4 Tips to Save Your Dying Marriage

Sometimes couples get into such a state that they are extremely divided, but because of one spouse’s level of commitment, he or she refuses to quit on the relationship. Certainly, there may be a time to quit, but at this time, one of the spouses has resolved to save the marriage. It can be done. As I’ve said before, you’re never too far-gone in your marriage if you’re willing to make the journey back. So, what should a spouse do if he/she wants to save the marriage?

First, is it worth saving? If your partner is on his/her 20th affair, should you keep going? Only you can answer that. Anybody can change at any time and Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18 to have no limit on our forgiveness, but there should be a limit to the degree we are going to endure poor marital behavior. How much is that for you? Decide and then move forward.

Second, if it is worth saving, what are you saving it for? There must be a motivator and in a chaotic state, any will do. Children come to mind first. They are better off in a home where mom and dad learn to love one another than in a home void of this love. So, if you are doing it for your children, make sure you do it right. You might also consider the material investments you’ve made in the marriage. Remember, any motivator will do and starting over on what you’ve gone so far to earn is pretty scary.

Third, you must work to change the narrative in the home. For weeks or months your relationship has been built on the negative. “We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t . . .” is what you might say. What is wrong in the marriage must be discussed but do it during controlled times that you agree upon. Also, if you learn how to communicate about difficult topics, the discussions can be just that, discussions rather than arguments which only make the problem worse. Localize the negative, deal with it, and make the rest of your home life positive and encouraging.

Finally, you must now change the behavior in the marriage. If you are not the offending spouse, this means acting out of love (not obligation) for your lover. If you are the offending spouse, this means going overboard on showing your spouse that you have nothing to hide. In either case, changing behavior to look like a happy marriage results in being a happy marriage. It became unhappy because you were doing all the wrong things. Now, you must act differently. This “fake it til you make it” method can work and eventually be sincere. This is not a replacement for discussing the issues that brought you to such a lowly state.

Marriages are worth saving and if yours is one of these, I hope you’ll consider these tips as a new beginning for a lifelong relationship.

Speaking at the TLPCA Conference

I am excited to be speaking at the 8th Annual Tennessee Licensed Professional Counselor Association Conference. This year’s theme is “Building Counselor Awareness.” I am happy to be speaking on building counselor awareness on becoming a published author. The following is a synopsis of my session.

Counselors, particularly those in private practice, must diversify and one BIG way to do this is by getting a book published. However, getting a publisher to pick up your manuscript is nearly impossible, and getting an agent is even harder. Many counselors know about blogging and have websites but few know about the world that e-book publishing has opened for them. In this session I will instruct the attendees on how to get their book published on the Kindle market and even get a paperback copy of that same book available to their customers around the world.

The conference is taking place at Trevecca Community Church, 335 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN, 37210. My particular session is from 3:30-4 on Friday, April 11. I hope to see you there.

Visit www.tlpca.net for more information and to register.

BOOK REVIEW: The Social Animal by David Brooks, The Hidden Sources of Love, Character & Achievement

This is a uniquely written book in that it speaks densely about psychological phenomenon in a fictional/narrative format. Brooks covers our unconscious mind and describes with great clarity the meaning behind all the little behaviors that add up to become our everyday functioning. This keeps it from going very deeply into any one topic but if you are interested in the behavioral sciences this is a fun book to read.

Brooks starts with the meeting of two couples, their relationship and then the children they have. These two children subsequently meet and Brooks takes them through all of their struggles as a couple, right up to their elderly years. During this journey he reflects on their behaviors but also the behaviors of their extended families, coworkers and scores of others they interact with along the way.

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times columnist Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) raids Malcolm Gladwell’s pop psychology turf in a wobbly treatise on brain science, human nature, and public policy. Essentially a satirical novel interleaved with disquisitions on mirror neurons and behavioral economics, the narrative chronicles the life cycle of a fictional couple—Harold, a historian working at a think tank, and Erica, a Chinese-Chicana cable-TV executive—as a case study of the nonrational roots of social behaviors, from mating and shopping to voting. Their story lets Brooks mock the affluent and trendy while advancing soft neoconservative themes: that genetically ingrained emotions and biases trump reason; that social problems require cultural remedies (charter schools, not welfare payments); that the class divide is about intelligence, deportment, and taste, not money or power. Brooks is an engaging guide to the “cognitive revolution” in psychology, but what he shows us amounts mainly to restating platitudes. (Women like men with money, we learn, while men like women with breasts.) His attempt to inflate recent research on neural mechanisms into a grand worldview yields little except buzz concepts—”society is a layering of networks”—no more persuasive than the rationalist dogmas he derides. (Mar.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Stop Doing Love Wrong

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“I love you but I’m not IN love with you.”

This phrase has come into my office on more than one occasion in the past month which caused me to put some thought into its meaning. I hadn’t thought about it much but the spouses who had heard it know its weight all too well.

It is often the closing bell on a relationship as a cheating spouse comes clean. Or it is an indicator that the spark that was once there is now gone. The problem is that we often equate love with feeling and when the feeling is gone then the love must be gone. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted vision of the love that a man and woman are to have for one another.

In his book, The Social Animal, author David Brooks says that love is a collection of behaviors that lead to feelings. The apostle Paul said it well also when in 1 Corinthians 13 he lists all the things that love DOES. It is patient, kind, loves truth, protects, hope, trusts and perseveres.

Paul also writes that there are things love does NOT do. It does not envy boast, act proud, dishonor or seek its own interests. It is not easily angered, does not delight in evil, and keeps no record of wrong.

In watching what little TV I do, there’s plenty of what people say is love but is not. On one home makeover, all the wife could talk about was her apartment, her house and what she wanted to do. She had her husband actually sharing a closet with the dog. All she wanted to do was seek her desires and wore this like she was some sort of suffragette. His needs were second and possibly third after the dog’s.

I also see spouses who continually bring up the past, lose their temper and continually dishonor the person they are supposed to love. Not in love anymore? I wonder why. You’re doing love wrong.

Love has a positive polarity in the things it DOES and it has a negative polarity in the things it DOES NOT do. What do the negative and positive sides of a magnet do? They attract. Maximize the positives and keep away from the negatives and your feelings of love will return. Wait for the feelings to come without doing anything and you’ll be stranded with no one to love.

Love must be tended to and grown like the living thing that it is. When people say, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” what they mean is that they desire to have the feelings of love but the passion is missing. It may be missing because they’re doing love wrong as I discussed above, or it may be missing because they have traded the pursuits of this life for the holy matrimony they promised on their wedding day. The departure from a happy vivacious couple is so slow and so gradual that neither spouse sees it coming until they wake up one morning in an empty shell of a relationship.

Your marriage cannot survive on the notion that you live together and that’s enough. You must enjoy one another’s company, have mutual dreams and meet each other’s needs. Start today.

4 Tips for Play Time – Dad Edition

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It was a cold Sunday afternoon and I was scurrying to get my share of the housework done so I could play with my son. Waking up on Monday with the realization that I didn’t spend any play time with him makes me feel like a failure as a father. My 8 year old son was so excited that we were going to play Legos. He worked diligently to get his room ready so we could “battle” with our own customized versions of mayhem machines. I completed my final chore, stepped into his room and for the next 45 minutes . . . was completely bored out of my mind. 
 
How can something I want to do so badly seem like such a chore? I wanted to spend some quality time with him but the moment it begins, I feel as though I want it to be over. Maybe you have felt the same? Let’s face it. It’s because we’re men. Long gone are the days of imaginative play. We typically see no value in it. There are no rules. How will we know who wins? How will we know when we’re done? All these questions point towards our task oriented minds. You know you’re supposed to play with them but what does this mean? The following are how I turn play time into fun time for the both of us.
 
  • Set your phone’s timer. There’s nothing that says, “I’d rather be somewhere else” than when you look at your watch which happens when we’re bored. Whether you legitimately have something else you need to do in an hour or to simply keep yourself from checking the clock, setting a timer can help you focus your energy on the task at hand. Tell yourself, “I will play with my child for an hour, at least” and do it. You may end up playing for two.
  • Allow him to carry the narrative. As men we are goal oriented and with no clear and definable purpose we see little value in what we are doing. Your child on the other hand is playing and this involves an evolutional of a storyline for what is happening right at the moment. He hasn’t thought it out. He is just playing. This is the essence of what’s going on so listen to him.
  • Let him win. The goal is to help him feel good about being with you and losing doesn’t help this.
  • Understand that the value is in the end result. You are playing with your child because you want him to know that you care. You are interested in what he’s interested in and you want a hug and a memory because someday your child’s world will not be filled with fantasy but rather with the cares of this world. Cherish his innocence and enjoy it with him.

The Clock/Cloud Approach to Parenting

Parents often base their actions on how they were raised. If it worked on them, they will use it. If they are bitter about it, they will cut it out of their parenting style. The trouble with this approach is that parenting is not a one to one science. It’s not a recipe or a blueprint where if you apply the right ingredients or materials at the correct time, you will reap the desired results.

In his book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, David Brooks describes the difference between a clock and a cloud. A clock can be taken apart, its pieces measured and then reassembled. A cloud on the other hand is more fluid in nature and while it can be studied, its behavior can also be unpredictable and puzzling. Humans are like clouds in many ways especially in respect to how we relate to one another.

With your children you can do all that you can for them and they may still disappoint you. You can read books, seek counseling and even pray but at the end of the day, your children are human and contain a will of their own. In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15), the father lets his boy go. He felt it was time to say goodbye to a boy who was discontent at home. What should parents do when they feel their own child pulling away?

First, gain understanding. Proverbs 3:13 says, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver,
and her gain better than fine gold.” With the books we read, we gain knowledge, but do we really gain an understanding of what is happening in our families. What is underneath the surface? There may be a lot going on and it may be out of your control.

Second, Proverbs 22:6 says to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Well, why do Christian families lose their children to the world? This is a proverb, not a money back guarantee. Those who are faithful as adults were likely taught at a young age and many who leave return to their faith because of those teachings. So, teaching your child is still imperative in Christian homes. You must also remember that even God loses His children.

Third, treat your child for who he is, not for who you think he should be. It is important to consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses and build from there. Where can they be successful? Where do they need help? You may get a “that’s not fair response” from siblings who view your treatment of them with disdain, but you must remind them that fair doesn’t mean equal and you are only giving each of them what they need.

Finally, your child isn’t a microwave dinner, scheduled to be done at age 18. We rush our children into adulthood too fast sometimes without giving them the proper experiences that help them grow appropriately. Some are ready for college right after high school while others could use some work experience first. Maybe they need to experience some independence or maybe they need to sleep with the hogs. Wherever they find themselves in their path, be there to help them and know that God isn’t done with them yet.
 
 

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7 Tips for A New Marriage . . . or An Old One


The following article appeared in the Hendersonville Standard, the Gallatin News and The Wilson Post the week of February 3, 2014.

 
When you marry, this new relationship presents issues neither of you have ever faced before. It’s a scary time. However, you bring into this union the hope that it will be the start of a life that will bring you rich fulfillment. You are also both bringing into the relationship your faults, your strengths, and the possibility that your marriage will endure or fail. How you tend to your marriage will determine the level of satisfaction you experience and whether or not your ideal is realized. Hopefully, the following tips can give a new marriage the charge it needs or restart a once happy one.

Expect that your relationship will change. Within the first few months and even years of marriage your life will be relatively easy. You work and live for each other. There’s little else that takes your attention and what does typically has its own time slot (ie. exercise, work, and friends). However, as children enter the picture, you will be spread thin and forced to continually reconsider your priorities. This change can be good if you accept and adapt to it, or the metamorphosis can be your undoing.

As a result of your changing relationship, the excitement level you have consistently maintained will begin to fall. This is a practical matter because we can’t remain in a state of lover’s euphoria forever. This is life. The question is, can you find happiness in the little things? Can you connect over a cup of coffee or while playing with the kids? These moments of contentment and shared joy are what will prolong your marriage. Trips and dates are fun, but must not be relied upon to fully engage with your spouse. While what you deemed exciting as a young married adult may lessen, moments of intimate connection can be more intense than you ever thought possible. Why? You get better at being you, at being a lover, and you learn how wonderful the person you married actually is.

Discuss your values. You may have entered the marriage with a well thought-out plan or you may have fallen into it with little discussion about matters of importance. Where do you each stand on politics, religion, and children? Depending on their importance to you as individuals, they can either push you apart or bring you together. Talk about what is important to you.

Don’t be selfish. Your decisions are no longer about what you want, but about what is best for the family. This makes goal setting an important part of your relationship. If you have goals, both of you know what you are working for materially speaking. Then, saying no to a new boat or other luxury item will be easier if it’s not in the current plan. Talk to a financial planner and be on the same page regarding money.

Time apart is a good thing. In our families we give and give without taking personal time and this can be bad news. It could be as small as 30 minutes at the end of the day, but we must nurture ourselves. This will enable us to have something to give to our family; our best. That being said, time together is equally as important. You can’t be apart on a regular basis and then act surprised because of the lack of affection.

Read at least one book per year on how to improve your marriage. You can also follow blogs or someone’s Twitter feed who gives good advice on marriage. There are also podcasts to glean inspiration from. It’s easier to maintain a good marriage than it is to fix a broken one. A good book to start with is Willard F. Harley’s Fall In Love Stay In Love. In it he explains how spouses should work to meet each other’s needs.

Always strive to be the best spouse you can be. It’s very common for battling spouses to point at their counterpart and say, “when you change, I will.” In this case, neither party is winning. The only thing that is being built is a wall that grows stronger with each passing day. Forgiveness must be a part of your lifestyle. If you both strive to be the best spouse you can be, you won’t be pointing out the faults of the other. Rather, you’ll be working towards reconciliation.