Broadcast

How to Make Your Marriage the Exception

From the series Marriages that Work (Broken Hearts II)

Til death do us part - when you walked down that aisle and said, “I do!” you had hopes and dreams for your marriage that were off the charts! In this message, Chip shares a life-skill with you that can keep your marriage going strong!

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Message Transcript

I’m going to give you a tool called "The conference." And The Conference has three questions. And I'm going to use this chair to pretend I'm sitting over here. There are three questions...

And guys are you ready? I'm going to give your wives an assignment a little bit later, but I want you to initiate this one.

There are three questions. It's a really safe deal. So, men, you sit down – video, TV,

Papers are gone, distractions are gone - and guys this will sound funny but lean forward - it actually means something - make eye contact, and then you look at your wife and you say, "What are you concerned about?”

Now I forgot one small thing, and some of you need to do this literally. There needs to be a small piece of duct tape about this wide. And what you do is you say, "What are you concerned about?” And then you put it on your mouth and you don't say anything no matter what. You don't fix it. “Why are you concerned about that? Well, if you would have said that, blah, blah, blah.” I'm trying to help you guys. Okay? “What are you concerned about?” And here you can say, “Anything else? Oh, wow. Boy, that's hard."

And she might say, "Well, I'm concerned about the guy that our daughter is dating. I'm concerned about how much you work. I'm concerned about I've gained five pounds and that makes me crazy. I'm concerned about the garage doors has been broken and I've talked to you about it thirty-seven times now." Anything.

And men what do you want to say? "It's just a garage door. Who cares?" But you're not going to? And she's going to go. And you know what? It may take her five, six, seven minutes maybe more. But anything…And you know what? This doesn't have to be spiritual. Just anything that you're concerned about.

And then you take the duct tape off and then ladies, you lean forward and you say to him, "What are you concerned about?” And you take the duct tape. And guys, by the way, ladies, don't be shocked if it takes him like...there might be a little bit of silence, “Hmmm, I ain’t concerned about not’in’…” And men if you'll do this, it cost me $95. I'm giving this to you for free. And when you think about what $95 was about thirty-something years ago. This was like probably $400 or $500 deal that you're just getting right now for free.

And if you would just have the courage say, "You know, I'm concerned about that guy too. I don't like him very much, but we've never talked about it. I'm concerned about the stock market. The Dow dropped three hundred points and I'm thinking where we're at in my retirement, this doesn't look good. I'm concerned about my boss might get relocated and I think who'd take his place. I don't like him and I know he doesn't like me. I'm concerned about I've gained about ten pounds actually…" And you know, just tell what are you concerned about.

Do you realize that probably ninety-seven percent of all that a married couple talks about is usually about what happened at work or logistics or kids or getting them to school or who picks this up or what are we going to do? And then anything that's delicate, anything that's money, or sex, or in-laws, you argue about that. You don't talk.

And so all you've done is "What are you concerned about?" You didn't fix anything. No one can talk when the other person is talking. And then second question. By the way, you should be writing these down because you're doing these guys. Men don’t tend to be the greatest communicators.

Second question is, “What do you wish?” What do you wish? And again, we don't have to keep this super spiritual. “I wish we would have won that lotto of $1.5 billion dollars. We could buy someone to date our daughter that we like. I wish I could lose five pounds. I wish just the two of us could get away for a weekend and really talk. I wish...whatever is on your...what do you wish? I mean, like here’s a genie in a bottle. “What do you wish?” And then you take the duct tape off and she asks you, "What do you wish." And anything that comes to your mind.

And then the final question is, “What are you willing to do?” But there's a rule. You don't have to do anything. What are you willing to do? And what I want you to do is this will take fifteen-twenty minutes, it might take a little bit longer the very first time, your assignment, men, is to do one of these this week. And I'm not kidding. Do it. If you do it, I will tell you, something will begin to happen in your relationship. You know what those do?

Number one, you can't talk back so you can't argue. That's a good deal. But when you say, "What are you concerned about?” Every human being has things that weigh them down. "I'm concerned about I threw out my back. I'm concerned about this. I'm concerned about the future. I'm concerned about that. I'm concerned about this. I'm concerned about one of our kids. I'm concerned about..."

Everything that's weighing me down or everything that's weighing Theresa down, now without an argument, and it's all been laid on the table. I know the burdens or the weights in my wife's life. I also know that if I would choose to - and I don't have to because if I have to then it's manipulation. The first time we did this, you know what was I was going to do? I just heard all this stuff that was really hard to hear and just not getting mad and feeling defensive.

I remember what I said, "I'm willing to have another one of these.” I'm willing to have another conference. Actually, I think we must have been a needy case. We were assigned like two or three a week from our counselor. But you've heard the burdens. And you know what you could do? You could lift one off if you wanted to. And you know what you've heard? You've heard what would put wind in her sails or wind in his sails. Something that would help them. And you could choose to but you don't have to go, "Whoa."

Maybe she says, "I just feel like we've drifted apart and I miss you and I love you. I understand work, I understand all the things, but I wish we could just get away." And what if you said, "You know what? I'm willing to plan a time away with you in the next eight weeks. Let's get out the calendars as soon as we get done with this."

I still remember sort of the early ones. Our kids were doing homework and of course, they got home early and Theresa was doing English, and this, and this, and this and that, and it was like she was really frustrated over all the math. And I remember we had a conference. I said, "Well, I will do the math for all of our kids. I like math. I'm good at it." And I member later she was, "Oh, man. I just felt like you love me so much." And I thought, I really don't know how to communicate because I would have never...right?

And so what you'll find is you might do one of these a week at least or a couple. And in this tool, you'll start to have the meeting of meanings. Even if you do one, you will talk about some things or hear some things that you haven't talked deeply about in ages. And the more you do it, the more you'll feel free. And by the way, you don't use this to come back at him. It's just your honest. “This is what I'm concerned about. This is what I wish. This is what I'm willing to do." You got it? Gentlemen, your assignment is to plan a time and have a conference at least once with your wife.

Pillar number one, commitment - A lifelong choice of unconditional love.

Pillar number two, communication - a lifelong skill of learning to understand each other.

Pillar number three, caring - An adventure of lifelong friendship, fun, and mutual fulfillment.

You might circle the word adventure here. I mean, marriage ought to be an adventure. There ought to be excitement in it. Jesus, in Matthew Chapter 11.This is a phenomenal passage where Jesus is talking to a group of people that are just feeling overwhelmed with pressure and He makes this phenomenal offer. And I think about how … part of being married, is this is what we do for one another.

Jesus said, Come to me - verse 28 - all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Those are old time terms. Hear: All of you that are stressed out, burned out, overwhelmed, come to Me. Don't do life on your own. Don't stuff all that stuff. Don't try to be the strong one. Don't be that individualistic: I can make this happen. I'll prove myself blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Come to Me. Come in your weakness. Come in your hurt.

And then notice the reason. He says, first, take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. It's an agrarian picture of a couple of ox that you would yoke together, and He's actually saying, Here's that yoke, I will stick My head in here, I want you to stick your head in here and let's walk together at the pace. And I won't walk too fast, and I'll pull more of the weight, but let's get connected, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light. That's our model.

You know what your wife wants to hear? You know what your husband wants to hear? "Come to me and I'll be your resource. I'll be your rest. I'll understand. I'll listen. We can go through this cancer together. We can go through the job change together. We can go through the financial downfall together. We can go through the crisis with one of our kids together. We can go through the rehab together. We can go through the stressors and the pressure together."

And the way you do that is you have to become best friends. Caring says, I like you. I like you. So there's a lot of couples, "I love her. I told her so. Right when I said “I do, we got married, I love you," but you don't treat her like you like her. The kind of activities that say that I like you are walks and talks and weekly dates and hobbies that are fun, gardening, doing stuff around the house, planning a weekend away just the two of you.

Why do you think romance dies in a marriage? Because you stopped doing the things that made you feel romantic and close to one another. When you were courting and dating, you sent flowers, you jot a note, you called for no reason. So are you doing any of that stuff?

This isn't mumbo jumbo magic. Start caring. Go on a hike. Go on a walk. Plan a weekend away. Jot him a note. Surprise her. This is not rocket science. You all did it early on when you were trying to catch him or catch her. Correct? That's what caring is all about.

It's saying, I love you. I'm going to make these choices. I trust you. I'm going to share open from the heart, but I care. We need to have fun. We need to enjoy one another. I mean, just Theresa and I were talking, I think it was early this morning and we were uhm, because one of the things we do to care is we like to drink coffee in the morning and talk. And we were just sitting there and she said something like, "So what are you thinking about?" Then she just made this comment. She goes "You know, I just like sitting in the same room with you." And I thought, You know what that is? That's years and years and years and years of caring of becoming really good friends. 

God doesn't want you to have an okay marriage. And here's the thing. Would you stop believing the lie that all the romance novels, and all the TVs, and all the movies are telling you that there's some hot, great, wonderful thing out there with someone else? There's not. These four things are in a relationship, they work, they're great or they're not. And starting over with someone else… Now, for some, yeah, you're in crisis, yeah, you need to go to counseling. For some, it's major repair. I have been there, done that. Here's the deal. It's worth it. It's absolutely worth it.

The fourth and final one is commission - A shared vision to impact the lives of others for Christ. Circle the word shared vision. For those of you that are single, everything about this applies. You can have a conference. Conference, that's a great communication tool with two ladies or two men. If you're dating someone and you're getting serious, make sure you have a shared vision. Of all the things that break people apart, make sure your relationship is more than just: How fulfilled am I? and How do I feel? because that's going to wear off.

Our model here is Matthew chapter 28. It's the very last thing He says to the disciples.

All power and authority has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of every ethnos, every ethnic group on the face of the earth, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe, to actually do everything I taught you. And never forget I will be with you always til the end of the earth. It's sandwiched with all the resource and power you need - it has been given to Me, and I'm giving it to you and I will never leave you or forsake you. Go make disciples. Serve.

Commitment is to love, communication is to know, caring is to share, but commission is to serve. There's something amazing that happens, there's a synergy that happens when you two, together, are doing something that's bigger than you two to care about other people. It just draws you together.

We've come to believe that the whole purpose of marriage is Am I fulfilled? Is everything okay with me? Am I happy? You can have everything in the world but if you don't come together to love people, serve them, care for them, take them food, serve together, go in the nursery together, be ushers together, go on a short term missions trip together, find a family that's in need and say, "We're going to help them," it's in doing those things together that synergy is built. The commission says this, "I need you. I need you." I have gifts. She has gifts. He has gifts. She has gifts. God brought us together and He sees us as one, and we can do something together for the cause of Christ. And as we do that, we're forged together.

Theresa and I have done tons of different things together. One of the things that is really fun that sort of uses both is we'll do Bible studies in our house. We've done all kinds of other things, but especially we like to do it with twenty-somethings. And we just started another one where we get to be the host. And she's the hostess and fixes all the stuff up and then pretty soon we just hang. And we're at the age where other people do the teaching and stuff and then you get to know them.

And having done this now, I remember the early ones when we first came here and they were all single and blah, blah, blah, and then Theresa ends up coaching and counseling some of the gals, and I get to know some of the guys. And then now it's nice to see they're married. They've got a couple of kids. And you watch their journey. And I have a role in the church and Theresa has a role with our family and kids and grandkids, but that's something we do together. I can't create that kind of environment. And then we get to talk about them. And our conversation just isn't about me or just about her. It's about us and how do we serve. That something powerful.

Final point I want to make is that some of you are very conscientious and I think that is awesome. Some of you are not and so you need a good swift kick - I'm serious - in the posterior. I'll tell you what. The people in this room on this day, who walk out of here and say, "I'm going to seize the day. And we have a great marriage. It's more important than work, more important than kids, more important than anything," you do that, your life will change and your kids will have a different world. But unfortunately, the great majority of people hear truth and walk away. We're too busy right now. I'm not sure about this. I'm not sure about that. He never really opens up. She's not very affectionate blah, blah, blah, and all your focus is on the problems.

Commitment is just saying, before God, I'm in. Communication is, Okay, I'll do these conferences. Caring is, I guess we can take a walk. It's pretty inexpensive. Take a walk twice a week.

A guy emailed me said, "I started walking with my wife every day. We walk a mile or two,” or whatever it was, “…and you know what? I listen most of the time but it's been the greatest thing that ever happened to our marriage.” And minister. And you can only watch so many football games on TV?

Serve. That's what most of us need to hear. But for just the small group, I call them the overachievers, that are going to bust it and give, give, give, give, give, here's the warning. You need to make sure that you get filled so that you can give. At the very bottom, personal time for you, supportive friends, renewing activities, a fully alive you, produces a full battery to be a giver.

Sometimes in our best efforts to really work on our marriages and make them great, one of you can unconsciously become this martyr. I'm giving to him, I'm doing this. Or you're the guy, Okay, I'm going to be committed. We're going to be together as a family. We're going to pray together. We're going to do this conferences, and pretty soon you realize, Oh, man, I don't hang out with any guys anymore, I don't have a good friendship with a woman anymore, if you're a woman, and I don't do anything. I stopped working out.

You need to understand you need to do what you need to do for you to come and show up so that you can give. And the very first thing I would say is get in God's Word and have at least one great same sex friend that you can process life with so that you can say, “Man, we did a conference. Man, I think it was a disaster. I just couldn't keep the duct tape on my mouth. And in the middle of it, I did what I always do. Well if you wouldn’t have done X, Y, Z, and Z that what happened. How many times have I told you? And you need a friend to say, "Do another one.”

We all need that. Because it's in giving that you receive - good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap. For whatever measure, small, medium, large, super, whatever measure you give to others so it'll be returned to you. At the end of the day, love is giving. It's giving time and attention and grace and patience and forgiveness. And the only way we can do that, I get closer to God, and then I give this other person, especially when they don't deserve it, what God has given me - forgiveness and grace, not a doormat. And then a new system starts where you begin to reinforce and marriages go in a positive direction. You can have a marriage that works if you seize the day.