What does brain science tell us about joy? How can we trigger the circuitry in our brains so that our marriages are strengthened?
These are some of the questions that Chris Coursey answers during a fascinating conversation about his new book, co-authored with Marcus Warner: The 4 Habits of Joy-filled Marriages. Chris shares many helpful insights and practical suggestions for increasing the joy in our marriages.
I love the underlying premise of this book: You can build joy into your marriage. Without trying to fix everything in the past, and without trying to control your spouse, you can take definite, positive action to increase the joy in your relationship. How encouraging! Many couples need that kind of hope.
Brain Science and Joy
In this book, the authors explain that recent discoveries in brain science demonstrate how these four habits stimulate joy and build stronger bonds in marriage. The explanations are neither technical nor detailed, but they are interesting and motivating.
Although this book is short and easy-to-read, it includes a separate
chapter on each of the four habits, as well as many practical activities for couples
to do together. These exercises show “how 15 minutes a day will help you stay
in love,” as the subtitle of the book claims. These activities are designed to
build connection and boost joy in any marriage—including yours!
The 4 Habits that Enhance Joy
1. Play together. It is easy to get caught-up in the busyness of married life and to neglect the core of healthy marriage, which is friendship. But if you are willing to be intentional and to invest the time and effort, you can strengthen your friendship … and amplify your joy.
2. Listen for emotion. Truly listening to one another is a great gift in any marriage, but learning to listen for emotions is even more powerful. You can learn to hear your spouse’s emotion, validate it, and then provide comfort (in that order). This is the type of listening that will create the biggest joy-boost in your marriage.
3. Appreciate daily. Even more than saying “thank you,” taking the time to experience genuine appreciation will expand your joy dramatically.
4. Nurture rhythms. Schedule regular times in your calendar to connect and relax with your spouse. “As you learn to start your day relationally, end your day relationally, and schedule regular times for relational connection, your capacity for joy will dramatically increase and your margin for rest will follow suit” (106).
A Helpful Guideline
The authors repeated a phrase several times in this book which I think is a great principle:
Keep your relationship bigger than the problem.
When a problem is overwhelming your friendship, take time to prioritize your marriage. Tell your spouse that you value your relationship more than anything else. It is usually best to put a problem aside until you stabilize the relationship.
If you would like to fill your marriage with joy, you will love this little book! You will learn that you can change your relational posture and that you can recalibrate your brain to experience greater joy.
A Book Giveaway
Which of the four habits grabs your attention the most? If you would like to enter the drawing for a copy of this book, leave a comment below by June 23. One winner will be selected at random and will receive a paperback copy of The 4 Habits of Joy-Filled Marriages, compliments of Northfield Publishing.
Next week, I will be posting a video interview with Chris Coursey, co-author of The 4 Habitsof Joy-Filled Marriages, so be sure to watch for that!
Joy to you, Tami
(If you missed the interview with Ron and Jody Zappia as they discussed The Marriage Knot, you can view that HERE.)
It was a pleasure for me to interview Ron and Jody Zappia recently as they explained “the seven choices that keep couples together.”
As you watch this video (HERE), you will hear what those marriage-changing choices are, and you will also learn more about the Zappias’ own personal story of a marriage-in-crisis that God transformed as a marriage-in-Christ.
Recently, my friend Kristen Hogrefe asked me several questions about marriage as she prepares for her wedding in just a few days. I was happy to share with Kristen some of the things that I have learned during thirty years of marriage.
Last week, Kristen posted Part One of our marriage question-and-answer on her website; and today, she is posting Part Two. Here are today’s questions from the bride:
Bride: Forgiveness is something couples must generously extend, but, of course, that’s not always easy to do in the heat of the moment. What has helped you to be more forgiving as a wife?
Bride: Do you have any resources you’d recommend to engaged or newly married couples? What are some of the resources you offer on your website MannaForMarriage.com?
To read the article, please continue reading at Kristen’s website HERE.
Have you entered the book giveaway for The Marriage Knot? Learn about this new marriage book and enter your name for the giveaway HERE or HERE.
Ron and Jody Zappia were still newlyweds when their marriage began to unravel. Stunned by the crisis, they committed themselves to learning how to tie the knot of marriage so that it would hold them together for a lifetime. Almost thirty years of marriage later, Ron and Jody are sharing what they have learned in their new book by Moody Publishers, The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together.
The Zappias learned that the marriage knot is not simply tied at the wedding altar and then forgotten. The knot must be strengthened through “everyday choices,” practices which we can learn from the Scriptures (21). “Choices” is the optimal word here because marital success is based not on the whims of our emotions but rather on the decisions of our will. Love is not something that happens to us; it is something we choose to practice.
The Zappias list seven choices that we can make to strengthen our marriage bond:
The choice to grow spiritually
The choice to love unconditionally
The choice to serve sacrificially
The choice to please (physically) regularly
The choice to persevere persistently
The choice to communicate respectfully
The choice to bless abundantly
Ron discusses each choice in a separate chapter. At the end of each chapter, Jody shares a few comments from her perspective. Although Jody’s sections are very short, they are significant contributions to the book.
Whenever I blog about new marriage books, my goal is not so much to critique the writing or even to evaluate the book as it is to glean items that may be encouraging or helpful to you. There is much in this book to do just that, beginning with the title itself and the core premise of the book. It is important for husbands and wives to remember that marital unity must be strengthened every day. We either reinforce or weaken our marriage ties day by day and choice by choice.
Like a three-stranded braid, your marriage is woven together as you move toward God and toward your spouse. You move toward God by trusting Him and obeying Him, and you move toward your spouse by forgiving and connecting.
Here are some “gleanings” from The Marriage Knot:
Your “marriage is your greatest tool to be a witness for Christ in this world. It is your greatest testimony to bring other people to a knowledge of God, to introduce His power, grace, strength, and love.” (21)
Choose to Grow Spiritually
Regular “church attendance decreases your chances of divorce anywhere from 25 to 50 percent.” (34)
Choose to Love Unconditionally
We need to “learn to accept the other and live with glaring shortcomings. That’s called loving acceptance. Sometimes marriage is about learning to manage the tension rather than completely alleviating it.” (51)
“If you’re having trouble in your relationship, I guarantee you’re having trouble with forgiveness.” (58)
“Being unforgiving can be like a hot coal in the palm of your hand. The tighter you squeeze, the more it burns.” (58-59)
Even when you can’t trust your spouse, you can still focus on loving him or her. (63)
Choose to Serve Sacrificially
When Satan tempted the first couple in the Garden of Eden, “Adam took a step back when he should have stepped forward.” And Eve “took a step forward when she should’ve taken a step back.” (69)
Men, stop “guilt-tripping yourself for not being the spiritual giant you think you ought to be. Be done with that. Simply commit to do your part in the spiritual growth process and watch God work!” (73)
Choose to Please Regularly
“Satan likes a marriage without sex as much as sex without a marriage.” (96)
“Hopelessness is never from God, only from the enemy, and the withholding of sexual intimacy is what invites the enemy into your struggling marriage. It’s not a good plan.” (98)
Premarital sex tells your partner that it is “okay to have sex outside of marriage.” (106)
Choose to Persevere Persistently
Sometimes God “wants us to remain under life’s weight to produce something in us that we can’t produce in ourselves.” (115)
Choose to Communicate Respectfully
“When it comes to your marriage: your speck is always a log, and your spouse’s log is always the speck.” (136)
“’Be careful with your words: once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten’.” (137)
Choose to Bless Abundantly
“Prayer is the greenhouse of hope!” (153)
Praying with your spouse “creates an intimacy that precious few will ever experience.” (153)
Moody Publishers is graciously offering a complimentary copy of The Marriage Knot. If you would like to receive a paperback copy of The Marriage Knot, leave a comment below by March 28, 2019, to be entered into the drawing. (Be sure that I am able to contact you for your mailing address if you win.)
May God bless you as you make the choices each day which will strengthen your marriage knot. Tami
Recently, my friend Kristen Hogrefe asked me several questions about marriage as she prepares for her wedding in just a few days. She recognizes that preparing for a lifelong marriage is more important than preparing for a wedding event, as exciting as that is! Having been on this journey myself for over thirty years, I am happy to share some of the things I have learned (and still am learning) along the way.
Here are the first three questions:
Bride: Opposites do attract, and my fiancé and I are no exception! What advice can you give to help us celebrate these differences instead of resenting them?
Bride: So often, I hear, “The first year is extremely hard.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?
Bride: Perhaps because I’m getting married in my thirties, I don’t have the “rose-colored-glasses” view that a teen or twenty-something might have. Instead, I’ve seen enough life and marriage struggles to know marriage isn’t always easy. What encouragement can you offer the new bride?
I am honored that Kristen is sharing her questions and my responses in two guest posts on her personal blog, where Kristen encourages her readers “to think truthfully and live daringly.” The first article appeared on her website today, and Part Two will be published next week.
To read our Q and A exchange, continue reading HERE.
Quite frankly, I wasn’t eager to read about “the storm-tossed family.”
But as I began to read Russell Moore’s latest book, I had to restrain myself from bombarding a friend with texted pictures of underlined passages from the book.
You may not be eager to read about the tossing of a storm, but you will definitely want to learn “how the cross reshapes the family,” which is the subtitle of The Storm-Tossed Family. Published by B&H Books, this new book on marriage and family is excellent.
Family as Problem, and Family as Solution
Moore’s opening premise is that just as storm clouds bring life-giving rain as well as devastating floods, so our families can bring to us our greatest joys as well as our deepest sorrows. The same waters that threaten to drown us can become the waters that float our boat.
“The family is not only part of the problem, … but part of the solution” (page 30). Eve’s first son murdered her second, but another Son rescues us all.
God uses His design of family to heal our families. Our marriages and families are torn apart with conflict and cruelty until we are born into God’s family, where we are loved with the lavish affection of the Father and the friendship of spiritual brothers and sisters. Through covenant vows, we receive a glorious Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. We look forward to celebrating at a Wedding Feast and living “happily ever after.”
Family as Spiritual Warfare
Moore recognizes that the family is the battleground for spiritual warfare. Our objective is not escape; it is victory. This is a battle worth fighting, and it is a war we can win.
How then shall we live in our families so that our joys are eternal instead of elusive? How can we navigate our lives so that our burdens are redemptive instead of destructive? The answer is found in the cross. Like the family sometimes, the cross is a place of pain and rejection, but it is also the door to joy and connection.
Living Crucified Lives
A cross-shaped home is an intriguing concept, but it is much more than that. Learning to incarnate the gospel in our own lives is the most important thing we can do. Many see the cross as a relic of the past, but if we are to experience transformation in the present, we must recognize that the cross is our constant pattern for daily living.
How does the cross shape us as children and siblings, as spouses and parents? I think we live cruciform lives in three ways.
1. We live cross-shaped lives as we continually die to our own self-will. Our own will is not necessarily sinful, but clinging to it always is.
2. The gospel transforms us so that we can love others sacrificially: we are willing to suffer for the benefit of another. We are willing to be wounded so that others may be healed. As we suffer willingly and forgive generously, we re-enact the gospel.
3. The gospel renews our thinking so that we can receive our burdens as blessings. God knows how to use the snarled threads in our marriages and families to untangle the knots in our own souls.
God-ordained suffering is always redemptive, which means that God uses it to reverse the curse in the world and in our lives personally. When our spirits are yielded to God, our hardships will always prosper us spiritually. In the Hands of God, our suffering will not deprive us, demean us, or deform us; instead, it will deliver us. It will heal us and enrich us.
The cross of suffering is not an obstacle to joy for those who crucify their self-centeredness there: instead, the cross is the very means to joy. The invitation to pick up our cross (“come and die”) is the invitation to intimacy with God Himself and the invitation to share His joy.
I am thrilled to see fantastic truths about marriage being shared in this book, and I pray that its much-needed message will reach a huge audience. I appreciate Moore’s understanding of the unique partnership within the covenant of marriage, and I am delighted to read his discussions of masculinity and femininity, which are favorite topics of mine. Although I don’t agree with Moore on everything, I recommend this book as one of the best on marriage.
This book does not list “five tips for resolving conflict” or “six things you should never say to your wife.” Those things may be helpful, but they are secondary issues. (For those who are familiar with Radiance, you will understand when I say that The Storm-Tossed Family deals with mattress issues, not sheets.)
The primary issue in marriage is to get our own hearts right and to understand the purpose of marriage. With a sound doctrine of marriage, Moore explains the underlying principles which provide a solid foundation for dealing with secondary issues.
Let me share some great statements from several chapters.
From “Man and Woman at the Cross”:
“Men are warned [in Scripture] … against passivity and refusal to take responsibility…. Women are warned … against signifying a lack of need for the male….” (page 86)
“Headship does not refer to power but to responsibility.” (88)
“Headship will not seem often to the outside world to be ‘being the head of one’s house’ at all. Headship will look, in many cases, like weakness. So does the cross.” (89)
“We are created for cooperation and for complementarity. We do this not through the will-to-power but through the way of the cross.” (94)
“Marriage matters then for everyone because marriage is not just about marriage. Marriage is about the cross.” (95)
From “Marriage and the Mystery of Christ”:
Moore tells engaged couples that “they can’t construct their own vows” because “apart from the rest of the community, they do not know what vows to make. … [T]he primary purpose of covenant vows is not in reference to one’s feelings in the moment but to one’s commitment in the face of the unpredictable and the unimaginable.” (104)
A wedding “is not a party for the couple, celebrating their individualized love. … Those gathered are not an audience but witnesses…. In a Christian marriage, the gathered witnesses are a sign that the church is here to hold the couple accountable to their vows before God. The marriage is not just about the couple but about the gospel. This means the marriage is the business of the whole church.” (105)
“Intimacy means that you love these realities [of your spouse’s strengths and vulnerabilities] … without either taking the other’s strengths for granted or resenting him or her for not having other strengths. Often, the ‘other woman’ or ‘other man’ in a marriage is not a real person with which a spouse is having an affair, but instead is an imagined, idealized husband or wife to which the spouse is constantly compared.” (117)
“Whether married or not, you bear a calling to support and uphold the marriages within the family of God….” (123)
We “will find joy and peace and wholeness in our marriages when we stop expecting marriage to meet all our needs, and start seeing marriage as a war to find contentment in the gospel.” (123)
From “Reclaiming Sexuality”:
“Affairs are usually not about a lack of happiness [in marriage] or a lack of sex. … The devil knows the way to take one down is not through a deficient spouse but through a deficient self” [that is, not finding one’s identity in Christ]. (143, 145)
“Ingeniously, the satanic powers have found a means to direct human erotic energy in a direction that ultimately saps one of erotic energy, and in due time, of the very possibility of human intimacy. The powers of the age will collaborate with the biological impulses to make this seem irresistible….” (150)
“In both artificial Eros and in artificial romance, there is the love of self, not the mystery of the other.” (151)
From “The Road To and From Divorce”:
“How can Christians … speak to issues of social justice and the common good without addressing what is no doubt the leading cause of ‘orphans and widows’ (James 1:27) in our midst? How can we speak … about ‘family values’ while speaking in muted tones on the issue of divorce and at full-volume on other matters?” (162)
“John the Baptist telling Herod he could not have another man’s wife is a quite rare profile in courage in almost any era.” (163)
“The shift in evangelical attitudes toward marital permanence does not seem to have come through any kind of theological reflection or conversation at all. Instead, our approach to divorce seems to have meandered just a bit behind the mainstream of American cultural patterns. … We have grown accustomed to a divorce culture….” (164)
Moore believes that marriage “is to be part of the discipline of the church” (174). He claims that every “marriage that the church solemnizes should be a marriage the church takes as its responsibility” (175). These statements may surprise some readers and will probably raise some eyebrows. I was surprised … and pleased, and this passage raised a cheer from me! It deserved another “thank you, Russell Moore!” text.
Cherish the Blessings
Moore also addresses the topics of children, parenting, family traumas, and aging. In each chapter, he shares clarifying perspective and profound biblical truth.
The book concludes with strong encouragement:
Your family, whatever it is, will bless you, maybe in ways you don’t even notice in the blur of busyness at the moment. Stop and notice these blessings. Listen to what God is telling you through them. … Do not be afraid. … Whatever storms you may face now, you can survive. If you listen carefully enough, even in the scariest, most howling moments, you can hear a Galilean voice saying, “Peace. Be still.” (297)
Thank you, Russell Moore, for writing The Storm-Tossed Family. May a multitude of homes be reshaped by the Cross.