Little Broken Promises

I’d like to think that I’m a pretty good husband.  I do most of the big things right and I avoid almost all of the big things that I’m supposed to.  I spend time trying to speak my wife’s love language.  I love with abandon and invest like crazy.  I try to put her interests before my own (Philippians 2.3-4).  Usually, I’m pretty good at this whole husband thing.


chefkeem / Pixabay

But I have a persistent problem, a easily-repeated blunder.  I make little promises and then don’t keep them.  Example: We finish dinner and I say, “I’ll do the dishes before I go to bed.”  Then, the next morning, the dishes are still in the sink (like they were this morning).  That’s a little broken promise.

Here’s a doozy from this week: Our dog, who is awesome by the way, is getting old and she needs to have checkups at the vet pretty regularly.  Three weeks ago I said that I would take care of it.  I finally did it…after weeks of saying I would!  The time between the little promise and completion was just full of me breaking that promise day after day.

You may be thinking something like this: Meh, this isn’t a big deal; it is a LITTLE broken promise.  It’s not like you broke your wedding vows or something.  And, you’d be right…objectively speaking.

But subjectively speaking we’re dealing with a different deal altogether.  Each time I break a little promise it erodes my credibility with my wife a little bit.  Rebuilding that trust invariably takes up WAY more time than it would have taken to just fulfill the promise.

And keeping little promises is a sign of respect.  When I actually keep one of these promises it says to Alida that she’s important enough for me to remember what I said and to actually do it.

Luckily for me I have a loving and forgiving spouse.  She gives me the time and space I need to figure things like this out.  But I shouldn’t take advantage of Alida’s patience about this.  I should be more intentional about keeping all my promises, whether big or small.

Here are some pieces of advice (mostly for me):

  1. Make fewer promises.  There’s no point in promising to do things as often as I do.  Maybe if I was more consistent in doing things in the first place I wouldn’t feel the need to make promises.
  2. Accept help if needed or wanted.    A common mistake that I make in these situations is not accepting help that is offered.  If I did, then I wouldn’t need to do whatever it was that I end up make a promise about (e.g., the dishes).  So, if I need help or would rather do something else, when my wife offers to help I should take her up on it.
  3. Keep track of promises made.  I’m not sure exactly how I could do this, practically speaking.  Maybe I could write my little promises down and put them in a prominent place (like on the screen of my laptop).  But an issue for me is that I simply forget.  So I need to facilitate some memory helpers.
  4. Apologize and start at #1 again.  I’m a human so I am going to mess this one up.  When I do I should give a real apology, fully owning my mistake and the pain it caused.  Then I should start back and #1.  Hopefully, over time, I’ll have to do #4 less and less.

Do you have a problem with keeping little promises too?  Let me know in the comments below.

Goal Setting in Marriage

Anyone who knows me knows that I almost always rail against structure.  I like to be spontaneous, free, and, frankly, last-minute.  From my biased opinion of my experience, I’m convinced that I work best when these factors are present.  And, by and large, I’ve had some measure of success operating this way.

But the Lord saw fit to lead me to marry my wife Alida.  She’s a planner, a list-maker, and an organizer.  In fact, when she’s in planning mode, she’ll write on her master list which sub-lists she needs to make!  And she’s had a great deal of success living in this manner.

Put the two of us together…well you can imagine the sorts of difficulties we face!  Alida is hoping that we’ll plan and I’m pushing things to the deadline.  I’m hoping to explore random things at the last minute and Alida is thinking ahead to a weekend two months from now.

OpenClips / Pixabay

And for the longest time we just dealt with these tensions.  I’m not sure why exactly, but we never really addressed this issue…for years!  But once I entered into the dissertation phase of my PhD, my life needed to get much more structured.  I needed to research and write everyday, on top of my other responsibilities too.  In order for me to get through this thing in one piece I had to start organizing my life  a bit.  I needed a target to shoot at.

So at first I just tried to do things on my own.  I would watch Alida and try to mimic some of her planning behavior.  This worked kind of well.  But I needed the inside scoop.  My pride, however, prevented me from actually asking for help.  So I waited.

And eventually, after a while, Alida suggested that we do a weekly meeting so that she and I could be on the same page.  To be totally honest, my wife had offered this suggestion many times before, and I had poo-pooed it every single time.  Like I said earlier, Alida is just built this way but since she discovered Michael Hyatt’s podcast she’s been way more goal-focused.  Needless to say,  she was so excited when I finally gave in!

So, for the better part of a year Aldia and I have been having a weekly meeting.  We discuss our schedules for the upcoming week, our workout plans, when our date will be, and any special errands that need to be run.

There’s one more thing we do: we set weekly goals.  We divide these up into various categories, like “personal,” “work,” “spiritual,” and “relationship.”  Our hope is that we can help one another accomplish our goals and check in on our progress in the future.

Now I’d love to say that doing this has resulted in awe-inspiring results.  It hasn’t.  But it has produced positive results.  Here are a few of them:

Setting goals has helped us…

  • …be more intentional.  We both now know what it is that we’re trying to do so that each of us can focus better individually and as a couple.
  • …understand one another better.  By weekly hearing one another’s goals we get to enter into one another’s thought processes.  This has proven to be so valuable for our relationship!
  • …hold each other accountable.  People always say that it’s hard to hold your spouse accountable; and, for the most part, that is true.  But setting goals together gives each of us the freedom to check in on one another.
  • …know how to pray specifically for one another.  While part of our meeting also involves sharing our prayer needs with one another, knowing each other’s goals has helped us know how to pray for one another more holistically.


Is goal setting important to you?  How do you do it?

Thanksgiving Date

werner22brigitte / Pixabay

The fall is the favorite time of year for my wife (Alida) and I.  The weather is nice, you can get pumpkin-flavored anything, and it’s the month that has Thanksgiving in it.  Oh, and I can’t forget about football!

On top of all of that, Alid and I got married in the fall: October 12, 2002.

In other words, we really love the fall!  And one of our fall traditions is our annual Thanksgiving Date.

Here’s what we do: Every year around Thanksgiving Alida and I have a special date.  We try to plan the date as close to Thanksgiving day itself as our schedules will allow.  Sometimes this means that we have this date the day before Thanksgiving and at other times we’ll do this several days early.

Either way, the purpose of this date is simple — we just want to let one another know how thankful we are for each other and our marriage.  So we take turns sharing something we are thankful for back and forth.

We do this twenty-five times.  It’s usually pretty fast and we can do it while eating a meal together.  But now and again one of the things we are thankful for needs a little discussion or is really funny!  Either way, all we want to do during this time is connect with one another and show real appreciation for each other.

This has got me thinking…how appreciative of Alida am I every single day?  Do I say “thank you” enough?  Do I intentionally go out of my way to show Alida how grateful I am for all that she does for me?  Am I consistent in expressing to Alida that simply by being her she has totally changed my life for the better?

Or do I try to stick all that gratitude into our annual Thanksgiving Date?

I know I’m not perfect.  But I do often make an effort to be grateful.  But could I do more?  Absolutely!

So, here’s the question: Do you let the people in your life who are important (e.g., spouse, kids, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc.) know how much they mean to you?  When’s the last time you looked one of those people in the eye and said “Thank you for being you.”

Here are a few ideas to get started:

  1. Say “thank you” a lot, so much so that it feels like too much.  It would be way, way better to err on this side of things than the other.  Become known and the thank-you guy or woman!
  2. Plan a meeting/date/hangout during which your sole purpose is to show appreciation.  So have a meal with someone and prepare a few things to tell them you are thankful for.  Getting reciprocation is great but even if you don’t get anything back, it’s still worth it to invest in the life of someone else.
  3. Send some of the most important people in your life a handwritten, thank-you note through the mail.  No one gets real snail mail anymore!  Our mailboxes are just stuffed with junk mail, ads, and printed invites.  Your hand-written note will really bless the socks off whoever you send it too!
  4. Thank the people most important to you in public ways too.  A private thank you is paramount.  Nothing can replace that!  But there’s something special about showing appreciation for someone important to you in public (e.g., while speaking in front of a group, on Facebook or Twitter, or even just in conversation with someone else).  I distinctly remember many of the times when I was thanked publicly — each one made my day!

Can you think of some other ways to be thankful?  Let me know in the comments below.

Picnics and Mission Statements

Almost seven months ago my wife, Alida, switched jobs.  She was a speech-language pathologist at an agency that was about a one-hour, one-way commute from our house.  Now she’s a speech-language pathologist at an agency four miles from our house!  This change has allowed us to spend more time together, both thanks to the time we get back because she’s in the car less and the opportunities to have random lunches together.

bodiantal / Pixabay

Today we had one of those random lunches.  We met at a park near her office and had salad and a dessert together, picnic style.  I was almost finished eating when I did something my mom taught me not to do — I was talking with my mouth full.  Some food feel from my mouth onto my plate.  Naturally enough, I scooped that partially-chewed food up with the next bite and ate it.

But the craziness of the scene made me giggle.  Alida asked what I was laughing about and I said, “If I don’t have to tell you, I’m not going to.”  “Is it that nasty piece of food that fell out of your mouth that you just re-ate?” Alida correctly guessed.  We both had a great laugh together!

I’m truly grateful for moments like these.  Without them, life wouldn’t be half as fun as it is!  And we had this silly moment because of the decision that we made together for Alida to switch to an agency closer to home.

Now I want to be honest, that decision was really hard…for a ton of reasons.  But one reason why it was really hard for us to make is that we didn’t have a stated mission as a couple.  I am to blame for this.  Why?  Because Alida has been wanting us to have a mission statement forever, pretty much since they day I asked her to marry me.  But I was reticent because I thought it was cheesy and a bit too corporate for my laid-back ways.

But as I was praying today, it struck me why she and I have had such a hard time making some decisions: we don’t have a stated mission as a couple.

So after we cracked up about how gross I am and talked about some other stuff, I admitted to Aldia that she had been right all along about mission statements.  She got this huge, ear-to-ear grin!  And right there at the same table where I had just re-eaten some food, we crafted our very first mission statement as a couple.

Here it is: To make the God’s love tangible in our world.

May God be honored by our intentionality and may he work through us to his glory!

Whether you’re in a couple or not, do you have a mission statement?  If so, want to share it in the comments?

Priorities in Relationships

It’s sad to admit but several times in our marriage my wife, Alida, has had to remind me that my priorities are a bit skewed.  She always seems to find the right time and space to let me know this too.

First, she doesn’t wait until she’s so angry that she’s going to explode.  Instead, if she sees me veering of course for long enough, then she’ll speak up.  Things get a bit more complicated when my lopsided priorities impact her directly; but even in those situations she has always done a great job of loving me and showing me grace.

Second, when she has determined that it’s time to have the “come to Jesus” talk with me, she boldly says what’s on her mind.  She doesn’t beat around the bush and qualify her feelings with ten thousand sickly sweet statements.  She simply tells me how she’s feeling, what’s she’s seeing, and the impact she’s observing.  I am so grateful for this!  The last thing that I need to be left hanging in the wind!

Third, in virtually every single instance that Alida helps me get my priorities straight, she’s been sure to check back in with me in the future.  Usually the next day she’ll initiate a conversation with me in which she wants to make sure that I’m not hurt or confused.  Then, later on when old habits start being reestablished, she’ll lovingly remind me that I said I wanted my priorities to be different.  In fact, one of Alida’s mantras is “Don’t complain about something unless you have a plan for it to succeed.”  So, when she points out something in me that needs molding, she understands that as a call for her continued participation in my development.

And because of the example that Alida has set for me, I have learned how to do the same for her.  Full disclosure: I’m not nearly as good at this as she is!  I often wait too long, which means that I tend to be too angry, hurt, or annoyed to infuse a priorities conversation with grace and love.  Like Alida, I tend to get straight to the point but since I am naturally so confrontational this often comes across as being argumentative.  And I’m not nearly as good on follow through as Alida, though I am learning and growing in this area!  Needless to say, Alida has set the bar high for me!

But as I think about the times that she has brought my messed up priorities out into the light it’s always been for one reason: I’m selfish.  Now I know for a fact that I’m not the only selfish person out there!  My wife is selfish, my parents and sister are selfish, my pastor is selfish, Billy Graham is selfish, the pope is selfish, Mother Teresa was selfish, the Apostles were selfish, etc., etc.  Looking out for number one, unfortunately, is just part of the human predicament.

How does the problem of selfishness rear its ugly head in me?  Pretty straightforwardly: I get uber-focused on me and my stuff.  I talk about me and my stuff.  I invest my time and energy in me and my stuff.  I try to convince people of the value of me and my stuff.  I seek out input on me and my stuff.  I want validation for me and my stuff.  Me and my stuff.  Me and my stuff.  Me and my stuff.

Notice the problem?

When my selfishness is in full bloom, where is my concern for the interests of others (Philippians 2.3-4)?  Where is my self-sacrificial love (1 John 3.16)?  Where is my care for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, etc. (Isaiah 58.9-10)?  Where is my commitment to transformative community (Hebrews 10.24-25)?  Where is my love for God that requires all of who I am (Matthew 22.37)?  And where is my drive and desire to make disciples (Matthew 28.19-20)?

I must surround myself with people who can help me see when I slip further and further into selfishness!  I’m blessed that I live with one such person but I’ve had and now have many others in my life too.

Here’s a twofold challenge: 1) Find someone to help you see when your priorities get a bit out of whack; and 2) Be the same for someone else!