Most Important Minute of the Day

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What is the most important minute of the day in your marriage? In Drs Les and Leslie Parrott’s study, Your Time-Starved Marriage, they mention that the most important 60 seconds of marriage is the moment you walk in the door, when you greet each other at the end of the day.

These are the moments that are unplanned and spontaneous. A simple greeting, hug, and maybe a kiss to look each other in the eye to say “Hello” and connect. It doesn’t have to be long, maybe 5 minutes. These moments, or possibly a ritual that you can put into practice to grow your marriage, can be so special. Maximize on them, friends.

Rather than going straight to your office, your phone, your computer, your to-do list, or that few minutes you need to breathe after a long day, take advantage of these ordinary, day-to-day moments with your spouse and kids. This first 60 seconds when you come home, to reconnect, can set the tone for your evening as well.

How can you maximize these moments this week?

To learn more, visit lesandleslieparrott.com to get a copy of the book or to check out other resources to grow your marriage.

2020. New Year. New Decade. Renewed Marriage. Same gracious and faithful God.

In Him,

npmarriage

Building a Marriage Worthy of Our Calling

God knew in advance the two of you would marry. He chose you to be together, to live out your life as an example of Christ and his church. What does this look like in our marriage? How do we live a married life “worthy of the calling” we have received? We may be obedient in our call as individuals to do everything in the name of the Lord, giving thanks to God, living in harmony with others, loving and serving others; but how are we doing this as husband and wife, as one flesh?

Building a marriage “worthy of our calling” means that we pay attention to our call, our part, in the most glorious work ever known: the advancement of God’s kingdom. What if we focused on a portion of Ephesians 4:1-3 to read like this?

I urge you to build a marriage worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Author Gary Thomas, calls the advancement of God’s kingdom the “magnificent obsession.” We bring dignity to our marriage, but we also have something greater to aim for. Happiness is wonderful, but this magnificent obsession is even bigger (not fighting our happiness, just bigger).

Humility and Gentleness

As we are creating a marriage worthy of our calling, we are creating a marriage where the character of Jesus is displayed for all to see. Our calling is to become more Christlike. We should seek the kind of marriage that serves our calling, rather than seeking to build the kind of marriage we want. According to Paul’s words in Ephesians 4, we need to be humble and gentle. Humble with our spouse, our children, our co-workers, other parents at the soccer games, other moms at the school, our neighbors, and people we see and serve at church, because Jesus is gentle with his church. We are to be humble, because Jesus was humble.

Without God’s word, his instruction, we may never give a second thought to gentleness or humility. There may be times we don’t give it a first thought. We may find compatibility with our spouse, in liking the same Netflix series or the same restaurant. We find security or something as fabulous as making each other laugh. These things are not wrong, but there is something wrong when there is a lack of gentleness and humility. I’m guessing most clients are not requesting to meet with a counselor to learn how to be gentle and humble in their relationships.

Care For Each Other

So how can we aspire to have a marriage worthy of our calling? We do not act or speak harshly to each other. We do not pressure each other, dropping our own expectations or dreams on our spouse. God calls us to be a servant, mutually caring for one another. This is the best way to model our calling. When people see the way you treat your spouse, they are reminded of Jesus.

Our culture screams everything but humility, yet Jesus showcased humility, so we must showcase humility as we proclaim Jesus to the world. Pride destroys relationships and wrecks marriages. Pride is not worthy of our calling to proclaim a Savior who “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).

Do you see the difference? Instead of trying to grow a marriage we want, a magnificent obsession leads us to seek to build the kind of marriage that reveals Jesus to the world.

To Do This Week:

  • Spend some time together. Take a look at your marriage. Does it reflect the character of Jesus to the world?
  • Be intentional in the way you act and speak to each other. What are some humble and gentle ways to communicate and encourage each other through the craziness of life?
  • In your Bible study this week, take a look at the character of Christ. Pray. How can you put these into practice as you build a marriage “worthy of his calling?”

Content based on one of many fabulous resources: Focus on the Family/A Marriage Worthy of Our Calling, May 15, 2015

Joy in Him,

NorthPointe Marriage Ministry

**Be sure to subscribe to our blog for encouragement, resources, and upcoming events.

Marriage in Light of Eternity

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Summer is here! While you’ve been busy making plans for vacation and activities, what are you planning for you and your spouse? For your marriage? A weekend getaway? A fabulous cruise? What about plans to grow and strengthen your marriage? Quality time together is definitely a need, but what are doing for your marriage in light of eternity?

We’d like to share a resource with you! We are hosting a Couples’ Study, You and Me Forever, on Thursday nights, beginning July 25 at 7pm. Summer plans will be winding down. School for the kiddos will be right around the corner. Gather with some other couples from NP to learn from Francis & Lisa Chan (via video teaching) and enjoy some small group discussion. There’s nothing better than walking alongside others (of various ages and stages in life) who have the same goal as you–to have a Christ-centered marriage.

In their book, You and Me Forever, Francis and Lisa Chan tell us that marriage is great, but it’s not forever. Remember those vows you said on your wedding day, “Til death do us part?” Marriage is only until death do you part. After that is when the eternal rewards or regrets come, depending on how you spent your life. The Chans go on to say, “While we cannot allow lesser things to destroy our marriages, we also cannot allow marriage to distract us from greater things.”

As we pursue God first and foremost, life begins to make sense, and everything else starts falling into place. We enjoy love, laughter, and intimacy in our marriages because these were created to be enjoyed. There is a way to love our spouse and family without ignoring heaven. It all comes down to our focus.

The Chans believe Jesus was right; perhaps, we have it all backwards. The way to have a great marriage is not by focusing on marriage. You might be thinking, “What?” Many of us believe our priorities should be God, Marriage, Family, Work, etc., but are you really prioritizing and living your life in this order? Let’s get together and learn more. Join us on July 25. Get your book today and read the Introduction and Chapter One before we meet the first week. Invite your engaged and married friends. Help others grow and build Christ-centered marriages.

Joy in Him,

NorthPointe Marriage Ministry

**Be sure to subscribe to our blog for encouragement, resources, and upcoming events.

Embracing Life’s Hiccups

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Going through a big life change? New job? A big move? In a place where you’re really needing to trust God? Maybe one of you totally trusts God but the other wants to be in control? Life can certainly throw some curve balls at us and, as couples, if we aren’t standing against these curve balls together we will most certainly be chasing a lot of foul balls.

Perhaps one of you is pursuing your absolute dream job. You fill out all the paperwork, quit your job, and assume your spouse will take care of the kids and the home. Do you consider how this change will affect your spouse and children? Especially when it’s a big life change that will take you away from home often, leaving your spouse in “single parent” mode.

When God created you and your spouse to be ONE, he didn’t just mean intimately. He meant for you two to stand together, as if your legs were tied and ready for take-off in a three-legged race. You’re connected, arm-in-arm, ready for battle against the big and sometimes difficult things in life. One partner relies on his ability to control everything. The other relies completely on God to take care of things in the midst of change. Can you see how this can cause friction in a marriage? Each partner going his/her own way, rather than facing things together. The problem or big change wants to squeeze itself between you and your spouse, often causing division between you.

If you’re going through a big change right now, or perhaps you’d like to equip yourselves for what’s to come, here are some things to do:

  • Pray. Yeah, it’s cool to pray individually. But what we’re talking about here is praying together. Yes, you and your spouse kneeling at the edge of the bed, holding hands at the breakfast table, or on the couch together each morning (even if the kids are running everywhere or crawling all over you), PRAY. Ask for God’s will to be done. Ask him to help you be the encourager and support for your spouse. Ask for his provision if you’re needing to make a temporary financial change.
  • Trust. Trust God. Period. God is way more powerful than you when things need to be put in place. Trust your spouse if he/she truly feels called to this change. Wives, submit to your husband if he’s being led to a new career or change. Husbands, discuss everything with your wife. Hear each other out. Listen to each other’s feelings. God is in control of everything, Friends. Do not rely on your own ability or control to make it through. Boy, is this a faith-strengthener!
  • Make a plan. With God’s guidance, sit together and make a plan for what needs to happen to make this change run smoothly, whether it’s a temporary or permanent change. Who’s taking care of the housework? The kids? The appointments and games and parent/teacher conferences? Talk it out. Hubbies, if you normally mow the lawn and now won’t be home to take care of it, teach your wife how to use the lawnmower or consider the teenage boy next door if it will be financially difficult to hire a gardener. Wives, if you’re in a weekly Bible study and now find your husband will be out of town, talk through childcare issues ahead of time, so you don’t miss out. What if an appliance breaks down in the home? Make a plan to discuss how repairs can be handled. Having these conversations in advance can ease the stress later when/if it comes up. Yes, we all have cell phones and it seems easy to be in contact with each other. But, remember, emergencies always seem to come at inopportune times. Have a plan in case you can’t get a hold of your spouse.
  • Gather your tribe. Family. Friends. Small Group. Invite your community in. Let them help you with carpool, maybe some meals, and/or a childcare swap. You watch their kids one night; they watch your kids one night; and you both save money in the process. Most importantly, invite your community to pray with you and for you. Prayer is powerful! You do not have to navigate this time alone. Let the body of Christ assist you and stand by you in support.

May God be at the center of your marriage, knocking your socks off with his peace, kindness, love, strength, and presence!

Communication: It’s Not Just About Talking – Part 3

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Communication is about more than just talking. We’ve learned that we communicate with each other through our words and through the tone of voice we use within those words. Talking is a very small part of the communication process.

Our nonverbal communication- facial expressions, body language, posture, eye contact, touch, and attitude have so much to do with communication. Who knew? Do not underestimate your nonverbal communication with your spouse. It has the power to lift up or tear down your relationship.

Affection

One woman said of her husband, “I’m the luckiest person in the world. I feel cherished and loved by my husband. He’s taught me how to daily stop, look, and listen. I can’t tell you how special it makes me feel when he stops what he’s doing and just holds my hands and listens to me when I tell him about my day. He fills our home with gratefulness and appreciation.” You’re probably thinking, “Wow, this guy’s got some superhuman power.”

This woman, smiling, went on to say, “He was severely injured in the war in Afghanistan. He can no longer speak or hear, but he can read lips. He’s a great listener, though, because he listens for my needs, hurts, fears, and hopes. He communicates so clearly by just holding my hands. He brings such warmth to our relationship.” Isn’t this so tender and beautiful? She thought his injury would break them apart after his healing journey and physical therapy. Instead, what she discovered was a deeper connection to her husband using nonverbal communication. Their marriage was restored after all the difficult times and it was strengthened without the use of words. According to Burns & Fields, this courageous couple learned to practice the Triple A’s of Communication: Affection, Atmosphere, and Attention.

You may be familiar with Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages book? Affection (Physical Touch) is a “love language,” along with Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, and Quality of Time. Tim Keller, another great author and Pastor, calls affection “love currency” in his book The Meaning of Marriage. Have you ever thought of communication as a language or currency to express your love? Affection, a form of nonverbal communication, is one of the most influential demonstrators of love. We’re not talking about sex here, Gents, although that is a strong form of affection and communication. Regular, nonsexual affection can be one of the most powerful forms of communication between you and your spouse. A simple touch lets you see into the soul of your spouse. Love can be demonstrated through a touch, a nuzzle, a cuddle, holding her hand, rubbing his neck, a tender kiss.

Affection is more than touch. A simple, inexpensive gift. Taking time to plan a special date. Making arrangements for a babysitter. That scores big points for you Fella’s! Just sayin’. You don’t need to save for a big and extravagant once-a-year gift to bring the Wow factor. Small notes left on the bathroom mirror or on the steering wheel, flowers just because, or a dessert from her favorite restaurant. Small ways to show big love.

Atmosphere

Whether you’ve got little ones running amok or teens you’re trying to wrangle, your home and surroundings can get rather chaotic. Even if you don’t have children at home, it’s easy for our marriage to be choked out by busyness and other circumstances. In the middle of all of this, a couple has to learn how to create an atmosphere of warmth in their home and relationship. No home has done this perfectly, friend, but the difference between a flourishing marriage and a poor one is often found in the atmosphere or tone it brings in the home. It takes great effort to build a positive environment, but friends, it can be done, and we believe it can happen.

If you’re unable to turn your home into a sanctuary, then create a comfortable atmosphere in one room. Move your desk and computer from your bedroom. Put your TV in another room or give to a family in need. Turn your bedroom into a stress-free zone rather than a workspace. These simple endeavors will keep the atmosphere of your relationship at a healthy climate.

Attention

You may have heard or thought these statements, “My husband doesn’t listen to me,” or “My wife is so distracted by so many other things I don’t feel I am a priority.” Listening (not hearing), really listening, is a love language. Paying close attention to how you’re listening to your spouse is important. Attentive listening may not come naturally for some of you, resulting in selective listening or becoming passive. Intimacy can go through the roof when you show the ability to understand and share your feelings with one another. Like your normal habits of the day, that were learned at some point, intentional listening is a habit to be learned, and can be learned. It is such a wonderful gift to give your spouse. Paying attention and listening is not just with your ears, it involves eye contact with your spouse and empathy from your heart.

Out of all the forms of communication to be mastered, listening should be at the top of the list. What has James instructed us do to? “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19). Fervent listening is a skill that will serve you well throughout your marriage. It will serve you well in your parenting. It will serve you well in all of your relationships. Here’s a little secret: Lay aside your self-centeredness and listen without an agenda or wanting to answer right away. You can positively influence those around you with your ability to give undivided attention, in a nonverbal manner.

To Do This Week:

  • One way to create a warm and positive atmosphere is to pause, to take a moment or few minutes, before you get home and pray and prepare your heart. If you are a stay-at-home mom or you work at home, take time to breathe, set your heart before the Lord, before re-engaging with those at home. A peaceful heart creates a peaceful atmosphere.
  • Here’s something fun: Schedule a day (or half a day) to use only nonverbal communication with each other. Hold hands. Hug. Write a note to each other. Send a link to a song on Spotify.

Content based on one of many fabulous resources: Getty Ready for Marriage by Jim Burns & Doug Fields. A great book for you dating, engaged, and married couples. Visit their website: HomeWord. Jim and Doug believe in STRONG MARRIAGES, CONFIDENT PARENTS, and EMPOWERED KIDS and have partnered together to strengthen and equip parents, couples, and families.

Communication: It’s Not Just About Talking (Part 2)

Last week we talked about our words and how our words can bring life or death to those around us. Communication, or talking to our spouse or family members, is not just about our words. Communication also involves the tone of our voice. You may have heard the phrase, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Has this ever come up in conversation? If we want to be successful in our communication, we need to make sure we’re not “tone deaf.”

You may find yourself impaired in the rhythm and music department. You still find yourself breaking out in dance or singing to a tune in the shower or in the car, even though you don’t quite dance to the beat or sing in the best key. This doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy it. The funny thing is, it may take us a while to realize we wouldn’t qualify to be a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol. Over the years, our kids or friends have assured us of this reality, and we can no longer live in denial that we are tone deaf. Can’t carry a tune. Can’t bust a move.

If you’re not careful with your communication tone in your marriage, you can quickly become “tone-deaf.” Even when the words we speak are true, and with love, sometimes these words are delivered with a negative tone, triggering a different reaction than if we had spoken in a positive tone. For example, you may have heard the statement, “We’re going to be late.” This may be a statement of fact, but where this simple statement can get ugly, hurtful, and trigger an-argument-waiting-to-happen is when it is spoken in a sneering or patronizing tone. These words of truth, “We’re going to be late” can blare in our partner’s ears, “We’re going to be late and it’s all your fault and you do this all the time and I’m tired of waiting for you and being late everywhere because you can’t get it together.” Five words of truth and twenty-nine words added because of the tone. Tone matters.

As you think about your communication patterns, remember that it’s not just about the words you speak, it’s also the tone you project in the words you speak. Negativity, sarcasm, whining, shaming, and insincerity are more about tone than words. Even if your spouse can barely hear the words you speak, they can absolutely feel and hear your tone, often causing a defensive reaction or response. So, how can we work on this?

Authors Jim Burns and Doug Fields give us four possible triggers that can possibly lead to a damaging tone in a conversation or situation. These common triggers can turn an unpleasant moment to a negative one with the way your words are delivered. Snap. Just like that. These four triggers are found in the letters H-A-L-T.

Hunger

The apostle Paul tell us, “Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit…So glorify God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20) According to experts, our body is linked to our spirit and our actions, and even our responses to others. We may not think of it often, but one of the first steps to a healthy relationship is in how we take care of our bodies. You know the term, “Hangry.” Hungry and angry. Yeah. That one. When people get hungry, they get grouchy and cranky. You may remember times when you and your spouse have had such crazy days and you both come home hungry – or even famished – causing your bodies and your attitudes to be on edge. When our tummy growls and we’re looking for a snack to tide us over until dinner, we’re usually more selfish and not as sensitive to our spouse’s needs. I know, it sounds weird that we’re talking about eating when talking about communication in marriage, but hunger can be the culprit in so many arguments. You may remember some unnecessary conflict when one or both of you felt run down or in need of some calories. It’s tough to pay attention, let alone adjust your tone, when your body and mind are muddled by hunger. Snickers used to have a funny slogan for their candy bar, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” So true.

Anger

Anger is one of the most common causes for many poor responses. Anger is a normal emotion; it’s not bad. Anger gets ugly when it’s conveyed in a matter to hurt someone. In marriage, if anger is not mastered, then discontent, grudges, bitterness, and resentment can affect your relationship. When this occurs, the spoken tone can go south in a hurry. We are given such helpful instruction on how to control our anger in the Bible: “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26) This isn’t telling you to never get angry. It instructs you to deal with your anger in a more positive manner, so it doesn’t fester and drag on for days. Our spouse’s little annoying quirks can turn into larger-than-life issues if anger is not dealt with right away. Anger and tone go hand-in-hand, and if you want to prevent yourself from being tone deaf, you’ve got to master the anger piece.

Loneliness

After you get married, there tend to be fewer times and opportunities for connection. This is when loneliness can creep in. Wives often want their husbands to talk more, hoping that the words will create moments of connection. There’s nothing like some belly laughing, fun times to bring a couple together, improving the tone in the process. When you’re feeling lonely, you don’t feel as connected, and when you don’t feel connected, the negative tone can roll in.

Tiredness

Oh, this is a biggie. Many couples have the desire to connect, but, seriously, they are just too tired. Jim Burns and Doug Fields say, “Exhaustion is one of the major causes of brokenness in relationships as well as poor tone quality.” (Burns & Fields, Getting Ready for Marriage, David D. Cook, 2014) If you find yourself a little rude, short, or abrupt in responses toward your fiancé or spouse, then you may be too distracted or too busy. If you come across as negative, impatient, or grouchy, you may be dangerously exhausted. This is when we’re reminded of some important and powerful words in our lives, “Yes” and “No.” When you say “no” to the extra clutter and busyness and “yes” to the things that are a priority in your life, you create a good and healthy attitude. I know you have so many things tugging on you in life, but not everything deserves a “yes” response. Be cognizant of your schedule to avoid a negative tone in your communication with your spouse.

A question every couple needs to ask each other often: “Do our schedules impact the tone between the two of us?” One man that had gone through a divorce reflected on his relationship and said, “We loved each other. As odd as that sounds, a lack of love wasn’t the problem. It was our out-of-control, runaway schedules that eventually dulled our relationship. When we were busy, stressed, and preoccupied, we began to treat each other terribly. We just had nothing left to give. We were making each other miserable, and we finally ended it.” (Burns & Fields, 2014) This marriage could have been saved had this man and his wife learned how to rearrange their schedules so they could slow down and connect. I encourage you, be mindful of this. I once heard, “If the enemy can’t turn you against God, he’s going to distract you and make you busy.” And he is waiting to attack marriages this way.

To Do This Week:

Pull out those calendars. Look at your schedules. Has your work schedule become a higher priority than your care for your spouse? Here’s how you can get a simple answer. Ask him. Ask her. Pray with your spouse, ask him/her to look at your calendars and schedules to point out things that could be affecting your relationship, things that you can say “no” to or maybe “not this season.” “No” is a complete sentence, friends. “No” is a powerful word.

Recognize the things that cause a negative attitude. It’s easy to bring tough work situations or hard days with the kids into our relationship. Spend some time talking through even the simple things that irk you. By addressing this early, it doesn’t allow the negativity and crankiness to fester and eventually come out in our words or body language.

Slow down and get some rest. I realize this is easier said than done. Do what you can to get plenty of sleep or even to allow yourselves periods of time to just be still and quiet, to breathe, to pray, to JUST. BE.

Content based on one of many fabulous resources: Getty Ready for Marriage by Jim Burns & Doug Fields. A great book for you dating, engaged, and married couples. Visit their website: HomeWord. Jim and Doug believe in STRONG MARRIAGES, CONFIDENT PARENTS, and EMPOWERED KIDS and have partnered together to strengthen and equip parents, couples, and families.

Communication: It’s Not Just About Talking (Part 1)

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Communication is the key that opens the door to a healthy and secure marriage. You use communication to pass on information or news to your spouse. The thing is, you may think communication only has to do with the words you speak, when in reality, talking itself plays a very small part in the way you communicate with each other. Be sure to follow the blog for the next two weeks (posts) to learn two other forms of communication- Tone and Nonverbal.

Words

There is great power in the words you speak. You use your words to affirm your spouse, to empower or encourage your spouse, and even to speak a blessing over him/her. But, unfortunately, your words can also wound, hurt, and destroy. A verse in Proverbs says, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). It’s interesting, although your words are powerful, they are not as powerful as other ways you communicate with your spouse. Many marriages are strengthened with kindness and encouragement, but, sadly, many have been wrecked because of angry and mean-spirited words. Some couples may guard themselves to a negative extreme and just stop talking altogether. That isn’t what God has in mind for marriages. Perhaps, a better answer would be to hold back on saying what you are actually thinking. If the words you are thinking are going to hurt your spouse, it’s better to not say them. Be wise and keep your mouth shut.

To grow a healthy marriage, you will need to learn how your words can create intimate conversation, share your feelings, express your needs, inform your spouse, or just bring some fun into the marriage. The words between you and your spouse are so powerful! The key is learning what to say and, most importantly, what not to say- which is often a little difficult.

Even if your words aren’t pointed directly at your spouse personally, it can negatively affect him/her. For example, complaining. This form of destructive talk can wear others down, and if done regularly, it can be a drain on your marriage. Complaints come as a result of the negative thoughts in your mind. It’s imperative to take control of this gloomy behavior before it puts a damper on your marriage (or other relationships).

Another way your words can affect your marriage: Putting down or criticizing your spouse in front of others. Putting down your spouse in public never works. Even if you’re trying to be funny and think what you’re saying is harmless, there will be friction. Even innocent “sarcasm” or “jokes” can hurt your spouse’s feelings. Your words can leave emotional scars and it is just not worth the risk. There’s hope, friends! You can improve in your communication skills, starting with your words. Here are a couple things you can work on this week.

To do this week:

Implement a communication rule for you and your spouse: compliment daily. Many partners in a marriage are starving for affirmation from their spouse. Take the time this week to intentionally affirm your spouse- his/her character, his/her work, his/her parenting, his/her friendship, etc. You’d be surprised how the right words, spoken at just the right time can make a big difference. Mark Twain once said, “I can go two months with one good compliment.” Pray together, asking the Holy Spirit to be poured over you so the words you speak will be God-honoring and affirming to your spouse. Ask God to point out the good qualities in your spouse.

Be mindful of complaining. How many days does it take to start a new habit? Twenty-one straight days. For the next few weeks, have some fun with your spouse. Hold each other accountable when complaints surface. Perhaps you could put a jar on the counter, and each time you complain, you put $1 in the jar. Hopefully you won’t have much money in there; however, this is a tangible tool to see how many complaints are actually coming out of your mouths.

Content based on one of many fabulous resources: Getty Ready for Marriage by Jim Burns & Doug Fields. A great book for you dating, engaged, and married couples. Visit their website: HomeWord. Jim and Doug believe in STRONG MARRIAGES, CONFIDENT PARENTS, and EMPOWERED KIDS and have partnered together to strengthen and equip parents, couples, and families.