Posts in category Communication

3 keys to stop domestic violence



stop domestic violenceOn the heels of yet another arrest of an NFL player for domestic violence, the time is now for men and women to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The lack of awareness of the healthy building blocks for strong marriages and relationships is destroying the lives of too many. Scripture clearly states, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” What you don’t know about healthy relationships could be the very thing that is causing harm to you and those you love.

In working with both current and former NFL players, there are some common themes that are occurring in these cases of abuse. Prior to these events, some of these individuals were known to be great people and leaders in the locker room and community. How could men that seem to be such good people, commit acts of harm or endangerment to those that they claim to love? It’s the same reason we are shocked when we find out about any other case of domestic violence. From the outside looking in, it is impossible to see the years of spiritual or emotional wounds that exist within a person, or the value and respect for women that were instilled into that man when he was a child. We also don’t know the emotional triggers of individuals and how they cope and deal with stress and anger.

For the record, let me make sure I am clear. Domestic violence is wrong. It doesn’t matter if the man is the aggressor or if the woman is the aggressor. Physical and emotional abuse is wrong, and there is no justified excuse for domestic violence.

Here are three things that can help to stop domestic violence.

Know Your Hurt

In all sports, the medical report is a part of the overall assessment of the player. The scouts and team executives will take into account what the doctors say about previous injuries, and the implications of whether they could shorten the players’ career, or potentially become recurring due to how the previous injury healed. The trainers also look to see if the player develops habits to compensate for the injury. For example, if a player has a right knee injury, they may put more pressure on the left knee to compensate, which can result in both knees being injured over time.

As men, we must lead the charge to assess our previous emotional injuries. It is our responsibility to reflect the character of God in our homes at all times. But this is difficult to do if you have past wounds that aren’t healed. This begins with an honest assessment of the way you value women, and understanding your triggers from emotional wounds from the past. Some of these triggers could be the habits that you developed to compensate for what happened in the past. Understanding your triggers will allow you to maintain self-control, and help you to manage your emotions and actions under pressure. If you have untreated emotional scars from the past, or a distorted view of the role of women, you could be the next case of domestic violence waiting to happen. Your relationship will only be as healthy as you are.

Know Her Hurt

I am humbled by the opportunity to help current and former NFL players, and equally excited about the new initiatives that we are launching nationally. We have a responsibility to help all men to truly understand what it means to “love your wife as Christ loved the church.” Just because being a servant leader in the home isn’t easy, doesn’t give us an excuse to not be one. Just like you have past wounds in need of healing, so does she. And just like you may have developed habits to compensate for your previous injuries, so has she. It is your role to live with your wife “in an understanding way” and help the healing process in her by avoiding her triggers and emotional scars from her past. This requires a person to walk in unconditional love, and focus on what you can give your spouse, rather than what you are getting from your spouse.

Know Your Role, Know Her Role

It’s been said, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” In sports, there are many times you disagree with your coach. You may not like a play call, how hard practice is, or your playing time. Regardless of how you feel about your coach, you learn to control yourself and to never allow your feelings to cross a line of disrespect. As a player, you understand that crossing that line will result in consequences that you don’t want. Loss of playing time, extra conditioning, or even being dismissed from the team can be the consequence of disrespecting the person and the role they play in your life.

Most smart men will agree that the role of a wife and family is more important than a coach. Yet, too many men forget to apply the same rules of respect that they know from sports or work and apply them at home to their wives. We must always remember the value of the role they play in our lives. Though you may disagree from time to time, always remember who you are talking to and be mindful of the consequences of not honoring the role that they play in your life.

Your hands are created to heal, not to hurt. Be the source of understanding, safety and security that you are intended to be as a man.

©2014 Unlock the Champion. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the blog post “3 keys to stop domestic violence” by guest contributor Freddie Scott II.

STEPthink - keep your cool

Listen to Freddie talk about his childhood as the son of an NFL player on FamilyLife Today: “Making a Mark or Leaving a Scar.” 

STEPembrace - keep your coolMeditate on the Scripture passages linked in this article. What will you do to make your relationships more Christlike?

STEPpass - keep your cool

Are you “Living with an Angry, Abusive, or Violent Spouse” or do you know someone who is? Ed Welch offers help.

FreddieScott

Freddie Scott is a former NFL player, pastor, author, and founder and president of Unlock The Champion. He is a Transition Coach for the NFL Player Engagement Program, and serves as a family expert for the NFL Players Association conducting workshops across the country helping men to be better husbands and fathers.

The Song: A film for the restless man



“There is nothing new under the sun.”

As we men strive to find meaning and purpose and to make meaningful connections in our fast-paced, consumer-driven, anything-goes culture, the words of Solomon ring truer now than ever.

“I have seen everything done under the sun. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after wind.”

Three years ago Richard Ramsey and City On a Hill Studio set out to make a film that would speak to modern-day audiences through Solomon’s lifelong quest for real love and true meaning. The writer and director wanted a theater-worthy film that believers and the unchurched alike would want to see and talk about.  As Ramsey says, it is a film for the restless man.

The script and directing are remarkably intentional, making use of biblical allusion, symbolism, parallels and imagery to bring the life and teachings of Solomon into today’s realities. The story line follows Solomon’s relentless search for meaning through wisdom, pleasure, and power, only to find that the elusive answers are not distant, but as close to home as the heart.

The Song, which debuts on September 26 in theaters across the country, uses narratives from the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs, masterfully woven into the tapestry of a modern-day story of love, marriage, and meaning. The movie follows the career of Jed King (played by relative newcomer Alan Powell), a struggling musician who’s blessed and cursed to be the son of beloved country music star, David King (yes, the symbolism starts early in the film and poignantly shadows the plot throughout).

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The first five minutes show the rise and fall, redemption and untimely death of his father in a gritty sequence that is foreign to many faith-based films.  While not graphic, the sequence (which parallels the failures of King David) lays the legacy for Jed King and offers a foreshadowing of difficulties to come as he follows in his father’s footsteps.

Jed believes he’s meant to be a singer, not just because of his father’s legacy but also because it’s a gift and mission given to him by God. Struggling to find a breakthrough after being cut from his record label, Jed takes a gig at a local hometown festival where he meets Rose (Ali Faulkner, another relative newcomer).

The two fall in love and marry (no, that’s not a spoiler, because you know the Song of Solomon) and begin their George-and-Mary-Bailey wonderful life. But as with all marriages, the infatuation gives way to distance as the two are pushed away by the busyness of parenthood, extended family, career, and the ever-present search for self-fulfillment. As their emotional and physical distance grows, Jed becomes frustrated and begins searching for fulfillment outside the home in the most obvious place—his music career.

Solomon’s woman of Proverbs 7-9 makes her appearance in the form of Jed’s opening act, fiddle player Shelby Bale (played by Caitlin Nichol-Thomas in her movie debut). Shelby is there when Rose is not, and his heart is further pulled away from home.

Throughout the movie, the dialogue is punctuated by Jed’s narration, directly from Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Proverbs. We follow the story through the bliss of Solomon and his love, and through the search for meaning and pleasure. Each promise of fulfillment ends up empty and takes Jed on his journey further and further from home and his first love.

The Song contains the most extensive use of Scripture of any film I’ve seen except for Jesus, which uses only Scripture. Yet it is far from preachy because it’s Jed own words, narrating his own story of love, loss and futility, a story that ultimately finds redemption and purpose.

This movie will not be the “feel good” movie of the fall season. Ramsey, in his writing and directing, intentionally leads the viewer through the messiness of life and the soul-searching of Solomon. It is heavy and frequently dark, but it needs to be. The man watching this movie needs to feel the weight of foolish, short-sighted decisions.

As a film centered on music, the songs are significant elements in revealing the characters, their struggles, and values. Powell and Nichol-Thomas perform their own songs quite capably. In fact, Powell is a member of the Christian vocal group, Anthem Lights, and Nichol-Thomas is a professional fiddler. One song that won’t be new to moviegoers is The Byrds’ 1965 classic, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” This musical rendering of Ecclesiastes 3 is a favorite of Rose, and plays a prominent part later in the movie.

Although the film ends on a happier note, the heaviness remains with you through the final credits, which is appropriate. Choices have consequences, and foolish choices leave a heart-wrenching aftermath, particularly when it comes to the closest human relationship—marriage. The Song is a cautionary tale for couples. Between the pace of life, the lures of our culture, and the deceitfulness of the human heart, marriage relationships naturally grow apart unless you’re intentionally moving toward oneness.

A selfish act, an unkind word, a bitterness unresolved have caustic results. But authentic love also carries the power of forgiveness and redemption. It is the very thing that has the power to draw someone from the depths of despair to a life that’s truly meaningful.

In an unplanned, deeply personal message to a concert audience, Jed voices this realization:

“You know, when you’re always under bright lights, you can’t see the stars. You forget things. You forget that somebody put the stars there, and that they love you enough to die for you. And it’s that kind of love that makes songs worth singing and life worth living. I had that kind of love and I threw it away. Because I am a fool. I’m sorry.”

Jed was referring to Rose, but what he says applies equally to our relationship to a loving Father, who gave His Son on our behalf. The Apostle Paul (who may be Solomon’s wise New Testament counterpart) reminds us that in the midst of our rebellion, it’s God’s kindness and patience that bring us to repentance (Romans 2:4). He also reminds us that when we’re most unlovable, God’s love reaches out to us (Romans 5:8), whether it’s for salvation or forgiveness.

The marriage relationship is the optimal environment where we can show the undeserved, unconditional love of Christ. It’s probably the hardest place as well. Who knows us better than our spouses? Who can put together the longest laundry list of offenses? On the other hand, who have we let closer to our hearts to see the beautiful and honorable, the vulnerable and needy? Besides God, who better knows the depth of our need for grace and companionship?

And that is the dual message of The Song. As Solomon draws his conclusions in Ecclesiastes:

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:9)

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

That’s a message everyone needs to hear.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “The Song: A film for the restless man,” by Scott Williams in the Stepping Up men’s blog. 

STEPThink - 10-point checklist

Men are prone to sexual temptation when things aren’t great at home. Read “When men are tempted to cheat.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistLearn the “3 Weeds You Need to Pull from Your Marriage Garden” to keep your marriage from drifting toward isolation.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFind a theater near you showing “The Song” and bring your wife, your friends, or the restless man.

Patience Thin? 5 Keys to Keep Your Cool



This blog post first appeared on Freddie Scott’s Legacy Builder blog.

Let’s be honest. Some days are just harder than others. There are days where our patience with those we love and people we work with is just paper thin. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is quoted saying, “A man who is a master of patience, is a master of everything else.” A man who is able to control himself when his patience is running thin, is a man that can govern his thoughts, words, and actions.

Another great principle actually comes straight from Scripture:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19).

With those principles in mind, here are 5 tips to keep your cool.

1. Give yourself a timeout

Sometimes it’s okay to give yourself a timeout in the middle of a stressful situation. Think about it: when a basketball coach calls a timeout when the other team is on a run, or has made a great play, we think of it as a great strategy to break the momentum of the other team and quiet the crowd. This allows his team to settle down, not make any further mistakes, and most importantly to be reminded of their purpose and of the game plan after the timeout.

You can do the same thing! In the middle of a stressful moment, give yourself a timeout to reset and refresh so you don’t make the mistake of saying something in the moment that you may regret later.

2. Beware of the earthquake effect

I have to be honest here. There have been times when I lashed out my frustrations on my wife and kids. Not because they did anything wrong, but because I was low on patience, and they happened to be the closest people around me. Remember, those closest to you will feel the effects of when something is wrong with you. Very much like there is much more damage to buildings closest to the epicenter of an earthquake than those that are farther away from it.

When you feel yourself erupting, remember the possible damage that you could cause to those closest to you, and put their needs ahead of your own.

3. Don’t raise your voice

Have you ever noticed that when you raise your voice, everyone else in the conversation also raises their voice? Not raising your voice not only allows you to control your emotions during a stressful situation, it also allows you to control the intensity of the entire conversation.

Proverbs 15:1 states, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” This is not saying that you are soft, or the reply is not firm. Rather, your tone is soft and controlled. Almost Presidential in character. When you control the tone of your voice, you are communicating that you are not rattled and are in total control in the situation. This attribute will make it easier for those around you to see and respect you for the leader that you are.

4. Avoid using escalator words

We’ve all done it. When our emotions are high, and in the middle of a heated argument we decided to throw an insult or bring up an issue from the past that we are still hurt about. We may be talking about who should’ve washed the dishes, but now we are bringing up something that happened years ago! Every conversation has opportunity to escalate in intensity, or not. We choose which way it goes based on what we say at the time. Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should say something.

Remember the wise words from Kenny Rogers, “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” Remember, that it is okay to punt. You don’t have to be right every time! Just punt. Let the other person think they won the point. The real winner is you for demonstrating your leadership by not allowing a situation to turn into an unnecessary argument.

5. Just listen

Don’t respond at that moment–especially if you sense that you are at a place emotionally where you feel like you are about to erupt and you can’t separate yourself from the situation to give you some space to calm down. This is when you should not focus on your frustrations and feelings at the time. Rather, try to focus your energy and attention on simply listening to the person with the purpose of trying to understand where they are coming from.

This is not the time to give your side of the story, or offer your input, because you still need to get your emotions under control. This is the time where you simply lean in intently and listen for the key feelings that the other person is expressing. Sometimes it’s effective to simply repeat what you hear the other person saying in an effort to make sure you understand them. This gives the person the opportunity to share what’s on their heart, and feel understood. This also gives you time to gather your thoughts and emotions, and have a greater understanding of the feelings of the other person.

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the blog post Patience Thin? 5 Keys to Keep Your Cool by guest contributor Freddie Scott II

STEPthink - keep your cool

Listen to Chip Ingram on the FamilyLife Today radio broadcast discussing The Heart of Anger

STEPembrace - keep your cool

What triggers your anger? Plan ways to react differently. Ask your wife or a trusted guy to help you change the pattern.

STEPpass - keep your cool

Who do you know who struggles with anger? Pass these resources along to them, and offer your support.

FreddieScott

Freddie Scott is a former NFL player, pastor, author, and founder and president of Unlock The Champion. He is a Transition Coach for the NFL Player Engagement Program, and serves as a family expert for the NFL Players Association conducting workshops across the country helping men to be better husbands and fathers.

– See more at: http://unlockthechampion.com/wp_UTC/5-keys-to-control-your-temper/#sthash.eHE3ClIH.dpuf

Stepping Up as couples



I’ve led small groups in my home and in church for years, but the response from a group of ladies actually took me by surprise.

The Stepping Up 10-week video series is geared toward men, challenging them to be all God desires them to be as husbands and fathers. I was a little more than halfway through leading my third group of men through the study when I heard the voice of a woman in one of the sessions.

stepping up as couples

Chuck and Melissa Douglas

“It must be hard to be a man today.”

That sentence validated what I suspect so many men feel in our culture, and I wanted my wife to hear it. Melissa is very supportive, but she was not involved with the details of my leading this study. After all, this was my thing with the guys, not something for the ladies.

That is until we talked that evening.

I told her that I really wanted her to understand not only how the series was challenging me as a husband and father, but how most of the struggles that we men face are really common to all of us. That is when she suggested that we go through the study together with other couples.

Navigating the masculine landscape from a woman’s perspective

Most of the more than 100,000 who have done Stepping Up, have been men participating in either a small group or a weekend event setting for men. Still, we took the study to our couples’ small group at church with a question: “Can a wife learn anything from attending a video-based Bible study geared toward her husband?” In other words, would it work to do a study where we were stepping up as couples? After just the first session, we had our answer: a resounding “Yes!”

Rebecca Jarrard, one of those ladies, commented, “Women need to be clear on the pressures their husbands face daily so they can understand and encourage them in ways that fulfill their biblical roles as wives.” For Rebecca, attending the Stepping Up small group was a “peek inside the male mind.” The study helped her understand God’s perspective on the subject of masculinity, not the kind the world offers, but the biblical kind of masculinity for which God designed men.

Another friend and classmate, Chrissy Batson, thought that attending the study as a couple was a great idea. She did not shy away when she heard the study was originally geared toward men and contains mostly male-oriented subject matter. “That doesn’t scare me,” she said. “I’m always interested in my husband’s perspective, even if it’s not easy to hear.”

Coming into the study, she felt she was doing a pretty good job of understanding her husband, but also recognized her failures. She wanted to be more proactive in setting her husband up to be the leader in their home that they both wanted him to be.

Counter-cultural – in a good way

A surprise in presenting the study for couples was how the material applied to our daughters. Each of the women commented on their eagerness to understand real biblical masculinity—not just as a way to make them better mothers to their sons, but also to be better equipped to talk to their daughters about what “Mr. Right” really looks like.

Each couple who participated in the study agreed that they don’t want to just talk about real biblical manhood in their homes—they want to model it. They acknowledged that little exists in the current culture which resembles manhood and family leadership the way God intended. In the course of the study, a few of the ladies commented on ways that society is working against them and their children in their quest for building a family based on God’s design. Stepping Up helped them understand how important it is for husbands and wives to be proactive in teaching their children time-tested biblical principles that apply to every member of the family. They also came to understand how important it is to work together as a team to fulfill God’s purposes for their families.

The benefit of a wife … stepping up

Of course, we husbands are reaping a benefit as well. Several of the men expressed genuine eagerness for their wives to hear the same things they would have heard in a Stepping Up series for just men. One of the husbands said having his wife on the same page, as he works to achieve his goals for manhood, is invaluable.

“Knowing that she understands and empathizes with my struggles is deeply comforting. I know I’m not alone, but I have my best cheerleader at my side. Each of our wives wants the best for us as men, and their investment in this study proves their sincerity.”

Rebecca’s husband, Ken, put it this way, “We’ve always been partners, but now she understands how she completes me like never before. After 22 years of marriage my wife is beginning to understand the male mind in new ways—our struggles and challenges. What a benefit to my sons!”

The perspective of a group facilitator

Experiencing Stepping Up as a couple has given my Melissa a deeper understanding of how to come alongside me as I seek to pass along a biblical legacy to my boys. She is regularly encouraging me to live out the commitments I’ve made to my family. Rebecca and Chrissy are doing the same thing for their husbands.

As a group facilitator, I had a sense that the Stepping Up material would be valuable to the couples. But I really wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming response of our wives and the insightful discussion they contributed to the study. What is even more important is the sense of unity all the couples have gained by attending the Stepping Up series together.

One wife expressed it best when she said that going through the workbook study with her husband made them feel like they are part of a team.

A winning team.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPSeekTruthYou have just finished reading the Stepping Up as couples post from the Stepping Up blog for men.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPthinkHave you and your wife ever talked about what it means to be a man? What would that conversation look like?

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPembraceAsk your wife what she and your children need you to be as a man? Tell her what she does that empowers you.

Stepping Up as couples  - STEPPassItOnBe part of the Stepping Up 10-week series study with other men, or even with couples.

– – –

stepping up as couplesChuck Douglas earned a Master of Divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A former police officer, Chuck authored a study in the Homebuilders Couple Series, Protecting Your First Responder Marriage. Chuck enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, hunting and fishing near their home in the North Georgia mountains. He and his wife Melissa have been married for 22 years and have been on staff with FamilyLife since 2001. They have four children.

 

5 things that make her happy



If research showed you that there were five little things you could do to turn a marriage around or to keep a marriage strong and that they were easy and free, what would you do?

Well, here’s your chance.

5 things that make her happyShaunti Feldhahn spent years interviewing couples to find the ones who had the happiest marriages. Her purpose was to ask them their secrets, and pass them along to others. The research in her recent book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, is thorough and her findings are a game-changer.

She took the five most common actions of the happiest couples and compiled them in a list she calls the Fantastic Five (for him and for her). So, guys, when it comes to your wife, here are the five things that make her happy …

The Fantastic Five for Her OR How to Make Her Happy
  1. Take her by the hand.
  2. Leave her a voice mail message, text message, or email to tell her you love her and are thinking about her.
  3. Put your arm around her, or your hand on her knee, when you’re sitting next to her (especially when you’re in public).
  4. Sincerely tell her she’s beautiful.
  5. Pull yourself out of a funk.

Yep, that’s it. Believe it or not, when Shaunti asked wives, between 72-82 percent said these five actions deeply pleased them. That’s not just the happy wives, but all wives. Even two-thirds of the wives in struggling marriages strongly agreed these are the things that make her happy.

In addition to the five actions that seem to be common attractions to all women, Shaunti encourages each man to understand that there are also unique actions that speak specifically to his wife. Knowing and being able to speak your wife’s love language is a huge step toward understanding this. Maybe she likes to receive gifts or likes your undivided attention. She may like you to do little things for her, or speak words of encouragement. Or maybe it’s your touch that does it for her.

Whatever the case, the initiative you take is almost as important as the action itself. It says to your wife that you truly care about her. That’s great comfort and security for her.

So why don’t you make her happy and try them out? What do you have to lose besides a stale marriage?

. . .

Oh, you’re probably wondering what five things she found that a wife does that pleases her husband most. Here they are …

The Fantastic Five for Him
  1. She notices your effort and sincerely thanks you for it.
  2. She says “You did a great job at __________.”
  3. She mentions in front of others something you did well.
  4. She shows that she desires you sexually, and you please her sexually.
  5. She makes it clear to you that you make her happy.

I’d encourage you to get this book, or any of Shaunti’s books. They’re quick reads, and chock full of well-researched, but very practical advice.

make her happyYou’ve just completed reading the article, 5 things that make her happy, on the Stepping Up men’s blog.

Shaunti Feldhahn details more Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages on the FamilyLife Today radio program

STEPembrace

Pick one of the Fantastic Five to help you build up your wife. Next week, pick a different one and work on that.

STEPpassShare this blog post and the FamilyLife Today broadcasts with your wife so you can work on your Fantastic Fives together.

7 keys to redeem your marriage



Michele Weiner-Davis, nicknamed “The Divorce Buster,” is a marriage enthusiast, a passionate optimist, and an author who understands hope for marriage.  At sixteen, she was shocked and shattered to see her parents’ divorce.  She decided that no matter what, she would work to make her own marriage work, avoid divorce at all costs, and give her children the gift of growing up with both their parents. A while back, I spoke with Michele for an hour on the phone.  Afterward, I read her book, The Divorce Remedy, in one sitting. I was excited about what I learned for my marriage, and am passionate about bringing her brand of solution-oriented wisdom and action-based advice to hungry, hurting, and desperately broken couples. The following are some nuggets of truth I gleaned from our conversation as well as The Divorce Remedy on how to redeem your marriage.

1. Realize that divorce is a trap

Fifty percent of divorces happen in the first seven years of marriage because people don’t know what to expect. Young couples must be taught that conflict, angry emotions, and frustrating differences exist in all relationships. This doesn’t mean their marriage is broken, their spouse is flawed, or they made a mistake. Entertaining the option of divorce steals your ability to best relate and improve in your marriage.

2. Look out for the walk-away wife syndrome

Two-thirds of divorces are filed by women.  Early in marriage, women are the usual caretakers of the relationship, frequently checking to see if the relationship is close, connected, and warm.  When it is lacking, they press for more closeness. Instead, men hear it as nagging, which causes them to withdraw.

Next, women try to get their husband’s attention by complaining about all areas of life, which are impacted by loneliness, lack of understanding, or connection. Instead of having a positive effect, men feel disrespected and recoil. Negative patterns continue until a woman gives up and thinks she’ll be happier without him or with another person. The husband notes less friction and assumes things are better, or just fine. Eventually, she drops the bomb.  “I want out.” He is devastated and shocked and says, “I had no idea you were this unhappy.” This seals the coffin as she concludes he has always been clueless and uncaring. The tragic thing is that this is the point when the husband is now desperate and motivated to work on and rebuild their marriage. But the walkaway wife has closed the door on the way out.

3. Seek solutions before explanations

Most therapy is premised on a long process of introspective journey into the “causes” of your problems stemming from your background.  Wiener-Davis practices Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy.  This immediately sets goals and helps couples determine concrete steps to heal and grow and redeem their marriages.  The emphasis is on changed behavior that each spouse can implement immediately. (The intense exceptions are physical abuse, dangerous addictions, and constant infidelity. However, these represent less than 10-15 percent of marital problems.)

4. Don’t assume the worst of your spouse

Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. In assuming the negative, we behave in self-defeating, relationship-damaging ways. We turn inward, get selfish, react, accuse, refuse, and withhold respect or love.  Does this work for us? Give your spouse permission to be flawed. After all, we are flawed as well.  Isn’t that how God works with us?

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? –Romans 2:3-4

Grace works. We need to receive it and to give it. It softens consciences—theirs and ours.

5. Change your marriage by changing yourself

Even if the other spouse has a foot out the door, there is opportunity to turn it around. Don’t insist that two must be working on the relationship at the same time. One person can make big changes in behavior to change the relationship and redeem the marriage.

6. Stop doing things that don’t work or that make the situation worse

You’ve heard the definition of insanity: “doing the same thing, but expecting different results.” Stop doing what is not working. A committed spouse may actually be driving the other person away. If you know how to push your spouse’s buttons to get a negative response, you have proof that you can learn to push their positive-response buttons and impact the relationship. Ending the unfruitful cycle of “more-of-the-same behavior” is the next key to success in healing and improving your marriage.

7. Recognize that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself

Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.  Letting go of resentment helps your spouse, but it also frees you to be your best self, not a depressed, bitter victim. It does not depend on forgetting, just refusing to keep reminding. Decide right now. Stop blaming. Forgive. Make peace. You will be a better person and good effects will ripple toward others. No matter the condition of your marriage, desperate or strong, you will gain from her wisdom on divorce busting and marriage strengthening. Weiner-Davis’ message and resources will be a practical injection of hope into situations that seem hopeless. Finally, the wisdom of counseling is only part of the equation when you want to improve your life and redeem your marriage. Getting the focus off your spouse is a start. More central to the matter is seeking depth in our relationship with God and His power to enable us to behave in the best manner.  And that starts by humbly learning from the Creator of our marriage and recognizing the true enemy of it.

…“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. –James 4:6-8

When two people—or even one—humbly recognize their need for God’s strength to successfully navigate the tricky world of personal intimacy, that relationship becomes different. We are made to depend upon and draw from the infinite power of the One who created us for intimacy with Himself and continues to redeem us from ourselves and for relationships.

NextStepsRedeemingYourMarriage

 

8 marriage mistakes I’ve made



This post originally appeared on MarkMerrill.com

MerrillMarkSusanI am so grateful for my 25 years of marriage to my wife, Susan.  My love for her has grown immensely over the years. I’ve been faithful to her. I’m very attracted to her. But I can tell you that it’s not because of me. It’s only because of God’s loving hand of undeserved favor. You see, I’m just one decision away from doing something very stupid that could really damage or, perhaps even destroy our relationship. And, I can tell you that I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my marriage. Here are 8 marriage mistakes I’ve made.

1.    Thinking that Susan was responsible for my happiness.

In my early years of marriage, I felt like an important part of Susan’s “duty” as my wife was to make me happy. I was a bit more focused on me than us. I didn’t think so at the time, but now looking back, I relied on Susan to lift me up when I was down, to help me upon command, and to meet my physical needs when called upon, just to name a few.

2.    Wishing Susan would be more like me.

 Unfortunately, in my younger years, I thought pretty highly of myself. So much so that I thought Susan should be more like me. Oh, I wouldn’t say that out loud, but I thought things like, “If Susan was more organized and disciplined like me, she would be able to keep the house cleaner.” Or, “I wish Susan just got things done that I want done when I want them done. I mean, when I commit to do something for her, I’m on it and check it off the list.”  Since I thought Susan should think and act more like me, I didn’t think about the incredible gifts of creativity and relational skills that Susan had. I didn’t celebrate her unique strengths that make Susan, Susan.

3.    Trying to control Susan.

 “Where are you going? Who are you going with? And what time will you be home?” Or, “Did you make sure the kids did their homework? Did they get that project done?” Those are the kind of questions I’d ask Susan as a father would ask his child. Rather than just encouraging her to go out and enjoy the night with friends, I made her feel like she had a curfew. Rather than me making sure our kids got certain things done, I asked Susan to take on that responsibility.

4.    Reflecting Susan’s emotions instead of regulating my own.

 Many times in our marriage, I’ve acted like a thermometer instead of a thermostat. I reflected the temperature in our relationship and home instead regulating it. When Susan got mad at me about something, I got mad because she was mad. If Susan was down and didn’t feel well, that frustrated me and I let her know it. I failed to show leadership in our home by regulating my emotions and attitude. As a result, instead of cooling down our emotions, I heated them up causing some very uncomfortable disagreements.

5.    Being obsessive about things that don’t matter.

 It took over a year to restore our home that had been flooded in a big storm. We just moved back in a couple of months ago. As I inspected the work of our painters, I noticed some areas that the painters should touch up. I also noticed some very tiny areas that were inside storage closets that nobody except me would ever see that could use a bit of paint. I made a big deal out of it with our painters, and with Susan, initially insisting that the places nobody would ever see be painted. Yes, I was obsessive about it and admittedly went overboard. That kind of intense behavior can really put Susan on edge.

6.    Being critical.

When I look at a new design for a website at work, my eye often first goes to what’s wrong with it.  When I look at that dresser that Susan just personally refurbished into a beautiful new piece of furniture for our home, I find that spot she missed and let her know about it. While my critical eye can be a benefit, it can also be a curse. My tongue has been a wild animal in our marriage. It’s gotten loose and pounced upon Susan on a number of occasions with critical words and condescending tones.

7.    Acting like we are not on the same team.

Susan has said to me on more than one occasion, “I just don’t feel like we’re on the same team.” And she’s right. There have been times when she was dealing with one of our kids’ behavior and I didn’t back her up. Instead, I questioned how she was handling it in front of them. That’s just one example. There have been many other times when I’ve treated her like my opponent, not my teammate,  in our relationship.

8.    Having an “if, then” mentality.

“If you would just meet my physical desires, then I wouldn’t be so critical of you.” My “If you would _______, then I would _________” mentality is an example of me not unconditionally loving my wife well.

Those are just a sampling of mistakes I’ve made in marriage. Although I still struggle in some of these areas, I’ve made some good progress in others. You can find out more about Susan’s take on life, specifically parenting and marriage here.

Have you made any of these same mistakes? If so, what have you done to address them? Maybe you’d also be so bold as to share other failures that you’ve had in your relationship and what you’ve done about them.

Honoring and encouraging your wife



A while back, my wife Merry was with a group of young mothers, and she was struck by how many did not feel valued. They were in the daily grind of parenting, dealing with all the challenges of raising young children. Yes, they often felt fulfilled, but they also felt dry and stretched and frazzled. They wondered if their efforts would pay off.

Merry said one of the big problems was, “They were receiving hardly any encouragement from their husbands.” They felt their husbands didn’t understand what they were doing, and they felt unappreciated.

Our culture doesn’t offer a lot of encouragement to mothers. In contrast, I recently found the transcript of a wonderful 1905 speech by President Theodore Roosevelt. Speaking to the National Congress of Mothers, he said:

No piled-up wealth, no splendor of material growth, no brilliance of artistic development, will permanently avail any people unless its home life is healthy …

No ordinary work done by a man is either as hard or as responsible as the work of a woman who is bringing up a family of small children; for upon her time and strength demands are made not only every hour of the day but often every hour of the night …

The woman who is a good wife, a good mother, is entitled to our respect as is no one else …

Encouraging your wife

As I read Roosevelt’s remarks, I wondered, When was the last time a President said something like this? If our culture doesn’t uphold wives and mothers with words like these, then it’s up to us husbands.

1 Peter 3:7 tells me to live with my wife “in an understanding way” and to “grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” As I’ve applied this verse to my life, I have realized I need to understand Merry’s world — the pressures and problems she is facing, her successes and her struggles. And I need to honor her for what she is doing well as a wife and mom.

One way I honored Merry was by writing an article as a tribute to her when our daughters, Bethany and Missy, were 7 and 4. I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her, and I wanted to remind her of how God was using her. So I thought I’d share part of what I wrote because these are the things we need to be telling our wives:

Like any other mother, it’s easy for Merry to grow discouraged during the day-to-day grind of fixing meals and settling arguments and playing games and reading stories and running errands. So often I’ve heard her say, “I’m tired of being a mother,” or, “I feel like I’ve been yelling at these kids all day long!”

But the reality is that she’s not just meeting physical needs. Even when she doesn’t realize it, she’s spending her days building character. She’s raising two little girls who, I hope, will grow up to be much like her.

From Merry, our daughters learn that there is a right and wrong, and that those who do wrong are punished.

They learn that God is real, that He is a personal God with whom we can communicate.

They learn that the Bible is truly the Word of God, able to speak to us today.

When she makes a mistake and blames them for something they didn’t do, and realizes it, they learn that a mother can be humble enough to ask their forgiveness.

When she takes them to the library to check out some books, and then returns home to read to them, they discover the excitement and importance of reading.

When they see Merry give me a hug and kiss as I walk into the house at the end of a work day, they see how a wife loves and honors her husband.

They watch as Merry reaches out to neighbors and friends. They go with her when Merry takes food to a sick friend. They learn about mercy and compassion.

When Merry gives them responsibilities around the house, they (grudgingly and slowly) learn about perseverance and doing a job right.

Bethany and Missy learn to tell the truth, because their mother doesn’t lie to them or tolerate lies from them.

They learn that many of the things the world values (such as acquiring money and possessions, and gaining power) are actually temporal and meaningless.

Of course, our two girls don’t realize that their mom is teaching them all these things. They are two human beings who will eventually make their own choices about their lives. But our hope is in the truth revealed in Proverbs 22:6, that if we “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Chances are that Bethany and Missy will have much of Merry in them when they go off to college and find jobs and raise their own families. If that’s true, then I think that Merry will have succeeded in the most important job she’ll ever have.

Boy, reading these words reminds me that I married pretty well! I think I need to encourage and honor her like this more often.

Copyright © by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter from FamilyLife.

Denial the key to happy marriage?



Last week, I sat in on a broadcast taping of FamilyLife Today® radio broadcast. Shaunti Feldhahn was discussing her latest book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. I’m in the process of reading through the book and plan to write some blog posts about it as it relates to men.

happy marriage

Photo by Bill Branson

The book is the result of her surveying and interviewing about 1,000 couples, looking to find common denominators to marriage success. One of the findings that caught my attention was the idea of assuming the best of a spouse.

Feldhahn found out that more than 95 percent of couples who identified themselves as highly happy said they know their spouse still cares about them, even in the midst of an argument. For those who called themselves mostly happy, it was still 87 percent. By contrast under 60 percent of struggling couples felt that way about their spouse.

This wasn’t the first time I’d run into this phenomenon.

I keep my eye on research about marriage and family issues. Several years ago, I ran across a study that piqued my interest. The finding was that perception, and not reality, is the source of marital bliss. 

Researchers from Northwestern University surveyed 77 married couples and 92 dating couples about their relationships. Or their perception of it. The article I had read in LiveScience took a very jaded view of the researchers’ findings, but acknowledged the same conclusions as in Feldhahn’s new book.

As self-interested, self-absorbed creatures, our own thoughts, feelings, needs and goals come first, and that sometimes means fooling ourselves into thinking we are the center of other people’s thoughts, feelings, needs and goals when, in fact, they are mired in their own business.

But should we be disillusioned by our own illusions? Maybe not. Happy marriages might just be those in which both partners uphold a very nice perception of each other, even when things aren’t so great. And this makes sense. Happiness is a state of mind, and if denial paints a partner better than they really are, the relationship is bound to be satisfying, as long as no one is slapped in the face with reality.

This perception is not so much about denial as it is about being charitable and gracious to a spouse. And this revelation is nothing new. One of the best-known Bible passages, even cited by non-believers, comes from the 13th chapter of the Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In it he lists seven things that love is and eight that it isn’t.

Love IS:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Truthful
  • Protective
  • Trusting
  • Hopeful
  • Persevering

Love ISN’T

  • Envious
  • Boastful
  • Proud
  • Rude
  • Self-Seeking
  • Easily Angered
  • A Score-Keeper
  • Glad About Evil

Any guy who’s been married more than a few days knows that the difference between the two lists comes down to willful choice. There will be times when you feel your wife’s actions deserve a snide remark, but what she needs is to be shown love and forbearance.

I’ve come to realize that the best way to avoid the low road is to run everything through the filter of Philippians 4:8, which challenges us to look exclusively at the other person in the best possible light.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

So, actually, seeking the best in the one you’ve seen fit to commit your life to is not denial of the truth … it’s the recognition of it.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Scott Williams’ post Denial the key to happy marriage? from the Stepping Up men’s blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDo you find yourself assuming bad motives in your spouse? What would happen if you started assuming the best?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistSpeaking the Truth in Love turns conflict into connection. Read how to package the two in this FamilyLife.com article.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post with your spouse or a friend and challenge each other to build a marriage on expecting the best.

Say again? Men talk as much as women?



The news couldn’t be more shocking if it had been declared that the sky was green. A recent article by the BBC pointed out that the myth that women talk more than men is just that … a myth.

In Prattle of the sexes: Do women talk more than men?, BBC writer Claudia Hammond challenged the assertion repeated by a number of media outlets in connection with another story. Last year, neuroscientists revealed that they had discovered hormonal differences in the language centers of four-year-olds, which could explain why girls pick up language more easily. Mainstream media outlets ran from there, tying it to a much-quoted statistic rooted in mystery.

husband-wife-talking
Men talk about as much as women

The BBC article also cites dozens of other studies that indicate no real difference between the number of words used by males and females. The most important and extensive was done a few years ago at the University of Texas. Researchers led by Psychiatry Department Chairman James Pennebaker learned that men and women use the same number of words during a given day. All these findings are vastly different from the widely-accepted rule of thumb that a woman uses 20,000 words daily compared to just 7,000 for her male counterpart?

So, aside from the obvious anecdotal evidence that women seem to spend more time interacting socially, how did this rumor start about women being three times more talkative than men? It seems the 20:7 figure is attributed to a dust jacket note from the 2006 book, The Female Brain by LouAnn Brizendine, a pioneering neuropsychiatrist who founded the University of California, San Francisco’s Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic. Since then, she’s backed off the numbers and agreed to remove them from subsequent printings.

Back to the University of Texas study. While there is little difference in the number of words men and women use, Pennebaker indicates that there seems to be a difference in the content of their speech.

He does point out that women tend to jaw more about other people, whereas men are apt to hold forth on more concrete objects — so the stereotypes of ladies as gossips and guys engaging in car talk can live on.

Just as Brizendine’s book prompted the University of Texas study, Pennebaker’s work has spurred new research to settle the score about men and women and conversation. Here are some questions I’d like to see answered.

  • Do men spend more of their communication oriented on tasks (like at work) than in social settings?
  • Is the word count higher among women-only conversations than men-only, and do women dominate mixed gender conversations?
  • Are verbal interactions between husband and wife divided equally?

Maybe you could even ask yourself a question: How is your communication with your wife, or if you’re single, with your girlfriend or fiancée? It’s likely that you have very different communication styles, and are likely to talk about completely different things when you’re apart. Generally speaking, men tend to focus attention on ideas and activity, and women on relationships (report-talk vs. rapport-talk). But when you’re together, can you find enough common ground to communicate well and on the same plane? Are your communications the kind that build each other up and build toward a greater connectedness?

Communication is such an important aspect of the marriage union. Good communication almost always goes hand-in-hand with a good relationship.

One really helpful article I’ve found is by our friends at Power to Change (formerly FamilyLife Canada). You Make No Sense lays out the importance of listening and clarifying, recognizing communication differences, recognizing clichés, and learning to go deeper as you dialogue.

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