One Simple, Genius Way I Strengthen My Marriage

calendar

I discovered a genius way to strengthen my marriage. And, it’s so simple.

First…

I calendar everything.

Then…

I share my calendar with my wife.

Told you.

Genius.

Simple.

  • It makes her feel a part of my day.
  • She feels more secure in the relationship.
  • We have less miscommunication because I forgot to tell her something.
  • When I get home, we have automatic points of conversation, because she knows what my day looked like.

Genius.

For detail people, I use Google calendar and she has an app on her phone that syncs. It’s also good because she can add social events to my calendar without seeing first if I’m available.

For us, this works best. Her job is more structured than mine, so there aren’t as many calendar items in her day. This may be opposite for some couples. When Cheryl is “at work” that’s about all I need to know. I meet with many different people in many different place in a week, so keeping up with my schedule is more difficult without this.

Plus, Cheryl is detail-oriented. She wants to know the details. I’m much less so than her. Again, this may be opposite for some couples.

The key is to do what makes the marriage work best for both spouses. This is one that cuts out a lot of miscommunication and adds a sense of partnership to our marriage.

7 Ways Parents Injure a Child — Without Even Knowing It

happy family

A couple recent posts struck interest with readers beyond my normal audience. Both posts dealt with ways one spouse injures another. You can read the husband’s post HERE and the wife’s post HERE.

One suggestion I had multiple times was to consider a similar post for parents.

It’s true. We often injure our children unknowingly. No parent sets out to injure a child. Most parents go overboard to give their children all they need or want. We do the best we know to do. We want them to have more, do more and live better lives than we have experienced.

But, the fact remains, and I know it from dealing with hundreds of people who struggle as adults, because of things their parents did — even great, loving, wonderful, well-meaning parents cause injury to their children unknowingly.

Is it life-threatening? Thankfully, most of the time not. Does it destroy the relationship? Again, most of the time not. I’m not addressing extreme situations, such as abuse or neglect, I’m addressing the well-meaning, well-intentioned, loving parents who may simply not realize how some of their actions (or lack of actions) are not the best decisions for their children. And, how they may actually cause injury to the child — not necessarily a laming injury — but injuries most of us would avoid if we knew to do so.

That’s the point of this post.

Granted, my children are grown. For the most part, my daily parenting days are completed. I’m still parenting, but it’s different now. I am in the influencing stage fully. I can’t send my children to their room. I can’t keep their car keys from them. I can only offer advice as they are willing to receive it.

I have two amazing sons. I can see some things we did right and offer them as suggestions for other parents without reservations. But, looking back, I can see some of these we were guilty of doing — and I remain thankful for God’s grace in spite of me.

Here are 7 ways we injure a child — without even knowing it:

Unrealistic expectations – Ephesians 6 tells the father not to “exasperate the child”. I was guilty of breaking this command at times. Unrealistic expectations often build perfectionistic tendencies in the child and often creates co-depency traits. I sometimes expected more of my boys than they were old enough to do at the time. I expected perfection from them too often. A 10 year old boy is a 10 year old boy. Now, there should be some non-negotiable standards of behavior for a 10 year old, but at 10, kids make mistakes. Why should that surprise me? I’m still making mistakes at 50 years of age. Sometimes I wish I would have lightened up a bit on my boys.

Lack of priorities – When everything and everyone else in life has more value than the time a parent spends with a child they know it. And, it hurts them. They may not even know how to verbalize what they are missing. They aren’t always wise enough yet to look at their life and see how important they should be in a parent’s week. They only know they wish they had more time with the people they admire the most. Someday they’ll know what they missed.

Sharing more than they can handle – Children do not have the emotional capacity to handle everything an adult deals with in life. Whether its an upcoming weather situation or a tragedy in the news or it’s not being able to make monthly personal expense, we create unnecessary fear and anxiety in our children when we share too much information. I’m not suggesting we shelter our children. Actually, I lean more the opposite way. We were very open and honest with our boys, but we were careful how, what and when we shared with them. We thought through the way in which we shared information, being very careful to share only what was needed and in a way that provided clarity not fear.

Giving everything – We sometimes set children up for disappointment in the real world when they never have anything remaining on their want list. Years ago I heard a statistic that most children get the majority of what they want these days — that wasn’t always the case, but as adults, few of us get all that we want. If we aren’t careful, we cause children to struggle with contentment in life, because they don’t know how it feels to wait for what they want.

Over protecting – Children need to learn to fail. There will be a day when can’t shelter them from the world. The more we let them make mistakes when we are still able to help them recover, the better they will be prepared when they no longer live under our roof.

Under protecting – This world is evil. Children don’t have your experience. They aren’t ready to make all the decisions that come their way. Many parents delegate too many choices to their children. There’s a time to give them freedom to choose, but when it’s a matter of moral right and wrong, especially in the earlier years of a child’s life, parents sometimes have to be the bad guy.

Missed teaching moments - We sometimes ignore the power of a moment and we may never get it back. Devaluing the importance of “now” causes many parents to miss the best opportunities for teaching life-changing principles. That moment of discovery is huge for a child. It starts by knowing what you want to teach your children — the values you want them to hold — and constantly looking for life situations that allow you to plant them in your child’s heart.

I realize I’m stepping into dangerous territory when I enter into someone else’s parenting. My only aim is to help. I know parents desire to parent well. But at my age, I’ve made enough mistakes I’m starting to learn from some of them. Before I start to forget them I thought I’d share. Apply as necessary.

Let me also say that grace is always available in your parenting — and it’s never too late. Even adult parents can make changes for good in their parenting. I’ve shared before that my father wasn’t always there when I was growing up, but he taught me how to finish well better than anyone could have done.

What are other ways parents unknowingly injure a child?

By the way, there will be a companion post to this soon with some suggestions to avoid some of these injuries. Feel free to offer some suggestions in the comments.

5 Primary Reasons Marriages Fail

counseling distressed couple

I believe preparation is one of the best preventions for marriage failure. It’s the reason Cheryl and I committed much of our early years in ministry to premarital counseling.

If a couple knows the natural struggles most marriages experience, they are less likely to throw in the towel when their marriage encounters these problems and hopefully be more willing to look for help. They won’t be as surprised when struggles come to the marriage.

In my experience, there are a few leading causes of marriage failure. Interestingly, this same list is often what keeps us from having great marriages.

The leading causes of marriage failure (in my experience) are:

Boredom – Couples stop dreaming, learning, and exploring together. Often the busyness of life distracts them from simply having fun together.

Communication – Not understanding the difference in men and women and the different ways each communicate causes conflict and misunderstandings, which can bring huge wedges in the relationship.

Money – We all need money to survive. When a couple, or one in the couple, is on a pursuit for more it often drives couples to stress out over money, or the lack thereof. Money is also a major cause of arguments, especially when the couple has no plan for how to spend the money they make.

Outside influences – Whether it is work, hobbies, friends, in-laws or even children, couples often allow something or someone to come between them and distract them from each other. The marriage takes a backseat to other influences.

Tragedy – It is difficult for the best marriages to recover from a tragedy, but especially marriages that are already experiencing difficulties.

There are certainly other reasons marriages fail, but when the trail of the marriage that is breaking apart is traced it will many times lead back to one of these major causes.

If you sense your marriage is in jeopardy or if one of these issues is currently bringing stress into your marriage, do not wait until one spouse is ready to quit to do something about it. Get help now. Protect your marriage.

If you want some early warning signs for when it’s time to invest in your marriage, read THIS POST.

For more posts about marriage, go HERE.

7 Warning Signs It’s Time to be Intentional With Our Marriage

happy couple 2

Cheryl and I have been very intentional to protect our marriage. Every marriage bond can slip if the couple doesn’t recognize the signs of stress in the marriage and address them.

For us, we look for warning signs we need to take some extended time and invest in the marriage. That could be a long weekend or a day trip, or just a time where we turn off the television and talk. We have learned these mini-breaks from routine have helped us maintain a healthy marriage.

Here are 7 warning signs it’s time to be intentional:

When our relationship seems to be drifting further apart rather than closer together.  This is the big one for us. “The two shall become one”. Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, how strong is your marriage? Is that higher or lower than a few months ago? If you try this exercise, both spouses should write the numbers on a piece of paper and share them with each other. One is usually more perceptive than the other. For me personally, if one person feels there’s a slippage in the marriage closeness, it’s time to take action. Be proactive rather than reactive.

When life has been routine for too long. I have personally learned in counseling and ministry that a leading cause of marriage troubles is boredom. We all get into patterns, habits and routines. That isn’t all bad, but over time and often for one spouse more than the other depending on the season, boredom can become dangerous. Occasionally we need to do something spontaneous, adventuresome or out of the norm.

When conversation becomes more tense or short-fused with each other. As a rule, we talk “nice” to each other. We believe that’s how marriages work. All of us can have a bad day, but when there are numerous bad days over an extended time we know we need a break from routine to address the marriage.

When too many nights go by without us spending quality time together. Strong relationships are built over time. This includes quality and quantity of time. We need time when we can talk deeper than “How was your day?”. When those conversations have become more rare, we have to intentionally plan them. (This was true before we became empty-nesters also.)

When we have pressing issues we need to discuss, but haven’t found time to have a serious talk. That could be about finances or health, the children, our marriage, or some future hope and dream. When something is on one of our minds long enough,we often have to invest extra time to address it.

When either of us is at a point of “stress overload” for an extended period of time. This is usually work involved, but may be due to a health situation for one of us or even situations involving our extended family. When our boys were still at home, it often involved something in their life. We have learned that stress on one of us — or both of us — as individuals will always impact us as a couple.

When one of us sense in our spirit that we need to “Get away!” We are both believers — spiritual people who have a relationship with God. It could be that there has been a weakening in our individual spiritual lives that is causing tension in our marriage. When one of us senses that we just need some intentional time together, we take that seriously.

The bottom line for our marriage is that God has called us to invest in the lives of other people. We know we can’t continue to pour into others until Cheryl and I pour into each other and allow God to pour into us. That takes intentionality. Plus, we both know, from experience, that the enemy is always looking for holes in our marriage. We must guard our hearts and our marriage.

Now here are a few disclaimers.

All of these may not apply to your marriage. You may both love routine. I would want to make sure you both do as much as you think both of you do — as in you – the one reading this. However, that may not be an issue for you like it is for us. And, you may have other warning signs unique to your marriage.

You’re marriage may need more intentionality than I’m suggesting here. This is more about maintenance for a good marriage. If you’re beyond that, get help. A good marriage is attainable when two people are willing.

Also, we don’t have children at home anymore. That gives us some unique advantages. We have learned we tend to fill our time either way — with children in the house or not — but the point is clear we can be more flexible if we need to be. (It’s a good season.)

I also should point out that being intentional doesn’t mean you have to “break the bank” to do so. Some will pushback that they can’t afford to travel out of town for the weekend or that they can’t afford childcare. I understand. So, find other ways to be intentional. You could trade time with another couple where they watch your children one day and you watch their children another. The key is to break the routine to address the marriage — not to spend extra money.

Finally, I realize this is especially difficult for marriages that are apart frequently, mostly because of work. I spent most of my life in a military town where this type post is much more difficult to apply. Most of us can make the extra effort to invest in our marriage if we choose to do so. For those with unique situations, I admit you’ll have to be even more creative. Even if, however, your intentional time together is via Skype – it would be better than allowing the marriage to drift apart.

What are some warning signs you need to be more intentional with your marriage? Are you there now?

7 Simple Ideas to Strengthen Your Marriage

man woman talking

I’ve shared recently about ways we injure our spouse without even knowing it. You can read the husband’s post HERE and the wife’s post HERE.

A common request after those posts is that I should share ways to strengthen the marriage. I should note that I’m hesitant to offer what appears to be therapy by list, because a good marriage is far more than a formula. Actually, all of life is, including leadership. Any area of our life where people are involved — which is pretty much all our life — can never be reduced to 7 steps or 7 suggestions. Plus, just being honest, it’s always easier to point out the problems than to fix them.

So, you’re naturally wondering, why I share so many lists. I’ve been called the “list king”.

Well, for one, that’s the way I think. I also know, however, that one reason some enjoy my blog posts is that I give lists which people can easily identify with and apply to their own life. finally, lists can be effective. I may post more about this idea later, but I don’t believe we can always determine outcomes, but we can often determine the things that stimulate or encourage outcomes. (Again, I may post more about that later.)

Basically, using that idea, I can’t force my marriage to be better. I also can’t change my wife. (Not that she needs changing — but for discussion purposes.) But, there are things I can do which can help my marriage improve, and often those things don’t start with my spouse — they start with me — they start with things I do or we do together.

One suggestion someone offered as a way to improve a marriage is to consider the opposite of the ways we injure our spouse. Just take the 7 points in each of the above referenced posts and do the opposite of them. That’s good, but I thought I would add some more. Another list of stimulants.

Do you want to strengthen your marriage? No, there’s not a formula. But, maybe some of these ideas can help.

Here are 7 simple things you can do to strengthen your marriage:

Share calendars – It seems simple, but it gives Cheryl great comfort to be able to follow my schedule throughout the day. I know many spouses, probably especially some men I know, reject this idea as too intrusive, but for us, it has strengthened our relationship. Cheryl knows who I’m meeting with, what the key stresses of my day are, and usually what time I should be home so we can eat together. (Or if we have dinner plans.) She loves living life with me. For most wives, they go through their day thinking about the people they love. (Not that men don’t, but it’s different for most of us. We tend to think only about the thing we are concentrating on at the time, whether that’s work, our hobby or our family.) By sharing a calendar there are fewer surprises for Cheryl (and me). Sure, everyday is full of things we didn’t plan, and we can spend the evening talking about those, but it helps us feel a part of each other’s day when we have a general idea of what we are doing.

One tip: Spend 30 minutes today sharing each other’s calendars for the next month.

Plan regular escapes together – Periodically we place an escape on the calendar for a few weeks or a couple months from today. We both live stressful lives and our best times are often when we purposely get away from everything and everyone. It could be for a day trip or a couple days, but we need to know the “catch up” time is coming. The more stressful the season the more this is needed.

One tip: Look a couple months out and plan an escape. Put it on the calendar you now share. Do it today.

Have a date a week – At least once a week we need time for just us. Every week. Even as empty-nesters we’ve learned how critical this is for our marriage. We have a tendency to fill our schedules with lots of activities and we need some time to slow down. This goes on our calendar. Every week.

One tip: Find one night (or one day) and put it on your calendar for the next couple months — until it becomes a habit. Then keep it there.

Increase communication – Cheryl and I can usually tell when we haven’t been communicating enough. We start to miss details about each other’s lives. We have to repeat ourselves to each other. It’s usually when one or both of us has the heaviest agendas and we are running at full speed. It’s easy to get into routines and have surface conversations. In times like this, we will often discipline ourselves to take a walk together, go for a drive, or even go to the mall together. It takes us away from the routines, phones and television and forces us to simply be together — and talk. Communication is the fuel of a healthy marriage.

One tip: Tonight — put your phones down, close the laptop, cut off the television, and for at least 30 minutes, talk. Bonus health points to take a walk together. (If you’re old enough — like us — you can even power walk the mall. :) )

Communicate better – It’s not enough to spend time talking. We’ve got to learn to communicate more effectively. We all need to practice our listening skills and the gestures and body language we use. Often these are heard louder than our words. If you become as conscious of how you are saying something as much as what you say, you’ll find yourself injuring the other person less and causing fewer conflicts. It’s important to ask each other questions that spur deeper discussion and get to the heart of an issue rather than surface talk.

One tip: Come up with a series of open-ended questions, 3 to 5 total, of things you’re curious about your spouse. (Such as: What’s your favorite memory of our first few dates together? Be creative.)

Spend some time dreaming – Dreaming stretches the heart and mind and there’s no one we should dream with more than our spouse.

One tip: Make a dream grid for each of you and for the couple. It can be one grid combined if you prefer. For each spouse and for the marriage, list 2 or 3 dreams you have. If there were no limitations, what would you like to do? Where would you like to go? Who would you like to meet? Place this somewhere in your house you’ll see often.

Pray for one another – Did I really have to list this one? But, would you be honest enough to admit almost all of us are weak in the area of prayer at times? And, who more important to pray for than the one with whom we are to be becoming one?

One tip: Buy a notebook of some kind and make it a prayer booklet. List new prayer requests and update old ones at least weekly.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list. You’ve got ideas. Remember, none of these are fool proof. There’s no secret formula to a good marriage. It takes commitment, intentionality and hard work. And two people. But, two people working together can take actions that can spur a healthier marriage.

What tips to you have to strengthen a marriage?

Read THIS POST on some cheap date ideas.

7 More Ways Husband And Wives Injure Each Other — Without Even Knowing It

Angry with each other

I recently wrote two blog posts 7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband…Without Even Knowing It and 7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife…Without Even Knowing It. These two posts have quickly become the most read blog posts in my blogging career. I received lots of feedback. Numerous sites re-posted them. I made a new friend when Stronger Marriages shared them. I can see Dave Willis and I becoming friends and working together in the future.

One site, Charisma Magazine, suggested I add more ways husbands and wives injure each other, based on the two post’s feedback.

This is that post.

Here are 7 more ways husbands and wives injure each other:

Sarcasm – In my original post, I wrote it with some sarcasm, explaining it was easier that way to address a more difficult subject. I still think it was easier, but it wasn’t received well by everyone. A few very vocal people were offended, so I edited that version. It reminded me though why I wrote the post. We sometimes unknowingly hurt one another in the way we approach an issue. That certainly was not my intent. Attempting humor isn’t funny if it’s only funny to you, but actually hurts another. (And, I also learned that some people need to learn how to better offer constructive criticism.)

Comparison – I learned that some were offended that they were grouped into a general post, rather than making one post for husbands and wives combined. I get that. We do generalizations all the time though. Conservatives, liberals and moderates. Introverts and extroverts. At the same time, I understand that no one is just like someone else. We are all unique, but equally true, in many ways we are also alike. We all have similar needs and desires. Still, it did remind me of a way we injure our spouse and so the the point is well taken. We should be careful not to compare our spouse to others — especially in a negative way. They are unique individuals.

Ignoring – Some commented they feel ignored in the marriage. It could be the response to an argument or the boredom in a relationship or simply refusing to actively listen. But, when a spouse pretends the other spouse isn’t even in the room — or makes the other spouse feel as if that’s the case — it hurts.

Devaluing the relationship – Some spouses feel they are more serious about making the marriage work than their spouse. Not taking the relationship serious, allows holes to develop and injures the other spouse. And, a spouse knows when we aren’t placing a high enough value on the marriage.

Lack of contentment – Numerous people indicated they were tired of their spouse never being satisfied in the marriage. It feels to them like the discontentment is towards them. In the relationship — in life — with social status — with finances — when one spouse is never satisfied, even when the dissatisfied spouse doesn’t intentionally or knowingly blame the other — it injures. Deeply.

Putting others first – Some spouses feel forgotten — or neglected. When everyone else gets the best of a spouse’s time and the family gets the leftovers — it injures the relationship — and the heart of the neglected ones.

Ignoring a spouse’s needs – Several spouses noted they were hurt most when their spouse didn’t realize how something was so important to them. It could be as simple as closing the cabinet doors, which may seem like a frivolous request to one spouse, but to another, it drives them crazy. When we act like it doesn’t matter or isn’t “that big of a deal”, we injure the one to whom it is a big deal. (Now granted, everything can’t be a big deal — or nothing really is a big deal, but we should value the other person enough to care about the things they care about, and, when it’s easy enough to do, why not comply?)

By the way, the last example is one from my own marriage. It doesn’t matter to me that a cabinet door is slightly ajar. It bothers my wife greatly. I can clearly see that cabinet doors were designed to close. So, knowing it matters to her — I close them. Easy enough. For more complicated issues it requires better communication, mutual understanding and a willingness to humble ourselves in the relationship. When two spouses are doing this — and yes, it takes two — I am convinced that any marriage can be a great marriage.

Sadly, in my experience, many people think they are doing that, but they are really only expecting one spouse to do all the humbling of themselves. If the other spouse would only see and do thinks their way things would be good in the marriage. That doesn’t work, however. It takes two people, both willing to collaborate and compromise towards a greater reality of the two unique individuals becoming one.

Let me close by sharing a couple of general thoughts. First, I’m trying to help marriages. I realize all of these — maybe none of these — apply to your marriage. Some marriages are in serious trouble and these posts can’t help at the stage where you are at right now. You may need professional counseling and I strongly encourage you to get help if needed.

Some have dismissed these as too elementary. I understand that too. Although, I must say, some of the replies were extremely harsh and unkind in the way they expressed themselves. I seriously couldn’t help but wonder if that type response is occurring in the marriage if there is a wounded spouse and the spouse doing the injuring is totally unaware of the hurt they are causing. (Which is why I wrote the posts.)

No post can be an answer for everyone. I’m grateful, forever, for the numbers who have been positively impacted by them. I’m overwhelmed by your responses. Thank you.

Now, help other marriages (and be kind in your reply).

What are other ways husbands and wives injure each other — without even knowing it?

7 Suggestions When a Good Marriage Isn’t Working

Rear View Senior Man and Woman Couple Walking Holding Hands

All marriages go through periods where things just aren’t as they should be. It’s a natural occurrence in any relationship involving people. (I suppose that would include most marriages). The stress and pace of life causes tension in the best marriages. Even good marriages suffer at times.

Cheryl and I have had several of those times, usually due to external pressures we did not cause or invite. It could be my work — or hers — or family situations. Outside stress causes tension in the relationship. Things aren’t falling apart. We aren’t questioning our commitment to each other — but we both know things aren’t working as well as they should be. We are having more miscommunication, we are more tense in our reaction to each other, or we may just feel we are passing each other through our days, not connecting as well as we usually do. Thankfully, we’ve always been intentional during those times.

Those times are usually seasonal and they happen in most every marriage. That appears especially true in the earlier years of the marriage, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they happen later in a marriage either. When major changes in the marriage or in life occur, such as children moving out of the house, loss of job, or other serious trauma, marriages can struggle for a time. That’s normal.

Those periods can last a week, a few weeks, or a month or more. It isn’t that the couple doesn’t love each other, or even that they want out of the marriage, but that they just aren’t on the same page as much as they should be. The key in those times isn’t to panic, but to intentionally work to restore total health to the marriage.

Have you ever been there?

During these times the way a couple responds is critically important.

Here are 7 suggestions for those seasons of marriage:

Communicate – Keep talking, to each other and to God, even when it’s awkward to do so. Admit where you are in the marriage. Again, this may hurt for a time, but it’s better to be honest than to allow the marriage to fall apart or slip further from health.

Stay close – Keep doing things together. Sleep in the same bed. Find times to do special activities. Have regular date nights. Talk. This will help protect your heart from wandering.

Discipline yourself – There will be times when you are tempted to say the wrong things or treat your spouse unkindly. It will require discipline to do the right thing, and say the right thing, but it will help protect the marriage.

Get help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even the best marriages need some at times. This may be counseling, meeting with Christian friends you trust, or doing a Bible study together, but it is important you invite someone to speak into your life.

Learn - There are always principles to strengthen your marriage that can be learned during these times. Cheryl and I have learned, for example, that during especially stressful periods that we have to be more intentional with our marriage. You may need to learn how to communicate better, how to handle conflict, or how to dream together again. This is a great season to do some of those things.

Be Patient - You’ll want change immediately, but relationships don’t work that way. Chances are it will take longer than you expect or want it to take to get through this period. Be patient.

Hang on - Renew your commitment to the marriage and each other. These seasons won’t last forever if you continue to work on your marriage. Be committed enough to your marriage to stick with it until this season passes. Every marriage can be restored and improved with two parties working together.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about times of abuse, neglect, affairs, or severe marriage issues. I’m speaking of times when the marriage just isn’t as much fun anymore. This is also when both spouses still want the marriage to work and are willing to work at making the marriage better. If any of those more serious issues are occurring, get help immediately.

You might also read my post “Making Marriage Fun Again“.

Again, have you been there?

Help others out. How did your marriage survive through these stressful times?

10 Tips on Writing a Good Letter…When a Letter is the Best Way to Communicate

letter_writing_small

I want to encourage you to write a letter today (if needed).

Writing a letter is sometimes the best way to communicate effectively.

When I was doing professional counseling with people who were experiencing difficulty in a relationship I often encouraged them to practice the art of letter writing. Most of the time I tried to help them improve their one-to-one communication skills, but some things are easier and better to express on paper than in person.

For example, a letter may be needed when a couple cannot communicate without arguing…or when one person refuses to listen to reason…or if you can’t even get an audience with the other person. I could be best when one person is so intimidating to talk to that you can’t get a word in verbally. Some people express their best thoughts only when they have time to think about them. And, some things seem to convey more importance and get closer attention if they are written rather than just spoken.

So, if you need to, write a letter. It’s not as impersonal as it may seem. It may actual be more personal.

A letter allows you to think through what you have to say and cuts down on reactionary arguments that come when trying to discuss something controversial. A letter will usually be read several and even many times; further enforcing the points you are trying to make. A letter is harder to dismiss than a verbal conversation.

Please note, I am NOT suggesting an email. This is letter writing. That requires a paper and pen, or at least a printer and paper. Email quickly becomes an exchange of ideas that can almost be as counter-productive as the verbal communication. It’s too easy to hit the “reply” or “forward” button quickly with emails. Who wants something this personal being placed on the Internet? This is often a near “final straw” kind of approach, so put the time into it that it requires.

I’m not advocating that you avoid personal conversations, but if the situation calls for it…

Here are 10 things to remember before writing your letter:

  • Spend as much time praying about it as you spend writing the letter.
  • Edit, then edit, and then edit again. (Again if needed.)
  • Write with an end goal to benefit the receiver and the overall situation in mind. (This should eliminate some things you probably shouldn’t say anyway.)
  • Just as you should do in verbal communication, don’t attack the person; address the issue. Leave personal jabs out of the letter. Try not to start a sentence with “you” or use the word “always”. It puts people on the defensive. (This is what editing is all about.)
  • Try to express your true heart…feelings…but not your anger emotion. Remember, you are attempting to say those things, which for whatever reason, you aren’t able to say effectively in person. Don’t lose your audience by “going off” on the person.
  • The goal is not to be a martyr; no one responds well to that approach. The goal is to be transparent and communicate effectively.
  • Make sure you dedicate as much or even more time focusing on the part you have played in developing a bad relationship or situation. If an apology is needed, give it clearly and completely in the letter.
  • Be clear about the points you are trying to convey. Read them back to yourself.This is one of the best benefits of letter writing. You have the opportunity to clearly think through your response; so don’t lose your chance here.
  • Before you send the letter, ask yourself: “How would I respond if someone sent this letter to me?”
  • If you aren’t certain about the quality of your letter, give these instructions and the letter to someone else (whom you trust) and ask them to read it. Let them tell you how they would respond if they received this letter.

Remember, this is not a miracle cure, so don’t expect immediate results. The person may not respond the way you would have them to and you may not even know they have read the letter. You can be assured they will!

Don’t be afraid to write this kind of letter if you sense it’s warranted. You don’t write this kind of letter often…because it does carry more weight…but if the situations merits it, this can be an effective way to communicate. Chances are if you live a normal life there will be a few situations that merit the true art of letter writing. Write well!

Have you seen where a letter helps a situation better than an face-to-face encounter?

7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife…Without Even Knowing It

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I recently posted “7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband…Without Even Knowing It“. It’s been a popular post. Thankfully, I’ve not seemed to make a lot of women mad…a few…but not many that I have heard from…yet. We will see how the men respond with this post.

As I committed, a companion post is warranted. Guys, we injure our wife. All of us do. We are different and the way we respond to our wife often causes injury. And, most of the time, it’s unintentional. We didn’t even know we were doing it.

I’m not making excuses for us. We should strive to learn our spouse…and do better…understanding our differences…communicating better…injuring less. That’s what this post is about. Awareness. Understanding.

I ran this post by my wife…so it’s Cheryl approved, although it wasn’t hard to write. As a counselor and pastor, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples and have seen this countless times. I wish I could say I never did any of these…but that would be a lie. This post is written with one finger pointed forward…and four more pointed my way.

Here are 7 ways a husband injures a wife…without even knowing it:

Cuts her out of the discussion – When you act as if she isn’t even there or wouldn’t understand what you’re talking about, she feels a part of her is detached. She sees the marriage as a partnership…in every part of life…even the parts she may never fully understand.

Fails to notice the difference she makes – A woman doesn’t want to be appreciated for only what she does. She wants you to appreciate who she is, but you can admit it – she does a lot. Whether it’s decorating the house or making sure the clothes are clean…or that you have your favorite soap…a woman wants to know what she does is valued by you.

Underestimates the small stuff – You only said “this” but it was “THIS” to her. And it hurts. You may even think it’s funny. She may even laugh. But it is often building a wall of protection around her heart each time you do. The key here is that you can’t talk to her like you might talk to another guy. She hears and feels deeper than you do. Words can and do hurt.

Speaks with curtness - When you talk down to her, as if she’s somehow less than you, you bruise her spirit. Deeply. And, you know she’s not less than you…you don’t even think she is…she just can’t tell that sometimes based on your tone and the way you talk to her.

Corrects her as she’s talking - This could be finishing her sentences or speaking for her in the company of others. She feels demeaned and devalued when you present her to others as if she can’t compete with you in original thought…which you know isn’t true. (My wife is much smarter than me.)

Acts suspicious - Don’t misunderstand or misapply this one. When you hide information, even when you think you’re protecting her, you cause her to question your motive. When you protect your calendar…or act like you are upset at the question “What did you do today?” or “What did you talk about?” or “Who was that?” when someone calls, it gives her an eerie feeling something is wrong. And, that hurts.

Admires other women over her – She sees you looking. She may even understand your highly visual make-up. It hurts her, however, when a glance becomes a stare…especially when it happens everywhere you go…all the time.

A wife’s heart, no matter how independent or strong she is, is tender in places. Lots of places. She can bruise easily in some areas of her life…especially the places that involve the people she loves the most…like you. A husband who understands this is more careful in how he speaks and responds to her.

Most husbands I know would never injure their wife knowingly. They want to be her protector. Men, when we don’t realize the damage we are doing to our wives emotions, we invalidate every desire we have to be her defender. I always like to use this thought as a reminder: Would I ever allow another man to speak to or treat my wife like I am doing? She’s a precious gift guys…let’s treat her well.

What other ways do husbands injure their wives, without even knowing it?

(Note: I used this post in a message I preached on marriage. You can view it HERE. Also, I wrote a parenting version of this post about ways parents injure a child. Read it HERE.)

7 Acts of Grace in a Marriage

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After years of working with marriages, including my own, I’ve come to a conclusion. Marriages that struggle are often lacking one key ingredient. It’s something that, when missing from any relationship, will cause trouble in the relationship. The missing ingredient is called grace. And, when applied appropriately, it’s amazing.

If the marriage is struggling, one remedy is to apply more grace. Of course, it ultimately takes two people to make the marriage work, but one way to improve things is to interject more grace. When both parties are grace-giving to each other, the marriage can soar.

Here are 7 acts of grace in a marriage:

Recognize differences – You first have to know them, but you have to give grace for your uniqueness. No two people in the world are alike and that’s never realized as more true than in a marriage relationship. The more you understand those differences the better you’ll be able to grow the strength of the marriage. And, if you live in the grace of marriage you’ll spend a lifetime in discovery…never believing you’ve got this person completely figured out, but always dating, always exploring new dreams together, always learning about each other.

Respect differences – It is not enough just to know the differences, you have to accept them. Respect them. This doesn’t mean making excuses for them but fully embracing the other person’s uniqueness as a gift to the marriage and allowing them to work for the marriage rather than against it. I’m an introvert. My wife is an extrovert. I can’t always be introverted and respect her extroversion. And vice-versa. I need to talk and listen sometime for her. She needs to allow quiet sometimes for me, but when we blend the two differences together, we become a power couple for the ministry God has given us.

Clear boundaries – Don’t hold your spouse accountable for what they don’t know. Understand the unique needs of each person to keep the marriage strong. Establish the boundaries that are reasonable and agreed upon by both spouses, then live within them. It’s not legalism, it’s giving grace to the other person. For example, I know that Cheryl needs quality time. It’s her love language. I extend grace to her when I protect my schedule to spend ample time with her during the week. She knows I am fueled on her respect of me, so she “graces” me by not speaking down to me in public.

Forgive easily – Have high standards for your marriage, but recognize two imperfect people are trying to uphold them. You’ll make mistakes. Both of you. You aren’t perfect. And, neither is the person you married. You extend grace when you practice granting forgiveness more than you practice holding a grudge.

Serve expecting nothing in return - Part of gracing one another is doing for each other with no strings attached. The goal is not a 50/50 partnership, but that each spouse extend 100% grace to one another. When a couple mutually submits to one another…even out-serving each other…the bond of the marriage is strengthened. (See Ephesians 5:21)

Extend trust – A marriage won’t grow far beyond where trust is still being earned. Many of us bring our own hurts into a marriage. It can be difficult to place full confidence in the other person, especially after mistakes are made. For a marriage flourish, you have to risk being hurt and extend the grace of trust. (There will be those reading this who have had reasons to mistrust their spouse…I get that…and it takes time to recover from severe hurt in the marriage. At some point, however, for the marriage to ever be all it should be, a risk of trust will have to be given again. That takes grace.)

Love the mundane – Let’s be honest. We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes, if things aren’t moving fast enough, we can fall into routines and life can be boring. That bothers some of us more than others. For some of us, we love the big…the grandiose. We love the mountaintop weekends and the pinnacle vacations. We want every moment of our life to be extraordinaire. And, frankly, it’s not. It can’t be. And, if we aren’t careful, we can get bored even in the marriage. In fact, I’d be bold enough to say boredom is a leading cause of marriages that fall into trouble. It often starts there at least. Grace in a marriage means that we learn to love the highs…which is easy…and the lows…which is hard…and the mundane…which is sometimes…for some people…the hardest of all.

Can I ask you a question? Will you be honest with yourself?

Is your marriage suffering from a lack of grace?