Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Marriage Mistake #3 – Avoided Conflict

I grew up in a family that didn’t really know how to resolve conflicts. My parents played opposite positions in times of conflict, but neither position was healthy. They were living examples of the extremes in communication. My mother would aggressively confront my dad regarding a problem and my dad would passively run the other way.

In marriage, we often tend to follow the examples of our parents.  And so that’s what I ended up doing, as well. In the early years of my relationship with my husband, I adopted my father’s approach.

The conversations between my husband and I would go something like this: he would notice that I was being unusually quiet and sullen.

He would then say, “Is something wrong?”

I would say, “No, I’m fine.” (Often said in a curt way)

He would then say, “Something’s wrong! Tell me the truth, Beth!”

I would say, “No, really, I’m fine!(Still not convincing him)

At that point, he usually pulled out all the stops to literally drag me out of my place of hiding. But unfortunately, this approach didn’t work.  As you can imagine, it only made matters worse!

I must admit that we both made a marriage mistake when it came to conflict resolution.  I withdrew from him in steely, cold silence, which felt very much like abandonment or at least harsh rejection. And he advanced forward, pursuing me with such voracity that it seemed he turned from simply desiring openness to an all out attack.

As I mentioned before, we were operating at the conflict resolution extremes. Actually, there really isn’t “resolution” at the extremes. Everyone must find the middle ground when trying to resolve conflict.

I will go into more detail about how to resolve conflicts in a later post.  Before I go there, I want to share one more marriage mistake in days to come that sets the stage for discussing conflict resolution.  So, stay tuned! But until that time, please let me know, . .

Do you relate to this problem?

Are you still struggling to find that middle ground?

What fears or hesitations get in the way of dealing directly with conflict?



5 Reasons Parents Need to be United

1. Avoids the “Divide and Conquer” Game

If you and your spouse disagree about a parenting decision in front of your children, you’re only setting up a dangerous dynamic that pits one parent against the other. When this happens, one parent comes off looking like the “good parent,” while the other appears to be the “bad guy.”  This divides you and your spouse emotionally and teaches your children to be manipulative.

In order to avoid this scenario, you need to be committed to backing up one another in front of the children, even if you disagree. You need to say to your child, “Your dad and I need to talk about this before we can give you a decision.” Then take the time to discuss the matter with your spouse behind closed doors until you come to an agreement.

2. Provides Consistency and Avoids Confusion

Children thrive when there’s consistency, because there’s no confusion about what’s expected of them. When your child feels like she can determine what the outcome of her behavior will be, then she can make clearer choices and her trust level will improve with each consistent response you provide.

3. Gives Your Child a Sense of Security

With consistency comes a sense that mom and dad are in control and care about their child.  Most children who are neglected tend to behave negatively to gain their parent’s attention. It may not be apparent on a conscious level, but children want their parents to intervene, because to intervene means that the parents care about them.  On the other hand, if children see that their parents consistently care about them, then not only do they have a sense of security, but they also gain healthy and positive self-esteem.

4. Strengthens the Parent’s Authority

There’s strength in numbers. When children realize that both parents are together and aren’t going to back down, they will yield much more easily to the command or expectation. This certainly lessens the tension or stress that the parents feel when the confrontation occurs. And we could all use a little less stress!

5. Strengthens the Foundation of the Family—The Parent’s Marriage

Yes, as the parents, you are the foundation of your family. That means that you must nurture and protect your marriage. Your children need to see that you honor and respect your spouse—even if you don’t always agree with everything he or she does. They need to see this mutual respect because to neglect this undermines your own authority and respect with your child.

The way to ensure that this foundation is strong is to not only make your marriage the foundation, but also the priorityeven over your children.  You and your spouse need to have a strong and loving relationship before you can offer a strong and loving relationship to your child. It simply doesn’t work the other way around. If you put your kids before your spouse, I can almost guarantee you that you won’t simply be looking for parenting advice, but help for your marriage, as well.

*If you are divorced and the “love” is long gone, you still need to demonstrate respect for your ex-spouse at all times, especially in front of your children.


Marriage Mistake #2 – Expected Too Much Communication

Let’s face it. There are major differences between men and women, and one of the big ones is the amount of communication women use versus men. Studies have shown that women use approximately 20,000 words per day compared to the measly 7,000 word count that men tend to prefer.

You can tell this simply by asking a man a question and then turning and asking a woman the same question. A man will either say, “Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t know,” and the woman will say, “I’m so glad you asked. I’ve been wondering about that a lot too. Just yesterday, I was talking with my girlfriend about this very same issue and I told her . . . blah, blah, blah.” Notice any differences?

When I was young, and dating my soon-to-be husband, I imagined that he would want to talk with me into the wee hours of the morning whenever he sensed that I had something on my heart. That fairy tale scenario didn’t quite pan out as I had hoped.

Actually, my husband, Gary, is very talkative (in a manly sort of way). As a couple, he’s definitely the extrovert and I clearly fall into introvert category. He’s the one that I have a hard time pulling away from conversations after church. He’s the one who loves to strike up a conversation with our waitress or the stranger waiting in line. He’s the one who loves to tell you story after story, and goes into way more detail than I, as an introvert, would ever think anyone would want to hear.

He definitely has the gift of gab. But when it’s just the two of us, sometimes it’s as if he morphs into the proverbial bump on a log. Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times when he tells me what’s on his mind, but when it comes to chit chat or even deeper—talking about feelings, it’s as if he’s missing the zip in his doo-dah!

For the longest time, I tried to transform my husband into the wonderful girlfriends that love to chat with me for hours.  But somewhere along the line I figured out that . . .

  1. I didn’t marry a woman (duh) and . . .
  2. Trying to force him to talk with me like a woman might just be going against God’s grand design

Now, I supplement my conversational needs. I never expect Gary to be my only source.  And I turn to my girlfriends who are happy to oblige, whenever I need a little more than Gary can give. As a bonus, since my expectations have become more realistic, Gary has actually opened up more with me, even about those dreaded . . . feelings!

Disclaimer – Just in case you’re wondering, I asked permission from my husband to share this post.  He gladly approved!  Anything for the cause—bridging the gap between the sexes!


Marriage Mistake #1 – Never Asked for Help

I’m going to start a new series of posts based upon the mistakes I’ve made in my marriage.  Since my husband and I just celebrated our 23rd anniversary, I think I’ve earned the dubious distinction of knowing what not to do in marriage, and I’d like to share my lack of wisdom with you!

Mistake Number 1:  Never Ask for Help

I know it sounds strange, but when I was a child, I didn’t know that you could actually ask someone to help you.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had this disability.  It all goes back to a tried and true system that my mother taught me and my sister—and my mother probably learned it from her mother—and her mother probably learned it from her mother, and so on.

“The System” was a strategy that would get you what you wanted without uttering a word.  Here’s how my mother’s system worked: My mother would be quietly working away in the kitchen, but if she remained alone in the kitchen for long, things would get a little noisier.

If no one “came a runnin’” then things would get a little louder.  At some point, my mom might even begin to stomp, followed by motherly fuming.  And if all else failed, cabinet doors were slammed so hard the neighbors thought the New Madrid fault was at it again.  Naturally, if my sister and I didn’t get our mom’s point by then, we were either deaf, in a coma, or about to be put in one!

Ironically, my sister and I never brought to our mother’s attention the fact that she wasn’t verbally asking us to help.  We just knew that this was “The System,” and in order to be true to “The System,” all she had to do was just expect us to help her.  Are you familiar with “The System?”

When my husband and I were married I decided to put this time-tested system into practice.  However, this time something new happened—someone questioned it! Can you imagine the nerve?!  Not only did my husband question my mother’s strategy, he actually had the audacity to not like it!

Bottom Line: I mistakenly believed that my husband should just magically know when he needed to help me.  I expected him to start doing something, anything, to help me when he heard my loud banging and dramatic sighing!  It wasn’t until a marriage counselor told me that my husband had a right to know what I expected of him.  And that I actually needed to say the words. That’s when I realized my mother’s system might be flawed—just a little.  Now whenever I need help, I ask for it.  I don’t feel guilty (well, I try not to!).  I don’t bang the cabinet doors.  I don’t fuss and fume.  I simply open my mouth and say the words, “I need help, please!” Trust me, all of you “System” users, it really works!

(Disclaimer: I am in no way blaming my mother for the faultiness of her system.  She did what she believed was best. I simply want to reverse the chain!)


When to Go on a Date with Your Spouse

Sometimes we don’t know when to do something.  So in an effort to clarify the ambiguity we all face in life at times, I’m going to start a recurring column with various issues about “When to . . .”

Today we are looking at “When to go on a date with your spouse:”

  1. When you’ve started to call each other by your role rather than your name“What’s for dinner, Mom?” or “When can you help little Billy with his homework, Daddy?”
  2. When the last time you went on a date was B.C. – “Before Children.”
  3. When “Some enchanted evening, you will find a stranger across a toy-strewn crowded room” and you’ll discover it’s your spouse.
  4. When you have a hard time choosing between “Bunco night” with your gal pals and a romantic dinner with your hubby.
  5. When the extent of your conversation with you spouse has degenerated to bodily noises and “ughs.”
  6. When you’re feeling drawn to the garbage man because he visits you weekly and gives you a wink when he empties your trash.
  7. When you look to your children to meet your emotional needs.  (No joke here–just a very real problem!)
  8. When the idea of holding your spouse’s hand just seems weird.
  9. When you’ve spent more time with the Tidy Bowl Man and Mr. Clean than your husband.
  10. When the “D” word (divorce) is used more often than the other “D” word (date).


Do We Really Need a “Marriage Ref?”

I watched Jerry Seinfeld’s new show, “The Marriage Ref” the other night.  I thought it was mildly amusing, although somewhat disappointing at the same time.  The concept of the show is to settle disputes between a husband and wife like a referee does in a baseball game or other sport.  It’s clearly a show created by men who relish fixing problems.

I know the show is meant to be all in fun, but as a counselor, I fear that people will view their disagreements as opportunities to find a winner even more than they already do.  After all, if American couples watch this message week after week, could it further solidify their belief that a winner must be determined in marriage conflicts?  I don’t know, but I hope not!

I must confess I have a competitive streak.  It has shown itself blatantly in my marriage like a white stripe on a skunk’s back.  And along that line, it really stunk up the place whenever it appeared.  I say all this, as if the competitive streak overtook me like demon possession!  I know full well that I am responsible for the hurt and alienation my attitude brought to my marriage.

If my spouse and I had a disagreement and either one of us shifted into competitive mode, it was certain that the disagreement would degenerate into an argument with one or both of us looking for a winner and a loser.  This is fine in sports, but in marriage it leaves gaping wounds that, unless resolved, fester and can eventually kill a marriage—at least kill the love in a marriage.

The problem with this “competitive mode” is that it’s subtle and insidious.  You think you’re simply finding a solution to the problem, and everyone likes and needs a “solution,” right? So you’re completely baffled when your spouse acts as if you’ve offended him or her.  Then you try to persuade them of just how right and helpful you are being, and you might even throw in a “But you’re not helping at all with your attitude! And it all goes downhill from there.

Here’s my challenge: Take off the boxing gloves! And borrowing from the sports theme – remember that you and your spouse are on the same team.  So you should act like teammates. Teammates protect each other’s backs.  Teammates come alongside each other and work together—never against one another.  When it is unclear what to do, teammates look to the coach to tell them what to do.  And the best “Coach” I know is Christ—not the know-it-all-spouse(s)! Last of all, remember that teammates can’t win without their teammate winning too.

  • Do you have a competitive streak?
  • How aware are you of this tendency when in the middle of a disagreement?
  • How much do you and your spouse look to Christ to coach you through the tough spots?

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NLT)

Talk Time

My husband and I have had a challenging relationship from the beginning. I was the baby of my family by a lot of years, so I really was like an “only.” My husband was truly an “only” with the added bonus of being raised in a kid-centric home. These and other issues are the makings of a marriage bound for a train wreck, or at least, for getting off track. And, I must say, it probably would have happened if God had not intervened and reminded us of what was important!

After years of letting little issues simmer and mull until they erupted into full-blown, spewing volcanos, we (or rather “I”–with the help of God) decided that we needed to deal with the issues while they were still cool and manageable. So I convinced my husband that we needed a specific time each week to touch base, discuss our lives and get to know one another better.

Now at first we (or rather “I”) allowed just about everything to be brought up during this sacred time. However, when I began to realize that my husband was not just dreading, but passively avoiding the talk time because it either degenerated into a gripe session or an argument, I knew I had better bring in some healthy boundaries!

So once a week, we would have a “positive” talk time. We would avoid discussing heated problems or resentments. Our purpose was to engage, educate and enrich our relationship–not belittle, bombard or bash. Sometimes we would read a section of a book together and discuss it. Sometimes we had a devotional and prayer time. Sometimes we would do a communication exercise. Occasionally, we even did some very positive problem solving with a problem that we had already worked through emotionally and prayerfully. And sometimes we just talked about a good and bad experience we had in our day–never veering near the “blaming” side of things.

It was amazing what began to happen. We began to notice that the frequency of our arguments began to lessen, and when we did fight it wasn’t as heated. Of course, the opposite became true whenever we missed our usual talk time. Arguments increased and distance just seemed to hover over us.

This past year has been a difficult one for us to keep our streak going. My husband, Gary, is the small groups pastor at our church and leads several small groups in the evening when we usually have our talk time. Since the Spring of 08 he’s led, off and on, groups on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Then on Thursday nights he is busy writing the small group Bible study for the next week. Needless to say, our talk time has taken a backseat to these other priorities. And I think that Gary and I both know that it has taken a toll on our relationship.

In spite of that difficulty, we recommitted ourselves to getting back to this practice just a few months ago. And then most recently, we had another reminder to make it a priority while attending a marriage retreat through our church, Metro.

I really want to connect with my husband regularly and I know it is extremely necessary to the health of our marriage. We both see how it helps, and we also see how it hurts us when we don’t do it. I would encourage you, if you don’t already do something similar, to try it–Talk Time–I think you’ll like it!