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What Matters

The Four Steps to Make some Wonderful in your Marriage.

A great marriage simply takes two people willing to put in the work to discover what matters and pursuing it in love. Don’t worry about being compatible. If there are areas where your experience has been different than your spouse it doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed, it means you have more work to do.

Wherever you find yourself today, these four steps will allow passion to thrive in your marriage.

  1. Discover what matters
  2. Agree on what matters
  3. Renegotiate what matters
  4. Live what matters
Image credit: krasimiranevenova / 123RF Stock Photo
Image credit: krasimiranevenova / 123RF Stock Photo

1. Discover what matters

All relationships are built on discovering what matters. In marriage it’s especially critical to discover what matters in order to build intimate connection. Life experiences help formulate what’s important. Some experiences such as trauma drastically influence how people view life; other experiences are more subtle in how they determine our reactions.

For the best discoveries:

  • Take the time to discover what matters to you. You have to search your own motivations before you can effectively learn about your spouse. Take time to think about your own experiences. Growing up I saw my dad willingly work long hours to support our family. Due to his positive influence, professional diligence and loyalty matter deeply to me.
  • Commit to a lifetime of discovering what matters to your spouse. The more you know about their experiences and how they have reacted to them, the better you can understand what really matters to them and why.

2. Agree on what matters

Once you take the time to understand what matters to your spouse and why, you must come to agreement on what’s important for you as a couple. Now that you are married a cohesive vision is critical. Agreeing on what matters will clarify what is expected in the relationship. For example my wife and I have agreed that connection with extended family matters. From that agreement we have clarified how we prioritize travel to visit family. In a way marriage requires a behavioral contract. When you agree to react a certain way and keep your word over time, it builds strong trust.
Conflict can be dramatically reduced in marriage when you:

  • Agree on what matters about God.
  • Agree on what matters about extended family including in-laws. 
  • Agree on what matters about children and parenting them.

Once you agree about what matters it is much easier to determine together how to accomplish daily tasks. When you agree that it matters to have intelligent children, deciding to read to them easily flows from that decision.

When you agree on what matters you don’t have to worry about money. Agree what matters in your relationship and it will be much easier to negotiate how to handle your money.

Financial expert Dave Ramsey says “money flows to what you value.”

3. Renegotiate what matters

Here comes a tricky part, life has a way of changing. Your marriage has to change too. Previous agreements regarding what matters may no longer make sense. Successful relationships constantly adjust depending on the circumstances. When my wife and I became parents what mattered changed and we had to integrate new agreements on what mattered most as new parents. Negotiation is difficult work, renegotiating will take effort. The most successful relationships are intentionally adaptable.

  • When life changes you must renegotiate what’s important. 

4. Live what matters

Your marriage is most energized when you are living consistent with what matters to you. There is nothing as tragic as when couples lose sight of what matters and their connection crumbles. There will always be distractions that will attempt to divert you. When you have a larger mission in focus your connection and influence will grow strong. Wonderful marriages consist of regular people living out each day what matters most. Always continue discovering together what matters in life and pursue it with love.

  • Pursue your passion together; life is wonderful when focused on what matters.

Question: What matters most to you?  What matters most to your spouse?  How are you living it out together?

A Super Weekend for Your Marriage

invite her in. football
Image credit: dehooks / 123RF Stock Photo

It’s Super Bowl weekend. This year is especially exciting because my team is in. I’ve been a fan of the Seattle Seahawks ever since watching Steve Largent catch his 100th touchdown pass in 1989.

My wife gets it but she doesn’t get into it like I do.

In most marriages one partner is a bigger sports fan than the other. Most of the time us guys are more into sports than our wife. Relax, I know it’s a stereotype. I have heard of wives that like sports more than their husband, I just haven’t met many.

Guys, have you ever noticed your wife is not even watching the game? The Lombardi trophy is on the line and your wife is not even in a room with a TV? Weird, right?

The Super Bowl is the biggest and greatest sports event of the entire year, a national holiday full of football violence, finger food, and funny commercials. As great as the Super Bowl is, it can lead to issues with the ladies. Actually, it’s not football’s fault, it’s yours. Guys, we can get absorbed when watching football, especially the Super Bowl. Saying something damaging to your spouse when watching football is way too easy. If you don’t pay attention your carelessness will cause an injury in your marriage.

If you want to have the best Super Bowl experience I have two tips.

  • Invite her in. It’s ok, she’s not going to ruin anything. Act like you notice her and invite her to watch the Super Bowl with you. Just because she doesn’t have the entire roster memorized doesn’t mean she has no interest. Let her in on the fun, tell her what gets you pumped about the game. Even if she doesn’t get into the game as much as you, it’s likely she will love getting to share it with you. After all, she is into you. Share what you are excited about and she will get excited too. Sharing excitement makes for an exciting marriage.

Ladies: When you take some interest in the game, your husband will feel you are interested in him. When your husband feels interesting to you, he tends to respond more lovingly.

  • Let her not care. Don’t force her to care as much as you. It may not make sense to you. Get over it. When you notice she isn’t even watching the game or when she makes a comment like “I missed it, what did the umpire say?” Don’t shame her for not caring as much as you. She isn’t rejecting you.

Ladies: Express your preferences kindly. It’s easy for us guys to get our love of sports intertwined with our identity. When you criticize football, you could be criticizing his identity. Tell your husband you love him and you are going to do something else. Same rule applies, don’t shame him for loving a silly violent game.

These two tips are equally important to remember in all sports seasons. The Super Bowl is only one day of an entire year of sports. Husbands are also occasionally known to have interests other than sports. Hunting seasons can bring dramatic division in marriages. Boats, dogs, motorcycles, computers, running, whatever activities interest him can either damage or improve the connection in your marriage.

How will you make this weekend a super opportunity to connect with your spouse?

Pry, Your Marriage will Thank You.

pry.  Your marriage will thank you.

Many couples sit around wondering. Wondering what their spouse is thinking, what they want, and if their marriage is going to last. Stop it.

“If you want to know something, ask.” -Barry Watts

Sure, privacy is important, particularly to people who are divorced. If you value privacy more than an intimate relationship you will end up with only privacy. Emotional privacy kills intimacy. Vacant wondering is no way to live. Privacy has no place in marriage.

Go ahead and pry.

The goal is to understand your spouse better. Permission to pry is not permission to be a suspicious stalker, there is a big difference.

  • Gently ask your questions and listen sincerely. Prying is only an invasion if you do it wrong or your relationship sucks.
  • Dump the demanding tone. Your spouse is your favorite person, getting to know them more is reasonable and will make your relationship better.
  • Find out what matters to them. Pry if you have to, your marriage depends on it.  

For improved intimacy in marriage you have to risk further emotional engagement. Sometimes it feels too risky to ask. When your past has left you hurting, getting closer can seem too dangerous. Many people who have experienced emotions as dangerous, demeaning, or harmful avoid risking engagement. It may feel better to sit and wonder what they are thinking than to know your spouse is thinking THAT. If it’s too risky to talk to your spouse today, it’s critical to get some help. A counselor can provide a safe environment to help you in the risky business of improving your relationships.

How much privacy do you have in your marriage?

Adventure Together

Image credit: maridav / 123RF Stock Photo

When we were newly married we drove a Honda Prelude. It’s a sporty, two-door, pre-kids, newlywed type car. Driving back to Idaho after celebrating Christmas with family, the Prelude was overstuffed to put it mildly. We headed out for the 200 mile drive over the Blue Mountains of Oregon. The weather was especially snowy that evening and snow chains were required. After approximately forever following semi-trucks going 30 miles per hour, we were able to pull over to take the chains off. Exhausted from the prolonged trip, we were excited we could finally drive faster the rest of the way home.

Then I saw the flat tire.

By the looks of the tire it had been flat for many miles gone unnoticed due to the chains and bad weather. Changing the tire was the easy part. Digging out the spare donut tire from under meticulously crammed trunk was a disaster. Yet somehow the situation struck us as humorous and we laughed together as we crept home on the donut tire. Now, over ten years later, we still chuckle remembering that unexpected adventure. A deeper connection was formed through the shared experience of overcoming and surviving an otherwise rotten situation.

Shared activities rock marriages, in a good way. Some of the best experiences in marriages are just that, experiences. Adventures enliven positive emotions and deeper connections. When your marriage gets tense or tired turn up the fun. Find an activity and laugh together, it will increase the wow in your marriage, guaranteed. The activities don’t have to be Disney World big or flat tire inspired. Many times, simple things, like meeting for a lunchtime run around the neighborhood are incredible times together.

What shared adventures have rocked your marriage?

Ouch. That hurts.

ouch it hurts

I bit my cheek the other day. I immediately thought to myself “well, that didn’t hurt too bad.” You see, I’m pretty tough, no little cheek bite is going to take me out. Then it happened again when I least expected it. Ouch. Then again, a few days later. Man did it hurt. The more I bit it, the more it swelled up, until it was an unavoidable lump. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Disagreements are like that in marriage. No big deal, what’s a little spat anyway? It’s true, to a point, your marriage will not be taken out over one little disagreement. But watch out, forget to allow for healing and it won’t be long until that same spot gets crunched again. And again. Some couples fight about the same thing so often they are raw from the repeated injuries. Fights become unavoidable and increasingly painful.

The good news is your marriage can heal. The pain will go away but you have to stop the biting and fighting for a while. Slow down and take an injury time-out. Discussions are possible without hurting each other but it takes effort. After the new injuries have stopped, seek forgiveness for the pain you caused. When you intentionally heal past hurts, rather than continuing to chew on them, marriage feels better.

What sore spots do you keep biting in your marriage?