Archive for March, 2012

My wife and I recently returned from a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.  We spent three days there, mainly in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park.

While I certainly had no objection to going, it wasn’t me who was motivated to plan and save for this vacation.  Ceecee is a Harry Potter fanatic, and had been excited about this since the day she heard that such a place was being built.

The truth is, my wife is a kid at heart.  She loves to play, and she still experiences the wonder that adults often lose sight of.  Her eyes get wide in toy and candy stores, she loves going to the zoo, blowing bubbles, watching Disney movies, and lots of other things that most people her age have long since given up and forgotten.

It would be easy to look down on that, and some people do.  They don’t always think Ceecee is “acting her age.”

There’s a big difference between being childlike and childish, however.  My wife is not childish.  To be that would mean that she was immature and self-centered.

A person who is childlike can still see the world through the eyes of wonder.  A childlike soul isn’t so jaded that the negative aspects of life have snuffed out the simple joy of living.

Now, before you go thinking she is naive because she’s had it easy, let me assure you that nothing could be farther from the truth.  Not too many people would trade childhoods with her, if they knew what she’d been through.  Her adult life has been no picnic either.  In fact, I dare say that I’ve never known anyone who has overcome as much as she has, and is as healthy and well-adjusted as she is.

Jesus extolled the virtue of becoming like a child.  It’s the idea that you still believe in hopes and dreams, and life still holds excitement and promise, even in little things. As much as life has tried to rob her of her innocence, she stubbornly refuses to let go.

Seeing her face and getting to experience the excitement of Universal Studios with her was a highlight.  She’s already planning our next adventure, and I’ll be blessed to be part of it as well.

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My wife just finished reading a historical novel called, “The Paris Wife,” by Paula McLain.  It tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, and it’s a tale of a marriage doomed by Hemingway’s insatiable lust and infidelities.  In it, there is speculation that he may have been financially supporting a lover at one time during his first marriage.

The reason I bring this up is that the lack of honesty and transparency in their relationship was what made that situation possible.  When Ceecee was telling me about the book, it was that story in particular that caught my attention.  I thought of the way our marriage is today compared to the way it was a few years ago.

Today, each of us has full access to the other’s email, Facebook, and cell phone.  We are both on all of the bank accounts and we share checkbooks and debit cards.  We know each other’s passwords and there is an understanding that either of us can look through the other’s phone any time for any reason.

This might sound like we don’t trust each other.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s because we do trust each other that this works.  It’s also because of what we previously lost and had to regain that we chose to implement these measures into our relationship.

A few years ago, we had our secrets.  Secrets around birthdays and holidays are fine, but emails, texts, and other communications with people of the opposite sex that are intentionally kept confidential can be quite destructive indeed.  Both of us dabbled in the virtual world, and while I’m sure we never intended it to cross over into reality, it opened the door for much of what caused our separation.

Because of where we’ve been and where we are now, we are both extremely protective of the love that we have.  These “security” measures are not designed as a means of checking up on each other, but as a protection from ever opening that door, even a crack, again.

Just recently, I was in my wife’s Facebook, updating some information in her timeline for her.  It never even crossed my mind to open her messages and see who she’s been talking to.  We do trust each other, and we show that trust by saying, “Here is everything, open and available for you to see.  I have nothing to hide, and I want you to know that.”

Is there any harm in flirting or is it all just harmless fun?  If you’re married, it depends. 

Flirting with your spouse is not only fun, it’s a highly recommended way to increase the romance and intimacy in your relationship and keep things from getting stale.  Flirting with anyone other than your spouse is an absolute no.  As in, it’s never ok.

Some of you won’t like that, but I’m not trying to make friends here.  I’m trying to save, heal, and restore marriages, and that requires some straight talk.  Just because something is passed off as “normal” doesn’t make it right, and saying “everybody does it” is not only a cop-out, it isn’t even true.

The question you should be asking is, “How does my spouse feel about it?”  More pointedly, “How would my spouse feel if he or she could see me right now flirting with someone else?”   The reason I ask that second question is that people in relationships that are less than what they should be often don’t tell the truth, even to each other.  It’s not uncommon for someone to say, “My wife/husband doesn’t care if I flirt,” when the truth is, there isn’t enough trust or intimacy there for the other person to feel that he or she can tell the truth about how it makes him or her feel.

The bottom line is, you can either love your spouse the way he or she was meant to be loved, or you can be selfish and not experience the type of fulfillment that a great marriage brings.  You really can’t have it both ways.

If you want a happy, fulfilling marriage, your actions – all of them – have to be motivated by love.  Love is something you make.  Love is something you do, and if you do it right, your spouse will know that there is no one else on your mind or in your heart.  A person with that level of security will open up and show you the kind of love in return that makes playing games with anyone else utterly unappealing.

Does a little “harmless” flirting hurt anything?  You bet it does.  It hurts the one you’re supposed to love, and it hurts yourself by working against the very thing you should want the most; a marriage characterized by closeness and outward expressions of love for one another.

“A stitch in time saves nine,” wrote Ben Franklin, one of the wisest men who ever lived, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, much of his wisdom is lost in a world of modern technology where many don’t even realize what a stitch is.  As a metaphor for marriage, or even life, old Ben was right on the money, though.

A stitch in time, for those of you who don’t know, refers to the sewing of a garment when there is only a small tear, or unraveling of a seam.  Rather than waiting until it’s a major problem, if the small things are attended to right away, they won’t ever become major.  It’s not unlike when your car begins to exhibit some small sign of a problem. If you get to it before it gets worse, you may only need a minor repair, but if you ignore it, you may eventually find the damage has reached the point of catastrophe.

As my earlier posts indicate, I was entirely neglectful and failed to put this principle into practice where Ceecee was concerned.  I allowed the small things to become big, and instead of taking care of the routine maintenance, I waited until the damage was nearly beyond repair before taking action.

In Patrick Morley’s devotional, “Devotions For Couples,”  he writes about “oneness” as the overarching goal of marriage.  “Oneness is to make a third entity of two who forsake themselves for each other, ” he writes.  “Unfortunately, after the honeymoon…selfishness sets in.  The one becomes two again.”  He then challenges couples to ask themselves: Are the two becoming one, or is the one becoming two?

For so many years, I felt myself grasping at something that I simply couldn’t take hold of.  I knew that things were wrong.  I knew that something was missing.  I just couldn’t get my mind around exactly what it was or what to do about it.

I really had no excuse.  I should have known what love was and what love required of me. I should have listened to my wife when she told me what she wanted and needed from me.  I shouldn’t have been lazy when it came to the most important earthly relationship that I had.

Now, we don’t let even the little things slide.  When something even begins to appear to be wrong, we address it.  We talk about it and make immediate adjustments, while the issues are very small.

Having loved and lost, and loved once more, we are extremely protective of what we have.  Just the other day, we had a slightly negative interaction and I made a comment to the effect that this was more like becoming two.  It wasn’t an accusation, just an observation.  It didn’t feel right, so I said so.

My wife didn’t get upset or respond defensively.  Instead she recognized what I was seeing and we adjusted our course.  It’s easy to fix the little things, and by so doing, we don’t have to fix any big things.

Only days before that, I had told her that for some reason, I had just felt a little bit off for a day or two and that I was sorry that I hadn’t been my usual self.  I know I had been a bit grouchy and less attentive than I normally am.  I wanted her to know that it wasn’t her fault, it wasn’t for any known reason, and it wasn’t going to persist.

When you notice the car making a funny sound, or something doesn’t seem quite right, that’s the time to deal with it.  It’s probably going to be very simple to fix.  It may be low on oil, a tire is out of balance, or a belt may be wearing out.  If you ignore it, you may need engine repair, new tires, or be stranded along the side of the road somewhere.

It’s the same way with your marriage and anything else in life. Keep up with the routine maintenance.  Take care of those things that are important and don’t let them get into a state of disrepair.  Then you can enjoy a marriage and a life that runs smoothly and avoid the costly repairs of separation and divorce.

I have nothing against the idea of love being all about hearts and flowers.  I mean, sugar and spice and everything nice seems to fit with the idea, at least from a greeting card perspective.  And if we are only talking about the concept of “being in love,” then sappy and sweet is appropriate.

The problem with all of that is that it’s not even close to being what love really is.  If love is only love when everyone is happy and smiling, then it isn’t love at all.  In fact, that idea of love equating to happiness is why so many people divorce soon after they fall “out of love” or one of them gets hurt by the other.

Author James Baldwin wrote, “Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”  Before love can truly become love, it has to learn to give without needing to take, and it has to overcome some hurt and disappointment.

How does one measure love?  In terms of greatness, the standard may well be sacrifice.  Who has loved greatly?  Who do we esteem as having loved beyond the reasonable expectation of being loved in return?

Is it not the one who has sacrificed greatly?  Is it not a Mother Teresa, an Oscar Schindler, or even Jesus Christ?  Didn’t Jesus say that, “No man has greater love than he who lays his life down for his friends?”

I fear that far too many people allow their spouses to leave and divorce them without realizing that they can enter into that battle where love becomes an overcoming, conquering force that wins the day when all seems lost.  Too many people give up far too soon and then lament that they “still love” their spouse, but they can ‘t do anything about what has happened.

If love is nothing else, love is most definitely about doing something about any situation where someone has a need.  When that someone is your spouse, it’s time to rise up and be the warrior who will not rest until the battle is finished.  Marriages don’t fail because people are ok.  When a marriage fails, people are hurting, devastated, afraid, and often irrational.

If you’re the one who still wants the marriage, you can’t base your actions on what your spouse says or does.  You have to fight.  And it’s not him or her you’re fighting.  It’s those spiritual and emotional forces that are causing the pain and devastation that are the enemies of your relationship.

You have to set aside the role of the hurt victim and take on the role of the conquering rescuer.  You have to go to battle on behalf of your spouse, even if he or she is currently the source of your pain.  If you don’t, you will lose, and you will lose permanently.

When much of Europe was being over-run in WWI and WW2, The United States could have stayed away and left things alone.  We could have stayed home when genocides were taking place, dictators were crushing the people within their borders, and atrocities were being performed in remote corners of the world.  We could have allowed people to continue to suffer, but we chose to go and do something about it.

When my wife was gone and living her life in a way that was intended to cut me out of her future, I could have given up.  I could have made excuses.  I could have said all kinds of things about how she made her choice, I deserved better, she isn’t willing to work on the marriage, and on and on and on.  Instead, I chose to see her as she really was, and as I dare say almost every spouse who leaves is.  A hurt, frustrated, scared soul who never wanted to get to this point.

Seeing her that way allowed me to fight her demons rather than fighting her.  It allowed me to put myself aside and go rescue her.  She didn’t think she needed to be rescued, and she didn’t want to be rescued, but now she thanks me for coming to her rescue.  I’m not saying these things to build myself up or portray myself as a hero.  I’m saying them because I continually meet people who are separated or divorced and they don’t understand that if they want to save their marriage, this is what you do.

There is so much to say about just this one thing that I could probably write a book about it and perhaps I will.  For now, be encouraged and challenged.  If this stirs you, or if you know someone this may help, please consider sharing.  To talk privately, contact me at therestorationtour@gmail.com