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Marriage - 14. page

The Color of Your Boxcars

Image credit: jgorzynik / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: jgorzynik / 123RF Stock Photo


In grade school math story problems were always my favorite. Visualizing airplanes or cars zooming along always seemed more interesting than lonely numbers with no context. As I recall they sounded a little like this:

One train left Seattle traveling east at an average of 37 miles per hour. Another train left Chicago traveling west at an average of 43 miles per hour. The train from Seattle had 7 boxcars, 2 were yellow and 5 were red. The train from Chicago had 8 boxcars, 3 were blue, 3 were green, and 2 were purple. When the two trains finally reached each other at the train station they combined boxcars to form one train. Together how many boxcars do they have?

It’s simple addition 7+8. The tricky part is the other distracting numbers, colors of the boxcars, the speed of the trains, or even where they are from. The last part of the story problem always outlines the goal. When looking back at the story much of the details are unnecessary once the main goal is stated.

For this story problem and in marriage it doesn’t matter where you come from or how fast you go places.

The important part of your marriage story is what you become together.
Jesus said the most important commandments are to love God and to love others. When you focus on the main goal of loving God and loving your spouse, all of the other details of life become periphery.

Drop distractions and focus on your relationship. The math becomes easier, and your marriage will too.

What distracts you most from focusing on your marriage today?

Six marriage essentials when you have no time

Image credit: costasz / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: costasz / 123RF Stock Photo


Married life is chaotic sometimes. Some weeks it may feel like you give maximum effort for your marriage and only receive exhaustion in return. Busyness is a way of life for many couples and those who routinely lack time together find it especially challenging to connect well. You may feel like you have “communication problems” when actually your schedule is the problem. 

When you feel disconnected check your schedule first. Unfortunately, it’s common for couples to only have a few hours together each week.

Most often, work schedules limit time together in marriage. For example, one partner works a day shift and the other works a swing or graveyard shift. Other work schedules include out of town travel where at least one partner is out of town for several days at a time.

Other times schedule problems have nothing to do with work but other obligations like taking care of kids, church meetings, time with friends, or sports practices. Most commitments are good things for good reasons but they can lead to marriage difficulties due to lack of time together.

Sometimes when couples come into my office for counseling it’s the only time they have had together in a week.

When your schedule is maxed and your connection is stressed, follow these six marriage essentials to make some wonderful in your marriage.

  1. Clarify what time you have. Only having a vague idea of how your schedules align is disastrous. Take a few minutes to go over the details of your schedule together; highlight the time you will have together this week.
  2. Identify the duration. Having a week with a lot of extra commitments or a week when one partner is traveling for work, is much different than long-term schedule difficulties. Understanding the current relationship time crunch is only temporary could make all the difference.
  3. Plan ahead. When you don’t have much time together, eliminate distractions by getting things done ahead of time. Connecting with your spouse is more likely if the dishes are already done.
  4. Be intentional. It’s especially important when you have limited time together to make the most of the time you have. When time is short, quality matters. Intentionally do things that promote connection. For example: go for a run together or simply snuggle, hold hands and kiss.
  5. Don’t skip sex. Consistent sex is a major source of intimate connection for married couples. It can be difficult to find adequate emotional and physical energy for sex when life is super stressful, commit to it anyway.
  6. Adjust as necessary. Reevaluating what is working and what is not working is critical to the success of your relationship. Occasionally weigh the pros and cons of your current schedule. Sure, work and other commitments are important, but if they are killing your relationship, it’s probably time to adjust.

When you have greatly limited time, each interaction intensifies. That intensity can burn relationships quickly. When the relational value of each minute is constricted, misinterpretation is commonplace because there is less time to clarify what you meant. Hurts take longer to address and heal when you have no time together. Smoldering hurt in marriage is destructive; raging arguments result when there is no time to tend to emotional miss-connections.

Some partners in marriage have different expectations of how much time is optimal for good connection. When you feel totally different, remember you are compatible enough.

Ultimately, you have to spend some time together to build a relationship. When your time is extra limited, your marriage can still thrive. It will take extra effort but many couples have used time constraints to gain increased focus on what really matters, each other.

What would you add? What has worked for your marriage when you had no time?



Fishing was fun but what happened next, I will never forget

Image credit: jerryb7 / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: jerryb7 / 123RF Stock Photo


Catching night crawlers is one of my favorite childhood memories. My dad and I would go into our garden at night and grab the slimy worms quick in just the right way so they wouldn’t disappear back into their holes. I loved collecting them in anticipation of fishing the next day.

One particular summer day my dad, mom, younger sister and I took our worms and went fishing at nearby MacKay reservoir. Usually we found a spot along the bank but this time we fished off the dam. I can’t remember much about the fishing, I suppose it was a lot of my dad baiting the hook with the night crawlers and me casting them into the greenish water.

Not long after we got set up fishing, a group of people came to play at the dam. They carried inner tubes and started swimming in the cool water not far from where we were fishing. I remember watching as each guy curled up inside an inner tube then rolled down the slope of the dam splashing into the water. It looked like fun and the entire group was laughing and having a great time. I’m not sure how long we attempted to fish while they splashed nearby; mostly I remember what happened next.

One of the guys didn’t come up.

The laughing quickly turned to concern then to frantic searching in the murky water. The next part of my memory consists mostly of the flashing red lights of the ambulance. I learned later my dad drove our truck to a nearby house to call 9-1-1. Emergency workers had difficulty finding the missing swimmer due to poor visibility. They eventually found him but he didn’t make it.

Experiences matter. Highly emotional experiences tend to hold enormous meaning throughout our lifetime. They shape us to the core and formulate our reactions.

For me and my younger sister the drowning at MacKay Reservoir was an experience we will never forget. The meaning I carry with me today from this experience is a distrust of horseplay around water. I tend to be extra vigilant of carelessness.

It’s less important what the experience was; the critically important part is the meaning associated with the experience. Some seemingly significant events have little to no impact long term and other situations, which seem minor, can resonate for a lifetime. If I had known the person who died or the reactions of my parents had been different, the experience may have had an even more dramatic emotional impact.

The impact of meaningful events is especially noticeable in marriage. You need to know the experiences of your spouse and meaning they gained from them.

Sometimes it’s difficult to put to words the meaning associated with an experience. The more you practice identifying the meaning derived from situations, the better you can explain it to your spouse. The better the meaning is relayed the better you will understand each other.

Your experiences have shaped you. It’s important for your spouse to understand the meaning you carry with you today.

Comment below to share how your experiences have impacted you.

Be happy AND stay married

Many things in life are posed as an either or proposition. Paper OR plastic, boxers OR briefs, be a good parent OR go to work, be content OR be successful.


At times when life is especially stressful it may feel like you can only be a great parent OR a great spouse. Then when things really hit the fan it may feel like you have to choose to either be happy OR be married.


I like the Coke Zero commercial that emphasizes AND. The commercial shows a young man in a less than ideal situation, then he asks for something AND something else, the more he asks AND? The better things get for him.

My son, like all toddlers, asked Why? constantly. When he tired of that, he changed it slightly to And?

Dad: Finish your lunch please.

Son: And?

Dad: When you finish your lunch you can have a piece of candy

Son: And?

Dad: And you can have an apple if you want

Son: And?

Dad: And then lunch will be over

Son: And?

Dad: I see what you are up to

Son: And?

Dad: And I love you

Son: And?

The sequence continues until I teasingly call him ANDy and start a tickle fight.

A recent Ford commercial highlights the silliness of having only one option. Bottom line, AND is better.



Too many times in life we believe we only have the option to have one thing or another. Our thinking is limited to polar opposite options. Conservative or liberal, pro this or con that. Thinking only black OR white is an option ends in vilifying others, discontentment and fear.

Consider adding AND to your thinking and your life. It’s not inconsistent or waffling, it’s having both. Become ANDy in your marriage and you can:

Be content AND strive for excellence. Save money AND live extravagantly. Love your spouse AND your kids.

Have a successful career AND be a good parent. Like football AND the orchestra. Be happy AND stay married.


Bonus Make some Wonderful Marriage tip: Discuss this post with your spouse AND start a tickle fight with them tonight.


Please share the things you have said AND to in your life.

More than Decoration

A bird and a fish live in a bowl on my desk. I guess it’s decoration to anyone curious enough to notice.

I made the bowl myself in college. When I first enrolled at Northwest Nazarene University I had no idea what my major should be. I knew I enjoyed art classes in high school so I tried my hand at pottery. The blue ceramic bowl on my desk didn’t impress anyone, but I still have it. When I see it I think of my college days and my time with the pottery wheel. Today, as every day now, the bowl holds a bird and a fish.


A number of years ago I took two separate trips to South America. The first trip was to Venezuela. My wife and I went with a group from our church to serve the people of Venezuela with a work project. Nazarene missionaries John and Shirley Fischer directed our efforts in clearing the grass, making cement, and laying bricks in the tropical humidity. While working I tried to talk to the local people but my intentions were better than my Spanish. Venezuela is best known as a land flowing with oil and dictatorship. Now I know more, I know the Venezuelan people I encountered and my experience of their culture. When I see the Balsa wood bird in my bowl, I remember my time in Venezuela and the people I met in the tropical mountains.

The second trip to South America was different than the first. Four years after our trip to Venezuela we went to Ecuador. College friends Dan and Kristina Benedick were medical missionaries in Shell, Ecuador. We decided to visit them- with our 18 month old son. Foreign travel is usually an adventure, traveling to another country with a toddler is nothing but an adventure. Torrential Ecuadorian rain, road demolishing mud slides, puking kid, canoeing the Amazon, and eating ants followed during those wild days in Ecuador. While chewing on sugarcane I purchased the small balsa wood fish that reminds me of our adventures and the people of Ecuador.


A fish and a bird live in a bowl on my desk but mostly it holds experiences.


It’s on my desk not because the items have value but because the experiences they represent matter.


The adventures represented on my desk and many other meaningful experiences have shaped me to the core.

Your experiences have done the same for you and your marriage.


Adventures are a great way to build connection in marriage.


Be curious enough today to notice how your experiences have shaped you, then invest in learning about your spouse’s experiences. They are more than decoration.   


What objects do you have that hold memories or meaningful experiences?