Jeff Johnston on March 11th, 2011

I recently read an article by Deiter F. Uchtdorf called Looking for the Good in which he asked, “Have you ever noticed that people can usually find whatever they are looking for? Look hard enough, and you can discover both good and bad in almost anyone and anything.” While he wasn’t speaking directly about marriage, the same principle can most certainly be applied to the relationship with have with our spouse.

What are you looking for? If you are in the habit of fault-finding with your spouse, you will find them. Later in the article he said, “Those who look for the bad will certainly find things that are not so ideal.” So stop looking! In spite of my best efforts I am still very far from being a perfect husband — if Leah chooses to look for my faults, she will find them.

On the other hand, I do have a lot of great qualities. If she looks for them, she will be able to see my strengths. My strengths are many, and her strengths are also just as great. Your strengths are equally impressive, and so are those of your spouse! It is all too easy to ignore the long list of admirable qualities of our spouse because we choose to focus instead on one big, glaring, flaw.

Fortunately for me, my wife does focus on my positive attributes and I feel extremely loved as a result! I strive to be better, because I feel appreciated when she notices my strengths. It gives me the motivation I need to work on my own faults without her having to point them out for me. I am very good at knowing what my weaknesses are — we are all very aware of how imperfect we are. Do yourself and your spouse a favor and look for the good, focus on the positive! Nobody is perfect, but we become better, stronger people when we have the loving support of a spouse who chooses to look for the good in us.

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Dr. Karen Johnston on March 9th, 2011

There are those who say you should be honest and speak exactly what you’re thinking. I say NO to that! That is hazardous to one’s marriage. Diplomacy really matters!”

One woman said, “Forget total honesty. If I told my husband exactly what I am thinking, he would have left me years ago. I keep my negative thoughts to myself and I seldom correct him. I sure don’t tell him everything I’m thinking. Things he cannot change annoy me, but he’ll never know–because it would do no good. It would only put a rift between us if I mentioned these flaws. I want to be happily married.”

I was watching a movie recently about a real couple, the Dillies, who had six babies born at once after years of trying to have a family; it was called “Half a Dozen Babies.” In a moment of real stress, the husband turned to his wife and said, “You’re just like your mother!” Oh-oh, I thought to myself. Those are words one should never say to one’s wife! I watched with baited breath to see if this was the end of the marriage as the wife responded back angrily. But no! She smiled and laughed and said, “You are so right! I have got to put a stop to that right fast! Will you help me?” Whew, marriage saved. Six happy babies will have an intact home to grow up in!

Kindness, self-control, thoughtful speaking. These are safeguards for marriage.

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Jeff Johnston on March 4th, 2011

When I was three years old, my older sister wrote “Surprise” on my forehead with an ink pen. When my mother came home, I lifted up my bangs and showed her the word and said “Surprise!” As you can imagine, her reaction was of total delight. I’ve been trying to surprise people ever since.

What is more dull than to know exactly what is going to happen day after day when your spouse and you get together? No surprises can lead to a dull relationship. Here’s an idea! Be unpredictable! Surprise your spouse and your children!

Bring home a small toy for the baby, a blouse for a 16 year old girl (she’ll most likely hate it but she’ll love that you were thinking of her), an ice cream cone for your wife, a puppy! Stop at the market and buy some raspberries! Nothing else, just some fresh raspberries to bring a smile to your loved one.

No, I’m not suggesting you spend money you don’t have, but there are ways to inexpensively bring a delighted smile to the faces of your loved ones. Dollar stores are full of imaginative surprises! When you have a surprise for someone, you can’t wait to get home to see the joy you’ll create!

Gifts are expected for holidays, so don’t wait until then. Spread “random acts of kindness” and surprise those you love the most! Let there be a dimension to you that no one knew existed–keep ‘em guessing!

Enjoy!

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Dr. Karen Johnston on February 22nd, 2011

Note from Jeff: This was emailed to me by my mother as an article suggestion. Since it’s already complete I decided to publish it exactly as it was in the email and give her credit for the article. See what a brilliant and wise woman I was raised by?

“Significant Other” is a term that entered our society several years ago and is here to stay.  It can also apply to marriage partners.  If anyone is significant in our lives, they are!

How do we show a person that we value them?

1)  If you’re talking on the phone, stop talking to that person, say a quick good-bye and give your attention to your spouse.  It signifies that he is #One in your life.

And:  don’t have long conversations on the phone with others when he is home. And NEVER talk on your phone when you’re out to dinner.  Leave your cell in the car or turn it off.  Priotize!
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Jeff Johnston on February 18th, 2011

A Wise Veteran Once Said…

Recently I attended a meeting of the American Legion where a veteran of the second world war told a riveting story about his bomber plane being sabotaged. Two of the engines blew within a minute of each other, both on the same side of the plane. The plane went into a dive, and was in flames before it hit the ground.

As the tail gunner, wearing an electric suit that was connected to a power source for warmth, it would take him too long to get disconnected, out of his seat, and to a proper hatch that he could jump out of. Precious seconds were slipping away. In a miraculous moment, he dove through a tiny opening that was only 14×14 inches… with a parachute on his back. (Sorry to say I don’t recall what the opening was intended for, but it definitely was not intended for humans to jump through!)

Years later as he walked through a museum and saw a rebuilt version of his plane, he pointed to the tiny hatch that he had used to escape and told the tour guide that during the war he survived a deadly plane crash by exiting through that portal. Only 3 members of the crew survived.

The museum worker responded, “Sir, that’s not possible.”

To which the veteran replied, “But I did.”

“It’s not possible.”

“… but I did.”

This gentleman was a full-sized man! When you put a flight suit, parachute, and whatever other gear on him, there is no way he could fit through a hole that size! And yet, somehow, he did. He views it as a miracle, his life was saved because of an unexplained event. His final comment regarding this story was, “I’ve been so grateful for my life ever since that day! And you know what? I’ve never had a bad day since.”

His Perspective Was Permanently Altered

Do you really think he never had a bad day, that nothing has ever gone wrong in his life since the day his plane went down? Of course not. His life has been filled with sadness, stress, conflict, disappointment, betrayal, everything that you and I have experienced.

But it didn’t ruin his day.

He was so grateful to be alive, he truly views every day of his life as a gift, a miraculous event! He doesn’t waste it. He is now 89 years old, and still a very warm and friendly individual with a positive outlook on life and infectious optimism. And a true patriot on top of it all.

Should it Take a Miracle?

Having a miraculous near-death experience during a world war should not be what it takes before we appreciate the blessings we have. Every day of your life is a treasure, and so is your marriage. Will things still go wrong? Sure. Does it have to ruin your day? No! Does stress at work mean you should snap at your wife? Should a hard day with the kids mean you should lose your patience with your husband?  No and no! You can still have a good day and treasure your time with your spouse. How lucky we are to have someone by our side during our hardships so we don’t have to face them alone!

Being human, we aren’t perfect. Now and then we slip up, and sometimes we snap at those we love the most. It happens. The more we learn to appreciate our relationship the way this veteran appreciates every day he is alive the less power the small things have over us, but we have to work at it.

Apply this lesson to your marriage! There is so much to love about marriage and the relationship you have with your spouse… focus on the positive and don’t let the little imperfections that will be present in any relationship “ruin your day”.

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Jeff Johnston on February 14th, 2011
Clear Communication

Photo credit: joshfassbind.com/

You have been trying to be a good listener, you’ve tried to be sensitive, you thought you were helping, so why isn’t it working? You don’t mean to, it’s completely unintentional, but chances are you have been communicating to your spouse that her feelings are invalid, they’re wrong, they’re a waste of time and effort.

Just a few days ago, as we were sitting down to dinner, I made this same mistake. Even though I have been taught this lesson before, I have shared it with others, and I believe it to be valuable advice, I still catch myself saying this damaging phrase. My wife was telling me about her difficult day, and feeling stressed and a little upset, and as I sat down to the lovely meal she prepared for me I said, “Don’t feel that way.” My intention was to console her, but “Don’t feel that way” is not consolation when someone wants to talk about their problems. I quickly caught myself and changed my message by asking her to talk to me more about it, while I listened to why her day was so hard.
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Jeff Johnston on February 2nd, 2011
Be Mine

Photo Credit: Sell Your Music

Consider this your friendly reminder that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and you need to start planning now. Below you will find 5 must-know tips for a successful Valentine’s Day in 2011.

Why is Valentine’s Day Such a Big Deal?

Sometimes you may wish you could just skip it altogether. There is a lot of pressure to make Valentine’s Day extra special. You could skip it, of course, but then you would miss out on an excellent opportunity to strengthen your marriage and show your spouse how much your relationship means to you.

Everything you do for your spouse on February 14th automatically has an air of romance about it. That’s how powerful this day is — you get extra bonus points for every nice thing you do for your spouse, just because it’s Valentine’s Day.
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Jeff Johnston on January 28th, 2011

Why Mars and Venus CollideThe Best Relationship Book Ever

I have never reviewed a book on this site before, but I have also never read a book that made me think “Everybody needs to read this!” so strongly.

Why Mars and Venus Collide is an easy book to recommend for anyone who enjoys JeffTalks.com.  This book covers a lot of the same subjects while backing it up with science by a guy who has a PhD.

I’m Not Making This Stuff Up

While I talk about the Selfless Marriage Dr. John Gray speaks of learning to love the imperfections in your partner, and that “the real source of your pain is that you have stopped giving of yourself unconditionally.”

I wrote how you can Take Out the Trash and Save Your Marriage and Dr. Gray teaches how men’s testosterone levels go up when we solve problems, perform specific duties, and are given tasks to take care of like taking out the trash. As a man helps with tasks like this, not only do his testosterone levels increase, but her levels of oxytocin increase while stress decreases.

In The Gift of Downtime I talk about introverts and extroverts and how common it is for an introvert to need time alone to relax and unwind. Dr. Gray talks about how this is a common trait in men in general, to return hormones to appropriate levels and relieve stress when he says, “If a man doesn’t take the time to recover, the stress drives his testosterone levels down…. Women don’t instinctively understand this need, because their well-being is not dependent on rebuilding testosterone levels.”
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Jeff Johnston on January 26th, 2011

Of course you don’t mean to…

Want a little insight into the way your spouse views conflict? Try this little experiment. Write down the number of times you and your spouse have had a fight. Now, ask your spouse how many times he or she thinks you have had a fight. Is the number the same?  Is it even close? Chances are it isn’t.

Many couples have different opinions from each other on what constitutes a fight. It’s interesting, but while one member of the relationship may say they have only had a handful of fights, their partner would answer in the dozens.

Why the Big Difference?

Why would a couple give such different answers from each other?  It isn’t because the actual events are inaccurate, or whether or not the arguments took place is in question, but the perception of the conversation that is different.
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Jeff Johnston on January 24th, 2011

How You Fight Matters!

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of our relationships were so perfect that we never fought, argued, or disagreed? Unfortunately, perfection is a difficult state to achieve in a relationship and chances are, no matter how hard you try, you still fight with your spouse now and then.  But that’s okay! It isn’t the disagreements that make your relationship imperfect but the way you handle them.

First, what does the way you fight say about your relationship?  In response to You May Have Noticed By Now where I recently talked about the imperfect nature of relationships, one of my readers named Sherri commented, “With too much smooth sailing it’s too easy to take your better half for granted. As long as the challenges let up now and again so we can breath and regroup- I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Sherri gets it. She obviously understand that it’s okay to fight, every couple does it, but a fight or disagreement does not have to be damaging to your relationship. When you and your spouse disagree, do you fight fair? Is it a yelling match or a simply a difficult discussion? If your fights are full of name calling, yelling, loss of control over your emotions, and saying things you later regret, you are doing it wrong. If it leads to a conversation, unpleasant as it may be, where you honestly talk to each other as calmly as you can until you work it out where the end result is a greater understanding of your spouse and a suitable solution or happy compromise, then you are doing it right.
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