Marriage Myth #5: My Spouse Should Meet Me Half Way

By Jon R Anderson

It seems logical, right? I mean, isn’t marriage a partnership that only works well when we’re both doing our part?

I hear this sentiment, over and over again, from people who are struggling in their marriage. However, a 50-50 sort of marriage is actually a formula for a disastrous marriage!

First of all, it implies that each person must be continually doing their part in order for things to be good. I don’t know about you but, even on my best days, I am not always being fully unselfish, considerate, patient, joyful, giving, loving spouse. If I’m not always doing my part, why should I expect my spouse to be different?

Furthermore, it implies that we BOTH have to be continually doing our part in order to be in that 100 percent zone… something even more unattainable! If I’m shooting for 50% while my spouse is doing the same, we are almost always coming up short.

Also, our human nature is to think that we are doing more of our share than we actually are. So, with the 50-50 mindset, we tend to stop short and wait for the other to meet us “halfway”. When they see us stopping, they tend to stop and wait on us. Leaving us both standing there, building frustration and resentment as we get caught in this endless, negative feedback loop.

But there is usually an even more damaging state of mind that develops from the 50-50 relationship: It places our own moods, sense of contentment, and, overall well-being in the hands of another human being. The problem with that is that we all have a hard enough time keeping ourselves spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and, physically healthy. It’s an impossibly unbearable load to place upon our spouses the added pressure of being responsible for ourselves as well.

So, I offer a better equation. How about just shooting for 100% yourself? Of course, you won’t consistently hit the mark but what if you can consistently hit 70%? Then your spouse only has to consistently hit 30% to have “fullness” in your relationship. The more you have that fullness, the more your spouse enjoys you, providing them more and more incentive to give a little more. Which, in turn, creates more and more incentive for you to contribute a little more. If you are getting better at being a spouse, even if your mate isn’t, the relationship can’t help but get better.

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Marriage Myth #4: Respect Must Be Earned

By: Jon R Anderson

I can’t remember the movie, the actor who said it, or even exactly how it was phrased. So, forgive me if I get this all wrong but I remember a scene in which a junior soldier was being told to salute someone above him, whom he did not respect. He was told, “you salute the office, not the officer”.

All of us homo sapiens hold an office… the office of human being. Also, the office of child of God. None of us did anything to earn this office. It was bestowed upon us at birth. That office, in and of itself, demands respect. We have an obligation to show respect to one another simply because we all hold that position!

Now, I know that some of us are better at serving in that position than others. Admittedly, it is easier to show respect to those who are relatively upstanding human beings than to those who disappoint us, over and over again. But the key word here is “relatively”. Our human tendency is to bestow respect on those we believe are doing as good or better than ourselves, in their office of “being a person”. So the standard then becomes our personal opinion of what “doing well” is.

I like to play basketball. Most who have played with me would question whether or not what I do on the court is actually basketball. On my average day I will probably miss 3 out 4 shots, throw a couple of passes directly to an opposing player, and, have the ball stolen while I attempt to dribble down the court. But, what I like to focus on is the one rebound I got and the fact that the guy I was guarding didn’t score more points than myself. I like to tell myself that I was a valuable member of the team.

I tend to do life the same way. You may be a better steward with your finances than me, but, I want to point out the $25 donation I made to the charity you seem to ignore. You display better self-control than me, but, I tell myself that I am unencumbered by guilt and regret (not). You take the time to engage people with a warm and friendly phone call or Facebook comment, but, I don’t have time for such fluff because I am neck-deep in marriages that are falling apart. What a hypocrite!

So you may be thinking to yourself, “Jon, we’re not talking a few degrees here or there or personality differences. My spouse has a serious issue that is destroying our marriage! He or she does not deserve to be put up with like I have been doing all this time.”

Guess what? You’re right!

They don’t deserve to be put up with. I don’t deserve to be put up with. You don’t deserve to be put up with. None of us do. That’s the message of grace. That’s the message of forgiveness. Things that are bestowed upon us, not because we have lived a life deserving of them. But, precisely because we haven’t, don’t, and, will never live a life deserving them.

So how about this thought: I will choose today to give my spouse respect because I, myself, don’t deserve respect but God grants it to me anyway.

If your marriage is greatly lacking in respect, get to our next Love Reboot. Click on “courses” above for more information. If you know of a marriage that is struggling, send them to our site.

Marriage Myth #3: If I don't "feel it" I am being Fake

               Let’s pretend for a moment that you and your spouse had an argument last night. Hurtful words were spoken. Neither of you was trying to understand the other… only trying to be understood. The conversation ended by one of you walking away from the discussion while the other kept raising the volume. You went to sleep that night with a tension between you that seemed to whisper thoughts of instability in your marriage.

               This morning you awoke with just enough time to prepare for the usual weekday where one of you goes about their tasks while the other deals with their respective agenda. The tension has subsided a bit but you both sense some emotional distance and you’re still somewhat annoyed. You hope that maybe they will somehow “see the light” today. As your spouse walks out the door, they briefly turn to you and, somewhat sheepishly, say “I love you”.

               For a split-second you are frozen. How do you respond to this? I don’t “like” you right now. Would returning an “I love you” be disingenuous? If I say, “I love you”, you might think I’m over it and/or that it was no big deal, but I’m still hurt and it does matter to me. Or, if I say “I love you” back, you might think I’m saying “I was wrong and you were right”, but I don’t believe that either. So, what do I do?

               Here’s the answer: Say, “I love you”!

Love is not how you feel, it’s what you do. When your baby burps up on your fresh, clean shirt, you don’t FEEL all warm and fuzzy. But, you CHOOSE to love anyway. How shallow is the concept that overall feelings toward your spouse have to be positive in order for it to be love! That idea is the recipe for a lifetime of one failed relationship after another.

               Here’s another spin on this idea: Do you ever withhold conversation from your spouse because you don’t feel like talking. Or do you ever shun your spouse’s physical advances because you’re “just not feeling it”. I know that I’m guilty on both counts, and, I will also cede that a fever of 103 degrees is a legitimate excuse to postpone either of these activities. However, every time we withhold affection, conversation, acceptance, sex, or any other loving act, we send the message to our spouse that they are on relationship “probation”… that your love for them is conditional upon circumstances or, more damaging yet, their performance.

But here’s one of the great secrets of life: The more I invest in a relationship by acting in loving ways, the more positive I FEEL toward that other person. You see, our feelings come from our perceptions. Our perceptions come from our thoughts. And, the biggest contributing factor to our thoughts is what we, ourselves DO!

So, here’s the summary: One of the most genuinely loving things we can do is to tell someone we love them at a moment when we don’t like them.


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Marriage Myth #2: My Spouse Should Meet My Needs

By Jon R Anderson

Look at the list below and circle any of the words that describe what you believe it takes to have a good marriage. If you don’t have something to write with just count up the words you would agree with. If you have something to write with, but don’t have this printed out, please don’t mark on your device screen.

Compassionate        Hopeful       Caring      Honest       Trustworthy         Thoughtful             Loving           Faithful          Loyal          Kind              Teamwork               Generous               Peaceful              Friendly           Motivated          Patient              Humble               Intentional              Transparent      Positive              Sexually fulfilling       Tender       Disciplined              Encouraging         Warmth               Affectionate             Committed     Accepting         Pleasing               Good Communication         Forgiving             Attractive   Honoring                   Unselfish         Responsible               Attentive            Fun                        Sensitive           Serving                 Gentle         Understanding             Intimate


               Now ask yourself this question: “How many of those things have you done well for your spouse today?”


Personally, I believe that all of these descriptors, and many more, are what we as spouses should be striving to be. On the other hand, I don’t think a day has gone by in my 30 plus years of marriage, when I have lived up to half of the things on that list. On a good day, I might live up to five of them, but not for the entire day. The best people I know don’t live up to them. So why would I expect my spouse to live up to them? If I believe I need all of those things, or even most of them, from my spouse, then I am setting them up for failure and myself for great disappointment. Yet, one of the most common things I hear from someone considering divorce is, “He/She just doesn’t meet my needs”.

               Here’s the thing: Your spouse is never going to meet your “needs”. Neither will any and everyone else. Do you meet all of your spouse’s needs? Of course not! So why would you expect them to meet yours?

               Furthermore, are these really needs? Will I die if they are not all fulfilled? Maybe we should start talking about these things with different terminology… desires, wants, ingredients that make life sweeter? The fact that our culture has labeled these relational assets as needs has really caused a lot of harm to our relationships.

               Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that we should all be striving to get better and better at providing these things. And, the more a relationship is devoid of them, the more trying that relationship will be. But we have to quit telling ourselves that we somehow deserve or need them all consistently and from one person. What if, instead, we considered them as treats? What if, when we experienced a moment that our spouse was especially caring, thoughtful, affectionate, or kind… what if we thought of that as a bonus instead of the fulfillment of a requirement? Imagine how our relationships would change if we showed gratitude when it happens instead of disapproval when it doesn’t? Not only would we have a lighter outlook, our spouse would enjoy doing them more because it has transformed from an obligation to a gift.

If you know of a marriage that is struggling, or even failing, get them to the next Love Reboot! Click on "courses" above for more information.

Marriage Myth #1: "Compatibility" is The Key

by Jon R Anderson            

   In the 1990’s a new phenomenon sprang up, in our culture, called “Speed Dating”. The idea behind speed dating was that a person could save a lot of time, money, and energy by having several dates in a short time. An equal number of men and women would sign up for a speed-dating session for a designated amount of time. Each person would have a short date, usually sitting across a long table, with each other person of the opposite sex. A bell would ring and a timer would start. After 10 minutes an alarm would sound and the date is over. Everyone moves over one seat to the left and another 10-minute date would begin. Unlike traditional dating where the first few dates are spent talking about a lot of trivial matters such as: favorite food; favorite music; favorite movies, etc., the discussions immediately went to what really mattered… the so-called “deal breakers”. “What are your political stances?” “What are your religious views, if any?” “What are your thoughts on having children”? If you got a “wrong” answer to these BIG questions, you wouldn’t have wasted a bunch of time, money, and energy finding that out. Only a few moments were spent and you can now mark that person off the list of “potential mate”.

               Then the internet came along and took this idea of dating to another level. One could now save even more time and energy and find out much more before even making an effort to actually “meet up”. Science could even get involved by applying personality assessments and behavioral style profiles, along with an instant long list of likes/dislikes, hobbies, interests, life-goals, etc…

               Both of these modern dating approaches are based on the same assumption: What makes for a great, lifelong mate is “sameness”.

               “Joanna (my wife of 30+ years) and I have led over 80 intensive workshops for marriages in crisis. For this workshop, each person takes a well-known personality assessment. At nearly every workshop we will have at least one couple who has the exact same personality profile. They are the ones who met through an online service. They bought into the pervasive myth that “Compatibility is the Key”. This myth states that everyone can have their soul-mate by simply finding someone who is just like me. It ignores the fact that nobody is just like me. It also ignores the fact that many, maybe even a majority of us, are too immature or selfish or relationally dysfunctional to deal with differences in a healthy, loving manner. Any two people are going to have differences. How we handle our differences has much more to do with a successful relationship than our degree of sameness! We have seen many great marriages with 2 very different spouses, and many terrible marriages with very similar spouses. As a matter of fact, Joanna and I have been married through 7 presidential elections and have only voted for the same candidate one time… most would call that a deal breaker.

               Now, obviously, a certain amount of compatibility is important. An unequally “yoked” couple is going to have many difficult challenges. But being equally yoked doesn’t mean being the same. It has much more to do with being headed in the same direction. You could take a one-ton ox, have him cloned, and hook him and his clone up to a plow. However, if one wants to pull to the right and the other wants to go straight ahead, they are going to have problems. On the other hand, a 500 pound mule and a 1000 pound ox can plow together just fine if they are working in unison.

               True intimacy is achieved not by discovering sameness, but in accepting and celebrating what is different!

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