Does Anger Get The Best of You?

I can’t tell you how many times I have caught myself saying something like this (either in my head or out loud), “Ooooo, that makes me so mad. I hate it when he does that!” I must admit, anger gets the best of me sometimes. It impacts my relationship in a negative way and there are times when I truly wish I could take back something I’ve said (or thought). 

Anger can be very destructive in a relationship. It is what we call a secondary emotion. That means it is covering the true emotion we are feeling. Under anger are emotions like fear, sadness, guilt, shame, inferiority, hurt, disappointment and a number of others. The tricky part about anger is taking some time to identify what we are really feeling. This can be done by simply taking a brief time out to ask ourselves the following questions: What just happened to create this feeling? What is the root of my anger??   

Most of the time, we express anger easily because it is an emotion that is allowed in our society. We see it everywhere; on the news, in television shows, at our jobs, and most of all in our relationships. We hear people frequently say things like, “That makes me so mad” or “I’m so upset.” Rarely do we hear people identify what is under the anger and talk about that.  When is the last time you heard someone say, “I feel fear over that” or “That makes me feel sad?” Probably very rarely if never at all. You see, no one can “make” you feel a certain way; you choose that feeling. So the minute we tell our spouse “you make me angry,” they are able to argue with us because they did not force anger on us. If we say what we are truly feeling, then we identify the emotion that led to our anger.    

What would our relationships be like if we began to talk about what was under the anger and gave our spouse a chance to hear why we really became upset? Instead of saying something like, “You make me so mad,” we could say, “When that happened, I felt really hurt” or “I am disappointed that we aren’t going.” These assertive statements let our partners see the true reason behind our frustration and these statements become the basis for a productive conversation. Now we can gain understanding in the situation instead of arguing about the anger and who caused it. Once we begin talking like this, we reduce the escalating emotions and we are more likely to hear each other.

Does anger get the best of you? Do you find yourself frequently getting frustrated in your relationship? The next time you get angry, take a short time out and try to identify the emotion under the anger (guilt, shame, inferiority, fear, hurt, disappointment, sadness). When you can express what you are really feeling to your spouse, you have a better chance of resolving the situation.



Are You A Team?

Did you watch any of the team sports while the Olympics were on? The sports teams were amazing and the relay races were incredible. It took skill, practice and team work to accomplish greatness. I loved hearing the announcers say that a team was not selfish and had learned the art of working together. They knew if they all won, then they won as an individual.  They had the concept of oneness and unity. The teams that didn’t have that concept did poorly and you could see that they blamed each other for their fall. You also could see certain team members standing out and being somewhat selfish in their behaviors. The difference between those teams that worked together and those that didn’t was astounding.    

Did you know that marriage is a team sport? You either win together or you lose together. It took a while for Michael and I to get that concept.  In the beginning of our marriage, it felt like we were competing with each other. If something needed to be done, we would take account of who had done the most work that day or who did the chore last and then we would argue about who was carrying the most responsibility in the relationship. This is not playing as a team. This is division and divide is what we did.  The selfishness ran deep and would frequently be the foundation for a good argument. We didn’t know what it meant to work together and be in unity. I am quite certain that this attitude contributed to the break in our relationship. When we got back together after being separated, I think we both realized that selfishness could not be a part of our marriage anymore and that if we were going to make it work, we had to become a team.   

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that we began to flow as a team but I do remember several years ago noticing that we just naturally helped each other out.  If I cooked, Michael was there to help clean up the dishes.  If he was doing the laundry, I would fold the clothes when they came out of the dryer.  If he went to change the sheets on the bed, I would follow him to help. Day by day we learned to share the responsibilities and work together.  We learned that sharing the load was so much easier than fighting over who did what or worse yet, letting one of us do the majority of the work and then allowing resentment to set in. I look at us now and I am amazed at our teamwork. Just like being on a sports team, we have learned the art of oneness and unity.  It feels good to be a winning team.        

Marriage is a team sport. You either win together or you lose together. How are you doing in your marriage? Do you work together as a team or do you work against each other? Maybe it’s time to sit down and talk about how you can be a better team and win at this thing called marriage!



Is A Date Really That Important?

What does having a date say about a couple's relationship? I have to say that I get tired of listening to couples say they don't have money for a date or the time to have a date.  It just doesn't make any sense to me.  If you started going out with someone and they said to you, "You know, I want to spend time with you but I don't have the money or the time to take you on a date" you would say, "Hit the road, Jack!" Dates are what helps you connect and get to know one another.  Dates show you the heart of each other and let you learn each other's likes and dislikes.  Dates are as important to a marriage as yeast is to baking bread.  Dates build you up and add favor to your relationship. Without dates, your marriage will go flat. 

Often when we are working with a couple, we will give the husband the task of asking his wife out on a date between sessions.  It is not unusually for the couple to come back to the next session and when asked about the date, the husband will say, "Well, we didn't go on a date. I didn't know what she would like and we were busy so it just didn't happen."  It's kind of funny that when you were dating, you did everything you could think of to make your dates special or have an element of surprise yet when you get married, you can't "think of what your spouse would like?" That's not the reason someone doesn't plan a date. They don't plan a date because they don't see how important it is to their relationship. The flip side of this is when a husband does plan a date and we see the wife's eyes sparkle when he describes what they did. To her, the date said, "Babe, you are so important to me that I am going to set aside this time to just focus on you." Nothing is more precious than seeing the glow in her eyes knowing that his effort created this. 

Now, for those of you who say that dates cost too much and take too much time. Where did you get the definition of a date? A date can happen in your own home when the kids go to bed. A date can happen in your neighborhood park when you take your spouse on a picnic. A date doesn't have to cost tons of money. You can also swap babysitting with someone you know and not have to pay for childcare.  Remember, a date is time with the one you love to focus on each other.  That doesn't have to cost a dime but the end result of a date is priceless.  

So, what are you waiting for? Have you had a date recently with your spouse? If not, plan one now. If you have, keep it up!  Dates are vitally important to the health of your relationship.



Have You Gotten Too Busy?

I can't believe that it is Saturday and I haven't blogged since Tuesday - truthfully, I can't figure out where the time went? I even wrote on my calendar Wednesday to find time to blog - however, when the Outlook reminder popped up, I dismissed it thinking, "I will get to that later. I don't have time right now to think about what I want to say." Well, later never came. Wednesday turned into Thursday, Thursday turned into Friday and Friday turned into Saturday. I had a lot of commitments this week and lost focus in what I had planned to accomplish. I woke up today and looked back at this week and said to myself, "Wow, time flew and some of what I wanted to do got neglected." 

Do you ever feel that way? You have good intentions but those intentions don't get turned into actions.  How does the saying go? "Good intentions pave the road to hell!"  Ouch, that's pretty severe.  But you know what, it's true for so many things in our lives and it's especially true in marriage.  How many times have you gotten so busy that you neglected a part or several parts of your marriage? Maybe you planned to take your wife on a date and before you realized it, weeks turned into months and you couldn't remember the last time the two of you went out alone. Maybe you told yourself to do that "something special" for your spouse, you know, surprise them with a gift or make their favorite dinner but you never got around to doing it.  

If we aren't careful, we can become so busy that we lose focus on our marriage and we stop being deliberate and intentional.  It only takes a little bit of time to begin to slide backwards in a relationship.  Relationships are constantly changing and that means we are either going forward or backward; there is no coasting.  Becoming too busy and neglecting each other means we will wake up one day and wonder what happened.  Why don't we feel connected? Why does everything you do bother me? Why do I only see the negative regarding the two of us?  Someone once said that being busy is Being Under Satan's Yoke. That fits for marriage too.  When we become too busy to spend time with each other and focus on each other, our marriage becomes under Satan's yoke.  

So, how are you doing today? Have you gotten so busy that you have neglected your spouse?  If you have, take a moment right now to refocus.  Decide today that you will not let your marriage "be under Satan's yoke." Make a choice to spend time with the one you love and become intentional with him/her again.



Do I Love Like That?

I am convinced that we will never fully understand what makes relationships work until we understand what true love is.  Before we can find true love, I think it would be helpful to know what we are looking for. How can we find something if we don’t know what it looks like? For example, has anybody ever asked you to find something that they knew what it looked like, but you didn’t? They had the color, shape, size in mind, but you didn’t have the same frame of reference so it was difficult for you to find it because you didn’t know what it looked like.

I remember trying to help Michael find a photo he was looking for. He tried to describe it but no matter how hard I tried to look for it, I couldn’t locate it.  He came into the room and took one look at the photo album I was looking through and said, “There it is! That’s the picture!” He found it instantly because he knew what he was looking for. I was clueless and felt like I was looking for a needle in a haystack.  

There are many ideas today about what love is. We hear things like: I love chocolate. I love spicy food. I love reading books. I love jazz music. I love praise and worship music. I love to laugh. I love my husband. I love my wife. Now, before this gets sickly sweet and we all stand up and sing Kumbaya, I want to tell you why I’m talking about love this way. It is because each time we use that word, we use it differently. Love means different things to different people. People recognize that love is an action but they think of it as an emotion. Love is not an emotion; love is a decision.  

In 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, known as the Love Chapter, Paul tells us what true love is. He gets real concrete. Paul says that love: Doesn't always grumble about the current state of affairs; it's willing to tolerate slow change and it’s willing to try again; love is kind; it's warm; it's sympathetic; it sees and feels the difficulty of the other person; it's not cold and analytical; love doesn't envy; it doesn't boast; it isn't proud; love recognizes its own weaknesses and its own need for grace; it's not rude; it avoids abrasive, inflammatory language; love listens. What this section of scripture tells us is that “true love” is not so much about “Finding It” but more about working to “Keep it.” Wow, do we love like that?

What 1 Corinthians 13 is really telling us is that true love starts with us. Instead of trying to “find” the right person to love us it’s more important to “be” the right person and love him/her. Doug Jones, a professor and minister from Rhema Bible Training Center, says that “true love is joyfully choosing to take an action that promotes the welfare of another person.” Are we doing that? Are we doing what is most beneficial for others or are we doing what is most beneficial for ourselves? Apparently, when a person is loved they should be better off after we’ve loved them than before we loved them. They should be better off because we’re in their life. Love is joyfully choosing, deliberately choosing; love is a decision not a feeling or emotion.

If we want to understand relationships, then we need to understand true love. Why don’t you take a minute today and ask yourself if you are showing true love to those in your life. Believe me, it can be a humbling experience!



Is Your Spouse Your Friend?

Good marriages seem rare these days. In fact, when you find one, it can surprising rather than the norm. I think we have made marriage more complicated than it needs to be. We have grown up with the idea that the man should be the knight in shining armor who sweeps his bride off her feet and the woman should be the quiet, timid princess who is in need of a rescuer. But marriage should not be that complicated or difficult. Friendship is at the core of a strong marriage.

Friendship between couples means they know each other intimately and are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams. John Gottman, who wrote The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work says couples in good marriages “have an abiding regard for each other, express this esteem in many ways large and small, respect each other and enjoy one another’s company.” Gottman has also found that the quality of a married couple’s friendship is the most important predictor of satisfaction with sex, romance and passion. He emphasizes the importance of love, respect, and compassion – all important elements of strong friendships – as essentials of a good marriage.

The principles that make a marriage work are "surprisingly simple." Happily married couples aren't smarter or more beautiful than others and they don't live in castles in the clouds where there's no conflict or negative feelings. They've simply learned to let their positive feelings about each other override their negative ones. They understand, honor, and respect each other. They know each other deeply and enjoy being together. They do little things every day to stay connected and to show each other they care. In short, they are friends.

How well do you know each other? Do you know what stresses your spouse is currently facing? Do you know some of your spouse’s life dreams? Do you know your spouse’s favorite music? Movies? Food? Aspirations? Do you ask your spouse about his/her world on a regular basis? If you can answer yes to these questions then your friendship with your spouse is an area of strength in your marriage. You know what makes your spouse tick. If you didn’t do so well, plan now to get to know your spouse better and become better friends.  Like all worthwhile goals, you'll need to make building the friendship in your marriage a high priority.

As simple as it sounds, happy marriages are based on a foundation of friendship.



This Will Never Get Easy...

I met with a wife yesterday to help her process what had happened in her marriage. We had been working with this couple for 9 months and 10 days ago, her husband told her that he was done with the marriage and was moving out.  There was another woman and he just couldn’t keep up the charades any longer. He needed to move on and let his wife go. He was convinced that this other relationship was “right” and his marriage had been a mistake. His wife was blindsided by this and the news hit her like a ton of bricks. She described herself as an emotional basket case and was having trouble functioning. She just couldn’t believe that this had happened after so many months of working on their marriage and seeing progress. 

I don’t care how many times I see this in the work we do, it never gets easy. I cried with her as she described the pain. I listened as she talked about feeling like she had failed and I got angry with her as she told me that it wasn’t fair. I don’t think I will ever get use to hearing that a marriage has failed and a couple is getting a divorce. I don’t think I will ever understand how two people can love each other so intently and then come to a place of almost hating each other. I know that the sadness I feel is nothing compared to what God feels when He watches this happen. Marriage is God’s idea and I know He hurts when He sees the brokenness in relationships moving toward divorce. 

I looked at this shattered woman and said to her, “I’m so sorry. I don’t understand either but I know that one day, this will not hurt as much as it does right now. One day, you will have more clarity over this than you do right now. One day, the clouds of confusion will clear and you will be able to breathe again.” Honestly, I’m not sure those words were very comforting. I don’t know that “one day” comes for everyone who gets divorced. I’ve seen many people get stuck in the aftermath of divorce and they don’t heal and move on. As with any crisis, many factors determine if someone will deal with the pain and be able to move past it. Time can be a healer but it can also increase the infectious quality of untreated emotional wounds. 

It makes more sense to me to do everything possible every day of your life to keep your marriage a priority than it does to ignore it and think that the lack of attention won’t hurt the two of you. You see, you don’t wake up one day and just decide to divorce or have an affair or disconnect. It happens every day; a little at a time. I know because Michael and I were on the path to divorce when we had been married 9 years. Daily we made the choice to not deal with the issues. Daily we made the choice to resent and be offended by each other. Daily we made the choice to move further and further apart without even knowing that is what we were doing.  Then, “one day” we looked at each other and said, “I don’t want this anymore. It hurts too much. It doesn’t satisfy me. This is not what marriage is supposed to be like.” I wonder what it would have been like if daily we had made the choice to connect and talk about the tough issues and forgive regularly.  I wonder……

My heart breaks when I see divorce. I don’t think I will ever get to a place where it will be easy to see……



Landscaping Your Marriage, The Finale

Well, the backyard project is complete! Yep, you heard me right. The new fence is up. The new plants are in the ground. All the old bushes and debris have been hauled away.  The backyard looks fresh and new again and the sadness that I once felt has diminished.

I stepped outside this morning to look at the yard again and confirm that it was done. I felt a sense of contentment and joy knowing that the hard work, the cost, the challenges and the emotional highs and lows had been worth it. A yard that had been a sore spot and difficult to look at was once again a place of comfort and enjoyment.  “Wow, all the hard work definitely paid off,” I said to myself.  A week ago I may not have said that but today I could look at the backyard and realize that the effort to complete the task seemed small compared to the delight I was feeling.

“Looks good, doesn’t it?” said Michael, who was now standing next to me. “It sure does. I am so glad we made the choice to deal with it.” “Me too,” he said. “Now, we just need to make sure we take care of it and spend time nurturing it so the new plants will grow and thrive. Now, the maintenance begins.” When Michael said that, I realized that you never really “finish” a project like this. You plant new things and get rid of old things but you never really “finish” a yard.  You have to continue to work on it or in time, it will return to the ugly place it was.    

Much like our back yard, marriages need maintenance too. We tell the couples we work with that once they have dealt with issues in their marriages and healed, they must implement “marriage maintenance.” You see, you can’t spend hours and hours of hard work making a relationship healthy and satisfying and then forget to pay attention to it.  Just like a backyard, it will go back to an “ugly place” and you will wonder what happened.  Marriages need attention. They need daily “watering.” They need nurturing. They need the “weeds pulled up.” They need to be a priority. They need time spent on them to make sure they never return to an unhealthy, unsatisfying place. It just makes sense to spend time keeping your marriage fresh and new rather than having to overhaul it when it sinks to a place that neither of you can tolerate. 

Do you do “marriage maintenance?” Do you send time nurturing the relationship you have with your spouse? Do you make sure you are “pulling weeds” before they consume you? Do you keep your marriage a priority?  If not, start today. Find one thing you can work on and do it. If you feel overwhelmed and have no idea where to start; begin by giving your spouse some compliments and encouragement. Landscaping your marriage will take time but it starts with taking one step in the right direction.



Landscaping Your Marriage Part 2

If you read yesterday’s blog then you probably realized there would be a “Part 2” following the “Part 1” and you were right. Whenever you work on a project like clearing out dead growth and replanting bushes, you can almost count on there being many “parts” to the story.

Have you ever noticed that things aren’t as simple as they appear on the surface? You can prepare yourself as much as you want but chances are something will try to block you from achieving your goal. No matter how much you sit down and talk about a goal and come up with the action steps for accomplishing it, there is a pretty good chance things will get in the way of achieving the goal in the way you want to. Well, that’s what happened with our backyard. 

It seemed so easy. Pull up the dead bushes and replace them with new plants. What we didn’t anticipate was the “rest of the story.” The bushes along the west side of our home were against a fence that was not in the best shape. Since the bushes were 14 years old and had grown to considerable height, the only way to get them out was to pull the old fence down with the understanding that when the bushes were extracted, the fence would go back up. That’s nice in theory but once the fence was pulled down, the boards and fence posts were in such bad shape that it became evident we would need to put up a new fence.  There was no way the old fence would go back into place and stay standing. 

We decided at this point to go ahead and replace the fence.  However, we didn’t realize that putting a new fence in place would require digging new post holes since the old ones were not spaced right for the new fence.  Now, if you have ever lived in New Mexico then you know that the ground here is not soft.  We get very little water so the ground tends to be like concrete. Digging 11 post holes is not a piece of cake. The manual post hole digger we tried to use, wouldn’t even break through the ground.  At this point, we rented a gas powered auger. Although a step above the manual post hole digger, it didn’t do the job either. Finally, we rented a high powered auger that looked like something for a construction work site.  This baby worked! The problem; what was supposed to take 2 days to complete now was at 5 days.  A simple project had turned into a long, drawn out process and the expense for it had tripled. You just don’t plan for things like that and if you aren’t careful, you can let it really get to you.

Dealing with difficulties in marriage is a lot like completing the backyard project described here. We think we just have “a little issue” we need to work on and once that is dealt with then everything else will be fine. We say things like, “Everything in our marriage is great except this one little piece that we need to deal with.” We don’t realize that the one little piece is connected to all the other pieces. We sit down and begin to talk about the “issue” and before we know it, we are discussing other issues and seeing other things that need to be dealt with.  We can decide not to face the problems and walk away from the “project” before it’s complete or we can make the decision to go the distance and deal with everything that is in the way of having a satisfying and healthy relationship. Sometimes, it appears that things may become worse before they get better. In reality, it is like having an infection in a wound that needs to be cleaned out before it can heal. It’s going to hurt a lot when it’s being cleaned but once that is over, it begins to heal and feel better.

I think it really helps to keep the end in mind. If you don’t, you will get stuck and want to give up. Ask yourself, what do I want the final outcome to be? What does my marriage need to look like for it to be satisfying for me? Determine that if you get stuck you will just keep working on things until you see progress. Remember, things aren’t as simple as they appear but if you keep going, you will be glad that you did.



Landscaping Your Marriage Part 1

Michael and I woke up on Saturday and decided that it was finally time to deal with our backyard. We had put it off long enough. Last winter was very cold for our part of the country and many of the native New Mexican plants in our backyard didn’t survive the cold weather.  We tried to nurture and pamper them back to life but to no avail; they were gone and we had to face it. Fourteen years of enjoying them and it was time to pull out the dead bushes and plants and put in something new. Yep, this was going to be a project there was no doubt about it. 

As we discussed the matter, I found myself trying to simplify the project. “What if we just get rid of the plants that look the worst?” I said.  Michael looked at me kind of surprised and said, “Babe, all the dead ones look the worst.” “Well, how about we just work on one area now and then do another area in a few weeks or so?” “Really?” he said. “You want to prolong this project?” No, I didn’t want to prolong it; I just didn’t want to put forth the effort that was needed to complete the task. Not to mention, it was sad to me. I needed to deal with the fact that what was once vibrant and beautiful was now dead and ugly. What I really wanted to do was close my eyes and then open them again and see my old plants revived and renewed to what they use to be.

Wow, sounds so much like the marriages that we work with. We have couples coming into our office saying that they want “what use to be there to be there again.” In reality, it isn’t bad to want that but marriage is fluid and constantly changing and you can’t keep what was there 5, 10 or 15 years ago and force it to be a part of today. The two of you will change over time and your marriage needs to change too. Places in marriage get ugly, stagnant and even die and these places must be pruned or pulled up and thrown away. Sometimes, we need to plant something new in our marriages and nurture and pamper it so it will grow. There are even times when we spend too much time trying to make something dead alive again and in reality, we just need to pull it up, get rid of it and plant something new.

To be honest, we experience all kinds of emotions when we go through this process; sadness, anger, hurt, disappointment, etc. If we don’t face these emotions and feel them, then we will push them down and resentment will build and before we know it, we will be disconnected and indifferent in our relationships. Denying something never works well in general, but in relationships, it is a real killer. If we are going to thrive and grow in our marriages and heal from the “cold winters,” we need to face the damage and deal with it. We need to pull up the old and dead areas and plant new things. 

Do you see places in your marriage that need to be pruned or pulled up and removed? Do you struggle letting go of what was and embracing what is?  Maybe it’s time to do a little work in your “marriage garden” and nurture it to maturity. Not sure how to do that? Feel stuck? Contact the Family Lifeline and let us help you “landscape” your marriage.



The Way I See It!

Do you ever find yourself in an argument with your spouse and you think, “This is so stupid. Why are we even arguing about this?” Even though we might think this way, it doesn’t always result in us ending the argument and starting over. In fact, there have even been times when we have argued about the fact that we shouldn’t be arguing. Reading this right now makes me laugh and realize how ridiculous some arguments are. However, when you are in the midst of an argument and emotions are launched, it seems so logical to argue about nothing!

Sometimes Michael and I get into arguments about the differences in our perceptions regarding something. It's like we are trying to convince each other that "I" am right and "you" are wrong. The longer this kind of argument goes on, the more likely we will feel extremely disconnected and the more likely we will say things we shouldn’t say. Why is it so hard to let our spouse have his/her opinion about something without feeling like we have to debate the issue? It's like arguing about whether the color blue is prettier than the color green. The answer is in the eye of the beholder.

Can you think of a time when you had an opinion about something and felt it was the truth only to find out later that is was just your perception? Isn't it funny how we can be so convinced that our perception of something is actually the truth? Some of this has to do with our personalities. If you have a direct and driven personality, you are more likely to keep an argument going. If you have a laid back and passive personality, you are more likely to let it go (well, at least verbally).

Now, in my marriage, I am the one who is more direct and driven and Michael is more laid back and passive. That means that a lot of our arguments about differences in perception have been driven by me. Because of my personality and the way I see things, it has taken a lot of time, effort and self-discipline to tell myself that different perspectives are all right. I don’t have to “fight” until I win because in marriage you either win together or you lose together. When I am able to let Michael have his perception and opinion without trying to convince him I am right, things go MUCH better in our marriage. I can actually agree to disagree and let that be okay.

How about you? Do you find yourself fighting about things that make no sense or trying to convince your spouse that you are right when you disagree?  Why don’t you try to “win together” by letting your partner have a perception that is different from yours? Believe me; it will make things flow better between the two of you!



What Do You Want To Do?

Have you ever had a conversation with your spouse that goes like this, “Hey, what do you want to do today?” Then your spouse says, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” You say, “I don’t know either that’s why I asked you!” Before you know it, if you aren’t careful, you will be arguing over this matter and not liking each other very much. 

The issue in my marriage is that what I like to do is so different than what Michael likes to do.  I tend to be a home-body (maybe because we aren’t home very much and when we are I want to stay there). I like doing projects around the house and accomplishing things together.  He loves to go and explore and do things away from the house. He says it helps him to relax and connect with me when we are learning new things together. 

So, how do you solve something like this? It’s not right for me to get what I want all the time but it isn’t fair for Michael to get his way all the time either. We recently sat down and had a conversation about this. Our time together is limited and we were feeling like it was just passing us by without any compromise and neither of us were feeling good about that.  We talked through why we feel the way we do about time together and then something amazing happened.  After some much needed understanding on the issue, we actually came up with a solution that seemed to feel good for both of us. 

We decided to take a jar and fill it with pieces of paper that listed different activities.  I wrote out 12 things I love to do when we have time together and Michael did the same. We designated whether the activity needed a short amount of time or a longer amount of time. We also agreed that we would stretch ourselves to meet the need of the other person. We folded the papers and placed them in the jar. When we have some time together, we simply draw an activity from the jar and do it. If the activity takes more time than we have, we just draw another activity until we get one that matches the time we have to spend on it. Since we both know that we have each contributed to the different activities in the jar, it makes it easier to do what your partner wants to do when his/her activity is drawn. 

Today, we are headed to the library to find a book we can read together and then we are going to drive through some neighborhoods and look at houses and landscapes to generate ideas for what we might want to do at our house.  We both are excited to do these things because we know they will provide connection for each of us in a way that matches our desires. 

What about you and your spouse? Do you do things together that each of you enjoys doing? If not, maybe it’s time for you to make an activity jar and get busy connecting!