How to avoid falling into the trap of a relationship with no chemistry.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast by my favorite motivational speaker as I was driving to work. One of the points he made was about how a lot of married couples put so much money into their businesses and “the grind” but aren’t willing to put the same amount of money into their marriages.
As I reflected on my own marriage, I came to a scary realization: my husband and I have spent A LOT of money on growing our business, personal development, and even electronic devices, but not even a fraction of that amount on our own marriage. It was really sobering. I realized that we hardly ever put any real effort into planning special moments for one another aside from the yearly stuff: birthdays, anniversaries, etc. When I got to work I texted my husband about the podcast. He was listening to it too and thought it was amazing, but I guess the marriage part hadn’t hit him as hard as it hit me. “We need to have a conversation about this,” I wrote.
Later on that evening we both talked about the fact that we had gotten so comfortable with each other that we had started taking each other for granted. Our friendship was such an open, honest one that I guess we had started settling for a good friendship and slowly stopped putting effort into the romance and spark of our marriage. Instead of being proactive about keeping the spark going in our marriage I began resorting to reading romance novels and watching romantic movies. I was content watching fictional characters enjoy the romance I was too lazy to create in my own life. Pretty pathetic eh?
To be honest, we had these conversations before, but when I stopped to think about how much money we were putting into everything EXCEPT our marriage, it made me realize that even though others may see me as a sort of relationship “expert,” my marriage is just as vulnerable as anyone else’s.
The truth of the matter is, it’s easy to fall into a rut. When both spouses are busy with the demands of a nine to five career and kids-not to mention extra stuff like school or starting a business-it’s very easy to put your marriage on the backburner. Paying bills, spending time with your kids, and ensuring financial stability for the future are all very important things. But the most important thing is your spouse. After all, your kids will hurt just as much if you and your spouse grow apart and decide to get divorced. Launching a business successfully won’t have as much meaning if you lose your spouse along the way.
So how can we make sure that we invest in our marriages and keep that spark going between us and our spouses? I found that the answer is simple: be intentional. Applying it is a whole other thing though. What does being intentional about keeping our marriages healthy and happy look like?
Close your eyes and imagine your wedding. How much time did you invest in planning for it? How much money did you invest into making that day beautiful and special? Now open your eyes and commit yourself to putting just as much money and time into romancing your spouse. Here are some suggestions:
1. Keep a wish list. Have a box in the house dedicated to this. You and your spouse can put slips of paper where you write down things you enjoy doing, places you’d like to visit, or a meal you’d like to try. Every month, you can pick something from the box to do together, or plan for each other.
2. Schedule quality time. Have a shared calendar on your phones where you schedule your date nights and other special times together.
3. Plan ahead. Once that date is on the calendar, make sure you plan everything else around it, including work stuff. Nothing is more important than your spouse. So act like it. Planning ahead will ensure that you don’t put each other on the backburner anymore.
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but by doing these things we’re helping make our marriage a HEALTHY one, and that’s what we hope you all strive for as well.
Till next time!
P.S. We get REALLY transparent in our e-book “Love Me This Way.” Download your FREE copy by clicking here if you want to know what it really takes to love your partner.
P.P.S If you already have the e-book, we wrote a follow-up 7-day devotional to help you put the principles from the e-book into practice. Whether you’re single or already in a relationship, this guide will help you dig deep into yourself and put in the work you need to have healthier relationships. Click here to check out "Working On ME."
I remember walking across the stage at my high school graduation to receive my diploma. Family members had flown in from out of state, my mother had a big dinner planned at our house afterward, and I had received so many awards and trophies that I needed help from two people to carry them all to the car. I was the darling of my family. I was the obedient, religious child. I was hand-picked at my academy to be part of an outreach team that visited sick people in their homes and hospitals on the weekends. Everyone expected great things of me and thought I was so great.
Those expectations followed me all through college. I served as a youth director at my church during undergrad and planned to go to medical school once I finished. To be honest, everyone’s high opinions of me eventually became part of me, and I began to think of myself as a golden child. I developed a high opinion of my morals and who I was as a person. It’s easy to put yourself on a pedestal when everyone else does it too.
All that changed when I got married. I began to see myself in a much different light. There were times when I would be upset with my husband, and storm off to our room to ignore his presence in the house for the next few hours. I didn’t cook him breakfast, or iron his shirt, or do anything that would be considered helping him out in any way. Or, sometimes when he would apologize, I’d still be cold towards him because I thought that if I “taught him a lesson” he’d be more careful not to repeat the same mistake next time.
When Jono was mad at me, it was a completely different story. He would still cook breakfast, wash my dirty dishes, and fold my laundry (and put it away for me too!). It baffled me, and made me feel ashamed of myself. It was really humbling. His actions were so different from mine that I had to finally accept the fact that deep inside I was selfish and vindictive.
I also realized how emotional of a person I was. So many of my decisions and words were based on my feelings in the moment. If I felt angry, I lashed out. If I felt hurt, I completely shut him out. I began to see more and more that I had a lot of growing to do. My attention began to shift from things I wanted my husband to work on, to what I needed to work on. When I did that, I saw myself becoming more patient with my husband’s flaws. I couldn’t expect him to change overnight when I was struggling myself.
At the same time, I also saw myself starting to become more transparent in my other relationships. See, it was easy for me to hide the less attractive parts of my character when I was around people who expected me to be a certain way. I got used to putting up a façade that hid my feelings when I was really hurt or angry. If one of my friends did something to me, I would just distance myself from them a little bit until I got over it, and then continued with the friendship.
My relationship with my husband was one of the few in my life where I didn’t ever bother to hide what I was really thinking and feeling. It was my first time being completely transparent and address things head-on.
My friends started saying things like, “Man, Jono rubbed off on you, you have a fresh mouth now,” or be really surprised when I would address issues directly. In reality I was just becoming more transparent and letting my thoughts be known.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: being in a relationship with someone is a reality check. It forces you to come face-to-face with the parts of yourself that you think you’re hiding from everyone else. When that happens, don’t get too discouraged. It’s a good thing!
A humbling view of your true character helps you be more intentional about becoming a better person; it also leads you to be more patient with other people’s flaws and less judgmental of their actions. The focus shifts from making the other person conform to your standards, to you trying to be the best version of yourself regardless of what the other person does. It’s not easy, but trust me when I say the growth that comes from it brings your relationships to a higher level in every way.
Being in a relationship also forces you to become more open about your own thoughts and feelings. Hopefully that openness transfers to the other relationships in your life, and enhances them as well.
Until next time!
P.S. Want more realness about marriage? More insights into what it's really about once you say "I do?"
I had pretty much resigned myself to stay single when I met my husband. My parents had just recently finalized their divorce after 30 years of a rocky marriage, the guy I really liked and thought was going to become my boyfriend got back with his ex, and I was just too done with love. I honestly didn’t care if I stayed single for the rest of my life if it meant avoiding heartbreak and the drama that comes with it. When I looked at my parents’ relationship I dreaded making the same mistakes they did. And I certainly didn’t want to end up marrying someone for the wrong reasons, only to find myself feeling miserable and disgusted with myself when I woke up every morning.
Then I met him. It wasn’t like the romantic comedies where there’s lots of passion and fireworks when the two characters meet. My heart didn’t start pounding whenever he came into the room.
It was more like him slowly growing on me until I realized I couldn’t imagine my life without him. You can read all about it in this post that went viral.
But when I thought about spending the rest of my life with him, and all the baggage we both had, I was still scared and worried that I was making a mistake. I loved him, but I really didn’t want to deal with all the difficulties I imagined would come up eventually if we got married. I was scared of the commitment.
But here I am, 7 years and 2 kids later, writing blogs about relationships and marriage.
I don’t regret getting married, and I now dedicate a lot of my spare time to advising single people on relationships and marriage.
So how did I get over my fears of making the commitment that we call marriage?
I did some serious soul-searching and had long, honest talks with God about these:
1. Character: I did a thorough mental evaluation of every aspect of my husband’s character. I was honest with myself about his flaws. I asked myself: If I have to live with this flaw for the next 10 years, will we still have a happy marriage?
That’s one of the MOST important questions to ask yourself. The thing that most people don’t understand about marriage is that the flaws you see in the person while you’re dating are only magnified when you get married. You’re living with each other, sleeping in the same bed, and waking up to each other every morning. Whatever it is about them that gets on your nerves, will only become even more frustrating. Constant frustration can lead to bitterness and resentment, which slowly chokes the affection in your marriage.
If you find that there’s an aspect of your partner’s character that you would not want to put up with in your marriage, don’t get married. Give them time to work on it and establish more positive habits so that you know the change is real, not something manufactured for the sake of getting you to say yes.
2. Chemistry: Did we have that spark, that attraction that draws two people to each other? Was I attracted to him physically and intellectually?
I’ll admit, I struggled with the physical attraction part in the beginning. He just wasn’t the type I usually went for. But the more I got to know him, the more endearing his looks became, and I found that my heart did speed up for a second whenever I saw him. As for the intellectual part, that was what got him out of the friend zone! We could talk for hours on the phone, and he understood me in a way that no one else ever had.
3. Commitment: We both took marriage seriously. We understood that we would both do whatever it took to make sure we were building our marriage on the right foundation. We were both willing to do whatever it took to work out whatever difficulties we would face. We were both committed to making sure our love stayed bright and strong.
4. Core Values: Part of the reason why we were able to have those long talks was because we were on the same page when it came to things that were important to us. Our moral standards were the same. We both valued family and friendship. We both wanted to be forces for change in our communities. We were both youth leaders at our churches and would encourage each other as we swapped stories. When it came to the types of lives we wanted to live, we were completely in sync.
Let me keep it real. Even with all of that, there were still times where I wondered if I had done the right thing. Marriage is still a leap of faith even when you and your spouse make awesome partners. It doesn’t mean that your marriage will be easy. Difficulties will always be a reality of life. Love will always entail taking a risk. But it’s a calculated risk. You have to approach it with your eyes wide open to everything you are risking.
After that, you entrust your marriage into God’s hands and know that He will keep your love going even when you both want to quit.
Seven years, 2 kids, and counting.
Till next time!
Want to know more about what to expect in marriage? Download your FREE copy of "Love Me This Way" here!
This is an excerpt from our recently published book "Love Me This Way," Click here to download your free copy!
.....during my first couple of years of marriage, every time I felt that my husband had hurt me or disrespected me, I was ready to leave. I was ready to cut him off. And I would tell him so. I wanted him to feel the hurt I was feeling, so I would let him know that my love had its limits, and that I wouldn't be putting up with his shortcomings forever.
Can you imagine how that made him feel? Imagine telling someone who grew up feeling alone in this world that they're going to be alone again-soon. Needless to say, I succeeded in hurting my husband. I made him feel like if he didn't change himself quickly enough, I would be packing my bags and going back to my mother's, and he would be alone again.
One night things reached a breaking point. We had been beefing for a couple of days, and were trying to iron things out. But like many people, we weren’t really listening to each other. We each wanted to speak our piece and be heard. So things weren’t going well. I remember telling my husband that I didn’t know if I could put up with something that he had done. Like, I hinted towards the d-word. My husband did not take my words well. He basically had an emotional breakdown. He got so upset that he punched a hole in our living room wall and broke one of our dining table chairs. I was shocked and scared. My heart racing, I ran to our room and shut the door. I’d never seen him so upset. When I calmed down enough to listen, I could hear the front door slam shut. He was gone.
I was distraught. I couldn’t think straight. I kept imaging Jono getting into a car accident from driving while he was upset. All I kept thinking was that it would be my fault, and that he would die with us on such awful terms. I couldn’t handle the thought of anything happening to him. I called our best friends, another couple that lived nearby that Jono had grown up with, and tearfully explained what had happened. I begged them to pray for me and to let me know if they heard from him. Then I hung up and started to pray. And that’s when God told me all about myself.
At the end of it, I felt so ashamed at how we had handled the situation. I felt ashamed at how I had handled the situation. Who did I think I was to tell my husband that if he didn’t shape up quickly enough, that I would leave him? Was I that self-righteous, that selfish? In those hours that he was gone, God had to give me a mental shake. I realized that my marriage definitely would not last forever if I kept on threatening my husband into submission to my ideals, and that he would never feel comfortable enough to be himself if I didn’t give him room to do so.
Crazily enough, I don’t even remember what it was he had done that had irked me so much. But I do remember that it was a turning point in our marriage. When my husband came home that night, he fully expected to see my suitcases packed and me ready to go back to Florida to my mom’s house.
He later explained that as he drove off, the enormity of what he had done and how he had reacted came crashing down and he just started sobbing. He figured that he had finally messed up so badly that I would be leaving him. But when he came back at 3am, I was so relieved that he was okay that all I could do was jump into his arms and thank God he was still alive. It sounds melodramatic, but honestly, in that moment it seemed like life or death. I was so happy that we had a chance to make up. Jono was shocked. He was expecting a goodbye from me, and here I was hugging him and telling him that I was sorry. And from there we started to rebuild our trust in each other.
I had to constantly remind myself that I was in this for the long haul, that my husband needed to feel like he had room to grow and learn from his mistakes without being afraid that I would abandon him if he didn't meet my standards. And he had to learn to trust my love for him, knowing that I would love him despite his flaws....
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Before I started dating my husband. I met a guy that I thought was “the one” through friends in my church circle. I got him to speak at an event at my church, and before I knew it, he and I were texting back and forth very frequently. One day he texted me “Can I call you?” In that moment I realized that I was definitely attracted to him and wanted to get to know him more.
We started talking on the phone, sometimes for hours. I felt like the more I got to know him, the more I realized that he was exactly the kind of guy I wanted: he loved God, he was a pastor, educated, and wasn’t afraid to take a stand for things he believed in. I started imagining my future with him in it: starting a youth ministry together with him, being in the pew to cheer him on when he preached, the whole nine. I was even friends with his sister so in my mind I thought “This is perfect.” There was just one small hiccup: he hadn't asked me to be his girlfriend yet.
One night his sister, his mom, and the two of us ended up going to the movies. When we pulled up to my house, he didn't bother walking me to my door. As they drove away I felt insulted and confused. Hadn't we just (technically) been on a date?
The next day I made up my mind to ask him what his intentions were. He explained that he didn't want to lead me on, and that he wasn't over his ex yet. He also said he didn’t want to hurt anyone so he wanted me to know he wasn’t looking to be in a relationship. I thought it was just nervousness talking. I figured in time he would get over his hesitation because I could clearly sense that he found me attractive and enjoyed our friendship because we spent so much time talking.
I prayed about it and asked God to show me if this was meant to be. And it seemed like right after I prayed that prayer, I got a text from this guy. Yes! That had to be my sign! Time went on and the same thing kept happening, so I thought he was the one.
All of a sudden, he seemed to become distant. I would call and he would say he was too busy to talk at that moment. I started getting a sinking feeling in my stomach about the situation. Something wasn’t right. (Duh!)
One day I was riding the bus home from my classes, and I got this feeling that something was about to happen. Something that would make me sad. It was an eerie feeling that I had never felt before. When I got home, I received a call from my guy friend. When I saw his name on the caller ID I felt relieved. I hadn’t heard from him in a few days. I smiled as I picked up the phone and flipped it open.
"Hey!" I said bright, eager to catch up. In the next few seconds, he explained that he and his ex-girlfriend were getting back together. I was shocked. This was completely unexpected. Tears gathered in my eyes and I blinked them back quickly.
I didn’t even know what to say. I cleared my throat and tried to be civil. “Well, um, if you love her, then…” I kind of had to choke out the word love as I said it because I didn’t want it to be true. It couldn’t be true. I had prayed about it. God had given me signs. But here he was, telling me he was getting into a relationship with someone else.
In the next few days I started finding out more details: I hadn't heard from him in a few days because he had actually gone out of town-to see her. She would be coming to town soon and they would probably be getting married in the next few months. I felt like such an idiot. He had tried to tell me that he wasn't going to pursue me, but I didn't listen. I kept wasting my time hoping he would come to his senses when he was probably trying to work things out with his ex the whole time!
In the next few days I took a long look at myself and my feelings for this guy. I thought back to all the time we spent talking. It took a while for me to admit it to myself, but I realized that I had been so caught up in my feelings of attraction for this guy that I hadn't used my common sense. I should've stopped texting and talking to him on the phone immediately after he expressed that he wasn't looking for a relationship. Instead I had convinced myself that he would eventually get over his ex and start pursuing me.
Ladies, if the guy you like tells you he isn't looking for a relationship, believe him. It doesn't matter how much time you spend on the phone talking, or if you've had sex with them, or met their family and they love you. Believe their words. Don't allow yourself to become a distraction for them to pass the time. Set up boundaries so that you don't find yourself falling into this role. And this principle applies to guys as well.
Guys, don't allow yourself to be someone's rebound or toy. If you're pursuing her but suspect she's only with you to make someone else jealous, or to forget her ex, fall back.
Use your common sense. Love isn't blind.
Till next time!
P.S. If you want to read more about what it takes to be ready for marriage, and life after "I Do," download our FREE e-book entitled "Love Me This Way," written by yours truly!