Posts in category Marriage difficulties

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.

 

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.

The ONE thing to improve your marriage



This post originally appeared on the All In blog, by Square 1 Ministries.

FranklViktorOn September 25,  1942, Jewish physician Victor Frankl, his wife and parents were deported to the Nazi Theresienstadt Ghetto. Two years later Frankl and his wife Tilly were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed. He was moved to Kaufering, a Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau concentration camp, where he arrived on October 25, 1944. There he was to spend five months working as a slave laborer. In March 1945, he was offered a move to the so-called rest-camp, Türkheim, also affiliated with Dachau. He decided to go to Türkheim, where he worked as a physician until April 27, 1945, when Frankl was liberated by the Americans.

Meanwhile, his wife Tilly was transferred from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died. Frankl’s mother Elsa was killed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and his brother Walter died working in a mining operation that was part of Auschwitz.

How does anyone survive such an ordeal? When asked this same question years after his imprisonment, Frankl replied –

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

How do any of us survive hard times? What about hard times in our marriage? For many of us, including myself, we just stuff our feelings deep inside our soul and hope for the best. For others, they can’t/won’t tolerate hard times, so they leave. They try to avoid them by running away.

What if we practiced the secret that Frankl and countless others have relied upon to get them through – adjusting our attitude. Do you want to know what God says is the secret to not only surviving hard times, but enjoying a marriage relationship like it was intended to be enjoyed? Sure you do …

“Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.” Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus chose to humble himself and become a servant. Even when we didn’t deserve it (and still don’t) or appreciate it. He volunteered; he initiated; he sacrificed himself on behalf of his bride.

What about you? What about me? Is that our attitude when it comes to loving (verb) our bride? Are we ready to lay our lives down, to humble ourselves, to sacrifice anything, all for our bride … for our marriage? And all without ever demanding anything in return or any performance from our wife?

Well, that is what the Bible clearly says is the key … having the same attitude as Jesus. Remember Victor Frankl – no one else is responsible for your attitude; no one else can take it away. We (you and me) are responsible for ours. Is it like Christ’s?

Willing to die …

Rob

© 2015 by Rob Thorpe. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “The ONE thing to improve your marriage” by guest blogger Rob Thorpe of Square 1 Ministries.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat do you do when you get resistance or unfair treatment from your wife: act in kind, or respond with kindness?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Dave Harvey’s confession, “Why Do I Act Like I Don’t Love My Wife?”  on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistListen to Gary Thomas talk about turn the tables on the purpose for marriage on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.

Same old argument again



What happened was silly.  I was downstairs and opened a bill.  Since my wife handles our bills, I ran upstairs to discuss it with her.  I bounded into the room where she was engrossed on the computer.  She was re-watching a 600+ slide show of wedding photos to find a particular photo.  I interrupted her and when she waved me off, I did not take the clue and told her we could handle this quickly.

JeffStacyKempUnfortunately, I ignored and flustered her, causing her to lose her place and end the slide show.  She was upset and told me so.

I justified myself.

She reiterated her disappointment.

I weakly said, “Sorry.”

She explained how she felt, and the inconvenience I’d caused.

I said, “Don’t freak out.”

Things got worse. Duh!

The conflict was growing and I stood there defending myself in my heart, looking blandly at her, while thinking about how often we have this stupid disagreement.  Finally I zipped my lip and went downstairs.

When I sat in my chair I thought, That is about the 1,948th time we’ve had that exchange.

I began a conversation with God that went something like this.

God, why does that happen so much?  I meant well, but then I offended her, then I hurt her, then I made it worse.

The thought God gave me in return was this:  Jeff, you’re more upset that you had the conflict than you are that you inconvenienced her.  And you’re more upset that you had the conflict than that you hurt her feelings by defending yourself and showing no real empathy. You always want her to adjust and accept you. You ask for less of these instances of offense and conflict, but you should be asking Me to help you change. You need to want to not hurt her more than you want to not feel bad that you messed up.

Wow … That led to a very introspective and intense prayer time, and a decision.  I aimed to change so that I could be a better apologizer, be less defensive, and truly be more interested in Stacy’s feelings than my own.

I went upstairs, got down on a knee next to her, and told her I was wrong to not apologize fully at first.  I was wrong not to want to hear from her how I had inconvenienced her.  I was wrong to defend myself.  I did not care for her feelings well, and I want to.

I concluded with four things:  “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Will you please forgive me?  I want to change.”

Stacy teared up in a good way and swiftly loved me back with her forgiveness, her own apology, and a hug.

Adapted by permission from Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials Into Triumphs, Copyright © 2015 by Jeff Kemp, Bethany House Publishers.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished Jeff Kemp’s post “Same old argument again” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to Jeff Kemp on FamilyLife Today as he talks about “Marriage Under the Shadow of the NFL.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistVisit the Facing the Blitz website to download a chapter from Jeff’s book, or order a copy of the book for yourself.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistInvest in your wife and your marriage by attending a Weekend to Remember getaway.  Learn about events near you.

6 lessons from a first-time dad



Eight months ago my wife, Emily, and I received our first son, Isaac, through the blessing of adoption.  We have spent many years praying about the right time for our family to adopt and felt God moving us toward adoption last year.  Though we read tons of books on parenting during five years of marriage, I was shocked by how under-prepared we were for the realities of the task.

Becoming a father adds a strange and new dynamic to marriage, even if you have a healthy relationship. There are multiple lessons to be learned—about being a dad and about being a good husband/leader.

Dad lessons

1. Just survive. Even though we were not expecting a fairy-tale baby, we drastically underestimated how hard the adjustment would be.  Everything that he needed we had to provide, which meant less time for our own interests. A lot less! Those first few months were just downright hard.

The temptation for any new dad is to escape the madness.  If you are expecting your first child soon, all I can say is … just survive.  Grit your teeth and just get through it.  Every parent goes through it.  I guarantee you, better days are coming.  It will get better.

2. Understand your anger.  In general, I’ve rarely struggled with a temper.  In 20 years of playing organized basketball I have only been charged with one technical foul.  But during the first few months as a parent I was shocked and even embarrassed at how angry I could get.

All the crying can really take its toll.  There was one Saturday that I decided to give Emily a day out to herself, which meant Isaac and me, all day, together (I can hear every woman laughing now).  He literally cried from the moment she started the car until five minutes before she returned.  She was gone for eight hours.  It was as if someone was scraping five-inch nails across a chalkboard all day long.

After opening up to a few people, I found that I was not alone. I found that most new parents wonder if there is something wrong with them because of how angry they get. My mother-in-law even admitted she scared herself with how angry she became.

Although our anger reached new levels, I learned that this is a perfect opportunity to become more like Jesus.  Often with increased anger, sin follows closely.  In Ephesians 4:26, Paul tells us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  I’ve often had to seek forgiveness from Emily for my attitude, and way before the sun ever started to set.

I also started asking forgiveness from Isaac.  He may not understand what I am saying, but it provides great practice for me as he grows up.  Forgiveness is something that we continually need to seek from others as we follow Jesus.

3. Remember that this is God’s child. One night Emily and I were talking about different decisions we would make as Isaac grows.  At some point in the conversation we just stopped.  We realized that we can’t protect him from everything.  And we can’t provide everything he will ever want or need.  But we know who can.

God loves my son more than I could ever love him.  He cares for Isaac more than I ever could.

I can’t explain how liberating it is to say out loud to each other that, “We can’t, but God can.”  He has given us the awesome responsibility to train this little boy.  This is His child.  What an amazing thing to know that God loves Isaac more than I do.

Husband lessons

1. Man up and grab a diaper. As a new dad, it’s easy for me to withdraw and make an excuse that Emily is better at taking care of Isaac and that she doesn’t need me.  But she does need me.

This gives me great opportunity as a man to be creative.  I must look for ways to serve around the house and play an active part in raising Isaac with Emily.  I’ve found that I can be very helpful by taking care of all the dishes, changing diapers, keeping up on household cleaning, and taking out the trash.

Part of being a family leader is learning to anticipate needs that are coming before being asked to do them.  When I look to serve Emily—just to purely serve and take some burden off of her—it goes a long way. In Ephesians, Paul calls all men to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  Christ lived so sacrificially for the church that he died for it.

Why is it that we would be willing to take a bullet for our wives, but we forget the simple act of serving them?  It could be as simple as holding the baby for 30 minutes after work to give my wife a needed break.  So when I feel the urge to flop down into the recliner, I just need to make sure I have the baby with me.

2. Dates are essential. Getting away together is essential to our marriage.  This allows us to fight isolation by feeling like normal people.  We can concentrate more on each other rather than the needs of Isaac.  Isaac is very important, but our marriage is the top priority.

It is also very important to spend some time in conversation about things other than Isaac.  We are still real people.  What has been going on with each of us?  What has God taught us?  Where would we like to go on our next vacation?

This is essential in keeping our sanity.  Our family can’t be all about him.   And dates don’t necessarily have to be in the evening.  Dropping Isaac off at someone’s house on a Saturday to get a few hours out together, even if it is just going to the grocery store, is worth it.

SheafferDanEmilyIsaac3. Stop and enjoy the moment. There have been so many special moments with Isaac.  It was exciting to see his smile develop and to watch him learn to laugh.  I think I could sit for hours and just watch him peacefully sleep.

Many dads miss these little moments.  They miss the birth.  They miss the first few years.  They miss the school years.  They are living in the same house, but miss speaking into the lives of their children.  I know many parents who turn around after their kids leave the house and ask, “Where did the time go?”  No offense to these parents, but I want to be able to turn around when my kids leave the house and say, “I know exactly where the time has gone.  Emily and I have been there hand in hand every step of the way.”

God calls me as a parent to train up our children.  That means it is my responsibility, not someone else’s.  I won’t miss the moments with my kids.  There are so many things in this world vying for the attention of Isaac, and I need to be the voice of truth and love in his life.

I may never achieve perfection.  In fact, I will screw up.  But learning is a process.  Striving to be more like Jesus and love my wife is hard work.

The same is true for you, whether you’re a first-time dad or you’ve been at it for a while.  You don’t have to be perfect today—just work a little each day to love your wife and kids better.  Love with your children is spelled T-I-M-E.  That starts right now.  Go get ‘em, dads!

© 2013 by Dan Sheaffer. Used by permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “6 lessons from a first-time dad” by Dan Sheaffer on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhether a new dad or a veteran, what are some areas where you could be more intentional about fathering?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead the article “Dad University” by Dennis Rainey and get a quick course about being a godly father.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass either of these two articles to any young dads or expectant fathers you know. Encourage them in the fraternity of dads.

Serving and caring until the end



From the doorway, Roy quietly watched his darling wife standing in front of the cook stove. She wasn’t one for fancy recipes, but to Roy, everything she cooked was “good eatin’.”

Sophie breaded a pork chop and gently placed it in the frying pan as she had done so many times before. Roy could remember well the first meals she cooked as a newlywed almost 60 years before. The tears welled up in his weathered, hardened eyes, not only from the fond memories of the past, but also from his present grief.

OldCoupleHandsHoldYou see, every 10-15 minutes Sophie would start another meal, forgetting she had already begun one. In addition to the pork chops, there was a chicken stewing on the back burner, and a pot roast in the oven. She was growing more and more forgetful.

Months earlier Roy noticed that Sophie would wander into a room to dust, forgetting she had just finished dusting moments before. More than once he caught her doing laundry and making their bed with fresh laundered sheets for the second time in one day. She was making several entrees for lunch and dinner—and now she had three going at once.

Sophie turned from the stove with all burners going, walked into the living room, and picked up her needlepoint to work. Roy knew that she would forget the dinner and burn the food, so without mention he adjusted the heat and finished each part of the dinner in time. Sophie continued to work on the needlepoint, pausing for long moments to vacantly stare.

No One Knew

Roy realized it was time to act. He fixed things around the house to protect his wife, putting in hidden switches on the stove, turning down the temperature on the water heater to prevent burns in the bathtub, and removing plug-in appliances to keep Sophie from hurting herself.

To the people around them, life looked pretty normal as they attended worship, went shopping, and even visited others for special occasions. Everyone knew Sophie was a bit forgetful, but no one knew to what extent. They said it was “cute” how Roy and Sophie were never separate, always together … “such sweet love.” But little did they know the depths of the love they observed.

It wasn’t easy for Roy to watch over Sophie, help her dress, oversee her cooking, and be with her at all times. But he willingly served, thinking often of the hymn, “I need Thee, O, I need thee. Every hour I need Thee …”

It wasn’t until one Saturday morning in early April that the family and the neighbors finally learned of the depths of Roy’s committed love.

In a mid-morning phone call, Sophie told her friend Lena, “Roy won’t wake up. I’ve been waiting for him for breakfast. He is still sleeping, and I can’t wake him.”

Lena responded quickly and kindly, “Sophie, I want you to sit in your chair by the phone, and then I want you to hang up so I can call your sister. Can you do that and promise not to move until I get there?” Sophie, obedient in her confusion, waited for Lena and her sister to arrive.

When they entered the house, they found my grandfather, Rudolph “Roy” Walter, in bed under the covers wearing a peaceful expression in sound eternal sleep. The doctor said, “His heart just wore out.”

My grandmother had no idea what had happened; Sophie had no concept of death or life. At the viewing, she observed her husband lying in the wheat-colored coffin. Touching his hand she said, “Roy’s cold; maybe we should cover him.”

It wasn’t until the family had to care for Sophie, that they truly understood for the first time how much Roy cared for her. Sophie needed help at every moment, and Roy had been willing to give it.

Roy died happy, knowing he loved his wife the only way he knew how— serving and caring for her, “until death do you part.” He knew that love is more than romance; it is constant, determined, serving, and uncomplaining.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

 

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.

 

Desperate househusbands



Does helping with housework help your sex life?

Sex Begins in the Kitchen, Dr. Kevin Lehman’s 1981 book, tells men that a wife’s responsiveness in the bedroom at night is the cumulative effect of the attention she receives during the day through things like conversation and helping with housework.

desperate househusbands

from Homemaker’s Encyclopedia, 1954

Research seems to confirm that very notion. In 2008, the University of Kentucky found that “the happier a wife is with her husband’s participation in housework, the more sex she has with him.” The research was done for the book by Neil Chethik, VoiceMaleand was the first to officially link housework with sex.

But hold everything!

Last year, a broader study seemed to contradict the idea that when a man does more housework it meant more sex. “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage” actually showed that husbands who did more of what is usually considered women’s work had less sex.

Are the study findings contradictory? Is one set of research findings flawed? I don’t think so. I believe it just shows what’s really in play here.

The 2008 Kentucky study had to do with a wife’s satisfaction with the amount of chores her husband did, while the more recent study tried to equate the amount of chores with the amount of sex.

The 2008 study revealed that a husband doesn’t necessarily have to do half the housework, just enough that his wife felt supported and appreciated. The 2013 study found that husbands who consistently reported more sex were those whose contribution included tasks that are generally considered more manly, like yard work and taking out the trash, versus tasks that many think of as more womanly, like cooking and cleaning.

Marriage involves cooperation and complementarity. A man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father all offer something unique to the family that benefits the others. But it isn’t just about doing what comes naturally and intuitively.

We husbands need to be reminded that wives want to be both appreciated and desired. A woman may want the home to be a pleasant place and often approaches chores with that as the end goal. A husband who recognizes this and joins with his wife in that common purpose earns her appreciation.

A woman rarely appreciates a man who takes it easy while she’s taking on more responsibility than she feels she can handle. Not only can shouldering all the work make her resentful, it also tires her out and makes her less energized for intimacy. Men are wired to compartmentalize parts of their lives like sex and work, but women process things much more holistically.

Here’s a funny story that illustrates this. It’s from a psychotherapist writing about the 2013 study findings in the New York Times, and comparing them to her own experience counseling couples.

A couple in therapy had been working on making their marriage more egalitarian. Things were going very well, but the husband noticed that they were having less intimacy. He wondered aloud in their session if she no longer found him attractive. She assured him that she did, especially when he came in from working out at the gym and she could see his muscles when he got undressed to take a shower.

He then reminded her that the very same scenario had happened the day before, but that rather than desiring intimacy, she criticized him for throwing his clothes on the floor. She saw his point, but it didn’t change the way she felt.

As men, we have a hard time understanding these types of seeming inconsistencies in women. We desperate househusbands think that because we treat our wives with honor and chip in around the house without being asked or nagged, our wives should appreciate us back with intimacy. In fact, one of the theories about the recent findings was that the men who did the most around the house may have reported the lowest satisfaction with the amount of sex because they were expecting more sex for their contribution.

However long you’ve been married to the woman in your life, you probably have come to realize that there are some things about her (maybe even most things) that you’ll never understand. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that of all the admonitions Scripture has for husbands, being sensitive to our wives makes the short list.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life... – 1 Peter 3:7a, ESV

Being understanding doesn’t mean being able to make sense of everything your wife says and does. It’s anticipating her needs and putting her first above all people, including yourself. Scripture also challenges wives to be sensitive to their husbands’ need for connection through sexual intimacy, but that’s not the focus of this blog. The truth is that both my wife and I need to selflessly offer our bodies and our lives to each other, but the only one I have control over is myself, so I’ll work on that.

When we treat our wives with the honor they deserve as joint heirs of the grace of life, when we love them sacrificially as Christ loves the church, they’re more likely to take notice of that grace and are more likely to feel the security to offer themselves to us unconditionally.

The NFL and safer, stronger homes



KempScottKATV

Second-generation NFL players Freddie Scott II and Jeff Kemp get to the heart of domestic violence issues.

Recently, a couple of Stepping Up blog contributors (who happen to both be second-generation NFL players) were together at FamilyLife for a TV interview to give their perspectives on the NFL and its recent domestic violence issues.

While most every other voice you’re hearing blasts the league for the rampant problems among players and how poorly it’s handling the issue, these two former NFL players have a different take. A much more positive one.

Freddie Scott is actually working with NFL teams, players, and the players union to address issues like these, how to avoid them, and how to create a new paradigm for players who grew up in unstable homes. Jeff Kemp contends that the disciplines that the NFL teaches to its players to make them great performers and teammates are the very disciplines that make for strong fathers, husbands and men, creating safer, stronger homes.

Check out some additional footage from the interview that wasn’t part of the final broadcast:

By the way, just after Jeff and Freddie did this interview, they were in FamilyLife’s video studio to talk extensively about the subject. Our video team is working on editing those clips and we’ll pass them along to you as they become available.

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