Yesterday I gave you 4 Quick Tips of how to fix any problem in your relationship. Today, lets talk about the first tip, Commit to Love.
Committing to love is pretty straight forward. Not a lot of complicated pieces.
If you wonder how you do it, its simple.
You just LOVE.
God said it is not good for man to be alone and He gave Adam Eve. She was given to him as a partner. You are given to your man. He is yours to love.
I Corinthian 13 tells us what love is (you should definitely read it!) I will tell you what it is NOT.
Love is not people pleasing. As Christians, we do not live to please others or gain their approval. Rather, we live to please God. In all we do, we do it unto Jesus. We do not please our husband to gain his favor. We don't even love our husband for his sake or because he does or does not deserve it. We love and reap the benefits of loving regardless of how our husband responds to our love.
Love is not burdensome. It does not come from a place of insecurity, lack or fear. Think about it: God is Love. When we know that and that His Love fills us and that our job is not to earn God's love or acceptance, it changes how we show up. We have been given love in abundance. We have not earned it. We simply receive it and allow it to overflow from us.
Love is not manipulative. We don't do loving things to evoke a certain response out of someone so we can feel a certain way based on their response. Love does not give to get something from another person.
Love feels amazing. It definitely feels better than disappointment or frustration, and yet we so often choose the later starting in our thought life.
Love because you can. Love because it is freeing. Love because Jesus has loved you. Love others unto Your Creator/Lover of Your Soul, not to earn his love but because you already have it.
If you have a relationship problem, I have a fix! It is 4 very simple and power packed commitments. The key is in being intentional and doing the brain and emotional work you will encounter when you truly commit to these 4 actions.
1. Commit to Love. Your only job is to LOVE your man. He was given to you to love. How do you love? Simple. Love just loves.
2. Give Up the Need to Be Right. You don't have to be wrong, but when you quit having to be RIGHT, you create space that is open and loving. Offenders like the 4 Horsemen cannot exist in this space and you will be less likely to gridlock.
3. Stop Trying to Control Your Husband. Adults get to do what adults want to do. We know this true, because that is what is happening! Whether you "allow" your man to behave in a certain way or not, he will do what he wants to do. If I could tell you how to change him to make you happy, I would. But its not possible.
4. Take 100% Responsibility for Your Relationship. It may not be fair, but if you want to be happily married, its the way to go!
When you master these 4 Fixes you will be blissfully married. Yes, you will still have unsolvable problems, because you are two humans with your own dreams and preferences, but they won't be a big deal.
Get busy working on you and mastering these, you won't have time to worry about where your man is falling short!
Need help? I am here for you! Set up your free mini-session today!
Your spouse gets to have dreams and desires that you may not share.
The very nature of marital gridlock is that your dream and your spouses appear to be in opposition. You want different things. And because those things are symbolic of the dream (security, freedom, influence, ect), they matter a lot to you.
Dreams are simply your hopes and desires. They reflect what you value.
Sometimes you may be entrenched in gridlock and not even recognize the dream you are batting for. You think you are fighting about television, when really maybe you are fighting for an intentional life and quietness. (He may be fighting for a place and time to "just be").
When you see your husband as the source of your marital problem (he is a slob, he is irresponsible, he is demanding) that is a sign of a hidden dream. Because it is hidden from view, you don't see your part in creating the conflict.
Some common dreams that my client's discover are: adventure, peace, building something important, travel, a sense of order.... The list is endless.
Women who are happily married often incorporate their husband's goals into their concept of what their marriage is about. They don't do this from a place of obligation or sacrifice which breeds resentment, but rather from a place of appreciation and love. They understand that they each get to keep their dreams and the goal is to honor them both.
Wives who are happy in their relationship don't force expectations on their husband (we call these Relationship Manuals). Relationship Manuals dictate how HE should behave so that she can feel loved.
Manuals imply that someone else is responsible for our happiness. They also imply a right way to desire, think and act. When we imply our way is right and his way is wrong, we set ourselves up for gridlock.
Remember Martha from the book of Luke? Hard working, dedicated, intentional Martha. She was great at taking care of everyone and getting things done. It was when she criticized her sister Mary that the Lord reprimanded her. I don't think Jesus was saying Martha was wrong for cooking and planning a meal. He was correcting her for judging and managing Mary as Mary pursued her heart.
Marriage is not about forcing your expectations on another person, rather supporting the dreams of your partner by allowing him to have desires that are different than your own.
Yesterday we took a quiz to see who was in a state of gridlock in their relationship. I promised you even if you were very gridlock you could move past the stuck and heavy, to light and loving.
The real reason you are locking horns with your man is because of what you are thinking.
I gave you a pointer:
Quit thinking the unsolvable problem is fatal. Nothing is wrong. There are ticks in the woods. Allergies in spring. Thorns on roses. Unsolvable problems in marriage. This is reflective of the fallen world we live in.
Next, recognize that underneath gridlock are two hidden dreams that you and he are likely not talking about. Moving from gridlock to dialogue is key.
For example, Sarah is constantly fighting with her husband Todd about where to eat lunch after church on Sunday. Eat out or at home? When it comes up, Sarah feels entrenched.
In this situation eating out has symbolic value. She feels loved and cared for when she does not have to plan, cook, and wash dishes. Sunday is a day of rest in her mind. Her family always ate out on Sundays growing up. It's the way it should be. When Todd does not want to eat out she is thinking Todd is being unloving.
For Todd, a meal out costs money. He resists it because he values money in the bank and it seems more economical to eat at home. He is fighting for security, thinking she is being lazy wanting to go out. Sarah and Todd bicker and resist one another on this subject. They are gridlock.
Another couple may have similar competing priorities but do not become entrenched in it. They can still be affectionate and have a loving sense of humor around it. They understand the other has equally valid and legitimate reasons for wanting what they want. They do not wish for their partner to appease them only to resent them for it later.
When we dialogue about an unsolvable problem without becoming gridlock, we are turning toward our partner which is gold. Notice though, talking about the unsolvable problem and hidden dreams is not a covert attempt to resolve the problem or win the other person to your way of thinking. (If it were, the result would be gridlock.)
The work you get to do in marital conflict is cleaning out the closet of your mind. You become aware of what thoughts are driving your interactions and if those thoughts are serving you.
Maybe he wants to be in much closer contact with his family than you prefer. Maybe he wants 7 kids and you only want 1. Maybe he likes to be stay home on Friday nights and you love going out.
You and he both have dreams in this life you share. There is a story worth hearing behind each of your platforms. If you are gridlock, you are thinking that he is not honoring you and he thinks you are not honoring him.
When we move past gridlock and commit to turn toward our husband in an honest and loving way, we do not insist on our way or attempt to manipulate him into giving up his desires. We no longer believe that one of us has to sacrifice their dreams.
Committing to the process of turning toward, making decisions with mutual respect for your husband and acknowledging both of your aspirations changes how we respond to Unsolvable Problems.
Be patient, have faith and stay committed. The issue does not have to be a death sentence. You can still love each other and have a sense of humor about your differences.
If you want help moving past gridlock I can help. I offer marital therapy and individual coaching. Sign up for your free mini session or couples assessment today!
Yesterday we talked about marital conflict and how perpetual problems are totally NORMAL.
Think about it.
Two human beings called to turn toward as one + each has no control over the other = struggle and conflict (yep, the results of a fallen world).
It is how we navigate this that determines our outcomes. The thoughts that we have, create our feelings about the situation, which pour into the actions we take thus the results we get.
When we allow the conflict and differences without freaking out or villainizing our spouse, it is all just fine.
But what about couples that don't?
These husbands and/or wives become gridlock and even more entrenched in their positions, killing the connection.
So how do you know if you are in Gridlock? Here are some questions gleaned from my study at The Gottman Institute that you can ask yourself:
If you answered yes to one or more of these, you are in gridlock. But be of good cheer knowing that there is a way out even if you answered yes to all 8! You just need a willingness to explore the real reason you are locking horns.
I will tell you more tomorrow!
Every marriage has them.
Your marriage will have them until your dying day.
They are unsolvable problems.
Unlike your solvable issues, the unsolvable ones rear their head throughout your relationship.
Isn't it good to know that?
I think it is.
You don't keep having NEW problems.
You get some version of the old one.
Maybe its sex. Or television. Housework. Parenting. Religion.
As Psychologist Dan Wile says in his book After the Honeymoon: "When choosing a long-term partner...you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you'll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years."
Can't you pinpoint some reoccurring issue in your own relationship?
Its totally not a big deal.
In fact, its normal.
This "problem" is the avenue that teaches us to turn toward (as opposed to turn away) in a NEW fashion. When we commit to turning toward in a way that honors ourselves and the other person, we then are removing judgment and feelings of superiority. We give up the need to be right.
You may have the same problem, but you can find a way to still be satisfied with your man and your marriage. You can learn to deal with a perpetual problem so it does not overwhelm the relationship.
Unfortunately, in some relationships, thoughts about perpetual problems eventually kill love. The husband and/or the wife make the problem mean something catastrophic.
They spin their wheels. The Four Horsemen become ever more present. Positive Sentiment diminishes.
The couple becomes emotionally disengaged, moving toward parallel lives and inevitable loneliness.
But it doesn't HAVE to be this way!
Tomorrow I will share with you the signs of Gridlock and what to do if you have locked horns regarding your perpetual problem.
For every couple, things go south from time to time.
According to Gottman Institute, the difference between the Masters and the Disasters of Marriage is Repair Attempts.
Super couples have fights. They say regretful things. They have bad days.
But what makes their marriage different is their ability to make repair attempts.
The attempts aren't necessarily more skillful or better thought out, but they get through to their spouse.
They tap the breaks when they need.
They hit pause.
They say I am sorry.
They offer grace and do-overs.
They know they don't have to be perfect. They just have to break the cycle of negativity, finding a way to deescalate the tension. Even if your disagreements with your man are very negative, you can discover the secret of bucking the system by offering the right kind of damage control.
You get to think about your husband however you want. And no one can stop you.
Some of your thoughts serve you, and others don't feel so great.
I like to think of trying on a thought as putting on a new outfit.
Have you ever had some pants that don't fit quite right? Maybe they are too tight or maybe they sag.
But you keep wearing them.
Until you realize YOU DON"T HAVE TO.
You can get new jeans.
There are some jeans out there for sure that would fit you better.
And when you get that pair of jeans that fits just right, the benefits have a ripple effect.
Not only is the waistline more comfortable, but you enjoy other things in your day more because your jeans feel more congruent to you. You are thinking about other things, not constantly hiking up your saggy jeans.
Its the same way with thoughts.
Why are you choosing your current thought? Is it serving you? What are some other thoughts you could try on? How does the new thought feel?
You may hate clothes shopping or you may love it. Thought shopping may be similar for you.
Whether you love or allow the process, when you create a new thought that serves you, you will be glad you took the time to find it.
I can tell you what to DO to have a better relationship. Maybe suggest some actions to take.
Everyone thinks they want that.
But it doesn't work.
Our actions are fueled by our emotions, which are created by our thoughts.
You can change your actions, but without addressing the fuel situation, changing actions alone won't get you results.
Turning toward your husband is a good idea. But you have to know what thoughts and feelings you are bringing to the table.
If I am feeling hurt and thinking, Rich doesn't care about my thoughts and feelings and I turn toward Rich fueled by my hurt, the result I will leave with is: I don't care about Rich's thoughts and feelings. Also I will have collected evidence that he does NOT care about mine. (I know this is true because it happened.)
But if I take some breaths, I realize my hurt is not because of what Rich said or didn't say, rather because of my THOUGHTS (Rich does not care about my thoughts or feelings).
I can allow myself to feel the hurt, without resisting or indulging. I can breath it in a gentle compassionate way until it dissipates. But I first have to be willing to feel the hurt.
I can then ask myself if the thought creating the hurt is serving me.
I can see evidence that many times I believe Rich DOES care about my thoughts and feelings. The thought He does NOT care certainly isn't' helpful or inspiring. Nor is it necessary. And I know when I feel hurt by Rich I don't love him well, so it is not a kind thought at all.
What thought do I want to think? What do I want to feel?
I am committed to always turn toward Rich. I know the alternative is to deal with things on my own which begins the cascade of distance, loneliness and isolation. I certainly don't want that. Yet, if I only bring undertones of hurt to the conversation, I collect hurt and I hurt him.
In this situation I might choose the thought Rich DOES care about my thoughts and feelings. Most of the time, I really do believe that thought. Or I could choose the thought, Rich and are on the same team. Or We both want to feel connected.
I decide to pick the thought We are on the same team. It makes me feel connected. Now when I take the action of turning toward him, I am not sweeping my hurt under the rug nor indulging my feelings of hurt. I allowed myself to feel that, remember?
I allowed my feelings, found compassion for myself, and I created a helpful thought and feeling to bring into my turning toward Rich.
When we allow our unintentional feelings without indulging or resisting, and manage the thoughts we bring into the action of Turning Toward our husband, we get different results. We can't determine how he will respond to us, but when we come from a place of positive emotion we show up in a way that makes us at peace with ourselves.
I have been on a emotional ROLL this week (not to be confused with an emotional rollercoaster 😁😲😌).
I have been teaching you so much about emotions because emotions fuel all your interactions and outcomes.
I shared with you that the opposite of allowing emotion is buffering emotion. It is what we do to avoid pain. So, it makes sense when you stop buffering you will feel pain.
Yesterday we talked about how when we feel this pain, we want to think "not buffering" is a bad idea. We don't like feeling like we have failed when we feel pain.
Just because you open the junk drawer ( or junk closet, or junk room) and see the pile-up that was lurking in the dark, does not mean life will improve if you just maneuver the drawer shut again.
Who wants to live a life where you keep filling your overfull drawers with junk? Many of us live that way, but we feel burdened by what was meant to unburden us.
Idolatry is not dead. Anything we put in a position of power and authority in our life is an idol. Anything that consumes us can become an idol. Anything that we turn to for relief and comfort instead of God is an idol. We may not cast statues of gold to save us, but we create idols in our life when we turn toward false pleasure (buffering) to save us.
There are so many benefits when we stop buffering and discovering what our life really is. When we remove the idols, we discover who God really is.
So how do you know if you are buffering or just enjoying a gift of pleasure?
If buffering is relying on external means to shift our feelings, the buffers aren't always bad. It is the reason we use them that determines what they mean to us. It is the control they have over our life that determines if they are an idol or a blessing to simply enjoy.
Here are some questions to determine if something ( or someone/some activity/substance) has become an buffer (idol) in your life:
1. Is this causing a net negative consequence in my life? Is it interfering with my health, relationships or some other area of functioning?
2. Do I spend a great amount of time obsessing and thinking about this pleasure? Does it take away from other positive things I could be creating in my life? What would I be doing if this idol was not part of my life? How might life look different?
3. Why do I ____________ everyday? What are my reasons for the pleasure?
4. If I remove the buffer, what is left for me to deal with? What am I avoiding?
The best way to know if a pleasure has become a coping mechanism (or little g.o.d), is to eliminate it for a few weeks and see what is left. Then you will know.
It may be uncomfortable at first, but remember that is totally okay. The discomfort is not caused by removing the idol, the idol just masked the real pain. When you find the real pain, you can look it in the eyeballs and discover the life that you are meant to live.
The pain is part of living in a fallen world. The pain you have been buffering is the bridge to a more intimate relationship with your creator and the lover of your soul. Remove the buffer and what you actually discover is greater love.
If you want a better marriage, you have to clean out your internal clutter. Worrying about all your husband needs to clean up is the equivalent of worrying about the neighbors yard when yours is overgrown. Focus on taking responsibility for yourself rather than what responsibility your man should be taking (Matt. 7:3 Remember the speck and plank?)
There is so much you can do to feel better and think clearer. Lets start with us! When we do, our marriage gets better (because remember your marriage exists in your head).
If you need some coaching on this journey I am here to help. I work with those who are committed to change. Set up your free mini session here.
Where we are in life proves what we are thinking. When we change our perspective, we can change our lives and our relationships.