"Building Better Relationships" part 6
Family Matters - Investing In Your Tribe
by Greg Hanson

Here’s a story that appeared in the NY Post about a decade ago…

That’s Not A TV – That’s My Wife
Thursday, February 15, 2001
Post Wire Service

A 42-year-old couch potato loves his television so much, he married it.

Mitch Hallen wed his 42-in. Sony set in a ceremony in his living room in Melbourne, Australia, presided over by a priest and attended by dozens of his friends, according to published reports.

After two divorces, Hallen said he decided to give up on women because “my TV gives me countless hours of pleasure without fussing, fighting or backchat,” he said.

“So I feel I’m better off marrying it rather than another **** woman. One day it just came to me in a thunderbolt – my telly’s the best companion I’ve ever had. This is one wife who won’t nag me.”

During the bizarre ceremony, Hallen promised to “love, honour and obey” his widescreen TV. He then put a gold wedding ring on top of the set and placed a matching one on his finger.

Friends say Hallen has had a long running love affair with his television and watches it up to 10 hours each day.

One wedding guest said, “It was crazy but very emotional. Mitch loves that TV and will never be torn from it.”

It is not known how the blissful couple consummated the marriage.

What a bizarre story. This man actually built a relationship with his television and married it! I don’t know that I’d want to have a spouse who always had some kind of episode, was easily turned off and was that remote. Plus, I’d be allergic to Chanel No. 5.

I wonder, though, if he watched someone else's TV would it be called adultery? And I mentioned that was from about a decade ago; I tried to find a follow-up story but was unable to locate anything. I wonder if, ten years later, the marriage is still on or if he’s traded his bride in for a younger model.

You’ve got to feel a little sorry for the guy, though. I mean, how disappointed do you think he was in the failures of his previous marriages? What could those relationships have been like to make him want to give up on a reciprocal relationship all together?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. Apart from this article I know nothing about the man. But I would assume his previous relationships fell apart because there was nothing to hold them together. And I don’t think this problem is unique to him. I think a lot of families have fallen apart because there simply wasn’t enough to hold them together.

We’re continuing this morning with our “Building Better Relationships” series, and today we’re focusing in on families. We’re going to look at ways we can invest into our families and strengthen those bonds. Because I believe there are some universal principles that can help us fortify our relationships with our spouses, our children, our parents, and our brothers and sisters, regardless of age or living arrangements.

We’re going to identify five of those principles, and it just so happens that if you take the first letter from each principle they spell the word “TRIBE.”

Principles for Strengthening Your TRIBE:

The first thing you need to do if you want to strengthen your tribe is Talk Regularly.

1.    Talk Regularly

That's pretty basic, isn't it? If you want to strengthen your family, you need to communicate, and in order to communicate you have to talk. It’s not rocket science. But I’m amazed at how little people do talk.

So what are some things that may prevent family members from talking to each other? Well, let's see... there's the television, the computer, work schedules, kids can prevent spouses from communicating, there's Facebook and every other form of social media, there's video games... including some games where you can create an avatar of yourself all virtually live inside the game. For some people, it's so addictive that they cut off contact with the outside world and essentially all of their social interaction takes place online.

So there are all kinds of things that can prevent families from communicating, some more overtly than others but all can be dangerous as they infringe on family communication. In our society it seems to be becoming increasingly difficult for a family to find time to simply talk. And unless we--you and I--make a conscious decision to make it a priority, we can lose touch with those we love the most. We need to keep those lines of communication open in order to allow our relationships to grow, to make sure our whole family is headed in the same direction, to know and understand each other better, and to teach and learn from each other.

The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy records Moses emphasizing the importance of communication within the home when it comes to discussing God's Word.

Deuteronomy 6:7 (NLT)
Talk about [God's commands] when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

We need LUV Talk in our families.

LUV Talk Essentials:

•    Listen

It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s essential to any real communication. Listen.

Think about this... when you're involved in a conversation with someone, what's usually going through your mind? Are you actually listening and trying to take in what's being said, or are you constantly formulating your next sentence in your mind? In order to listen, you've got to actually pay attention.

•    Understand

Be careful on this one. You might think you understand what's being said but be way off because of some assumption you're making. So when in doubt, ask clarifying questions. Maybe even try to rephrase what you’ve heard and say it back to them just to make sure you understand. Make sure that you get it right so that you truly understand and so you avoid jumping to conclusions.

•    Value

Value what your spouse is saying. Value what your kids are saying. Don’t ignore it; value it. If they say something you don’t agree with, don’t dismiss it as meaningless. If they say something you think is naive or obvious, don’t make them feel stupid. Value what they say--not because of what is said but because of who says it.

Refuse Bitterness

We've talked about this a fair amount already during this series. We've talked about how anger and bitterness can destroy a friendship; think what it can do to a family. How many times do you hear about someone who hasn’t talked to their brother for years because of something neither one of them remembers? How many people have never been able to forgive their father for something he said or did, and it has affected every relationship they have had since? How many people hold on to bitterness and ruin their family and themselves in the process?

Paul specifically addressed husbands in urging them to express love rather than bitterness toward their wives.

Colossians 3:19 (NLT)
Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.

There’s something you need to realize about holding a grudge. It doesn’t bind the other person; it binds you. And it hinders any growth you hope to experience in your life.

Ephesians 4 contains a pretty good description of how we should act toward each other within our families and within any relationship…

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)
…Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

So if Jesus can forgive us for nailing Him to a tree, can’t you forgive your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, your kids? Release your bitterness. Let it go. Don't let it destroy your relationships and rob you of the joy you could be experiencing.

Invest Time

Take a look at this scene from Courageous…

[VIDEO – “RICH MAN” SCENE FROM “COURAGEOUS” MOVIE www.courageouscanada.ca]

It can seem we have time for everything except our family. We think other things are more important, more valuable. Our families often pay the price for everything else we get ourselves involved in. Often, once we get through with everything else there’s just nothing left. You go home and you veg-out in front of the TV, you disappear into your office, or you collapse in to bed.

But our families both need and deserve our time. Serious time and fun time. Deep time and brainless time. Structured time and make-it-up-as-you-go time. We need to invest time in our families.

Have you ever considered designating one evening a week as a date night for you and your spouse? An evening that you fight to protect and reserve for the two of you? Or how about a family night... an evening when everyone stays home, you avoid outside commitments, and you play games, you watch a movie together, you work on a project together, you go bowling or skating together... whatever. Maybe you even take turns each week deciding what the family will do, but you do it together without compromise.

You know, there's a lot of talk about the importance of spending quality time together. And that's good; quality time is important. But so is quantity time... time when there's no agenda, no to-do list, no expectations. Sometimes, the greatest strides in a relationship happen during those times.

“Because of our proclivity to veer in the direction of things that stroke our egos, we tend to cheat at home. We give an inordinate amount of our time, energy, and passion to our work… Cheating at home is translated as rejection.”
~ Andy Stanley, Choosing to Cheat, p. 33, 52

Build Trust

Trust is a vital component in any relationship. If you don't have it, your relationship ain't goin' nowhere. Proverbs 31 talks about the importance of trust in a marriage. Talking specifically about the wife, it says...

Proverbs 31:10-11 (NLT)
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.

If you know that passage, you know that it goes on to list a whole lot of benefits that a virtuous and capable wife brings to a family. But it's interesting to me that the first thing that is mentioned is trust. Everything else builds on that foundation.

To have a healthy relationship, you've got to have trust. And it's got to start with you. Your family members have to be able to trust you. If they can’t trust you, it all falls apart. So are you a person who can be trusted? Or have you broken trust and need to rebuild it. Understand, regaining trust once you've lost it is extremely difficult. It'll take time, it'll take persistence, it'll be frustrating at times... but you've got to do it. Without trust, it all falls apart.

So... if you've lost trust or you are seeking to increase trust in your home, let me give you five keys for building that trust:

How to Build Trust:

•    Be Loyal

No tearing down your family in public. Be loyal. No joking about the ol' ball 'n chain. Be loyal. No spreading around something your spouse or children confided in you. Be loyal. No unfaithfulness... no looking for greener pastures. Be loyal. Are you loyal to your family?

•    Be Dependable

If your family is expecting you home at a certain time, be there or call to let them know you’ll be late. If you promised to help with a chore or a project, don’t let them down. Be dependable. If you say you'll be at the big game, be there. Be someone that can be counted on. Let your word be as good as your word.

•    Be Honest

Nothing destroys trust faster than being caught in a lie. So don’t even put yourself in a situation where that’s a possibility. Be up front and honest, even about your failings. You'll be amazed at how much understanding and compassion you can experience when you're up front and how much anger you'll experience if you're not.

•    Be Respectful

This is true in any relationship, but especially when it comes to the other members of your family, respect their property, opinions, and dreams. When your spouse tells you about something that's extremely personal and meaningful, don't laugh. When your kids tell you about their goals in life, don't dismiss it as unimportant. Be respectful of each other.

•    Be Persistent

Trust is established over time and it doesn’t come easy. And as I already mentioned, if you’ve betrayed a trust, it will take a while to rebuild it. So be persistent. Don't give up; stick to it.

Encourage Growth

This past week, the daycare was closed for two days, which meant I had both kids—a one year old and a three year old—for those days. There were times I wasn’t sure if all three of us were going to survive those days. I thought they were pretty bad days. But upon reflection, they had nothing on the day Job had.

The book of Job in the Old Testament begins with Job’s very bad day. Job was a rich man, well respected, and with a large family. He was at home one day when a messenger rushed in to tell him that raiders had attacked, stolen all his donkeys and oxen, and killed all his farmhands.

Before that messenger finished, another rushed in to tell Job that a fire had killed all his sheep and the shepherds caring for them.

As that messenger was still speaking, a third messenger arrived to inform Job that more raiders had attacked, stealing all his camels and killing all his servants.

Just then a fourth messenger arrived with the worst news of all. A windstorm had caused the house where all his children were eating dinner. No one except that messenger survived.

That’s not just a bad day; that’s a bad five minutes. Yet despite all that had happened, Job maintained his trust in God. No thanks to his wife, though. You want to get an idea of how supportive she was? How she encouraged Job to be strong and to grow? Here is is…

Job 2:9-10 (NLT)
His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”
But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.

Not exactly the model marriage. Not so much with Job; all he did was recognize how wrong his wife was. But his wife… his wife actually encouraged him to let go of his integrity, curse God and die. How would you like to be married to that?

Spouses who nag, who berate, who degrade, or who belittle their husband or wife are not encouraging growth. They’re actually discouraging it. They’re limiting their spouses from attaining their full potential. The level of expectancy and the encouragement between a husband and wife, between a parent and child, can be empowering or they can be devastating.

You would be amazed to know how much power you have over your husband or wife, your kids, your brother or sister. Your belief in them can spur them on to great success in life. Your lack of belief can cripple them. Your belief or lack thereof can set them up to win or to fail. You can help them grow and mature or you can hold them back and pull them down. So choose to believe in them. Add value to their lives. Encourage them to stretch and develop as people. Encourage them to stretch and develop as Christians.

Our family relationships are the most important ones we have, so let me encourage you to devote yourself to your family members and not to neglect them. Put whatever time and energy and effort is needed into making those relationships strong and healthy. It’s worth whatever it takes.

[ Adapted from "Strengthening Your Tribe" from the Survivor series.]


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson