Friendships and Marriage

“Today, I married my best friend.” That phrase was all over various items for our wedding. That’s how Amy and I really felt. God gave our marriage the solid foundation of a strong friendship. We fell in love as friends and to this day, I can say without hesitation that she is my best friend. There is no one on the face of the planet I’d rather spend every moment of every day with than my precious wife. I love her and I would marry her all over again.

But realistically speaking, there are other friendships that surround our marriage. As husband and wife, we have other friends, may it be other couples, singles, elderly, etc. Yes, you’re spouse is still your best friend but you have other friends, too, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But did you know that your friendships affect your marriage? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have friends when you’re married but the kind of friends you have will have some influence on your marital relationship. The Bible says it this way,

“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20

Simply put, friendships can shape the choices and consequences of our marriage. Just like we caution our children to “choose their friends wisely,” we should do the same, especially if you’re married. Who you “walk with” will determine whether your marriage will be filled with wisdom or eventually be destroyed.

Today, let’s notice the friends we may want to keep at arm’s length. I’m not advocating being mean-spirited or cliquish. But I would be careful not to spend too much time with friends that have these characteristics.

The Complainer

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings:” Philippians 2:14

As Americans, we’ve become accustomed to “having it our way.” You can customize your house, your car, your food order, your phone, your playlist, and on and on it goes. Because of this, when something just doesn’t go our way, we want everyone to know about it. We’ll post a negative review or slam someone on social media. If you think about it, our lifestyle has led us to believe that it’s okay to complain when we don’t get our way.

May I remind you of life’s rule 44? Life isn’t fair! You can cry and complain about it or you can deal with it. Complainers hurt their own spirit as well as the spirit of those around them.

If you hang around someone who complains all the time, it won’t be long before you pick up on the same attitude. What’s amazing is that you have this unbelievable love for your spouse but when you begin to have a complaining spirit, all of a sudden that perfect companion and soul mate begins to manifest all of his/her flaws. Newsflash: it’s always been there but because you weren’t a complainer, you allowed your love to cover the multitude of his/her sins.

So stop hanging around the complainer.

The Critic

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Our words have power. They can either build or destroy. A critic is a typical “arm-chair quarterback.” They’re the ones who want to offer every parent advice when they don’t even have a child. They’re the ones that have all the answers to marital problems when they’ve never even committed to someone for a lifetime. They believe it is their life’s calling to critique everyone. Watch out. Being around this type of “friend” will cause you to be that spouse who thinks it’s always someone else’s fault. If God says we are “one flesh,” then it means it’s both of our faults.

The Cynic

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God is good. Always. All the time. In our good times as well as the bad, God is always good. And yet, there are those who are always so negative. We’re not talking about the power of positive thinking. We’re talking about knowing the power of an omnipotent God. Don’t allow your trust in God to be tainted by the negativity of the cynic.

People who are negative have a tendency to bring others down with them. After all, doesn’t “misery love company?” Marriage is already hard work in and of itself. Don’t pile on top of it by bringing in a negative and untrusting spirit. The wrong kind of friends can do that to you.

These are three types of friends you want to limit your time with because it can adversely impact your marriage. Instead, do you best to influence them to be the opposite of what they are: contented, encouraging, and positive. Why? Because these are the type of friends that will help strengthen our marriages. And trust me, we all need help to do just that.

Simple Steps to An Affair-Free Marriage, Part 2

Step 4: Keep the Fire Burning

Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned – Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love – Proverbs 5:18-19

Time and distance are constant enemies of marriage. The natural flow of relationships is never towards but away from each other. It takes work to make a relationship work!

Remember when you and your spouse were dating/courting. You worked to prove your love to each other. You wrote notes, bought flowers, made gifts, took time, talked, served and preferred each other. What about now? Do you approach the same “duties” with the same fervor or are you just going through the motions? Are you just being romantic so that “momma stays happy because if she ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy?”

People who are labeled as “romantic” work at being just that. It doesn’t come natural but being selfish and thinking about “my wants and my needs” does come easy. So you’ve got to plan. You must prepare.

It’s just like having a campfire or a fireplace. You have to sometimes stoke the fire or blow into it to see the flames rise. Sometimes you have to add more wood or even squirt an accelerant. Then, whoosh! The fire is raging and burning much hotter than it did before.

Your marriage deserves the same, if not more, attention. Throw some fuel into it. Have regular date nights but don’t be boring and predictable. Plan to be intimate. Yeah, I said it, plan it! There is definitely room for spontaneity but if you have kids, you know that there’s not much room for surprises. Ladies, give your husband some money and send him to the store to buy you something to wear. Text your husband a “message” and let him know what’s waiting for him.

You don’t have to be ashamed. Remember, these are all honorable in marriage according to God. I love what Proverbs 5 says, “be thou ravished ALWAYS with her love.” Enough said.

Step 5: Remember Your Family & Friends

As a husband, father, assistant pastor, couples’ teacher and school principal, I have people (both young and old) that observe my life. Now, I’m not taking these steps for them, per sé, but they are affected by what I do.

Not only is your spouse affected by your affair (physical or emotional) but so are your kids, your friends, and your church. Everyone feels a level of pain because of the selfish and sinful act. Having an affair is not a victimless crime!

I remember talking to a young person a few years ago who foolishly exclaimed, “I think marriage is a joke.” After asking him why he thought that, I soon discovered that his dad had been unfaithful multiple times to his mom. In his eyes, what’s the point of getting married and being committed? After explaining to him what the Bible says about marriage and the blessing that it is, he apologized and had a different perspective on marriage.

A dad’s foolish affair affected his son’s attitude and perspective that day. You can do the same, too.

(the article will be concluded next week)

How Easter Can Help Your Marriage

easter-eggs

It’s that time of the year when we celebrate Easter Sunday! It signals a new beginning as people don apparel that comes from the brighter side of their closets. Little girls coming in their beautiful dresses and boys handsomely dressed like “preppies.” And then there’s the Easter Dinner. Ham, mashed potatoes, vegetables, the colorful desserts after Easter service at your local church. After that delicious Easter dinner, it’s time for some games so that the kids can run off all that sugar and the adults can come out of their semi-comatose state. After all, unlike Thanksgiving, there isn’t a football game to snooze in front of. The traditional game: an Easter egg hunt!  (By the way, before you get all offended, I know what Easter or Resurrection Sunday is all about; just wanting to help marriages for now)

It was the thought of an Easter egg hunt that gave me an idea on how to help our marriages. Why not have an egg hunt for your spouse. Here’s what you’ll need.

  • A bag of empty plastic shells (you can get these at Walmart, Target, or Party City)
  • A roll of scotch tape
  • Tiny pieces of paper
  • A pen
  • Maybe your spouse’s favorite perfume or cologne

I think you already know where I’m going. On the tiny pieces of paper write down any of the following:

  • I love you because… (you should come up with at least a dozen different reasons)
  • Because I love you, I will… (kinda like a coupon for a back rub, romantic dinner, favorite treat, or… you know what he/she likes, just write it down)
  • Go get your favorite… (then include the money for his/her favorite…)

Feel free to be more creative than me in what you can place in those eggs.

Then, hide the eggs all over the house (fridge, closet, drawers, favorite chair, etc.), the car, their office, and anywhere else they may frequent. It’s okay if they don’t find it right away. Can you imagine the smile on their face when they find it a few months later? It will be awesome!

By the way, parents, this would be good to do with your children (both for them and for your spouse). It’s fun way to communicate love to each other. It also teaches them that loving each other takes some work (something that most people don’t realize nowadays).

You may be thinking, “Why go through all the trouble?” First of all, your marriage is important! When you said, “I do,” you made a promise before God and men. Keep it! Fight for your marriage and do all that you can to make it better. Your home should be a haven, not a war zone and doing little things like this egg hunt shows how much you care.

Second of all, if you have children, realize that they are watching. Statistics have shown that many children whose parent went through divorce ended up going through divorce themselves. Monkey see, money do. Fathers, one of the best gifts you can give your children is to love their mother. And even as children of divorced parents persevere through their own marriages, they’ll be the first to tell you that at some point, they struggle at the very least with the fear of being divorced. Don’t put them through that!

Finally, your marriage is worth it and God is on your side! How do I know? Well, He did create marriage all the way back in the Garden of Eden. Our marriages are a perfect picture of Christ (the bridegroom) and the church (the bride). There’s no doubt Jesus loves us and just in case you have any doubts, He’s left a lot of “easter eggs” with messages all over the place. Just open it up and read, you’ll be glad you did!

Get Off the Carousel!

Silver-Beach-CarouselOne of my daughter’s favorite rides is the carousel. Whether it’s on a beach boardwalk, a mall, or Disneyland, if there’s a carousel, she wants to ride it.

Can I be honest with you? I loathe it as much as my daughter loves it! It goes in circles over and over again. No matter what horse, or fish, animal, or object you’re riding, you’ll never get ahead of the person in front of you. Then there’s the obligatory wave at the loved ones watching you as you aimlessly spin around on this contraption. Whoever invented this ride was a genius!

Has your marriage ever felt like a carousel ride? Have you ever had those conversations that just went around and around, only to accomplish nothing? Maybe you find yourselves fighting the same issue over and over and over again. You ask yourself, “Is this ever gonna end?” And like the carousel for the motion-sensitive person, you start to have that nauseous feeling that signals some uncontrolled, unwanted “burst” is coming!
Too many marriages live on a carousel – they’re moving but they’re not going anywhere! The same arguments dominate their conversations. The same stagnant schedule with no growth whatsoever. And before you know it, one or both spouses are sick of going around and around that they decide to jump off the carousel.

Good!

You heard me. I said that’s good.

I’m not talking about getting off the carousel by means of divorce, dissolving their marriage. I am, however, talking about a conscious effort to resist being a slave to the seemingly never-ending, unnecessary cycles in life.

So how to we get off the carousel?

First, admit that you’re on the carousel. Too many people are in denial. They believe they’re in a perfect marriage. Are you a sinner? Has he/she offended you? Then there’s a great possibility you may be on (either now or in the future) on a carousel. Admit it!

Second, assess the situation. Not all problems are huge, earth-shattering problems. But if left alone, it can be. Pray and ask God to give you both wisdom to see the situation for what it really is.

Third, aim to make it right. Develop a plan by studying God’s Word. What does He say about your situation and how can you fix it? And give the plan an activation date. More often than not, that date is now! After, didn’t someone once say, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail?”

Finally, accomplish your aim. Work your plan. Do what you know is right. Don’t just talk about stopping the cycle and getting off the carousel – do it!

Your marriage doesn’t have to be a series of cyclical arguments and events. It can, through the power of the Spirit, be an upward climb towards a closer relationship with God and each other. A glorious, joyful relationship is yours , if you would only get off the carousel!

Romantically Challenged Support Group, Part 4

Today, we’ll conclude this article with two more tips for the “romantically challenged.” As I said before, these are areas I have struggled in and seek to be better with the upcoming days. There is no perfect marriage and the quicker you recognize that, the sooner you’ll humbly improve your marriage. So here’s the final two.

Realize That Romance is Not an Exact Science

Continue reading

Romantically Challenged Support Group, Part 1

Digital Art By mrm

We just concluded our first ever Couples’ Conference at our church. For months, I excitedly prayed and planned for God to bless. After all the labor, the conference began with a fabulous banquet. The meal rivaled any restaurant experience I’ve had before! Then the spiritual meal was served up.

As one of my mentors, Rick Houk, began to speak, the Lord convicted my heart of areas in my marriage that needed His help. Because of my training and current profession (which is my calling), it’s easy to default to what we learn by proxy rather than on purpose. Frankly, many preachers can talk a good game when it comes to marriage, and that’s exactly the problem – for many it’s a game!  Continue reading

Staying Focused

Pixar-Up-Dog

I remember watching a Disney movie with my family a few years ago titled, “Up.” It was about a man named Carl who had fallen in love, married, but later on lost his wife to a disease. While mourning and doing his best to live on, he meets a boy scout-type kid named Russell. Funny kid! Through the movie they bond over the goal of going to a place he and his wife had dreamed about living – Paradise Falls! Continue reading