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20,000 Feet Above

Benjamin Franklin once said, "A penny saved is a penny earned." I believe this is true in the case of financial literacy, saving money can be even more important than earning it. With counseling couples, I offer a similar quote, "A marriage served is a marriage saved."

Too often people want to terminate a marriage or long term relationship simply because they don't feel satisfied with their current situation. They may be bored, feel unappreciated, may even be lusting for some new excitement. They may look around at the piles of laundry, the dirty faces on their children, and snarl at their partner with contempt for all the negative they see around them. They can't see beyond their circumstances that are temporal and feel overwhelmed. It's like they are lost in the clouds of this photo.

When I talk to a couple seeking to improve their relationship, they talk about the thundering noise of criticism, guilt, and shame that has become a constant static in their daily lives. They point out each black cloud that represents hurt to them and they argue, bicker, and fight about who has a better view of their circumstances. I tell them I am looking down at the clouds of pain they are telling me about. I am not IN the clouds with them, but I see their marriage from 20,000 feet above the clouds. I can see far into the distance a new horizon that is beautiful and clear. I tell them they must rise above the clouds of discontent in order to see the true possibilities.

When I teach clients how to increase the value of their marriage they often have no idea what I mean by that. They have never looked at what benefits their marriage provides them because they are so focused on the things that annoy them. Much like money, a marriage must increase in value or it will decrease by default. So, I have them put a penny in a jar every time they think, see, or feel blessed by their marriage.

Here's a few examples how to "earn" value:

  • You wake up next to someone who shares your life with you, who is struggling in this battle with you, and who also wants something better. Put a penny in the jar.

  • You prepare for a shower and notice the towels have been washed and folded and put away. You look at the bottles of shampoo and soap and know you did not buy them, but your partner made sure you had them. Drop a coin.

  • You walk into the kitchen where fresh coffee and a hot meal awaits. How much would you pay for this meal? Drop it in the jar.

  • You look down at your children who are asking for your attention, your care, and your guidance. How much do you value your children. Put your money where your heart is.

  • You look at your partner through the eyes of gratitude knowing there is effort in everything that is being done for you and the children without your asking. Words of appreciation are great, but drop some change too.

  • You leave for work knowing you'll have a home and family to return to at the end of the day. Pay up with compliments and coins.

The coins may collect slowly in the beginning as the couple waits for each other to start. There is no discussion needed to explain the situations behind the coins collecting at the bottom of the jar. Just the sight of a few pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters becomes the encouragement for more. They begin LOOKING for reasons to drop a coin and soon the jar fills to overflowing. Maybe the children start contributing as well. A few weeks later when the jar has reached capacity the couple cheerfully shares with me they have begun a second jar and plan to use the money for a much needed date night. One couple increased their value in their marriage so much they were able to pay for a family vacation!

I heard someone once say that we will focus our attention on the 10% negative until it feels 100%. When our feelings rule our minds we throw away the 90% of positive that we could be enjoying and celebrating. How simple the concept is to appreciate the blessings and find solutions for the problems and yet we think it impossible to overcome how we feel. This simply is untrue. When two people are willing to do the work in order to spark the passion in their marriage amazing things can happen. The problem, no matter how big, can be resolved. I have helped families who have experienced abuse even to the point where mom and the kids went to a shelter and dad was arrested. Couples who have been devastated by porn addiction, affairs, and abandonment can find restoration and can even feel blessed by their marriage. Is it easy? No. It may take years depending on the depth of pain and suffering involved. All it takes is the willingness to change: change your mind, change your behaviors, change your feelings, and you can change your marriage.

Today, try putting an empty pickle jar on your kitchen counter. Label it, "Blessing Coins" and start collecting. It's as simple as that to redirect your focus by lifting your eyes above the clouds and truly looking at all the blessings you already have. You, your partner, and your children will find blessings beyond measure.

16 "I pray that out of his glorious richeshe may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Ephesians 3:16-21


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