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Archive for the ‘Confrontation’ Category

Strengthen Your Relationship Roots

SOURCE:  Prepare-Enrich

After being gone almost all day I arrived at home at about 4:00pm.  The door we use to enter our house leads to the kitchen and the first thing I saw was a counter full of dishes.

My frustration levels grew instantaneously.

My heart started beating faster.

Angry emotions gripped me.

I thought, “I have been gone all day.  My husband and kids have been home all day and they left all their breakfast and lunch dishes for me to do!  How am I to cook supper with no counter space?”  I proceeded to walk into the living room and complain to my husband in front of the kids about why he didn’t do the dishes and why he left them for me to do.

Bad choice.

As you can imagine the rest of that evening was not harmonious, nor were the next few days as my husband hardly spoke to me.  This incident was a tipping point.  Brad was feeling falsely accused in front of the kids.  He thought he had been this great dad, spending the day with the kids and giving them his full attention and I came home and immediately complained about how he spent the day.  I was feeling taking advantage of.  We both needed to learn a new way to communicate our feelings.

Later that week, Brad gave me a piece of paper with three life rules, some pertaining to this instance and some pertaining to other struggles we were having.

 

While this is not a fond memory for us, it forced us to form new habits and new understandings, new relationship roots.  We are not perfect, but we seek to understand each other – not accuse each other, to talk about our frustrations with each other in private, to always speak well of each other in front of others, and to forgive each other. It was hard, yet we are better today because of it.

What relationship roots are you and your partner growing?

  • Are you allowing the tough times in your relationship to grow deep roots, shallow roots or no roots?
  • Roots need room for water to flow in and out.  Are you giving and receiving forgiveness to keep communication flowing?
  • Are you growing new roots by seeking different ways of communicating or spending time together?
  • What are you doing to listen to the old roots – the lessons you have already learned, the lessons that provide structural support to your relationship?

Communication: Arrows of Appreciation

SOURCE:  Taken from the Prepare-Enrich blog

When there is tension or conflict in a relationship, we are encouraged to speak using “I” statements—“I get worried when I don’t know you’re working late,” or “I wish we could make more of an effort to spend quality time alone.” “I” statements attribute responsibility to the speaker for his/her own perceptions and feelings.

“You” statements, such as, “You never let me know when you’re going to be home late,” or “You spend too much time with your friends,” can put the listener on the defensive from the start. In a way, a “you” statement is like shooting an arrow right at your partner. If it precedes negative, accusatory, or blaming words, they are going to feel the sting and likely react in just as prickly a manner.

But what if you were to lace that arrow with words of appreciation, affirmation, and gratitude instead?

“You always know what to say to make me laugh.”

“You are such a great husband/wife/listener/friend.”

“You are beautiful/handsome/amazing/loved.”

How do you think your partner would react? How would you react to such direct praise?

We asked our Facebook followers to tell us what appreciation means to them (in one word), and here are their responses: valued, empowered, thankful, important, motivated, needed, respected, validated, healed, understood, heard, cherished, and loved.

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we can sometimes take each other for granted; don’t underestimate the power of small statements of appreciation and affirmation.

Dr. Richard Marks, Ph.D., MFT, and PREPARE/ENRICH Seminar Director agrees:

“Research shows that people who hear frequent appreciations feel better about themselves, produce more, and serve more. Feeling appreciated is important to healthy relationships and work teams. It is also important to one’s sense of being valued. Whenever you share an appreciation with another, their brain hears the appreciation and releases dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical that, when released, produces a feeling of pleasure. How many dopamine ‘shots’ do you give your employees, colleagues, spouse, and children each day? May we begin to value not just being appreciated, but [the act of] appreciating.”

An Affair Does Not Have to Mean the End

SOURCE:  Carrie Cole M.Ed., LPC/The Gottman Institute

Ralph and Susan had been married for 13 years with two adorable children. Their suburban life was packed with work, school, and the kids’ extra-curricular activities. Neither made their marriage a priority, but overall they felt their relationship was good.

Susan withheld her suspicion when she noticed that Ralph was on his phone more than usual. At times she couldn’t help but ask “What’s going on?” only to receive “Nothing. Just checking the news,” or “There’s a lot of drama at the office that I need to take care of.” She trusted him.

When Susan discovered that Ralph had been texting another woman, she was devastated. Her world came crashing down. In her mind, Ralph was not the kind of person to ever have an affair.

Ralph lied about it at first. He felt like he needed to protect Susan from the ugly truth. But as more evidence came out, he couldn’t lie anymore. He was having an affair.

He didn’t know how he had got involved so deeply with someone else. It just happened. He and a co-worker had become close friends over time. It felt good to have someone to talk to who listened and made him feel special. He hadn’t had that in a long time with Susan.

During the affair he had to convince himself that Susan didn’t care. He felt she wasn’t interested in him sexually anymore. They were more like roommates than soulmates.

As a Certified Gottman Therapist, I have heard many versions of this story in my couples therapy practice over the last 15 years. An affair, whether emotional or sexual, is devastating. Both partners suffer tremendous pain. But an affair does not have to mean the end.

The PTSD of an Affair

The betrayed partner experiences a tidal wave of emotion. The pain, hurt, anger, humiliation, and despair are overwhelming. After the traumatic moment the affair is realized, they become fearful, anxious, and hypervigilant, wondering where or when the next blow is going to come – not unlike symptoms of PTSD felt by military veterans.

Their mind races with thoughts of What don’t they know? What’s the whole story? Scenes of their partner with someone else appear in their mind when awake and when asleep, making life a living nightmare.

The Guilt of Betrayal

The betrayer also experiences a great deal of emotion. The hopeless feeling of witnessing your partner in pain and knowing you can do nothing to alleviate their suffering is a horrible experience. The feelings of guilt, shame, and humiliation are almost unbearable.

So, what causes an affair? Why do partners choose to cheat? The answers are complicated and may take months to unravel.

Recovering From an Affair

Is it possible to recover from an affair? The answer for most couples is yes.

Many couples I’ve worked with have actually created a stronger, more emotionally connected, and richer relationship from the ashes of an affair. However, it’s not quick or easy. As with any serious injury, it takes time to heal. And it usually takes therapy.

It’s tempting to think that it will automatically get better with time. The problem with “sweeping it under the rug” is that the anxiety, fear, anger, and guilt felt early on by the betrayed person often give way to resentment – a slow seething anger that leads to total contempt for the betrayer. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown that contempt is deadly in relationships and very difficult to recover from.

Couples therapy can help partners explore and understand what happened. The betrayed partner needs to have their questions answered, such as:

  • When did you meet?
  • Where did you meet?
  • How long did the affair last?

The betrayed partner attempts to understand how it happened and how they can prevent it from happening again. They also seek consistency in the stories from one telling to the next. Do I know everything? Are you lying to me now? These questions are best asked and answered in the emotionally safe environment of a therapist’s office.

It is best not to ask questions about the specifics of the sexual nature of the affair. Those questions usually do more bad than good in that they conjure up images that might haunt the betrayed partner’s thoughts.

When the betrayed partner feels that they have all the answers they need, the couple can begin to work on rebuilding trust. Couples like Susan and Ralph have turned away from each other in many small ways over time, which compounds into the feelings that ultimately led Ralph astray. They neglected the relationship.

Once couples process what happened, they need to begin to tune back into each other. Susan and Ralph found that they avoided each other to avoid conflict. Tuning back in requires dialoguing about problems – both ongoing perpetual problems and past issues that might have caused some injury to the relationship.

Recognize That Conflict is Inevitable

Conflict is a natural part of your happily ever after. Every relationship has conflict due to different values, beliefs, and philosophies of life. When these differences are discussed safely, and when honored and respected, the couple will experience greater intimacy. At times this can feel uncomfortable and take some push and pull. Communication skills provided by a therapist can help the navigation of these discussions go more smoothly.

Once the couple has tuned back into each other, it will be helpful to create some meaningful rituals to stay connected. Couples can be creative about ways to do that which are special and unique to them. One couple I worked with decided to have morning coffee together for 30 minutes. They would discuss the events of the day, check in with each other emotionally, and take the time to really listen to each other’s hearts.

Another couple developed a ritual of a bubble bath after the kids were in bed. They said they did their best talking in their big round Jacuzzi tub.

Sexual and emotional betrayals are a hefty blow to a relationship, but an affair does not have to be the end. Couples who have the emotional fortitude to reach out and seek the help they need can create a much more meaningful and intimate relationship in the aftermath of infidelity.

 

4 Steps Every Couple Needs to Take When Trust Is Broken

SOURCE:  MARISSA GOLD/Women’s Day

How to Rebuild Broken Trust:  Experts Share a Four-Step Plan

When trust is broken in a relationship, it can seem impossible to repair. But many couples have dealt with dishonesty—from financial problems to infidelity—and made it through to a happier, more honest place. Here, experts share the exact steps to take to get back on track.

We may enter a relationship with high hopes and rose-colored glasses, but nobody’s perfect. Most couples will run into a trust issue of some sort over the course of their relationship. The most common? “Cheating,” says M. Gary Neuman, LMHC, creator of the Neuman Method. But that doesn’t necessarily mean catching your husband in bed with another woman is the only thing that can cause a rift between you and your partner. “Trust is broken whenever there is lying that creates a shift in the couple’s life,” says Neuman. “Gambling, drug use, and even emotional and online infidelity often lead to severe trust issues.”

The fact is, all of the phones, laptops, and social networks we’re glued to 24/7 provide ample opportunity for foul play. “It’s more common now for affairs to be emotional—on social media, reconnecting with a high school sweetheart—or using office chat apps or email accounts to carry on a flirtation,” says Dr. Vagdevi Meunier, PsyD, a Gottman Institute master therapist. “As Shirley Glass, author of Not Just Friends, has said, affairs are about access and opportunity.”

If trust has been broken between you and your partner, whether it was a physical affair, an emotional affair, or a gambling or drug habit, we’ve asked relationship experts to outline the exact steps you need to take if you want to work on rebuilding your relationship.

Step One: Confrontation

First things first (and no, we’re not talking about yelling and screaming): Have the confrontation in person. “Once you’ve discovered the infidelity, you need to evaluate your partner’s response,” says Neuman. “Is he apologetic and remorseful, or confused and ‘in love’ with this other person?” Don’t assume anything, fight via text or email, or make decisions about your future before having a face-to-face conversation.

In addition to talking to your partner, “you’ll feel a need to tell some people what happened because you’ll need to vent,” says Neuman. “But try to limit this sharing to those who will really be there for you and give you a safe space to share—NOT a lot of advice.” The idea is to get support without being swayed one way or another. You also don’t want to be sitting around the Thanksgiving table a year from now knowing that everyone in your family knows your dirty laundry. So be careful about who you tell, and how much you tell them.

Finally, watch out for urges to “even the score” or make some questionable decisions of your own. “Don’t create a toxic relationship by taking revenge, being vindictive, or bringing other people in,” warns Meunier. In other words, reconnecting with your own high school sweetheart for comfort is not the best idea, nor is recruiting your in-laws to chastise your partner about what he did.

Step Two: Atonement

This is a time for full transparency: “The person who made the choice to commit the act of betrayal should take time to understand the impact of his or her actions, tell the full story of the betrayal, and answer any questions their partner has,” says Meunier. “Your spouse has to want to make this relationship work, be apologetic and—in the case of an affair—be willing to completely end it with the other woman,” stresses Neuman.

It’s also a time for emotional support. It’s not uncommon to lose sleep, stop eating, or even have trouble functioning after discovering an infidelity, so Meunier encourages the offending partner to “be available to support and comfort the hurt partner.” Translation: He needs to be patient and kind and cater to you for a bit, not pop off angrily every time you want to talk about the issue.

You also need to give yourself some extra love right now: “Practicing meditation, daily gratitude, reading books on affair recovery (the ones based on scientific research are best) yoga, and journaling are all good techniques,” says Meunier. “I also encourage both partners to engage in light and easy activities that preserves a sense of continuity, fun, and a feeling of family. This can be as simple as having breakfast or dinner, watching a show on the couch together, or going grocery shopping. If there are children present, this is even more important.”

Step Three: Reconnecting

 

Once you’ve talked through all the details of the betrayal and have decided to recommit to one another, it’s time to start limiting how often you bring up the infidelity. “I encourage couples to only talk about the betrayal in the counselor’s office, or to set a scheduled meeting, like lunch, to do this,” says Meunier. “Avoid talking about it in closed intense environments such as the car or in the bedroom. Instead, go out on the porch—the fear of neighbors hearing will make both of you behave better.”

After you eliminate the constant “threat” environment that comes with discussing the issue, you can begin to learn how to be more connected and emotionally present with each other. How do you do that, exactly? “Once broken, trust has to be earned by small things each person does every day,” says Meunier. It’s about consistency and kindness: Be home when you say you will, avoid that work event where you know the affair partner might be, and give regular, sincere compliments to build back your partner’s self-esteem. It may take time, but if your partner is willing to show you he is committed and consistent in his actions, he’ll slowly earn back your trust. This isn’t always easy—the betraying partner has more of a burden during this time, explains Meunier—but if he sticks it out, you’ll see results. And remember, the effort shouldn’t feel one-sided: “Eventually both people need to be making small gestures of kindness,” adds Meunier.

Step Four: Building a New Relationship

At this point, you’re building a brand new emotional, physical, and social contract for the relationship. You’re connecting in a more honest way, asking for what you really need, and, “Doing whatever is necessary to affair-proof your relationship going forward,” says Meunier.

The key here on out is positive responses: “We use a term developed by Dr. Gottman called turning towards,” says Meunier. “Intimacy is built by repeated experiences of one partner bidding for their partner’s attention or affection and receiving a positive response,” says Meunier. When you receive consistent, positive reactions from one another in everyday life, trust returns. Here’s an example: “If the betraying spouse says ‘Will you watch Real Housewives with me?’ I want the hurt partner to say ‘yes’ not because they suddenly forgive their partner or love the show, but because they recognize that it costs nothing to sit quietly next to someone and watch a television show, and that doing so gives them points in the emotional bank account. Similarly, if the hurt spouse calls while you’re apart and says ‘Can you turn on Facetime and show me who is in the room with you?’ I encourage the betraying partner to do that whenever possible. Not ignoring your partner, not rejecting each other, and being kind are all ways we build a sense of normalcy and safety, which in turn builds trust.”

Ten Abilities of Emotionally Healthy People

SOURCE:  Jimmy Evans/Marriage Today

I teach pastors that a church cannot grow beyond the emotional health of its pastor, and I believe the same is true for a marriage: Your relationship with your spouse will never exceed your individual emotional health.

Karen and I entered marriage with deep emotional wounds and dysfunction. We were like two porcupines trying to love each other. The closer we got, the more we hurt each other.

Thankfully, God healed us of our emotional scars. Today we have the ability to do things that our emotional wounds once prevented.

There are ten things you should be able to do if you are emotionally healthy:

1. Openly express both physical and verbal affection to the satisfaction of your spouse. This means hugs and gentle touch as well as praise.

2. Empathize with others and focus on their needs and desires—especially those of your spouse. This means listening, as well as putting yourself in another’s shoes.

3. Communicate honestly and openly in a gracious manner. This means being able to talk about your feelings.

4. Confront your spouse or others with complaints in a timely and gracious manner. In other words, communicating with honesty about something that has gone wrong, rather than being angry, withdrawn, or passive-aggressive.

5. Receive complaints or corrections without being defensive or hostile.This means you are open to input from someone else.

6. Take responsibility for your behavior and apologize, when necessary, with sincerity and grace. This means accepting that you can be wrong.

7. Serve and give to others—including your spouse—without expecting anything in return. This means you are able to do something for others even if it’s never reciprocated.

8. Process anger, offenses, and disappointments in a timely and gracious manner. Bad things happen. When they do, you can deal with being imperfect people in an imperfect world. You can work through it.

9. Be vulnerable and reveal weakness without fear or shame. This means being able to pray with your spouse. It means admitting when you need help.

10. Be joyful and faith-filled in the midst of difficulty. This means seeing the good in opportunities, circumstances, and people. It means trusting God rather than becoming cynical, fatalistic, or depressed.

Do these abilities describe you? If not, you may have some emotionally unhealthy areas in your heart. Honestly, I didn’t have any of those abilities when Karen and I were first married—and it damaged our relationship.

Until God restored me to good health, our marriage would never have grown beyond my limitations.

The Holy Spirit is powerful and can repair the places that are broken inside us. He knows exactly what’s wrong. When we understand that we’re damaged and give Him permission to fix us, He does. That’s exceedingly good news.

If you need to improve your emotional health, ask God to begin healing you. He’ll help you grow into a place where you can claim all ten of the abilities above. It will result in a stronger, healthier marriage.

This Behavior Is The #1 Predictor Of Divorce, And You’re Guilty Of It

SOURCE:  Brittany Wong/Huffington Post

Your body language speaks volumes.

Ever catch yourself rolling your eyes at your partner or getting a little too sarcastic during a conversation?

Those seemingly small behaviors are not that innocent after all.

According to renowned researcher John Gottman, contemptuous behavior like eye-rolling, sarcasm and name-calling is the number one predictor of divorce.

For 40 years, the University of Washington psychology professor and his team at the Gottman Institute have studied couples’ interactions to determine the key predictors of divorce — or as Gottman calls them, “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”

Contempt is the number one sign, followed by criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling (emotionally withdrawing from your partner.)

So how do you curb contempt in your own marriage and stave off divorce? Below, experts share seven things you can do to keep contempt in check.

1. Realize that delivery is everything.

“Remember, it’s not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference. Contempt often comes in the form of name-calling, snickering, sarcasm, eye-rolling and long heavy sighs. Like a poison, it can erode the trust and safety in your relationship and bring your marriage to a slow death. Your goal is to be heard. You need to present your message in a way that makes this happen without doing damage to the relationship.” — Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist based in Easton, Pennsylvania

2. Ban the word “whatever” from your vocabulary.

“When you say ‘whatever’ to your partner, you’re basically saying you’re not going to listen to them. This sends them a message that whatever they’re talking about is unimportant and has no merit to you. This is the last thing you want your spouse to hear. Sending messages (even indirectly through contempt) that they’re not important will end a relationship pretty quickly.” — Aaron Anderson, a Denver, Colorado-based marriage and family therapist

3. Stay clear of sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes.

“Avoid sarcasm and comments like, ‘I’ll bet you do!’ or ‘Oh, that was super funny” in a rude tone of voice. While you’re at it, don’t make jokes at the expense of your partner or make universal comments about his or her gender (‘You would say that — you’re a guy’).” — LeMel Firestone-Palerm, a marriage and family therapist

4. Don’t live in the past.

“Most couples start showing contempt because they have let a lot of little things build up. To avoid contempt all together, you need to stay current in your communications along the way. If you’re unhappy about something, say it directly. Also, acknowledge the valid complaints your partner has about you — you’ll probably be less self-righteous the next time you fight.” – authors of The Heart of the Fight: A Couple’s Guide to Fifteen Common Fights, What They Really Mean, and How They Can Bring You Closer

5. Watch your body language.

“If you find yourself rolling your eyes or smirking, it is a signal that your relationship could be headed for trouble. Try taking a break from each other if things get heated, or try focusing on positive aspects that you like about your partner.” — Chelli Pumphrey, a counselor based in Denver, Colorado

6. Don’t ever tell your spouse, “you’re overreacting.”

“When you say your S.O. is overreacting, what you’re really saying is that their feelings are unimportant to you. Instead of telling your partner that they’re overreacting, listen to their point of view. Try to understand where they’re coming from and why they feel that way. They have those feelings for a reason.” — Aaron Anderson

7. If you find yourself being contemptuous, stop and take a deep breath.

“Make it your goal to become aware of what contempt is. Then find out specifically what it looks like in your marriage. When you feel the urge to go there, take a deep breath, and say ‘stop’ quietly to yourself. Find another way to make your point. Contempt is a bad habit like smoking or nail biting. With work, you can break it.” — Bonnie Ray Kennan, a psychotherapist based in Torrance, California

Loving the Prodigal Child

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

A crisis with a child means your family is headed into a period of testing … and of growth.

According to some estimates, every American is responsible each year for an average of two tons of waste material. That’s 4,000 pounds per person!

But there is another type of waste that weighs more heavily on many parents than several truckloads of garbage—the life of a prodigal child.

The core meaning of the word prodigal is “waste.” The famous prodigal son from Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:11-32 not only wasted the material possessions of his inheritance and much of his life, but he also did much worse. He wasted, through rebellion and foolishness, his precious relationship with his father.

Let’s be candid.

All of us Christian parents, no matter what our background, parenting style, or level of spiritual maturity, share a common fear—that a child will become a prodigal. There is no jolt of agony that compares to the child who says with his words and his behavior, “I reject you, your values, your lifestyle, your God.”

We desperately desire that this will never happen in our homes. But it can and does. And for those who must come to grips with a prodigal child, it can seem like the world is coming to an end.

What is a prodigal child?

First, it’s important to realize that many children may exhibit troubling or rebellious behavior, but are not full-blown prodigals. If your child wears a different hairstyle, gets a piercing, is moody or depressed, comes home with Cs on his report card, or becomes angry when told to empty the dishwasher, that doesn’t make him a prodigal. I count these part of the norm for preteens and teenagers.

A true prodigal child will show extreme defiance and rebellion as a pattern over an extended period of time. In fact, the word “defiance” catches it all—a stubborn, rebellious spirit that challenges authority, refuses to acknowledge responsibility for faults, and doesn’t embrace the truth. Here are some signs suggesting the presence of a prodigal:

  • A prodigal child consistently, flagrantly disobeys rules and crosses boundaries.
  • A prodigal child shows ongoing active or passive disrespect for authority.
  • A prodigal child is unteachable and refuses to accept responsibility.
  • A prodigal child persists in self-destructive behavior (drugs, drinking, sexual activity, stealing, violence).
  • A prodigal child lies and continues a pattern of deceit, even after being caught red-handed.
  • A prodigal child’s life is disintegrating in many areas and is out of control.

Those who work professionally with such teenagers often mention a few root causes.

Selfishness. We are all self-centered by nature, but selfishness becomes an art form in the prodigal’s life.

Desire for control. This issue is often linked to selfishness. During adolescence, young people naturally seek greater control over their lives. Selfishly, they may ask for much more control than they can handle.

Another factor behind prodigal behavior can be a dry relationship between one or both parents and the child. If for whatever reason the parents are not securely tethered to the child and are not relationally filling the child’s emotional tank, the child will seek replenishment from peers, who may be running on empty themselves. The values of these peers may be extremely hostile to what mom and dad believe, and the war for the child’s heart is on.

Sometimes, however, there just seems to be no single identifiable cause for a child’s rebellion. And whether or not we can point to a particular reason, we can trust the Bible’s insight. Solomon commented, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” (Proverbs 22:15). That means every child has a bent toward foolishness, and in some children the foolishness sprouts and blooms into prodigal behavior.

A crisis with a child, and the pain that goes with it, should sound the alarm that everyone in the family, especially the adults, is heading into a period of testing and growth.

Pain is pain, but God uses difficulty to stretch and mold us, and the result is greater maturity.

Here are some priorities you should maintain as a parent:

Keep loving. No matter how broken and alienated your child may be, you always will be dad or mom—the only people in the world with the unique opportunity to love him or her without strings like no other person can. This is a powerful tool, like a huge magnet that can irresistibly draw a wayward child back to your embrace.

Pray. God is fully capable of grabbing your child’s attention. The Good Shepherd does not lose sheep. Ask, and keep asking. The apostle James wrote, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Connect. Your child may not even want to speak to you. And you may be weary of trying to reach out and always getting shut down. You have no choice; you must find ways to connect. Even in the face of angry words and cold body language, you can speak kind words and give hugs and tender touches. You can compliment and encourage. You can show interest. You can serve. You can pursue your child in ways that speak her language of love.

Establish boundaries. Although you will keep trying to connect, you and others in your family should not accept abusive, destructive behavior from an in-house prodigal. You have been given authority by God to draw boundaries. What will be the basic requirements for anyone living under your family’s roof? These rules must be carefully thought through and clearly communicated to your child. Your child needs to know that if boundaries are crossed, serious consequences will result.

For example, one boundary might be “no drugs or alcohol of any kind in the house.” If a prodigal child persists in violating this boundary, the consequence might be going into a regular drug-testing program or even leaving the home and living at a substance abuse treatment center. These are very severe measures. That’s why you must carefully choose and then maintain the boundaries.

Get help. You must not attempt to deal with a prodigal alone. You need prayer and emotional support. You need spiritual wisdom. You need the prayers and counsel of the leaders (elders or deacons) of your church. You may need professional counselors or other advisors. If your child is dangerously out of control or has run away, you may need to call the police. Don’t let shame, pride, fear, or anything else keep you from getting help. “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).

I believe we can wait expectantly for a prodigal child to return, but we also need to accept the reality that this may be a wait of months and even years. Although you pray that resolution and reconciliation will come quickly, prepare for a long haul, especially if your rebelling child is in the early teenage years.

A particularly vulnerable area during a family crisis is the husband/wife relationship. A significant part of your retreating and regrouping must involve honest discussion and effort that will solidify, not divide, mom and dad. A prodigal child often seems bent on creating conflict between parents, as well as among other family members. Don’t let this happen. This is the time when you must cling to your spouse like glue.

The ultimate hope of any parent should be that God will reach down and profoundly touch His child. All of our efforts to raise our children to follow Him are in His hands. We are but stewards for a brief period of these gifts called children.

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