A few years ago I traveled to Scotland. It was utterly amazing. I loved the beauty, romance, and thoughts of Kings, Queens, Lords and Ladies. The castles we toured were rich in history reminding us of all the brutal battles that were fought in the name of power and selfishness. Sound familiar? Not much has changed in the human race over the last eight hundred years. In Medieval times, it was common for Kings to become dissatisfied with what they had and want to claim someone else’s territory for their own. War was inevitable. If the King wasn’t happy, everybody paid the price.
All the talk about battles and war got me thinking about marriage and how troubled couples really aren’t too different from the greedy dissatisfied Kings and Earls of times gone by. The dilemma of the human race is that we all want power and control. We’re all selfish. We all want things our way. And we’ll do just about anything to have what we want. In our relationships, most of our marital conflicts stem from the discontentment we feel when we don’t get our way.
Discontentment may start off with small things, but over time, small annoyances take on a life of there own and before you know it, we’ve lost that lovin feelin. In the 14th century that would mean off with your head if you were a female. It wasn’t a pretty picture.
The old Righteous Brothers hit song from the sixties sums the situation up pretty well. In case you’ve forgotten the words, or you’re too young to remember, it goes something like this:
“You’ve lost that lovin feeling, Oh that lovin feelin, you’ve lost that lovin feelin now it’s gone, gone, gone, oh, oh, oh….”
Classic lyrics, but losing the love isn’t too fun when it happens to couples in real life. So what can we do about it? How can we bring back that lovin feelin when the music starts to fade? Here are a few suggestions to ratchet things up a bit:
Cultivate a Grateful Heart
We all need a healthy dose of gratitude in our relationships today. I’m not saying your spouse is perfect, but don’t sweat the small stuff. To fan the flames a bit, try finding two things each day you can be grateful for about your spouse and spend some time focusing on them. We all do pretty well at complaining about each other, but what if you intentionally looked for the good things? Maybe your spouse is kind by nature. Maybe your spouse is giving, faithful or stable. Don’t overlook those things; they are probably why you chose that person in the first place.
Let’s face it; most of us are terrible listeners. When we get caught not paying attention to what our spouse is saying, we pick out a few keywords that we did hear when one of our brain cells actually synapsed, and we pretend we really understood their point. That isn’t going to fly. This isn’t a Google search engine we’re talking about folks, it’s your spouse, and they deserve your undivided attention when they’re talking. Listening involves caring about the other person’s heart. That means you’re attuned to them. You’re not trying to frame your own point of view while they’re talking; and you’re not interrupting. You’re keyed into their feelings, trying to lend understanding to their frame of reference. So put your phone down, back away from the computer, and turn off the darn television.
Communicating was a big problem in medieval times. People didn’t really talk things over much; they just got drunk and started killing each other. Some of the clans in Scotland had lifelong feuds, and hundreds of years later they’re still carrying grudges. Here are a few things to remember when you’re trying to communicate:
• Watch your tone of voice
• Be respectful
• Stay calm
• Ask if your spouse is done talking
• Reflect back to your spouse what you heard to make sure you got it right
• If you need to take a time out to calm down do so
• Strive for a compromise
• See if there are points you can agree on and build on that
Conflict isn’t pleasant so most of us want to avoid it. No bueno. You only bury things to have them resurface later. Your spouse won’t open up and share if the climate isn’t safe, so communicate safety by using your body language, your tone of voice and a soft start-up.
Be willing to confront
Nobody likes conflict, especially men, but conflict doesn’t have to be all bad if you learn to see it through a different lens---the lens of opportunity. Conflict can serve as a window into your spouse’s soul, a chance to see and understand their fears, hurts and frustrations. Let’s face it, none of us are perfect, and if we go into conflict with the idea that maybe we can listen and learn something from our mate, it will change the way we relate.
Surrender your rights
Surrender was an ugly word for the Scots. It meant your gave up your castle or kingdom with resignation. But when you give up your rights willingly, for someone else’s good, it has a whole different feel. It’s called relinquishment. It means that you chose to sacrifice what you want for the benefit of another. In marriage, that’s a big deal. If you want to see someone’s heart change, try practicing the S word.
Be willing to forgive
Forgiveness can be hard, especially if we’ve been wounded over and over. When considering forgiveness, think of it as a means of release for the one holding the debt---you! Do it for your own benefit. Don’t be like the clans in Scotland who held grudges for centuries. Start today by making a decision to forgive, and then practice the virtues of empathy, love, sympathy and compassion towards your spouse.
Our spouses need our love and respect. It’s vital to a healthy relationship. If your relationship is struggling and you need to amp up the lovin feeling, do something about it now. Don’t keep doing battle; the bloodbath really isn’t worth it for either of your hearts. You may win the battle, but you’ll surely loose the war. Now CHARGE!