New Year, New Season

I’ve always been a huge college football fan. As a southerner, let me tell you that college football is almost a religion down here. When you move to or visit a southern state you are not asked where you live as often as you’re asked which team you pull for. I’m a University of South Carolina girl and in South Carolina you are either a Clemson fan or a South Carolina fan. Here in North Carolina you are either pulling for Duke, UNC, or NC State. And, regardless of your team of choice, your team will either have a good season, a decent season, or a bad season.

Rarely can one predict exactly what kind of season their team will have. A star player can be injured. A team can be full of freshmen after graduating off all of their all-star seniors. This season’s schedule could be particularly tough. Whatever a season brings, it will be an adventure for the dedicated fan. Case in point – the recent Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl where #3 Georgia beat #2 Oklahoma and #4 Alabama beat #1 Clemson. Neither of these wins were predicted (but WOW what awesome games they were!) . . . and, on a side note, my Gamecocks beat Michigan, which was also an upset!

All of this to say that seasons come, and seasons go. But none of these seasons last forever, nor do they define the team. If they did, I’d be miserable as a Gamecock fan because we’ve had way more bad seasons than good ones. Thank heavens for new seasons where we have hope for a brighter future!

What does this have to do with marriage? Quite a bit, actually. Marriage goes through seasons as well. Think back to that newlywed season and all of the mushy feelings you had. Now think back to having a newborn in the house and the sleepless nights that season brought you. Or, think of that season when you weren’t sure if you even loved your spouse anymore and the passion was gone. Yea . . . thank goodness seasons don’t last forever. If you can recall these seasons, then you can agree with me that they came and they went.

I think many of our marriage struggles come from a false belief that the difficult season our marriage is having right now is going to last forever. It won’t. I promise you that if you and your spouse decide to move into a better season in your marriage, you will.

We can’t help some circumstances that throw us into a difficult season of life: illness, death, financial issues, unemployment, or any other crisis. But, we can help how we respond to the circumstance. We can pull together as a team and come up with a plan to get beyond this season and into the next one. We can make a choice to have a healthy season, a season of growth in our marriage. We can be determined to not let this difficult season define our marriage, but we can learn from the situation and grow closer together in the process.

This won’t stop the difficult seasons from coming, but if we remain a healthy team we can overcome them. So, my dear friends, what season is your marriage in today? How can you and your spouse be a stronger and healthier team?

Wishing you all many blessings in 2018!


Keep Politics Out of It

Signpost of political parties

Signpost of political parties

This is not my favorite time of year. I simply can’t get away from politics. Even something as benign as the NFL can’t escape it. Watching my favorite team play was plagued by announcers discussing a player’s right to not stand for the national anthem. Those conversations are overshadowing the purpose of the league – it’s entertainment, not a political arena. Or, rather, it shouldn’t be.

For me, “politics” brings up so many icky words, and maybe for you too (especially with our current presidential race): lies, manipulation, deceit, debate. We expect this in political races, such as the one for the presidency. But, when it happens in our personal lives (or even in a beloved pass-time like the NFL), it just feels awful and can truly ruin relationships. Honestly, I don’t know how politicians survive the “politics” of it all. The down-right ugliness of what they do to one another is terrible.

So, this type of behavior simply has no place in our lives – especially our marriages. Listening to the presidential candidates go back and forth, accusing one another of lying, trying to convince us all that the other is bad while they are good, and literally pointing out every negative thing about the other at every opportunity, is exhausting. The sad thing, though, is that this same behavior can be found in marriages. How often do marital arguments end up being about who’s “right” and who’s “better” and highlighting what the other did wrong? If we are honest, I bet we’d all have to admit that we’ve had those very arguments before. The bottom line is this: our spouse is not our opponent and shouldn’t be treated as such.

So how do we keep the “politics” out of our marriages and remain a team? Here are a few tools that have helped my marriage – and several I picked up from marriage counseling, so I can vouch that they are good tools!

  1. It’s better to be in a right relationship with your spouse than it is to be right – Sometimes we just have to be right about something. I’m known for my tenacity and will argue with a sign post, so this was tough for me. It wasn’t that long ago that I lacked humility in my marriage and needed to be “right” all the time. After some time in counseling and realizing the value in humility, I’m a different person today. Now, when we argue, I remember that I want to keep a “right” relationship with Steve so I listen more and try not to insist on my own way. This isn’t easy, and I’m not always successful, but it has created more harmony between the two of us. And, through this behavior I think we’ve cultivated humility on both sides, which has increased intimacy overall.
  2. Sometimes it’s not necessary to point out your spouse’s flaws – We all have flaws and, unfortunately, it’s all too easy to point out our beloved’s flaws when we are upset or trying to win an argument. Most likely, our spouse is very much aware of their own flaws and pointing them out isn’t helping them or the situation. Instead, focus on how YOU feel about whatever conflict is going on and stick to first person language like, “I feel like” and “I think that” instead of “you” language that places blame and points fingers. The truth is that it takes two to create conflict, two people to argue about it, and two opinions to create the argument in the first place. The more each spouse focuses on their own feelings and thoughts and less on issues with the other, the healthier the conversation will be.
  3. It’s not about choosing sides – Many couples have mutual friends. It can be tempting to share arguments with friends in an attempt to get them to agree with our argument and to be on “our side” of things. This can be destructive to not only your relationship with your spouse, but with your relationship with your friends. My rule of thumb is to keep arguments between me and Steve. I have learned over the years to keep as much of our relationship between the two of us as possible and only share those personal details in counseling. I would never want our friends to think less of Steve and more of me, and I believe he feels the same way. We aim to lift one another up in front our friends – not tear each other down. Remember, we are not fighting for political office so there is no need for our friends to have to choose sides.

These are just a few tools that have helped me and my marriage relationship. I hope you can find them helpful in your relationship as well. And good luck over the next couple of months as we endure the rest of this crazy political season!


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.


Marriage Isn’t Fair . . . and that is a GOOD Thing!

Our pastor is doing a sermon series right now called “God Isn’t Fair . . . and that’s a Good Thing” – when I ran across this article I thought of that title and figured it correlates pretty well. Click HERE to read an article called “The Fuzzy Math of Marriage” that discusses the “unfair” in marriage and how we need to look at this differently. It’s a funny article, kind of tongue-in-cheek in places, but at its core is a great message for all marriages.

This article reminds me of a very important chapter in our book study from the fall – the difference between a “contract” and a “covenant” marriage. So often we have the “you owe me” attitude with our spouse based on what we deem as our contribution to the marriage/household and what we expect in return from our spouse. For instance, I do the laundry so I expect him to do something in return. Or, he mows the lawn so he doesn’t see why he should help me with other landscaping because he sees what he already does as enough. That, according to Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, is a “contract” marriage.

The “covenant” marriage is so different (and BETTER). In a covenant marriage, you do the laundry because it needs to be done. He will mow the lawn and help with landscaping when asked because he wants to help his wife. I make lunch for my husband each morning before work because I want to, not because he asked me to. I thank him for things he does around the house and he thanks me. It is a “servant” relationship – not as in “slave” but as in a person who willingly serves those they love out of a true desire to bring them joy and put their  needs first.

So, we give, we take, we struggle. But, yes, I do believe the odds are ever in our favor :).