Archive for the Overcoming Struggles Category

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- A Simple but Radical Prayer

Posted in Acceptance, Beauty from the Inside Out, Commitment, companionship, Conflict, Encouragement, Faith, God' Love, Good Marriage, Intimacy, Listening, Ocean of Love, Overcoming Struggles, Pleasure, Prayer, Understanding each other, Valued with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2013 by hmclaughlin

heart in hand
Gary Chapman’s book on the 5 Love Languages hit the bull’s eye, but I think we need to go deeper. I specifically remember the time and place when I discovered how we truly learn to love each other.

After being married about 15 years to my first husband, I hit the brick wall thinking that nothing was ever going to change. My husband was never going to love me the way I needed to be loved. I needed the kind of “action love” where I knew my words were being heard and that I was accepted for who I was; junk and all. I wondered if there would ever be a life beyond Monday night football and the next basketball event. I thought: If he would just do all those things that I need, then I would be happy and our marriage would be perfect.

It was 1982 when God nudged me in my spirit and these words came to me: In order for you to feel loved, why not find out how Dick needs to be loved.

I remember that moment in time because that is when I started praying this prayer, “Lord, show me how Dick needs to be loved, and show me how to love him.” I thought it was kind of a strange prayer and I wondered what would happen. For the next 12 years I prayed this prayer faithfully. Over time, albeit slowly, this is what transpired:

1. The most important thing this prayer taught me was to STOP trying to change my husband so that he would meet all MY needs.
2. I started observing what my husband needed. For instance, he needed to watch football and play basketball. Those were things he loved and I finally relented and stopped nagging him.
3. Miraculous things began to happen. Over time as I stopped trying to “get him to do things” he took more notice of my needs.
4. I re-learned how to love him in a deeper level…not for what he could bring into our relationship but to ACCEPT him for who God made him to be.

When my husband died 12 years later, I can tell you from the depth of my heart that this simple but radical prayer taught me how to love in a way I never thought was possible.

I have discovered that loving people is not easy. I need God’s love to fill me and cover me so that I feel like I am in the middle of an ocean of God’s love. Over time the people around me will feel the splash of this love on them and they won’t be able to help themselves but love us back. Over time that is what this radical prayer will do. The bible puts it this way: “The fervent prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16).

If you want to put joy, vibrancy and intimacy back into your marriage, I dare you to start praying this radical prayer. Persist, don’t give up. Wait for the results. They will come.

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UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE – When your husband is stimulated by CHAOS and you thrive on PEACE

Posted in Beauty from the Inside Out, Boring marriage, chaos, Commitment, companionship, Conflict, Differences, Encouragement, Expectations, Faith, Friendship, fUN, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, Peace, Respect, Uncategorized, Understanding each other with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Family Lying on Grass

Books can’t prepare you for this. Life is just not perfect.
Real marriage starts when you wake up with someone day after day, through the laughter and the stomach flu; that you really find out who this” other person” is. While we are in the dating and “chemical stage” (pleasure chemicals flowing through our bodies) we don’t really let people know the authentic, and even darker sides of our personality.

I had the great pleasure of observing a 21 year marriage recently, where the husband and wife have learned to cohabitate in chaos and in peace. The husband is stimulated by chaos. What I mean by that is that his office looks like the aftermath of a hurricane, yet he knows where everything is and everything gets all his work done successfully. While is he on his phone he is also able to fix machinery, empty a dishwasher, check invoices and break up children’s squabbles. He is always good natured, kind, generous, very energetic and one of the nicest people I know. Yes he flourishes in chaos.

The wife thrives on peace. She loves everything clean, quiet, planned and organized. Her “space” is a beautiful corner in their home with a comfortable chair, footstool, soft accessories and it exudes…Peace. She is tender, very generous, takes time to create loving and intimate friendships and exemplifies the fruit of a beautiful inner spirit.

How has this couple learned to thrive in this marriage?
1. They have learned, (sometimes painfully) how to live out: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7).
2. They realize this is who they are. They don’t try to change each other but RESPECT each other’s differences.
3. They support each other through their differences. She allows him to have his messy office and he graciously and lovingly built her a corner “She Space.”
4. They have learned to compliment and help each other. What that means is this: Sometimes those of us who are too laid back and quiet need a nudge of adventure and chaos to get up out of our comfort zones. Yet sometimes those of us who are too chaotic need someone to slow us down and let us find the joy and contentment in being quiet and still.
5. They have asked God for wisdom to know when it is time to step in and push the boundaries when things are too chaotic or too quiet.
6. They have learned that the most important aspect of their marriage is “not to fight with each other, but to fight FOR the good values in their marriage”.
7. I have observed that both of these personalities add good value into their children’s lives. Their children are learning about different ways of handling “life” and how to function in these different elements. They are also learning how to resolve conflict.
8. There is no plan “B”. When this couple said their vows to love each other until “death parted them” they made a covenant with God to honor those vows. When we know there is no back door where we can escape when life gets hard, we struggle through the tough stuff and reap the fruit of fulfillment and success.

A marriage would be very comfortable (and boring) if we all had the same personalities. But I know that God has placed a husband and wife in a marriage so that each person can grow to be the very best that God created them to be. If we realized this simple yet hard concept, I believe our divorce rate would plummet drastically. It’s hard work…but very worth it.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- “5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known”

Posted in 5 things, Assumptions, Commitment, Communication, companionship, Conflict, Expectations, God' Love, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, Kindness, Listening, love, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, Patience, power of words, Understanding each other, wedding day, weddings with tags , , , , , , , on August 17, 2013 by hmclaughlin

man and woman
This summer I took the time to watch some reality T.V. about lavish weddings and wedding dresses. I saw snippets of Say YES to the Dress, Four Weddings, and Bridezillas. Some comments that made my jaw drop were:
“Ever since I was a little girls I dreamed about having this….You can’t deprive me of this.”
“It’s my day and you WILL wear this bridesmaid dress.”
“I had to fire my first wedding planner because she wasn’t getting daddy to approve all my wishes.”
“Daddy you’re breaking my heart because you know how much I want this. This is supposed to be MY perfect day.”

To me it all sounded like these brides were preparing for the biggest, most fun and extravagant event of their lives. How many of us took the time to play the movie forward as to what this marriage would look like in the next 10-15 years.

After my first wedding was over, the dress put away in a plastic bag, the confetti swept away and the wedding album put into a drawer; I wish I would have known:
1. That after the wedding day comes the marriage. It follows with a vow to love and cherish until death parts us. It doesn’t mean a life time of getting up in the morning and feeling warm, fuzzy and completely fulfilled and loved.
2. That all my wounds came with me into my marriage. Saying “I do” do not erase my insecurity and fears. It was not my husband’s job to heal me.
3. That each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. We had to learn to work them out so that they benefited our marriage. For example: If one person is terrible at handling the finances, then get the other one to do it. If neither of you are good at fixing things around the house; don’t point fingers and blame, call a handi-man.
4. That my husband could not fulfill all my expectations. This was the hardest one for me to learn. Because after all if someone really loves you shouldn’t they fulfill all our needs? I ASSUMED my husband would be able to fix everything around the house, listen to my endless stories, be empathetic with my tears and go Christmas shopping with me. What a shock that this did not happen.
5 That the butterflies and fuzzy feelings we felt during our dating period and first months into our marriage was not love. It was a pleasurable chemical release in our brains that occurred when we found out that we liked each other. I did not know that loving each other takes hard work! I found out the hard way that only God’s love has enough power to sustain us through the times when we actually don’t even like each other, when we have been hurt and when all of our expectations fall down the drain.

Looking back it seems strange to me that I knew so little about the struggles that we will encounter in our marriages. One day we wake up and look at each other and wonder what we were thinking when we married this particular person. Our world is filled with marriage books, manuals and online information, but none of this written material will fully prepare us for the day to day process of learning to live with another imperfect human being. But years later, and after 2 marriages, I realize with all my heart that God puts us together, with all our junk and differences, to sandpaper us into the most beautiful creations on planet earth. My friends don’t lose heart, ask God to help you “love the other person the way they need to be loved.” You’ll be surprised what God will reveal to you.

I love beautiful wedding dresses and over-the-top weddings. What girl doesn’t? But we need to know that….then comes the marriage.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- “Oh, You’re So Sensitive”

Posted in Balancing life, Beauty from the Inside Out, Communication, companionship, Encouragement, Friendship, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, Kindness, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, Pleasure, Power of the Tongue, power of words, sensitive with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Woman whispering in man's ear
I cringe when I remember saying to my children: “Oh you’re so sensitive.”At that time I did not realize the negative impact it would have on their spirits. Even though we are all grown up now, we still have those tender…“sensitive” feelings that cause us to react defensively. Let me explain.

As we mature, we do not want to show our weaknesses. But each one of us has that tender spot in our spirit, or a red hot button, that when it is pushed or trammeled on, causes us to respond negatively. Most men have been taught to “suck it up… be a man… babies don’t cry…grow up”, and consequently have learned to build a wall around their weaknesses. But, those tender feelings are still deep inside their spirits and are easily evoked when the wrong thing is said. However, men… (and many women) have learned to hide weakness and respond defensively through anger, arrogance, and indifference or trying to be emotionally distant.

It can actually be quite irritating when we make a simple comment like: “Why are you wearing THAT shirt?” or when we compare or criticize their golfing skills, mechanical, “Mr. Fix It” skills or their computer expertise to someone else. If they react defensively, we know we’ve hit a “red hot button”. Of course we all need to learn to get over the small, seemingly insignificant issues in our life, but until that day comes, we have to realize we may have hurt someone with our flippant comment.

Here’s where it gets dangerous. If we don’t recognize our “too sensitive side”… we will learn to protect ourselves from hurtful barbs by building walls. One brick at a time. After a while we may realize it’s just too much work to edit all our conversations and we shut down and protect ourselves. Once this happens, the marriage loses its intimacy and joy. We become defensive instead of protective. We enter into power struggles instead of joyful companionship.

I know! I have spent my whole life learning not to be so sensitive and to take comments personally. It has helped tremendously to learn to sort through criticism and people’s opinions by being a speaking and author, a Controller of a large automobile dealership and being in a second marriage. Needless to say I have become “sensitive” to other people’s sensitivity and I realize how much some comments may hurt.

I want to ask you.
“Do you know your spouse’s sensitive areas?”
“How do YOU respond when your spouse gets defensive?”
“How do YOU respond when someone hits YOUR red hot sensitive button?”
“Do you use your spouse’s sensitive spots to deliberately hurt him at times?
“Do you know YOUR sensitive spots and how do you protect yourself?”

Our marriage should be places where we feel safe and protected. Learning each other’s sensitive areas by protecting them instead of using them as hurtful weapons, builds the kind of joy and intimacy we are looking for in our marriages.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE- “Loneliness”

Posted in Balancing life, Beauty from the Inside Out, Commitment, Communication, Encouragement, Expectations, Freedom from Busyness, Friendship, Good Marriage, Harmony, Intimacy, loneliness, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, power of words, Understanding each other, Valued with tags , , , , , on June 28, 2013 by hmclaughlin

j0440974
Nature abhors a vacuum. An emotional or spiritual vacuum is “destruction just waiting to happen.”In a marriage relationship, a vacuum is an alarming red flag. It defines a gnawing loneliness of the worst kind. Being attached to someone through the process of vows and signatures on paper, and then feeling emotionally alone and vacant, is worse than having been alone on the first place. It says in the first book of the bible in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for man to be alone.” You and I were created for intimate relationship and when we feel disconnected we have a vacuum inside of us bigger than the Grand Canyon.

Here is why it is so dangerous to walk around with a vacuum in our souls. When there is a vacuum in nature, it will do whatever it can to fill it immediately. In a flood, the water will directly fall into those empty places and fill them. In a fire, when the flames find a vacuum they will explode with a vengeance. When you and I are hungry, we need food. In a marriage, a vacuum will fill itself with an affair, drinking excessively, over-eating, and drugs, shopping sprees, gambling or anything else that will bring pleasure in the moment to dull the pain. Even the strongest personality can cave into the most unusual temptations when loneliness creeps in. That empty space must be filled.

In this crazy, busy world that we live in today with all its demands and distractions we must be aware of the toxic enemy of loneliness. Just because we are running 18 hours a day and sitting together in one room with our i-pads and other technology doesn’t mean our souls are being fulfilled. Check the pulse of our marriage today. Ask your spouse, “Honey, am I being the companion you need?”
Men can function in an isolated stage much better than women. Women need relationship. Period! If a woman feels alone in a marriage, she is ripe for danger.

You and I were not meant to function in isolation and sometimes there are deliberate steps we need to take to re-connect with our spouse.
1. Ask yourself, are you spending enough time together?
2. Even in that time spent together, is it engaging and fulfilling…or are you just present without giving anything of yourself?
3. Is it time to cut out some outside activities so that your inside (house, marriage, children) activities have more value and intimacy?
4. Do you need to change jobs so that you can spend more time at home?
5. Don’t ignore the loneliness symptoms; they are a sign of danger.

Loneliness is a silent and subtle enemy that will creep into your marriage and you probably won’t know its existence until it is too late. Do whatever it takes to fill those empty places. If you don’t do this for each other…something or someone else will.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE-My Husband Jack Speaks Out

Posted in Beauty from the Inside Out, Commitment, Communication, Encouragement, Friendship, Good Marriage, Intimacy, Making Wise Choices, Overcoming Struggles, Respect, Understanding each other with tags , , , , , , , on May 11, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Jack & Heid cropped
There are a few things sadder than watching a marriage disintegrate to the point where a conversation consists of “Pass the peas, please”. The relationship that has brought you together does not simply decay overnight. When couples allow themselves to lose interest in each other, dry rot sets in and eventually the structure disintegrates. From a male perspective, I believe that a man’s wife retains her husband’s interest as she observes some of the following:
1. Allowing for the changes that occur as we become older; dress and attend to yourself in a manner that attracted him to you in the first place. I am not talking about dressing like a “femme fatale” but rather paying attention to neatness for which a husband can be justifiably proud.
2. Retain your intellectual curiosity and ability to carry on meaningful conversations.Contrary to opinion, a husband appreciates a good conversation with an informed spouse.Thus it is essential to keep your spirit and mind fed. It is good to challenge one another in matters of proper eating habits, rest and exercise. A shared activity is often helpful in this regard whether it is walking, biking or use of the local gym.
3. Utilize your intuition and powers of reason to persuade rather than using your emotions to manipulate. While tears may indicate one’s true feelings, a husband begins to shut down when tears are being used as a tactic to simply get one’s own way. I believe that a husband retains high regard for his wife if she is able to discuss the pros and cons in making a decision that affects both of you.
4. A husband has a high need to be considered number one in your life after God. This is above parents, your children and friends. If a husband has any doubt about your loyalty to him, he will soon check out. We just can’t stand the thought of being number two in our wife’s life.
5. Choose friends that will positively enhance your life and challenge you to maintain your highest values. A husband is aware that his wife will empathetically take on the actions, opinions and attitudes common to her closest friends. This has important implications for husbands as they are often drawn into the net of negative male generalizations through friends of a spouse who has been hurt in male-female transactions.
6. With regards to friendships there is one thing that stands alone. Husbands feel very betrayed when intimate matters which, ought to stay between husband and wife, are relayed to friends as grist for speculation and gossip. You would be shocked if you knew how husbands felt about disclosure as it undermines the “respect” which he wants to retain in the community. When a matter is serious, it ought to be taken rather to a professional counselor where a couple’s privacy can be assured.
In conclusion, the retention of love and mutual regard is dependent upon both parties to avoid the pitfalls that draw them apart and press on to bless and build one another up into all that God has designed them to be.

UNLEASHING THE K.I.S.S. MARRIAGE – Secrets

Posted in Beauty from the Inside Out, Beauty through Boldness, Commitment, Communication, counsellor, Encouragement, Expectations, Forgiveness, Friendship, Good Marriage, Intimacy, Life of Jesus, Making Wise Choices, messes, Overcoming Struggles, Pain Pleasure, Power of the Tongue, sabotage, secrets with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2013 by hmclaughlin

Hidden Heart
CNN stated that Katherine Tsarnaeva (Russell), the wife of the deceased Boston Bomber, claims “she was completely in the dark about her husband’s alleged plan to bomb the Boston Marathon.” Katherine’s lawyer also stated: “Reports of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all.” As you and I read these excerpts, we must wonder how it is possible to be married to someone who carries such dark and insidious secrets. Yet we must recognize that there is a dark side to all of us.

Secrets are destructive and toxic. They will not evaporate over time and free us from their claws, in fact; they will grow their sinister barnacles into the fabric of our soul. Anything that is kept in the dark holds power over us. Especially in our marriages.

This is a tough topic because no one wants to talk about their secrets. The reason I got brave enough to tackle this issue today is because I was engaged in yet another story of where a family secret set out to destroy all family relationships. Let’s not kid ourselves…secrets will come out and they will destroy. They will have a similar effect as the Boston bombs, shrapnel piercing the hearts with betray and rejection. Sometimes the destruction is final. Non-repairable. Destroyed. Finished.

To keep marriages healthy and intimate, a person cannot be living a double life or keeping secrets. It might work for a short while, but do not be deceived, the story will emerge at one point or another. The question on the table is: “Do you need to divulge everything that transpired in your life BEFORE your marriage?” I believe the answer is: “Only if it has a present power to sabotage your marriage from being healthy and loving.”
So what now?
1. Acknowledge secrets and that they have destructive powers.
2. Admit that they will one day be revealed. The bible says this about our secrets: “For He will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives: (1 Corinthians 4:5).
3. Secrets need to be brought out of their dark places and into the light of God’s healing power
4. BUT, use Godly wisdom to know if you need to discuss this with your spouse. Not all things need to be blurted out especially if you know it will destroy all aspects of your marriage. Sometimes there are things that need to be confessed to a very trusted friend, our counselor.
5. They need to be discussed so that your soul can be free from the hooks of the power of that secret.
6. Our God is a loving God and always ready to embrace us when we run to Him with our messes, mistakes and secrets. He is not waiting to punish us, but willing to forgive us and give us new freedom for living the abundant life.
7. Learn to live an authentic life that brings freedom into our marriages and all aspects of relationships.
When we are honest with each other, we don’t have to lie, make us stories, edit our conversations and be ready to dodge bullets. There is something incredibly beautiful about authentic, honest and trustworthy relationships. We may not be able to find it in the rest of the world, but we should be able to find it in our marriages. May yours be the one.