Thinking Out Loud

November 26, 2011

Recycle Your Marriage

Hats off to blogger and writer Carol Hatcher — I love her blog name, “Sheep To The Right” — for having a piece picked up this month by CBN’s website.  If you want to do the polite thing and click, here’s the article.  Statistically, many of you won’t so here it is for those of you whose mouse finger is arthritic today:

“What are you going to do with that?”, she reached her wrinkled hand across the generations between us and placed it on mine.

“Umm. Throw it away?”, I said in more of a question than an answer.

“Oh, this would be great to make little ornaments.” My husband’s grandmother recycles everything. She saves butter tub lids, the little cotton in the tops of the medicine bottles, and the inner wrappers from the cheese cracker boxes. She comes from a time when you didn’t throw anything away.

Even with the focus on going green, we live in a disposable society. Paper napkins, cups, and plates make washing dishes a thing of the past. At the doctor’s office, you’ll be handed a throwaway gown, and the airline gives throwaway pillows.

Unfortunately, we’ve also bought into the idea of disposable marriages. When your husband leaves his wet towel on the floor or your wife never looks your way, the world tells us, toss ‘em. It’s the same disposable mentality we find on aisle 6 of the grocery store.

Care must be given to things meant to remain. We brush and floss our teeth each night hoping they will last a lifetime. We hand wash the china passed down from our great-grandmother to protect the gold from rubbing off the edges. Hours are spent bringing old muscle cars back to their original glory. Time and effort are necessary in restoring or maintaining something we plan to keep.

With the current push for Americans to recycle, the number of recyclers still hovers between 70-80 percent depending on the area of the nation. The divorce rate, however, lingers around 50 percent.

So, why not recycle our marriages?

Webster’s definition for recycle is to pass again through a series of changes or treatments, to reuse, or bring back. If we want a lasting marriage (and we should), sometimes it’s necessary to pass our marriage through a series of changes to bring it back.

So what can you do to recycle your marriage? Here are a handful of ideas to get you started:

1. Discover your spouse’s love language and speak it.

Gary Chapman’s book 5 Love Languages is a great book to help you understand how to express love to your mate in the way they need it. Chapman’s five love languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Often we show our spouse love the way we want to be shown it, not the way they need to hear it. Find which love language your spouse speaks, and use it often.

2. Practice the 10-second kiss at least once a day.

You’d be surprised what a little lip-lock can do to jump-start a marriage. Make it a habit to kiss good-bye and hello each day. Then turn up the heat by prolonging your kiss at least ten seconds – the longer, the better. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, hang in there. Before long, you’ll forget you were counting and get carried away in the moment. Trust me, some eyebrows will be rising, and they might just be your own!

3. Check in during the day.

With today’s advanced technology, there is no excuse for not communicating. Drop a quick “hope your day is going well.” Whether you text, email, or use the old fashioned telephone, contact your mate at some point while you’re apart. If you’re busy, just say so but follow with, “I was just thinking about/praying for/missing you.” A little effort goes a long way.

4. Apologize for old hurts.

If there are any unresolved issues, apologize for any hurt feelings that may have occurred as a result of you. Drop assumptions at the door and discuss the true issue. Remember, it’s important for all parties to feel like they are being heard. Use the rules of active listening, and repeat what you hear to make sure there isn’t a kink in the line of communication. Then share your feelings in a way that isn’t accusatory. Don’t forget to keep your voices low. Yelling only creates tension.

5. Pray for your spouse.

Praying for your mate is always a good idea, especially if your marriage is in dire need of repair. An amazing thing happens with prayer. When we pray for those who hurt us, our hearts soften, and we often realize where our own faults lie, as well. Prayer is free, it’s simple, and you can do it any time of the day.

If your marriage is cracked, beat-up, or you are just plain fed up, don’t be so quick to throw it out with the crumpled paper napkins. Marriages really aren’t meant to be disposable. With time, effort and a little TLC, you can recycle your marriage to last for years to come.

~Carol Hatcher

July 16, 2010

Did You Get The Person You Married?

Jacob thought he was getting married to Rachel.    He wakes up the next morning to discover he’s actually married to Leah.

It sounds like another one of those Old Testament stories, but in fact, it happens all the time.   People wake up one day maybe a month, a year, or a decade after the wedding; they look at their partner and they say, “This isn’t the person I said ‘I do’ to.”

Sometimes the changes are minor; the person gains a little weight or suddenly wants to take up ballroom dancing.   Other times it’s more severe.

The balance of this blog post first appeared here a year ago, but the problem of “expectations” in marriage is one that doesn’t go away…

glasbergen - marriage

  • When she married him, D. was a party animal. The first year of their married life, a quarter of their budget was concert tickets. But now he sits in the recliner reading John Grisham novels.
  • S. made it quite clear about seven years into the marriage that she was no longer into church. Just stopped going. Her husband is a bit perplexed, and ends up taking the kids himself, which leaves the people there asking questions.
  • M. said she was a dog lover, and J. didn’t like cats, so it seemed perfect; but now M. says she doesn’t want a dog in the house.
  • Y. knew when she married F. that he had smoked a cigarette or two, but never expected all these years later to be married to a confirmed smoker; especially in view of all the scientific data we now have.
  • T. was the picture of health when they got married, so V. never expected he’d be spending his life playing both husband and nurse.
  • R. had never spent a lot of time around kids; was never a babysitter; and made it clear to B. she wanted a small family. That was five kids ago.

A lot of people wake up one morning and realize that they’re not married to the person they walked down the church aisle with. (A strange expression, since most brides walk down the aisle with their father, to whom they had better not be married.)

Much of the tension in marriage is due to a crisis of expectations. It reminds me of the book title, This Isn’t The Trip I Signed Up For. Judging it from Day One, it didn’t look like it would be like it is today.

Today’s question is, do you think this is the norm or the exception? Is it better that “people change” than if they don’t change at all? Does it matter how long a couple dated or were engaged, or do the “surprises” in marriage happen regardless?

And of course: What changed in your partner after the wedding? Did you change? Did the marriage survive?

And yes, you’re allowed to say, “My marriage is fine, but I have this friend…”

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