Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Nagging - How Effective is It?

In previous postings I suggested that nagging is not a spiritual gift. And it still isn’t, at least in any of the translations that I use. The following is from a Mort Fertel blog entitled “The Consequences of Nagging”.

Nagging doesn’t work. Especially not in the long run. Yet many people still nag their spouse. Women, especially, are often guilty of nagging their husbands. There are some serious negative consequences of nagging that can cause marital problems.

Women often nag their husbands because they feel that if they don’t, their husband won’t get things done. In reality, if you treat your husband like a child, he’ll likely act like one. If you treat him like an adult, and allow him to take on responsibility for his own behaviors, he’ll most likely act like a grown up.

Nagging doesn’t tend to yield results. How many times have you asked your spouse to do something repeatedly and the result was that the work got done and you both ended up feeling happy and satisfied? Probably not very often.
Nagging can actually decrease your spouse’s motivation. By the third time you ask him to do something, he’s less likely to want to do it. No one likes to be nagged.

Nagging can contribute to a lot of negative feelings. The person who is nagged often feels frustrated, angry, and resentful. The person doing the nagging often feels frustrated and exasperated. Although nagging may get something done in the short-term the negative consequences in the long-term can be a breakdown in the relationship.

Ask your spouse to do something and only ask once. Prepare yourself for the consequences of it not getting done. Depending on what it is, you might do it yourself or hire someone else to do it if it doesn’t get done. The other option is to allow for natural consequences of it not getting done. This may negatively impact your spouse but it might not. Ask yourself, how important is it for the job to get done? One year from now, will it make a big difference if it didn’t get done? If not, it may not be all that important after all. Find a time to have a conversation with your spouse when you are calm to share your feelings if you want to talk about it later.

Take the energy you’ll save when you stop nagging and devote it to offering positive reinforcement to your spouse. Compliment and praise your spouse. Increase your positive interactions and you’ll see that it increases your positive feelings and can improve the marriage.
The Bible speaks to wives in particular on this subject. Proverbs 21:19 says, “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” And in Ephesians 5:33 wives are commanded to respect their husbands. If it is the husband who is the nag the results are no better.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Teachable Moments for Kids

I recently read a blog entitled “Who’s Raising Your Kids?” It went on to say that TV, computers, social media, texting and cell phones could be dangerous to the health of your child. Why? Each of these media gives unfiltered messages that are shaping your child emotionally and in some ways physically.

As parents you have been given a gift from God. You will have a relatively brief time in which to help mold and shape your son or daughter into a person that will glorify God and who will fulfill His purpose for them.

Here is where my biases kick in. As parents many of us have done a very poor job, even though we may have tried to do our best. One of the most influential learning laboratories for children is to witness a God glorifying marriage. Such a marriage is based on a covenant, i.e. there are no exit strategies. This provides incredible security for a child who sees many of their friends being raised by one parent.

In a marriage that glorifies God children see two adults, who sacrifice for one another; who are affectionate; who pray together; who display a strong set of Christian values; and who handle conflict in a way that pleases the Lord. Such parents are quick to express their love for their child and to establish some firm boundaries. Such actions on the part of parents speak much louder than the cacophony of sound coming from our culture.

Finally and equally important the father is clearly the spiritual head of the household. A number of large churches nationally have come to the conclusion that the Church has failed families. Many parents rely on the church to train up their child spiritually, given one hour a week in Sunday school to accomplish this mission. Statistics reveal that children brought up this way are most likely to leave the church before graduating from college. In part this occurs because the child never understood what they believed and why. They were unable to defend their faith to peers and professors who belittle their beliefs.

Sadly few of us had fathers who were able to model this for us. Secondly, most men feel ill equipped to handle the spiritual the development of their children. Often the wife is better equipped and the husband feels threatened. Either find a church where they have adopted a “faith at home” philosophy such as those who embrace “HomePointe” or purchase many of the good study guides that are available. One for younger children is the Long Story Short book by Marty Machowski. It focuses on the Old Testament. The New Testament version will come out in the fall of 2012.

Life provides parents with many teachable moments – use them wisely.


Friday, 23 December 2011

Patience in the Process

In his recently released book, Forever, Paul Tripp described the early years of his marriage:

“…I wasn’t a mature husband. But God was at work in me, and thankfully I am now a different man. In the meantime, God was calling my wife to patience and grace. He calls each of us to wait in our relationship, because the change that is needed is almost always a process.

Remember, God intends the hardships of the brokenness of the here and now to do something good. As you are waiting for eternity, God is using the difficulties of this fallen world to grow and transform you. His primary goal in our relationships is not so much our personal happiness, but personal transformation. Here are two things we all need to know about transformation: first, everyone needs it, and second, it is usually a process.

Eternity calls us to patience and grace in our relationships. These moments of difficulty and disappointment are not a waste. God is progressively transforming us from what we are into what his grace alone can enable us to be. He is rescuing us from ourselves and introducing us to the joys of living for him. He will not waste our suffering, and he will make good use of our disappointment. And in all of this, he is working day by day to prepare us for the eternity that is his gift to all who have placed their trust in him.”

We live in a microwave culture but more often than not God prefers to use a Crockpot. We get upset with ourselves and we get frustrated and disappointed with our spouse. Proverbs 3:5 reminds us that we are to “Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways we are to acknowledge him, and he will make our paths straight.”

Pray for patience and grace. Pray for understanding. Pray to be used as an instrument in your Redeemer’s hand that you might be part of the transforming process that your spouse is experiencing. But also pray “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

May the hours you spend in God’s learning laboratory produce magnificent results

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Five to One

Smart Car
For those of you who bet on horses, football or how many people you can squeeze into a Smart Car you probably think that Five to One represents the odds that a particular person or event will be victorious over someone or something else. Well in a way you would be correct.

John Gottman, who is the most well known clinical practitioner studying the way couples interact, proposes that most healthy marriages are characterized by having five positive interactions per day for every one negative interaction. In other words the odds that your marriage will do well may be very dependent on the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones.

Kind words, a wink, a hug, a thoughtful gesture, a mushy e-mail, a pat on the gluteus maximus, an adoring e-card, a phone call just to see how your loved one is doing, a small gift, quality time together, words of affirmation, a kiss for no good reason, an act of service, saying thank you, offering praise for something well done (or attempted) or a shoulder massage convey love.

I assume that I don’t have to give you a list of negative behaviors, for some reason these come much more naturally. Unkind words and some form of criticism are obvious offenders. Less obvious (particularly to guys) are silence, withdrawal, and simply ignoring your spouse.

John Gottman
Keeping score is a no win proposition in marriage. However, that said you may want to keep your own score for a couple of days. How often do you pay your spouse a compliment or express appreciation and/or show affection in some way throughout the day. How often were you critical, did you use a disapproving tone of voice, ignore your spouse, or in some way express displeasure?

Again I suspect it will be more difficult for you to objectively spot your negative interactions. You might ask yourself, “Self, did my spouse fail to live up to some expectation today?; Did something my spouse do irritate or annoy me today?; Did my spouse let me down today?” If you answered yes to any of these questions there is a good chance that your response was negative, even if you didn’t say anything.

Ephesians 4:29 tells us that we are “not to let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it might benefit those who listen.” Furthermore Ephesians 5:33 tells us we are to love and respect one another.

Strive to exceed Gottman’s five to one ratio and I think you will notice an improvement in your marriage.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Teaching Kids to Fight

Parenting may be one of the most difficult jobs any of us will be called to do. The mere presence of children can wreak havoc on a marriage while being an incredible source of joy. Children are a gift from God. Technically He has loaned them to you for a season because in the final analysis they are His. There may be times when you wish He would repossess them. During the season that they are in your charge you are to grow them up in a way that glorifies the Lord.

One of the more important teachable moments comes during those times when husbands and wives are in disagreement. If you are accustomed to yelling and screaming, calling each other names, slamming doors, throwing things, demeaning one another or getting physical you are not only setting a horrible example that your child will likely emulate but you make them feel most insecure.

I’m assuming if you didn’t give a rip what God thinks you wouldn’t be reading a blog entitled www.MarriageGodsWay.com. So I ask you when you and your spouse have a disagreement do you settle it in a way that honors God? If so, read no further.

I thought so. That would be a no. Teaching your children how to disagree in a way that glorifies God is one of the best gifts you will ever give your children.

Here are some suggestions:
1. When an issue surfaces between the two of you come together and pray, in front of your children. Ask God to give you an open mind, wisdom, discernment and the creativity necessary to resolve the disagreement in a way that will honor Him.
2. Learn to really listen. James 4:1-2 basically says we argue because we aren’t getting our own way. Learn to identify what is behind your desire for a specific outcome and what is behind your spouse’s desire. Frankly as you try to justify your positions you might realize how ridiculous you are being. In any event listen to hear what is behind both of your desires a suitable compromise may surface.
3. Once you can accurately articulate your partner’s position and the rationale behind it see if there are any compromises that will make you both feel heard and accommodated.
4. If nothing else this should be a reasonably humane exchange. If you fail to come up with a satisfactory solution, close the session with prayer. Tell the Father that you want to honor Him in the decision you come to and ask that He give you added wisdom and insight.
5. Agree to come back at a specific time to reach a resolution.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Did you ever hear the expression, “You can’t pick your family but you can choose your friends”?

Recent studies have shown that there is a high correlation between couples who get divorced and couples who hang around with couples who get divorced. Something akin to misery loves company.

What to DoAs best you can, sit down with your wife/husband and try to come up with a list of what might be valid indicators that a married couple is truly happy. I emphasize truly because many couples, particularly those who attend church regularly, are projecting an air-brushed persona of someone who is happy. Longevity is not necessarily an indicator but it could be a place to start. Other considerations: Do they look one another in the eye when they talk; do they seem to smile when looking at each other; are they affectionate when they think no one is looking; do they treat each other with respect and speak well of one another in public; do they complement their partners when in the presence of others; do they tend to walk side by side or does the husband tend to walk ahead; etc., etc.?

Next try to find one or more couples who best fit your description and try to make their acquaintance. If you feel comfortable with them you might even ask them if they would be willing to be your mentors.

What Not to DoTry not to hang out with couples who: tend to complain about their spouse and act as if their marriage is a nuisance; criticize their spouse in public; rarely look at one another; who rarely smile at one another; will say or do things that embarrass their spouse; treat their partner disrespectfully; roll their eyes when their spouse speaks; constantly correct their spouse in public; make jokes about marriage.

Do not hang out with such couples.

Be CarefulIt’s important to notice what types of couples you tend to surround yourself with. If you tend to have mostly divorced or unhappily married couples in your social circle, it can have a negative impact on your view of marriage. If hearing complaints tends to become normalized, it can cause you to join in at times and it can actually start to impact your relationship.

Try to learn from happily married people. Ask them questions about what makes their relationship successful.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Are You Crazy?

It has been said that the definition of crazy is to do the same thing over and over again but to expect different results.

Unfortunately this describes the way that many couples communicate about specific subjects and/or react to one another’s behavior. For example every time the couple talks about finance it ends up in a heated argument or one or the other withdraws.

tug of war
Ring, ring – clue phone, the same approach will yield the same results every time.

First of all put aside the “I’m right – he/she is wrong” opinion as this becomes a tug of war that even if you win, you lose. As long as you hold on to such a position you eliminate the possibility of a compromise. When you move from a win-lose position to one of seeking to understand, a number of better outcomes are possible. Begin with the assumption that you both have a good reason for holding the view that you do.

Next try praying together before you start your discussion. Pray that the Lord will allow each of you to come to a better understanding of each other’s view and that He will help you to arrive at a solution that will glorify Him.

Now employ “active listening”. Each of you should describe what you believe to be true about a particular subject and why. The other person is responsible to repeat back what they heard, until they get it right.

Dave Ramsey
In many instances deeply held beliefs go back to childhood experiences. Or perhaps each person behaves the way their parents behaved or the opposite of how their parents behaved. Finally what is the outcome each person is seeking? In the area of finances are you following a Biblical model? If you are not sure, go to Dave Ramsey’s website (www.daveramsey.com) or that of Crown Financial (www.crown.org). Agree that God’s plan is probably better than either of your own plans and put it into practice for six months to see if things are better.

The point is to try something different, something that will glorify God and put an end to the crazy cycle of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Monday, 12 December 2011

An Insight from the Book of Proverbs

The following post was written by Lindsey Webster. She was kind enough to share with us her personal experience in dealing with conflict.

I was recently reading Proverbs and came across a very funny verse that made me think about the early days of my marriage to my wonderful husband. Proverbs 21:19 says, “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.” Some may interpret this as, “a wife cannot debate with her husband or argue her point”, but that is not how I read it. This verse is simply an observation from the writer. He is saying that he would rather live in an uninhabitable desert than with a hot-tempered woman, and I must say I agree with him. I would also much rather live in the desert than with a hot-tempered man.

When I first married my husband, we had a few months of post-marriage conflict. We were just learning how to live together under one roof. I was just learning about all his not-so-attractive habits that he had kept hidden from me when we dated. I was obsessed with keeping things clean and orderly, and he was quite content throwing his laundry beside of the hamper and not putting down the toilet seat. Needless to say, we annoyed one another.

One day, my husband said to me, “If you don’t change your attitude, I don’t think we are going to work out. You are negative and argumentative, and I don’t enjoy it.” Of course, I was heartbroken. How could he say that my attitude was causing our problems? He was the one who was driving me crazy! Then I realized the truth, if I were him, would I like me? My answer was “no.”

Just like the Bible verse, I had let my husband’s poor habits make me angry and argumentative. Instead of approaching the situation in a Godly way, I had been rude and disrespectful to the person I was supposed to love and respect always. My husband was not throwing his clothes beside of the hamper instead of in the hamper, because he wanted to start an argument with me. He never thought it would anger me or drive me insane, so he did not deserve to be “punished” by me.

Once I realized that my reactions were causing our marriage to crumble, I quickly changed my attitude. This was noted by husband, and he started putting his clothes in the hamper and putting down the toilet seat. Essentially, we stopped being argumentative and started being respectful and loving.

Lindsey has been a rehabilitation counselor for 15 years and also owns the site 
http://www.mastersincounseling.org/ 


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Nagging is Not a Spiritual Gift - Part II

This is a follow up to Part I by the same title. This posting is starting with the assumption that as a couple you accept the fact that God is using each of you in the life of the other. You are part of God’s sanctification plan for your spouse. However don’t assume that every time you have this great insight as to how your spouse can improve it is of God. Check your heart. Ask yourself, “Self, what is the outcome I am hoping for by sharing my observation with my spouse?” Be honest with yourself. Unless your spouse is not too bright they will quickly see that you have an agenda. If however you are dealing with a sin issue then approach your spouse in a loving, gentle and compassionate way. Mort Fertel suggests the following:

Timing is important
When conversations start out calmly and non-accusatory, they often end in the same manner. Discussions that start out with yelling and screaming will most likely end with yelling and screaming. Approach your partner in a respectful manner and you’ll be more likely to receive a respectful response.

Take a look at the timing. Don’t bring up an important issue when you won’t have time to discuss it. Try to find a time when your partner is going to be able to have time. Bringing up major problems just as your partner walks in the door or when he’s trying to sleep isn’t likely going to get good results.

Examine how you respond when your partner brings up tough issues. Do you accept feedback? Are you open to suggestions? Or do you immediately get angry and defensive? It is important to be able to hear what your partner has to say.”
Throwing a “Bible dart” is usually less than affective. “Ephesians 5:25 says you are to love me as Christ loves His Church and I’m not feeling loved.” zing! It might be more effective to say “Honey, I know you love me but for some reason when you talk to me in that tone I don’t feel loved.”

Mort finished his blog with this advice:

Check in with your partner periodically to see how things are going. Even if you think the marriage is going well, ask your partner. Inquire about what you could do to be a better partner. Ask what would make the marriage even better.

Give your partner feedback about what you think is going well also. Share your appreciation and provide positive feedback even more frequently than you share negative feedback. Providing positive feedback can increase the likelihood that your partner will be more willing to hear negative feedback as well”


 
The only thing I would add is to ask your partner what would make your marriage more God glorifying, after all that is the purpose of marriage. If you glorify God the rest will take care of itself.

Improve Your Marriage

Matthew 22:37-39 tells us that we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” First Corinthians 10:31 tells us that whatever we do we are to do for the glory of God.

So what do these verses have to do with marriage? The verses in Matthew tell you to put God first and love your husband/wife as much as you love yourself. The Corinthians verse tells us that our marriage should glorify God. We must become OC! No, not obsessive compulsive – other centered. The following posting by Mort Fertel describes how that could look.

What if everyone woke up everyday and asked themselves, “What’s one thing I can do today to improve my marriage?” The divorce rate would likely be lower and people would probably report higher rates of satisfaction in their relationships. Unfortunately, most people don’t focus on finding one thing they can do to improve their relationship. Instead, many people focus on what isn’t working in the relationship or on what they aren’t getting from the marriage.

What is something a person could do today that might improve their marriage? Maybe it is as simple as acknowledging your partner’s hard work. How often do you tell your spouse, “Thank you for going to work each day to provide for our family,” or “Thank you for doing such a great job taking care of the kids.” Showing appreciation for everyday tasks such as doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, cooking dinner, or tucking the kids in can go a long way.

Share your love with your partner. Write a special note and put it in his pocket. Take a minute to give her a hug or give him a back rub while he watches television. Showing some extra affection and attention can reinforce your feelings for one another.

Do an act of kindness for your partner. Cook her favorite meal. Buy him a gift. Do her chores for her. Whatever you can think of that will make your spouse’s day a little better can be helpful to your relationship.
Living in a fast-paced world can require a conscious effort to slow down and focus on one thing you can do to improve the relationship each day. Taking small steps to focus on the marriage can make a big difference in the long run. It can also help you focus on giving to the marriage and take the focus away from taking from it.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Red Flag

Did you ever here the expression, “that’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull”? I take this to mean that there is something about the color red or perhaps a fluttering flag that incenses a bull and causes him to flare his nostrils and come after the flag waving fool.
Well I think there is a little bull in all of us and at least at one time or another someone, most likely your spouse has waved the proverbial red flag in front of you.

To put it in humanistic terms the bull is getting in touch with his feelings. He knows that red ticks him off and most likely so does the person waving the flag. As a rule, you too know what angers, frustrates, hurts, saddens or embarrasses you. Maybe you haven’t labeled your feelings but your response to certain words, specific situations and/or some people elicits a negative feeling.

The question then becomes what kinds of behaviors do you exhibit when one of these emotional triggers is waved in front of you? Do you lash out, sulk, yell, withdraw, etc.?
From a Christian perspective it is believed that all emotions emanate from the heart. The heart in biblical terms is synonymous with the mind, the will and the emotions. Thus whatever comes out of you when the flag is waved in front of you is what is actually inside you. (Mark 7:20-23)

So when I behave irrationally when my computer has been taken over by space invaders, it is not the computers fault, nor that of the men from Mars, but the way that I choose to respond that signals that my heart may need laser surgery. As my loving wife so aptly pointed out after I had one of my hissy fits “Do you think you might be angry with God?” (I can’t believe I put that in print) You see I expect some aspects of life to run according to my play book. I expect people to be considerate of others and to follow through with what they say they will do. I expect computers to do exactly what they are supposed to do 100% of the time. I expect my car to start when I turn on the key. Well you get the picture. Since there is only one all sovereign God under whose loving watch all things happen, who else am I blaming when things don’t go according to me?

The point is that there is always an underlying cause whenever we get upset. At such a time we need to ask ourselves “what is it that I want?” Do I want my way, do I want peace and quiet, do I want to be respected, etc. While what you desire may not be a bad thing, such as respect, it becomes a bad thing when it rules your behavior.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Can We Talk - Part II

Part I covered the lack of sexual desire that is brought about by physical health problems, mental health problems, etc. These problems have been around for many years. The sad thing is that often there is a solution but the couple is too embarrassed to acknowledge the problem, and confront it openly, it becomes like the elephant in the room.

In more recent times pornography and social media have become serious threats to marital intimacy. Men are wired visually thus pornography has a huge attraction. The book Every Man’s Battle is aptly named as it chronicles what today has become a plague of gigantic proportions. Women tend to be wired relationally and social media such as Face Book fill an emotional void. Instead of putting energy into revitalizing one’s marriage it has become too easy to begin to fantasize or flirt with the help of the internet.

There are other problems of a less serious nature that must be acknowledged none the less.

According to 1Peter 3:7 husbands are to treat their wives in an understanding way. Ed Young, Sr. offers some insights that many men fail to understand. There are a number of reasons that a wife can’t always respond sexually.
1) The dark area:
a. Promiscuity – past hurts & abuse by men.
b. Sexual abuse as they were growing up. A shocking percentage of women have experienced some form of sexual abuse.
c. Poor self-image. Most women need constant reassurance that they are attractive to their husband. Just one more reason why pornography is so destructive to a marriage.
d. The message that sex is to be endured.
e. Twisted Biblical logic that sex is part of the curse.
f. Side effects of necessary medication.
g. The woman’s past can determine the rest of her life if you both will allow it to, but it doesn’t have to be so.
2) The practical side:
a. Children add a difficult dimension when it comes to intimacy.(exhausted, physical touch satisfied, a lack of privacy, etc).
b. She can’t compartmentalize. Sex is relational from the female’s perspective. An argument or emotional neglect impacts her willingness to be intimate. Men can compartmentalize. From the male’s perspective they could be arguing one minute and having sex the next.
c. The atmosphere is important. Three forms of intimacy appetizer intimacy- quick and not all that special. main course intimacy – you have more time and don’t feel rushed. gourmet intimacy - go off for two nights.
d. Can’t be rushed. Women are crock pots, men are microwaves.
e. Physically too tired after an exhausting day

With maturity (and if that is measured by age I'm extremely mature) comes the understanding that the pleasure of your mate is more important than any pleasure that will ever come your way both emotionally and physically. Ephesians 5:33 tells husbands to love their wives as much as they love themselves.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Can We Talk - Part I

Lack of sexual desire can be caused by several different factors. Physical health problems, mental health problems, and substance abuse are some of the most common reasons people lack sexual desire. Lack of sexual desire can be very damaging to a marriage so it is important to explore what the causes may be.

As a Christian it is important to remember that sex is a gift that God has given to married couples, and it is intended for pleasure in the context of marriage. It is unfortunate that many couples become resigned to having a less than fulfilling sex life rather than have an open and frank discussion.

Some physical health issues that decrease a person’s sexual desire include hormonal problems and many chronic illnesses. Sometimes the side effects of medications can decrease a person’s libido. Many anti-depressants have this side effect. Sleep problems can also impact a person’s overall functioning, including sexual desire. Fatigue is another barrier to a healthy sex life.

Mental health problems can include factors such as depression. Depression causes people to lose interest in many things, including sexual activity. Anxiety can also interfere with sexual desire. Chronic stress and feeling overwhelmed with life can be another factor. When people are feeling like they have too much to do, too little time, or not enough money, sex can move to a lower spot on the priority list.

Substance abuse issues also impact sexual desire. Chronic and excessive use of alcohol can make it impossible for people to maintain sexual desire. Some substances impact sexual desire in the short-term while others impact it in the long term.

Lack of sexual desire can be related to relationship problems as well. If you are angry and feel resentful toward your partner, sex may be one of the last things you want to do. However, lack of sexual contact is likely to cause more damage to the relationship.

If you are experiencing a lack of sexual desire it is important to see your doctor for a complete physical. It can be a warning sign that your body’s chemistry or major systems is having some problems. It may be an easy fix. If you receive a clean bill of health, consider therapy.

Therapy can help determine if there are any underlying mental or emotional issues impacting your sexual desire. Couples therapy can also be helpful to assist both partners in dealing with sexual issues. However, it is critical to select a therapist who specializes in dealing with this issue – shop around. It is important not to wait, as lack of sexual contact can negatively impact your relationship in the long-term.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It

That expression may be sage advice when it comes to plumbing or electrical work but when it comes to the human condition and marriage in particular, we are all broken. In his newly released book Forever Paul Tripp reminds us:

Most if not all relationships will go through times of difficulty and stress. A good relationship, then, is a humble and needy relationship in which both parties admit that they haven’t arrived and are not perfect. They are approachable, willing to listen to the concerns of the other, willing to admit and face their shortcomings. They do not give way to thinking that they are mature and the other person is not. A good relationship doesn’t get stuck in a cycle of expectation, disappointment, criticism, and punishment. It doesn’t give way to the hopelessness that often grips relationships when change doesn’t seem to be happening. A good relationship is good because each person is patient and understanding. Each seeks to encourage the other to grow while resisting laying unrealistic burdens on the shoulders of the other person.
I often use the expression “God glorifying” marriage. I think the above paragraph describes many of the elements in such a marriage. It acknowledges up front that both the husband and wife are sinners. It is through grace that we grow to be more like the Son and often the Lord will use the spouse in that process. It is particularly gratifying when it is a collaborative effort with each partner accepting and soliciting the help of the other.

Paul Tripp
First Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Hence marriage is to glorify God, it is to reflect the relationship that Christ has with His bride the church.

Romans 8:29 tells us that “those that God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brothers.” This tells us that it is God’s plan that we continue to grow in our Christlikeness.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Are You Talking to Me?

Ravi Zacharias
A recent posting by Ravi Zacharias ministries was entitled “Selective Hearing”, in part it said,

“When it comes to listening, we are quick to listen to the things we want to hear. We are also quick to listen to the things we think other people need to hear. In a book study with several couples on the subject of marriage, several of us mentioned the struggle to actually read the book for ourselves and not for our spouses. I found myself carefully reading the sections I hoped my other half would most carefully notice; another admitted circling and highlighting and handing it over. I'm not sure you can call our attempts half-hearted or good-hearted; for our hearts were not the ones we were putting on the line. Undoubtedly, we missed things that would have been good for us to hear ourselves. Though reading with our own eyes, we were listening for someone else.

Expanding on G.K. Chesterton's clever aphorism that between one and two there is often a difference of millions, F.W. Boreham notes the massive difference between a congregation of one and a congregation of two: "A congregation of one takes every word in a direct and personal sense; but, in a congregation of two, each auditor takes it for granted that the preacher is referring to the other."

 If this weren’t so true it would be humorous. How often have we sat and listened to a sermon ,or read a book, and/or attended a class only to focus on the things that were said that would make our spouse better. Most of us have experienced that gentle elbow in the ribs accompanied with the words, “Did you hear that?”
“I am the biggest problem in my marriage. It is not my wife or circumstances outside of my control that are responsible for my marriage problems. Furthermore if my marriage is going to be better I need to change.” Most often when couples come for counseling they are secretly hoping the counselor will single out their partner as the problem. News flash – we can only change ourselves. Spouses and/or counselors can influence change but only if the person truly wants to change.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Who Does My Anger Hurt?

People, who explode in anger, wallow in self-pity and/or seethe in resentment hurt themselves. Unresolved anger is poisonous. It can manifest itself as frustration, anxiety, or a critical spirit. It affects our physical well being and can result in deadly ailments.

Relationships are damaged and according to the Book of Proverbs, anger is contagious, especially to children (Prov. 22:24-25). Intimacy is all but lost.

Anger erects a barrier between us and God (Matt.5:21-24). Anger hinders His work and limits his blessing.

Anger is a natural emotion given to us by God. When we become angry at the things that make God angry He is pleased. Jesus was angered by the money-changers and merchants in the Temple and He took a whip to them. Jesus was indignant at the religious leaders of the day and He rebuked them for leading people astray with their hypocritical legalism. Unfortunately I must admit my anger is not usually directed at something that displeases God, it’s something that displeases me.

Not only is God fully aware of the circumstances in which we find ourselves He either allows them or causes them to come about. So when we become angry with regard to our circumstances, our anger is directly or indirectly aimed at God. This demonstrates a lack of faith on our part since Romans 8:28 tells us that God is working in all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

We must confess our feelings to God. He already knows our ugly thoughts and emotions and He is patiently waiting for us to ask Him to work in our hearts, to help us respond to our situation in a way that glorifies Him. We must identify the source of our anger. More often than not, if we dig deep enough, we will realize that we are angry because things are not going our way; our desires and expectations have been thwarted. We should deal with our anger quickly. The Book of Ephesians (4:26-27) tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger. We must not sin in our anger, i.e. hold on to it or lash out with it. Finally we must forgive the offender, as God has forgiven us.

Many of us live in denial. I venture to say the vast majority of people do not consider themselves as angry people. In a culture where the divorce rate is running 50% and an additional 25-35% of couples are unhappy, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t more people who are angry. The sooner we call it what it is and seek the Lord’s help in dealing with it the sooner we can experience the healing that can only come about when we allow the Lord to do elective heart surgery.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Cycle Continues

Mort Fertel
As many of you know I quote Mort Fertel regularly because his advice is usually spot on except for the fact that it is missing a Christian filter. In one of his recent blogs (www.themarriagecounselingblog.com) he addresses the fact that often there are patterns to our arguments. He goes on to say in part:

Many couples report that most of their arguments are about the same things over and over. These sorts of arguments often don’t ever get resolved and the same subject keeps coming up. It is important to take a look at your arguments to see what patterns you notice.

Emerson Eggrich's
Crazy Cycle
Where do most of your arguments happen? (when the bread winner comes home from work, etc.) …Also look at the timing of your arguments. When do most of your arguments occur? (Getting the family ready to go to church, etc.).

What do most of your arguments seem to be about? Perhaps you argue the most about the way your spouse treats you. Or maybe you argue about money or the kids. Do most of your disagreements center around your behaviors or your spouse’s behaviors? How do these arguments usually start?

Identifying patterns to your conflict can help you learn how to address unresolved issues. Perhaps you discover that you tend to argue most when you are feeling stressed about other things. It may help you to recognize the importance of finding healthy stress management techniques so that you don’t take it out on your spouse.

Once you identify patterns to your conflict, discuss strategies to help prevent unnecessary conflict. All conflict shouldn’t be avoided. However, the arguments that are ongoing and never seem to get resolved can be counter-productive to a healthy relationship.”
Mort’s suggestions could provide some important insight. However regardless of when you argue most, where the arguments most frequently occur and what you most often continue to argue about the real problem is a heart issue. James 4:1-2 basically tells us we argue because we don’t get our own way. That is what you need to uncover. Ask yourself why you feel as strongly as you do about a particular situation or topic. IF you are able to trace the derivation from whence your opinion flows it may be the beginning of a healing process. Obviously there wouldn’t be an argument if your spouse didn’t also have something driving their adversarial opinion. By uncovering both you might be better able to really understand the issue and arrive at a solution that would satisfy both.

Monday, 21 November 2011

True Love?

Do you have true love? Certainly there are ways of expressing love, which may or may not be included in Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, i.e. gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, touch, and acts of service.

A booklet entitled Married for Life attempts to answer this question. One reasonable indicator is whether or not your love has been able to withstand the test of time. Has it endured hardship, boredom, and pain? Has it weathered life’s busyness? Has it withstood the pressures of job, family, and home, the stresses of midlife and old age?

Have you have gotten to the point where you have settled for a détente, i.e. living together but leading separate lives? If so, that would not count. True love is in part determined by your commitment to each other, by the way you live out your lives together day by day, expressing your love in every possible way through respecting each other, encouraging each other, and serving each other minute by minute, hour by hour.

True love must be other centered. You see the real problem in most marriages that are under siege is self-centeredness. The surface issues may be money, in-laws, the distribution of household chores, the kids and/or sex. Underneath those issues lurks the “kingdom of me”. When my needs, my expectations, and my desires, determine my behavior toward my spouse the only one I truly love is me.

A paraphrase taken from The Message says:

Let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. 1John 3:18-19
For those of you who are just starting out you can be insure that your marriage will withstand the test of time if you follow the principle found in 1Corinthians 10:31, i.e. “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” If your guiding principle is to glorify God, all else will follow.

Friday, 18 November 2011

In the Scheme of Things

scales of justice
I have come to the conclusion that the ability to truly “overlook” what we consider to have been a slight or a minor injustice is a skill worth developing. Perhaps I’m coming to this conclusion because I have been reading a number of books that focus on eternity. Now I can’t begin to comprehend eternity, all I know is that if I’m unfortunate enough to live until I am one hundred eternity will be a gazillion times longer.

The gist of these books is that thoughts of eternity should shape my thoughts and actions in the here and now. So 300 years from now will it be important to anyone that I missed trash day; that I squeezed the toothpaste from the wrong end; or that I forgot to pick up the milk at the grocery store? Will those things even matter a year from now? I think not.

How many times do couples argue about things that would be considered frivolous in the grand scheme of life? The toast is too dark; the car is pulled in too close to the front of the garage; the dark clothes haven’t been washed; my car keys weren’t put back where they should have been. And the list goes on. Before we know it all these offenses have piled up and we have come to the conclusion that we have married the wrong person or at the very least that we are in a marriage that falls far short of what we expected it to be.

It is safe to assume that this is not the first time that these irritating behaviors have surfaced and most likely there will be a repeat performance of this or a similar behavior. It is also safe to assume that what couples argued about last week will come up again this week or the next.

For a moment imagine that you were married to a slob – sorry if that offends. There is a reasonably good chance that your husband/wife would not have won the Good Housekeeping seal of approval before you got married. Furthermore let’s speculate that you place a high value on keeping a home neat. Thus you are continually frustrated at your spouse’s disregard for organization and cleanliness. News flash, most likely your spouse will not change. Nagging is not a spiritual gift and it has never proved to be particularly effective form of motivation. We cannot change our spouse, they can only change themselves. What you can change is your attitude toward your spouse. Either learn to tolerate his/her messiness or pick up after them and do it cheerfully.

messy room
Sometimes accepting your partner for who they are can be a big step. Although you might want your partner to behave differently, practice loving your spouse for whom they are today. If you can’t convince your spouse to change, your energy may be better spent focusing on eternity.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Slip Sliding Away

Paul Simon popularized the song “Slip Sliding Away”. Unfortunately those lyrics also describe many marriages in the U.S. Often this drifting apart happens at an imperceptible rate. At some point the husband and wife come to the realization that they have little in common and no longer “know” one another. Mort Fertel (www.marriagecounselingblog.com) offers some good insight and advice.

When a marriage ends, it doesn’t come to an abrupt, sudden end. Instead, the relationship tends to slowly erode. At some point, one or both of the people in the relationship recognize that this erosion has occurred and the relationship may come to an end.


It is important to prevent this erosion from slowly and subtly weakening your marriage. Although all relationships change over time, there is a difference between growing together and growing apart. Sometimes couples stop spending time together, stop doing fun things, and start arguing more as the relationship erodes.

It can be a vicious cycle. People stop spending time together. The relationship erodes. As it erodes, they lose the desire to spend time together. Further erosion occurs. This cycle must be interrupted to stop the damage as soon as possible.

Preventing erosion requires you to frequently check in on the relationship. Take time to stop and reflect on how you see things going. Talk to your partner about it and start a conversation. Discuss what would make things even better than they are now.

In today’s busy world, people often don’t take time to slow down and reflect on how they are feeling about things. What could be more important than taking a few minutes to reflect on your marriage? Try to make sure to do this regularly and when you notice changes, reflect on those as well.

Also, think about the things you used to do together. It’s likely that when you were younger or first dating, you had more time and spent a lot of quality time together. Did you go hiking, skiing, cook meals together? Stay emotionally connected. Marriage can sometimes lead to people having conversations about their budget, parenting, and day to day activities. Make sure to also talk about your feelings, your hopes, goals and dreams. This can help separate your marriage from other relationships in your life.

When you notice that the relationship is eroding, develop a plan.
Let me suggest that God be part of that plan, after all the purpose of marriage is to glorify God. To that end begin praying together as a couple. Find a daily devotional that you can read together such as Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. Get involved in your church in an activity where you can serve together. Join a small group and/or be in fellowship with strong Christian couples.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Lessons in Forgiveness

One of my favorite writers is Dr. Bob Snyder. In a recent blog (www.lessonslearnedonthejourney.com) he wrote on the importance of forgiveness.


Scientific research shows that when I forgive I will be happier and healthier. (Robert Enright Ph.D., International Forgiveness Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison) Studies by Dr. Fred Laskin at Stanford University also indicate that forgiveness can be learned — there is yet hope for me.

However, giving up ALL claims to revenge or punishment because of an offense is extraordinarily difficult. Extending mercy rather than retribution is an intentional act that does not come naturally to me.

However, more important than the scientific research and positive benefits to my health is the fact that Jesus told me I must forgive. Forgiveness is an act of obedience, requiring the work of the Holy Spirit in me.
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors...For if you forgive men when they sin against you your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:12, 14, 15 NIV)

Science confirms what Jesus had already told me ...forgive! Now comes the challenge of living out a life of forgiveness. Please join me.”
There are few things that are more important to sustaining a marriage than the willingness to ask for forgiveness and the willingness to forgive. It is critical for couples to keep short accounts, never letting some hurt or infraction fester. My wife and I tend to be avoiders – this is not good. However we are deeply committed to our marriage. We found that by setting aside a specific time and place once a week for the sole purpose of airing any grievance that we had neglected to deal with at the time of occurrence was most freeing. We knew that the real purpose was to keep us from ruminating over some imagined hurt, to keep our marriage strong and to keep the devil from getting a foothold. I cannot tell you that either of us looked particularly forward to these meetings but we placed a great value on them.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Time in Life's Cistern

cistern
Not to be irreverent but have you had one of those days (or months or years) when you have said to the Lord, “Why?”

In part this question is driven by the fact that most of us have expectations. We envision that the frog we kissed at the altar will become a prince. Or we expected that the woman we married would be a cross between a mom, a maid and a lingerie model. We were certain that our kids would be better behaved and brighter than any of his/her peers. We never dreamed that we would have unpaid bills, let alone be unemployed for a period of time. Welcome to life or as Joseph knew it, life in the cistern.

You may remember the story in the Book of Genesis (chpts 37-50). Joseph was a very good looking, very self confident young man. He was such a pain in the gluteus maximus that his brothers threw him down a cistern and left him to die. However the brothers had a pang of conscience or more than likely the thought of ill gotten gain overtook them and they rescued Joseph and sold him to a bunch of camel jockeys. Then Joseph gets falsely accused of attempted rape and spends many years in jail. How do you like his life so far?

At some point, if you were Joseph wouldn’t you be asking “Why?”

All we know is that in the end God had a better plan for Joseph’s life and that must be the guiding light for all who call on the name of the Lord. God always has a purpose for what happens in our lives even though from our perspective it feels as though we are at the bottom of a cistern and He has forgotten us. If God is aware of even a sparrow falling to the ground He is well aware of your circumstances.

Whatever your circumstances, regardless of how hopeless they may appear, go to your heavenly Father, ask Him to guide your steps, and to give you peace in the midst of your storm. Go to the Book of Psalms, known as the soul’s medicine chest and seek His comfort.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? ...The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? … For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock…”
Psalm 27

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Thanksgiving Chair

A friend recently sent me a link to a video entitled the “Thanksgiving Chair”



It served as a reminder to me, and I hope to you, of just how thankful we should be. All too often we focus on the negative. We dwell on the expectations that have not been met, the dreams that seem unreachable, and the vision of what we thought it would be like to be married only to realize that it is much different.

Perhaps a change of focus would help. Why not mentally place a thanksgiving chair in each room of your house as a reminder of how good it is to have someone to share your life with. God has placed a special person in your life, one who you would do well to appreciate.

.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Look at Forgiveness

It would be more than naïve to think that a marriage which is comprised of the union of two sinners of different genders, with different heredity and environmental backgrounds, and different personalities and different experiences could come together for a lifetime without conflict. The ability to ask for forgiveness and grant forgiveness may be among the most important skills that a couple can master. The Bible has much to say about what forgiveness is, what it is not and why it is so essential personally and relationally.

Key Verses, Passages and Parables:
1. Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

2. Luke 6:37 says “forgive and you will be forgiven.”

3. The Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:12;14-15 says, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors...For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

4. Matthew 18: 22 states that there is no limit to the times we must forgive

5. The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:22-35)

6. Ephesians 4:32, "Forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

The message is clear; we must be willing to forgive others much because we have been forgiven much. If we harbor a grudge it will eventually affect us emotionally and/or physically.

There is no call of Christ more difficult than the call to forgive others as he has forgiven us. The apostle Paul penned:

Dead Sea
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Eph.4:32
Unforgiveness is cancer of the soul. When we who are Christians refuse to forgive one another we are like the Dead Sea, i.e. forgiveness flows in but it never goes out.

The only way out of pain, bitterness and resentment is through the door of forgiveness. Ephesians 4:29-31.

29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Fifteen Ways to Please Your Wife

How beautiful you are, my darling, how beautiful you are!
Song of Solomon 1:15

Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Today offered the following suggestions for husbands on ways to please your wife. While many of these actions won’t come easy for some of us, they are all easy to do and cost nothing (except for filling her car). The book entitled Love Languages by Gary Chapman identifies five primary love languages. They are (1) Quality time, (2) Words of Affirmation, (3) Touch, (4) Gifts, and (5) acts of service. Most of the five are touched upon somewhere in this list. Discover which expression of love on the list means most to your wife.

1. Hug and kiss her every morning before leaving the house.
2. Go to bed at the same time she does.
3. Brush her hair while complimenting her eyes and appearance.
4. When she's studying herself in the mirror, tell her, "You are so beautiful."
5. Evict late-night television from your bedroom.
6. During mid-afternoon, call or send her an email to ask how her day's going.
7. Try your hand at making breakfast on Saturday morning.
8. Put gas in her car, vacuum the floor mats, and clean the windows.
9. Write her a short love letter. List several ways she has blessed you this year.
10. Resurrect common courtesies: Hold the car door open. Offer her your arm.
11. Put the toilet seat down.
12. If you hear her engaged in a tough situation, compliment the way she handled it.
13. When you're together in a crowd, find a way to brag on her.
14. Help her put the kids to bed.
15. Pray with her every day. Every day!


If this sounds like a lot of work or if it's out of character for the kind of guy you are, do it anyway. You'll get better at it. And I guarantee your wife will love you for it.
Please send me your list of the ways you have shown your wife appreciation and love.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The List

Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matt.6:33
Dennis Rainey developed seven action points for daily living. I have taken the liberty of expanding each point, hopefully to add clarification.

1. Seek God, not sin. Most of us don’t wake up in the morning saying “I wonder what sins I can commit today.” Unfortunately sinning comes naturally, it takes no thought. However if when we wake up we start the morning with a prayer, “Father please keep me from temptation and help me to be obedient to You today”, things will probably go better.

2. Fear God, not man. Some of us are people pleasers by nature. Actually being a people pleaser is a sin (take it from one who knows) because we have made what man thinks of us more important than what God thinks.

3. Love God, not the world. Because of the way we are wired from birth we will always worship something. When I value anything more than God, i.e. my iPhone, my golf game, my children, my job, etc. in actuality I have made that person, place or thing my god for that moment.

Love God not the
 things
 of this world
4. Believe God, not the deceiver. One of Satan’s primary weapons is deception. It worked in the Garden why not everywhere else? Satan will take the desire for a good thing and turn it into a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.

5. Obey God, not your appetites. Our appetites for the things of this world are only limited by our imagination. We tend to feed on self-gratification, power, money, control and “toys”. We are to seek Him and His will for our lives.

6. Serve God, not self. Ouch! God tells us that we are to have no other Gods before Him; God tells us to put others ahead of ourselves; He says we are to love our wives as Christ loves us; and we are to respect our husbands. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”Matthew 25:39-41

7. Worship God, not comfort. If we are honest with ourselves we act as though the world should revolve around my needs, my wants, and my desires. God must be number one in our lives. Excuse the crass analogy but it is like buttoning a shirt. If you start with the wrong button your shirt will be lopsided. If God isn’t first in our lives our lives will be lopsided.

By following these action points you will most certainly enhance your marriage!

Monday, 31 October 2011

Foul Tip

Dennis Rainey wrote an interesting blog around what is commonly referred to as a “foul tip” in baseball. It seemed more than fitting that since we are entering the World Series season that such an analogy was in order.

Foul tip
“I've often wondered why more people don't get hurt by foul balls that are hit into the stands during a baseball game. You'd think it would happen almost every time, especially those line drives that carom through an entire seating section. But even on those occasions when a stray ball does leave a lump or a bruise, you can hardly blame the batter, can you? I mean, he's not out to intentionally harm anyone. It's just what happens in the flow of the game, right?

That's probably not the way Baltimore Orioles' Jay Gibbons felt not long ago when he fouled a pitch straight back over the screen. That's because this time, his wayward swing didn't threaten a nine-year-old sitting there with his cap and glove or a hot-dog vendor walking the steps or a pair of buddies taking in a game together.

No, Jay's foul ball hit his own wife right in the ribcage.
He didn't mean to. It wasn't intentional.

This story reminded me of those sarcastic remarks we sometimes let slip.

Or those little unkind things we foul off. Or those grunts we utter when we think the magazine article we're reading is much more interesting and important than what the wife is saying.

A foul ball can hurt as much as a direct hit. A fairly insignificant slight or accusation--especially when it's allowed to fester and accumulate and build on the last one--can bruise your relationship. That's why you must guard against minor, offhand offenses. Stop occasionally and go see if your words are hurting anyone--your spouse, a child or a friend.

Careless words, a lapse in judgment – these have the effect of being hit by an emotional “foul ball”. But whether intended or not, they can still carom with enough speed to wound and injure the ones you love the most.


So how do you handle a foul ball when it comes your way? What can we learn from the players who are never surprised by foul balls, but anticipate them and aggressively pursue them? If you are the recipient of an emotional foul ball you might assume that you have done something to warrant being hit. You might ask the person how you may have offended them. If you have delivered the painful blow be quick to ask for forgiveness. Offering to autograph a ball probably won’t cut it.