Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Post Mort-em on Marriage Disasters, Part I

It's not an appealing title, eh?  Bear with me. There are tried and true ways to ruin a relationship that are worth mentioning for the sake of prevention.

#1. "We grew apart".  Nothing extreme occurred.  We just got busy with the kids, our careers, friends, hobbies, etc.  We don't really share many interests or activities.  Nothing broke and no one sinned.  Its just that time and life took its toll.

The anti-dote?  Say no to good activities that you enjoy solo (e.g., bridge club, golf, boys/ladies night out, television shows that you watch alone).  You don't have to be completely radical.  Just make an effort to begin to grow some shared interests and activities.  Hearken back to your dating days.  What did you enjoy doing together? Perhaps it was anything because it gave you an opportunity to be together.

#2. "He/She had some secrets that I didn't know about (and they didn't let me help them.")  This ranges from financial problems (credit debt) that was never disclosed, sexual/porn addiction, pills/alcohol, untreated abuse issues, etc.  Keep things hidden and satan will be happy to nurture their growth. Secrecy is a greenhouse for the growth of marital cancers that will eventually erode trust and respect to the point it feels unrecoverable.  Bring shameful things to light (and get some good pastoral clinical counseling when indicated) to assist your marriage in recovery.  *Check out this video testimony of a miraculous move from sexual promiscuity to purity that has built a beautiful marriage. 

#3. "He/She crossed the line and fell into the arms of another".  There are many ways to do this.  Sexting (sending graphic pictures of oneself to another), posting on a dating site, rekindling an old flame through facebook, and last but not least . . . simply disclosing intimate things to a member of the opposite sex (complaining about your marriage is at the top of the list.).

Without the various forms of infidelity and marital erosion there wouldn't be much to do in our counseling practice, Grace & Truth.  We're not saying that forbidden fruit isn't tempting (good luck walking away from enticing edible treats during the upcoming holidays). It can taste really good and even provide the delusion of satisfaction while its going down, but just like the calorie-dense treats, you'll live to regret it.

Recovery and Prevention We're not saying the problem prevention and recovery is easy.  Just that its worth it.  If you've been through it you know.  You feel like you're going to die and sometimes wish you would.  But it can go easier than you think if you'll let Jesus do some things for you.  He is able.  Remember, He was tempted in every way that we are, but was without sin.

Ask Jesus to rekindle your desire for relationship

Ask Jesus to relieve you of shame and guilt for secret sins (I John 1:9), and bring them to light

Ask Jesus to purify your heart and mind and to focus your affections on your spouse

There is a way that seems right but the path leads to death.  Then, there is a way that works.  God's way works and perseverance wins the race.  

Do you think it impossible to experience any of these problems in relationship?  Think again.  The best prevention is a good offense (daily effort to nurture and grow your marriage).

Blessings, Jeff

*Jeff Williams is a Supervising Professional Clinical Counselor, Master Christian Leadership Coach and Coach Trainer, co-author of "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship", and Founding President of Grace & Truth Counseling and Coaching, and Great Relationships Global Marriage Ministry

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Coach Your Marriage (and family) through the Holidays!

If the holidays go as well as possible, what will you be able to celebrate after they’re over?  In other words, what are you hoping for, and what (or who) do you hope to avoid?

Holidays seasons are usually mixed experiences for most of us.  We have wishes, hopes and dreams about how they will go, and what we will do.  Some desires end up being fulfilled but some aren’t. Proactive planning can increase the probability of getting what we want. 

Our suggestion for Happy and fulfilling holidays is to specify desires. You can do this individually and as a family.  Ask yourself, “What do I want?”  This is a relatively simple, yet powerful exercise. Try it now. See how many bullet points you can come up with.

For example:

Jeff: What do you want for the Christmas Season, Jill?
Jill: I’d like to have an open house for friends and family before schedules get too crazy.
Jeff: What else would you like?
Jill: I’d like to plan an evening we could take Gabby (granddaughter) to the Clifton Mill to see the lights, and have hot chocolate by the waterfalls
Jeff: What else would you like?

You get the idea.  You keep asking your spouse and other family members what they would like.  Pretty soon, you have a great list of everyone’s desires.  Now you can begin to discuss and negotiate how to make these a reality.

This same exercise can be done to identify what you don’t want or what you would like less of.

Jeff: What do you not want for the Christmas Season?
Jill: I don’t want to be so busy that we don’t have time to enjoy it.
Jeff: What else do you not want?
Jill: I don’t want to get exhausted shopping.  I want to be strategic about the times and places I go, and get shopping done early in the season.

Sometimes emotional topics surface, such as strained or difficult relationships with people you’ll see at holiday celebrations.  A great question to ask yourself or each other is “If your interactions with _____ go as well as possible, what would you like to be able to say afterwards about how you did your part to be pleasant.”

Once desires have been shared and discussed, the next step is to brainstorm action-steps to accomplish them.  This can be done efficiently by coming up with and evaluating options.

Could's (could do's) What could you do? What ideas have you thought of? What have you considered? Try to list 5 options for each desire that you would like to become reality.

The task in step #1 is to generate as many ideas as possible. This is green-light brainstorming. Everything is on the table. No idea is too ridiculous to mention. Often an idea that isn't realistic gives birth to an idea that will work.

Wants (want to's) - The second step is to evaluate the list of options from step #1.  . Which ones do you like, and why? What do you like about them? Which do you not like? What are the advantages or disadvantages to each one? What are obstacles or barriers? Which would you like to try? Which do you think have the best chance of being helpful? 

The idea with #2 is to check in with your heart and mind. Which ones are you motivated to try, and which ones do you think will work? Scratch the options from #1 that don't make the cut.

Will's (will do's)Now that the list of possible solutions has been shortened, it's time to make a decision about what you will do. Which of the possible action-steps/solutions do you want to do?

The best way to handle the holidays is to get out in front of them by thinking about what would like and what you would like to avoid; forethought in other words.  The simple questions suggested above surface desires and the brainstorming process leads to potential strategies, solutions and action-steps.  This is the essence of the coaching process for any life circumstance.  Begin with the end in mind by thinking about the ideal outcome, then explore your thoughts, feelings and desires around that outcome.  Finally, brainstorm possible action-steps to make your desires a reality.

We hope this helps!

Happy Holidays, Jeff and Jill Williams

Friday, November 16, 2012

Essential Ingredients for the Marriage God Wants You to Have

A common recipe for homemade bread calls for flour, salt, sugar, water, yeast, and oil. Eliminate any of these items, and the mixture isn’t bread. Every ingredient is necessary. None can be forgotten. Bread isn’t bread unless all the components are present, mixed together in the right combination, and baked for a specific amount of time. The same is true for a great marriage. Several key ingredients are required to build and sustain a great marriage relationship that is full of hope, joy and purpose. The essential ingredients to develop and sustain a great marriage are heart, hope and skills.

To successfully coach your own marriage it is essential to use effective skills and to do helpful exercises with a heart of love and to hope in faith for more and better in your relationship. Both heart and hope are gifts of God through an authentic relationship with Jesus, so two-thirds of what you need comes from Him, not other people, including your spouse. Once these are established, skills will help you to steward relationship healing and strengthening opportunities because skills and exercises are the channels through which your love and hope are given to your partner, and through which your partner can express their hopeful love to you.

From Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hope for Marriages in Crisis - A Miracle for Your Marriage

Is your marriage in the middle of the Crisis? Hang On! Don’t quit, there’s hope!

While your enemy, the devil is relentlessly attempting to destroy you, there’s help available from heaven on earth. God has imparted gifts and knowledge to some of His servants so that your marriage can be saved, healed and protected for His purposes.

Don’t let the enemy have his way! Don’t let him win! Recognize that all hopeless thoughts and feelings are ones that he is planting or nurturing so that you will take action to kill your marriage. Don’t do it. Many a couple has lived to regret impulsive behaviors that further hurt their relationship; such as revenge affairs, angry words, even Facebook messages!

Take wisdom from the Bible which points out that you can’t retrieve spoken words any more easily than you can retrieve an arrow that’s been launched from its bow! Conversely, recognize that hope in faith springs from God Himself. And, please consider in the midst of your desperate pain that He is the one who can do “immeasurably more than we can ask for or imagine.”

No matter the depth of your pain and all the water that has gone under the bridge in your marriage, please allow a little bit of doubt to seep into your mind and heart. Your marriage may be in the process of a miracle, even if it doesn’t feel like it. In fact, let us ask you this,

“If God wants to give you a miracle for your marriage, would you be willing to receive it?”*

Join us for the Marriage Miracles conference this Saturday, November 17.

Click Here for more information and to register

*Excerpt from "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship", p. 177

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Birth of Marriage Coaching - Two Couples in Crisis

“Jeff, I’ve got a bad situation here. Two marriages are in crisis because of an inappropriate relationship. We know you have extensive experience in situations like this. Will you and Jill come to help?”

The two couples were in pain and undecided about their futures. The extensive involvement of both families in a church meant that there could be catastrophic ramifications not only for them, but the entire congregation. Why? People talk and take sides. It’s not uncommon for such events to erode unity or even split churches. The best outcome in such a circumstance would be reconciled relationships in both marriages and between the couples.

With a tone that communicated pastoral concern mixed with a tinge of desperation, the pastor asked me to get on the next available flight to his city: “We’ll pay your expenses and have you here as long as it takes; whatever you need.” Providentially, our schedule was open. “We’ll be glad to come,” I said. As soon as I hung up the phone, adrenaline rushed through my body as I began to contemplate how Jill and I could help these two couples. I caught the first plane with an empty seat the next morning and Jill followed a couple days later.

En route I contemplated: What had we learned and experienced over the years that we could apply to this broken situation? A few years prior we helped to catalyze a community marriage initiative, in the process learning the state of the art in relationship ministry. The big secret was the existence of relationship skills that almost any couple could learn to use to improve communication, prevent misunderstandings, build closeness and resolve conflicts in ways that build instead of eroding their relationship. Just prior to the community marriage initiative I’d become certified as a Christian Leadership Coach.  As I reflected on the community initiative and coach training I thought, We’ll draw on the most effective relationship concepts and skills we know to help them work through pain while we’re with them, and to equip them with coaching skills to continue dealing with hard issues effectively after we’re gone. When I compared notes with Jill over the phone that evening I discovered that she’d reached the same conclusion.

So, as we flew into the storm of the relationship crisis, Marriage Coaching was born.

Arriving on the scene, we formatted our conversations with both couples, and the church leaders as a coaching conversation. We worked through a coaching process called “The Coaching Funnel”. The concept of the funnel is to help a client discover their vision for what an ideal future looks like, progressing through an exploration of their thoughts, feelings and desires. You then assist the client to set clear, specific and measurable goals, to move them toward their ideal future, with action steps to achieve those goals. After working through the coaching funnel, we taught and modeled communication and conflict resolution exercises based on the skills in this book.

In many respects it was easy. Although the situation was emotionally charged and extremely uncomfortable, we knew exactly how to structure every session in order to obtain clear objectives based on what the participants wanted. They wanted to understand what happened and why it happened, so we facilitated partners sharing with each other using good speaking and listening skills. Some wanted apologies and others wanted forgiveness, so we facilitated them through apologies. They wanted ways to work through the powerful emotions they were carrying, so we modeled exercises to help them to do just that.

The process elicited their desires and we simply responded to what they asked for. That’s the foundation of coaching; it’s about what the person/relationship being coached wants, not what someone else—counselor, pastor, friend—prescribes for them. So, coaching your own marriage is about the desires of your heart, and that’s why it works. You and your spouse identify what you want, and then work a process to make your desires reality! 

*Excerpt from Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship

Monday, October 29, 2012

What is Christian Marriage Coaching, and Who Can it Help?

Christian Marriage Coaching is the application of Christian coaching concepts and skills to facilitate growth and change for couples. Below is a brief introduction to Christian coaching. Everything that applies to coaching individuals applies to coaching couples.

One, Christian coaching is fundamentally client-centered and directed. The client is the focus: their needs, the issues they want to work on and helping them discover what they are motivated to change.

Two, the Christian coaching relationship is essentially transparent and authentic. The coach models relational authenticity including transparency to the person(s) being coached with the desire that the client will be able to do the same in the relationship.

Three, Christian coaching is empowering. As the coach empowers the client to work on the issues that are most important to them, the client is helped to focus on the development of goals and the action steps necessary to achieve those goals. For those who have successfully utilized coaching concepts, it has proven to be an effective, efficient and comprehensive way to move a person toward change. And the process is completely transferable: it can be used in multiple relationships and different circumstances.

In general, individual coaching is an empowering voluntary authentic relationship in which coach and client focus on clarifying goals that the client wants to accomplish. Instead of focusing on the individual, the objective of Marriage Coaching is to facilitate identification of growth goals that both partners are motivated to pursue. Once goals are determined, the coaching couple collaborates with the couple being coached to develop and choose action steps to accomplish those goals.

Couples that coach their own marriage practice the discipline of believing in themselves and their marriage by actively pursuing growth and change through a process in which they keep themselves responsible. This process is obviously more challenging than coaching individuals because each partner’s perspective must be drawn out, clarified and understood before goals are negotiated and decided, and action steps are chosen. While Marriage Coaching is offered as a service by trained couples (from lay to professional), its reliance on basic skills such as asking, listening, and setting goals makes it an approach that any couple can quickly learn to use to help their own marriage.

Couples can learn skills and a process in a relatively brief period of time—when compared to the amount of time spent in an average counseling relationship—and then begin to apply them at home.

Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship Williams, Jeff and Jill 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Purpose Marriage Coaching: To Heal Strengthen and Protect Your Own Marriage

Why did we write the book Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship?

In a sentence, the purpose of this book is to equip you for more and better in your marriage; more hope, pleasure and purpose, and better ways to recover, sustain and to protect it. Learning to coach your marriage is a simple process based on simple skills and exercises so don’t be daunted by the idea that it will be difficult to learn. The hope of this fresh self-guided process to heal, strengthen and protect your relationship is that you can know exactly what to do in the most challenging conversations and circumstances with a predictably good outcome.

Despite the statistics that marriage is on the decline and that more than half of today’s marriages will eventually fail, it is possible to build and sustain a great marriage! All it takes to get started is for a couple to agree that they want more and better. From there it’s about heart, hope and skills, which is a formidable combination of humility, desire and ability. While it sounds simple, it isn’t easy…but, it’s very worthwhile. In the words of my brother in-law before Jill and I married, “Jeff, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and the most worthwhile thing.” He was right.

The scope of this book is simultaneously narrow and broad. It is narrow because it presents a few simple foundational concepts and skills for a process that any couple can use to better understand each other’s thoughts, feelings and desires, to set goals and to support each other as you pursue those goals for relationship growth or change. In a nutshell that is the process of coaching your own marriage; a self-guided process that results in the discovery of goals shared by both partners followed by self-monitoring to do the action steps to achieve those goals.

The scope of this book is also broad because the skills are useful with any marital content at any point in a couple’s life cycle, and it is a useful process to help couples consider and apply ideas from other marriage curricula. Listening, asking, setting goals and supporting the growth and change process with encouragement and accountability are effective skills with many applications. What you will experience as unique in this presentation is the emphasis on heart as the motivator and guide for use of the skills. You’ll be challenged to prepare and sustain a hopeful, humble and compassionate heart as the foundation of life-giving conversations facilitated by skills.

How has your marriage improved by coaching it?  Which skills have been the most powerful for your relationship?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Marriage Coaching Works!

Coaching is a new way to work at change that is designed around motivation, not instruction. Coaching starts with what you want to change based on what God is doing in you, and the whole process is arranged to maximize your motivation—because if you are really motivated, you will really change.

Here are a few more reasons why I believe marriage coaching is becoming an essential tool for revitalizing marriages and growing great relationships:

1.   It appeals to men. The counseling approach is that something is broken or unhealthy that needs help to be fixed. That is a valid approach, but men tend to react negatively to anything that implies they are needy or have failed. Coaching, by contrast, works with people who see themselves as basically healthy and helps them toward a desired future. It’s much easier to get a man into marriage coaching than marriage counseling.

2.   It makes people responsible. In coaching you set the agenda, you set the goals and you decide on steps of action. When you choose what to do, your buy-in is higher, and you take more responsibility to get it done.

3.   Coaching focuses on growth. The coaching approach works with healthy marriages as well as strained ones, because it trains couples to meet God in their situation and move forward. Instead of getting healed, couples focus on developing the patterns that produce long-term health and growth.

Jeff and Jill explain in depth exactly how coaching works in this book. They’ve done a great job of applying the fundamentals of a biblical coaching approach to marriages in a practical, applicable way.

Excerpt from Tony Stoltzfus's Foreword to Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Create Divorce Free Churches

The pastor looked stunned by my question.  He'd expected affirmation for his efforts to defend marriage as one man and one woman at some city commission meetings.  "That's great", I said, "But when are you going to do something proactive and effective to heal, strengthen and restore marriages in your church?"

Months later, after a few more broken marriages passed through his office he called me.  "We've got to do something", he said.  "It's really bad, and there's got to be more we can do to prevent the pain and brokenness."

It's a point that we've seen many pastors come to.  Spend long enough in ministry and they get pretty frustrated that teaching about what husbands and wives should do to love and respect each other isn't enough.  It's a point Jill and I came to in our counseling practice (2003) and eventually in our own marriage.  "There's got to be more and better for marriage!" We ranted to no one in particular, and prayed for God to lead us to the more and better.  Finally, He did.  And now we can't help share this good news (not to be confused with THE Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Although He is the foundation of the more and better).

Here it is, "Any couple, motivated to grow and change  can benefit significantly by learning to use state of the art relationship skills to heal, strengthen and protect their relationship."

That's it!  It's that simple.  Skills to open and hold each other's hearts, to set goals for the relationship that both are motivated to accomplish, and relational support, encouragement and accountability to pursue those goals.  Exercises to prevent misunderstandings and to build closeness, to have difficult and emotional conversations in a way that builds rather than hurts the relationship.

Pastors want to do well for marriages but many don't know how.  The bad news is that the war on marriage continues.  Forces from the outside and the inside of couple's lives work to divide us and to erode pleasure in our relationship.  BUT Good News is that there are things every couple can do to heal, strengthen and protect their relationship, and it begins with life-giving conversations.

There is no reason that churches shouldn't set the audacious goal of being "Divorce Free Zones".  "Fellowship with our congregation, learn to use state of the art skills with heart, and you will eliminate your chance of divorce, and what's more, you'll get what you need to make your marriage everything God wanted you to have; pleasure, purpose and potency for the lives of your children, grandchildren, friends, etc."

Curious about the solutions we're suggesting?  Write a note, give us a call, arrange for a lunch and learn, or do what the frustrated pastor did.  Arrange a conference to teach couples how to coach their own marriage and how to have difficult and emotional conversations.

It's good to preach about marriage, better to teach couples skills, and best to train couples in your congregation to train others.


Jeff and Jill Williams

Monday, October 8, 2012

Be Your Partner's Best Therapist

I'm re-posting this blog because it gets to the heart of a self-administered skill-based approach to healing, strengthening and protecting marriages.  If you want to dig in, check out "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship", after reading below to learn what is happening to "professional" talk therapy.  If the pro's aren't going to do it for us, we'll have to learn how to do it for ourselves!

How to Become Your Partner's Best Therapist

A link to a New York Times Article, "Talk Doesn't Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy", was posted by Diane Solee, founder of Smart Marriages (originally the couples coalition for relationship education) on March 6. I read the article (click here to read) and then wrote to Diane to agree with her exhortation to the SmartMarriages listserv that Relationship Educators could drive a train through the hole created by the majority of the 48,000 Psychiatrists in the U.S. who have decided that talking to patients about their problems doesn't pay, so they take 15 minutes (if you're lucky) to hear about symptoms (but not why they have them or other potential solutions).

Here is the email I sent to Diane that she forwarded to the Smart Marriages listserv.


Amen that we can drive a Marriage Education train through this opening!

Frequently we're asked by couples what they can do to help themselves outside of session. Here's our reply:

"Armed with knowledge, skills and exercises from the school of relationship education you can become each other's best therapists; you can hold each other's hearts, work through conflict in a way that builds rather than hurts your relationship, proactively build and sustain healthy closeness, learn to manage emotional and difficult conversations on your own, negotiate for shared goals and behavior changes, learn to meet each others needs, etc. We can teach you all of these things by modeling skills and exercises and then facilitate you through some practice. Once you get it, we'll be done and you can continue yourselves."

Everything we learned through relationship education since the summer of 2004 (Smart Marriage, Dallas) to the present not only equipped us to serve hundreds of marriages and families around the world, but also helped us to save our own marriage. 
Jeff and Jill Williams

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rekindling Your Relationship: Why Fires Die and What to do About It!

*Jeff will talk about this on WEEC, 100.7FM Tuesday morning, February 14th!

Rekindle Your Relationship and Rekindle the Romance are phrases with a negative connotation. The term 'rekindle' suggests that a fire has died, or isn't burning as you'd like it to. Why not? The causes of smoldering and dying fires and ways to revive them provide some ideas for action-steps to apply in your relationship today!

Why fires die, and what to do about it!

1. It was left untended. The number one rule for fires is that you must keep an eye on them. Logs need to be added every once in awhile. And experienced tenders know that the best time to add is while the fire is still burning brightly. Walk away long enough and the fire will die. The application to relationships is obvious. They need constant attention. Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages are great fuels for bright, hot and beautiful relationships!

a. Words of Affirmation
b. Acts of Service
c. Quality Time
d. Gifts
e. Physical touch

How would your rank order these ingredients? Consider rating them 1-5, and then ask your spouse if they would be interested in hearing what it means to you when they do each of these for you AFTER you invite them to share their rank-ordered list with you.

2. It was fueled with bad fuel.
Wet or green wood is hard to ignite, and harder to keep burning while cured and dry wood burns like we want it to; hot and bright. Get a great fire going with good wood and then add the wet and you have the opposite of bright and beautiful. Instead you have dark, smoky and smelly. Sometimes its necessary to remove the wet fuel as part of the process to rekindle a fire.

What's wet wood for a relationship? Surely you can make the list. Negative contributions like harsh tones, impatience, criticizing, complaining, controlling, selfishness, etc. The antidote is LOVE expressed through fruits of the Holy Spirit: joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22).

Would your relationship benefit from removal of some wet wood? Ask God to replace any of your relationship dampening behaviors and attitudes with the fruit of His Holy Spirit.

3. Outside forces, like wind or rain doused it
Have you watched a fire die due to elements beyond your control? Strong winds and sheets of rain are equally capable of extinguishing bright flames. You may have done everything right by using dry wood and a progression of kindling, but when unexpected elements became part of the equation the flames were doused.

Proverbs says that the rain falls on the just and unjust. Translation? Every life will be affected by stress and loss. Unexpected occurrences bring variations of grief, such as anger, sadness, fear. Disappointments, discouragements and disillusionment's all take a toll, and when you're in relationship, the outside elements don't have to hit you directly to have an effect on you. When you are involved in an intimate relationship you are inevitably affected by things that affect your spouse.

While you may not be able to change the weather, you can change how it affects you and your spouse. How? By providing some covering comfort and protection to each other.

Recently its been pretty cold in Ohio. Today when I went out for errands I put on an extra layer. That reduced the chill I experienced and made the weather more tolerable.

In relationships we can be like jackets to shield from snow, wind and rain. We can cover and cuddle our loved one with patient and loving listening and comforting affection. Have you grieved recently? I have, and Jill's patient hours of loving listening and reassuring affection took the edge off an emotional storm that affected our flame. Her covering protected our fire until the storm subsided a bit.

How could you come between your spouse and the elements? Sometimes, storms affect both of us pretty equally. In those instances, we take turns protecting the fire!

*Tip to Coach Your Own Marriage
If your marriage could speak, what would it say? If it could make some requests, what would it ask for? Pretend that you are an observer of your relationship. Take a step back, just like you might take a step back from a fire to get perspective on what it needs. If the fire could talk, what would it ask for? More and better fuel? Shelter from unfriendly elements? Valentines day is a great time to assess the State of Your Union! Don't make it overwhelming. Simply try to identify at least one thing your marriage would request more of or less of, or what it would ask to start happening or to stop happening...and then DO IT!

**Jeff and Jill Williams are Marriage Coaching pioneers, authors of "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship" (available in paperback and Kindle, globally on and They are also co-founders of Great Relationships a not for profit on mission to train married couples to coach their own marriage and to help other couples globally! They also run a private counseling and coaching practice to provide services in person and remotely (e-counseling). Call or write for a complimentary consultation or to learn how to enroll in training. 937-717-5591, or

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wedding Vows V – To Love and To Cherish

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church –
a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands
ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor – since they're
already "one" in marriage.
~ Ephesians 5:25-28 (The Message)

“I just want to be loved and cherished,” Jill said.

It’s humbling to be reminded of this vow, but I’m glad for repeated opportunities to learn to do it better. Requests for thoughtful tenderness have helped me learn to love. When she’s not feeling it I can look at it as her problem, my problem, or OUR problem. Viewing it as our problem is what we find most helpful because then we can share in the identification and application of a solution.

Learning to love seems to be a journey that lasts a lifetime. I don’t know if any of us ever arrive, but it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?

It is mathematically impossible for two people to be more polar opposite in temperament than Jill and me. I’m wired to aggressively solve problems, to tackle challenges, and to enjoy multiple relationships while multi-tasking. She’s wired to move slowly and methodically through one task at a time to get it done right and to have a few deep relationships. There’s more, but that’s the basics. Our differences mean we have different strengths that make us a great team, but the differences are a hotbed for conflict.

I’d just stepped off the collegiate gridiron and out of a fraternity when we married. Rough and tumble was I. My world had been competitive 24/7 for the previous three years. Some sensitivity training would have been in order to prepare me for life with my woman. Early on she mustered all five feet and 100 pounds of her Irish ire to lovingly remind me of who she was. “I’m not one of the guys, and I’m not the enemy.” Note to self: She’s not a problem to be solved. This is a partnership, and it’s going to require me slowing down and being sensitive.

Temperament understanding has been huge for us. It has helped me to understand that as much as my motor revs to get things done yesterday, her motor quietly purrs to do things well, no matter how long it takes. As much as I thrive on having many people in my life, she is content to relate deeply to a few. Armed with understanding of our hardwiring, Jill says, “I used to wonder why he was acting the way he was because it hurt me, but now I know that it’s just the way he’s wired, and he doesn’t mean to upset me.” And I’m able to say, “She isn’t dragging her feet or moving slowly to frustrate me. It’s the way she’s wired. Her need for a slower pace and to do things meticulously is as important to her as my needs are to me.”

The cherish portion of this vow sounds more active to me than the love portion. Webster defines cherishing as active nurturing: to keep or to cultivate with care and affection. Cherishing is much more active than simple passive respect of her needs. To cherish means active nurturing of her needs; and proactive watchfulness for opportunities to facilitate circumstances and opportunities for her to be the best she can be!

It helps me to view my bride as a flower; beautiful, fragile; apt to wilt or blossom depending on the conditions in which it is situated. A balance of water, nutrients, and sunshine is required for actualization of its potential. If I’m going to do well cherishing Jill then I need to understand the balance of ingredients and conditions that will help her to blossom. What do you need from me, honey?

Lord, as you actively cultivate your life in us, one day at a time, so we can give to our partners in ways that help them to be their best. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for guiding us with discernment and sensitivity to the actions and words that are nurturing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.