Love Handles at DEFCON 5

Seal of the United StatesIn the interest of Homeland Security, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces has developed the DEFCON System. It prescribes five graduated levels of alert and combat-readiness ranging from DEFCON 5, which is the least severe, to DEFCON 1, which is the most severe.

How long has it been since you and your spouse dated? In the early days we worked very hard to put our best foot forward. We groomed ourselves meticulously, and we kept our bodies trim so we would be attractive to our spouse. We engaged them in conversation to get to know them better. We listened carefully to discover the things they liked and disliked, and then we’d surprise them with something special to win their heart.

I noticed an interesting phenomenon a few months after we got married. My shirts didn’t fit as well as they had before, and my belt was getting a bit tight. People would say “It looks like marriage has been good to you.” They were referring to those bulges just above the waist that are playfully called “Love handles”. (They are a kissing cousin to the “Freshman Fifteen”.) They’re an obvious indication that we have relaxed and settled into married life. Since we are no longer pursuing our spouse, we slack off from the attentiveness we once employed to be our best for them.

I noticed this tendency in myself. When Andee would speak to me, I would hear her talking but I was not always listening to what she said. I would give her about ten percent of my attention and the rest to the TV program or the article I was reading. Then it would suddenly get very quiet. Nuclear ExplosionI have never experienced a nuclear explosion, but I can imagine that one minute before it detonates, everything seems very normal. I say that in jest because Andee is not the type who explodes. She is even more dangerous. If I stop listening, she’ll simply stop talking to me until I am ready to listen. But what if I am never ready? What if I develop a habit of “tuning her out” whenever she speaks? God said It is not good for man to be alone. Well, right about that time I began to feel very alone; and it was my own neglect that got me there.

James 1:19 says:  So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…

“Love handles” is a great name for a growing waistline. But in my mind, love handles are up a little higher. I know I can be dense. I also know that I can get preoccupied with my own thoughts and plans. It is never in my heart to exclude my wife. But the truth of the matter is that I can be unattentive to her and I never want to be. So I have resolved that whenever she is speaking to me, I try to stop what I’m doing and give her my full attention. I try to look her in the eyes and turn my body toward her. If I’m in the middle of a project that can’t be stopped, I tell her, “Give me 3 minutes to finish this, then I’m all yours.” But what about those times that I’m preoccupied and I don’t “get it”? Is there a remedy for that?    Yes, that is where Love Handles come in.Collar True Love Handles are those two little flaps of fabric just under either side of my jaw. Sometimes they are referred to as a collar. I know the importance of communication, and I know that I am not always as attentive as I want to be. So early on in our marriage I told my wife, If you’re ever trying to communicate something to me and I’m just not “getting it”…grab me by the collar until my face is about 2 inches from your face and say: THIS IS IMPORTANT! Then I guarantee I’ll “get it”.

If there is a war brewing in my own home, I don’t want to be that last to know.  And I certainly don’t want it to escalate to DEFCON 1, nuclear war, especially if it is due to my neglect or inattentiveness.

There are two parts to communication.  One speaks; the other listens. Then the other speaks and the one listens. Communication has not occurred until the message is received and understood.

The Amplified bible says it this way: Let every man be quick to be a ready listener, slow to speak and slow to take offense. James 1: 19

That’s good counsel for marriage.

Listen well…and you’ll love being married.

A Loaf, a Jug, and Thou

Spa room 1Andee and I recently got away for our anniversary and we got one of those rooms with a spa in the room for a romantic getaway. We stopped at Safeway to pick up some beverages and some bread and cheese and snacks and things to bring to our room. We also have little picnic basket with a coffee maker we take so we can enjoy some GOOD coffee in the morning. It makes for a very relaxing time and we don’t need to leave our room unless we want to. Well, the second day we went back to the store to buy another baguette and a bottle of spring water because the city water made the coffee taste funny. So as we were walking down the aisle of the grocery store, we were laughing and enjoying our time together and Andee said, “How romantic… a loaf, a jug and thou.”
Many couples long for the Good ol’ Days when their relationship was filled with romance. They remember the early years when they shared their dreams for the future. Well here we are in the future, and the families we dreamed about require a lot of our time and energy. Every couple needs occasional islands of “together time” away from the kids and the pressures of everyday life. We all need a get-away every now and then. But even if your “overnighters” are few and far between, plan an afternoon together or even a walk around the block to catch up with each other. This is valuable time to share and evaluate and reiterate that you’re in this together.a loaf, a jug
So there we were, with our loaf and jug, heading toward the check-out stand; smiling, holding hands and feeling very much in love. But when our turn came and the clerk began to ring up our purchases she looked at us, then she looked at our two items and remarked, “How pathetic! Bread and water!”
At that point I realized that perspective makes all the difference!
Some see the cup as half empty. Others see the cup as half full. The Lord wants us to see our marriage like this: My cup runneth over! (Psalm 23:5)
Some couples settle for a marriage that is the equivalent of bread and water, (you know, enough to keep you alive but make you wish you were dead). How many couples would have a more awesome marriage if we would only adjust our perspective? And stop struggling and start snuggling!

Carly Simon wrote in a song: “These are the Good ol’ Days!” Hebrews 3:13 tells us to exhort and encourage one another not to be fooled into ignoring the Lord or to putting off until tomorrow the things we should do today. Do yourself a favor and redeem the time. Make this the year that you invest in your relationship with your spouse. In fact, don’t let today slip away without affirming your love for one another. And go ahead and plan that romantic get-away. You’ll be glad you did.