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Posts tagged ‘healthy marriage’

11 Qualities Every Truly Happy Relationship Has In Common

SOURCE:  Brittany Wong/Huffington Post

Marriage therapists share their top relationship must-haves.

Chemistry and physical attraction may have brought you and your partner together, but you need more than a spark to maintain a happy, lasting relationship.

With that in mind, we asked marriage therapists to share the one quality they believe couples need to develop in order to stay together for the long haul. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Compassion

“You have to be able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Compassion toward your partner allows him or her to feel respected, appreciated and cared for and it fuels the connection, intimacy and partnership. Think of it as the essential food that every healthy relationship needs.” ― Carin Goldstein, a marriage and family therapist in Sherman Oaks, California 

2. Compromise

“So many couples believe that a lack of problems, or the ability to anticipate and avoid them, is a key to a happy relationship. But in my experience, it’s not so much about avoiding problems so much as it is about being able to solve them together. Problems are always going to happen, just as life does. Knowing you can face them together keeps a relationship strong and healthy.” ― Alicia HClark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.   

3. A sense of humor

 “The strongest couples I’ve met have the capacity to laugh at themselves. When a partner can laugh about their own messiness or their wish to have the table set in a certain way, they can communicate what they want without turning their partner into the enemy. Laughing at ourselves instead of judging makes the journey entertaining instead of a constant battle.” ― Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California

4. Trust

“As a specialist in infidelity, I can tell you that trust is the most important thing in a marriage. It takes years to build and a second to break. But it’s more than just sexual fidelity. A spouse is trusted with so much: fears, vulnerabilities, painful wounds from childhood. In a good marriage, a spouse discloses these innermost thoughts and trusts that it won’t be used against them in future arguments.” ― Caroline Madden, a marriage therapist and the author of After A Good Man Cheats: How to Rebuild Trust & Intimacy with Your Wife  

5. Positivity

“We all need to be praised and appreciated but we so often get the opposite ― criticism ― even from our partner. Positivity is needed in relationships, especially ones that have grown past the honeymoon stage. Whether it’s a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘I love you’ or a specific compliment for something done, we all need to hear it. When we praise our partner we strengthen our connection, bond and love.” ― KurtSmith, a therapist who specializes in counseling for men 

6. Intimacy

 “Sexual and emotional intimacy is the bright shiny star of relationships. Intimacy is the difference between your relationship with your barista and your relationship with your spouse. You build intimacy over time. Intimacy is the feeling of belonging and being loved. It’s the feeling of being known and understood. It’s the feeling of being accepted and appreciated. If you have ever experienced or heard someone describe their relationship as hollow or empty, it’s probably because it’s lacking intimacy.” ― Laura Heck, a marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah

7. Mutual respect

“Life tends to throw some unexpected curveballs along the course of a relationship. The one quality that consistently helps couples through adversity or tragedy is mutual respect. Self-esteem is essential to feel secure and satisfied with yourself so it makes sense that a high esteem and respect for your partner is an essential ingredient in a lasting relationship, both in joyous and challenging times.” ―  Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center

8.  Presence

“Being present is more than just putting down your devices and paying attention ― it’s showing that you’re deeply interested in the inner life of your partner and want to make their world better in any way you can. Being present means freely giving your partner the gift of your full focus and being there for them in a way that’s deeper than just being physically present. It means seeing things from their point of view and not just your own.” ― Debra Campbell, a psychologist and couple’s therapist in Melbourne, Australia

9. Love

 “You need to love, honor and cherish one another. These vows are what keep people together happily over the long term. Here’s a brief rundown on what each mean: ‘To love’ means you demonstrate your love. Love is a verb ― an action word. There is no other way to show your spouse you love them except through action. We love through physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service and gifts. ‘To honor’ is to respect the one you love. You approach them in conversation in a way that shows you want the best for them and don’t want to harm them. ‘To cherish’ means to show your S.O. how much you value them. You treat them as the special person they are – your one and only.” Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas  

10. Understanding

“There’s no problem you can’t resolve when you’re listening to each other and acting like a team. Create regular times during the week when you can talk uninterrupted and don’t let a week go by without a date night. Keep listening and understanding each other. Every ounce of listening effort will pay off tenfold.” ― M. Gary Neuman, a psychotherapist based in Miami Beach, Florida

11.  Friendship

“Couples who are good friends know each other well, give each other the benefit of the doubt and are fond of one another. When you take the time to strengthen your friendship, you’re more successful long-term. Making friendship a priority will help you weather any storm that comes your way.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois

7 Ways to Encourage Your Wife

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I’m not a perfect husband…

I would write that 100 times, but I think you get the message and I’d probably lose most of you at number 27. That’s the average number of times you’ll read the same thing. (I just made that up… :) )

But, I’m not a perfect husband…

I have learned a few things and I continue to strive to be a better husband. I know, for example, that part of my happiness is found in Cheryl being happy. That’s not a “if momma ain’t happy…nobody’s happy...” joke…it’s a reality. I love my wife enough that I want her to be happy.

Obviously, I can’t control all the things which happen in a day for her. I can’t stop people from being rude to her as she drives to work. I can’t help the co-worker who is having a bad day to take her bad day out on Cheryl. I can’t stop the pressures and stress Cheryl will encounter by being a pastor’s wife or by being a friend, mother, daughter, sister, or husband.

All I can control is the way I respond to Cheryl and the things I do that encourage her happiness. I have found that just as I strategically think for my ministry, I should strategically think how to encourage my wife.

Here are a few ways I try to encourage Cheryl:

Send flowersWhen they aren’t expected – This seems so trivial, but I honestly have to remind myself to do this. Flowers on a special occasion are nice, but I have found the ones she enjoys the most are sent on the days she’s not looking for flowers. (This could be something besides flowers if your wife isn’t into flowers that much, but I’ve also discovered many of the practical-minded women who say they don’t want flowers actually love receiving them occasionally.)

Reserve a day…just for her – I do this every Saturday. I let few things interrupt this day and none without consulting with Cheryl first. You may not be able to do this once a week and it may not be for a full day, but it should be consistent enough that she can anticipate it. During the times when life is most stressful and you are pulled in different directions, these reserved times give her something to look forward to and reminds her you’ll “catch up” soon.

Give a gift…that keeps on giving – This idea is brilliant, I must admit…but I love to give a gift that takes a while to receive. When the boys were at home and getting away was more difficult, I would give Cheryl a trip for Christmas every year. We would take the trip in May. I would usually pick a location, request brochures, and give them to her as her “big” gift at Christmas. We had months to plan for it, which built positive emotions leading up to the trip and then anticipating the next Christmas trip. (Plus, many of these expenses were paid outside the Christmas spending frenzy, which helped our budget.)

Be a responsive listener – I realize whenever Cheryl says something there is usually a deeper meaning, so I listen for the deeper meaning. I try to understand her thought process.(Girls, guys really do talk in simpler facts, which makes it more difficult for us to understand you sometimes.) Instead of dismissing what Cheryl said, because it wasn’t clear or assuming I know what she’s saying, I ask questions for clarification when needed. (Don’t argue this one guys…Just do it.)

Give her details – Okay, I know, this will hurt…just being honest, but it shows your love for her. Again, I’m not the perfect husband here. (Do I need to write that again?) I’m getting better at allowing Cheryl to ask me questions and I’m trying to tell her when I’ve told her everything I know. I realize details are more important to her than to me. (This may be opposite for you and your spouse.)

Listen without fixing – This is my toughest, but just last week I did this. I hope she caught it. :) I am a fixer. I fix problems everyday. Give me a problem and I’ll be quick to race to a solution. I realize that many times Cheryl simply wants my ear…not my expert insight :)

Brag to others – Let your wife hear you bragging about her to other people. She’s wonderful, right? Let her know you recognize it. Of course, this should be genuine, but I know Cheryl appreciates hearing me affirm her to others. (And Cheryl is wonderful…you heard it here first :) )

7 Ways for a Wife to Encourage a Husband

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Ron Edmondson

Here are 7 ways to encourage your husband:

Give him a break from sharing details or emotions – Unless the situation demands it or he wants to share them, let him share the basic facts and information in a non-emotional way. It may be all he knows, has observed or remembers. Give him times when “That’s nice” is enough for an answer.

Brag on him – Especially to your friends… Let them know your guy is the greatest! Be sincere, but do it often and make sure he hears you.

Appreciate his interests – If he likes golf…learn a little about the game…enough to encourage him on a good day. If it’s fishing, cars, or football…well…you get the idea… (Bonus points: Give him hobby time – Most men love knowing they have your permission to enjoy a hobby, without wondering if they should be doing something else.)

Understand his work – A man is often more defined by what he does than anything else in his life. Know enough about his work to recognize his accomplishments.

Be available to him – And occasionally without a lot of effort on his part… Remember…you asked…or at least some of you did.

Assure him you’re okay…and he’s okay – On this one, I have to be honest…many times we are left wondering if everything is okay. We can’t read emotions as well as you do, but we know when you’re NOT okay. You can encourage him by assuring him nothing is wrong, even if you can’t process at the time how you feel or “what’s wrong”.

Let him fix something – This is not just with his hands…unless he can do that sort of thing…(I can’t) but with his mind. He’s wired as a fixer. Give him an actual problem to solve…and let him solve it without your help.

Three Essentials to Thriving Marriages

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Three Essential Ingredients for A Healthy Marriage

Many of us have grown up in homes where sinful attitudes and destructive behavior are accepted as normal. We’re so used to being mistreated or disrespected, controlled and manipulated we don’t recognize it as such.

On the other hand, some of us grew up on a steady diet watching Hollywood and Harlequin’s version of love and marriage. They portray unrealistic and distorted ideas around love and marriage as well. They want us to believe that if you have enough sexual passion, the rest of the relationship is easy. It’s a lie.

Let’s look at what are some of the foundational ingredients for a marriage to be healthy and why these basics are crucial if a marriage is going to flourish.

Essentials to Thriving Relationships

Every grown-up relationship requires three essential ingredients to thrive: mutuality, reciprocity, and freedom.

Mutuality means that both individuals contribute specific qualities essential for the care, maintenance, and repair of the relationship. They are honesty, caring, respect, responsibility, and repentance. In marriage, both individuals make efforts to grow and change for the welfare of the other and the preservation of their relationship.

Destructive relationships lack mutuality. Tim Keller, in his book on marriage writes “The Christian teaching [on marriage] does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice.”  When you are the only one in your marriage caring, repenting, being respectful and honest, sacrificing and working toward being a better spouse, or having a good marriage, you are a godly wife but you don’t have a healthy or biblical marriage.

Paul writes about the importance of mutuality in healthy relationships throughout his teachings. For example, he wrote, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV).

Paul also emphasized mutuality throughout his teaching on marriage. Husbands and wives may have different roles and responsibilities but he calls both to mutually fulfill them. Paul explains the mutuality of the sexual relationship. He writes, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4 ESV).

Peter too speaks of mutuality when he writes, “Likewise, 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 the conduct of their wives when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” And, “Likewise husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:1-2,7 ESV).

These instructions to husbands and wives work great only when they are practiced by both the husband and the wife. Both are to give, both are to sacrifice to meet the needs of the other. When these directives are not practiced mutually, it is a very different picture. That does not give wives permission to give up or to disobey God’s instructions although that path is tempting when we feel mistreated and angry. Instead, talk to God about how to handle this lack of mutuality and your hurt feelings. You do not have the power to turn a bad marriage into a good marriage all by yourself. But Peter reminds us that by our godly attitude and actions we can behave in ways that can influence our husband to surrender to God’s transforming work of change in his life (1 Peter 3).

This brings us to the second essential ingredient of a thriving relationship: reciprocity.

Reciprocity means that both people in the relationship give and both people in the relationship receive. Power and responsibility are shared and there is not a double standard where one person gets all the goodies in the relationship while the other person sacrificially does most of the work. The apostle Paul validates reciprocity when he gives guidelines how to give our resources sacrificially but not foolishly. He writes, “For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (2 Corinthians 8:13-14 ESV).

Destructive marriages are not reciprocal and therefore don’t thrive. One person demands power over the other and relegates their partner to the status of a slave or a child. For example, John required Mary to be accountable for every penny she spent yet John did not hold himself to that same standard. He always had an excuse as to why his spending was more justified than Mary’s and often spent large amounts of money without telling her. Mary worked a full time job as did John. Mary was required to direct deposit her entire paycheck into their joint account. John only deposited an equal dollar amount of his paycheck into their joint account. The rest of his income was put in a separate account with only his name on it. Mary had no access to it, nor did she even know what John’s income was. There was no “we” to their financial decisions, John held all the financial power, Mary felt like a child being given an allowance.

To rebalance their marriage and create a healthier relationship Mary will need to speak up and require more reciprocity from John. And John will have to change how he sees and treats Mary. She needs to become his partner, not his possession if their marriage is to become healthy.

Something to keep in mind is that there may be seasons in every marriage where one person gives more than the other due to illness, incapacity or other problems, but when that happens, as soon as the individual is capable, the relationship is rebalanced and power and responsibility are again mutually shared.

Lastly, our third essential ingredient of a thriving relationship is freedom.

Freedom means that in your marriage you are allowed to make choices, to give input, and to express your feelings without fearing you’ll be badgered, manipulated and punished. When freedom is present, we’re not afraid to be ourselves nor are we pressured to become something we’re not.

Freedom is an essential component in all healthy adult relationships. We’ve all witnessed the results in world history, in fundamentalist religious groups, and in families where freedom is squashed. Members are not free to question, to challenge, to think differently than the group. They are not free to grow or to be themselves without fear of retaliation. Instead they have to do and say and be what the group or person in charge tells them. That is not healthy or God’s plan.

Although God wants unity in a family and in the family of God, he created great diversity. We are to be ourselves and be of one mind all at the same time. This one mind idea doesn’t mean melding ourselves into the desires or demands of another individual but together living for a common purpose and goal, the kingdom and glory of God.

Married couples need freedom to thrive. I do not mean the freedom to do whatever you want regardless how the other person feels. When you commit to someone in marriage, you freely choose to limit some (not all) of your choices. But all healthy relationships need freedom to disagree, to respectfully challenge someone’s decisions and to be the person God made them to be. Having your freedom of movement, choices, friends, and emotional expression restricted by your husband sends the message that you are not allowed to be a whole person in your own marriage. Instead you are to become what your husband tells you to be. This is not healthy for you, for him, or for your marriage.

Below are 16 traits of a healthy marriage. Answer the questions to see whether your marriage is relatively healthy.

1. My spouse shows care and concern for me and my needs.  Yes    No

2. My spouse has my best interests in mind.  Yes    No

3. My spouse asks my opinion on things.  Yes    No

4. My spouse trusts me.  Yes    No

5. My spouse works with me as a partner to parent our children.  Yes    No

6. My spouse is willing to get help for our marriage problems.  Yes    No

7. My spouse takes responsibility and apologizes when he’s wrong.  Yes    No

8. My spouse asks for my opinion on things in our marriage.  Yes    No

9. My spouse is considerate of my feelings.   Yes    No

10. When we have a problem, my spouse is willing to talk about it.   Yes    No

11. My spouse uses the Bible to correct his own life.  Yes    No

12. My spouse listens to advice from wise people.  Yes    No

13. My spouse allows me to be myself.  Yes    No

14. My spouse allows me to make my own decisions.  Yes    No

15. My spouse allows me to disagree.  Yes    No

16. My spouse is a good steward with our finances.  Yes    No

If you answered these questions with mostly “yes,” your marriage is relatively healthy. One or two “no” answers indicate some weak areas in your marriage. More than three “no’s” indicate an unhealthy marriage. More than five “no’s” indicate a destructive marriage.

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

Adapted from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick.

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.

40 Lessons from 40 Years of Marriage

SOURCE:  Dennis Rainey/Family Life

Four decades ago, I married Barbara Ann Peterson. Looking back now on the first 12 months of our marriage, I’d have to describe myself then as an idiot—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

But after six children, 19 grandchildren, and decades of married life, I’ve learned some things. I think of them as 40 lessons from 40 years of marriage … and family … and life.

1. Marriage and family are about the glory of God.

Genesis 1:27 makes it clear, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” From the beginning, marriage has been central to God’s glory on planet Earth. The Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage. What God designed, lifted up, and gave a transcendent purpose, man has dumbed down.

Many today make the purpose of marriage to be one’s personal happiness—of finding another person who meetsmy needs. God created marriage to reflect His image, to reproduce a godly heritage, and to stand together in spiritual battle. Your marriage, your covenant-keeping love, will be your greatest witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage is about the glory of God—not about the happiness of man.

2. Marriage is taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not on a romantic balcony.

Satan’s first attack on the image of God was to destroy the image-bearers’ relationship with Him. Then Satan went after Adam and Eve and their relationship with one another. If he targeted marriage to begin with, why would we think our marriages would be any different?

I think we often forget that our marriage—our family—can be targeted by the enemy to destroy the image-bearers, to destroy the legacy that is passed on to future generations.

I believe that the very definition of marriage is under attack today because of who created marriage, God.

3. Your spouse is not your enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Have you ever looked at your spouse in the morning as your enemy, asking God, “What did you do in bringing us together?” I have.

But the Scriptures tell us, your mate is not your enemy. Your mate is a gift from God to you. In all his imperfections—in all her imperfections—God has given you a gift. You can either receive it by faith, or you can reject it.

4. The couple that prays together stays together.

In the first months of my marriage, I went to a friend named Carl Wilson and said, “Carl, you’ve been married 25 years. You’ve got five kids. What’s the best single piece of advice you can give me, as a young man who’s just starting out his marriage?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “Pray with your wife every day.”

I said: “That’s it? ‘Pray with your wife’?”

“That’s it.”

So I went home, and Barbara and I started praying together. This worked really well for a couple of months … until the night when we went to bed facing opposite walls. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable position physically, it expressed where we were spiritually and emotionally.

There seemed to be a tap on my shoulder that night, and it wasn’t Barbara. God was speaking to me in my conscience. He said: “Hey, Rainey! Aren’t you going to pray with her tonight?” I said, “I don’t like her tonight!”

He said, “Yes, but you made the commitment to pray every day with your wife.” And I said, “But God, you know that in this situation, she is 90 percent wrong!”

God said, “Yes, but it was your 10 percent that caused her to be 90 percent wrong.”

I wanted to roll over and say, “Sweetheart, will you forgive me for being 10 percent wrong?” But after the words got caught in my throat, I said, “Will you forgive me for … ?”

Barbara and I are both strong-willed, stubborn, rebellious people. But we’ve been transformed by praying together. Now we are two strong-willed people who bow their wills before almighty God, on a daily basis, and invite Him into our presence.

Praying with your spouse will change the course of your marriage and legacy.

5. Isolation is a subtle killer of relationships.

Genesis 2:24 gives us a prescription from Scripture: Leave, cleave, and become one. The enemy of our souls does not want a husband and wife to be one. Instead, he wants to divide us.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for the church to be one. He realized that when we are in isolation, we can be convinced of anything.

Isolation kills relationships.

6. It’s easier for two broken people to build a marriage and family from the same set of biblical blueprints.

What would a physical house look like if you had two different architects, two different builders, and two different sets of blueprints? You’d get some pretty funny-looking houses, wouldn’t you? The same thing will happen in your marriage if you and your spouse are building your relationship and family from different plans.

For the past 37 years, FamilyLife has hosted Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. If you haven’t been to this with your spouse, I encourage you to go. Weekend to Remember speakers explain God’s blueprints for a successful marriage and family, and transparently share from their own lives.

7. It is healthy to confess your sins to your spouse.

James 5:16 reminds us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

If you want to be healthy, develop a marriage relationship where your spouse has access to the interior of your soul. Are you struggling with bitterness over a betrayal? I’ve been through that. I’ve asked Barbara, “Will you pray for me?”

Maybe you’re struggling with a bad attitude … a sense of rebellion … toying with something you shouldn’t be toying with. Bring your spouse into the interior of your soul so that you may be healed.

8. It is impossible to experience marriage as God designed it without being lavish in your forgiveness of one another.

Ephesians 4:32 says we should forgive each other “just as God in Christ forgave you.”

Failing to forgive or to ask for forgiveness kills oneness, and unity, and life in a marriage.

I love this statement by Ruth Bell Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Why is this true? Because forgiveness means we give up the right to punish the other person. In a marriage relationship there are plenty of things (either committed or omitted) where you’re going to have to give up the right to punish the other person. Bitterness does not create oneness.

9. One of the greatest threats in any marriage is losing a teachable heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Most of us do all we can to prevent a heart attack. Why? Because there’s a simple equation: If the heart dies, you die.

The Bible is filled with references to the heart. In fact, the Great Commandment is one that calls our heart to love God totally and fully, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Pay attention to your heart. Guard it lest it become hardened or not teachable.

A teachable heart is a spiritually-receptive heart. When was the last time you asked your spouse to forgive you? When did you last listen to a child who had perhaps been hurt by you?

Remember, from the heart flows the springs of life.

10. Every couple needs a mentor couple who is one lap ahead of them in the seasons of life.

Who’s your couple? Who’s your person? If you’re a newlywed, you need someone to coach you on the habits you establish at the beginning of your marriage. If you’re starting out with your kids, you need someone just to say: “You know what? This is normal. This is the way it happens.”

Even if you are moving into the empty nest with adult children, I’ve got news for you: You really need a mentor in that phase! Relating to adult children has been more challenging than the terrible twos—not because our kids are bad kids. It just didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it.

Who’s your mentor? Be careful about who’s speaking into your life.

11.  What you remember is just as important as what you forget. 

We tend to suffer from spiritual amnesia.  Wanting to remember God’s faithfulness, I started a spiritual milestone file in 1998. It now has 920 reminders in it—remembrances of the little things, and the big things, that God has done.

Milestones remind us of three things: what God has done; who God is—His provision, care, and deliverance; and the need to trust God and walk by faith.

When we forget the deeds of God, we will ultimately forget to trust Him.

12. Marriage was designed by God to be missional.

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”  And Acts 13:36 says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep …”

I want to be about the purposes of God, in my generation, with my wife.  She is a partner in ministry.  We are not two individual people who are just successfully going our own way.  We are two people who work at merging our life purpose and mission together so that we increasingly share it as we move toward the finish line.

The other evening, Barbara and I sat in our living room in two chairs that we bought in 1972 for $5 apiece.  They’ve been reupholstered three times.  We sat in those chairs, talking about, “Should we reupholster them, or go buy new ones?”  I turned to her and I said:  “You know what?  We have not given our lives to stuff.”

Now, do we live in a nice home?  Do we live better than we deserve? Absolutely. But as imperfect as we are, as many struggles as we’ve had, we are headed toward the same mission.  We are a part of the Great Commission.  We want to be fulfilling the great commandment, together as a couple.

My challenge to you is this: As a couple, believe God for too much, rather than too little. Remember what A.W. Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.  What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.”

Life can wear you down.  It can wear you out.  Disappointment chips away at faith.  As a couple, you have to work on this to go to the finish line.

13. It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeatedly repeat it.

I was an idiot in our first 12 months of marriage—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

The lessons that you learn need to be applied. It’s not good to repeat rookie errors in your 39th season of marriage.

14. Never use the d-word in your marriage.   

Never threaten divorce in your marriage. Never let the d-word cross your lips, ever!  Instead, use the c-word—commitment, covenant, covenant-keeping love that says, “I’d marry you all over again.”

I can still remember an argument my parents had when I was five years old and divorce was not in vogue.  Your kids are highly sensitized to what your relationship is like and how you communicate when you disagree. Let them hear of your commitment to one another.

15. Honor your parents.

Exodus 20:12 is the first commandment with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Our marriage was brought to life as we honored our parents.  We are a generation that has bashed and blamed our parents, ignoring this commandment.  It is time for us to return home to our parents with honor.  A practical way you can do that is by writing them a tribute and, then, by reading it to them.

Instead of giving your parents a dust buster for Christmas, or a tie, or a pair of house slippers, give them a tribute, thanking them for what they did right.  Barbara did this with her parents.  I did it with mine.  Honoring your parents is a life-giver.

16. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.

We marry one another because we’re different, and we divorce each other because we’re different.  When Barbara and I moved into the empty-nest phase, we discovered that we are much more different than we ever imagined.  Here’s the key—your spouse’s differences are new capacities that God has brought to your life to complete you.

Barbara’s an artist and as we began our empty-nest years I told her, “Wherever you go, you make things beautiful.”  You see, I didn’t appreciate beauty.  I had no idea how beauty reflected the glory of God. Your spouse is God’s added dimension to your life.

17. Marriage and family are redemptive.

Being married to Barbara and having six kids has saved me from toxic self-absorption.  The way to have a godly marriage and family is the same path as coming to faith in Christ.  It is surrender—giving up your rights to Him first, then to your spouse—serving them.

I have a confession to make.  I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could raise them. Now I think that He gave me six children, so He could finish the process of helping me grow up.  Nothing has taught me more about self-sacrifice and following God’s Word than loving and leading my children.

18. A man’s wife is his number one disciple. 

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru in the United States), said countless times that a man’s wife should be his number one disciple.

Husbands, help your wife grow as a Christian. It’s the smartest thing you could possibly do. When your wife grows in this area, not only does she triumph at life, but you benefit as well.

19. Go near the orphan.

When you go near the orphan, as a couple, you go near the Father’s heart.  Barbara and I went near the orphan, and we adopted one of our six children. I’ve learned more about the Father’s heart through adoption—of choosing a child and unconditional love. This[F1]  is pure and undefiled religion.

20. Make your home a storm shelter.

I grew up in southwest Missouri and spent many a night in a cellar, down with the potatoes and green beans. It was a musty smelling place. I was down there trying to dodge a tornado that never hit.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares two builders of two homes—both in storms.  We should get a clue from that: We’re going to build our marriage, our family, our home in the midst of storm warnings, floods, wind, and rain.

Barbara nearly died on four different occasions; she had a heart rate of more than 300 beats a minute. I often imagined life as a single dad, until we got her heart problem fixed. And then there was a 13-year-old son, our athletic son, who was stricken with a rare neurological disorder.  There was a prodigal.  There was the day my dad died.  There were short paychecks in ministry.  There were challenges in my ministry—all kinds of issues with people.

Your marriage covenant is more than just saying, “I do,” for a lifetime.  It is for better and for worse.

Make your home a storm shelter—a safe place to go in a storm.

21. Suffering will either drive you apart, or it will be used by God to merge you together.

Scripture teaches that our response to God and His Word is the difference-maker in how we handle suffering.  You and your spouse have to decide to suffer together rather than falling apart.

22. Men and women process suffering very differently.

It is a wise husband who gives his wife space and grace to process loss and suffering differently from how he processes it. After Barbara recovered from several near-death experiences when her heart raced over 300 beats a minute, I remember wanting her to flip a switch and move on with life.  That was easy for me to say. I hadn’t been the one who they took away in an ambulance with a heart beating so fast that the bed was shaking.

23.  Loss is a part of life and increases as we age.

How you and your spouse process loss, by faith, will determine whether you grow old and bless others, giving them life, or whether you grow old and curse others, becoming a bitter crotchety old person.

Process loss well.

24. Communication is the life-giver of a relationship. 

Simply put, find a way to get five, ten, fifteen minutes together to talk every day.  Turn the TV off, set the computer aside, take a walk, and just talk with each other.

Barbara and I used to do this and walk in our garden.  The kids thought we were just going out there to see the flowers bloom.  We were going out there to get away from them, so we could have a complete sentence between each other.

25. No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow. 

You are the guardian of your marriage and family’s direction and vision. C. H. Spurgeon said, “It was by perseverance the snail reached the ark.”  Sliming my way to the finish line is the great hope for me as the spiritual leader of my family.  After you fail (and you will), get back up.

When the kids were young, our family devotionals were chaos—flipping peas, spilling milk, crawling under the table.  Who knows what they heard?  No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.

26. Maximize your wife’s talents, gifts, experience, and passion as you would an Olympic athlete. 

Ephesians 5 talks to men about loving their wives as they love their own bodies. Help your wife accomplish everything that God has in mind for her.

Do an inventory of her gifts, her talents, her passions.  What motivates her?  What demotivates her?  Pray for her and her vision.  What are her core competencies?  Dream some dreams together, and don’t wait until you’re in the empty nest to dream the dreams.  Start dreaming even when you’re building your family.

27. Wives, your respect will fuel your husband, and your contempt will empty his tank. 

Ephesians 5:33 commands wives to respect their husbands.  Ladies, keep in mind that 93 percent of all communication is non-verbal.  How are you expressing belief in your man non-verbally?

Barbara’s belief in me as a man has helped me excel.  It’s not a blind belief, but it’s a belief that speaks the truth in love.

28: Women spell romance differently than men. 

Women spell romance r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p. But men spell it: s-e-x. God, in His cosmic genius, has brought two very different people together in marriage who are to dance together. And what an interesting dance when I think that I understand my wife. For example, I bring her roses, and I write her a note, and I fix dinner, and put the kids to bed, and that equals sex.

So, as a man, I begin to think, “A+B+C=D.  It did last night.”  So, I try it again the next night or perhaps a few nights later.  Roses, a nice meal, put the kids to bed—“Huh?”  Nada.  “Huh?”

So, I went to Barbara: “What’s the deal?  You changed the equation.”

Would you like to know what she said: “As a woman, I don’t want to be reduced to an equation.  I want to be pursued as a person relationally.”

29. Your marriage must be built to outlast the kids. 

Our romance gave us children, and our children tried to steal our romance.

Barbara and I had to make an effort to have special dinners together and go on short getaways two or three times a year. We fought to keep these times on the schedule.  It was a hassle finding a babysitter, but time alone together was worth it.

30. Build too many guardrails around your relationship rather than too few. 

Men, don’t trust yourself alone with the opposite sex.  I have asked people to go out of their way to take me to speaking engagements instead of one woman taking me.  I’ve got a friend who won’t get in an elevator alone with a woman.  You may say that’s a little extreme.  Let me tell you something.  Given the fallout today in ministry, I’m not sure it’s extreme.

31. Wives generously use your sexual power in your husband’s life. 

I think that one of the mistakes we make when we read chapters 5-7 in Proverbs (which is a father’s advice to a son about the harlot) is to believe that sexual power over a man is limited to just a woman in the streets.

I think Proverbs 5-7 gives women an interesting glimpse into how to encourage and bless her husband—by speaking love to him in the language that would encourage him.  Ladies, use your sexual power liberally with your husbands.

32. The first essence of rearing children is “identity.”

This has to do with disciplining your child to know his or her spiritual destiny and spiritual address.  It also has to do with his or her sexual identity as well.  This culture is seeking to distort the image of God imbedded in boys and girls; we have to help our children know how to navigate those waters.

33. The second essence of rearing children is “relationship.” 

Disciple your child to know what real love is, how to love another imperfect person, and how to experience love as a human.  The Great Commandment makes it clear (Matthew 22:34-40). Life is about relationships.  It’s about a relationship with God, loving Him, and it’s also about loving others on the horizontal.

34. The third essence of rearing children is “character.”

The book of Proverbs talks about this, obviously.  It is disciplining your child to be wise and not be a fool.

35. The fourth essence of rearing children is “mission.” 

It is no mistake that the Scriptures compares children to arrows in the hands of a warrior.  Arrows are meant to be pulled back by an archer, aimed at a target, and let go.

What are you aiming them toward?  What are you challenging your children to give their lives to?  The Kingdom’s work is paramount.  We’re going to need another generation to carry on should Christ tarry.

36. Determine your core values as a couple.

In the early years of Barbara’s and my marriage, we went on a little retreat together. She got alone and wrote down the top ten core values that she wanted to produce in our children.  I got alone, separate from her, and wrote out my top ten core values for the kids.

Then we got together and prioritized them, agreeing on our top five.  Those five helped us to not compare our family with other families, but to do just what God had called us to do.  And it helped us be one as a couple

37. Interview your daughter’s date, and train your sons not to be clueless.

May I suggest two books that I wrote: Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date and Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys?

In today’s culture, even our little eight year old/nine year old boys are being preyed upon by older girls. It is bizarre.

I was recently told about a young man who went away for a Passport2Purity® weekend, which is a weekend getaway, with his father.  He was 11 years old.  After learning about the birds and the bees for the first time, he arrived back home. Two days later, two eighth grade girls asked him to have sex with them.  He said, “No”—told them to leave.

38.  Become smaller, not bigger, in the lives of your adult children.

As Barbara and I have watched our grown children manage their own families and extended families, we have learned that we must become small.  By this I mean that we cannot fix their problems. We can give advice when asked, but not unless we are asked.

39.   As I get older, I want to laugh more with my wife, gripe less, and be found guilty of giving her too much love, grace, and mercy rather than too little. 

40. Have a view of God that will guide you all of your days.

What you think about God is important. Your view of God, of who He is and the blueprints of His Word, will guide you all your days through many valleys and mountaintops in ministry.

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.

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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.

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