Sunday, July 25, 2010

Questions and Answers...

Once a week I will feature a Question and Answer segment on the blog to attempt to answer any questions or respond to any feedback I’ve gotten during the previous week. Where there are specific quotes, identities have been protected to ensure confidentiality. One thing I know for sure is that people are really trying to figure this marriage thing out. And while I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I have had the opportunity to experience a lot of things in my marriage that has prepared me to encourage you from an informed place. Understand, I don’t have a license in Marriage and Family therapy or a PhD in Sociology, but I do operate from a place of “practical application” with success and that, my friend, is my “qualifier!”

Q: What do you do with feelings for someone who is not your spouse?

A: The short answer: NOTHING!

The long answer: If you find yourself attracted to someone else, you must first do practical things like setting boundaries and minimizing your contact with that person. The more time you spend “interacting” with that individual, even on a platonic basis, you will be ultimately set up for a fall. On a deeper layer, what attributes are so attractive about this person that they deserve the energy that should be reserved only for your spouse? Remember, the grass is not greener on the other side, it is greener where you water it. Got a drought? Pray for rain!

Q: What do you do when your spouse does not support you making a career change?

A: Try to come from a place of understanding and get to the root of why they’re not supportive. Could it be in how you’ve approached the matter? Did you just walk in the house one day and announce that you’ve resigned from your job? Have you made earnest efforts to understand their point of view and help them understand your dreams and desires? Or did you just go into the corner and pout about it or rehearse it to five of your girlfriends about how unsupportive your husband is? When spouses are unsupportive, it is usually based out of fear of the unknown (How will we pay our bills?) or from a place of insecurity. If you feel they are insecure, work with them on feeling secure about the changes you desire to make that will ultimately be for the good of the union, not just for you.

Q: How do you help your spouse understand or realize that the family needs to have a mission/vision and not just exist?

A: Communicate. Demonstrate. Appreciate.
  • Communicate to your spouse some of your desires for the family. Listen for their feedback. And when you get the feedback, don’t discount it.
  • Demonstrate the change you would like to see. For example, if you desire for the family to be on a spending plan, begin to implement some changes in your own spending and share them with your family.
  • Appreciate them for being who they are. You are not married to a child. You are married to an adult, and no grown person wants to be talked to like a child. However, if you begin to honor them with your words and line that up with corresponding action, change is inevitable.

Here is a snippet from a letter I received after my last blog post, “Don’t Start Nothing, Won’t be Nothing”:

“[I] just wanted to thank you for the last installment of Marriage Ain't for Wimps. My husband and I are right there! And your blog described us perfectly. My flesh wants out, [but] my spirit doesn't feel released and I am getting worn waiting for a word from the Lord. Thank you for putting it into words. We are in counseling now but we haven't begun to scratch the surface of what is really going on. Pray for us. I want God to be glorified...but I want relief too.”

My response:

“My heart feels you. My husband & I were there several years ago. I remember wanting out of the marriage so badly, but in my spirit I knew that God was a Healer & a Restorer. I'd gotten to the point, though, where I didn't want to be healed or restored. I just wanted out! What I will say is that if you know what is right in your Spirit Man, don't discount it. It is a lie from the enemy that you will be better off without your husband. Your marriage is to help you not to hurt you. You're in counseling. Congratulations! Take full advantage of it. Don't hold back. Trust the process so that you and your marriage can be healed. Know that your story is being played out a million times over in households all over the world. That tells me one thing: that the enemy is after our prize because if we're distracted, we're ineffective for the Kingdom. Please be encouraged and know that you ALREADY have the victory. Refuse to receive anything less!”

In closing, know that having a successful union requires a lot of personal sacrifice. Your goal should be to give the advantage and not to take the advantage. That’s a hard pill to swallow, at times, and may not initially come so easily. Pride, hurt, and anger can hinder you from getting the results you really want in your marriage. But, unless you’re married to a fool who refuses to change (and sometimes you are, LOL!), you will see positive outcomes with consistent, genuine effort.

To Marriage With Love,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Marriage Ain't for Wimps! Series: Don't Start Nothing, Won't be Nothing!

Oftentimes, I talk to married people who are less than fulfilled in their marriages. They’ve settled into a lifestyle with their mates that includes work, kids, basketball practice, mortgage, car notes, sometimes vacations…and sometimes sex. Five to Seven years into it and they’re wondering “What in the world is going on? How did we get here?” Lately, the first response has been that they’ve “grown apart” and have “irreconcilable differences.” They then start making decisions that leaves a bloody trail of broken hearts, bad credit and dual-custody. But let’s take a minute to examine the road that got them there and look for a detour.

The institution of marriage is inherently filled with “opportunities of growth and development”… to put it nicely. Those “opportunities” are designed to help you grow out of your stage of selfishness and learn how to love someone unconditionally. It’s tough and not many of us like going through tough times. So there’s a tendency to shy away from those “opportunities.” You can get into a pattern of what I call, “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.” That phase occurs when you two are avoiding the “white elephant” in the room and tip-toeing around the issues you have. As a result, you fall into The-Hole-of-No-Communication where you’re not arguing, but you’re not having constructive conversations, either. Your dialogue is riddled with talks of bills, work and kids. Day after day, month after month, year after year of this non-confrontational lifestyle leads to the demise of your relationship. You “suddenly” wake up 15 years in as strangers begging for a way out. One person told me that the reason he and his wife got a divorce after 30-something years of marriage was because they stopped “maintaining the care of their relationship.” Well said.

So here are some tips to avoid slipping into the hole:
1. Understand that good marriages are not automatic. They don’t become good or stay good without daily maintenance.
2. Know that although avoiding a topic altogether may seem like a good idea, it will only hurt the union in the long-run.
3. Before broaching a touchy subject, think about what you want the intended outcome to be and formulate your conversation with a positive result in mind.
4. If need-be, agree to disagree, but be mature enough to try and understand the other person’s viewpoint and work toward a common-ground.
5. If you feel like you’re just at an impasse, care enough about your marriage to seek professional assistance—not your single, best girlfriend or your boy from college, unless, of course, they’re trained professionals.

Marriage is, indeed, one of the most difficult challenges you will have right up there with raising children and walking on hot coals! LOL! Seriously, even if you’re going through a rough patch now, know that you don’t have to stay there. You can actually go THROUGH. Realize that if you navigate those murky waters with skill, smooth sailing is a wonderful luxury that will be yours to enjoy. So be courageous enough not to fall into The-Hole-of-No-Communication and avoid the trap of “Don’t Start Nothing, Won’t be Nothing!”

Next time we’ll discuss some common attitudes in marriage in a blog entitled, “If Loving You is Right, What am I Doing Wrong?”

Please feel free to send your comments/questions to or follow us on Twitter @MightyMarriage.

To Marriage...With Love,

Inspired Sistah

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Marriage Ain't for Wimps! Series: Life After

So now that the wedding bells are only faintly heard in the background, the cake topper is in the freezer, you’re unpacked from the honeymoon and the MasterCard bill has arrived, what’s next? Well, if you believe the books and movies, you and your Boo will run around the house blowing kisses at each other and having “secret getaways” in every room. While that may be true, more often than not, that’s not exactly how the story plays out. For most couples, the reality of “Real Life” sets in and they are a little bewildered. “Real Life” is not bad it’s just, well, real life.

After “I do” comes the real work. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get that perfect tango we all long for in our marriages. Most of us spend more time preparing for the wedding than we do preparing for the marriage. Consequently, we find ourselves rolling over to someone we don’t even really know. Regardless of how long you’ve been together or what type of history you have (i.e. living together or having children before marriage), it’s something about saying “I do” that radically changes the whole scheme of things. I don’t totally know all of the intricacies of why that is so, but I do know it is so. I’m definitely going to have to ask God about that when I meet Him in person. But I digress…

Nonetheless, it takes realistic expectations and proper preparation to understand what it takes to share your “everything” with another being. No mistake, it is a great deal of work, but it is achievable and can be done with great success. Know that any great couple had to learn to dwell with each other “according to knowledge.” Dwelling with someone “according to knowledge” means grasping the full understanding what it is needed to maintain your union and actually putting it into practice. “Knowing” and “Doing” are two different things. My former pastor used to say, “You can’t do a single thing married or a married thing single!” Realize that you “two” should be working toward becoming “one” and it ain’t easy. During the process of becoming “one” you will have a lot of instances where you will want to yell foul and throw in the towel. But where’s the victory in that? Staying the course and doing the hard work is where you see greatness. And, that, my friend, is the reality of Life After.

So next time we’ll talk about specific strategies to making this thing called marriage work in a blog entitled, “Don’t Start Nothing, Won’t be Nothing!”

To Marriage with Love,
Inspired Sistah

Marriage Ain't for Wimps! Series: What's Love Got to do With it?

Growing up we’re often barraged with the fantasy of meeting our Prince (or Princess) Charming, falling in love and living happily ever-after. So we go through our lives on the lookout for “The One” expecting that the rest of the story will get on the way. But what happens when we do meet someone, fall head-over-heels in love, get married and wonder, “What the???” People who say they love each other get divorced every day. So is love really enough?

Once I began to come into a full understanding of the enormity of the covenant of marriage, I began to wonder if love had anything to do with it at all. Don’t get me wrong, it is important that we love our spouses, but I would like to submit to you that love is simply not enough. Having a successful marriage requires commitment, patience, honesty, longsuffering and grace…to name a few. If you don’t have any of those characteristics, loving someone is not going to be enough. I would also dare to venture out and say that having those characteristics is what actually constitutes real love. It’s not the butterflies in the stomach or the tingling of your skin when you hear his voice. It’s the quiet assurance of knowing that he is in your corner no matter what or the security you feel when the two of you are just doing nothing. And can I be honest with you? Getting to that level of confidence in your relationship requires a fee. You heard me. Being that secure and comfortable comes with a cost of time, commitment and sometimes trials. Don’t buy into the fairy tale that once you and your Boo says, “I do” that the angels are going to come down and sing the Hallelujah Chorus to you. Nope! Expect to enter to a time of “adjustment” that will ultimately strengthen your bond if you commit to it and refuse to give up.

So here’s the deal, we need to adjust our concepts relating to marriage. Those of us who are married need to be transparent and tell people that the glow they see on our faces after several years of marriage comes from serious investment that ultimately set us up for a successful union. It’s after you put some time on it that your affection takes on another level. And that, my friend, makes up the truth of what love really has to do with it.

So next time we’ll discuss Life After “I do.”

To Marriage with Love,
Inspired Sistah

Marriage Ain't for Wimps!

Several months ago it was placed on my heart to write some words of admonishment to married folks. After hearing about several high-profile divorces in the media as well as in ministry, it really started to get under my skin. Not to mention hearing about the divorces of everyday people as well, I started to get more than a little irritated. Not because I don’t understand, but because I do understand. You see, I’ve been married for 15 years and it hasn’t been a Gravy Train Rolling on Biscuit Wheels. No ma’am! It’s been hard and harder, but we’re both committed to the union and I think that’s half of the battle.

This blog series will not be your typical “Just-pray-and-everything-will-work-out” discourse. Nope! I will talk about some very real issues facing us in marriage. But more importantly, I will offer some practical solutions so that you will realize that although marriage can be (and will be) challenging, you and your mate can live victoriously together. I entitled it “Marriage Ain’t for Wimps” because I think we often buy into the fairy tale of what marriage is supposed to be like and then when we’re given a one-two punch, we’re a little stunned and disillusioned and want to run away and start over with a sparkling, brand-new model. Well, here’s the reality: There are going to be a lot of issues that are going to come up in your marriage that are going to throw you for a loop. It’s inherent in the institution. It’s normal. I believe once we understand that, we will be better equipped to tackle them and live a fulfilled life in a fulfilled marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some real deal-breakers that come up and I’m not advocating that you endure abuse. But what I am saying is that you seriously consider the covenant you made with your spouse and see if it’s worth fighting for.

I understand that this series won’t appeal to everyone. And that’s okay. But I think there are enough of us who can be encouraged enough to make a stronger commitment to a better marriage. And even if your marriage is near-perfect, I understand that it does not get that way or stay that way without real effort, so you may be able to benefit, as well.

So, stay tuned for the first installment of the “Marriage Ain’t for Wimps” Series entitled, “What’s Love Got to Do With it?”

To Marriage with Love,
Inspired Sistah