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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

It Hurts to Be a Child of Divorce

SOURCE:  Tricia Goyer/Family Life

The best thing you can do for yourself, for your children, and for our culture is to make your marriage work—and encourage others to do the same.

I remember the first time I heard that a friend’s parents were divorcing. I must have been 7 at the time, and I didn’t understand. Was that possible? People were allowed to do that?

It didn’t seem right. More than that, it seemed wrong.

Growing up, I didn’t know my biological dad, and my mom married my stepdad when I was 4 so I remember little before him. They had a fine marriage, but there were always issues. Even as a kid I was aware of that. Money, church, friends, attitudes, other attractions, the chore of children … these things weighed on my parents. There were times I thought their marriage was over, but then they’d come back together again—until the time they didn’t.

I remember the moment my stepdad told me that he had filed divorce papers. My parent’s divorce wasn’t unexpected, but my heart ached all the same.

He’d been waiting to tell me because I was planning my own wedding. But the day he chose to tell me was my wedding day. Yes, my wedding day. He didn’t want me to be surprised, when I returned from my honeymoon, that he was living someplace else.

I can picture your dropped jaw … and I felt the same shock and disbelief as I drove away later that day with my new husband. I was 18 years old and newly married, but something still felt wrong about my parents getting a divorce. I felt like a hurt kid inside.

For a child, things never seem “right” again after your parents divorce. It was weird to see my mom without my dad there. It seemed weird to have to go to two Christmas gatherings, two Thanksgivings. It’s the most unnatural thing in the world.

Another thing you can’t shake as a child of divorce is the feeling that it’s partly your fault.

I went through some very rocky years as a teenager, and I caused a lot of stress for my parents.  During my junior year of high school, when my mom wondered if she should leave my stepdad and get her own apartment, I told her I thought she should. Even though my input had very little effect on their decision, I still feel guilt.  It’ll always be there. There’s always a feeling that if I’d been a better kid it would have been easier for my parents to work it out.

The truth about being a child of divorce is that it hurts no matter how old you are. This is not how God created things. A commitment is a commitment, especially one made before God.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because if my generation has anything in common, it is our universal exposure to divorce—not only with our parents, but in our marriages. If you’re alive today, divorce has had a profound effect on you—financially, emotionally, morally, spiritually. Our lives are different because of what has happened in our country’s marriages.

And where does that leave us? As people who understand the pain and struggle, it’s our job to help strengthen marriages—those around us and our own. Sure, you might think your friend has a good excuse for divorce, but don’t encourage it. Encourage forgiveness, grace, and reconciliation. Pray. Pray hard.

Pray for the couples out there, and pray for their children. We’ve seen enough hurting kids grow into hurting adults.

And if you’re considering a divorce yourself … I beg you to reconsider. The grass is not greener. Happiness is not found in someone else. Love can be rekindled.

The best thing you can do for yourself and for your children is to give your marriage a second chance. Don’t think that walking away from your commitment will come without consequences. Don’t think you’re not going to break your children’s hearts.

If you don’t want to try again, take your hurt and pain to God. Tell Him that the love is gone and seek His help. Love can sprout where you think there is only dead, dry ground. God can do miracles, and He wants to start in your heart.

I promise.

God promises.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

7 Ways Great Couples Make Marriage Soar

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Ron Edmondson

How great couples make their marriage soar:

Let differences work for them. All couples are made with two different people. No two people in the world are just alike. And, after working with hundreds of couples, I’m convinced opposites often do attract. But, great couples learn to build upon those differences. They build upon each other’s strengths and let each other minimize their weaknesses. “Two are better than one” — the author of Ecclesiastes says — and great couples live this truth.

Extend grace for the minor annoyances. Can we just be honest? People do stuff that gets on our nerves at times. That’s true of all of us — even with the people — maybe even especially with the people we love the most. Great couples have learned not to let those little things distract from the major things — like love and commitment.

Serve each other. There are no 50-50 splits of responsibility in a great marriage. Great couples learn to sacrificially serve one another. In the best relationships, it would be difficult to judge who serves one another more. There may be times one gives 100%, because the other can’t give anything. And there are other times the other spouse gives 100%. And neither complains when it’s their turn to give all.

Prioritize their time. Great couples spend time together. Life is busy for all of us. These couples schedule time together. They find things to do that each of them enjoy. And, they say no to other things that would keep them from having adequate time together.

Keep no secrets. There are no hidden issues among great couples. They are vulnerable with each other. Both partners open themselves up to the other person completely.

Publicly support each other. Great couples are supportive of each other in public. They don’t tear each other down in public. They handle private issues in private.

Keep no record of wrongs. Great couples learn to forgive. There aren’t any lingering issues that haven’t been resolved.

I feel the need to emphasize that I’m writing these with the understanding that it takes two people — both committed to making the marriage great — for any of these to work. There are some people who would give anything to make a great marriage, but they are the only part of the couple trying. I get that. A one-sided commitment won’t work when attempting to bond two people into one great couple.

But, when two people are willing to work hard — a great marriage is within reach. For all of us.

Marriages are Boring, Affairs are Fun

SOURCE:  Ashley McIlwain

Marriages are Boring, Affairs are Fun

That’s what the spam email said that was sitting in my inbox staring at me candidly and shamelessly.

My heart ached as I saw the words beseeching me to believe their ridiculous claim. Unapologetically this lie dared to even show its ugly face. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed too many marriages where one spouse actually believed that lie though. They fell for the enticing words dripping with promises that they would never fulfill. Like a poisoned candy apple, they’re shiny appearance lures you in, but death and destruction await you underneath the pretty sheen.

Too many clients have come into my office devastated by affairs. Too many people have emailed me reeling from their spouse straying outside the marriage. Friends have reached out in despair clueless as to how to take their next breath. Tears are shed. Hearts are shattered. Lives are ravaged.

TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, ACCESS THE FOLLOWING LINK:  http://foundationrestoration.org/2014/07/marriages-are-boring-affairs-are-fun/

Marriage: I Do . . . I Do . . . I Do . . . I Do . . .I Do . . . . . . .

SOURCE:  Family Life/Scott Williams

I Still Do … Every Day

I am now in my thirtieth year of marriage to Ellie. Am I surprised we made it this far?

Not at all.

If I had it to do all over again, would I still say “I do”?

Without a doubt. I still do.

Did I comprehend all I was agreeing to when I said those words so many years ago?

Not even close.

After five years of dating, Ellie and I were still deeply in love on that perfect May morning when we made our vows before dozens of witnesses.  Even though we both meant what we said, neither of us really knew what we meant when we made those promises to love and stay committed to each other through health and sickness … wealth and poverty … good and bad … until death separated us.

Little did we know that God would add to our family within the week. No, we had no plans for Ellie to get pregnant on our honeymoon, but nine months and five days after our wedding, our first son was born. And less than four months after his birth, Ellie was a nursing, stay-at-home mom with a suddenly unemployed husband. That wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

As a bride-to-be, Ellie wanted to have four children, but when we said our vows we weren’t thinking that God would add that fourth child just one week after our sixth anniversary. By then we realized that having children was not going to be a problem for us.

Or so we thought.

Heart-wrenching times

Three of Ellie’s next four pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The one that did go full term came with lots of complications, including Ellie permanently losing all hearing in her left ear. Those were heart-wrenching times. But as God promises, weeping lasts for a nighttime, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Four years later Ellie was pregnant with our seventh and final child when our family was devastated by the line-of-duty death of my brother, a police officer in Maui. She and I never dreamed we’d ever go to Hawaii, much less to bury my brother there.

Romantic vacations haven’t really been part of our marriage history. In fact, most of my paychecks have only been enough to cover the basic necessities of a large family. Sometimes the fridge and pantry were almost bare. But God has always provided. Even though there have only been a few weeks where I haven’t been employed, most of those jobs have been in journalism or ministry, neither of which is known for high salaries. When it comes to “for richer or poorer,” we’ve seen a lot of one, but not much of the other.

It wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

Growing in oneness

Ellie and I weren’t practicing believers when we married back in 1985. But God in His grace drew us to Himself. Each of us—independent of the other—made a personal commitment to Christ within 15 months of our vows. In the early years of marriage and parenting, we were able to grow in oneness with each other and with God.

When I think back to the day we proclaimed our vows, in many ways I feel like I am so much less impressive of a man than the one who boldly promised to love and cherish Ellie every day of his life. I haven’t been the best provider. I’m not a strong leader. I’m moody and easily frustrated and way too self-absorbed. And I know Ellie has her own list of ways she falls short of the woman with all those lofty vows nearly three decades ago.

“I do” is not just something you say to your spouse on your wedding day. “I do” is every word you say and every deed you do for the rest of your marriage. That’s what “I do” really means.

Supernatural empowering

Ellie and I have had over 10,000 days of opportunities to experience how much harder it is to say your vows on any given marriage day than on your wedding day. No matter how much we love each other, we let our guards down; selfishness is always ready to make an exception to a vow.

It takes a supernatural empowering of God’s Spirit for me realize that marriage is more about what I can do for Ellie, rather than what she should be doing do for me. God promises—when I ask Him—to empower me with His Spirit, freeing me from slavery to myself in order to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). Only through the limitless grace and unconditional love of His Spirit working in me can I fulfill my vows to Ellie like I promised to do back on May 18, 1985.

And it’s only by His Spirit that I can continue to be true to my promise for the next 30 years, or however many the Lord sees fit to give us together.

Ellie, I still do.

How to Change Your Spouse

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Joshua Straub

. . .I decided to pull together the five action steps I immediately give couples in distress after listening to their story. One of the most common themes, when a person first asks for help, is an explanation of what the other person is or isn’t doing in the relationship.

Now remember, these five steps are always given to the one spouse who desires change, but doesn’t know what to do because the other person isn’t willing.

If this you, I’m sorry you’re in such a predicament. But let me encourage you—you can change your spouse!

Here’s how:

1. It begins by understanding one principle—the only person you can change is you.

You cannot directly change or fix your spouse. But you can change how you interact with your spouse, which in turn, will indirectly require him to make a decision about how he responds to you. That said, when it’s the wife coming for help, I always start by sharing with her this verse:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:1-4.

In other words, don’t preach to him. It will only push him further away. Don’t make him feel any more like a failure than he probably already does. Shame won’t change him.

2. Begin praying each day for your spouse, specifically that the Lord would show you how He sees your spouse. Don’t allow your situation or your spouse’s action (or inaction) make you grow bitter and resentful.

The most effective way of regaining empathy and genuine concern for your spouse is praying that God shows you a glimpse of who your spouse is in His eyes—the hurt, the loneliness, and the pain she must feel.

Pray this prayer multiple times daily, especially when you’re frustrated.

3. Give up blame. The single biggest obstacle to couples connecting is blame. This is a hard one, especially if your spouse wrongly blames you. But resist the temptation to become defensive and cast blame in return.[i] Otherwise, the defensive walls will grow stronger, and your spouse won’t change.

4. Seek to understand the motivation behind your spouse’s heart and actions. Rarely, unless your spouse is abusive, will she say something to intentionally hurt you.

Instead, hurtful words and actions are usually emotionally charged, yet bad attempts at getting our spouse to connect with us (because we’re still protecting the walls around our own hearts).

But it just pushes her further away—and she doesn’t change.

I recently wrote a blog called How 15 Minutes is Changing My Marriage to describe how to connect at this level each day. Practice this—even if it’s just you for a while.

5. Finally, take the Golden Rule and replace the word “treat” with the word “understand.”

That is: “Understand others the way you want to be understood.”

In order for your spouse to begin opening up with you about his own hurts and fears, he needs to feel safe and not like he’s blowing it as a husband and dad (or for her, as a wife and mom). The more your spouse feels understood by you, the more he’ll begin to open up over time.

That said, all five of these actions foster one thing: emotional safety. And it’s emotional safety that predicts marital satisfaction.

The safer you are for your spouse, the more likely your spouse will change.

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Note:  [i] To go deeper than these five steps, I would highly recommend David Burns’ book Feeling Good Together: The Secret to Making Troubled Relationships Work.

Communication: Learn to Listen . . . Really Listen !

Source:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” James 1:19-20 NLT

Active listening is perhaps the most important key to communicating with your spouse (or anyone else!). It shows that you care, that you accept and respect your mate.

Three examples of active listening are restatement, clarifying and summarizing:

  • Restatement means repeating the content of what your spouse said. This conveys that you are paying attention and really hearing what he or she is saying.
  • Clarifying might sound like this: “Do you mean …”? and relay in your own words what your spouse just said.
  • Summarizing pulls together your mate’s message and draws it to a concluding point based on what you have seen and heard in the conversation.

Active listening can help you and your spouse understand each other better and build the trust level between you. It is a way to encourage and build up your mate and can have a calming effect when he or she is angry or frustrated. (A word of caution?active listening is not effective when your spouse is out of control ? for example, intoxicated or severely depressed. It is also not good to use if he or she needs immediate action.)

Ask God to help you learn to listen really listen.

Lord, help me be quick to listen and to learn to listen actively. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from:

Committed Couples: God’s Plan for Marriage & the Family by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

10 PERSONALITIES THAT HAVE NO PLACE IN CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Jason Helopoulos/The Gospel Coalition

As a pastor, who has counseled many couples, and as a veteran of sixteen years of marriage, I have found that these ten personalities have no place in Christian marriage:

  1. Secret Agent: We can’t have secret expectations. Our spouse needs to know and we need to give voice to our expectations within the marriage relationship. It isn’t fair or even wise to keep these thoughts from our spouses. They need to know. If we aren’t willing to give expression to an expectation, than it shouldn’t be one. In truth, we are often reluctant to share these silent expectations, because once we hear them uttered from our mouths we realize how petty and unnecessary they are.
  1. Debater: Debates are good in politics, the classroom, and at the water cooler. They aren’t helpful in marriage. Never argue for the sake of arguing in your marriage. Don’t debate to win a point, a round, or a plan. It is a lose-lose proposition. Be willing to discuss and disagree, but never debate.
  1. Warrior: Our conflict is not with our spouse. Our battle is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Our spouse is never to be viewed as our adversary and neither are we to be viewed their adversary. We are united together in Christ to wage this good fight alongside each other, not against one another. I am not her enemy and she is not mine. We are compatriots and fellow soldiers linked arm and arm waging battle with evil as our Lord Jesus leads us in this good and holy fight. Let us “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24) and not against one another.
  1. Mommy/Daddy Me: Most of us love being parents, but this cannot supersede our first calling as a husband or wife. It is a grievous mistake to place our children over our marriage relationship. If our marriage is suffering, our kids are suffering. If our marriage is thriving, the blessings cascade down upon our children like the oil poured out upon Aaron’s head and running down his beard (Psalm 133). It is like the dew of Hermon which falls on the mountains of Zion–it gives life.
  1. Finger-Pointer: Our wife’s sin is not just her issue “to get over.” Neither are our husband’s sins purely his struggles “to get past.” We are united together. We are one flesh (Gen.2:24). God has given us one another to walk the path of righteousness hand-in-hand. Let us “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
  1. Holy Spirit Impostor: One of the great traps of Christian marriage is being more concerned about my spouse’s spiritual state than my own. It is a kind of super-spirituality that comes in the guise of love and righteousness, when it is anything but. Rather, it smacks of hypocrisy. We are not the Holy Spirit and we are not our spouse’s conscience. It is far too easy to be distracted from our own responsibilities when we have our target fixed on another.
  1. Milquetoast: Loving and appreciating grace does not mean avoiding all hard things in marriage. Some Christian husbands and wives are confined by the false belief that being grace-centered means avoiding all conflict, disagreement, and confrontation. We are “grace people,” and sometimes the greatest manifestation of that grace is the willingness to breech hard subjects and wade through difficult issues. A gracious spouse will speak the truth, always in love, but will speak the truth (Eph. 4:12) for the betterment of their spouse and their marriage to the glory of God.
  1. Accuser: Things forgiven in the past are not weapons to be wielded in the present. It doesn’t matter whether they were sins or errors committed before the marriage or after the wedding vows were taken. It doesn’t matter whether they were particular sins committed against us or someone else. Forgiven matters are forgiven. Are there consequences? Sure. May we need to discuss these things in counseling or pray about them together? Yes. But they are not a sledge-hammer to be used in times of disagreement, an example to use for the sake of argumentation, nor a thought to hold our spouse captive to our wishes. They have been buried in a deep chasm and sealed with our forgiveness by the grace of God. There they are to remain, unless they need to be brought forth and never as something to hold over the head of the other.
  1. Me Monster: “Love does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor. 13:5). We must not seek our own interests first. If we are both pursuing the other’s interests than both of our needs are met, not begrudgingly, but willingly.
  1. Dictator: Christian marriage is not to be domineered by one spouse or the other. The husband is the head of the marriage union (Eph. 5), but he is not its king. Both the husband and the wife serve one single King. He dictates the rules, character, and purpose for this relationship. Whether our inclination is to seek control of the marriage by force or passive aggressive silence, it is wrong. We are not try and dominate where we have no right. Ultimately, this marriage is not “ours” to do with it what we will. It is His. It falls within His dominion and we both serve His Kingdom, not our own. Our marriage is to be a living breathing earthly sign pointing to the reality of Christ’s union with the Church (Eph. 5). This is what is to dominate, dictate, and rule our marriages: the glory of Christ our exalted Head, King, and Bride-Groom. Not us. What a glorious thing Christian marriage is!

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