Tag: Christian living

Love Banking

Marriage

As part of my reading habits, I try to go through a variety of different kinds of books over the course of a year. One of the kinds of books I try to read at least one of during the year is on marriage and relationships. I know that I am far from the perfect husband, but it is the bar that I have set for myself because it is the standard that Christ as set for us (Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 3:7). I’ve adopted somewhat of an NFL mindset for marriage:  it’s a physically and emotionally exhausting game of strategic combat where you have to match your opponent’s tactics to exploit their weakness so you can score and do an obnoxious dance in their face. NO! Not at all! It’s something you have to strive to get better at continually.

I read and watch a fair amount of pro football news and there is one phrase (or version of it) that is almost guaranteed to show up in most player or coach interviews:  “get better and better each and every day.” Grammar aside…they are undoubtedly committed to their craft and even though they are at the elite level of what they do, they know that there is always room for improvement in even the smallest and seemingly insignificant areas.

For some reason, when it comes to marriage, we often get comfortable with the status quo when things are going well. For some reason, we think that the lack of complaints or corrections from our spouse means we’ve got this marriage thing figured out. “Hey, she’s not yelling at me so I must be doing it right!” Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. We will never reach perfection as long as we are living in these sin-cursed bodies; so there will always be room for improvement. You may not be as analytically driven as me, but I encourage everyone to adapt some type of purposeful effort to continuously improve for your spouse.

As I said, in my effort to be a better husband, I try to read a marriage- or relationship-oriented book at least once a year. There are a couple of excellent books I have come across that share a common thread:  His Needs, Her Needs by William F. Hartley and The 5 Love Languages for Men: Tools for Making a Good Relationship Great by Gary D. Chapman (any of his 5 Love Languages books will probably share this idea). That common thread is the idea of love banking. They each have somewhat of a different take on how to fill it up, but the general concept is the same. Essentially, our relationships are built and sustained by making deposits into your spouse’s love account. William Hartley talks about making deposits by meeting your spouse’s needs whether they are physical, mental, or emotional while Gary Chapman discusses it in terms of showing your spouse love in ways that they understand and makes them feel loved. The approaches are very similar and have some significant overlap. Both, in my opinion, are greatly helpful in understanding how to keep your spouse’s love bank full.

Over seven years of marriage, this is something I have had to make an intentional effort to get better at, and I’m still working on. If your needs or love languages are different from your spouse’s (and chances are high that they are), it will take extra effort on your part to make these deposits and make them consistently. We all have this natural tendency to show love in the ways that we want to be loved rather than how our spouse wants to be loved. When you do that, though, it actually works against you and drains the love bank you’re trying so hard to fill. Your spouse gets frustrated because what you are doing is not resonating with them and no love deposits are being made. In turn, you get confused and frustrated because all of your efforts seem to count for nothing.

Learning to love your spouse in the way(s) that they want to be loved can be difficult and feel really unnatural and forced at first, but the effort is well worth it.  I have discovered that Sara and I have very little in common in terms of needs and love languages. For example, she has a strong need for compliments and verbal encouragement. Gary Chapman calls this the “words of affirmation” love language. Unfortunately, I grew up with a single father who was generally non-verbal in that category, and so it rarely crossed my mind that such things would have to be spoken. When we began to work through these differences and I started to understand her need, it felt so awkward trying to compliment or comment on things like how clean the kitchen is or how great her new eye shadow looks. In my mind, I was thinking, “She knows I’m only saying something because that’s what she wants me to do to make her feel good.” One day it hit me…well, yeah that’s the whole point! There are a lot of people that like to have their feet rubbed but there aren’t many that actually like to rub feet! Yet, a foot rub usually gets described as an act of love and devotion because it is born out of a selfless desire to do something that will make the other person feel good. So what if whatever makes her feel good and loved feels awkward to me?

If my goal is to make deposits into her love bank, then how gleeful I am when writing the check is largely irrelevant. Every time I spend large amounts of money on something, I cringe and get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. I go ahead and spend the money anyway because I know I will enjoy whatever it is I’m buying. It doesn’t matter if I feel awkward about commenting on clean floors or telling Sara how awesome she is for being more considerate and thoughtful than me. I know that I will enjoy her smile and uplifted spirit even more.

Whatever it is, I promise that normalizing the habit of loving your spouse in the way they want is worth every effort. If you haven’t had a sit-down conversation with your spouse about needs or love languages, it is something I highly recommend. Both of the books I mentioned above have resources (included and/or available) to help you get those discussions started and to work through them.

Beyond that, here is one final word of eternal truth…you can only control your own determination to love the right way. You can’t do anything about your spouse’s decision to reciprocate. The natural question that usually comes up is, “What if my spouse won’t meet my needs or speak my love language?” More often than not, your efforts will not go unreturned. If it does, that shouldn’t deter you from continuing to give it your best effort. Despite what the secular world will tell you, marriage is not a 50/50 endeavor.

At my grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebration, we asked them what they believed was the biggest factor in the success and longevity of their relationship. Without hesitation, my grandfather said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s not about meeting each other halfway, it’s about going all the way for each other.” That is a grand bit of wisdom born out of the biblical truth that we are supposed to love and be wholly devoted to our spouse regardless of how they behave. No, marriage is not a 50/50 endeavor, it is a 100/100, all-in, all the time adventure. Take care of your 100% and leave the rest up to God. Strive to fill your spouse’s love bank, and you will be greatly rewarded with a rich and lasting relationship.

-Ματτ

 

Daddy, Will You Play With Me?

Parenting

Way back in 2013, my wife and I had a great idea. We decided to have a second baby. Our oldest, Mason, was almost a year old at the time and we thought that if we had another baby so soon they would be super close and great playmates. Yes, we actually thought this through and came to the conclusion that having two babies 18 months apart was a smart decision in more ways than one! I mean, two kids close in age…they’ll be best friends for life! They’ll play together and we can get other things done. Best. Decision. Ever.

As you may have noticed (or will notice) in some of our other posts, my wife and I have adopted this saying:  We plan, God laughs. Usually, we say that meaning that His plans are different than ours and we end up finding blessings and enrichment in life taking a different path. However, for this one, I think it was more of God saying, “Oh, you think that’ll be fun? HAHAHAHAHAHA! Ok, let’s do this!”

God answered our prayers and just 19 months after Mason was born, Jonah rumbled into our lives. To make a long story short and get to the point of this post, Mason wasn’t exactly pleased with Jonah’s arrival and his subsequent loss of only-child status. Now, Mason has been a pretty good big brother and they do play together some; but they also fight a lot and Mason wants to do things sans-Jonah. Big shocker, right? I’m sure they will be close as they get older, but for now at ages 5 and 3 ½, it’s an hour-by-hour relationship.

Despite our “flawless” plan to build the perfect brother-playmate relationship, Mason has not lost that desire for parental attention. If I am home, I am usually the designated playmate. On most days, I am barely two steps in the door after work when I hear, “Daddy, will you play with me?” Sometimes he specifies a board game or to play in the sand box or sit in the little kiddie pool with him. The requests always boil down to a simple, “Daddy! I need your attention!”

Truly, there is no reason he should be expected to completely forget about Dad and play with his brother nonstop from sun-up to sundown, but as a father of four with dozens of other things in life demanding my time (much like you, I’m sure), it can be easy sometimes to forget that it’s a great thing that my kids want my attention. If you’re a working dad, you understand the need to relax and take a breath once you finally get home from work. You just want to sit and decompress a little bit before jumping back into chaos. You might think that it’d be easier on days off, but then the fact that Dad is home all day means Dad can play all day and all of those chores and projects you’ve been lining up in your head start to get pushed to next weekend again.

If you’re a goal-oriented person like me, it can get very frustrating over time and you may find yourself saying something like, “Go play! It’s not my job to entertain you all the time!” Sure, there’s some truth to that statement. There are things that husbands and fathers need to get done as a part of their duty to take care of and provide for the household and our children need to see us working and doing what is necessary. However, we need to be careful in not letting this become the go-to excuse for why we don’t want to play Candyland or Chutes and Ladders for the umpteenth time.

I have to stop and remind myself how fleeting this period of life is. There will come a time when I won’t be an all-knowing, all-powerful, superhero in my kids eyes and they will find things that are so much more interesting and entertaining than Dad. I absolutely love these years of my kids’ lives when I’m still the most entertaining thing in their world. If we are not careful to live intentionally with our children, there is a real danger that we will look up from our busyness and grown-up leisure and wonder in our own amazement how those precious years passed us by so quickly.

As parents, part of our daily prayer life should be for God’s provision in raising the children that He has entrusted us with. We should be asking for help in raising them with biblical principles and helping them develop a Christ-centered worldview. We should be asking for help in being a godly example for them to follow. These are the bare basics. I have recently added this intentional living to my daily prayer list for my children. “Lord, help me love them through action. Help me say yes to games and play time and one more bedtime story. Help me embrace this time in their lives so they will still look to me in times to come.”

These early years are so in impactful, but they are often the ones we take for granted. It is so much easier for us to sit them down with a smart phone or a tablet or in front of the TV and check off everything on our to-do list than to simply sit on the floor with them and play a game or read a book. If we do that too often, though, we are sending them a loud and clear message that they are less important than anything else. We are telling them that they need to sit and be quiet while we live life. Then a day will come when it’s their turn to live life and we will be told to sit down and watch our shows so they can get things done.

You see, if we want to relate to our children as they grow up and move on; if we want them to come to us for godly wisdom and guidance, that relational foundation is laid with Candyland, sandboxes, tea time with Care Bears, popsicles, super hero capes, legos, Christmas forts, baking cookies, and folding paper airplanes. I’m not saying we need to make their childhood a sugar-coated fantasy land where life revolves around playtime. Rather, we need to always remember that the close relationships we hope to develop with our children begins with our willingness to engage them on their level. If we want to have an influence in raising our children to be faithful followers of Christ, we must be intentional in being a part of their world.

-Ματτ

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