Posts in category Communication

Watch your words around your kids



ChildwParentsArguingBackgroundThe nation’s longest-running study on child mental health offers a nugget of wisdom for parents: watch your words because your arguments will affect your children well into their adult years.

The Simmons Longitudinal Study has followed 300 one-time kindergartners from Quincy, Massachusetts, well into their adult years. The study, detailed in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found, among other things, that:

15-year-olds exposed to their parents’ verbal battles, or involved in family arguments, were more likely to be functioning poorly at age 30 than other people in the study who did not live in increasingly fight-filled homes.

The children exposed to family fighting were two to three times more likely to be unemployed, suffer from major depression, or abuse alcohol or other drugs by age 30. They also were more likely to struggle in personal relationships, but that was evident to a somewhat lesser degree.

Many child advocates may see this as a reason to champion immediate divorce rather than face a bad home environment. But a Boston Globe article that detailed the study, highlighted something entirely different: redirecting communication in a positive way.

“You almost have to give a prescription to parents who are fighting not to fight in front of their kids,” said Joseph Powers, a family therapist at McLean Hospital.

Arguments don’t have to descend into verbal abuse, experts say. The solution is to make the arguments constructive, or, failing that, to swiftly repair the damage of heated words. When ruptures do occur, saying sorry right away can heal the harm.

“There are stresses in the life of a family,” Powers said. “But families also have the capacity to repair that, to come to the person and say, ‘I just blew it, I’m very sorry, and can we do this another way?'”

When people share so much life and space with each other as couples and families do, there will be opportunities to grow through disagreements. Children and teens are often “caught in the crossfire” as the article suggests. Depending on the child, they may withdraw or go on the offensive, or side with one parent or the other. Those arguments may grow into resentment and bitterness, which lead to isolation and deep wounds. This is a prime time for parents to model godly behavior in the way they deal with conflict.

For some ideas on how to deal with disagreements in your marriage and to give your children a healthy model for resolving conflict, check out these articles from FamilyLife.com:

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Scott Williams’ post, “Watch your words around the kids,” on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistShould Children See Parents Argue? Dennis and Barbara Rainey provide guidance in a Q&A on this touchy issue.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn “6 Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage” in this practical article by Dennis Rainey.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTeaching Children How to Resolve Conflict prepares them for marriage. Read Dennis and Barbara’s Q&A.

 

True leadership to aspire to



Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

On Saturday nights before NFL games, most teams watch a bit of film of their opponent to sharpen their minds for the next day. My 49ers coach, Bill Walsh, added a twist: he showed a highlight clip of our team the game before that week, so long as we won or competed admirably. On a big run by the running back, Bill would narrate the play, giving special emphasis to a key block.

“Gentlemen, look at our left guard Guy McIntyre. Watch his footwork and his speed pulling across the formation to lay out, with his head on the correct side of that linebacker that he blocks. This is perfection. It’s a great effort by a great San Francisco 49er. I look forward to seeing you men play at this level tomorrow.”

Man! How do you think Guy felt after that? How did we as buddies feel? How much would you want to be the guy to make the plays that made the highlight film the next week?

Bill had a way of lifting our view of ourselves from average to elite, from athlete to intellectual, from winner to champion. This is the kind of true leadership I aspire to, and so can you.

To husbands, dads, managers, and Little League coaches: make a mental highlight reel; describe the character, the effort, the kindness, or the sacrifice of someone on your team. You can help someone face their blitz, reach their heart, and fill their tank.

©2015. Adapted from Facing Your Blitz weekly video encouragement, and from the book, Facing the Blitz, by Jeff Kemp.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “True leadership to aspire to” by Jeff Kemp on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistGet these devotional encouragements weekly in video format from Jeff Kemp’s Facing Your Blitz Youtube page.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistFor more encouragement on turning trials into triumphs, get Jeff’s book, Facing the Blitz, from the FamilyLife online store.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistEvery day this week, text, email or speak to your your wife, child or friend about a thing they’ve done well.

One action that touches a wife’s core needs



CouplePrayingThroughout our 30 years of marriage, I haven’t prayed regularly or consistently with my wife Ellie. But some recent difficult situations have caused us to diligently seek God together through prayer.

I believe in the power of prayer, but I’ve never really been passionate about it.  Of course I know that God invites us to come to Him with our burdens, and to ask Him to supply our needs and even to fulfill our deep desires.

But the way Ellie looks at prayer — especially praying together as a couple — has always seemed different. It’s more urgent. More important. More deep-seated. It had never really clicked why praying with me was so important to her until I came across an article recently about four things a woman needs from her husband. Essentially it’s:

  • Having ongoing, meaningful engagement
  • Experiencing physical, emotional, and spiritual protection
  • Enjoying quality and quantity time together, and
  • Knowing he values her for who she is and can be

As I read through the list, it struck me that all four of my wife’s core needs are met when I pray with her.

When you pray together, you’re meaningfully engaged in conversation with God. You are submitting to God’s authority, trusting him for mutual protection. Together, you’re engaging at a deeper level than just everyday conversation, sharing the personal and deep things in your lives. And as you pray to God for your wife, you show her that you value who she is and that you believe God has even better things in store for her life.

There’s a whole lot more I could say about what prayer can do for a marriage relationship. But I think the hard sell for most men is just getting started. While we husbands may find it natural to take the lead with our wives in many areas, prayer is not likely one of them. There are reasons for this. First, we know that we are less comfortable than our wives when it comes to vocalizing things that are more personal in nature. Second, most men are often less spiritually minded than their wives. Third, prayer is an act of submission, and that’s often foreign ground for a man, who knows he’s being depended on to lead, provide, and protect.

If you don’t pray regularly as a couple, you’re not alone. In fact, when we surveyed couples at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, only eight percent prayed together regularly. And these are people who are at the conference because they’re serious about their marriage.

FamilyLife wants to help you take your marriage to the next level by helping you make prayer a natural part of your relationship. That’s why we created the 30-Day Oneness Prayer Challenge. It’s a simple tool to help you start a habit of taking five minutes a day joining hands, bowing heads, and praying together as husband and wife. Watch the video to learn more.

Each day, we’ll send you by email or text message some guidance on how to pray for a specific area of your marriage and life, including suggested prompts for husband and wife.

Daily topics will include setting priorities, overcoming obstacles, building greater trust and teamwork, growing in thankfulness, increasing your intimacy, and many more. We’ll also include suggested articles, broadcasts and resources to help you grow in many of these areas.

All you have to do is sign up. Then each day throughout the month of September, you’ll receive a daily prayer prompt from FamilyLife. By the time October rolls around, if you’ve been faithful, we’re betting that you see how natural it’s become to pray together, and how much closer you’ve become as a couple.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “One action that touches a wife’s core needs” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDennis Rainey calls prayer “One Simple Habit That Will Transform Your Marriage.” Read his and Barbara’s story.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistSign up today for the Oneness Prayer Challenge that starts in September, and ask your wife to sign up too.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post or link to the Oneness Prayer Challenge with at least one other husband you know

50 ways to increase your wife’s worth



EDITOR’S NOTE: What’s more out of place: a post to men on a blog for women, or a post by a woman on a blog for men? This blog post from a friend of mine originally appeared on Stepping Up’s sister blog, Mom Life Today. But the advice she gives is clearly aimed at men. As I read over it recently, I couldn’t resist sharing it with the readers of this blog. One of the best ways to increase your wife’s worth (in her eyes and yours) is to treat her as worthy.

An old story told from the island of Kiniwata relates the account of a man known as Johnny Lingo. The youngest and strongest man from the island, Johnny shocked the islanders by paying the father of his bride not the traditional two to three cows for his wife, or even the four to five cows for an exceptional wife. For Sarita, he paid eight. No one could understand:

“It would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow.”

Eight cows!? The entire island laughed at the audacity.

Curious about the story, writer Patricia McGerr visited Johnny’s home. She was fascinated by what she describes as the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen. She wrote about this in a Woman’s Day article,   “Johnny Lingo and the Eight Cow Wife”: “The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right.”

When McGerr later pressed Johnny Lingo for his reasoning, he explains, “Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands … I wanted an eight-cow wife.”

Now, for obvious reasons, please do not immediately tell your beloved, “Hon, you’re an eight-cow wife.” But remember that, at least in part, a man’s impact may be measured in the joy and character of the people closest to him.

The way that a man sees his wife, the way he cherishes her, has a lasting effect on her beauty within and without. How does your wife feel about you and your relationship to her? How do you want your children to remember your acts of love for their mother?

Here are 50 ideas to get you started toward inspiring an eight-cow wife.

  1. HeartCarvedTreeBe a student of her. Where do her passions, gifting, and abilities lie? What energizes her? When does she lose track of time because she’s enjoying herself so much? What weights does she bear? (Can you learn incredible things about this woman that even she doesn’t know?)
  2. Ask God for special wisdom in understanding your wife and in loving her well (James 1:5-6).
  3. Make a list of 30 things that you love and/or appreciate about her. Write them on separate sticky notes, and leave one somewhere in the house every day for an entire month.
  4. For what ministry has God created your wife in order to build up His people? Give her time and energy to pursue it.
  5. Take care of the kids for a day so that she can have a personal spiritual retreat to recharge.
  6. Listen to her sincerely: Observe her words, body language, and circumstances in order to compassionately understand her. Make eye contact with her, and ask thoughtful questions, like “How did that affect you?” or basic who/what/where/when/why/how questions.
  7. If she’s got a budding hobby or one that’s been neglected, purchase something small but high-quality that she would enjoy: quality paintbrushes, a beautiful journal, photo software, a top-notch cooking knife, new gloves, athletic equipment (ahem … only if she loves athletics), a well-recommended book on her hobby. Include a note: Just because I love the way you’re made.
  8. Pray with her, and for her, on a regular basis. Consider making it a regular item in your schedule, such as before you leave for work or go to bed.
  9. Compile a CD with songs that specifically encourage things you love about her. Let her know that you intentionally chose these for her and about her.
  10. When circumstances, conversation, or even movies or songs bring up an area in which she excels, lean over and whisper, “You know, you do that so well. I love how you use ___ to bless the people around you.”
  11. Identify the “life-suckers” in her life. What saps her energy? Consider the points of friction that she often faces in her daily routines. Prayerfully ask God to help you see not only what weighs on her, but also how you could help her.   Initiate conversation to compassionately find solutions with her. Ask, “What could be done to make that less painful (or less difficult)?”
  12. Gently encourage your children to thank her for different ways she serves them: When they have clean laundry, when she serves dinner, when she drops them off at school. (Make sure you’re modeling consistent gratitude for little things, too.)
  13. Identify your wife’s “love language” — what makes her feel loved and valued. Is it words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch, quality time, or acts of service? She may have more than one. Become fluent in each of her “languages.”
  14. What pleasures in your life do you enjoy that your wife isn’t able to enjoy? She might not be into fishing like you are, for example, but maybe she’d like her own version of alone time. Like you, she might be honored by accolades for her projects well-done, a chance to finish a conversation, or sleeping in on a Saturday.
  15. Allow your wife to set your standard of beauty, and make it clear to her that she is secure: Your eyes are only for her. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or pastor and accountability websites like x3watch.com to develop monogamous eyes that come from a monogamous heart … and a husband she can trust. Security gives way to confidence.
  16. Talk through your budget together with her. Make sure you both have the resources you need to care for your family well. If you primarily manage the budget, ask her to make at least one change before finalizing it. Esteem wise financial decisions she’s made.
  17. Be a student of her body. Ask her, both while you’re in bed and at a completely separate private time, how you can please her sexually and make her feel secure and beautiful. Seek tenderly to understand her past and how it affects her in the bedroom. Be prepared to humbly accept what she says, embracing her without defensiveness.
  18. Gently protect her. Lovingly help her set boundaries with her time, energy, resources, and relationships (kids and mothers-in-law included).
  19. Give her a massage — one that doesn’t lead to sex, unless she’s clear that making love is what she would enjoy most.
  20. Send her an e-mail. Example: “Praying for you today. Thanks for being so courageous in ___.”
  21. Give her one night on a regular basis to do something she loves. Occasionally surprise her with an afternoon “off” so she can do something fun or just be alone.
  22. Consistently mention ways you see her growing to be more like Christ.
  23. Ask her about her “bucket list” — the top things she’d like to do in her lifetime.
  24. Give her a book or audio CD to learn about something she loves doing.
  25. Text her on a stressful day. Example: “REMINDER: I BELIEVE IN U.”
  26. Leave a message on her voicemail: “Thanks for serving our family every day. You are so good at ___.”
  27. Be proactive about doing something together that she really enjoys. Make a date, get her excited, and share her enthusiasm!
  28. Ask her, “If there were one thing I could do to love you better, to really cherish you — and you knew I would listen — what would it be?” Be prepared to follow through.
  29. Tell her areas she’s gifted in. Don’t stretch the truth: Be honest so she can trust you.
  30. Talk with her about setting aside a small part of the budget to pursue the unique ways God has designed her (including her gifts, abilities, and passions) — through education or through sheer enjoyment.
  31. Post on her Facebook wall: “I love being your husband. You still take my breath away.”
  32. Have your children write her notes or letters about what they love about her as a mom.
  33. Ask, “If I could do one thing that would really empower you and inspire you, what would it be?” Listen and follow through.
  34. As you think of them, remind her of specific times when she has made an impact in the lives of others. “Hey, I was thinking the other day about all the times you’ve invested in all those kids who come over here. You do such a good job making people feel welcomed and loved on.” “I don’t think I could count all the meals you’ve brought to people who are sick. You are wonderful at seeing people’s needs and giving of yourself to them.”
  35. Do something fun and unexpected together. Here are a few ideas: play paintball, laser tag, or sand volleyball; organize a picnic and bring the books you’re reading; take photos of each other; play a pickup game of a sport together; go to a drive-in movie, bringing popcorn and her favorite candy (let her initiate any physical advances for this one).
  36. Think about a way you’ve been hurting her or annoying her. Maybe there are ways you’re not “seeing” her — not stepping into her world to understand what it’s like to be her, with all of the things she cares about (see 1 Peter 3:7). Apologize, and work hard at showing true change.
  37. Find a mutually enjoyable activity you like doing together on a regular basis, even if it’s working outside together or playing the Wii together after the kids are in bed.
  38. Create a fun, life-giving atmosphere when you come home.
  39. Design a date night that will help her to de-stress and have fun. (Dare I suggest ballroom dancing lessons?)
  40. What’s difficult about her life right now? Pray for her endurance, and encourage her specifically. Galatians 6:9 is a great start for both. Think, What can I do to ease the load she’s carrying today?
  41. Organize or clean something of yours that you know she finds messy.
  42. Talk with her about her fears — both deep and insignificant. Over time, lead her as you work together to replace those fears with faith in God as expressed in His Word.
  43. Send a snail-mail love note to her at home, affirming all she does for your family.
  44. Think of something on her to-do list that she finds overwhelming or for which she doesn’t have much time. Talk with her (respectfully and gently) about the possibility of having it hired out (maybe you could pay a responsible high school student to log a few hours on housework). Communicate clearly that it’s not because you find her incompetent, but that you want to free her up from a burden.
  45. If your wife likes to dress nicely, go with her to shop for clothes in which she feels confident and looks fantastic.
  46. Be an advocate for her rest. Gently help her to evaluate and set limits on her to-do list, reminding her that she loves others best when she takes time to replenish.
  47. Let her overhear you speaking well of her on the phone — among friends, to your kids, in public places, and to your mother. Tenderly but firmly keep family members from speaking disrespectfully to her or about her.
  48. In her area of weakness, pray about how to subtly, gently step in and help her.
  49. Request, “I’d like you to think about something for me. I’d like you to tell me one area in which you want to challenge me, but you wonder if I will listen and if I’ll receive it well. If you’ll do that, I commit to listen to you without getting defensive or somehow punishing you for telling me.”
  50. If and when she messes up, respond with the kind of grace, compassion, and mercy that God gives us. Respond in a way that communicates, You’re safe with me — and I’m not going to rehash your failures. This is a secure place for you to grow … and I love the journey with you.

One final note: Maybe you are a man who initiates many kindnesses to your wife and you don’t receive much respect or kindness in return. May you be gently, compassionately encouraged: Giving without mutual gain puts you in good company — the company of Jesus. May God give you significant grace as you pray for your wife and encounter the nitty-gritty, everyday battles against resentment and, in many cases, injustice. Our God is the God who sees (Genesis 21:15-21).

Copyright ©2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in MomLife Today.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “50 ways to increase your wife’s worth” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistMuch of what your wife thinks of herself is tied to how she thinks you feel about her. Do you regularly make her feel valued?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistFor more encouragement and inspiration, read Bob Lepine’s article “Nourishing and Cherishing Your Wife.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistChoose just one thing from the list to do today. Then choose another for tomorrow or another day this week, and so on.

What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?



During the Christmas holidays, my 17-year-old son and I were settling into our theater seats to enjoy a movie we’d been looking forward to for some time–Unbroken.  That’s when we were assaulted by the preview for Fifty Shades of Grey.

50ShadesBoth of us found it disturbing. In fact, even after I’d finished watching Unbroken, the scenes that stayed in my mind weren’t of Louis Zamperini’s cruel treatment at the hands of “The Bird” in the Japanese prisoner of war camp, but the preview images from the “Red Room of Pain.”

In case you’re not familiar, Fifty Shades of Grey is based on one of the best selling books of all time. The movie bills itself as a romance between powerfully-attractive young billionaire Christian Grey and a naïve, not-so-self-assured college senior, Anastasia Steele. Without meaning to, she catches his attention when she’s interviewing him for the school newspaper, and he begins to do everything in his power (and he has a lot of it) to make her the object of his desires … desires which have been grotesquely mangled by being sexually abused at a young age.

Fifty Shades of Grey is pornography. No one denies it. But relatively few are opposing it. The Motion Picture Association of America developed its current rating system to help parents make decisions about which movies their children should see. Yet they gave Fifty Shades of Grey an R rating (“Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking young children with them.”) rather than NC-17 (“Clearly adult. Children not permitted.”). Considering  the popularity of the books, and how the movie got the same R rating as one-third  of the other films released, it’s no surprise that advance ticket sales have set all-time records on Fandango.

What is surprising is who is viewing the film and reading the book—and why in the world they even would. Many refer to the book as “mommy porn” because of its wild popularity among adult women. And ticket sales are briskest in the typically-conservative deep south.

Romance novels have always been a staple of women’s reading. But Fifty Shades of Grey goes beyond romance to erotica, which is essentially porn for women. As much as 20 percent of the two-hour film is sex scenes—as much screen time as all Hollywood films from 2014 … combined.

And the film isn’t just sex. It’s abuse. Proponents of the film try to argue that BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) is fine if it’s between consenting adults. But Ana repeatedly tells Mr. Grey (after each time he does his thing with her) that she doesn’t appreciate it. She’s constantly in tears about it. She tries to leave him, only to have him stalk her and emotionally manipulate her into staying. He demands control of her life to the point of prescribing her exercise and diet, choosing her wardrobe, and having a doctor examine her and put her on the pill.

Christian Grey is no real man in any sense of the word.  A real man respects and honors a woman’s body and emotions; he doesn’t abuse and manipulate her. But author E.L. James has somehow made Grey the desire of 100 million women. She cleverly plays to women’s innate longings to be sought after, to live a more fulfilling existence and to rescue a broken man. In doing so, she gets women to excuse abusive behavior and to ignore countless warning signs on a fool’s road to romance.

Reading through two very lengthy, very detailed synopses of the first book (I refuse to read the book itself), I was continually struck by how much Mr. Grey’s behavior was the very picture of everything we tell women to run away from to avoid abuse. How many times have we listened incredulously to real-world horror stories of women who endure years of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse from boyfriends and husbands, yet can’t bring themselves to leave. Yet here we are with a book series and movie that draws women into that same warped, powerless thinking—“I’m not worth it. He can’t help it. What will happen to him if I leave?”

It’s not just naive adult women who are getting drawn in by Fifty Shades of Grey. The book has found itself in the hands of myriads of teen girls who are quite impressionable and undiscerning as they embark on their quest for love and passion. And with the release of the movie (and subsequent DVD and home-streaming option) a lot of girls and guys will be sneaking their ideas of love and intimacy from this movie.

In other words, the media’s influence has the potential for creating a lot more Christian Greys, and giving girls the idea that they should put up with them. But rather than allow the media culture to create a false impression of what it means to be a strong man, we should step up to be the true strong men who treat women with respect and teach our daughters and sons to expect the same standard.

So what can we do to make that happen?

We need to model and talk about the proper values of leading and submitting, and the proper view of romance and intimacy with our wives, our daughters, our sons. The next post, “Man up to Christian Grey, Fifty Shades,” will look at some thoughts on how that can happen.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “What’s a Real Man do with Fifty Shades?” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead  more concerns about the book and movie in the article “Fifty Shades of Caution”  and the reader responses to it.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead about another movie that opened Valentine’s weekend: “An ‘Old Fashioned’ Alternative to ‘Fifty Shades’.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTwo broadcasts, “Fifty Shades of Deception” and “Longings of a Woman’s Heart” point women to what’s really at stake.

That thing you do (when conflict occurs)



This blog post appeared on The Crucible Project blog and is used with permission.

She’s upset … again. And I don’t have a clue about why.

Six years of dating followed by 26 years of marriage and I still don’t have her figured out.

After working with struggling couples for years, I know that I am not alone. Sometimes, the “relationship problem” is a surprise to us men. Other times, we know exactly what we did to cause it.

In my experience restoring relationships — and in my personal marriage experience — I have observed four patterns of reacting to relationship problems we engage in that actually hurt more than they help. They seem “good” because they keep us from feeling or dealing with the issue. But that temporary relief fades quickly when the issue recurs. And these always end up getting in the way of having the relationship our hearts’ desire:

  • Talking about it to others rather than talking to her to about it. When we talk about it to others and they take our side (such as friends) then it further galvanizes our position and vilifies her, widening the gap of misunderstanding.
  • Hiding what you truly think and feel about it from her. Emotions do not just go away. We damage the relationship when we “power up” and tell her off. When we hide, repress and deny, our emotions end up coming out sideways.
  • Withdrawing to your man cave, work commitments or other stress-relieving hobbies. We assume incorrectly that if we avoid her, the issue will go away. In reality, the issue remains unresolved, only to pop up unexpectedly another day.
  • Refusing to see your contribution to the problems in the relationship. We deny responsibility by blaming and making excuses.

The difference between couples who make long-term relationships work and those who do not is what they do when conflict occurs. I believe men are especially empowered to make the first move to resolve conflict (1 Peter 3:7). Men of integrity step into that power by taking responsibility to engage the problem head on with the following action steps.

  • Invite God in through prayer.
  • Focus on your long-term desire to have a trusting, deeply-connected loving relationship.
  • Make room in your schedules for an uninterrupted period of time to have the conversation.
  • Help her share the “movie playing” in her head about the situation until she is fully heard. Give her “full body” attention focused on understanding what it is that she is saying regardless of whether you are in agreement.
  • Check to see if you heard correctly by mirroring what she shared back to her. “What I hear you saying is…”
  • Share the “movie playing” in your head about the situation in a way that she can hear you. Own and speak your truth, including your feelings and judgments about the situation by using “I” statements.
  • Take full and complete responsibility for all the ways you contributed to the problem … even if it was unintentional. Offering an apology for your part is powerful.
  • Commit to action. Ask what she wants or needs in the future. Ask for what you want from her in the future. Make temporary commitments in an attempt to build the long-term relationship you desire.

In my quest for being a man of integrity in my marriage — and in strengthening relationships — I am always searching for what works.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklist

You just finished reading “That thing you do (when conflict occurs)” on the FamilyLife Stepping Up men’s blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat helps you resolve these relationship conflicts when they occur? What from this post could help the next time?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHear Tim and Joy Downs talk about the source of marital conflict in the “Seven Conflicts of Marriage” broadcast series.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post with another husband. Better yet, practice the principles with your wife the next time you fight.

RoyWootenMug

Roy Wooten is the Executive Director of Shield Bearer Counseling Centers in Houston. Roy and his wife Devra wrote The Secrets to Lifetime Love: Speaking and Hearing Truth. Roy also has been a longtime Houston-area leader of The Crucible Project, a not-for-profit Christian organization committed to create a world of men who live with integrity, grace and courage, fulfilling their God-given purpose. Follow Roy at LifeTogetherForever.com.

 

3 things I know about my wife



Last week I had lunch with a new friend, Rob Thorpe, who spends his spare time running a ministry called All In Marriage.  Hearing his heart and the wisdom of years of ministry to marriages (including his own), I had to share his most recent blog post with the Stepping Up audience. It’s a great reminder to all us husbands, no matter how long we’ve been married.

3 things I know about my wifeWhen you’ve known someone for most of your life, you get to know them quite well. My wife and I have known each other since we were about 14 years old. We dated off and on from middle school through college and got married the summer after college.

Spending that much time with another person is a mixed blessing for sure. You know them better than anyone. The good stuff and the not-so-good stuff. What I want you to know are three things that, sadly to admit, took me far too long to recognize and appreciate about her.

1. She is God’s daughter

As a fellow Christian, my wife has also been adopted into God’s family and is a precious daughter of His. He personally hand-crafted her in her mother’s womb (Psalm 139), knows every hair on her head (Matthew 10), and loves her enough to send His son to die on her behalf. He created her on purpose and has a wonderful plan for her life.

2. She was created specifically for me

Since the very first marriage (Genesis 2), God declared that it is “not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” God handcrafted Eve for Adam. Out of all the women on the planet, He handcrafted a wife specifically for me also. He knew I would need help and so He created a “helper” with the exact specifications needed to partner with me in this lifetime. How awesome is that?

3. She is a sinner

Like her husband. We are both addicts. We are addicted (by birth) to ourselves. Neither of us has it all together and neither of us will ever be able to be a selfless spouse who loves with unconditional love. Our sin nature automatically defaults to “me” each morning of our lives, and we must remain desperate for God’s direct intervention and help if we are ever to make our marriage work. Each of us, with God’s grace, must extend truckloads of grace and forgiveness to the other and constantly remember that our spouse was never intended to make us happy or meet all of our needs … that is God’s job.

I wish I had realized and appreciated these things about my wife much earlier in our marriage, but I am thankful to be able to share them with other couples these days as we mentor and teach on marriage. I want to believe that our marriage would have been even richer/fuller than it has been and that I would have been a much better husband along the way.

Surely I would have treated her with much more honor and respect if I had truly comprehended that I was marrying one of God’s daughters and He was watching to see how I was treating her.

Surely I would have never been tempted by other women (real or imaginary) had I fully appreciated that God made her specifically for me, to help me, to partner with me, and to impact the world around us – for His glory.

Surely I would have been much quicker to apologize, to forgive, and to give grace to my fellow sinner instead of somehow thinking she was the problem. Surely we would have prayed together more, said I’m sorry quicker, and battled our real enemy together, instead of pointing fingers.

Wouldn’t I have?

Will you – now that you know?

Thankful,
Rob

© 2014 by Rob Thorpe. All rights reserved.

ThorpeMugRob Thorpe is the founder and director of All In Marriage, a marriage mentoring and equipping ministry. He is also a frequent men’s and marriage conference speaker. Follow Rob on Twitter and subscribe to his blog at http://www.square1ministries.com.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “3 things I know about my wife,” by guest poster Rob Thorpe on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDo you take your wife for granted? Listen to “Where Self-Centeredness and Marriage Collide” on FamilyLife Today.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn about “Nourishing and Cherishing Your Wife”  from Bob Lepine, author of The Christian Husband.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistWhat are three things you appreciate about your wife? In the next three days, tell her those things.

11 ways a smart stepdad can engage



KilimanjaroHiker“How tall is it?” I ignorantly asked a Kenyan missionary.

“Mount Kilimanjaro is over 19,000 feet tall,” he smiled. “It’s big!”

No kidding, I thought. I could see the outline of the tallest mountain in Africa from my third-floor Nairobi apartment 130 miles away. “It might take a while to climb, huh?”

On average it takes an expedition four to seven days to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro. And why do people climb it? Because it’s there, right? Just conquering the challenge is one reason people take on this massive testimony to God’s creativity. And then there’s the view from the top. On a clear day you can see for hundreds of miles in a 360-degree panoramic view. Oh, yes, there’s plenty of reward for those who conquer the mountain. But it often doesn’t feel worth it until you reach the top.

When reflecting on his role as a stepfather, David said, “I simply didn’t have any idea how hard blending a family would be. I lacked any knowledge of how to deal with my stepkids.” Conquering Stepdad Mountain might not be as rugged as climbing one of the world’s tallest peaks, but it will probably take longer than you expect.

And you’re not just climbing because it’s there. You’re climbing because it matters. Yes, there is reward for you at the top, but there’s also reward for your family and stepchildren. How you live, love, and lead your stepchildren (and biological children) will create a legacy and heritage that long outlive you. It’s important that you climb well.

So how do you climb? Here are some best practices of smart stepdads, young and old, new and veteran. Consider how you might implement them into your climb.

1. Trust God to lead. Probably the one universal negative experience of stepdads is the feeling of uncertainty. If you find yourself wondering what to do and how to go about it, you’re in good company. From a spiritual standpoint, uncertainty is an invitation to faith. God always uses our “I don’t know what to do’s” to invite us to trust Him more—and we should.

Don’t anguish because you don’t know what to do. Ask God to show you. Don’t panic in your uncertainty and give up on your family. Seek a word from the Spirit. Don’t assume you are alone. Find comfort and direction in His Word. Then you can climb Stepdad Mountain one step at a time.

2. Know your place. A smart stepdad understands that there is an inherent dilemma to his task: How can you be Dad when you’re not Dad? Obviously, you can’t. Even if the biological dad is deceased, you will never replace him, so don’t try. Playing “who’s your daddy” only causes stress in your home. And stress in a stepfamily thickens blood, pitting you against your stepchildren and often your wife.

3. Understand the limits of your role. It’s not your responsibility to undo the past. The negative consequences of divorce, or the pain children experience when a father dies is not yours to resolve. Come alongside children in these situations and try to offer a positive influence over time, but don’t try to be the white knight in shining armor. Just love them.

4. Move in with tact. Don’t be a bull in a china shop. Respect children’s loyalties.

“I became a stepfather when my stepdaughter was eight,” said Anthony. “Her father was very involved in her life and a good dad. There just wasn’t room for me in her heart; therefore, we had a very strained relationship. We were never able to build anything. Now that she is a grown woman, I sense she is becoming a little less competitive … but I think the best way to describe our relationship even now is ‘uneasy toleration.’” Anthony’s climb was, and is, steep. Thank goodness he respected this reality or things might have become worse.

5. Partner with your wife. She needs to believe that you are committed to and care about her, her children, and their past experiences, before you will receive her trust. Therefore, do a lot of listening before injecting your opinion; demonstrate an authentic appreciation for all she has done to provide for her children before trying to make suggestions.

When you do make suggestions, especially early in your climb, be sure to reveal your heart’s intentions first. Consider the contrast between harshly saying, “Your son is a lazy boy. When are you going to make him get up in the morning and get to school on time?” and saying, “I have come to really care about David. I’m hoping to offer some guidance to him and better prepare him for life. I’ve noticed he’s struggling to manage his time and responsibilities with school. Can we talk about how we might encourage more responsibility in him?”

6. Until you have earned their respect, let your wife handle punishment with her children. Leadership that shapes character is a function of emotional attachment with a child. Ruling with an iron hand without a foundational relationship sabotages your level of respect and subverts what you are trying to teach.

Many stepdads mistakenly assume that not taking the lead is a sign of weakness. Actually, it is an indication of strategic wisdom and strength. So while taking the time to build a solid relationship and gradually moving into discipline, trust your wife to continue being the primary parent to her kids.

7. Be patient with your wife, especially when her past creates emotional baggage that you can’t change. Danny shared that his wife’s first marriage left a lot of emotional scars that he thought he could change. “I didn’t have a clue how hard it would be for her to overcome them,” he said. “We have been together for nine years and I’m still dealing with her insecurities. It’s part of who she is, so I just deal with it and go on.”

At first, Danny thought he could “love it out of her,” but in time he came to see that ultimately this was her mountain to climb. He could choose to love her as best he could, but in the end, she would have to deal with the emotional residue from her first marriage.

8. Be equitable in parenting. Wayde observed, “I’ve always felt that my wife has supported my authority with her kids as long as it was fair and equal to what I’d use to punish my kids.” If you ever want to turn your wife into an angry mother bear protecting her cubs, just show favoritism to your kids and treat hers unfairly. Believe me, you’ll awaken the bear.

9. Unless proven otherwise, assume your stepchildren would pick their dad over you. Recognize that a huge step toward gaining your stepchildren’s respect comes from respecting their relationship with their father (even if he’s deceased) and not positioning yourself in competition with him. Doing so just pushes them further away from you and closer to their dad.

Tim, a dad of two and stepdad to two, understands this well. “I have always tried to keep in mind what I want my child to hear from my ex or her new husband about me. I then apply the Golden Rule to my stepkids’ dad. If, on the other hand, I put the kids in the position of having to choose between me and their dad, I always assume they would choose him. (This is especially difficult at times when I want to selfishly ‘one up’ him to make myself look better.) This also means that when my wife and stepkids are badmouthing him, I have to keep from being drawn into the discussion. They will turn on me in a heartbeat.”

10. Remain engaged. Through the years I’ve worked with many disengaged stepdads and their families. The reasons for their drift varied: one man had a “these aren’t my kids” attitude; another had an extremely introverted personality and he simply didn’t know how to engage people in general, let alone his stepchildren. Still others found themselves paralyzed by the guilt of not being around their biological children.

“How can I really enjoy my stepkids when I feel like I’m shorting my kids of my time?” one man said. “In some bizarre way I think I’m making it up to my kids when I deny myself time with my stepchildren.” Still other stepdads find that once they’ve disengaged, which may have initially been part of surviving the confusion of their role, they can’t find their way back.

If you have been disengaged, you can’t stay that way; you hold an important role in your stepkids’ lives. When you married their mother, God positioned you as a role model, friend, teacher, and mentor.

The specifics of how intimate your role will become cannot be predicted, but you have a responsibility to make the most of the opportunities you are given. You can be a blessing to your stepchildren, but not if you don’t engage. To the best of your ability, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). And remember, if you want to have influence with someone, you must be moving toward them emotionally and them toward you. If one of those isn’t happening, forget about having influence or authority.

11. Don’t go it alone. A smart stepdad will also surround himself with a band of brothers. Joe, a stepfather of two, encourages young stepdads to be involved in a fellowship with other men where they are open and honest about their lives. “You cannot do this alone,” he says. “You desperately need other men to walk with you on this journey. Without my band of brothers I never would have come this far. If there are men in your life that have ‘meddling’ rights, then you can stay on the right path with the right attitude.”

Adapted excerpt from The Smart Stepdad © 2011 by Ron L. Deal. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by Permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “11 ways a smart stepdad can engage” by Ron Deal on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to the FamilyLife Today three-part audio broadcast with Ron Deal on how to be an effective stepfather.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Ron Deal’s book, The Smart Stepdad, for more help and hope for building a strong stepfamily.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare the link for this blog post, the radio broadcast, or Ron Deal’s book with a stepdad you know.

20 things husbands should stop doing



Sometimes we need encouragement in our quest to step up and be the men God has called us to be. Sometimes we need information, and sometimes we need training. Sometimes we need a mentor—someone who will show us how to be godly men, how to love our wives as Christ loves the church.

things husbands shoud stopAnd sometimes we need to know what we should stop doing. Sometimes we may even need someone to say, “Hey, stop acting like a jerk!”

That’s what this list is about.

We gathered suggestions from a number of men and here’s a list of their best ideas. Of course, not all of these items apply to all men, but perhaps something here will hit home for you.

Again, these items were sent to me by other men, not by wives.

  1. Stop acting like the battle is won in pursuing and getting to know your wife. Have fun together, just like you used to do before you walked down the aisle.
  2. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, stop treating her like her work during the day is somehow less strenuous or less important than yours.
  3. Stop working so much. Find a healthy balance between work and family.  Your wife would rather have you than a big house, nice car, etc.
  4. Stop acting like you’re listening when you’re really watching TV.
  5. Stop allowing the spiritual leadership of the family to default to your wife.
  6. Stop being a closed book.  Open up to your wife.  Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
  7. Stop allowing your role as leader in the home to be an excuse for selfish behavior.  Don’t forget that a true leader also serves.
  8. Stop dishonoring your wife by criticizing her in front of your children or in public.
  9. Stop using your size and strength and anger to intimidate your wife and children.
  10. Stop saying you’ll do something and then procrastinating.
  11. Don’t purchase any major item without first discussing it with your wife.
  12. Don’t allow your eyes to linger on beautiful women who pass by. You can’t help the first look; it’s that second, longer look that you need to avoid.  (And if your wife notices, don’t lie to her and say you didn’t see that woman.  Just admit you looked.)
  13. When your wife tells you about a problem she’s having, don’t immediately try to solve it. She may just need you to listen to her.
  14. Stop treating your wife like a child. Remember that God has given her a wealth of experience and information that you need.
  15. Stop feeding your sexual desires from any source other than your wife.
  16. Don’t look up old girlfriends on Facebook.
  17. Stop putting a number on how often you should enjoy sexual intimacy.
  18. Stop acting as if you have a GPS programmed into your brain.  Before you go somewhere with your wife, get the right address and find out how to get there.  If you are lost, don’t hesitate to get directions—from your smartphone map, even from a person.
  19. Don’t make fun of your wife to other guys.
  20. Don’t allow guy-only activities (like playing golf, basketball, etc.) to rob you of leisure time with your wife and kids.

Some will say that lists like these are “too negative”—that this is an example of “trashing” men.  Here’s how I see it: If you are coaching your son’s Little League team, you’re going to teach him a lot of positives—how to hit, how to throw, what base he should throw to when there are runners on first and second. But you also will need to get him to stop doing things—like swinging at bad pitches, or jogging to first base instead of sprinting.

Sometimes we need to know what not to do.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Dave Boehi’s “20 things husbands should stop doing” on the Stepping Up blog. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat would you add to the list? What do you have the biggest struggle with? Share your comments with us.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistNow that you know some of the things you shouldn’t do, check out “What Every Husband Needs to Know.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistListen to “Ten Questions Every Husband Should Ask His Wife” on Familylife Today … then ask them to your wife.

 

Avoid being a social media casualty



social media casualtyDid you know that a third of all divorce filings contain the word “Facebook”?

That’s according to a recently-released report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. But before you go telling all your friends that “a third of all marriages end because of Facebook,” recognize what the report really says.

The truth is that Facebook is mentioned in one-third of divorce filings. A lot of those filing papers only make reference to an online relationship. Some husbands or wives have even declared their intention to break up through Facebook, email, or Instagram. But a great number of the divorce papers simply use Facebook messages or wall posts to make a case for divorce by pointing out a spouse’s uncivil behavior or poor parenting skills.

The widespread use of electronic media today makes it almost certain that Facebook and Instagram could be used by lawyers to build a legal web to snare an uncommitted spouse. And that’s on the rise. Consider that three years ago, 20 percent of divorce filings contained the word “Facebook.” Whatever the case, social media is definitely playing an increasing role in families and family breakup.

More important than that, I believe the level of social media engagement in our culture today is evidence that we’re putting a lot of time into passing interactions with others and not enough time in deep relationship-building with a spouse.

Recently I saw a comment on one of FamilyLife’s Facebook pages by a husband who took a little passing snipe at his wife for everyone to see. In all fairness, he was probably reaching out for help in an area of frustration in his marriage. But those kinds of comments, when read by a wife, often make the problem worse by feeding a sense of embitterment or hurt.

Here are some principles that may help keep social media interactions from becoming words in a divorce filing.

1. Keep everything in the open.  If you don’t have a joint husband/wife account (on Facebook for example) make sure what you say online is nothing you couldn’t say with your wife standing there beside you. Before messaging, ask yourself, “Is this something I wouldn’t mind my wife seeing?” You may even consider letting your wife read it first. It’s good for accountability, and it’s a good way to double-check that what you’ve written isn’t miscommunicating what you meant.

2. Say what you need to say … and say it to the right person.  Rather than gripe about a marital problem on social media, talk directly with your wife. If you think it might hurt her feelings or get you in hot water, think of a way you can soften the blow when you raise the issue.  In most cases, the following approach is helpful: “I know you care about me, and I know you probably didn’t think about it, but I feel (insert your emotion) when you (insert the offense). I don’t want problems to build that will isolate us. Can we work through this together?” This works for wives, too.

3. Use social media to build each other up.  It’s never been easier than it is right now to send notes to each other for no reason at all, or to brag about your wife in front of others.  Social media makes it easy to connect with each other while you’re apart during the day, and that will keep a relationship from drifting.  Just make sure that what you say online is reinforced by what you say and do when you see each other that night. Remember, your wife is always looking for proof that she’s important to you. That gives her a lot of security.

4. When you’re together, come together.  It’s very easy, even when you’re home, to drift to your own individual social media corners. By the end of the evening, you realize that you’ve hardly spoken a word. This happens with father-child relationships, too. Set your personal devices aside, and plan some face time (the real thing, not the Apple feature.)

Above all else, remember these two driving principles of building and maintaining a relationship:

  • The quality of your relationship depends on the amount each of you invest in it.
  • If you aren’t intentionally growing toward oneness, you’re automatically drifting toward isolation.

Don’t let your marriage become a social media casualty. Be intentional about strengthening your marriage and avoiding the things that could potentially destroy it.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Avoid Being a Social Media Casualty” by Scott Williams on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“The Unmasking of an Online Affair” tells the story of one couple who came back from emotional infidelity.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Dave Boehi’s 3-part series “Are We Replacing Conversation with Connectivity” on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this post and these articles with your wife and work together to keep social media under control.

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