Category Archives: marriage

Using a Thermometer in Your Marriage

*This following will also be published in The Vermilion Standard

Wedding season is upon us and, like many pastors, my weekends begin to fill up with weddings as couples celebrate and commit to each other before their loved ones and their God. During this wedding season, I thought it would be appropriate to share some marriage advice for couples preparing to get married and for married couples who desire to grow in their marital relationship.

As I journey with couples preparing to get married, I always encourage them to spend as much time and energy preparing for the marriage as they spend on their wedding ceremony. Thus, in preparation for their marriage, I spend several sessions with couples working through some material that helps build communication, creates good conversations and offers good advice in an effort to create the best foundation for long term marital happiness and success.

One of the many lessons I try to instill in couples is how to take the temperature during an argument/disagreement/fight. In an effort to help couples fight well, it is important to allow a temperature check (for yourself and, at times and with permission, for your partner). To often, in arguments we react rather than respond to issues or situations, unnecessarily escalating conflict and shutting down communication.

For example, if your partner forgets to turn the lights off in the house, what is the appropriate response? A reactionary response often escalates the problem by reacting to it in a way that doesn’t match the issue or situation. Yelling and screaming or storming off in silence would not be a healthy response that reflects the issue and situation.

Practically, when arguing, I suggest couples take the time to do a temperature check on their reactions and responses. For example, when something happens and you react ask: “On a scale of one to ten, how serious was the offense? Then ask: “Is my response equal to the offense. If not, why not? Is there something else going on? How should I respond to my partner appropriately about this?”

As Proverbs 15:1 reminds us: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Too many times, arguments unnecessarily escalate because harsh words are used and tempers rage in a way that is unmatched to the situation/issue at hand. Therefore, next time you are in a fight with your significant other, do a temperature check on our reaction/response and ask: “Does it match? If not, why not? What else might be going on?”

In your marriage (as with all relationships), take the time to use the reaction thermometer and fight well. Endeavour to always respond rather than react – your marriage will be healthier for it.

A Marriage Full-Court PRESS

This article was also publish in the The Vermilion Standard.

In a recent sermon at Parkview Alliance Church, I spoke about marriage and the need for married couples to actively pursue a healthy marriage.  Marriage, like a healthy garden or a crop, needs to be tended regularly to be healthy.   Unlike popular thought, healthy marriages don’t occur spontaneously but take constant hard work and diligent effort.  To help people reflect upon and apply this in their lives, I came up with the concept of a Marriage “Full-Court P.R.E.S.S.”

As a former competitive basketball player, I am familiar with the need for good defense at times when the game gets close and the pressure mounts. When this is the case, the most common, and arguably, the best course of action is a full-court press.   I want to take that metaphor and use it in the context of marriage, suggesting the following five practices (not comprehensive) that can aid in producing a healthy marriage.

The Full-Court Marriage P.R.E.S.S.:

  • Pray Together.  Prayer is the intimate conversation, existing within relationship, between humanity and an Almighty God, made possible through Christ.  At the heart of prayer is intimacy.  It is impossible to have a healthy prayer life without being open and honest with God.  If you pray with your spouse, not only will you grow in your relationship with God but also with your spouse as you share intimately together and before God.  If you are going through difficulties, try praying together!  Invite Christ in to your situation and your struggle and see what God will do.  Recognize that if things are difficult in your marriage, this will be the last thing you will want to do but I would argue, for a variety of reasons, that it is also the most important thing you can do together and for each other!
  • Recreation.  This is a simple and often neglected part of a healthy marriage.  You need to have fun with your spouse.  It is hard to be angry and annoyed with each other when you are having fun together.  It is an important part of growing intimacy together and enjoying life with one another.  Find an activity you both enjoy and do it together!
  • Extend Forgiveness.  Admittedly, it is difficult to extend forgiveness in big things but it is easier to do so when you have extended it in small things.  Do not do what is called “Gunny Sacking;” in other words, do not hold on to things until they blow up and unloading all your carried grievances at one time.  Instead, seek and extend forgiveness often!  This is why the Bible says we are not supposed to let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesians 4:26).  Extend and offer forgiveness frequently! 
  • Say “thank-you” & “I love you” lots.  This seems simple and is frequently stated but it is also absolutely true and foundational to a good marriage.  You can’t say it too often and you need to find different ways of expressing it (words, gifts, cards, physical affection, time, etc.).
  • Seek Help.  A common mistake many couples make when things get rough, when something bad happens, or when communication begins to break down is that they delay getting help until it is the last resort.  Don’t make this mistake!  Seek help from a pastor, mentor, or counselor before things get worse.  Remember, the process of counseling is confidential and the counselor is an advocate for your health and success!

Jesus affirmed the teaching that, in marriage, two people become one. In marriage the husband and wife leave their families and join together in a life long commitment together.  This is a commitment that takes work as couples P.R.E.S.S. themselves, with God’s help, towards health and vitality.  Whether your marriage is good or struggling, put on a full-court P.R.E.S.S. and experience a healthy marriage together.  Remember, a common enemy of a great marriage is a good one.  Don’t settle for good, P.R.E.S.S. on towards great.

Don’t Settle For A Good Marriage

*The following was originally published in the Vermilion Standard.

Jim Collins, in his book “Good to Great” about corporate success, makes the statement that the greatest enemy to great is settling for good.  I want to take Collins’ comment into the context of marriage because I think it is very relevant for anyone who has been married for any length of time.

As a pastor, I am often involved in marriage counseling with people who are on the brink.  Their marriages have been struggling for a while and once they get bad enough, they come, out of desperation, seeking counsel and help.  I am not negating this practice. In fact, if you are in marriage turmoil, stop reading now and seek help.  Counseling is confidential and it is not worth waiting one more minute hoping the pain, anger and the lack of communication will go away and mysteriously fix itself.

This article is intended for couples that have been doing “okay;” their marriages are good.  If this is you, I would ask:  Why settle for good when great is possible?  Why spend multiple years with poor communication, awkward tension, and so on?  Why, when great is possible?

I do premarital counseling for couples preparing for marriage and a huge part of what I do is demonstrate what counseling is and I tell all of them that if, in the future, their marriages become a six or seven out of ten (ten being “great”), to get some help making it an eight or a nine.  People are often surprised that marriage counseling, especially when things are not at the brink, can be filled with laughter and understanding, teaching communication skills and simply making time for conversations that maybe are difficult in the midst of a busy life.

For the men:  I want to give a special challenge to men who seem to avoid marriage counseling, books or videos like the plague.  I want to encourage you with a male friendly illustration.  If your truck had a deflated tire, what would you do?  Would you drive it for weeks, months and years?  What would happen if you did?  It would get worse, eventually wearing down to the place where it would pop at the most unexpected time, all the while lowering your fuel economy and causing difficult driving.  Your marriage is similar.  Every once and a while you need to check your tires, and if they are deflated, get some help.  Recognize that the price it will cost and the time it will take is more than worth it in the long run.  There are lots of books, video and resources that are enjoyable and helpful.  If you desire to go the counseling route, it is important to remember that counseling can be fun, relaxed and open, especially when you are just in for a tune up.

For the women:  I want to help you understand your husband a little and his reluctance, at times, to seek help.  A man’s pride is really important to him and to ask for help in a relationship is difficult.  It means he has to admit he might need help (just as you need to admit it) but it is a little hard on the male ego.  Also, in the context of counseling, guys have a tendency to think, wrongly, that counseling is just hours filled with sharing feelings and ending up with the counselor ganging up on him.

Is your marriage at the brink?  If so, seek help immediately.

Is your marriage good but could be better, work on it!  Read a book, watch a video or get some help via a counselor to make it great.

Is your marriage great?  Consider sharing your wisdom with others and maybe even mentoring a younger couple with the important lessons you have learned along the way.

Whatever you do, don’t settle for a good marriage when a great marriage is possible.