Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Make a Note to Love Your Spouse by Jim Maxwell

Love notes are hard work. Especially for those of us who don't speak the love languages of gift giving or words of affirmation. That's one reason why you should get Make A Note To Love Your Spouse. Jim Maxwell gives you everything you need to know to write great love notes (to your spouse and to anyone you love).

I'm not good at gifts. I'm moderately good at offering words of affirmation, but it's not a strength of mine. But my wife's top Love Language is gift giving. Jim's book breaks down how I can easily and quickly write love notes to her so she can feel that love that I want to express. It's not hard, it just takes a few minutes and the rewards are fantastic.

Jim is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the founder of REAL Marriage where he helps real people have real relationships. He's got the experience counseling couples, serving as a military chaplain and learning how to be happily married to his own wife.

Make a Note to Love Your Spouse gives you simple, step-by-step instructions on how to start writing love notes, how to make them creatively, what to write in them and when to give them. This book is full of ideas, prompts and tools that will win you points with your spouse. The appendices give you ideas for what's happening each month and holidays that you might use as a love note prompt, so this book isn't just a one-time resource.

Pick it up, read it, and write a love note to your spouse today.

(Note: Amazon links earn me a small commission. I received nothing for this review, this is my honest evaluation of the book after reading it).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The 1-Star Review that Wasn't

On Sunday, April 15th, The Marriage Challenge was free on Amazon (it's still free through the end of Tuesday the 17th). Within just a few hours of it going free, there was a new review on Amazon. A one-star review. It was entitled "to soon to tell!!" and in it "TJ" said that our marriage of 8 years was too short a time for us to write a book giving advice. TJ also suggested that conversations weren't sufficient to deal with the problems that occur in marriage.

There were several responses to TJ before I saw the review, and all of them were complimentary of the book. Thank you. I also responded to the rating (it's gone now, so I can't quote it). Basically I said that TJ was right, 8 years of marriage isn't enough time to prove that we can give advice and conversations aren't enough to fix a wounded marriage. Andrea and I don't have training as marital therapists, which is why we wrote the book we did. We want to emphasize that we aren't the marriage experts, you are the experts on your marriage.

Later in the day, TJ responded to my response (is this getting convoluted?) and apologized for the harsh review. It was shared that TJ's marriage is hurting because of addiction that's been ignored (by TJ's spouse and the people around them that should've been helping). Fortunately they're in a situation now where the addiction is being taken seriously and they're getting the help they need to heal. TJ was kind enough to remove the one-star review and has promised that they will read through the book.

I don't share this to say how great the book is, but to point out that it's not designed to address deeply wounded marriages. In the introduction it says:
"Most marriages aren’t in meltdown-crisis mode. Most marriages are pretty good; not perfect, but okay. Most marriage books, however, are written for people in crisis mode, about marriages that are falling apart and by counselors who only deal with failing relationships. Those books serve a good purpose, but they don’t help the majority of marriages that aren’t in that position yet. 
This book isn’t about how to fix all the stuff you’re doing wrong. If you need that, you need a different book (and there are plenty of great options out there, check out the bibliography for some of our favorites). But, if you want to start with your marriage that’s alright now and work to make it great, then the Marriage Challenge is what you’re looking for."

Friday, April 13, 2012

You are the Experts on Your Marriage

I've had several people ask why we felt the need to write a book on marriage. That's a good question. There are lots of marriage books out there and several that we've read that have been super helpful in our marriage (the bibliography in the back of the book gives a great list). Most every marriage book we've read comes from a marital therapist with degrees and lots of experience counseling married couples. Which is good, they are writing good and helpful things based on a wealth of training and experience. You should read those books.

Then why should you read a book by a couple that has zero degrees in marital therapy and has never given a single professional counseling session? Good question.

The real reason that we wrote this book is to help you make your marriage better. You are the experts on your marriage. You know what's worked in the past, what hasn't and you have a good sense of what needs to change. Most of the people we know aren't in crisis mode and seeking counseling as a last step before divorce. No, most people are trying to figure out how to get back that honeymoon feeling in a marriage that's gone a bit stale. There's no thunderbolt from the sky telling you that you'd better change, or else. Rather there's a slow, gray creeping of habitual interaction that lead to the same results you've gotten for years.

Because you know your marriage better than anyone else, we can't write a book that tells you how to change. So, we didn't do that. Instead, we wrote a book of conversation starters. There are 52 conversations and 52 weeks in a year (weird how that works out). There are a few thoughts and a few questions for each week (we try to keep it to about three paragraphs and three open-ended questions). Then you do what you do best - be the experts on your marriage.

Talk through the topics, skip around from one to the other (you don't have to go in order). Ignore us if what we say doesn't work for you. Challenge us if you think we're wrong (go to the Facebook page and tell us about it, please). Just have a conversation with your spouse about your relationship. Do it once a week for a year, I challenge you.

From Sunday, April 15th to Tuesday the 17th you can get the eBook for free! Now what's your excuse?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Stress and Release

Stress isn't a bad thing. Wait, you might wonder how I could say something like that. Everyone wants to reduce stress and relax. There's this assumption that underlies the messages we hear on a daily basis: stress is bad and must be removed.

I disagree. We need stress. We need to embrace it and use it well. Our marriages need more stress. Ok, I know you're about ready to tune me out, but I have somewhere I'm going that I think you'll like.

Stress is a response of fear. When the fear jumps on us unawares it can debilitate us. This kind of fear is the fight-or-flight response that's locked deep inside our brains (known as our lizard brains). If you're suddenly faced with a terrifying situation your stress response will come out before you can think. If a tiger jumps out of the forest or a driver slams on their brakes in front of you, you'll have a similar reaction. But, we can choose the fears that we're facing most of the time.

Fear can motivate change. If you look at your fears and the things that cause you stress, you can find out what needs to change. For example, if you feel stressed due to a project at work, it's because you're afraid of something. You might be afraid of failing, afraid of being late or even afraid of being too successful (yes, it can happen). When you look at the fear behind your stress response, you can identify what needs to change. If you feel stress in your marriage around money, then it might be time to change how you deal with finances. What are you afraid of? What can you do to address the fears?

Take on stress intentionally. Choose your stress to address your fears. If you're stressed about your health, you can choose the course of diet and exercise to improve your life. Instead of being reactionary to your fears, you choose how you are going to experience the stress. The fear stops being a whip that drives you forward and becomes something you can eliminate from your life (which is a reward).

Release your stress regularly. You can't live in fear all the time. Even Hollywood directors know this so they give you the comic relief in the scary movie. Just like you can choose your stress, you can choose to release it regularly. If you're working on your budget, put a line in there to save up for a weekend trip. Once you've hit a goal, reward yourself with the trip. If you're losing weight, you need to find a point where you can stop and celebrate your progress. If you're working hard on a project, you need the time to take satisfaction in a job well done before you move on to the next project.

Choose your stress and release together. Working on your marriage is hard work. It takes a concerted effort to have conversations, to process through conflict and to explore new ways to be romantic. Set a goal, work on it together and then take time to celebrate before you move on to the next thing.

How do you see the cycle of stress and release in your marriage?