Posts in category Marriage difficulties

Avoid being a social media casualty



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

I still do … every day



I still do ... every dayToday, I begin my 30th year of marriage to Ellie. Am I surprised we made it this far?

Not at all.

If I had it to do all over again, would I still say “I do?”

Without a doubt. I still do.

Did I comprehend all I was agreeing to when I said those words so many years ago?

Not even close.

After five years of dating, Ellie and I were still deeply in love on that perfect May morning when we made our vows before dozens of witnesses in a beautiful church overlooking the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Even though we both meant what we said, neither of us really knew what we meant when we made those promises to love and stay committed to each other …

– through health and sickness,

– wealth and poverty,

– good and bad,

– until death separated us.

Little did we know that God would add to our family within the week. No, we had no plans for Ellie to get pregnant on our honeymoon, but nine months and five days after our wedding, our first son was born. And less than four months after his birth, Ellie was a nursing, stay-at-home mom with a suddenly unemployed husband. That wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

As a bride-to-be, Ellie had wanted to have four children, but when we said our vows, we weren’t thinking that God would add that fourth child just one week after our sixth anniversary. By then, we realized that having children was not going to be a problem for us.

Or so we thought.

Three of Ellie’s next four pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The one that did go full term came with lots of complications, including Ellie permanently losing all hearing in her left ear. Those were heart-wrenching times. But as God promises, weeping lasts for a nighttime, but joy comes in the morning.

Four years later, Ellie was pregnant with our seventh and final child when our family was devastated by the line-of-duty death of my Maui Police Officer brother. She and I never dreamed we’d ever go to Hawaii, much less to bury my brother there.

Romantic vacations haven’t really been part of our marriage history. In fact, most of my paychecks have only been enough to cover the basic necessities of a large family. There have even been some times where the fridge and pantry were almost bare. But God has always provided. Even though there have only been a few weeks of the past 29 years where I haven’t been employed, most of those jobs have been in journalism or ministry, neither of which is known for high salaries. When it comes to “for richer or poorer,” we’ve seen a lot of one, but not much of the other.

It wasn’t in our plans, but it was in our vows.

When a couple stands at the altar before their closest friends and most committed family members, everything seems perfect; the lifetime covenant they’re making to each other seems like a blank check drawn on the bank of happiness. They don’t foresee a time when the account is in danger of overdraft. They can hardly imagine the day when all those friends and family standing with them in the beginning aren’t there to help them through those emotional zero-balance days.

But the God who created them as individuals and brought them together in the covenant of marriage is there every minute of every day of their married life.

Ellie and I weren’t practicing believers when we married back in 1985. But God in His grace drew us to Himself. Each of us – independent of the other – made a personal commitment to Christ within 15 months of our vows. In the early years of marriage and parenting, we were able to grow in oneness with each other and with God.

We learned the significance of our marriage covenant as we learned how God covenanted with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and most importantly, through the New Covenant in Christ. Because God would not break His covenants, Ellie and I determined never to entertain the notion of divorce.

When I think back to the day we proclaimed our vows, in many ways I feel like I’m so much less impressive of a man than the one who boldly promised to love and cherish Ellie every day of his life. I haven’t been the best provider. I’m not a strong leader. I’m moody and easily frustrated and way too self-absorbed. And I know Ellie has her own list of ways she falls short of the woman with all those lofty vows nearly three decades ago.

“I do” is not just something you say to your spouse on your wedding day. “I do” is every word you say and every deed you do for the rest of your marriage. That’s what “I do” really means.

Ellie and I have had 10,592 days worth of opportunities to experience how much harder it is to say your vows on any given marriage day than on your wedding day. No matter how much we love each other, we let our guards down; selfishness is always ready to make an exception to a vow.

It takes a supernatural empowering of God’s Spirit for me to realize that marriage is more about what I can do for Ellie, than what she should be doing do for me. God promises – when I ask Him – to empower me with His Spirit, freeing me from the slavery to myself in order to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Only through the limitless grace and unconditional love of His Spirit working in me can I fulfill my vows to Ellie like I promised to do back on May 18, 1985.

And it’s only by His Spirit that I can continue to be true to my promise for the next 30 years, or however many the Lord sees fit to give us together.

Ellie, I still do.

NEXT STEPS

1. To learn more about the value of keeping your vows, read Dennis Rainey’s article, “Five Ways to Keep Your Marriage Covenant.”

2. Listen to Doug and Patty Dailey talk about the crisis in their marriage on FamilyLife Today®.

3. Plan a weekend getaway with your spouse to spend time together and build your marriage – attend a Weekend to Remember® or one of the upcoming I Still Do® events in Chicago, Portland, or Washington, D.C.

 

 

Irreplaceable



Last week I had the pleasure of sitting in on the one-time showing of the Focus on the Family documentary film Irreplaceable. Even if you missed the premiere, encore presentations of Irreplaceable are being added at other theaters around the country.

You may have seen the trailer for the film. If not, here it is.

YouTube Preview Image

http://www.irreplaceablethemovie.com/

The movie is just an introduction to a new series that seeks to look at the family from a number of different angles in an attempt to “recover, renew and reclaim the cultural conversation about the family.” It is also the launch of a new initiative by Focus called Gen3, challenging individuals to commit to building a thriving, divorce-free legacy for three generations.

After watching the first film in the series, I’m inclined to believe that Focus on the Family is going about it the right way. As you can see in the trailer, the film itself is a journey to find the cause of family (and thus) cultural decline. But the journey actually finds its answer in an unexpected place—back at home.

The film starts off looking at the history and ideology that’s led to family decline, and the far-reaching impact it’s had. Starting with modern views on sexuality (which really aren’t new at all), the questions move in a progression toward marriage, then parenting, then children, to the meaning of life itself. It becomes obvious that there is not just one cause for cultural decline, but many. It reveals that individuals, not social issues, are at the heart of the problem … and of the solution.

The documentary starts with the notion that cultural decline is inevitable when families become unstable, because the family is irreplaceable. But it ends by recognizing that what is truly irreplaceable is each person within a family.

The narrator’s search for answers to the general problem of family fracture leads him to reflect on his own personal struggles growing up in a family where the father was not faithful to the family. This leads him to recognize his own importance to his own family and how much his active presence is needed by his wife and his children. He realizes that it’s he who is irreplaceable.

Truth be known, everyone is irreplaceable in their family, if you believe in God as Sovereign. I’m often impressed at how differently God has made each of the members in my own family, and how their strengths and personalities have a unique and vital place in the health of the family as a whole, as well as in the life of each individual. Add to that the unique roles we each have as husband and wife, mother and father, son and daughter, brother and sister, oldest, youngest, and middle. God has placed each member in the family to be a blessing and to be blessed.

How about you? How often do you think of yourself as irreplaceable as a man, as husband of your wife, and father of your children? How often do you recognize your wife’s unique fit as your partner and helpmeet, and as the nurturer and center of the family? And how often do you recognize each child and his or her irreplaceable part in your home now, and the irreplaceable part they will have in the family they will begin when their time comes?

The first step in rebuilding a crumbling culture is to create a strong culture in your own family. They, in turn can carry that legacy to the next generation, and the next.

Enduring a difficult marriage: 4 lessons from Lincoln



This post originally appeared on MarkMerrill.com

“Can’t you do anything right?”

“You’re worthless.”

“I don’t know why I married you.”

Have you ever heard those scathing words before in your marriage? If so, how did it make you feel? Maybe you felt devalued or disrespected. Perhaps you got angry. Maybe fear struck your heart. Maybe you were overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness.

If you’ve felt any of those things in your marriage, you’re not alone. Many others have traveled the same rocky road. In fact, one of the greatest men in American history experienced some of the same things. His name was Abraham Lincoln.

difficult marriageMost of us know Lincoln as the incredible President and leader of our country during the Civil War. But what many of us don’t know is that at the same time Lincoln was working to promote peace in America, he was struggling to keep peace within his own marriage. We see how clearly he identified with hardships in marriage when he said, “To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”

Of course, Abraham Lincoln was human and probably contributed to some of the unrest in his marriage. But history tells us that his wife, Mary Todd, made married life extremely difficult for Lincoln. Here are some of the costs that Abraham Lincoln experienced by sticking it out with his wife, Mary Todd:

Costs:
  • It’s been reported that Mary threw things like firewood and potatoes at her husband on different occasions.
  • It’s been said that she chased him around their backyard with a knife at one point after a dispute.
  • She didn’t care about spending more than her budget allowed and was quoted as saying, “To keep up appearances, I must have money—more than Mr. Lincoln can spare for me. He is too honest to make a penny outside of his salary; consequently I had, and still have, no alternative but to run in debt.”
  • She was constantly jealous and rude to the women Lincoln interacted with.
  • Someone who would often visit the White House recalled that Mary Todd “was vain, passionately fond of dress, and wore her dresses shorter at the top and longer at the train than even fashions demanded. She had great pride in her elegant neck and bust, and grieved the President greatly by her constant display of her person and her fine clothes.”
  • Lincoln was rewarded in several ways from his marriage with Mary.
Rewards:
  • Lincoln learned to be a man of peace. Not only did he seek peace for our country, but also learned to hold onto peace in his marriage when the waves of unrest were crashing around him.
  • Lincoln developed the virtue of perseverance in his marriage and in life. He gained a deeper understanding of focusing on the long run, rather than the current moment.
  • Lincoln developed a forgiving heart towards his wife — a value all of America would need to embrace following the Civil War.

Fortunately for us, Lincoln was perhaps more greatly prepared for the awful state of the nation after his experiences in marriage. As author John Piper puts it, “A whole nation benefited from his embracing the pain.”

So how did Lincoln do it, and how can you stick it out as well?

1. He recognized his own flaws.

Lincoln was a man of great faith, but also a man of great flaws. Often being away on business trips and occupied with political ventures, we can assume that his time with family was more limited than most. So the first step to sticking it out in marriage is to avoid putting all the blame on your spouse. Recognize your flaws, take responsibility, and find ways to improve your side of the relationship with your spouse. And take Lincoln’s own advice: “I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”

2. He stayed positive.

Despite the constant nagging, complaining, and insults from his wife, Lincoln maintained a strong positive attitude that he shared with the country he led. He came to discover with time that, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

3. He had an eternal understanding.

Lincoln once shared, “Surely God would not have created such a being as man to exist only for a day! Man was made for immortality!” He understood this life was not the only thing we have; we also get to look forward to an eternal life with God. Keeping your mindset on the big picture can help small struggles within your marriage lose some of their significance and lead you to forgive more quickly. Giving forgiveness is so important. Corrie ten Boom: The Ultimate Forgiveness Story is an amazing story of forgiveness.

4. He understood marriage is a covenant.

As a man of faith, Lincoln was able to look at God’s relationship with us as an example for his relationship with his wife. God will never leave us and Lincoln chose to never leave his wife. To understand more about how marriage is a covenant and not a contract, you may want to consider 3 Things to Remember Before You Call It Quits in Marriage.

What are some other words of encouragement you could share with people in a difficult marriage? I’d appreciate it if you’d share in a comment below.

MarkMerrillMark Merrill is the president of the national non-profit organization, Family First , and the voice of a daily radio program called The Family Minute. He recently authored the book, All Pro Dad: 7 Essentials to Be a Hero to Your Kids. “I’m so grateful for my wife, Susan, and our five children. I’ve learned how to be a better husband and dad because of them.”

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