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Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

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 In other words, communicating with honesty about something that has gone wrong, rather than being angry, withdrawn, or passive-aggressive.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.

11 Rules on Marriage You Won’t Learn in School

SOURCE:  Dennis and Barbara Rainey/Family Life

Here’s some practical, counter-cultural advice on how to make marriage work.

For many years, e-mails have circulated the country with the outline of a speech attributed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates titled “11 Rules You Won’t Learn in School About Life.”  It turns out that Gates never wrote these words nor did he deliver the speech—it was all taken from an article written by Charles J. Sykes in 1996. And it really doesn’t matter that Gates wasn’t involved, because the piece does a great job of unmasking how feel-good, politically-correct teachings have created a generation of kids with a false concept of reality.

I thought I’d not only pass on these rules, but also make a few of my own—on marriage.

First, here are the 11 rules of life that you won’t learn in school:

Rule 1: Life is not fair—get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 per year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping—they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault.  So don’t whine about your mistakes; learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes, and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you “find yourself.” Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Sage advice.

After reading this piece, I was inspired to take a crack at something I’d been chewing on:  “11 Rules on Marriage You Won’t Learn in School.”

Rule 1: Marriage isn’t about your happiness.  It’s not about you getting all your needs met through another person.  Practicing self-denial and self-sacrifice, patience, understanding, and forgiveness are the fundamentals of a great marriage.  If you want to be the center of the universe, then there’s a much better chance of that happening if you stay single.

Rule 2: Getting married gives a man a chance to step up and finish growing up.  The best preparation for marriage for a single man is to man up now and keep on becoming the man God created him to be.

Rule 3: It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeat your rookie season.  You will make rookie mistakes in your first year of marriage; the key is that you don’t continue making those same mistakes in year five, year 10, or year 20 of your marriage.

Rule 4: It takes a real man to be satisfied with and love one woman for a lifetime.  And it takes a real woman to be content with and respect one man for a lifetime.

Rule 5: Love isn’t a feeling.  Love is commitment.  It’s time to replace the “D-word”—divorce—with the “C-word”—commitment.  Divorce may feel like a happy solution, but it results in long-term toxic baggage.  You can’t begin a marriage without commitment.  You can’t sustain one without it either.  A marriage that goes the distance is really hard work.  If you want something that is easy and has immediate gratification, then go shopping or play a video game.

Rule 6: Online relationships with old high school or college flames, emotional affairs, sexual affairs, and cohabiting are shallow and illegitimate substitutes for the real thing.  Emotional and sexual fidelity in marriage are the real thing.

Rule 7: Women spell romance R-E-L-A-T-I-O-N-S-H-I-P.  Men spell romance S-E-X.  If you want to speak romance to your spouse, become a student of your spouse, enroll in a lifelong “Romantic Language School,” and become fluent in your spouse’s language.

Rule 8: During courtship, opposites attract.  After marriage, opposites can repel each another.  You married your spouse because he/she is different.  Differences are God’s gift to you to create new capacities in your life.  Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

Rule 9: Pornography robs men of a real relationship with a real person and it poisons real masculinity, replacing it with the toxic killers of shame, deceit, and isolation.  Pornography siphons off a man’s drive for intimacy with his wife.  Marriage is not for wimps.  Accept no substitutes.

Rule 10: As a home is built, it will reflect the builder.  Most couples fail to consult the Master Architect and His blueprints for building a home.  Instead a man and woman marry with two sets of blueprints (his and hers). As they begin building, they discover that a home can’t be built from two very different sets of blueprints.

Rule 11: How you will be remembered has less to do with how much money you make or how much you accomplish and more with how you have loved and lived.

Pass on the rules to a friend who will enjoy them!

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Adapted from Preparing for Marriage Devotions for Couples, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Copyright © 2013. Used with permission from Regal Books

 

Relationships: 20 Questions That Can Bring You Closer Together

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Randi Gunther Ph.D./Psychology Today

… and why every relationship needs a balance of security and unpredictability.

The first step in rebalancing security with risk is for both partners to realize what locked-in opinions or behaviors they have ignored in favor of comfort. The second step is to explore where those thoughts and behaviors originated and how deeply entrenched they are. Both partners need to ask of themselves, and each other, what ideas, opinions, and behaviors they’ve never challenged. What, for instance, are the social, political, religious, sexual, familial, financial, and emotional issues that each partner holds dear? Which have been suppressed for fear they would not be accepted or embraced by the other partner?

An unwillingness to challenge the limits of a relationship is one of the most common drivers of boredom between intimate partners. When they maximize their compatibility by minimizing their differences, their relationship becomes stale. They stop having exciting and passionate dialogue, stop desiring to learn more about the other, and cease searching for different ways to look at life and at each other.

If that is happening in your relationship, it may be time for a new type of dialogue to bring back the innovation and novelty you experienced when your love was new. Encourage each other to challenge some of the opinions and behaviors you’ve been afraid to address. These explorations may uncover or even create discontent, but they will open up new dialogue that can offer you renewed interest, intrigue, and excitement.

Not Just for Long-Term Partners

You should strive to create and preserve a balance of security and risk in any relationship you begin. This is especially true on today’s dating scene, where many individuals know very little about each other before they meet. Unfortunately, if you are like most relationship seekers, you might be reluctant to take risks at the beginning of a relationship by trying to secure probabilities and comfort too soon.

Even though it may be counterintuitive, your relationships will be more successful if you’re authentic and open about your attitudes and opinions from the beginning. Once you become too invested or involved with someone, you may become too risk-averse to reveal these. Many people become more careful about behaving in any way that might alienate the other person once they become more attached to outcome. Stay courageous and open; if the relationship works, it will for all the right reasons. If it doesn’t, it’s better to know that sooner rather than later.

Many couples, new and long-term, ask me how they can get to know each other more deeply and achieve more depth in their relationships. They are often eager to ignite a new relationship or reinvigorate one that feels stale.

There are many ways to challenge the limitations of a relationship. Here is one interesting way to explore this idea—a sentence-completion questionnaire that can be fun for new and old partners to complete and share. When both partners answer authentically, they can challenge each other’s thoughts and feelings to better understand and enhance their relationship. They can add new sentences as their relationship progresses, or return to the same ones again as their relationship matures.

Ask your partner to join you in filling in the following blanks and then honestly tell each other why you answered the way you did. Be sure to share how those feelings and thoughts originated in your lives before you met each other, and give examples of how they have affected your past relationships. Share how each of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are open to discussion or negotiation, even those that you find hard to change.

When you finish, you will know what you can expect of your partner as your relationship matures. Remember: You’re seeking to maintain a balance of security and risk for the rest of your relationship, so be as honest as you can.

  1. Men think of women as ______________________________________.
  2. Women think of men as ______________________________________.
  3. Relationships work out because the partners ___________________.
  4. Relationships fail because _____________________________.
  5. Love is __________________________________________________.
  6. In order to have a great relationship, women must ________________.
  7. In order to have a great relationship, men must ________________.
  8. The hardest thing about an intimate relationship is _______________.
  9. People fall in love because _________________________________.
  10. The most important qualities of great male partners are _____________.
  11. The most important qualities of great female partners are____________.
  12. The most hurtful thing a man can do in a relationship is _____________.
  13. The most hurtful thing a woman can do in a relationship is __________.
  14. What men most like is ­­­­­­_______________________________________.
  15. What women most like is ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________________________________.
  16. The most important lessons I’ve ever learned about relationships are____.
  17. The adjectives I’d use to describe the perfect relationship are _______.
  18. In a relationship, I cannot do without _____________________.
  19. The best attributes I bring to a relationship are ___________________.
  20. I would absolutely end a relationship if _________________.

Marital Discord: How Passive Aggression Hurts Children

SOURCE:  CINDY LAMOTHE/The Atlantic

Studies show that kids are sensitive to quiet marital resentment—not just all-out shouting matches.

Couples can communicate anger in all kinds of nonverbal ways: giving each other dirty looks or the silent treatment, for example. And while it’s widely understood that heated arguments and shouting matches in front of the kids are a bad idea, research suggests that, for kids, nonverbal conflict can be just as upsetting as verbal conflict.“Children are like emotional geiger counters,” said E. Mark Cummings, a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame who has conducted extensive studies on the effects of marital discord on kids for more than 20 years. Children, he explained, are incredibly attuned to parents’ emotional communication with each other; they’re keenly aware that, for their parents, nonverbal expression is key to communicating feelings.

For many couples, holding onto a grudge—smoldering but not letting a disagreement erupt into a fighting match—may seem like the best way to deal with a conflict. But research shows this kind of discord can significantly interfere with a child’s behavior and sense of emotional security. When exposed to prolonged unresolved conflict, kids are more likely to get into fights with their peers at school and show signs of distress, anger, and hostility. They may also have trouble sleeping at night, which can undermine their academic performance. In fact, according to various studies that measured children’s emotional responses to interparental hostility, disengagement and uncooperative discord between couples has shown to increase a child’s risk of psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, and aggression.

The findings also revealed that preschoolers coping with intense levels of family conflict struggled emotionally—so much so that they had physiological reactions such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Kids may also be forced to mediate and negotiate parental conflicts.To analyze some of these effects, researchers for one of the studies collected datafrom 232 families, using several methods to examine how parental conflict affected children. They brought parents into the laboratory and recorded videotapes of them discussing difficult topics, subsequently showing the recordings to their children and noting their emotional responses. The evidence indicated that nonverbal hostility—like dirty looks, sulking, or refusing to answer one’s partner—was just as upsetting to kids as watching their parents verbally fight or lash out at each other. “It’s not a simple matter of what they see visibly—I think people underestimate the sensitivity of kids to their environments,” Cummings said.

In another experiment, parents were asked to maintain diaries at home in which they kept track of conflicts that happened both in front of their kids and behind closed doors. Children, the researchers concluded, understand when things are happening outside of their view. In other words, children are sophisticated analysts: They can tell whether parents are only pretending to resolve their problems as opposed to actually solving them. These fascinating studies raise questions about traditional parenting assumptions.

In their book Marital Conflict and Children, Cummings and the University of Rochester psychology professor Patrick T. Davies detail the many different kinds of harmful tactics couples use when they’re angry with one another which undermines the family’s stability. A partner who uses avoidance, for example, will walk away during an argument or “give in” while letting her anger simmer. These strategies can create a negative family environment that may end up having a cumulative effect on the child’s overall adjustment. The book makes a powerful case for rethinking parental tactics for managing anger: It’s not just about what parents say to each other verbally—it’s about how they react to one another on a daily basis.

It’s understandable that parents would only associate “marital discord” with hostile language and openly fighting in front of the kids, but according to Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist in California, “marital resentment creates a greater likelihood for a child to blame herself for the problems.”

She noted in an email that a child who witnesses this kind of behavior learns to repeat it in future relationships as she enters adolescence and adulthood. Durvasula’s observations echoes another study from earlier this year, which found that when such conflicts occur in kindergarten, that child is also more likely to have coping difficulties into her teens. From the perspective of psychologists, there’s a whole cascade of psychological problems that can develop over time from ongoing exposure to unresolved discord, such as heightened emotional insecurity and maladjustment.

Still, some researchers have also concluded that children actually benefit from seeing parents deal with conflict—at least when it’s handled well through problem solving and compromise. Although conflict is necessary for healthy marital functioning, when it comes to their children, the critical distinction is whether it’s constructive or destructive.“People don’t handle things poorly on purpose,” Cummings said. “They think they’re doing the right thing, but there [are] actually ways to do it that can be good and not so good for their kids. … The good news found over and over again in the research is that if partners work together toward a resolution and kids see that positive emotionality, it wipes away the negative impact.”

Of course, resolution alone can’t salvage every marriage, but there are resources available that can help couples better navigate their relationship and set a good example for their children. In the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, for example, the authors, John F. Gottman and Nan Silver, note that couples who exercise emotional intelligence and embrace each other’s needs rather than constantly disagreeing with and resisting each other are far more likely to transmit this skill on to their kids. This factor, according to the book, also plays as an important predictor of a child’s success later in life: A child who is more in touch with feelings and is able to get along with others has a brighter future, whatever her academic IQ.

Cummings and his team are currently developing an intervention program that can help teach parents how to handle discord better. In one of their more recent studies, published last year in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, the researchers found a cyclical educational program comprised of four sessions to be effective in improving conflict-resolution. The focus of the program is teaching parents to distinguish between constructive and destructive conflict and emphasizing the use of communication tactics to resolve disagreements.

“Resolution is like a wonder drug,” Cummings said. “Children don’t benefit from parents not saying what they feel when they clearly don’t feel good about something. Kids pick up on it, whether it’s in front of them or behind closed doors.”

 

Your Family Voyage: Family Rules

SOURCE:  Excerpted from the book by P. Roger Hillerstrom

Rules and More Rules.  No human response is absurd regardless of how ridiculous it appears.  Each person’s behavior, decisions, and reactions emerge from a context of some sort.  This frame of reference, if it is understood can shine a spotlight into a dark area that is otherwise baffling.  In essence, family rules are the way family values are passed on from one generation to another.  Through rules, a family communicates its expectations for family members as well as for those outside the family.  Rules tell us what is acceptable and unacceptable, proper and improper, good and bad.  Family rules communicate expectations about how people are to relate to one another, how the different generations are to interact, and what is expected of each individual.

In the same way that family roles give each member a place to “fit” into the family identity, family rules tell each member how to play his or her part.  Some rules are very clear and understandable; some are extremely clouded and confusing.  Since families have expectations about everything they do, they also have rules about everything they do.

“Written rules” – expectations that have been communicated directly in some way.  Written rules give structure and stability to family life.  They include things such as table manners, curfews and chores.

  • “Finish your dinner or no dessert.”
  • “Do your homework before you go out to play.”
  • “Bedtime is ten o’clock.”

Unwritten rules are quite another story.  These rules consistently influence behavior within the family but have never been directly stated.  These unspoken expectations are not open for discussion or evaluation, generally because no one is consciously aware of them.

Families have unwritten rules about all kinds of things.  The most readily visible rules are those regarding emotional tension.  If the children misbehave or cause distraction whenever the parents argue, they are communicating the rule “Parents can’t fight”.  If parents take over a task or job for a child whenever he or she complains or experiences difficulty, then the rule may be “Children can’t be frustrated”.  If family members act differently around a particular parent, treating them “with kid gloves”, the rule may be “Mom (or Dad) must not get angry.  Because unwritten rules are not verbalized, family members may often be unaware they exist.

Family rules accomplish several purposes.  For one, they serve to regulate tension within the family.  Too much tension or conflict within a home makes family life chaotic, unsettled, and insecure; too little tension results in stagnation and indifference.

Another purpose served by family rules is that of defining the family’s identity.  They give the family a sense of uniqueness.

A third purpose is that rules lend stability and predictability to family life.

The good news about family rules is that they help make family life stable and predictable.  The bad news is that family rules can keep family members from growing, maturing, and changing.  This is especially true for rules that limit communication or emotional closeness.  It is also true for rules that are arbitrary and overly rigid.

Some rules help us prepare for and live in the adult world.  Other unwritten rules apply only to life within the family, and they often distort our perspective of life.  As adults we continue to be loyal to these rules until we consciously change them.

The most influential rules in our families are the unwritten ones – those based on assumptions.  It is usually easier to identify unwritten family rules in someone else’s family than in your own.  Unwritten rules are generally enforced through rejection by parents and family members.  Controlling children through rejection can be done with direct statements:

  • “Mommy doesn’t love you when you act like that.”
  • “You are an awful child when you do that.”
  • “If you act (talk, feel) like that, you’re no child of mine.”

Rejection and control can also be expressed indirectly:

  • “I won’t talk to you when you’re crying (angry, depressed).”
  • “Go to your room if you feel that way.”
  • “I won’t be around you when you’re like that.”

The common factor in both expressions of rejection is the underlying message:  “You will be loved and considered worthy only if you perform properly.”  Behavior is not separated from the individual.  Bad behavior equals a bad person.  The result is a sense of shame and fear of abandonment.

An alternative message would be:  “I love you regardless of what you do, but there are negative consequences for your inappropriate behavior.”  In this case parental love and acceptance are not withheld and consequences for behavior are separated from the child as a person.

To a young child, the threat of rejection or abandonment is a powerful motivator.  Physically dependent on parents and authority figures, children have a strong need to please them.  Something as subtle as a facial gesture, the refusal of a hug, or silence can elicit fear and shame in a young child.  When the threat of rejection is used regularly and consistently in a child’s life, that child becomes sensitized to rejection.  He or she develops a habit of avoiding rejection at all costs, which will carry over into adulthood long after the child becomes independent and no longer needs parents for physical survival.

Expressing Emotions.  For Ken to see his wife cry was an unnerving experience. Whenever she cried he felt a strong need to stop her and smooth things out somehow.  For Catherine, crying was a soothing release of tension.  She felt minimized and patronized when Ken would try to squelch her tears, and she interpreted his lack of observable emotion as apathy.  It was hard for her to feel she was important to him when he expressed no emotion.  It wasn’t until each began to understand the other’s family rules that their reactions began to change.

Most families have unwritten rules about the expression of various emotions.  The honest expression of feelings needs to be balanced with courtesy and respect for others.  Typically, the unwritten rules regarding expression revolve around “forbidden” emotions:

  • “It is wrong to make another person uncomfortable.  We do not confront one another.”
  • “We are a positive, joyful family.  No one may express negative emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, or hurt.”
  • “The women in our family are gentle.  They may not be angry, but they may be depressed.”
  • “The men in our family are strong.  They may not be fearful or hurt, but they may be angry.”
  • “We are a loving family.  We do not have conflict or disagree with one another.”

When genuine feelings are minimized, denied, or redefined, a child’s emotional experience becomes distorted.  Believing that anger or sadness is bad does not make it less real.  The child learns to distrust the senses and becomes confused – anger isn’t really anger; hurt isn’t really hurt.  When children experience a forbidden emotion, they feel guilty and ashamed as though they themselves are somehow “bad”.  They then deny the emotion to avoid the shame.

When emotions are denied consistently, as a way of life, they tend to come out “sideways”, in some form that does not violate the family rule.  Rules suppressing emotions often produce adults who may be convinced that they harbor no anger, but their depression, ulcers, or migraine headaches tell another story.

Family members learn to develop emotional distance.  When someone cannot or will not express strong feelings, other people have a hard time getting to know that person very well.  Families with restrictive rules governing honest emotional interaction are often communicating to one another that emotional stability is valued more highly than emotional closeness.

Many families have strict unwritten rules regarding standards of performance by family members.  Examples of these may be:

  • “Whatever you do, it must be done correctly.”
  • “There’s only one way to do things – the right way!”
  • “To fail in any way is a shameful thing.”

These rules are learned clearly and quickly through regular, consistent criticism and minimal affirmation.  Criticism may be communicated directly, through complaints and condemnation of what a child does or how the child acts, or indirectly, through disapproving frowns, silence, or regularly comparing the child to someone or something “better”.

The definition of what is “correct” or “perfect” may vary widely.  One family may define “correct” as being sociable.  Having many friends and no enemies would be correct in this family.  Conflict then would be a measure of failure.  Another family may define “correct” as remaining separate from “the world”.  In this family a very small circle of social contacts would be considered appropriate and positive.

One family might measure “correctness” in financial terms.  A nice home, new cars, and many possessions would spell success.  The absence of these things may be cause for criticism or pity.  Another family may define “correct” behavior as the absence of materialism.

The values behind these rules may be positive and appropriate, but all too often these underlying motivations get lost when conformity becomes more highly valued than individuality.  The performance of family members becomes more important than the people themselves.

Whatever the specifics within the family, the definition of “right”, “correct” or “perfect” is always dependent on a comparison.  To be defined, “perfect” must be contrasted with “imperfect”.  Because there must always be a “wrong” to avoid at all costs, there is a judgmental attitude or a “better than others” aspect to this rule.

Since being “wrong” results in shame and being “right” is merely expected, avoiding being wrong becomes more important than doing what is right.  Defensiveness, blame, justification, and rationalization are typical patterns in families with perfectionistic performance rules.

The long-term effect of these rules is two-fold.  First a child develops a mental image as to what he or she “should be” and strives constantly to achieve it.  Usually this ideal standard cannot be achieved, at least consistently.  As a result of this, the child becomes self-critical, discontent, and defensive – a perfectionist.  Second, the child learns to project expectations and perfectionism onto others.  Since others cannot fulfill the expectations, the child is disappointed and critical.  This child is demanding, condemning, nagging, and rejecting.  He or she feels hurt and in turn hurts others, alienating them and damaging close relationships.

Physical Expression of Affection.  Eric can’t remember ever seeing his parents touch each other.  He certainly felt loved and cared for as a child, but that love wasn’t expressed through hugs.  In his family, affection was expressed through giving gifts and other tangible ways, such as doing special favors.  His wife, Rosa, grew up with constant physical affection from her family.  Touching among family members was a natural part of any conversation.  Early in their marriage Eric and Rosa were each offended by the other’s approach to this dissimilarity.  She felt neglected, and he felt smothered.

The communication of affection is laden with family expectations.  In some families, physical touch is comfortable and somewhat threatening.  In other families, members feel rejected when a greeting isn’t accompanied with an embrace.  Rules regarding physical expression of affection vary widely.

  • “Women may hug one another, men may only shake hands.”
  • “Adults may hug children but never other adults.”
  • “Physical affection is private, never to be shown in public.”
  • “If you care for someone, you touch that person regularly.”

Learning to Disobey.  Jesus demonstrated the result of emotionally leaving his family patterns and replacing them with mature priorities and decisions.  The process of leaving rules learned in childhood behind is difficult and calls for discernment.  Family rules that are dysfunctional and unhealthy can usually be identified by two factors:  They have little or no relationship to life outside the family, and family members are not able to discuss or evaluate them.

Some of the unwritten rules from your family of origin are undoubtedly positive and helpful to you today.  As you begin to break away from inappropriate rules from your childhood, remember that the family is a system or a mobile.  Change in one person causes changes in others.  In one way or another people around you will be forced to adjust in response to your new reactions.

6 Arguments All Married Couples Have

SOURCE: Michael Fulwiler — The Gottman Institute

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman lists the 6 most common areas of marital conflict. He explains that, “even in very happy and stable marriages, these issues are perennial.” We will touch on these six types of arguments, the task they each represent for a marriage, and offer practical advice for addressing the solvable disagreements they often trigger.

Remember that all couples argue, and that’s okay. We grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That’s how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage.

1. Work Stress

Via someecards.com

The Task: Make your marriage a place of peace.

The Solution: Acknowledge that at the end of a long, stressful day you may need time to yourselves to decompress before interacting with each other. If you bring your work stress home, it will sabotage your marriage. Build time to unwind into your daily schedule. Once you’re both feeling relatively composed, it’s time to come together and talk about each other’s day.

2. In-Laws

Via someecards.com

The Task: Establish a sense of “we-ness,” or solidarity, between partners.

The Solution: Side with your spouse. Establish your own family rituals, values, and lifestyle and insist that in-laws respect them. An important part of putting your spouse first and building this sense of solidarity is not to tolerate any contempt toward your spouse from your parents.

3. Money

Via someecards.com

The Task: Balance the freedom and empowerment money represents with the security and trust it also symbolizes.

The Solution: What’s most important in terms of your marriage is that you work as a team on financial issues and that you express your concerns, needs, and dreams to each other before coming up with a plan. You’ll each need to be firm about items that you consider nonnegotiable. Itemize your current expenditures, manage your everyday finances, and plan your financial future. If you’re having trouble, see a financial planner.

4. Sex

Via someecards.com

The Task: Fundamental appreciation and acceptance of each other.

The Solution: Learn to talk to each other about sex in a way that lets you both feel safe. The goal of sex is to be closer, to have more fun, to feel satisfied, and to feel valued and accepted in this very tender area of your marriage. A major characteristic of couples who have a happy sex life is that they see lovemaking as an expression of intimacy but they don’t take any differences in their needs or desires personally.

5. Housework

Via someecards.com

The Task: Create a sense of fairness and teamwork.

The Solution: The simple truth is that men have to do more housework. Maybe this fact will spark a husband’s enthusiasm for domestic chores: Women find a man’s willingness to do housework extremely erotic. When the husband does his share to maintain the home, both he and his wife report a more satisfying sex life than in marriages where the wife believes her husband is not doing his share. However, the quantity of housework is not necessarily a determining factor in the housework = sex equation. Two other variables: whether the husband does his chores without being asked, and whether he is flexible in his duties in response to her needs.

6. A New Baby

Via someecards.com

The Task: Expand your sense of “we-ness” to include your children.

The Solution: In the first year after baby arrives, 67% of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction. Lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed and under appreciated, juggling mothering with a job, economic stress, and lack of time to oneself, among other things. Why do the other 33% sail through the transition unscathed? What separates these blissful mothers from the rest has everything to do with whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.

8 Ways to Be a Super Mom (Not Supermom)

SOURCE:   Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk/Family Life

There is no such thing as a superhero mother. Here’s how to stop trying to do it all and start learning to be you.

Supermom has super powers.

She is able not only to keep her home immaculate; she bakes and cooks from scratch all of the meals she sets before her family on the handcrafted table she whipped up over the weekend after seeing a DIY project on her Pinterest board.

Supermom is also a fantastic manager. She runs a tight ship. The home’s schedule runs like clockwork, and she makes certain her children are not tardy to anything. This woman could not only run a small country, she could probably do it in her sleep.

She is also a super wife. Although sometimes Supermom is super tired, she must put her fatigue on the back burner in order to be emotionally and physically available for her hubby.

Now I am certainly not trying to beat anyone up for this little phenomenon. We women are strong. Capable. Clever. Competent. Resourceful. But sometimes these strengths can transform into weakness because we don’t take into account one little thing that we women also have: Limitations.

If we don’t realize our limitations, we can soon find ourselves physically incapable of carrying out all that we have said yes to.  And we can find ourselves emotionally distraught.

There is no such thing as a superhero mother. No Supermom. But there are ways to still be a super mom—the best mom you can be for your particular children. Here are eight ways to stop trying to do it all and start learning to be you.

1.  Relax.  Stop stressing as you look around at what other mothers are doing and how many things they seem to be accomplishing. You don’t have to keep frantically racing to replicate someone else’s life. Instead, learn to seek and embrace the unique life God has for you at this age and stage of motherhood. So take a deep breath. Pause. Stop stressing. Quit running. Just relax.

2. Reevaluate.  Get alone with a notebook and sketch out your typical week. What commitments do you have inside your home? At work? At church or other civic organizations? Now go back over them and ask yourself if there are any you are participating in that really aren’t the best fit for your life right now. If you identify such activities, come up with a plan of action for how you will release yourself from these commitments in order to free more time for your family or for yourself.

3. Relinquish.  Let go of your desire to be everywhere at once. Accept the fact that you have limitations. That you cannot clone yourself and be two places at one time. The sooner you let go of the notion that you can have it all, all at once, the better. So relinquish.

4. Resolve.  When asked to take on a new responsibility outside your home, learn to ask yourself a few questions: Is this really my call? You should only be doing it to please God and because you feel that it is His plan for you right now.

5. Rest. Learn to build in periods of rest in your week. God’s pattern at creation was for us to take one day each week to cease working and really rest. Sometimes we are just as busy on the Sabbath as we are any other day of the week. Consider making Sundays a set-apart day to cease from any type of work and just focus on worship and rest.

6. Renew.  Renewal of your mind happens when you are involved in studying God’s Word both alone and with a group. If you can’t find a group to study with at your local church, consider joining our online Bible studies at Proverbs 31 Ministries (proverbs31.org). There thousands of women gather together online to study God’s Word together and renew our minds.

Also renew your body. Make sure that you are taking time to eat healthy. Build in time to exercise and enjoy fresh air when you can. And be intentional to renew relationships that encourage and strengthen you and build you up in your mothering. We must constantly be renewed so we do not burn out.

7. Relate. Make sure that you have a sounding board of other people in your life who will help you to work through the various options and set your schedule accordingly. A trusted friend or two, along with your husband if you have one, can help you see where you are stretched too thin when you can’t seem to notice it. A mom should not be an island.

8. Revisit. Be sure to revisit your commitments at least once—if not twice—per year. Hold them up to the Lord. Ask Him if there is anything you currently have on your plate that you should remove.

Also ask your family. Enlist the opinions of your husband and children, if they are old enough, when it comes to how you are spending your time. Perhaps you can’t see that an outside commitment is stressing you and messing with family life, but perhaps others who live in your home will notice it. Be open to their feedback. Take their thoughts into account. Make adjustments as needed.

When we learn to hone in on our calling and clear our too-full plate, we can begin to focus on making beautiful music in our life. This includes how we spend our time both inside the home and with outside commitments.

We each have a song to strum. We do not need to simply copy the score others around us are following. As we take our concerns prayerfully to the Lord—along with our schedules—He will certainly help us to say “so long” to the striving to be Supermom and help us to discover how to mother in our own distinctive way.

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Taken from Hoodwinked, copyright © 2015 by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk.

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