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Ever Been Stuck in a Rut?

Have you ever been stuck in a rut? Webster’s defines a rut as, “a usual or fixed practice; a monotonous routine; a track worn by a wheel or by habitual passage.” Some might call it “a funk,” or a “stale season.” Ruts can develop in the work place, our spiritual life, personal growth, as well as relationships. Regardless of how we define it, chances are most people have been in a rut. The good news is ruts are normal and can be effectively eradicated with some effort.

Case in point: I live in Virginia Beach and we generally do not get large amounts of snow during the winter. However, when we do get snow the city has a hard time and havoc usually ensues. This winter was an exception; not the havoc part, the measurable snow part. One storm in particular dropped almost 10” in my neighborhood. It was a beautiful thing, but the storm knocked the power out and power equals no morning coffee – Havoc! I own a 2011 Honda Pilot as assumed I would be able to navigate the fresh powder and acquire the desired morning beverage. You know what they say about assuming… I didn’t make it 500 feet before I was stuck in rut and the snow had lifted the Pilot up and I could not get any traction. I was in a rut! I could not turn left or right; I could not go in reverse either. I was lucky enough to have a nice guy in a lifted truck tow me back home and I put the Pilot back in the driveway.

Now this is obviously an example of a physical rut, but I want to talk to you about relational ruts; especially in married relationships. I have a desire to help married couples achieve the marriage of their dreams and those marriages do not come with ruts. Yet, every married couple gets stuck in a rut, and if you have not been stuck yet, you will. Before I share three easy tips with you, it is important to be intentional in your relationship. You might feel your marriage is in a rut, but your spouse may not. Intentionality brings the subject to light. When intentional focus is at hand corrections can be made. No two marriages are the same, but these tips will help you move in the right direction.

Look at the Current Routine.

Sometimes in life we get stuck on auto-pilot. Things are not necessarily bad, but you may feel the calendar is just flying by and life is stale. This is where intentionality takes place. Get out the pencil and paper and list the aspects of your relationship. Check off the ones that are fine and highlight where there needs some improvement. Here are some common areas where couples can fall into a rut:

  • Daily routines
  • Shared activities
  • Meals
  • Date nights
  • Sex
  • Outings with friends
  • Family time

If there is mutual agreement to any part of your life where you feel like you are in a rut, prioritize those areas.  First, start making changes to the areas highlighted that works best for your relationship. You must be intentional and start somewhere; even if it is a small step. The hardest part of getting out of a rut is making a course change. The smallest degree in changing course will lead to a totally different destination. Breaking out of a rut takes work, but it’s well worth the effort. Ready to liven things up?

Intentionally Break the Routine.

Once you have highlighted the areas in your marriage that need a little tweaking, it’s time to put a plan into action. Here are a few ideas for the areas I listed above:

  • Daily routines – Do you go through the same motions every day? If so, shake it up a bit. Try a different route to work. Play some different music while you travel. Get coffee out every now and then, get it at home if you have a Starbucks addiction.
  • Shared activities – I love to play golf and I know my wife will never play golf with me. However, she will happily drive the golf cart. She loves to window shop; me not so much. But, we both like to people watch. Make a list of a few new activities you’d like to try, pick one, and JUST DO IT.
  • Meals – Shake it up in the kitchen. Try at least one new meal at home every week. There are several home delivery services that deliver exotic meals you both can enjoy making together. This allows you the stability of an existing routine, while inserting something new and exciting into the mix.
  • Date nights – This one is simple. If you go on regular date nights, and you should, go somewhere different. Get away from the same old comfortable restaurant and movie deal. Intentionally try out new destinations for your date nights.
  • Sex – This one is almost as easy as the date night fix. Be intentional! Life steps in and outside responsibilities reduce our sex lives to a predictable pattern. Guys, step it up here and help your wife with the kids, household chores, whatever she needs. She’s a crockpot that needs to be plugged in before you go to work. Ladies, set aside some extra time for him to be alone with you, and remember he’s a visual creature.
  • Friends – Do you go out with other married couples? If so, and things are predictable, shake it up and suggest something new. Fun activities like bowling, or a game night at home can be a welcome change to the routine.
  • Family – Bored at home with the kids? Break away from the electronics and social media and get the kids to share their ideas of fun. When I babysit my grandchildren they always want to play horsey. Pop is getting too old and they are getting too big, but you get the point.

The smallest change in the routines of life will help you get out of the rut you are in. Things will become a little more exciting and will springboard into the final tip.

Spontaneity – Plan It.

Isn’t that some sort of oxy-moron? If you and your mate do not intentionally plan to be spontaneous more often, spontaneity simply will not happen. Look at your calendars, make a reminder every week to do something unplanned that will be fun, romantic, or exciting for you both. Spontaneity is fun, and most people deeply desire a measure of it; especially in their marriage. Intentionally planning to be spontaneous may sound strange, but it will pay off and get you out of the “same ole, same ole.”

We are all busy and getting busier all the time. Things can get ordinary, common place; and the only way to eliminate that is to decide you’re not going to let it stay that. Again, be intentional. I cannot stress it enough. Don’t wait; talk about it, then move.

Loving Your Wife

When I was doing my undergrad work at Liberty University, part of the required reading for one of the marriage and family courses was the popular book, Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. It’s a wonderful book and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Dr. Eggerichs uses the basic, yet profound, principles found the Bible to show how a man should love his wife. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians we read how a man should “love his wife as Christ loved the church,” and a women “shall respect” her husband. Yet, I believe love and respect are very similar and husbands and wives need both. If you have read Gary Chapman’s, The Five Love Languages,you know people have several ways of giving and receiving love. However, the following list will help husbands love their wives in a deeper way regardless of their love language.

  1. Focus on the prize!

Regardless of how you see your wife, she should be your prized possession. No, I’m not saying your wife is your property, but she must be the most valuable thing in your life. You must have eyes only for her and not get a crook in your neck taking a “double take” at a pretty girl passing by. A man loves his wife by never comparing her to an airbrushed supermodel or another beautiful woman. Men, you make your wife feel safe, adored and loved when your eyes are “monogamous.” Remember, your eyes are the gateway to your heart.

  1. Engage in meaningful conversation

Meaningful, intimate communication is extremely difficult for most husbands. Yet, if a man can understand the typical wife’s need for communication may very well be as a powerful as his need need for sex, they may put forth greater effort. However, communication is far more than one person doing a bunch of talking. In his book,Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John Maxwell describes how our deepest desire is to be truly known by someone else. The way you get to know your wife is to ask questions and then actively listen. He goes on to say, “Communication is the language of leadership.” I say it’s the language of a solid, loving marriage. Men, you show love to your wife when you turn off the phone, turn of the TV, and engage in meaningful, transparent, and truthful conversation.

  1. Support and encourage her

When you have engaged in meaningful conversation you should be able to pick up on your wife’s goals and dreams. Although you may have dreams of your own, a husband will show love to his wife by making her dreams his priority. The “agape” type of love described in the Bible is putting other’s needs before your own. Men, when encourage your wife you become her biggest cheerleader, biggest fan. You stimulate growth and inspire her with courage; helping her to reach for her dreams regardless of her fear. A key role of a husband is to place his wife in such a position so that she may achieve her God-given potential.

  1. Provision

For most men, their profession is a major part of their self-image. Good, bad, or in different, when a husband works hard to provide for his wife it communicates love. Jimmy Evans, with Marriage Today, states statistics show a women’s number one desire in marriage is to feel safe and secure. When a husband works hard, it communicates safety and security to his wife because she knows he’s doing all he can to provide for her. In contrast, a lazy husband communicates a totally opposite message.

  1. Help her at home

I get it. Each household is different, and sometimes both spouse work full-time jobs. You are tired. She is tired. Yet, when a husband willing performs duties around the house that may have traditionally been left up to the wife, it communicates love. Gary Chapman calls this love language, “acts of service.” In homes where the wife manages the domestic duties, the husband should still be willing to jump in and help. Doing the dishes or folding laundry is a simple way to add value and show love to your wife. There may be a little reward in your future if you follow this practice.

  1. Make time with your wife a priority

Men, we have our priorities. But if we are to keep our eye on the prize, we must make our wives our number one priority. You career should line up number three behind your relationship with Christ, followed by your wife and family. A husband shows value in his wife and marriage when he makes her a consistent priority on his calendar. Men, don’t give your wife your left-overs. Give her the very best of yourself.

  1. Continuously pursues her

If you have been married for any length of time, you have probably forgotten the amount of energy you invested in winning your prize. Men are natural hunters and most guys are great at pursuing something desired. Sadly, when the desired object, in this case your wife, is obtained, we tend to get lazy.  Men, you must develop a consistent and steady way of chasing after your bride. Pursuit equals passion, and when you passionately pursue your bride you communicate your love for her.

  1. Never give up!

The Jimmy V Foundation has coin the phrase, “Never give up, never-ever give up.” Although the foundation’s focus is on cancer research and finding a cure, the phrase, “Never give up,” must apply to your feelings toward your wife. A husband shows love to his wife by believing in her, even when she struggles to believe in herself. Never give up on your wife. Bring out the best in her by build her up through your words, your actions and your respect. Let her know that your promise to her and your love for her is unconditional and unyielding. That will give her the confidence to take on the world knowing you are always there for her.

Best Friends

When I think about my marriage, and marriage in general, I firmly believe our spouses must be our best friends in life. After all, this is the person you will do life with. The romantic aspects of a marriage will be built upon a base of friendship. Sadly, many marriages fall into this “auto-pilot,” stagnate status because we quite putting for the effort to be friends. In a recent newsletter from Marriage Today, Pastor Jimmy Evans shares seven tips to consider when trying to foster a solid friendship with your mate. I’ve taken some liberty to add a little here and there to what Evans shared.

  1. Be faithful. Being faithful in marriage is a no brainer. With a lack of faith there can be trust, and without trust a friendship will not thrive. The Bibles says in Proverbs 17:17, “a friend loves at all times, but a brother is born for adversity.” In other words, the strongest friendships are cemented during hard times. Deep friendships are forged during times of adversity in a marriage. That’s when you pay the closest attention and learn to trust. Living in the tension and not wavering develops the faithfulness needed for true friendship.
  2. Believe in each other. Simply speaking, you are supposed to be your spouse’s biggest fan and cheerleader. One of the reasons God created marriage is to help spouses bring each other to their full potential. He made woman to complete the man and each of them have designed functions. For instance, a husband provides a nurturing, protective environment for his wife. Similarly, a wife establishes an atmosphere of praise and respect for her husband. Men and women will flourish in these environments. Two people who believe in each other will both become the best versions of themselves.
  3. Embrace your differences. They say, “opposites attract” and research proves this to be true. In a normal marriage, the husband and wife are not carbon copies of each other. There are differences and these differences are probably opposites in many ways. Will you rejoice in your differences or criticize them? Will you try to change him or her to meet your needs? Instead of forcing your spouse to become more like you, celebrate the ways the two of you are compatible. Identify where one’s strengths match up to another’s weaknesses, then thank God for those differences.
  4. Be real and transparent. As mentioned previously, true friendship is based on faith and trust. With this faith and trust, friendship means being able to be honest and transparent without fear of retribution. Share your heart with your spouse and talk about opinions, hopes and dreams. By doing this you allow your spouse into your world and become an active member. Most importantly, allow your spouse to be real and transparent, too. When your spouse is safe to share their opinions, hopes and dreams with you, you are then able to operate in the role of encourager.
  5. Be a refuge. As described above, transparency is impossible if one spouse feels unsafe opening up to the other. That transparency is fostered in faith and trust, and when these ingredients are present a safe place is developed. That’s why a husband and wife must be each other’s safe place. When anything good or bad happens in their lives, they go to each other first. Crying to mommy or daddy is not an option. This requires listening, openness, and a nonjudgmental spirit.
  6. Be fun and creative. Having fun together in marriage dramatically improves a relationship. When you were perusing your spouse, there was effort and energy exuded in order to win them. In fact, one of the danger signs for divorce is when a husband and wife quit trying and no longer enjoy each other’s company. When was the last time you laughed together? When was the last time you pursued a hobby together? Plan dates and play games. Flirt, tease and romance each other like when you were first dating. Work hard at having fun.
  7. Bear each other’s burdens. In Galatians 6:2 the Bible calls for believers to “bear one another’s burdens.” This is a picture of bolstering someone up under a heavy load. If “a brother is born for adversity,” then friends step up when it’s time to serve one another, and help carry the load. That might mean physically helping or it might mean supporting a spouse emotionally. Get into the habit of checking in with your spouse and ask, “How are you?” or “What do you need?” Never shrink or step back and watch your spouse suffer without stepping in to help. You are friends, and that’s what friends do.

When a marriage struggles, it’s often because a husband and wife have lost focus. They’ve poured their energy into work or into their kids and they’ve forgotten that they are supposed to be best friends. Re-establish your friendship and a more successful marriage will follow.

Ideas to Affair Proof Your Marriage

I believe everyone who enters the covenant of marriage has a sincere desire to be successful. No one walks down the aisle, says, “I Do,” only to think about the first visit to a divorce attorney. However, although divorce statistics seemed to have leveled off at around 50%, divorce and broken homes continue to wreck the fabric of society. Depending on what poll you look at, fidelity is one of the top, if not the number one reason for divorce. People of faith, and the secular population, all could use a little help in bolstering their marriage. One aspect of strengthening your marriage is to be proactive in some habits that will honor your spouse.

Since strengthening marriage is a calling of mine, I follow several experts in the field. One such expert is Dave Willis (http://sixseeds.patheos.com/davewillis/). Dave and his wife, Ashley, have made it their point to help and strengthen marriages around the world. In a recent blog, 9 Rules to Affair Proof Your Marriage, (http://sixseeds.patheos.com/davewillis/9-rules-affair-proof-marriage/) Dave shared some practical ways he has attempted to affair proof his marriage. It is my desire to share these ideas with you and how they apply to my marriage. You may feel some of these ideas to be old-fashioned and out of date, but I can assure you they have value and would prove beneficial if practiced. So, here we go:

  1. Don’t talk negatively about my wife to others or online. When people start venting about their spouse, to friends or online, it’s not just a harmless way to blow off steam and joke about frustrations. It’s a dangerous opening that could pave the way for adultery. When you talk negatively about your spouse, or compare them to others, it chips away at the foundation of respect that must remain strong in every marriage. It also sends the subtle message that you’re not happy in your marriage and you’re “open” to someone who would treat you better. Build your spouse up with your words. The tone of your words about your spouse will shape the tone of your marriage. Words give life.
  2. Never meet with someone of the opposite sex alone. Recently, Vice President, Mike Pence, was ridiculed by the main stream media for holding to this practice. Although, I try not meet up for coffee or lunch with any woman other than my wife unless it’s a group setting, I have not always been successful. There are two things to consider here: Protection and Perspective. This policy protects you from temptation, and honors your spouse. It also eliminates the perspective of infidelity protects your reputation from false accusations. Recently, we hired a young woman to clean our house and although I was on site, I made it a point to create a safe distance.
  3. Copy your spouse on all your text messages. Dave shared how their iPhones are set up with the same Apple ID where he and Ashley both automatically receive each other’s text messages. This keeps them in the loop of what’s happening with each other. Deb and I do not do this, but we have access to each other’s phone and text messages. This practice is designed to foster a desire to have total transparency and open communication in the marriage. Being willing to share all of my texts also sends the clear message to your spouse and everyone else that we have a marriage with no secrets.
  4. Share ALL your passwords. This flows naturally from #3 about sharing text messages. I don’t have a password or a PIN that Debbie doesn’t know and she shares her’s with me. There are no hidden accounts, hidden emails, burner cell phones or anything else that would be off limits to. Deb and I try to maintain a “Secret Free Guarantee” marriage. Studies have shown secrets are as dangerous as lies when addressing trust levels in marriage.
  5. Stay away from pornography and sexually-explicit content. Brain scans have shown the addictive nature of pornography. Pornography is an act of mental infidelity and Willis shares his personal story and some compelling stats on pornography in his popular post on The Truth about Porn” which you can read by clicking here. I have never had an addiction to pornography, but unfortunately my eyes have seen things they shouldn’t have. The images I have witnessed in the past have scared my memory and my marriage has suffered because of it. Infidelity always starts in the mind and pornography, along with it’s cheap satisfaction, will only lead to marital dissatisfaction.
  6. Be cautious with public displays of affection with others. This might seem cheesy, but it’s also very important. One time while greeting a fellow church member, my wife was kissed by the person right on the lips. I was not the least bit threatened, but made it clear it was unappropriated, and Debbie understood my position. Some people hug members of the opposite sex with full frontal assault that can border on an act of illegal groping (no joke). I am a hugger, but never want physical touch to be misconstrued in any way. So even with close female friends, I try to stick with the side hug.
  7. Don’t engage in ongoing dialogues with the opposite sex on social media. Some people, by nature of their profession, get hundreds of emails and Facebook messages per week. Do your best to respond, but when it seems the person wants to engage in an ongoing dialogue, cut it off out of respect for my wife. Statistics have shown how affairs start by crossing lines on social media. Create a social media set of “rules” and boundaries to protect each other and your marriage.
  8. Make time for your spouse a priority. Affair-proofing your marriage isn’t just about “defense,” but it’s also about being proactive when it comes to investing in your marriage. As a merchant mariner, I am away several weeks at a time and time together is a premium. I am always looking for ways to spend time Deb and invest in our relationship. Don’t let your marriage get stuck on autopilot, or else there’s a good chance it will crash someday! Investing into your relationship with each other is the same as staying in top physical shape. It takes time, effort, and discipline.
  9. Always wear your wedding ring. A wedding ring is more than just jewelry. It’s a daily reminder of the covenant you made to your spouse. Does not wearing it mean you love your spouse any less? No, but it is a reminder that every choice you make will impact your spouse in some way. It’s a symbol the rest of the world that you are committed to one another. In some professions wearing your wedding ring could be hazardous, but there are other options such as Safety Rings (https://www.saferingz.com/) and other products. Certainly, people can cheat while wearing a wedding ring, but it’s another line of defense against the temptation.

I hope you can see how these ideas can benefit you and your marriage. These steps do not diminish your individuality or trustworthiness. They prove to add an additional buttress to the foundation of your marriage. Thank you for sharing your time with me and I hope you were blessed.