S3 E22 | How You Show Up Under Pressure Matters

staymarried_S3Ep22_RobM_Image1In this episode we talk with our good friend Dr. Rob McKenna and he shares with us his insights on whole leadership development. His studies of how we each show up under pressure can effect our professional lives as well as our relationships with each other.

Enjoy!

 

Listen to “S3 Ep22: How You Show Up Under Pressure Matters” on Spreaker.

We’re looking forward to Dr. McKenna’s upcoming book: Composed – The Heart and Science of Leading Under Pressure. You can find out more here.

Composed - The Heart and Science of Leading Under Pressure Dr. Rob McKenna

Feel free to leave a comment or question below for us or you can submit a question privately here: Ask #staymarried. We may even answer your question in an upcoming episode.

And, of course, keep in touch with us on the socials: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Tony and Michelle Peterson 2017The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

 

S3 E19 | Sex is Complicated

SexIsComplicated1She’s back! Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers is back to answer some tough questions about sex and the way the conservative church has placed undue pressure on a confused generation.

In her new book, Sex, God and the Conservative Church: Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy, sex therapist and internationally recognized expert in religious sexual shame, Tina Schermer Sellers, PhD, gives us the tools and cultural competence to begin to find healing for the sexual shame holding us back from living fully into both our spiritual and sexual vitality.

We hope you enjoy this interview…

Listen to “S3 E19: Sex is Complicated” on Spreaker.

Sex, God, and The Conservative Church with Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers on The #staymarried Podcast

S3 E18 | Good Listeners Make Great Lovers

In this episode we tackle another Ask #staymarried question. Are you doomed if you and your partner don’t see eye-to-eye… or doomed if your interests don’t align? This weeks question brings up the topic of misaligned interests.

If you’re ‘checking out’ when your partner tries to share their interest, you’re missing a huge opportunity to show love. So we’re talking about listening well, as well as provide a few easy tips on how to be a better and more loving listener.

Listen to “S3 E18: Good Listeners Make Great Lovers” on Spreaker.

 

The Characteristics of a Good Listener

A good listener is…
1. Patient
2. Reflective
3. Curious
4. Keeps the conversation about the other person
5. Not the devils advocate
6. Gives positive feedback

If after listening to today’s podcast you’d like to join Tony in his nerd-dom, The Adventure Zone podcast can be found here.

The Big Bang Theory also tackled this topic…

 The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.
Feel free to leave a comment or question below for us or you can submit a question privately here: Ask #staymarried. We may even answer your question in an upcoming episode.

And, of course, keep in touch with us on the socials: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Tony and Michelle Peterson 2017The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

 

S3 Ep12 | Sportscenter and Back Rubs: A Modern Love Story

Sportscenter and Back Rubs - a Modern Love Story #staymarriedOur friends Josh & Katy join us for some shenanigans and storytelling. There is a lot that goes into marriage and even more that we can pull out of it, but Josh & Katy show us how it’s more often than not, the little things that keep us connected and invested in our relationship. They are the exhausted parents of 3 little boys and live in Kirkland, Washington.

Listen to “S3 Ep12: Sports Center and Back Rubs – A Modern Love Story” on Spreaker.

Also, The #staymarried Book is now available everywhere!

#staymarried: A Couple's Devotional by Michelle Peterson

Buy the book

 

Feel free to leave a comment or question below for us or you can submit a question privately here: Ask #staymarried. We may even answer your question in an upcoming episode.

And, of course, keep in touch with us on the socials: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Tony and Michelle Peterson 2017The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

 

 

S3 E9 | An Interview with Author Michelle Peterson

An Interview with Author Michelle Peterson on The #staymarried Podcast

Michelle and I usually interview our guests together, but for this episode, I put my wife on the hot seat!

I got to dig in with some questions about her new book like, “Why is it a devotional?” and a few other things that were on my mind.

I was also able to sneak in one of YOUR questions for her from Ask #staymarried, and in the end, I even got her to read a chapter from her book. I really think you’re going to like this interview with my wife the AUTHOR, Michelle Peterson. Enjoy!

 

Listen to “S3 E9: Inteview with Author Michelle Peterson” on Spreaker.

Michelle also talked about all of the Pre-order Gifts she’s been working on. If you order before May 23rd, you’ll get…

1. #staymarried Toolkit
10 Rules for Fighting Fair
The 2 Step Method to Learn and Practice Empathy Immediately
10 Ways to Think Like a Team (instead of treating each other like opponents)

2. Couple Checkup by Prepare Enrich
Get access to this personalized online assessment powered by over three decades of research, regularly $35, for just $14.95 with our exclusive discount code!

3. Unbox Love Date Box
Every pre-order will receive an exclusive discount code for $10 off your first date in a box delivered to your door.
+ A GIVEAWAY! 10 pre-orders will be randomly selected to win a custom date box for FREE!

4. Building Trust, Unlocking Intimacy
Access to a private Facebook Group where you’ll get to participate in an exclusive 5 Week Facebook Live Course with Tony and Michelle Peterson.

 

Ready to get these awesome gifts? All you have to do is forward your pre-order receipt to the following email address and we’ll send you everything. Send your receipt before May 23rd to: staymarried book at gmail dot com

Buy the book

An Interview with Author Michelle Peterson on The #staymarried Podcast

Feel free to leave a comment or question below for us or you can submit a question privately here: Ask #staymarried. We may even answer your question in an upcoming episode.

And, of course, keep in touch with us on the socials: TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarriedThe #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Michelle

 

 

Three Ways to Keep Your Hobbies and Your Marriage

3 Ways to Keep Your Hobbies and Your Marriage - #staymarriedYou guys ask the best questions! There are things about our marriage that we think are humdrum… our pet names for each other (Goose and Chother), our go-to dinners (Spaghetti and Taco Bowls), where we keep the toaster (in the pantry like normal people). This is the stuff we both know and have taken for granted at this point in our nearly nine years of marriage. These are things we don’t think would matter to anyone else’s marriage. But then, there you go, asking your questions and we realize that something that feels insignificant to us might be causing frustration or confusion for you.

I received an email recently from a husband who listened to The #staymarried Podcast and picked up on one of these seemingly insignificant details of our marriage and he wanted to know more about it. He asked…

“How do you manage playing computer games in your marriage, especially with kids?

My wife and I have been married for two years, with our first child due any day now. We all know that computer games can often be quite absorbing, if not downright addictive at times, so how do you balance family life with playing games?”

FINALLY! Something I can talk about! If you’ve been around #staymarried for a while, you know that Michelle does the bulk of the writing. She’s good at it. She reads a lot and thinks about these big marriage concepts like conflict and communication, blah blah blah. But, this guy asked about VIDEO GAMES. This one’s mine! Continue reading “Three Ways to Keep Your Hobbies and Your Marriage”

Ask #staymarried: How do I help my husband now that he’s out of work and depressed?

Ask #staymarried - advice on marriage, love, and relationshipsDear Tony and Michelle,

My husband was let go from his job through no fault of his own last winter (a few months after we were married) and we ended up moving out of state shortly afterwards. Settling into our new home was hard, and neither of us could find good work at first. I got a good job in a city a few hours away, so we moved again, and he still can’t find work. Work in his field (film/photography) is pretty much non-existent, so not only does he feel bad about not being able to find work, he’s depressed that when he does, it probably won’t be in his field.

His depression is hurting our day-to-day life, and I admit to feeling very frustrated sometimes that he hasn’t found work yet. I know he’s trying, but it’s just been so long, and it’s getting really difficult, especially since my feeling is that he’s being a little picky about what jobs he’s willing to take. Of course I don’t want him to settle for some soul-sucking job, but if he got ANYTHING even temporarily while he looked for something better it would help us so much.

I guess I’m just looking for advice on how to be more supportive and stay positive about our future. We want to start a family, but it’s just not financially possible right now. But I’m already 27 and worried about timing, so that factors into my fears as well. Your recent post about not always respecting Tony for his money choices really rang true for me. I love my husband dearly, but I’m having a really hard time feeling 100% respectful of him right now, and I hate that feeling.

How can I help him and support him when I’m feeling so scared and frustrated myself? Thank you… I love your blog, it’s really helped during this first year of marriage!

-Meredith

 

Dear Meredith,

This is a tough one. Most of the time we want to shrug off standard gender roles, but in this instance, the age-old fears of both sexes seem to apply: most men long to be providers and most women long to feel secure.

Since you’re really asking such a good question – How can I be supportive? – I’ll speak to how I’ve felt when I’ve been out of work. Continue reading “Ask #staymarried: How do I help my husband now that he’s out of work and depressed?”

The Love Crumb

The Love Crumb - Bids for Affection and Missed Connections - #staymarriedI have a desk job. I am a UX Designer at Microsoft, which stands for User Experience Designer, which is the current fad-name for a web designer. I sit in a chair, at a desk, staring at a couple of monitors, from 8:30am to about 5pm Monday through Friday in Redmond, Washington. Sometimes I have meetings where I’ll have to un-dock my laptop from my two monitors and walk to a conference room where people critique my work or give me more work to do. But all the time, my computer is with me. This handy little device helps me to stay tethered to my coworkers and my projects, whether they are Microsoft projects or freelance, but also helps me stay connected to my wife and my family.

It started YEARS ago… maybe 2004… but IM-ing (instant messaging) was as cool then as texting is now. I believe Michelle and I started with Windows Messenger. Somehow, when we were still just acquaintances, Michelle or I found the other and we started chatting during the day. Sometimes just a few messages back and forth. Sometimes constant interaction for 8 hours. But there was always one and only one way to start off the day’s ration of IM-ing. A single period. Whomever noticed the other was logging in would send a single dot over once they were available.

.

This was our whisper. It was a very covert way of saying “I’m here, and I see that you’re at your desk now, and I’d like to talk if you’d like to talk, but no pressure.”

It was always so exciting to get that little dot. Like a trinket that someone brings back to you from their vacation. The trinket’s true meaning is I was thinking about you even when I was far away. You really treasure those gifts, not because of how they practically improve your day to day life, but how your relationship with that person is stronger than it was before. And this little dot was that to me. Day after day, I received a tiny gift from Michelle, saying, You’re on my mind, which in turn put her on my mind if she wasn’t already. This is how our friendship started, and later, how it turned into our committing our entire lives to each other.

Though we never had a name for it, we continued to use this method throughout the years as we started dating, then became engaged, and once we got married. Still to this day, I’ll be sitting at my desk, or in a conference room, and a tiny little gift will pop up and remind me that I have a friend who loves me.

Recently Michelle gave it a name that I think is perfect. Love crumb. Like a little piece of love that’s broken off and left somewhere for me to find. Michelle will never know how much these Love Crumbs mean to me, as I’m not very good with words and any attempt at using the right ones would be feeble anyway. This is our own inside way of reaching out to the other, and even though yours is probably not exactly like ours, you still have one. Continue reading “The Love Crumb”

Sometimes My Wife Complains…

Sometimes My Wife Complains - What's behind the complaint and what to do about it.There we were, a night in with the family, and I thought it would be fun to play a board game. I convinced Michelle to put down the laundry she was folding and come and join us. It was great! We were all together in the living room, the girls were having a good time, Michelle was engaged and having fun. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Then, as we were putting the kids to bed together, something clearly switched. My wife went from happy and carefree to visibly tense and frustrated. I couldn’t exactly figure out why. I asked if everything was okay and got the dreaded, “Yes, I’m fine,” from her.

I tried to leave it alone, but it concerned me that everything had been going so well and now, for no reason I could figure out, things were not ok anymore.

Do you ever feel like you are in the dark about what your spouse is feeling? Michelle is constantly processing her thoughts in her own head. She doesn’t typically talk unless what she is about to say has been thought through. In some ways, this is great. I can trust that she means what she says and isn’t trying to play games or manipulate me. In other ways, like this particular evening, it’s lame. I can see that she’s gnawing on something – something is bothering her, and she is spending her energy trying to figure out what it is and if she’ll communicate with me about it. I’m left in the dark instead of invited in to process with her. She knows I want to hear what she’s thinking, because I’m pretty sure that, often times, I can help solve it. But, I know her. She likes to figure things out on her own. I guess we’re the same that way. I just wish she’d let me in.

The next morning, after I left for work, I got this email…


Subject: Frustrated

Tony,

Last night I was trying to relax and enjoy you and the girls when you insisted I play games with you instead of folding the laundry and doing the dishes. I did have a good time, but was triggered and irritated when Claire didn’t have clean pajamas in her drawer. It was a reminder that my real value is keeping up with the laundry and dishes. I often feel like staying on top of those things, along with whatever else I need to do around the house, doesn’t get noticed until I fall behind. So, I’m constantly choosing between doing something I might want to do – like go out with my friends, or sit down and work on the blog, or even play games with you guys – and the stuff I have to do because the stuff I have to do doesn’t get done all by itself.

I so appreciated your help the other night. I felt like we were working as a team to clean up and you always do so much, especially with the girls, to keep our home tidy. I just get frustrated when the behind the scenes stuff (everyone’s laundry, dishes, pumping breastmilk, feeding the baby) doesn’t seem appreciated when it is done, but instead comes back to me when it’s not done. “Mom, where’s my pajamas? Why don’t we have any clean dish towels? The baby doesn’t have any pajamas. There aren’t any burp rags.” All of that stuff makes me feel like I am doing a crappy job and I’ll never be able to sit down and relax.

It seems especially evident to me on the weekends. I know you want to hang out and it’s not fun for you if I’m busy folding laundry, so I try to set the chores down and not rush around so much. For you, the weekends are your time to relax since you’ve been at work all week, and I get that. It’s your free time, it should be. But, with my “job,” I don’t get weekends. I don’t get to clock out and leave it all until Monday. I get envious sometimes when you decide you want to work on something – play a video game, take a shower – and you don’t have to think about making sure everything else is already taken care of before you just run to the store or head into the office to do whatever you want to do. I always feel like I have to prepare 15 things before I can do something I want to do, and even then, I always have a pile of “work” waiting for me when I’m done so it hardly seems worth it to try to take a “break.”

Anyway, this is all normal stuff and I’m under no illusion that I’m the only person that ever feels this way. I’m not trying to feel sorry for myself, and ordinarily I don’t want to complain because I know my life really is so good. It’s just that last night it felt all piled up and unappreciated and lonely.

So… that’s what that was all about.

I love you,

your wife


"Behind every complaint is a deep personal longing." - Gottman quote on #staymarried

Now, you’re not in my marriage and I’m not in yours, but I have to tell you that getting this email was a BIG deal. Most of the time, even if she is able to identify how she’s feeling and why, she may or may not ever share that with me. The fact that she took the time, in the midst of toddler tantrums and infant feedings, to put some thought into an email was HUGE. I knew I needed to think carefully about the way I responded. Here’s what I sent back…


Re: Frustrated

Honey,

I love you so much. What you do is appreciated and noticed (not just when someone doesn’t have clean PJs). I know you work really hard, really long, and without breaks, and I want to help out.

I’m here to be your teammate and partner, so let me know how this frustration can be avoided in the future.

You are right… I’m willing to let the chores go by the wayside so that we can bond as a family, but not to the expense of making you feel overwhelmed. Next time we’ll prep our chores before we play games.

In love with you,

Tony


In his research, Dr. John Gottman and his colleagues have found that “Behind every complaint is a deep personal longing.” I know my wife doesn’t want to complain, but in a strange way, I appreciate when she does. I know that when she finally lets me in and tells me the things that are bothering her, it’s a window into something more personal. I can see that what she needs is to be affirmed. We’ve taken the Five Love Languages assessment and memorized each other’s “Love Languages,” so I know one of hers is “Words of Affirmation.” Telling her that I appreciate her does not come naturally to me. I typically hope that she just knows I appreciate her without having to say it. But, she doesn’t work that way. She needs to hear it.

When I read her email, I knew that the issue wasn’t really that our kids didn’t have clean pajamas in their dresser drawers. I could figure out that the real issue was that Michelle didn’t feel appreciated for all she does to keep our family running smoothly. I realized it had been a while since I expressed my gratitude in words. One of my “Love Languages” is “Acts of Service,” so I figure that helping out around the house is sufficient to showing her love. And, by her email, I can see that she appreciates my efforts, but it doesn’t replace her need to hear from me that I see what she does and it matters immensely.

"Meeting your spouse's need for love is a choice you make each day." - Chapman quote on #staymarried

So, sometimes she complains. I’ve decided that it’s ok when she does. I believe Dr. Gottman that there is a deep personal longing behind those complaints and I do my best to try to figure that out, to acknowledge it, and to show my wife love in whatever way she feels lacking. I know she does the same for me when I complain.

If you hear your spouse complaining, consider that maybe it’s an opportunity for you to understand them better. Maybe they are letting you in on a deep need that they have, a chance for you to show them love and understanding. Do your best to listen to complaints with an empathetic ear, not to be insulted, but to reach out and meet them where they are so that you can #staymarried.

You are reading Sometimes My Wife Complains, a #staymarried blog. You may also want to read If You Really Want to be Heard and To Love is To Listen. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing.

New to #staymarried? Welcome! Check out why we started this blog and our first entry to get a little background.

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Tony

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blogIf you are not already aware that there are external threats to your marriage, then my guess is that you haven’t been married for very long. One of the biggest threats to marriage has been infidelity, and researchers from the University of Central Florida have found that people in committed relationships who view pornographic materials are more likely to cheat on their partners than those who don’t. With more than 500 million pages of porn on the internet today, most of which is directed at men, Dr. John Gottman says in his book What Makes Love Last? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal :

Even non-compulsive use of [porn] can damage a committed relationship. Masturbating to an image results in the secretion of oxytocin and vasopressin, hormones linked to attachment. Porn users are in danger of becoming attached to a mere fetish of impersonal sex.

So, if pornography poses a problem, why don’t we talk about it? I mean, we can all admit that we’ve seen it, and that we want to see it again. Marketers are aware of this and use it against us every day in advertising products that have nothing to do with sex. I see this billboard all the time for a local plumbing company with the image of a beautiful woman in a low cut shirt. Am I supposed to believe that if I call that company, she’s the plumber that is going to show up at my front door?

There are several reasons we don’t often talk about porn. First of all, it’s embarrassing. Viewing porn is not normally a group activity for a reason. When people engage in it, there are the perceived positive effects of being aroused and perhaps even reaching orgasm from masturbating to it. But, with that comes secrecy and shame. It’s incredibly uncomfortable to talk about or admit. Sometimes, while we may even see that porn could be a problem for someone else, we can be fooled into thinking we, ourselves, won’t be affected, so it’s not really a problem for us the way it might be for others. William Struthers, Ph. D., a bio-psychologist and the author of Wired for Intimacy, says after much research:

Denial is the first line of defense. Because so many men have viewed so much porn, the fear about how it has affected them is too overwhelming. So they deny the issue. But it doesn’t go away. Because we are embodied beings, viewing pornography changes how the brain works, how we form memories and make attachments.

Michelle and I are hardly experts when it comes to the study of the effects porn has on a marriage. So, we asked Craig Gross, founder of xxxchurch.com, who is also known as “The Porn Pastor,” to weigh in. We believe, along with Craig, that we should absolutely be talking about it. If we are going to address the things that threaten our marriages, we need to do it head on. We need to know if and how it affects us so we can arm ourselves against it. When we talked with Craig, he had some very insightful things to share. He weighed in on why we need to push past the shame and embarrassment, and why porn should be talked about in every marriage, and here is what he shared with us…

Porn Breaks Trust and Destroys Intimacy

Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross on the #staymarried blog

A healthy marriage is based on trust and intimacy. Secrets, especially your secret stash of porn or that website you keep deleting from the history bar, are only going to get in the way of that trust.

Another scenario of broken trust happens when a spouse suggests bringing porn into the marriage, wanting to “spice things up.” I have heard both husbands and wives confess they used this approach out of a selfish desire to indulge in porn. When one spouse trusts another and follows his or her suggestion, it is devastating to discover that the spouse who wanted to use porn did not have the best interests of the marriage or the other spouse at heart. Rather, he or she was seeking a way to indulge lust.

Broken trust alters the very core of a relationship, and the only way to restore it is by making good decisions over time. Without trust, a vital marriage component, intimacy is almost impossible.

If you choose to use pornography as a means to sexually arouse yourself, you are forfeiting the ability to become aroused by your spouse. Over time, porn users find that it becomes more and more difficult to be sexually aroused by your spouse because he or she will age while the porn star forever remains youthful in pictures and videos.

Porn lies, telling you that your spouse will never measure up to what porn has to offer. Once you believe that—and you will believe that—your intimacy is over. Fantasy eventually takes people farther away from their spouse than they wanted to go and offers no turnaround.

Though porn destroys marriages, it takes more than just abstaining from porn to keep your marriage growing, healthy, and strong.

Here are some keys to assist you as you strive to keep your marriage thriving:

1. Set Healthy Parameters

Don’t allow unhealthy glances or wandering eyes. Television shows and even some television ads can produce impure thoughts that lead to unhealthy behavior. Turn them off before you get hooked. Sticking to this guideline will take guts and willpower. For Christians, Jesus had some especially candid words for how powerful the link between our mind and our emotions can be. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28) Essentially, Jesus stated that having an uncontrolled mind will inevitably lead to thoughts that become actions. It’s the same way with porn.

2. Guard Your Associations

You are the average of the five people with whom you hang around with most often. The behavior of those you spend time with becomes your behavior, and bad company corrupts good character. If your friends are consumed with talking about sexual escapades or exploitative behavior, get new friends. Take charge of the relational environments in which you place yourself.

3. Guard Your Ears

Inappropriate words masked as flirtatious compliments are stepping-stones toward irreversible effects. I have seen relationships destroyed because a wife was innocently seduced by a friend’s listening ear and kind words. I have also known men and women who have mastered making comments that lead to more aggressive flirtatious behavior. Don’t allow it. If someone makes a comment to you that is flirty or over the edge, make it immediately clear this is not acceptable behavior. If it happens twice, bring your spouse into the loop and talk about it.

4. Guard Your Time and Money

Friends of ours who have struggled with porn have taken steps to control their use of time and money. They have asked their spouses to control the money and made themselves accountable to a friend for the ways they spend their time. The formula is simple and it works as a healthy parameter. If there is strict accountability of money (no cash in hand) and time (where have you been and what have you been doing?), it is much more difficult to get in a place that leads to trouble.

5. Work at Romance

Did you know it’s important to keep dating even though you’re married? I know Michelle and Tony have touched on this here at #staymarried, and I only want to reinforce the idea.  It’s easy to let time pass and allow dating and romance in your marriage to disappear, but then you’re setting yourself up for boredom and the inevitable desire to seek out something new. Instead, set up date nights with each other. They don’t have to be expensive, just creative. Your calendar should have at least one date night a month. Remind each other and plan ahead so you have something to look forward to. Even a movie night at home with take-out food can keep the love spark glowing.

6. Communicate Love Clearly

Every person hears “I love you” in a different way. According to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, couples need to hear love in the way they understand it most clearly. Michelle wrote a post giving more insight into this idea here. When you identify your partner’s love language, you can then communicate “I love you” most clearly. A breakdown occurs when you think you’re communicating love but it sounds like a foreign language to your spouse, so work hard at discovering your spouse’s love language and communicating love clearly . . . and often.

7. Maintain Physical Intimacy

According to a 2003 Newsweek study, between 15 and 20 percent of couples are living in a sexless marriage—these are couples who make love no more than ten times a year. While sex is not the be-all and end-all in a marriage, it is obviously one of the best ways to maintain intimacy. Most men think sex has to be daily, while women may be satisfied with less sex than that. The longer men go without sex, the more desperate they become for it. The longer women go without sex, the more they don’t need it. Find a good compromise and make every effort to follow through, even though one or both of you may be busy and tired. Couples who said they were sexually fulfilled had sex an average of 2.5 times a week. Sex must happen on a regular basis. Plan for it. Prepare your mind for it. Do it.

8. Forgive

Every relationship is going to have an occasional bump in the road, but don’t let that bump turn into a mountain by refusing to forgive a mistake. Remember that forgiveness is not a synonym for justifying, accepting, or condoning sinful behavior; it is about allowing room for growth and trusting that a change in behavior follows every apology. Many times couples can let too much time pass without asking for or offering forgiveness. When this happens, bitterness, resentment, and disillusionment set in. Soon the person harboring unforgiveness can start to think these issues wouldn’t happen in a different relationship, a deception that leads to a “grass is greener” mentality. Invest in your relationship by asking for and offering forgiveness whenever it is needed.

Growing together and nurturing your marriage is a lifelong task that both husband and wife must undertake. Even in the midst of a culture charged with sexual imagery, your marriage can remain healthy and strong if you are vigilant about protecting it. Some of these parameters may seem extreme, some of them are. But, we believe we need to take an extreme stance against anything that would threaten our desire to #staymarried.

P.S. You are reading Is Porn a Problem?: Guest Post by Craig Gross, as part of a #staymarried series on infidelity, pornography, and forgiveness.  If you missed the first two parts, 7 Ways to Become a Better Forgiver and 5 Ways to Prevent Infidelity, you might want to check them out. If you want to read more about safeguarding your marriage, you may also like Five Trust Building Boundaries.
Thanks for reading!
~Tony

How To Be A Great Dad

Let me tell you how I’m an amazing dad, person, husband, and lover.
How To Be A Great Dad - a #staymarried blog

Well… that might be what you were thinking I was going to write about (per the title of this post) but that’s not it.

What I am going to write about is my relationship with Michelle and how putting the well-being of my marriage to her in front of my big plans and dreams for my babies is my long-term parenting strategy.

Recently, Giuliana and Bill Rancic were heavily criticized for saying nearly the same thing – that they would always put their marriage before their child. So, before you call CPS on the Petersons, allow me to explain.

OF COURSE I want my baby girls to grow up with the best that the world has to offer. OF COURSE I want to see them mature into responsible, intelligent, creative, and generous adults. OF COURSE I want to set them up for success in their future relationships. But I believe the way to do that, is to model it through the relationship they’ll be watching, scrutinizing, and eventually mimicking for the next 18+ years of their life.

They will learn how to do almost everything from me and Michelle, whether we purposefully teach it to them, or they pick it up from watching and ultimately understanding. From managing money, handling stress, and driving a car – to fighting fair, reconciling, forgiving, and giving up oneself for something better than a selfish desire. This list is endless, and I can’t write every single detail I want my girls to be equipped to handle, let alone sit down and teach them face-to-face. So, I’ve decided to live my life as ethically and transparently as I can, and I’ll hope that they find confidence and encouragement in watching me, mistakes and all. This will always start with how I treat my wife.

In the future, there WILL be a time when Claire disagrees with her significant other. Now, although I don’t know who this man is, or how he will treat Claire in this scenario, I can paint a picture for her of a healthy outcome that will be ingrained in her subconscious. Either they yell and argue and find each other at odds in the ring… or they discuss, defuse, and strive to understand over demanding to be understood.

Let’s take that above scene and paint a couple of images in Claire’s mind as she’s in a hostile argument…

If Michelle and I handled conflict in a very loud, aggressive, or even abusive way, Claire would say to herself, “Oh yeah… this yelling is familiar. This feeling I’ve had and seen before is normal. Mom and dad used to do this.” She would find a skewed sense of comfort in that place, dwell in it, and make decisions based off of the defense mechanism to emotionally protect herself by lashing out and deflect hostility with hostility.

Conversely, if Michelle and I handled conflict in a calm, cooperative, and united way, Claire would wonder to herself, “What is this douche yelling at me for? I didn’t do anything to deserve him yelling at me. Mom and dad never did this. I don’t like this feeling at all… I don’t have to take this!” She would see the telltale red flag very early and innately know that there is a better way of handling conflict. Whether she respond by leaving that guy, or were they married, she might request the same rule we have in our house: no yelling.

Working on being the kind of husband my wife deserves is going to be my secret weapon to being the kind of dad my kids need.

How To Be A Great Dad - a #staymarried blog

Dr. John Medina, in his book Brain Rules for Baby, writes:

Even in an emotionally stable home, one without regular marital hostility, there will be fights. Fortunately, research shows that the amount of fighting couples do in front of their children is less damaging than the lack of reconciliation the kids observe. Many couples will fight in front of their children but reconcile in private. This skews a child’s perceptions, even at early ages, for the child always sees the wounding but never the bandaging. Parents who practice bandaging each other after a fight, deliberately and explicitly, allow their children to model both how to fight fair and how to make up.

So, do you know what that means? Really, practically, what it means? Here’s what I think…

How To Be A Great Dad - a #staymarried blog

It’s not always guaranteed that your children will remember (or even listen to) the lessons you find significant. To combat this, and as a little fun for myself, I’ve reserved email addresses for both of my girls. When something happens that was a significant memory for me, I email them about it. I know they won’t receive these emails until well into their teens, but when the time is right they’ll have a whole inbox full of memories to relive. It is my way of ensuring that they still have these memories of their Dad, their mom, and their childhood, even though at the time, they were too young to store them away in their memory banks. It’s a free and easy way to connect with my girls, and in the process, it changes me and keeps my priorities straight.

We get asked to write about parenting from time to time, but dads, this is for you especially… Good parenting starts with being a good spouse. So read the other blog posts, read the recommended resources, invest time and money in your wife, and #staymarried.

P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read Fathers Matter.  Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my wife’s first entry to get a little background. Thanks for reading!
~ Tony

Why I Date My Wife

Why I Date My Wife - 5 Questions To Get Your Date Started - a #staymarried blogOur close friends might tell you that Michelle and I are “foodies”… that we like good food and are willing to pay a little extra to get the better cut. The truth is, we just like food, but what we like even more is the experience of sharing a meal. When we find ourselves around a table with others – be it friends, family, kids, and even strangers – we grow closer to these people. It’s taking time to be present for one another and share two very basic human needs: food and community.

This also goes for one-on-one meals. When I’m sitting across from my wife at one of our favorite places to eat, or maybe a new place we’ve never been, we bond. We talk to each other. We ask questions we don’t think of when our girls are in earshot. We share dreams, vision, and aspirations.

We look at each other.

At this time in our lives, days are long. I work 9 to 5 as a graphic designer, staring at a computer monitor over 40 hours per week. Michelle is tending to the needs of three little girls who all require her focus and attention non-stop. Even when I get home, we’re busy… playing with the girls, making dinner, and cleaning up. When we’re unwinding from the day, it’s spent in front of the TV or in separate rooms as she puts her feet up with a magazine and I work on a side project. The point being, there is a very realistic danger of connecting on only a surface level unless we’re purposeful about it. “How was your day?” is a good start, but these aren’t the kind of questions we ask when we’re out on a date.

When we’re sitting across from each other, and our focus isn’t being split between parenting, chores, bills, work, and daily drama, we connect and our relationship benefits. I get to hear what Michelle’s been thinking about. The kind of stuff not worn on her sleeve but makes up the person she really is.

Now, here’s the part I find curious… it’s not all deep, soul-searching type conversations. I don’t want to paint a false picture of what our dates look like. Honestly, we dote on our girls more than we talk about anything else. Or we play a game where we’ll pick another couple in the room and we’ll describe their life outside this setting (“he’s a circus clown off the clock and she’s on her first blind date in 7 years” type of thing). And even though I’m not always prodding around for the core of who Michelle is, I still feel a connection there that isn’t mundane.

If soul-bonding type connections are going to be made, they aren’t going to be made in the humdrum of the daily autopilot. You HAVE to be purposeful about it. THAT is why I take my wife out on dates. To get her away… to connect with her… to see her and to be seen by her.

Justin Buzzard, author of Date Your Wife, says that if we, as men, want our marriages to be more than the lifeless relationships we’re surrounded by, it starts with us! He writes:

You and I and the men we know want something more. Perhaps you’ve settled for a marriage that looks like most other marriages. Perhaps you now look like most other husbands — ordinary, nice, confused. But what you really want is a marriage that feels like a mission, a marriage that’s moving forward toward something exciting, mysterious, and grand. Kind of like the way dating felt.

Does this resonate with you? So, what does it take? It’s going to start with you taking charge. Call your wife and ask her out. Make all of the arrangements — including babysitting. Plan to be somewhere that will allow you to get close and talk, or walk and hold hands. Ask her questions and really listen.

Now, if you read Michelle’s recent post about how most conversations among married couples begin, you know that women have a much higher words-per-day average than men. We aren’t known for being the best conversationalists. If you need some help getting a meaningful conversation going on your next date, we’re here for you.

5 Questions To Get Your Next Date Going

Why I Date My Wife - 5 Questions To Get Your Date Started - a #staymarried blog Why I Date My Wife - 5 Questions To Get Your Date Started - a #staymarried blog Why I Date My Wife - 5 Questions To Get Your Date Started - a #staymarried blog Why I Date My Wife - 5 Questions To Get Your Date Started - a #staymarried blog Why I Date My Wife - 5 Questions To Get Your Date Started - a #staymarried blog

Michelle and I go out once or twice a month. This works for us, and you need to find what works for you. We’ve found that trading babysitting nights with another family helps not only offset the cost of childcare but gives us an opportunity to see our good friends get a date night in for themselves, too. For the frugal-minded reading this, see this as an investment in your marriage. Trust me, $50 for a night out once a month is a lot cheaper and more fun than a hotel bill due to a separation or a marriage counselor to avoid divorce. There’s nothing wrong with choosing a creative, cheap date and skipping the most expensive restaurant in town, either. Dating my wife, treating her like I did when she was my girlfriend, is part of how we #staymarried.

The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.

Tony and Michelle Peterson #staymarriedIf you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post.

Thank you for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!

~ Tony

P.S. I designed the questions in this post so that you can print them and put them in your wallet. Just click on the image & print from your browser.

Living With My Partner’s Baggage

We all bring something into our relationships… “Baggage” is the popular term for it. My baggage includes a couple of past relationships, one sexual and one very long-term (10 years)… as well as lust, pride, and financial struggles. But these shy in comparison to what my wife has endured in her lifetime, as she shared last week here on the blog. It’s not a competition of ‘who has the most hurt and dirt in their past,’ so I’m not trying to compare myself to her, but the fact is, I was not subject to molestation and rape from ages 4 to 10 and don’t think I can ever fathom what a dark place that is for a child. Michelle has asked me to write a follow-up to last week’s post to share what it’s like from a partner’s perspective– being in a relationship with someone who has dealt with sexual abuse. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to share my insight, perhaps because I don’t feel I have any. But because she asked, I will try.

Living With My Partner's Baggage - Coping with Depression in Marriage - a #staymarried blog

Here’s how it goes…
I have heard Michelle’s story many times, and each time I hear it, it sounds almost exactly like the first time she told me. Very disconnected. Very factual and stale. Not emotional like you’d expect from someone who’s been deeply wounded – never a tear, or tremble, or pause in her voice. She never uses the word “rape,” and even though that’s what it was, she seems to speak of the unspeakable as though she’s talking about a mediocre restaurant she visited. Honestly, it’s a little disjointed to hear it delivered this way (like Ben Stein giving a eulogy) but I think I get it. Not only is she trying to spare the feelings and pity of the listener, but if she were going to allow herself to internally or mentally relive those moments every time she shared her past, she might never stop carrying that baggage.

In contrast to popular opinion, my wife is actually an introvert. She is very private and really only shares details of her life and feelings to very close friends. So when I heard that she was going to share her story with the world, I was so proud of her, because I knew it was way outside of her comfort zone. The video in her “Baggage Handling” post was shot in 2009 when we lived in Wisconsin, and it was intended to be used for the (at the time) small church of about 500 people we helped plant. We saw then how being open and transparent could be helpful to others who’d had similar experiences. It seems that while so many are affected, there is still a huge tendency for people to feel alone. It’s a colossal understatement to say that I’m a big fan of Michelle Peterson.

But back to the effect it has on our marriage. For me, her baggage helps me remember that God is good. I know, I know. You all just thought, “oh geez, Mr. Christian just pulled out the cliché one-liner I was expecting”… but before you roll your eyes and stop reading, hear me out: The results of studies concerning adults who were sexually abused as children have shown that the odds are against Michelle, and she should be in a self-destructive situation– in an abusive relationship, addicted, selling her body, living with cripplingly low self-esteem, or admitted to a mental hospital– but she has overcome and spat in the face of those studies. I cannot look at the scientifically observed results of an abused childhood, put them next to who I know my wife to be, and find the contrast anything less than a miracle.

To put it differently, it has been no more than a small thorn in our sides. Her past has surfaced for me to experience a small number of times. This doesn’t mean that it’s all lollipops and kittens, though. One specific example of how her past has had an effect on our marriage is Michelle’s experience with depression.

Depression at Home

It is extremely common for victims of childhood abuse to suffer from depression and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is no time when this has been more apparent than after the birth of each of our girls. After Claire was born, Michelle seemed fine for a couple weeks, but then she began to appear distant or lost in thought. Then she turned irritable, bitter, pessimistic, and communication was like pulling teeth, most of the time ending up in tears. Talking about it together (when we’re not in the depths of living in it), she’s revealed to me some pretty dark thoughts she struggles with. Out of shame we never sought professional help, but this season eventually faded and life became easier again.

After learning that we were going to have another baby, I gave little thought of how we would handle postpartum. I think I just thought “it takes going through it once to know how to handle it the next time” and assumed that Michelle would be watchful of symptoms, and it would be better this time. I was wrong. After Nora was born, it was worse than before. She was completely non-communicative, simple things that were easy for her to navigate before now caused her to be stressed and overwhelmed. Again, I hoped in silence that it would just go away, but after a month I was doubtful. I ended up calling a hotline to find out what I could do for my wife and they were helpful, up until they told me that Michelle would have to call them directly so that she could receive assistance. I was torn. I wanted help, but I feared in my wife’s hyper defensive state that she might feel betrayed that I made the phone call in the first place.

Our youngest was four or five months old when Michelle seemed to come alive again. We could talk and even joke and I thought we’d come through the worst of it. Then, just a few months ago, she seemed to break down once more. Michelle not only felt the emotional struggle like before, but it was physically debilitating this time. I was nervous to go to work, fearing that parenting our girls was too much for her. Once I came home from work a little early only to find her sobbing in the bathroom. She was trying to put makeup on and could not stop crying. I asked her what had happened, and she told me plainly that she had no reason to cry except that she just felt hopeless and worthless. It was brutal to watch my sweet wife feel so awful. She wanted to shake it off, but these horrible feelings were just not going away. I kept telling her how much I loved her and how much she meant to our family, but it seemed that any attempt I made at encouraging her was futile.

Soon common household responsibilities seemed like impossible tasks. There were Fridays when I’d get home from work and I would only hear our bedroom door shut as I walked through the front door and knew she was retiring to sleep, leaving Dad to “figure it out” for the remainder of the weekend. It was a dark time, one of the hardest I can remember. This time, however, I called and made an appointment with our primary care doctor. I was still nervous, but when I told Michelle, she seemed relieved. Michelle has been on antidepressant medication now for a couple of months, and that has made a huge difference. We have talked and know that the next step is to seek counseling. That may seem like a simple phone call to most people, but after living with this for some time now, I realize what a hurdle that is for my wife. Still, she is determined to be healthy. I think that’s the difference of being a victim and a survivor.

I don’t even think Michelle really realizes she is a victim of sexual abuse. Take any horrible situation, and the victim is the innocent person hurt by the situation, helpless and waiting for the hero to come and rescue them. Sometimes the hero doesn’t come. But a survivor is what a victim becomes when they endure, outlast, or take matters into their own hands to find a way out of a bad situation… not for justice or to make fair or right, but for survival. Michelle is a survivor – strong and courageous.

How We Deal

So there you sit, reading my inadequate words to describe how I live with my amazing wife who brings past abuse into life with me. This isn’t a post to give you the 5-happy-hops-to-living-with-abuse, and I’m sorry if that’s what you’re hoping for. We do know that seeing a physician and starting medication has been a game-changer. Michelle is no longer plagued by the hopeless and worthless feelings she struggled through so heavily. She is alive to us and not distant the way she was and we are so thankful. As for me as her husband, I realize I have responsibility to her and to our family to continue to work through this. If you are a partner trying to cope with your spouse’s baggage, all I can offer is what I think works for us…

Coping with Depression in Marriage - a #staymarried blog

I’m sure some of this comes as a shock. I think most people read Michelle’s words and think about how encouraging she is. Some may even think we’ve overcome a lot of hurdles and are now sitting happily on the other side, ready to bestow all our learnings to everyone else who’s hurting. Nope. We’re in it too. You might be tripping over that boundaries hurdle right now, but we’re hitting that one over and over and are always stumbling over the comparison trap. We have decided not to let baggage or depression or anything else we may face tear us apart. We definitely don’t have this marriage thing in the bag, but we want to keep at it and #staymarried.

 

If you related with this post or think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and Michelle’s first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
~Tony

Portrait Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography

Great Microwave Meals

On Thursday, we shared with you some ways to “Turn On Your Crockpot”. Now I’d like to offer you my perspective on men being like microwaves.

Great Microwave Meals - a #staymarried blog about intimacy

WARNING: This is a post for adult married couples.

A man’s desire for sexual intimacy can be radically different than a woman’s. Wives need foreplay early in the day with kind words and being attentive to her non-sexual needs. Husbands simply do not. She needs to feel loved in order to want sex… he feels loved as a result of sex. Every emotional interaction of her day is a building block directly related to the next, coming together to set the scene… He, on the other hand, can get turned on by simply seeing his wife in the right light at the right angle, and that’ll be enough to set things in motion for him.

Speaking to the metaphor, making a great crockpot meal requires prep work of exactly the right ingredients, setting up the appliance on a slow simmer, and then checking on it periodically during the day, maybe adding a few ingredients here and there. To make a good microwave meal, you need to push a few buttons. And in fact, I’m impatient enough to use the “Add 30 seconds” button just so that the cooking starts the moment I push a button, not after I hit “Start.”

The reality is, eating crockpot meals every day is time-consuming, requires a ton of planning and forethought, and can become a numbing tedium that lacks spice and spontaneity. As for microwave meals, in most cases the ingredients weren’t hand picked, and it lacks the depth of flavor that an all-day-simmer gives, but we gotta eat. That’s why there is importance in variety and balance.

I can see how the attention to detail and purposeful interactions throughout the day can make a woman feel special. I can see how speaking kindly to your wife in the morning can set the tone for the evening. As a woman, this may make complete sense to you, but as a man this concept can be a little harder to grasp. We have a natural pull toward instant gratification. When I put my money in the vending machine, I want that bag of Doritos in my hand immediately. I don’t want to think about the Doritos all day, and then enjoy the amazing flavor 9 hours later. So, if you think it’s planning and forethought that makes sex good for a man, you’re mistaken. Sure, he probably appreciates a naughty text, or a peek at some lingerie, but ultimately it’s YOU he wants, and the sooner the better.

For men, the speed at which the waiter delivers the filet mignon from the kitchen to the table does not affect the flavor. It’s still filet mignon… and it still tastes friggin’ amazing! Especially if it’s hot! Perhaps there is a certain amount of anticipation that can enhance the experience, but in all honesty, we want that amazing meal on the table NOW.

Of course, comparing sex to food is funny, but I hesitate comparing a powerful and beautiful experience to a hot pocket. The truth is, sex isn’t anything like a hot pocket… no matter how it’s served.

Hot Pockets Aren’t Healthy

Let me also offer a perspective that is slightly less humorous. There is in fact a “hot pocket,” and it is self-pleasuring. It can be a lot of work to constantly attend to your spouse’s emotional state in the hopes of bonding at the end of the day. It is a lot less work for him to just handle it himself… literally. If you’re constantly making him “work for it,” he’ll likely stop working for it and just take care of it himself. At this point both your sex life and your marriage as a whole will suffer. The sad fact is that a human being can live off hot pockets for the rest of their life. But if you’ve experienced food the way I have, you will agree with me in saying what a sad life that is and what a massive blessing you would be missing out on.

This depravity of spontaneous sexual intimacy can leave a door open for outside influence as well. Ladies, if you are making it difficult for your man to connect with you the way he needs, not only are you telling him it’d be easier for him to just handle it, but you’re opening an opportunity for someone else to be the fulfiller of that need. Being rejected over and over is a massive hit to a man’s pride and ego. How easy would it be for Ms. Bad-Intentions to make your sex-deprived husband feel like a million bucks? EASY!

Being attentive to his desires will place you at the top of his short list of “ways to satisfy this feeling I can’t control.” If you want to connect with your husband in a way he desires and increase the levels of intimacy in your marriage overall, we’ve got some ideas for you…

4 Tips to Great Microwave Meals

1. Respond to him sexually more often.

Don’t wait till you’ve both settled down and are in bed… Surprise him in the hall! Call him to the bathroom when you’re taking a shower, then invite him in. Don’t let a kiss just be a peck, make something of it and guide his hand. Respond to him when he approaches you and initiate sex yourself once in awhile.

2. Understand he needs to release sexually.

If you think to yourself “it’s been a while,” don’t wait for him to approach you. Do something about it! You already know that men, generally speaking, are more easily turned on than women. He is turned on just by the sight of you, and something is happening to him physically that may not be happening to you. When you have emotional build-up, you vent to him, or someone else, verbally. When he has sexual build up… I’ll let you draw the parallel on that one.

3. Consider the battle he’s up against.

Keep in mind that his desires are solicited to all day from surfing the web, or even standing in line at the grocery store. Create a safe place in your marriage for him to express himself and make efforts to draw his attention back to you. Be confident in knowing you’re beautiful to him, but don’t be deceived in thinking everyone else in his eyes is ugly. Have peace in knowing he chose you. The media uses women’s bodies against men… and it works. Don’t shame him for a part of his nature that’s difficult to control.

4. Don’t try to make him open up to you verbally by depriving him of sex.

You’re probably the talker… he’s probably not. Withholding sex isn’t going to change this. It’s manipulative and counterproductive. Don’t play the I-have-a-headache card when it’s not true. Remember, he feels connected as a result of sex. If you want him to open up to you, chances are you’ll get a lot more out of him emotionally when you are open to him sexually.


Ladies, don’t read this post and think all of the pressure and ownership is on you now… it’s not. Your husband is responsible for meeting your needs as well. Instead, I hope you’ll take some of these things to heart, and remember them the next time you have an opportunity to make a move. Also, it’s good to try things a bit out of character. Even if it’s difficult or embarrassing at first, in the long run it’s that kind of vulnerability that’ll help you #staymarried.

 

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, share it! You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my wife’s first entry to get a little background. Thanks for reading!
~Tony

Photo Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography

Five Trust-Building Boundaries

I don’t ride in cars with girls.

That’s usually the phrase that gets me the WTF look. But it’s something that’s changed my relationship with my wife.

Let me explain…

I worked at a church a few years ago as the creative guy (this particular job didn’t hand out job titles), and as a foundation for health and safe boundaries, all the employees were asked to not meet with people of opposite gender isolated and alone. This meant that when a woman wanted to meet one-on-one with a pastor, his office door would always be wide open, and more often he would ask another staff member to be present. This also included riding in cars, meeting one-on-one in each other’s homes, or any other situation that would pair them up alone.

This probably seems strict and teeters on overkill. I can remember thinking “Are you kidding me? You’re going to tell ME who I can meet with and drive in a car with?” I also remember the question being asked “So if it’s in the middle of a stormy night, and you come across a woman you know walking alone on the side of the road, you’re not going to pick her up?”

I remember thinking, “YEAH… what then?”

Bitter, confused, and as self-righteous as I might have felt, I still chose to adopt this new “rule”. So, it started as something I felt I needed to do to keep my job and very quickly turned into a value that I can now apply to many areas of my life. The idea was simple… affairs, both physical and emotional, don’t typically happen out in the open. In groups we tend to behave ourselves, but it’s in private that our secrets are kept. It’s behind closed doors that we misbehave. It’s with our monitors hidden from the view of others that we indulge. It’s out of the earshot of others that we gossip and speak negatively about people.

Let’s just assume for a moment that you don’t have any human emotions or temptations, and that there is no threat you’d EVER cheat on your spouse with someone you’re simply “riding in a car with.” That’s all fine and well, but can you speak to the other passenger’s views and feelings? Imagine what your spouse might feel if they coincidentally pulled up next to you at a stoplight and glanced over. Even though nothing is probably going on, they may begin to feel insecure and that drives a wedge between the two of you. The natural response to this is going to be inquisitive on the part of your spouse and defensive on yours.

Let’s fast-forward 5 years.

I’m married, have two little girls, and a roommate living in the downstairs of our house, and yep, it’s a WOMAN! To make matters even more complicated, she works where I work, in the same building, with the same hours. So, it makes complete and total sense for us to carpool, wouldn’t you say? Couldn’t we share the financial burden and even make it possible for us to use the HOV lane? Aren’t we two people my wife completely and totally trusts? Well, yeah, it does make a lot of sense. But guess what… we don’t carpool. I ride the bus inconveniently to work and sometimes my housemate will even pass my stop on her way home. She enthusiastically honks and waves. She knows better than to pull over and offer me a ride, even though we are going home TO THE SAME HOUSE! I doubt that we’ve even been at the house alone together before. Not because I don’t trust her, or that she doesn’t trust me, or that Michelle doesn’t trust either of us, but simply out of a choice I made years ago that I’ve seen HUGE benefits from.

This choice has made for some awkward moments between myself and others, but I WAY prefer those moments over any amount of trust I’ll lose from Michelle. Any inconvenience this boundary may cause me or others around me is worth the relationship I have with my wife. Ask Michelle if she’s ever doubted my faithfulness.

So to answer my own question…
No, I would not pick up a woman I know walking alone in the rain in the middle of the night. I would awkwardly offer her my car, and I would walk. And to make things clear, this event has happened exactly zero times in the past five years.

Michelle and I fully trust each other. We’ve found that applying some simple boundaries to our lives has made a load of difference. If setting up a foundation for trust in your relationship sounds like something you’re interested in, here are a few boundaries you might consider.

5 TRUST-BUILDING BOUNDARIES

1. No alone time with the opposite gender

I realize that this one can be hard to institute in some cases (say if you’re a manager at work and you need to have a professional conversation with someone who works for you). But if it’s not a completely vital part of your day-to-day, this boundary safeguards your relationship from inappropriate outside influence.

2. Share passwords

We need to protect our private information from people who intend to misuse it. Your spouse is not that person. Share your passwords to your email, Facebook, Twitter, and yes, your bank account with your spouse. Then operate as though they are looking at it every day. You’ll notice very quickly that the flirtatious comment you wanted to post privately to that woman now REALLY seems like a bad idea.

3. “Not now” some friend requests

You don’t have to accept everyone as your social media friend. In fact, it’s probably a bad idea if you do. That girl with the profile pic of her half naked? Click “Not now.” That boyfriend from High School? Click “Not now.” Truth is, we can all probably do with a little purging as it is. Maybe take a little time to go through your current friends and “unfriend” those you have iffy feelings about… they’ll never know you did it.

4. Limit Guys-Night-Out

Or Girls-Night-Out. It’s GREAT to get away and be with the dudes – if you don’t already do it, you should – but every weekend is too much. Instead, find couples you respect and start hanging out with them more. Then, treat yourself to a Guys-Night-Out once a month. Also, just as a general rule, if your night out includes going to smutty clubs, that should be the first thing to go.

5. Turn your desk around

Your desk might be set up in your office so that the monitor is facing away from the door. You might have even done this on purpose to allow yourself the few seconds you need to close web pages that you don’t want to be caught looking at if someone were to walk in. That’s a great internal measure that you probably shouldn’t be looking at them in the first place. I know what you’re going to say… “it’s not feng shui. I get anxiety facing away from the door.” No, you don’t… you’re lying to yourself… you face away from doors all day long… What you get anxiety from is the potential of being caught.

If these seem inconvenient or even a little crazy to you, I’m ok with that.  I’m passionate about my marriage, my wife, and about making my home a safe place for us all to live. Allow one or all of these boundaries to become part of your M.O. and you’ll find that it’s going to be a lot easier to #staymarried.

 

P.S. If you need that awesome shirt, or you think your husband probably wants it, you can find one like it here.

Also, if you enjoyed this post and think it could benefit someone else’s marriage, feel free to share using the social media buttons at the top or bottom of the post. If you’re new to the #staymarried bog, WELCOME! You might want to take a look at why we started this blog and my wife’s first post to get a little background.  Thanks for stopping by.
~Tony