A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Tag: closeness (page 1 of 2)

Know Thy [Stressed] Self, Part II: The Stressed Version of Your Marriage

Missed Part I? Grab it here.

One of the unexpected delights of our final couple of months in Africa was the arrival of a college friend who’s known my husband and I since the beginning. She watched us meet, cautiously date, giddily become engaged. She played the piano when the two of us spring chickens said “I do” forever. Later, I stood with her as she spoke her own vows beneath a spreading tree. And when she visited us in Africa and we stayed up entirely too late, she gave us this gift: I told my husband, “I love that she reminds us how good we are together. That you and I together are a really good thing.”

I wrote before that this time of leaving Africa, of setting a foot on two highly divergent continents, has delivered unavoidable stress to our relationship. Both of us are strained, so it makes sense that our most intimate relationships would bear that weight. So it was kind of God to remind us that despite the ways we occasionally feel like the losers in a three-legged-race right now—“us” is still a really good thing.

Part I of this post outlined some essential reasons we need to identify when we’re stressed. If you’re convinced, let’s get down to it. What are the signs your marriage is under stress?

Sometimes in stress, we actually ask some of the wrong questions–which lead us to some of the wrong answers. We might be thinking stuff like, Did I even marry the right person? Would I be happier if I weren’t with you? Are we a good match? Are we going to get through this? Should I think about getting out? Questions like those, I realize, don’t lead us to be more married. They don’t lead us to “unity of mind” (1 Peter 3:8). They lead us further apart.

A tip: Set aside a time to talk about this when you’re not about to explode in frustration. Your goal isn’t an argument, but some constructive conversation: togetherness-talk. Consider sitting next to each other while you talk, cuddling or holding hands.

The goal of these questions? To push us further into a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Examining the Stressed Version of You (Plural)
  1. As individuals, what patterns do you and I fall into?
  • How do I know when you’re stressed? (Again, this list will help.)
  • How do you know when I’m stressed?
  • What are your go-to ways of relating? He goes into man-cave mode. I work until long after the kids are asleep. He gets critical. I get insecure. I don’t talk. He doesn’t listen. He doesn’t really “see” me and my needs. I can’t get out of bed in the morning.
  1. What are each of your favorite coping mechanisms? Some of those will be helpful. In what ways do you each overuse your coping strategies?
  2. Ask each other:
  • What’s one tangible way I can help you cope?
  • At what point are each of our coping mechanisms unhelpful?
  • How can I help you steer clear of that point?
  • How can I be a “safe place” for you when you’re in hard times? How can I advocate for you?
  • In what ways do I make you suffer the consequences of my stress?
  • If you were to write a “stress relief prescription” of activities for me, what would be on it?
  • What do I dislike about “us” when we’re stressed? How do our weaknesses tend to create friction?
  1. What lies do we each tend to believe when we’re stressed? I’m powerless. When I’m overwhelmed, passivity is all I can muster. I’m a failure. I don’t have what it takes. If people don’t think well of me, I’m nothing.
  • What truth can I gently remind you of when you’re in those dark places?
  1. Who’s been helpful to us in the past when we can’t see our way out? Is there anyone new who might help us? Who encourages us to be more “married”, prays for us, and/or helps us see the good we can’t see on our own?
  2. Pray specifically for your marriage.
  3. For future reference in tough times:
    • What do we love about us?
    • What made us fall in love?
    • What keeps us trying?
    • What are our overarching reasons we push for a better marriage?
    • What do I love about you?
    • What am I thankful for in our marriage and our journey together? (Lord, don’t ever let us forget. Keep truth at the front of our minds, and show us what lies we’re believing. When we want to turn away, help us remember. Help us choose us, over and over.)

As you wade through thoughts like these, perhaps this prayer will encourage you as it did me this morning:

Lord, we pray we never find ourselves without hope, without a glimpse of the empty tomb each time we happen upon a cross. Help us begin our daily journey expecting both crosses and empty tombs and rejoicing when we encounter either because we know you are with us.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (it’s a new favorite of mine!), p. 255

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How would Jesus tweet? Social media as love, Part III–FREE GIVEAWAY

Missed the first two posts? Get Part I here and Part II here.

6.  Love = Telling the truth.In love. Is a status update artfully alighting upon all my strengths the same as telling the truth? Like a camera, we all choose what we zoom in on. But is it possible we’re airbrushing our lives, and creating a climate of unnatural expectations? (Check out this post on perfectionism vs. pursuing excellence.) Though we may look for sympathy when our kid smears poop on the wall or throws a fit in Target’s housewares aisle, our lives on social media generally lean toward the photoshopped side of things.

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Guest post: How to see your spouse with new eyes

Remember the ’99 Julia Roberts flick, Runaway Bride?

Roberts’ character has a bad reputation for landing at the altar and, well, taking off. (Spoiler alert, here–) Turns out she’s been a chameleon of sorts, being “supportive” to the point of wholly adopting her not-so-future mate’s preferences, hobbies, and lifestyle: She likes her eggs the same way. She dons a large (fake) tattoo. She prepares to climb Everest for one of her (not-gonna-happen) honeymoons.

The fiancés are left clueless and bewildered as she turns from each of them, minutes from matrimony. I adored her! And yet, apparently none understood how little they’d actually sought out her soul, or cherished her uniqueness apart from what she contributed to their own interests.

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The Thing between Us

What if some good friend asked you, What’s that thing that most comes often between you guys in your marriage? You know, from your side of things.

What would it be?

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Every relationship, I think, has one: that Thing that occasionally threatens to overcome what you were sure was stronger than death. Sometimes I think it’s like hugging someone with an arm stuck between, the elbow digging into both of your ribs; awkwardly, painfully.

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Ten Discussion Questions to Take Your Relationships Deeper in 2016—Set #6

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New to these questions? See these notes first, along with Set #1 .

 

  1. Talk about a realization (or more than one) that changed your perspective and understanding of a past event. (i.e. I found out the parents of that bully in school were getting a divorce. I discovered I’d totally misunderstood my sister’s perspective, and she hadn’t been malicious at all.)
  2. When you get to heaven, what are some questions you hope to ask God?
  3. When is one time in life when you felt most alone?
  4. What’s one regret you have of your past? (Have you sought forgiveness from God and the people you affected?)
  5. What are some of your greatest strengths as a spouse?
  6. What is one of your greatest weaknesses as a spouse?
  7. What are some of your greatest strengths as a parent?
  8. What is one of your greatest weaknesses as a parent?
  9. What are your dreams for your kids?
  10. For what do you pray most often?

Like these? Consider subscribing to A Generous Grace and receive a FREE E-BOOK of Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture. They’re great to process with a friend, spouse, or small group.

 

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Ten Discussion Questions to Take Your Relationships Deeper in 2016—Set #5

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New to these questions? See these notes first, along with Set #1 .

 

  1. When you are looking back at your parenting, what is one thing do you suspect you’ll wish you did differently?
  2. What specific action makes you feel most loved? (i.e. If someone listens to me. If someone touches me. If someone asks me good questions and draws me out. For more ideas on this, see these posts on 20 practical ideas for each love language.)
  3. A previous question asked about one of the highest compliments you’ve ever received. Talk about meaningful things people have said to you (not necessarily compliments). (i.e. I felt validated when someone with whom I’d had a conflict for a long time came and apologized. Or, My dad said he was proud of the man I’d become.)
  4. If you could take a class or learn a skill, what would that class or skill be?
  5. What do you daydream about?
  6. A previous question mentioned what made you feel immediately connected or disconnected to a person. What qualities do you immediately find magnetic about a person—and what qualities are immediately off-putting?
  7. At what times in your life have you felt closest to God, or when do you feel closest to God now?
  8. When Jesus was tempted in the Bible (Matthew 4), he was tempted by three key lies. What lies about yourself or reality or God are you most likely to believe—in the “tapes” that play over and over in your head? (Talk together about God’s truth that would counter those lies, like Jesus did.)
  9. Talk about a realization (or more than one) that changed your perspective and understanding of your parents. (i.e. I had no idea my dad had experienced that. I was clueless to the pressures my mom was facing. I see now that my expectations were largely unrealistic.
  10. What are symptoms that tell you that you’re weary and/or not doing well? (i.e. I snap at my kids. When I wake up in the morning, my jaw is sore. I daydream about being alone and doing whatever I want.)

 

Like these? Consider subscribing to A Generous Grace and receive a FREE E-BOOK of Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture. They’re great to process with a friend, spouse, or small group.

 

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Ten Discussion Questions to Take Your Relationships Deeper in 2016—Set #4

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New to these questions? See these notes first, along with Set #1 .

1.       What times/circumstances can you remember that made you feel particularly loved by God, as an individual?

2.       As you look back over the timeline of your faith, what have been the darkest times? What did God show you in those times, and how did they resolve—if they have?

3.       How’s your marriage?

4.       How’s parenting going?

5.       How’s your relationship with your folks?

6.       What immediately makes you feel connected with a person? What about disconnected?

7.       What are your spiritual gifts?

8.       Where, when, and with whom do you feel most at home? What represents “home” to you, and why?

9.       What’s a dark time you experienced that most people don’t know about?

10.   What kind of friend do you need? What could I do, practically-speaking to be a true friend to you?

 

Like these? Consider subscribing to A Generous Grace and receive a FREE E-BOOK of Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture. They’re great to process with a friend.

 

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Ten Discussion Questions to Take Your Relationships Deeper in 2016—Set #3

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New to these questions? See these notes first, along with Set #1 .

1.       What was one of the hardest experiences you endured or overcame growing up?

2.       What is something that consistently frustrates you?

3.       When do you feel most alive?

4.       What five qualities do you consider most important in a spouse?

5.       What are the top five values you believe parents should pass on to their children?

6.       What’s on your bucket list (your list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket)?

7.     By what act of love in your life have you been most humbled?

8.       Name three to five of the most influential people in your life—and explain why.

9.    How are you most like your dad, and most like your mom–or whoever was your guardian? How are you different from him or here?

10.   Name one person who probably doesn’t know how much they’ve influenced you, and explain why.

 

Like these? Consider subscribing to A Generous Grace and receive a FREE E-BOOK of Discussion Questions to Better Understand Your Family’s Subculture. They’re great to process with a friend.

 

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Ten Discussion Questions to Take Your Relationships Deeper in 2016—Set #2

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New to these questions? See these notes first, along with Set #1.

  1. With a friend, I’ll be going through these excellent questions to help steward all of your life for God’s glory. Check ‘em out!
  2. If you could have a cup of coffee with yourself ___ weeks/months/years ago, what advice would you have given yourself?
  3. What are the “tapes” that play in your head—and who put them there? Which ones do you find truly motivating, and which do you have a sneaking suspicion have some lies mixed in?
  4. What job(s) could you do that wouldn’t feel like work?
  5. Eric Liddel is known for his acknowledgment that “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” In doing what do you feel God’s pleasure in you?
  6. How and when did you know what you wanted to do with your life—or are you there yet?
  7. As a child, what did you think that you would become? Why did that appeal to you, do you think?
  8. What weaknesses most frustrate you about yourself?
  9. For what are you most grateful about the way God made you?
  10. At the times when you are most worshipful, what are you usually doing?

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Ten Discussion Questions to Take Your Relationships Deeper in 2016—Set #1

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A note from the author: These differ from some other lists of questions in that they are not all necessarily conversation starters. In fact, some of them could really make people feel uncomfortable if they’re not asked in the context of a relationship that really seeks to understand them and make them feel welcomed, received, and heard! Think of a beach on a cool morning: to acclimate, wade in first.

Remember: genuine conversation…

  • builds on our own authenticity and vulnerability
  • sets aside our own agendas
  • seeks real understanding
  • listens more than it responds
  • is patiently comfortable with others being “in process”, with silence, with deep emotion; it does not always seek to fix, advise, or solve
  • seeks to love the other person well—not meet our own needs to be known as a counselor or confidante, or to “win the other person over” divorced from compassion and concern
  • practices reflective listening
  • makes “charitable judgments”—assuming the best about someone until able to gather more information.  When tempted to pass judgment or criticize, instead presents (non-pointed) questions to understand

Now—let’s get to it!

  1. What are the top five things you’re most passionate about? Which ones are you able to give time and attention to in your current stage of life—and which ones are on the sidelines for now?
  2. Tell me the main events in your “story” that anyone who wanted to understand you—including where you came from and what makes you tick—would need to know.
  3. If you could describe yourself in five adjectives, what would they be? What are three adjectives that you sometimes wish you were, but you’re not?
  4. What’s the highest compliment you’ve ever received?
  5. When you’re at the end of your life, what would “success” look like for you?
  6. What do you most want or wish for that you haven’t (yet) seen realized? How do you deal with these “not yet’s” or “no’s” in your life—or what does it look like to still be wrestling through them?
  7. What’s God been doing in you lately?
  8. What would you say to ___ (person you’re in conflict with, or feeling misunderstood by) if you knew they would listen?
  9. How have you been seeing God around you lately?
  10. So it sounds like you’re saying ___. Do you feel like I’m getting you? Is that what you’re trying to say?

Like this post? Don’t miss 6 Ways to Take Your Relationships Deeper in 2016.

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