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Posts tagged ‘communication’

18 TEXTS THAT SAY “I’M SORRY”

SOURCE:  Marriage 365

While it’s important to give a formal apology in person when you’ve messed up, it’s also good to follow up with a phone call or text to remind your spouse how sorry you really are.

Sending “I’m sorry” texts shows that you’re trying to rebuild trust and repair your relationship. Now, these texts are to help inspire a more in-depth conversation, and please make them personal… make them your own.

  • I am sorry for arguing with you. I want us to be a team. Please forgive me, babe.
  • I’m sorry for avoiding our issues. I’m sorry for not showing up and working on our marriage, especially when you’ve needed me. I’m sorry for neglecting your feelings.

  • I want you to know that I love you and take responsibility for the words I said. I promise I’ll work on thinking before I speak.

  • Angry is ugly, forgiveness is sexiness. Forgive me, please?

  • I’m apologizing because I value our relationship more than my ego. I’m so sorry my love.

  • I am extremely sorry for hurting you yesterday and want your forgiveness. I love you.

  • I don’t know what to say but to apologize for being such a jerk. I hope you can eventually look beyond this mistake and forgive me.

  • I feel like the worst person in the whole world. I’m truly sorry and want you to know that you didn’t deserve that.

  • I want you to know that I am willing to get help for our marriage. I will do whatever it takes to make sure we are happy and thriving.

  • I need you in my life and I’m very sorry about last night.

  • If I could, I would take back all the things I did to hurt you. But since I can’t, please consider forgiving me. I want us to work on healing our marriage.

  • You need to know that I was a fool. I allowed my pride to get the best of me. I forgot that you are on my side. That you are my best friend. I love you so much.

    I want to validate how you’re feeling. You are completely justified in feeling that way.

  • I love that you help me become a better person. I need you in my life. You are my everything.

  • You are the kindest person I have met. Forgive this fool who can’t live without you.

  • I know forgiving me will take time and is a process. I am waiting patiently. You’re worth it. We’re worth it.

  • You mean the world to me and I want to do everything I can to make up to you for last week. Let me know if there’s anything I can do or say that will show you how much I am sorry.

  • I’m sorry for putting work before our marriage. It’s not healthy and it’s making you feel unimportant. Please forgive me.

20 Questions To Ask Your Child

Source:  Patti Ghezzi/School Family

One day your child tells you everything, from the consistency of the macaroni and cheese in the cafeteria to the hard words on the spelling test to the funny conversation she had with her best friend.

The next day…poof.

Parent: “So, what’s going on at school?”

Child: “Nothing.”

For many parents, the information they receive about what’s happening at school ebbs and flows, especially once their kids hit 10 or 11 years of age. Even younger children may be reluctant sometimes to share the details of school life.

It doesn’t mean that something’s wrong or that you’re somehow missing a key piece of the parenting puzzle. It may simply be that your child is asserting independence and craving a little privacy. “No one tells parents this,” says Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Virginia who specializes in adolescent relationships, family relationships, and stress. “Parents feel they are not very good at parenting.”

Of course, that’s not the case. You might just need to tweak your approach. Don’t interrogate, Sheras says. Kids don’t want to be grilled. Be subtle; be patient. Learn to listen intently to the words your child does offer. Watch your child’s body language and demeanor. Avoid yes-or-no questions if possible, and be specific. Try escalating—starting with simple questions and gradually delving into more sensitive topics.

If all else fails, wait it out. Try again later with a different approach, such as choosing a different time of day to start a conversation or taking your child out for a burger before asking questions. In a place where she’s comfortable, she might feel more talkative.

Don’t start the conversation with “We need to have a talk,” Sheras says: “That’s when a child dives under the table.”

Here are some questions that can help you get started.

  1. “I know you were stressed out about that math test. How did it go?”
  2. “I’m really proud of how well you’re doing in school. What are you studying these days that really interests you?”
  3. “You seem to have some good teachers this year. Which one is your favorite?”
  4. “If you could make up a teacher from scratch, a perfect teacher, what would he or she be like?”
  5. “When I was your age, I really didn’t like social studies. I just didn’t see the point in studying how people in Russia lived or what kind of languages Native Americans spoke. What subject are you really not liking these days?”
  6. “What’s your favorite time of day at school?”
  7. “What do you think about your grades? How does your report card compare with what you were expecting?”
  8. “We used to have the meanest boy in my class when I was your age. I still remember what a bully he was. Do you have anyone like that in your class?”
  9. “I’ve been reading a lot in the news about kids picking on other kids. What about at your school? Is that happening?”
  10. “I’m hearing a lot about bullying on the Internet. It sounds a little scary, but I really don’t know what it’s all about. Can you tell me about it?”
  11. “I noticed a few new kids in your class. Which ones have you been able to get to know? What are they like?”
  12. “I know it was hard for you when Kenny transferred to a different school. How’s it going without your best friend around?”
  13. “Who did you sit with at lunch today?”
  14. “I’m sorry you didn’t get invited to Sarah’s birthday party. I know you’re disappointed. How have things changed between you and Sarah now that you’re not in the same class?”
  15. “I really like the way you choose such nice friends. What qualities do you look for in a friend?”
  16. “I know you really like your new friend Caroline, but whenever I see her she’s being disrespectful to adults. Why don’t you tell me what I’m missing? What do you like about her that I’m not seeing?”
  17. “I can tell it embarrasses you when I insist on meeting your friends’ parents before letting you go to their house, but it’s something I need to do as your mom. Is there a way I could do it that would make you feel more comfortable?”
  18. “How’s it going with your activities and schoolwork? What would make it easier for you to manage your schedule and responsibilities?”
  19. “I feel like I haven’t talked to you in ages. How about we go for a walk and catch up?”
  20. “I’m sure I do things that embarrass you. What do I do that embarrasses you the most?”

Talking with your child should be an ongoing process. Keep the dialogue open, and be available so your child can find you when she feels like chatting.

One final piece of advice from Sheras: “Keep talking even when you think your kids aren’t listening,” he says. “Your children are listening whether they act like it or not.”

The Wife Code: How to Really Understand What She is Saying

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Yes, Susan and I both speak English. But after 27 years of marriage, I’ve determined that Susan (and most other women) have a double secret female code that they completely understand, but we men don’t.

I’ve determined that it’s time to decode it. In order to do so, I’ve confidentially spoken with several female informants who have helped me to decipher just some of their secret code. Those informants have asked to remain anonymous out of fear that other wives will shun them for disclosing what has remained a mystery for all these years.

So for all the men out there who thought it was impossible to understand women, here is a key for decoding your wife’s words:

1. “I’m fine” means “I’m not fine, but I’m not ready to talk about it.”

This is a classic line that most husbands have heard. The instant you hear it, you know that everything is certainly not fine. And even though you may want to work it out right away, sometimes it’s best to just give her some time and space. Be sure to let your wife know that you’re sorry if you hurt her feelings in some way and that you’re ready to talk when she is.

2. “Didn’t you go out with your friends last weekend?” means “I know for a fact that you went out with your buddies last Friday night, and I want to spend time with you this weekend.”

Your wife is very aware of how you spend your time. And where you invest your time is one important sign of what you value. She wants to be valued and cherished. So sure, spend time with your friends, but let her know she’s always number one.

3. “How was your day?” means “I want to reconnect with you.

Most couples don’t spend all day, every day together. There are jobs and kids and things to be taken care of. So when your wife asks about your day when you get home, this is her way of trying to reconnect after being in different worlds. Instead of a one-word answer, give her a story or two that will make her feel close to you again.

4. “What are you doing today?” means “I’ve got some things that I want you to do.”

It’s Saturday morning and your wife asks the question, “So what are you doing today?” What she’s saying to you is: If you don’t have any really important plans, don’t make any because I’ve got a lengthy honey-do list that you need to get done.

5. “Do you need some help with that?” means “I want to be a part of your team.

Let’s take the time you were trying to fix the TV. In the midst of the tangle of cords and your growing frustration, your wife asks if she can help. You immediately assume she must be questioning your abilities and doubting your skills, but she may simply be trying to love you well by offering her help. So rather than push her away, let your wife support you with what you’re doing.

6. “Let’s talk about this some more” means “I don’t agree, but I want to understand and support you.

Life is full of decisions — from small, daily ones to huge, life changing ones. A big part of marriage is being able to make choices together with your spouse. So when your wife wants to discuss a decision, it’s important to recognize that she isn’t automatically disagreeing. Her intention is to be wise and find a compromise that you can both agree to.

7. “We should go out this weekend” means “I want you to take initiative and make the plans.

I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of continuing to date your spouse all through your marriage. While some couples have a weekly date night, Susan and I found that a date every other week was more realistic when our kids were growing up. So when your wife mentions the coming weekend, this is a very planned comment. She is trying to give you a clue that she wants to feel special and loved by going out with you. So take the hint and plan something romantic for the two of you. For some creative date ideas, check out my blog 8 Outside-the-Box Date Ideas.

8. “Is there something you’re forgetting?” means “There’s definitely something you’re forgetting.

Your wife knows there are certain days when you have a busy schedule ahead of you and are more apt to overlook things. So when your wife specifically asks if you’re forgetting anything, the answer is most often a big “Yes!” Whether it’s your lunch on the counter or a goodbye kiss for her, be sure to stop and pay attention when your wife mentions this.

9. “You don’t have to get me anything for my birthday” means “I do want something, but I want you to put time and energy into picking it out.

The important thing to realize is that all thoughtfulness and specialness is taken away the moment your wife has to tell you what to get her for her birthday. Instead, a gift is a great way to show her how well you know her and love her. So put some thought and energy into giving your spouse a present she won’t forget. If you have no idea what to get, try asking one of her friends.

While there is so much more to decode, I hope this helps you to better understand your wife. And, by the way, please don’t let her know that you know some of the secret code.

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?

The 9 Unwritten Rules of Grandparenting

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Kristen Sturt/Grandparents.com

Abide by these handy guidelines, and your grandparenting experience will always be a breeze.

Rule #1: You’re responsible for staying in touch.

Whether they’re halfway through college or just starting kindergarten, one of the biggest complaints we hear about grandchildren is that they just don’t reach out. It’s a kid thing, not necessarily exclusive to the current generation. Either way, the onus is on you to stay in touch.

“The ticket to keeping ties with your grandchild strong is maintaining open lines of communication,” says writer Jodi M. Webb. To do that, you need to reach out to kids in ways they’ll respond to. Learn to text! Communicate on social media! Make the occasional phone call! Ask about their interests, and try to keep things light and loving.

Rule #2: The favorite grandparent is the one who is the most fun.

They might not admit it to your face, but secretly, grandkids have a favorite grandparent. (Admit it: You did, too.) The favorites are willing to try new things, suggest kid-friendly activities, and go with the flow. They’re the ones who laugh freely and hug closely, who—cliché as it is—have the most cookies on-hand.

Rule #3: Offended? You gotta move on.

At some point, when it comes to your grandkids, you’re gonna feel left out, guilty, confused, frustrated, or worse. Your son and DIL might not invite you for Thanksgiving. Your grandson might disrespect you. Your granddaughter might forget your birthday! (Oy. That kid.) In these inevitable instances, you can air your feelings and even expect an apology. But unless it’s something irreversibly hurtful, you can’t harp. Grudges damage relationships. Forgiveness and communication strengthens them. Go high and be the bigger person.

Rule #4: Pitch in up front.

Grandbabies are a blessing, not to mention a ton of work, and new parents may need help during those first hectic months. (You did, right?) If your kids are amenable, lend a hand any way you can:cleaning, cooking, babysitting, etc. It’s a great way to get off on the right foot with your family, and—bonus!—you’re sure to get quality time with your new favorite infant.

Rule #5: Share the grandkids with others.

When a grandchild is born, you want that baby all to yourself, and probably always will. But there are other grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more to think about. Sharing can be hard. Head off problems by planning ahead and keeping lines of communication open. Try creating ground rules when appropriate (take turns visiting, switch holidays yearly, etc.), and be welcoming, flexible, and understanding. Oh, and wine helps, too.

Rule #6: Bite your tongue.

Disagree with your grandson’s sleep schedule? Think your daughter is too strict with sweets? Unless you’re asked directly or believe your grandbaby is in danger, keep your child-rearing opinions to yourself. Too often, a grandparent’s unsolicited advice comes off as veiled criticism, which can breed resentment and drive a wedge between family members. If you need to vent, your partner, friends, and coworkers are ready and waiting.

Rule #7: Act like your grandchildren are always watching (because they are).

“Saying we want good behavior from children can be vague for them, especially when they are young,” says children’s advocate Kathy Motlagh. In other words, if you want well-behaved grandkids with good values, talking isn’t enough; you have to practice what you preach. Model kindness and respect through your everyday actions. Resist impulses driven by anger and fear. Be the good in the world, and those babies will follow your example.

Rule #8: Get the gear.

To paraphrase a famed author, it is a truth universally acknowledged that grandparents in possession of good fortune must spend a little on stuff for visiting grandchildren. When the grandkids are young, a few books, toys, diapers, activities, bottles, and dishes are simple enough to acquire and store, and ensure parents don’t have to haul extra belongings. If overnight stays are in your future, you might consider a highchair, small stroller, or even a crib. Space and income will play a factor in your equipment list, but really, any effort will be appreciated.

Rule #9: There are no rules.

Grandparenting changes from generation to generation; you’re different from your grandparents, and your grandchildren will differ greatly from their own grandchildren. And while experience and history offer some guidance, all we can ultimately do is confront the challenges in front of us at any given time. Heed good advice, do your best, and love and enjoy your grandkids. It’s all anyone can ask for.

How to Deal with Different Types of Difficult People

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Recently, a friend introduced me to a new term: EGR.

I’m not sure who coined the term EGR, but it’s used to describe difficult people. It stands for Extra Grace Required because the EGR person tries your patience, tests your social skills, and drains your energy. Everybody has EGRs in their life. And, at times, everybody is an EGR to someone else.

You might be tempted to ask, How can I avoid them? You can’t.

Or How can I fix them? You won’t.

The best question to ask is How can I deal with difficult people well? Why? Because your response is the only thing you can control. So here are some of the difficult types of people we all meet in our daily lives and how to handle them:

The Hammer

There’s a saying about hammers: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This person is hard on everything and everyone. Nothing seems to be enough. Their way of dealing with life is very established. Hitting hard has been the answer for them for a very long time.

How to deal with the Hammer:

  • Don’t take it personally. They probably treat almost everyone like they are treating you.
  • It’s tempting to try to ignore this person because of the way they pound on people. Separate the way they communicate from the points they make; otherwise, you might miss some good feedback or information.

The Megaphone

This person makes conversation difficult. They like to talk and often try to talk you into submission, making it hard to get a word in edgewise. This person often sees information as a sign of power or intelligence and is often trying to show their own value or authority through their one-sided conversations.

How to deal with The Megaphone:

  • Start by listening, but don’t let them go on forever. Once you have the point, politely interrupt them. Confirm you heard them correctly by summarizing their points back to them.
  • Keep your comments simple and focused so you don’t encourage more rambling. And if the conversation goes too long, don’t be afraid to politely end the conversation.

The Bubble Buster

This person simply can’t or won’t see anything positive in the world around them. Have a great idea? Their response, “Nope. Won’t work.” Or you give them what you believe is an awesome presentation and all they do is punch holes in it.

How to deal with the Bubble Buster:

  • Understand there is probably some baggage in this person’s life that is coloring their world gray.
  • Be a patient listener. Thank them for their input and critique.
  • Try to turn the conversation into a positive one by asking them to share with you what they do like about the idea, product or presentation.

The Volcano

This person is the unpredictable, volatile ticking time bomb. You’ve probably come across this person. Recently, I was stopped in heavy traffic and I was accidentally blocking a car from getting onto the road I was on. Well, the guy in the car was a classic Volcano as he demonstrated with his horn, his voice, and his…”salute.” You’re never quite sure when or how the Volcano will erupt.

How to deal with The Volcano:

  • Be humble without being a doormat.
  • A gracious response can be disarming to the Volcano, indicating you’re willing to own your own actions.
  • Assert your feelings without responding aggressively which will only make things worse.

The Clam

This person handles stress, conflict or social interaction by going into silent mode. It can be hard to figure out what’s really going on in their mind and heart, much less to interact with them.

How to deal with The Clam:

  • Be careful not to dominate the conversation, even unintentionally. Let them know you want to hear what they’re thinking and feeling when they are ready.
  • Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.
  • Be patient with them; impatience will only encourage more silence. Give them time, especially if a conflict has triggered their silence. Create a safe environment for them to share with you.

The Nitpicker

The Nitpicker is cousin to the Bubble Buster. Like the Bubble Buster, this person is highly critical and seems obsessed with finding mistakes. Nothing is good enough. This person also seeks out and works hard to find every little thing that is wrong with you or what you do. Nothing will stop them from telling you what is wrong with everything.

How to deal with The Nitpicker:

  • Insecurity is often at the root of their criticisms. At times, this person is looking for things to criticize externally to distract them from the negativity they feel about themselves internally.
  • Try to sincerely build them up by pointing out the good you see in them.
  • Avoid being defensive. Defensiveness is oddly affirming to the constant critic.
  • Challenge them by saying, “I think you make some fair points, but I’d also like to know what you see as good and right about this too.”

The Victim

This person is the constant whiner, letting everyone know how their troubles and trials are the result of the actions of others.  It’s hard for them to take responsibility because they don’t do introspection.

How to deal with The Victim:

  • Set boundaries. It’s not wrong to hear them out, but enabling their constant complaining by listening without boundaries hurts both of you.
  • Keep reaffirming your concern and care for them, but don’t try to appease the complaining. Like a child that whines to get what they want, if you give this person what they want all the time, you only encourage them to do it more.
  • Ask them, “What can you do to make the situation better?” This may change their focus from blaming everything on others to thinking about the role they’ve played in the situation and what they can do about it.

Blended Family Issues: Holiday Power Plays

SOURCE:  Ron L. Deal/Family Life

Between the joy and hope of the holiday season, some stepfamilies find themselves in frustrating power plays between homes.

“Because he is on edge and doesn’t want to deal with his ex-wife, he procrastinates in finding out details about the schedule,” Connie complained about her husband. “This causes tension between us when I ask what the plans are. If he has not spoken to her yet, he gets defensive and mad at me. We are always tip-toeing around each other, wondering if the next event will blow up like others have.”

Connie and her husband had fallen prey to the classic unresolved conflict between him and his ex-wife. The more he avoided dealing with his ex, the more the tension escalated between Connie and her husband.

Hidden struggles

It’s not uncommon for special family gatherings and the holidays to erupt hidden power struggles between ex-spouses. Issues that normally can be avoided in the regular routine of life are often not put aside when extra coordination and cooperation is demanded. Even former spouses that typically get along fairly well may burst into conflict during the season of hope.

Some common emotions and power plays that parents and stepparents may experience include:

  • Aggravation when waiting for the other home to decide their holiday schedule.
  • Annoyance when someone changes plans at the last minute.
  • Frustration over the biological parent who refuses to abide by the visitation schedule that was established in the divorce agreement.
  • Stress over grandparents who refuse to cooperate with the boundaries you set.
  • Sadness when the ever-present memory of a deceased parent is so highly honored that new traditions, meals, or decorations cannot be incorporated into your family traditions.
  • Anger when extended family members voice their disapproval of the stepfamily to the children during family get-togethers.

These dynamics can make anyone feel helpless and weary. Here are a few smart steps to help curb the conflict and tension.

First, pay attention to the stress and ask yourself what fears you have that may be fueling your reactions. Then talk with your spouse openly and discuss the situation in a calm manner. For example, after admitting to herself how difficult it is to respect her husband when he avoids his ex-wife, Connie might approach her husband calmly. “Honey, I know that talking to your ex-wife about holiday schedules is very stressful for you. I’m also aware that when I ask you what the plans are, it sounds as if I’m judging you for not talking to her. I certainly don’t mean to judge you or make you feel pressured. How can I best support you?”

Stepparents in this situation are sometimes tempted to take on all the responsibility for bridging the power plays between ex-spouses (“I’ll talk to her for you.”). This is a dangerous position to be in.

Sometimes stepparents can communicate with the other home more easily, but they should not take on too much responsibility. If they do, the tension that exists between exes will likely shift onto the stepparent’s lap. Instead, work out a plan together for how the biological parent will manage themselves as they contact the other home to work through details.

Second, choose “between-home battles” carefully. Whenever possible, attempt to live in peace with the other home. This will require making sacrifices so the children don’t have to deal with warring parents. This may seem unfair if your family is making all of the concessions, but this is one reality of a stepfamily.

On occasion, however, there are battles which need to be engaged. The difficulty is learning when to deal with the issue and when to let it go. For example, if the other home normally is flexible about the holiday schedule, but for some reason this year is unwilling to bend, then let it go. But if he or she has a pattern of repeatedly ignoring the divorce arrangement, refusing to allow visitation, or if they control the children’s time, that’s probably a boundary worth battling. That parent is being unreasonable and hurting the kids.

Accommodating their antics gives them more power and increases resentment within your home.

When holiday power plays begin, strive to stay on the same side with your spouse. The natural flow of stress, even if it is initially related to those living in the other home, is to ripple into your marriage. Couples must be diligent to guard and protect their relationships from this dynamic. Talking calmly with one another, not out of fear but confidence, lays the groundwork for moving through such stressful situations.

Marriage Q&A: Choosing To Live With A Very Difficult Spouse

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

How Do I Live With A Basically Good Man Who Is A Tyrant?

QuestionMy husband is basically a good man.   He is a school teacher and the music director/organist of our Church.  He can be patient, kind, loving and always deeply spiritual.  He can also be demanding, tyrannical and irrational.

He blames everyone and anyone for any problems that arise. It is a knee-jerk reaction to even the slightest, most inconsequential of events. If one of our children falls down, his first reaction is to scream an “I told you so” at them- never is his first reaction one of concern for their well-being or safety.  He expects our older children- living away from our home with lives of their own- to always be at his beck and call.  If he wants them to do something for him, it does not matter that they have jobs, plans, etc.  He refuses to be told no.  And, everyone cow-tows to him just to keep him on an even keel and avoid the rants and literal rages that he has demonstrated.

While he is a school teacher, his passion is the piano and he is an accomplished pianist and composer- just not as revered and accomplished as he would like to be.  Whose fault is that?  His parents. His father for having a health crisis when he was younger or his mother for not knowing or doing enough to promote his career.  The children and I are also to blame because he has to work a “meaningless” job to put food on the table.

He takes no responsibility for any failure, real or imagined, in his life.  He doesn’t seem to have any concept that not everyone’s life revolves around him and that people are allowed their own lives and opinions.  He is negative in all aspects of his life- except, of course, if it relates to music.   While I could write pages about this aspect of his personality, suffice it to say that he will always see the dark cloud around the silver lining.   He is also very vocal about his negative thoughts and when he’s challenged, he plays the victim and accuses the challenger of attacking him.  It’s to the point where conversation with him is seldom initiated because we all know what his reaction will be.  Want his opinion?  Just think of the most irrational response, and go with that.

He is like a petulant two-year-old who demands his own way and nothing is ever right for him.  Even if you do something considerate to try and make life easier for him or take care of something that he hadn’t time to do, his reaction is never one of gratitude- there is always, always, always a negative reaction.  Things are still done or taken care of for him, but it’s never brought up to him and, if he does notice, it’s never mentioned.

While we all love him, he is driving a wide and very deep wedge between himself and the rest of our family.  It is very difficult to live with someone when you are walking on eggshells at all times.  I am not looking to leave him or my marriage.  I am looking for help in how to live with him and how to help my children live with him.  I do not want my children to grow up like their father.

Answer:  I feel a little confused. You say that your husband is basically a good man, patient, kind, loving and always deeply spiritual.  Then you go on for several paragraphs listing all the ways he is not patient, loving, good or spiritual.  Perhaps what you mean is that your husband can be charming and act loving when everything is going his way and everyone meets his needs and expectations in exactly the way he wants.  When that doesn’t happen, (which is real life) watch out!

Now your question, how do you live with someone like that and how do you help your children live with someone like that?  The best answer I can offer you is you can only live with this (if you choose to) with a good support system and lots of grace and truth, with no expectations of a meaningful relationship or mutual give and take.

I am reluctant to put a label on anyone but your description of your husband’s behavior is typical of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  A craving for admiration, an attitude of entitlement and lack of empathy for anyone else’s needs are usually the big red flags.   You can google it and read more information on it if you want to see if it fits.

Let’s start with grace. In order to live with someone like this you will need to learn to lean hard into God’s loving grace, knowing that when your husband doesn’t treat you well or love you like you wished he did, you are still deeply loved and valued by God.  You will need God’s grace to continually forgive your husband and keep a clean slate of the wrongs he does against you so that you don’t become hardened by bitterness and resentment. Your husband will never apologize or take responsibility for the wrong’s he’s done which makes it that much harder to forgive and let things go so your strength must come from outside yourself. It can only be from God.

You will need God’s grace to biblically love your husband when you feel like screaming at him and grace to not repay evil for evil. Jesus calls us to love our enemies but we rarely have to live with our enemies day in and day out.  To live in a relatively conflict-free relationship with your husband you will need to accept that you will always be more the giver. God sees how much you give whether or not your husband notices or appreciates it.  You will need His eternal perspective on your marital loneliness and suffering because you will feel unheard, unloved and unvalued much of the time, which may tempt you to seek other male companionship.

You will need grace to not judge your husband and have contempt for him as a man or as a person, even though truth tells you his attitudes and actions are sinful.  Grace keeps us humble, reminding us that we too are sinful and have our own brokenness.  Grace keeps us mindful of the logs in our own eyes before trying to remove the speck in our spouse’s.

You will also need to stay focused on God’s truth to stay healthy emotionally, spiritually and mentally.  Your husband blames and shames everyone around him and it’s tempting to believe his harsh words.  Don’t do it. Listen to what God says about who you are and not your husband’s words.  You will need God’s truth to explain to yourself and even your children that sometimes their father acts selfishly and it’s not wrong of them to say “no” or to ask him to consider their needs, and not just think of his own (Philippians 2:4).

Truth will help you know when boundaries are important and how to set them. For example, when he begins his angry tirade you might stop talking, turn around and walk away. If he continues, leave the house.  When you return you can say something like, “I can’t listen to you when you scream at me. You would do the same if I talked to you that way”  Keep it short and simple.  Or “I don’t want to feel angry and hateful toward you so I’m leaving until you can cool down.”  Then do it.

You will also need truth to guide you when to confront your husband’s sinful behavior and how.  There may be a strategic or teachable moment where you could say something that may cause him to press pause and think about his actions and you want to look for those moments and ask God to give you an anointed tongue.

We are to speak the truth in love to one another but it’s tempting to either to placate this kind of person or eventually get sick of it and blow up, only to later feel guilty, regretting your reaction which only adds more fuel to his fire.  Wear truth as a necklace and she will teach you when the time is right to speak. Hard words need not be harsh words.

For example, when he’s inconsiderate of your needs or your schedule, you could say, “I know this is important to you, but this is important to me so I have to do this first.”  Your goal in this kind of statement is to remind him that you are a separate PERSON with your own needs, feelings and thoughts.  You are not just a slave or a robot or a “wife” but a person and even if he doesn’t value you, you are going to value yourself.

You said you don’t’ want your children growing up to be like their father.  Children do learn a lot from their parents, but their father isn’t their only influencer.  You have a huge impact on your children and the way you interact with their father will say a lot to them about not only who he is, but who you are.  If you act as if he’s right and he’s entitled to act this way, they get the picture that men (fathers, husbands) get to have their way all the time that’s “normal”.  Therefore it’s important to speak truthfully to your children about things such as, “I think sometimes your father can be self-absorbed and not realize that you have your own plans. It’s okay to remind him that you can’t always accommodate him and stick to what you need to do for yourself.”

You say your husband is deeply spiritual. Galatians 5:16-26 speaks about the person who lives in the spirit and one who lives in the flesh.  Perhaps in a moment when your husband seems open or more in tune with God, you could ask him which one he inhabits most often?  Or when he is most negative or critical say, “You don’t seem to experience God’s joy or peace very much.  Why do you think that is?”  Your words will have little impact on him but God tells us that His words are powerful and don’t return void. They have the power to cut right to the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Ask God to use His Word, even those in the lyrics of the music he plays each week at church, to cause him to see the truth about why he is so critical, so miserable and so unhappy.

Lastly, don’t forget you do need good relationships, even if it’s not in your marriage. Seek out healthy girlfriends that can encourage you, love on you, pray for you and hold you accountable to be the kind of person you want to be while living in this difficult marriage.

How to make a relationship better all by yourself

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

I’m happy to say that my daughter was recently married. As a mom, it was one of the best days of my life (another was the day we adopted her from Korea). I prayed that I would enjoy not only the actual wedding day, but also the weeks leading up to it. As a counselor, I’ve heard too many horror stories of family meltdowns while planning for the perfect wedding. So, my daughter and I made a pact that we weren’t going to let that happen. And, fortunately, the process turned out to be wonderful.

My daughter’s wedding reminded me how you and I have incredible power to make a problem situation better just by the way we handle it. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t make a bad relationship good by ourselves. But, we can make it better by the way we respond when things go wrong.

In light of this truth, consider two things you can do to improve any relationship difficulty, whether husband and wife, parent and child, pastor and parishioner, or neighbor-to-neighbor.

Be Teachable 

Most of us don’t respond well to criticism, correction, or confrontation. Usually, we get defensive and argumentative. But, what would it be like if you listened respectfully when talking with someone about a problem, instead of reacting defensively? How might the outcome change if you showed interest in the other person’s perspective?

When we’re teachable, we realize that we do not know it all or that we’re always right. We know that God has put certain people in our lives for a purpose, even if what they have to say to us is difficult to hear. For example, the Bible says, “Let a righteous man strike me – it is a kindness; let him rebuke me – it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5)

Make Honest Confession

Relationships deteriorate because problems are often avoided, blamed, or denied. We all know we mess up. So, when you blow it, be honest, and admit it.

Recently, I doubled-booked myself for an appointment, and two people arrived at the same time. I decided to admit my mistake, ask for forgiveness, and reschedule one of them. Initially, I was tempted to shift blame to my office manager, but I believe honestly admitting mistakes actually builds trust.

Sadly, many of us refuse to admit our mistakes or confess wrongdoing. Instead, we wait for the other person to do it first. We further damage our relationships by erecting walls of stubborn silence, pride, and shame. So, rather than honest confession, we make excuses. But, the result of our stubbornness is more brokenness and more separation.

Ask yourself if you need to tell someone, “I’m sorry…I was wrong.” What relationship might be healed if those words were said in a genuine way? Consider the freedom and trust that you could enjoy by taking that step today.

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.

8 Things Healthy Couples DON’T Do

SOURCE:  Ruthie Dean/Relevant Magazine

Last week, I saw a woman slam the car door in her husband’s face and storm off inside the grocery store. Then there was the couple sitting next to me, the man staring at his phone the entire time his wife shared with him her concerns about one of their children. I saw someone post a rant on Facebook about their spouse that ended with, “MEN!”

Relationships are hard, and we’ve probably all done something similar to the examples above. But that doesn’t excuse the cavalier mistakes we sometimes allow for in our romantic relationships. Dating and especially marriage relationships can be tools for showing Christ’s love—to the other person and to those around you. Too often, we take our spouses for granted and forget that good relationships don’t just happen. They take work.

It’s often harder to see the good relationships, because they aren’t out slamming doors and stomping around and airing grievances on social media.

Here are eight things healthy couples don’t do:

1. Post Negatively About Each Other on Social Media

12-year-olds post negatively about their boyfriends or girlfriends on social media. It’s a catty way to get attention and vent, when the emotionally healthy response is to talk your grievances over with your spouse when the time is right. Don’t fall into the trap of getting others on your side, on social media or otherwise, because healthy marriages only have one side.

 2. Make Their Career a Priority Rather Than Their Relationship

Yes, career is important. But as you are being pulled in every direction imaginable, something will get less attention, less time. Something in your life will have to be sacrificed. Your goal is to make sure that “something” isn’t your relationship. You can always find another job, but you only have one chance to make it work with the love of your life.

3. Have All Their ‘Together-Time’ With Technology

Of course there will be plenty of times that you’re together and using technology, but healthy couples know how to put down their phones and computers and turn off the TV to spend quality time together. Healthy couples don’t check Twitter on dinner dates. My husband and I have a rule that we put our phones upstairs each night after work so our dinner or together-time is not interrupted.

4. Avoid Hard Subjects

Relationships are about intimacy. If you can’t talk about the hard subjects, then your intimacy factor is off. There are seasons of marriage that are easy, and other seasons where you must make difficult decisions together. Nothing should be off-limits between the two of you, and conversations should always be approached with an abundance of grace and kindness.

5. Punish One Another

Punishing one another often comes out in the silent treatment or withholding sex or affection. Healthy couples know when it’s good to take a break from a disagreement, but also know how to come back together and find a resolution.

6. Withhold Forgiveness

Relationships run on forgiveness. You can’t have a healthy relationship without abundant forgiveness. The best relationships forgive quickly and frequently. Living with another person will always bring conflict and hurt feelings; the trick is knowing how to handle it. Forgive, and ask for forgiveness.

7. Say ‘Yes’ to Everything

Healthy couples have good boundaries—with family, with friends and with each other. If I’ve had a long week at work and my husband asks me to rally and go out with friends on Friday, whose fault is it if I get mad at him on the way home because I didn’t want to go in the first place? Mine. Healthy couples know their limits, know how to ask for help, and understand that “no” is a complete sentence.

8. Throw In the Towel

Healthy couples don’t give up when things are hard, even when things are really hard. If your spouse is important to you, you can get through this. Quitting is never an option for healthy couples.

It’s Not What You Say—It’s How You Say It!

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed.D./Psychology Today

A number of recent PT blog posts on the subject of being assertive make it sound as if assertiveness is all about what you say.  Various writers have offered lists of three or ten or eighteen “phrases” or “assertive responses” to use in expressing yourself. Helpful perhaps, but only part of the story.

In more than forty years of teaching, consulting, writing about and researching healthy elements of assertive expression, I’ve learned that it’s really not so much what you say as how you say it.

Think of it this way.  If I tell you that “you really look great today,” and say it while making eye contact and smiling and speaking in a friendly tone, you’ll likely take it as a compliment.  If I say the same words while rolling my eyes, shaking my head, scowling, and speaking with derisive inflections, you’ll know I’m being sarcastic and critical.

The non-verbal components of an assertive message are really the key to its effectiveness.

Eye Contact.  If you look directly at the person you’re talking with, it helps to communicate your sincerity and to increase the directness of your message. If you look down or away much of the time, you present a lack of confidence, or a quality of deference to the other person. If you stare too intently, the other person may feel an uncomfortable invasion. Don’t try to maximize eye contact, but keep in mind that a relaxed and steady gaze at the other person, looking away occasionally as is comfortable, helps make conversation more personal, shows interest and respect, and enhances the impact of your message.

Body Posture.  Solid research has shown that how you stand or sit is a huge part of how you come across—and even how you feel. Watch other people talking with each other; notice how each is standing or sitting. An active and erect posture, while facing the other person directly, lends additional assertiveness to your message. A slumped, passive stance gives the other person an immediate advantage, as does any tendency on your part to lean back or move away.

Gestures.  Gestures go with posture to lend strength to your self-expression.Accentuating your message with appropriate gestures can add emphasis, openness, and warmth. While gesturing is a culturally‑related behavior, a relaxed use of gestures can add depth or power to your messages. Uninhibited movement can also suggest openness, self‑confidence (unless the gesturing is erratic and nervous), and spontaneity.

Distance/Physical Contact.  Distance from another person has a considerable effect upon communication. Standing or sitting very closely, or touching, suggests intimacy in a relationship, unless the people happen to be in a crowd or very cramped quarters. The typical discomfort of elevator passengers is a classic example of the difficulty we have in dealing with closeness! Coming too close may offend the other person, make him/her defensive, or open the door to greater intimacy. It can be worthwhile to check out verbally how the other person feels about your closeness. While this element varies a good deal among cultures, don’t overlook it as you consider how to communicate more effectively.

Facial Expression.  Let your face say the same thing your words are saying!  Your expression should agree with your message. Ever see someone try to express anger while smiling or laughing? It just doesn’t come across. An angry message is clearest when delivered with a straight, non‑smiling countenance. A friendly communication should come with a smile. Get to know how your facial muscles feel in various expressions—relaxed, smiling, angry, questioning. Try making faces at yourself in the mirror and note how you look—and how you feel—when you express those emotions. As you gain control of your facial expression, you can make it match what you are thinking, feeling, or saying.

Voice Tone, Inflection, Volume.  Again, it’s all about how you say it. The same words spoken through clenched teeth in anger offer an entirely different message than when they are shouted with joy or whispered in fear. A level, well modulated, conversational statement is convincing without being intimidating. A whispered monotone will seldom convince another person that you mean business, while a shouted epithet will likely bring on defensiveness. Listen to your tone (is it raspy, whiny, seductively soft, angry?), your inflection (do you emphasize certain syllables, as in a question, or speak in a monotone, or with “sing‑song” effect?), and your volume (do you try to gain attention with a whisper, or overpower others with loudness?). Learn to control and use your voice effectively; it’s a powerful tool in self‑expression.

Fluency.   A smooth flow of speech is a valuable asset to get your point across in any type of conversation. It isn’t necessary to talk rapidly for a long period; but if your speech is interrupted with long periods of hesitation, your listeners may get bored, and will probably recognize you are very unsure of yourself. Clear and slow comments are more easily understood and more powerful than rapid speech filled with long pauses and stammering. Record yourself talking on a familiar subject for thirty seconds. Then listen for—and work to correct—pauses and space fillers such as “uhhh…” and “you know….”

Timing.  Spontaneous assertion will help keep your life clear, and will help you to focus accurately on the feelings you have at the time. But it’s never “too late” to be assertive. Even though the ideal moment has passed, you will usually find it worthwhile to go to the person at a later time and express your feelings. At times it’s necessary to choose an occasion to discuss a strong feeling. It is not a good idea to confront someone in front of others, for example; defensiveness is sure to be present. A private time and place are almost always best.

Listening.  Assertiveness includes respect for the rights and feelings of others. That means assertive receiving—sensitivity to others—as well as assertive sending. Listening is not simply the physical response of hearing sounds—hearing-impaired persons may be excellent “listeners.” Effective listening may involve giving feedback to the other person, so it’s clear that you understood what was said. Assertive listening requires tuning in to the other person (stop other activities, turn off the TV, ignore other distractions, focus your energy in his or her direction); paying attention to the message (make eye contact, nod to show that you hear); and actively attempting to understand before responding (attend to the feelings behind the words—rather than trying to interpret or come up with an answer). Good listening will make all of your assertions more effective, and will contribute hugely to the quality of your relationships.

Thoughts.  Do you agree that it’s a good idea in general for people to be assertive? What about speaking out yourself when the situation calls for assertive action? Some people, for instance, think it’s not a good idea for anybody to express himself or herself. And some say it’s okay for others, but not for me. If either of these beliefs rings a bell with you, it’s time to reconsider your attitude about thinking and behaving assertively.

Persistence.  Actor Alan Alda gave this advice to his daughter: “Be fair with others, and keep after them until they’re fair with you.”  Persistence means not giving up. Not saying, “Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it.” You’re worth it, and there very likely is something you can do about it—if you keep at it. When it matters to you—that pothole in the street, a problem with your car that just won’t get fixed, an unfair policy at your child’s school, the VA’s  treatment of returning combat vets—it’s time to act. You have to choose your battles. But when you’ve decided it’s worth it, go after it “until they’re fair with you.”

Content.  Of course what you say is important. Just remember that how you say it is at least half of the message.

There is no magic bullet that will make all relationships perfect, whether intimate, close, cordial, or distant. And “assertiveness” is not defined simply by a few memorized phrases or by standing up straight. Nevertheless, you can make a difference in the way others treat you by expressing yourself effectively. Working on the nonverbal components of your communication is one effective way to do that.

7 Ways a Wife Injures a Husband…Without Even Knowing It

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ron Edmondson

I was talking to a man the other day.  He’s injured.  Not severely.  He will survive.  Hopefully. The wounds aren’t deep.  Right now.  But, he is injured.

It’s an emotional injury. Sometimes those are the worst kind of hurts.

The person doing the injuring: His wife.

And she…most likely…doesn’t even know she’s doing it.

Surprised?

I’m not. It happens all the time. She’s probably injured too. And, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it to her. Marriages are made of two very different, imperfect people. Plus, we often injure most those we love the most.

My friend is newly married. Over the course of the last few months he’s begun to realize how many things his wife is saying and doing that are causing him to pull away from her. He even recognizes his reaction as a defense mechanism. Rather than start a fight, he withdraws. And, he’s withdrawn to the point that he was willing to admit his hurt…which is difficult for any man to do. I was proud of him for being humble enough to ask if this was normal in a marriage.

It didn’t take long before I realized, however, this marriage is heading for disaster if they don’t address their issues soon. There’s a great chance she has questions about the relationship also. Thankfully, they’re in a great season to ask hard questions…learn valuable lessons…and strengthen the marriage.

Which leads me to this post…addressing the ways wives injure their husbands…without even knowing it. It’s a little sarcastically written…partially because that was easier…partially because I can tend to be that way…mostly because it hopefully illustrates harsher realities in a gentler way. (Again, I realize this works both ways. As a man, I feel most prepared to address this side of the issue. I’ll consider a companion post…after I consult my wife.)

Here are 7 ways a wife injures her husband (without even knowing it):

Put him down in front of other people – Most men will not counter this type of humiliation in public…if ever. They will simply take it…and hurt. If they do eventually address it it will be out of stored up resentment…maybe anger…and it won’t be pretty.

Go behind him when he tries to do something at home – Always show him how much better you can do things than he can do them. He will appreciate that. When he fixes the bed…make sure you show him the “correct way” immediately after he finishes. He will be reminded he doesn’t measure up to your standards.

Constantly badger him – If he doesn’t do what you want him to do…remind him. Again. And, again. (Because that accomplishes what you want it to do.)

Use the “you always” phrase…excessively – Because…he “always” does…and…best news yet…it helps build him into a man that always will.

Hold him responsible for your emotional well-being – He’s the reason you feel bad today…and every other day you feel bad…so make sure he knows it’s his fault. And, you don’t have to tell him. Subtly, just be in a bad mood towards him…without releasing him from guilt. He’ll take the hint…and own the responsibility. He will think it’s his fault even if it’s not.

Complain about what you don’t have or get to do – He has a desire to fix things. He wants to be a provider. Every man does. Some attempt to live it out and some don’t. But, when he’s trying, doing the best he can, yet he feels he isn’t measuring up…he’s crushed. When you are always commenting on what other women have…that you don’t…he carries the blame…even if you’re not intending it to be his.

Don’t appreciate his efforts – Want to injure a man? Refuse to appreciate the things he feels he does well. It could be work, a hobby or a trait, but he feels part of his identity in the things he does. When you don’t find them as “valuable” as he does, his ego is bruised.

The reality is a man’s ego…self-confidence…sense of worth…is greatly tied to his wife. Just as a woman’s is to her husband. We can be fragile people. Some more than others. And, some seasons more than others. Understanding these issues and addressing them…with a third party if necessary…will build healthier, stronger and happier people…and marriages.

I understand some women, especially the equally or more wounded women, are going to take offense to this post. I get that. I’m prepared for that…I think. All I can say is that you can’t measure my heart or my intention. As I said, I aim to help. You can’t address what you do not know. If you are guilty of any of these, the response is up to you. If not, well, thanks for reading to this point in the post anyway.

I’m praying this lands on ears that need to hear.

10 Questions Husbands Should Ask Their Wives Every Year

SOURCE: CharismaMagazine/AllProDad.com

The best remedy for marriage conflict is marriage communication. Disagreements, fights, impasses, separations and divorce can be traced back to poor communication more than any other factor. Likewise, listening amounts to some of the best relationship medicine around.

Listening works best when we ask good questions. Good questions indicate bona fide concern. The man who asks good questions is already well on the way to communication excellence.

The best questions also serve as conversation starters. Remember, you are interested in her. But, once you start talking, she’s going to ask stuff too. The more you know each other on a deep level, the easier it is to fall in love all over again.

Here are 10 good questions you should ask your wife, at least every year:

1. What do you think is going right in our relationship? It’s been a while since you took the marriage vows. But it’s still true that positive affirmation leads to more productive change than negative evaluation. It’s helpful to identify our strengths. Once we know them we can play to them. Building each other up is always a win-win.

2. Where would you like our relationship to be this time next year? It doesn’t matter where we are, there’s always room to be better. She might say, “I’d like to see more spontaneous affection.” Or, “I want us to be moving forward together in our faith.” She could say, “I want our relationship to involve more fun!”

3. Will you please marry me, all over again? Say it with flowers. Say it like you mean it. Make sure your wife knows how much you cherish her.

4. I’d love to hear about your dreams for the future. A wise Hebrew writer once wrote, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Listen to your wife, imagine great things together, and then step into the possibilities.

5. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit this coming year? Indulge a little whimsy. Listen, laugh together, fantasize about fabulous vacations, and then tuck the information away somewhere, so you can possibly plan a trip. A good husband listens to his wife’s dreams. A great husband weaves them into their plans for the future.

6. Do you think we’re doing OK financially? This needs to be an ongoing conversation. However, like any small business (and a family is like a business in many ways), the directors need to have a comprehensive annual meeting to evaluate the finances and the plan for the coming year.

7. How are you doing health-wise? Encouraging one another involves accountability. Partners should never remain ignorant when it comes to health concerns. And it shouldn’t be only physical health. It’s also important to take inventory of each other’s emotional wellbeing.

8. If you could change one thing about our priorities as a family, what would it be? Notice this isn’t an invitation to criticize, but more an opportunity to grow together.

Possible answers might include:

  • I’d like to see less TV time and more family time with one another at home.
  • We’re not eating together enough. I’d like to see dinnertime valued a little more.
  • We say can’t afford a family vacation, but then we eat out 2-3 times a week. Maybe we should shift that one around!

9. Is there anything I devote regular time to that you see as a possible threat to our family or our relationship? Patterns take time to emerge. When we look back—or from another person’s point of view—sometimes we can see more clearly. Ask your wife if there are any adjustments you can make (Consistently late for dinner? Too much golf? Too many evenings with “the boys”?) That would help her to feel more secure.

10. Are you happy? It’s a good question even if she says she’s happy already. “What can I do to make you more happy?” is a great discussion. Again, this is where good, active listening is very important. And your wife’s greatest happiness will always be found in God, so encourage her to grow in her faith.

Is Your Spouse Abnormal?

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey

You’re snuggled in your warm bed, about to drift off to sleep. And then comes that dreaded question from your wife:  “Honey, did you remember to turn out all the lights and lock all the doors?”

That was our story during our first year of marriage. We lived in Boulder, Colorado, where the winter nights were cold and we loved our toasty electric blanket.  I remember the night when I collapsed into bed, totally exhausted, and Barbara brought me back from the edge of oblivion with a light poke.  “Aren’t you going to turn out the lights?”

It occurred to me that I’d been getting up for the past two months and experiencing mild frostbite and that perhaps it was her turn.  “Why don’tyou turn out the lights tonight?” I retorted.

Barbara replied, “I thought you would because my dad always turned out the lights.”

Whoa!

A shot of adrenalin cleared my head like the sun piercing the fog.  And I shouldn’t have said it, but I did:  “But I’m not your dad!”

Well, that turned out to be a night when we practiced the scriptural admonition to not  “let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26).  You see, two forces clashed on that cold Rocky Mountain night—Barbara’s sense of normal and my sense of normal.  She felt it was the husband’s duty to turn off the lights because that’s what her father had always done.  That was normal to her.  But in my family of origin, that task was not irrevocably assigned to the male species.

When normals collide

Each of you brings a different background and a different set of expectations into your marriage.  Your family did things a certain way, and your spouse’s family did things a certain way. Often you don’t even realize what’s normal to you until you get married and suddenly your normal collides with that of your spouse. On these issues, you need to realize that your spouse is not abnormal–just different.

For example, let’s examine some of the normals surrounding dinner time:

  • Was it normal for you to eat dinner together as a family on most nights?
  • What types of meals did you normally eat?
  • What did you drink?
  • Who cooked the meal?
  • Who cleaned up?
  • How did you normally dress?
  • Did you open the meal with prayer?
  • Did you start eating when you were seated or did you wait until after you prayed?
  • Was it normal to get a debrief from everyone’s day or was the television turned on and the dominant force?
  • If someone called, was dinner interrupted to answer the phone?
  • Was it normal to have friends over for dinner?
  • How often did you eat at restaurants as a family?

You could probably add to that list.  And that’s just one set of normals.  How about breakfast and lunch?  What were your normals regarding family entertainment?  Vacations? Birthday celebrations?  Christmas gifts?  Pets?  Handling finances?

Reader feedback

After I first wrote on this topic for an issue of Marriage Memo, a number of readers wrote to tell about the struggles they faced with this issue.  One wrote:

I mostly have a problem with my wife when it comes to turning off lights and celebrating birthdays and having parties all the time. I prefer the light to be off when I sleep but she prefers the opposite.  Again, my wife believes that every birthday (including that of our children) must be celebrated with a lot of presents (if it’s the children, then they must have a party at school, which she does all the time).

Another described a conflict that arose when she and her husband were celebrating their seventh anniversary.  They had a new baby, and this would be the first time they left the baby with her mother while they went on a date.  The baby was fussy at night, so she felt they should go out for lunch, but her husband insisted on dinner.

We finally sat down and talked about how both of us were feeling.  I was upset because I did not feel he understood how nervous I was, and I did not understand why we had to go out for dinner instead of lunch.  It turned out that that was not his “normal.”  His family rarely went out to eat, and they never went out for lunch. You just had a sandwich for lunch at home. It did not seem romantic or special to go out for lunch to him. On the other hand, my family went out a lot more frequently and it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I always loved going out for breakfast growing up, but my husband and I never do.  Now I understand why.

Creating a new set of normals

No matter how long you’ve been married, one of your priorities is to create a new set of normals in your relationship. And it’s especially important early in marriage.  In their book, The Most Important Year in a Woman’s Life, Susan DeVries and Bobbie Wolgemuth write, “Over the years we’ve seen couples in conflict over money or sex or in-laws, but what they’re really fighting about aren’t those things at all.  They’re really fighting about normal.”

A good first step is to commit to understanding each other’s normals.  Make it part of your vocabulary.  If you find yourself disagreeing about an issue, ask yourselves, “Is this a question of differing normals?”  You can create a spirit of discovery, where you can talk about normals in a way that doesn’t feel threatening.  Remember that, in most cases, different is not bad—it’s just different.

It’s amazing how honest communication, plus a good dose of flexibility, can help resolve conflict. In the above story about the couple celebrating their anniversary, the wife wrote that once she understood how their normals were colliding, she agreed to put aside her fears and go out for dinner.  “The baby was just fine with my mom,” she wrote, “We were able to enjoy our evening together because we had talked about where we both were coming from beforehand and were on the same page.”

A second step is to make choices together that reflect your priorities and values.  Let’s say that you grew up in a family that gave each other inexpensive birthday gifts, while your spouse’s family splurged and spent a lot more money.  As you consider how to celebrate your birthdays, this is an opportunity to make your own choices that reflect the importance you place on birthdays, and the number of banks you have to rob so you have enough to spend.

As you make these decisions, follow the guidance of Romans 12:10, which tells us to “give preference to one another in honor” (NASB).  In most of your decisions, your sense of normal will not be superior to that of your spouse.  If you both determine not to hold too tightly to what’s comfortable and familiar, you will find ways to compromise and honor each other and create your own normal in your new home.

So … who’s going to turn out the lights in your family?

ADULT CHILDREN: Moving Back In

SOURCE:  Living Free

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” 

Proverbs 16:3 NIV

For many different reasons, more and more adult children, both male and female, are returning home to live with their parents.

Whatever the reason for the return, the parenting skills you will need to maintain a healthy relationship with your adult child are markedly different from those you used when he or she was younger.

If your child is planning to move in with you, one of the most helpful steps you can take is to sit down with your child before move-in day and establish boundaries and ground rules that are acceptable to both. It is much easier to iron out difficulties on the front end; however, if your child is already living with you, you might still find this step to be helpful.

You might also want to plan a short time, perhaps 1/2 to 1 hour each week, to talk out any difficulties you may be having rather than allowing them to build into major problems.

Ask God for wisdom in setting up the boundaries and ground rules. And then, if your child is agreeable, pray together to commit your plans to Him.

Father, I ask your guidance and help in planning for my child’s moving back in with me. I pray that he will be open to seeking your guidance and committing our plans to you. In Jesus’ name …

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

These thoughts were drawn from …

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

Parenting an ADULT CHILD: Love and Respect

SOURCE:  Living Free

Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king.” 1 Peter 2:17 NLT

The key to parenting an adult child is love and respect.

This is especially important if your adult child has moved back home with you. All children are admonished to honor and respect their parents (Deuteronomy 5:16), but all of us are called to respect all people—including our children!

Communication with your adult child is on the level of adult to adult. It can be a tough challenge to respect his maturity and his independence, while at the same time, to maintain your position as his parent. You need to learn to suggest and request, rather than order. And here’s a real challenge—you need to give advice to your adult son or daughter only when asked. At the same time, remember that this is your home, and your child is the guest; therefore, it is reasonable to expect (and require if necessary) that the rules of your home be respected.

An adult child living in your home can cause stress on both you and your child, but both of you can learn and grow from this experience. There will be times for compromise and times for submission. God can use all this as he works to transform you into the image of his Son. As you and your child work through various situations, always remember that mutual respect is a vital key.

Father, teach me to communicate with my adult child on an adult level—showing respect. Help us both to learn to compromise, to submit to each other and to grow in you through all this experience. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

How to Cope with Conflict

SOURCE:  Pastor Jared Pingleton/Focus on the Family

In this world, conflict happens. Jesus put it this way: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

What’s the best way to respond, then, from a biblical perspective? Here are some of the most powerful relational tools I’ve ever discovered. But first, I want to issue some precautions.

Just as both knives and scalpels are sharp metal objects capable of promoting either healing or destruction, these biblical relationship tools are very “sharp” and can be used for good or evil. It all depends on our motives. Though eminently practical, they are also theoretically idealistic. Only one person in history was capable of getting them right consistently. So give yourself grace as you learn to use them.

1. If possible, prepare the setting and plan for constructive confrontation. Avoid distractions, interruptions, or non-private discussions. Make sure you aren’t overly tired, stressed or emotionally reactive (Proverbs 16:1-3).

2. Take responsibility and initiative to directly address the issue. Avoid running from the problem. Don’t use the “silent treatment” or wait around for the other person to make the first move. Don’t allow problems to accumulate (Matthew 5:23-24).

3. Attack the problem—not the person—and propose viable options or solutions. Avoid judging or criticizing the other person. Don’t cast slurs on his or her personality, appearance, family of origin and the like. Name-calling, power messages or manipulative actions are strictly out of bounds. And there’s no need to try to change or “fix” anyone but you (Proverbs 15:1-2)

4. Stay on the subject: focus specifically and concretely on the facts, actions, feelings and events. Avoid sweeping generalizations and “kitchen-sink” attacks. Don’t bring up the past or make comparisons with others. Steer clear of irrelevant issues (Proverbs 17:14).

5. Take responsibility for your part of the conflict and be willing to admit humbly when you’re wrong. Avoid being proud, stubborn and arrogant. Don’t immaturely blame the other person for your feelings or actions. Embrace your own humanness and be aware of your blind spots (Philippians 2:3-5).

6. Learn and practice effective communication and active listening skills including usage of self-disclosing “I” language. Avoid accusatory “you” statements, exaggerations, and extreme language (e.g., “never,” “always,” “all,” “everyone”). Resist the temptation to interrupt (Ephesians 4:29).

7. State your needs, wants, hurts, disappointments and feelings clearly. Avoid pouting, nagging and complaining. Don’t put words in the other person’s mouth or expect others to read your mind (Matthew 12:34-37).

8. Be honest, respectful, honoring, and courteous. Avoid lying to protect yourself or someone else. Put all of the following on your “forbidden” list: name-calling and sarcasm, belittling or degrading the other person, and abusive, intimidating, forceful or violent behavior of any kind (Proverbs 15:4).

9. Learn to respect, appreciate and understand each other’s needs, feelings, interests and differences. Avoid the idea that you need to think or feel the same way as the other person. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you have to deny differences in taste, upbringing, viewpoint, customs or coping mechanisms in order to resolve your conflict (Romans 14:19-15:4).

10. Be willing to forgive (functionally defined as “giving up our right to hurt back”) an offense in order to cultivate the other’s growth, healing and well being. Avoid becoming resentful, bitter, punitive, alienated and controlled by vengeful fantasies and actions (Ephesians 4:31-5:2).

11. Strive for mutual understanding and a “win-win” outcome: Develop an “us-we-ours” view of the situation. Avoid trying to change the other person. Let go of the need to get your own way or to “win” the argument. Stay away from a self-centered “me-my-mine” attitude (Romans 15:7).

12. Agree to disagree. If there are unresolved issues, arrange to discuss them later. If necessary, get outside help from an unbiased, neutral, objective mediator or arbitrator. Avoid the temptation to withdraw from the situation and let the conflict go unresolved, in so much as it is up to you. At the same time, don’t pull in biased family members or friends to support you. When arguments escalate or become too intense, suggest calling a brief time-out to allow flaring tempers to cool (Proverbs 15:22).

If applied wisely and appropriately, these God-given relationship tools will equip you to construct and maintain healthy relationships for the Kingdom!

Don’t Lose Your Cool as a Mom

SOURCE:  Jenae Jacobson/Family Life

 Ten ideas to help you diffuse your anger when a child misbehaves.

We’ve all been there. You ask your child (for the fifth time) not to do something, only to turn around and find him doing that very thing. A situation like this one can get even the calmest person’s blood boiling and might normally lend itself to yelling, screaming, or harsh anger.

Although the misbehavior needs to be dealt with swiftly and fairly, there are much healthier alternatives to losing your cool in the process. Implement one of the suggestions below to keep yourself in check. Once the misbehavior is handled in a calm manner, try one of the “After the situation” suggestions to get your blood pressure back to normal and restore unity in the home. And before you think I’m claiming to be an expert on the topic, let me assure you that you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’m writing this as much for my benefit as anyone else’s!

Before and during the situation

1. Pray. Pray for patience. Pray for peace. Pray for the supernatural ability to handle the situation as God would want you to.

2. Take a few deep breaths. As you exhale, attempt to mentally release whatever anger you are harboring. As cheesy as it sounds, it helps.

3. Take a time-out in the bathroom—and lock the door. As moms of young children, sometimes we just need a few minutes to clear our head before venturing back into the battlefield. And say a prayer your kids won’t hurt each other in the process of your “Mommy time-out.”

After the situation

4. Be spontaneousdon’t say a word to the kids, but instead go outside and start blowing bubbles (or something equally as fun). Invite them to join you whenever they are ready. Obviously, this should happen after the discipline and consequences have taken place.

5. Open your Bible and quickly thumb through your index to find some Scriptures on anger. Repeat them over and over to yourself. I’ve also found it helpful to have those particular Scriptures memorized so that they can be recalled at a moment’s notice (Proverbs 15:1, anyone?).

6. Turn on a movie for the kids and jump in the bathtub. Although I don’t think TV should frequently be used as a babysitter, you shouldn’t feel guilty in those moments when you need to use it as one (for your own sanity and for the temporary well-being of your children).

7. Start a tickle fight. After moments of tension (especially after a child is disciplined), she needs to be assured of your love for her and that you generally enjoy spending time with her. What better way to show that than a tickle fight? Plus, laughter is good for the soul … so everyone wins!

8. Read a book together. There are few things in our household that will calm my very energetic boys quicker than sitting down to read a book in my lap. Not only does this give everyone an opportunity to settle down, it also allows for some good cuddling time.

9. Spend some one-on-one time with the perpetrator. If you have more than one child, it is amazing how enjoyable and easy it is to spend time with just one child at a time! And it could be that the child who ignited the flame of fury could be needing just a little bit of affirmation. Taking an hour or two to spend time with that child will not only reassure him of your love, but it also will be an enjoyable bonding experience for both of you.

10. Stop feeling guilty and inadequate. Every mother has regretsfor an unkind word, perhaps, or a harsh tone, or full-blown screaming. I fervently believe that God uses child rearing to humble our (at times) prideful hearts. Through this He is teaching us to rely on Him and not to depend on ourselves. We can’t be the kind of mothers we want to be, or the mothers our children need us to be, on our own. We must look to His strength, love, and kindness.

Those feelings of self-doubt and continual guilt are not from God. They are Satan’s way of attacking us. When we feel like this, we become debilitated. We become grouchy. We become irritable and short-fused. We don’t want to serve because we don’t feel like it. And that’s just what the enemy wants.

So next time you are faced with an otherwise explosive situation as a mom, try one of these tips to help diffuse both you and everyone around you.

Sensitive Communication: When to Speak — When to Wait

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 256.

Time is of the Essence

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity
under heaven…a time to be silent and a time to speak…
” Eccl. 3:1,7

Timing is an essential ingredient of effective communication.

If possible, do not discuss sensitive matters with someone who is tired, worried about other things, or in a bad mood. Nor should you approach someone about an important concern unless you will have enough time to discuss the matter thoroughly.

How often do we pursue peacemaking according to our clocks instead of seeking the Father’s timing?

Not everything is of a sensitive nature, but many things are. And it’s those sensitive matters that require timely approaches. You cannot always wait until someone is well-rested, not worried about anything, and in a great mood; to some degree, that’s what heaven will be.

But when you visit a hospital room, do you just walk right in on the patient and announce your presence? No. Why? You want to be sensitive to whether they might be sleeping or talking with their physician. Regardless of what your clock says, if they’re sleeping, you come back later.

When your pastor is preaching on a Sunday morning, do you stand in the wings returning calls on your cell phone? No (at least let’s hope not). Why? You want to be sensitive to others around you and what God may be trying to tell them–not to mention yourself. Regardless of the calls your phone display may indicate you’ve missed, the timing is not right.

We must be careful, however, that sensitivity doesn’t keep us always silent– there is a time to speak.

And sometimes, God’s timing is an invitation to rely on His strength and His will and speak into a matter, even when we may feel it’s not time. Hyper-sensitivity allows peacefaking to thrive, but not peacemaking.

As peacemakers, we’re called to redeem the time. And that means staying aware of a different time zone–God’s.

 

Teens Need Parents

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 NIV

Be your teen’s friend by talking with him, not at him.

Respect his opinions.

But always remember that you are the parent. Your teen needs you to be his parent at this stage of his growth perhaps more than at any other. He needs the security of boundaries and restrictions even though he may push against them.

By this age, spanking your child has lost its effectiveness. Withhold privileges if rules are broken, or offer positive rewards for good behavior. Your teenager will likely want to go his own way, but you continue to be responsible for setting appropriate limits and enforcing them.

Continue to assign household responsibilities. Your teenager is a part of your family, and it is not too much to ask him or her to help with chores.

You must make the decisions about dress codes, hair styles, jewelry, and dating. Try to make these decisions with, rather than for, your teen.

Continue to teach your teen about drug and alcohol abuse. Monitor the music he listens to. Know the sites your teen is visiting on the Internet. As your teenager’s level of responsibility increases, allow him more freedoms, more choices.

Ask yourself if there are any areas in your life in which you would have to say, “Do as I say, and not as I do?” Teenagers are very conscious of hypocrisy. The most effective training for your young adolescent is by example.

Father, help me to bring up my child in the discipline and instruction that comes from you. Help me to be a godly example. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

When There Seems To Be No Solution To A Conflict

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

There are times when you do all you can, but there seems to be no resolution to a conflict. This often puts a strain on the relationship, but it doesn’t have to.

For example, Dana and her mother often disagree on what’s best for Dana’s children.  So far, there is no resolution or compromise and it looks like they may permanently disagree on certain issues (like television and snack foods), but as long as Dana is able to say no and her mother respects Dana’s no, even if she disagrees with it, they can still have a good relationship. It’s when Dana can’t say no and inwardly resents her mother for taking charge or her mother refuses to accept Dana’s no and does what she pleases regardless of Dana’s feelings that their disagreements will ruin their relationship.

Like Dana and her mom, there are many times we can agree to disagree and leave the conflict alone yet still get along with one another. However, there are times when the other person won’t listen, talk, compromise, respect your boundaries or even agree that there is a problem and you feel stuck. What should we do then?

The first thing we can always do is pray. Prayer doesn’t always change a situation, but it can change the way we look at it. Let it go and trust God to work in the other person’s heart (Matthew 5:44).

Second, work on being willing to forgive the other person if they have offended you or hurt you in any way. Let go of unresolved anger or bitterness so you don’t allow Satan to get a foothold in your heart (Ephesians 4:27). The devil may have influenced the other person. Don’t allow him to influence you, too (Romans 12:19-21).

Third, achieving peace is not up to you alone. The Bible tells us that as much as it depends on us, we should be at peace (Romans 12:18), and we are to work toward preserving unity (Ephesians 4:3). However, sometimes the other person is unwilling. In those instances, we must recognize and accept our limitations.

Fourth, commit to do no harm. We have already learned that our words are powerful and they can be used to help and heal or to hurt and attack another person. Commit to God that you will not use your tongue as a weapon to harm someone else (Matthew 5:22). If you are unable to restrain your words because you are too angry or hurt, take some time out until you can. Make a plan to return to the issue when you are in a better frame of mind or can emotionally handle the discussion. Do return to it. Don’t ignore it, hoping it will go away (Ephesians 4:25-26; Matthew 5:23-24). My pastor once said, “You can sweep broken glass under the rug but it will always work its way back up and eventually cut your foot.”

Last, we are to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). That does not mean that we can overpower another person’s will or choices, but it does mean that we must guard our own heart so that the evil that has been done to us does not change us into someone who responds with more evil. When this happens, Satan wins and both individuals in the conflict lose. When we surrender not only the outcome of conflict to God but also accept that God sometimes uses difficult things (including people) to mature us, then we can look for the good and respond with godly love, even when someone sins against us or we are in a difficult relationship.

If married couples, families and friends would practice these basic interpersonal skills, ugly conflict would significantly decrease from their relationships.

Keep in mind that when someone refuses to accept responsibility for the way they damage the relationship or the way they hurt us, we can love them, but a close, mutually caring relationship with them is impossible.

Do You Know How To Ask For What You Want?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

Many misunderstandings and conflicts arise because we never tell someone how we truly feel or ask for what we want.  We assume the other person knows or should know those things without us having to say them. But trust me, they don’t.

Women are taught to communicate indirectly and, most of the time, people in our lives–especially men–don’t get it. For example, when taking a long trip, I used to say to my husband, “Are you hungry yet?” What I really meant by that question is “I’m hungry. Let’s find a place to eat.” But that felt too bold, too direct and too selfish, so instead I asked him if he was hungry. Unfortunately, he often answered, “Nope, not yet.” And then I sat and starved, waiting until he decided he was hungry enough to stop.

When I wanted to enlist his help on the weekend, I said, “What are you doing this weekend?” He always had plenty he wanted to do, so then I wouldn’t ask him to help me. Now I’ve learned to say, “There is a lot of yard work that needs to be done; I’d like you to be available to help on Saturday.” There are times when he says, “That’s fine” and other times when he says, “I can’t. I planned something else.” But at least I’ve asked and he’s responded. That’s a good starting place to begin negotiation and/or compromise.

Another problem I see when I encourage women to be more direct in asking for what they want, is that they feel it’s selfish to ask.  Asking directly for what we want or need is not being selfish; it’s being honest.

The Bible tells us that we are to “look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). It never says we are not to look out for our own interests. Asking for what you want or desire, or expressing how you feel, is not selfish. Demanding that everyone always give you what you want is selfish. No one always gets everything he or she wants, but it is not selfish to have legitimate desires or want something God says is good for us to want.  We are, however, also to be considerate and thoughtful in regard to what someone else wants. That allows loving communication and compromise to occur.

If you never ask for what you want or never share how you feel, but find yourself resenting not getting what you want or growing tired of being in a lopsided relationship, then you must start to take responsibility for your own passivity. When we start to make a change and speak up, a conflict may occur because what we want is not what someone else wants.

15 Things Wives Should Stop Doing

SOURCE:  Mary May Larmoyeux/Family Life

What do your words and actions say to your husband about your love for him?

In the 1960s, The Supremes recorded their hit song “Stop! In the Name of Love!”  I remember singing the words as a teenager:  “Before you break my heart … think it o-o-ver …”

Even though I’ve been married for decades now, it’s still important for me to consider my husband’s needs. I should think about the possible effects of my careless words, attitudes, and actions before I break his heart. Can you identify?

I asked some girlfriends, “What should a wife stop doing if she wants to improve her marriage?”

This list is based on their responses.

1. Stop thinking that your way is the “right” way. If he does something differently, it does not mean that it’s wrong. When a wife insists on having her own way, she is in essence saying, “I have to be in control.”

2. Don’t put others before your husband. God designed companionship in marriage so that a husband and wife can meet one another’s need for a close, intimate, human relationship. He even said in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

So what happens when you put your mother, a friend, or even a child before your spouse? Actually, you take a step (often unintentional) toward isolation in your marriage. If you choose, for example, to spend an afternoon shopping with your mom when your husband asked you to watch a football game with him, you may leave hubby feeling that he has second place in your heart.

3. Don’t expect your husband to be your girlfriend. Most men and women not only look different physically, but also have unique ways of processing life. One example of this is the need for conversation. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m guilty of wearing out my husband with countless conversational details that he doesn’t really care about. Now if he was a girlfriend, all of those details would definitely matter!

4. Don’t dishonor your husband. Suggestions included: Stop all nagging and don’t correct hubby in front of others. If you finish your husband’s sentences, you may be unintentionally communicating, “I don’t really care about what you have to say.”

5. Stop expecting your husband to fail you as your dad failed your mom. “I spent many years waiting for my husband to give up and walk out on me, like my dad had years earlier,” said one friend. Her unfounded fears had robbed her marriage of much joy.

6. Don’t put your husband on the defensive. For example, if you are driving around a section of town looking for a restaurant and he’s obviously lost, does it really help for you to tell him that he’s been going around the same block for the fifth time? One wise wife said that she’s learned to be quiet in situations like this. Now, before she makes a comment, she weighs her words—asking herself: “Are my words needed? Would they be encouraging?” Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

7. Never use sex to bargain with your husband. Some women intentionally or unintentionally say to their husbands, “When I get what I want, you get sex.” However, 1 Corinthians 7:4-5 reminds husbands and wives that their bodies are not their own. “Do not deprive one another …”

8. Stop reminding your husband about things over and over. Don’t make him feel guilty or nitpick him about small stuff. One friend said that when we constantly remind our husbands about diet, weight, medication, picking up the dry cleaning, etc., we are actually acting more like his mother than his wife.

9. Don’t make your husband earn your respect.  Many women think, I’ll respect him when he earns it. But there’s a reason that Ephesians 5:33 says, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband.”  As one friend said:“If women could learn to understand that respect is a man’s native tongue, that it absolutely heals his heart and ministers to him like nothing else, it would make the biggest difference in the world.”

10. Stop giving your husband your long term to-do list. A colleague warns against overwhelming your husband with too much information. You may unintentionally cause him to feel like a failure, thinking that your long list means you are discontent. Or, he may incorrectly assume that you want him to do something immediately.

11. Don’t act like your spouse is a mind reader. Instead, be specific about your requests. One busy mom said that she used to feel overwhelmed with household chores, wishing her spouse would help her. She now realizes that the only way he knows her needs is when she tells him. “Most often,” she says, “when I simply say, ‘Honey, will you tuck the kids in tonight while I get the kitchen cleaned up,’ he is glad to help.” She’s discovered that a few words are all it takes “to change a resentment-filled, stressed-out night into a team-effort bonding time.”

12. Stop putting housework ahead of hubby. One young mom told her husband that she didn’t want to make love one night because she had just changed the sheets and she wanted them to stay clean. What do you think that response said to her husband? Another woman, who puts her husband ahead of the housework, said: “Do not leave the unfolded laundry on your marriage bed.

13. Put an end to taking the lead because you think he won’t take it. “The first many years of our marriage,” one wife said, “I would see what needed to be done and get frustrated that my husband would not take charge and get it done.” She went on to say that she’s changed by learning to wait on her husband’s leadership. “I really believe,” she says, “that our men don’t lead because we women are too quick to jump in and take care of it all.”

Ephesians 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body … .”

14. Do not expect your husband to be Prince Charming. After all, the perfect husband only exists in fairy tales and your marriage exists in real life. One young wife said that instead of focusing on her husband’s shortcomings, she’s learned to recognize the wonderful things about him. What’s been the result? He’s been encouraged to do even more to be the man of her dreams.

15. Never look first to a book, a plan, or a person to fix a problem in your marriage. Instead go to God’s Word and believe and act on the things that He says. “He will lead me to any resources I need,” one woman said. “God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) but we have to live according to the promises and expect Him to show up for us.”

Three Important Parenting Principles

SOURCE:  Josh McDowell

Here are three important [parenting] principles:

1. Rules Without Relationships Lead to Rebellion

Kids don’t respond to rules, they respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship. It is much easier to establish rules, to pass on your values and beliefs, and to discipline, if you have developed a relational foundation with your child.

2. Kids Spell Love T-I-M-E

One of the most important ways to communicate a child’s personal worth is to spend time with them. When you are available to your children, it says, “You are important.” When we’re not available, we are saying in essence, “I love you, but other things still come ahead of you.” Years ago, my wife gave me a great piece of advice: “If you spend time with your children now, they will spend time with you later.”

3. Catch Your Kids Doing Something Right and Praise Them for It

Instead of catching your kids doing something wrong and disciplining them for it, try focusing on catching them doing something right and appreciate them for it. So often kids tell me, “The fastest way to get my dad’s attention is to do something wrong.” Expressing appreciation gives children a sense of significance. Our appreciation tells them they are valued, and their accomplishments make a difference to someone.

Teaching Kids About Sexual Purity

“How Far Is Too Far?” Is the Wrong Question

Four convictions parents must develop as they teach their kids about sexual purity.

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by  Dennis and Barbara Rainey

Centuries ago, a popular queen was interviewing applicants to serve on a six-man team to transport her on a portable throne on long journeys. As she interviewed each man the queen asked, “If you were bearing me along a mountain path, how close would you go to the edge of a cliff with me seated on my throne?” 

Some men answered, “Your Royal Highness, I am so strong I could go within a foot of the edge of the cliff.” 

Others boasted, “Not only do I have superior strength, but I also have almost perfect balance. I could go within six inches of the edge.” 

But others answered, “Your Highness, I would go nowhere near the edge of a cliff. Why would I want to endanger your valuable life by leading you close to danger?” 

Guess who earned the job? The wise queen chose men who would keep her far away from the edge of disaster.

We parents should heed that story as we guide our children through the adolescent years. Will we allow our children to walk near the edge of the cliff as they pursue relationships with the opposite sex? Or will we guide them so far away from the edge that we help protect them from potential disaster?

Our friend and coworker Josh McDowell makes the point well: “I would rather build a rail at the top of a mountain than have an ambulance service at the bottom of the valley.” The choice between sexual purity and sexual experimentation is an important battleground for the souls of Christian youth today. This deadly trap snares millions of teens, scars their lives, and leads them away from a vital relationship with Christ.

What do you believe?

The first step to protecting your child in this area is to determine what you believe. Most of us grew up in a permissive culture strongly influenced by the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s. The goal of that movement was to challenge moral standards and boundaries. Guilt and shame were to be thrown off as repressive, and the experience of unfettered pleasure became the god of our culture.

To determine your own convictions in this area of sex is a formidable task. We would advise a lot of thinking and communicating as a couple, but above all, that you do a lot of praying and reading of the Scripture.

The first step to take in determining your convictions is to make an honest appraisal of your own history (including your mistakes and regrets) and learn how this has affected your views. Is guilt about your own compromises (past or perhaps present) keeping you from developing conclusions about right and wrong in this area? Are you afraid your child will ask about your own sexual experiences prior to marriage? Are you afraid of looking like a hypocrite if you challenge your child to uphold standards that you did not keep?

Past failures must not prevent us from calling our child to the standard of God’s Word. We’ve all lied, yet we still teach our children to tell the truth. We have all stolen something, but that doesn’t stop us from teaching that stealing is wrong. We believe the ultimate enemy of our souls is behind this conspiracy of silence in our homes.

Once you have evaluated how you have been influenced in this area, it’s time to develop a strong set of convictions as a foundation for teaching your children about sex. Here are four convictions we believe all parents should uphold:

Parent’s Conviction #1: Our children need to learn a godly perspective about sex primarily from us.

Where is the best place for your child to truly hear a godly perspective of sex? It had better be at home. Why would we want our children to learn about this sacred aspect of marital love from anyone else?

Talking about sex may be the single most powerful way parents have of entering into the lives of their children. It also can be the most difficult. Talking about reproduction and the most intimate nature of what it means to be a man and a woman is not like discussing tomorrow’s math test or last night’s ball game. When you dare to broach the subject with your child, you communicate, “You are important enough to me that I will risk talking about this uncomfortable topic.”

And because you’ve had this conversation, your child may feel it’s safe to talk about other intimate issues with you. It has to be a relief for your child to be able to discuss this part of his life with someone he can trust, namely his parents.

Even if your child does not want to talk about sex, press through your fears, inhibitions, memories, and embarrassment. A few minutes of blushing, stammering, and clammy hands will deepen your relationship and could literally save your child’s life.

If you have been faithful in appropriately teaching your son or daughter from an early age about sex, you will be tempted to relax when your child hits preadolescence. But teenagers need moms and dads who stay involved in their lives all the way through their teen years by breaking the silence and discussing matters of human sexuality and sexual response.

King Solomon had these talks with his son. Huge chunks of the book of Proverbs are dedicated to gritty talks about the snare of sex. For example, read Proverbs 5–7, where the king implores his son to be wise about a seductive young lady.

Men in particular may back off from talking about sex with their teenagers because they just don’t know what to say. Or maybe they haven’t done a good job in other areas of parenting and they feel defeated. Regardless, dads need to pursue their children.

Parent’s Conviction #2: Sex education consists of more than an explanation of human reproduction. 

Of course, your children need to know the biological basics. If you’ve never had a good, explicit discussion of human reproduction with your child, do it now.

But even if you’ve done a great job of instructing your children about the biological facts of sex, you need to finish the process with moral training. Of all the discussions we’ve had in our family about sex, probably 95 percent of them have concerned character issues. We’ve had discussions about God’s purposes for sex, the importance of sex and marriage, why you should wait for marriage before you have sex, how to avoid situations in which you are tempted, how different types of media shape our thoughts in this area, the types of movies to see and avoid and why, how to respond when someone challenges your convictions, and many other topics.

We’ve found that the issues surrounding human sexuality, such as self-control and obedience to God, are the foundational character qualities every parent wants to build into his teenager.

Parent’s Conviction #3: We must teach and model true biblical standards of purity and innocence.

If you were asked “What are you teaching your child about sex and morality?” my guess is that you might say something like, “We are teaching him that he should wait until he is married to begin having sex.”

Okay, what does that mean?  How will your teenager interpret and apply the exhortation to “Wait until marriage before having sex?”

In this culture, challenging your child to remain a virgin until marriage is not enough. Nor is virginity the ultimate biblical goal. The problem is that too many Christian teenagers are engaging in sexual activities reserved for marriage, yet are maintaining technical virginity.

This point was underscored during a television news report on churches that are teaching abstinence to their teens. One teenage girl who was interviewed was adamant about maintaining her virginity until she was married. Yet in the next breath she mentioned that heavy kissing and petting were okay as long as she didn’t engage in sexual intercourse!

Kids today are going to push the boundaries—they’ll ask “How far is too far?” when it comes to sex.  But Scripture does not command us to preserve a technical virginity. The Bible presents a number of pointed principles to ensure that our relationships with the opposite sex are appropriate and rewarding. The key words underlying all of them are purity and holiness. Here are several basic passages:

  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 7).
  • “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
  • “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Ask yourself a couple of questions (these helped us clarify our convictions): Just how much of sex do you want your child to experience before his marriage bed? How much of sex do you think God wants your child to participate in outside of marriage?

We must set our sights high and challenge our children to the highest standard—God’s standard. As parents, don’t we want them to arrive at marriage innocent of evil, pure in their sexuality, and with a healthy view of marriage—not encumbered by a lot of emotional baggage from sexual mistakes during the teenage years?

No matter what you teach your child, your model of purity will go farthest in protecting your child. He needs to see a commitment to purity in your life.

If there is anything that can disqualify a parent from being able to talk to a son or daughter about sex, it is being presently involved in sexual sin, sexual addiction, an affair, or an affair of the heart.

Parent’s Conviction #4: We need to create a home environment that provides love, security, and physical affection for our children.

The teenage years are filled with self-doubt. This is your chance to teach your child that how he feels about himself is not based on his relationships with the opposite sex; it is based on a growing relationship with God.

Your home needs to be your child’s emotional watering hole. An oasis where he learns about trusting Christ. A place of refreshment for his soul, where he goes for love and affection (even when he doesn’t seem to want it from you).

As a child grows up and develops physically into a young woman or man, a concern may grow in the parent about how much physical affection should be given if the child is of the opposite sex. The tendency is to think he is grown and doesn’t need the affection. Don’t stop lavishing your child with physical affection; he needs those hugs and kisses more than ever! A mom hugging her son and a dad hugging his daughter will send the message to both—you are a young man or a young woman who is worthy of attention and affection from someone of the opposite sex.

The years between 10 and 12 are a crucial time to teach your child about purity.  By the time he reaches age 10, he should already have learned from you about the basics of sex, along with lessons on modest dress, manners, language, and the need to keep his mind away from sexual content on television or the internet.  Now, in the last year or two before he reaches puberty, you have a great opportunity to prepare him for what is coming up.

Initiating a Difficult Conversation

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Enriching the Relationships that Matter Most!

Sandy was dusting her husband’s desk when her eye caught the corner of something stuck underneath. She bent down and what she saw devastated her. There not only was one, but dozens of pornographic DVD’s hidden under his desk.

Sandy trembled with rage and fear. “How could he?” she screamed. “He’s living a double life!” She began sobbing. Her entire world crumbled before her eyes and she felt helpless to stop it.

Sandy dialed her husband’s cell phone but he didn’t answer. She felt like screaming “You pervert” but stopped herself. Then she was tempted to just stuff all the video’s back under the desk and pretend she didn’t see what she saw. Instead she called me and I was able to see her that day.

Sandy needed to have a very difficult conversation with her husband about his problem. Yet she knew that if she simply blew up, he would get defensive or lie. Pretending everything was fine wouldn’t make it so. Sandy knew that she needed to figure out what to say and how to say it so that her words would have maximum impact on him. She didn’t want to miss an opportunity to help her husband see that he was caught in a very destructive sin and left unchanged, it would destroy their family.

Whether we need to confront someone caught in a sin, talk with a wayward child, approach a friend about her drinking problem, discuss a difficult family issue or address a co-worker’s harmful habit, many of us don’t know how to initiate a difficult conversation with someone. When tough problems surface, instead of talking to resolve them we tend to clam up, blow up or eventually give up.

Here are some steps you can take to make productive conversation with someone more likely.

Pray.  Ask God for courage to speak up, wisdom to know what to say and when, and humility so that you will speak the truth, but with grace and love. James 1 says that if we lack wisdom we can ask God and he will give it to us.

Prepare. Hard words need not be harsh words. This is too important a conversation to leave to chance or emotions. Take the time to write out what you want to say and rework it until it says exactly what you want it to say.

Practice.  Rehearse out loud what you’ve prepared. Listening to yourself say what you want to say over and over again will help your emotions calm down and better prepare you to speak calmly but firmly when the time is right. Your words will be better received if you are not overly emotional.

Plan. Don’t initiate a difficult conversation when someone is tired, hungry or distracted with other things. After all your prayer, preparation and practice, ask for a time to be set aside to talk where you can ensure the best chance of being heard.

Remember Queen Esther. After praying, preparing and asking the King for an opportunity to talk, she felt that it was not the right time. She requested a new time to have her difficult discussion concerning Haman’s treachery.

Don’t forget a conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. When you’re finished, respectfully listen to what the other person has to say back. Extend the benefit of the doubt and when you don’t understand ask questions to clarify.

Sandy prayed, prepared, practiced and planned a time to confront her husband. She knew that he would listen better after dinner as well as if he did not feel attacked or condemned (although that’s what she felt like doing).

Here is what she wrote:

Tom, I’m very sad and hurt and angry about something and I need you to hear what I have to say. While cleaning your office I found some DVD’s hidden under your desk. I was totally unprepared for what I saw and it made me physically ill. It confused me and made me question your integrity as a man and our entire relationship.

I know pornography is a problem for many people today and I am not without my own struggles with sin. I’m not here to throw stones at you but I do think you have a serious problem. I want you to know that it hurts me that you would enjoy these kinds of movies. It hurts you to let your mind and heart feed on such things and it hurts our marriage and family. 

Right now my trust has been shattered and I don’t know how we can possibly rebuild it. I don’t know even if I can. But I’m willing to try and work hard, but only if you are willing do some serious work to address this addiction.

Sally practiced what she wanted to say several times. When Tom came home she asked him if they could talk after dinner. She sent the kids to her neighbors so that they would not be present if the conversation deteriorated.

Sandy and Tom are not out of the woods. This conversation is just the beginning but you cannot fix something you are not willing to face. The Bible tells us, “If another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1,2)

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To learn more about how to handle relationship difficulties, see Leslie’s books How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong and The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It! Stopping It! Surviving It! Or visit Leslie’s website at http://www.leslievernick.com

Please Break This Rule

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120.

When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule.

It goes something like this:

“Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40 percent of the fault is mine. That means 60 percent of the fault is hers. Since she is 20 percent more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.”

I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than cancelled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

Food for Thought

Jesus tells the perfect “40/60 Rule” story in Luke 18:10-14.

In this passage, Luke says that Jesus addresses the story to those “who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else.”

This is the story:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Next time you’re tempted to invoke the 40/60 Rule to minimize your part in a conflict, remember that few subjects raise more disdain in Jesus than moderated mercy or a “righteousness ranking” where we give ourselves an unequivocal first place vote.

Parenting: Communication

SOURCE:  Living Free

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”

Proverbs 18:13 NIV

Thoughts for Today
How consistent is your communication with your children?

No matter what their ages, keeping the doors of communication open is vital. Two-way communication. The Bible cautions us to listen before we answer.

Communication with your child needs to be age specific. Try to avoid detailed explanations to simple questions. Be at eye level with your children as you communicate, especially as they grow older. Use a consistent, even tone of voice. Avoid communication when you are angry or frustrated.

Consider this … 
Communication takes time—something most of us lack. But communicating with our children should have a high priority in our lives. Healthy families talk to each other a great deal—and they listen.

You can begin developing more family communication by planning at least three evening meals per week with all family members present. Schedule regular quality time with each child individually. Talk to your children—share your heart with them—and listen, really listen.

Prayer
Father, I know that sometimes my priorities get out of line. I get so busy that communication with my children suffers. Help me develop consistent communication habits with them. And teach me to listen—not thinking ahead to my to-do list or planning my response, but really listening to the words—and the heart. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from :…

Godly Parenting: Parenting Skills at Each Stage of Growth by N. Elizabeth Holland, M.D.

How Is Your Love Life?

SOURCE:  Mark and Grace Driscoll

The couple were devout Christians and virgins when they first met. Forty years later, the pain of their marriage showed on their faces. As they spoke to me of their troubles, they each hung their head in loneliness and grief.

There had been no adultery. There had been no divorce. But there had also been no friendship. Although they did a lot of work together, they hadn’t had much fun. With their children grown and home empty, the glue that once held them together was gone, and they were reduced to life as nearly sexless roommates.

What about you? How is your love life?

Maybe you’re newly married and still filled with wedded bliss, or a married couple so exhausted from the constant demands of work and parenting that your marriage is slipping. You may be reeling from a devastating sin in your marriage. Or the two of you are still in love and doing pretty well, but you want to avoid ending up like other couples you know who are not getting along and possibly even getting divorced.

All the talk about spending time and doing life together, making memories, being a good listener, being honest, having the long view of things, repenting and forgiving can be summed up in one word: friendship. Friendship is an integral part of a truly Christian marriage.

Three kinds of marriage

In our teaching and counseling, we have seen people respond well to a simple explanation of three kinds of marriages: back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder, and face-to-face.

back-to-back marriage is one in which the couple has turned their backs on each other. As a result, they live separately and do not work together (shoulder-to-shoulder) or draw each other out in friendship (face-to-face). In such marriages the partners range from strangers to enemies, but are not friends.

shoulder-to-shoulder marriage is one in which the couple works together on tasks and projects, such as keeping the home, raising the kids, growing the business, and serving the church.

face-to-face marriage is one in which, in addition to the shoulder-to-shoulder work, the couple gets a lot of face-to-face time for conversation, friendship, and intimacy.

As a general rule, women have more friendships than men. And their friendships tend to be more face-to-face. This is because men commonly have shoulder-to-shoulder friendships around shared activity. If they take the time to reflect on whom they have considered friends in different seasons of their life, most men recall boys they played with on a sports team and guys they worked with on a job. But they often know very little about these guys they called friends, because their tasks consumed their time and conversation, as they talked about the task in front of them rather than the emotion between them.

Conversely, women’s friendships tend to be face-to-face and built around intimate conversation. This explains why women do the sorts of things with other women that men do not do with other men, such as going out to lunch or coffee just to talk, sharing deep intimate feelings while looking each other in the face without a task bringing them together.

A word to husbands and wives

Wives, to be a good friend, learn to spend some time with your husband in shared activity. If he’s watching a sporting event, sit down and share it with him. If he’s working on a project, hang out nearby to help or at least ask questions and be a companion if nothing else. If he’s going fishing, ask if you can come sit in the boat with him just to be in his world. For a wife to build a friendship with her husband requires shoulder-to-shoulder time alongside him.

Husbands, to be a good friend to your wife, learn to have deeper and more intimate conversations. Open up, telling your wife how you’re doing and ask­ing her how she is doing. Listen without being distracted by technology or a task (put your cell phone away), but instead focus on her, looking her in the eye for extended periods of time. Draw her out emotionally, and allow her to draw you out emotionally. Keep your advice to a minimum and learn to listen, empathize, comfort, encourage, and in so doing resist the constant male urge to find a problem and try and fix it. No wife likes feeling like a problem to be fixed rather than a person who wants to be intimate. For her, intimacy means “into-me-see,” which means she wants to know her husband and be known by him. For a husband to build a friendship with his wife requires him growing in face-to-face skills.

Intimacy is ultimately about conversing. As an old proverb says, “The road to the heart is the ear.”

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Mark and Grace Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, in 1996, and it has now grown to more than 6,000 members. This article is taken  from their new book, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together©2012 by On Mission, LLC. Thomas Nelson Publishers.


What the Trinity Teaches Us about Parenting

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/ Stephen James and David Thomas

The way God relates to us is deeply relevant to how we relate to our children.

Parenting is a wild and unpredictable ride—full of twists and turns. That’s why books on parenting sell in the gazillions. Search “parenting” on Amazon.com, and you’ll find thousands of books offering insights on and solutions for raising children (we’ve even written one of them!). We secretly hope that if we get the right tools and practice the right techniques, our kids will turn out fine.

As we researched our book on parenting, we sought to discover a biblically-centered framework for raising children. Not surprisingly, we found many examples and concepts in Scripture that can help us become wise, mature, and loving parents. But we also found what you might consider an unlikely model for parenting: the Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). As we looked at some of the ways the persons of the Trinity relate to us, we uncovered important insights into how we can relate to our children.

GOD THE FATHER

Scripture paints a picture of a Father God who is personal and purposeful as He relates to His children. These characteristics can serve as a road map for us as parents.

Personal. God relates to each of us on intensely personal levels. How He works in one person’s life may be very different from what He does with another person. How God engages with Moses in Exodus 3 (as an encourager) is very different from how He engages with Jacob in Genesis 32 (as an adversary and giver of blessing). Similarly, if we want to parent our children well, we need to parent them as individuals.

We (Stephen and David) each have a set of twin boys. Our respective twins share the same genetic mix, the same gender, the same hair and eye colors, and yet they couldn’t be more different. Their personalities are different, and they will pursue different vocations and different relationships. Despite all that they share, our sons are unique, and we need to relate with them according to that uniqueness.

An important asset for discovering a child’s individuality is curiosity. The curious parent looks for and notices how a child is changing and being changed. Curiosity seeks more than information; it draws out a person’s heart. It encourages dialog. One way of doing this is through questions. You might say, “You’ve seemed angry lately. Has something happened?” Or “I can tell you love your new bike. What excites you about bike riding?”

Another way we relate personally with our children is by entering their worlds. We have found play to be wonderfully effective. My (David’s) six-year-old daughter is passionate about dolls. Two of them, named Jane and Caroline, dine at our table, ride buckled in the back of our car, and are kissed goodnight every evening. Because I love my daughter and want to know her, I’ll sometimes sit on her bedroom floor and ask questions about Jane and Caroline. I even change their clothes and comb their hair. It’s pretty hilarious to watch a grown man receive instruction in ponytail placement. But this is what my daughter loves. She can even put ponytails in my hair if it communicates that I love her enough to want to know who she is and what she loves.

Purposeful. Our Father God is also purposeful in His relationship with us. He acts intentionally and carries out His good plans for us. He does not wait for us to come to Him; He makes the first move. Think of God with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 after they tried to hide. Or with Moses in the burning bush (so much for hiding in the desert). God moves toward us again and again with an invitation for us to move closer to Him.

Practicing this kind of intentionality can be particularly challenging for parents with teens. How can we be proactive with a kid whose behavior seems to communicate, “Get away from me” or “Leave me alone”? In the face of teen sullenness, it’s so tempting to default to standing at arm’s length and waiting to be invited in for a few seconds.

Yet we firmly believe that behind every hand (or heart) that says, “Get away” is another that says, “Come close.” Which means you may have to get really creative with adolescents if you want to stay in relationship with them. If you’ve tried a litany of options without success, food is a good bet. Figure out where they love to eat and take them there. Whatever you do, don’t give up.

GOD THE SON

God the Son also gives us a biblical picture of parenting. Let’s consider His roles as a sacrifice and a teacher.

Sacrifice. First and foremost, Christ was a perfect offering who suffered and died for our sins so that we can truly live, both now and forever (Ro. 5:6–8, 1 Jn. 4:9–10). He willingly did for us what no one else could or would do. And like Christ, we as parents are to sacrifice—lovingly and wisely—on behalf of our children.

I (David) recently took my family to the beach. We practically crawled there. The week before we left had been intense: challenges at work, the death of a friend, missed deadlines, and a cancer diagnosis for one of our parents. By the time we reached the ocean, all I wanted to do was plant a lounge chair on the beach and not move for five days. All my kids wanted to do was build sandcastles, fish, and play 20,000 rounds of Marco Polo. Joining them was an intentional act of sacrifice: I laid down what I wanted so I could be present with them. In the grand scheme of things, this may seem a small sacrifice. Yet I believe that with such sacrifices our children are blessed and our Savior is pleased.

Teacher. Perhaps one of Jesus’ most vivid roles is that of teacher. Throughout the gospel accounts, we see Him illuminating the truth of God for His listeners. Our children need the same from us.

Sometimes teaching involves giving specific instruction. Other times, it may mean we stand back and practice the art of silence so that experience can be the teacher. The father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) provides a rich example of this type of teaching. Surely this man knew his son well enough to know that he would blow his inheritance: Wouldn’t most adolescent boys do something reckless with a wad of cash? Yet the father allowed his son to squander it all. What a wise father, and what a scary, vulnerable place his hands-off approach must have put him in. His son learned a lesson, however; experience taught the prodigal that there’s no place like home.

GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

Now we turn to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Two primary works of the Spirit that relate to our parenting are convicting and coming alongside us.

Convicting. One thing the Spirit does in all of our lives is to convict us of our sin (Jn. 16:8). Sometimes He does that through specific scriptures, words from a wise friend, or a persistent inner voice that urges us to examine our ways. If we are to love our children like God loves us, there will be times when we must stand before our children and name their sin, especially when it involves character issues. Too many parents fail to expose their children’s character defects for fear of harming their self-esteem. But we are not talking about verbally shaming, harassing, or assaulting a child. We are talking about speaking with our children the way God engaged with Paul on the road to Damascus: metaphorically knocking them off their high horses and into the truth.

Some friends recently caught their son lying about whether he had checked his backpack (he often didn’t) to make sure he had everything he needed for school the next day. It wasn’t a “big” lie. And overall, we’re talking about a pretty extraordinary kid: an excellent student, a great athlete, the kind of kid that most parents want their kids to hang around with.

Upon discovering the lie, my friends confronted their son and took away his “life” for a couple of weeks: his electronics, sports practice (he got to sit on the bench but not play), overnight stays at a friend’s house, and so on. The boy fired back that he couldn’t believe he’d lost that much over “a stupid backpack.” He added, “I’m a good kid, and this feels extreme.”

His dad explained that the issue was not his “stupid backpack.” It was his heart that his parents were concerned about. “You are a great kid,” they told him, “and plenty of people would testify to that—teachers, coaches, your friends’ parents. Enough folks have done so that you’ve lost touch with the fact that you’re a liar.”

These parents cared enough about their son to shatter his good-guy image and to deal with the state of his heart. This is strikingly similar to how the Holy Spirit deals with us when He convicts us of sin, exposes our foolish self-righteousness, and shows us a better way to live.

Coming alongside. The same Spirit who convicts us also comes alongside us and comforts us. Yet it is hard for many parents to move from being the ones who convict to being the ones who comfort, to set aside the teaching role and focus on simply being there.

Think of it this way: No kid wants to be taught the proper technique for riding her bike when she has just flipped over the handlebars. She wants a hug and a Band-Aid. And when your son doesn’t make varsity, one of the worst things you can do is to turn the situation into a teaching moment. He needs an arm around his shoulder to help him grieve his disappointment.

The example of the Holy Spirit shows us that there is a time for parents to convict and a time for us to comfort.

EXAMPLE PLUS EMPOWERMENT

Each person of the Trinity teaches us something about parenting. We learn from the Father to be personal and purposeful with our children. We learn from the Son how to sacrifice on behalf of our children and how to teach them God’s powerful truths. We learn from the Spirit how to expose our children’s sin lovingly for the sake of their emerging characters and how to come alongside and comfort them when life is not what they had hoped it would be. But perhaps the ultimate wonder is that the same Triune God who models parenthood for us also lives in us and empowers us for this scary yet sanctified calling.

Parenting: Where Has “Playing” Gone?

HOW PLAYING WITH YOUR CHILD CAN REAP HUGE REWARDS

SOURCE:  Elizabeth Maynard, M A – Heartlife Professional Soul Care

Technology Wins!

 Long gone are the days of playing outside until dark, playing board games/cards together, or sitting around reading as a family.

Our world today is characterized by technology, especially for children at younger and younger ages. The Internet, cell phones, and television can be considered the “trinity” of technology.  It is no surprise that children are logging on to the Internet and engaging in technology at younger ages than ever before.

In addition, parental supervision of a child’s involvement in technology is also generally very lax. As a result, children are engaging in online relationships in ways that demonstrate a clear lack of knowledge in what is safe and appropriate behavior.

According to a study done by the Rochester Institute of Technology, 48 percent of children in kindergarten and first grade reported that they interact with other people on websites. Of these young children, only 50 percent said that their parents watched them as they used a computer, showing that the other half was exposed to unchecked web browsing and interaction with others online. About 48 percent of these young children saw online content that made them feel uncomfortable, and one in four of them said they did not report the uncomfortable experience to a trusted adult.

Compare this to their phone usage.

Back in 1983, phone companies were only spending $100 million per year towards marketing to kids; today they are spending around $17 billion to gain business from minors. A recent study shows that 22 percent of young children own a cell phone (ages 6-9), 60 percent of tweens (ages 10-14), and 84 percent of teens (ages 15-18). Also, kids spend more time watching television every day than on any other single activity, aside from sleeping.

So, what is the lasting impact that technology is leaving on our children?

Here are a few statistics to consider.

The Internet can potentially have a negative impact on cognitive development. Young children depend on adults to validate what they see, hear, and feel. Since the information on the Internet is uncontrolled, there is no way to check its reliability (Pierce, 1994). In terms of social development, if abused, Internet usage can also take children away from doing important social activities such as homework, chores, and spending time with family and friends.  Michael A. Weinstein, professor of Political Science at Purdue University, believes Internet users will “lose the savvy and skills and patience to conduct social relations in the corporate world,” and that the Internet will intensify the negative effect television has already had on our social skills. For cell phone usage, researchers have found a link between low self-esteem and problem cell phone use. A study measuring the link between cell phones and mental health found that teens that used cell phones the most were more likely to be anxious and depressed. They also found that some teen cell phone users are likely to be woken at night by incoming text messages or calls, and are therefore more likely to be tired and less able to focus throughout the day.

Finally, for the past 20 years, studies have linked excessive TV viewing to childhood obesity, poor brain development, lagging educational performance, sleep disturbances, and diminished physical activity. In fact, new studies show that fast paced TV shows, such as Sponge Bob and Phineas and Ferb, have a profound impact on a child’s cognitive development and executive functioning.

Researchers speculate that the more rapid pace and fantasy-like characters on the SpongeBob show might be too much for preschoolers’ brains to take in. “It confirms something that parents have observed for some time,” Dr. Dimitri Christakis says of the study. “They put their kids in front of television, particularly fast-paced programming, to quiet them down, but when the TV goes off, the kids are more amped up than they were before”.

 More Play Time, Less Technology Time

 So why is it that technology has so many potential negative cognitive, physical, and social impacts on children?

What is the better alternative?

Let’s take a trip back to the past.

Many parents may still “play” with their children. However, it is rare to see a parent sit down on the floor with their child, with no distractions, and give them undivided attention. Busy schedules, multiple children, full-time jobs, and homework are all things that take us away from play time.

A specific, child-centered, non-directive therapeutic approach to “playing” was developed in the 1960’s to show the impact that a parent playing with their child can have on many facets of a child’s development. Filial Therapy was born out of the belief that many children do not have their need for emotional nurturing met (Landreth, 2002). Sometimes, communication gaps between parents and children may exist because many parents are unaware of their children’s emotional needs and lack the skills necessary to interact effectively with them on an emotional level (Landreth, 2002). Therefore, filial therapy provides “focused attention to the child from a person who holds emotional significance to the child, thus encouraging anxieties learned by the parental influence to be unlearned, and provides opportunities for miscommunications to be clarified to the child by the parent” (Guerney, et. al. 1999; Sweeney, 1997).

One of the most important aspects to filial therapy is that the parent focuses exclusively on the child without interruption for 30 minutes.  The second is that the child gets to lead the play, not you.  The third is that the parent puts the child’s feelings, thoughts and even actions into words, without questioning, teaching, or praising!  Most parents find this very strange at first.

Play is a child’s natural way to explore their world.  In playing, children find solutions to problems, as children’s thoughts and emotions come to the surface during play. Play also can be healing.  So why is it so important, especially in light of our society today?

Children are looking to the Internet, cell phones, and television to define their world. They have become reliant on society’s definition of what is appropriate and shape themselves after the “role models” they see on television. It’s no wonder that our children are growing up faster than ever before. It’s no wonder that they are faced with more behavioral and cognitive problems than ever before. By simply playing with your child, you can often find out more about how they view the world by watching and joining in their play than you can by asking them to tell you what is wrong, or asking why they did something.

Lasting Impact

 Whose impact do you want left on your children?

Technology and society today or your family’s principles and biblical instruction from the Lord.

In Matthew 19:13-15, we are told, “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there”. In Luke 11:13, Jesus says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”.

It is clear in the Bible how God feels about little children. It is evident that they are to be cared for and brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. “Be imitators of God” to your children. Take the time to play and pray with them and you will see huge rewards.

Let’s bring “playing” back into our families.

Eight Steps To Resolving Conflict

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Conflict is inevitable in business, marriage, families, churches and communities.

Below are eight (8) rules to follow if you want to have a productive disagreement and actually solve the problem.

1. Define the problem or conflict to be discussed and stick to the issue. Many disagreements get nowhere or deteriorate into brawls because the issue that started the conflict has gotten lost in the midst of ugly words or past issues that are thrown into the discussion.

2. When possible, plan the time. Preparing for fights isn’t always possible; sometimes they just erupt. But if you know there is a touchy issue that needs to be addressed, make a time to discuss it when both are rested and ready. It’s difficult to fight fairly and constructively when you’re tired, stressed out and distracted with other obligations.

3. Listen carefully to the other person’s perspective. Show attentiveness and respect with both your body language and words. (James 1:19; Proverbs 18:2)

4. Aim for a win-win solution that works. The integrity and well-being of our relationships are more important than the issue. Fighting to get your way or to prove you’re right is not godly. (Philippians 2:2-3 James 4:1-3)

5. Commit to do no harm. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Romans 13:10) We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Remember, our spouse is our very closest neighbor. Be gentle.

6. Tame your tongue – words can heal and can wound. (Proverbs 12:18) Do not use your tongue as a weapon to murder someone else. (Matthew 5:22) Watch your voice tone and body language. Do they communicate caring and openness or defensiveness and hostility? (Proverbs 29:11, Proverbs 25:20; 1 Peter 2:17)

7. If you are unable to fight fairly, take a time out until you can, but make a plan to return to the issue. Don’t just ignore it hoping it will go away. (Ephesians 4:25,26; Matthew 5:23-24)

8. If the other person breaks these rules, don’t react in kind. (Proverbs 15:1) Remember, we overcome evil with good, not more evil. (Romans 12:17-21) Things deteriorate pretty rapidly when two sinners sin against each other at the same time. (Galatians 5:13-15)

Getting Married (Again): Tips for Blending Families

SOURCE:  National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

Getting married when there are children involved can bring with it a new set of challenges and anxieties about making your relationship work successfully for a lifetime.  Stepfamilies are very common, but creating one can be challenging.

It is exciting to get married.

Marriage offers the opportunity to create a new family and new traditions. However, getting married when there are children involved can bring with it a new set of challenges and anxieties about making your relationship work successfully for a lifetime. Stepfamilies are very common, but creating one can be challenging.  In the United States, more than 1,300 stepfamilies are formed every day. It is a great responsibility to model healthy relationships for your children, and now is the perfect time to show them your best stuff! This tip sheet is designed to help engaged parents develop strategies to avoid potential areas of conflict and sustain a healthy marriage while co-parenting and combining families.

Develop a Shared Parenting Philosophy 

It is important to communicate about your parenting styles, beliefs and practices with your fiancé early in the relationship. This will allow you to identify a shared philosophy regarding how you will parent.

Marriage is a team sport. When a couple follows the same parenting “rules,” it sends a positive message to the child/children about your commitment to each other, and to them. Different rules for “yours” and “mine” create division and confusion for children. Discuss with your fiancé in private the rules that will apply to all children such as: bedtime, chores, allowance, homework, computer time, telephone, television and anything else related to the children’s daily routine. Consider giving teenagers a voice when setting the rules and when identifying the consequences for breaking the rules. Participating in a parenting or marriage enrichment course can help you discover parenting differences and similarities, and also help you agree on how to approach parenting conflicts ahead of time.

Establish Rituals

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Family Psychology finds that family traditions and rituals are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement and stronger family relationships. A blended family has a wonderful opportunity to create new family traditions.  You, your fiancé, and all of the children in your “new” family will need to take the time to develop these new traditions. This will allow them to be more open to different ways of doing things, as well as help the bonding process.

In addition to creating new rituals, it is important to recognize the ones that are already in place in your family or your fiancé’s family. Embrace established traditions without feeling threatened by how they were created or who may have started them.  Family traditions can be found in celebrations such as birthdays, religious ceremonies, holidays, scheduled family time (e.g. movie night or game night), Sunday dinners and family reunions. Be prepared to gracefully accept the rituals that come with your partner’s family and look forward to creating new ones together.

Address Grief and Loss

Ending a relationship (be it a marriage or otherwise), especially one that produced children, is difficult. Our relationships are part of who we are, and breaking up or divorcing is a loss. Even when the break up is “the right thing to do,” your expectations and life course have changed.

Any time there is loss, there is grief. Be sure to address your child’s grief as well as your own prior to remarriage. Talk with your children about what they are experiencing and their expectations for your marriage and family.  Even the creation of an exciting new family can trigger a grief reaction or anxiety for some children as they are reminded of what they have lost. The consequences of not doing this with your children can be severe, as grief and loss tend to become apparent through behavioral and emotional problems.

Similarly, talk with your fiancé about this difficult topic. Not being able to do so may indicate a lack of trust and openness in the relationship that can be detrimental in the long run.

Define Expectations

Everyone enters marriage with their own expectations about who does what, and how things get done. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of our expectations. Thinking about your expectations (even concerning the little things) and talking with your partner about them are essential.

Not all households are run the same. If your children are splitting their time between multiple homes, they are adapting to different rules in each setting. We all do better with some structure in our lives. Children especially need organization, structure and consistency. It is important for you and your fiancé to talk about what is expected in your home, and to understand the environment in other home(s) where your children may spend time. This will allow you to create the most stable situation possible for everyone.

Attend a Marriage Education Course

The best thing a couple can do for the family as a whole is to build and strengthen the couple relationship. Research suggests that the ability to communicate well and solve problems effectively are keys to lifelong marriage. Participate in a marriage education workshop to enhance your communication skills and learn strategies to deal with conflicts and challenges that may arise, including with those that could arise with your ex husband or wife. Some marriage educators have even adapted their programs specifically for blended families. One of the most important lessons to teach your children is the understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. When children see the commitment and dedication the two of you have toward one another, it can provide a sense of security, reduce fear and anxiety, and reinforce the family bond.

Be Patient 

Good relationships require work. Being a good parent or stepparent requires work as well.  Do not expect the children to immediately bond with your new spouse. Remember, your marriage is a new relationship for them too.  When children are involved, allow friendship and respect to evolve on their own. Make sure you and your fiancé are discussing your individual relationships with the children to prevent any build-up of resentment or the perception of parents taking sides. Keep the lines of communication open and be flexible.  Even after developing a plan and parenting strategy, you may need to alter and adjust it over time.

Conclusion 

A marriage is a joyous occasion and an exciting event in your life. Preparing for a marriage that includes blending two families requires special preparation and consideration. The more open you and your fiancé are with one another about your parenting styles, former relationships and expectations, the better prepared you will be for a healthy marriage. This will set a positive tone for communication and problem solving throughout your relationship.

——————————————————————————————————

The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center would like to thank Joyce Webb, Ph.D., for her contributions to this Tip Sheet. Dr. Webb is apsychologist with 18 years experience working with couples. Contributing authors also include Rhonda Colbert, Rachel Derrington,MSW, and Courtney Harrison, MPA,  of the NHMRC.

This is a product of the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, led by co-directors Mary Myrick, APR, and Jeanette Hercik, Ph.D., and project manager Patrick Patterson, MSW, MPH.

When Your Partner Is Struggling With Addiction: 10 Tips

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center
Substance abuse affects millions of families either directly or indirectly, and the abuse of both legal and illegal substances is a prominent concern for public health officials throughout the world.
Many addicts who stop using point to the strength, persistence, and understanding they received from a spouse, family member or friend as a major reason for their recovery. (If the relationship has turned violent, a breakup [or separation]  may be  [an] option — See Article:  DIVORCE: GOD’S GRACE WHEN A SPOUSE CHOOSES SIN AS A NEW MATE.)
As a partner of a substance user, you are at higher risk for developing poor patterns of communication and problem-solving; having marital, financial, and child-rearing problems; sexual dysfunction; verbal and physical aggression; and episodes of depression. You may have heard terms like “enabler” and “co-dependent” in the self-help literature. These terms mean basically this: all of your energy may be focused on the user – trying to rescue him or her, or cover-up for him or her, or stop him or her from destroying lives. The good news is: research suggests that when you begin concentrating on your own needs and leave the substance abuser to the consequences of his or her own actions, the probability of recovery increases.
The purpose of this article  is to offer hope and practical suggestions for you as your partner is struggling with addiction. It is not meant to replace therapy or counseling. Like most other suggestions, keep in mind that what works for one, may not work for another. You are ultimately the one who knows what is best for you.
The painful truth is that you cannot change your addicted partner! You can only change yourself. In order to be that strong, persistent person that your partner may one day point to in his or her recovery, stop concentrating on your partner and the problem, and start taking care of yourself.
Here are some more tips:

1. Educate yourself – A basic understanding of the problem is fundamental to being able to resolve any issue. It is important that you begin to learn more about the addiction process and how it affects the partner of the addict. This will empower you with new ideas and help you process the guilt, frustration, and anger that go along with being married to an addict.
2. Attend support groups – Don’t continue fighting alone. It is important to find a group to help support you through the difficulties and challenges of living with a substance user.
This may be an Alanon group, a church group [e.g., Celebrate Recovery], a counselor experienced in addictions, or simply some good friends. Research has shown that support groups help relieve depressive symptoms; decrease social isolation; improve social adjustment; increase knowledge about the problem; and provide coping strategies, as well as, techniques to effectively deal with the problem. You may not feel connected to the first support group you attend, but don’t give up! Keep looking until you find the right one.
3. Stop the fighting – It is particularly senseless to argue with someone when they have been using a substance. In fact, some studies indicate that not having any interaction with the substance user while they are under the influence of a substance is the best course of action. Avoid the person until they are sober.
4. Be a cheerleader – When the addicted partner is not using, do your best to be positive with them. This will send the message that you care and will allow you to feel good about yourself. If you are negative when they are not using, you will have fallen into the trap of allowing the substance use to define who you are and how you behave.
5. Avoid triggers to use – Recognizing places, people, situations, events, etc., that seem to trigger substance use by your partner is an important step toward change. Develop a secret code that your addicted partner can use to signal you that he or she is struggling with a situation and needs help getting away from the temptation. Be sensitive and responsive to their needs even if it means doing things like leaving an event early or not visiting certain family members.
6. Find new couple activities – Substance users tend to be very egocentric and spend a lot of time in their heads thinking about themselves, their problems, and their cravings. To combat this egocentrism, get involved in some sort of community service that focuses mental and physical energy on others. This activity gives the addict a sense of fulfillment and helps them rebuild a depleted self-esteem. This will also do the same for the partner of an addict. Doing this together will allow you as a couple to develop a shared interest and new friends around an activity that doesn’t include substance use.
7. Rebuild trust over time – After using stops, rebuilding a trusting relationship is one of the most difficult obstacles remaining for a couple. This will take time and patience. Addicts are often very accomplished liars and have, over the years, provided many reasons not to be trusted. Find small ways that the addicted partner can successfully show that they are again trustworthy and express your pleasure when they succeed. This is a particularly difficult task for the partner that has had their trust broken time and time again by the addict.
8. Love the person, hate their behaviors – Making a distinction between the person and their behavior is sometimes hard to do, but is an important step toward your own freedom. Your family member is not a “bad” person, but a person with a “bad” disease [or making bad choices]. When you are able to make this distinction, you are set free to express the powerful emotions within you.
9. Restore your communication – Couples often get in a pattern of simply reacting to each other in a negative way. They know that their behavior isn’t constructive and neither enjoys it, but they can’t stop. This is particularly so for couples in which one partner struggles with an addiction. The repeated stress taints their interpretation of each other. This leads to a tendency to blame and accuse each other using statements that are really opinions, perceptions, or interpretations of the other person’s behavior and intentions.
Learning to use “I” statements helps restore communication and trust.
For example, notice the difference in how the following statements open up options and empower a person to act less defensively and focus on behaviors:
‘You never listen to me!’  vs.  ‘I find it difficult to talk to you when I don’t feel heard.’
‘You will never change.’  vs.  ‘I seem to get the same reaction from you whenever we talk.’
‘Work is never going to make you happy.’  vs.  ‘I haven’t found my work to be something I enjoy.’
‘You don’t care about me.’  vs.  ‘I have often felt that you haven’t understood the difficulties I am having.’
‘You are a bully.’  vs.  ‘I feel intimidated when you speak like that.’
10. Relax –Deep breathing exercises, stretching, and other relaxation methods are an essential part of stress management that decrease the wear and tear on your mind and body from the difficulties and strains of daily living.
Practicing relaxation techniques a few minutes a day can reduce stress symptoms by:
• Slowing your heart rate• Lowering blood pressure  •Slowing your breathing rate  •Increasing blood flow to major muscles  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain• Improving concentration  • Reducing anger and frustration
•Boosting confidence to handle problems
The addiction process and, thus, dealing with a partner that is struggling with an addiction is complex. It is crucial that the non-using partner take actions that will bolster her or his own mental health and resilience. Renew your conviction to live your life according to your values and identity, and not to react to the manipulations of a substance that has taken control of your partner. If your partner, at some point, decides to reclaim control of his or her life, then upon entering into recovery they will find a strong, resilient companion to help them along the way. If not, then you will be sad for him or her, but you will have invested in yourself.

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