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Questions Answered: Blended Family; Sex Silence; Anger Styles

SOURCE:  Dr. Diane Langberg

Dear Dr. Langberg,
I’m in a second marriage, and the holidays are just the worst because that’s when my husband’s teens visit (his ex-wife has custody). There’s a lot of tension between his children and our children, and they compete for attention. It’s placing stress on our relationship. What can I do?

Mixing children from two different marriages does often cause quite a bit of tension. It usually requires hard work and good communication for the various relationships to mesh well.

As the adults in the home, you and your husband need to set the tone for all the children and their respective relationships. So think about how you’d like the children to relate to each other. What are your goals for your time together? What characteristics would you like to nurture in the children? How can you two work together to help both sets of children grow in love and respect for each other?

As you discuss these issues, you’ll also need to consider how you help or hinder your children from relating effectively. Do you carry any resentment toward the older children? Do you wish they didn’t come to your home? Does your husband feel guilty about not seeing more of them, and either distance himself or give them excessive attention? Hidden attitudes such as these can leak out and infect your home’s atmosphere. As you and your husband establish goals and examine your attitudes, pray together for yourselves and each child.

Help your younger children prepare for your husband’s teens’ visit well in advance. Why not encourage the younger ones to pray for their father’s other children? Perhaps they could send notes or cards to them throughout the year. Teach them about hospitality—what God says about it, and how they might demonstrate it to their guests at Christmas. Perhaps your husband could encourage his teens to reach out to your children throughout the year as well.

This difficult, stressful situation is full of potential for demonstrating to all your children God’s great love for us—and his call to us to love each other in like manner.

Although my husband and I have sex, we never talk about it. How can we broach the subject so we both feel more fulfilled in our sex life? I’ve never felt comfortable talking about sex, and I don’t think my husband does, either.

I’ve found, through years of marriage counseling, that many couples have sex regularly but never speak to each other about it. It seems rather common that what husbands and wives do with the lights out they cannot bring themselves to discuss when the lights are on. It’s a shame because many couples end up spending decades merely guessing whether or not their spouse is pleased, fulfilled, and comfortable, or miserable, unfulfilled, and in pain.

When I work with couples in similar circumstances, I find it helpful to use an outside resource as an aid to get them talking to each other, such as The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner. Such a book provides a helpful medium. You might begin by each reading the first chapter, then setting aside some time during the week to discuss what you’ve read. Simply choose one thing from the chapter that speaks to you, then talk about it. As you progress chapter by chapter, week by week, you’ll begin to read portions to each other that are important—and you’ll begin to use some of your own words rather than relying on the book. Soon you’ll find a growing freedom to discuss sex together.

If you think your husband’s discomfort level is too high even to suggest reading a book together, then simply hand him this column and tell him you would like to try what’s suggested here.

Sex is a wonderful part of marriage, and we aren’t meant only to enjoy it but to be free in our enjoyment. Since God is the one who thought of sex in the first place, it’s something we ought to be free to talk about. And there’s a side benefit: As you and your husband work through your discomfort and awkwardness, your relationship will improve—in all areas!

My husband and I are having a real problem handling anger. I like to blow off steam and get my anger out of my system, while my husband simmers. He’ll stay angry with me days after an argument, while I’m ready to kiss and make up minutes after I’ve vented. I’m frustrated by how long he holds on to a grudge.

You’re frustrated by your husband’s slow simmer, which lasts for days. But do you know how your “blowing off steam” affects him? Are you careful with your words, or do they run away from you? It’s possible that part of what feeds your husband’s slow simmer are the words that fly out of your mouth when you vent.

You and your husband need to discuss your different anger “styles” and find out how they impact each of you. I think you’ll find that your venting and his grudgebearing are both damaging. Scripture says, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:20). As you delve into God’s Word and open yourselves up to his Spirit, you’ll find you need to be careful with your words and gracious in your speech. Your husband will discover that letting the sun go down on his anger opens the door to bitterness and resentment, both of which erode love.

You cannot keep your husband from holding a grudge. You can, however, encourage dialogue, listen to his perspective, pray for and with him, and most important, ask God to transform the way you manage anger.

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Diane Mandt Langberg, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and the author ofCounsel for Pastors’ Wives (Zondervan) andOn the Threshold of Hope: Opening the Door to Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse (Tyndale).

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