Monthly Archives: August 2014

Open Your Heart

In 1986 singer/songwriter Madonna released the song “Open Your Heart”.  While I don’t agree (obviously) with everything Madonna does or says, one phrase from this song is very powerful.  “Open your heart with the key.  One is such a lonely number.”

Today’s post may be perhaps one of the most challenging for us as men.  Here at Happier Husband we have many very practical action steps.  The One Thing challenge, to Stop FightingStop Doing This, to cherish her Before She is Gone and many others.  Some of these posts have called us to simple acts of love and others have brought us to tears.  But this post is a different kind of call to action.  It may make you uncomfortable, but if you do it I promise you’ll love the results!

Intimacy in marriage has several aspects.  Just reading the word intimacy will for many of us bring up thoughts of the physical area of our blessed union.  The physical is important but it’s not all that is necessary.  Studies show that for a woman to truly be happy and engaged with the physically intimate area of a relationship she must be emotionally intimate as well.

Guess what?  The same applies to men.  The degree is different and may manifest itself not as powerfully, but the need is still there.  Would you like another very practical suggestion to increase the joy and peace in your marriage?  To be able to feel safe and even more loved?  It’s simple.

Open your heart.

“An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” – Proverbs 31:10-11 (emphasis added).

When you are afraid, don’t just suck it up and move on.  Open your heart to your wife, your soul mate.  Share your hidden fears, let a few tears flow, it’s normal.  Share the dreams you have long buried.  Talk to her about your day, the fun and the challenges.  Talk about your love for her and for the Lord.  Read books, listen to podcasts and discuss what they meant to you and how they changed your perspective.

Tell her what she means to you.  When you are dealing with a physical issue don’t just “man up” and expect it to go away.  Let her know about it and go get some help.

I have to say that we were several years into our marriage before I really understood this.  Also I still struggle at times with the fear of vulnerability or the fear that she will respect me less for being “weak”.  Here is what I have discovered.  Sharing my weaknesses makes our marriage stronger.  It also allows her to comfort and build me up.  She can then pray for me in a specific fashion.  If you want to really be touched then listen to your wife pray for you.  It is incredibly powerful.  Don’t miss this seeming paradox.  When I share my weaknesses with my wife I become stronger through her love for me and her love for God!

Let me wrap this up.

She loves you.  She wants to know you, what excites you, what concerns you, what gives you joy.  If you don’t share with her you are cheating her of the chance to love you in a much deeper fashion and you are cheating yourself of the intimacy of having someone who can love you more than you ever expected.

Open your heart.

-Troy

 

Stop Doing This!

I’m a guy.  I fix stuff.  Well, let’s not get too crazy here.  I don’t fix stuff like Real Men.  Real Men can repair their own cars, fix their own plumbing and grout between their ceramic tiles.  I wonder if I said that correctly?  A Real Man would know.

I fix technology problems.  Computers, networks, TVs, cables, phones and other such items.  It’s my nature.  But more importantly it’s the nature of most men.  Not to fix tech problems (otherwise I’d be bored since more men would do what I do), but rather to fix things.

We are men.  When we see a problem we want to solve it.  Just hand us the hammer and stand back!

This tendency also applies to relationships.  We see a problem and want to fix it.  This is where I start to see God’s sense of humor.  Men want to fix problems.  If you tell me the horrible thing that happened with your coworker I want to give you the advice to solve the problem.

What do women want?  Frequently?  To talk about the problem.  Not to have us throw in our two cents to try and fix it.  This is not to say that women don’t want issues to be resolved.  But their way is not the same as a man’s way.  This I learned early in marriage and have to still consciously think about it.  In fact there are points where I come right out and ask Sally, “Would you like me to give some input or do you just want to talk it through?”

Here is a suggestion for all of the husbands out there.  When your wife comes to you and starts sharing about issues at work, or with another family member do NOT immediately start offering advice.  Did you get that?  Just let her get her thoughts out there.  Put down your phone, listen attentively and be present.

To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13

That’s it.  Just be there for her.  Don’t fix it, don’t tell her what she (or someone else) did to cause it.  STOP STOP STOP STOP!  I know you are still going to want to make it better with your deep insight.  Don’t.

Can you ever offer advice?  Ever?  Yes…when she asks for it.  Only then should you be jumping in.

Now go out there and listen to your wife!

-Troy

 

Three Words

I work in the Information Technology (IT) industry.  It IT there are many different companies producing millions of products with varying usefulness to the consumer.  A few really big companies have had a major effect on our day to day lives.  Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and several others have made an incredible difference.  Did you know that each of these companies has a mission statement?  Some even have a slogan that you’ve seen in advertising.  Perhaps you remember “Think Different” from Apple or “Your Potential.  Our Passion.” from Microsoft.

Do you know the unofficial slogan of Google?  Three words.  “Don’t Be Evil“.  Whether or not you believe Google has done well not “being evil” you do have to appreciate the simplicity and sincerity.  Don’t Be Evil.  It takes you back to comic books or goofy movies with evil geniuses and slightly dopey heroes.  Don’t Be Evil.  A lot of good can be done by a company that has decided evil will not be one of its goals.  Not that a company starts out with an evil plan, but occasionally companies end up doing things that some people might consider to be “evil”.

The statement “Don’t Be Evil” can act as a constant reminder of where not to go.  To stay on a “good” path.  I like it.  A bit whimsical and a clear goal.  No matter what you do Google, Don’t Be Evil.

Did you know that are three words in marriage that can also lay out a clear goal and change everything?  Three words that when adhered to will make a marriage incredibly happy.  Three words that can take any negative interaction in a marriage and turn it around…in mere seconds.

In the book of Philippians Paul alludes to the three words.  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3).

Ready for the three words?  Here they are:

Don’t Be Selfish

That’s it.  Don’t Be Selfish.  At this point perhaps you are thinking something like such as, “Well of course!  Don’t be selfish is a given.  I’m not selfish.  Thanks for wasting my time telling me something I already knew.”

Here is where a lot of people miss the importance of Don’t Be Selfish.  We know not to be selfish, we have been told that most of our lives.  It’s biblical.  It’s obvious…and we often overlook it.  How?

In the middle of a difference of opinion with your spouse.  A fight for those of you who have fights.  (If you are still having fights with your spouse you might want to read Stop Fighting. :-))  When you are in the heat of the moment, doing your best to get YOUR opinion out and make things go your way…is that selfish?

It’s movie night.  You want an action movie, one where a LOT of stuff blows up.  She wants a romantic comedy.  Do you try subtly (subconsciously I’m sure) to guilt her into your choice?  Don’t Be Selfish.

I REALLY want “Don’t Be Selfish” to hit me whenever I’m getting a little too much of me in our plans.  What about you?

Here is the final point.  If both of you are keeping “Don’t Be Selfish” at the top of your minds your marriage will be AMAZING!  Why?  Because each of you is working to make the happiness of the other as more important than your own.  Ask the Lord to bring “Don’t Be Selfish” to your mind whenever you are about to cross the line into selfishness.

Now go out there and Don’t Be Selfish!

-Troy

(PS: Have you taken the One Thing challenge yet?  It’s not too late!)

 

One Thing

Let’s get right to it.

Far too many couples reach a point in their marriage where the “feeling” of love is not there anymore.  Kids, job, bills, housework and many other activities contribute to taking our energy from our contribution to the marriage relationship.  Eventually you stand back and think “Do I really still love this person?  I don’t feel anything.  We seem to just be working our way through life.”

You can’t base your love on feelings, this we know.  Love is a choice.  We love because we choose to love just as in Christ God loved us. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” – 1 John 4:9

Feelings are fickle and prone to change at odd times and due to current circumstances.  However feelings are where you love for your wife began.

Would you like to restore some of those feelings?  Would you like to feel the love again?  Deep in your heart?  It’s not as difficult as you might think…and only takes about 60 seconds.

Do you have 60 seconds to rekindle the fire in your heart?

This is incredibly practical.  One thing.  Think of one thing about your wife that is precious to you.  Her smile, her eyes, her compassionate heart, her giving nature, her work to keep the family on track.  One thing.

Now here is the rest of the process.  Think about that one thing and thank God for it.  Ponder it and dwell on it…for a full 60 seconds.  Then go on with your day.  That’s it!

I challenge you to do this for the next 10 days.  One thing, 60 seconds.  Perhaps you could post a singe word or two to Facebook or Twitter.  Add the hastag #onething  Then when people ask you can explain what it means and why you are doing it by sending them to the One Thing post via this link: http://happierhusband.com/?p=113.

I am setting an appointment on my phone labeled “One Thing”.  It will go off the same time every day.  That’s my prompt.

Ready to feel the love again?  Ready to change every day by changing 60 seconds?  Take the One Thing Challenge with me!

-Troy

The 2nd Law

When you see something like the title of this article what comes to mind?  There are a lot of “laws” around.  Laws from government, laws of success, laws from the Bible, laws from science and many other sources.  But when the statement is “The 2nd Law” it narrows the field much more tightly.  For the tremendously geeky the 2nd Law of Robotics comes to mind.  Oh, if you know it without Googling or Binging I am (reasonably) impressed and not at all worried.  I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Asimov’s works.  :-)

Let’s take a look at the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics…because this is a blog about being a Happier Husband and it fits, right? One way of stating this law is “In an isolated system entropy always increases and never decreases because isolated systems always tend toward a state of thermodynamic equilibrium, which is maximum entropy.

See?  You get it. Ok, blog over.  😉

Well, perhaps I should flesh this one out a bit.  Recently my lovely bride came across a post in social media.  The person asked a simple question in the middle of a long and serious post.  For the sake of clarity and brevity I’ll restate the question in my own words.  The question was this.

Are there truly happy marriages or do people who stay married just live with what they have out of duty or obligation?

Take a moment and ponder that.  Go back and re-read the question and think about it for a minute or two.  Do it now, I’ll wait.

If you are like me you have seen couples who stay married out of obligation.  Some because they were raised in a Christian home and don’t believe in divorce.  Some stay married so that the children will not have to deal with the pain of divorce (although too often these couples divorce as soon as the children are grown).  Some couples stay married simply due to inertia.  It’s too much effort to start a new life and so they remain together, basically roommates but without any love.

So very sad and I see it all the time.

Do you want to avoid the fate of a miserable marriage of obligation?  Do you want a truly happy marriage?  Then you have to deal with the problem of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.  Thought I forgot about that didn’t you?  No, and be glad that I didn’t as this is perhaps one of the most important factors in being a Happier Husband (or a Happier Wife for you ladies who snuck in here :-)).

Remember the first part of the Law.  “In an isolated system entropy always increases.”

Let’s break this down.  An isolated system is one in which there is no outside influence.  If you were to take your wife to small tropical island and the two of you lived there with no one else around, no books, no prayer, no TV, no Internet, etc. that would be a truly isolated system.  But for the sake of discussion even a normal marriage mimics an isolated system in many ways.  You DO spend a lot of time with just the two of you.

What about maximum entropy / thermodynamic equilibrium?  In non-technical terms this means that over time things eventually slow to a stop, cool down and fall apart.  Ah, NOW you are starting to see it.  A marriage will default to this sad state of cold emotionless suffering if it follows the 2nd Law.  Read this next sentence carefully.

All marriages follow the 2nd Law.

YAY!  Welcome to hopelessness!  Your marriage is doomed!  Doomed!  That was sarcasm if you didn’t get it.  But the truth is that all marriages DO have to deal with the 2nd Law.  But there IS hope.  Where is the hope?  It’s in the phrase “isolated system”.

An isolated system has no external input.  No energy or power is applied from the outside.  Here is the secret.  You must not allow your marriage to be an isolated system! 

Ok, I don’t mean that you should be bringing in all the advice from every person in your life who thinks they know more than you.  I am also not suggesting you talk to ANYONE of the opposite gender for consolation with your marriage issues.  That’s a recipe for potential disaster.

Here is the point.  Isolated systems don’t have power applied from the outside.  How do you keep your marriage from being an isolated system?

In a truly happy marriage there are large, grandiose gestures and events to celebrate the union.  A special vacation for just the two of you.  A wonderful anniversary party.  Attending a marriage class or marriage conference.  You can think of many others.  These are power applied to your marriage.  But these events, important as they may be, are not all that is required to make a truly happy marriage and will not maintain the level of power required.  Just like you can’t plug in a laptop or tablet computer into a power outlet one time and expect it to run forever you can’t have a big event every year or so and expect a happy marriage.  You have to plug in frequently.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” – Hebrews 10:24

Small gestures and habits, done every day, create the power necessary for a happy marriage.  Let’s cover a few examples:

1) Using kind and encouraging words.

2) Physical touch (hugs, kisses, holding hands, arms around each other, etc.)

3) Praying together.

4) Reading blogs, articles and books about improving marriage.

5) Serving one another.

Many more examples exist.  Here is my challenge to you.  Start using these (and other) ways to apply intentional power to your marriage.  Every day.  What day?  Every single day.

Go do it!

-Troy

It’s All About You

It’s all you.  What you think, what you do, how you react.  When it comes down to it this whole marriage is all you.

How crazy is that?  If you’ve been in the church a long time you’ve seen the acronym for JOY, Jesus, Others, Yourself.  Which means Jesus is number one in our lives.  He should always have first place. Then we should regard the needs of others and serve them.  Finally we come up.  End of the line, last on the list.  The Lord Himself made it quite clear:

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” – Mathew 20:26

See, you’re the servant.  You aren’t first, you’re last.  Congratulations on your demotion. In all relationships you are not the focus…but you carry the spotlight.

Years ago I was employed at a university.  Part of my job was to work at concerts and other events.  Projection, camera, riding the lift WAY up to hang cables and lights.  I got the lift job during set up almost every time.  Why?  I have no fear of heights.  Well, that’s not 100% true.  I have a minor (healthy) discomfort with heights, but it’s manageable.  Plus I just love the thrill of being up high doing my part.

During the events I was almost always in one of two places, running a camera or controlling a spotlight.  I wasn’t the star.  That would be Jacki Velasquez or Mark Lowry (yes I met them both and yes they are genuinely nice people).  Nope, I wasn’t the star…but without me the star didn’t shine.  My act of service was behind the scenes, but the results were apparent to everyone around.  Even though they didn’t know it was me.

What happens in your marriage is not all about you, but it may all hinge on you.  It only takes one person to destroy a relationship by bringing in the darkness of negativity.  You have the power to turn off the light.  It only takes one person to improve a relationship.  You want a better marriage?  Carry the spotlight.  Let it shine on your wife.  Turn the camera on and give her center stage.  Not the focus of the relationship, that’s the place of the Lord, but make sure you’re not trying to take the number 2 spot.

Let’s wrap this up.  Shining the spotlight on myself will only blind me to her needs.  Putting her in the light will give me the joy of serving her by seeing her needs more than my wants.  What is the result of putting her before you?

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” – Luke 6:38

One final thought.  You can’t do everything, but it takes just one person to improve a marriage…you.

Now go light up you marriage!

-Troy

 

The Power of Sustained Proximity

Today marks the end of 10 days of family vacation.  In fact I am writing this post from a cottage not 1 mile from the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.  We grabbed our two adult children (18 and 20) along with their wonderful girlfriends and trekked many hours from home.  There were movie and game nights that lasted into the wee hours of the morning, the girls enjoyed experiences such as first time at Lake Michigan, first jet ski ride and many others.  Today we leave for home.

Family vacation has a reputation for being a time of high stress and personality conflicts.  When you pack a lot of people together for an extended period of time the masks will eventually come off and most of us will show our true selves.  This is what I like to call “The Telling Power of Sustained Proximity“.  There is nothing quite like 10 days traveling with those you love most and people you are just getting to know to bring out the real you.

I am not perfect.  I am susceptible to stress.  But how that plays out depends on one thing.  What is in my heart.

Some of the worst issues in relationships happen during times of high stress and can be caused by sustained proximity.  Why?  Because of the content of our hearts.

But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” – Matthew 15:18

You can only consistently, honestly and inwardly love your wife if your heart is pure towards her.  What does that mean?  Here are some signs of an impure heart:

  • Harboring bitterness about a decision that she made was not your preference.
  • Keeping track of things she has done wrong.
  • Purposefully making plans that you know will be in contrast to what she wants.
  • Waiting for her make a mistake then saying, “I told you so” even just to yourself.

If you ponder this list I am sure that more will come to mind.  Let’s turn it around.  How do you make your heart pure towards your wife?

  • Pray for her, consistently.
  • When a negative thought comes to mind in relation to her remind yourself of a specific thing you lover about her.
  • Make an effort to try more things you know she likes.  Have an open mind and expect to enjoy the activity.  You get what you expect to get.
  • Admit when you make a mistake…out loud.  Nothing reminds me of the fact that I am no better than anyone else than admitting when I blow it.

Superficial love is not love, it is a lie and will eventually be revealed as such.  True love comes from the heart and does not change, no matter the circumstances.

Now go love her – from the heart.

-Troy

 

First Place

In case you didn’t know it, I love my wife.  I love her dearly.  My life has been blessed beyond what I even truly understand because she said “Yes” when I asked her to marry me.  I don’t know what I would do without her by my side.  But she isn’t my everything.

Popular culture, movies, music, books and social media could easily lead me down this path.  I grew up in the 80s.  Take a look at a few of the song titles from that decade related to loving another person:

“Your Love is King” – Sade

“Endless Love” – Dianna Ross and Lionel Ritchie

“Up Where We Belong” – Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker

“All of My Heart” – ABC

“Saving All My Love for You” – Whitney Houston

This is a small sampling even from that 10 year period.  The story from culture is this: Find the right person, fall in love, get married, live happily ever after.  Seriously.  What a lie.  A LIE!

“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3

I love my wife.  I love her dearly.  I never want to live without her and I know she feels the same way about me.  But is “Saving All My Love” for her the best plan for a long and happy marriage?  Nope.  You know what “Saving All My Love” for a person would eventually get me?  Disappointment, disillusionment, despair.  Why?  Because (like me) she is human.  We are imperfect.  So what is the true way to a happy marriage?

Fall in love with God, meet the right girl who is also in love with God, get married, live in the Spirit and be filled with the joy of the Lord in your marriage.  Oh and if you met the girl then fell in love with God that’s also good, as long as He gets first place.

I can only love her best when I love God most.  Love her, cherish her, encourage her, enjoy her company, sacrifice for her but do NOT worship her.  God is the ONLY object of my worship.

I love my wife.  I love her dearly.  But I love God more and worship only Him…and she is glad for that.

 

-Troy

 

The Good Old Days?

A few days ago I saw a comment on a recent post of a pic from 25 years ago… “Those were the good old days.”  Wow.  I’m not a fan of that type of attitude.  Let me explain why.

When we consider the past to be better than the present and wax nostalgic there are two problems:

1) We begin to live in the past.

2) We become disappointed with our current point in time.

Living in the past means stagnation in the present and death to your God planned future. Here is the scriptural proof:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” – Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

The future of your life and your marriage depends on exactly two things: God’s plan and your belief in God’s plan.  The good days are today and tomorrow and next year.  To believe the best of your life is in the past is to give up all hope.

You must know this, there ARE better days ahead…unless you let them slip away.  You can have the marriage of your dreams, but not if you believe the best is in the past.  Is the marriage you have everything you want in marriage?  Even the best marriages can grow and develop.  Sally and I do devotions together, we pray together (every day), we talk about God’s plan for our life together and we do these things regularly.  Have we always done these things?  Nope.

For decades we didn’t pray together and do devotions together.  Did we have a great marriage?  Ask our friends, but I know we did.  Did we have the best possible marriage?  Not at all.  We are MUCH closer now.  The good old days?  Yes they were good.  Do I want back what we had then?  Not a chance.  Our “now” beats our “then” by a wide margin.

Growth in marriage is intentional.  The future of your marriage is made in your efforts today.  It takes time and focus but it’s not hard work.

Ready to stop living in “the good old days” and make the present and future better than you ever thought possible?  It takes simple steps, done daily.

1) Believe it is going to be better.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1 NASB

2) Pray for the Lord’s leadership and wisdom in your marriage.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5

3) Make it happen.  Do the small things you know to do and God will grow your marriage into something beautiful and powerful for His glory.  “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin” – Zechariah 4:10a NLT

Don’t live on past successes in your marriage, be always striving to love each other more each day.

-Troy