Thursday, November 29, 2018

Strengthening Your Marriage

What Cherishing Your Spouse Really Means

Newly married couple in a field; husband is kissing his wife's cheek
Seth Mourra/Stocksy
Wayne Williams grew up a Chicago Cubs fan because that was his father's favorite team, which also meant that for most of Wayne's life he lived as a frustrated sports enthusiast. At the time, the Cubs had the longest World Series drought in the major leagues, but even so, at the start of every season Wayne and his father renewed a promise to each other: When (not if, but when) the Cubbies made it to the World Series, they would listen to the games together.

Chicago finally made it during the 2016 season, and Wayne resolved to keep the promise he had made as a boy, even though it would be costly. He now lived in North Carolina. His dad was in Indiana. It would have been easy to discard the agreement as sentimental foolishness, but Wayne believes a promise made is a promise kept, so he traveled to Indiana to share the last game of the World Series with his father.

But there was another hitch: Wayne's dad died in 1980. So Wayne put a lawn chair next to his father's grave and watched the game on his iPhone for the next four and a half hours.

I love stories of people keeping difficult promises. There's something especially noble about a person being true to his or her word, even at great cost.

Perhaps that's why I was taken aback when God reminded me of a promise I had made on my wedding day: I had vowed to "love and to cherish" my wife until death brought us apart.

For more than 20 years, I had focused on love — serving, sacrificing, persevering — but had conveniently forgotten to consider what it meant to cherish my wife. God made it clear that it was time to be true to my word. But first, I had to figure out what cherishing even meant.

A new delight

One of the easiest ways for me to discover the difference between loving and cherishing was to compare the famous biblical chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13) with the Song of Solomon, a book devoted to cherishing. Consider these comparisons:

Love is about being gracious and altruistic. "Love is patient and kind" (1 Corinthians 13:4). Cherish is about being enthusiastic and enthralled. "How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice" (Song of Solomon 4:10).

Love tends to be quiet and understated. "Love does not envy or boast" (1 Corinthians 13:4). Cherish boasts boldly and loudly. "My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand" (Song of Solomon 5:10).

Love thinks about others with selflessness. "[Love] is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Cherish thinks about its beloved with praise. "Your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely" (Song of Solomon 2:14).

Love doesn't want the worst for someone. "[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing" (1 Corinthians 13:6). Cherish celebrates the best in someone. "Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful" (Song of Solomon 1:15).

Love puts up with a lot. "[Love] hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7). Cherish enjoys a lot. "His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable" (Song of Solomon 5:16).

Love and cherish complement each other. Without the bedrock force of love, cherishing won't last. It'll be a sentimental ideal that is lost in the real world. Without cherishing, love feels like a duty more than a delight. I don't want my wife to think I'm with her only because God says I'm not allowed to leave; I want her to think my greatest delight is sharing life with her.

Men, our wives want more than simply to be loved. They want to hear, "You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes" (Song of Solomon 4:9). And wives, your husbands want more than to be tolerated. They want to hear, "As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men" (Song of Solomon 2:3).

Dave Wilson, co-founder of Kensington Community Church, asked seven male leaders, "How many of you have a wife who loves you?" and every man raised his hand to signify yes. He then asked, "How many of you have a wife who likes you?" and every hand went down.

Every husband felt loved. None felt cherished.

Discover the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Marriage

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Take a free marriage assessment to identify the key areas where you could use improvement and the tools that will help you with that. We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take this free assessment to strengthen your marriage!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

5 Steps to Fight Better if Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For

By Dr. Kyle Benson,  October 21, 2016

Conflict is inevitable in every relationship. Psychologist Dan Wile says it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unresolvable problems.” However, Dr. Gottman has found that nearly 1/3 of all conflicts can be resolved with the right approach.
The popular approach to conflict resolution, advocated by many marriage therapists, is to put yourself in your partner’s shoes, listen to what they say, and communicate with empathy that you understand their perspective. It’s a decent method if you can do it.
But most couples can’t. Even happily married couples. After studying couples for the last 40 years, Dr. John Gottman has recognized that even happy couples do not follow the experts’ rules of communication.
By studying what these couples did, Dr. Gottman developed a new model for solving your solvable problems in an intimate relationship.

Step 1: Soften Your Start-Up

How a conversation starts predicts how it will end. Watch how a harsh start-up influences this conversation:
Kim: Once again, I come home from work and have to pick up after you. (criticism)
Kris: Here we go again. I’m such a slob, right? I clean the kitchen counters all the time.
Kim: Then why do I have to remind you to clean the dishes in the sink or take out the trash? It’s frustrating when our house smells disgusting! Don’t worry about it today. I already did it, or were you too busy browsing Facebook to notice? (contempt)
Kris: Hey. Come on. I hate cleaning. I know you do, too. I have an idea. (repair attempt)
Kim rolls her eyes. (more contempt)
Kris: I think we need some connection. Let’s take a vacation so you can be waited on?
Kim: Seriously? We can’t afford a maid, much less a vacation.
A harsh start-up begins with the Four Horsemen and causes flooding and increased emotional distance that can strain the marriage.
Soft start-ups do not contain the Four Horsemen. When a partner starts the conversation gently, it communicates respect and causes both partners to feel positive about themselves and their marriage.
Here are some suggestions to ensure your start-up is soft:
  • Take responsibility. “I share some responsibility for this…”
  • Complain without blame and state a positive need. “Here’s how I feel…about a specific situation and here’s what I need…” (positive need, not what you don’t need)
  • Start with “I” instead of “You.” I statements are less critical and don’t make the listener as defensive as “you” statements.
  • Describe what is happening. Don’t judge or blame. Communicate what you see will help your partner from feeling attacked.
  • Be polite. Use “please” and “I would appreciate it if…”
  • Be appreciative. Recognize what you appreciate in your partner.
  • Don’t let things build up. If you do, it’ll escalate in your mind until you blow-up.
The secret to avoiding harsh start-ups is to work on the first four principles in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. If your spouse tends to start conflicts harshly, make sure they are feeling known, respected, loved, and that you are willing to accept influence. So pay attention to minor bids for connection.
When “It’s your turn to take out the garbage, can you take it out please?” is ignored, your partner’s request may escalate to “What is wrong with you? Are you deaf? Take out the garbage.”
If you go straight for the jugular, you’re going to get either war or retreat on your partner’s part instead of a productive discussion. See how a softened start-up compares.
Kim: I feel like our house is a mess and we’re having family over tonight. (describing) I’m angry cause I feel like I am doing all the cleaning by myself. I should have asked sooner (taking responsibility). I need you to help me vacuum the living room? (positive need).
Kris: I understand. I hate cleaning up too and I’d be willing to vacuum and even clean the bathroom for you.
Kim: You’re such a big help. (appreciation). Thank you love. (politeness)
Kris: After the family is gone, let’s go out for our favorite ice cream!
Kim: I’m so in!

Step 2: Learn to Send and Receive Repair Attempts

When Kris said, “I clean the kitchen counters all the time” Kim could have said, “You’re right, you do.” Doing this would have been a repair attempt and de-escalated the tension, allowing Kris to be more receptive to finding a solution.
Think of a repair attempt as slamming on the brakes when you see a red light. You do this to avoid a collision that could harm your marriage.
The difference between stable, emotionally intelligent marriages and unhappy ones is not that repair attempts are better, but that the repair attempts get through to the spouse. Repair attempts require two people – the person offering the repair and one accepting it.
Repair attempts often start before a repair is made. It is dependent on the state of the relationship. Happy couples send and receive repair attempts with ease. In unhappy marriages, even amazing repair attempts fall on deaf ears.
Sometimes repair attempts seem negative, “That’s not what we are talking about” or “Stop! This is getting out of control.” If your relationship is swimming in an ocean of negativity, repair attempts will be difficult to hear.
In The Seven Principles That Make Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman has a list of repair attempts that may feel unnatural at first but provide you the vocabulary to naturally repair conflict before it harms your marriage. I’d recommend starting with a low-intensity conflict when practicing repair attempts to help you resolve an issue in your marriage.

Step 3: Soothe Yourself and Each Other

In unstable marriages, conflict discussions can lead to flooding, which make repair attempts physically impossible to hear. If you or your partner feel flooded, take a 20-30 minute break and focus on the positives of your relationship by yourself. This “forced” relaxation will do wonders for your marriage.
I recommend learning how to soothe each other. Ask yourself and each other the following questions:
  • What makes us feel flooded?
  • How do we bring up issues or complaints?
  • Do we hold things in, rather than share them? If so, why do you think that is?
  • When you feel flooded, is there something I can do to soothe you?
  • How do you think you could soothe me when I feel flooded?
  • What signals can we send each other when we feel flooded so we can take breaks and soothe each other?

Step 4: Compromise

Compromise is the only way to solve marital problems. Compromise is not one person changing. It’s about negotiating and discovering ways to accommodate each other. Compromise is impossible unless you accept your partner’s flaws. Marriages can be weighed down by the “if only…” my partner was richer, sexier, or more emotionally expressive. Unlike cherishing your partner, which nurtures gratefulness for what you have, “if only” nurtures resentfulness towards your partner. This makes conflict impossible to solve.
Compromise is about accepting influence from your partner. Research shows that men tend to struggle with this more than women. If you are willing to accept influence, working with each other becomes way easier.

Step 5: Address Emotional Injuries

Arguments can leave emotional wounds even when a couple resolves an issue. This is perfectly normal and requires talking about or “processing.” Sometimes it’s about how you were fighting, not what you were fighting about Dr. Gottman has a powerful exercise on page 188 in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work that will help heal these emotional injuries.
Mastering these general problem-solving skills will lead you to discover that many of your problems will find their own solutions. Once you can overcome the barriers that have prevented clear communication, difficulties are easier to resolve. But remember: these solutions work only for problems that can be solved. If compromise seems impossible, then the problem you are struggling with is likely perpetual.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Three Pitfalls to Avoid in an Empty Nest Marriage

When your kids leave the home, you are forced to consider your marriage relationship in a new light.

Excerpted from Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest ©2008 by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates. Published by FamilyLife Publishing.
Bess and Gary couldn’t wait for the empty nest. Raising their kids had been tough. They’d had different approaches to discipline, they’d struggled on a tight budget, and they’d postponed many of their dreams in order to be with their kids. Now the last one was leaving, and they felt they had done the best they could. Finally, they were about to be free from the daily stresses of parenting. They were excited. They couldn’t wait for it to be “just us” again.

Shelly’s situation was just the opposite. She had poured her life into her kids; they had come first. Now, as the last child got ready to leave, she was scared, really scared. ”I don’t even feel like I know my husband. I haven’t been alone with him since I was 26. Our whole life has revolved around the kids. Now what will we talk about at the dinner table? What will we do on weekends? I don’t even know if I have energy left to put into this relationship. And, I don’t know if I want to.”
When your kids begin leaving the home, empty nest couples are forced to consider marriage in a new light. This can be wonderful or it can be scary. You may be thrilled as you look forward to a second honeymoon season with your spouse. Or you may be asking yourselves, Without the kids, do we have enough to hold us together?
Most likely, you will respond with a mixture of both fear and excitement. Yet at some point you will wonder, What will my marriage look like now? Anticipating the hurdles in the road ahead is essential to a good marriage in the empty nest season.
Three common pitfalls
As Christians we believe there is an enemy of our souls who wants our marriages to fall apart. Part of the problem is we don’t often recognize this enemy or his tactics. Instead, we think the problem is us or, more likely, our spouse.
In order to successfully transition your marriage into the empty nest years, you should watch for three common pitfalls that many marriages face in middle-age.
1. A critical spirit. How many middle-aged couples do you know who are still in love with each other and whose marriages you admire? How many do you know who regularly criticize, condemn, and alienate each other?
Newlyweds seem to have cornered the market on being in love. And why is that? They usually have the time and focus. Empty nest couples have the same two commodities; the challenge is to capitalize on them.
We’ve noticed that, for an empty nest wife, it is all too easy to fill the void left by the kids with criticism of her husband. With the kids gone she tends to focus more on her spouse. It’s easy to find fault with what he has done or left undone, to revisit old wounds, to fret about the way she thinks things should be.
Why do we wives do this?

Partly because we are hurting and sad for our loss, partly because we know our husbands too well, partly because we have been mothering for so long we switch our attention from our kids to our husband without thinking. Unconsciously we become critical and we don’t even realize what we are doing. It’s so subtle.
Once you do recognize what is happening, it’s time to change course. Making changes can sometimes be as simple as deciding: You make the choice to give your husband the benefit of the doubt, to not comment on everything he does or doesn’t do, to focus on the things you appreciate about him, and to verbally express gratitude.
2. Emotional divorce. It is so very common to arrive at the empty nest and feel some level of isolation. This has been true for both of us. During transition we are especially vulnerable to this drift as each spouse processes life’s changes differently.
It might happen like this: He’s hurt me again. It’s the same old thing. There’s no use trying to talk it through. I just can’t go there again. It’s too exhausting, too painful. We’ll live in the same house and carry on, but I can’t keep trying. I can’t share with him at a deep level any more.
Picture a glass patio door. In a sense what you are doing is shutting the glass door on your marriage. You still see your spouse, but there’s a barrier between you.
This is emotional divorce—the road to isolation.
When you are pulled this way, recognize what is happening and make the decision to take a hammer and begin breaking the glass. How do you do this? Refuse to give in to the temptation to pull away from your spouse and, instead, talk through the issues. Ask a wise couple whom you trust to talk with you, or get counseling if needed.
Your marriage is too important to let it fade away. A thick glass panel doesn’t crumble instantaneously. It takes constant chipping away until the barrier finally crumbles. In the same way, you need to be patient and chip away at your issues, knowing that God is for your marriage and He wants to remove the thick glass in order that fresh air might blow in and rejuvenate your marriage.
3. An affair. If you fail to stop the drift toward emotional divorce, you will become increasingly vulnerable to an affair. Infidelity in women rarely takes place on the spur of the moment. Instead these types of relationships usually begin with an emotional affair: He understands me better than my husband does. He appreciates me in ways my husband does not. He finds me attractive. I am drawn to him. When we talk, I feel like he really listens to me.
It’s helpful to ask yourself, Am I believing in a fantasy or seeking the truth? God’s Word says that you are to flee from, not flirt, with temptation. You must run away from those temptations and run toward your spouse instead.
No limits
When driving a car, we are dependent upon road signs that signal speed limits, merging traffic, dangerous curves, and other warnings. These signs are in place for our safety. In a similar way, we share these warnings about the road ahead for the safety of your marriage. We are both strongly for marriages thriving, not just surviving. Knowing what the dangers are is the better part of avoiding them.
Remember: Your spouse is not your enemy. He is your partner.
You’re on the same team, and there is no limit to the new ventures that are available to empty nest couples. In planning for and pursuing these ventures together, your marriage can thrive. Ask God to give you wisdom and watch Him work in ways that will go beyond your plans and even your dreams. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Raising Exceptional Families with Special Needs Children

By Lisa Pinhorn, M.Ed. // September 19, 2018, The Gottman Institute
It’s a given: parenting is hard work. But when you’re raising a child with special needs, the level of care and stress is not just higher—it shifts the foundations of families and adds unimaginable complexities for everyone involved.
Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, illness, Autism, ADHD, Anxiety, OCD, and Developmental Trauma are parenting game changers. At Feeding Futures, we work in the world of exceptional families, so we know all too well how chaotic things can become when you’re caring for a child with special needs. It sounds stressful because it is, and words don’t even begin to do it justice. I know because I’ve lived it.
When my daughter’s Autism diagnosis came, I was new to being a single parent. My emotional reaction was neither pretty nor graceful. Not long after came the news that she also had extreme anxiety and debilitating OCD. The grief that came with each doctor visit was very real. During the slow process of adjusting to a new normal, I became a warrior. And after six years of fighting, I needed a new way forward.
Nobody can prepare you for the emotions that come with parenting special needs children, especially as a single parent. It is full of questions, self-doubt, and eventual acceptance of your situation—a path that should never be seen as a straight line. Each new challenge for my child can trigger old emotions that send me back into the grief cycle, which is full of negative thoughts and less than ideal coping strategies.
What I eventually learned is that I had to make a plan, because at the end of the day, I had a very special child who needed me.

A New Normal for Special Needs

In my work with families, I see special needs parents scrambling to adjust to their new and unexpected role as a healthcare manager for their child. They are prepared to be the catalyst needed to provide an overall positive quality of life for their family, but many are never told how.
Sadly, families receive little instruction on how to best meet the needs of their children without feeding the already toxic levels of extreme family stress. The stress within special needs households is a topic we can no longer ignore.
Here is what I know to be missing in our special needs world: parental self-care. And not normal self-care. We need deep, even radical, self-compassion practices. We are all so concerned about the deficits of our children that no one is looking at the emotional crisis happening in the lives of the parents and overall family.
As parents of special needs children, we need to add ourselves back to the family care list. We actually need to be number one on the list, but I know that’s not always possible for special needs parents. So, if your self-care needs can’t sit at the head of the family care table, you at least need a seat.
Think back to the day the diagnosis came. Were you told to prepare for the grief, recognize your personal stress levels, and strengthen your family relationships as part of your child’s care? Or did you immediately start driving your child to one specialist after another and line up for pharmaceuticals?
These are two very different approaches on many levels. One is void of parental self-care while the other puts parental self-compassion as a necessary part of family-focused care. Sounds radical, even though it shouldn’t be. At Feeding Futures we want parental self-care to be part of the new normal that comes with the special needs diagnosis, and here’s why.

Caregiver Stress Impacts Children

Dr. Stuart Shanker, child psychologist and Founder of The MEHRIT Centre, explains that we’re parenting in an age of toxic stress levels. We are stressed and our kids are stressed. Our bodies and brains are in overdrive all day, every day, and it all flows down into the lives of our children.
In his book Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life, Dr. Shanker describes a body of research on emotional co-regulation that shows the prefrontal cortex of a child’s brain is not fully developed, so it co-regulates with the prefrontal cortex of significant adults. When an adult is in a stress cycle, the “inter-brain” connection with the child is also full of that stress. Dr. Shanker describes this brain sync up like a “bluetooth” or wireless connection between children and adults. When the inter-brain connection is calm and regulated, stress behaviors are reduced.
There is also polyvagal research from Dr. Stephen Porges and other neuroscientists that’s found when stress is high, we all tip into fight, flight, and freeze more often. This state has substantial long-term health impacts on kids, both typical and with special needs.  
Here comes the missing piece that will turn your world upside down, but in a good way. Our children are our mirrors. They show us our stress levels. Each stressful adult day seeps into the nervous system of our children, and they reflect it back to us. Whenever we see a rise in anxiety and stress behaviors in our children, we need to take a good look at our day-to-day lives and our own stress levels. It’s hard to see ourselves as contributing to our children’s challenging behaviors, but the good thing is that it’s never too late to make changes and adopt a softer, more compassionate approach.

The 10% Self-Compassion Promise

Parents of children with special needs require more than just run of the mill self-care practice. They need supercharged, exceptional, and radical self-compassion. I tell parents to imagine they won the “self-care lottery” and they have to use the money on taking better care of themselves or they will lose the prize. Everything about our lives is filled with exceptionalities, and this part of our lives needs to be, too.
I ask families to think how their lives would change if they took 10% of the love and energy they donated each day to their child and gave it back to themselves. Many say they can’t, that it would be selfish, that there is no time. It’s natural that special needs parents are super focused on their children. They have to be. But they also need to care for themselves to avoid the downhill flow of anxiety into their already compromised children. When I remind them of how interconnected stress is within families, they begin to think a little more about a yoga class or going for that swim.
Here are a few things special needs parents can try as they step into the world of exceptional self-care and compassion.
Become a Peaceful WarriorSpecial need parenting requires us to fight, so we go at it from a position of a warrior. But what if we come at this type of parenting from a different direction? One where instead of burning through our energy supply like an aggressive warrior, we pause each day and fill our tanks with exceptional compassion towards ourselves. Tell yourself each day that you are doing the job of a giant and that you are doing it well. This I know to be true because I have lived it. You can only be a warrior for so long, then you crash, and no one wins.
“Self-Care Light” Just Doesn’t Cut It
I love spas. I love the music, the muted colors on the walls, the water everywhere, and the services are wonderful. It is a delightful experience, but in my opinion, it is “self-care light.” Like all powerful experiences, we have to go deeper to see changes in our thinking, feeling, and behavior. Sadly, it has taken years for me to figure out this basic fact—leaving the spa and going back into the beehive of a stressful house or busy job is not what I call wise. These days I will keep my hundred dollars of spa money and instead opt for meditation. 
Learn More About Self-Compassion
Recently, I have taken on a more significant and more in-depth practice of self-compassion.  Self-compassion goes deeper than thinking it is nice to buy yourself that expensive thing because you deserve it. It is a deeper daily practice where you learn how necessary it is to cultivate a kind voice in your head. This voice will get you through the dark days, the medical appointments, the IEP meetings, and whatever your exceptional life will toss at you.  Self-compassion lives within a soft spot within yourself. It provides you with much needed kind attention, and it is the balance to all the attention you have to give to others.
Know That Compassion Has Two Necessary Parts
I remind parents of a concept I learned though buddhist meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg. Compassion has two equally important parts: the part you give to others and the part you must give back to yourself. Parents have no issue with the first part. It’s the second part they can’t get their head around. They have never been taught how to care for themselves or even think it is necessary. But it is, and this is the foundation of helping our children with special needs feel better, too.
Consciously Invite Positives Into Your LifeA wise yoga teacher once taught me the power of inviting positives and joys into our lives, and the reason to do it is more profound than you think. This practice teaches us that when our lives become more positive and balanced, we can reflect and observe that negatives have drifted away or at least don’t take up as much space in our lives. The work of Barbara Frederickson suggests we broaden and build positive states such as gratitude, kindness, compassion, joy, and peace. Try it for a month, see how your life changes, and how the behavior of your children will change, too. Positive begets positive, and joy generates joy, so pause to celebrate the positives, no matter how small they might appear.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Young and Married: Five Things we Learned from a Weekend to Remember

There’s a secret that nobody likes to tell dating or engaged couples: Marriage is really hard.

5 Things No One Told Me About Marriage

We like to shower engaged couples with gifts, words of advice, and best wishes, but in doing so we fail to adequately prepare them for the most difficult, life-changing, soul-exposing relationship they will ever have in their life. And so when couples get married and marriage turns out to be a lot trickier than they thought, the result is newlyweds who feel isolated, as if something is wrong with them.
Sometimes it takes a weekend getaway to remember that you are not alone in this often difficult journey of marriage. My husband and I recently attended FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, where we were reminded of some fundamental points about the covenant of marriage and how difficult it is to blend two very different sexes into one flesh.
Nobody told me marriage would be hard. I got married at 22 with the na├»ve belief that marriage was the “end” of my journey that resulted in a lifetime of happiness with my husband. But when the wedding ended and everyone went home, real life began. When my husband and I began to fight over things that had never come up in our dating relationship, I began to feel like I had made a mistake. Why else would this be so hard? After all, everyone told me that if you married the right person, marriage would come easily.
But the Weekend to Remember reminded me to step back and reflect on the fact that marriage is indeed hard. And that’s not a bad thing. Here are five things that we learned during our Weekend to Remember.

1. Men and women are different. Period.

It’s truly a miracle that God can take two individuals who are wired very differently and mold them into one. Beyond the differences between the sexes, people in general are all very different with unique personalities. And we’re expected to choose just one person with their unique personality to walk alongside through life’s joys and challenges. It’s not easy, but it’s one of the most sanctifying processes we will ever experience.

2. Marriage is hard at every age.

When we walked into the Weekend to Remember, we marveled at the many different age groups that were represented. As young 20-somethings, we expected to see more middle-aged couples that might be struggling in their marriage. Instead, we saw elderly couples, young parents, newlyweds, and people just like us. It was a beautiful reminder that no matter how experienced you think you are in marriage, you can always use some extra wisdom and words of encouragement on how to strengthen it It reminded us to remain humble and invest in our marriage, no matter how healthy we think our marriage is in a particular season of life.

3. You can’t do it alone.

You can attend all of the marriage retreats you want, but if Jesus is not at the center of your life, you are relying on the wrong strength to sustain your marriage. Your spouse will never be perfect and they will most likely fail you at some point. But Jesus won’t. If you make Jesus the center of your marriage, you will find a foundation sturdier than any self-help book or marriage conference. A Weekend to Remember had great advice, but they always pointed us back to God.

4. Communication is possible.

Since men and women are so different, you can expect to have trouble communicating in a marriage. The Weekend to Remember equipped us with the tools to communicate, and even disagree, well. Disagreement is inevitable, but we decide how we communicate that disagreement to our spouse. My husband and I thought the communication sessions at the Weekend to Remember were great because they took very abstract concepts and offered incredibly practical advice.

5. You need to get away.

When life becomes hectic, we often forget to invest time in our spouse. Even if you schedule a weekly date night, sometimes life still gets in the way. Taking the weekend to focus only on our marriage allowed us to pull back from our busy lives and remember what is most important. I encourage you to get away with your spouse every once in a while to reflect on the joys, hardships, and dreams for your marriage.
Marrying my husband changed my life. It made me accountable to another human being. It unified us in one flesh. But it has also introduced new struggles that I never anticipated. After spending our first couple of years feeling alone in the intensity of marriage, I began to realize that we were not an anomaly.
Our challenges might not be the same, but we all experience life’s difficulties and curve balls, especially when we walk through life with another, entirely different person. My husband is my greatest love and I can’t imagine a life without him. But no one is immune to challenges. I only wish someone had taught me these lessons before we walked down the aisle.
I encourage you to take some time to remember these truths. The Weekend to Remember is a great start.

Copyright © 2018 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Win-Win Communications

 From PREPARE/Enrich Blog.... March 10, 2015

What is your communication style? Generally, there are four common styles:

  1. Passive
    Passive communicators are often unwilling to share thoughts, feelings, or desires in an honest way. This tendency may stem from low self-esteem, but it is also used to avoid criticism or hurting others’ feelings. Being the recipient of passive communicators tend to leave their partner feeling angry, confused, and mistrustful.
  1. Aggressive
    On the other end of the spectrum is the aggressive communicator, often blaming and making accusations, as well as making over-generalizations such as “You always put me down in front of our friends!” or “You never want to spend time with me!” This style is generally used when one person is feeling threatened or having negative thoughts/feelings; it often focuses on the negative characteristics of the person, rather than the situation.
  1. Passive-Aggressive
    Passive-aggressive communicators will often behave passively to a person’s face, but display aggression when that person is not around. On the surface the communicator’s goal is to avoid conflict (like passive communicators), but they will often convey anger or seek vengeance later. An example of this would be a stay-at-home-dad who feels resentful of his spouse for always working late and not helping out with any of the housework. Instead of actually talking to his partner about his feelings, he complains to his parents and brothers that she is underachieving as a wife and mother; meanwhile, his wife has no idea that there is any issue at all!
  1. Assertive
    Assertive communicators are able to express themselves in a healthy, non-defensive, and non-insistent way. They can ask for what they want while remaining positive and respectful. Exercising assertive communication encourages the other person to respond assertively as well, creating a positive cycle in relationships.
Any combination of the passive and aggressive communication styles can be detrimental to a relationship over time, as they result in lower levels of intimacy. If only one person is assertive and the other is passive or aggressive, the relationship may still suffer. The chart below shows that there is really only one “win-win” combination:
No one is perfect, and there will likely be times when you or your partner succumb to using passive or aggressive communication. Notice when this happens, make amends and vow to make this the exception rather than the norm, and your will relationship grow!
Source: The Couple Checkup Book ©2008