Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Seven – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-23-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day Seven: Love is not jealous. Determine to become your spouse’s biggest fan and to reject any thoughts of jealously. To help you set your heart on your spouse and focus on their achievements, take yesterday’s list of negative attributes and discreetly burn it. Then share with your spouse how glad you are about a success he/she recently enjoyed. How hard was it to destroy the list? What are some positive experiences that you can celebrate in the life of your mate? How can you encourage them toward future successes?

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Jealously is one of the strongest drives known to man. It comes from the root word for zeal and means “to burn with an intense fire.” The Scripture pointedly says, “Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but who can stand before jealously?” (Proverbs 27:4).

There are actually two forms: a legitimate jealously based upon love, and an illegitimate jealously based upon envy. Legitimate jealously sparks when someone you love, who belongs to you, turns his/her heart away and replaces you with someone else.

Illegitimate kind of jealousy is rooted in selfishness. This is to be jealous of someone, to be “moved with envy.”

Do you struggle with being jealous of others? Your friend is more popular, so you feel hatred towards her. Your coworker gets the promotion, so you can’t sleep that night. He may have done nothing wrong, but you become bitter because of his success. It has been said that people are fine with your succeeding, just as long as it is not more than theirs.

Jealously is a common struggle. It is sparked when someone else upstages you and gets something you want. This can be very painful depending upon how selfish you are. Instead of congratulating them, you fume in anger and think ill of them. If you’re not careful, jealously slithers like a viper into your heart and strikes your motivations and relationships. It can poison you from living the life of love God intended.

You don’t usually get jealous of disconnected strangers. The ones you’re tempted to be jealous of are primarily in the same arena with you. They work in your office, play in your league, run in your circles … or live in your house. Yes, if you aren’t careful, jealously can also infect your marriage.

When you were married, you were given the role of becoming your spouse’s biggest cheerleader and the captain of his/her fan club. Both of you became one and were to share in the enjoyment of the other. But if selfishness rules, any good thing happening to only one of you can be a catalyst for envy rather than congratulations.

Because love is not selfish and puts others first, it refuses to let jealously in. It leads you to celebrate the successes of your spouse rather than resenting them. A loving husband doesn’t mind his wife being better at something, having more fun, or getting more applause. He sees her as completing him, not competing with him.

A loving wife will be the first to cheer for her man when he wins. She does not compare her weaknesses to his strengths. She throws a celebration, not a pity party.

It is time to let love, humility, and gratefulness destroy any jealously that springs up in your heart. It’s time to let your mate’s successes draw you closer together and give you greater opportunities to show genuine love. ¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

Kevin has never really given me a reason to be jealous – the legitimate kind of jealous. Which is odd, considering he’s been married before, you would think I would be jealous of his relationship with his first wife – but I haven’t been. I suppose the biggest reason it never became an issue between us was because I’ve never met his ex-wife and she moved out of the state shortly after their divorce so … they’ve never had any contact with each other in our years together and she’s never been an issue between us.

(Thank you, God).

However, I’ve had bouts of jealousy in our marriage – the red hot, ugly I’m-going-to-rip-your-head-off kind of jealousy. It’s inevitable that someone will come along in your life that you’re attracted to – both physically and emotionally. It’s going to happen – don’t even tell yourself that it won’t.

And when it happens, you’ll be tested in ways you never thought possible. Like a red, ripe, juicy strawberry dipped in decadent chocolate and dripping sweet drops of goodness, temptation will be waved in front of your face.

And it will be so hard, so very hard, to resist that first bite.

But you must. Resisting that temptation will be a true test of your strength, of your commitment to your spouse, and your resolve to honor your promise, to both your spouse and to God.

To give in is to be weak. Deny it all you will, it’s a fact. The reasons one gives in doesn’t matter; the damage has been done. The trust has been broken. And it’s a long, hard road to mend the marriage.

IF it can be mended.

I’ve often wondered how I would feel if Kevin had an affair. What exactly would I do? My gut reaction would be to leave his sorry ass, pronto. But would I? Really? I’m a fair person. I would wonder exactly what I did, or didn’t do, that pushed him over that edge. My husband is only human – if I didn’t give him what he needed then why WOULDN’T he stray from the relationship.

And vice versa, of course.

I don’t know. I’m not an expert. And to lump affairs into one category is cruel and unrealistic – there are so many reasons that it can happen. But if it ever happened to me … I have no idea how I would react. I suppose it all depends on the circumstances.

I’ve had people in my life that had affairs on their spouses. And it’s so easy to judge, to offer criticism when in fact, there are always two sides to the story. The people I’m referring to had the strength to patch things up and they are still together today. But I often wonder just HOW much of a toll it took on their marriage and just HOW happy are they right now?

I admire their willingness, and courage, to navigate that rocky terrain.

And I pray I never have to navigate that rocky terrain.

Kevin has had crushes on women. I know this. He has admitted it. They have been women he’s worked with and I’ve met them at company functions.

They were also gorgeous.

It KILLED me whenever he had to take a business trip with the women he had crushes on. I would agonize and imagine all sorts of illicit scenarios. (Sometimes it’s a curse to have an active imagination). And I’ve had numerous nightmares of him leaving me for another woman – so real that I would wake up in a cold sweat and be convinced that it really happened.

*shudder*

My point is, he was tempted. And I’ve been tempted. The temptation happened – but nothing else did.

I’ve had to learn to trust my husband for really, what choice do I have? I can’t follow him around every minute of every day (at least, not without having a restraining order slapped on me) so at some point, the trust has to be there.

Let’s hope neither of us ever breaks that trust.

As far as the illegitimate jealousy issue: my first reaction was to say no, I’ve never been jealous of my husband’s successes, but that’s not exactly true.

I’ve been jealous of the fact that he had the freedom to pursue his career. He didn’t have the responsibility of taking care of the kids while he traveled and moved up his career track.

I’m jealous of the fact he has a label – accountant. Whenever someone asks me what I do, I cringe. “I”m a web designer.” Which is true, I am. But the clients I have only have updates a few times a week – I certainly can’t call it my full-time job – well, it’s not a job that requires a 40-hour attention span, let’s put it that way.

I’m envious of his intelligence. The man never ceases to amaze me – he KNOWS so much! And here I am in my little corner, drool running down my shirt and lamely waving a DUNCE flag.

Hi.

I’m not jealous of his successes very often, but the feeling does grab me by the nose hairs at times and yanks me back to reality. Instead of wallowing in self-pity though, I’m going to take advantage of the kids being older and able to take care of themselves (I have a 16-year old and a 14-year old, in case you didn’t know that), to start being proactive with my own career aspirations. My goal is to get a job this Fall, pay off my student loans and then go back to college, (paying as I go along), for my masters.

Just TALKING about that goal gets me excited. And it also helps ease my envious feelings about my husband’s successful career. I mean, I’m happy for the man, he certainly deserves his success, he’s worked very, very hard to get where he is today, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m just a teeny-bit jealous of him.

Work Stuff

Facts About the COVID-19 Virus

Let’s talk about the Coronavirus…

One thing about working in healthcare is the annual virus scare. It’s always something every year, Ebola, SARS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, etc.

I’m not trying to make light of these viruses, I’m just saying that every year it’s something new to think and worry about.

The place my mind always goes to whenever something new breaks out is, does this mean I’m going to have to get yet another vaccine?

I think vaccines are great, overall, measles, mumps, polio, etc. But the yearly flu vaccination? I’m not a fan. According to the CDC website, getting a flu vaccination “reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine.” Keywords: WELL-MATCHED.

There are hundreds of flu viruses currently out there and the flu virus evolves each year to stay alive and adapt. The odds of the CDC accurately predicting that season’s flu strain is slim. I’m not saying it’s not possible and for some people, who have autoimmune diseases, the elderly and pregnant women, something is better than nothing, but the majority of healthcare workers that are FORCED to get the flu vaccination each year?

Yeah, not a fan.

I think I’m more irritated by the fact that I’m FORCED to get the flu vaccination than at the vaccination itself, though I do understand WHY our choice has been taken way, after all, we’re working with the most fragile of our population, it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

So, WHEN the yearly scare occurs, my first thought is, “Oh no you’re NOT going to give me another vaccination.” And really, the only time they would MAKE us get a vaccination based on the prevalent virus of the year would be when it graduates to a pandemic, meaning it’s spread world wide. And by then, it would probably be smarter to get the vaccine – again, I’m just annoyed that my choice has been taken away.

But I digress.

This current virus has everyone truly scared. I routinely talk to patients that tell me they are scared. I mean, viruses are scary in and of themselves, but the media hype only serves to frighten people even more.

So, it’s VERY IMPORTANT that you get the facts and ignore the media hysteria. Remember, the media exists to sell ads and working people up in a frenzy so that they are hanging on every word the media spoon feeds them only serves their own agenda.

The media could care less about the facts.

As a public service announcement, here are a couple of videos by Dr. Mike. I like watching his videos because he does a good job of explaining things so that average Janes (like myself), can understand what’s REALLY happening.

Also, in writing this blog post, I went to the CDC website and looked through Disease Outbreaks by Year. It’s interesting how many diseases circulate and we DON’T really hear about them.

The bottom line, folks, WASH YOUR HANDS. And COVER YOUR MOUTHS WHEN SNEEZING AND COUGHING. And NOT WITH YOUR HANDS. USE A TISSUE OR YOUR SLEEVE.

And don’t touch your face throughout the day only and until you have thoroughly washed your hands. And newsflash: your urine and fecal matter? Is TEEMING with bacteria. You’re not special, your waste byproduct is just as nasty as the person in the stall next to you.

Your hands are dirty. Wash them. Don’t be that asshole that leaves the bathroom without washing his/her hands.

Avoid touching high traffic areas: Door handles, shopping cart handles (use the wipes that most places provide or take some of your own), hand railings, elevator buttons, etc.

That simple step could be all it takes to keep you healthy during flu season.

People are nasty. TRULY.  I see it firsthand.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Six – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-22-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day Six: Love believes the best. For today’s dare, get two sheets of paper. On the first one, spend a few minutes writing out positive things about your spouse. Then do the same with negative things on the second sheet. Place both sheets in a secret place for another day. There is a different purpose and plan for each. At some point during the remainder of the day, pick a positive attribute from the first list and thank your spouse for having this characteristic.

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ In the deep and private corridors of your heart, there is a room. It’s called the Appreciation Room. It’s where your thoughts go when you encounter positive and encouraging things about your spouse. And every so often, you enjoy visiting this special place.

On the walls are written kind words and phrases describing the good attributes of your mate. These may include characteristics like “honest” and “intelligent,” or phrases like “diligent worker,” “wonderful cook,” or “beautiful eyes.” They are things you’ve discovered about your husband or wife that have embedded themselves in your memory. When you think about these things, your appreciation for your spouse begins to increase. In fact, the more time you spend meditating on these positive attributes, the more grateful you are for your mate.

Most things in the Appreciation Room were likely written in the intial stages of your relationship. You could summarize them as things you liked and respected about your loved one. They were true, honorable, and good. And you spent a great deal of time dwelling on them in this room … before you were married. But you may have found that you don’t visit this special room as often as you once did. That’s because there is another competing room nearby: the Depreciation Room.

This room is lined with the weaknesses and failures of your husband or wife. Their bad habits, hurtful words, and poor decisions are written in large letters that cover the walls from one end to the other. If you stay in this room for long enough, you get depressed and start expressing things like, “My wife is selfish,” or “My husband can be such a jerk.” Or maybe, “I think I married the wrong person.”

Some people write very hateful things in this room, where tell-off statements are rehearsed for the next argument. Emotional injuries fester here, adding more scathing remarks to the walls. It’s where ammunition is kept for the next big fight and bitterness is allowed to spread like a disease. People fall out of love here.

Spending time in the Depreciation Room kills marriages. The more time you spend in this place, the more your heart devalues your spouse.

It’s time to move into the Appreciation Room, to settle down and make it your home. As you choose to mediate on the positives, you will learn that many more wonderful character qualities could be written across these walls. Your spouse is a living, breathing, endless book to read.

Develop the habit of reining in your negative thoughts and focusing on the positive attributes of your mate. This is a crucial step as you learn to lead your heart to truly love your spouse. It is a decision that you make, whether they deserve it or not.¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

Ah, I remember the Depreciation room. I don’t visit it very often any more, but I do take the occasional peek every now and again.

I used to virtually LIVE in that room. EVERYTHING my husband did irritated me. Even the good stuff – either it wasn’t done right, I questioned his motives for doing it, or it simply wasn’t good ENOUGH.

I lost sight of myself in that room. I turned into this ugly shrew while I lived in that room. That room changed me so much, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.

It got to the point where I couldn’t stand being around myself, let alone being around other people.

The Depreciation room has always held a certain appeal to me. I felt strong, independent and powerful in that room. I visited it from time-to-time during our first six years of marriage so by the time our seventh year of marriage rolled around, I had moved in.

Big, BIG mistake.

I look back on that marital seven-year itch and to this day, I couldn’t tell you exactly why I was so pissed off all the time.

But I was.

And I had no reason to BE that angry. I had two small, adorable boys, Kevin was working hard and building a foundation for us and there I was … angry, bitter and feeling very dissatisfied with my life.

I think, looking back, it was actually a myriad of things that caused me to pitch a tent in that Depreciation room.

1. I was young. That’s not exactly an excuse, but everything seems so DRAMATIC when you’re young. Old age really does mellow you out.

2. I was resentful. I had a promising, and rewarding, career at the bank. And I felt like I HAD to give it up because of my babies. Never mind that it was the best decision in the world, at the time, I hated having to leave it.

3. I missed the adult interaction and the mental stimulation. Every stay-at-home parent knows what I’m talking about here.

4. I felt suffocated. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it anymore. I was accountable to my children, who sucked every last ounce of strength out of me (because they were young – and only 28 months apart) which left me little to no energy, or desire, left over for Kevin.

5. I felt like I was being controlled. Not only because I was “stuck” (and I use that term loosely) at home with two small boys, but because I never felt like I was quite good enough for Kevin. I was always too fat, or too lazy because I didn’t have the house picked up or dinner on the table when he got home. You know how it is, when the children are small, there simply isn’t enough hours in the day to do it all.

I think working spouses have a hard time understanding that because they honestly don’t know what is going on when they aren’t there. Our days … don’t belong to us when the children are little. Our needs are put on the back burner because these little munchkins need us to do everything for them. And we have to watch them every single waking moment because children, are curious and don’t have the wisdom to keep themselves out of trouble.

Well, I don’t have to tell you parents how it is, you KNOW.

Suffice it to say, I was just itching for ways to discard my unhappiness and unfortunately, Kevin was nearby.

Now I’m not saying he didn’t contribute to this rocky stage in our marriage. His expectations were way too high. I was not, nor will ever be, a woman who DOTES on my house. I do not like to clean house, I do not like to shop for my house – if it looks nice and is comfortable, I’m good.

And I have not, nor will ever be, the type of woman who wears lipstick every waking moment or wears makeup when they clean house.

Sorry. Get over it.

But Kevin came from this background, so naturally, he expected the same thing from me.

Uh, no.

Needless to say, our problems escalated. I won’t go into all of the ugly details but suffice it to say, it got to the point where he changed the locks on my house so the kids and I couldn’t get in and I ended up shopping for lawyers.

I’m telling you this because when I say I understand hitting rock bottom in a relationship? I was there, baby. And the view? Ain’t so pretty down there.

So what saved us?

That’s a very good question. Somehow, I mustered up the desire to save my marriage. And Kevin had no desire to go through a divorce so … we talked. We didn’t go to a counselor – we simply got rid of the kids one night and had a serious heart-to-heart talk.

He got some things off his chest, I got some things off my chest and together, we made a pact to work on the problem areas and to trudge forward in our relationship.

It wasn’t easy. I was SO ANGRY with him for so long. And he certainly wasn’t happy with me. But somehow … we worked through it. I swallowed several bitter pills about myself in the process and I … well, got over myself.

I simply don’t know how else to put it. I had such an attitude about things, about life, about marriage, that when I finally summoned up the courage to take a good, hard look at myself and knew that if I wanted things to change, they would have to change with me – well, our relationship started getting better.

It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took close to a year before we even got to the point where we could laugh and be comfortable around each other once again – but we did it. And our marriage is so much stronger today as a result of our battle to get here.

And in case you’re curious – Kevin did a lot of changing as well. I refused to move forward until he chilled out about some of his expectations – we compromised and met each other halfway.

It takes effort on both sides of the marital fence.

But it quite honestly HAS to start with YOU. Nothing will change if you’re not willing to do a little emotional housekeeping on your part.

Trust me on this.

I can’t believe I shared this with ya’ll. It’s been cathartic to write this all out. Perhaps this explains why I feel so compelled to beat myself up at times because it’s my way of reminding myself to “keep it real.” To not get too big for my britches.

To be a fair, loving and good PARTNER. Because you know? Marriage isn’t about a person, it’s about living life as a team.

My list of positive attributes for Kevin:

Honest
Compassionate
Loving
Patient
Intelligent
Hard-working
Persistent
Excellent problem solver
Funny
Sweet
Mischievous
Handsome
Caring
Mine 🙂

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Five – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-21-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day Five: Love is not rude. Ask your spouse (during a quiet, relaxed moment), to tell you three things that cause him/her to be uncomfortable or irritated with you. You must do so without attacking him/her or justifying your behavior. This is from their perspective only. What things did your spouse point out about you that need your attention? How did you handle hearing it? What do you plan to do to improve these areas?

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude. Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.

As always, love has something to say about this. When a man is driven by love, he intentionally behaves in a way that’s more pleasant for his wife to be around. If she desires to love him, she purposefully avoids things that frustrate him or cause him discomfort.

The bottom line is that genuine love minds its manners.

Embracing this one concept could add some fresh air to your marriage. Good manners express to your wife or husband, “I value you enough to exercise some self-control around you. I want to be a person who’s a pleasure to be with.” When you allow love to change your behavior — even in the smallest of ways — you restore an atmosphere of honor to your relationship. People who practice good etiquette tend to raise the respect level of the environment around them.

There are two main reasons why people are rude: ignorance and selfishness. Neither, of course, is a good thing. A child is born ignorant of etiquette, needing lots of help and training. Adults, however, display their ignorance at another level. You know the rules, but you can be blind to how you break them or be too self-centered to care. In fact, you may not realize how unpleasant you can be to live with.

Do you wish your spouse would quit doing the things that bother you? Then it’s time to stop doing the things that bother them. Will you be thoughtful and loving enough to discover and avoid the behavior that causes life to be unpleasant for your mate? Will you dare to be delightful? ¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

Rude people turn me OFF. People who spout off the first thing that come to their mind, without giving any thought to how that will affect those around them, annoy me. People who say hurtful things and think they’re “entitled” to speak their mind and do so without caring how their angry words will be received, disgust me.

Who died and made them curator of human kind?

Kevin is anything BUT rude. He goes out of his way to be nice to people – so much so, sometimes, that I get irritated with him because people, being people, take advantage of his good nature and he ends up doing way more than he should simply because he’s too nice to tell them no. He’s gentle, kind, and quite thoughtful and I can probably give you a handful of examples of him being rude to people in the 21 years I’ve known him. Now don’t get me wrong, the man has a temper, when provoked, but it takes a lot for him to get there and when he does, I’m usually the first to back down. But overall, he’s a pretty even-tempered person.

Now me, on the other hand, can be quite rude. I can be quite cutting, and disturbingly cruel if provoked (or not – sometimes I’m rude just because I’m feeling b*tchy).

I’m quick on my feet and when angered, can be uncaring and unfeeling in order to reduce the other person to mush in about 2.2 seconds.

Given this fact about me, and looking back over the years with my spouse, I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have gotten along with any other personality OTHER than that of my gentle and patient husband.

If I had married another volatile personality, such as myself, I think we would have killed each other by now.

Seriously.

I’m not telling you this to boast, or make myself out to be some badass, but because this has been one of my more serious flaws and one that I’ve struggled with my entire life.

I have an ugly temper. And being intentionally rude? Is never far behind that temper.

This has been one of my personal, and most challenging, demons to date. And I struggle with this demon on a daily basis – with both my husband and my children.

Heck, with every aspect of my life, since we’re being frank here.

But here’s where it gets confusing – I’m rarely rude to people outside my family.

Go figure.

I have more patience with other people. I suppose, if we’re being analytical here (and we are), it’s because I don’t really have any expectations when it comes to other people – I can roll with the punches and deal with any disappointment because I’m not invested enough in those around me to honestly CARE how they handle themselves.

But when it comes to my family, I have high expectations. And when they don’t act a certain way or do something that I think they should be doing, I’m disappointed and one way for me to deal with my disappointment is to be annoyed with them.

I’m painting such an attractive picture of myself, aren’t I? But hey, I’m just keeping it real and I’m not revealing anything that I don’t already know, or that I haven’t accepted about myself for years now.

What I’m trying to tell you is this – it’s taken me a long time to recondition myself to NOT be rude to my husband so if you think this is an exercise you can master over night, I think you’ll be disappointed. It takes time. It takes a willingness to improve. It requires a level of honesty that some people are not willing to obtain.

It’s not easy.

But so worth it in the end because I feel like I’m a better person NOW than I’ve ever BEEN.

This morning, I asked Kevin to list three things about me that made him uncomfortable. Here is what he said:

1. The fact that I’m an excellent liar. (He’s right).

2. My unwillingness to go see a doctor when he can see I’m in pain. (True).

3. The fact that I make him out to be villain and unduly accuse him of being mean.

This last one took me aback. Do I do that? I’ve been thinking about what he said all morning and yeah, I think he’s right. Whenever I’m talking about my relationship with my mom, or have revealed anything about my relationship to my girlfriends, I HAVE made him out to be some evil villain when I knew, in my heart, he wasn’t; I was simply saying those things to justify my own irrational behavior.

But I think what bothers me the most is that HE sees that – that he’s aware of what I’m doing and that it hurts him when I do.

Ouch.

Hearing things like this about yourself is never easy, but it’s almost always helpful – IF you have the right frame of mind about it and take it with humility. I think the real challenge is trying to do something about it.

On a side note: Looking over the next several Love Dare lessons, I’ve decided I’m going to just skip around and list five more lessons that I think are moving the challenge forward. Lessons six through ten are pretty much a regurgitation of what has already been covered, so let’s ramp this up a notch and go for the jugular, shall we? *grin*

P.S. I find it interesting that I’ve lost some RSS readers this week. It’s never easy to self-analyze and I’m sorry if I’ve made anyone uncomfortable with these Love Dare posts -but I’ll be honest, I think this stuff NEEDS to be said and if I’m making people uncomfortable by trying do something positive and worthwhile (saving relationships), then I’m willing to take the punches. I’m sorry to see you go, but I have to do this. I feel compelled to do this.

Thank you for reading.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Four – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-20-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day Four: Love is thoughtful. Contact your spouse sometime during the business of the day. Have no agenda other than asking how he/she is doing and if there is anything you could do for them. What did you learn about yourself or your spouse by doing this today? How could this become a more natural, routine, and genuinely helpful part of your lifestyle?

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Love thinks. It’s not a mindless feeling that rides on waves of emotion and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that loving thoughts precede loving actions.

When you first fell in love, being thoughtful came quite naturally. You spent hours dreaming of what your loved one looked like, wondering what he or she was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spent together. You honestly confessed, ” I can’t stop thinking about you.”

But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage. The wife finally has her man, the husband has his trophy. The hunt is over and the pursuing done. Sparks of romance slowly burn into grey embers, and the motivation for thoughtfulness cools. You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate.

Let’s be honest. Men struggle with thoughtfulness more than women. A man can focus like a laser on one thing and forget the rest of the world. Whereas this can benefit him in that one arena, it can make him overlook other things that need his attention.

A woman, on the other hand, is more multi-conscious, able to maintain an amazing awareness of many factors at once. She can talk on the phone, cook, know where the kids are in the house, and wonder why her husband isn’t helping … all simultaneously. Adding to this, a woman also thinks relationally. When she works on something, she is cognizant of all the people who are somehow connected to it.

If a couple doesn’t understand this about one another, the falllout can result in endless disagreements. He’s frustrated wondering why she speaks in riddles and doesn’t come out and say things. She’s frustrated wondering why he’s so inconsiderate and doesn’t add two and two together and just figure it out.

Love requires thoughtfulness – on both sides – the kind that builds bridges through the constructive combination of patience, kindness, and selflessness. Love teaches you how to meet in the middle, to respect and appreciate how your spouse uniquely thinks.

But too often you become angry and frustrated instead, following the destructive pattern of “ready, shoot, aim.” You speak harshly now and determine later if you should have said it. But the thoughtful nature of love teaches you to engage your mind before engaging your lips. Love thinks before speaking. It filters words through a grid of truth and kindness.¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

And just think, this only touches on the fundamental differences between men and women because no matter how hard society tries to make both sexes equal in every way, the more it’s apparent they are not, nor will ever be, the same – males and females are completely and utterly different.

That is the way they were created. And that is the way they will remain.

It’s a natural fact. And the sooner people stop fighting that fundamental difference, the happier they will become.

Ladies, men really do think linearly. Gentlemen, ladies really do over-think situations – it’s just how the genders are programmed.

There’s no use denying it. It doesn’t matter how many times we try and change that fact, the deal is – that’s the way it is.

So, given that information, isn’t it time we accept the differences and make allowances for them? I’m not saying this difference is an excuse to shirk personal responsibilities or not give 110% to the relationship, but the sooner we take these differences into account, the sooner we can adjust our thinking, and behavior, and make our marriages stronger.

It took me a long, long, LONG time to accept the fact that my husband has specific emotional and physical needs.

A long time.

I fought those needs for years. And I think I largely fought them because they interfered with MY activities, MY moods, MY time, or … whatever else you want to throw in there.

Because once again, OUR marriage was about ME.

Or so I fooled myself into thinking for years and years.

Think how much time I wasted by simply being selfish and stubborn. Once I accepted his … maleness, things began to settle for me. We started having more good days than bad. I chilled, to put it bluntly. And once I chilled, he relaxed. And once I became more thoughtful, patient, kind and understanding, he did as well. He started “living” with me as opposed to simply “existing” with me.

Suddenly, our marriage had substance. It was fulfilling. It was satisfying and most of all? It became FUN once again.

Not to make anyone roll their eyes or anything, but honestly, Kevin and I communicate several times a day. We send sweet, flirty emails back and forth. Either I call him to see how his day is going, or he calls me to see what I’m up to. We’ve done this for so long now, I can’t remember a time we DIDN’T do this.

I realize not everyone has the freedom during their day to communicate on a daily basis, but making that effort, especially when you don’t have time, carries even more weight with your spouse. Because he/she KNOWS, you took time out of your busy schedule to make room for him/her.

Oh sure, there were (are) times I felt squeezed and a bit suffocated by all the attention.

I’m weird, I suppose. I NEED my space from time-to-time. But whenever that has happened (or happens), I simply tell Kevin that we need to stop the lovey-dovey stuff for a bit because I’m feeling impatient/claustrophobic/stressed … whatever. I don’t simply pull back and start acting like a cold fish thereby confusing and hurting him – I TELL the man what’s going on in my head.

And he returns the favor.

We have learned to embrace our differences.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Three – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-19-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day Three: Love is not selfish. Whatever you put your time, energy, and money into will become more important to you. It’s hard to care for something you are not investing in. Along with restraining from negative comments, buy your spouse something that says, “I was thinking of you today.” What did you choose to give your spouse? What happened when you gave it?”

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ We live in a world that is enamored with “self.” The culture around us teaches us to focus on our appearance, feelings, and personal desires as top priority. The goal, it seems, is to chase the highest level of happiness possible. The danger of this kind of thinking, however, becomes painfully apparent once inside a marriage relationship.

If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Unfortunately, it is something that is ingrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults mistreat one another. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. Yet you cannot point out the many ways your spouse is selfish without admitting that you can be selfish too. That would be hypocritical.

Nobody knows you as well as your spouse. And that means no one will be quicker to recognize a change when you deliberately start sacrificing your wants and wishes to make sure his or needs are met.

If you find it hard to sacrifice your own desires to benefit your spouse, then you may have a deeper problem with selfishness than you want to admit.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I truly want what’s best for my husband or wife?
2. Do I want them to feel loved by me?
3. Do they believe I have their best interests in mind?
4. Do they see me as looking out for myself first? ¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

I will be the first to admit – I’m a selfish person.

I am. I used to be really bad, but I’m mellowing with age.

I would find myself getting so angry whenever Kevin asked me to join him in something, or he wanted my attention at a given time and I wasn’t ready to give it to him. Granted, he can’t expect me to drop something I’m in the middle of and he’s learning to be patient in that respect, but overall, I would get so annoyed with him (and the boys) whenever they asked me to do something that took me away from MY activities.

Wah. I was such a selfish brat. (And still am, to a large extent).

I still find myself getting impatient. And I still berate myself about my selfish tendencies. It’s hard to de-program yourself from the assumption that the world revolves around YOU. Society has beat it into our heads that “we DESERVE” so many things – perfect marriages, brilliant children, creature comforts, superior houses, impressive cars … blahblahblah.

Which may be true, but not at the expense of those around us. And we certainly don’t have the right to step on toes, or take advantage of those close to us, in order to reach that life trophy.

And this is where I think the feminist movement has actually hurt women. Sure, it’s important that we be treated as equals, that we get paid the same as a man (IF we’re doing the same amount of work as our male counterparts – I certainly don’t think it’s fair for a woman to be paid more simply because she’s female), to have the same rights and privileges, BUT, I think we have been so focused on making that happen that we’ve actually hurt ourselves in the process.

Now females are so determined to be the best, to have an advantage, to be heard and respected, that the opposite is actually happening; we’re being heard all right, but is it the message we want to project?

Our gender has become the aggressor, and though I certainly have no desire to go back to the days when women dressed up and wore lipstick to clean house (*shudder*), I think a little humility is required here.

I think releasing our selfish tendencies might be one of the hardest things to master in a relationship. Love is not about taking, it’s about giving, willingly and without expectations for rewards.

I’m afraid I failed this lesson today. I simply could not think of something small to buy Kevin. I haven’t given up, there’s still today, but it bothers me that I can’t think of anything. I think this is a message to me that I’m STILL too focused on ME and not really thinking about HIM. It’s not the materialistic aspect of the gift, but the realization that I’m not as in-tune with him as I thought and that I can’t think of ONE small thing that he might like that bothers me.

It’s been a long, hard road shedding my selfish nature. I’m certainly not where I need to be yet, but I’m making progress and the fact that I’m AWARE of this flaw is a step in the right direction.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Two – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-18-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day Two: Love is kind. In addition to saying nothing negative to your spouse again today, do at least one unexpected gesture as an act of kindness. What discoveries about love did you make today? What specifically did you do in this dare? How did you show kindness?

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the attributes we will discuss are built.

Love makes you kind. And kindness makes you likable. When you’re kind, people want to be around you. They see you as being good to them and good for them.

Wasn’t kindness one of the key things that drew you and your spouse together in the first place? When you married, weren’t you expecting to enjoy his/her kindness for the rest of your life? Didn’t your mate feel the same way about you? Even though the years can take the edge off that desire, your enjoyment in marriage is still linked to the daily level of kindness expressed.

It is difficult to demonstrate love when you feel little to no motivation. But love in its truest sense is not based on feelings. Rather, love determines to show thoughtful actions even when there seems to be no reward. You will never learn to love until you learn to demonstrate kindness.¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

Again, this was an easy one for me. I’ve learned to slow down and listen to my husband when he needs me. I’ve also trained myself to be aware of his moods and what’s going on in his life outside the home.

For example: He has a pretty important meeting at work today. It’s the annual Board of Directors’ meeting and as CFO, he’ll be expected to stand up and give a speech to a room full of investors on the financial state of the company.

As you can imagine, they will be very interested in hearing what he has to say. And if what he has to say doesn’t meet their expectations, then the situation could become … uncomfortable.

So he’s nervous. He practiced his speech several times over the weekend and I pray it goes well for him today. But in the interim, I knew how he was feeling and I went out of my way to be extra nice to him – I cleaned house (because it calms him to have a clean house), I made sure me and the boys stayed out of his way when he shut himself off in a room to practice. I put his needs in front of my own and made sure that he was comfortable and relaxed.

I consciously shelved any irritations I might have had and made a special effort to be agreeable – the man didn’t need any extra stress from me.

If he wanted to watch a specific show on TV, I simply went along with it even though I had no interest in learning about the pyramids of Egypt. When he started getting hungry, I got off my butt and started dinner early so he would have time to relax and decompress before bedtime.

But most importantly, I stopped what I was doing and listened to him when he needed to talk. I didn’t criticize him or cut him off – I simply gave him my undivided attention while he talked out his fears with me.

I am constantly doing things to show him I’m thinking about him – I put little notes in his lunch along with special treats – cookies, Twinkies, etc.

Since Dude’s car is now sitting in our garage and he is allowing Dude to use that garage door opener, Kevin has to park his truck outside and use the door to get in when he gets home.

Instead of encountering a locked door, I make a special effort to unlock the door and meet him when he comes home. (He really likes when I do this because it makes him feel loved – he told me this).

I drop off, and pick up, his dry cleaning. I make sure the mail is sitting in his spot and ready for him when he gets home from work. I always give him a smile and a kiss when he gets home (whether I feel like being all lovey-dovey or not).

None of these things are very substantial, but they are enough to show Kevin that I love him and that I’m thinking about him. I’m putting his needs ahead of my own, even when it inconveniences me and especially when I don’t feel like making the effort.

Kindness thinks ahead, then takes the first step. It doesn’t sit around waiting to be prompted or coerced before getting off the couch. The kind husband or wife will be the one who greets first, smiles first, serves first, and forgives first. They don’t require the other to get his/her act together before showing love. When acting from kindness, you see the need, then make your move. First.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day One – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-17-09).

This post is about my personal experience with The Love Dare. If you would like to learn more about The Love Dare, go here.

Love Dare at writefromkaren.com

Day One: Love is patient – The first part of this dare is fairly simple. Although love is communicated in a number of ways, our words often reflect the condition of our heart. For the next day, resolve to demonstrate patience and to say nothing negative to your spouse at all. If the temptation arises, choose not to say anything. It’s better to hold your tongue than to say something you’ll regret.


From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Love works. It is life’s most powerful motivator and has far greater depth and meaning than most people realize. It always does what is best for others and can empower us to face the greatest of problems. We are born with a lifelong thirst for love. Our hearts desperately need it like our lungs need oxygen. Love changes our motivation for living. Relationships become meaningful with it. No marriage is successful without it.

Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that’s where your dare will begin. With patience.

Anger is usually caused when the strong desire for something is mixed with disappointment or grief. You don’t get what you want and you start heating up inside. It is often an emotional reaction that flows out of our own selfishness, foolishness, or evil motives.

Patience, however, makes us wise. It doesn’t rush to judgment but listens to what the other person is saying. … Patience helps you give your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails.

This Love Dare journey is a process, and the first thing you must resolve to possess is patience. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. But it’s a race worth running.¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

This one was a fairly easy one for me.

Well, it’s easy now, it wasn’t always easy.

I have learned, through some pretty ugly moments and humiliating outbursts, to keep my fat trap shut. I had the tendency to just say the first thing that popped into my head and you know what? I didn’t give a rat’s behind if I hurt Kevin’s feelings or not. After all, it’s a woman’s prerogative to speak her mind, right?

Not exactly.

It’s a woman’s prerogative to speak her mind IF what she has to say actually helps, and not hinders, the situation. Just because I feel it, doesn’t give me the right to say it.

Once again, my marriage is not about ME, it’s about US.

But I think I have an unfair advantage for you see, I took a communications class in college and through that class I learned how to speak to someone in a non-threatening way. For example, never use the word YOU, but always refer to the situation, people in general, or turn the situation around and explain how the situation makes ME feel as opposed to what that person is doing wrong.

Wrong: YOU really irritate me when you don’t unload the dishwasher.

The person you’re talking to? Only hears the “YOU really irritate me” part. They tune the rest of it out.

Right: We’re a team, right? I’d really appreciate it if we could take turns unloading the dishwasher.

I can honestly say that communications class curbed my selfish tendencies. It taught me to stop, turn the situation around (think Matrix effect here) and look at it from the other person’s perspective.

(In fact, I’ve been diligently searching for the communications textbook that I used in college because I’d love to post a series about how to effectively communicate with people).

So, this challenge was easy for me because I had already trained myself to reword my irritations and annoyances in various ways so that it wouldn’t come across as bitchy or unreasonable.

But still, there are moments that Kevin gets on my nerves and I open my big mouth and POW – hello foot, nom nom.

And that’s what it takes to successfully communicate with your spouse – it takes a willingness on your part to STOP, THINK, and RETRAIN your reactions because being rash and impulsive really is a dangerous combination, especially when tempers flare.

There are times when Kevin calls me “sassy.” Which is really code for bitchy. And when I stop and think about it, he’s right. I do find myself nagging him sometimes and the man can NOT do anything right. I’m constantly berating him and it’s during those time periods that I force myself to stop and pay attention to what I’m saying to him.

And I end up apologizing to him for treating him so bad. Upon further examination, the reason I even get to that bitchy level is because I’m tired, or hormonal, or frustrated with something other than him, or blahblahblah. The reason really doesn’t matter WHY I’m acting that way, what’s important is to NOT take it out on him.

How is that fair?

So, I’ve learned to be more open with how I’m feeling. “I’m sorry honey, I’m feeling on edge tonight. It has nothing to do with you. I think I need to be alone for a while and work off my bad mood.”

Now keep in mind, I’m not the only bad guy here. But women have more of a tendency to blow things out of proportion so it’s more of a challenge for us to maintain an even keel. But I have found, that by forcing myself to be more patient with Kevin, it teaches him, either consciously or subconsciously, to have more patience with me and to give me the same respect that I give him.

See? Give and take – lead by example. SOMEONE has to take that first step. Why not you?

And by telling him what is going on in my head, it helps him understand, and be more tolerant, of my behavior.

Men can’t read our minds, ladies. Please don’t make them try.

Relationships

Daring to Love: How to Repair, or Sustain, a Marriage

(This post was originally published 3-9-09 – wow, time flies).

Want to know how to make your marriage stronger? The answer is not for the weak-minded – it takes strength, courage and determination. Are you up to the challenge? Read on …

THE SCRIPTURES SAY that God designed and created marriage as a good thing. It is a beautiful, priceless gift. He uses marriage to help us eliminate loneliness, multiply our effectiveness, establish families, raise children, enjoy life, and bless us with relational intimacy. But beyond this, marriage also shows us our need to grow and deal with our own issues and self-centeredness through the help of a lifelong partner. If we are teachable, we will learn to do the one thing that is most important in marriage—to love. This powerful union provides the path for you to learn how to love another imperfect person unconditionally. It is wonderful. It is difficult. It is life changing.

(Love is) about learning and daring to live a life filled with loving relationships. And this journey begins with the person who is closest to you: your spouse. May God bless you as you begin this adventure.

But be sure of this: it will take courage. If you accept this dare, you must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it. The world says to follow your heart, but if you are not leading it, then someone or something else is. The Bible says that “the heart is more deceitful than all else” (Jeremiah 17:9), and it will always pursue that which feels right at the moment.

We dare you to think differently—choosing instead to lead your heart toward that which is best in the long run. This is a key to lasting, fulfilling relationships.

The Love Dare journey is not a process of trying to change your spouse to be the person you want them to be. You’ve no doubt already discovered that efforts to change your husband or wife have ended in failure and frustration. Rather, this is a journey of exploring and demonstrating genuine love, even when your desire is dry and your motives are low. The truth is, love is a decision and not just a feeling. It is selfless, sacrificial, and transformational. (emphasis added) And when love is truly demonstrated as it was intended, your relationship is more likely to change for the better.

Remember, you have the responsibility to protect and guide your heart. Don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Resolve to lead your heart and to make it through to the end. Learning to truly love is one of the most important things you will ever do.

Powerful stuff, right? This excerpt is from the introduction of “The Love Dare” and I think it epitomizes the essence of marriage. Love is about so much more than just feelings – it’s about sacrifices, humility, giving, it’s about tolerance, compromise … geez, the list just goes on and on.

What is The Love Dare? Let’s find out …

Too many marriages end when someone says “I’ve fallen out of love with you” or “I don’t love you anymore.” In reality, such statements reveal a lack of understanding about the fundamental nature of true love.

The Love Dare, as featured in the new movie Fireproof (starring Kirk Cameron and from the team that brought us the #1 best selling DVD Facing the Giants), is a forty-day guided devotional experience that will lead your heart back to truly loving your spouse while learning more about the design, nature, and source of true love.

Each day’s entry discusses a unique aspect of love, presents a specific “dare” to do for your spouse (some will be very easy, others very challenging), and gives you a journaling area to chart the progress that you will be making.

It’s time to learn the keys to finding true intimacy and developing a dynamic marriage. Take the dare!

I first watched Fireproof by myself and on the treadmill. I could barely maintain my speed because I was crying so hard. It’s a touching, Christian-based movie about the courage it takes to keep a marriage intact. And I think with so many marriages ending in divorce nowadays, it’s more crucial than ever to help and teach people to love – we all have preconceived notions of what love is, but I would like to boldly state that most of us don’t truly understand what it is to love someone else, not really.

Myself included. But I’m learning.

I told Kevin about the movie and we sat and watched it together. By the end of the movie, he even had tears in his eyes. The reason the movie is so emotional is because it dares us to explore our most secret, carefully guarded hearts. It challenges us to look honestly at ourselves, and to re-evaluate our behaviors and expectations about relationships.

Even though my marriage to Kevin is stronger than it has ever been, I think I’m still going to go out and buy this book because I think the lessons it teaches is a good reminder, to me specifically, about how important my relationship with Kevin truly is.

Here are the first five days’ assignments:

Day One: Love is patient. Love works. It is life’s most powerful motivator and has far greater depth and meaning than most people realize. It always does what is best for others and can empower us to face the greatest of problems. We are born with a lifelong thirst for love. Our hearts desperately need it like our lungs need oxygen. Love changes our motivation for living. Relationships become meaningful with it. No marriage is successful without it.

Love is built on two pillars that best define what it is. Those pillars are patience and kindness. All other characteristics of love are extensions of these two attributes. And that’s where your dare will begin. With patience.

The dare asks participants to refrain from saying anything negative to one’s spouse for the entire day – that it’s best to hold one’s tongue and say nothing as opposed to saying something one will regret later on. It’s taken me YEARS to learn this lesson, but I learned it, and I apply it today and it really does work wonders.

Day Two: Love is kind. Kindness is love in action. If patience is how love reacts in order to minimize a negative circumstance, kindness is how love acts to maximize a positive circumstance. Patience avoids a problem; kindness creates a blessing. One is preventive, the other proactive. These two sides of love are the cornerstones on which many of the other attributes we will discuss are built.

Love makes you kind. And kindness makes you likeable. When you’re kind, people want to be around you. They see you as being good to them and good for them.

The dare asks that one do at least one unexpected gesture – and I’m assuming this doesn’t mean buying gifts but rather, fold the laundry, or wash dishes, or take out the trash, or cook dinner, all without being asked and all without expecting a “reward” for doing so. I think this lesson might be harder for the men because women naturally NOTICE that these little things need to be done. Men often times simply don’t notice these things. Patience ladies. 🙂

Day Three: Love is not selfish. We live in a world that is enamored with “self.” The culture around us teaches us to focus on our appearance, feelings, and personal desires as the top priority. The goal, it seems, is to chase the highest level of happiness possible. The danger from this kind of thinking, however, becomes painfully apparent once inside a marriage relationship.

If there were ever a word that basically means the opposite of love, it is selfishness. Unfortunately it is something that is ingrained into every person from birth. You can see it in the way young children act, and often in the way adults mistreat one another. Almost every sinful action ever committed can be traced back to a selfish motive. It is a trait we hate in other people but justify in ourselves. Yet you cannot point out the many ways your spouse is selfish without admitting that you can be selfish too. That would be hypocritical.

Why do we have such low standards for ourselves but high expectations for our mate? The answer is a painful pill to swallow. We are all selfish.

If you’re not invested in something, you naturally won’t care about it as much. The dare asks one to buy a little something-something for the spouse. Again, nothing too expensive. Maybe just a lone flower. Or a thoughtful card. Or a gift certificate to his/her favorite store. I often put goodies into Kevin’s lunch, without him knowing it, so when he opens his bag at work, there’s my materialistic reminder that I love him and I’m thinking about him.

Day Four: Love is thoughtful. Love thinks. It’s not a mindless feeling that rides on waves of emotion and falls asleep mentally. It keeps busy in thought, knowing that loving thoughts precede loving actions.

When you first fell in love, being thoughtful came quite naturally. You spent hours dreaming of what your loved one looked like, wondering what he or she was doing, rehearsing impressive things to say, then enjoying sweet memories of the time you spent together. You honestly confessed, “I can’t stop thinking about you.”

But for most couples, things begin to change after marriage. The wife finally has her man; the husband has his trophy. The hunt is over and the pursuing done. Sparks of romance slowly burn into grey embers, and the motivation for thoughtfulness cools. You drift into focusing on your job, your friends, your problems, your personal desires, yourself. After a while, you unintentionally begin to ignore the needs of your mate.

The dare asks one to contact his/her spouse during the day, with no agenda other than asking if he/she is okay and if he/she can do anything for the spouse. Kevin and I email silly little nothings back and forth a lot of days. I’ve learned that he’s quite funny and he’s learned that I can be quite the flirt. *wink*

Day Five: Love is not rude. Nothing irritates others as quickly as being rude. Rudeness is unnecessarily saying or doing things that are unpleasant for another person to be around. To be rude is to act unbecoming, embarrassing, or irritating. In marriage, this could be a foul mouth, poor table manners, or a habit of making sarcastic quips. However you look at it, no one enjoys being around a rude person. Rude behavior may seem insignificant to the person doing it, but it’s unpleasant to those on the receiving end.

As always, love has something to say about this. When a man is driven by love, he intentionally behaves in a way that’s more pleasant for his wife to be around. If she desires to love him, she purposefully avoids things that frustrate him or cause him discomfort.

The bottom line is that genuine love minds its manners.

Man, can I relate to this one. I have such a mouth on me – Kevin calls it “sassy.’ He hates it when I get sassy. I hate it when I get sassy. I know I’m doing it, and yet, I keep right on being mouthy and stupid. I’m usually sassy when I’m feeling cranky, or tired, or frustrated, or hurt or … heck, I’m sassy pretty much all the time. I’ve learned, through some pretty hefty fights, that I need to just shut up and stop taking my feelings out on my husband. Most times, it’s not even his fault I’m feeling a certain way. It’s not fair and it’s selfish.

Reading over those first five days makes me want to know what the other 35 days say.

I was drawn to this idea from the very beginning. I mean, how many times have you heard someone lament over the fact that there’s not a parenting manual, or a marriage manual, etc. out there? Well guess what, there’s a marital manual out there and I think it would be a shame to just ignore it or not even take a look at what it suggests, don’t you?

Love is a state of mind. It’s about acting, not just about feeling.

Good luck and don’t give up. I truly mean that.

Relationships

DARE to Build a Better Relationship

I’ve met and worked with a lot of people in my life. One of the consistent people in my life right now is the nurse I work with. If I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be like this nurse. She’s kind, compassionate, funny, friendly, smart and has a good head on her shoulders.

But she’s young. She’s a young mother with two small (and VERY ADORABLE girls) and I remember what it was like trying to navigate trying to be a wife and a mother while not losing myself in the meantime and I know – IT’S HARD.

There comes a time when you have to think outside of yourself: life is no longer about you, it’s about your husband and your children.

In that order.

Again, maintaining that precarious hold on yourself is also important but that’s a whole different topic – this is about finding that balance working on your marriage so that you have a solid foundation to raise your children. Because if your marriage isn’t strong, then your parenting skills will not be strong enough.

Too many times, people get married, have children and suddenly, the spouse becomes an after thought. It’s all about the children. It’s all about how tired I am and trying to find myself again in the (normal) chaos that is my life now.

What about your spouse? He/she gets left out, he/she feels left out and suddenly, problems start developing. Which only makes it worse because WE HAVE CHILDREN, and I’M TOO TIRED TO DEAL WITH YOU RIGHT NOW.

News flash: that’s the wrong attitude. It’s a human response, sure, and to curb that natural response is hard, but it’s necessary and rewarding if you push past the internal dialogue and rewire your brain to think differently.

I too went through this. And I think it was especially hard for me because I’m fiercely independent and selfish with my time. But I was motivated to rethink my reactions and emotions and analyze myself a little deeper to understand WHY I was reacting a certain way or WHY I felt angry and tense when I was a young mother.

I mean, it’s normal to feel these emotions, you are, after all, a YOUNG person. You don’t have the life experience to objectively analyze yourself and we all know there is no such thing as a parenting manual, we all do the best we can, but the point is, when you’re a wife and mother, husband and father, your life is not all about you anymore.

It’s just a fact.

This nurse and I talk about relationships and she often asks for my advice when it comes to marriage and children. I’m actually quite honored that she thinks I have anything valuable to share, but I do have quite a bit of life experience under my belt and like many young couples, Kevin and I went through a pretty serious rocky patch in our marriage when the boys were young, SO I GET IT.

Which leads me to the reason behind this post.

It’s February, love is in the air. Which, honestly people, why do we put so much stock in ONE day of the year where we have to scramble to come up with ways to SHOW our significant other that we love him/her?

Shouldn’t we be striving to do this every day? Shouldn’t every day be Valentine’s Day? There are more than one way to express love, you know. Love goes WAY beyond a box of chocolates and a useless stuffed animal.

And that’s where the Love Dare comes in.

It teaches people to think, and act, outside of themselves. It teaches people that love can be expressed in many different ways. It’s just that we are so focused on ourselves, partly because we’re in survival mode because for the love of God, I JUST WANT UNDISTURBED SLEEP, and partly because society has drummed into our heads that WE ARE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE that we have lost sight of how to love outside ourselves.

Anyway, I’m going to re-post the Love Dare challenges not only for my daughter from another  mother but for you, dear reader. Perhaps you’re currently going through marital issues and this hits home for you. I feel like February is a month that highlights our own love lives and sometimes shining a light on an otherwise dark corner of our relationship is healthy.

Caveat: if you are truly wanting to make changes, you have to start internally. You have to examine AND BE HONEST with yourself and your shortcomings. How can you fix something externally if it’s broken internally? You will need to approach these challenges with humility and with honesty. You will need to examine your own emotions, reactions and agendas before you can hope to fix your marriage.

And your partner is going to have to make a solid effort to meet you halfway, as well. It takes two to fix this particular problem and that’s a conversation only you can have with your partner. But someone has to blink, someone has to be the first one to give a little and be more patient because if no one offers the olive branch, then your family will always struggle to find peace.

The Love Dare was inspired by the movie, “Fireproof.” That movie was a GAME CHANGER for me. I cried FOR HOURS after watching it and let me tell you, I’m not a crier. But the movie really opened my eyes to MY behavior and showed me what I was doing wrong and what I could do better.

 

I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend watching this movie. Yes, it’s a Christian-based movie and faith is a large part of this process, but ultimately, the fundamental message can, and should, be applied to all serious, long-term relationships.

So put your big boy/girl pants on and let’s get honest.

Good luck.