8 Tips to Spring Clean Your Marriage

Are you a spring cleaner? You may be living in an area of the world that doesn’t have ‘spring’, yet find yourself going through the physical motions of cleaning closets (or wardrobes, depending on where you live), cupboards, dressers and drawers. Spring clean is synonymous with ‘deep clean’ and many of us grew up with this tradition. Whether joy or drudgery, it’s now a practise. Now that I’m almost through spring cleaning this year (I do it a little at a time), I feel energized.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for the house. As a time of renewal, growth and possibilities, it’s the perfect season to assess your marriage relationship and bring in some fresh energy. [Read more…]

Tribute to Mom

With Mother’s Day on the weekend for the majority of countries around the world, I pay tribute to my mother, who modeled for me living resilience with joy as an expat and ministry partner. She passed 7 years ago May 5th. There are times I sense she’ll just show up. Occasionally still, my chest constricts and tears come with her loss, especially when life’s hard. There’s nothing like mom when the going gets tough.

Mom’s Early Years

The 6th of 13 kids, mom was raised in a Mennonite farming family in Saskatchewan, Canada. She really did walk 5 km. to and from school! As a young girl she was feisty. When she started school, she only knew ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in English. She chose ‘no’ to answer all questions and wasn’t at all popular with the teacher. She loved learning and had a mischievous twinkle in her eye that always said she was up to something.

Mom lived as an expat missionary in 3 different countries over a span of more than 20 years. In 1949 she began her expat life in China, after a long boat trip across the Pacific. Not the cruise ships we enjoy today. Fleeing after only 6 months because of the communist insurgence, she moved to Hong Kong, continued with language study and served a city of people living on boats.

As if that wasn’t quite enough change in 5 years, she chose to work for another mission agency, which meant candidate school (so it was called then). There she met my father, an eligible bachelor. Both were assigned to Malaysia. The mission’s policy for outgoing staff was once engaged, wait 2 years for marriage. Determination and commitment followed and they were married in a little village church, far from their family. Four of her five babies were born in Malaysia.

Mom raised us through many relocations and 2 repatriations, between the countries of Malaysia, Hong Kong and Canada.  [Read more…]

COMPLETING 2013 and CREATING 2014 as a COUPLE, Guaranteeing a Better Expat Marriage

One sure way to make 2014 a successful year as a couple is to take time to connect around what went well last year and what you’d like to see happen this year.

3 Steps to A Better Relationship in 2014

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Living Gratitude: An Ingredient of Resilience for Every Expatriate Family (Part 3)

Couple relationships are richer when we express our gratitude to and for each other. Research done by Robert Emmons, Couple walking hand in hand(READ HERE), took three groups of volunteers and randomly assigned them to focus on different things each week over many months. The first group focused on everything that went wrong, like “This place is so irritating, I couldn’t get done half of my to-do list because it took 5 times longer than what I’m used to”. The second looked for situations they felt enhanced their lives, like “even though I didn’t get too far today, I’m so thankful I was able to get us hooked up with cell phones”. The third just recalled daily events, such as “I went to three different places, trying to find cell phones and it took all day.” The results: those who were grateful enjoyed a higher quality of life and a deeper connection with their partners. According to a study recently published in “The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” by Dr. Amie Gordon, couples who express gratitude reported being more committed and saw an improvement in their sex lives. Now that’s always a wonderful bonus!

Why is it so hard for us to practice an attitude of gratitude, especially in our marriages? One reason may be that scientists have found that the brain has a negativity bias, written about in Sticks and Stones and Broken Marriage Bones. We tend to have Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones – we dismiss the positive aspects of our marriages while vividly remembering the negative ones. That means we need intentionality when it comes to gratitude.

How can you count your blessings as a couple? [Read more…]

Sticks and Stones and Broken Marriage Bones: The Power of Words in Expatriate Marriages

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never harm me’. March, 1862, British Digest

I’d taunting sing this when a kid said mean words to me at the British boarding school I attended as a TCK in Malaysia. We all did. Somehow we thought it’d build a shield of protection around us. It did no such thing. I quickly learned that words can really, really hurt.

Words possess incredible power:

Our words can wound, or heal; comfort, or grieve; inspire, or intimidate.
They can build up, or tear down; clarify, or confuse; affirm, or discourage.
Words can give courage, or condemn; develop, or destroy; calm, or cause chaos.
create connection, or control.

Any frustration, overwhelm or hurt in marriage tempts us to wage war on our spouse. Sometimes it’s intended. Other times, due to a hurt frame of mind, words escape before we realize their impact. And sometimes we’re just careless or angry. In expatriate marriages, with the added strain of negative emotions through relocations and the sense of aloneness and helplessness during stressful and challenging times, keeping our words kind and loving can be difficult. Dennis and Barbara Rainey in Building Your Mate’s Self Esteem, say that words have “the power to contaminate a positive self-image or heal the spreading malignancy of a negative one.” [Read more…]

3 Tips From the Kitchen To Inspire Your Expat Marriage

I was recently asked to speak words of encouragement about marriage at a kitchen gadget bridal shower. After doing some math (which took a while since math is not my forte), I discovered more than 10 years of our lives are spent preparing and cleaning up in the kitchen. Wow! Why so much time? Well, we all need food to thrive.

Expatriate marriage needs certain ingredients to thrive too. 3 tips from the kitchen to inspire your marriage:Couple in the kitchen

1. The kitchen is a place of connection. It’s a space that allows connection after being a part – hanging out with a glass of lemonade or wine… preparing the meal… talking about our day. Connection happens because there’s a space available to make it happen. When you create space in marriage, connection happens.  [Read more…]