Favorite Conferences Messages
If you don’t speak the truth, you don’t have a marriage
Great marriages are great when both spouses deal with their individual baggage
The XO MarriageToday conference was standing room only with over 4,000 people carving out 2 days to learn about healthy marriages. Gateway Church was filled to capacity with all ages, nationalities, and faiths. Attendees ranged from singles, couples on the brink of divorce, and those hoping to hear of a new tool or strategy to help couples help themselves.
What Did You Miss?
If you didn’t know about the XO Conference or were on the long wait list to get in, you missed some pearls of marriage wisdom by a knowledgeable panel. The speakers’ openness, transparency, and stories brought a richness that can’t be replicated, so I encourage you to attend next year’s conference in Southlake, Texas. Isn’t your marriage worth it?
Communication That Creates an Indestructible Marriage
More than 85% of couples say communication was a factor in their divorce, naturally suggesting couples need to learn how to do it better. Communication serves multiple purposes: (1) convey basic information and facts, (2) inform and transact, (3) resolve conflict, (4) create connection, (5) share personal information/revelation, and (5) conduct intimate conversation. Jimmy Evans shared the important elements in indestructible communication that support indestructible marriages:
- Right tone: Voice affects whether a man feels respected and a woman feel secures. The right tone tells that you care.
- Enough time: Proactive, face-to-face, and intimate conversation show that you love and appreciate your spouse. Train your kids to respect your marriage.
- Atmosphere of trust: Trust is earned in drops and dropped in buckets. Build trust through your character, connection, and how you approach conflict.
- Atmosphere of truth: Must be able to share yourself, have grace, and speak truth in love.
Create a team spirit by accepting differences. Adopt the attitude: I love you so much you fill in my gaps. What team are you playing on? Your own or your spouse’s?
Unpack Your Baggage
Tim Ross suggested that most couples who come for counseling think their problems and relationship are worse than most. The truth is they’re not. However, working on the marriage starts with dealing with yours and not your spouse’s baggage, because most spouses haven’t yet unpacked their own baggage.
You can’t go anywhere without baggage. You can’t go into a marriage without taking your baggage, whether it’s the size of a backpack, tote bag, suitcase, U-Haul, or van line. Great marriages are great when both spouses deal with their individual baggage. How do you do that?
- Bring your bags: don’t avoid them, you have them, so bring them
- Unpack your bags: don’t pick and chose what you bring out, unpack all of it
- Sort through your stuff [not your spouse’s]: label your stuff and identify why it’s baggage
- Put away your stuff: when it comes back up, you know where it is and can deal with it
How Has Marriage Changed Over the Years
The definition of marriage has changed over the last 25 years. Proposals and wedding ceremonies used to be simple affairs. Not anymore! Dan Lian noticed how the big focus is now the engagement and wedding and not the marriage. How big is the ring? Where and how do I propose? Is it all captured on camera? The proposal has become a theatrical event along with the wedding with little investment in marriage after the couples says, “I do.”
The design of marriage is good, because God, the designer, is good. If you do marriage God’s way, you set yourself up for success. A successful marriage is less about finding the perfect match and more about working at the marriage—working at it all the days of your life. Trust the design. It’s never too late, because The Holy Spirit is the counselor of the heart.
What Kind of Marriage Do You Have?
Joe and Lori Champion proposed that marriages can take one of two directions: problem-focused or purpose-focused. If you are married long enough, the issue is not whether you’ll have problems, but when.
Marriage is grounded in purpose. What is the purpose of your marriage and are you proclaiming the Gospel through your marriage? Do not lose your marriage by building something outside your marriage such as career or ministry. The marriage comes first over all other earthly pulls on your life. What priority does your marriage have in your life?
Share What You’re Withholding
The real reason couples fight is because of a (1) perceived threat (control, judgment, demand, attach and critical) or (2) perceived neglect (uncaring, uncommitted, selfish, neglectful, disengaged). Les and Leslie Parrott are known for advocating for the fair fight. Fighting is the price we pay for intimacy, and fights are rooted in differences in perception. “Oh,” is the big word that signals the fight is over.
How do you have a good fight? Focus on sharing “withholds” which are things that aren’t shared. When couples don’t share negative withholds, they have a high rate of resurrecting. How do you share a withhold? First, ask permission on whether you can share a withhold. Second, when shared, the recipient cannot respond for 30 minutes. After a half hour he or she can ask to discuss further. This grace period allows the recipient to go from a react to a respond mode.
Withholds can also be positive. Couples neglect to share positive withholds because of fast-paced lifestyles. What withhold are you holding onto that should be shared with your spouse?
Realistic Expectations + Biblical Skills = 100% Marriage Success
The number one reason for divorce is disappointment. Many people get married with false expectations with divorcing couples either naive optimists or extreme pessimists.
Marriage vows are covenant vows, yet American culture has turned marriage from a covenant—it’s worth what you pay for it—to a contract—which protects each party’s interests. Jimmy Evans encouraged all couples to count the cost before entering their covenant vows.
Three unchangeable realities of marriage are: (1) hurts from the past, (2) quirks in personality, and (3) ignorance of how marriage cures the opposite sex. Marriage is a healing journey with the wedding like the registration desk of the hospital. Every man can heal every woman and every woman can heal every man. Most wives’ hurts are from not feeling valued and they want to be nurtured and cherished.
Satan hates marriage, and spouses need to fight against this enemy. Marriage is the first foundation on whether every other relationship is built. Couples who have a firm grasp of reality, the right expectations, and a strong commitment of marriage are not threaten by significant problems. The good news? God gives us authority of the Satan.
How Naked Are You with Your Spouse?
I call it having no filters. Dave and Ashley Willis call it having a naked marriage. What are we both talking about? Being transparent and vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The best marriages are those where both spouses can say, “I still choose you,” when everything is shared. Will you commit to working toward a naked marriage?
Fixing Your Marriage Can Be Messy
Bringing to life the story in John 9 of the blind man whose sight was restored after Jesus spread mud [dirt and spit] over his eyes, Michael Todd shared:
- People want miracles but without the mess. Your problem is not a punishment, it’s a platform for Jesus’ power
- Don’t let the method of release keep you from the miracle. Stand through the method of release
- A person’s release is more important than what people think about the release. The worse part of you with the least part of Jesus can release you from what you’ve been struggling
- Stop caring what people think of you and their opinions
Conference Thoughts: What’s Missing?
Although I love the XO conference and agree with all the principles shared, I noticed through their testimonies that the coupled speakers were all in long first marriages—15 to 30 years—and able to work through struggles to come out stronger on the other side. I haven’t yet attended a conference where a blended couple was expanding on their truth.
I view divorce not as a punishment but as a platform for the power of restoration the second time around. Darin and I had long first marriages, 22 and 15 years, respectively, before marrying each other. Through first marriages and divorces we learned about ourselves and relationships. Unfortunately, our first marriages didn’t make it, but there’s no doubt we are applying all learnings within our second marriage with the hope that some day we’ll be invited to the podium to share what it takes to have an extraordinary marriage.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to create powerful and purposeful marriages. You can contact Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org