Rest, Relax, Then Reflect
Michelle and I love traveling.
This is no secret to those that know us. We enjoy getting away and experiencing other cultures and locations. We enjoy the customs, food, drink, and nightlife of wherever we are visiting.
Currently, we are sitting on a plane flying over the Labrador Sea on our way home. While Michelle and I love getting away, there is more to our trips then just sightseeing and sleeping.
For us, vacationing is not only restful and relaxing, but also reflective.
We try to set aside time throughout the year to have “check ups” on where our life, dreams, family, and marriage are at. We discuss what is working, what is not, and what needs improvement. It is not always the easiest conversation but one that is desperately needed regularly. We seek to use time away, either alone or as a family, as a yearly rhythm to see how we doing.
There are three things we try to do as we have these discussions, and I hope you not only have such conversations, but practice these qualities as well.
We cant go into these discussions thinking that we are perfect. As great as I think I am, I know that I have not been a perfect husband and father. I know that there have been many times I have hurt, frustrated, or disappointed Michelle and the kids. I know that as much as I strive to be home or present more, there are seasons when it becomes difficult to be home by dinner or to have adequate time with the kids every evening. I know that I can be short and abrupt. Going into our discussions, if I am honest with myself before hand, I know already what some of the areas that need adjusting. If I make the mistake of thinking before hand that I have it all together, then this conversation is going to be brutal and end up in a fight.
Be Slow to Speak
The natural inclination when hearing how we could be doing better is to respond in defense. Looking for ways to justify our behavior or even worse, blaming our spouse for our short comings. If we have been honest with ourselves, we shouldn't be so surprised by what our spouse has to say that we would resort to being a child and blame shifting. As hurt as our pride may be, the right response is never “Well, if you did x,y, and z…… I wouldn't be like this.” I have learned the hard way over the years to say “I am sorry. I will do better.” When we react quickly and defensively we shut down our spouse. We communicate to them that we are not open to their thoughts or feedback. In the end, we teach them that the best way forward is silence. That is not a marriage, that is prison. Your spouse should never feel that the only path forward is to “keep their head down and mouth shut.” You may not intend for that to come across but your unwillingness to listen to constructive feedback communicates your desire for your spouses’ silence.
Use the time to affirm that which is good in your marriage. How has your spouse encouraged you in your faith? How have they blessed and strengthened you? What is it about them that continues to draw you to them? Share why they are your better half.
This is not a time to “unload” on your spouse. What is being brought up shouldn't really be anything new or out of left field. There may be times when there is a recent issue or concern that needs to be discussed, be honest and direct. Speak truth, but speak it in love. If you are not in a place and mature enough to be loving to your spouse it is best to stay silent and seek marriage counseling as you work through those issues.
Being charitable is not only about speaking in love but receiving what the other person is saying with love. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are not articulating perfectly what they are struggling with. They are not out to get you. They are not trying to destroy you or to hurt you. Believe fully that what they share comes from a place of love. Assume the best motives and intentions. If you find yourself unable to receive a challenging word from your spouse, again, consider marriage counseling before it goes down a terrible path.
Michelle and I are not a perfect couple. We have faults and challenges like everyone else. As regular listeners of the podcast know, we went through a dark time and almost lost everything. It is because of that time that we intentionally work at checking in to see where our life, family, marriage, and dreams are at. I need to hear from Michelle areas where I am doing well and areas that need adjusting.
We are not alone.
You are not alone.
No marriage is perfect but by God’s grace we continue to grow together.
Jimmy is an elder candidate and the executive pastoral assistant at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL. He and his wife have been married for over 10 years and have three children. You can connect with Jimmy on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.