Five Personal Reflection Questions to Evaluate Your Year and Start the New Year Right

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I’m a reflective person. This time of year — when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so — get alone — and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating — sin can have an immediate pleasure — but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships — spend more time with family and friends. Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But, chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended — and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again — even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed). I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year — one decision — one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But, would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Maybe you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life — and start living the life God has called you to. Maybe you need to stop delaying the risk — and go for it! Maybe you need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream? Is this the year you mend the broken relationship? Is the year you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being — planning for the future? Is this the year you surrender your will to God’s will — and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Maybe getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life — spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself.

Try answering them — see how it helps you start your best year ever!

5 Steps to Be a Better Listener — And Improve Every Relationship in Your Life

Romantic Chinese Couple Enjoying a Coffee together.

Do you want to improve the relationships of your life?

Tremendously improve them. Every. Single. One.

Whether in business, ministry, marriage or friendships — improve in this one area — and every relationship of your life will improve. Guaranteed.

How, you ask?

I’ll tell you how.

Become a better listener.

That’s it. And, it sounds simple, but if you’re honest. You know it is not.

Listening is a dying art. There are truly few good listeners in the world it seems these days. We hear lots, but we listen so poorly. And, in fairness to all of us, there is far too much noise to really listen.

The word listen is defined so much stronger than just to hear. There’s an attentiveness. An intentional effort. A designed purpose for hearing.

And, one secret to improving every relationship is to improve your own listening skills.

I’ll admit. I’m not one of those naturally skilled at listening. Ask my wife. (She’s an expert listener.)

I know how. I was supposedly trained in one of my master’s degrees. In being trained to be a counselor, we were taught how to listen. It’s important for the profession. Knowing how and actually doing it are not always equal functions. Again, ask my wife. (And, by the way, I was never a very good counselor — and that was probably one of the primary reasons. I was too eager to fix problems at times.)

But, enough about my poor listening skills, the question before we proceed is do you want to be a better listener?

Or — maybe a better question — do you want to improve all the relationships in your life?

I can tell you how. Or, at least some ways. If you’ll read with an intent to listen.

Here are 5 steps to being a better listener:

Genuinely want to hear. That’s where it all starts. The most important one. Usually this one alone makes all the difference.

Think of it this way — if someone was talking about a potential job you really wanted you’d listen — for every detail you could glean. If you were a single guy pursuing the girl of your dreams and overheard someone talking about her — you’d listen. Really listen. You’d want to hear every detail. You’d soak up every morsel you could possibly attain.

The process of getting better at listening begins when you value the relationship enough to truly want to listen. When you truly care enough about the subject or the person communicating that you’ll discipline yourself to listen.

Don’t try to respond until they are finished. This is so huge. It’s one I’m most guilty of doing wrong. Once again, just ask my wife.

But it is so damaging to good listening when we interrupt. (Now there are actually counseling techniques that help direct a person’s thoughts when they are rambling, but that’s not what I’m referring to here.) This means you don’t finish their sentences — even in your mind. You don’t assume you know what they are saying before they say it. The problem with doing so is we are often wrong. We have to stop completing and listen. It devalues the person and their message when we don’t give them time to deliver it — in their way of communicating. And, yes, it takes longer for some than others.

Slow down. Some people think they listen faster than they actually do. Yea, I’m one of those too.

For good listening, it’s important to remove any distractions. Put the phone down. Turn off the television. Close the laptop. This is not the time to show you’re good at multitasking. I find I have to step away from my desk and take notes as I attempt to listen.

Make sure the time and place is adequate also. You may need to schedule an appointment to make sure you are completely available to engage. You may not always be “available” to listen when someone is ready to share. Properly listening takes time. Be honest. I’ve also had to be honest with people when the timing just wouldn’t accommodate the time they deserve to adequately listen to their story — such as a few minutes before I preach on Sunday mornings. And, we reschedule.

Focus on the voice. I’m using the word “voice” as a descriptor of the one who is hoping you will listen. Give them your undivided attention.

Look into the person’s eyes. Watch for their body language. We are all unique in how we communicate. Strive to understand their unique style. Engage with them with appropriate responses. A nod of the head when appropriate communicates you are listening. I often tell people in advance, for example, that taking notes helps me listen better. Then I can refer back to something later in the conversation if I didn’t completely understand.

Ask questions. Here’s the foolproof way to make sure you actually heard what was intended — that you were actually listening. (This is where they trained us to be good counselors — and it works.)

Especially if you have any doubts of what the person means — ask. Get clarity. Asking questions is one of the best ways to communicate that you care and that you are truly listening. And, it helps eliminate misunderstandings.

Try questions such as, “So is what I hear you saying…?” “Is this what you mean…?” Additionally, look for more than is being said. Many times questions help pull out what the other person thought was clear, but wasn’t.

Here’s to better listening. I don’t know about you, but I could stand to improve in this area.

What tips do you have?

7 Ways to Get Your Man to Shop with You

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I shop with my wife.

There. I said it. I’m sorry guys. Do I lose my man card?

I get criticized often by other men that say I put pressure on them to live up to that standard with their own wives. And, I’m sorry if that’s the case. I realize many men read this blog.

I explain that a shopping mall is not necessarily my preferred place to be on a Saturday, but I love my wife and I love spending time with her. She sometimes likes to shop, so many Saturdays I find myself somewhere shopping with her.

I also know my blog readership is about 40% women, so today I want to address you in this issue. My goal, as always, is to improve and strengthen marriages. Spending time together always helps this occur. At least that’s the theory. :)

Here are 7 tips to get your man to shop with you:

Give him a mission. Men love a purpose. We are hunters by nature. Tell us exactly what you are looking for, that you haven’t been able to find it anywhere and that you need his help finding it. Then get out of his way and let him hunt!

Understand his limit. This is not the day to hit every store. Especially if you’re husband is new to shopping, don’t make him become a marathoner in the first race. Ease him into the idea. And, when he’s hungry, feed him well. Even let him pick the place.

Let him carry packages to the car. He’s going to be looking for something to do. He may want to make several trips to the car. He’ll show you how strong he is. Let him serve you.

Include a stop for him. If he wants to look at tools for a while, don’t complain if he already looked at dresses. And, if he wants to sit in the middle of the mall and people watch — don’t complain.

Don’t push stores he doesn’t like. Save those for the girls trips. (Personally, I don’t care for the candle shops or soaps and lotion stores. To me if you have smell one, you have smelled them all.)

Give him credit for going and don’t expect it to be his favorite way to spend a day. Recognize he is doing it out of love for you, not for the activity of it. Don’t tell all his friends he “loves to shop with you”. And, don’t expect him to want to go every time you do.

Give him time to enjoy the things he enjoys doing at other times. And, if he wants you to, do them with him without complaining.

Girls: Does your husband shop with you? What are your tips for us?

Guys: Do you shop with your wives? What keeps you going?

4 Ways to Keep Your Marriage from being Injured During the Christmas Holiday

Portrait Of Loving African American Couple In Countryside

The Christmas season can be hard on relationships. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met with a couple after the holidays because of problems that developed — or were exaggerated — between Thanksgiving and New Years.

How can you protect your marriage this Christmas? That’s a good goal, right?

Here are 4 suggestions to keep your marriage from being injured during the Christmas season?

Plan a budget together. Stick to it. There will often be one spender and one saver in a relationship. Or two spenders. The principle is this: Don’t spend in December what you’re going to regret in January. Be wise on the front end.

Protect your family first. Even if that means saying no to some extended family events or time with friends, put your immediate family needs ahead of other obligations. Have time together as a family. (For years we did this wrong — and we regretted it later. It wasn’t until our boys were in high school and they could voice that they wanted more time with just us.) As a couple, agree on where you’ll spend your time before you spend your time anywhere this holiday season. You may have to support each other with the spouse’s families. (Wives speak to their families. Husbands speak to their families.)

Build traditions that build family. We often get distracted by things that matter less. Find a way to celebrate the reason for the season together. It could be reading the Christmas story or serving at a homeless shelter or annually letting Linus from Charlie Brown’s Christmas remind you of the true meaning of Christmas as you watch it together. The baby, who is a Savior, has been born — He is Christ the Lord. Lead your family to celebrate Christmas — the real Christmas — and you’ll enjoy it even more.

When tension is outside don’t let it reign inside. The Christmas season can be so busy. It’s hard to be everywhere we are expected to be. It seems emotions run abnormally high this time of year. People who don’t see each other often are in close quarters with one another. It can lead to tense relations. There’s often tension in the stores and on the streets. Decide now that nothing will distract you from the closeness you have as a couple. Make this a celebration season that grows your heart stronger as a couple.

Just a few suggestions. Any you have?

How to Identify Constructive Criticism

Man drawing a house blueprint in nature

Constructive:

“Serving a useful purpose; tending to build up.”

Criticism:

“The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything.”

Constructive Criticism

You’ve heard the term. As a leader, I hear it all the time.

If you’re a leader then you’ve certainly had people offer criticism. Some even say they are just giving “constructive criticism”. Or, they believe so at the time.

Most of my pastor friends have heard, “Pastor, let me give you a little constructive criticism” — (Sometimes just as they are about to deliver the weekly message. :) )

So, what does “constructive criticism” mean?

I’m thinking we often misuse that phrase.

And, it’s not just with leaders. It’s in every phase of life. I think it’s a societal issue. It’s even on social media. We think we are offering “constructive criticism” when we update our Facebook status or Tweet about our service with an airline or a restaurant or a school system — for example. Or anywhere else we feel a need to criticize for some reason. We may not label it that way, but I’m convinced it’s what we think we are doing — offering constructive criticism.

In reality, I’ve learned that phrase — constructive criticism — is sometimes just a nice way to say, “I have a personal complaint about a personal issue, but it will make me sound less self-serving and more justified if I label it (maybe just in my mind) as constructive criticism.”

I have been thinking about that term lately. Even as I might use it personally.

First, let me be clear, I’m not down on constructive criticism. I think it’s good. And, needed.

Using that definition (serving a useful purpose; tending to build up) constructive criticism serves a place within any organization — even the church. It can, by definition, help us all.

There is a place for constructive criticism.

But, how can we make sure the criticism we offer is actually constructive?

And, what is it actually? I think that’s the bigger issue.

How do we know when it is “constructive criticism”?

And, how can we give constructive criticism to others?

By definition, here are 7 indicators of constructive criticism:

It builds up the body or organization for everyone. It’s helpful for the good of the entire vision. Everyone can benefit from constructive criticism.

It is not self-serving. It doesn’t seek a merely personal gain. Scripture makes humility an ideal, encourages unity among believers and commands us to consider others better than ourselves — even to pray for our enemies.

It offers suggestions for improvement. I’m not saying it does every time. Sometimes we just know something is wrong, but this would be an indicator the criticism is constructive (by definition).

It creates useful dialogue. Again, this may not happen every time, but if conversation can lead to the benefit of everyone, then it could be an indicator of being constructive — it helps build — construct.

It affirms others or the vision. Constructive criticism would never tear down the overarching goals and objectives of the body or organization. That would be counter to the definition. Criticism might, but not constructive criticism.

It can be realistically implemented or discussed. I’m just working with the term and definition here, so if the criticism is an impossibility — would never work — then it seems to me it isn’t “serving a useful purpose”. (Extreme example: I once had someone criticize my allowance of phones in the worship center. They thought I should be like a school teacher and take them up at the door. Okay…)

It is not overly divisive. Constructive criticism serves to build up — not tear down, so to meet the definition it must not divide people as much as it at least makes an attempt to bring people together around common values and vision. Of course, that’s not always possible. It’s near impossible to get everyone to agree on anything, but constructive criticism doesn’t seem to be the type criticism that would splinter the groups opinions or divide people extensively.

That’s my rambling thoughts on the issue. I’m all for offering better criticism. Constructive criticism.

There may be a need for non-constructive or destructive criticism sometime. Jesus cleared the temple that way. We may need to clear some things. If so, let’s deconstruct.

But, all I’m saying is — if I can attempt to constructively criticize the way some of us criticize — constructive criticism should live up its name.

7 Suggestions to Have the Best Christmas Ever

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It’s Christmas time again. Seems to come every year about this time. The most wonderful time of the year.

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

(That could almost be a song. Wait a minute — I think it is.)

But, if you’re like many of us, Christmas will be over before you took time to enjoy it. You might even get past Christmas, realize how fast it passed, and so you set some new year’s resolutions to slow down and — maybe — enjoy Christmas more next year.

What if you could do that this year? Why not? Sounds like a good goal to me. Enjoy the celebration of Christmas. The birth of our Savior. Relish the time with family. Savor every moment.

Here are 7 suggestions to make this the best Christmas ever:

Set a limit on expenditures. Something happens when Christmas becomes more about the value of the gifts than the value of the season. More, more, more only produces energy in a direction that can never really be sustained. (Read Ecclesiastes 5:10) Start with a budget. Be realistic. Stop comparing. One problem for many of us is that we are trying to compete with everyone else. Obviously, if you have more money you can spend more money (and less — less). But, make it your goal to invest more in people this year than in things you can buy. And, don’t feel obligated or pressured to buy gifts you can’t afford for people. It will only be a temporary satisfaction and produce a lot of guilt in the new year when you see those credit card bills start arriving in the mail. (And, usually the guilt starts as soon as the cashier hands you the receipt or you push the purchase button online.)

Set boundaries in relationships. This is especially true for younger couples and families, but really for most of us. You can feel pressured by extended family and friends to be a dozen different places. Remember, you aren’t responsible for pleasing everyone — in fact — you can’t. It’s impossible. (Some have a harder time with that than others.) Don’t let everyone else determine your Christmas schedule. You may have to have some difficult, but direct conversations with relatives or friends. Again, be realistic. You can’t be everywhere. There are some places you can’t (or shouldn’t) avoid, but, as much as possible, control your schedule rather than having it controlled by others.

Plan and prioritize your time. This is similar, but also includes how we spend our own time at Christmas. There are usually more demands for our time than time for our demands. Just as you did in creating a money budget, create a time budget. Set aside some time for you to celebrate Christmas as an immediate family — or in a way where you best celebrate. Then build around that time. It’s okay to say no. (Do you need to read that sentence again?) If you don’t, you’ll run out of time before you feel you ever really celebrated. It’s hard, but again, you’re trying to actually celebrate Christmas — the birth of baby Jesus. That’s hard to do when you have lost all control of your time.

Lower your expectations. That you have on others and on yourself. Sometimes we set very unrealistic expectations on what others will buy or how they will respond to what we buy. We look for the “perfect” gift — to give or receive — and our enjoyment of Christmas is based on that search — rather than the real joy of the season. We also set unrealistic expectations on relationships. We watch too many Hallmark Christmas movies where everything works out in the end to the perfect holiday celebration and when it doesn’t happen at our house quite like that we get disappointed. Remember, we aren’t characters in a movie. We are characters in real life. Real life is almost never perfect. Learn to enjoy your celebration with all the quirkiness that makes your family unique from every other family. (Because every family is quirky in some way — in real life.)

Practice health disciplines. Sometimes in the name of “celebrating” we over do it only to have guilt about it later. Don’t overeat or over-indulge. You will occasionally – it’s part of the season — but, be reasonable. Keep exercising. Sample rather than eat full portions. You’ll feel better and have less regrets after the holidays have ended.

Serve others. Find and establish a Christmas tradition of service. Whether it’s serving at a food kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, or just picking up trash along the side of the road, you’ll better appreciate Christmas when you serve. The real meaning of Christmas is based around serving others. The baby born at Christmas came to be a servant. The best way to celebrate His birth is to give back expecting nothing in return. You’ll be the bigger recipient when you do.

Remember the reason for the season. Yea, I saved the best and most important for last. On purpose. It’s also the one we push to last if we aren’t careful and the ultimate purpose of this post, so I wanted it to be the last impression on your mind. Jesus — the reason for the season. It’s simple — even cliche, but, it’s true and it’s powerful — if you do it genuinely. In the midst of the madness, rediscover the miracle of Christmas. A Savior — who is Christ the Lord — has been born to you. Establish a tradition that helps you best identify with the true meaning of Christmas. You could take time to explore a character of the Christmas story you’ve not considered previously. Research elements of the setting and culture. Read the major passages in Matthew and Luke repeatedly through the season. Listen to only Christmas music. Attend special Christmas services. Whatever works for you. Be intentional to practice celebrating the real joy of Christmas.

Not all of these will apply to everyone, but my guess is if there are a couple here you need to work on — to better celebrate Christmas — you already knew it. As we begin the rush of the Christmas season, pause right now, take a few deep breaths, and let’s make this the best Christmas ever.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

3 Steps to Being a More Thankful Person

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Ever wonder the secret to being thankful?

I believe the secret to being thankful is in learning to be more content.

We give thanks out of a heart overflowing with gratefulness. A full heart naturally produces gratitude.

How do we do that?

The Apostle Paul told us he had learned the secret.

I think Paul gave us some clues earlier in his letter to the Philippians.

Here’s Paul’s remedy:

(He says he’s going to tell us one thing — then he gives us three — typical Paul.)

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (‭Philippians‬ ‭3‬:‭13-14‬)

Here is Paul’s remedy:

Forgetting what is behind. Has it been a tough year? Have you made some mistakes? That day is gone. Did you know that? It’s over. Done. Gone. The question now is what are you going to do about it? Are you going to live in the past? Hold on to guilt? Refuse the grace of God in your life? If you’re lonely, you sulk or get up and get out among people — find some friends and let them invest in you? You can let the past control you or move forward. Not both. Which will you choose?

Remembering what is ahead. The best days are ahead if you’re a child of God. He’s writing a story with a happy ending, where all things work for an ultimate good. Right now we have more questions than answers. Some day He will provide for His children a Sabbath rest. And have you ever seen a sunset that took your breath away or marveled at the beauty of a mountain reaching into a clouded sky? Well, just wait. “No eye has seen” what God has prepared.

Pursue worthy goals. Pursue Christ. Honor Him with your life. Have the mind of Christ. Invest in others. Love one another. Pray for your enemies. Do good — expecting nothing in return.

And, later in Philippians Paul shares that the “peace of God” will guard your hearts. You will be filled with contentment.

And, you’ll find yourself being a more thankful person.

5 Things I’d Do Differently If Raising My Family Again

Little Girl on a Swing

What would I do differently I were raising my family again?

I’ve been asked several times recently for my advice on raising a family.

The only advice I have is from personal experience. My boys are grown. On their own. Self-sustaining. Independent young men. But, everyone who knows them is impressed with my two adult sons. They are incredible.

But, I’ve been honest with all of them. Cheryl is too when she’s asked. It’s all been grace.

I do have the opportunity, however, of looking back on that experience. Parenting looks different to me now than it did then. Isn’t that how all of life works? We can only see what we can see, and when we are in the middle of something, it’s harder to see the whole picture.

And, if I had it to do over, I’d do some things differently.

Not every thing. I have great adult children. The best, in fact. Seriously. Let’s compete. I’ll win.

Okay — it’s not a competition, but if it were — just saying. :)

But, if I had it to do over — I’d do a few things differently.

Here are 5 examples:

I’d control more early. I’ve said this before and I get push back, but so much of life is built upon how those beginning years. And, every parent knows things that are best for the child early, that the child may not choose correctly left on their own. You have much control early in life. Parents often act like they have no control — they do. I’d control what they watch. What they listen to. Whether they attend church — or not. I know — bad dad. You may not think you can’t, but you can. There will be days when you can’t — and shouldn’t try — to control them. While you can — do! And, I don’t know that age when you have to move from more control to more influence, but I know it isn’t 3. I’d give them a strong foundation to pull from their rest of their life.

I would limit outside interruptions. There’d be less travel ball and outside activities. And, just less everything where lots of other people were involved. I know. That would be unpopular. Families are always on the go it seems. But, I’d make sure there was less time with a coach and more time with us, the parents. And, that’s just it. We are the parents — and those parenting opportunities pass too quickly anyway. And, it seemed the dynamics of family always changed when others were around. It often became more about others than about us as a family. And, it’s harder to really parent well in those settings. I’d be more selfish with our family time so I could increase our individual time with our kids.

I’d be more selfish with my time too. My personal time. My play time. And, my work time. I’m not saying that would be popular with my friends or even with my work — but I would be more concerned with my influence on my kids than what other people think.

I’d plan our week around church. Okay, you think this one is self-serving to me now. And, I know it’s not as culturally relevant anymore, but I’ve never met a family who was sorry they did this. (Including us.) I’ve met several families who — when it was too late — wish they had.

I’d get less upset about minor annoyances. Each of my boys did things that upset me at times. And, I often over-reacted. (Please don’t tell them — although they’ve outgrown them.) Like squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle or always waiting to go to the bathroom to the most inopportune time — even though we asked a dozen times before. (See, minor.) But, they have outgrown them. And, it wouldn’t matter anyway. They are minor now and looking back — they were minor then. I would react differently to the minors, so I could major on the majors — things like character — that really matter — then and now.

Those are quick thoughts. Parenting is hard. I’d never want to put more pressure on a parent than they already feel. Each parent has to own their parenting.

But, quick thoughts are needed in parenting. Parenting happens fast. But, the results of parenting last generations.

Three Actions to Communicate Love to My Wife

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Communicating love to a spouse should be considered a never-ending, life-long commitment. If I’m honest, however, my wife is usually better at this than me.

Partly because of her personality and partly because she has a stronger relational aptitude than me and partly because she is awesome — but, for whatever reason — demonstrating love seems to come easier for Cheryl than for me at times.

I’m not talking about the quality of the love. I think I love Cheryl deeply. It’s that I’m not as good at “showing” my love.

I’m a work in progress. (I hope its okay to be honest that way.)

Plus, I’m to lead others. By example. I’m a pastor and teacher. People are trying to follow me. And, I believe, that should be in my marriage also.

So, how can I — how should I — communicate love to my wife?

And, just to be fair, I don’t think I’m alone in that question.

I am actually asked this type question frequently by other men who — like me — sometimes wonder how to communicate love to their spouse.

That’s what this post is about — communicating love in a marriage.

For men who want to do likewise with their wives…

Here are three suggestions:

Continually learn her. The wife knows when we’ve stopped. All of us are changing. Our needs, wants and dreams are continually adapting to our experiences, circumstances and the world around us. We demonstrate love by desiring to know even more the one we love. Great couples ask questions of each other. Routinely. Intentionally. They explore each other’s hearts and minds on deeper levels; uncovering the unspoken desires of the heart. They spend quantity time together; even learning to love each other’s activities.

Constantly pursue her. All women want a certain amount of romance in the relationship. Many men would never consider themselves romantic, but the good news here is they get great credit for genuinely trying. Strong couples keep dating on a regular basis. They pursue one another; giving no other human relationship preeminence over this one. They avoid sameness and boredom – which is one of the leading causes of marriage failure. They explore together. Try new things. Refuse sameness in the relationship. When men intentionally lead this effort, we demonstrate our concern for the relationship and our intent to keep the spark alive.

Consistently out-serve her. This one will be hard for most men, but this is a great way to use our competitive nature. Which is strong for most of us. When the goal is to out-serve our wives, we at least make progress towards doing so and it generates a desire to be a servant leader in our homes. Equally important in serving our wives is to serve them in an area that has the greatest value – not necessarily only the things the man likes or wants to do. It is hard not to love someone who strives to understand you enough to serve you at this higher level of commitment.

None of those are “easy” — if they are done well — and none of us ever master any of them. Some of us are better than others — like Cheryl. Some of us — like me — keep trying.

4 Expectations that Can Injure a Marriage

couple

Is your marriage struggling? Sometimes, in my experience, there may be a problem with expectations.

Expectations are critical for the success of any good relationship — especially in a marriage.

Here are 4 expectations that can injure a good marriage:

Unspoken expectations. When the couple never lays out their expectations in the marriage one spouse or the other will be disappointed at some point. A lot of couples assume they are on the same page until a problem arises where they find out otherwise.

Unclear expectations. When the couple thinks they’ve communicated expectations, but they didn’t use language the other one could understand. Everyone communicates differently. Expectations must be clear. And, many times they have to be tested before we understand them.

Unmet expectations. When the couple had clear expectations — everyone understood them — they’ve even been tested — but, one spouse isn’t holding up their end of the deal. Happens all the time.

Unrealistic expectations. When the couple has expectations that are impossible for the other spouse to meet. Our spouse is not our savior. Not perfect. Can’t read minds. Will make mistakes. Etc.

How are you doing with setting and keeping expectations in your marriage?

By the way, these 4 are true in other relationships also.