Tell us about the A.W.E. principle.

This is a very personal principle. When Kathy and I first got married, I didn’t understand intimacy. I come from a background of alcoholism on both sides of the family; people with this history don’t always do intimacy well.

I realized that as a Christian, I would need to make some proactive changes. I would need to set a tone and an atmosphere for the marriage. I realized Kathy needed attention, warmth, and encouragement, so I just started doing that.

I would actually write on a piece of paper, “Give Kathy some encouragement and affection today”. And that didn’t mean necessarily sexual affection.

A UCLA study says a person needs 8-10 meaningful touches a day, so I realized this was meaningful for Kathy and I, to hold hands, touch, and kiss. We’re talking about those 15 second kisses (laughs).

And warmth. I found there was an intentionality needed to stay away from low level anger & frustration and bring warmth to the relationship. For me that was realizing that constant criticism and negativity shuts down intimacy. And when I make an effort to create that environment, it really makes a difference.

Sounds like an attitude adjustment…

Yes. Many spouses are hung up on, “If only my spouse would (fill in the blank), I would be happier”. We can’t expect the other person to be the solution to our problems.

Another part of the attitude is to choose fun and optimism. We need to be people of fun. That’s easier for some, who gravitate toward play as opposed to work.

A few years ago we needed to evaluate our marriage, we weren’t having fun anymore. We thought, why were we having fun when we were engaged? What did we do differently? Well, we hadn’t picked up tennis rackets in a long time, so we started playing tennis once a week. That helped us to build fun and optimism

Jim, you talk about marriages being over-committed and under-connected. Let’s talk about that.

I think it’s one of the most serious problems in American marriages, and possibly marriages worldwide. It’s about the breathless pace we live our lives, and for many we’re busy doing good things. But we’ve moved from neglecting certain parts of our marriage to drifting away from our marriages. Someday we’ll look up and realize we’re not close anymore.

When we’re busy, we tend to give our spouses emotional scraps, instead of anything of quality.

To help improve that quality, does scheduling make sense? Yes. It seems to me if we schedule certain things, say the weekly date night, it will happen. When Kathy and I got married, we expected much more spiritual time together, but that’s not where we went spiritually. Now, we do pray together most days, but we needed to schedule a weekly devotional – it’s on the calendar and it will happen. Too many couples say to me, “I want our romance to be always spontaneous”, and I ask, is that working?

Jim in the book you caution about child-focused marriages.

There are seasons in marriage. But if we’re always making our children a higher priority than our marriage, you’ll look up one day and realize you have a business relationship – paying the bills, working, raising kids – not a love relationship. Way too many times we tend to focus on the needs of our kids, and neglect the nurturing of our relationship. To me, a marriage where a couple is focused on each other as well as the kids is a marriage of integrity.

Copyright © 2006 Marriagetrac.

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