Author Archives: ShauntiFeldhahn

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Colder

Shaunti Feldhahn

Most couples call each other “beloved” and “friend” when they stand at the altar. But as the years roll along, it’s easy to take each other for granted. A joy of marriage is being able to relax and not be “on” all the time. But problems arise when one day we realize our marriage relationships aren’t as close as they used to be.

This change can happen in any of our relationships — including with the Lord. It’s so easy to wake up and discover we still love God, still love our spouse, our relative or our friend … but there’s a little distance there.

Thankfully the rest of Song of Solomon provides a hint to the solution: This couple spent a lot of time together. And a lot of intimate time together, at that! When I was doing the research for my book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, I learned the primary factor in creating close friendships isn’t shared values, similar interests or compatible personalities: it’s geographic proximity. You are closest to those you spend the most time with.

If you’ve ever had a dear friend move away, you’ve discovered that truth. No matter how much you want to stay close, it just isn’t the same. It works the same way in all our relationships. In my interviews with the happiest couples, I kept hearing the same thing: these folks were simply hanging out a lot. Not just formal date nights, but going to kids’ activities, sharing a hobby or even watching their favorite TV series together.

These happy couples acted as if their marriages were first and foremost friendships. Friendships they wanted to keep vibrant no matter what.

One husband told me, “For me, getting married was because I wanted a lifelong companion. It wasn’t about the sex or the tax write-off. I wanted a built-in best friend for the rest of my life. Most people probably do. So you need to look at the reasons you want to be in a relationship in the first place, and be intentional to make it happen.”

And that is what suffers when we begin to take God, our spouse, a friend or relative for granted — we stop being intentional. We stop spending as much time together. We get so busy with other priorities and don’t make room for our main priority. Then as we become more distant, little irritations become bigger frustrations.

And what do we do next? We spend even less time together. Our parents irritate us so it seems better not to have dinner together for a while. We’re tired of marital conflict so we avoid our spouse. Or we are mad at God because a desperate prayer wasn’t answered the way we wanted, so we stick our prayer journal in a drawer.

All of those solutions are tempting, but they ensure that while we may still call the other “beloved,” we will no longer feel like “friends.” And after a while, “beloved” may become a casualty too.

Do you want to be closer to your spouse? Are you irritated with a friend or relative? Feeling distant from God? Emulate those who enjoy their relationships the most — by hanging out more, not less. You may just find enjoyment welling up again in your relationships too.

Lord, thank You for the special gift of these relationships: (mention by name). Forgive me for taking them for granted. Most of all, forgive me for taking You for granted. I am so grateful that even when I pull away, You are the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Help me to be intentional about investing more time where it is needed, especially with You, and [if married] with my beloved, my best friend. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
If you and your spouse (or other close relationship) haven’t been spending enough time hanging out, what are some of the reasons? What can you do differently?

What obstacles get in the way of hanging out with the Lord? What steps can you take to make more time together with God a reality?

Power Verses:
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)

© 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Secrets of Happily Married Couples

Shaunti Feldhahn

“If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!” Proverbs 11:27 (NLT)

My dear friend’s marriage was crumbling; her husband’s heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.

Despite my friend’s deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.

For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn’t deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn’t … he doesn’t.

Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn’t care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.

Have you ever believed someone didn’t like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?

There’s a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!”

My research confirms this truth. I’ve spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?

Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person’s intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn’t completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.

And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I’ve anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don’t.

For most of us, “searching for good” when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!

Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren’t good. But in most cases, they don’t want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.

The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the “good” explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is “for” you.

Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it. And when we do, everything changes.

Lord, thank You for putting people in my life who care about me. And thank You for showing grace to me even when I don’t deserve it. Help me to have grace and see others through Your eyes. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to search for the good in each situation and not assume evil intent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:
The next time you are faced with a hurtful situation, pray to God for wisdom and ask yourself:

1) What is the truth in this situation and is there a more generous explanation for what this person did?
2) Is it really true that this person doesn’t care about me, or am I allowing my thoughts to be controlled by my hurt feelings?

Power Verses:
James 1:19, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (NLT)

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind … It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (NLT)

© 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Why Did You …?

Shaunti Feldhahn

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

Shelly pulled up in her wet driveway after a beach getaway with girlfriends. She smiled, thinking, it’s a shame the rain chased us away early, but at least I know the house is still standing.

She opened the door and tripped over a pile of schoolbooks. What on earth? Speechless, she stared at clutter everywhere. Cans of food and spaghetti sauce were stacked high on the island in the kitchen. Empty packets of Ramen noodles decorated the counter. The tool drawer had been emptied onto the kitchen table.

An angry cry escaped her lips and a muffled exclamation came from the laundry room. Her husband stuck his head out the door, looking chagrined. “You’re home early!”

“Yes I’m home early!” Shelly waved around at the chaos. “I can’t believe this! Why did you let it get this bad? And why were you feeding the kids instant noodles instead of something healthier?”

Without a word, Marcus pushed the door to the laundry room wide open and stepped aside so she could enter.

Furious, she stalked past him-and rocked to a stop. The back corner of the laundry room had been turned into a pantry. Fresh-cut wood shelves stacked up to the ceiling. Deep drawers were waiting to be slotted into a rolling rack. Dust sheets covered the washer and dryer, which were piled with food cans and packets, ready to be placed on the shelves of the pantry.

The pantry she had longed for.

Shelly closed her eyes. Mortified, all she could say was “I’m so sorry.”

Shelly told me this story a week after it happened. I was speaking at her church’s women’s conference, sharing my research on the inner thoughts, needs and fears of men. I shared that men want above all to please those who matter most to them-especially a wife or girlfriend-but privately doubt themselves and are deeply sensitive as to whether they are doing a good job. So when women start a sentence with “Why did you. . .?,” men hear, “Why did you do that, you dodo?”

Shelly’s story is a perfect example of how easy it is to think, “You dodo.” Not think, “There must be a good reason for this-even if I don’t see it at this moment.” Instead, like many of us, she was quick to assume there wasn’t a good reason, that he didn’t do a good job. And she verbalized those damaging thoughts.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us to be careful to only say things that are useful for building others up. While this applies to everyone in our lives, if we are married, it’s especially vital to practice with our husbands.

Most situations with the men in our lives aren’t as extreme as Shelly’s experience. But versions of this scenario happen often. “Why did you give the kids juice instead of milk?” “Why did you take that road instead of this one?” “Why did you choose that strategy for the business deal?” We may protest that it is a harmless question, but all too often, it is code for “What were you thinking!?” Which itself is code for “You obviously weren’t thinking.”

The reality is, the reverse is usually true. Eighty-two percent of men surveyed say they always think things through … and purposefully consider the reaction of their wife or girlfriend before making a decision.

The next time you are confounded by your husband, instead of a rash reaction, slow down and remind yourself: his heart is probably in the right place and his choices are likely made with that in mind. And if you need help … just remember the pantry.

Dear Jesus, forgive me for being quick to judge and assume the worst about the man in my life. Please teach me to slow down and listen to him, and [if married] to trust in his love. In Your Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Revised and updated For Women Only book and DVD study by Shaunti Feldhahn.

Family Christian’s Facebook page offers encouragement and truth each day. Join our community by clicking here.

Reflect and Respond:
If you are married, take time to think through, pray and reflect on the fundamental assumptions and expectations you have in regards to your husband. Choose to honor and respect your husband in your thoughts and words.

Whenever you think, “Why did you …?” say instead, “Honey, I’m confused, could you help me understand what your reason was?” You might be surprised at how often he was thinking things through-including honoring you.

Power Verses:
Ephesians 5:33, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (NASB)

© 2013 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org