Skip to content

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?



That kind of Exhausted


 Image credit: kaczor58 / 123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: kaczor58 / 123RF Stock Photo


I’m exhausted. It’s not the kind of exhausted that comes after a hard workout; it’s the pleading with God day after day for another miracle kind of exhausted. Life has not turned out like I wanted this week. My optimism has been tested and I see glimmers of hope only sometimes.

Normal life has taken a backseat this week.
Crisis has a way of rearranging priorities.

Exhaustion has brought a fog of discouragement.

When scary stuff comes uninvited into my lap and stays awhile, I react. Anger is closer to the surface now.

Crisis exhaustion hurts.


I wrote this a number of weeks ago during a particularly discouraging and exhausting week. I’m only now barely rested enough to reflect on it. Recalling the uncertainty is easy, it’s still so raw at times, but the weariness has changed a bit over the weeks since.

I want to feel the warmth of hope again but when the days of utter emotional exhaustion return full force, I crumble.

I’ve collapsed into God’s embrace. Life has no guarantees, except that He promises to be with us and that glimmer is enough to carry me.


When was the last time you were emotionally exhausted? What carried you through?

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?

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?