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Posts tagged ‘Relationships’

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 Marriage Map

from The Divorce Remedy, Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W

The marriage map is meant to give you a broad overview of the experiences most couples have when they negotiate the marital terrain. As you read through these stages and developmental passages, don’t get too hung up on the timetable. Some couples move through these stages more quickly than others, and some bypass certain stages entirely. See if any of this sounds familiar to you as you think about your own marriage and that of friends and family.

Stage One- Passion prevails
Head over heels in love, you can’t believe how lucky you are to have met your one and only star-crossed lover. Everything other than the relationship quickly fades into the background. Much to your amazement, you have so much in common: you enjoy the same hobbies, music, restaurants and movies. You even like each other’s friends. You can finish each other’s sentences. When you pick up the phone to call your partner, he or she is already on the line calling you. You are completely in sync. Everything is perfect, just the way you imagined it would be. When little, annoying things pop up, they’re dismissed and overlooked.

At no other time in your relationship is your feeling of well-being and physical desire for each other as intense as it is during this romantic period. The newness and excitement of the relationship stimulates the production of chemicals in your bodies that increase energy, positive attitudes and heighten sexuality and sensuality. You feel good in your partner’s presence and start to believe that he or she is bringing out the best in you. Depression sets in when you’re apart. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be together. You never run out of things to say. Never, never, have you felt this way before. “It must be love,” you tell yourself. While in this naturally produced state of euphoria, you decide to commit to spending the rest of their lives together. “And why not,” you reason, “we’re perfect together.” And marry, you do.

Unless you elope or opt for a simple, judge’s chambers-style wedding, your euphoria takes a temporary nosedive as you plan and execute your wedding. Once you get past the superhuman challenges dealing with family politics and hosting a modern-day wedding, your starry-eyed obsession with each other re-emerges and takes you through the honeymoon period. At last, you are one. You have committed your lives to each other forever- soul mates in the eyes of God and the world. And for a period of time, nothing could be more glorious. But soon, your joy gives way to an inevitable earth-shattering awakening; marriage isn’t at all what you expected it to be.

Stage Two- What was I thinking?
In some ways, stage two is the most difficult because it is here that you experience the biggest fall. After all, how many miles is it from bliss to disillusionment? Millions. What accounts for this drastic change in perspective? For starters, reality sets in. The little things start to bother you. You realize that your spouse has stinky breath in the morning, spends way too long on the toilet, leaves magazines and letters strewn on the kitchen counter, never wraps food properly before it’s put in the refrigerator and, to top things off, snoring has become a way of life. There are big things too.

Although you once thought you and your spouse were kindred spirits, you now realize that there are many, many differences between you. Although you share interests in hobbies, you disagree about how often you want to participate in them. You like the same kinds of restaurants, but you enjoy eating out often while your partner prefers staying home and saving money. Your tastes in music are compatible, but you prefer quiet time in the evening while your mate enjoys blasting the stereo. You have many common friends, but you can’t agree on which nights to see them.

You’re confused about what’s going on. You wonder if an alien abducted your partner and left you with this strange and complicated being, a person with whom you can’t agree on a single thing. You argue about everything. “Who is this obstinate person I married?” you ask yourself. “What was I thinking?” You knew life wouldn’t always be a bed of roses, but you never thought all you’d get was a bed of thorns. You figured that love would carry you through the rough spots, but you didn’t imagine there’d be times you didn’t feel love. You feel so disillusioned and you wonder if you made a mistake. When you remind yourself you made a life-long commitment, you start to understand the real meaning of eternity.

Ironically, it is in the midst of feeling at odds with your once kindred spirit that you are faced with making all sorts of life-altering decisions. For example, it is now that you decide whether and when to have children, where to live, who will support the family, who will handle the bills, how your free time will be spent, how in-laws fit in to your lives, and who will do the cooking. Just at the time when a team spirit would have come in mighty handy, spouses often start to feel like opponents. So they spend the next decade or so trying to “win” and get their partners to change, which tr

Stage Three- Everything would be great if you changed
In this stage of marriage, most people believe that there are two ways of looking at things, your spouse’s way and your way, also known as the Right Way. Even if couples begin marriage with the enlightened view that there are many valid perspectives on any given situation, they tend to develop severe amnesia quickly. And rather than brainstorm creative solutions, couples often battle tenaciously to get their partners to admit they are wrong. That’s because every point of disagreement is an opportunity to define the marriage. Do it my way, and the marriage will work, do it yours and it won’t.

When people are in this state of mind, they have a hard time understanding why their spouses are so glued to their way of seeing things. They assume it must be out of stubbornness, spitefulness or a need to control. What they don’t realize is that their spouses are thinking the same thing about them! Over time, both partners dig in their heels deeper and deeper. Anger, hurt and frustration fill the air. Little or no attempt is made to see the other person’s point of view for fear of losing face or worse yet, losing a sense of self.

Now is the time when many people face a fork in the marital road. They’re hurt and frustrated because their lives seem like an endless confrontation. They don’t want to go on this way. Three choices become apparent. Convinced they’ve tried everything, some people give up. They tell themselves they’ve fallen out of love or married the wrong person. Divorce seems like the only logical solution. Other people resign themselves to the status quo and decide to lead separate lives. Ultimately, they live unhappily ever after. But there are still others who decide that it’s time to end the cold war and begin to investigate healthier and more satisfying ways of interacting. Although the latter option requires a major leap of faith, those who take this leap are the fortunate ones because the best of marriage is yet to come.

Stage Four- That’s just way s/he is
In stage four, we finally come to terms with the fact that we are never going to see eye-to-eye with our partners about everything and we have to figure out what we must do to live more peaceably. We slowly accept that no amount of reasoning, begging, nagging, yelling, or threatening changes our partners’ minds. We look to others for suggestions; we seek religious counsel, talk to close friends and family, attend marital therapy, read self-help books, or take a relationship seminar. Those of us who are more private look inward and seek solutions there.

We more readily forgive our spouses for their hardheadedness, and recognize that we aren’t exactly easy to live with either. We dare to ask ourselves whether there’s something about our own behavior that could use shaping up. When disagreements occur, we make more of an effort to put ourselves in our partner’s shoes and, much to our surprise, we have a bit more compassion and understanding. We recognize that, as with everything in life, we have to accept the good with the bad. Fights happen less frequently and when they occur, they’re not as intense or as emotional as in the earlier years of marriage. We know how to push our partner’s buttons and we consciously decide not to. When we slip, we get better at making up because we remind ourselves that life is short and very little is worth the pain of disharmony. We learn that when you’ve wronged your spouse, love means always having to say you’re sorry. We mellow. We let things roll off our back that might have caused us to go to battle before. We stop being opponents. We’re teammates again. And because we’re smart enough to have reached this stage, we reap the benefits of the fifth, and final stage.

Stage Five- Together, at last
It is really a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to stage five, when all the pain and hard work of the earlier stages really begins to pay off. Since you are no longer in a struggle to define who you are and what the marriage should be, there is more peace and harmony. Even if you always have loved your spouse, you start to notice how much you are really liking him or her again. And then the strangest thing starts to happen. You realize that the alien who abducted your spouse in stage two has been kind enough to return him or her to you. You are pleased to discover that the qualities you saw in your partner so very long ago never really vanished. They were just camouflaged. This renews your feelings of connection.

By the time you reach stage five, you have a shared history. And although you’d both agree that marriage hasn’t been easy, you can feel proud that you’ve weathered the storms. You appreciate your partner’s sense of commitment and dedication to making your marriage last. You also look back and feel good about your accomplishments as a couple, a family and as individuals. You feel more secure about yourself as a person and you begin to appreciate the differences between you and your spouse. And what you don’t appreciate, you find greater acceptance for. You feel closer and more connected. If you have children, they’re older and more independent, allowing you to focus on your marriage again, like in the old days. And you start having “old day feelings” again. You have come full circle. The feeling you were longing for during those stormy periods is back, at last. You’re home again.

About the marriage map
I’m certain that if more couples realized that there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they’d be more willing to tough it out through the downpour. The problem is, most people fool themselves into thinking that whatever stage they are in at the moment, is where they will be forever. That can be a depressing thought when you’re in the midst of hard times. And in marriage, there are lots hard times- unexpected problems with infertility, the births of children (marital satisfaction goes down with the birth of each child), the challenges of raising a family, children leaving home, infidelity, illnesses, deaths of close friends and family members. Even if there is lots of joy accompanying these transitional stages, it’s stressful nonetheless. But it’s important to remember that nothing lasts forever. There are seasons to everything in life, including marriage.

Also, it’s important to remember that people generally don’t go through these stages sequentially. It’s three steps forward and two steps back. Just when you begin to feel more at peace with each other in stage four, a crisis occurs and you find yourselves slipping back to stage three- change your partner or bust! But if you’ve been fortunate enough to have visited stage four, sanity sets in eventually, and you get back on track. The quality and quantity of love you feel for each other is never stagnant. Love is dynamic. So is marriage. The wiser and more mature you become, the more you realize this. The more you realize this, the more time you and your spouse spend hanging out in stage five. Together again, at last.

Michele Weiner-Davis, Author of Divorce Busting

Marriage: Scheduling Intimacy

Putting sex on the calendar makes it a date to remember!

(by Jill Savage)

The young mom on the other end of the phone poured out her frustrations. She desired sex, but her husband could care less. As the parents of five, all under the age of six, they rarely found time for each other outside the bedroom, let alone inside. She confessed that she felt they were more like roommates than lovers. I listened with understanding. As a mother of five myself, I know the struggle of keeping our family marriage-centered, not child-centered. I know the difficulties in finding time for just the two of us. And I know the challenge of differing sexual drives.

When she finally paused to catch her breath, I explained some of the strategies Mark and I found to keep our marriage a priority. We talked about creative date ideas, inexpensive childcare options, and the importance of connecting on a daily basis. I asked her if she and her husband ever considered scheduling their sex life. She responded with an awkward silence.

Finally, she laughed and said, “You’re kidding, right? Sex is supposed to be spontaneous. Nobody schedules sex.” Pencil it in-in code!

For 22 years of marriage, Mark and I have been at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to our sex drives. Mark thinks about sex once every 17 seconds. I think about it once every 17 days. And this wasn’t our only marital challenge. Eventually, we found ourselves in a marriage counselor’s office.

Our differing sex drives were just one issue of many in our hurting relationship. During that healing season, we learned some new strategies for communication, conflict resolution, and compromise concerning our sexual differences. That’s when we first discovered the concept of scheduling sex.

At first, just like that young mom, we couldn’t get past the misconception that sex isn’t something to be scheduled. Who says sex should always be spontaneous? Movies, television shows, magazine articles, and romance novels, that’s who! If we’re not careful, we begin to use the media to determine what’s “right” or “normal.” But then, we’re using the wrong measuring stick. We can’t allow our culture or the media to set direction for our relationship. Instead, we need to apply our God-given creativity to find the time and set the strategies to make our sex life within marriage work. Once we were able to grasp that scheduling sex wasn’t such a crazy idea, we put it into place within our partnership. Today, we’re still amazed at the transformation it brings to our physical relationship.

How does planned lovemaking benefit a marriage?

Consider these advantages:

It eliminates “The Ask”

In most marriages, one partner possesses a higher desire than the other and requests sex more often, while his or her partner rarely asks for physical intimacy. For the spouse with a higher desire, the fear of rejection often sets in. One becomes weary of having to ask, or even beg, for sex on a regular basis.

When a couple can agree upon a basic schedule for sex in marriage, it takes the guesswork out. While this still leaves room for occasional spontaneity, it reassures the higher-sex-drive mate that it will happen, and not only that-they know when! Usually, the schedule is less often than the partner with a higher desire would want and more frequent than the partner with a lesser desire may want. Instead, it’s meeting on middle ground.

It increases desire

For the partner with a diminished desire, scheduling sex engages the brain, the largest sex organ in the human body. The brain needs to be clued to prepare the body for a sexual response. Most people who have a lower sexual drive simply don’t think about sex very often. Scheduling jumpstarts this process.

Once sex is on the calendar, it provides a reminder to think about sex, prepares us mentally for being together physically, and primes us to “get in the mood.”

When I complained to a friend about having trouble getting in the mood, she said, “Jill, you’re trying to go from making meatloaf to making love in 30 seconds flat? You can’t do that. You have to have a strategy for going from point A to point B.”

Rarely does the partner with an increased desire need to get “in the mood.” In contrast, the partner with a lesser desire may need to work at it. When sex is on the calendar, though, it serves as a prompt to set strategies in motion. Scheduling sex reminds spouses that they’re working together toward the goal of intimacy, valuing their appointed rendezvous, and doing whatever it takes to make it happen.

It increases anticipation

When lovemaking is kept on the front-burner, it builds anticipation. Both husband and wife begin to prepare for their marital recreation.

Have you ever thought of sex as recreation? It is! God gave us the gift of sex as a form of recreation in our marriage. It’s our own private playground where God intends for us to enjoy physical pleasure.

When sex is on the schedule, we enjoy planning our time together, because we both hold the same goal. We can even become a lifelong learner of giving pleasure to each other. Keeping a couple of Christian sexual technique books on the shelf may develop us into connoisseurs of giving physical pleasure to each other, and it builds anticipation as we think about the next time we’ll be together.

It allows for prime-time planning

He prefers nighttime when he can be romantic. She prefers daytime when she’s not so tired. They decide that twice a week lovemaking is on their calendar-Tuesday at noon (he comes home for lunch and she arranges a sitter for the kids) and Friday at night (after a warm bath and an evening of watching a movie together or going out on a date). This schedule worked well for one couple we mentored.

Most couples not only differ in their desires concerning frequency of sex, but also in the atmosphere that’s conducive to sex. Some struggle with making love anytime children are in the vicinity. Others prefer a certain time of the day. When you put your lovemaking on the calendar, you can work to accommodate those likes/dislikes to meet the needs of both.

It helps couples prepare physically

I used to tease my husband that once we got on a lovemaking schedule, it sure took the pressure off shaving my legs every day! On a serious side, there’s value in preparing yourself physically to make love to your mate. A hot bath or shower, a freshly-shaved body, and some great-smelling lotion often relax us for physical intimacy. It also builds anticipation as you prepare to be with your spouse.

If weariness keeps you from being excited about sex, an early evening nap may be just the key if lovemaking is on the agenda that night. Since some of the guesswork is out of the mix, we can prepare not only mentally, but physically.

It builds trust

If we’re going to commit to lovemaking on a regular basis, we need to honor our word and agreement. When we honor our word, it builds trust and deepens intimacy. On the rare occasion that something prevents your regularly scheduled lovemaking, spouses need to communicate their value of sexual intimacy so they can make alternate plans to meet those physical and emotional needs. This is the key to successfully calendaring your intimacy.

Several weeks after that initial conversation, I spoke with that young mom. Her voice held enthusiasm I hadn’t heard before. I asked her how things were going, and she indicated that she and her husband were working on some new ways to energize and invest in their marriage.

She concluded by saying, “Now don’t bother calling Friday around noon, because no one is going to answer the phone!” I knew that she learned the same secret we learned years ago. While spontaneous sex may have its place in life, scheduling sex always has its place on our calendar!

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Jill Savage (www.jillsavage.org/) serves as the executive director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org). She is the author of four books including Is There Really Sex After Kids? (Zondervan)

The Secret to a Lasting Marriage: Embrace Imperfection

SOURCE:  Deb Graham

When I was a little girl, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.

On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage, and extremely burned toast in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his toast, smile at my mom, and ask me how my day was at school.

I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that toast and eat every bite! When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the toast. And I’ll never forget what he said: “Baby, I love burned toast.”

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his toast burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, “Debbie, your momma put in a hard day at work today and she’s real tired. And besides-a little burnt toast never hurt anyone!”

In bed that night, I thought about that scene at dinner and the kindness my daddy showed my mom. To this day, it’s a cherished memory from my childhood that I’ll never forget. And it’s one that came to mind just recently when Jack and I sat down to eat dinner.

I had arrived home, late as usual, and decided we would have breakfast food for dinner. Some things never change, I suppose!

To my amazement, I found the ingredients I needed, and quickly began to cook eggs, turkey sausage, and buttered toast. Thinking I had things under control, I glanced through the mail for the day. It was only a few minutes later that I remembered that I had forgotten to take the toast out of the oven!

Now, had it been any other day — and had we had more than two pieces of bread in the entire house — I would have started all over. But it had been one of those days and I had just used up the last two pieces of bread. So burnt toast it was!

As I set the plate down in front of Jack, I waited for a comment about the toast. But all I got was a “Thank you!” I watched as he ate bite by bite, all the time waiting for some comment about the toast. But instead, all Jack said was, “Babe, this is great. Thanks for cooking tonight. I know you had a hard day.”

As I took a bite of my charred toast that night, I thought about my mom and dad, how burnt toast hadn’t been a deal-breaker for them. And I quietly thanked God for giving me a marriage where burnt toast wasn’t a deal-breaker either!

You know, life is full of imperfect things-and imperfect people. I’m not the best housekeeper or cook. And you might be surprised to find out that Jack isn’t the perfect husband! He likes to play his music too loud, he will always find a way to avoid yard work, and he watches far too many sports. Believe it or not, watching “Golf Academy” is not my idea of a great night at home!

But somehow in the past 37 years Jack and I have learned to accept the imperfections in each other. Over time, we have stopped trying to make each other in our own mold and have learned to celebrate our differences. You might say that we’ve learned to love each other for who we really are!

For example, I like to take my time, I’m a perfectionist, and I’m even-tempered. I tend to work too much and sleep too little. Jack, on the other hand, is disciplined, studious, an early riser, and is a marketer’s dream consumer. I count pennies and Jack could care less! Where he is strong, I am weak, and vice versa.

And while you might say that Jack and I are opposites, we’re also very much alike. I can look at him and tell you what he’s thinking. I can predict his actions before he finalizes his plans. On the other hand, he knows whether I’m troubled or not the moment I enter a room.

We share the same goals. We love the same things. And we are still best friends. We’ve traveled through many valleys and enjoyed many mountaintops. And yet, at the same time, Jack and I must work every minute of every day to make this thing called “marriage” work!

What I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences – is the one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting marriage relationship.

And that’s my prayer for you today. That you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your married life and lay them at the feet of Jesus. Because in the end, He’s the only One who will be able to give you a marriage where burnt toast isn’t a deal-breaker!

Impossible Marriage Situation

(Question/Answer re “Impossible Marriage” Situation by Michelle Wiener-Davis, Author of Divorce Busting.)

I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING, BUT NOTHING WORKS !!!

QUESTION —
Dear Michele:
“I’m working on my marriage, but it still isn’t working.” Michele, after reading your books (Divorce Remedy, Divorce Busting and Getting Through to the Man You Love), I have one question: The underlying assumption of all three books is that you DO love your spouse. I am in a situation in which I don’t really love my spouse, and actually often don’t like or respect him. Yet he is a good father, and our children are incredibly devoted to our little family. I definitely believe that a divorce would be the best thing for ME (and probably for him), but the worst thing for my children. It’s been hard for me to try to divorce bust because I can’t seem to get over the hump of feeling I’m knocking myself out to work on something I don’t really want, namely, staying married to my husband. Does this mean mine is just one of the marriages that can’t be saved? Most of the posts I read on the boards seem to be from people who WANT their spouses. Any comments would be appreciated, and I’m sure would be enlightening to many on the board, because I’ve heard from many about to be Walkaway Wife’s who feel the same way I do — little, if any, love or respect for our spouses, and little, if any, desire to be married to them. Thank you. Jenny

ANSWER —
Dear Jenny,
You ask an interesting question and I hope my response will be helpful.

First, I want you to know that your assumption that my books presuppose love for one’s spouse is completely incorrect. My books presuppose a commitment to working on one’s marriage. It is absolutely true that when you love your spouse, it makes going through the hard times more palatable and sharing the good times more enjoyable. No question about it. But I don’t assume people reading the books love their spouses.

I know you won’t like what I’m about to say, but I can tell from your post that you have never really committed to working on your marriage. Yes, I know you’ve had a telephone consultation and some counseling. But that doth not commitment make. Too many people say they’re working on their marriages when they drag their bodies to therapy or talk to some sort of expert. That’s not even scratching the surface. Working on your marriage means making the decision to be there in spirit, not necessarily to be head over heels in love when you start, but to invest yourself fully.

Working on your marriage means giving of yourself completely, putting your spouse’s needs before your own- and vise versa. It means quitting the game of keeping score. It means forgiving and letting go. Working on your marriage means focusing on people’s strengths and downplaying their shortcomings. It means not expecting to have all or even the majority of your needs satisfied by one person. It means vowing to have a full and satisfying life of your own so that you don’t blame your spouse unfairly about your unhappiness. It means appreciating the little things and overlooking life’s annoyances. It means recognizing that no one, not even you or me, is perfect.

I’m not sure why I think this, but I have a distinct feeling that you are holding on to resentments from the past. (I don’t even know you but the feeling is there nonetheless). It seems to me, that your current willingness to stay is built on guilt and self-sacrifice rather than any pleasure derived from the gift you would be giving your children and “your little family” and as a result, yourself. As long as you look at staying through the eyes of resentment, you will not be able to fully immerse yourself in what you need to do to make your family truly work.

Unfortunately, no one, not your parents, friends, family, therapist, clergy or me, can make the decision to have a good, healthy family for you. Only you can make that choice. You have been sitting on the fence- staying but holding back. (Maybe that’s why you chose Paradox as your username.) This won’t get you where you need to go. I can promise you that. Make a decision. Own your decision. Stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re working on things when you’re not. If you feel you can’t forgive and start fresh, take ownership of that. Go. However, you know my first choice. But in the end, that doesn’t really matter. Yours is the choice that matters. If you choose marriage, the rest is relatively easy. You decide. Love is a decision.
Michele

Your Attachment Style Influences the Success of Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT/Gottman Institute

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable? What about someone who was emotionally exhausting?

People give up on finding “the one” after experiencing a relationship or two with someone who has either style. Self-doubt sets in and you think, “something must be wrong with me.”

To understand this phenomenon you must first understand attachment theory, one of the most well researched theories in the field of relational psychology. Attachment theory describes how our early relationships with a primary caregiver, most commonly a parent, creates our expectation for how love should be.

Our view of ourself and others is molded by how well these caregivers were available and responsive to met our physical and emotional needs. In our adult relationships, our attachment system is triggered by our romantic partners.

The attachment alarm

How are we triggered? Think about the availability of your primary caregiver.

  • Were they neglectful, always there for you, or inconsistent?
  • Who did you go to when you had a problem?
  • Was there someone there you could really count on?

You can start to identify your own attachment style by getting to know the four patterns of attachment in adults and learning how they commonly affect couples in their relating.

According to attachment theory, you have a secure attachment style if a caregiver was responsive and available to you as a child, making you feel safe and secure. Creating a secure attachment is important for dating to create a healthy relationship. In a secure relationship your partner is there for you and has your back. If you are an insecure style (and you choose someone with an insecure style), you will continually be triggered and never feel safe or secure in your relationship.

If your caregiver was unresponsive, you form an insecure attachment pattern. An insecure attachment style manifests in three main ways.

Anxious Attachment – develops when a caregiver has been inconsistent in their responsiveness and availability, confusing the child about what to expect. As an adult, this person acts clingy at times and finds it difficult to trust their partner.

Avoidant Attachment – develops when a caregiver is neglectful. These are the children that play by themselves and develop the belief that no one is there to meet their needs. As adults, they typically label themselves as very independent.

Disorganized Attachment
– develops from abuse, trauma, or chaos in the home. A child learns to fear the caregiver and has no real “secure base.”

All of these styles influence the way you behave in your romantic relationships and how you find a romantic partner.

So, this begs the question, can one change their attachment style to a more secure way of relating?

Changing your attachment style

The answer is yes, but it takes hard work. Often therapy can be incredibly helpful. Being aware of your attachment style and the choices you are making in a partner are crucial. A quality therapist will guide your development of the awareness necessary to discern whether you are reacting to past wounds.

We tend to recreate unhealthy relationship patterns from our childhood in our adulthood. As much as people may dislike it, the familiarity is comforting. You may even confuse the feelings of relationship chemistry with what is the familiarity of your early life experience.

You can challenge your insecurities by choosing a partner with a secure attachment style, and work on developing yourself in that relationship. By facing your fears about love, you can build new styles of attachment for sustaining a satisfying, loving relationship.

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Recommended resources

The following books will help you to understand attachment theory and how it impacts your relationship.

Levine explains how the three attachment styles create the types of relationships we end up in as adults and how to break those patterns to have healthier relationships.

What Makes Love Last: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by Dr. John Gottman

Trust and attunement are the foundation of a secure and healthy relationship.

Learn how to recognize and avoid “blind spots” in dating so you can find lasting love.

Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin, PsyD

Tatkin shares the complexity of attachment styles and how to love an emotionally unavailable partner so they can be more available, and how to love an insecure partner so they feel safe.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson

Johnson offers seven vital conversations that help partners work with their unique insecure attachment styles to create a more secure and meaningful relationship.

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

Healing From Infidelity

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SOURCE:  Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W

Life certainly has its challenges, but little compares to the monumental task of healing from infidelity.

As a marriage therapist for two decades, I’ve heard countless clients confess that the discovery of an affair was the lowest, darkest moment of their entire lives. And because affairs shatter trust, many seriously contemplate ending their marriages.

However, it’s important to know that, no matter bleak things might seem, it’s possible to revitalize a marriage wounded by infidelity. It’s not easy- there are no quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions- but years of experience has taught me that there are definite patterns to what people in loving relationships do to bring their marriages back from the brink of disaster.

Healing from infidelity involves teamwork; both spouses must be fully committed to the hard work of getting their marriages back on track. The unfaithful partner must be willing to end the affair and do whatever it takes to win back the trust of his or her spouse. The betrayed spouse must be willing to find ways to manage overwhelming emotions so, as a couple, they can begin to sort out how the affair happened, and more importantly, what needs to change so that it never happens again. Although no two people, marriages or paths to recovery are identical, it’s helpful to know that healing typically happens in stages.

If you recently discovered that your spouse has been unfaithful, you will undoubtedly feel a whole range of emotions- shock, rage, hurt, devastation, disillusionment, and intense sadness. You may have difficulty sleeping or eating, or feel completely obsessed with the affair. If you are an emotional person, you may cry a lot. You may want to be alone, or conversely, feel at your worst when you are. While unpleasant, these reactions are perfectly normal.

Although you might be telling yourself that your marriage will never improve, it will, but not immediately. Healing from infidelity takes a long time. Just when you think things are looking up, something reminds you of the affair and you go downhill rapidly. It’s easy to feel discouraged unless you both keep in mind that intense ups and downs are the norm. Eventually, the setbacks will be fewer and far between.

Although some people are more curious than others, it’s very common to have lots of questions about the affair, especially initially. If you have little interest in the facts, so be it. However, if you need to know what happened, ask. Although the details may be uncomfortable to hear, just knowing your spouse is willing to “come clean” helps people recover. As the unfaithful spouse, you might feel tremendous remorse and guilt, and prefer avoiding the details entirely, but experience shows that this is a formula for disaster. Sweeping negative feelings and lingering questions under the carpet makes genuine healing unlikely.

Once there is closure on what actually happened, there is typically a need to know why it happened. Betrayed spouses often believe that unless they get to the bottom of things, it could happen again. Unfortunately, since the reasons people stray can be quite complex, the “whys” aren’t always crystal clear.

No one “forces” anyone to be unfaithful. Infidelity is a decision, even if doesn’t feel that way. If you were unfaithful, it’s important to examine why you allowed yourself to do something that could threaten your marriage. Were you satisfying a need to feel attractive? Are you having a mid-life crisis? Did you grow up in a family where infidelity was a way of life? Do you have a sexual addiction?

It’s equally important to explore whether your marriage is significantly lacking. Although no marriage is perfect, sometimes people feel so unhappy, they look to others for a stronger emotional or physical connection. They complain of feeling taken for granted, unloved, resentful, or ignored. Sometimes there is a lack of intimacy or sexuality in the marriage.

If unhappiness with your spouse contributed to your decision to have an affair, you need to address your feelings openly and honestly so that together you can make some changes. If open communication is a problem, consider seeking help from a qualified marital therapist or taking a communication skill-building class. There are many available through religious organizations, community colleges and mental health settings.

Another necessary ingredient for rebuilding a marriage involves the willingness of unfaithful spouses to demonstrate sincere regret and remorse. You can’t apologize often enough. You need to tell your spouse that you will never commit adultery again. Although, since you are working diligently to repair your relationship, you might think your intentions to be monogamous are obvious, they aren’t. Tell your spouse of your plans to take your commitment to your marriage to heart. This will be particularly important during the early stages of recovery when mistrust is rampant.

Conversely, talking about the affair can’t be the only thing you do. Couples who successfully rebuild their marriages recognize the importance of both talking about their difficulties and spending time together without discussing painful topics. They intentionally create opportunities to reconnect and nurture their friendship. They take walks, go out to eat or to a movie, develop new mutual interests and so on. Betrayed spouses will be more interested in spending discussion-free time after the initial shock of the affair has dissipated.

Ultimately, the key to healing from infidelity involves forgiveness, which is frequently the last step in the healing process. The unfaithful spouse can do everything right- be forthcoming, express remorse, listen lovingly and act trustworthy, and still, the marriage won’t mend unless the betrayed person forgives his or her spouse and the unfaithful spouse forgives him or herself. Forgiveness opens the door to real intimacy and connection.

But forgiveness doesn’t just happen. It is a conscious decision to stop blaming, make peace, and start tomorrow with a clean slate. If the past has had you in its clutches, why not take the next step to having more love in your life?

Decide to forgive today.

Phrases That Make Arguments and Fights Worse

SOURCE:  Brandon Specktor/Readers Digest

When you argue, you are at your most animal. Your brain literally enters fight-or-flight mode, your heart-rate escalates, and logic and reasoning physically shut down. It’s little wonder you usually say a lot of bonehead things you end up regretting in the morning. Don’t worry: We are all guilty of the same stupidity, and sometimes the key to a painless argument is what you don’t say.

For starters, here are six research-backed phrases proven to make any bad argument worse.

Don’t mention getting calm — “Calm Down”

According to parenting experts and hostage negotiators alike, the biggest mistake most people make in an argument is denying the other person’s feelings. Think for a moment if the words “calm down” have ever actually made you calmer. More than likely, they’ve only ever made you feel more annoyed—Why does this person think I’m overreacting? He doesn’t understand me at all! Telling a person to calm down assigns them a negative emotion (be it anger, anxiety, stubbornness, etc.) while denying their actual feelings. This seeming lack of empathy can be detrimental to reaching a mutual understanding, which is a far more important outcome than “winning” an argument. So instead of telling your companion how to feel, seek first to understand how they feel. Step one: listen.

Don’t try to quiet their emotions — “Shut Up”

Always let the other person vent, no matter how long or loud that venting may be. “If the emotional level is high, your first task is to take some of the emotion out,” says Linda Hill, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. “Hold back and let them say their piece. You don’t have to agree with it, but listen.” Often times, just talking honestly about a problem is enough to make a person feel better about it (hence, therapy). And as an argument participant, know that every word your companion says is a step toward mutual understanding. Just be careful how you approach it.

Don’t fake-empathize — “I Know How You Feel”

This stock phrase almost always comes across wrong; you may be trying to say, “your emotions are valid,” but the other person will more likely hear, “I get it—so stop talking.” Instead of merely saying you understand someone’s feelings, show them by doing what FBI negotiators do: paraphrase. “The idea is to really listen to what the other side is saying and feed it back to them,” says FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss. “It’s kind of a discovery process for both sides. First of all, you’re trying to discover what’s important to them, and secondly, you’re trying to help them hear what they’re saying to find out if what they are saying makes sense.” If everyone’s on the same page, you can start moving toward reconciliation.

Don’t tell someone how to feel — “You Shouldn’t Feel That Way”

It may sound to you like you’re acknowledging the other person’s feelings, but by adding a “should” or “shouldn’t” you are condemning and judging them just as much. Psychologists call this subtractive empathy—a response that diminishes and distorts what the other person has just said, often making them feel worse. Instead of judging a feeling, try giving it a concrete name by saying something like, “You sound pretty hurt about [problem]. It doesn’t seem fair.” That’s what psychologists call additive empathy—it identifies a feeling, then adds a new layer of understanding that can lead to a potential solution. Think you have a solution? Be careful how you phrase it.

Don’t tell someone what to do — “Here’s What You Need To Do”

When the fight-or-flight response is triggered, power becomes deceptively crucial to us. Telling someone what to do takes away their power; if they listen to your advice, they may feel less smart or less autonomous, and they will resent you for that. What’s more, insisting that an answer depends solely on the other person changing their behavior removes personal responsibility from the equation, and that’s no way to make friends or learn from your mistakes. The superior phrase: “What would you like me to do?” This handy question leaves the other person with their autonomy, and proves you’re willing to meet them halfway. It also moves your brains away from fight mode, and closer to the land of logical compromise.

Don’t force a resolution — “We Need To Settle This Now”

Never fret if you can’t settle an argument in one shot. According to relationship psychologist John Gottman, PhD, 69 percent of a couple’s problems are perpetualthey will never be resolved. “By fighting over [inherent] differences, all [couples] succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage,” Gottman says. While this may sound depressing to anyone new to a serious relationship, it’s meant to be liberating. Once you realize some arguments can never be won, it makes them that much easier to drop. You fight. You make up. You move on with life. Despite what your fight-or-flight brain chemistry is telling you, “winning” doesn’t matter; most of the time, it isn’t even possible. However, pay attention to these red-flag warning signs of a toxic relationship or signs of a toxic friendship.

Marriage/Relationships: The Danger of Distorted Thinking

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Mitch Temple/Focus on the Family

If you are angry, afraid, resentful, jealous, or depressed – in other words, if you are struggling with negative emotions – the fault may lie in your thinking. Cognitive therapists operate on the theory that distorted thinking lies at the root of most of these negative emotions. These therapists help their clients identify the distorted thinking, understand what is distorted about it, and then correct it so that emotional healing can begin.

Here are some common distorted thoughts. Do any of them sound familiar?

  • I must be approved and loved by all people.
  • If things don’t go the way I expect them to, then it’s catastrophic.
  • It’s easier to avoid a problem than to deal with conflict.
  • What has happened in the past will determine the future.
  • If I make a mistake, it means that I am incompetent and that I am inferior to others.
  • Things always turn out this way.
  • You always act this way.
  • You never treat me the way I deserve to be treated.
  • You should always feel or act a certain way.

Research shows that these thoughts can lead to serious problems, among them addictions and depression.1 I know.

I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life, so I’m very familiar with distorted thinking. While growing up, I suspected I had a problem, but counseling was not smiled upon then, and I had no idea how to get help.

I bet you can guess what happened when I got married. You got it. I didn’t check my depression at the door. My moodiness, anger, and negativity moved into the Temple home.

After ten years of marriage, Rhonda and I were desperate.

I was extremely depressed and I worried about everything – even in my sleep. I often woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, but I couldn’t go back to sleep because the anxiety from my dreams kept me awake. Sleep deprivation caused me to be contentious and on edge. I lost forty pounds, became physically ill, and experienced constant nausea. When I thought I had cancer or another terminal illness, I visited numerous doctors without a diagnosis. Finally, an internal medicine specialist from India gave me an answer.

“Mr. Temple,” he said in accented English, “you don’t have a physical problem. You have an emotional problem. You have developed an anxiety disorder, and you are also very depressed. You must get help or you may die.”

After weeks of denial, I knew he was right, so I finally got the help I needed.

The counselor I visited convinced me to take depression medication, even though I was terrified of becoming addicted. I spoke with my good friend Jeff Mathis, MD, who alleviated my concerns. He said that most antidepressants are not addictive and should be a bridge, not a crutch, to help navigate through a dark emotional valley.

Because my marriage, family, faith, and job were on the line, I was willing to do whatever was necessary. The result? Over time, I became a better husband. And the way I saw myself, Rhonda, and others improved.

I was transformed.

Through my experience I learned that because I suffered from depression, I could not see myself or my wife realistically. I felt as if I were stumbling around in dark rooms – wearing sunglasses. I couldn’t see myself as God sees me. I felt that I could not be good enough, faithful enough, or spiritual enough – no matter what the Bible says.

These kinds of beliefs, based on myths and distorted thinking, led me to depression and hopelessness. They can also lead us to accept Satan’s lie that you are not worthy of grace and can cause us to act in ways that we’ll regret.

This is typical in a marriage where a spouse is depressed. Though a depressed husband is committed to marriage, he won’t feel good about his wife and, therefore, won’t treat her well. If the non-depressed wife does not understand what is happening, she will make the situation worse by assuming that her husband is mean or doesn’t care about the marriage or that he can easily change how he feels and acts.

In reality, change can be almost impossible for a depressed person. Until the depressed spouse receives proper treatment, he or she cannot interact with you in a healthy way.

Depression is a very serious illness, which if left untreated can destroy a marriage in a short period of time. Many marriages today are in trouble because one or both spouses struggle with severe depression. Until these couples address and treat depression, it will be difficult to learn new relational skills to strengthen their marriage.

(A caveat is in order here. Depression and other emotional problems can be caused by factors other than distorted thinking. Chemical and sugar imbalances, stress, lack of sleep, even thyroid disorders can also be precipitators of depression. When issues like these are involved, they must be assessed, diagnosed, and treated by a medical professional.)

You may not struggle with depression. But distorted thinking, because it is so subtle and rooted in the way you look at yourself and your spouse, has the potential to eat away at your marriage.

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  1. Lisa Dutton, “The Power of Positive Thinking: Easing Depression,” McGill University Health Centre, February 2003.

From The Marriage Turnaround: How Thinking Differently About Your Relationship Can Change Everything, published by Moody Publishers by Mitch Temple

6 Awful Relationship Habits and How to Break Them

SOURCE:  Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D/Psychology Today

Habits can be hard to break, especially when they’ve developed over the course of a long-term relationship. You know when your relationship is suffering from the effects of bad habits when you feel like something is off, or missing, in your time with your partner. You can’t quite put your finger on it, and there may be no one really to blame, but you know that things have changed.

A bad relationship habit is one that continues to occur even though it causes you or your partner distress. It may develop independent of the personalities, beliefs, or values of each individual, or it may reflect good intentions gone wrong in the way you two interact. You want to be positive, you want to be loving, but you can’t quite seem to pull it off. When alone, you build up your resolve to change, but when you’re back with your partner, that resolve melts and you’re back where you started.

Not all relationship habits are bad. The good ones allow you and your partner to function more effectively as a twosome or as part of a larger family or group. Just as your personal habits allow you to get out of bed and start your day with a minimum of mental effort, these habits being stability and predictability to your life. Knowing that your partner hates purple, for example, means that you don’t have to stop and ponder whether to buy a purple shirt you see on sale. And knowing your partner’s habits is itself a good relationship habit. It signifies that you have a pretty good understanding of your partner, even if you don’t agree with all those preferences. (And sometimes you may wish to change those habits if they’re detracting from your partner’s well-being, but that’s a different story.)

Bad relationship habits, by contrast, work against your relationship—and if they’re bad enough, they can destroy it. Here are six to watch out for, along with suggestions for counteracting each one:

1. Wait for your partner to initiate shows of affection.

The tendency to believe that you need to be approached first by your partner in displays of affection is more prevalent in women, as shown by research on who is more likely to initiate a relationship. If you hold to this belief, though, it will lead you to the habit of always waiting to be approached by your partner even after your relationship is well-established. Not only can this habit keep you from fulfilling your own needs (whether in a new or long-term relationship) but it can send the wrong signals to your partner that you’re “just not that into” him or her.

To counteract this bad habit, do what researchers do to prompt subjects to feel more in control of their destinies: Recall times when you were in control and the outcome was positive. This doesn’t have to involve relationships; it can be any time that you took action and the result benefited you. This can be enough to prompt you to feel that it’s OK to exercise control in your relationship as well. The results will probably surprise you in that your partner may very well be delighted that you’re willing to start the romantic ball rolling.

2. Argue about the same things all the time.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in arguments, especially ones that keep repeating. You might be able to predict, with depressing accuracy, the result of a disagreement with your partner over one or another weekly chore or duty. Before you slide into the routine set of complaints about having to clean the bathroom yet again, try to find a time when you can both talk calmly about the recurring problem and come up with a plan to end it. As is true for changing your own bad habits (such as giving into a daily craving for a donut), you can set up a schedule of small change comparable to going for one day, then two days, etc. without the donut. If you both decide this is fair, it will eventually produce a desired outcome of making those arguments go away.

Of course, if your partner uses the occasion to bring up a habit of yours that’s been a source of contention, be ready to make similar changes in return. Increasing your sense of personal control has the added benefit of making it easier for you to change your own bad habits. A review of six studies involving nearly 2,300 people (Galla & Duckworth, 2015) showed that people who feel a greater sense of self-control have a variety of beneficial life outcomes, including being able to overcome bad habits.

3. Take your partner for granted.

This is a very easy habit to slide into if you’ve been in a relationship for a long time. In a way, taking your partner for granted is a good sign because it shows that you and your partner feel you can rely on each other. It’s nice to know, in a way, that your partner will be able to tolerate your occasional bursts of anger or irritation, and that you can dress however you feel like around the house when no one else is there. It’s also comforting to feel that your partner will help you when you get into a jam. On the other hand, taking someone for granted also includes maybe not saying “thank you” as much as you should because you’ve come to expect favorable treatment. Take the time to recognize what your partner contributes to your life and let him or her know how much it means to you.

4. Be too serious.

You may find that you laugh with friends or colleagues outside the home more than you do when you’re with your partner. The preoccupation of having a home and family can lead people to forget that sometimes things happen that are just plain funny. You might see a Facebook post or text that makes you laugh, but when you’re in the middle of your habitual routine, you may feel that you don’t have the time to spare to take a break. However, research shows that having a laugh together may be just the boost your relationship needs. If all else fails, go to a romantic comedy together just to be able to share some silly time.

5. Not have a meal together.

The fast pace of life, particularly when we have to balance home and work roles, can lead couples to get into the habit of catching their meals on the go. Daily schedules being what they are, you and your partner may just barely see each other as you pass in the hallway. If you’re not living with your partner, it may seem impossible to schedule a time to go out or cook a meal together. Yet, having that meal together may remedy some of the other bad habits, such as taking each other for granted or being too serious. To break this habit, commit to at least one shared meal per week, or on whatever regular basis you can arrange. During that meal, get rid of your phone, play some relaxing music, and enjoy each other’s company. If your partner has cooked the meal, be sure to say “thank you,” and express that you liked it.

6. Spend too much time plugged into your devices.

MIT Professor Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation (link is external) argues that we’re losing the ability to talk to each other in a face-to-face setting. Being on your devices while you’re apart may be a way of maintaining connection through texts and status updates, but when you’re with your partner, the devices offer nothing but distraction. That you can’t get through a meal without having your phone next to you may be a symptom of a larger problem in your relationship and if that’s the case, the other suggestions above (laughing together, avoiding repeat arguments, showing affection) can be vital ways to turn things around.

Reference

Galla, B. M., & Duckworth, A. L. (2015). More than resisting temptation: Beneficial habits mediate the relationship between self-control and positive life outcomes. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 109(3), 508-525. doi:10.1037/pspp0000026

TEN DIFFICULT, BUT REALLY IMPORTANT WORDS

SOURCE:  Michael Hyatt

Many words in the English language are difficult. In fact, there’s even a Dictionary of Difficult Words. But none are more difficult than these:

“I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”

Many otherwise articulate people seem to have great difficulty in spitting these words out. They hem and haw. They stutter. They may get something close out, but they have a hard time slowly and deliberately saying these ten simple words.

But each one of these ten words are important.

  1. “I’m sorry.” Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and feel what they feel. This is something we desperately need to develop. But it takes humility.

Too often, we are preoccupied with our own feelings. However, empathy is the recognition that it’s not all about us. Other people matter. They have feelings, too, and those feelings are important

By saying we are sorry—sincerely and with authentic humility—we validate them as human beings. We are essentially saying, “I know you are hurt, and I understand. Your feelings are valid, and I am sorry that I am the cause of them. I’m not sorry because I got caught or because you called me out. I’m sorry because of the hurt that I caused you.”

CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE AT:  http://michaelhyatt.com/ten-difficult-but-really-important-words.html

 

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.

Relationships: Breathe Grace

SOURCE:  Ken Sande

Highly relational people love to breathe grace.

They draw continually on the goodness and power of Jesus Christ, and then they breathe his love, kindness and wisdom into all of their relationships.

This is what the Apostle Paul had in mind in Ephesians 4:29, where he calls each of us to “give grace” to others.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

What does Paul mean by the word “grace”? It is a rich biblical term. In a broad sense, grace often refers to the kindness of God to man (Luke 1:30). But Paul usually uses it to describe something even more wonderful, which is God’s kindness or mercy to those who do not deserve it, actually, to those who deserves just the opposite! (Eph. 2:1-5).

Breathing grace means to breathe in God’s grace, which is the undeserved love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom that he gives to us through Jesus Christ, and then breathe it out to others, even if they do not deserve it.

We take our first deep breath of God’s grace by believing in his Son and receiving his gift of forgiveness. We can continue to breathe in his grace on a moment-by-moment basis by studying and mediating on his Word, by praying to him, by thanking him for his mercy and rejoicing in our salvation, by delighting in his character and many kindnesses, by worshiping him, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, and by enjoying the fellowship of other believers.

As we fill our souls with his grace, he wants us to breathe it out to others. We usually do this with our words, but we can also do it with our actions. This can be done in countless ways (I had to work hard to shorten the list!):

The more deliberately you breathe in the grace of God today, the more you will breathe out his grace to others … and experience the kind of relationships that reflect his love and extend his kingdom (John 13:34-35).

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.

Does Your Spouse Annoy You?

SOURCE:  Tim Kimmel/Family Life

Accepting your differences will help you mature beyond the downsides of your personalities.

One week before I got married, I bought a “muscle car.” My brother Tom and I spent a day and a half up in Pennsylvania rebuilding the engine. A few days before the big day, I showed up in Annapolis, Maryland, ready to ride off into the future with Darcy. For the gearheads reading this, it was a ’66 Pontiac GTO. It was far from new, but Tom and I got it running like it was.

I thought Darcy would love driving it. I was wrong.

She complained about the way it tended to peel a bit of tire off every time she popped the clutch going from first to second, and sometimes even into third. That’s why I bought it! I tried to explain to her how cool that was and how hot she looked doing it. She was not impressed. She wanted something tame, manageable, and quiet.

Within a year, I sold the GTO and bought a Volkswagen! It was one of my first major disappointments in my marriage.

Had I been quicker on the uptake, I would have seen the car as a metaphor of a bigger reality. I had married a woman who was cautious by nature. She preferred to know where we were going before we took off, and she liked to have some say on the route we’d choose (read: the one with the least unknowns). Darcy was a woman of forethought and deliberatedness. And she didn’t feel comfortable when she was put in charge of something that left her at the mercy of things she couldn’t control.

So you’re thinking, If that’s true, why’d she marry you?

Good point. I was a bona fide risk taker. I preferred pushing the envelope in fourth gear. Road maps were for amateurs. When Darcy and I found ourselves sitting across the table from each other every night and waking up under the same blankets every morning, our preferences started to grate on each other.

But even though my “Let’s see what’s down that dark back road through the woods” attitude often made Darcy nervous, she knew that was one of the things that attracted her to me. She was careful in how she lived out her day-to-day life, but she wanted to harness her heart and her future to someone who wasn’t intimidated by unknowns or rattled by foiled plans.

In the same way, I was drawn to Darcy because she was careful and calculated. I knew that for me to succeed, I’d need someone who could keep my feet on the ground and help me put planning and organization around my dreams. I also needed someone who was invested enough in me to get in my face every once in a while and tell me when I was being an idiot. Thus, the fetching Mrs. Kimmel.

Too bad that wasn’t the position we defaulted to. For the first few years, instead of graciously honoring each other’s hardwiring and accepting how our differences could help us operate as a team. Darcy and I marginalized each other’s preferences and mocked each other’s strengths. She considered me reckless, and I considered her somewhat embalmed. With each barb, our security fuel gauges moved toward empty.

I’ve seen couples miss the chance to refuel each other’s sense of security by carping about physical issues that aren’t in that person’s control. Criticism about our spouse’s body type drains their sense of security almost every time. Here’s a note you might want to make to yourself: Your spouse’s DNA tends to confine their options when they stand in front of the full-length mirror. Most of what you see is genetics—part of the wonderful artwork God chose for your spouse’s body. But if you criticize physical features over which your spouse has little to no control, it will be hard for them to feel a secure love.

Comparison doesn’t help a spouse feel secure, either. In grad school, Darcy and I socialized with one of my classmates and his wife. At first we thought our friendship would be a good fit, but it was obvious his wife wasn’t impressed with her husband’s chosen profession of vocational ministry. Since I was heading down that same road, I assumed she wasn’t impressed with me either.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to live with her. Unfortunately, he did. She compared him to friends who had chosen career paths she felt were more prestigious. His confidence as a man shrank with each comparison.

But his confidence as a husband paid the biggest price. She didn’t respect his calling. Not surprisingly, he only lasted a couple of years as a pastor.

Even though he left the ministry, the comparisons continued. I could have told him that. His wife refused to extend to him the grace that a loving person does to bring out the best in their spouse. This guy had all the stuff to be something great for God. The only one who couldn’t see this reality was his wife. Her lack of grace for the man he was deep down inside shriveled his sense of security to nothing. No acceptance—no security.

Meanwhile, Darcy and I figured out we were working against each other’s hearts. We weren’t showing each other much grace when it came to how God had configured us.

We were also disrespecting Him in the process. He made us with our unique personalities. He drew us together to help fill each other’s gaps. God could make us much more as a couple than we could ever be as individuals.

Once we started seeing each other through a lens of grace and allowing God’s grace to frame our words and actions toward each other, a wonderful chain reaction started taking place. I started appreciating and applauding her carefulness. She, in turn, started applauding and appreciating my daring and dreaming.

God’s grace helped us develop an attitude that asked, “How do I make it easier for my spouse to do what they do best?” This maximized our potential and capacity as a couple. Our willingness to infuse our relationship with grace as we accepted each other brought more laughter, calm, peace, passion, and confidence into our marriage.

And there was another benefit of this decision to accept each other: It helped us mature beyond the downsides of our personalities. Over the years, Darcy has grown into much more of a risk taker. She now suggests the scenic route over the sure thing, the backstreets of emotions over the thoroughfare. And I’ve learned the wisdom in planning, risk factoring, and proceeding carefully. I still love driving in fourth gear and close to the edge of the road of life, but I prefer to keep my emotional, spiritual, and intellectual GPS lit up along the way.

Our love grows far more secure when we accept the things about our spouses that make them who they are. How are you doing in this area? Do you see your spouse’s uniqueness and strengths as something to me marginalized or applauded?

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Excerpted from Grace Filled Marriage by Dr. Tim Kimmel © 2013. Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., Brentwood, Tennessee, www.worthypublishing.com.

4 Easy Reminders to be a Great Parent

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

The title says these are “easy”…and they are in some ways. None of these are hard to remember. None of these are hard to implement…with personal discipline. But, living them daily, in addition to the normal stresses of life…can seem very difficult at times.

But, great parents are continually working at them.

Here are 4 principles to be a great parent:

(Or the best parent you can be…)

Be present. Be there for your kids. Stay committed to them throughout their life. Be willing, especially in the formative years, to sacrifice your time for them. They’ll know whether or not you really want to be with them. And, something positive happens when they have your full attention. They model. (So also live a life worth modeling.)

Be intentional. Make a plan for each individual child based on their needs and work the plan. Introduce them to Christ. Involve them in church regularly. Help them with their school work. Teach them Biblical principles. Do what’s best for them…even when it isn’t popular with them.

Be relational. Let love reign. Keep grace flowing. Provide healthy discipline…because you love them and they need it at times. Be patient, recognizing they are learning….even when it seems some days they are not. Don’t ever let them think they have to earn your love. You may not always approve of their actions, but be sure they have no doubts that you approve of them. Spend time with them doing what they enjoy doing. Sacrifice your time to play with them…even at the end of a long, hard day. It will be worth it.

Be consistent. Keep doing the right thing…always…continually. Over and over again. That’s what the great parents do.

Even if you do everything you know to do, children are unique individuals…with wills of their own. They will make choices in life…and mistakes…just as you do.

Parenting IS hard, but you’ve got this. And, the reward of seeing adult children thrive…worth every sacrifice.

Reconciliation: Making It At Least As Good As It Was Before

SOURCE: Taken from The Peacemaker/Ken Sande

Being reconciled does not mean that the person who offended you must now become your closest friend.

What it means is that your relationship will be at least as good as it was before the offense occurred.

Once that happens, an even better relationship may develop. As God helps you and the other person work through your differences, you may discover a growing respect and appreciation for each other. Moreover, you may uncover common interests and goals that will add a deeper and richer dimension to your friendship.

When a relationship has been seriously damaged because one person violated another’s trust or deeply hurt the other person, how can that relationship be made “at least as good as it was before?” 

The first step is to note that biblical reconciliation is not an effort by both parties to “make things exactly as they were before.” Clearly, things can never be the same again. However, for Christians, while the relationship will indeed be different on the other side of the offense, it can, by God’s grace, be “at least as good”–if not better.

While the repentance of the offending party is key in the reconciliation process, much of the “difference that makes better” does not come from the offending party’s repentance at all; in fact, it cannot. To look to the offending party for the fullness of reconciliation can only lead to grossly failed expectations at best and idolatry at worst (as we look for a person to do something that only God can do). Arguably, the most important move in reconciliation is when the offended party moves more deeply toward God and the cross of Christ.

When we, as offended parties, move toward the cross, our view of ourselves changes. Instead of seeing ourselves primarily as offended parties, we come to see ourselves as ones who have offended infinitely but been forgiven infinitely. Out of this identity, we find the resources to imitate God by offering rich and lavish forgiveness to those whose repentance (like ours to God) is weak, feeble, and woefully inadequate.

God Meets Us in the Ache

SOURCE:  Ransomed Heart/Stasi Eldredge

We women were given a huge capacity and need for relationship.  It is our glory and a beautiful way that we bear the image of God, who enjoys perfect, intimate relationship.

But our glory has been tainted.

Because of human brokenness and sin, there is not one relationship in your life that is not touched at some level by disappointment. There is an undercurrent of sorrow in every woman’s life.

Oftentimes, when I feel this sorrow, this loneliness, I think it is revealing something deeply wrong with me. I think that if I was “doing it right” or if I was all right, then I wouldn’t experience this grief. And yes, like you, I am not all that I am meant to be yet. I am becoming. But when I ache, if I believe the cause rests solely on my failures, it is overwhelming. I must run from it. Hide it. Manage it. Sanctify it. Ignore it. Numb it. Or better yet, kill it! Because when I am awake to it, it hurts. And I can feel bad for feeling bad.

Sound familiar?

The undercurrent of sorrow that we feel is not all our fault. Maybe a part of it is. Maybe God is using it to expose a style of relating that he wants us to repent of. Maybe. But it’s also possible that none of the sorrow we are feeling at a given moment is rooted in our failings.

When we become aware of sadness or disappointment, we do not have to run. Sorrow is one of the realities of life. To be mature women, we have to be awake to the ache. Let it be a doorway for us to walk through to find deeper intimacy with God.

We ask God to meet us—right in the ache.

Singleness is NOT Second Class

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

According to the 2010 census, more than 96 million people in the United States are single. That’s 43% of adults. 59 million have never married, 23 million are divorced, and another 14 million are widowed.

Many singles feel that singleness equals rejection.

If they are over 25 and not in a serious relationship, society often looks on them as rejects, even if they don’t feel that way themselves. “I am single because nobody wants me,” or “Even that person has someone, why don’t I?” or “What do they see in her that they don’t see in me?” or “It’s so unfair, why am I like this?” These are examples of destructive tapes that can play over and over in a single person’s head.

If you are single, sometimes the natural tendency is to choose making an excuse: “I don’t care because I don’t need anyone anyway,” or to blame someone else: “He isn’t smart enough to know what he is missing.” These choices view singleness as a problem and attempt to blame something or someone for it.

A more realistic, positive, and productive approach is to accept your singleness and make choices that will point you toward the goals God has for your life right now. With this attitude, you will be able to move forward with your life by embracing God and your present circumstance of singleness.

In God’s eyes, being single does not equate with being a reject or coming in last place.

Actually, He might even see it as having more time and mind space available to pursue Him. It certainly worked for Jesus and Paul. Some people find great fulfillment in being married. But others can find the same fulfillment and sense of purpose by being single.

To be an enriching experience, your singleness must be managed based on God’s will for moral, healthy relational conduct, especially your relationship with yourself. When we are in a pattern of rejecting others or being rejected by others, it is hard not to reject ourselves. Satan steers that pattern towards rejecting even God.

Today, if you know some singles, examine how you view them. Are you judging them, even subtly? Why are you judging? Are you perfect? How about helping them manage some of the stressors and temptations of single life? Forward this information to them.

Now, if you are single, focus on the fact of how very special you are to God. You are His workmanship, and His workmanship is marvelous! God has a plan for your life, and it is best to focus on seeking His will and becoming all that He has designed you to be. Growing in Him will allow you to become more Christ-like in all areas of life, whether you are meant to be single or married. Whether you handle your marital status in a way that glorifies God or you are always yearning for the greener grass on the other side of the fence is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, thank You for where I am. Help me always remember that success in my life’s journey does not depend on whether I am married or single. My success in life can be measured only by how well I understand and steward Your plan and purpose for me. I know I have made many mistakes in past relationships and dishonored You and others when I was single. Help me focus on You and accomplish Your purpose for my journey, whether You intend singleness or marriage. Help me develop the love and skills to have successful relationships with a spouse, with family, or with friends. I pray this in the name of Your Son, the groom to the church, Jesus Christ; – AMEN!

The Truth
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13-17

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. 1 Corinthians 7:32-34a

Relationships: Why Can They Be So Scary?

SOURCE:  Paul Tripp

Why are relationship struggles so disappointing? Why do the problems we have with other people affect us so powerfully? Why is relational disappointment one of the hardest disappointments for all of us to face?

Let me suggest some reasons.

1. You were created to be a social being:

You and I were never designed to live in isolation. We weren’t wired to be distant from and unaffected by the people around us. In fact, since we were created in God’s likeness, desire for and participation in community is a fundamental part of our humanity. The God who made us in his likeness not only does community, he is a community! To deny this aspect of your daily life would literally be to deny your humanity. There would be something dramatically wrong with you if you removed yourself completely from other people. What this means is that the hurts of relationships cut deep. In a real way they touch the essence of who God made you to be, and because of this they’re not to be taken lightly.

2. We all enter our relationships with unrealistic expectations:

Somehow, someway, we’re able to deceive ourselves into thinking that we’ll be able to avoid the difficulties that attend any relationship in this broken world. In the early days of a relationship we work to convince ourselves that we’re more righteous, and the other person more perfect, than they and we actually are. This causes us to be shocked when an unexpected but inevitable difficulty gets in the way of the bliss that we had convinced ourselves we had finally found. Here’s where the Bible is so helpful. It’s very honest about the messiness and disappointment that everyone deals with in every relationship they have.

3. We all seek identity in our relationships.

What does this mean? It means that we tend to look for fundamental personal meaning, purpose and sense of well-being from other people. In doing this, we turn people into our own personal messiahs, seeking to get from them what no other human being is ever able to deliver. That other person is not supposed to be the thing that gets you up in the morning. They’re not to be what makes life worth living for you.

When they’re in this place, you’ve given them too much power and you’re asking of them something that no flawed human being can ever pull off. On the other hand, when you’re getting your foundational sense of well-being from the Lord, you’re then able to step into the inevitable messiness of relationships this side of heaven, and be neither anxious nor self-protective.

4. Our relationships are more about our little kingdoms than the kingdom of God.

Without being aware of it, our relationships are often about what we want out of our lives rather than what God wants for our lives. So we have an “I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life” approach to relationships with other people. Often we’re disappointed with a relationship at the very moment when God is producing through this relationship exactly what he wanted to produce. Our problem is that our agenda doesn’t agree with God’s!

So, there are reasons for our disappointments but there’s grace for them as well. The God who will take us where we didn’t plan to go in order to produce in us what we couldn’t achieve on our own will also give us the grace to hang in there as he uses the messy disappointment of relationships to change and grow us and others.

Reflect on two or three significant relationships in your life. Evaluate the spiritual health of these relationships by asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. How might you be asking these relationships to fuel your personal identity? Why is this dangerous?
  2. How self-serving are you in these relationships? Where you can be more self-sacrificing?
  3. How can you make these relationships more about the Kingdom of God?

Our Choice: People-pleasing or God-pleasing

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Are You a People-Pleaser or God-Pleaser?

For many of us, fear of people’s opinions is so deeply ingrained in our minds and our hearts that it’s woven into the daily fabric of our lives and decision-making. Fear debilitates us in multiple ways and in so many relationships. Fear of bodily harm forms a blatant impact. But although it’s common when we are children, it is fairly uncommon within adult relationships, except for the tragedy of domestic violence.

Fear of others creeps up on most adults in more subtle ways. Like the fear of being rejected … or being left out … being rejected … or looking foolish to another person … being judged as incompetent … or just not being valued. We never set out to be afraid of these things. But because of past hurts or mistakes, these anxieties secretively, but powerfully, warp our relational lenses. Our fears can affect our relationships with those very close to us like our spouses, and also how we act in front of total strangers.

While trying to be a “people-pleaser” may appear harmless on the surface, it can create crippling fear. Elevating other’s assessment of us to idol status, worshipping it, is what we are actually doing. People-pleasing usually requires us to compromise truthful, healthy functioning and replace it with dysfunctional, distorted processing and behavior. Often, we ultimately choose to please others and displease God, instead of displeasing others to please God. Fear of displeasing others allows this downward spiral to accelerate and we then feel out of control, because we have given control and power of our life-steering mechanism to the people whose positive opinions we crave.

Today, watch you interactions with others. How much of your conduct is shaped by wanting to please them? Do you think about what God wants from you in that situation? Begin replacing the fear of displeasing others with the sadness of displeasing the One who faced total rejection and death for you, Your Lord. Make pleasing Him your highest priority. In general, we try to please people so that they will give us what we want … approval, value, importance, hope, love, acceptance, forgiveness, destiny, safety, or comfort. Turn your trust to God who is the only source of providing all these things, and so much more…everyday. Whether your goal is to please God or instead, the dysfunctional requests and needs of peers is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father, I am just beginning to realize just how fearful I am of others. I confess, Father, to being a “people-pleaser.” I am too concerned about displeasing others and looking foolish in their eyes. Help free me of this fear, Father, by developing a deeper trust in You. I know that trusting in others is risky while trusting in You is safe. I know that You have everything I need…that Your riches will never run short. Father, I desire deeply to change and to eliminate my fear of others. I pray in the name of the one who was rejected by the world to please You, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”   John 6:20

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.   Proverbs 29:25

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?  But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Daniel 3:13,14,17,18

The Power of Forgiveness in Marriage

SOURCE:  Domeniek L. Harris/Today’s Christian Woman

Does your flesh seem to crawl when you come into contact with certain people?

When you hear the sound of their voice, does every fiber of your being cringe?

Does your chest tighten when you think of them?

Are you embarrassed to admit this is the way you feel about the person you share your life with? There is a possibility Satan has you in his grip through unforgiveness.

Identifying Our Real Enemies

Too often in marriage when there is offense and conflict, we identify our mates as the enemy. Our mates are never the enemy. If we learn who our enemies really are, we can effectively fight the battles in our marriages and rise to victory. Our real enemies are the powers of darkness and our own flesh. These enemies often go unnoticed in the heat of battle.

Our flesh seeks to please itself and cannot please God. The apostle Paul warns us about our flesh, in Romans 8:8, “Those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”

The powers of darkness intend for all marriages to be destroyed. If you commit to God and your mate, you will wrestle with the forces of darkness. Ephesians 6:12 declares, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

When we recognize our enemies, we are more effective in loosening Satan’s grip of unforgiveness.

Forgiveness Is Not

We often equate forgiveness with something warm and fuzzy.

Truthfully, forgiveness is quite the opposite.

Forgiveness can be quite painful when it involves someone you are madly in love with. In marriage, forgiveness is not “Don’t worry about what you did, I’m fine with it and we all make mistakes.” It sounds spiritual and great coming out of our mouths, but inside we are struggling with hypocrisy. We are plagued by an abyss of pain, anger, bitterness, and resentment. Forgiveness is not lip service.

These unchecked feelings can potentially become emotionally, mentally, verbally, or physically murderous. Forgiveness is not being so numb to pain that we are oblivious to reality. In marriage, when we embrace numbness our hearts transform into ice. Forgiveness is not forgetting the offense. Forgiveness is not choosing to inflict the price for the offense.

I learned to honor God with my heart and not just my mouth. We are lying when we say we have forgiven but unforgiveness still rots our souls. Satan grips and weakens us through unforgiveness. He tightens his grip through a religious spirit that says the right thing while refusing to confront the offense and heal.

Struggling to Forgive

How do you forgive someone who was never supposed to hurt you in the first place?

Why forgive them?

What about all the damage to your marriage and family?

The best answer is you must; forgiveness was extended to you.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” If you refuse to forgive, you operate in sin and in covenant with Satan.

These questions and declarations are hard to swallow. I have battled with them in my marriage, but I came out victorious. I battled so much with unforgiveness because I could not see my own sin. I could not see that my unwillingness to forgive was just as ugly to God as the things I blamed my husband for.

The reason we battle unforgiveness is because we can only see the depravity in the souls of others, ignoring the beams in our own eyes. I won the battle of unforgiveness when I realized that I was in need of forgiveness from God and my sweet husband. I won the battle when I was willing to face the ugliness of my own heart and surrender my heart to God. I realized my enemies were my own flesh and Satan, who loves to work in my flesh. Unforgiveness is a work of the flesh, and it will remain until you crucify it on the altar of forgiveness.

We struggle to forgive because we justify our rights and inappropriately apply God’s Word. Many of us have declared inwardly or outwardly, “The Bible said, ‘Be ye angry.’ ” We forget the rest of the Scripture verse: ” … and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26, KJV). If we are honest, many of us are angry and sin for days, weeks, months, years. Many of us will carry the sin of unforgiveness to our grave.

Forgiveness becomes a struggle when we seek to please our flesh. We struggle because the Holy Spirit demands that we be like Christ. God is as displeased with unforgiveness as he is with sexual sins, deception, lying, and envy. We must remember that any sin either of us could commit, Jesus paid for at Calvary. Who gave us the right to make our spouses pay for sin when we did not?

Due to the gravity of their offenses, we believe we have the authority to execute judgment on our mates. But God would never entrust vengeance into our hands. Why? Our sin-stricken souls will never view our spouses purely through the eyes of God’s grace. We should be concerned for ourselves when we seek revenge on the people we promised to love, honor, and cherish. Unforgiveness unequivocally implicates the wickedness hidden in our hearts and the depravity of our own souls.

Real Forgiveness Is

Through many offenses, trials, betrayal, and calamity, I have learned real forgiveness. I have learned that the world’s standards for marriage are a slap in the face to God. When we decide not to forgive, we call it “irreconcilable differences.” God calls it unforgiveness. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the only biblical sin for which there is no forgiveness. In most divorce cases, blasphemy is never mentioned.

Real forgiveness is threefold.

Forgiveness means excusing the penalty for an offense, offering pardon. Forgiveness means renouncing anger and resentment.

Finally, forgiveness is a choice. God gave all of us the power to choose. These definitions are simplistic, but they pack enough power to loosen the stronghold of unforgiveness. As an immature Christian, I thought I had the right to be angry and my sin was justified. It never was.

Several years ago, I went through a very difficult time in my marriage. Having experienced betrayal, my heart had grown biting cold, filled with anger, bitterness, and resentment. In hindsight, the way I treated my husband is embarrassing and was disrespectful to God’s Word. There was no remorse—I believed I was the victim and my actions were justified. How much pride is that? I entered a covenant with Satan for several years, while my marriage burned to the ground. I tried everything to fix it, except forgiveness. I flirted hard with the idea of divorce.

God’s grace is sufficient; God’s Word eventually penetrated my heart. I experienced real forgiveness and it released me to forgive. I was on my knees in the bedroom, praying and crying to God about all the wrong that had been done. I knew it was unacceptable for me to be the victim; surely it was unacceptable to God. The next few moments humbled me into a heaping pile of humanity. God put a mirror to my face. He acknowledged my concern, rebuked me for my sins, and told me to repent to my husband. I was annihilated, but I responded in obedience.

Until then, I had hindered the move of God because I had too much pride to forgive. God has such infinite wisdom. My husband had been asking God how to bring restoration to our relationship, and God showed him that he needed to seek forgiveness from me. That day began a new chapter in our marriage as we both sought forgiveness from God and each other.

Over the years, after much struggle with the sin of unforgiveness, I learned that forgiveness is a choice. We make the decision to forgive, even if our emotions, feelings, and desires have not surrendered in obedience to God. As children of God, we are lead by faith, not feelings. When we make decisions based upon feelings, we give Satan the rope to hang us with. Real forgiveness is demonstrating what Christ did for us on the cross.

Honestly, most of us have repeated the cliché “What would Jesus do?” The answer: forgive.

Loosening Satan’s Grip

The devil understands the power of forgiveness. He had the opportunity to behold the glory of God and the kingdom of heaven. He has been doomed to hell and is mad and desires us to share his fate. Satan knows that forgiveness redeems and restores relationships.

Satan is employed to steal, kill, and destroy. Unforgiveness opens the door for him to hold us back. Each day we incite harsh words because of offense and inflict the silent treatment, we strengthen Satan’s rope of entanglement. As the sun sets and we nurse anger, bitterness, and resentment, the devil smiles. We have embraced the power of darkness.

Satan is selfish and prideful; when we are unforgiving we act like him. Unforgiveness is laced with pride—which cost the devil the kingdom of heaven.

Loosen Satan’s grip and forgive. God’s forgiveness propels us into salvation and restoration. Your marriage can be restored and bring glory to God.

How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins

SOURCE:  Garrett Kell/Gospel Coalition

Tim and Jess had only been married for eight months, but the honeymoon was most certainly over. The sweet conversations that once marked their relationship had been replaced with constant bickering. Their laughter had dulled, and their distance had grown. Their sexual intimacy had almost ceased.

What went wrong? How had Satan slipped into this young marriage? As I unpacked some of the couple’s history, I discovered he hadn’t sabotaged them on their honeymoon, nor in the early months of figuring out married life. The Devil had begun his work before they’d even made it to the altar. Though Tim and Jess are Christians, their dating and engagement were marked with sexual impurity.

Though the early days of their relationship had been fine, over time they made consistent compromises that developed into a deeper pattern of sexual sin. Whenever they’d sin, they’d confess to each other and make oaths to never let it happen again. But it did. Because of the shame, they never let anyone else in on what was happening. In hindsight, Tim and Jess admit their courtship was a big cover-up of deceit.

Sadly, Tim and Jess’s story is all too familiar. Many unmarried Christian couples struggle with sexual sin. This should be no surprise, since we have an enemy set against us and our impending marriage (1 Pet. 5:8). He hates God, and he hates marriage because it depicts the gospel (Eph. 5:32).One of Satan’s most effective strategies to corrupt the gospel-portraying union of marriage is to attack couples through sexual sin before they say “I do.” Here are four of his most common ploys to attack marriages before they begin.

1. Satan wants us to make a pattern of obeying our desires instead of God’s direction.

God’s ways are good, but Satan wants us to believe they aren’t. This has been his plan from the first call to compromise in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). His end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness.If we learn to do what we want when we want before marriage, we’ll carry that pattern into the days and years that follow. This, however, is deadly since service and sacrifice are essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage. Love in marriage is shown by a thousand daily decisions to do what you don’t want—whether doing the dishes or changing a diaper or watching a movie instead of a basketball game. If your relationship before marriage is characterized by giving into urges of immediate desire, you’ll most certainly struggle when you encounter the nitty-gritty of married life.

2. Satan wants us to underestimate how susceptible we are to temptation.

Satan wants us to think we won’t take our sin to the next level. He wants us to think we’re stronger than we really are. He wants us to think we’ll never go that far. This is a powerful trick since it simultaneously plays on both our pride and also our well-intended desire to honor God. You’re weaker than you think. You can go where you think you won’t. Sin is like an undercurrent in the ocean—if you play in it, you’ll be overpowered and swept away into certain destruction.One of the ways Satan works this angle is by tempting you to think purity is a not-to-be-crossed line rather than a posture of the heart. He wants you to think purity before God is not kissing or not taking off clothes or not having oral sex or not “going all the way.” He wants you to think that if you don’t cross a certain line, you’re staying pure. The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that Jesus says if we just lust in our heart we’ve sinned and stand condemned before God (Matt. 5:27-30).Purity is much more about the posture of our hearts than the position of our bodies. The age-old “How far is too far?” question may reveal a desire to get as close to sin as possible instead of a desire to flee as our Lord calls us to (1 Cor. 6:18).

3. Satan wants couples to weaken their trust in one another.

When we compromise sexually, we’re showing the other person we’re willing to use and abuse them to get what makes us happy. Every time we push the boundaries with our fiancée or lead her into sin we are communicating, though we don’t mean to, “You can’t trust me because I’m willing to use and disregard you to get what I want.”This is certainly one of Satan’s deadliest strategies, and the one I suspect hurt Tim and Jess the most. They didn’t trust each other. They never really did. So much of their dating relationship was engulfed in the cycle of sin, shame, and start-over that they never developed a mature, battle-tested trust for each other.It’s important to point out, however, that when we resist sexual sin, God blesses a relationship with the exact opposite effect. Every time we say “no” to sexual sin and turn to prayer, telling one another we value them and their walk with the Lord too much to go one step further, he uses that faithfulness to strengthen trust. My wife regularly tells dating couples that one of the reasons she trusts me is because I literally ran from compromising situations before we were married. We weren’t perfect in our courtship, but the Lord used that season to build trust in one another.

4. Satan wants to deceive you with the forbidden fruit of lust.

There’s a world of difference between premarital sex and sex within marriage. One reason is that the forbidden fruit of lust portrays sex before marriage as something it isn’t always in marriage. Normally, premarital sexual activity is like gas on fire. Passion is high, feelings are intense, and the drive to go further is fueled by the knowledge you shouldn’t (Rom. 7:8).Sex in marriage is different. There’s still passion, and there’s still intense feelings and emotions—but sex in marriage is based primarily on the hot coals of trust, devotion, and sacrifice (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Couples who built their sexual expectations on passion provided by the forbidden fruit are often disappointed and confused when sex is different in marriage.My wife and I laughed at this idea when our premarital counselor shared it with us. We were sure we’d be exception to the rule. But almost six years and three kids later, he was right. Couples like us can have a strong sex life, but it’s fueled by deeper characteristics than fleeting passion. Satan wants couples to get used to running on the caffeine and sugar of lust rather than mature love of service and sacrifice.

Few Concluding Thoughts

1. Wait in faith. The Christian posture is always one of waiting. We wait for Christ’s return. We wait for an eternity with him. And unmarried believers wait for the blessings of marriage. Say “no” to sin’s promises by faith in God’s. Renew your mind with God’s Word and keep waiting in faith.

2. Guys, you gotta lead. While both persons in the relationship are responsible before God, the man must set the pace for purity. Too often ladies are forced to draw the lines and to say “no.” That’s cowardly and wrong. It’s the man’s responsibility to care for his future wife by leading her toward Jesus and away from sin, darkness, and the pain of evil. If he sets the wrong pattern here, he’ll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God’s grace.

3. Involve others every step of the way. Don’t let your relationship remain unexamined by other godly Christians. Both of you should have a godly couple or group of faithful friends who hold you accountable. Invite tough questions and give honest answers. God uses transparency to give strength.

4. If you sin, go to the gospel. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1-2). If you sin, flee to the cross. Run to the empty tomb. Look to your Advocate, confess your sin deeply, and repent. God loves to bless this kind of posture (Prov. 28:13).Sexual sin doesn’t need to be dagger in the heart of your courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not, however, bless ongoing disobedience and presumption on his grace. If you have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for his glory and our good.

Do I Belong Anywhere???

SOURCE:  adapted from an article by LIVING FREE

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” [Ephesians 1:5 NLT]

When we received Jesus, we became a member of God’s family!

God is our Father.

Jesus is not only our Savior, He is also our brother (Hebrews 2:11-12).

We are a member of the family of believers.

We belong!

A true sense of belonging comes from not only knowing that we belong to God but also from belonging to each other. Many of Paul’s letters in the New Testament offer guidance for successful relationships within this worldwide family. For example, he said, “Clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you (Colossians 3:12-13 NLT).

Many scriptures reflect us as belonging and being accepted. Here are just a few:

  • I am God’s child. (John 1:12)
  • I am Christ’s friend. (John 15:15)
  • I am united with the Lord, and I am one spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians 6:17)
  • I have been bought with a price. I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
  • We belong to God’s family. (Ephesians 2:19)

Do you ever feel lonely? It is possible to feel lonely even when we are surrounded by people. But if you will look at the mirror of God’s Word, you will see clearly that you belong to God–and to His family. God will always love you and will always be your perfect Father. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.

In the family of believers, as in any family, there will be conflicts and offenses. But we will always be family. We sometimes need to be reminded by looking in the mirror of God’s Word that we will always belong to one another and need to forgive and love.

You belong to God. He has adopted you into His family. Jesus is your Savior, your friend–and your brother. You belong!

Lord, thank you for reassuring me that I am not alone. I belong! I am your child. And I am in your family. Jesus is not only my Savior and my friend, but my brother. Help me to be faithful to you–and to all my family. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia
 by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

How to Stop Being a Manipulator

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

I received many e-mails from readers indicating that they saw themselves as [manipulators]. They were victims of manipulation as well as manipulators, and they wanted to know how to stop this destructive habit.

So how do we stop?

First, you must recognize when you are doing the manipulation and that isn’t always easy. Christine wrote me and said, “After reading your newsletter, I now see I manipulated all of my adult children to come home for Christmas using guilt trips. I wanted them to come home so bad, I just wouldn’t accept no for an answer.”

Manipulators want what they want, and they will go to great lengths to achieve their goals. Often we rationalize that the ends justify the means. But when you regularly manipulate someone, the relationship deteriorates. Even if you got all of your children to comply in coming home for Christmas, they are doing it out of guilt not love, and the underlying feeling is resentment. Is that what you want?

All healthy relationships require the freedom to say no to the other without fear or pressure. When freedom is absent and you don’t allow someone to say no to you or have their own opinion on things without making them feel guilty, pressured, afraid, or stupid, then you can’t have a healthy relationship with that person. Part of good emotional, mental and spiritual health is your ability to tolerate the pain and disappointment when someone doesn’t do what you want. No one always gets what they want, even if what they want is good.

John e-mailed me after the newsletter and said, “My wife says I’m controlling and I never allow her to have her own opinion. I disagree. I just think I’m passionate and assertive, and she avoids conflict. Am I controlling and manipulative like she says? I don’t see it.”

I encouraged him to invite honest feedback from those who know him well. I suggested he ask work colleagues, other friends, family members and children how they experience him and encourage them to tell the truth without fear of retaliation. Most of them said he was intimidating and controlling. John was flabbergasted. He had no idea. Now what?

Once you see you have this tendency to push for your own way, your own agenda and manipulate others to comply, if you want to stop doing it, you must humble yourself and confess this problem. Confess your new-found awareness to God and ask people to give you direct feedback when they feel you are being manipulative toward them.

Old habits die hard and, even when we want to change, we don’t always recognize what we are doing until it’s already done. When you invite feedback, you are asking people to stop you right in the midst of your manipulative tactics which shows them that you are serious about changing them.

Next comes the hardest part. When they give you this feedback, you must stop. You can’t keep pushing, bullying, arguing or guilt tripping. Thank them for their feedback and stop and reflect on your actions. Ask God for his help to see it as well as handle the disappointment of not getting what you want.

If we want to stop destructive patterns, we must have other people who can regularly speak into our lives, because the Bible tells us we all have a tendency to lie to ourselves (Hebrews 3:13, Jeremiah 17:9).

Your friends and family will know you mean business if you practice these four steps:

  • See (become aware)
  • Confess to God and to people
  • Ask for feedback
  • Stop when you are engaging in the pattern of manipulation

They will see you sincerely want to change this destructive pattern. Change doesn’t happen overnight with anything. Even though you see something needs to change, the actual changing takes time, practice and persistence. But I promise, if you practice these steps, you can stop being a manipulator and learn to be better friend, spouse, colleague and parent.

The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

– Why the Problem Isn’t Yours—But the Solution Is
– When to Fight for Your Marriage and When to Let Go
– How to Make Necessary Changes and Move Toward Healing

Many of you reading this blog are in destructive marriages. You’re tired. You’re confused. You’re afraid. You have no idea what to do to change your marriage, but you notice that you are changing. You are not the person you used to be, and perhaps not the person you want to be. You don’t like what’s happening to you. I want to give you four steps that you can practice that will help you gain CORE strength.

My friend Barb’s beach house is a little slice of heaven on earth. Her home away from home is built right on the boardwalk, and I can sit on her balcony and watch the dolphins play. I love the salty air, the ocean breezes and all the foods I don’t normally eat, like extra cheesy Manco and Manco pizza and lemon Polish water ice. Barb and I get up early in the morning before it gets too hot and take our five mile power walk up one end of the boardwalk and down the other. The last morning of one of our mini vacations was exceptionally hot, and ten minutes into our walk I was already drenched in salty sticky sweat, my hair matted close to my head. When we completed our five mile trek, Barb turned toward me, her hair still fluffy with her skin only slightly glistening, and said, “Leslie, I’ve noticed you’ve been slouching.”

Slouching? Really? In this heat, what do you expect? I thought to myself. Barb’s words stung hard, but I knew she was right. I had exercised most of my adult life, but over the past few years admittedly I had gotten lazy. I guess it showed more than I noticed, not only in my waist line but in my posture. When I returned home, I called a gym and made an appointment with someone who could help me.

The following week I reluctantly met with Chris, a young, burly fitness trainer who pushed me through a battery of tests and finished our evaluation by whipping out a camera. Already I felt old, frumpy, and fat, but it got worse. You know the saying a picture doesn’t lie. The truth was right in front of me. My shoulders slumped, my belly pouched out, my back swayed and my neck and chin somehow jutted out from my shoulders in a most unflattering way—and I worked hard to stand up straight when he took the picture. Chris turned to me eyebrows raised and said, “You need to build your core.”

“What’s that?” I asked, dreading his response.

“Your core muscles wrap around your abdomen and back and they support your spine and keep you balanced and stable,” Chris said. “Bottom line, a strong core keeps you from slouching and looking old.” Then he asked, “Are you ready to get to work?”

“Ummm, let me think about this for a few days,” I stammered, anxious to bolt out of there as soon as possible.

After a good cry, I realized I was faced with a tough choice. I was either going to work hard to strengthen my core muscles or I could continue to do nothing and become fatter and more slouched. I didn’t like those two alternatives. I wanted Chris to tell me that there was a third choice, a pill I could take or a massage I could get, something that didn’t hurt and was easier than working out with weights three times a week. But that wasn’t one of my options if I wanted to improve my core and my weight, as well as my overall body alignment.

If you’re in a destructive marriage, you know that you have some difficult choices in front of you. Believe me. I know change is hard, and sometimes we’re only motivated to change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than our fear or pain of making the change. You can choose to grow stronger through this destructive marriage or not, but if you choose to do nothing, understand what it will cost you.

Your emotional, mental, and spiritual core will get weaker and weaker, curving inward until your entire person-hood is out of alignment. Sacrificing yourself by allowing someone to sin against you to keep peace in your marriage is never a wise choice, not for you, not for your husband, not for your marriage. God calls us to be biblical peacemakers, not peacekeepers or peace fakers.

Whether you’re in a destructive marriage or not, these four core strengths are essential to build and maintain good mental, emotional, spiritual and relational health. I will use the acronym CORE to help you remember what they are. With God at our center and with his help we will choose to be:

C         I will be committed to truth, both internally in my own heart and mind and externally. I refuse to pretend.

O         I will be open to the Holy Spirit and wise others, teaching me, maturing me, and guiding me into his way of living my life.

R         I will be responsible for my own responses to destructive behavior and commit to being respectful without dishonoring myself.

E         I will be empathetic and compassionate towards others without enabling people to continue to abuse and disrespect me. empathetic

Marital adversity not only reveals character, it shapes it. You have a choice about how that shaping is taking place right now. When you know and believe that you are a loved, valuable, worthwhile human being and live from that core place, toxic people lose their power to manipulate you. They can’t control and intimidate you as they once did when you felt worthless, dependent and needy.

If you don’t strengthen your core, you will always live from your circumstances and your emotions. On the other hand, when you live from your core, your abusive/destructive husband might permanently damage your marriage, but he cannot destroy you.

Don’t forget, your CORE reflects who you are or who you want to be, not just what you do.

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.

Speak Up! Change Begins With You

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

Some of you have recognized that your relationships are not so healthy and want to know what steps you can take to turn things around.

First it’s important to recognize that change always begins with you.

Anna thought she had a good friendship with a woman at church but over time Anna began feeling smothered and irritated with her friend. Anna asked, “How do I keep her as a friend and still have my own life? She calls me all the time and gets offended if I don’t return her call or I’m too busy or have other plans.”

In order for Anna to change things in this relationship, Anna must speak up. If she doesn’t, eventually her feelings will reach a boiling point where she will blow up at her friend vomiting out her angry emotions and/or distance herself from her friend entirely.

Therefore, when you want to change relationship patterns that have already been established in an unhealthy way, I recommend several steps to make this difficult conversation more likely to result in a positive outcome. And, that’s the goal, isn’t it? This is not the time to dump your negative feelings on your friend (or spouse) but rather, to invite him or her to hear what you have to say so that the relationship can change and become healthier.

Here are five (5) steps you should take before having this important conversation.

1.  Pray:  Ask God for a humble heart and a gentle spirit. Ask him for the right words to share what’s been upsetting you without blaming or judging the other person.

2.  Prepare:  Difficult conversations require time to think about what you want to say and how to say it wisely. Hard words need not be harsh words. Write it out. Wait 24 hours then reread it. Is it what you want to communicate?

Begin your conversation with the positives about the person and why you value this relationship. Confess your own unhealthiness before you ask for a change. For example, Anna could say to her friend,

I love being with you. You’re funny and creative and I have never laughed harder with a friend in my life. But I need to share something with you. I haven’t been totally honest about something and I need to do so now. I’m starting to feel anxious whenever you call because I know you’re going to feel disappointed or offended if I don’t have the time to talk right then. It’s not that I don’t care about you or our friendship, but I need more space without you feeling like I don’t care about you. I have other things I have to do or other people I enjoy hanging out with too. That doesn’t mean I think less of you, but there is only one of me.”

3.  Practice: Rehearse what you’ve written at least 20 times. This is an awkward conversation and you want to make sure you say what you want to say without forgetting something. You only get one shot at this kind of conversation, do everything you can do to say it well (Psalm 141:5).

4.  Plan the time and place:  You want to have this conversation at a time and place that you are most likely to be heard. Don’t wait until late at night or try saying this when someone is preoccupied or rushed. When Queen Esther needed to talk with the king about Haman, she realized the first dinner wasn’t the right time so she invited him to come a different night ( Esther 5 and 7).

5.  Place the outcome in God’s hands:  You can’t control another person’s feelings or reaction, but you can control your words and your voice tone to make a positive outcome more likely. However, the scriptures remind us, “As much as it is up to you, be at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). There are times we do all of the steps and yet our friend is unable or unwilling to hear what we have to say. This is not the time to return to your own unhealthy ways just to keep the peace or preserve the relationship. You must persevere in your own growth yet show patience with your friend, asking God to help them see.

Understand this. Whenever we try to change the status quo of a relationship─better known as rocking the boat─we will face resistance (a little or a lot). It’s important to press through this awkward and uncomfortable stage until a new pattern is established that you both can live with.

Sometimes that never happens. However, the longer we tolerate what is intolerable, the more difficult it will be to alter the relationship.

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.

To Forgive or Not To Forgive: My Choice!

 SOURCE:  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Forgiveness: The Reason and the Responsibility

We hear the following phrase a lot, but often in the wrong context or delivered from an impure heart:

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free – John 8:32. 

Forgiveness requires that we face the truth: the truth of Christ’s forgiveness; the truth of our own need for forgiveness; the truth that if we are ever to be free we must receive Christ’s forgiveness, and forgive those who have hurt us.

You see, in order to experience true freedom, we must forgive those who have caused us harm or disappointment … even when that means forgiving ourselves. All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve … because of Christ Jesus. When we turn to Him, He freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.

How can we do less? Forgiven by the Lord, we have the power, the reason, and the responsibility to forgive others. Forgiveness is not a feeling we need to muster up, it is an actual choice we make. When you realize it is a choice, then you must consider, “what are my options?” So let’s take a look.

Door #1: You don’t forgive. You remain aloof and detached, or bitter, resentful, angry, and vengeful. A terrible side effect is that people still have power over you. That’s because you need to extract some payment or amends from them … an apology, their suffering or an experience of pain, a sacrifice, or penance. And they can withhold it as long as they want and play you like a puppet.

Door #2: You do forgive. It becomes easier to let go of the bitterness, revenge, and entitlement. You experience freedom from the past. You have an opportunity to grow something better with them. Or you can totally disconnect from them because now you don’t need anything to make the “transaction” complete. You have relieved them of their debt, so they can’t “withhold” anything from you to string you along. Now you are letting God be their judge. And He is much better at determining their consequences and doling it out to them.

Sometimes it is hard to let go. In fact, when we have been deeply hurt, it may not be possible to forgive … on our own, that is. But it is important to remember that we don’t have to do it alone. Through the power of Christ, God has forgiven us. When we truly and humbly accept that, we have the perspective and power to forgive anyone else for any transgression against us. That’s real freedom! Your decision, so choose well.

Today, examine your heart. Identify relationships where there is uneasiness, anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge, sarcasm, or irritation. You probably have to make a decision about forgiveness. If you are struggling to forgive, ask God to help you. He loves you. He cares and He is able. Look at your other option. It is more painful to withhold forgiveness than it is to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Father God, I’ve kept these feelings of resentment and unforgiveness buried much too long. Help me to face the truth … and then to forgive myself and others. I now realize that forgiveness isn’t about others feeling good. It is for me to feel better and be right with You! Thank you for your mercy and forgiveness. Help me to show the same to others, even those who have hurt me. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One who paid for my forgiveness, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23-24

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

The Devastating Power of Lies in a Relationship

SOURCE:  Donald Miller

I’ve only had two friends (that I know about) who’ve looked me in the eye and told me lies.

Both of them were trying to cover up mistakes. I certainly had grace for their mistakes, but I’ve wondered looking back if I didn’t have grace for their lies. Neither of these two friends are in contact anymore. We don’t talk. Being in a relationship with somebody who lies is tough. It’s not that you don’t love them or care about them, it’s just that you can’t connect. Without trust, there’s no relationship.

Henry Cloud and John Townsend say that people lie for one of two reasons. The first is out of shame or fear. Somebody may believe they won’t be accepted if they tell the truth about who they are, so they lie. (You can see how religious communities that use shame and fear to motivate might increase a person’s temptation to lie, then.) People who lie for this reason can get better and learn to tell the truth. Until they do, however, it’s impossible to connect with them, all the same.

The second kind of liar is less fortunate. Some people lie simply because they are selfish. These liars are pathological. They will lie even when it would be easier to tell the truth. Cloud and Townsend warn that we need to stay away from these people. Personally, I think people like this are pretty rare, but I agree, we simply can’t depend on them emotionally or practically.

Still I wonder if people who lie understand what they’re doing. I think some people want grace and certainly they can get grace, but when we lie, we make the people we are lying to feel badly about the relationships and about themselves. We like people who make us feel respected, cared about and honored. Lying to somebody communicates the opposite.

Here are the things that lies did to my two relationships:

  1. • When my friends lied, I felt disrespected and unimportant. They didn’t seem to care about me or trust me enough to tell the truth. This made me feel bad about myself, as though I were not important or trustworthy enough to be told the truth.
  2. • When I found out the extent of one of the lies, I felt like a fool. Technically, my friend didn’t really lie. She just told me “part” of the truth. It was as though she were testing out whether she was safe to be vulnerable. (She told many other lies, but this was just one of them.) But it backfired. When I found out things were worse than she’d made them seem, I felt tricked and deceived. Again, without meaning to, she’d made me feel bad about myself because I felt like somebody who could be conned.
  3. • I thought less of my friends. I knew they were willing to “cheat” in relationships. When we lie, we are stealing social commodity without having earned it. People can lie their way into power, and in one instance with a friend, she lied her way into moral superiority. Still, none of the authority or moral superiority (such a thing exists, and while it’s misused, it’s not a bad thing not unlike intellectual superiority or athletic superiority. It just is. An appropriate use of those two examples of superiority might be to lead a team or teach a class.)
  4. • I felt sad and lonely. When we think we are getting to know somebody, we are giving them parts of our hearts. But when they lie, we know they’ve actually held back their hearts while we’ve been giving them ours. This made me feel lonely and dumb.
  5. • I felt like I couldn’t trust them. The only thing more important than love in a relationship is trust. Trust is the soil love grows in. If there’s not trust, there’s no relationship. When my friends lied, our trust died. As much as I wanted to forgive them, and feel like I did and have, interacting with them was no longer the same. I doubted much of what they said. Sadly, I think both of them began to tell more and more of the truth. But it didn’t matter. Once trust is broken, it’s extremely hard to rebuild.
  6. • If they didn’t confess (and in one relationship lied in their confession) I felt like they didn’t care enough about me to come clean and make things right. They were still thinking of themselves.

Here’s what didn’t happen.

I didn’t think less of them, and while I was angry, I wasn’t angry because I thought they were a bad person. The person who lied probably assumed I felt such things, but I didn’t. What really happened was I felt terrible about myself and when somebody makes us feel bad about ourselves, we tend to get hurt and move away.

To be sure, somebody who lies has a lot of other stuff going on and it’s not so easy to come clean. For a liar to change, they need a lot of help. Lying is manipulation, so if a person is a manipulator and gets caught lying, they are most likely going to keep manipulating. They may tell more lies to cover their lies, or manipulate by playing the victim. They may try to find things other people have done that they see as worse and try to make people focus on that. What they will have a hard time doing is facing the truth (which would be the easiest way out of their dilemma. It’s just that they don’t know how to do it. (They’re survivors, scrappers and have learned to cheat to stay alive socially.)

If you’ve lied in a relationship, though, and are truly wanting to LEARN to live on the up and up, what can you do? Well, there’s plenty. Life isn’t over yet. Here’s some places to start:

• Confess. And don’t half confess (just another lie) but actually confess. This may take some time for you. You may have to sit down with a pen and paper and write it all down. Your mind will want to lie, but you have to tame your mind. It may take you some time to even understand what the truth really is. You’re going to feel ashamed and at risk, but you have to go there anyway. People are much more kind and forgiving than you think. And if they’re not, you should confess and find people who are more safe.

• Accept the consequences. You’re going to have to pay for your lies. People will not and should not trust you as much as they did before. However, getting caught in a lie and confessing a lie are two different things. The former will cost you a bit, but you can rebuild quickly. The latter will cost you everything. Another thing to consider is that the truth might have lost you a small battle, but you’d have won the war because in the long run people would have trusted you. From here on out, be willing to suffer the slight, daily consequences of telling the truth. You’d be surprised at how much less tension there is in your life when you walk openly and honestly.

• Don’t expect the relationship to be the same, but if the person doesn’t forgive you, just know you can move on. You’ve confessed and hopefully apologized and you aren’t beholden to them anymore. They need to wrestle with forgiving you and that’s now their burden. It’s an unfair burden, but we all have to face such things.

• Don’t lie anymore. It’s not important that everybody like you or approve of you. Allow people to get used to who you are. Telling the truth may mean you don’t get to be in control anymore or that people won’t like you as much. That’s fine. At least they are interacting with the real you. The deep connections you’ll make from telling the truth are worth it.

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

Forgiving Your Spouse After Adultery

SOURCE:  Cindy Beall

Four lessons from my journey of regaining trust in my husband.

Editor’s Note: In 2002, Cindy Beall was a happily married wife to Chris, her husband of nine years. Chris had been on staff with a church in Oklahoma City for only six weeks when he made a confession that would change their lives forever: He had been unfaithful with multiple women over the course of two and a half years, and he was pretty sure one of those women was now pregnant with his child. He also admitted an addiction to pornography. 

His complete inability to control his addiction had left Chris utterly broken, humbled, and repentant. Over the course of several weeks and much prayer, Cindy sensed God calling her to stay in her marriage. The following is an excerpt from her book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Is Broken, which tells the story of how God redeemed their marriage, making it “better than new.”

Every week I receive e-mails from women who ask many questions about getting through infidelity in their marriage.  Of all the questions I am asked, one of the most common is, “How did you learn to trust him again?”

And every time I give the same answer: “I am still learning.”

I would love to be able to come up with the perfect algebraic formula that shows exactly how to restore trust. But that isn’t going to happen—not because I barely squeezed out of algebra with a 71 percent, but because trust and forgiveness don’t exist in the land of numbers. They are born of God’s grace, mercy, and healing.

You don’t have to have endured infidelity in your marriage to lose trust. Trust can be broken in many different ways. I am still on my journey of having my trust restored in my husband, but I have learned a few things that I hope you will find helpful.

1. Trust means taking a risk.

My husband works hard to regain my trust, but I still struggle. I wish I could say otherwise, but I’d be lying.

Isn’t that the way it is with all of us? I’ve come to realize that we are all capable of doing things we never imagined we’d do. So trusting a person is a risk. We must learn to trust people, but we must also realize that people will fail us. It’s part of life. But if we place our utmost trust in our heavenly Father, we will never be let down.

There is a mental battle going on inside me as I strive to trust my husband more every day. I engage in this battle on a regular basis, and it can be exhausting. But the more I do it and believe what God has shown me, the easier it becomes.

I stand on the one thing that is trustworthy and never fails. I stand on the Word of God. Praise Him that His words are sharper than any double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). There is power in them, and when we claim them, believe in them, stand on them, and trust in them, we will be lifted up. We will find peace.

2. Replace anger with forgiveness.

We’ve all been wounded. I am no stranger to the pain I see in the eyes of so many people. We can try to cover it up and “get over it,” but if we don’t truly forgive, we will be stunted individuals going about our lives and becoming more and more embittered. Forgiveness is essential. It’s also possible.

The Bible doesn’t mince words when it comes to forgiveness. We don’t have to wonder what our heavenly Father thinks about the idea. He’s the author of forgiveness, and we’d do well to follow His commands. Matthew 6:14-15 says, “If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.”

Ouch. That stings a bit, doesn’t it? Especially when you’ve been wounded by someone you’ve loved as unconditionally as possible. It sounds like a cruel joke to expect us to just let it go, doesn’t it?

Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you know that you have a sinful nature. If we don’t recognize that nature, we won’t recognize our need for a Savior. We also need to understand and remember the true meaning of God’s love. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If we truly understand God’s forgiveness, can we really withhold our forgiveness from those who have hurt us?

3. Stop nursing your wounds.

It can become second nature to tend to our wounds with such care that we begin to identify only with the wound and not with a life of healing or restoration. When something reminds us of our pain, we nurse the hurt and then just can’t get past it. It’s almost as if we forget that we, too, need a Savior. We’re so busy saying, “Look at my hurt!” that we forget to give it over to God.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sure, I haven’t been unfaithful to my husband physically, but I have committed sins, too. And when we sin, we are not just sinning against one person; we are also sinning against our heavenly Father.

I know how hard this is. I am profoundly aware of how badly my flesh wants to throw my husband’s sin back in his face when he gets mad at me for something small. I know how easily I could remind him of his failures and make sure he knows just how picture-perfect my marital resume is. But reacting like that will never bring about forgiveness.

4. Don’t wait until you feel like forgiving.

One of the harder parts of forgiveness is that we don’t always feel like forgiving. The problem is that feelings are often misleading and erratic. I learned a long time ago that you rarely feel your way into positive actions, but you can act your way into better feelings. You may not really want to wake up at five for that morning run, but you do it anyway. Afterward, you are so glad you made the extra effort because you feel good and have more energy. There is great satisfaction in making a choice to do something that your flesh was yelling at you not to do! You acted your way into a feeling.

How to know you’re healing

The results of forgiveness look different for everyone. Some relationships will be mended in spite of betrayal, and some will end because of it. The key, though, is to make sure you are healing from this wound. You don’t want to get a knot in your stomach every time you think about this person, especially if he or she is your spouse.

Here’s one way you can know you have healed from a wound caused by someone else: You cease to feel resentment against your offender. My mentor says, “You know you’ve healed from the hurt that someone else’s actions have caused when you can look back on the situation and it’s just a fact.”

We all make mistakes. We all have done things we regret. We all need forgiveness. And we all need to extend that same forgiveness to others—not just today, but every day.

It’s time to forgive.

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Taken from: Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken. Copyright © 2011 by Cindy Beall.  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR.  Used by permission.

Cindy Beall is a writer, speaker, and mentor to women. She and her husband, Chris, share openly about their journey of redemption through Chris’s infidelity and pornography addiction.

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