Here’s A Perfect Valentine’s Day Idea For YOU!

Here is a simple observation: most couples love each other, but don’t know how to show it when they experience difficulties in their relationship. What do we do when we are at odds? How do we respond when hurt by the other? How are we supposed to react when we are angry?

Madly In Love

These and other such questions were the very reason I wrote the book: The PLEDGE of a Lifetime, Her Hope for Connection, His Guide Through Conflict. It has been one year since its publication. I have heard story after story from those who have read it how much they learned and how it has helped their relationships.

One person spoke of how she has read the book, and is now re-reading it because there is so much to grasp.

Many others have purchased multiple copies to give to their grown children to help in their marriages.

What do we do? How do we respond? How should we react? These and similar questions are all clearly answered in my book.

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When You Can’t Trust Your Spouse

I have heard it from both sides: “I can’t trust him – not after he hurt me like he did.” OR, “No way, I could never trust her again – not after what she did!”

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Much is said about how and when to trust again. Genuine repentance over a wrong done is a necessary beginning step. There is also a goodness in overlooking some things as we give each other grace. I am so thankful how many times my wife has “forgiven” me for not getting everything at the store as I said I would.

My focus in this post however, is to understand how three components of trust are necessary to bring healing to a relationship.

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Do These 3 Things With The Story In Your Head

“Zerrin knows how to listen well, so why did she interrupt me? She must be getting tired of me having negative thoughts about life, so she just interrupted to stop me from whining. Living with me has to be hard–she may be just getting tired of me, period. I’m a mess.”

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In a previous blog I wrote about how we develop stories in our head when a conflict happens. It is an attempt to bring clarity to the situation and therefore a greater measure of control and security.

Usually the stories develop along the lines of us berating ourselves for what happened or blaming the other person. Rarely does either lead to healthy resolve.

What does? And what do we do with the stories in our head?

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Do You Know The Story In Your Head?

Recently I was disappointed in a certain situation and decided to talk about it with my wife. Before I got even two paragraphs out of my mouth, she began telling me how she saw things from a different angle. Rather quickly I found myself frustrated and shutting down. It is often what I do at first when angry.

Madly In Love

In my head I found myself thinking things like:

“She knows how to listen well, so why did she interrupt me? She must be getting tired of me having negative thoughts about life, so she just interrupted to stop me from whining. Living with me has to be hard – she may be just getting tired of me, period. I’m a mess.”

That was the story in my head that day.

On another day it might have been something like:

“I can’t believe she interrupted me. Sometimes she can be so inconsiderate – like what I think and feel doesn’t matter to her at all! What matters to her is just getting out what she wants to say so she can get on with her day.”

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Mark’s Marriage Minute

HOW To Be Heard By Your Spouse:

This week in my book we read what Mike (a marriage counselor) has to say about how to speak to our spouse:

“Well, here is a perfect example,” Mike pressed on. “We all want to be spoken to in a way that we can hear what is really being said. For instance, a man will best be able to handle hearing something difficult when he’s spoken to in a respectful manner. For women the same is also true, but in addition, most will better handle hearing something difficult when spoken to in a way that they feel safe, cared for, and loved.”

Here it is: the one clue to assure you can be heard by your spouse:

Husbands, your word is: LOVE

Wives, your word is: RESPECT

Now don’t just take my word for it. This is what the Apostle Paul wrote in a book of the Bible called Ephesians, chapter 5 verse 33:  “Let each individual (husband) love his wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.”

He is of course speaking in a broad sense of how husbands and wives are to relate to each other. But this most certainly includes how we communicate towards each other.

This week’s challenge:

Wives: whenever you are about to speak to your husband this week, think first: how can I say this in a respectful manner that would show honor and consideration towards my husband?

Husbands: whenever you are about to speak to your wife this week, think first: how can I say this in a way that they feel safe, cared for, and loved?

Mark’s Marriage Minute

Did You Catch It?

If I had a dollar for every time I have witnessed one spouse misunderstand the other, I’d be doing very well right now. How does this happen so frequently?

In my book, Mike (the counselor) spells out the answer:

Mike quickly jumped in to concur, “Good— you both are right on target. For good communication to take place, there has to be good listening on both sides. And not only listening, but understanding. It’s critical that you do whatever it takes to truly understand each other. I don’t have a statistic to back this up, but in my experience of working with couples for over 25 years, I believe one of the biggest reasons couples get into arguments is they’re not taking the time to really understand what the other person is saying. Instead, they just react to what they hear on the surface and completely miss the core message.”

Did you catch it?

Rather than taking the time to really understand what the other person is saying, we react to something they said.

More often than not, it is a surface issue–not the primary concern. We miss the core message. Miscommunication occurs, and conflict often follows.

Here is this week’s challenge:

Do every thing you can to keep yourself from interrupting someone or reacting to what they are saying. Instead, listen intently so that you might really understand them. Seek to hear the core of what they are saying. You will be surprised the difference this makes in your communication!

How To Turn A Confrontation Into A Healthy Conversation

Guest Post from John Weirick

john-weirick-profile-pic-ccabalka-e1400552721855This week’s post comes from John Weirick, blogger and writer for NewSpring Church, RELEVANT, Thought Catalog, etc. A Midwestern boy hailing from the great state of Minnesota, John came alive through writing and adventure when he moved to Oregon. When new opportunity arose, he and his wife packed up and moved across the country to make a home in Greenville, South Carolina, where John writes for NewSpring Church. John is currently writing a book which is a memoir of my his experiences and observations. Don’t miss his blog at

We have them every day, probably without ever thinking much of them.

At work, at home, at school, with our families and friends, and maybe even with strangers on the commute.

It’s usually just a brief exchange of information, each side spouting what they want the other to hear. But if the information gets a little more personal, it takes on a whole new attitude.

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Stubborn Perspectives and The Backfire Effect

I recently heard a fascinating story on one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. [If you don’t listen to it already: what are you waiting for? It’s some of the finest, most entertaining storytelling around. Basically all of iTunes agrees.]

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Razor Sharp: 6 Ways To Keep Your Marriage Sharp

Guest Post from Dave Barringer

barringerWhile I’m away the next few weeks, I’m excited to share with you several guest posts from friends and colleagues that are passionate about marriages, relationships, and conflict resolution. This week’s post comes from Dave Barringer, Lead Pastor at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God in Kalamazoo, MI. Dave loves writing, preaching, and talking about marriage and has an incredible ability to do so with more humor and humility than most. He and Anne have been married for 17 years and have 2 kids, Cammi and Ethan. Don’t miss Dave’s blog at and find him on Twitter.

From the beginning of this, please note something: Marriage is hard work.  In saying that, I want to pose a question:

Are we working too hard on our marriage?

Before you fire off emails, posts, rebuttals, etc at me, I want to work out a thought that came out the other day.  It stemmed from a simple saying:

Work smarter; not harder.

When my son turned 10, he got his first pocket knife. He’s seen me whittle before (I’m not very good) and he’s been wanting to do it too.  I wanted to make sure it was sharp and it stayed sharp. Anne was concerned he was going to lose an appendage keeping it sharp. But I explained something key: The sharper you keep your knife, the easier it is to work on the project and, thus, less likely to get hurt. So, often I’d have Ethan bring me his knife and we’d take a few moments to sharpen his blade. I know it frustrated him to stop his project for something that seemed so small, but little corrections to the blade made all of the difference.  Struggling with a dull knife invites motions and angles that can lead to injuries.

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Marriage is no different. Some of you are working hard on some areas with “dull blades.” You find yourself getting hurt in conversations and conflicts. You leave moments together with “nicks” on your heart.  I want to help you work smarter. It doesn’t remove the hard work, but why make hard work harder? It’s time to regain your “edge.” It’s time to step back and make some small, intentional moves that can keep your marriage sharp.

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What is Your Default Future?

Throughout my life I have struggled with decision making. I have gone under exhaustive self analysis to figure out why, and have a pretty good idea of the reasons behind it. There is one revelation I have had that has helped more than any other. It is this: when I don’t decide, I default to either what someone else wants and dictates for my life, or to what life circumstances dictate because of failing to decide. When I remember that, I make more decisions. Why? Because I don’t like defaulting. It makes me feel weak. It leaves me feeling frustrated about myself. I see that I am not taking an active part in what happens in my life and around me. I want to do better.

Madly In Love

What does this have to do with marriage?  A lot!!!

Most couples live out the entirety of their marriage in default mode. Que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be.) Very little time, money, focus or energy is used to move the marriage relationship forward and deeper. At best, they maintain their present experience as husband and wife. At worst, they put in little or no effort leading to a decline in their relationship. 

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Remember 3 Things and Get The Most Out Of Your Next Conflict

Most people don’t like conflict, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, there is much good that can come out of conflict if you know a healthy process to work through it AND you keep the following 3 opportunities in mind:

Simple Cents

1. It is an opportunity to grow in your understanding of each other.

Saying we all want to be understood is like saying we all need air to breathe. But how often do we focus on understanding the person we are talking to, especially when we are in conflict?

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