It has been said that marriage is the combination of two very good forgivers. We have found this to be true in our own marriage–many times over! And we’ve observed countless successful relationships that were made up of good forgivers, as well.
When you’re in such a close relationship with another human being, it’s inevitable that you’re going to step on each other’s toes. That’s just part of life. The trick is being able to offer forgiveness to one another in a genuine, meaningful way, so that when those times come, you’ll be ready to face them head-on.
BUT WHAT IS FORGIVENESS, REALLY?
First, it’s critical to understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is surrendering the right to retaliate against someone who has hurt you. It is not the relinquishing of your boundaries and dignity, and it is not a cheap or easy thing to extend.
When you extend forgiveness to your spouse, know what you’re forgiving. Be honest about how the hurt has been detrimental to your spirit. In the process of forgiveness, don’t just forgive and forget; forgive, but extend some pointers to your spouse about how they can better handle your heart with care in the future.
Forgiveness in marriage is a must because:
1. THE ACT OF FORGIVENESS STRENGTHENS OUR LOVE.
Forgiveness is a form of love in action, and we can’t get far in marriage without it. When you love someone, you’re vulnerable with them, and vice versa. Your spouse has the power to hurt you more deeply than anyone else in the world because you value their approval and affirmation more than anyone else’s. Your spouse is also just as vulnerable to being hurt by you as you are to being hurt by them.
When we forgive one another, we extend sacrificial love. When we are forgiven, we are humbled and determined to love our spouses better going forward. This cycle challenges us to love one another more fully, completely, and selflessly. And over the years, as we continue to practice this dance of forgiveness, our bond grows deeper and stronger.
2. FORGIVENESS SETS US FREE.
Forgiveness frees us in two ways: first, it releases the offender; second, it releases the one who was hurt.
Forgiveness benefits the forgiver as much as, if not more than, the person who is being forgiven. It sets us free from being dragged down by unforgiveness, which eventually turns into resentment. And when you hold onto resentment, it does no good for anyone–especially you.
There are going to be times when we need to offer forgiveness to our spouse, whether they’ve asked for it or not. When you do this, remember that you’re freeing yourself from a prison of resentment, and graciously offer forgiveness to your spouse.
3. LESSONS WE LEARN FROM FORGIVING OUR SPOUSE CAN EXTEND BEYOND THE MARRIAGE.
Forgiving anyone can be difficult–whether it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker. But when the person you love most in the world has hurt you, the process of forgiving him or her can be incredibly difficult and painful. Once you’ve practiced forgiveness in your marriage for a time, you may find it easier to extend forgiveness to those outside your relationship.
Forgiving one another as husband and wife can also help you to teach your children how to forgive. Modeling healthy forgiveness and allowing them to see their parents live this out will give them the tools they need to practice forgiveness in their own relationships as they grow older.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Being able to forgive one another teaches us to love each other and those around us in a more godly way, and it helps us to become more sensitive to the effects of our actions on others. In short, it makes us better husbands, wives, parents, friends, co-workers, and people.
It’s important to note, once again, that forgiveness is a process. You can intend to forgive, but you can’t control the steps to forgiveness, or how long it takes to get there. If the hurt you want to forgive is particularly grievous, it can take a very long time to complete the process. Whatever it takes, set yourself on a path of forgiveness and trust God to meet you on that path. And give yourself grace and time as you walk it.
Biological and blended families are going to function differently, but they do share one major similarity. By Ron L. Deal, Family Life 2017
I’ve been a therapist working with stepfamilies for over two decades, and I often can’t get couples to understand one simple truth: Stepfamilies are different from biological families.
Many couples think that their blended family will flow and function like a biological family, only with different people involved. But the interactions among the different stepfamily members is much more complicated. Future stepparents often fail to understand how helpless and frustrating the experience may actually be for most of them, and then they get discouraged when they experience reality.
The good news, however, is that stepfamilies and biological families do share one major similarity: God’s principles for living still apply and still hold promise for a healthy home, no matter how that home came together.
Let’s consider, then, just a few ways that stepfamilies are different and yet the same from biological families.
What is different?
Stepfamilies have outsiders. In a biological family everyone is an “insider,” meaning they have instant belonging and the rights and privileges of being part of the family. This naturally invites cooperation. Children, for example, naturally respect their parents’ authority, and they inherently trust them unless something happens to inhibit that trust.
However, in blended families someone is always an outsider. At first, stepsiblings are outsiders to each other and stepparents are outsiders to children. This makes a stepparent’s authority ambiguous and easily challenged by a child, which affects the process of parenting dramatically. Merging outsiders with insiders is a key task of becoming a healthy stepfamily.
Stress divides.During times of stress, insiders in biological families tend to move toward one another, while outsiders in stepfamilies become more distant. Insiders grant each other forgiveness more quickly and trust the good will of other insiders, but they look at outsiders with suspicion and doubt. This makes overcoming conflict more difficult and bonding between insiders and outsiders more challenging, but not impossible.
Parental roles are unclear. In biological families, the role of parents is clear, and society and the legal system support those roles. Stepparents have an unclear role and line of authority that must be defined and negotiated over time by family members. This is why it’s so important for the biological parent in a stepfamily to back up the stepparent. In so doing, one clear authority elevates the status of the unclear authority.
Born out of loss. A biological family is born out of romance (the dating couple), while a stepfamily is born out of loss. Every stepfamily has a loss narrative just below the surface that impacts and influences every aspect of family life.
For a child whose father died, for example, embracing a stepdad can feel like an act of betrayal or like burying his father all over again. Therefore, sadness impacts bonding. In another example, given his parents’ divorce, a child may view one parent falling in love with someone new as the permanent loss of family reconciliation. This makes welcoming a parent’s new marriage and the new stepfamily difficult.
Relationships are moving in different directions. Family members of biological families are all moving in the same relational direction. That is, what supports one relationship also supports another. For example, when a husband and wife love each other, their biological children feel comfortable and safe at home under the umbrella of that love.
But in stepfamilies, relationships are often moving in two different directions. So when a parent and stepparent love each other or spend time together, the biological children can feel in competition with their stepparent and may feel pushed aside. Thus, the marriage is moving in one direction while the parent-child relationship is moving in another. This naturally pits stepfamily members against each other, all while outsiders are trying to gain membership as insiders.
What’s the same?
While the structure and emotional process of being a stepfamily is very different from a biological family, the application of God’s principles for healthy living are still effective. That part never changes.
Everyone is valuable. Galatians 4:6-7 says, “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
We are all adopted children of God, and therefore members of a spiritual stepfamily, and yet God has treated us like His very own children, where we can eat at His table and partake of His inheritance. With God as our example, those in a blended family must make one another feel appreciated, valued, and worthwhile. Look for the potential in each member of the family, and draw it out.
We all need mercy and forgiveness. Grace is an essential part of family living, no matter what kind of family you are in. People are going to hurt you, and as Christians, we need to extend the same mercy and forgiveness that we want extended to us.
For example, ex-spouses who have caused hurt need to be forgiven (Colossians 3:12-14)—not just for your sake, but for the sake of the children you have together. Another example is how you must forgive painful words used by stepchildren to show their anger or resentment. You will be living with each other for the rest of your lives, and extending forgiveness will bring healing long into the future.
Respect. While it can be awkward and challenging to do so, children must still choose to respect stepparents (Ephesians 6:1-2). And in strengthening their relationships with children, stepparents can apply patience, gentleness, and self-control to their parenting responses (Galatians 5:22). Respect goes both ways, and a stepchild can more likely respect a stepparent who treats that child like a person with worth, potential, and feelings.
Compassion. Stepfamilies are built on broken foundations, so each person has experienced some kind of grief. Jesus taught us to be compassionate for the hurting. In John 11:35, He wept with those He loved over their lost family member. Stepfamily members should put on compassion for the sadness each person carries.
Love and kindness. Finally, to help overcome their differences, stepfamilies should strive for the virtues of kindness and love, which binds all good things together (Colossians 3:14). All of us as Christians are in the same family, and Jesus tells us that we should love one another: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Sometimes loving your stepfamily means overlooking petty comments, keeping your mouth closed when you want to speak, or doing something kind for others even when they don’t appreciate it. And you’ll be amazed at what will result in the future from these seeds of love.
What matters most
Clearly, some things in stepfamilies are different. But what matters most is the same in all families. With all the differences, there will be a lot of hard work. It isn’t easy to love those who despise you or overlook grievances. But when you look deep into the heart of the members of your stepfamily, you can find compassion for the commonalities that you do have.
When things are just too hard to handle on your own, remember that you’re not alone. You have the Holy Spirit to guide you. Get out the Bible and get on your knees, and have faith that the good works you do in the early years of your stepfamily life will pay off with great dividends in the end.
Fall is a beautiful and exciting time of year, with changing leaves, football season in full swing, and holidays right around the corner. Take advantage of the cooler weather and the wide variety of seasonal activities to go on some creative and romantic dates with your spouse.
There are plenty of ways to fully enjoy the autumn, so we’ve created a list of 10 ideas to get you started. Have fun!
1. GO ON A COFFEE DATE
There’s never a wrong time to get coffee, but there’s something about fall that makes a hot drink seem more appealing. Cooler temperatures are a great excuse to have a date at your favorite coffee shop—and fall is pumpkin spice season, which makes it extra special.
2. HAVE A BONFIRE AND MAKE S’MORES
There’s something romantic about snuggling in front of the bonfire in the chilly night air, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. If either of you (or both!) plays an instrument, like guitar, banjo, or mandolin, bring it to the fireside and liven things up with a little music.
3. GO TO A FOOTBALL GAME
High school and college football games are always a blast. You and your spouse could plan a trip to your respective alma maters’ homecoming festivities and share memories from your college days. Even better, relive your own memories together if you both attended the same school.
4. GO ON A HIKE
A hike is a great way to see the gorgeous fall foliage in all its glory. Choose your favorite scenic trail and spend the day talking, taking pictures, and enjoying each other’s company. Take a picnic with you and savor the day together…and the view.
5. CAMP OUT
Fall weather is perfect for camping, so pick a favorite campground or state park and pack up for the weekend. You can unplug and spend time together fishing, biking, hiking, and rejuvenating in nature. If you’d rather have a staycation, pitch a tent in your backyard and spend the night under the stars.
6. BAKE A PIE TOGETHER
Autumn is definitely pie season! Apple pies, pumpkin pies, and sweet potato pies are all seasonal favorites, so pick your favorite to bake together and make an afternoon of it. When it’s done, make some apple cider or hot chocolate to wash it down.
7. PLAY IN THE LEAVES
Not much connects you to your inner child during fall quite like raking up a huge pile of leaves, then diving into them. Make your autumn yard clean-up a little more interesting this year by playing together while you work.
8. GO TO THE PUMPKIN PATCH
Take a day trip to the pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkins for this year’s porch decorations. While you’re at it, take a hayride and play with the baby animals on the farm.
9. GET COZY BY THE FIRE
Chilly nights are the perfect excuse to put on some fuzzy socks, grab a comfy blanket, and snuggle up together by a roaring fire. Put on some relaxing music or watch your favorite scary movie (or fun, if you don’t like scary!) with your sweetie, and enjoy a date night in.
10. ATTEND A CARNIVAL OR FALL FESTIVAL
Fall festivals are a ton of fun, and the perfect setting for a date night. Get in on the cake walk, grab a candy apple or some cotton candy, play horseshoes or ring toss, and ride the rides like you’re a couple of kids again.
Answer these questions with honesty, humility, and dependence on God's power.
By Janel Breitenstein 2015 http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/parenting/foundations/character-development
Feeling passionate about parenting? If you’d genuinely like a shot in the arm for your parenting, perhaps these questions can get you started. But remember: Their effectiveness is proportionate to your level of honesty, humility, and most of all, dependence on God’s power to make His presence a reality in your children’s lives.
1. What are the most significant cravings of each of my kids’ hearts?
2. How am I doing at building a relational bridge with my children? Do I “have their hearts”? Do they feel connected with and encouraged by me? Do I feel connected with them?
3. When I’m honest, what top five values do I feel most compelled to instill in my children? Would those line up with the top five values God would want my children to have?
4. What are each of my children’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?
5. Am I being faithful to pray diligently, deeply, and watchfully for my kids? (For a great FamilyLife resource on this, click here.)
6. Which child in our family is most likely to be overlooked, and why?
7. Which child tends to receive most of my attention? Why?
8. How do I believe other people see each of my children? How do I feel about that? What portion of others’ opinions could I learn from, and what should I set aside?
9. Are my children developing more into givers than takers?
10. What life skills would I like my children to develop this year?
11. What are the events on the timeline of my children’s lives that have the most impact?
12. In what ways have my children exceeded my expectations?
13. Do I have any expectations of my children that have become demands that I clutch out of fear, rather than hopes that I seek from God by faith?
14. In what ways do I feel disappointed by my children? What can I learn from this? (For example, about what is valuable to me, about how God has made my children, about loving as God loves, etc.) What should I do about this in the future?
15. What is my greatest area of weakness as a parent? My greatest strength? What are my spouse’s?
16. In what ways are my children totally unlike me?
17. What did my parents do particularly well? In what ways do I hope to be different? (Is there any forgiveness that needs to happen there?)
18. What events from my childhood are important for me to shield my own children from? Are there ways that this has led to excessive control?
19. In what areas are my children most vulnerable?
20. What do I love about my kids? About being a parent?
21. How well do my spouse and I work as a team in our parenting?
22. How am I doing on preparing my children to be “launched” as thriving servants for God in the real world?
23. What can I do to equip my children to love well? To be wise? For successful relationships?
24. How is my children’s understanding of the Bible? How would I describe each of their relationships and walks with God?
25. Who are the other influential people in my kids’ lives? As I think of my children’s friends, teachers, coaches, etc., how can I best pray that they will complement my parenting and my kids’ needs?
26. Am I replenishing myself and taking adequate rests, so that my children see the gospel work of grace, patience, and peace in my home?
27. What are each of my kids passionate about? How can I spur on and develop their God-given passions?
28. How am I doing on teaching them biblical conflict resolution? Am I teaching them to be true peace-makers … or peace-fakers, or peace-breakers?
29. How authentically do I speak with my kids? Am I building a bridge of trust and security through my honesty and openness with them?
30. Am I striking a good balance between protecting my kids and equipping them for whatever they may encounter when they step outside of my home, now and in the future?
31. What great memories have I recently made with my kids?
Do you and your spouse have mentors for your marriage? Forging a friendship with a couple who has been married longer than you can be a great way to gain support and insight into married life. It’s important for you and your spouse to connect with another committed couple that’s passionate about marriage–and about guiding the two of you toward lifelong love.
Marriage mentors can help during all of the three seasons in your marriage; we call this the Marriage Mentoring Triad. We look at the triad as three sides of a triangle that make up three major seasons every couple experiences:
Prepare: the engagement season, plus the early years of your marriage when you’re working to launch lifelong love
Repair: a season that involves navigating tough situations, ongoing conflict, traumatic events, or big life changes
Maximize: a season where you’re ready to level-up your marriage, whether you’ve been stuck in a rut or are just ready to take the next step forward toward a more fulfilling marriage
Let’s take a deeper look at how your marriage mentors can help you navigate each part of the triad.
During the Prepare phase of your marriage, you and your spouse are starry-eyed and full of young love. This is the launching phase of your marriage; maybe you’re engaged or newly married, and you’re just setting out on your adventures together.
Marriage mentoring can be very powerful during this phase of marriage, because after you’ve crossed that threshold and the honeymoon is over, you’ll realize marriage isn’t simple. In fact, it can be downright hard, even during the early years.
Having mentors who can provide constructive and helpful perspective on the challenges you’ll face after the wedding will help lighten the emotional load you and your new husband or wife might be feeling. Your mentors can help bring humor back into a situation that might feel tense and unsteady, now that your new reality is sinking in.
Your mentors should be willing to share stories from their early years of marriage, and be willing to be vulnerable enough to share both their missteps and victories. You should be able to ask them for their take on things like first conflicts, first holidays, financial management, and clashing family expectations. They’ll help you see that you and your spouse can survive the challenges you’re experience because they did, too.
The Repair phase of a marriage is the most difficult to go through, but at some point, every couple has to walk through it–sometimes more than once. If you and your spouse are in the Repair phase after going through some really difficult or traumatic times, you’ll want to seek out a marriage mentor couple who has not only experienced something difficult together, but who has also come out on the other side stronger than before.
Couples who have been through difficult times themselves have a story to tell about their marriage. When you’re in the trenches, you need a loving, experienced couple who knows what you’re going through and has walked in your shoes. The ideal mentoring couple will have gained strength and health in spite of the challenges they faced, and be willing and able to extend help to you and your spouse.
When you’re going through a hard season in your marriage, nothing compares to having a mentoring couple who have faced catastrophe together. Whether you’re dealing with financial disaster, infertility, unresolved conflict, or infidelity, connecting with a couple who has weathered the same kind of blow to their marriage is so helpful. Through the relationship you develop with your mentors, you’ll be able to see that if they made it, so can you.
Often, couples don’t tend to think about the status of their marriages until they’re in a crisis; it happens to the best of us. But what if we considered the state of our marriages when we’re in a good place? The Maximize phase is a great time to bring in marriage mentors who can help us take our marriage from good to great.
If things seem to be going smoothly in your marriage, it can be easy to just maintain status quo and avoid rocking the boat. But why not intentionally look for ways to increase your marital satisfaction–even just by 10% in the next year? Seeing that kind of growth in your relationship could make a world of difference for you both.
During this season, connecting with a mentor couple can help you get inspired to set and meet specific goals for growth in your marriage. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn from your mentors’ mistakes so that you have the chance to avoid making the same ones yourself in the future.
Think of mentoring as an investment for your marriage. Not only will you make lifelong friends and learn a lot along the way; you’ll also nurture the lifelong love you launched when you said, “I do.”
Keeping your marriage infused with joy is one of the greatest challenges–but can also be one of the biggest adventures–in your life as a couple. After the honeymoon, life can get bogged down by day-to-day drudgery and less-than-ideal circumstances that are beyond your control. And while it’s a little too easy to let these things drown your happiness, it’s important for the two of you to stay focused on finding the joy that keeps you moving forward, no matter what.
Today, we’re sharing some tips on how to intentionally pursue joy together, so that when the going gets tough, the hard times won’t destroy your happiness.
1. GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER AGAIN.
In the early part of your relationship, you two seemed to know everything about each other, right? You knew your spouse’s favorite movies, foods, songs, colors, and bands. You knew what made him or her tick, and you knew the perfect ways to make one another happy.
But how long have you been married? Even if you’ve only been married for a few years, some of those details may have changed. The longer we’re together, the more changes we’ll experience over time. So if it’s been awhile since you asked, it might be time to get to know your husband or wife all over again.
What matters most to your spouse? Are their favorite things still their favorites now, or have they moved on to new and different interests? If you haven’t been paying attention, now’s the perfect time to get caught up. Share your new favorites with your spouse, too.
Another great way to reconnect is to tell each other stories about your childhood that you might not know about each other. This will deepen your sense of connection and give one another insight into parts of your lives that you may not have shared before.
When you get back in touch with the core of who your spouse is, not only will you feel closer to one another–you’ll feel more joyful and more in love than ever.
2. STAY POSITIVE.
The world is full of enough bad news as it is, right? On top of that, most couples are dealing with near-constant crises of one kind of another. It’s just part of life. But if you want to pursue joy in your marriage, it’s critical to minimize the voices of negativity in your life and keep things as positive as you can.
We can’t avoid talking about and dealing with heavy topics; it’s totally fine, normal, and healthy to address the issues in your life. But don’t dwell on the negative all the time. If you’re going through a hard time in your life (or someone close to you is), it won’t be easy to shift your communication into positive messages, but making the effort to do so will pay dividends for your marriage.
When you come together after a long work day or finally go out on that date night you’ve been looking forward to, tell each other about the good things that have been going on at work, at home, or in your activities. Tell your spouse something good that happened to you that day. On the flipside, ask your spouse what the best part of his or her day was.
It’s also inspiring and effective to keep a journal of the things you’re thankful for and the things you love about each other. When you’re having a “down” day, just add to or refer to your existing list and the gratitude will help lift your spirits.
If you’ve allowed negativity to rule your life, it might take some time to shift the polarity. But stick with it, because it can be done–and you’ll thank yourselves when you realize how much more joy you have in your life as a result.
3. MAKE ‘EM LAUGH!
For an instant shot of joy, find a way to make your spouse laugh. Better yet, look for little ways every day to bring a smile to your spouse’s face.
You know your spouse better than anyone else, so you most likely “get” their sense of humor and know what’s going to make them laugh. Actively seek out ways to tickle their funny bone, because laughter is medicine.
Here are a few quick ways to get a chuckle out of your husband or wife:
Utilize social media to find memes or videos that they’ll appreciate
Throw out a silly quote or two from a funny movie or show they like
Look up jokes in their particular “flavor” of humor to share
Impersonate a character or celebrity for them
Settle down for a date night in with a funny movie, show, or stand-up comedy routine
Go see a new funny movie or attend an event that you know will make your spouse laugh
You’re creative and you know what your spouse likes, so use our handy list or an idea of your own, and get to laughing!
ChallengeYou desire one outcome, but your words take you to a different one.
Solution Saying no is not just a surface issue. It’s deeply rooted and needs to be explored further.
Have you ever heard yourself say, "Whatever possessed me to say yes to this in the first place? Why didn't I just say no?" Or, after negotiating a deal, have you ever though, "Why didn't I ask for ___? I could kick myself!" If you have, that is pretty normal or at least common. However, if it happens often, it is also a problem. It reveals that sometimes you and your words are not on the same page. You desire one outcome, but your words take you to a different one. Do you catch yourself responding to requests with, "I don't think I can _______" instead of saying, "No, I cannot do that" leaving the door open for them to push back? As I said to a CEO recently who met with a key executive to terminate the relationship and then ended up extending the contract, "What happened? You went in to break up and came back engaged!" When I say you have a relationship to words, that may be an idea you have never thought about. But what we find is that in the depths of people's souls - where true behavior and its resulting success or chaos originates - there is a relationship with certain words. The nature of that relationship dictates a lot of what happens in people's lives. If the relationship is good and they get along well with words, they use them to create and maintain a healthy structure and boundaries. But if they do not get along well with words, them structure and boundaries are compromised and their lives become fragmented as a result. So, we are going to look at the word that have to do with why you find yourself in certain situations more than you might think. We are going to examine your relationship to some key words, including how you feel about them and how free you are to sue them, or not. Before we dive into looking at specific words and phrases, it's important to understand how certain words become embedded, or internalized, in our lives. One would think that when you say yes or no to something, your answer is based on the merits of what you want to choose. When you want to grant a request, buy a product, agree to a price, take an assignment, or go to lunch with someone, you say yes. If not, you say no. But in reality, that is not what always happens. Sometimes you may be on autopilot and have less choice in your response than you may think. Think about people you know or even yourself. Have you noticed that there are people who routinely find themselves in some situation they do not want to be in? Inevitably, they land in some activity, relationship, scheduling conflict, or problem they do not want. The reason in not that they failed to just say no once or twice. They basically never say no. Their choices are rarely about their relationship with the word "no" itself. They are conflicted about the word at a very deep level. They reach down there in hopes of finding "no," but it eludes them. Or, think of the person on your team who know you cannot send to do that negotiation. When you need someone who can go into a meeting, ask for the moon, and expect to get it, this is the last person you'd call on. They just are the kind of people who never ask for what they want. For some reason, they can't pull the trigger. As a result, they rarely get out of life what they desire, and oftentimes they don't even get what they need. They get only what comes their way and nothing more. Then you know other people who can go into a meeting, ask for the moon, and get it. You exclaim, "How did you get them to agree to that?" And they answer, "I just asked for it, and they said fine." The difference is not that one person wants or needs the outcome any more or less than the other. In fact, often the person who needs something the most is the one who finds it more difficult to ask. The real difference is that some people have a longstanding relationship with certain words that renders saying them virtually impossible. The result of not saying those words when we need to, or saying them when we don't, is that our lives become fragmented and scattered - a far cry from the integrated life we all want. Then we are truly out of control. Cheers, Henry