Five Toxic Tumbles That Cripple Relationship

I love going to the County Fair. It is the undeniable cultural experience of the summer, isn’t it?

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The Fair is where you stuff your face with all manner of culinary confections that you’d never eat anywhere else. It was the Fair that gave us deep-fried Twinkies® and the world’s largest donut. And every time I go, I feel compelled to take it all in. But the sadistic thing about the Fair is that the food isn’t the only bad decision you’re going to make that day. You go straight from grease-eating to roller-coastering.

The rides at the Fair are kind of like Disneyland, only without all those pesky safety features. You pack your stomach with fried carbs and lard, spin it around on a Carnie Special and then top it all off with a gigantic turkey leg and funnel cake. Is it any wonder I’m half doubled over before I get back to the car? I usually feel less than fair by the time I’m leaving the Fair.

A few toxic decisions are enough to ruin what was supposed to be a great time. The same is true of our marriages. As we look at the keys to a marriage rehabilitation, we first must tackle the FIVE TOXIC TUMBLES THAT CRIPPLE RELATIONSHIP:

1. SELF-CENTEREDNESS (James 3:14)

Are you willing to admit you can be a little bit selfish at times? When I want my way, with little or no regard for the cost to others, I’m about to take a nosedive over the stumbling block of self-centeredness.

2. BITTERNESS (Hebrews 12:15)

Mark Twain once said that, “Bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die.” Maybe you were hurt or wronged, and have a right to be angry. Maybe your woundedness isn’t your fault. But bitterness will cripple you if you carry it around. It will choke the life right out of you.

3. ARROGANCE (Proverbs 16:18)

This is pride that won’t admit when it’s wrong—that holds onto a grudge. I know people who would rather get a divorce, lose a job or a friendship than humble themselves. Proverbs 16 says that, “Pride comes before a fall.” Arrogance literally tumbles you.

4. SHAME (Genesis 4:1-6)

Shame is different than guilt. Guilt says, “I did something wrong.” Shame says, “I’m wrong AND defective—unredeemable.”  Shame is destructive. It shuts us down. It’s crippling effect holds healing at bay. Shame is like camouflage to the real cancer in our lives, and it injects a powerful toxin into our relationships.

5. FEAR (I Timothy 1:7)

This is the worst of the toxins. Fear rushes over us like a black wave. Fear blows into our lives as a bitter wind. We do strange things when we are gripped by fear. And it is fear that is the enemy of faith.

Why do wives withhold affection from their husband? They’re afraid of being hurt.

Why do employees do less than their best? They’re afraid of being taken advantage of.

Why do dads disengage from their families? They’re afraid to look stupid or that life will be less fulfilling by investing at home.

Why do we avoid God and run from His love? We fear that God’s plan will not be as life-giving as the one we might come up with on our own. But like each of the previous toxins, this fear trips us up from really catching our stride in life. It tumbles our relationships.

What we need is a supernatural installment of peace in the midst of our distress. The truth is that God’s love is impervious to panic; His love always casts out fear. We need only recognize that:

…God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?

Hebrews 13:6 (MSG)

 

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Five Decisions To Rehab Your Relationship

A lot of people I know are miserable in their marriage. Love didn’t turn out they way they’d hoped. Ever been there?

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There is a marriage fantasy that many of us buy into at one point or another: we actually think we’re a living, breathing Disney movie. Every guy thinks he’s a prince. Every woman thinks she’s a princess. In the theatrical release of our relationship, there’s usually an evil stepmother in the mix. But we hold on to hope that if the dragon can be slain, and the love song plays at just the right moment, the prince and the princess will fall madly in love and everyone will live happily ever after.

But real life doesn’t work that way (unless you really DO have an evil stepmother or a pet dragon). Our marriage can become deeply broken. The dream can be shattered into a million pieces. And we’re left regretting having spent money on the Disney ticket. Our marriage needs rehabilitating in a real-world way.

Jesus said:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

Five decisions can radically rehabilitate your relationship:

1. SEEK OUT SOMETHING NEW.

Somewhere between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce, and many more that stay together are just miserable. I’ve had plenty of couples tell me in desperation that they just want out—they want a new marriage. Maybe you’ve said those very words.

I’m going to tell you something pretty scandalous today: You DO need a new marriage! (You just don’t need a new spouse in order to get one.) A new marriage is possible without having to get a new husband or wife. It starts with seeking out something new: a new outlook, a new commitment, a new perspective on the differences that have built such a wall between you.

2. EXPRESS ENCOURAGEMENT.

Some of us we simply need to rediscover the value of our spouse. Remember when you were dating? Remember when he was funny, not annoying? When she was persistent, not a nag? When he was smart, not a know it all? Go back to where you started and start expressing encouragement in those things. Because let’s face it, if you are not encouraging your spouse, you’re probably discouraging them.

3. CHOOSE TO LOSE.

I hate being wrong; I hate to lose. Ask anybody. But I’ve learned the hard way that when I insist on my own victory and make it all about MY win, I actually end up losing. But when I choose to lose – when I help my spouse win, or my kids win—I end up winning right along with them.

Think of your marriage as a team sport—not an individual one. My team is my wife and four kids. I have to ask myself, “What do they need to win?” One of the most spectacular plays in all of sports is baseball’s sacrifice bunt. Sometimes the winning choice is to choose to lose.

4. GIVE SELFLESSLY.

When you take from someone, it drives them away from you. When you give to them—selflessly—it draws them toward you. That’s just how it is.

I don’t think we look at our wedding rings often enough. Those little bands have a tendency to become an overlooked part of our hand. But we should pay more attention I think. Wedding rings are a reminder that this marriage thing is not about you. It’s about loving them. So give selflessly.

5. DECIDE TO BEGIN AGAIN.

What is the worst sin a marriage can suffer? It’s not what you think. It’s unforgiveness. When you hold on to your hurt, you perpetuate the pain.

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

Colossians 3:13 (NLT)

Beginning again isn’t easy. I’m not pretending that it is. But believe me, unforgiveness is a toxin that will end your marriage even if you never file the papers. Set your self free. Forgive.

You can’t fix the problems if you’re trying to fix the blame. Make the commitment now. Make the five decisions that will begin rehabilitating your relationship.

 

Subscribe to MarcusJonesDirect.com and receive the brand new e-book from Marcus and Jen Jones, “The Five-Minute Marriage Mentor: the Pocket-Guide to Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage,” ABSOLUTELY FREE.

Lucky 13

This past November marks thirteen years of marriage to the love of my life. I remember the stunning beauty of my wife and how astounded I was that she had agreed to marry me. I will never forget the solemn promises I made at that altar of white, and the high standards God’s word charged me to fulfill to my spouse.

SuperLike most weddings, I Corinthians 13—the Love Chapter—was read before our nuptials. They were big words then, but after thirteen years of life with Jennifer Jones, they have more significance today. We celebrate a love that has endured not only through life’s good times, but in spite of life’s bad. I’m thankful for lucky thirteen.

You’ve probably heard I Corinthians 13 read aloud at some wedding:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs….” (I Corinthians 13:4-5, emphasis added.)

When you ask most people to describe real love, they’ll often give you a list of all the things love does or love is—all good stuff. But one of the most powerful things I’ve noticed about love in this scripture—and in my marriage—is what love doesn’t. “…[Love] keeps no record of wrongs….” It never maintains a tally of mistakes. It never gathers evidence of failure.

Love’s no good at recording wrongs, but it’s very good at keeping records of what’s right. In fact, anniversaries were Love’s idea. They are the ultimate celebration of what’s right in a relationship. But why does that kind of right-record keeping turn into only an annual affair? How come daily life tends to turn into the long, tortuous score-keeping of slip-ups?

How do you break the brutal cycle? How can you stop chronicling wrongs and start recording what’s right about your spouse?

Here’s three thoughts (with a little “He said/She said” from my wife, Jennifer Jones):

1. Publicly Praise: Few things encourage your wife or husband more than recounting their greatest qualities in front of other people.

He said: Guys, we tend to “think” it more than we “say” it. You don’t get extra-credit for words you never said. Brag on your wife to others—in her presence—and watch her shine.

Hesaid_shesaidShe said: Ladies, we’re quick to huddle up and harp on the weaknesses of our husbands. Make it your intention to publicize his strengths. This kind of public praise communicates a level of respect that is invaluable to him.

2. Overlook Petty Offenses: Most of our daily conflict is cluttered with meaningless mistakes: schedule conflicts, undone household chores or off-hand comments taken the wrong way.

He said: For example, my wife is even now harping about how I’m writing this blog. Her list of petty offenses about me is growing by the moment. I, on the other hand, am blissfully rising above this negative talk. Try being like me—at least until I start hanging onto petty offenses. Then stop being like me. J

She said: Whatever. J In seriousness, let dumb stuff go. Refuse to let insignificant issues become significant in your mind. Stop stewing and allowing those things trip up your marriage.

3. Celebrate What’s Great: Don’t wait for your anniversary (as great as those can be). Turn a date this week into a mini-versary.

He said: Remind your wife (with a card or actual words) why you’re glad you married her. Give big; serve bigger. You might even get lucky.

She said: Put the kids to bed a little early, share a cup of coffee and hold hands for an uninterrupted conversation. Who knows? Maybe he’ll get lucky.

Make the decision today to stop recording what’s wrong about your spouse. Celebrate what’s right and watch your marriage win.