about my answer?  WDITA death? HDIFAMA?  WDITA being open to having more children? HDIFAMA? WDITA the problem we are arguing about? HDIFAMA? etc!… all these should be written out ahead of time and then exchanged at DN, maybe over dinner?  Read twice, etc.)

21.  Be respectful.  Say please and thank you.  (You would be surprised how often we take for granted the ones we love the dearest.  A little respect goes a long way!)

22 – 25 Sexual Intimacy.  (Showing your love through your sexual intimacy is another way you communicate your love to your spouse.  It is an extension of your communication & unity that you two have in every other area of your life.  As they say, if you aren’t communicating well in the kitchen, you won’t be communicating well in the bedroom!  Your sexual relationship is personal, deep & binding.  It will be up to you two to communicate about it, but here are a few ideas to inspire your love.)

22.  Breathe a sigh of relief; you’re different from each other and it’s okay.  In fact, it’s better than that – it’s perfectly beautiful!  (So often women can say things like “why does he think like that?  he has such a one track mind!”  Or men also, “she’s just too sensitive and too emotional!”  Learn to appreciate the ways that your wife or your husband is different than you.  And you are not weird nor messed up.  We just were created differently.  Real quick let’s look at some of those difference in this area (to affirm to you that you are not alone!): 
                Men: more physical, compartmentalized, seeks physical oneness and sex is a high priority.  Women: more relational, wholistic, seek emotional oneness, other priorities may be higher.  Men: are stimulated by sight, body fragrance & are body-centered.  Women: are stimulated by touch, attitudes, action, words & are person-centered.  Men: need respect, admiration, to be physically needed & physical release.  Women: need understanding, love, to be emotionally needed & time.  A man’s sexual response is quick excitement, usually initiates, difficult to distract.  A woman’s sexual response is slow excitement, usually is the responder, easily distracted.  A man’s orgasm is (did I just go there?…oh man, yep…) to propagate species, is shorter, more intense, is physically oriented, and he nearly always reaches it.  A woman’s orgasm is to propagate oneness, is longer, more in depth, is emotionally-oriented, and satisfaction is possible without reaching it. And that’s just the way God made us!  And each has its own dignity and worthiness!  So let’s change our language to, ‘I might never understand how he can think that way/ or how she can feel that way, but I admire and love that about him/her!’)[3]

23.  Pillow Talk.  Let your spouse know what you like, what you don’t (in a non-critical way).  It’s the only way he or she can learn to express their love in a better way.  (Oh, and listen! to what your spouse says ;-)

24.  Sex is self-giving, not self-seeking.  Often sex is dismissed as merely an activity like playing tennis.  You do it because it feels good.  But the gift of sex in marriage ought to be a loving act – a physical communication of your love.  Love doesn’t use someone else for their own pleasure but seeks to do what is best for the beloved first.  PRAY with and for your spouse that you may both continue to understand on a deeper level the great gift of your bodies to each other.

25.  Sex is a renewal of your wedding vows.  So let it be freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully given!  Be present to the person you are with; let nothing come between you!  Discuss what this means to you and your marriage during DN.

26.  Go on an annual marriage retreat.  This would not be a vacation or resort, but a retreat for you both to focus on your love and your marriage.

27.  Receive the Sacraments – particularly confession and the Eucharist.  (there is nothing like purity of heart to give you a fresh look, a fresh love for your spouse!)  note: for non-Catholics, making a good confession of your sins to God and joining in your Church’s service every Sunday is imperative!

28.  Learn your spouse’s love language.  (From the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr Gary Chapman, there are languages of touch, quality time, gift giving, words of affirmation & acts of service.[4]  It’s difficult to learn a new language – especially when you’ve only spoken one your whole life!  But you CAN do it!  And work to understand without critique and appreciate your spouse’s efforts!  Sometimes the smallest gesture in a different love language takes the most effort.)

29.  Learn when your spouse just needs a break.  (ex) guys, you can speak her love language til you're blue in the face, but she might just need you to change a diaper and do the dishes to fill her “love tank” up!  Or ladies, you might have a long “honey do” list for your man, but he might just like an evening with you or just to sit and drink a beer and not. move. from. the. chair…just to get the stress off.  You are each other’s lovers and protectors – not in a controlling way but in a cherishing way.  Don’t let your beloved get burnt out, step up and help out.)

30.  Remember your common passion.  You didn’t fall in love because you were so different; you fell in love because you connected on some level.  As they say, “friendship starts after the words ‘me too!’”  What passion do you share?  What dream do you share for the future?  For your life together?  What philosophy on life do you both adhere to?  Discuss it.  Empower it.  Cherish it.  And your unity and love will grow ever deeper.

Bonus!
31. The more you give, the more you receive.  Love finds its fulfillment when you give it away.  Each human person finds the fulfillment of who you are meant to be, when you give of yourself to another out of love.  The more you give in love, the more your spouse’s heart will be filled and will respond in kind.  And God’s blessings will abound! J


Now you see why I only did 30!  I have more but it would have been way too long!!! J  I hope you enjoyed that.  lol!

Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!  And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion.  Thank You!)

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[i] Eph 5:12
[ii] Tate, Lloyd and Jan.  In Home Marriage Preparation.  Pg 68.
[3] Tate pg 92.
[4] You can take your Love Language Test Online! http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

How I came to write this:
There was a post going around on facebook and twitter about “50 Ways to Inspire Your Husband”.  I read it and was unsettled.  Some of the ideas were fine, even good, but something was awry.  The more I thought about it, the more I did not like that list, because it was fundamentally incorrect.  It seemed to be focused on the husband in a singular, autonomous way.  Almost in a selfish way (just a hair to that side, but it’s there), like we would find in many of the American self-help themed books.  It’s “he needs to find his dream, do his thing when he wants to, feel great about being him, and be applauded all the way” attitude.
Now, hold on!  I am not opposed to women appreciating, applauding, supporting, inspiring or encouraging their husbands.  I am all for it!  But I do believe all the support and love a woman can give her man should be to bring out the best in him, and the best in them.  Sometimes the best in him would not be giving him enough time to “do whatever he wants”, but perhaps creating a loving environment that makes the self-giving side of family life more beautiful and enriching. 
Marriage is not two individuals hanging out and being their best individual selves under the same roof.  It is a real unity of the two.  The marriage itself takes on life!  So, inspiring your husband ought to be towards that same unifying end not merely his successful, autonomous self.
So, with that reflection, I thought, “It’s so silly when people complain and don’t do anything about it.  I should write a new list.”  And here is the result, it’s only 30, because it was getting way too long and they are jam-packed points, but anyway…I hope you enjoyed it! 

5 comments:

  1. LOVE it Theresa, thank you! So nice to see marriage affirmed as the union of two souls destined for heaven and not merely the official co-habitation of two people who want to have kids.... The two become one flesh, not the two orbit in the same space. :-)

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  2. This is fantastic! Definitely inspired by God.

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  3. Thanks everyone! I'm glad you like it! (Especially since this is a condensed version of what we share with engaged couples in their marriage prep!) Loving our life of service, God is so good!

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  4. Fine list. Keep writing.

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