Read Time: 2 minutes

What phrases do you need to hear from your spouse?

This video excerpt is from our Pre-Cana segment: Communication and Conflict Resolution. In that segment, Jay and Laura discuss the four phrases that each man needs to hear from their wife, and each wife needs to hear from their husband (based on surveying several couples).

For those of you who haven’t completed our Pre-Cana program yet, don’t worry, this won’t spoil anything for you. In fact, it’s important to begin discussing right away what you both need to hear from each other in order to truly become a more unified couple.

For those of you who already have completed our Pre-Cana program, this is always a great reminder on becoming more and and more intentional with speaking into each other’s lives as your marriage grows.

As I watched this segment again myself, I found it very empowering to go through the exercise of determining what I and my beautiful bride need to hear from each other. We usually have our time of uninterrupted conversation after we put the kiddos to bed. We sat at our dinner table, played cards, and talked about this very topic.

This video isn’t intended to be the “be-all, end-all” regarding this topic. It is intended to help be a launching point for conversation between the two of you. You may have different answers than they indicate. In fact, I’d venture to say that all of us need to hear “I believe in you” and “I cherish you.” So, make it your own! God has put a special thumbprint on your relationship — uniquely beautiful to your story together.

So your homework?

I encourage you and your companion to do exactly as I did with my wife — schedule an intentional, uninterrupted moment with each other to discuss the phrases that the two of you need to hear from each other. Once you establish those phrases, then you start saying those phrases to each other — simple as that!

It may seem awkward at first, but if your heart is in the right place as you say them, you don’t have to worry about coming across as disingenuous. Have faith that your beloved has your best interest in mind, and wouldn’t, in a million years, take advantage or disparage your vulnerability.

When you operate out of a genuine heart, this exercise becomes a beautiful thread within the tapestry of your life together.

Read Time: 6 minutes

We are well into this season of Lent, remembering the love of God that was poured out through Jesus with his death and celebrating his resurrection. Through that, we truly learn how to love like Jesus — selfless and with humility.

Although the “season” of Lent is broadly considered just that — a brief time set aside for holy reverence and reflection — it should yield positive, long-term results. In fact, Fr. Mike Schmitz just put out this great video: “Lent is a Process—Not an Event.

As many of us are avoiding carnal indulgences, allowing us to focus on improving our spirituality in a deeply profound way, additionally I encourage you and your beloved to focus on enriching your marriage for Lent.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Lens of Jesus

Being a son or a daughter of God means so much more than wearing our faith on our sleeve as some sort of badge of honor. Our faith empowers us to live more like Jesus, and this becomes more evident in every area of our lives — especially marriage.

How did Jesus live his life? Through humility and with a servant’s heart.

That is how we lead — loving our spouse through humility and with a servant’s heart. Marriage is referred to as a “mystery” in Ephesians, and also gives us a glimpse into what that means. “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (5:31)

Marriage is the complete giving of one’s self to another and becoming one flesh.

To put this into simple terms, before marriage, I was Gordon and my wife was Regina. Over a decade ago, we became “the marriage of Gordon and Regina.” We are individual human beings, but unified as one, under the bond of our marriage.

But developing our marriage did not stop the second we said, “I do.” We weren’t magically made perfect as a married couple that day. We quickly learned that continued effort and hard, but rewarding work was to begin right away — if we truly believed in our vows for each other… and we certainly did.

So how do we work on this, practically speaking?

Dropping Negative Tendencies and Strengthening Positive Temperaments

Spoiler alert: this won’t be easy. But as I mentioned before, working hard on improving your marriage is so rewarding.

We all approach life and its nuances in different ways. How we interact with each other and the react to things that directly or indirectly affect us is what makes up our temperaments. In very simple terms, we can refer to this our prevailing “mood” or “mood patterns.”

It is vitally important to, at the very least, have a general idea of “what makes us tick.” In my opinion, it is also just as important to develop a deeper understanding of the innermost parts of our being by learning more about our temperaments. In marriage, it becomes even more important to learn about each other’s temperament.

Think about it this way: wondering why there is tension in your marriage when you haven’t learned how to speak your spouse’s language (empowering them within their temperament) is like getting frustrated that your microwave hasn’t filed your taxes. All of us have a unique set of wires that make up who we are, and if we use the wrong tools on each other, we lose our functionality. We end up destroying the beautiful creature that we fell in love with.

So how do we put this into practice within our marriage?

1 . Talk about everything.

And I mean everything.

The good, the bad, the ugly. Even the things we feel might be irrational fears, everything.

Lack of communication is the very withholding of one’s self to the other. When that happens, we lose the very Christlike nature within the foundation of our marriage. We can and should be excited to share everything with each other. Lack of communication leads to so many negative results, the chief among them is the compromising of trust and integrity within your marriage. None of us are mind-readers, so the guessing game cannot be a part of a healthy marriage.

If being an open book with your spouse isn’t your M.O., my friend, you are backpedaling on your vows. Really, at the end of the day, what are you trying to hide? If fear of looking weak in front of your spouse is holding you back from sharing, well then, start there. Tell your spouse that you are afraid to share with them. Have a conversation about it. Open communication will undoubtedly unlock deeper levels of intimacy with your spouse.

Communication is also equal parts talking and listening. We’ll talk more about being a steamroller later on, but make sure that when you communicate or have a conversation, it isn’t a one-sided event. Your spouse needs to be actively listened to just as much as you do — remember that.

Listening to your spouse is also not just a passive stance to take — merely “putting in your time” while your spouse drones on. We all have a desire to be heard, but not many of us develop the desire to hear. We can and should be excited to listen to each other.

Set aside time every single day to have uninterrupted conversation. If you need a milestone to get you started, set aside fifteen minutes every single day of intentional, uninterrupted conversation. Phones on silent, on the chargers in the other room.

2. Learn more about each other.

I always cringe a little when couples indicate that they “know everything about each other.” While this may seem like an excellent goal, I feel like life together as a married couple becomes quite boring if there isn’t anything new and exciting to learn about each other.

When someone passes away, we usually say “rest in peace” — insinuating that the afterlife is the ultimate peace to attain. Ergo, if we achieve this “ultimate peace” of knowing everything about each other, is it safe to say that part of our marriage is kind of… dead?

Setting that aside, I would go further to say that I don’t necessarily believe that husband and wife can ever truly “know everything about each other,” especially just after a few years of marriage. We all change as time goes on, even if they are slight changes. The beauty of marriage is growing in love, together. Going through changes, together. The only danger is not allowing the other person “in” on that growth. Again, see: “Talk about everything.

In one of our other articles, we wrote about having a jar filled with conversation prompts, and I can’t begin to express enough how powerful that tool can be. Load it with questions like, what was it like for you the first time we met?, what is your ultimate dream for us as a couple?, what is your ultimate dream for yourself as an individual?, what does true happiness look like to you?, how do I make you feel like you are my priority?, what are things that could be better for us?

Get creative and specific for you and your marriage with these questions. This is a beautiful exercise and can yield very profound results — you may be surprised at each other’s answers, and that rules.

3. Do not be a steamroller.

Using your temperament as a weapon of self-indulgence completely invalidates your spouse’s needs, wants, and desires. This can destroy any and all possibility of thriving together as a couple if it is not brought to your attention, or if left unresolved. Did you catch that?

One part is the awareness that steamrolling may be happening, and the other part is to resolve it.

Our temperaments are unique, beautiful and individualistic, but also complimentary as husband and wife. Marriage is a dance. It is all about give and take. If you notice your spouse needs to express their temperament a little more on a given day, it might mean that you yourself need to take a step back and allow for them to feel loved and listened to in a meaningful way.

If you feel like your spouse may be steamrolling a bit, it can be easy to get frustrated. In fact, I’d say that you may be justified in your frustration if you feel like you hardly have a chance to express your temperament, your emotions, your thoughts, so… talk about it! If you haven’t noticed already, the common theme throughout this article is all about communication.

During those times of uninterrupted conversation mentioned above, bring up the fact that you feel a bit steamrolled at times if that is the case. Or, if you are on the other side — doing the steamrolling — if your spouse makes you aware of this, respond with humility and with a soft demeanor. When your spouse is justifiably upset, it isn’t time to double down and make excuses for hurting him/her.

In short…

I’ll leave you with three very practical ways to help with enriching your marriage for Lent. Bonus points and ten gold stars if you do all three:

  1. You may already have a general idea of what your temperament is, but if you would like to go deeper into the inner-workings of who you are, there are plenty of assessments you can take online to find out. This assessment from the study “I Said This, You Heard That” is really well done. This isn’t an official endorsement by any means, but my wife and I took this course with the assessment and it really improved our way of communicating and interacting with each other.
  2. Regardless of if you take the assessment or not, as I mentioned above, set aside that time every day to have your uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. It’s easy, and we all have time, so don’t make excuses — put it into practice! I believe in you.
  3. Use the conversation prompts to learn more about each other.

At the very least, the takeaway here is the awareness of how we are built and wired as human beings. Through this knowledge of ourselves, we then continually work toward becoming better versions of ourselves for our spouse.

Read Time: 6 minutes

When I was a young mom, I had several mentors in my life that were around 15 years or more older than me and in the later stages of parenting. To me, they radiated spirituality after years of practicing their faith, and they seemed so composed when I compared myself to them and the craziness I felt both internally and externally while parenting small children. I actually thought they were saint-like at times, and I wanted to be just like them.

Looking back, I realize that most of what I admired about those ladies was just that they were in a different stage of life than I was, and they were reaping the benefits of having been faithful to their husbands, families, and God for a lot longer than I had. What I coveted was something you could only have after years of being on that journey and experiencing life. I was never going to have the steadiness of a 38-50 year old woman at the age of 22.

When we talk about developing our personal spirituality, it’s imperative that we recognize it is, in fact, personal. The journey a woman takes to understand God, herself, and her place in the world may have similar components, but it will be as unique as the whole person God created her to be.

Therefore, while having mentors and spiritual leaders is an important element of your own spiritual growth, the focus of the journey needs to be on where God is taking you, not where he has taken others. However, there is value in hearing how others have experienced God so that we can know it’s possible and learn the many ways He communicates to His people.

I share below the story of my journey to connect with God while raising my kids. It is an example, not an instruction manual.

The Most Important Time of the Day for Spiritual Growth

I am not a morning person. When my kids were babies and toddlers, I stayed up late to get control of my household chores and finally have time to myself while they were sleeping. This made mornings even worse for me, and I stayed in bed till the absolute last second, sometimes allowing my groggy kids into bed with me for snuggles so I could enjoy a few more minutes of downtime before my feet hit the floor. As a mom of five, once the day got started, it was off to the races.

Those ladies I admired had older kids, different temperaments than mine, and different routines. I felt like they all got up at 5 AM ready to read their Bibles, pray for the world’s ills, and write in their devotional journals. I tried a million times to make that a reality for myself, but 5 AM and me never really meshed.

I learned an important lesson from an unlikely source in those days: a 17th century monk named Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen of a monastery and is most well known for his ability (and the small book by a similar name) to practice the presence of God at all times. Since his primary responsibility was washing dishes, he learned to discipline his mind to focus on God and pray for others while he worked, turning a chore of drudgery into an opportunity to worship.

A line in the book that struck me was,

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

Since my days as a stay-at-home-mom were filled with tasks related to caring for others and keeping our household running smoothly, those words resonated with me. If Brother Lawrence could pray without ceasing in the 1600s while doing mountains of dishes by hand, a monotonous and dirty job, I could pray while vacuuming, folding laundry, and changing diapers in a modern home with modern technology.

That message created a small habit for me that continued for years, one I even find myself doing today as an empty nester when I fold my husband’s clothes or make a pot of soup for my visiting children and their partners. I pray while I work. I ask God to give me empathy for the people I’m serving. I reflect on the many ways He has served me, and I’m grateful. I repent for being selfish, impatient, or resentful in my relationship with that family member.

“I will do all things for the love of God.” – Brother Lawrence 

The subtle shift that happened when I turned ordinary and sometimes mundane tasks into opportunities to focus on God and others was incredible. I didn’t realize then that I was practicing a form of mindfulness, learning to be fully in the moment with all of my senses, and it taught me to appreciate even the smallest moments of my life. Focusing on God and others while I worked turned my obligations into opportunities, and it became hard to resent the opportunity to pray for and bless others when I recognized that’s what I was doing.

The Little Changes Are Catalysts for Big Changes

I always want the big rewards in life, and I sometimes forget that there are thousands of small, everyday choices to be made for every big reward. Learning to bring God into those little everyday moments, choosing to focus on him rather than indulging in feeling sorry for myself over the mountains of laundry and neverending kitchen chores, made it easier to bring him into other areas of my life.

Because I was praying for my kids more often, it was natural to need more answers from God, and I began seeking them out in the Bible. Because the Bible is kind of hard to understand sometimes, I made more time for study and went regularly to classes at my church. Because classes are usually more lecture than discussion, I joined small groups where I could talk about what I was learning and ask questions. I even traded out some of my entertainment down-time to read books recommended by my spiritual mentors and journal about what I was learning.

Those actions varied depending on the season of life we were in as a family. When my ability to commit to things outside my home was limited because of a new baby or lack of transportation, I invited women to gather in my home once a week. Bible studies with babies playing in the center of a circle of women were a common feature of my life for years. When the kids were sick or I was simply exhausted, I stayed home more often and made sure to connect with friends and mentors on the phone.

As my children grew older, I joined studies outside the home and made time for weekend retreats at least once a year. Whatever the season, I found it was possible to create space for spiritual growth both privately and corporately, but it looked so different depending on the time of year, my energy levels, our family finances, and the availability of my husband. I found that if I just gave myself the freedom to discover what made me feel connected with God, and allowed space in my life to grow closer to Him, it was a source of joy in my life, not guilt or shame.

God Can Teach You to Be a Mother

It seems a little scandalous, but the more I learned about God, the more I saw Him acting with both traditionally fatherly and motherly characteristics. I noticed how many times He related to the human race as children, and since I was neck-deep in full-time parenting, I began to understand His love for the world in a very practical way.

Parenting offers a unique opportunity to glimpse the heart of God for His people. My children, humans that they are, sinned. They sinned against others, against me, and against themselves. They caused me grief, and I feared for their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. I was compelled, neurotically at times, to defend their safety and attempt to protect them from the evil in the world and the evil in their own hearts. I tried, and I failed. At times, I gave them what they needed, yet they wanted something else. I loved them, and they still felt unloved. I accepted them, but they experienced rejection.

Those things happened in a million ways throughout their journey from infants to teenagers, and they continue to happen even though my kids are all adults now. I am an imperfect parent to imperfect children, and when I consider the responsibility given to me by God alongside the reality that I cannot perform it perfectly, I feel crushed.

But…God.

The crushing reality of parenting has driven me to seek God in a way that nothing else in my life has. Whether it’s praying for the right words to communicate during a sibling squabble or the patience to encourage a brand new reader, God showed up for me a million times in the day-to-day routine of mothering. He helped me soothe broken hearts, celebrate wonderful accomplishments, and cherish the unique people he entrusted me with. His Word, His community of believers, and His Spirit have also comforted me, urged me forward, and brought me peace.

When I felt I had nothing left to give, He was there. As I live now in the new adventure of parenting adult children, staring down grandparenthood, He is there. Cultivating that relationship, learning and growing and allowing Him to change me through motherhood, has been a source of life for me. It can be the same for you. It will look a little different from my journey, but I fully trust that He will support, challenge, and sustain you as well.

This is part three of our three-part series: Maintaining Sanity and Developing Personal Spirituality as a Stay at Home Mom

Read Time: 3 minutes

Whenever mothers think about rest it can lead to guilt. The demands of motherhood are constant. Babies, toddlers, even teenagers can’t set their needs aside to give their moms a break. Mothers know they need rest, but how in the world are they supposed to get it and not feel bad about it when they do?

Setting Realistic Expectations for Rest

If the only understanding of rest is an entire day spent on a quiet beach or a three-hour nap uninterrupted by a baby’s cries or a sibling squabble, it will stay elusive and impossible to attain. The demands of modern life leave little room for down time no matter what your profession, and some of us end up packing more busyness into our time off than we experience during a typical work week.

Since time away from responsibility is hard to come by, and it’s easy to fill available time with errands and other work-like duties, realistic forms of rest need to be prioritized as necessary parts of our daily rhythms. The fact that humans have divided time into hours, hours into days, days into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years provides a natural structure to incorporate rest into our lives. It’s reasonable for a mother to find space in each day, month, and year to recover from her busy life and take some time for herself, but she has to initiate, implement, and fight for those moments.

Making Rest a Priority

Daily moments of rest may be as simple as five minutes of prayer before getting out of bed in the morning, a bath after dinner while dad watches the kids, or an hour reading when the kids are in bed for the night. Even when daily moments of rest become part of a family’s routine, it is still important to schedule time out once a week, once per month, and once per year for longer increments of rest. Moms will benefit tremendously from an evening out with friends, an overnight stay at a family member’s house, or a weekend retreat once a year.

Mothers can initiate those moments by communicating their importance to their husbands and then making them part of the family’s normal routine. Fathers who care about the wellbeing of their wives and children should recognize the value in giving mom a few moments of rest on a daily basis along with longer breaks throughout the year. When parents model healthy attitudes about rest and work, kids benefit from more refreshed caregivers, and they learn to respect the spiritual value of Sabbath rest.

On a personal note:

As a homeschooling mother of five, I had a hard time finding people I could leave my kids with and not be stressed out the entire time I was gone. I really only left my kids with my husband, mother, and in-laws until they were old enough to stay with a couple of very trusted teenage babysitters. My ticket to time away was a very supportive husband, and our date nights were based on grandma availability more than anything else.

I cannot overestimate the value of the encouragement my husband gave me to take time for myself.

Whether it was overseeing after dinner chores so I could escape to the bathroom for a bubble bath or hanging out with the kids in the evening so I could go to a homeschool support group meeting and stay out late with my friends, he made sure I had time to do things independently.

That support allowed me to be a very busy homeschooling mother for almost 20 years while still cultivating my own hobbies and friendships. It also kept our relationship strong and enabled me to return the favor and encourage him to take time for himself as well.

Our time away from each other gave us the space we needed to enjoy other relationships and experiences that enriched our lives and gave us fun things to talk about when we were together.

Don’t Feel Guilty Having Fun 

Once you recognize your need for rest and create space for it in your life, take a deep breath and enjoy it. Parenting is a consuming job, and it’s a large part of your identity, but it’s not all you are.

Mothers are still people with their own desires, hobbies, talents, and dreams. When you have time to yourself, explore things you’re passionate about. Learn new things, practice your gifts, and develop yourself. Mothers who are active in their personal growth provide a wellspring of information, creativity, and inspiration to their children.

It’s tempting to want to bring your children and family along with you to experience the things you love, but having those moments to yourself and then sharing the story with your family has its benefits as well. Your ability to set time aside for yourself demonstrates valuable lessons to your kids.

This is part two of our three-part series: Maintaining Sanity and Developing Personal Spirituality as a Stay at Home Mom

Read Time: 3 minutes

Love is in the air! Greeting cards, chocolates, and roses fill every aisle at the grocery store. Your favorite local restaurant is booked solid on the 14th. Couples everywhere are celebrating their undying love for one another — for one day only.

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching. I personally enjoy Valentine’s Day — my wife and I usually get dressed up for our date (usually dinner, shopping, and a movie), and my kids get excited to pick out the box of valentines they distribute to their classmates (usually Batman, Spider-Man, and Elsa/Anna-themed). While I don’t buy into the “Hallmark Holiday” conspiracy theory, this year, I couldn’t help but think, how many couples save their expression of love for each other only for Valentine’s Day?

You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’

I’m not sure where it all started, but after you got married, did any seasoned veterans approach you and your spouse (like they did to me) and ask:

1. How is the married life?

and

2. If you indicated that things were good, did they follow it up with something along the lines of, “Oh you just wait until the honeymoon feeling wears off!”?

Why is that? It’s almost as if the general consensus of marriage is that it has to be miserable. I’m not downplaying the fact that challenges do arise in marriage — in fact, quite the opposite. I just can’t help but to think, why is marriage generally perceived to be a dreadful experience?

That way of thinking leads to husband and wife becoming glorified roommates, and I’m certain that I don’t have to explain how damaging that can be to a marriage.

So how do you hold onto the magic?

Never Stop Pursuing Each Other

We’ve always heard the expression, “Marriage is hard work.” That is true, but we cannot forget about the reward for that hard work. Marriage is hard work and so rewarding. This is where cherishing your spouse really comes into play.

Regardless of how busy we are, we all have opportunities to connect with our spouse in deeply profound ways. The excuse of schedule limitations restricting you from spending quality time (frequently) with your spouse indicates that your spouse has moved to a lower spot on your list of priorities. How much time are you spending on your phone or watching a show to “unwind” at the end of the day? Every minute that we are able to spend with our spouse should be considered precious and sacred.

A simple solution to this is — and we repeat ourselves an extraordinary amount throughout our website about this — schedule frequent date nights. Again, they don’t have to be extravagant. Find out what you both love to do and connect with each other.

Also, surprise each other! Spontaneous acts of kindness, gift giving, and other expressions of love show your spouse that they are your priority, and that they are always on your mind. I like to leave sticky notes with little love notes on them throughout the house before I leave for work. My wife finds them at some point during the day and loves them!

She will send me texts throughout the day along the lines of, “I’m proud of you and I love you!,” and I can’t express to you just how strong that makes me feel.

Continually pursuing each other is not as complicated as people think, it just requires a healthy dose of effort and forming positive, love-expressing habits.

So… Don’t Save it All for Valentine’s Day

Should we still celebrate Valentine’s Day with our spouse? Absolutely — go all out! Have fun with it. Just remember, your expressions of love for one another should not be limited to one day of celebration. To keep with the theme, when you and your spouse celebrate Valentine’s Day, it should be a special day, but only because you have continually expressed your love for each other in profound ways throughout the year.

Learn what really fills each other’s love tanks. Husbands, buy your wife flowers just because you were thinking of her. Wives, write a note about how much your husband means to you, and tell him you’re proud of him (we need to hear that more than you’ll ever know). Never stop pursuing each other, and don’t save it all for Valentine’s Day.

Read Time: 3 minutes

Juggling the duties of stay-at-home-motherhood can be overwhelming at times, but there are many ways moms can find refuge to rest their minds, recover from busyness, and develop their personal spirituality.

Moms face a lot of judgment and criticism, and most of it comes from their own inner voices. 

  • Your kids aren’t going to develop properly if you do this!
  • You’re failing at the most important job you will ever do!
  • Your kids are going to be maimed for life because of you!
  • They’ll never get into college…never have healthy relationships…never have friends…and on, and on, and on…

The pressure of caring for the emotional, social, and physical needs of children can be crushing at times. There will never be a job that you will want to do so well, yet feel as if you’re failing so frequently.

Because stay-at-home mothering doesn’t garner the same kinds of positive reinforcement as a career outside of the home (you made good tips, your boss says, “Well done!”, you get Employee of the Month, etc.), it’s easy to slip into listening to your own negative mantras and forget that you have control over your thought life.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by your own negative or critical thoughts, it’s important to isolate them and begin hearing what you’re really saying to yourself. Write down the thoughts that frequently cross your mind. Write down the thoughts that discourage you. Write down the thoughts that send fear coursing through your body, and write down the ones that make you cry.

Once you have your negative thoughts in front of you, expose them for what they truly are. Say them out loud to yourself and your husband. Journal or talk about the emotions they are rooted in. Do they stem from fear, insecurity, anger, unbelief? Be honest and brave as you reveal these things.

We will only be able to surrender our negative thoughts to God when we have exposed and identified them.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul says, “We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4b-5), and those words still have power today if we believe them and put them to practical use.

Examine each one of your negative thoughts and their root emotion, and meditate on how God’s word speaks about that issue.

Are you afraid your child will be developmentally stunted by your failure to read them a bedtime story last night when you were too tired to keep your eyes open?

Let the truth of God’s mercy and grace comfort you by seeing the bigger picture of the ways you did meet your child’s needs that day. Be at peace knowing that your rest is as important as your child’s reading skills and that caring for your own needs is not a failure.

Did you lose your temper repeatedly and feel guilty for lashing out at your kids with anger and impatience?

Let God show you where your life is out of balance and why you lacked the self control needed to react differently. Ask for his forgiveness and direction for making the changes needed to handle your frustration in a healthier way.

Address each thought in prayer and by journaling or talking about it with your husband. Search for scriptures, songs, or meditations that speak peace, hope, faith, and love into those places previously dominated by negative emotions.

On a personal note:

When my 5 children were all young, infant to 10 years old, I struggled with anxiety frequently.

As a homeschooling mom, I felt responsible for every aspect of my kids’ social, emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being – it was a lot of pressure.

To counteract the negative thoughts I often felt overwhelmed by, I started carrying a small, spiral-bound pack of notecards with me everywhere I went.

The notecards were full of scriptures that reminded me of God’s love for me, his provision for His people, and the hope He provides in difficult times. Those notecards were my lifeline – a very concrete way to stop the negative thoughts and focus on God and His truth.

Taking every thought captive is a lifelong process. At times, it will seem as if the practice yields no positive results, but I urge you to persevere. The discipline of isolating these thoughts, being honest with yourself about their roots, and intentionally surrendering them to God will change you over time. The change will be subtle at first; but, through practice, you will find your burden lifting and your faith shining light on the dark places in your mind.

This is part one of our three-part series: Maintaining Sanity and Developing Personal Spirituality as a Stay at Home Mom

Read Time: 5 minutes

Jump to:


It’s the beginning of the year, and for most, that means that it’s time to outline the plan for the next 12 months!

Normally that can generally include things like a review of finances, planning for purchases both big and small, home projects and renovations that need to happen, and perhaps a nice vacation.

You may be thinking — that covers all the bases!

But as a married couple, we feel like there is something that often gets overlooked amidst the review and planning of all of the day-to-day, logistical items — and that is a review of the relationship.

First Things First…

We highly recommend working on your beginning of the year plan (including but not limited to the things we mentioned above) together, as a couple.

While this may seem obvious, there may be some out there who feel like they have to tackle the everyday challenges of running the household alone.

We understand that there may be dedicated “managers” of certain aspects (finances, for example), but there is a huge difference between a mutual understanding that someone may be gifted more in areas, and an attitude of, “You’re better at this, so YOU handle it.”

To clarify, one is a partnership, while the other is demanding and setting unhealthy expectations.

Roles within your marriage certainly change as time goes on, and you gain new experiences in life together. However, although as roles are defined, they should always be cooperative and complimentary with and of each other. Regardless of who is doing what, it is important to remain on the same page, and for both to have an understanding of the overall, broad objectives. Otherwise, you can become glorified roommates.

How to Review Refocus and Reenergize Your Relationship

As we mentioned before, it is absolutely important to approach the beginning of the year planning with practicality and from a bird’s eye view. Equally as important is putting your relationship under that same new year review.

Why is that important, and what does it mean?

Reviewing your relationship together at the start of the year helps to establish your roadmap, and helps to set expectations for you as a couple. This includes your romance, your family spirituality, your pursuit of each other, your intentionality to grow in your love for one another, your scheduled date nights for times of reconnecting and fun, for instance.

So let’s talk about that!

Romancing and Pursuing Each Other

Romance within marriage can often be perceived as, “the longer you are married, the less you feel ‘in love.'”

But it doesn’t actually have to be that way. In fact, according to Today, in a new national survey of married Americans, 40 percent of those who’d been married at least 10 years said they remained “very intensely” in love with their partner. So you may be asking, “how is that attainable?”

Although we never claim to have all the answers, we do have some suggestions to keep that spark alive and well.

We have all heard that real, long-term love is a choice, not a feeling. However, we believe that the more you choose to invest in the romance of your marriage, the more you begin to feel in love.

What do we mean by that?

It’s quite simple, really.

You can choose to hold your spouse’s hand when you’re in the car together or walking through the store together.

Start small. This will help to give you and your spouse a sense of connectedness and comfort — especially if either of your primary love languages is physical touch (we have more to say about love languages later in this section).

You can choose to put your phones on their chargers (in the other room, of course) when you are spending time together in your home.

Yes, in the other room — we were sure to cover that loophole! Look, we don’t make many definitive statements here, but we are fairly confident that if you constantly check your phones while you’re spending time together, you’re not actually spending time together. The act of removing that distraction from your immediate access tells your spouse that they are your priority, and they have your full attention. You then become intentional about the quality time you have with your spouse. Checking Facebook and your Cryptocurrency can wait.

You can choose to learn what your spouse’s primary love language is, and become masterfully fluent in it.

We all have a primary love language. It’s the thing that makes us feel most loved when when communicated effectively. For some, a bouquet of flowers as a “I was just thinking of you” gift is most meaningful. For others, quality time like we mentioned in the previous point fills the love tank. When those needs to feel desired are not met, husband and wife begin to feel disconnected from each other. If you haven’t checked out the Five Love Languages yet, or if it has been a while, they have an online quiz to help you determine which love language is your primary.

Growing in Love — Practically and Spiritually

It’s one thing to surprise your spouse with any of the tips mentioned above, but it has to be put into practice in order to keep the fire burning. Trust us when we say that the longer you implement those practices within your marriage, the more natural it feels. It shouldn’t get “easier” because the things worth fighting for involve effort. Hopefully you believe that your marriage is worth it.

Growing in love is how you and your spouse tread the path toward remaining “intensely in love” like we mentioned before. Growing in love is truly living out what it means to cherish your spouse. Every choice you make should have your spouse’s best interests in mind. Every word you utter to your spouse should be that of unconditional love and respect — especially in times of disagreement or conflict.

Cherishing your spouse also involves your intent to invest in your marriage. If you are experiencing difficulties, seeking council and attending couples therapy is always recommended by the leading experts. But you shouldn’t only invest in your marriage when the rough waters begin to rise. When it comes to finances, you generally invest when times are good and when money is flowing. The same goes for your marriage — invest while your marriage is hitting its high notes. If your church or parish offers marriage enrichment classes, attend them! Find programs within your community or purchase programs to do together, at home.

Growing in love also includes the spiritual health of your marriage. Are you praying with and for each other with regularity? Do you attend church together, as a family, with regularity? Do you volunteer to serve your community? Practicing any of what we mentioned helps to develop your family spirituality, bringing the two of you closer together on a tremendously deep level.

Reconnecting by Scheduling Date Nights

Schedule your date nights. Plan them out. Even if your plans include pajamas and unhealthy, delicious snacks while you binge watch The Office, plan it out! The act of planning out and scheduling your date nights will get you both excited at the prospect of spending time together.

We even have an article on Affordable Out of the Box Date Ideas to help get you started.

Your Call to Action (In Conclusion)

As you are planning your year out, have a meeting with your spouse to review your relationship. Put it on the calendar, even. Be deliberate with the meeting. It is vital to review your marriage from time to time if you both intend to be in this for the long haul.

So that’s your homework.

Be renewed by this exercise. Pray together as you meet about this, and have fun!

Read Time: 3 minutes

In the last article, we provided questions to spark discussion between you and your spouse and the challenge was to come up with new traditions of your own, as a couple.

So… Did you do that?

If so, we hope your conversations led to fruitful results with the exercise! If not, don’t worry! These conversations don’t happen overnight, and honestly, they shouldn’t.

Either way, we had a blast putting together this article to provide you with some fun, out-of-the-box ideas for the Christmas season to help get you started.

Ideas for you as a couple:

Arguably the biggest challenge with making plans around the holidays is the finite amount of time that you actually have. In fact, we’re convinced that time somehow moves faster during the holidays! The good news is that our suggestions might actually help you to feel like you can slow down just a bit amidst the hustle and bustle.

The Mystery Christmas Movie Randomizer

This one’s a whole ton of fun! All you need to do is wrap your Christmas movies in Christmas wrapping paper, and each night that you can dedicate to a movie night, unwrap a movie, grab some popcorn or other snacks, and cozy up on the couch together. The best part about it is, even though you know your library of movies, it will still be a surprise for every movie night.

If you are digital-only folks, you can still make this work! Simply write down the movies you have or can rent on pieces of paper, and draw one from a jar instead.

Quick note from everyone here on our team in case there is still any confusion: Die Hard absolutely counts as a Christmas movie. Probably the best Christmas movie ever made.

Moving on…

Make Christmas Cards

This one isn’t a “new” idea by any means, but making Christmas cards together is always a good time. Get creative! Design your own together, or buy a pack from Target. Either way, hand-written notes to loved ones wins every time!

Attend Mass Together

If attending the Christmas Mass is not or hasn’t been a tradition of yours, we highly encourage it. Even though you may be faithful members and attendees of your local parish, there is just something special about joining your brothers and sisters to observe and celebrate the beauty and holiness that this season brings.

Ideas for celebrating with your new family:

Now that your married, your family becomes your spouse’s family and vice versa. Assuming you both have good relationships with your families, it can be fun to blend some Christmas traditions between both parties.

Hot Chocolate Bar and Game Nights

If you really want to surprise your in-laws, schedule a fun hot cocoa and game night on another day that isn’t the expected family Christmas party. This helps to show them that you are intentional about getting to know them better, and to help your in-laws and parents get to know each other better as well.

Bring over ingredients for hot cocoa, including the toppings (marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, sprinkles, etc.), and get the board games out. If you really want to see everyone’s true colors, crack open Monopoly and let the good times roll.

Attend Mass Together, as a Family

As we mentioned before, if this hasn’t been a tradition of yours, or your family of origin’s, we highly recommend it. If either your in-laws or your own parents aren’t necessarily churchgoers, inviting them to Christmas Mass may have a higher probability that they will accept the invitation.

In conclusion…

As we wrap up (see what we did there?) the year 2021, our prayer is that 2022 is abundant in blessings for you and your spouse. We hope that you were able to make wonderful memories during the holidays, and that you continue to make more, as you build upon your traditions.

The most important point that we can make with all of these traditions and fun celebrations is, be present (see what we did there, too?).

In all seriousness, we can all become so busy with all that this season brings that we lose sight of the important things. “Trying” to be present with family and friends becomes a paradox in and of itself. The only advice we can give is to see each moment for what it is — temporary. That’s what makes a moment special. If it could last forever, it would become boring.

With all of the love that we can muster, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Read Time: 2 minutes

The moment you say, “I do,” you and your partner begin your adventure of intentionally getting to know each other at deeper levels. The mystery of who you and your spouse are and how you and your spouse came to be is a gift for you to both unwrap together!

One thing that you will learn about your partner is the traditions that they had in their family of origin when it comes to the holidays.

You may be wondering… What is a Family of Origin?

The family of origin is the family in which we come from — the home where we were formed into the person that we are today. We all have a family of origin and they all look different.

As the saying goes, we are a product of our environment. While we can drill down to many different nuances within this topic alone, we are going to focus on traditions, specifically for this holiday season.

Each family celebrates the holidays in a different way. Some families don’t even celebrate at all!

As you continue getting to know your spouse, it is important that you also get to know his/her family of origin’s traditions when it comes to the holidays. The best way to do this? Simply ask!

We suggest that you ask your spouse the following questions:

  • How did your family of origin celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • How did your family of origin celebrate Christmas? 
  • How did your family of origin celebrate New Year?
  • What other family traditions are celebrated during this holiday season?

The end of the year can be a challenge for many couples. We often have our own expectations about how the holidays should be celebrated.

However, this may call for a time of adjusting expectations, now that you have a new family — and that is a good thing! The end of the year allows us to share with our spouses how we enjoy celebrating them, and also to participate the different traditions that come with our spouse’s way of celebrating.

Our suggestion on achieving this mutual enjoyment of celebrating within each other’s traditions is to have open and positive communication together. You might even be surprised that your traditions go hand-in-hand with one another, or even compliment one another.

Our challenge for you and your spouse:

 

The four questions previously mentioned in this article are intended to be a starting point in the conversation, and it all leads up to this final challenge.

Once you establish clear expectations, you can come together as a couple and make your own plans. Create your own traditions together! These new traditions can be a mix of what you and your spouse experienced in your own families of origin, plus a dash (or several dashes) of what makes your relationship unique. Remember — This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

This is what the beauty of marriage is all about!

We hope that you find this article to be helpful as we begin to dip our toes into the holiday season. From all of us at The Marriage Group, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Read our next article to help spark ideas for the Christmas season!

Read Time: 4 minutes

Fall in love… Ha! See what we did there?

Fall, or Autumn, is a beautiful time of year for most of what’s significantly north of the equator. It happens to be my favorite time of year, as well! I may be a little biased, but Michigan has some of the most beautiful explosion of colors as soon as it consistently dips below fifty degrees.

Fall is a great time for those of us who love anything pumpkin, cooler weather, and apple orchards. It is also a great time to reflect upon the time we’ve spent for the past several months, as the year begins to wind down.

Comfortable vs Complacent

For some, you may have been married a few years, maybe you’ve been married a few months, or maybe you’re in the middle of preparing for your marriage.

Regardless, any married person will be the first to tell you how easy it is to start to sway to the rhythm of the day-to-day symphony of wedlock. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either! Routine and rhythm just means you are getting more and more comfortable with each other. You are getting more and more comfortable with the idea and implementation of actually being married. It’s pretty cool.

The challenge here is to not allow yourselves to become complacent. When that happens, and when left neglected, it is easy to simply become glorified roommates as time goes on.

How to Overcome Complacency in Marriage

We don’t claim to have all the answers here, and we recognize that every marriage is different, but we do have some suggestions that seem to work.

1. Remember the Magic

It’s safe to say you both had butterflies at some point in your relationship. Reminisce with each other. Talk about your first few dates. Talk about the moment you knew you fell in love with each other. Life may have turned out a little different than what you both dreamed up at the start of your relationship, but that doesn’t mean those butterflies are gone.

It may seem easier said than done, but making this part of your “reconnecting routine” will begin to feel natural, not forced.

Honestly? What has worked for my wife and myself is to bring up our favorite memories with each other over a rousing game of Uno. In the middle of getting bombarded with 30 “Draw Two” cards, the fond memories are a nice buffer.

Which is a GREAT segue into………

2. Do Things Together

Please excuse the broad brush here, but really think about it — how many things have you done with each other lately? No, scrolling through your phone while being in the same room as each other doesn’t count.

When is the last time you really connected with each other?

We’re not saying you need to go to a five-star restaurant… In fact, we recently published another article with some great, affordable, out-of-the-box date ideas to help you get started (shameless plug).

What are some things that help you and your spouse easily connect?

Do you find yourself only being able to connect with the logistics of planning out your daily or weekly schedule?

On date nights, do you find most of your time spent talking about the projects you’re in the middle of at work, what projects you have open around the house, or what groceries you need for the next week?

Like we said before, it’s easy to slip into motions of everyday life after you’re married, not knowing how or when it happened. It just… happens.

Find that spark again. Have fun together. Turn on some smooth jazz and wash the dishes together in a dimly lit kitchen. Do things together.

3. Talk About It

Simply bring it up in conversation. Some of the most damaging things that greatly impact a marriage are the things left unsaid. I may sound like a broken record here, but slipping into the monotony of everyday married life is easy — and most of the time you don’t realize it has happened. Identify that elephant in the room and embrace the conversation together.

Is it scary to be vulnerable? Of course!

We’re taught from a very young age to bottle, and some of us are pros at it (talking to myself here… I’m a textbook recovering bottler).

This might be the simplest yet most difficult suggestion on this list.

It can also be the most profound, if you let it.

Ask your spouse these questions:

  • Are you happy? What does that mean to you?
  • Are we on the same page on X, Y, and Z?
  • Is there anything weighing heavily on your mind?
  • Are you bored? If so, why? How can I help you to feel alive in our marriage again?

Those are just some suggestions for questions to help spark conversation. Use your and your spouse’s language along with the standard methods of communication you’re used to if it helps make you more comfortable — but have these conversations. You don’t know what you don’t know, so talk about it. Bring it to the light.

How Do We Start?

To summarize, start small, yes, but start somewhere.

If you noticed, all three suggestions work very well together. It doesn’t have to necessarily be in order.

Our action item for you is:

Schedule a date night (do things together).

On that date night, ask those questions, especially if you don’t want to (talk about it).

And finally, reminisce about your life together so far — the times where you were your happiest (remember the magic).

See? That’s not so bad now, is it?