Monday, October 5, 2015

6 Steps to Figuring Out What Your Marriage is all About

Years ago Beth and I read Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  It influenced us
a great deal.  One principle that we particularly loved was trying to create a personal mission statement.  Businesses have them to keep them focused on what their heart is.  It also communicates to others the core values of their company.

Covey’s idea was to do the same for your specific life.  Recently, our church did a series on “The Wholehearted Family” and suggested doing something similar.  Then I thought, why not create a mission statement for your marriage?

Spinning off of the sheet we got from our church, here is how it could work: 

1. Get intentional.

Plan a time maybe your next date night, vacation, getaway, or morning that you can spend together to talk this through. 

2. Pray

Ask for wisdom for this process.

3. Figure Out What’s Important

Here are some good questions to ask each other:

What kind of marriage partners do we want to be?
What is the purpose of our marriage?
How do we want to treat each other?
How do we want to resolve our differences?
How can we both support each other in our respective goals?
What kind of parents do we want to be?
What principles do we want to teach our children to help them prepare for adulthood and lead responsible, caring lives?
What roles will each of us have?
How can we best relate to each other’s families?
What traditions do we bring with us from the families in which we were raised?
What traditions do we want to keep and create?
Are there things from our family histories that we want to change?
When others look at our marriage, what do we want them to say?

Make a list of core values

Based on your answers to some of the questions, come up with a list of central concepts that really captures your hearts.

Make a list of phrases that inspire both of you

Think bible verses, movie quotes, song lyrics or catchy phrases that mean a lot to you. 

4. Synthesize the Information

Narrow down your list to 5-7 of the most important ideas and then write them in a way that resonates with you and your spouse.

It can be a list, a paragraph, a sentence, or a collage.

5. Display It

Write it up.  Put it on the fridge and/or frame it and put in on a wall where you’ll see it regularly.

6. Use It

When you have big decisions to make as a couple, go back to it and ask how it will influence your choice.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How in the world does she get turned on?

So, the other day I was playing guitar and singing in the basement trying to learn a new song.  I lead the singing/worship time at Lutheran West High School each Thursday.  With our many lovely daughters I don't usually have time to play guitar at home, but since I was trying to figure out a new tune I had to spend a little time fiddling around.

Here's where it got interesting.  Beth walked by.  Now, she's always been great about complimenting me, but this time she did something a little different.  She remarked, "Your playing really turns me on" and then proceeded to give me one of "those" kisses.  At that point, I could have leaped tall buildings in a single bound.

Why was this such a big deal?

Early in our marriage I was really confused about what would turn Beth on.  It was very easy for her to get my engines going, but when I did the same things for her they didn't work.  Over time I discovered that things that I perceive as being non-sexual, were very sexy to just playing my guitar and singing, making decisions for us, or helping her accomplish a house project she's really wanted to see happen.

So, to us guys: play detective.  Begin to find out what things turn her on.  You'll probably have to really study this one because they make so little sense to our male brains.

To the ladies: tell us what turns you on!  I never, ever would have guessed that just sitting there trying to learn a new song was a turn on!  I'm so glad Beth didn't just say, "sounds good," but instead let me know that it revved her engines.  Not only did that make me desire her, but it also filled something deep inside of me.  Women want to feel desirable, and most of us know this.  But men also need to feel desired.

In the words of a great relationship expert, "Women are so busy trying to feel attractive to men, that we completely miss how much men need to feel attractive to us."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What is your family's marriage heritage?

My grandfather, Gustav, died in World War II.  Not in the US military.  He fought for the Germans
(my father was always clear to point out that his dad was "not a Nazi").  We don't know how he died.  He is technically missing-in-action.  The Red Cross believes that he died somewhere on the Russian front.

My dad was only 5 years old when the war ended.  He only saw his father once when his unit was stationed near their home.

I've often wondered about my grandfather's life and his marriage to my grandmother.

1. How did they meet?

2. Were they happily married?

3. What was it like when he had to leave for the army?  Did he volunteer?  Was he drafted?  Was it a tearful parting or a bitter one?

4. Did they write letters back and forth?  When the Russian front progressed further into Germany in 1944 and 1945, my grandmother's family had to flee.  They burned everything in the stove including all photos (minus one-the only photo that exists of her husband, my grandfather).

5. What was it like not knowing if your husband was alive?  How long did she hold out hope?  (She had to choose to declare her husband officially dead since he was never found.  She did this in 1960). Did she ever wonder if he was wasting away in some Russian prison camp?

6. Why did she never marry again?  My grandmother, Meta, raised her five children, lived until she was 85, and remained single for all those years.  Did she ever dream of her husband?  Did she miss him?  Did she forget him?  Could she still hear the sound of his voice?

My dad admits that he never thought to ask these questions until his mother had died.  The answers to these questions, then, will likely remain a mystery for me.

I wonder sometimes: what influence did my grandparents' marriage have on my parents' marriage?  And, then, of course, did some of that come to me and my relationship with Beth?

The origins of our family's marriages play a role in our present ones.  Is it time to ask those questions of your family to find out what marriages have come before you?  There's so much to learn, if only we have the guts to ask the questions while we still can.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Waiting to want it...ain't gonna happen.

Waiting to want to have sex - ummmm...probably isn't going to happen.  

It might be if the stars align just right, and you got that amazing 8+hrs of continual, glorious sleep,
and the kids listened to your every wish and obeyed...the first time!, and the magic genie came and cleaned your house....ummmm....again, probably isn't going to happen.

So, what's a woman to do?

My thoughts on make it happen.

Clearly, not what I thought when we first got married.  

I thought sex would just happen.

Somehow it would be sponatenous and just so much fun.  We'd both be all there and all ready to enjoy it! (kinda like in the movies!)

Again, not so much.

So, here's reality, at least for us:

Sex happens (most of the time) with 2 key things: planning and intentionality.

Boy, that sounds like fun!  lol!  

Ok, not so romantic...but here's how we've come to look at it:  we want to prioritize each other and meet each other's needs.  So when supposedly "more important things" easily and normally come along, we already have "us time" planned in.  This helps protect us and communicates to each other that we value each other more than the other random things that bombard our lives. 

How do to this?

Well, one way we do this is that we simply sit down sometime on the weekend, before the next week rolls around, and as we talk about the upcoming week, we "schedule" in when we're going to have sex.  This may not be for everyone, but again...waiting to want sex, most likely isn't going to happen.  Actually statistics show that the greater frequency there is in sex, the more often you'll desire it  (particularly for a woman). The less frequency, the less desire.  So, we plan for it.  In our season of life with younger kiddos, we have to be more creative....during naptime or while the kiddos are watching a video, but at least, it's happening and I can gear up mentally for it.  

Sometimes we even plan who's "on" for our next loving making session - meaning that person is in charge of adding some creative element to it or just something to take it out of the everyday normal.  Sometimes, it might just be as simple as laying a different direction in bed...or maybe lighting some extra fun candles.  

Like anything else, it's the little touches and extra thoughts that really communicate love and care.  

Whatever it takes, make intimacy happen.  It communicates so much love to your man, especially if, as the women, you initiate!  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Being married to a broken person

Right now, while writing this, I'm sitting in a school awards night ceremony (ok, I wrote this one back in May).  Just a few rows ahead of me is a former student of mine named Clara.  She is cradling the head of her younger brother who has Downs Syndrome (admittedly, I'm not sure of the exact disability).

This is a teen girl.  Teens are often known for their self-absorption, but this girl, instead, deeply loves her brother who is not a 'normal' brother.  Yet, ask Clara about her sibling and she immediately breaks into smiles about him.  Surely, he is an inconvenience, but she chooses not to see him that way.

Each of us has married a broken person.  Your wife or husband brought problems with them into your
marriage.  Surely that problem is, at times, an inconvenience, even an annoyance.

What Clara shows us, though, is that a perspective change can mean everything.

You are the one person out of all of the billions of people on the planet that he or she chose to give their life to.  Instead of seeing her weaknesses as a pariah, could you see the privilege of being the one called to love and heal that hurt?

Instead of seeing "for better or for worse" as a curse, could we all learn to see the divine gift of sharing the struggles of life with one other person?

Does it make it easy?  No.  But, like Clara, it brings the weakness of the other into the context of love and privilege instead of frustration and resentment.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Getting in the mood with...oxytocin? Huh?

As we have mentioned before, Kurt and I went to a PAX conference in LA.  It was called
Understanding Women.  Last May, I went to one entitled Understanding Men.  This past summer, this was the first time we had done a conference like this together.

It was simply...amazing!  I hope to do a little series of some of the gems related to intimacy I picked up at the conference.  Not only is it great for this blog, but it's really good for me personally to go back through what I learned and process it and then......the key piece....apply it!  :)

Gem #1:

The value of oxytocin for women to increase a woman's desire for sex.

Oxytocin!?!  When the key speaker, Alison, mentioned it I couldn't really tell you what that was. I definitely had heard it before, but what was it exactly?  No clue!  lol!  

So, as I googled oxytocin, to find out what this magic gem was and here's what I found: "oxytocin is also known as the love hormone.  It is plentiful in lactating women and released by men and women during orgasm."  But that's not all!  

It's also associated with boosting trust and empathy and reducing stress and anxiety!  

"The higher your oxytocin, the higher your happiness and well-being, at least for women," says Paul Zak, PhD, a researcher at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif.


Ok, so my next question was how do I increase my oxytocin levels?

At the conference, Alison Armstrong shared how our culture today doesn't allow for oxytocin to grow.  And if a woman doesn't have enough oxytocin to have have sex, the amount that we need to expend, then we end up either dreading sex or feeling depressed about it.  (Not exactly a turn-on for our spouses!)

How to increase oxytocin

So, again....what can help, I wondered? What can increase oxytocin?

Alison mentioned that when a woman is in a "gathering" mode, this produces the beloved love
hormone.  What is gathering you might ask?  Well, the best way I would try to explain it is this:  opposite of what our culture does - NOT RUSH! 

Gathering is resting, slowing down, more being....things that are really hard to do, right?!  But, when I think about what helps me get into the mood, it's usually taking a nap, getting extra rest, taking a lingering bath, going for a walk, getting a little space, stepping away from the kiddos, stepping away from the computer....etc.  Alison mentioned that rhythmic hand motions seemed to also be a practical way of increasing oxytocin.

Admittedly, I thought that seemed a bit odd.  Rhythmic handmotions?! What in the world?

She continued explaining that things like:  knitting, painting, crocheting...etc.  allowed for plenty of time and allowed a woman to slow down, breathe more deeply and help build that sweet love producing oxytocin.  

So, I'm in process here with you all in this...but what do you think you and I could do today that might help us build some of the wonderful love hormone to bless our spouse?!  Give it some thought and I'll do the same! :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

After the wedding dress goes in the closet

Here's a little clip from Jamie & Mike's upcoming wedding film!  We had the chance to do a romantic film shoot at the trendy and fun East 4th Street area.

Isn't it funny how we prize each other like diamonds when walking down the middle of a street in our wedding clothes, but after a few years, and after we've put the wedding dress in the closet, we forget to still cherish the bride or to cling to the groom?

For those of us way down the anniversary line, let us take a cue from this couple and from Solomon, the ancient Jewish wise man and king: "Rejoice in the wife of your youth."

McCue Highlight from For Real Wedding Films on Vimeo.