Relationships

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

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.

Thursday Thirteen

Thursday Thirteen – Things that Begin with C

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Thirteen “C” Words that Describe my Life

Scrolling through my life, one letter at a time.

1. Cautious –
Considering I’m constantly thinking ahead and planning everything down to the last “what if,” I’d say I’m a pretty cautious person. I don’t like to take risks and I like to know what’s going to happen so I can mentally prepare myself for the outcome. I’m physically cautious but I won’t walk on eggshells. I’m cautious with people – I get very uncomfortable if anyone gets too close.

2. Catty –
Even though we make fun of females and all of their hormones, it is indeed a real issue we have to deal with on a monthly basis. And trust me when I say, I can be one of the cattiest, and nastiest people you’ve ever known when my hormones start raging. However, no matter how crummy I’m feeling, I will never go out of my way to be catty to people. I wasn’t brought up to treat people that way. However, if you provoke me, all bets are off. 😉

3. Censor –
Unfortunately, I have a sailor mouth. And if it wasn’t for my family being my physical censor, there’s no telling how bad it might get. I find myself going through spurts where all I do is run my mouth and it’s embarrassing when my kids are the ones telling me to clean it up and “stop cussing mom.” *blush* Aside from my mouth, I don’t believe in censoring ourselves – we have earned the right to think for ourselves and the moment we stop exercising that right and allow people/government to censor our lives, we’ll lose control of those freedoms.

4. Challenge –
I like challenges. I like tackling challenges. As long as I don’t have people breathing down my neck or any sort of deadline, I love trying to figure out problems through trial and error. I view life as a constant challenge that must be tamed and enjoyed.

5. Charismatic –
I’ve been told I’m charismatic and I suppose, on some level I can be. Though I’m not a big people person, I can be what someone wants me to be pretty easily. I’ve always been a take charge sort of personality and haven’t been, nor will ever be, happy to simply follow someone. I would be one of those annoying people who challenge everything. (See? That challenge word again).

6. Cheap –
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, then you KNOW the answer to this one. There is hardly a blog entry that doesn’t include the word cheap somewhere. I believe in stretching your dollar as far as it will possibly go and will forego a lot of creature comforts if I think there’s a better deal out there or if it would be more prudent to put that money into some sort of moneymaking account. As a result of this cheap gene, we are debt free (this includes our house though we did just finance my new Vibe. But we’ll tighten our belts and pay it off early simply because, that’s the type of people we are).

7. Choice –
I believe everyone has a choice in every situation in life. Sometimes the choices are easy, sometimes they are incredibly hard, sometimes they are consciously made, sometimes they are unconsciously made, but everything comes down to choice. There’s no way we can know if we’re making the right choices, all we can do is make the best of the choices we make. Choices are important and can be incredibly hard, but it really all boils down to having the courage to make that choice.

8. Christian –
I’m a Christian and proud of it. I was saved in 1977 and I’m absolutely sure I’ll be one of the people Christ takes back with him when he comes back for us. There is no doubt in my mind that I will have eternal life. I don’t belong to any religion; I am a child of God and have devoted my life, and the lives of my family, to studying God’s word and living the abundant life.

9. Clever –
I am not a smart person. I’ve never been that great of a student and any good grades I’ve received in my academic career have been through a lot of sweat and tears. I do have a lot of common sense though and I suppose that can make me appear clever at times. But seriously? I’m an airhead and an idiot. There are times I can’t believe I’ve opened my mouth and said some of the stupid things I’ve said.

10. Coffee –
A must have. I’ve grown to like coffee. I’ve grown to rely on coffee. I drink a cup every morning while I go through my morning computer routine and I alternate days I drink coffee in the afternoons. I have to, I get hooked and then get those terrible caffeine withdrawal headaches when I cut back. If it weren’t for those headaches, I’d drink coffee all day, every day.

11. Conservative –
Though I hesitate to label myself as a Republican (for I don’t agree with everything they stand for and actually agree with some of the things the Democrats stand for), I would say I’m a conservative soul. As mentioned, I believe in the bible, don’t agree with homosexuality, believe woman should have the right to choose what to do with their bodies and believe people who commit murder deserve the death penalty. I believe children should be spanked (note I said spanked, not beaten), and think organized religion is more interested in power and money as opposed to educating their congregation. I believe people should work for what they want and not expect the government to hand them things for free. Are there any more politically incorrect issues I can address? 🙂

12. Confrontational –
See number 11.

13. Cynical –
I am a very cynical person. I tend to be sarcastic in humorous and sneaky ways so that people aren’t quite sure if I’m being serious or just pulling their legs. I like to keep people guessing because the minute people “get” me is the minute I become boring, and bored. 😀