Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"staying in love" synopsis part 3 : "feelin' it"

"staying in love" synopsis part 3 : "feelin' it"
A few years ago Jesse (my husband- if you're new here) and I were invited to a couples' study group. We met for 4 weeks and read from Andy Stanley's book Staying in Love. This week I'm sharing a synopsis of the study in 4 parts. I shared part 1 "Love is a Verb" earlier this week and part 2 "Re-Modeling" yesterday. 

I will be sharing the intro from part 1's post again for anyone who happens upon this post first- background information is helpful. If you've already read the intro, feel free to skip past the italicized portion. 

During the "Staying in Love" couples' study group, we would read a couple of questions and meditate on some thoughts from the book prior to attending the sessions. During each session we would eat together; mingle; watch Andy Stanley (author and speaker) discuss 4 topics pertaining to "Staying in Love;" and then, as a group, discuss questions from the study guide. This study has been the best advice I have ever received in regards to "staying in love" / marital happiness, which is why I'd like to share it here and pass along the information. I've mentioned that I listen to Andy Stanley's podcast "Your Move" almost every morning. I download a series and then listen to the episodes (sometimes a couple of times because I get distracted).

"Staying in Love" is one of various series Andy Stanley offers. I believe the podcast episodes are shorter versions of the extended video episodes also offered on the "Your Move" site. These video episodes are often offered as DVDs (with the full video episodes) for purchase along with a study guide if that's more helpful to you. (It definitely helps me retain the information). Anyway, I recently listened to the "Staying in Love" podcast episodes again- perfect around Valentine's Day, right? I would like to share some of what I learned, but highly, highly recommend buying the book, watching the videos, and/or listening to the podcast episodes. I will definitely not do the study any justice. I should tell you that, yes, this is a Christian study, but I believe that the information is practical and universally applicable. I decided to split up my synopsis into 4 parts because 1 post was getting to be too long. I will share all 4 posts this week.

The third discussion is titled: "Feelin' It." Again, he begins (as he begins every episode) with the assertion that we desire a longstanding, romantic relationship and are convinced we can have such a relationship even though we haven't really seen an ideal one or behave in a way that will facilitate a healthy relationship. In this episode, Andy Stanley suggests that staying in love has more to do with the condition of your heart than the behavior of your partner. He goes on to say that if we had came into our relationships with full and healthy hearts, staying in love would be easy. We would simply have to make love a verb and make our partner the priority (and he or she would do the same) and then we would live happily ever after.

The fact is that we don't come into our relationships with full/healthy hearts. Our parents, siblings, friends, peers, teachers and other relationships have not been conducive to healthy and full hearts. We come into our relationships with deficits (as suggested in the first episode). To better illustrate this concept, Andy Stanley introduces Mr. and Mrs. Mug. (I recommend viewing this episode to better grasp this visual).

Mr. And Mrs. Mug are clear mugs full of blue beads (Mr. Mug) and pink beads (Mrs. Mug). At first Mr. and Mrs. Mug are careful not to bump into each other because they are trying to win the affection of the other. Then "The Mugs" got married, and they got their first hard bump- both were shocked by all of the beads that flew out of each other. Mr. Mug and Mrs. Mug are tempted to point the finger at each other and blame each other for all of the beads flying out, but the reason blue beads come of Mr. Mug is because that's what's in there and the reason pink beads fly out of Mrs. Mug is because that's what's in there. And the truth is we all have "beads" inside of us, which we brought into our romantic relationships. That stuff works its way out.

In addition, romantic relationships have a way of bumping us the hardest. That's why people in romantic relationships can wind up hating each other- they figure the other is the cause of the uncomfortable, ugly beads inside of us. In actuality, we brought those beads into the relationship with us. Andy Stanley goes on to say that we all want to feel a certain way in our relationships- valued, pretty, etc. and we want our spouse's behaviors and words to make us feel a certain way. We come to depend on them for good feelings, which, as you can imagine, puts so much pressure on the relationship. He adds that what we felt growing up may hinder whether we are even able to feel certain things. For example, if you never felt appreciated growing up, you will have a difficult time sustaining that feeling. Your spouse's words or behaviors can't make up for a deficit or wound that big. Staying in love, then, will not only be about whether your partner behaves "the right way," but also on the condition of your heart.

The solution to (or at least what will help) this problem is to realize what is going on inside of us. Andy Stanley quotes advice from the Bible: "Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23). We are good at monitoring the behaviors of our significant other, but we are not good at monitoring our heart. It is good to explore what you're feeling in your heart ("guard your heart").

Andy Stanley provides 4 steps to guarding your heart:

1. Stop and think about what you're feeling before you speak.
2. Identify the feeling (he suggests broadening your adjectives beyond "angry" or "frustrated"). He lists several- "embarrassed," "lonely," "unappreciated," "ugly," "abandoned," "scared," etc.
3. Say the feeling out loud to yourself at first (especially because hidden feelings can be very powerful and can drive us).
4. If appropriate, tell your partner. And apologize if necessary (if you need to own your pink or blue beads).

Finally, he adds that if you're the recipient of this information, your job is to listen (quietly) and show appreciation for what is being shared. In addition, the healthy person willingly modifies his or her behavior for the benefit for the other. He concludes with a model prayer for us, "'God, help me overcome what's inside of me.'"

Tomorrow I will provide a synopsis of the fourth and final discussion: "Multiple Choice Marriage" - though you can obviously listen to it now (and all episodes at some point), which I highly recommend you do!

Again, you can buy the book and DVD "Staying in Love" with all 4 extended video versions here or watch (or listen) to the episodes at the site Your Move right here.
"staying in love" synopsis part 3 : "feelin' it"
Photo by Alicia Danielle for my sister Jasmine's wedding

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