Disengaging from Distractions

Smartphone_AddictionSteve and I went on a romantic getaway back in April to visit Asheville, NC. If you’ve never seen this majestic town, you really should. Asheville is nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is known for some of the most beautiful scenery around. It was our first time staying at a bed and breakfast, and it certainly won’t be our last. What an amazing experience waking up in this quaint manor home for breakfast each morning!

The first morning we were there we were like little kids who couldn’t wait to see what Santa brought them. We jogged down the grand stair case and made our way out to the expansive front porch that was already occupied with other guests sitting at small bistro tables awaiting their gourmet breakfast. Sitting at our small table for two, we marveled at the fresh cut flowers in the small crystal vase, the pleasant music piped in over the speakers, and the glorious smell of Nutella stuffed crepes. Steve and I just sat there and soaked it all in as we relished this precious time together.

As I sat there, however, I began noticing who our neighbors were at the adjacent tables. There was an older couple to our left eating and not talking. Then beyond that couple sat a younger couple, who, we figured out later, were staying in the honeymoon suite. Behind us and further up the porch sat a couple closer to our age. One thing they all had in common: they were all absorbed into their smart phones the entire breakfast. Yes, even the honeymoon couple.

That truly saddened me. Yes, I love my phone and I am on it more than I should be. But, I know what it means to truly value time with Steve and my phone isn’t part of that scenario. Well, I did pull my phone out to take photos of the food, which is cheesy, but the display on that plate was just gorgeous and worthy of a photo! Regardless, I wanted to talk to my husband, listen to my husband, and be with my husband. None of those things involve my phone – or, at least, it shouldn’t.

In today’s technology ridden society, could it be that we have lost touch with the human experience of conversation, eye contact, and true physical engagement? I hope this isn’t the case, but the more I look around me, the more I see smart phones distracting us from human contact. This can be harmful to any relationship – especially to a marriage. Since this trip I’ve made it a point to look around at restaurants and make note of who is conversing and who is on their phone. I was blown away at the number of people who spent most of their time out to dinner with someone engaged in their phone instead of engaged with the person sitting across from them.

I propose that we disengage from the distractions of the handy little device we carry around everywhere we go. Just put it down. Charge it. Put it on “do not disturb.” Whatever it takes to make us look up and engage the humans around us, especially our spouses. Make eye contact. Smile at them. Listen to them. Talk to them. Laugh with them. Our relationships can only get better if we do.

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Surviving Political Seasons

couple-arguingIt’s interesting that I ran across this article from Dave Willis today helping marriages continue to stay strong, even if they are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. I was just thinking about this very thing last night as I scrolled through Facebook. Yesterday was “Super Tuesday” and my Facebook feed had exploded with people spewing their feelings about this candidate or that. And, interestingly enough, I noticed some husbands and wives posting exact opposite views. I pondered to myself how that must go in their households during election season. And, I dare say, in an election season that is as heated and charged as this one.

I encourage you to read Dave’s article on Patheos. There are some good tips in there that can help if you and your spouse are struggling with this. Although my husband and I are on the same page politically, we have actually shifted stances on key things over the years. Therefore, we have had to work through these changes and adjust along the way. The key thing is that we put healthy communication as a priority AND we respected each others right to have our own opinion.

I think articles such as this can be a huge help to newly married couples because the political landscape seems to get more and more charged each year. Navigating those conversations can be critical, especially early in marriage.

Good luck, friends, during this crazy election year!

Flirty and Fabulous!

Scanned Photos 00040My parents gave me an amazing gift over the weekend. They had taken old 8mm film and had it converted to DVD and presented both my sister and me with a copy of our very own. As my sister and I watched these old grainy home videos with no sound, we laughed, cried, and stared in awe at these childhood images. I realized many things as I sat there: (1) I was a funny little kid who apparently loved to wave anytime a camera was present, (2) the clothing we wore in the 70’s was down right hideous, (3) my sister truly knew how to make me giggle and smile, (4) my mom was an absolute knockout, and (5) my family was pretty stinking awesome.

There was one stark realization as we watched, however, that is still stuck in my head as I write this. Watching my parents interact back then with grown up eyes, as well as watching my grandparents interact, has been truly revealing. First of all, my father seemed to always have the video camera trained on my mother (and her tush), which you could tell embarrassed her by her shy responses. Second, my father did most of the filming so my mother could be in the picture as often as possible. Third, my grandparents never sat next to each other. Actually, they were rarely even near each other in the film. I took that to mean that flirting wasn’t something that generation engaged in frequently. Or, perhaps, they didn’t feel comfortable showing that much affection in public (or, at the very least, on camera). I’m so grateful that my mom and dad did not have that hesitation in their relationship. I remember them kissing, hugging, giggling, and flirting with each other. Actually, I was pretty grossed out by it, if memory serves.

Scanned Photos 00054It really does make the world of difference to our kids and their future marriages when we have a healthy relationship with our spouses and demonstrate that to our kids every single day. Although it was pretty icky as a youngster to watch my parents kiss in front of me or my dad swat my mom on the tush in the kitchen, I can appreciate that demonstration of love as an adult looking back. My parents showed me how to have a healthy marriage – probably without even realizing they were teaching me with their fun-loving attentive behaviors. Their flirtatious actions showed me that it’s okay to be silly and fun with your spouse (even in public or in front of the kids!). Their kindness and consideration for each other permeated their actions.

Fortunately some of that rubbed off indirectly onto myself and my sister because we, too, have a ton of fun with our spouse, enjoy smooches in front of the kids, and we are consistently being considerate toward one another. I guess I never thought about where that attitude came from. Now, after watching it in action on those films, I know. Thanks, mom and dad, for demonstrating a loving marriage for me. And, thank you for continuing to let God’s love shine through how loving you are with one another.

My prayer is that my marriage will demonstrate the same thing to our kids.

That Irritating Poke

Publication1I have a “love/hate” relationship with the smart phone app called Timehop. If you are unfamiliar with this app, it is an app that connects with other social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Through this connection it’s able to pull everything you posted on this particular day of the year over the past several years. It’s almost like a little “poke” every day reminding you of that trip you took or that picture you posted of that dinner you ate at that restaurant back in 2012. Whatever it may be, Timehop finds it and reminds you of days long past – and it does so every morning at around 9am (or, at least it does on my phone at that time).

I love this app when cute pictures of my kids pop up. Sometimes I even share that throwback photo on Facebook and reminisce over how adorable my kids once were. However, there are times when these past posts stir up uncomfortable and sad feelings. I am a woman, therefore I attach emotion to pretty much every event, which then filters over to any social media post about said event or any picture that reminds me of said event. So, not all posts give me the warm and fuzzies like older pics of my kids.

Back in 2013 my husband and I were separated from July through around October. The few years leading up to that were filled with turmoil, counseling, and a ton of hurt. Every “poke” Timehop sends me from that time frame makes me cringe and those awful feelings begin to stir inside of me. Especially during the four months we were separated and heading toward divorce. How long does it take to get beyond those feelings of betrayal, hurt, and anxiety?

More importantly, how can I appreciate these glimpses of my past without immediately drawing on the negative?

I’ve had to work through this a great deal over the past two years, so here are the tools that have helped me move forward in a healthier way:

  1. Try to choose different emotions to tie to those events. I remember distinctly the pictures that hurt the worst when they popped up on my Timehop app. They were pictures of our “family” vacation the year we separated where my husband took the first half of the week with the kids at the beach and I took the second half of the week. It was absolutely awful in so many ways to have our family disjointed like that. It was awkward and very hard on the kids. The pictures of us on that trip were hollow at best. When those pictures popped up this past summer and the summer before I wanted to weep remembering how painful it was. However, when those types of pictures and memories arise, I have begun feeling grateful that we survived it and handled the entire situation with grace and love. I begin choosing to feel pride in the good choices my kids made to be loving and patient during that time as well as feeling blessed that God was so obviously with us in the midst of our struggles.
  2. Appreciate how far you’ve come since then and remind yourself what you’ve learned along the way. Society today seems to be afraid of the pain that comes with working through tough times. We want the growth, but we don’t want to hurt as we grow. The truth is that some of the most amazing and meaningful growth in our lives comes through life’s struggles and heartaches. So, when faced with these sad memories of tough times past we should recall all of the good things that have blossomed out of the pain. How have we grown? What relationship is stronger now because of it? What joy can we point to that clearly shows how much we, or someone we love, has grown out of the pain? My answers to these questions are long and meaningful, but I can say that there are many joys I can clearly identify that came directly from those painful experiences in my marriage.
  3. Remember that the past is the past. Allowing myself to feel sad, anxious, or angry when seeing these posts gives the past a power over me that it shouldn’t have. The past is gone, never to return again. It truly has no power over our present . . . unless we give it power. We need to re-engage the here and now and begin making new memories that are associated with positive and happy emotions.
  4. Don’t use social media to air relationship issues. Fortunately I didn’t post much when Steve and I were separated, but one valuable lesson I’ve learned through all of this is to be intentional about what I DO choose to post. I try my best to make it a positive post and with very little complaining – especially about my family members. I am so glad I chose to not disclose personal information on Facebook about my marriage issues. And, I’m very glad that I chose not to bash Steve on social media or post snarky quotes or comments that could be assumed to be about him. Had I done any of that, Timehop would most certainly be a slap in the face every day. Friends, remember that social media is public. Use it wisely.

I actually do enjoy Timehop, most of the time, but I genuinely appreciate the challenge it has presented me as I continue to grow through my marriage struggles over the years. The pain of the past never really goes away completely, but it does diminish over time. How we handle the past in our present is important, and my hope is that you, too, are finding vital ways to leave the past in the past and growing toward a healthier and happier future.

 

Innovate or Die

innovationIn the business world, innovation is key to success. Some of us remember when IBM was all that and a bag of chips . . . that is, until Apple showed up. IBM was happy doing their thing, slowly churning out the same old technology, but in a new package. But then Apple’s innovative take on technology prompted them to step up their game – or die. The church is really no different as we sadly watch churches close their doors because they slowly began diminishing in attendance and relevance. If we look closely at these churches, chances are that the reason they withered instead of flourished was their lack of innovation (and, in many cases, the lack of desire to change at all). Innovation definitely has a vital role in these and so many more areas of our lives – marriage included.

We all love our routines, especially in our marriages and families. I’d even argue that routine keeps us sane at times. However, when it comes to a “til death do you part” relationship, we can’t seriously believe that it will remain the same for 50+ years. Of course not! This “until death” bond has to not only grow and mature, but it needs innovation to be a catalyst for deep and meaningful growth to take place. I’ve talked with many couples, and even had these conversations with my own husband, where we feel as though we are in a rut . . . perhaps “stale” is a good word to describe it. This has nothing to do with whether we love our spouse, it’s whether we see our marriage relationship as something that is exciting, wonderful, or flourishing.

“Innovate” simply means to do something in a new way or to have new ideas about how something can be done. So how can we do marriage in a new healthier way or what are some new ideas about how to do this “til death do us part” thing? This list is truly endless, but I wanted to share some ways my husband and I have committed to innovate in our relationship. I’d love to hearĀ  your ideas as well!

  1. Be intentional about conversation – It’s sad, I know, but we now intentionally schedule time to just talk . . . face to face, eye to eye. We have to be creative about it due to our schedules, but that makes it even more fun at times because it can be any time of day in any location. For instance, our schedules got off whack recently and our “talk” time got pushed to later in the evening, which then conflicted with my taking a shower and him working out. So, we scheduled our talk time during a bath together. And, may I say, that has become one of our go to locations for conversations ;). See, a little innovation can reap some fun rewards!
  2. Don’t do the same “date night” over and over – I kid you not, we go to the same restaurants over and over again . . . so much so that I order the exact same thing off of the menu each time and can quote for you their “happy birthday” song. We decided to commit to trying new places to eat dinner and to go out on dates. This also includes taking risks and actually going to a movie on opening night (even if it means standing in line). Or, it could mean that we go out to eat and find that the food is terrible at that restaurant. The bottom line is that we have mini-adventures when we go out and we don’t know what to expect. This keeps things interesting and also provides great conversation afterwards.
  3. Spice up the bedroom – This is probably one of my husbands biggest gripes when it comes to our relationship. He revels in our intimate times together the most when I am the one initiating and showing him how much I desire him. I suppose men need to feel wanted and desired just as much as women do, but I’ve mostly been the one waiting for him to pursue me. So, I’ve made efforts to turn that around a bit and surprise him in the bedroom. And, ladies, I have to admit that I have had just as much fun and enjoyment as he has. So worth it!

Like I said, these are just a few. But, what if just a few innovative ideas could re-ignite the spark between you and your mate? That could mean the difference between happily ever after and “meh” when it comes to your marriage. Innovate and watch your marriage flourish!

Permission or Respect, Part II

Today I read Ashley Willis’ follow up article to the “permission” article I blogged about a couple of days ago. I guess all of the responses she received prompted her follow-up. And, friends, this is a very important article so please read it.

There is a delicate balance we need to find within a marriage. Anytime there is more on one side of the relationship than the other, conflict and issues will arise. One spouse is doing all of the house cleaning while the other sits and watches TV . . . One spouse continues to be affectionate while the other turns away . . . One spouse stays home to care for the children while the other goes out and does whatever they want. You get the picture. A balance in these and other situations would be that there is mutual give and take.

Another phrase for this is mutual submission. I do realize that “submission” is probably as popular of a word as “permission” is to some people. But, submission in marriage means that you put your spouses needs above your own. Now, if this is one-sided, like I mentioned above, then conflict and hurt will ensue. But, my friends, the beauty of mutual submission is something every good marriage can attest to. When both spouses take the time to intentionally love one another in such a way that they submit their own needs for the sake of the other, only wonderful things can come out of that.

Ashley’s article listed three dangers of asking permission – and all three are very unhealthy situations in any marriage. That could explain all of the negative comments she received. Perhaps some of the comments came from people in one of these unhealthy situations, or perhaps they have lived through those situations and have the scars to prove it. Regardless of their situations, it is obvious that we all struggle to some degree with the concept of mutual submission and asking our partners permission to do things. It’s not a natural thing to do as innately selfish and self-preserving human beings.

So here we are, in the season of “giving” and “love.” Perhaps it’s time we re-evaluated these words that get such a bad wrap, permission and submission, and look at them for the positive words that they are. Then, friends, let’s implement them in our own marriages! Perhaps this could be the turning point in our relationships that puts us on a healthier and happier path in our marriage. Or, at the very least, we can put some better habits into place to help build a stronger marriage moving forward. Either way, prayers lifted for all of us as we navigate that delicate balance!

Is it Asking Permission, Or Being Respectful?

couple-holding-hands-md2I read a great article recently by Ashley Willis about why she asks her husband’s permission before doing certain things. I related to Ashley’s article because IĀ remembered the days when I, too, had those questioning looks from girl friends and condemning comments about how “controlling” my husband must be if I have to ask his permission. My response is always, “I don’t have to ask him, but I choose to ask him.”

Basically, the article mentioned a “girls night out” and how Ashley would not accept that invitation until she had discussed it with her husband. I was nodding my head as I read that because of course you’d discuss this with your spouse, right? I guess this isn’t the case with many marriages based on the 92 comments underneath. I cringed at some who almost seemed like it was an affront to a spouse if they had to ask permission to go do something. It was almost as if some of those commenting were offended that they had to consider another person, their very own spouse, in their decision-making. Really? Ok, let’s unpack this a little . . .

I did not read Ashley’s article to state that she asked permission to do every little thing in her life. Her example was a “girls night out,” which means that this event would (a) cost money, (b) probably involve drinking and bars, and (c) take her out of the house for the evening, probably pretty late. All three of these things involve her husband because (a) the money in their household belongs to both of them, (b) all kinds of things can occur with drinking and her girlfriends (or even her personally) may not be the best to be with in that environment, and (c) especially if they have kids, both spouses need to consider the other when choosing when to be gone and when to be home. So, yea, the spouse needs to be involved in conversations prior to going “out” in many instances.

Maybe it was the use of the word “permission” that got so many hackles up. I’m not sure “permission” is the right word when I discuss plans with my husband, but I am seeking his comfort and approval of it nonetheless. Our phrase is typically, “Hey do we have anything going on Saturday?” That is usually a cue that one of us is thinking of doing something sans the other and we are making sure what we’d like to do isn’t impeding on the family’s schedule or would be upsetting at all to the other. Beyond that question comes good conversation and, most of the time, a reasonable and acceptable outcome that makes us both happy.

Steve and I were not always at this point in our relationship. I can remember many tears shed on my part when he would just decide to have drinks with co-workers after hours as I ate dinner alone with the kids. We had to get to this point together and realize that it’s not about permission – it’s about respect. I respect Steve and he respects me. This respect works both ways – (1) We respect each other enough to include them in the discussion before doing something without them and (2) We respect each other enough to back away from something that makes the other uncomfortable or upset.

So, now that this is unpacked a little, I hope it’s clear that a marriage is a partnership where there is mutual respect. This means that decisions are made together, even about things we want to do without our spouse. It’s not permission, it’s respect.