Marriage Enrichment

H.A.L.T.S to Communication

The news is full of stories about couples who say they don’t/can’t communicate. The reality is you cannot not communicate. You may or may not like the message you are getting but communication is constant. Now that things are winding down in Iraq there are many couples looking forward to increasing their face to face communication. However, there are times when it is better to take a break from active communication and those times are when there are H.A.L.T.S involved.

H.A.L.T.S stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, and Sick. If either one of you are one of these things it is better to stop serious communication and remedy the situation. If you are hungary, eat together and let food ease you into a good conversation. If you are angry it is time to really look at what you are angry about and then devise an appropriate response that will help the situation instead of make it worse. If you are lonely say so politely and ask for the attention you need. If you are tired, rest. If you are sick, address the illness and then have your conversation.

“Taking care of these things takes too much time,” I hear people say. Do they really take any more time then the time you will spend arguing if you don’t take care of them? Take care of these situations and make an investment in good communication and an even bigger investment in your REAL marriage.

Little Things

Little things matter. Have you ever tried to lace your shoes with laces that did not have aglets (the little plastic things at the end of the laces that make it easy to put laces through holes)? Have you ever lost a key you need? Then you have experienced how little things matter.

Little things matter in marriage. I am willing to say even that little things matter, overall, more than big things. The illustration for this is one I have used many times and you may have heard elsewhere; it goes like this: If someone were to offer you a penny today and double your money every day for a month or offer you one thousand dollars a day for a month, which would you take? At the end of the month you can have $30, 000 at $1000 per day or you can have over five million dollars if you started with the penny. You probably want the five million.

Little things in your marriage are like the penny and even if not doubled every day they do get compound interest. Examples of little things are saying please and thank you, replacing the toilet paper roll when it runs out, doing a chore your spouse usually does, REAL Love Notes, a phone call or e-mail, or a small gift. A small gift is something under $10. If you really need to celebrate then you can go to $20. Any more than $20 dollars and you have moved into big things, which are appropriate at times, but not all the time.

We guys are often the ones who fall into the big things trap. Our wives like flowers and instead of buying a pretty bunch of flowers from the grocery store we spend over $100 for a bouquet of long stem roses. Most women would rather get 15 bunches of flowers from the grocery store (over time) then the one time bouquet of roses. Though we often hear “diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” many women do not want to wear diamond ear rings, bracelets, or necklaces to the grocery store, hauling the kids to practice, or even to work. Find something less expensive that you know she likes and go with it. The way to do this is to pay attention when you see her looking at things and writing down what she looks at so you can buy it, or something similar, later. In case you missed it, one of those little things is being with her when she is looking at those things.

Let’s look at this another way. Thanksgiving is usually a big meal. We have a bunch of food and we eat a bunch of food. We do not eat that way at every meal. Other days we have normal, or smaller meals, and these meals sustain us. Well, your spouse needs regular small meals (little things) to sustain them in the marriage.

Little things matter. Let us all be big enough, to do the little things.

Happy New Year 2010

Resolve to be (or remain) intentional about your marriage in 2010. It is time to review your faithfulness plan and make 2010 the best year of your REAL marriage so far.

Be Thankful for Your Spouse

Thanksgiving is next week. Start working on a list of things about your spouse and your relationship for which you are thankful. As a guideline, make it a list of the same number as the number of Thanksgivings you have been married or together. So, if you have been married 18 years make your list 18 items.

Do the same for your children.

On Thanksgiving Day share your list with your spouse and your children. Actions like this are deposits in the love banks of those you love. Take this opportunity to be REAL with your family.

Four Types of Help for Your Marriage

Just like your car, your marriage needs maintenance. Just like your car there are some things you can do yourself, some your friends can help with, some you can take care of with a class, and sometimes you may need to call in a professional.

The first type of help is self-help. This is where you get a book, read some reputable articles, or watch some DVDs of good marriage material. This is the type of help that I recommend to all couples to keep things running smooth. The analogy is checking the oil in your car and keeping it filled to the appropriate level.

The second type of help is what I call group education. This may be a class at your church or local mental health center. Seminars also fall into this category as do marriage retreats and workshops. The emphasis here is on education with some skill building. This level helps keep things running smooth and also helps when a minor adjustment is needed.

The third type of help is peer assistance. Mentoring programs, coaching programs, and support groups fall are examples. With these programs there is an emphasis on learning and using marriage skills proven to work with other couples.

The fourth type of help, and the one many people avoid, is professional counseling. While we might be able to change our own spark plugs or oil, putting in a new transmission usually requires a trained mechanic. When the previous types of help do not produce the desired results it is time to see the trained professional.

Keep up the regular maintenance and you may never need that trained professional. It does take work and time and it is worth it. Just like that car that you maintain for all of those years becomes a “classic” your marriage will be a “classic” when you keep it maintained. Then it will be your marriage getting the envious looks that “classics” always get. Maintain that marriage and become a “classic.”

Acceptable Lies?

There is a relationship site that I receive information from that recently posted an article about “white lies” it is okay to tell on a first date. Let’s be clear (and REAL), it is not okay to tell lies, even “white” ones. Do you really want to start a relationship with deception? That is not Romantic or Encouraging. You might think it is Adaptable yet my definition of adaptable is a way of working together and lying is really only about helping you. Lying is certainly not Loving.

Honesty is important in any relationship. Speak the truth, in love, and build your REAL marriage or relationship.

Cooridnate your Calendars

Most of us have multiple things going on each week, especially once children are added to the family. You have work, children’s sports, school, and other activities, fraternal and service organizations, and for many, church/temple/mosque activities. It is easy to double book or to be so booked that you do not spend time together. Each person has a calendar and it gets fuller all of the time. For this reason it is important to coordinate your calendars.

Each week, get together as a couple (or even as a family), pull out the calendars and coordinate with one another. Each person needs to have only one calendar for keeping track of appointments, obligations, and other information. If you have a separate calendar for work, home, and birthdays then it will be hard to keep track of all of the calendars. Find a system that will accommodate your needs be it paper or electronic. The beauty of electronic calendars is they usually allow you to print so you can have it with you and yet it is controlled and stored in one spot.

When you have a weekly meeting like this you can make sure that everyone gets where they need to go and home again. It also allows you to purposefully schedule dates with your spouse, family time, recharge time or whatever you need. It also cuts down on missed events or asking your spouse to lunch on a day when an office lunch is already planned.

Coordinating your calendars will help you be intentional about your REAL marriage.

Marriage Enrichment Groups

I currently lead a marriage enrichment group at the congregation I attend. This is a great group of couples getting together to talk about marriage, share stories, and trade tips. This particular group is using a pre-packaged set of material which makes it easy. I don’t always use my own material since there are a number of good presenters out there and a different take on things helps keep things fresh.

I want to encourage you to take advantage of marriage enrichment groups in your area. Many of these groups are sponsored by churches and often take place in the homes of members. If you are not a church going sort of person though you can still attend most groups. Another option is to start your own group made up of other couples you are friends with so all of you can support one another on the marriage journey. There is even a large amount of “teach out of the box” material that you don’t need special training to use. For some links to that material check www.smartmarriages.com.

Marriage enrichment groups are just one of many tools to help you have a REAL marriage.

REAL Secrets to a Hotter Marriage

The way to a hotter, better, more fulfilling, (you fill in the blank) marriage is to be REAL. Be Romantic, Encouraging, Adaptable, and Loving. Remember, romance is a state of mind, encouraging is a manner of speaking, adaptable is a way of working together, and loving is a habit of doing for each other.

Adaptability also means using the information and tools that you find to keep your marriage REAL. Check this article on MSN for some tips that can be helpful. One of the biggest keys to having a REAL (or hot) marriage is to work at it on purpose. Use these secrets in your marriage and tell your friends about them.

Being Better as a Couple in 2009

MSN had an article today titled, “4 Ways to Be a Better Husband and Wife in ’09.” Overall the tips are not bad. The areas of chores, sex, cooking, and money are addressed. These are practical everyday issues. For all of them, I encourage you to figure out what your expectations are in these areas and then share them with your spouse. Generally speaking, it is when expectations are unmet that there are problems and much of the time those expectations are not clear to both spouses.

The MSN article mentions making a game out of the chores and that could be fun. Include the kiddos if you have any. Another way to tackle chores is to have a “sixty second clean-up” or “two minute drill” in a room of your choosing. Pick a room, like the kitchen then set a timer for the one to two minutes. Pick-up, straighten-up, and clean-up as much as you can before the buzzer goes off and then go about your day. Of course, you can always schedule when chores are done and then stick you your schedule. Chores will not always be fun but they do not always have to be a drudgery either.

Sex is another area where frustration is common. Talk about your sex life together. Getting a book to try something different is okay as long as you stay away from pornograhpy. Pornography will cause problems in your relationship not solve them. If you are having pain or difficulty in your sex life see your doctor. Most of the problems people run into are easily treated. Sometimes the weekend away in some different scenery will spark up your relationship. Also, the bedroom is not the only place in your home you can have sex. Try a different room and be creative.

Cooking is necessary. Most people I speak to do not mind the cooking as much as the deciding what to cook. Browsing through cook books is one option. Setting up a basic menu plan can also be helpful. Monday is chicken, Tuesday is something from a box, Wednesday is beef, Thursday is pasta, and so forth. Save the big meals for the times when you have time to make them and do not forget that a crock pot is a wonderful tool.

Money. Just the mention of the word for many couples is enough to get the blood pressure up. One basic word here: Budget. Have a budget and stick to it until you change the budget on purpose to reflect your current situation, then stick to the new one. Review your budget anytime your situation changes, raises, layoffs, etc. Plan for what you will do with bonuses or extra money that comes your way. I usually recommend that people give ten percent of their income to God, put ten percent in savings, and live on the other eighty percent. I have heard of some people who are living a “reverse tithe.” This means they give ninety percent to God and live on the other ten percent. The only people I have heard of doing this are fairly wealthy so that living on ten percent still puts them in the upper middle class. Whatever you do, make a plan together that you can agree on.

My suggestion for being a better husband or wife in 2009 is to be more REAL. Be more romantic in that you constantly look for ways to make even a sixty second clean-up in the living room romantic. Be more encouraging. Look for ways to speak positively to your spouse every day. Be more adaptable and find those ways to work together so that the two of you enjoy each other more. Be more loving by reaffirming your habit of doing for your spouse every day. What you do depends on what is happening in your life. There is something you can do for your spouse every day. Intentionally work on your marriage every day in one of these ways and you will be more REAL in 2009.

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