7 Suggestions for Talking to Children about Sex

Sex Education

I’ll never forget the first “sex talk” I had with our oldest son. The “talk” occurred at my office at the company we owned at the time. It was after hours when no one was in the office but him and me. It was a very scary moment — for me and him — but I’m glad I did it then.

He had already started to make comments and ask questions that indicated he needed an “education”. He was about 10 years old at the time. (I understand that sounds young to some, but it may be old now for others.) I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.

I began with a few principles, which helped me to continue to have open and honest dialogue with my boys, even in their teenage years and adulthood.

Here are 7 suggestions for having the sex talk with your child:

Start Early - The key here is that you want to be the primary and first source of information for your child. The old saying is true, “If you don’t tell them, someone else will.” You want to make sure they are getting the correct information about sex. With the oldest it was about 10 years of age, but with the youngest it was about 8 years. It will depend on their surroundings at school, the dialogues they are having with you and others, and their maturity level at the time.

Share in Stages – A four-year-old needs to know that there are boys and there are girls and they are each different, but that’s about it at that age. Share information based on the child’s interest, maturity and ability to understand. I don’t believe one “talk” will be enough for most children. Make sure children feel freedom to discuss anything with you as they have concerns or questions.

Answer questions – If your child is willing to ask a question it is because they want an answer. Many parents make the mistake of telling children they “don’t need to know yet”. There are no bad questions. Again, they will search for an answer and the wrong ones are the easiest to find.

Teach according to truth, not culture – The fact is that today’s culture is mostly wrong about the issue of sex. Culture has tried to redefine what sex is and the purposes and values of sex. Sex is not to be seen as dirty, cheap, or easy. Don’t be afraid to teach your children to be different from everyone else in culture. Help them understand the healthy role sex can play in building a strong marriage. Help them also understand that in the right context, sex is a wonderful gift from God. (It’s okay for them to look forward to something…even sex!)

Deal with the emotional as well as physical – Our children should understand the emotional aspect of sex and the damage, which can be caused by sexual activity, as much as they should understand the physical aspects. The emotional pain caused by early sexual experiences is usually the most damaging aspect later in life.

Teach grace along with truth – The fact is, teenagers (even children) will make mistakes. They’ll go too far. They’ll wish they hadn’t. They’ll regret. Probably just like you do at times. Make sure they know they can come to you if necessary. To protect my influence and an open dialogue, I tried to be careful not to only share truth. I wanted to keep the door open for future conversations, rather than send my boys underground to avoid my wrath.

Get help – There are plenty of resources on teaching children the Biblical perspective on sex. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is another great reason to have a mentoring couple in your life!

My two boys called it “The Talk”. We even began to label it with parts. I think by high school we were on at least “The Talk, part 31”, because they kept having questions as they matured. I don’t believe my boys would be as open talking about such a difficult subject regularly and honestly if I had not established that freedom and practice at an early age.

Are you delaying the discussion because of fear? They will talk about it somewhere…go first!

What was your experience with this delicate parenting responsibility, either as a child or an adult?  Did your parents give you the “talk”?

How Do I Get My Wife to Love Me Again?

couple in distress

The title is deceiving. I admit that. You can’t “get” anyone to love you. How that occurs is a mystery. (And, we’ll end this post in mystery.)

But, I wanted you to find and read the post if you need the help.

I wrote this post almost 5 years ago now and titled it “Winning Back the Heart of My Wife“. It continues to be a heavily searched post. I think it’s because so many men are asking the same question. They’ve lost their wife’s heart and don’t know how to get her back. They want to know how to “get my wife to love me again.”

I decided to repost this, with a few alterations, because apparently there is a huge need. And so yes, if you stumbled here looking for answers-that’s my intent, but please know this is not a perfect post. It won’t apply to everyone. It won’t be an “end all” to your situation. It is simply designed to gear your heart in a healthier direction, so you can better concentrate on repairing your marriage.

As I refresh this post, it’s early one Saturday morning and I have just had this same conversation with another man. He doesn’t know me. He found me online, but he is desperate. Through some bad decisions, he has injured his wife and she isn’t sure she wants the marriage to work anymore so he went searching for answers.

I told him as I’ve said so many times before, this type of help is hard to give over the Internet. Generalized posts can only help so much. His wife is unique; unlike any other woman.

I have learned, however, that there are some commonalities in these situations. In working with marriages in distress, I’ve discovered that most men have injured their wife emotionally at some level and many times don’t even know it.

A man seldom understands (this man included) how different a woman is from a man. Of course, we understand some of the physical differences, but women are usually more in tune with their emotions than men are. When life happens to them, typically their initial and dominant reaction is to respond emotionally. When someone hurts a woman’s feelings, for example, even though the information they receive may be false, they have a harder time working through the feelings associated with the emotional injury.

The heart, speaking in terms of the seat of our emotions, was created much like other parts of the body. When a finger is broken the body is designed to instantly start to heal and protect itself from further injury. The same is true of the heart. When a person’s heart is injured, it goes into a self-protective mode to keep it from further injury. Over time, after years of injury, the heart becomes almost calloused, refusing to allow anyone to injure the heart again. A woman who has had years of emotional injury doesn’t have much heart left to give, but especially to the one who has done the most injury.

When a sudden dangerous blow to the woman’s heart is delivered, such as when she finds out the man had an affair, the already injured heart breaks — and completely closes off from being hurt anymore.

Most men enjoy trying to “fix” problems, but men cannot fix their wife’s heart. And that’s the advice most men want me to give when they contact me. Emotions are not repaired as easily as one could fix a leaking faucet or program a computer. There’s no program. No system. No script. There’s not an “app” for that.

So what is a man to do if he feels his wife’s heart is injured? How do you heal a broken heart?

Of course, Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. He can come in, erase all the pain and make the heart brand new. Most of the time however, at least in my experience, He lets us wrestle with life’s heartache while we learn to better love one another.

In the former post I list these as “steps”. That was probably a poor choice of words. A better word might be suggestions. They are written simply as suggestions if a man wants to encourage the healing of his wife’s heart. These are good suggestions even if the man simply wants to improve his marriage relationship.

Here are my suggestions:

Seek God – I added this one to the previous post. It should have been in the first one, but honestly, I saw it as almost an unspoken understanding. It’s certainly what most men tell me they are doing at this point. Like the man mentioned above told me, he had never been much of a “church guy”, but now he desperately wants God to heal his marriage. Whatever draws you closer to God is a good thing — and will make you a better man, regardless of what happens with your marriage. Use this time to develop and strengthen your relationship with God. It starts, as all relationships with God begin, through a recognition of who Christ is and your belief in Him. Start there and grow.

Practice Patience – The first thing men need to do is to recognize that restoring a broken heart will not happen overnight. Emotions heal very slowly. Steps should begin to restore an injured heart or to rebuild the marriage, but men should not expect too much too soon.

Love Her – This is by far their greatest need. Most wives have their love need unmet. The standard for our love is perfection, since a man is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5), so a man will actually never love his wife enough, without the help of Christ. The wife knows, however, when the husband’s attention is somewhere else. Most men sacrifice their marriage for their careers or other interests. A wife’s love need is there every day. A wife needs to know that she is second only to God in her husband’s affections. I have found that for my love for Cheryl to grow-I need Christ’s help. I pray for this often.

Romance Her – A woman has a need for romance. Most wives had a fairy tale idea of marriage when they were growing up. They realize early in marriage this isn’t reality, but their need for occasional romance remains. Men rarely know how to do this. A man should be genuine, but should recognize and value the uniqueness of his wife and find ways to give her romance. I gave my wife a “romantic” trip to New York City for Christmas one year. We were going to dance, walk through Central Park and just enjoy each other. It didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned it, but I earned huge points in the romance category with my wife.

Value Words – When a man comes home and says “This house is a mess”, being a mostly factual being, that’s probably all he meant. He looked around, made a physical observation and stated a factual conclusion. The wife, however, probably did not receive the information that way. The wife most likely hears lots of negative information, such as, “You have done nothing all day”, or maybe even, “I don’t like you.” That sounds impossible to most guy’s rational minds, but with emotions receiving information anything could be heard, whether that was the intended response or not. Men need to learn how to be gentle with their wives and the words they use. One question I ask men, “Would you let another man talk to your wife the way you talk to her?”

Communicate on Her Terms – Women communicate best heart to heart…not head to head. A man should allow his wife to see his true heart. This is difficult for a man to do, but he should be willing to be vulnerable with her. Men may need to ask their wives to help them learn how to say things to her. Men cannot talk to their wives as they would their guy friends. It’s rare for men to get very “deep” in their conversations with other men, especially when it involves emotions. Women require understanding, compassion, openness and honesty in communication.

Give Consistent Assurance – Trust is an important need for a woman in relationships. The wife needs to know that her husband is going to be faithful. Men should not take offense, for example, when their wife asks details about their schedule or the activities of their day. The wife desires to be a partner in her husband’s life and these details help her provide trust and security in the relationship. A man should also tell his wife frequently that he loves her. She needs this consistent assurance. As long as nothing major happens, most men can live with a “we said it once and meant it” attitude. This is not enough for the wiring of most women.

Encourage Truth – Ultimately life cannot be lived strictly by emotions. We need truth. Emotions are often unreliable. A woman who feels unloved may be very much loved by her family, but she fails to feel that truth because of years of emotional abuse or just because she’s emotionally having a bad day. Men should gently, but consistently speak truth in love, reminding his wife of her worth, her beauty, and her place in his life. Husbands have this ability better than anyone in the heart of their wife. Over time — truth, when given with love, can play a part in healing damaged emotions.

Be Consistent – The heart is damaged over years and years of injury. Sadly many women have deep and tragic heart wounds, but much of this injury will have been unintentionally delivered and small in terms of the magnitude of the incident. Years of emotional injury builds up in the heart until the heart becomes closed. The erasing of the pain will happen just as it was developed…a little bit at a time. The husband cannot try this for a week and then stop. Protecting a woman’s heart must become a lifestyle.

I remember once talking with a man whose wife was experiencing deep depression. As I talked with this man it became apparent that, though probably unknowingly, he had been damaging his wife’s heart for years. He couldn’t seem to understand why his wife was so emotional; “Everything seems to upset her”, he said. The man told me he had tried to help her through her problems and that everything they had going against them he could “fix” if she would let him. I am not sure I could have ever convinced this man that his attempts at “repair” were probably one of the chief causes of his wife’s broken heart.

Most men tell me they don’t know how to be who their wife needs them to be or wants them to be. And, most men don’t, anymore than our wives know how to be the wife we need. I believe if we want to grow strong marriages we will both, husbands and wives, have to keep learning. It’s never too late to begin! Ephesians 5 calls it a mystery, but the best marriages work through the hard work, to get to the greater gain. Great marriages are worth it.

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?