Monthly Archives: July 2014

Tell Her (and everyone else) About It!

When I was a child there were challenges and difficulties.  My eldest sister passed away before she  entered high school and my parents divorced the following year.  I was about 10 years old.  It was a rather dark time in my life as I had not yet been introduced to Jesus.  Mom left the state and dad worked hard to raise the three of us that remained.  A couple of years later mom returned but there were still problems with her new husband and a host of other issues.  Dad had some anger issues and there was a fair amount of yelling between us as children and him.

Discouraged yet?

By all rights I should have come out of that situation emotionally stunted and very withdrawn.  However if you’ve ever met me you know I am a positive person, chronically happy and high on the self-confidence scale.  Why?

Two reasons.  The first is, of course, the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.  The second is less clear from the story of my childhood.  My parents, like all of us who have children, made many mistakes.  But they got one BIG thing consistently right.

Over and over I was told that I was intelligent, that I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to achieve, effectively built up to the belief that I was able to change the world if that was my desire.  There were times that I took it too far, issues with arrogance had to be dealt with by the Lord, but all in all it was healthy to have the uplifting words in my life.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

My parents didn’t take me to church at this time in my life, but somehow they both had the gift of encouragement.  I firmly believe God planted that in them for a specific reason.

How does this apply to HappierHusband?  Simple, encouragement is part of my spiritual DNA.  I constantly talk up my lovely bride (see what I did there? :-)).  In fact it is very uncommon for me to speak to Sally using her given name.  My conversations with her are sprinkled with terms of endearment such as “pretty girl”, “hot wife”, “my love”, “love of my life”.  This type of speech is a constant reminder to her just how precious she is to me.  From the other perspective it is a constant reminder to me to treat her with love and care.

Hot Wife

When I am away from her speaking to others she gets complimented by me.   A LOT!  Guys you want a way to get some points with your lovely lady?  Talk her up to family members, mutual friends and even strangers.  I promise it will get back to her and you WILL be rewarded.  That’s not why you do it, just a fringe benefit.

Three final points:

1) Never ever EVER EVER insult your wife.  Never.  Ever.  Ever.  Words can cause incredible harm.  “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18.  Encourage her and build her up and you will see her spirit be lifted up and her joy increase.

2) I do not tell you about how I speak to my wife in order to brag, but rather to encourage you.  Every word out of a husband’s mouth to his wife should be filled with kindness and love, compassion and grace.

3) If you make a habit of telling her how amazing she is, how much you love her and how much she means to you it will not only affect her, it will affect you.  You can’t help but fall more and more in love with the person on whom you constantly lavish affection.

Now go and tell her..and everyone else!

-Troy

 

What Does She Think?

Hey all!  Today is our first guest post at HappierHusband.com.  It seems you only get MY perspective on our marriage and lessons learned.  Get ready.  Coming at you now, the love of my life, Sally Stoneking.  Enjoy!

Enter Sally:

So your husband starts a blog about marriage and being a better husband. How would you feel about it? What do you think of it? I thought maybe some of you might be wondering about the other side of the story. I guess I will start from the beginning…

We met in college when I was almost 18 years old. He knew from the beginning that I was “the one.” I didn’t. Even though we had fun together and got along well, I kept letting different fears about the future and my own plans get in the way and broke off the relationship 7 times in the first year (I tell him that was his training period). Actually, he was a perfect gentleman from the start, and I wasn’t used to having someone open the car door for me every time I went to get in.  He was also a lot more outgoing person than I was (and he still is). The day came when I finally realized how much I loved being around him and very soon we were engaged and then married.

The first couple of years were great! We were still in college and living the married life. A little over two years later, we had a baby, and life got more complicated. A few months later, Troy graduated and took a full-time teaching job that was salaried and included a few evenings per week as well. Suddenly, we had a baby and not much time together. We went from being together most of every day to hardly seeing each other.

It got rough! Being alone with a baby most of my days, I became an emotional mess.  We had no family nearby and we mostly saw each other on weekends. Then we were introduced to the book “The Five Love Languages.” (From Troy – see The Book That Started It All for more information.) With baby #2 on the way, we started making time for each other. We joined a small group Bible study with a bunch of married friends from college. Troy got a different job that required only 40 hours per week and our quality time went back up. Making time for God and each other GREATLY improved our relationship!

(From Troy: In case you didn’t catch that, Sally’s primary love language is Quality Time. :-))

Just like most people, we have had ups and downs. We have both had days where we were irritable or exhausted. Thankfully, they weren’t always the same days, but sometimes they were. God taught us, though, that we need to respect and love each other no matter how we feel at the time. When we have a problem or one of us makes a mistake, we don’t blow up or start yelling at each other. That never solves problems, it only intensifies them. We try to be compassionate and show each other some grace and help in solving whatever situation or problem has come along, and there have been PLENTY. Sometimes we just need to let our spouse know we care about the issue they are dealing with regardless of whether or not we can help to change the situation.

The point is, life doesn’t always go how you planned and things are going to happen. You ARE going to have problems. How you choose to deal with them together is what is going to make your marriage stronger or weaker.  We are each responsible for how we react to situations, we shouldn’t just rely on the other person to make it better for us.

It took me a lot of years, but I finally have given things over to God. Every once in a while fear and worry starts to poke their heads in again, but I am quickly reminded by the books I read, the Bible, my husband or sermons I listen to online that fear and worry do me no good. I just have to PRAY! I recently heard somewhere that if you are having a rough time in your relationship, instead of praying for your spouse to change, pray for God to give THEM the desires of their heart. When you start becoming less selfish and more concerned about the other person’s well-being and happiness, you will begin to be happier as well. Definitely check out the book, “The Five Love Languages” and apply what you read, you will notice a significant improvement.

 

So how do I feel about my husband writing a blog? I feel proud of him for doing something to make a difference! He is passionate about helping other people be successful in marriage and I support him in this 100%. I think he is following the path that God has laid out for him.

-Sally

From Troy: Please let us know in the comments about your thoughts in relation to Sally’s post.  I am incredibly proud of her for what she has written.  It was unprompted by me and I’m SO glad she took the initiative.  Love the post and love her!  :-)

 

Why Christian Couples Get Divorced

I hesitated a little in thinking about writing this topic.  I did.  In fact this blog post has been typed up and pretty much ready to go for several weeks.  Far too many people I know and love (including my own parents) have gone through the challenge of a divorce.  But I think it needs to be stated.

Here is the simple reason why “Christian” couples get divorced.  One or both parties is not truly following Christ.

Now I sit waiting for all of the negative comments from the folks who were so offended by my statement that they stopped reading at that point.

Let’s hit some major reasons people (including Christian) give for divorce:

  • We just grew apart.” – Yeah.  That one.  Sorry, but people following Christ in a marriage grow closer together, not further apart.  As previously noted on this blog, according to a study quoted by Andy Stanley, “the divorce rate in couples who regularly pray out loud together is reported to be less than 1 in 10,000.”  There is truth in the statement that the couple that prays together stays together.  Intentionality is the key.  Check out 22 Years of Failure.

  • “He (or she) cheated on me!” – Ok.  This is the one that Jesus gives as allowing for divorce.  But even in this incredibly painful and trust destroying situation divorce should not be the first thought.  The first thought should be forgiveness.  Forgiveness first and if the spouse is repentant and seeking to change then accept them back with love.  From 1 Corinthians 13: 4-6 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  This passage should not only be for our weddings, but more importantly for our darkest days. 
  • We just don’t love each other anymore.” – This is perhaps the most insidious of the lot.  It’s also manifested as “I just don’t feel that way about her (or him) anymore.”  I have news for folks in this boat.  If you think love is a feeling then you might want to check out Dr. Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages (see The Book That Started It All).  Because the feeling often assumed to be love is either lust or limerance.  Limerance is period of time right after you meet a new person when you temporarily lose your mind.  Hollywood makes a lot of money in romantic comedies peddling this off as “love”.  Don’t believe it.  Love is a choice.  You choose to love your spouse, whether you feel like it or not.  Feelings follow action.  If you take action to love your spouse then you will feel love.  I promise.  Another scripture, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).  God gave His one and only Son.  He chose to love us.
  • “He (or she) has this habit, mannerism, etc. that I just can not stand!” – Listen, someone has to be the mature one here.  If their habit annoys you then the problem isn’t them…I’m just saying.  Here is something from the apostle Paul, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)  I have several weird, stupid habits.  My lovely bride either graciously ignores them OR (and this is true love :-)) helps me with them.  Cup. In front of the microwave.  All the time.

If both parties are truly following Christ then the odds of a divorce are slim to none.  One more quote based on real life couples and statistics.  In her book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages author Shaunti Feldhahan notes the following, “Highly happy couples tend to put God at the center of their marriage and focus on Him, rather than on their marriage or spouse, for fulfillment and happiness.

There ya go.  Hope you aren’t too angry with me.  :-)

-Troy

Quality Time in an Unusual Manner

We often hear the term “quality time”.  Commonly understood quality time is when I am with my spouse, doing some type of activity that we enjoy and draws us closer together.  This could be sitting and having a conversation, taking a long walk together, playing a game we enjoy, traveling to a favorite destination or any other of a long list of mutually enjoyable options.

But what if “quality time” were also used for self improvement?  We’ve talked about improving our marriages through books and mentoring. But what about the physical side  Like it or not, for many of us we just feel lousy.  We lack energy, we don’t like our bodies, and the temptation is to just come home and sit.  But we can do better.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

Everyone recognizes the impact of the mind and attitude to our marriages.  Can I suggest the health of our bodies is a factor as well?  If it is a challenge to just get through the day because we haven’t properly taken care of our bodies then how can we have the fortitude to be the best for our spouse?

The health of your body can have a direct impact on your attitude.

Let me be perfectly clear.  It is absolutely possible to have a chronic health condition, such as a degenerative disease, and through the grace and power of God have a great attitude.  In fact we have a friend with multiple sclerosis and her attitude is incredible!  But as much as it is under your control you should be in the best possible health.  Let me give you some reasons why this is important:

1) You’ll feel better and therefore enjoy life more.

2) You’ll be able to try new things that you could not do before.

3) You and your spouse will find more quality time activities that also make you both healthier.

4) You’ll have longer life to enjoy with your spouse, children, grandchildren, etc.

5) God commanded it.

Wait?  What?  God commanded me to be in better health?  Yes.  Here are words of Jesus.

 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Luke 10:27

“With all your strength.”  We often overlook that, but our “strength” is not just mental willpower, it is physical.  If we are to be the hands and feet of Christ, part of His body, then we need to make our bodies healthy.  If there is something that I am doing (overeating, being too sedentary) that limits my ability to serve God then I need to change that.  Here is another:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? – 1 Corinthians 6:19

If our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit we need to care of them.  You would not just fill your church sanctuary with garbage and never make an effort to clean it.  Why therefore is is normal for us to eat junk food and not exercise?

Let me make two practical recommendations:

1) Make a plan and commitment together to start eating healthier.  I will not suggest a specific method, but Sally and I have done so for the past several years and it has made a HUGE difference for our health in many ways.  If you want specific details then feel free to contact me directly.

2) Start exercising regularly together.  I love spending time with my amazing bride and over the past couple of years one of our favorite “quality time” activities has become working out at the gym as a couple.  It’s cheap, we are getting in better shape, and we can encourage each other.  Again if you’d like recommendations just let me know.

Now go out there and get moving with your spouse!

-Troy

The Problem with (some) Marriage Advice

That must seem like an odd title…since it would seem that “Marriage Advice” is one of the primary themes of this blog.

I read a fair amount about marriage. In addition I hear various speakers express their marriage views.

Interestingly both Christian and secular authors and speakers often follow the same track. They espouse expectations of ‘normal’ married life based on ALL types of marriages. Basically averaging out every marriage, healthy or unhealthy and telling you that’s what you will get.

The mantra is that “all marriages go through certain stages” or “all marriages have great challenges” or even, “no marriage is ever truly happy for the long term.”

Whoa. If I were into that school of thought I would be depressed.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in basing my expectations of marriage on what someone else calls ‘normal’. I want extraordinary. I don’t want what everyone else has, I want what is POSSIBLE!

Matthew 19:26 says, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I want the best marriage!  It’s possible!  Do YOU want the best marriage?

Here is some safe advice. If you want the BEST possible marriage then seek out mentors who have what you want and emulate them…no matter what the ‘experts’ say.

There is truth in the statement, “You get what you expect to get.”  If you read books and articles about all of the problems and issues that are “normal” in marriage then you will believe that to be the case. Then you’ll see those issues. I promise. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. But if you believe for something different then you’ll see what is NOT “normal”.

Your extraordinary marriage waits on the other side of your belief. You want it?  There are three steps:

1) Pray for it.

2) Believe for it.

3) Love for it.

You CAN have the best possible marriage…but only if you want it.

Go be happy!

-Troy

 

Something I Hate

I am bad at DIY (do it yourself) work. Really bad. Here is the mathematical explanation:

Small leak + one hour of my effort = Noah’s Flood.

The Lord gave me relationship and technology skills…but not handyman capabilities.  Tim Taylor would kick me out of the man club with a significant grunt.

In response I have developed a severe hatred for all home improvement (pun intended) type projects. Hatred. Severe. Like Lex Luthor hates Superman or Gargamel hates Papa Smurf. Arch enemies…me and DIY.

You know what my wonderful wife loves?  Painting. Not the Andy Warhol or Leonardo DaVinci type stuff…painting rooms in our house. I don’t. At all. It’s DIY. I hate it. Clear  I’d rather run three Warrior Dash races in a row than paint a room. (Perhaps that’s not a good example…because running a Warrior Dash is AWESOME!)

Recently we’ve determined we need to do some fixing up of our home. You know what that includes?  Care to guess?  Yep. Painting rooms.

You know what I did?  Volunteered to help. Sally’s response?  Verbatim: “But you hate painting.”  Truer words were never spoken.

So why did I volunteer?  Simple.

Sometimes you need to do what you hate to serve the one that you love. 

Don’t miss this. Serving your wife has less to do with the action itself than the willingness to do it. The mere act of volunteering is a demonstration of humility and self denial.

One last point. When I volunteered I was VERY careful to do so sincerely. Begrudgingly serving is worse than not serving at all. We must serve with an attitude of love and grace.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” -Galatians 5:13

Oh, FYI she let me paint one side of one door. Apparently even though I was willing to serve she wasn’t willing to let me mess up the whole job. Fair enough.

Tell me in the comments how you are going out there to serve your wife in love!

-Troy

 

Hard Work?

Here we go. Time to deal with another marital misconception.

Life is challenging.  Bills, illnesses, school, moves, uncertainty, work and people.  All those people!  Seriously.  There are times when it might seem like it would be a WHOLE lot simpler if it weren’t for all those crazy people in your life.  :-)

This isn’t easy.  Interacting with others with whom you have little or nothing in common.  Working with those who rub you the wrong way.  Dealing with parents and (sometimes) children can be difficult.  Relationships can be hard work.

You know what should not be hard work?  Marriage.

Marriage should be a sanctuary. A place of rest where we get and give comfort and support. A place where the challenges of everyday life are met with a spirit of unity and confidence. Confidence that no matter the circumstances we will come out the other side stronger and closer to each other and to God. Strife is to be avoided at all costs. Marriage is grace and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, safety and security.

For a period of time in our early marriage this was not our reality. We didn’t have much time together, we were flat broke and we allowed the pressures of life to invade our relationship. Is that you right now?  Is your home a place you dread to go because it is anything but a sanctuary?  Or perhaps it is a place of quiet desperation, just struggling to make through another day without walking away?  The good news?  There is hope!

Let me encourage you to go back and read 22 Years of Failure and The Book That Started It All.  Start by applying what you read in each of those posts.

When I married Sally I committed to spending our lives together.  Marriage is not two people living together and sharing expenses.  It is giving and caring and loving.  It is seeing the other person’s path as the same as your own.

I hear often that marriage is hard work. But I’ve also read that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life. I LOVE being married to Sally. It’s not hard work, it’s a joy!

Let me make a statement that will either draw cheers or anger.  I doubt there will be people in the middle.

If your marriage is hard work then something is wrong.  Bad marriages are incredibly difficult. Good marriages are hard work. Great, God-centered marriages?  Not so much. 

What do I mean?  I do NOT mean you’ll face life without challenges.  You will still see times of joy and sorrow, feast and famine, certainty and doubt.  That is life and “…He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (Matthew 5:45)

However never forget, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23

The Holy Spirit is the key to your best marriage.

Marriage is only “hard work” when one or both spouses put their wants/needs above the other.  When our goal is to serve then marriage becomes a greater joy than you might have ever imagined!  Marriage should always be the both of you, the most inseparable of teams, seeking a singular purpose. We are no longer two people with separate plans and hearts, but rather one flesh, a united spirit, seeking to do God’s will and walk His path together.

It’s not “hard work” to be married. It’s “hard work” to be married but still be trying to walk separate paths. 

Here is my challenge to you.  Find something you can do TODAY to decrease the marital “hard work” for your wife.

Tell me in the comments how you will make this happen.

Now go make her life easier!

-Troy

 

 

The Book That Started It All

I love to share our real life experiences (check out “Recent Posts” to the right for more) and today is no different. However we are going to take this WAY back. Back to when hair and Kenny G were still big. (Ok, Kenny G is still kinda big.). This was the mid 90s…the time of Titanic and Twister (the movie, not the colored dot game) and Apollo 13.

One of the most common questions couples, both married and engaged, want to know is this; what makes some marriages succeed and others fail?

Of course the first and best answer is to center your personal lives and marriage on God and His Word. God can trump all ills and difficulties, trials and temptations. After God for us there was one book. One book that took us from a challenging marriage in a very iffy time to an amazing marriage that still ROCKS after 23+ years.

When we had been married only a few years we found this book and knew that it was of God.  That was 1995…and things have never been the same for us.

If you read only ONE book this summer (after the Bible) this needs to be it. Everything changed for us when we read this book and applied the crazy simple principles. So easy and so profound. If you want what we have then do what we did. Grab this book and devour it!  Spend time in it. We’ve taught many couples (and one single guy…a different story) in classes with this book. We even wrote discussion questions for each chapter. It’s THAT good!

Are you ready?  The book is The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.

5 Love Languages

Ok.  I know you’ve seen every possible ‘Five Love Languages’ iteration in your local Christian book store. It’s not as diverse as the ‘Chicken Soup’ series, but it’s still all over the place.

I am specifically talking about the first of all of them, succinctly titled “The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts.”  The original editon was titled “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.”

You may even have this tucked on a shelf somewhere, given as a wedding gift. Let me be 100% clear on this recommendation.

Reading this book, determining your spouse’s and your love languages is critical to understanding each other. Just as important, learning to speak her love language is crucial to long term happiness.

When I discovered that Sally was a high “quality time” person and she found out I was “words of affirmation” it changed our whole dynamic. Time together suddenly became my goal and passion.  She strongly focused on speaking powerful words to me. Guess what?  Well, if you are reading this blog you don’t need to guess. We have an UNBELIEVABLE relationship!

One book. Buy it and apply it. Do it today.

PS: If you’d like a copy of the study questions we developed I may be able to make that happen. But only if you commit to reading the book AND applying it to your lives. I promise you will be glad you did!

Ready to change your marriage?  Tell me in the comments when you are starting the book together.

Go learn a new love language!

-Troy

 

22 Years of Failure

I write about truth in life and marriage.  Everything you read in these blogs is from real experiences that either we or people we love have gone through.  Today I want to share something I failed in…for 22 years.

In 1 Corinthians 11:3 we read, “But I want you to know and realize that Christ is the Head of every man, the head of a woman is her husband, and the Head of Christ is God.

First of all this is NOT about a husband controlling a wife.  The marriage relationship should never be about a power struggle or one person forcing their will on another.  Here is the point, as Christ is the Head of the man (the spiritual Leader) so should the husband be the spiritual leader in the house.

Ok, once more.  The husband should NOT make this into some kind of dictatorial situation.  If we, as husbands, act like Christ does when he leads us then we will be “gentle and humble in heart” (see Matthew 11:29).

Here is where I failed.  I was not acting as a spiritual leader.

Did we go to church?  Yes, pretty much every Sunday and often for other services.  Did we pray?  Yes, individually, but I was not nearly as consistent as I should have been.  Did we have a great marriage?  Yes, thanks be to the Holy Spirit.  Were we as close to each other as we could be spiritually?  Not by a long shot.

I recently heard a statement that changed my behavior in a small way, and our relationship in a huge way.  “According to a study, the reported divorce rate among couples who pray together, out loud, is less than 1 in 10,000.” – Andy Stanley

BOOM!  This is a big deal!  Now, before I heard this were Sally in danger of splitting up?  Highly unlikely as we had a fantastic marriage.  Did I make a change due to this fact?  Absolutely!  Why?  I’ll give you two reasons.

1) I firmly believe in insurance.  :-)  If praying together gives us incredible odds of being together all of our lives then it is a small investment for a very large return.

2) “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20).  I’m pretty sure having Jesus in our midst is the best possible thing for our marriage.  :-)

Was it awkward at first?  Yep.  Is it still awkward?  Not so much.  We read a short (one page) devotional in bed and I pray out loud, sometimes my lovely bride prays as well.  Total time?  Usually less than five minutes.  Total value?  Immeasurable.

Here is the catch.  Someone has to be the one to step up and make this happen.  It’s not natural.  Guess what Mr. Manly Husband?  It’s your responsibility.  Go back and reread 1 Corinthians 11:3.  I had to man up and do it and you should too.  Out loud.  Out loud.  Out loud.  Not silently.  Out loud.  Clear?  😉

I can make a suggestion on a devotional in the comments section if you like, but it’s really not important which one, or you could simply read a verse or two.  The critical thing in praying with your wife, out loud, at least once a day if at all possible.

Try it!  I challenge you to give it a shot for just 7 days.  One week.  Do you accept my challenge?

Let me know in the comments section below.

The results will be amazing!

Now go pray with your wife!

-Troy