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Keeping Love Alive
Four Biblical Practices Great Marriages Have in Common
How do you keep love alive when you see your marriage starting to teeter, or crumble, and everything in you wants to give up and get out? In this series, Chip provides four biblical practices that all great marriages have in common. For each one, he provides key principles, then practical implications, and finally, super practical tools to make those practices a reality in everyday life. This is a no-holds-barred, candid look at the way marriage really works and how to make yours better. If you’ll invest the time, what you’ll find in the end, are love, hope, joy, and peace - for you, and the one you love.More from this series
Second is connection is built on communication. Right? “My words abide in you and you abide in My Word.” Connection is built on faithfulness and obedience. “He that keeps My commandments, He it is that loves Me.” “If you abide in My love just as I abide in My Father’s love.”
And then I think He used this picture for a reason. Communication takes time. You’ve got to be faithful and you’ve got to respond. You have to talk. You have to listen. And it’s not just with the Father. Now, this is with our mates. You can’t microwave a relationship. There’s just no substitute for time.
And it’s not time where you’re multitasking. It’s time where all of you is focused on all of him or all of her. And the goal is to connect.
And if you don’t connect, if you don’t abide, then what do you do? You drift. And part of the deep sense in your soul that where you feel together, it’s a sense of “we are going through life,” it’s a sense of strength, it’s a sense of – can’t you have great joy in the midst of even challenges when you really feel like you’re in it together? Haven’t you been through that?
And circumstances can be great and yet you’re not connected and still life isn’t working. Connecting is about renewing your heart. And we live in a world filled with drift and distractions.
What is the plan to stay connected? Well, the key I think is communication.
Third principle is: joy is the fruit or the overflow of connection with Christ and with one another. And I will tell you, it will sustain you. I have been through lots of ups and downs in our life and ministry ups and downs and betrayals and difficulties and Theresa and I, eight or nine years ago went through cancer together that she went through and I can tell you, when you’re connected to God and you’re connected to one another, you can go after a radiation treatment and pull up to a Starbucks and get a cup of coffee and then get one little of those oatmeal cookies and let them heat it up and break it in half and you can sit in the car together and you can share it and she can be absolutely exhausted and you can not know: is this going to work or not? And you can think, I’m the luckiest, blessed man in life. And I don’t know how many more days or months or years I’m going to have with her, but I love her so much, and it was easy to cancel every speaking engagement for the year.
It was easy to tell the person that I was supposed to write a book that, guess what, you want the money back from the advance? You can have the money back. I’m not going to write a book, I’m not going to go speak anywhere, I’m going to be with her. And we are going to go to every appointment together. And I would never want to go through it again, but I will tell you, in the midst of that difficulty and that pain, there was a love that we experienced and a connection because – you really, when you start thinking, I may not have this person very long, I’ll tell you what, it changes how you think, it changes how you talk, it changes how you think about…
I’ll tell you what, you want a little exercise? Pretend your mate has cancer and has about sixty or ninety days to live and treat them like you only have sixty or ninety more days with them. That will shake up your relationship.
I remember reading about a lady who had a marriage and her husband was a type A, very busy, pretty insensitive business guy. And she had tried different ways, classic ways to, “We need to spend more time together and we need to do this and we need to that.” And the nagging wasn’t working. And so, she had read something about winning your husband without a word from 1 Peter chapter 3.
And so, she decides they are going to go on vacation that for a whole week, she is just going to try this absolutely counterintuitive of loving her husband in ways in his love language. And so, she does it, day one, day two, day three.
And he usually does certain things that she, “Hey, we came all the way here and you want to go do that?” And she goes, “Oh, no, that’s great.” And so, she goes through the whole thing. They get to day six and they are ready to go home, and he said, “Honey, we need to talk.” And she thought, Oh my gosh, I wonder what’s wrong.
And he said, “Is everything okay?” And she said, “Well, why?” He said, “Well, I know you saw the doctor a couple of weeks or so before our vacation. I mean, are you going to die?” And she goes, “No.” He goes, “Well, you have been treating me in such a way, I thought maybe you thought you were going to die and were just being super good to me.” And she tells the story that the lights came on. And what he realized was, “How have I missed this in our relationship for so long?”
You know what it is? It’s connection. Ask yourself, What is keeping you disconnected from your mate? For men, it’s often your work. For women, it’s often your children. And for all of you, it’s often your phone and your laptop and your Netflix and your filling your life with things to medicate your loneliness.
It can be hobbies, because if you’re going to be really connected, that means you’re going to have to let someone see who you are and what’s really going on.
And it has taken me decades to realize being open and real and even sharing weaknesses appropriately open the door for other people to realize there’s hope for all of us.
But that’s got to begin in your marriage. That’s got to begin with saying, “I know I’m not the husband I need and ought to be, but I want to change.” “I know I’m not the wife that I need and ought and want to be and I want to change.” And then not using that as a hammer later to say, “You said you wanted to change,” and realize it’s a process.
Here’s the key. Focus on: how do we get connected at a deeper level?
Practical implications: our personal walk with God is critical to a great marriage. That was pretty easy, wasn’t it? If you want to have a great marriage, go vertical first. Whatever you need to do to walk closely with God, be in His Word, have some men in your life or some women in your life, some accountability, some fellowship, some encouragement.
Second is communication skill and practice is the key to a joyful marriage. You have to learn to communicate. And it’s a skill and you have to practice it.
And third, the connection is of the mind, the body, the emotions, and the spirit. And so, in other words, you have to learn to intellectually communicate, you have to learn to have spiritual connection, you have to learn to have emotional connection, and then you have to figure out ways to have regular bodily connection.
There’s something very powerful that God has made when a man and a woman make love that build a bond and a communication of a nonverbal type that does something in your heart.
But if the others aren’t a part of it, a woman normally will feel used instead of being connected and loved and cherished.
And so, let me give you two or three tools to begin to build deeper and deeper connection.
The first one is what I’m going to call the conference. And it’s just a communication skill.
And this is one of those that I paid a lot of money for that I’m going to give to you for free. Theresa and I, I think in our early marriage counseling, we would have at least two or three of these conferences a week. And then it got to be a pattern of how we would talk.
We couldn’t communicate. And we could not resolve conflict. And she was a stuffer. So if she had issues she would stuff it. And guess what happens to people who stuff their emotions. They get depressed. And I was a verbalizer. So I just frustrated her all the time.
I would walk around the bed at night saying, “The sun can’t go down until we resolve this conflict,” and quote verses to her, and she would put her hand over her pillow and just think, Who is this wild man that I married? He’s a nut.
Which was absolutely true. Uhm, so, here’s how it works. This is how I learned it. Men, we are the leaders so we start. So, imagine, in my case, Theresa is sitting across from me. You guys will have to lean in, you make eye contact, body language is: I’m actually listening. And I say to Theresa, “What are you concerned about?” And then I actually do this literally in some cases, but we won’t do it literally, I put a piece of duct tape over my mouth. I cannot respond. I can, “Mm-hm. Mm-hm. Mm-hm.” I can’t say anything else. Okay?
Now, you are the woman, here’s the deal, whatever you are concerned about. It doesn’t have to be all serious. Anything that comes to your mind. “I’m concerned about our finances. I’m concerned that we don’t have a long-term plan. I’m concerned about that boy our daughter is dating. I don’t feel good about him. I’m concerned that I feel so tired, I think something might be wrong. I’m concerned that you don’t seem to like your job anymore. I’m concerned…” Anything that comes to your mind, okay? And, men, here’s what we do. “Mm-hm. Mm-hm.” You’re not going to fix anything. Nothing.
Now, what you’ll find is the first time, this could go a little bit long. And your wife will probably have more words than you. That’s okay.
Then, ladies, he takes the duct tape off and you look in his eyes and say, “What are you concerned about?” And, guys, here’s the non-option, “Oh, not that much. I’m good.” No. And you know what? Open your mouth. “I’m concerned about that boy too, now that you think about it.” Now, guys, you can’t repeat all of her concerns. Could you just be honest? She is dying to know what is in here. Anything that concerns you.
“I’m concerned that since my ACL, I can’t do what I used to do. I can’t play sports the way I used to. I’m concerned that my best buddy is getting deployed and I’m really, I know what that is like there and I’m really concerned about. I’m concerned about,” whatever. Whatever comes, you’re concerned. “I’m concerned about our marriage. I’m concerned I’m not the man I want to be. I’m concerned…” Whatever it is, okay?
Next question. You look at your wife, duct tape replaced. By the way, ladies, when he is talking, duct tape. We don’t need, “Oh, that’s so bad. I’m so sorry. I’ll take care of you.” Just listen.
Then, “What do you wish?” And, by the way, you don’t have to keep it so serious. “Well, I wish we would win the lotto. I wish we could go to Hawaii next week. I wish that boy didn’t date our daughter. I wish we could have more talks like this. I wish we would have a retreat like this once a year.” Literally, if there was a little, one of those lamps and you could wish and you could have it, just say it! Whatever it is.
And then we switch it and the man gets to do that. And then you get, then the last question. And as a man, you say to her, “What are you willing to do?” That’s the third question. Now, here’s the rule. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to do anything.
But here’s – and then you ask him, “What are you willing to do?” My first time is, I was so angry and so hurt, here was mine, “I’m willing to have another one of these conferences. That’s all I’m willing to do right now.” Because there was just too much built up.
And here’s what this does. Do you realize the average couple talks but says words and rarely gets into one another’s hearts? Because it’s about kids, it’s about logistics, it’s about stuff. Here’s what you end up doing. You end up, if you share your concerns, you’re getting to hear without interruption all the things that are weighing the heart of the person that you love and committed your life to.
And then you get to hear things that would put some wind in their sails that would lift them up and that would encourage them. And then looking at all of their burdens and looking at what would give them a lift, you have the opportunity and you don’t have to do it, because it’s a free act of will. You could lift a tiny burden if you wanted to or you could give a little lift.
And what happened is you have actually communicated. I’ll never forget, early on in this, she was, “I’m concerned about our boys and their homework and their math and it’s so difficult and this and this and that. And I feel overwhelmed.” And I remember saying, I was there, “Okay, I’m willing to take over all the math of all of our kids of all of their homework.” I like math. It’s really easy. Comes good to me. My dad was a math teacher. Are you kidding me? I had no idea. I had no idea that that was weighing her down.
So, I took that and, boy, their world changed. “Sorry, son, I can’t read it. Do it again.” “But Dad!” “Hey, you know what? Do it again.” They all got very good in math. And you know what she told me later? She goes, “I just felt so loved.” Well, I didn’t even know it was weighing her down.
And so we do a couple of these or sometimes three a week. And then to this day, sometimes we will feel a little disconnected and we did it for years and years and years and years. And we will know we want to reconnect when we’re driving in the car and she might turn to me and go, “So, what are you concerned about?” And I realize, Okay, yeah, we probably need to do this. It’s a great tool. And I would just encourage you.
It’s about setting a new trajectory. It’s about going into training. You start communicating like this on a regular basis, I’m going to tell you, you’re going to hear hurts and things that you didn’t know about, and you’ll have the opportunity to come in and express love in ways that are really meaningful. And here’s what’s going to happen: this, then this, then this, then this.
And is it going to be a little threatening? Well, yeah! And, by the way, there’s a couple rules to this. Someone wrote me after I taught this and said, “Well, what do you do if you share all your concerns and my partner is not coming in and stepping and taking care of all the concerns?” Well, you know what? It’s a communication exercise.
If you share all these things with the expectation that if they don’t respond the way you want them to, guess who is still trying to control the relationship. This is a trust issue. Proverbs 21:1, you might jot it down, this is how you change your mate. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it whatever way He wishes.” Okay?
In other words, the most powerful people in the world, if you want to change someone over here, you talk to the King who can change that heart.
So if I can’t get through to her and she will tell you, the way she got through to me was like this: up to God, down to me. Because my heart and your mate’s heart and her heart are in the hand of God. And you can ask God to speak to them and this little communication device is going to be very helpful.
Let me give you one more tool. I just call it the CARE list. And so, here’s the question. This one is not in your notes, but you might want to write it on the back or something. It’s really simple. It’s, “I feel most loved when you…” And what I want you to do is list three things.
I feel most loved when you call me for no reason. When you initiate making love. When you take out the trash and vacuum. When you lead spiritually. When you don’t nag me, but encourage me to get some time away with my buddies when I really need to be refreshed. I feel most loved when…
You list your top three, okay? As a man, don’t show them to your wife. Ladies, you list your top three.
And then here’s the assignment. You take your list of your top three and you give it to your husband, and you take your list – top three – and you give it to your wife.
And now, you know what? We all wonder, How do I really love my mate? Well, she just told you.
Line them up; knock them down. So this week, you know what? I know the top three things, I am going to do one of those things in the next seven days for my wife or for my husband this week.
“Well, I don’t feel like it.” Tough. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross; He went. Love is a choice, right? So, now we are back to, now I’ve got a game plan. I am going to serve her in a way that makes sense to her. I am going to communicate in ways and I’m going to hear her heart or I’m going to hear his heart and we are going to go on a journey because, guess what now, now I know how to serve, I know what we need to plan about because now I know where the weights and the hurts are. And I know where the joys would be. And so, now I know the top three things that make them feel loved. And I’m just going to make a plan to do that. Got it?
According to Jesus, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” What He meant by that is, “Are you going to act on what I just said and trust Me to the point of obeying Me? And if you do, I will show up in your life. And if you don’t, even the truth you think you have is going to get taken away.” So I think you guys are going to act on it and you’re going to see God work.