Ideas on Building a Stronger, Better Marriage

Our company was fortunate to have Joe Beam the marriage guru come speak to us the other day. He’s a great speaker and had some very inspiring things to say. My wife and I went through Joe’s Family Dynamics class back in 2007. Now after 17 years of marriage, that class was one of the best things we’ve done.

Let’s face it. Marriage is tough. Some people see marriage as 50/50 give and take, but I see it as 100/100. You give 100% of yourself, and if things go well, your spouse gives you 100% of themselves back to you. Marriage is built on putting the other persons needs before your own. If that sounds a little idealistic, its because it is. I like to believe that I’m a great husband and put my wife first in everything, but in truth. I’m pretty selfish.

I’m very active and driven. My wife is very passive. We’re opposites. I prefer to always be doing something.  She prefers a much slower pace, but with six kids, slow isn’t in our vocabulary. Overtime, all kinds of things can build up in a marriage that need to be flushed out. Unfortunately, many times couples fail to surface and discuss the real issues. My wife and I are very laid back when it comes to conflict. You could say we avoid conflict. I don’t go around looking for conflict, but I deal with it when I need to. My wife with her sweet gentle spirit, prefers to avoid conflict. This is what drove us to seek some outside perspective on our marriage.

Earlier this year, we made the commitment to see a marriage counselor, and boy are we seeing a marriage counselor. Averaging 1 visit every 3 weeks for almost 20 weeks. So how did we go from not seeing a marriage counselor at all in 17 years to deciding to see one so frequently? Well, that’s a very good question.

Essentially, we were stuck. Stuck with frustrations. Stuck with problems we hadn’t solved. Stuck with communications issues since I was okay with conflict, but it shuts my wife down. The list goes on. Stuck. Stuck. Stuck.

After a few visits, we saw a few small things you could call marital wins. Not big things, but just enough to make us think it was worth our time and money. Now being 20 weeks on the other side of our first marital counseling visit, I think it’s been money well spent. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my wife, and my kids. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re headed in the right direction.

If you’re stuck maritally, you might try a marriage counselor…but find a good one.

Other marriage resources

Book: When a Man Loves a Woman

Book: When a Woman Loves a Man

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3 Recently Read Books

I’ve recently tried to step up my reading. In doing so, I’ve been able to finish 3 books in the past week. Now, don’t think too much of me. If you were able to see my backlog of reading material, well, let’s just say any positive impression of my past weeks achievement would evaporate instantly. However, these 3 books are worthy of mentioning, and the fact that they are all very different subject matter made the past week very refreshing for me.

#1 When a Man Loves a Woman by James Ford Jr. – a short read that will help any husband or would be husband become the man his wife has always desired. I recommend this book to any husband who wants to make the most out of his marriage and is up to the challenge of becoming the man his wife has always dreamed about. It’s not rocket science, but reading this may make you realize how far short you have fallen of the man you should be.

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#2 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith – a simple yet challenging and inspiring book about making the most of your life. Redeeming each and every day. I wish I could say there’s a simple 7 step plan to this book to take away, but every page of the book is challenging you about your view on life and not wasting it. Every day is a gift. I was particularly inspired by how Robert listed men throughout history and the number of days they lived. The things they accomplished with their lives were amazing. I’ve been inspired, and hope to use the rest of my days to their fullest.

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#3 The CIO Playbook by Nicholas R. Colisto – a wonderful read for anyone aspiring to attain or who has already attained a high level technology leadership role. A very thorough covering of the CIO role.

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A Marital Lesson Learned

October 3rd, 2008 will mark the completion of 10 wonderful, joy filled, adventurous and at times challenging years of marriage. As everyone that’s been married a while knows, there are ups and downs. I’m fortunate to be married to my perfect match. : )

Monday night I was working late with our team doing a presentation to our executive team. Unfortunately, I had a family conflict that caused my wife to run late for an appointment with the ladies leadership team at church. I arrived home around 6:45 PM, about 45 minutes later than normal. I thought I had communicated effectively that I may need to work late. Later that night to my chagrin, I realized that we hadn’t quite been on the same page.

What seemed to me a run of the mill issue was so much more to my wife. I had heard that men are often baffled by the seemingly illogical emotions of their wives. Well, after almost 10 years, I finally got a taste of it. I’ve been blessed for Beth to share her emotions with me before, but on this night, my logic served no purpose. It truly was the first time in our marriage that we had reached this point where it just boiled down to something that was really important to her that I had no control over. It’s odd how we as men can feel attacked and defensive in those moments. Our natural reaction is amazingly not the right one. Or at least it wasn’t for me that night. Honestly, I must say that I’m a bit spoiled. We worked out, and today she got flowers.

Beth and I are blessed to have a wonderful communication style, and we rarely have arguments. The occasional argument we do have usually lasts about 15 minutes. We were very fortunate early on to attend a pre-marital class. This class gave us some invaluable tools that helped us through our first 5 years of marriage and continue to serve us well. Here are few breakdowns of some things we have learned and used.

  1. Every year, do something to improve your marriage. We’ve tried to either read a book, attend a class or a retreat each year. With these tools, we’ve been able to improve specific areas of our marriage over time. Family Life Marriage Conference, Family Dynamics
  2. When you are angry and arguing with your partner, hold hands. This has been a crazy great tool for our marriage. It’s extremely hard to be mad and yell at a person you’re holding hands with. I must confess, when I’ve suggested it, Beth hasn’t been to happy about it. She can be a real fireball. 😉
  3. Talk and listen. Learn to have deep conversations with your spouse. Many marriages never really hit this as a standard. Instead, they operate mostly on a superficial level without ever reaching that 4th level of communication. We recently attended a class that addressed this. Real Relationships

My lessons for the evening. It pays to prepare so that when you have moments like these in your marriage, you are somewhat prepared. It’s easy to really mess up. A potential nightmare ended up being a 15 minute communication breakdown discussion…and how we could both do better in the future.

The Delightful Quandries of Marriage

After finally exorcising our house of pets last December, we’ve finally gotten around to replacing the stain ridden, pet saturated carpet. Yuck, and way overdo. The crew has been in this week pulling up carpet and putting down the new hardwood floors. Last night, we needed to move my wife’s 75 gallon fish tank and oak stand so the work could continue today. Not an easy task to say the least…especially around 10:30 when I was ready for bed.

As Beth got started, we ran into a few little issues. The place where we wanted to put the fish tank was not floored yet, so that meant we’d have to move the tank at least 1 more time. If you know anything about fishtanks, a 75 gallon tank has about 2 inches of gravel in the bottom. Practically a 2″x18″x60″ concrete slab. We had to figure out where to put the fish during the move. Wifey’s plan, put the fish in bowls all over the kitchen.

I’m a planner by nature, so I was more than a bit frustrated by the situation…which seemed to have not been thought through. Wifey got a little testy. She does that under pressure sometimes. It’s cute. 🙂 In that somewhat heated moment, which I contributed to, I found myself asking/thinking, “Why do I always have to do this planning for you?” Then it hit me, that’s my part of the marriage. Opposites attract, etc. Honestly, I smiled, felt a little guilty, then did my part by executing on my marital contribution. Planning and problem solving.

Bowls weren’t going to cut it. Moving the tank 2x wasn’t going to cut it either, so I looked for options. I found a cooler in the garage and voila. The 30 fish had a home for the evening. No I didn’t freeze them. 🙂

These types of interactions are typical of our marriage, and quite often I think about how other marriages handle these exchanges. It would be easy to look at a spouse and say “Why can you just take care of this? Why do I always have to do this for you? Can’t you just get the kids to pick up? Can’t you…” You get the picture. As we approach 10 years of marriage this year, I am increasingly beginning to “own” what I bring to our marriage rather than let myself be frustrated. Opposites truly do attact, and if we really learn to respect the opposites that our spouse brings to the marriage, it becomes a truly marvelous and enjoyable thing to be married…most of the time.