Relationships

The Love Dare – Eleven Years Later

So let’s wrap this Love Dare thing up, shall we?

What did you think? Did you learn anything about yourself? Have you made a commitment to try some of these things in your relationship? If you want things to get better, SOMEONE has to make the first move, why not you?

Kevin and I are approaching our 30th wedding anniversary.

THIRTY YEARS TOGETHER.

Wow. We must be doing something right. But again, we’re not perfect, then or now, and we have spider crawled through mud and barbwire to get to this place, but we’re here and still together.

Our marriage has reached the empty nester / twilight years, now. The boys are long gone, they moved out five/six years ago, and Kevin and I have reconnected once again. We have grown comfortable with each other and work on spending time together, but we also understand that we each need time away from each other.

It’s normal and healthy.

We see very little of each other during the week. I often work late and by the time I get home, Kevin is at LeRoy’s house across the street in his “workshop” and working on all sorts of projects. I’m usually so exhausted by the time I get home from work the last thing I want to do is go somewhere, do something, TALK. He knows this and respects this. He knows I need space to “recharge” and he gives it to me. He’s not always happy with my request to be left alone, but he respects it.

And because he’s so patient with me during the week, we have a standing date on Friday and Saturday nights where we have dinner together, go grocery shopping and/or any other thing we need or want to do.

We find ways to reconnect and it works for us.

He is very patient with me and I try not to abuse that patience. I’m not the easiest person to get along with in the best of circumstances, let alone when things go down the shitter at work and I’m stressed and in high demand. Everyone wants something from me at work, and I’m happy to give as much as I”m capable of, but it does take a toll on me, so by the time I get home, I’m mentally TAPPED OUT.

But. That’s no excuse NOT to give time to Kevin. He deserves my time as well and that’s the point where we talk about it and make “deals.” That way, the problem has been taken out, aired, acknowledged, examined and dealt with so we are both in agreement moving forward.

I don’t expect him to know what I’m thinking and feeling, and the same goes for him. Our communication has gotten LOADS better and now we peacefully co-exist. I make sure and ask for time off at work and we use that pocket of time to plan trips together or simply DO something together.

We respect each other’s need for space and we make a conscious effort to spend time together. – it works.

I honestly, in my bones, feel like the “Fireproof” movie and the Love Dare were two things that really changed who I am, how I perceive myself and my marriage. I’m very grateful that I stumbled across the Love Dare when I did. Who knows where our marriage would have ended up if I hadn’t?

I truly hope learning about the Love Dare has blessed you and that it strengthens your marriage and brings peace to your lives.

Thanks for sticking around and sifting through my dirty laundry with me. It’s never easy publicly displaying your flaws.

Peace.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Ten – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-26-09).

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 Ten: Love vs. Lust. End it now. Identify every object of lust in your life and remove it. Single out every lie you’ve swallowed in pursuing forbidden pleasure and reject it. Lust cannot be allowed to live in a back bedroom. It must be killed and destroyed — today — and replaced with the sure promises of God and a heart filled with his perfect love. What did you identify as an area of lust? What has this pursuit cost you over time? How has it led you away from the person you want to be? Write about your new commitment to seek Him — and to seek your spouse — rather than seeking after foolish desires.

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Adam and Eve were supplied with everything they needed in the garden of Eden. They had fellowship with God and intimacy with one another. But after Eve was deceived by the serpent, she saw the forbidden fruit and set her heart on it. Before long, Adam joined in her wishes, and against God’s command both of them ate.

That’s the progression. From eyes to heart to action. And then follows shame and regret.

We, too, have been supplied with everything we need for a full, productive, enriching life. ‘We have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either” (1 Timothy 6:7).

God’s blessings, however, go so far beyond these fundamental needs, we could rightly say that we want for nothing. Yet like Adam and Eve, we still want more. So we set our eyes and hearts on seeking worldly pleasure. We try to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways. For many it’s seeking sexual fulfillment in another person or in pornographic images designed to feel like a real person. We look ,stare, and fantasize. We try to be discreet but barely turn our eyes away. And once our eyes are captured by curiosity, our hearts become entangled. Then we act on our lust.

We can also lust after possessions or power or prideful ambition. We see what others have and we want it. Our hearts are deceived into saying, “I could be happy if I only had this.” then we make the decision to go after it.

Lust is in opposition to love. It means to set your heart and passions on something forbidden. And for a believer, it’s the first step out of fellowship with the Lord and with others. That’s because every object of your lust — whether it’s a young coworker or a film actress, or coveting after a half-million dollar house or a sports car — represents the beginnings of a lie. This person or thing that seems to promise sheer satisfaction is more like a bottomless pit of unmet longings.

Lust always breeds more lust. Lust will make you dissatisfied with your husband or wife. It breeds anger, numbs hearts, and destroys marriages. Rather than fullness, it leads to emptiness.

It’s time to expose lust for what it really is — a misguided thirst for satisfaction that only God can fulfill. Lust is like a warning light on the dashboard of your heart, alerting you to the fact that you are not allowing God’s love to fill you. When your eyes and heart are on Him, your actions will lead you to lasting joy, not to endless cycles of regret and condemnation.

Are you tired of being lied to by lust? Are you fed up with believing that forbidden pleasures are able to keep you happy and content? Then begin setting your eyes on the Word of God. Let His promises of peace and freedom work their way into your heart. Daily receive the unconditional love He has already proven to you through the cross. Focus on being grateful for everything God has already given you rather than choosing discontentment.

You’ll find yourself so full on what He provides, you won’t be hungry anymore for the junk food of lust.

And while you’re at it, set your eyes and heart on your spouse again. ¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

There are still so many lessons that I could have shared with you from The Love Dare book. And I would have loved to continue sharing those lessons with you, but I don’t think the authors would have appreciated me virtually presenting their entire book to you, free of charge. So honestly, I urge you to go out and buy this book so you can practice the rest of the dares and read so much more on what I’ve written here.

(And for the record, I was not asked to promote this book. I did not accept any sort of monetary or materialistic incentive to talk about The Love Dare. I did all of this, I bared my soul to the Internet, I shared my marital life with you, in the hopes that through my experiences and the excerpts I’ve shared from The Love Dare book, it would touch and bless your life.)

But out of all of the remaining lessons in this book (forgiveness, intimacy, the importance of prayer, faithfulness, accountability, unity, etc), I chose to share the love vs. lust lesson with you because to me, it’s one of the single most important contributors to a failing marriage.

I should know – it nearly ruined my marriage.

When you hear the word lust, you automatically think of sex. And yes, of course, lusting after another man or woman is wrong and the fuse that could ultimately destroy your life (if lit), but I opted to talk about the lust part of this dare to also point out to you that it doesn’t always mean the sexual kind of lust —

It can also apply to anything that takes your focus, dedication and desire away from your marriage.

And in a lot of ways, I think it’s more dangerous because it’s subtle, it disguises itself in good intentions, it’s manageable, and it’s everywhere.

It’s incredibly easy to lose sight of what’s important. Temptations are everywhere and they are attractive, fun, dangerous, delicious and decadent – hence the reason they are temptations. If they weren’t all these things, people wouldn’t be tempted to go down that road to begin with.

Here are some examples of things that can cause friction in the marriage if you’re not careful and if you don’t maintain self-control:

Friends
Online activities
Work
Children
Hobbies / Entertainment
Commitments

And the list goes on and on – it can be anything, really, if you stop to think about it. If something is taking your focus, your attention, your time away from your marriage and you’re allowing it to poison your thinking about your marriage and/or your spouse, then it can technically be called lust.

Let me explain:

Friends – Having friends is great. It can also ruin your marriage if you’re not careful. Let’s say your girlfriend is having trouble in her own marriage. And she spends most of her time bitching about her husband, or about men in general, and how she would love to just get out and start over. Even though you’re being a good friend by offering her your attention and your advice, be careful. That discontent has a way of penetrating your own life and if left unchecked, can start coloring your own opinions about your life and spouse. Before long, you’re also spending most of your time bitching about the little things and convincing yourself that your own marriage is less than perfect (which it will be – no marriage is perfect) and without even realizing it, you’re treating your spouse differently and making mountains out of molehills.

I should know, I’ve been there. I worked with a group of women who did exactly that and it started affecting me. I started acting differently. I was dissatisfied. I lost focus on what was important and when I realized what was happening, I quit the job. I walked away from the poison and I immediately felt better. It was like stepping out of a smoke-filled room and breathing fresh air for the first time in seven years.

Online Activities – This. Is. A. Biggie. We all spend so much time online that it’s so easy, so very, very easy, to step into an online persona, to BE a different person online.

It starts with the IMs. Then graduates into chat rooms. And before long, you start behaving like a different person because it’s all just harmless fun, right? What’s a little flirtatious activity? You’re not hurting anyone. You’ll never meet that person in real life.

But being that other person becomes more fun than being your real-life person. Stepping into that fantasy world starts becoming more fun than living reality and before long, you’re spending more and more time online and BEING that person so that you start doing uncharacteristic things like staying online later and later, or sneaking a chat when your spouse is not around.

You start becoming close to another online “person” and before long, you’re making tentative plans to meet, in real life.

*raises hand* Yep. Happened to me. And again, I had the strength to step back, take a good, hard look at myself in the mirror and ask myself, “What the hell am I doing?!”

I cut out all the chatting. I put a stop to the temptation and re-focused my energies on my marriage.

I honestly don’t know how Kevin has put up with me all these years. I like to pride myself on being this strong person, but honestly folks, I’m not. I’ve dipped a toe in nearly every temptation that is out there.

This also applies to online games. And that’s THE biggest reason I never allowed myself to join the online Sims game. Because I KNOW me. I KNOW I would get sucked into the game and though I would have loads of fun, it’s not worth neglecting, or hurting, my family in the process.

It also applies to naughty websites or websites that “encourage” you to have an affair because you “deserve” it. *snort* You DESERVE heartache and unhappiness? Because that’s exactly what will happen if you succumb to their empty promises. Stay strong and simply don’t click.

There has to be (or there will be) a time you HAVE to just shut it down and walk away.

Work – being too focused on getting that promotion so that you’re opting to spend more and more late nights at the office instead of making it home. (And then there’s the whole office romance thing. Another biggie).

Children – Yes, children are important. Yes, they need looking after. No, they shouldn’t be allowed to take your focus away from your mate. Children are smart buggers. And if they see they can take advantage of you, they will – every time. Children need to be taught that mom and dad need some alone time. They need date nights. And even though it SEEMS selfish to put your marital needs ahead of your children, it’s not. Children need to see the unity and the commitment. They feel more secure when their parents are happy and in order for the parents to be happy, they need to spend time with one another.

Children are tougher than we think they are. They’ll survive without mommy or daddy for a few hours or even for a night. They’ll be fine if you don’t spend every waking moment, or every last ounce of your energy on them.

Hobbies / Entertainment – same concept as the online activities. Just watch your time and devotion and make sure it’s not becoming a substitute for what’s real.

Commitments – Taking care of people is admirable. Volunteering your time is wonderful. But don’t allow your commitments to encroach on your time with your spouse. Cut back on your responsibilities outside the home. You can’t do it all. Manage your time wisely. Don’t make commitments to other people more important than your marriage. And even though you may not see it that way, I’m betting the neglected spouse does.

Again, I’m telling you all this because I’ve lived it. I KNOW how easy it is to be too tired, to be stretched thin, to be distracted or wooed from what’s important to me and my family as a unit.

And I’m STILL working on controlling this whole online/computer thing.

And I’m done.

Thank you for reading these past ten days. It’s been a long, mentally exhausting journey for me and though I’m tired, I’m glad I wrote all of this out. It feels good to purge and hopefully by reading about my experiences, it might help you with yours.

Hang in there. Marriage is a lot of work, but in the end, it truly is worth it. Hopefully, you can convince your spouse to make that journey with you.

Good luck and God Bless.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Nine – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-25-09).

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 Nine: Love takes delight. Purposefully neglect an activity you would normally do so you can spend quality time with your spouse. Do something he/she would love to do or a project they’d really like to work on. Just be together. What did you decide to give up? What did you do together? How did it go? What new thing did you learn (or relearn) about your spouse?

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ One of the most important things you should learn on your Love Dare journey is that you should not just follow your heart. You should lead it. You don’t let your feelings and emotions do the driving. You put them on the back seat and tell them where you’re going.

In your marriage relationship, you won’t always feel like loving. It is unrealistic for your heart to constantly thrill at the thought of spending every moment with your spouse. Nobody can maintain a burning desire for togetherness just on feelings alone. But it’s also difficult to love someone only out of obligation.

A newlywed takes delight in the one they now call their spouse. Their love is fresh and young, and the hopes for a romantic future linger in their hearts. However, there is something just as powerful as that fresh, new love. It comes from the decision to delight in your spouse and to love him or her no matter how long you’ve been married. In other words, love that chooses to love is just as powerful as love that feels like loving. In many ways, it’s a truer love because it has its eyes wide open.

Left to ourselves, we’ll always lean toward being disapproving of one another. She’ll get on your nerves. He’ll aggravate you. But our days are too short to waste in bickering over petty things. Life is too fleeting for that.

Instead, it’s time to lead your heart to once again delight in your mate. Enjoy your spouse. Take her hand and seek her companionship. Desire his conversation. Remember why you fell in love with her personality. Accept this person — quirks and all — and welcome him or her back into your heart.

Again, you get to choose what you treasure. It’s not like you’re born with certain pre-sets and preferences you’re destined to operate from. If you’re irritable, it’s because you choose to be. If you can’t function without a clean house, it’s because you’ve decided no other way will do. If you pick at your mate more than you praise them, it’s because you’ve allowed your heart to be selfish. You’ve led yourself into criticism.

So now it’s time to lead your heart back out. It’s time to learn to delight in your spouse again, then to watch your heart actually start enjoying who they are.

Today’s dare may be directing you to a real and radical change of heart. For some, the move toward delight may be only a small step away. For others, it may require a giant leap from ongoing disgust.

But if you’ve been delighted before — which you were when you got married — you can be delighted again. Even if it’s been a long time. Even if it a whole lot has happened to change your perspective.

The responsibility is yours to relearn what you love about this one to whom you’ve promised yourself forever. ¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

Kevin is my best friend. He always has been. So we’ve always done everything together from the very first date. We LIKE each other’s company. We LIKE hanging around with each other.

Granted, there are times he drives me insane because after all, he’s a guy. And because he’s male, his listening skills aren’t the best. And because he’s male, he tends to want to fix everything as opposed to just passively sitting by and allowing me to vent or sound off. And because he’s male, he simply doesn’t understand WHY I get so upset over things (quite frankly, neither do I, at times).

So, having him as my best friend isn’t always that satisfying – I crave a female friendship at times. The problem is, I don’t have a female friendship I can turn to. (Totally my fault and totally my choice).

There are times I need more from him than he’s capable of giving me. I realize this. I accept this. And I make adjustments. It’s certainly not his fault – he’s simply being who he is.

We are constantly doing things for each other that we don’t want to. I make trips to Lowe’s with him (I hate Lowe’s – such a snoozer for me). He is constantly doing things for me (I call it my “honey-do” list) and he doesn’t always feel like doing them.

He CONSTANTLY wants to go play tennis – I can’t stand tennis, you’re chasing a ball around and I feel stupid doing it – but I go because I know he enjoys it.

I talked him into tanning with me even though he felt completely uncomfortable with the idea and now, he is actually enjoying himself and wonders why he hadn’t been doing this in year’s past (sure beats sweating in the sun for hours at a time and hey! No tans lines! SEXY).

My point is, we do things with each other even when we don’t necessarily like it, or want to, but in the end, we end up enjoying the activity and we have solidified our relationship as a result.

Bonus.

So I would suggest make the effort. Spend time together. DO things together. INVEST your time in each other.

The same can be said about sex, too. I’ve purposefully kept the intimate aspect of this dare out because well, it’s a personal and intimate thing and I’m certainly not going to talk about my sex life with the world. However, I will say this, ladies, lighten up on the whole sex issue.

Seriously.

This goes right along with the whole “I really don’t want to, or feel like it” thing, but the funny thing is, once you get started, one can actually get into it and enjoy it.

And trust me when I say, your man? Will be putty in your hands if he’s satisfied. Enough said.

Does this make it sound like you’re using sex as a tool? Well yes, you are, to an extent. But you’re also respecting the FACT that he’s male and he HAS NEEDS that simply must be met. When they’re met, he’s more relaxed, he’s happier and he is more willing to be the type of husband you want him to be.

And gentlemen, please respect the fact that sex for a woman? Is all about the emotional aspect. Tease her. Make her laugh. Challenge her intellectually. Make her FEEL sexy and you’re in.

*wink*

The Love Dare book has a section about intimacy. And for many, this is a SERIOUS issue – one that must be addressed and worked through because like it or not, sex is absolutely a big part of marriage.

I’m trying to talk Kevin into making a video with me today. We’ll have been married for 19 years tomorrow and I thought it would be cute to talk about when we first met and silly stuff like that. I have no idea if he’ll actually agree to it, but if he does, he will because he loves me and he wants to make me happy.

And I will likely tag along with him to the music store today so he can buy more guitar strings – not because I want to, but because he wants me to. To him, that’s a sign that I love him when I’m willing to put my desires aside and go with him.

Give, give and take. It’s a pattern that takes some getting used to, but it’s also a pattern that works in a marriage.

Now go, take delight in each other today.

Relationships

The Love Dare – Day Eight – My Experience

(This post was originally published 5-24-09). 

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 Eight: Love fights fair. Talk with your spouse about establishing healthy rules of engagement. If your mate is not ready for this, then write out your own personal rules to “fight” by. Resolve to abide by them when the next disagreement occurs. If your spouse participated with you, what was their response? What rules did you write for yourself?

From The Love Dare book:

¤¤¤ Like it or not, conflict in marriage is simply inevitable. When you tied the knot as bride and groom, you joined not only your hopes and dreams but also your hurts, fears, imperfections, and emotional baggage. From the moment you unpacked from your honeymoon, you began the real process of unpacking one another, unpleasantly discovering how sinful and selfish each of you could be.

Welcome to fallen humanity.

The storms of life began testing and revealing what you’re really made of. Work demands, health issues, in-law arguments, and financial needs flared up in varying degrees, adding pressure and heat to the relationship.

Every couple goes through it. It’s par for the course. But not every couple survives it.

So don’t think living out today’s dare will drive all conflict from your marriage. Instead, this is about dealing with conflict in such a way that you come out healthier on the other side. Both of you. Together.

The deepest, most heartbreaking damage you’ll ever do (or ever have done) to your marriage will most likely occur in the thick of conflict. That’s because this is when your pride is strongest. Your anger is hottest. You’re the most selfish and judgmental. Your words contain the most venom. You make the worst decision. A great marriage on Monday can start driving off the cliff on Tuesday if unbridled conflict takes over and neither of you has your foot on the brakes.

The wisest way to work through conflict is to learn to fight clean by establishing healthy rules of engagement. If you don’t have guidelines for how you’ll approach hot topics, you won’t stay in bounds when the action heats up.

Basically there are two types of boundaries for dealing with conflict “we” boundaries and “me” boundaries.

“We” boundaries are rules you both agree on beforehand, rules that apply during any fight or altercation. And each of you has the right to gently but directly enforce them if these rules are violated.

“Me” boundaries are rules you personally practice on your own.

Fighting fair means changing your weapons. Disagreeing with dignity. It should result in building a bridge instead of burning one down. Remember, love is not a fight, but it is always worth fighting for. ¤¤¤

***My Experience***

 

If you’ve been reading through my experiences (and I hope you have!), you’ll have guessed that though we don’t have anything concrete or written down, Kevin and I certainly have our rules of engagement mapped out.

We’ve had to come to an agreement on certain issues beforehand because it’s so easy to dig out the “big guns” whenever we’re angry with one another.

And when those “big guns” are brought out, they are really hard to stuff back into place.

Believe me.

And word to the wise – figure out your rules of engagement BEFORE the argument begins – when you’re both calm and rational. Agree not to bring up, mention some things, or behave in a certain way whenever an argument breaks out.

Here are some “we” boundaries:

1. Never mention divorce

Ever.

It’s simply NOT an option. You’re in this relationship for the long haul. You’ll work through this disagreement, somehow, at some point. Once you start entertaining thoughts of divorce, the idea worms itself into your rationale until at some point it explodes into a thousand tiny, sharp pieces of ugly reality and before long, you’ve given up on working it out and instead start preparing yourself to throw in the white towel.

Never mention it. Don’t ever entertain the thought of it. And if your spouse ever brings it up, refuse to discuss it. “Don’t go there” works.

Trust me. 🙂

2. Don’t bring up old, unrelated items from the past

It’s just an excuse to bitch and it’s an obvious attempt to steer the argument from the real issue (unless that IS the real issue at which time you need to openly discuss those old issues and work out an agreement, or work past the past – but only during a more calm moment).

Seriously. Keep the current argument on track. Offer to discuss past issues at another time. Right now, you only have the time and energy for the current issue.

3. Never fight in public or in front of our children

I agree with the never fighting in public – it does nothing but humiliate and degrade a person and that only adds to current insults. Besides, no one likes to see, or witness, another couple’s dirty laundry (unless you work for a low-life tabloid, but whatever). It’s also hard to concentrate on the issue at hand when you’re also battling being on public display.

But the fighting in front of the children thing … yes and no. Being perfect and happy all the time in front of our children is unrealistic and I think it sets an unhealthy precedence for future relationships for our children. It’s good for children to see their parents argue, from time-to-time, as long as they also see the parents make up and move on.

But that’s arguing. The rule says no fighting – and that’s definitely a different animal. Fighting assumes ugly insults, cursing and very unbecoming behavior; children should not see that. And often times the more serious fights can’t be resolved quickly; the tougher issues take a while to work through.

So yes, if a serious fight breaks out, take it behind closed doors, please.

4. Call a “time out” if conflict escalates to a damaging level

Agree to stop the fighting and go to your respective corners (which often means separate rooms in the house – or even take a drive around the neighborhood to cool off), if things get out of hand.

I’ve actually made the “time out” hand signals before to signify I was losing control and we needed a break – from each other.

It’s a good idea to resume the “discussion” after you’ve had a chance to cool off – don’t let it fester.

5. Never, ever, touch each other in anger

This one is pretty self-explanatory but it does bear repeating. Sometimes our words and feelings get trapped inside of us and we’re so frustrated and determined to release them that we physically lash out.

Kevin and I have never struck one another, but we (yes both of us), have thrown things at each other.

And we felt like terrible fools afterwards.

Just don’t go there. Take that time-out before it reaches that level.

6. Don’t go to bed angry with each other

This one is hard. At least for me. Because I NEED that time, alone, to get a hold of my emotions.

But in essence, it’s saying don’t sweep the problem under the rug, don’t allow it to fester so that it becomes an even bigger deal the next time a disagreement crops up.

Try and resolve the issue before you go to bed. If you can’t, at least agree to discuss the issue at a later time.

7. Failure is not an option. Whatever it takes, work it out

That attitude will help give you the determination and resolve to work out issues.

8. Never, ever, EVER say “I love you BUT …”

I’m adding this one because it’s a personal pet peeve of mine. When you say “I love you, BUT…” you’re putting conditions on that love. And don’t just say it when you’re angry, NEVER say it, period. Even though your spouse knows what you mean, subconsciously, the seed of doubt has been planted.

“Oh, they only love me when things are good.” Or, “they only love me when I behave a certain way.”

No, no, no. Don’t say it. Reserve the “I love yous” for those special, isolated moments. Never throw that in when you’re expressing your irritation with the situation or something he/she did that provoked a reaction from you.

If you’re going to reaffirm you love someone, then leave it at that.

“I love you.”

Stop. Say no more.

Here are some examples of “me” boundaries:

1. I will listen first before speaking

Shush. Let the other person speak before offering your thoughts. It shows respect and often times, clarifies a situation – speaking rashly only exasperates the original problem which only adds fuel to the fire.

2. I will deal with my own issues up-front

Be honest with yourself first. If you have issues that are affecting the marriage, confront them, work through them and absolutely acknowledge them – especially if they affect your attitude toward your relationship.

3. I will speak gently and keep my voice down

Which is hard, especially when you’re upset. But remember the old saying, “You can attract more flies with honey?” Seriously, it’s true. It’s hard to absorb something when it’s being shouted in your face because people tend to focus on the anger and be put on the defensive as opposed to the issue behind the anger and the willingness to resolve the issue.

Please don’t assume that I’m an expert on any of this stuff. I’m simply passing my experiences on to you in the hopes that it blesses you and helps you with your own relationships. I’m not saying that my relationship is perfect, nor will it ever be perfect, but we’ve been together for 21 years (married for nearly 19 of those years) and to say I’ve learned a few things about myself specifically and relationships in general would be putting it mildly.

Good luck with your rules of engagement. 🙂

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.

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.