Q: I'd say my wife and I have a good marriage. I'd like to move it to great, but I'm not very adept at the "warm fuzzy" stuff. What's your advice?
Jim: I get this question all the time from men. I think it's basically a matter of perspective, so I encourage them to approach their relationships with their wives like they would a teammate.
Many of us guys have been involved with sports at some point, or we've seen well-functioning organizations. A lot of the same principles apply to both settings. When you create a culture of respect and hard work among teammates, you can be successful at just about anything. I've heard a two-time Super Bowl champion say it this way: "When teammates give their best as individuals, they make each other better."
The best teams aren't necessarily those with the most gifted players. Winning often comes down to teammates who are willing to work hard to learn their roles and execute their assignments, while motivating one another toward excellence. Play as much for the guy next to you as you do for yourself. That's key to success -- in sports, in business and especially in marriage.
Your wife is your teammate through life. Be willing to work as hard (even harder) at your relationship with her as you do at your job or the hobbies you enjoy. Know your role on the team and handle your business. I'm sure she has a few things that she needs to work on, too, but don't make that your primary focus. She'll be motivated to improve her part in your marriage when you step up and improve yours. And when everybody does their part, the team succeeds.
For more ideas to help your marriage thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: This will sound terrible, but I hate Valentine's Day. All the hype about love and romance just emphasizes what a disappointment my own marriage has become. Is there any hope for us?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: I hurt for you, and I understand how painful Valentine's Day can be for those in struggling marriages.
There are many reasons why love may fade in marriage. Serious problems like abuse, extramarital affairs, addiction and mental illness can certainly squelch feelings of romance. If you have encountered any of these painful experiences, I'd encourage you to seek counseling. Our staff counselors would be happy to help point you in the right direction; call 855-771-HELP (4357).
Meanwhile, husbands and wives can "fall out of love" for other reasons, too. Stresses involving kids, work and finances can cause a couple to drift apart over the years -- until one day they realize the only thing they share is a tube of toothpaste. If this is where you find yourselves, please don't give up. There are many things you can do to get your marriage back on track ... but sitting back and waiting for flowers isn't one of them.
One remedy I strongly recommend is couples relearning how to have fun together. Research shows that that 92% of couples who make regular date nights a priority report increased satisfaction in their relationships. It doesn't have to be extravagant, although there's certainly a place for the occasional splurge. The point is to establish a habit of consistent connection -- going for a walk or coffee and just rekindling the friendship that drew you together. It makes a huge difference.
That's why my wife, Erin, and I wrote a book together titled "Take the Date Night Challenge." You can order a copy, and find a number of related resources, at FocusOnTheFamily.com. I wish you all the best.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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