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The 3 Best Phrases To Say When Your Spouse Makes a Mistake

I have said I do my best thinking when mowing the lawn.
Apparently that is not true about trimming the bushes. The last time I trimmed bushes I ended up doing this.

Evidence of my trimming skills 2014
Evidence of my trimming skills 2014


Stupid mistake.

What happens in your marriage when your spouse does something stupid? The words you say when your spouse messes up reveals a lot about your relationship.

The times when stupid happens in your marriage are critical. Your reaction after your spouse makes a mistake is more impactful than any other time. It’s easy to be critical when mistakes are made. Criticism, especially at vulnerable times, destroys connection and eventually erodes trust.


What to say when your spouse does something stupid:
1. Say “Bummer” or something similar to acknowledge the mistake but without criticizing. Saying “You’re always so stupid” is a relationship killer.
2. Say “I love you” or something similar to emphasize your love is not dependent on one incident.
3. Say “________.” That’s right, say nothing. Listen to them. Your spouse doesn’t need your commentary here. Don’t bail them out with your plan. Let them process their actions and come up with their own idea to remedy the mistake.


Now you may be thinking “but what if my spouse refuses to admit they made a mistake at all?

Unless your spouse doesn’t realize they are physically endangering the family, it’s probably not helpful for your relationship to point out their shortcomings. Telling your spouse how stupid they are will sound critical and won’t build connection. Grace filled responses retain connection which is critical for lasting change. Taking personal responsibility for actions is important but it’s best implemented in context of supportive relationships rather than belittling and conflict.


I shared one of my stupid mistakes, what was one of yours?



Three Steps to Great Intimacy

plannedp billboard


When I first saw this billboard I thought “self-control would be better at setting the pace than birth control.” But really self-control and birth control are not in conflict or mutually exclusive.

Planned Parenthood is often criticized for its support of abortion. I’ll leave the subject of abortion and choice for another rant; I have a problem with Planned Parenthood for a different reason. Their billboard is misleading.

Planned Parenthood is right, birth control does let you set the baby making pace. Sex education, including information about birth control, is important. I’m a fan of people using birth control, it’s a useful tool to prevent pregnancy.

The problem is Planned Parenthood’s good birth control message is easily confused as a good relationship message.

Look at that couple, they are so happy. It certainly looks like they have a great relationship. According to Planned Parenthood all they needed was birth control.

Don’t be misled; it takes more than birth control to have a good relationship. I want to rewrite the message to be “intentionality lets you set the pace.” Think ahead about the relationship you want to have and intentionally set the pace of your relationship toward that goal. Many have found the following three steps the best way to develop a lasting, safe, and deeply meaningful relationship.

To have a great relationship:
1. Intentionally develop a healthy relationship without sex.
2. Commit to the relationship by getting married.
3. Enjoy emotional and sexual intimacy and decide about birth control.

When the focus is on building a healthy, trusting, and committed relationships first, relationships develop solidly and are capable of amazing intimacy.

When the focus is on sex and birth control methods first, relationships do not develop well. I frequently see couples in counseling that have serious problems building connection with their spouse due to previous sexual encounters. Pornography and sexual activity that was thought to be “no big deal” make it more difficult to build great intimacy.

Although previous relationship mistakes may have led to difficulty in your marriage, amazing intimacy is still attainable. It’s never too late to intentionally build real intimacy into your relationship; please seek out wise relationship counsel for help improving your relationship.

Please share what you think about the billboard.

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?


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

Valentine’s Day cards idealize kisses. Poets daydream about kisses and kisses make kids giggle. Experienced couples know kisses come in all types.

 Long kisses. Quick kisses, goodbye kisses and hello! kisses.

 Kisses in the morning, kisses in the evening.

 Slow romantic kisses under the stars.

 Affectionate kisses, first kisses, and wedding day kisses.

 Sweet little kisses and morning breath sour kisses.

A quick kiss before rushing to work is good. Spending time kissing is entirely better. Sometimes life gets busy and it’s easy to live together without ever being close. Kissing requires you to be close on purpose. Informing your spouse you love them doesn’t always require words; a kiss can do the trick no matter what type you choose.

Compatible Enough

Image credit: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: bowie15 / 123RF Stock Photo

Compatibility is helpful for successful relationships.
Compatibility is basically the extent to which your past experiences and resulting perspectives align with your spouse’s. The more your experiences are similar the easier it is to understand your spouse.

If your experiences with religion are similar, it will be easier to agree on what matters about God, which religious activities to participate in and which to avoid. The more your experiences with sex, money, children, education, and family are similar, the easier it is to agree on what matters, which activities to participate in and which to avoid.

The problem with compatibility is, there is no way to determine how much compatibility is needed for a marriage to thrive. There is no magic formula or compatibility quotient that will guarantee a great marriage. There is, however, a minimum requirement.

I have developed the only compatibility test you will ever need for your marriage.

Complete this compatibility test by answering yes or no to the following questions:

  1. Do you want to be married to them?
  2. Do they want to be married to you?

If you answered no to either question, tough luck, it’s not going to work.
If you answered yes to both of these questions, you are compatible enough.

If you feel incompatible with your spouse, it likely comes from repeated conflict and feeling overwhelmed with the effort it takes to maintain connection in your relationship.

The reality is, when your experiences are dramatically different, it takes more work to build a well-connected marriage.

If you only speak English and your spouse only speaks Mandarin, a relationship can work it will just take more effort and adjustment. If you always think the temperature is hot and your wife always thinks it’s cold, you have to learn to make reasonable adjustments.

To overcome differences you must commit to learning. Study hard and you can learn to understand your spouse’s perspective better. For a wonderful marriage it helps to have a deep understanding of why your spouse reacts the way they do. To transform conflict into connection intentionally and tactfully ask your spouse what experiences have contributed to their perspective. Be ready to listen, it could be a long story.

It may feel risky to seek more connection but it’s much better than settling for the minimum level of compatibility.

What has helped you address differences with your spouse?