3 Terms to Strengthen Your Marriage

Happy Couple

As a counselor and pastor, I have used many techniques to attempt the same.  One of the best and easiest strategies to helping couples grow their marriage is to practice and apply these three terms to your marriage:


Learn how different each of you is from each other.  God designed a man and a woman with different desires, needs and interests.  Each spouse communicates differently, prefers life organized at a different pace, and handles disappointments and excitements differently. Spend quantity time identifying those differences.

(You can read more about the greatest needs of a man and a wife HERE and HERE.)


It is not enough to identify differences.  Each spouse has unique expectations of what he or she expects from the marriage and the other spouse.  These are the things required, in one spouse’s opinion, to make marriage work well.  Spend quantity time identifying these expectations.

(You can read a post of similar thought process HERE.)


Your marriage needs continuous open dialogue. There should be a willingness to talk through each of the previous two terms throughout the marriage.  Each spouse having different and have unique expectations is not wrong.  That’s part of God’s design for marriage.  Communicating those differences is one of the keys to making the marriage work well.

(Learn about communication in a marriage HERE.)

Most problems in a marriage begin as minor problems.  The key to keeping the marriage strong and working through the problems is to address the problems while they are still small.  If your marriage is experiencing minor problems, which you feel in your heart could become major if not addressed, then this post is for you.  Even if your marriage is thriving now, but simply want to strengthen it, implementing these three terms may help.

Could using these three words help make your marriage stronger?

I’m Getting a Daughter: Welcome to the Family, Mary

Have you heard the news? Cheryl and I are gaining a daughter! Our oldest son Jeremy asked Mary to be his wife last week. (In a very romantic way that would make most of us men hate him. He set the standard high.) They will marry sometime next year and we couldn’t be more excited.

If we were selecting a daughter or a daughter-in-law, we would have chosen someone just like Mary. She has a natural mothering heart wired to care for others. Mary is beautiful, smart, kind, and compassionate. She loves children, puppies, and people. Mary is patient with others, including Jeremy, Nate and me when we tease her. (Which is one reason I always wanted a daughter!) Mary is respectful to Cheryl and me, and has become a great friend to Cheryl. Best of all, Mary loves Jesus with all her heart. She truly is a remarkable young woman.

Jeremy and Mary have dated six years, and we have known her family for many years, so we’ve watched her grow into the fine young lady she is today. Mary completes Jeremy perfectly. We often comment that Jeremy is a better person when Mary is around; and he seems to enjoy life better. Their equal heart for missions and ministry welcomes God to use them throughout their marriage.

Mary, you should know that Cheryl and I are going to compete for the in-laws of the year award…every year! We enjoy our time with our children, but we want to encourage you two as you plan your life together, without getting in your way. We are always here if you need us, and just as we’ve told our boys (and you), you are never an interruption to our days. We are always here for you!

Welcome to the family Mary! You are dearly and completely loved!

Good choice Jeremy! You make us proud!

NO Minor Roles in Ministry: The Encouragement of a Little Boy

I was encouraged recently reading a passage in 1 Samuel 20:18-23, 35-42. If you know the story, it’s about David’s relationship with King Saul and about his friendship with Jonathan.

These specific verses deal with the question of whether the king wanted to kill David. Jonathan, the king’s son and David’s best friend, agreed to a test to discern the king’s heart. As a sign to David, Jonathan would shoot arrows into the field where David was hiding and a little boy would retrieve them. If he shot the arrows close to the boy, David was safe. If he shot the arrows far beyond the boy, David was in danger.

It’s a great story and I hope you will read it again. My purpose of this post is not the main theme of the story; my focus is the little boy. We tend to read this story for the purposes of David and Jonathan, and while they are certainly central characters in God’s story, so was the little boy.

This little boy was innocent in the matter…he was just doing what he was asked to do. The boy apparently had no idea the importance of the role he was playing at the time in protecting the future king of the Israelites. The little boy, however, was a kingdom builder without knowing it. God used Him in a mighty way, just for being willing to follow through on an assignment.

Have you stopped lately to consider the importance you play in God’s story? You may see your role as minor…perhaps you work in the parking lot ministry…you help with set up or tear down each week…you shake hands…you sweep the floor…you push buttons so another person can talk…you invite your friends to attend church with you…you offer to, and really do, pray for people. It may seem “unimportant” to you, but in God’s eyes, you are playing a vital role in His Kingdom.

Regardless of what you think of your abilities or position, you have the potential to be an important part of carrying out God’s plan through your local church. Most churches couldn’t do what they do without the sacrifices of people like you. You have opportunities the pastors never have. You have value. You have impact. You can advance the cause of Christ, just through your obedience.

Be encouraged with your service!

5 Questions That Could Help All Marriages

I have talked to dozens of marriages in need of help, but the couples are too ashamed or proud to ask for it or accept it.  Somehow, I think if we admitted that all marriages struggle at times, it would help the ones in trouble to seek the help they need.

My Bible describes the process of becoming one (marriage) as a “mystery” (Ephesians 5:32), yet many people mistakenly believe they can do it on their own.

Would you do me a favor?  Will you consider these 5 questions?  Then, if you have had to work on your marriage; if your marriage has had to learn a few things the hard way to make it work, help us all by sharing some of your experience here on this post.  Perhaps the combined synergy of transparency will be good for all of our marriages.

Here are the questions:

  1. What if couples weren’t made to feel guilty, or a failure, or as if you were all alone, if you decided your marriage wasn’t all it is supposed to be?
  2. What if the stigmas against seeking help for marriage disappeared?
  3. What if seeking counseling or asking for help figuring out marriage became socially acceptable?
  4. What if couples were commended for admitting mistakes in the marriage and it was seen as a part of the process in making the marriage stronger?
  5. What if couples realized that every marriage has struggles; that no marriage is perfect, but that good marriages got that way through hard work?

Has married life been hard for you at times? Share a comment, even if it’s just “Yes, my marriage is a work in progress”, and let’s encourage some marriages to seek the help they need.

All the Monday Marriage Moments can now be found together in one category HERE.

What Are Your Expectations Of A Pastor/Minister’s Family Life?

All eyes are always on the minister’s family and having been on both sides, as a full-time vocational minister and years as someone with a full-time secular job, let me assure you that most pastors feel the pressure to live up to the standards of excellence people have set. I’m thankful I have a great marriage (most days) and two great boys. I’m fine with you making decisions about me based on my family life, because right now, thankfully, things are going well, but still, I also sense the pressure to live up to a set of unrealistic expectations at times.

The false expectation may often feel like I’m not supposed to have disagreements with my wife, my kids are never to be the ones that misbehave at times, or when you see Cheryl and me in public we should always be holding hands as we pray together.

I know what the Scripture says: He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) (1 Timothy 3:4-5)

Does that, however, mean the minister must have a perfect marriage and perfect children?

Is the standard you have set for the minister’s family higher than the one you have set for your family?

I’m curious, what expectations do you have of a pastor’s family?

Assessing the State of the Marriage

I have tried this quick assessment with marriages in distress several times and it opens the couple’s eyes and my eyes to the real state of their marriage.  If you are dealing with a marriage following a major mistake or disappointment, considering trying this process.  If the marriage in distress is yours, considering a self-assessment of your marriage.

I seat the couple separately and give each person a piece of paper and pen.  I asked them to number their paper from 1 to 4.  I then ask them to answer the following questions on a scale of 1 to 10.

Here are the questions:  (You can alter the questions to ones that work for your situation.)

  1. How healthy do you think your marriage was before this incident occurred on a scale of 1 to 10?
  2. How healthy do you think your marriage is today on a scale of 1 to 10?
  3. What answer do you think your spouse will give as to the health of the marriage today on a scale of 1 to 10?
  4. What is your personal commitment level today to make the marriage work on a scale of 1 to 10?

We then share and discuss the results.

Some of the observations from using this assessment:

  • Most couples appear to give honest answers to these questions.  It seems easier because they are putting them on paper first.
  • This gives each spouse a look into the heart and mind of the other spouse that he or she wouldn’t normally share.
  • Usually, the female rates the marriage lower than the male, to the surprise of the male, but eye opening.
  • In some cases, the marriage has actually improved after the incident, if the couple is finally addressing problems in the marriage.
  • The commitment level is a key indicator of where the marriage is going next.  If you get high numbers here; the couple is willing to make the marriage work.

Would this be helpful for you to use working with couples or in your own marriage?

All the Monday Marriage Moments can now be found together in one category HERE.

The Dangerous 7 Year Phenomenon in Marriage

Every 7-year period in a marriage appears to create additional stress to the marriage. I have never understood the phenomenon, and I have no statistical data to support my observations, but I have seen the results of it many times. I have talked with many other pastors and counselors that have observed the same.

The stressful period appears to begin sometime around year 6 and continues through year 8, but primarily around year 7. Another critical period seems to center around year 14 (years 13-15) and again in year 21 (years 20-22). (I haven’t dealt with many marriages beyond that period.) Many marriages actually end during one of these periods.

My suspicion is that it has something to do with life cycles. In 7 years, (which is a biblical year of completion BTW) most marriages have experienced many of the normal highs and lows a marriage faces. Issues such as death, birth, job change, housing change, medical issues and financial stress all create stress in a marriage and over the course of 7 years most marriages experiences some or all of these.

I believe strongly that awareness of a problem helps address the problem. While I don’t understand all the reasons why this phenomenon may occur, experience tells me it is real. My suggestion is that marriages in these critical times and leading up to them be especially sensitive to problems that arise in the marriage. Be willing to seek help when needed. Work on the basics of your marriage again. (Read THIS POST for examples.) Talk to other couples that have successfully weathered the period you are in now. Invest in your marriage. Stay committed to your faith and each other. Build your marriage during this time instead of letting the season of marriage tear you apart.

Pastors/Counselors/Others, have you seen this phenomenon? Do you understand it? Was it true for your marriage?

(If you read my post about my grandparents, I think they are going to be okay in their 10th 7-year cycle. Read that post HERE.)

3 Dates…70 Years of Marriage…True Love

I wouldn’t necessarily advise my children to try this, but…so far…it’s worked for my grandparents. This week marks 70 years of marriage for them…and they only had 3 dates prior to being engaged. They knew each other a grand total of 10 days.

I can honestly say that watching my grandparents has always been like watching a newlywed couple. Today our local paper interviewed the happy couple. Read a great story of true love HERE.

Are you hanging with your marriage even during difficult days?  Take some encouragement from my grandparents.

(This picture was taken at their 50th wedding anniversary!)

Addressing Major Problems in Marriage

Sometimes in marriage, things have to get worse before they can get better. Don’t be afraid to let that process work. If there is a continuous major problem in the marriage, find the courage to address it.

I’ve met numerous couples where there is an obvious major problem, but the offended party is afraid to deal with the issue. I’m not referring to minor differences, such as whether the toilet paper should roll from the top or the bottom…that’s easy stuff…(top, of course)…I’m talking about those non-negotiable concerns in a marriage.

Things such as…

Physical or verbal abuse…Confidence crushing negativity towards the other spouse…Substance abuse…Extreme laziness or not supporting the family… blatant neglect…

If you have a serious issue in your marriage, you have to push through the problem as difficult as that process will be.

I realize when I give this advice some immediately rebel against it, because they fear their marriage will be pushed over the edge if they address the problem. When there is a severe crippling problem in a marriage that goes unchallenged, however, one spouse will suffer in more areas of life than just the marriage. (If this is your situation, you already know that to be true.) The problems in the marriage will affect the person’s health, job performance, and entire well-being, not to mention the marriage will never be all God intends it to be.

When the injured spouse refuses to face reality and address the issue, I usually ask him or her one question:

Are you going to be satisfied with your life and this marriage if nothing changes or improves with this situation for the next 20 years?

The fact is that more nagging won’t help. Worrying about the problem will not make it go away either. If the answer to my question is no, then some action must be taken if you have any hope for improvement.

Obviously, I can’t offer specific advice in a short blog post. Your situation is unique, complicated, and personal, but I can encourage you to get some personal counseling. Force the issue. Work through the problem together. Allow it to make you stronger in the end, but don’t be afraid to address the hard stuff.

Do you have an example of this principle in your marriage? Have you and your spouse had to work through a serious problem before you could make your marriage better?

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Measure Up

The best thing you can do for your marriage is to find your personal worth first in Christ.   When your spouse doesn’t meet your expectation, which many times he or she will not, you will still feel fulfilled.

When your worth is held captive by an imperfect person, you will find yourself facing unmet expectations throughout your marriage.  While I believe strongly that each spouse has a responsibility to develop him or herself personally (You can read some of my thoughts in the marriage category HERE), the fact remains that your spouse will never totally meet all your needs, regardless of how mature he or she becomes as a person.

Are you holding your spouse to a standard he or she can never meet?

What if you found your worth first in Christ, would it release some pressure from the marriage and the spouse that doesn’t measure up to expectations?