Friday, 29 July 2011

The Big "W"

Children can bring you more joy than you can ever imagine. They are truly one of God’s greatest gifts. The folks at Family Life have discovered however that there are times when your children are apt to have a significantly negative effect on the quality of your marriage. These times occur at the bottom points on the “W”.
                  Elementary       Empty
     Birth        School           Nest 
         
                      W
       Pre-school    teenager      

Obviously a lot depends on the temperament of your child but as a generalization your marriage is most vulnerable during the times when your child is the most in need of care and attention. Time for intimacy is at a premium as the physical demands on the mom during the preschool years can be overwhelming. The emotional demands that can accompany the teenage years can also put a strain on the couple, often creating tension between the husband and wife.

It is at these times in particular that you need to be very intentional about spending quality time together. Be sure to build in a minimum of two date nights a month, one a week is preferable. It may be nothing more than going for a walk or going on a picnic. It might be closeting yourself in the house and playing Scrabble or going out to dinner or to a play.

These seasons in life provide an abundance of topics for prayer. You may be praying that the Lord will keep your highly inquisitive two-year old from maiming himself. Or it may be asking the Lord to protect your teenage daughter from making some unwise choices. In addition it is important that you pray for one another. As the challenges of parenthood mount it is important to bath your partner in prayer, asking God for the wisdom and discernment necessary to make wise parental decisions.

If you have never learned to laugh at yourself or at life in general it would be a good to start before you reach one of the bottom points on the “W”.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Stop Fighting

A blog I read recently was entitled “How to Stop a Fight Before it Starts”. It certainly offered some practical advice. It suggested among other things that we should avoid triggers all together, i.e. those “hot button” topics, words, expressions or phrases that send our partner into orbit. And our partners in turn should avoid those topics that cause us to react as though we were three years old. The blog also suggested that we avoid name calling and judgmental words that we use to describe each other.

As far as these suggestions go they certainly could help you avoid some tense moments and irritable conversations. But let’s look at the topic of fights from a Christian perspective to see if we might adopt a somewhat different approach.

Prayer is one of the best antidotes to fighting that I know. A simple, “Father show me how I might glorify You in the midst of our disagreement” could work wonders. Praying together before you begin to talk about a sensitive topic will most likely yield better results.

In the book of James we are told that we quarrel because we don’t get our own way. So you may ask yourself, “what is it I expect to gain out of this discussion and why is it so important to me that my point of view prevails?” Self centeredness is the predominant cause of most arguments.

Next be willing to accept the fact that God brought you together as husband and wife. He will use the different perspectives that you each bring to a topic as sort of a teachable moment, a learning laboratory, if you will let Him. If we learn from one another we can grow.

Lastly staying away from a topic because it pushes your hot buttons may not be the best advice. Most likely if something triggers a negative reaction in you (or your spouse) it is a red flag that there is a heart issue that needs to be dealt with. Why do you get so irritated when your wife asks you to pick up your clothes? Why do you fly off the handle if your husband makes a comment about your propensity to run late? Behind most negative emotions are heart issues that need to be identified and taken to the Lord in prayer. Cleansing our heart is a much more effective long term approach than ignoring the problem.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Stereotype

Mort Fertel writes (www.marriagecounselingblog.com )

It’s important to identify what sorts of stereotypes impact your beliefs about the man’s role and the woman’s role within the marriage. People develop beliefs about roles within the marriage based on what sorts of relationships they witnessed within their own family. Stereotypes also develop based on media images.

Children look to their parent’s relationship as the first example of a romantic relationship. Witnessing what roles their father and their mother play within the home is witnessed by the child. Children tend to assume that this is what all relationships must be like.

For a child who grew up in a home with parents who had traditional roles, this can impact them in adulthood. Children in raised in this environment may believe that the man should earn the money, mow the lawn, fix the plumbing, and work on the car. The same child may believe that women should raise the children, clean the house, and do the cooking.

In the past, television images reinforced these believes. Children who grew up watching Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver witnessed women who were domestic goddesses and men who worked outside the home. Compare this to children in today’s world who are watching reality television and imagine the stereotypes they develop about relationship roles.

For someone with stereotypes about traditional roles in the marriage, they may experience problems in their marriage. In today’s society, the majority of women work outside the home. However, a man with traditional role stereotypes may still expect that his wife do all the cooking, cleaning, and child care. He may be angry if she asks him to do the dishes and think she is lazy if she can’t keep up with everything. A woman with these stereotypes may feel guilty if she can’t keep up with all the household responsibilities, which can also impact the marriage.

It’s important to take a look at the stereotypes you have developed about marriage and the roles within the marriage. Determine what beliefs you may have held that no longer apply. Talk to your spouse about your expectations and beliefs and discuss what you would like your role to be within the marriage.

Unrealized expectations are a major contributor to marital dissatisfaction. If there is any chance that you or your spouse may be experiencing the negative feelings that emanate from unfulfilled expectations you need to have a very candid conversation now. This is not a matter of right and wrong, it is a matter of different perceptions. It is important that you each explore the source from which you have formulated your opinion and honestly ask one another whether your particular circumstances warrant a different approach.