Politics and Hot Buttons

Did you watch the Presidential Debate last night? Whether you did or not, you have probably seen at least one political commercial as well as had a conversation with someone about the upcoming election.

It’s always interesting to watch how people handle themselves when we are in the midst of an election. Some people get extremely passionate when they talk about politics. Nothing can set off their anger or ignite their convictions more than discussing presidential candidates. Politics is one of those topics that we’re told NOT to discuss with others because it can easily turn into conflict. You see this conflict happening all the time on social media like Facebook or Twitter. Friends have parted and families have become divided over politics. Even in my own family, I have seen tension rise when the subject of politics it approached. I’ve watched my siblings go from calm to yelling at each other during conversations about the political parties. Politics seems to be a “hot” button for many people and once it’s pushed, the outcome isn’t pretty!

I’ve asked myself why it is that people are so passionate about the topic of politics and why they are so willing to lose friendships over a disagreement. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is about the values and central beliefs that people hold. A conversation will go from a friendly debate to verbal assault of a person’s view on life within a matter of 5 minutes.  The “hot” button is connected to the person’s feelings about what they value in life. Suddenly, instead of talking about national security and what should be done about it, they are discussing whether their beliefs are valued.  It becomes very personal very quickly. In addition, each person keeps at the debate to try and convince the other person that they are right. Most of the time, the only outcome I see is offense and frustration leading to disconnection between the people.     

I see this same thing happening in marriages. We all have “hot” buttons that can be pushed by our spouse. The “hot” buttons are connected to our values and beliefs and sometimes, our life experiences. We can be having a pleasant, meaningful conversation with our spouse and suddenly, hit that “hot” button and before we know it, we are in heated conflict. We may have started communicating about the weather and end up arguing about why we live where we live. I bet some of you would say that you have had your share of disagreements with your spouse and you aren’t sure how those fights ever got started.  Hitting a “hot” button launches us into arguments that sometimes make no sense. We are willing to keep arguing with the hope of changing our partner’s mind. This only escalates the situation and we find ourselves saying things we wish we could take back. Once a “hot” button is pushed, continuing to press the issue only makes it worse.

The next time you hit your spouse’s “hot” button or the next time yours is launched, step back and take a minute to breathe and calm down. If you hit the “hot” button, use active listening to lower the emotion and hear the other person. “So, if I hear what you are saying…….” Active listening has the ability to reduce the level of emotion. If you are the one who’s “hot” button was launched, then request a short time out to cool down and think about what you want the outcome to be from your discussion. Return to the conversation when you feel you can discuss it in a way that will be healthy. We will always hit each other’s “hot” buttons; that is normal. HOW we handle it after it happens is the key.



Wait or Take Action

Sometimes waiting on things to change is overrated. You are well aware of the times when people tell you to “wait and be patient and stop trying to fix everything right away.” Although that can be true, I have a different view that may challenge you.

I do believe that waiting and being patient are critically important in a relationship. There are times when we need to shut our mouths and not push things. There are times when we have to wait on God to move on our partner’s heart. There are times when we can’t force things to get better or to change. However, there are times when we need to stop waiting and address the situation or issue. We have to be able to discern the difference between needing to wait and needing to take action.

I told someone yesterday that waiting for things to get better without expressing your needs and wants is like putting a bandage on an infected wound. The bandage won’t make the infection go away and in time, it will get worse because you didn’t take care of the “bacteria” in it. The same thing can be true in relationships. If we wait to deal with things and think that time will heal all, it can actually make things worse.  It’s like there is an infection in the relationship and no one is “cleaning it out” by talking about the issue or dealing with it. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a married woman who has struggled with sexual intimacy her whole marriage (25 years). She was telling me that she can’t figure out why she has so much difficulty with this area. She has sex with her husband on a consistent basis but she doesn’t like it. I was surprised when she said to me, “I would never talk to my husband about this issue because I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” With a surprised look on my face, I said, “And you don’t think he is aware of this problem?” You see, she thought time would take care of the issue but 25 years later it is worse not better and I am convinced that her husband is well aware of her difficulties.  My encouragement to her was to stop waiting for things to change and address the situation with her husband and begin to work on it.

You see, waiting isn’t always the answer. Deciding to take action can be exactly what is needed.  Deal with issues and problems when they begin to surface can make solving them easier. Sometimes waiting for them to get better can actually make the problems bigger.  Three questions you can ask yourself when you wonder whether you need to wait or take action are: 1. Can I express my needs and wants regarding this problem/issue in a way that doesn’t put my partner on the defense?  2. Do I feel that my spouse is aware of the problem too? 3. If I don’t deal with this now, what is the potential of it getting worse?  If you answer “yes” to the first two questions and “it can get worse” to the last question, then it is time to take action and not to continue to wait to deal with what is happening. 

Is there something in your life that you need to “take action” on or is it still appropriate to “wait?” Agree today that you will not continue to put bandages on infected wounds.



Sometimes We Forget

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to be going fine and then you experience a “suddenly?” You know what I mean….a moment when you suddenly realize that you forgot something major. You feel the rush of emotion come upon you and the blood begins to drain from your face. You know that what you forgot can never be undone and now, you have to deal with the impact of your forgetfulness. 

Now, some of you may be saying, “I’m not clear regarding what you are talking about.” Well, here are some classic examples.  Maybe you forgot your anniversary or someone’s birthday.  Maybe you said you would meet someone somewhere and life got away from you and you totally spaced it out. Maybe you promised to follow through with the completion of something for your spouse and you now realize you totally allowed it to slip away from you. When these things happen, we find ourselves grasping for reasons and trying to locate an explanation that makes sense. However, sometimes, it doesn’t make sense at all.  We allowed ourselves to get too busy or too distracted to remember something important. 

So, how do you recover from this kind of mistake? I think the first thing we have to do is admit that we simply forgot and stop the rationalization. I remember a time when I promised Michael I would bring him a change of clothing because he was pressed for time and needed to dress up for a meeting.  I arrived at our office empty handed and the minute I crossed the threshold of the doorway, I realized I had forgotten the clothing and there was no time to go home and get it. My brain started thinking of every kind of reason why I forgot and I began to build my case before Michael noticed I was empty handed. I had a great story prepared as I walked into his office. When he turned and looked at me and noticed I was not holding his clothes, I saw the disappointment in his face. I knew I had let him down and I wanted to justify my actions so bad. He looked me in the eye and said, “You forgot my clothes didn’t you?” I opened my mouth and what came out even surprised me, “Yes, I did and I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?” “Wait,” my thoughts said, “Tell him the whys!”  But I could see that the whys wouldn’t change the fact that he was disappointed and hurt that I had forgotten.

You see, so many times when we disappoint others, we try to make the situation about us. We try to justify our behaviors or words when none of that will help change the situation. We need to learn what the other person needs at that moment and make sure we are meeting his/her need.  Most of the time, they need us to admit that we forgot and leave it at that. They don’t need any elaborate story of WHY we forgot. Then, we need to be willing to let them feel what they are feeling and when they are ready, ask for forgiveness. We need to think about what we would want from the other person if the roles were reversed.   

The fact of the matter is that we will always forget things and hurt people. The sooner we realize that we aren’t going to be perfect and accept that, the easier it will be to do the right thing when we do forget.  Can you remember a time when something like this happened to you? How did you handle it? If you could go back in time, what would you do differently? Is there someone in your life waiting for an apology because you hurt them in this way? Today is a good day to take care of that!!



I Love Weddings

We went to a wedding this weekend and as the ceremony began, I realized how much I love weddings. You know, the social atmosphere, the beauty of the bridal party and the essence of love in the air. I love the way the mother of the bride cries when she sees her daughter walking down the aisle and the way the father of the bride beams with pride as he holds his daughter on his arm. I love watching the groom glow when he sees his wife-to-be and the spark of emotion that fills his eyes. I love when the preacher says, “We are gathered here today….” I love hearing the vows and the declarations and the strong emphasis of this being a lifelong commitment. All of these things combined make for an amazing moment when everything in the world seems right. 

I especially love weddings where God is given the glory and the honor He deserves when a covenant is established between the bride and groom. There is no greater wedding than a Godly wedding where the bride and the groom understand that the purpose of marriage is not to make them happy but to make the two of them holy.  I guess I should rephrase my beginning statement and say this, I love weddings where the ceremony is a priority and the couple realizes the covenant they are making between themselves and God.  I love weddings where the bride and groom have taken the time to understand the commitment they are making and have prepared for their marriage.   

You see, far too often weddings are more about the reception than the ceremony. Couples pour considerable time, energy and money into making the reception unforgettable and don’t realize that the ceremony is the primary moment when the “me” becomes a “we” and two lives become one. It should be a time when couples focus on hearing what is said and taking that to heart; a time when couples embrace the lifelong commitment they are making to each other.

Unfortunately, that is not the case today. I’m embarrassed to say that we have officiated weddings where the bride and the groom have said, “It doesn’t matter what the ceremony looks like, we want it to be short so we can party at the reception.” I think it was at that moment when Michael and I decided we could not marry couples just to marry them. It became clear to us that if they did not understand and honor the covenant they were making then we could not be a part of their wedding. We are tired of seeing marriages fall apart 1-2 years after the wedding because the couple really didn’t believe the marriage was for life. 

One final thought…..I love weddings because they remind me of my own marriage and the commitment I have made to my husband.  They give me a chance to reflect on the vows I made and to examine my “oneness” with my spouse. Why don’t you take a moment today and remember the vows you made to your spouse. Ask yourself if you are honoring those vows and make some changes if you see you have slipped into complacency. Have a “wedding” moment of your own right now and determine to honor your commitment.



Are You A Marriage Gossiper?

I really hate gossip. I think it is destructive and dangerous. I can remember times in my life when I have gotten caught in the web of gossip and I have seen the hurt it has caused in others. I also know that when I am talking to someone and they begin to gossip, I feel uncomfortable. 

I know people who thrive on gossip. The minute they hear some “news,” they have this drive to tell everyone they know. There is little thought about the damage that gossip can do, especially when it sends misinformation. You can never undo the words that are said. They will resonate in people’s minds for quite some time.

Gossip is especially puzzling to me when it happens to a marriage. We see this frequently in the work we do. Husbands or wives gets really mad at their spouses and the next thing you know, they are calling a friend or a family member and telling them everything that happened. Before long, the friend or family member is as upset about the situation as the spouse who gossiped! In some marriages, this goes on every day.  There seems to be no boundaries in what can be shared and how it can be shared. In reality, this is very destructive to a relationship and will poison the marriage.

You see, when we gossip about our marriages, we are fracturing the foundation of our love. Little do we know that participating in this negative behavior hinders our relationship growth and keeps us from achieving the marriage successes we desire. We do more damage than we can imagine simply by not practicing restriction. In addition, you can’t share marriage gossip with someone without it having a negative ramification for a friend or family member.  You and your spouse might work through the issues, but your friend or family member don’t get that privilege so they are still full of offense and anger while you have moved on. It’s like vomiting on someone and then walking away. Now, they have to figure out what they will do with the mess!

Marriage should be a sacred union in which you do not want to harm it in any way. We should do everything we can to protect that union and gossiping about it is not protecting it.  Next time something happens between you and your spouse, work it out together instead of running to someone to gossip about what happened. If you will do this, you will see relationship growth and marriage success.  You will also give others in your lives a gift; they will not be put in the middle of your issues and will be able to respect your marriage with you!



Watch for ANTS!

Have you ever had ANTS invade your home? We have…..and it’s no fun.  For some reason, when one ANT appears, you can be sure that are many, many more to follow. 

I remember a time about 6 years ago when we had gone on a trip and asked our daughter to keep an eye on our house.  She would stop by our house every other day and just make sure everything was okay. Well, one night we were resting in our hotel room when we got a panicked phone message from our daughter, “Mom, Dad, call me as soon as possible!” When we heard her voice, we knew something terrible had happened and quickly made the call. “Hi, Bekah, what’s going on?” “You have ANTS!” was her reply. “ANTS?” we asked, “What do you mean ANTS?” “ANTS have invaded your kitchen and they are everywhere! What do you want me to do?” “Get rid of them as quickly as you can,” was our response.

It seemed simple enough for us. There are ANTS inside the house where they don’t belong so exterminate them. This wasn’t rocket science; get rid of them. However, this was not so easy. Bekah cleared out the kitchen cupboards and cabinets and used 3 cans of bug spray to get rid of the little creatures. You would think this would have done the job but it only got rid of the surface ANTS. The hidden ANTS waited for the air to clear and then resurfaced.  When we arrived home a few days later, there were still plenty of ANTS in our kitchen and they were making their way to other parts of the house.  It took drastic measures and about 2 weeks to get rid of them all.  It was a very unpleasant experience.  I remember hearing the exterminator say, “You have to catch these guys when they first start appearing or they will take over in a matter of days.”

As with most things in my life, I related this experience to marriage and what happens in our relationships. ANTS are not a good thing to deal with in marriage. I call ANTS Automatic NegativeThoughts and they can destroy a relationship. Just like with ANTS that invade your home, ANTS in a marriage will take over and before you know it, you have a HUGE problem on your hands.  We have to learn to stop the ANTS, Automatic Negative Thoughts, when they first appear and exterminate them. If we don’t, they will cause a lot of damage and it will take considerable effort to get rid of them. One of the best ways to stop ANTS in a marriage is to immediately counter the negative thoughts with positive ones. This is analogous to spraying bug spray right away on the little creatures! If we will pay attention to what our thoughts are doing, then we won’t have to deal with ANTS on a regular basis and this will help improve our relationships.

Do you have any ANTS in your marriage? What will you do today to exterminate them? Don’t let them take over and control your life. Do something today that gets rid of the ANT infestation!



Celebrate Your Successes

I’ve talked to a lot of couples who will say, “We don’t make a big deal out of our wedding anniversary. There are so many things going on in our lives right now that we really don’t have the time or the energy to focus on that. Besides, we can focus on that later in life when our kids are grown and we have more time with each other.”

That is so sad to me……you see the divorce rate right now hovers around 54%. That means that one in two marriages fail so the way I look at it is that we all need to rejoice and celebrate when we make it another year in our marriages. We need to pay attention to the successes that happen in our relationships. If we don’t focus on what we have accomplished and make a big deal out of it, then the message is that our marriage really doesn’t matter. This is very dangerous to a relationship.

Think of it like this. What if you told your child that you weren’t going to celebrate his birthday until he was 18 because it took too much energy and there were just too many things going on in your lives to stop and take a moment to acknowledge his growth and birth? I’ll tell you what would happen. You would make it on the cover of the National Enquirer as a crazy parent who is neglecting your child! We wouldn’t even think of doing that because we know how important it is to acknowledge the beginning of our child’s life.

We need to do the same in our marriages; celebrate and acknowledge the beginning of our lives together. You can’t put your marriage on hold and think that one day you will focus on it because one day may never come. By the time your kids are grown and life slows down, you will look across the room at each other and wonder who you are. Statistics tell us right now that the highest percentages of divorce are happening within the first 5 years of marriage and then again when all the children are grown; around the 20th year of marriage. If we are going to make our marriages work, we have to celebrate the successes every time they happen. We have to make a big deal out of our marriages and celebrate when great things take place.     

When was the last time you celebrated something in your marriage (a big thing or a little thing)? What emphasis do you place on your wedding anniversary? Are you putting your marriage on hold for other things? Look for something you can rejoice in today and acknowledge that with your spouse. Start celebrating your successes!

P.S. We do practice what we preach……Michael and I will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary next week on September 5th and we are taking a whole week off to rejoice in all that the Lord has done in our marriage! Believe me, we are gonna do some celebrating!!!



Think Before You Speak

I wonder how much better life would be if we all practiced the art of thinking before we speak. I can’t help but think that our relationships would be so much healthier. Have you ever heard the saying, “I wish I have a penny for every time I…..(you fill in the blank)?” Well, I wish I had a penny for every time I said something without thinking about the impact of it first. My mouth engages before my brain thinks it through and the next thing I know, I have a conflict on my hands or have said something that I can never take back.

It just takes a few seconds to slow down and process the comment before speaking.  I’m not sure why we think we have to respond so quickly when something happens or someone asks us something. We seem to be have the most difficult time with this with the people we love. In other interactions, we take the time to plan what we will say and how we will say it. For example, if our boss interacted with us in a way that greatly offended us, we wouldn’t let our mouth get the best of us (if we did, we probably weren’t at the job very long). In fact, we even might take the time to think about how we would come back later and discuss the incident with our boss. We might practice what we would say, how we would say it and think through how it would be received. However, in our most personal, intimate relationships we frequently just say whatever, whenever and don’t think about the impact of our words. Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t our most precious relationships get the best of us not the worst?

Now, don’t tell me that you just react and can’t control it because I know better. Actually, I have used that line myself and it really isn’t true. You can choose your reaction any time you want to. Think about how you would respond if you and your partner were fighting in the living room and someone you greatly admired pulled into your driveway and came to your door. You wouldn’t open the door to welcome them in the same manner you were arguing with your spouse. You would instantly “choose” to be polite and friendly. If we can make a decision to quickly change our response in this situation, we can make a decision to treat our intimate relationships in this respectful way. 

Think before you speak. It’s not a new concept but it may be a forgotten one. Here’s my challenge to you today. Before you respond in your conversations, take just a few seconds to think about what you will say. See if you can slow the process down a bit and be deliberate in your communication. Do this in both the positive interactions and the negative ones and see if you can think before you speak!



"Spa-Like" Love

Yesterday a friend treated me to a wonderful day at the spa. We had facials and body scrubs and massages; it was incredible to say the least. I remember thinking during our time at the spa how pampered I felt and cared for by people that I didn’t even know. They were catering to my every wish and it made me feel very special. In fact, so special that I didn’t want to leave at the end of the day.

While I was getting my massage, I had a thought. What if we treated the people we know and love the way the spa people treat us? What kind of relationships would we have if we served each other like that?  Then, I became convicted over the number of times I take my relationships for granted. I’m not pampering those I love. I’m not even being nice sometimes….yikes, did I just admit that?  Moving on……

Now, I’m not talking about being a doormat in a relationship so don’t panic about that.  I’m talking about serving each other in a way that has meaning and value to it.  I’m talking about paying attention to the little things that make each other feel special. What if we paid more attention to what we are saying to each other and then really focused on following through with the requests we made?  Wouldn’t that make our relationships better? It would require unselfishness and effort but in the end, our relationships would be healthier and happier.

I think I read somewhere that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. I think it also takes more energy to be negative and selfish than it does to be positive and selfless. I also think that when we sow the seed of goodness, we get goodness back.

Take a few minutes today and think about your relationships. What part of “spa like” treatment can you give those you love? Kind words? A gentle, affectionate touch? Bringing him/her a favorite drink or snack? Waiting patiently for them? Smiling? It doesn’t take much to show “spa like” love. We just have to decide to do it.



What Message Is Your Marriage Sending?

Yesterday while Michael and I were driving home from church, he looked at me and smiled and instantly, my heart skipped a beat. I had a shiver go down my spine and I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. It reminded me of the way I felt when we were first dating and all I could think about was him. We will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary in just a couple weeks and it did my heart good to realize that he can still do that to me.

Marriage gets a bum rap today with people thinking that the longer you are married the more boring and unexciting it becomes. It’s not uncommon today for people to think that only young love can make a heart skip a beat… know, couples who have just met and are in the infatuation stage of their relationship. The message of marriage today is that you grow old with each other but you don’t really enjoy the trip. Now, this is certainly true for some couples. They don’t learn to be a team and they don’t find ways to stay connected. Their love doesn’t grow deeper and they aren’t passionate about each other. The message they are sending is that love has the element of commitment but not enjoyment and satisfaction. Just look at the message that is sent today in the 30 minute sitcoms on TV…….the message? Marriage is like being in prison. It makes me feel so sad every time I see this message communicated in our society.

I’m glad that I am not in a marriage where enjoyment and satisfaction do not exist. The message I want my marriage to send is that being together a lifetime is wonderful. I want people to know that I am married to my best friend and that without him, I feel like I am missing something. I want people to know that marriage can be passionate and satisfying and one of the greatest things that can happen to you. I want people to see healthy communication and conflict resolution that brings us closer together. I want to send the message that marriage can help grow you up and mature you to be the greatest person you can be. I want people to know that a healthy marriage MUST be worked on and made a priority. I WANT PEOPLE TO WANT TO BE MARRIED and I want people to want to work on their marriage so it never becomes a burden.

What message is your marriage sending? Does it send the message that marriage takes all the fun out of life or does it send the message that marriage is fulfilling and rewarding? Is it time to sit down with your spouse and talk about the “message of your marriage?” Don’t wait another minute to make a change if you see you need one. Do what you can to send the message that “marriage is worth it when we make it worth it!”



From "Me" to "We"

I think the test in any relationship has to do with your level of selfishness. Do I care more about “me” than I do “we?”

I have to admit that I struggle with this in my marriage. I like things the way I like them and if I don’t want to do something, it is hard for me to sacrifice my wants and needs for my husband. Selfishness runs deep in my bones and that makes choosing “we” over “me” very difficult. I also find that I am stubborn and sometimes that gets the best of me. I will say this, when I choose “we” over “me,” my marriage runs so much better. I feel better about myself when I am not being selfish. It also impacts my husband. When he sees me putting our marriage first, he chooses “we” more than “me” too.  It becomes a reciprocal process that makes both of us feel more connected.   

We see the struggle with selfishness in many of the marriages we work with. Many of them have never gone from “me” to “we.” They don’t share their leisure time, they don’t share their bank accounts, and they don’t share household chores. It’s like they got married but forget to form a unit. The message they tell themselves is that if I choose “we” over “me,” I will lose myself in the relationship. Fear takes over and they never fully see the benefit of becoming one. As a result, they don’t form a team and they don’t learn how to function together. In time, they wonder why they feel so distant and wonder where their connection has gone. The true marriage connection that lasts only happens when couples put “we” before “me.”

I heard someone say one time that the purpose of marriage is not to make you happy but to mature you and grow you up. Ouch, that doesn’t sound very fun, does it? But… it’s the truth. Marriage can bring out the worst in us and when it does, we have a choice to do something about it. Every time I get selfish and choose “me,” I am making a decision to harm my relationship. Every time I make a choice to put “we” before “me,” I grow up a little more and my relationship flourishes.

How’s the “me” to “we” ratio in your marriage? Do you feel it needs some improvement? Are there times when you sacrifice your wants and needs for your partner? Do you see him/her doing the same? If not, can you start today to make a change? No matter how difficult it may be to choose “we” over “me,” the benefit to your marriage is unimaginable.



R-E-S-P-C-T.... Does Your Relationship Have It?

Maybe you read the title of this blog and thought to yourself, “I respect my spouse. I am very kind in the way I speak to him/her.” That’s good and we all should be mindful of the way we speak to each other. However, respect is more than just the way we speak to each other. In fact, in marriage, respect is felt at a much deeper level and it must be mutual. 

The dictionary says that respect is “esteem for or having a sense of worth or excellence of a person.” When you think of respect like that, suddenly you realize that you can speak to a person respectfully but actually have no respect for them at all. I’ve watched it happen over and over. A couple will come to meet with us and the husband will say, “She doesn’t respect me.” Instantly, the wife will say, “Yes I do! I speak to you very respectfully and watch the things I say.” The husband will continue with, “Yah, you might do that but there is something else going on here because I don’t feel respected by you.” That’s really the key isn’t it? Respect is something we feel not just seeing behaviors from another person that appear to be respectful. Now, don’t get me wrong….respectful behaviors are important but if we do not respect underneath the behaviors, then the other person will sense that and know that we are just going through the motions. This means that respect is one of the hardest things to fake.

Why is it so hard for us to respect our spouse? It has to do with being deeply hurt and trust being broken. It’s difficult to respect someone when we feel that there is no trust in the relationship. Trust can be broken in many different ways but the bottom line usually relates to spouses not keeping their word; not doing what they said they would do or doing what they said they wouldn’t do. Respect may have been a part of the relationship at one time but once trust is broken (whether in a small way or a big way), respect begins to break down.  If we don’t deal with the central issue of the hurt and the broken trust, then we will never fully respect our partner again. Respect is something we give to each other and we can’t give away something that isn’t there. 

How would you measure the respect in your relationship? Do you feel that you are both giving respect to each other or do you feel that respect comes and goes? Maybe you give respect on the surface but underneath, you know it isn’t there. If you see that respect is an issue in your relationship, take some time in the next few days to identify why the respect is lacking and then find a time to sit down and talk to your spouse about this. Respect doesn’t just come back to a relationship, you have to fix the “break” and then respect can be given again.