Love is a Choice

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.”

(1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG)

When I read what the Bible says about love, I am always lead to the same conclusion: love is a choice. 

After reading the four gospels recently, I did not come away with the idea that Jesus just fell in love with His followers because they were so wonderful and charming. As a matter of fact, many followers were only enchanted by His miracles and what they thought He could do for them. Most of the tremendous crowds that clamored to hear His teaching did nothing to love Him in return. Even His closest friends and most devoted followers continually doubted Him and failed to understand the important things He was trying to tell them. When He was betrayed by His friend Judas and arrested, all of His disciples deserted Him. Peter even denied knowing Him three times. Jesus was beaten, tortured, and brutally executed on a cross while His friends and followers looked on. Yet He loved them through it all. 

Not only did He love His followers, but He also loved His enemies. In His tremendous suffering on the cross, Jesus went as far as praying for them saying, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34 MSG). Jesus willingly died on the cross to save His friends from the power of sin and death and give them the opportunity for eternal life.

Everyone knows Jesus was (and still is) awesome at this whole sacrificial love idea. But He is Jesus, after all, so that is to be expected. 

But what about the rest of us? 

Can we really love like that? 

Do we have the capacity to truly love others even when they don’t deserve it, don’t want it, or don’t accept it?

If we take a look at our world’s cultures, it’s not difficult to see that humans are doing a pretty terrible job at loving each other well. From family feuds and domestic violence to sex trafficking and international terrorism, people are clearly better and more practiced at hate than they are at love. 

Even within the Christian culture we can see many examples of selfish and destructive behaviors that obviously place “me” above all others, bringing grief to the heart of God. It seems to me that self-focus and general apathy toward others are the most pervasive and subtly destructive attributes of this love-lacking culture.

Marriages, which are intended to be life-long covenant relationships, are flippantly abandoned in the name of self-preservation. 

Nationally, somewhere around 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Subsequent remarriages have an even higher rate of failure. 

Christian marriages tend to fail just as badly as that of other non-Christian marriages. But how can this be? How can someone who has believed in Jesus as their savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit actually break their vows and give up on their marriage?

 It’s not necessarily lack of faith or wrong beliefs about God that allow this to happen. Although there are numerous reasons people cite for getting divorced, I believe they all essentially come down to one common cause: choosing not to love. 

I know that may seem oversimplified, but if you think about it, how many broken marriages could have been saved if both partners chose to simply love each other unconditionally? I am not saying that nagging wives, unappreciative husbands, liars, and cheaters don’t deserve to be punished and alone. They do deserve the consequences of their actions. But so do you and me

Love, as Jesus gives, does not simply return to someone what their actions deserve; a husband who really loves gives when he doesn’t receive, and a wife shows appreciation when she is not appreciated. 

True love holds on when all others would have already let go. 

My point is this: love is a choice. We must all choose love every day, in every circumstance, in every argument, in every relationship. Of course we will fail at times, but we must persevere.

Those of us who are married are called to love our spouses unconditionally and forever. But we are not called to do it alone; we are given God’s Holy Spirit who fills us and empowers us to live holy lives. 

Love is a choice that we can really only make when we first choose to surrender ourselves to God and rely on Him to sustain us. 
What are some practical ways you choose to love your spouse? To love others?
Please share your thoughts and comments on Facebook or in the Comments section below.

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How to parent more effectively with less guilt: dealing with anger as a Christian parent

“That’s it, go to your room,” I said. “No!” said my four-year-old son.

I quickly responded, “Yes! Go to your room right now! One…two…”

“Nooooo! I hate you!” he shouted back.

As I quickly reached my boiling point, I threw him up onto my shoulder and carried him back the hallway to his room, kicking and screaming the whole time.

I put him down not so gently on his bed and told him he needed to stay in his room until he could calm down and improve his behavior. To this he responded with an ear-drum-blowing scream that I’m pretty sure broke some glass. I left the room quickly and slammed the door.

As I rejoined my wife in our living room, we talked over his screaming and crying saying things like, “I don’t know what else to do; I don’t know why he gets like this,” and “I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that but he just makes me so mad.”

This scenario plays out often in my house. My son misbehaves then throws a tantrum when he is corrected, then me or my wife lose our temper and “talk” to him louder than we should, then we feel guilty for being “mean” to him. We try to be patient and reasonable; we try to give him second and third and fourth chances; we even try explaining consequences to him clearly and giving him choices. But often he chooses to continue misbehaving, being defiant, or just completely ignoring correction. He pushes our buttons so effectively that our anger can go from “0 to 60” almost immediately. Of course our anger blows up more quickly when we are exhausted, which is most of the time.

The Bible says, “in your anger, do not sin.” So experiencing the emotion of anger is not in itself wrong or sinful; however, it can easily lead to sin if we let it. As a Christian parent, where is this line? And how do we avoid crossing it in the heat of the moment?

When my son screams at me I get really irritated; when he ignores my correction I get mad; when he slaps my wife in the face I get livid. I don’t think its wrong for me to feel these various degrees of anger or even to act on them.

It is wrong for a child to rebel against his parents, to ignore correction, and certainly to slap his own mother at any age.

I should respond to my sons misbehavior with discipline and teach him to obey his parents.

I should punish him, as well as instruct and encourage him.

But when I respond to his screaming with louder screaming, or when I follow up his slap with another slap or make ridiculous threats and do things just to hurt him back, I cross that line into sin.

Whenever I react out of anger, I let my emotions in that moment determine my actions. Unfortunately, my emotions don’t often make good decisions that are consistent with what I believe and the kind of parent I want to be. If I respond to my son’s sin with more sin, how can I expect him to ever grow or change for the better?

If you’re like me and my wife, you need to learn to put some process into place to avoid this vicious cycle of misbehavior, angry blowups, and lingering guilt. Although we are still very much in the trenches, I believe there are at least 3 things we can do now to help us parent more effectively with less guilt.

  1. Plan Ahead

    I once heard the definition of stress is what happens when you experience the difference between your expectations and your outcomes. So to reduce stress, you need to modify one of these. If you expect your child to behave perfectly and follow all of your rules, I’m sure you will be disappointed every time. But expecting misbehavior and deciding in advance what your response will be can help you avoid an angry blowup. Setting clear rules and communicating expectations to our kids also needs to be a part of the plan.

  2. Act, don’t React

    My son told me that it makes him really mad when we use “mean words” or yell at him. This usually happens in response to his use of mean words and yelling. Its easy to react to another person in the same manner they have acted toward you. However, if we follow the rule that we should treat others how we want to be treated, we won’t simply spit back the same disrespect they throw at us. Especially with our kids, we need to focus on leading and teaching them what it looks like to live this way, showing them that its possible to respond in a loving way even when we’re angry.

  3. Debrief well after the fight

    Even when you make a plan, communicate expectations, and try your best to respond instead of just react in anger, there will still be times when you just lose it. You will say and do things you’re not proud of and you know are not helpful to your kids. But all is not lost, because you still have the chance to talk about the fight after its over. Once the dust settles and the smoke clears, make sure to have a follow-up conversation in which you apologize for losing your cool and give your child the opportunity to both apologize and be forgiven. As parents, we can’t have a big screaming fight with our kids, punish them, then just pretend it didn’t happen and assume everything will automatically be smoothed over.

 

QUESTION: What other ways have you found to parent more effectively with less guilt? I would love to hear your response in the Comments, on Facebook, or you can send me an email

Other articles you might like:

 Why is parenting so hard?

For the Weary…and the Busy

The Truth About Marriage (series)

 

This article appeared first on tylerjbrooks.com 

 

 

Why is parenting so hard? 

Before I had kids I used to think about what I would be like as a parent. Of course I would be a good parent because I was a good and loving person and I thought “who doesn’t love their kids, right?” Besides, by the time I finished college I had figured out everything my parents had done wrong and how to things better. I even took some classes on child development so I was pretty sure I would be an awesome parent with very well-behaved children. 

Then we had our first child, our son. The pregnancy had gone smoothly but nothing about the delivery or the first few months of his life went as planned. It was a much more stressful situation than either me or my wife had anticipated and we struggled to adjust to our new normal. 

However, as time went on we got settled into some routines that helped us feel normal. We learned to really enjoy our son as we watched him grow. And he was a good kid. 

We actually came to believe the idea of the “terrible twos” was a myth…our son was extremely well-behaved when he was two and grew into a sweet, well-mannered 3 year old. 

And then he turned 4. 

It was almost like someone flipped a switch in his brain that caused utter chaos to ensue. 

Temper tantrums, screaming, throwing toys, defiance, back-talk, and all kinds of rebellion have suddenly become our new normal. Spanking just adds fuel to his fire and time-outs often do the same. 

He has an uncanny ability to get me from happy to completely ticked off in a matter of seconds and knows exactly which buttons to push. My sweet little boy whom I love so dearly can bring out an anger in me that I didn’t know existed. 

My calm, rational mind gets clouded and overcome by frustration and I lose my cool. I often put him in his room for time out so both of us can get a chance to calm down.

 My incredible wife is a stay-at-home mom for him and our almost-two-year-old daughter and I honestly don’t know how she does it. Some days are good but many days he pushes her beyond her limits. 

By the end of most days, my kids wear down my wife into a person I barely recognize and I hate them for it. Now I know hate is a strong word to use when talking about my kids, but let me clarify. I don’t hate my kids, I hate the results of their behavior. This is an important distinction to make but nonetheless, I often have strong negative feelings toward my kids. This usually results in a cycle of guilt and shame and feelings of inadequacy as a parent and as a person. Parents, the struggle is real.

Now I know you older parents and grandparents are probably preparing your “it’s just a phase” and “they won’t be young forever” speeches, but those are honestly worthless to me right now. Seeing parents of young kids struggling to make it through the day and throwing out a “positive” catchphrase is not helpful. As a matter of fact it’s annoying. 

It’s like seeing someone digging a ditch that’s ten feet deep and 5 miles long using nothing but a shovel with a broken handle and you come along and say, “enjoy this time in the ditch while you can because it will be over before you know it.” I’ve got news for you: most parents don’t appreciate these little whitewashed sayings and half-hearted smiles; either pick up a shovel or keep walking. 

The truth is, parenting is hard

Some children offer more challenges than others, but we all have our own junk to deal with and we handle things differently.

Ultimately, parenting is a gift and a blessing; but sometimes the greatest blessings are the ones that stretch us and challenge us and frustrate us to no end. They push us to our emotional and relational limits, then just a bit farther. They force us to adapt to change and bring out the core of who we really are, for better and for worse. In the end, we will come out of this turbulent time better people and with more love in our hearts than we ever thought possible.

 We go into battle ill-equipped, uninformed, and totally overwhelmed, but we leave the battlefield as heroes full of strength and bravery and honor, having overcome our enemies.

So what I’m saying is there is hope. I won’t downplay or sugar-coat it: your life as a parent probably sucks in a lot of ways right now, but it won’t last forever. It will feel like forever-maybe even longer-but it will have an end. You just have to hang in there and don’t give up. I promise you will be better on the other side-if you survive that is. 🙂

Here are 3 things to help you survive the battleground of Parenthood:

1. Clarify your goals as a parent

Think about what kind of parent you want to be and why, how you want your kids to live when they’re grown and define some practical ways to move toward those goals. Align your schedule with your highest priorities as a parent. 


2. Connect with other parents 

Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is enough to get you through the tough days and dramatically improve your attitude. You shouldn’t expect other people to solve your kid’s issues, but comparing notes and asking for honest input from others who are in the same boat or just reaching the other shore is always a good idea. 


3. Take a stinking break! 
Just because they’re you’re kids doesn’t mean you should never get time away from them. Especially if you’re married, getting some time on a frequent basis without the constant interruptions and crises of children is crucial to a healthy marriage. This doesn’t always have to be an entire weekend getaway; just a few hours a week can do wonders for your emotional health.

Why is parenting so hard for you right now? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or send me an email. I’d love to hear I’m not alone. 

Truth #5: Sometimes the truth hurts, but its necessary

Have you ever had someone tell you the truth? Of course you have, most of the time people tell you the truth, right? But do they always tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I’m sure you can remember a time when someone told you something about yourself you didn’t like and you probably responded with disbelief and defensiveness.

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” you said. “She thinks I’m bad, but she needs to take a look in the mirror,” you responded.

Or maybe you admitted to some of your wrongdoing, but minimized it by comparing yourself to someone worse.

You may have justified yourself saying something like, “I might gossip now and then, but at least I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

Developing accurate self-awareness and being able to hear criticism constructively is difficult and a skill that takes time and humility to develop. However, this one skill is perhaps the most important in determining the quality and depth of our relationships. This is especially true within marriage.

Criticism is often one of the most damaging behaviors in a marriage. One or both spouses can develop a critical spirit toward the other, constantly finding something wrong and vocalizing their disapproval or irritation. When left unchecked and unchanged, this negative attitude will drive a wedge between two people who otherwise love each other.

If you’re like me, being unfairly critical is your default mode. And getting defensive when someone criticizes you comes naturally.

Something about me you should probably know is that I’m a natural talker—I’ve been endowed with the gift of gab and I am what psychologists would call highly verbal. I am one of those men who actually talks more than his wife. But she loves it—at least most of the time.

Early on in our marriage, we experienced a lot of change—job changes, having a baby, and moving several times—and I would usually over-analyze every decision I made or even thought about making. I was full of ideas and hope, but also overwhelmed by fear of the unknown. As a result, I would often talk to my wife about everything that was on my mind and try to process my thoughts out loud. Although she appreciated my willingness to share my heart and include her in my thought-process, she would eventually get worn out by my incessant and often unfocused talking.

On more than one occasion she tried to tell me in a loving way that I talked too much and got off track too easily. This made it difficult for her to follow and she felt like I would make my point, then go down another trail and circle back to the same point once again. This is also called “beating a dead horse.”

Initially, when I heard my beautiful bride criticizing my communication style I was devastated and offended. So naturally I had to verbalize my disgust, explaining in detail how I got that way, why I talked so much, and how it bothered me that she didn’t care enough to listen to everything I had to say.

A simple observation and a little constructive criticism from the person I love most in the world easily turned into a fight when I tried to defend myself first before really considering the truth of her words.

By the grace of God I was eventually able to develop the skill of editing my words (at least a little bit) to boil down my thoughts into smaller, more focused discussion. My wife feels more appreciated when I temper my monologues to allow more room for her voice to be heard. Asking questions and really making an effort to listen to her responses has made a huge difference in our communication and our marriage. This would not have happened if my wife didn’t take the time to tell me the truth, even when she knew it would initially hurt my feelings.

Has your spouse ever told you a difficult truth you didn’t want to hear? Is there something your spouse is telling you now that has an element of truth you need to listen to?

Have any other TRUTHS ABOUT MARRIAGE you’ve learned?

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments, on Facebook, or via Email.

This article is an installment in a series The Truth About Marriage. Be sure to check out the rest of it by clicking below.

Series: The truth about Marriage (intro)

Truth #1: The Wedding is NOT the most important day of your marriage, its just the beginning

Truth #2: Laughter is Key to a Healthy Marriage

Truth #3: You SHOULD argue + 3 ways to argue well

Truth #4: Having kids will NOT make you a happy couple

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Truth #4: Having kids will NOT make you a happy couple

I’ve heard some people (mostly women) say they got pregnant in part because they thought having kids together would improve their marriage. She thinks, “having a baby will be so wonderful and amazing that it will bring us closer together and the problems and poor communication we have will simply fade away in the light of the beautiful little life we created.” Or something to that effect.

Although I’ll admit this is a nice thought, it is completely wrong. Having a child together as a married couple is an incredible experience that will make you marvel at the miracle of life and seeing your spouse as a parent is definitely attractive—at least initially.

But the truth is children have an uncanny way of bringing out both the best and the worst in us.

Listen men, at one time—even within the same hour—your beautiful wife can be the most loving, kind, gentle mommy that you’ve ever seen and then suddenly have to bust out her mean “Batman voice” to get your crazy 4-year old’s attention. Maybe you call it something else in your house, but whatever name you choose doesn’t matter; as a grown man it will still give you chills.

Women, your husband will be transformed from your strong sexy man into a baby-holding, puke-catching, I’m-glad-you’re-home-here’s-your-kid, silly-dancing, fart-noise-making, monkey-face entertainer-man. You will still tell him you can’t wait until he gets home, but it will be for much less romantic reasons. You will marvel at his uncanny ability to sleep through even the loudest of crying-child sounds, to your disgust.

Some days will be worse than others, but especially when your children are young neither of you will be the best version of yourselves. But if you survive parenthood, you will end up better people for it.

Its kind of like having a near-death experience but not dying; your life flashes before your eyes and you suddenly realize all you used to have that you took for granted and swear to change for the better.

The truth is, I love having kids. They are amazing and some days I can’t believe I get to be their dad and have the privilege of helping them grow up. I don’t take this position of responsibility lightly and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But having kids has put significantly more stress on our marriage, especially since having a second one.

My son is almost five and my daughter will turn two in a few months and sometimes the challenges of parenting are almost too much to handle. Sometimes it feels like I traded in my wife for a mommy instead; but that’s why I have to work to remind myself and my wife that we are still more than just parents. Of course, parenting is still relatively new to us and our kids occupy much of our time and thoughts, but that’s not all we are meant to be.

It takes consistent, intentional work to make time for each other in the midst of the chaos of parenting to just be together as husband and wife. It will take effort, planning, and even a little bit of money, but you can maintain and even improve your marriage after having children. But remember that its not automatic; parenthood can knock you down and tear you apart as a couple only if you let it.

Question: How can couples with young kids find ways to spend time together as a couple?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, on Facebook, or send me an email.

This post is an installment in the series The Truth About Marriage. To read more, start here

Truth #3: You SHOULD argue + 3 ways to argue well

Have you ever met someone who claims they never argue with their spouse? Not even when they’re tired or sick or angry? They just get along so well that they never have disagreements.

There’s a scientific term for these couples: liars.

They are either lying—because they do in fact argue but they don’t want you to know that—or one of them is so apathetic about their relationship they don’t care enough to argue.

The truth is if you are married to a human being you will have arguments. They may not all be screaming, crying fights, but disagreements will happen. Differences in your opinions, preferences, and desires—which will change over time—will inevitably lead to arguments.

If you want to have a healthy and satisfying marriage, you SHOULD argue with your spouse.

Arguments don’t always have to turn into fights. You don’t always have to escalate a discussion into a hyper-emotional blowup.

You don’t have to bring up past hurts and failures.

You don’t have to hurt each other with your words.

And you don’t have to win.

Early on in our marriage, my wife and I would often fall into the trap of having arguments late at night. We have always talked to each other a lot and that has been a strength of our marriage; but when you’re highly verbal (like myself) its easy to just sort of stumble into an argument and say whatever comes to mind at the moment.

After allowing our emotions to get the best of us and saying things we didn’t mean, I would push to find some form of final resolution. Finally my wife would say, “can we please just go to sleep and talk about this tomorrow?!” It took me a while, but I finally learned to put the argument on hold and shut my mouth until morning. Sometimes this is still a struggle, but realizing that arguments don’t have to be fully resolved in the same session (or after 9pm) has helped us avoid a lot of hurt.

If you want to make arguments work for instead of against your marriage, you need to learn to argue well.

Here are 3 ways to argue well you can start using today:

  1. Avoid using exaggerated words like “always” and “never”

    You’ve probably heard this one before, but its easy to fall into this trap. Our words matter, especially when speaking to the people closest to us. Words like these always set us up to say something untrue and they never help resolve an argument.

  1. Don’t use zingers

    Whether you call them zingers, jabs, low-blows, or just hurtful insults, you know what they are and you know when you’re using them. Although these will often be unique to your relationship, everyone knows when they are dredging up the past or saying something hurtful just for the sake of hurting. In a heated and emotional argument, the time zingers start flying is the time you need to put the argument on hold and take a break to cool off.

  1. Don’t bring up hot-button issues after 9:00pm

    I don’t know what your bed-time is in your house, but in mine we usually try to be in bed by 10:00-10:30pm. Our kids go to bed between 7pm-8pm, so on a good night that only gives us a couple of hours to be together kid-free. Unfortunately, most of the time we already exhausted from the day and the bed-time routine so we don’t always bring our A-game. During this brief window of time, I like to talk to my wife about whatever is going on in our lives at the time. However, if there is an issue that needs to be addressed and I know its a place of strong disagreement I try my best to keep my mouth shut until a better time of day. I suggest you do the same. Just make sure you set a specific time when you will actually follow up and resolve the issue.

What other ways have you learned to argue well? Share them in the comments, on Facebook, or send me an Email.

Make sure to check out the other posts in this series The Truth About Marriage on tylerjbrooks.com/blog

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Truth #2: Laughter is Key to a Healthy Marriage

When me and my wife first met each other, we first connected through laughter. Well, laughter and just a bit of sarcasm. One of the first things that attracted me to her was her smile and the way she laughed. She tells me she loved my dimples when I smiled. Throughout our relationship—which has had many ups and downs and challenges over the last 7 years—one thing that has made a key difference in our ability to move past hurts and fights and survive difficult circumstances is the ability to laugh together.

Here’s a real-life example that happened very early in our relationship:

I had planned a romantic evening in the city of Pittsburgh for the two of us that was to include a relaxed dinner at a local Italian restaurant, followed by attending a play at Heinz Hall. If I remember correctly, the play was the Nutcracker—which was 100% for her benefit. I’m a bit more adventurous than my wife, but we are both country kids who consider 4 cars following a school bus “heavy traffic.” If you’ve ever had the misfortune of driving in the great city of Pittsburgh, you know that its not exactly easy. There are three rivers that come together right in the middle of the city, so there are bridges and hills and curves and on- and off-ramps everywhere. You can often see where you want to go, but can’t find a way to get there. Oh, and there is ALWAYS construction somewhere. But being the romantic planner I am, I entered a relatively unfamiliar city with my trusty GPS on my dash. “Tom-tom will get us there just fine,” I said. “Just relax babe, it’ll be fine,” I told her. Apparently that particular GPS doesn’t like construction or tall buildings (big surprise) and combined with my increasingly flustered driving, led us on a scenic tour of the downtown area, then several neighborhoods, then back on the highway, then back downtown again. After about 45 minutes of frustration and we’ll call it “loud talking,” we finally reached our restaurant which was conveniently located next to a parking garage. We ate our dinner somewhat quickly, but still enjoyed it. As we left dinner to “simply” drive down the street to the play venue, our frustrations from earlier seemed to flair up again. I could see the playhouse, but among multiple lanes of traffic, pedestrians, buses and various signage, I was unable to easily locate a place to park. My lovely bride suggested I pull into the parking garage “right there,” she said. “Right where?,” I said. To which she responded, “right there, with the big red sign and the giant letters right in front of your face, that says PARK!” That is something we still bring up often whenever one of us doesn’t see something and the other one does and we still laugh about it.

Sometimes we start by laughing at each other, but it usually ends up with us laughing together.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t take things seriously or that we make light of our issues; we just know when our circumstances have us stressed to a point of blowup or breakdown we can opt for a third option by stepping back and laughing at ourselves. Just talking through our issues and struggles honestly while allowing our sense of humor to shine through has enabled us to relieve stress and continue to press on. Especially since having kids, our ability to laugh has been a life saver. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, “someday we’ll look back on this and laugh,” and it was likely in a situation that was stressful or frustrating or just ridiculous. Its important that we actually take that time with our spouse to look back and laugh—by doing this often, we can re-frame our minds and put our past (and current) circumstances in right perspective. The bottom line is this: if you want to have a good marriage, don’t take yourself too seriously and learn to laugh loud and often.

When was the last time you and your spouse laughed until you cried? Share your story in the Comments, on Facebook, or send me an email

*This post is the second installment in the series The Truth About Marriage

Truth #1: The Wedding is NOT the most important day of your marriage, its just the beginning

When I proposed to my wife, everything seemed perfect. We were so much in love and so right for each other that I couldn’t wait to marry her. After only 8 months of dating, I finally popped the question to which I already knew the answer. But then something interesting and unexpected happened—as we started to actually plan the wedding our lives suddenly got stressful! We went from daydreaming about the adventures and babies we would have together, to arguing about flowers, guest lists, and the difference between the colors white and “ivory.” I wanted to be deeply involved in the wedding planning since I was going to be part of the ceremony too, but eventually I realized my wife had thought a lot more about the actual wedding day than I had and honestly, she cared more about it too. After several heated “discussions” we finally decided to relax and agree that if we ended up married at the end of the day we would be happy. At one point prior to this resolution, we were so caught up in the details and planning for the wedding, it started to damage or relationship—which of course was the whole point of the wedding in the first place. We temporarily got off track and we had some really bad fights. 12682856705_6a8f645bc6_b

I’ve seen this happen so often when couples get engaged and start wedding-planning; they start out happy and excited but get sidetracked and stressed out by the details of the day, forgetting that it is merely a drop in the ocean of their new life together.

Your wedding is NOT your marriage; it only signals the beginning of your marriage. Focusing too much on the wedding itself is like worrying so much about sweeping the runway before takeoff that you forget to fuel up the plane—if you’re not mindful of the big picture, it could cost you. So instead of freaking out about the first day of your marriage, why not focus and plan for the rest of the days. Men, let your bride-to-be do and wear what she wants (within reason) and ladies, just try to relax and remember that your marriage won’t be perfect, so your wedding doesn’t have to be either. This will hopefully help you realign your expectations and reduce your stress, keeping you from hurting each other before the big day. If you’re reading this and you’re already married, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Regardless of what your wedding day was actually like, remind yourself continually of why you got married in the first place—because you loved each other and wanted to commit to being together for life.

Do you have any good wedding-gone-wrong stories you would be willing to share? How about another truth that you have learned first-hand?

Let me know in the Comments, on Facebook, or by email

*Keep an eye out for more upcoming truth about marriage in the days and weeks to come!

Series: The truth about Marriage (intro)

Below is an introduction to my newest blog series I’ve been working on that I’m launching this week and hope you will find insightful and helpful in your own marriage.

My vision for this series is to share several truths about marriage that I have learned from my own experience as well as that of others. Our society has conditioned us to believe many things about marriage and relationships that simply are not true. On one end of the spectrum, there are the fairy tale romances of the silver screen that present marriage vaguely and often only as the culmination of a dramatic love story;
rarely do romantic comedies portray some of the harsh realities of life after the wedding day. In stark contrast to these whitewashed fairy-tale romances, much of the mainstream media and some of the entertainment industry present marriage as an antiquated practice that is not only unnecessary, but usually doomed to failure. This meta-narrative tells the story that marriage is where real romance goes to die; getting married has a way of ruining good relationships by putting undue stress and expectations on each partner thereby leading to relational self-destruction. Marriage is portrayed as a boring, unnecessary rite devoid of excitement, adventure, and passion. Many people these days seem to be more affected by the negative stereotypes of marriage than the positive, though often unrealistic, ones. Of course people are most deeply affected by their own experiences over and against popular culture or sound research, therefore, those whose parents have experienced bad marriages, divorce, or even a complete lack of marital commitment are far more likely to devalue marriage.

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This is a good example of a cute pic that doesn’t really depict reality–ask my wife to ride on my handlebars and see what reaction you get!

My aim here is to presuppose an alternative view of marriage that balances the realities of relationships with the tremendous personal and societal benefits of healthy marriages. With all the negative verbiage being circulated throughout our society about marriage, along with the increasing rates of divorce and cohabitation, its important for  you to know that there are still many happily married couples out there enjoying vibrant and fulfilling marriages that last. I know this is true, because I am in one of them.

Wherever you may be at this point in your life–happily or unhappily married, engaged, separated, dating, or single and thinking about marriage–I hope to share some insight over the course of a few posts that will at very least help you sort through some of the assumptions, confusing messages, or outright lies that are stuck in your head and heart.

I will be publishing posts that cover one to three truths each, trying to keep each brief and easy to digest and remember. I don’t have a set number of posts that will be written in this series and they most likely will not be in a particular order. I will try to present each post in a way that you will find value in reading it by itself, though I hope you will read several. Once again, I may add to this series as I feel necessary and any comments or suggestions for new truths are always welcome and appreciated.

How REAL manhood has been hijacked and what you can do about it

Heading into 2017, it is increasingly clear to me that there is a very real problem in our culture when it comes to manhood. By and large, men have ceased to be men (and I’m not just talking about Bruce Jenner). Households with absentee fathers are an epidemic; men use and abuse women, abandon their own children, and get upset when a court makes them pay child support. The level of arrogance and entitlement among young men today is staggering; most expect something for nothing and want to benefit from the labor of others while doing little to no actual work themselves. Able-bodied men are all too often given handouts and allowed to believe the lie that society at-large owes them something. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you probably know someone who fits this description. And if you’ve had to work hard to get where you are, men like that probably drive you crazy. But the degradation of manhood goes even deeper than work habits or bad attitudes; it cuts to the core of a man’s identity and has far-reaching influence throughout all classes of men.

I believe there are 4 main areas of a man’s life in which this trend is most evident and pervasive:

Work   Men used to go to work every day, work through pain and sickness, in harsh conditions and for people who cared little about their safety and well-being. They descended into coal mines, worked on farms, in factories, rail yards and hundreds of other places that usually offered difficult and dangerous work. Even if the job wasn’t dangerous, most men would show up on time, day-after-day and year-after-year for decades, thankful to have a steady job that allowed them the ability to provide for their families. If they didn’t particularly like their job, that was fine—if a better one came along they may consider it, but company loyalty was the norm. But somewhere along the way, showing up every day, doing your job and going home tired but thankful became the exception rather than the rule. I’m sure your grandfather didn’t always love his job and probably knew some men who were bad employees, but for the most part, you went to work, worked hard and honest and thanked your employer for the opportunity. Times have certainly changed since then and so has the job market, but so have the men. I believe there are many more men today who either won’t go to work at all, show up to work and complain the whole time, or those who have no idea what company loyalty looks like. Often what I see are men who have an allergy to overtime and always have a chip on their shoulders, or men who are workaholics at the expense of their families and personal lives.

The bottom line: Men were created to work and work is supposed to be creative and good and fulfilling. However, your day job is not always going to be easy or be the fulfillment of your dreams; but it can help you provide for your family and work toward your dreams and goals if you let it. Go to work every day, do your job well and with a good attitude and be thankful for the opportunity. If you don’t like your work, take steps now that will allow you move toward doing work you love later. Remember that no one owes you a thing—even if you have a college degree—and if you want something really worth having you’re going to have to work for it.

Sexuality Men are sexual beings because they are human beings. We were created in a certain way for a certain purpose—and this design is good and pure. But when I look around at the young “men” of my generation and see how they use their God-given sexuality, I am astounded and ashamed to even be classified in the same category. Young men take something that was created to be holy, beautiful, and unifying between a real man and his wife and use it merely as a means to selfish gain; they use a woman as if she is a tool to complete a task rather than a person. I know the male sex drive is generally more active than the female counterpart, but it doesn’t mean we need more sex, more often, with more women; it simply means we need to work harder at loving our wives and making them feel safe and loved—if we get this right, better sex is bound to follow. Additionally, sex has no place outside of marriage—not with single men and single women, or married men with women who are not their wives. It is a union between one man and one woman in a life-long marriage commitment; anything else is a counterfeit deviation and misses the mark.

The bottom line: If you are a man who wants to be a REAL man, you must start to believe that you are more than just a sexual being—you are a dynamic, complex and multi-faceted human being who was created for so much more than just sex. Forget what pop culture says about sex because its wrong—it goes hand-in-hand with marriage and if you think otherwise, you’re really missing out. Wherever you are now, commit yourself to seeking out and living out the true design and purpose of sex.

Marriage & Relationships The greatest relational accomplishment a man can achieve is finding a good woman and convincing her to marry him. The only thing better than falling in love and getting married is figuring out how to make it last a lifetime. When it comes to marital commitment and faithfulness, men are epic failures. I know ladies play a significant part in this area, but men are called to love their wives passionately, sacrificially, and with unwavering commitment. Far too many men have fallen because of their pride, their anger, or their lack of self-control. Sexual temptations often get men derailed from the right track in their marriages; although their own arrogance is often the true culprit. Men need to stop being so lazy and apathetic about their marriages and step up to the plate. We need to take our rightful positions in our marriages, in our homes, and in our communities and swing for the fences.

The bottom line: If you love a good woman but you’re afraid to get married because it will tie you down, its time to get over it, man up and marry-up—you’ll be a better man for it. If you’re already married—no matter for how long—count your blessings and love your wife with reckless abandon, putting her needs and desires and dreams before your own, and trust that if you first love and lead her well, she will not let it go unnoticed for long.

Parenting When did it become a feminine attribute to be a good parent? Why is it that men are usually expected to do very little when it comes to parenting their children, while women are expected to do approximately 95% of the day-to-day parenting tasks? The rise of feminism has contributed significantly to this problem, as much of society has been duped into believing that women are in fact superior to men and should be treated as such. When a woman has children in 2017 America, she is often confronted with the pressure to choose between caring for her children most of their waking and sleeping hours by being a stay-at-home mom, or virtually abandoning them to pursue her career (or at least that’s what she feels like). They are told they not only can, but should be able to do it all and do it well, whereas men are led to believe all they have to do is be a sperm donor who provides a paycheck. Young men and women are usually influenced strongly by their own fathers and tend to repeat their mistakes; that is why it’s vitally important for men to step up in this area of their lives as they hold the key to their children’s confidence, sense of security, and how well they can adapt to the world around them as they grow up. Don’t get me wrong, being a dad is tough and challenging, but real men rise to meet their challenges—they don’t run from them or let them fall on the shoulders of others.

The Bottom line: If you’re a man who has children then you’re technically a father; but it takes much more effort to really be a dad. Show up for your kids, lead them well, and put to death the notion that parenting is primarily a mom’s responsibility. Research shows that parenting is done best within the bounds of a healthy marriage by two people working as a team. Step up to your calling as Dad.

I’m sure you can think of several other ways in which men don’t act like men anymore—share some of them with me in the Comments below, on Facebook, or shoot me an email.

*Look for further development of this topic to come on tylerjbrooks.com