Monday, October 29, 2012

Chocolate Emergency Kit

For years, the therapeutic and medicinal properties of chocolate have been talked about, almost jokingly. It’s as if the idea that something which was enjoyable to eat could actually be healthy was preposterous. After all, everyone knows that anything we like can’t be good for us and anything we don’t like must be.

While the battles still rage between the nutritionists and those with a little more common sense, I must put in a bid for the value of chocolate, especially for women. There have been medical studies done on chocolate, specifically dark chocolate, and how it helps with the production of progesterone. Now, while the medical community talks about the loss of estrogen being what cause emotional problems like PMS and menopause for women, those in the know have realized that it’s the lack of balance between estrogen and progesterone that causes the problem.

Menopause and PMS are actually more about loss of progesterone production, rather than estrogen production. Yes, estrogen goes down, but progesterone goes down even more. I guess that one thing you could call a proof of the problems which lack of progesterone cases is that there are zero cases of women who are on estrogen supplements, who report feeling better.

On the other hand, women who take progesterone supplements (which are applied as a topical cream) do report better emotional equilibrium. So, while that may be a bit anecdotal and not all that scientific, it appears that progesterone is important to a woman’s emotional stability.

That brings us back on track with chocolate. As I already said, chocolate is a precursor to the production of progesterone. That’s why women crave chocolate when they are in PMS and menopause. Yes, there’s something more than calories and flavor behind that craving. So, it would seem that the thing which we should do as husbands is ensure a healthy supply of chocolate for our wives.

One candy company has actually seen the wisdom of this and produced a Chocolate Emergency Kit. Yes, Dove Chocolates actually produced a “Chocolate Emergency Kit.” I have no idea if this item is still on the market, as I bought this one for my wife a few years ago. She would keep it in her desk at work for those emergencies when she needed a chocolate. Now that she’s working out of the house, we keep it stocked for the two of us (I have chocolate emergencies as well).

Even if they’ve stopped making these, that doesn’t mean that you can’t provide your wife with a chocolate emergency kit of her own. Remember when we were kids (for those who are old enough) and we used to cover cigar boxes with paper, making “jewelry boxes” for our mothers? Well, guess what, that idea still works, although it might be a bit difficult to come up with a jewelry box these days. No problem, just swing by your local crafts store and pick up a box to decorate.

That way, your wife can have her own “Chocolate Emergency Kit.” While I would have to say that the science isn’t all in on the value of chocolate, I can say with total security, that chocolate is one of the world’s great comfort foods. If nothing else, you can be assured that eating chocolate will help her feel better, even if it does nothing for her body chemistry.

Besides, everyone knows that quality chocolate is romantic. Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever done a study to determine the aphrodisiac value of chocolate?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Have You Washed Her Feet Lately?

There’s a part of the communion service which the Lord gave to us, that is rarely practiced in the church today. That is, the practice of foot washing. Scripture shows us that it was an integral part of what He did in that night, taking upon Himself the role of a servant, and washing the feet of his disciples. Actually, he did more than that, for washing the feet was the job of the lowest servant in the house. So, he became the lowest of servants, serving his own disciples.

This was a bit of a shock to the disciples, as he was their rabbi (teacher). Never before had a rabbi washed the feet of his disciples, although at times a disciple would wash the feet of his rabbi in an act of gratitude. Peter was so shocked by Jesus’ actions, that at first he refused to let Him do it.

Jesus went on to explain to his disciples that they should follow in his example, being willing to lower themselves to serving one another, even to the lowest form of service. That was shocking as well, as the disciples were arguing amongst themselves (more than once) about who amongst them would be the greatest when Jesus came into His kingdom.

This concept of servant leadership has gained much credence these days. We find it talked about in business and leadership books, taking on the characteristic of the leader or manager becoming a leader of his team members, making it possible for them to work better. It’s almost a role reversal from traditional management, where the team members were there to serve the manager. Many management experts tout this as the way of getting the team to work more effectively.

One thing is clear about servant leadership, it’s not about lording it over others, or getting them to serve you. More than anything, it’s putting the needs of the whole team before your personal needs. In the family, we could take this to be putting the needs of your wife and kiddies before your own.

There’s another great image of footwashing in the gospels that I want to mention. That’s when Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, drying them with her hair. There was a different connotation to that event, over and above that of service. In that instance, she poured costly perfumed ointment on His feet from an alabaster flask. This was a sign of committing her life to Him.

In those times, an alabaster flask of ointment was given to a girl at her Bat Mitzvah (the female version of the Bar Mitzvah, when she’s 13 years old). She didn’t use that perfume, but rather saved it for one purpose only. That was, when she would accept a proposal of marriage, she would pour out that perfume on the feet of her betrothed, as a sign of committing her life to him.

Washing your wife’s feet is a great way of showing her that you don’t intent to lord it over her, but rather are committed to doing whatever is necessary to make your marriage work the best that it can. It’s not just about the physical washing, although that is part, it’s more about the spiritual connection that you make happen, when you wash her feet. That happens by praying over her, every part of her life, while you are washing her feet. 

It’s a beautiful, intimate expression of love; taking the place of a servant, in order to bless your wife. So, when was the last time you washed your wife’s feet?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When Your Love Tank Runs Dry – part 3

I want to wrap up this mini-series talking about something else that we all tend to do when our love tanks run dry. This isn’t so much something to help us overcome the problem, as it is something we need to watch out for, when we find ourselves in that state.

Everyone, men and women alike, talk to their friends about their problems. While women tend to open up more and faster with other women than men do, once men have a true friend, they’ll open up with them. In fact, we’ll say things to our friends that we try to avoid saying to our wives. Sometimes, those things are things that we really should say to our wives, but we don’t say them to avoid strife or avoid hurting her feelings.

Okay, so what’s the purpose of talking to our friends about our problems? Let’s be more specific than that what’s the purpose of talking to our friends about our marriage problems? Are we doing it as a means to seek out an answer, or are we just complaining?

While we might think that we’re talking in order to find a solution to our problem, in reality there’s more of a complaint aspect to it than anything else. Somehow, we all instinctively think that complaining about it is going to help, and might just help us find an answer as well. But, as I said, the real goal is more to complain, than it is to seek a problem.

Now c’mon, who really thinks that they’re going to find a solution to their marriage problems by talking them over with their buddies who have the same problems? Most of us form friendships with people who are at roughly the same level of life as we are. That means that they probably are dealing with similar issues in their own lives. Oh, there might be something every once in a while where they’re a bit ahead of us, but most of the time they’re not.

If we were truly seeking an answer, we’d talk to somebody who knows about what we’re dealing with, not our friends. We’d go to our mentor, pastor or counselor, rather than to speak with our fishing buddy. Those people are much more likely to have a solution to offer us, having been there before and dealt with the problem.

Let me make it simple. If we want a solution, we seek out somebody who has the experience and knowledge to have that solution. If the only people we talk to about our problems are our friends, then we really aren’t looking for a solution.

There’s another aspect of this that’s very important. Whatever we do, we don’t want to be making our wives look bad before others. Often, our friends are married to our wife’s friends. So, we tell our buddies about our problems with our wives; they tell their wives; and their wives tell our wives. All we’ve accomplished is to damage her reputation. Not cool.

We need to protect our wife’s reputation, not go around damaging it. Regardless of how we feel, we are responsible for protecting her. That means protecting all aspects of her, including her reputation. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When Your Love Tank Runs Dry – Part 2

Yesterday, I was talking about what to do when your love tank runs dry. I focused on the need to get your tank filled up again by going to God. There was something else I mentioned, which I want to go to in a little more depth than I did yesterday. That is, the risk of allowing others to fill our love tanks.

We have to realize that we are emotionally vulnerable when we are in that state. While we normally think of women being emotionally vulnerable and not men, the reality is that men are more emotionally vulnerable than women, especially when their love tanks run dry. I say that because women are much more used to dealing with their emotions and the effects of those emotions than men are. As men, we tend to ignore our emotions.

The other factor here is that women can connect the emotional and logical parts of their brains together much more readily than men can. So, whether a woman is sad or happy, she at least knows what she feels. On the other hand, men don’t always know what they feel, just that they feel something and they don’t like it.

In that state, a man is very open to receiving comfort from wherever he can get it. Watch out! That’s dangerous! A fair percentage of men who fall into adulterous relationships do so because their love tank is empty and some woman other than their wife offers to fill it.

I’m not saying that she sends you a text message that says, “Hi there. I noticed that your love tank is empty. Let’s meet after work today, so that I can fill it up for you.” No, these things are much more subtle than that. In fact, I’d say that the women usually aren’t thinking about filling up the guy’s love tank. If anything, she sees another hurting soul and shares the pain.

That’s step number one in heading down the road to adultery. We need to nip it in the bud, right there, before it can go any farther. All too often, men take that first step, thinking that it’s nothing more than talking with a co-worker or friend, and not recognizing it for what it truly is.

We must recognize that first flirtatious step for the true danger that it holds for our hearts. That’s our only protection. It is imperative to stop ourselves, even before taking that first step. You see, nobody gets up one morning after 20 years of being faithful to their wife and says to themselves, “I think today is a good day to commit adultery.” No, that adulterous relationship sneaks up on us one tiny step at a time. The adultery happens long before any sexual contact does.

Remember, adultery isn’t just about sex. Jesus said that if a man lusts after another woman, he’s already committed adultery with her in his heart. It doesn’t take sex to make it adultery. Fantasizing about her is adultery. Once again, it takes a number of steps to get the man to the point where he’s fantasizing about another woman, especially if he’s always been faithful to his wife.

The less sex there is in a marriage, the more risk there is of the man falling into adultery. It takes the strength of character to say NO, before taking that first step. Too many men wait until they are already well on the road to emotional adultery, before they realize the risk they are in. By then, it’s much harder to stop themselves, and most are hooked on the relationship enough that they don’t want to.

Keeping ourselves faithful to our wives includes much more than not having any sexual contact with other women. More than anything, it’s a thing of the heart and the mind. That’s where unfaithfulness starts, and that’s where it ends as well. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

When Your Love Tank Runs Dry

It happens to all of us sooner or later; everything is going along more or less smoothly, when all of a sudden we find that our love tank has gone dry. It could be because your wife is going through PMS, or because she has been sick for the last couple of weeks, or even because of too much stress on the job. Regardless of what the trigger was, you feel like you’ve given all you have to give, and there’s nothing left.
Okay, so what do you do when you get to that point? If you’re like most people, you just throw in the towel and unconsciously make the decision that you’re not giving any more love out until you get some back. Like I said, it’s an unconscious decision; or maybe it’s just that you don’t make the decision to keep on giving out love. Not that you don’t love her any more, just that you’re not going to go out of your way to show it.

As men, we have a tendency to retreat into our cave when we get to that point. We go there to lick our wounds, waiting to heal and hoping somebody will come along to nurse us back to emotional health.

Is that what we should do? Is licking our wounds going to solve our problem? No, it isn’t. We need to seek out a solution to our problem; but we need to be extremely careful of how we seek out that problem. It’s extremely easy at that point in time to accept help from the wrong place, So, we need to be even more careful than normal at those times, to be sure that we don’t accept love from the wrong places.

Of course, that still leaves us with the problem of what to do, so that we can get our love tank filled back up. We could try hinting or demanding that our wife fill it up, but that probably won’t do any good. If we’re empty, there’s a good chance that our wives are too, so they can’t help.

There is one place that we can go to safely, in order to get our love tanks filled; that’s to go right to God. His love isn’t going to cause us problems, such as the love from others will. Not only that, but it’s limitless; He never runs out of love to give us.

Getting into God’s presence, whether through worship or prayer is a great way to get our love tanks filled back up to overflowing. Then, we have in abundance to give to our wives, once again. We don’t have to wait for her to do it, we can go to the Lord on our own, and get what we need directly from Him.

You see, we are commanded to love our wives, in the same way that Christ loved the church. That’s not a suggestion, that’s a commandment. It doesn’t say “love her when you feel loved” nor does it say “love her when you think that she deserves it.” No, it just says to love her as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25). As husbands, that’s our responsibility, whether she does her part or not.

Let me add one more thing to that. As we all know, men and women define love differently. What I mean by that is that we understand different things as being love. So, you can’t just love her in your way, you have to love her in a way that she understands as love as well. That’s why romance is so important; it’s what she understands as love.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hear Her Out

Two of the biggest complaints that women have about their husbands involve communication. The first of these is that we don’t spend enough time talking to them. The second one is that we don’t listen to what they say. In defense of men, I have to say that women aren’t any better at listening to their husbands than men are in listening to their wives; nevertheless, the complaint persists, and with reason.

Most men take the words “we have to talk” as being some of the most dangerous words their wife can say. That’s because women don’t use that key phrase, unless they have something major to say. “Something major” usually ends up being an attack on their husband in one way or another.

So, how do we, as men, handle that? Most of the time, by avoidance. Yes, we’re pretty good at avoiding any sort of verbal confrontation with our wives; probably because they are more verbally agile than we are, and have the ability to chop us up in little pieces with their tongues. Nevertheless, avoidance really doesn’t solve anything, all it does is prolong the problem, allowing it to grow.

Then, when we finally do sit down with them to let them get whatever it is off their chest, we have a tendency to get angry or frustrated and storm off, ending the conversation before she’s done. Once again, this provides the same results; that of not allowing her to say what she needs to say.

We have to realize that women need to talk for the purpose of getting things off their chest, more than for the purpose of getting resolution to the problem. A woman who is complaining about her marriage isn’t necessarily looking for a solution; the fact of talking about it is therapeutic in itself. However, this doesn’t mean that we should never take what they say seriously. Often, hidden within the great volume of words they use to complain, there are some facts that we really need to pay attention to.

Unfortunately, finding those facts requires really listening to what they say. I say unfortunately, because often times in those serious discussions, they say a lot of destructive things. So, to hear the important stuff, we have to suffer through allowing them to chew us up and spit us out.

Okay, so how do we do this? The biggest secret is to not take it personally. I know that’s almost impossible, but many women reflect problems in their lives onto their husbands. Their boss doesn’t hear them at work, so they say that their husband doesn’t hear them. They think they’re fat or ugly (almost all women think this) so they say that their husband thinks they are fat or ugly. They think that they’re not good lovers, so they say that their husband’s sexual expectations are too high. The list goes on and on.

Remember, the world is constantly telling her that she’s not good enough. Advertising is aimed at making her dissatisfied with herself, so that she’ll buy products which make her “better.” She feels that she has to complete with every Hollywood starlet, Playboy centerfold and supermodel to be considered “adequate.” While that isn’t true to us as husbands, that’s the message she’s receiving. Many times, the message she’s giving us is coming from those other messages she’s receiving.

So, in addition to not taking it personally, or maybe to help in not taking it personally, try to figure out where she’s really coming from. While that can be really challenging, it’s necessary nevertheless. That’s where we find the facts that we need to.

At the same time, we have to realize that none of us is perfect. Some of what she complains about may be legitimate complaints about how we aren’t meeting our obligations as men. If she complains about some part of the house being in disrepair, we should take it seriously; after all, that’s part of our responsibility. No, we don’t have to jump up from the conversation to immediately fix that thing, but we should put it on our to-do list and make sure it gets done.

More than anything, keep your cool and hear her out. She needs that. Taking the time to hear her out does a lot to building up your marriage, even while you feel like it’s tearing you down. You’re bigger than that. You can get over being torn down. But she can’t get over not being heard. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Opposites Attract

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying about how “opposites attract.” Sometimes, it almost seems like God did that just to make us suffer. I mean, it can be really difficult to get along with someone who sees everything different than you do, who reacts to everything different than you do, and who thinks totally different than you do. Yet, if God made us that way, there has to be a good reason for it.

Granted, some differences are really wonderful. How would it seem to you if women looked like men? I sure wouldn’t like that. I’m glad my wife looks different then I do. It’s also great that she’s more naturally nurturing than I am. Since we are both workaholics, if she wasn’t nurturing, our kids would probably have starved to death in dirty diapers. Many of our differences actually have helped us through the years.

That’s the point I want to make here. All those things you battle over; all those things which are different about her; they’re actually for your benefit. You see, none of us has the ability to do everything. We are all limited. Even the most talented amongst us have limitations to what we know and what we can do.

The major reason that opposites attract is that we see something in that other person which we need. They have strengths which are our weaknesses. Their abilities are things where we don’t have a clue.

When God split Adam into two people in the Garden of Eden, He knew what He was doing. He put half of the abilities in one, and the other half of the abilities in the other. Then He told them “Become one flesh once again.” Why did He say that? Yesterday I said that it was to multiply their ability, but today I want to add something to that: it was because He was trying to complete them. He was fulfilling His original plan to make Adam a more complete and capable person than he was at the beginning.

You see, those differences that you fight about are for both your benefits. Your strengths exist not just for yourself, but for her as well. Likewise, her strengths don’t just exist for her; they exist so that she might be able to help you out as well. When we start using our strengths for each other’s benefit, we both receive more, and accomplish more as well.

My wife and I have strived to do this throughout our marriage. Granted, sometimes we’ve done better than others, but we’ve always tried to use our strengths to benefit each other. Let me give you a simple example. One of my strengths is that I’m a super-organized person. Give me two of something and I have to organize it. Not only do I have to organize it, but I have to do so in a way which will be extremely efficient to work with. That’s not one of my wife’s strengths. So, when it’s time to organize something, she asks me the best way to do it.

One of the ways that this has helped us is in organizing the home. Like many families, we’ve moved a number of times through the years. Every time we move, there’s the job of organizing all our stuff so that we can live in the new place. In most couples, that’s the woman’s job. But, to leave that all to my wife would be torture for her. So, I come up with a plan for her.

Please note that I’m not dictating my will to her; I’m finding the best solution for the family and giving that solution to my wife. Take the kitchen for example. I know that many women think of that as their domain. But, my wife always asks me where things should be put in the kitchen. Why? Because what may take hours for her to decide is so clear to me that I don’t even have to hardly think about it. I can tell her the best place to put everything, so that it will be easy for us to work with (yes, I cook too).

The same thing happens in the other direction. I do a lot of writing and a lot of studying; but I’m not all that good at researching. I get bored digging through things, trying to find the one factoid that I need. On the other hand, my wife is a research queen. So, when it’s time to research something, she does it. Not only can she do a better job at it than I can, she enjoys it as well.

God made you and your wife different for a reason. It’s not to cause you problems, but rather to bless you both. That blessing can’t happen until you both quit fighting about your differences and start seeing how you can take advantage of those differences.

Why don’t you be the one to start? You probably already know the things where you are strong and your wife is weak. Okay, don’t just sit on your duff then, offer those strengths to her, for her benefit, to make things easier for her. She might be a bit suspicious at first, but it’ll be a great way to take your relationship to the next level; eliminating some causes of strife and being a blessing to each other.