On Mates and Marriages: Navigating Conflict and Life as a Team

We have an enemy who leverages assault against all that God has created and approved. It may not surprise us that Satan opposes the image of God, in us as individuals, couples, families, and communities. We see the enemy launch divisive attacks on marriage generally, but we feel it when it seeks to dissolve our particular marital bond. Jesus, however, came to give us an abundant life in every area, including our marriages (John 10:10).

Trouble will present in the paradise we imagined marriage to be. Simply stated, our marital challenges will sometimes look like problems with one another. We may legitimately have issues that we need to work through, as any imperfect human and couple would in the process of becoming one (Mark 10:6-8). Yet, God still created our union to provide Eden-like pleasure and refreshment, with Him at the center.

If we peer through scripture’s lens, we will notice where the enemy operates through interpersonal challenges to shift perspective and pit us against each other (Ephesians 6:12). Conflicts will surface. Jesus warned that we would experience a variety of challenges in our earthly life (John 16:33). The Savior’s words encourage us to embrace the triumph He has secured on our behalf, despite the presence of trials (1 Corinthians 15:57).

With the Holy Spirit, however, there is always more to see than what meets the eye (John 16:13-14; Isaiah 11:2). We can look again, recognizing that God is working through our circumstances to produce spiritual fruit and build testimony. He can accomplish greater outcomes than we could imagine for ourselves, our mates, or our marriage.

As we encounter conflicts or endure difficult circumstances, our attitude has the power to enhance or eclipse the life God has designed and desired for us. Renewing our minds about our mates and marriages can help us pivot in a fresh direction. When we reframe our view, we can align our beliefs with what God wants. We also transform our behavior and discover greater dimensions of fellowship and intimacy.

With the Holy Spirit, we can submit the attitudes and perspectives that may be hampering our communication and connection with our spouse. While it may require our time, effort, and perhaps professional counseling, a couple can transcend from preoccupation with problems and antagonism to seeking and discovering solutions and embracing adventure.

No longer do we have to remain loyal to presumptions. Instead, we can exchange it for trust that the Holy Spirit is operating through our marital conflict, challenge, and circumstance to showcase the Lord’s glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Next steps.

Walking through marital conflict can be disheartening. Although the current conditions may not resemble all you envisioned, trust that God is at work in unlikely circumstances. As you endure this part of life’s experience, realize that the Spirit of the Lord has equipped you and your mate to see goodness as you work, live, and play.

Reach out to us today to schedule an individual or couple’s counseling appointment with a professional counselor through this site. This will support you and offer strategies that will heal and strengthen your marriage. With the Lord’s help, navigating conflict and life together as a team is possible.

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“Good Morning”, Courtesy of cottonbro studio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Disagreement”, Courtesy of Timur Weber, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Burnout, Boundaries, and Balance: Navigating Codependency at Work

Between deadlines and competing demands, responsibilities at work can destabilize us and cause us to feel overwhelmed when serving the marketplace with our gifts. This may encumber us with an unnecessary burden of responsibility, goading us into codependency at work, trying to save the world and our workplace.

Although there are tasks to manage, codependency at work can tempt us to overcompensate for the actions or inertia of others with personal investments of time and effort we cannot afford. Simply doing more doesn’t make us more productive or effective, but rather strains resolve if we continually extinguish fires outside the realm of our responsibility.

However, when we channel our resources into the pursuits where we are graced by God, we can experience greater fulfillment in the work that we do, individually and with others.

While we may be loosely familiar with how codependency sabotages relationships, its poison can also infiltrate our places of business. Codependency at work prompts us to reach past our colleagues, taking on what is not ours to carry.

It deprives others of responsibility and the opportunity to grow their gifts in the roles they serve on our teams. We may have good intentions, but a codependent desire to control environments and outcomes can actually work against us. It deconstructs the sense of teamwork that causes our places of business to thrive and be fruitful.

Burnout.

Furthermore, codependency at work has the potential to produce burnout in us. The lack of boundaries and balance leads us to assume more responsibility than we may be graced to fulfill. Instead of feeling accomplished, codependency at work strains us and multiplies resentment over time, resulting in burnout, decreased productivity, and sometimes an increase in low mood associated with depression.

Thankfully, we can revisit codependency at work by allowing the Holy Spirit to reset our vision concerning our role on a team. Just like the interdependent nature of Christ’s Body has many members, we must celebrate the value of each contributor, realizing that each teammate has a portion of grace, gift, and skill to devote to their realm of responsibility to benefit the whole.

Boundaries.

We need God’s wisdom to discern what is ours to own and how to make a distinction between supporting others at work without codependent control. When we ask, the Holy Spirit will help us to release such unnecessary burdens, nurture healthy boundaries, and build better balance in life and work.

We navigate it with the gifts and grace He’s given. His wisdom empowers us to assess and place boundaries around the time and energy we afford to people, projects, or pursuits. The Holy Spirit will reveal practical ways to revise boundaries at work to maximize our successes for God’s glory.

Balance.

God has privileged His sons and daughters with the ability to embrace His presence as we form godly decisions. He has also furnished all that we need to thrive in a godly and fulfilling life. Embracing this promise requires balance.

This doesn’t mean that everything in our lives or work gets equal time and attention. Instead, we follow the Spirit’s guidance in stewarding our priorities and resources while releasing others to flourish in the domain where they are assigned.

Help for codependency at work.

God is concerned with each aspect of your being. Your work life is not exempt. Where you may have experienced codependency at work, you don’t have to sabotage yourself, your career, or the places where you serve with your gifts.

Help is available, even as you scan this site for resources to overcome codependency at work. Schedule an appointment with a professional counselor at Newport Beach Christian Counseling to support you with recovering from burnout, establishing boundaries, and finding your healthy balance.

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Financial Questions to Discuss in Premarital Counseling

One of the leading causes of arguments among married couples is finances. That may not sound very romantic to talk about as you plan your wedding but it is important. If you want to minimize arguments, disagreements, and an area of strife that could lead to divorce, discussing financial questions in premarital counseling is essential.

In Matthew, Jesus reminds us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV) You and your future spouse need to be on the same page when it comes to your treasure, or what you value, including money. The Bible is full of instructions about money. This shows that money is an important topic to talk about and heed God’s instruction.

As you prepare for marriage, a counselor or pastor can guide you and your partner through some questions that will help you learn about one another and develop a plan for handling finances in your marriage.

Financial questions to discuss before you get married

Talk about these questions together in premarital counseling. Be honest and full of grace for one another as you learn and grow together.

Financial questions about the past.

Start by looking back. Talk with your partner about your past finances. Consider things like debt, earnings, spending, and saving habits. The more you share about your past, the less chance there is for something from your past to come between you. Here are questions to talk about regarding your financial past:

  • Do you have any debt? What kind and how much?
  • Have you ever had debt? How did you handle it?
  • What accounts do you have? How much money is in them?
  • Do you prefer to save or spend?
  • Have you ever used a budget? Why or why not?
  • Do you have any credit cards? If so, how do you use them?
  • Have you ever filed for bankruptcy? What happened?
  • Have you ever borrowed money from a family member or friend?

Financial questions for the start of your marriage.

As you begin your marriage, you can talk with your partner about how you want to start financially. Agreeing upon these things, or at least having mutual understanding, can help your marriage start on the right foot.

  • Will we have joint bank accounts, separate accounts, or a combination?
  • What is your current credit score?
  • Who will pay the bills?
  • When and how will we talk about money?
  • How much can we spend independently before we need to discuss the purchase?
  • How much money do we want to save each month?
  • Will we tithe or donate money? If so, how much?

Financial questions for the future of our marriage.

As you prepare for your marriage, it may seem silly to think far down the road. While your ideas may change over time, discussing these questions now will help you share your ideas and develop open communication about finances.

  • How will we make big purchases?
  • Are we saving for a house? How?
  • Will we have an emergency savings fund? How much and what is it used for?
  • Do we want to use credit cards regularly?
  • How will we handle money disputes?
  • How do we stay on the same page about finances?
  • Will both of us work if we start a family? If not, how will that affect our finances?
  • Will we save for our children’s education? How?
  • How do we feel about lending/gifting money to family or friends?
  • Who will we talk to when we disagree about money issues or have questions?

Premarital counseling and your finances

A counselor or pastor can help you and your partner have these conversations. It is helpful to discuss them in this season with an unbiased third party. They can help you handle any disagreements, encourage you to go deeper, and help you consider things you may not otherwise think of.

Connect with a counselor at Newport Beach Christian Counseling to start your marriage on a strong financial footing.

Photos:
“Show me the Money”, Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “One Dollar”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

6 Marriage Counseling Tips: Things You Should Do Every Day

Regardless of whether you have been married for one year or twenty years, relationships thrive when they are intentional. Relationships will never be perfect, they are about loving one another and serving one another through imperfections and stagnant seasons of disconnect and chaos. They are about getting to know who your marriage partner really is at their very core through the struggles and the triumphs.

Whether your marriage is in a season that feels distant, stale, or in completely different zip codes you should keep devoting yourself to your spouse. If you feel more connected than ever, you should continue investing in your relationship.

Just like plants, relationships require nutrients, pruning, enjoyment, and praise for growth. It is very common for people to say, “But this is not the person I married,” however, you should be constantly trying to change in the best way. You should be growing together – exploring passions, making your faith a priority, and choosing your spouse, even on difficult days.

6 Marriage Counseling Tips

Here are six marriage counseling tips to help you invest in your marriage today and every single day, moving forward:

1. Say “I love you.”

Never underestimate the power of these three words and the commitment you made on the day you said yes to forever. Saying “I love you” is choosing your partner every single day. It is a reminder of where you have been and where you are headed. It is choosing hope and fresh starts together every single day.

“Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. ‘Till death do us part’ or ‘As long as we both shall live’ is a sacred covenant promise – the same kind Jesus made with His bride when He died for her.– John Piper

Saying “I love you,” says:

I am here for you.
I choose you.
I am your person, no matter what life throws at us.
I am by your side.
I am your biggest cheerleader.
We are better together.

2. Pray for your spouse.

One of the most powerful tools for your marriage is prayer. Prayer changes things. Prayer changes hearts. Prayer unites. Prayer heals. Prayer covers your home with a desire to be more like Christ. Pray for your spouse when you are alone and pray when you are together. Making God the center of your life and marriage is the “recipe” to a lasting marriage.

“Great marriages don’t happen by luck or by accident. They are the result of a consistent investment of time, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, affection, prayer, mutual respect, and a rock-solid commitment between a husband and a wife.” – Dave Willis

3. Show affection and have fun together.

When a couple is dating, you go over the top to have fun together and show your affection. You kiss “hello” and “goodnight.” You hold hands, just because. You plan exciting dates, and you plan simple movie nights just because you want to spend time together.

Married couples must continue investing in one another. Have fun together. Cuddle. Kiss. Write love notes. Send her flowers because you are thinking about how beautiful she is. Drop him off his favorite coffee at work because you feel so blessed to be married to him. Tell them, show them, love them!

Here are a few fun activities to get you started if you feel lost:

  • Go on a romantic picnic and ditch cell phones.
  • Have a paint night and draw one another’s self-portraits.
  • Serve in a soup kitchen or at a charity event together.
  • Serve in church together.
  • Plan a movie night – complete with popcorn and candy!
  • Revisit your favorite date spot from “back in the day.”
  • Try a drive-in movie.
  • Have a dessert-making competition at home.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Train for a 5K together.
  • Take a cooking class together.
  • Go on a short road trip!
  • Take a sunset walk on the beach.

Quality time together does not have to be expensive – just make it intentional.

4. Serve your spouse.

In a world that is constantly saying “I need more from you,” make it your mission to serve your spouse first. Do not wait until they do something to show their appreciation for you. Do not wait until their birthday, anniversary, or Mother’s Day/Father’s Day. Serve your spouse like Jesus served others – not to receive something in return, but because His heart was focused on true, genuine, sacrificial love.

Simple ways to serve your spouse:

  • Make them coffee or breakfast in the morning.
  • Clean up the kitchen after dinner and encourage them to rest or do something for themselves.
  • Make their favorite meal.
  • Tackle their “normal” chores before they have a chance to do them.
  • Prepare their favorite snack or dessert “just because.”
  • Pack their lunch.
  • Drop their favorite coffee off at work.
  • Initiate physical intimacy.
  • Give them a massage.
  • Wash their car.
  • Listen to them without interrupting.
  • Let them sleep in while you get up early with the kids.
  • Initiate doing one of their favorite things.
  • Make the bed first.
  • Write random love notes.
  • Play their favorite song in the car.
  • Flirt with them.
  • Make your home welcoming and warm for their return.
  • Play their favorite game.
  • Get yourself dressed up for them.
  • Gush about them to others.
  • Tell them what they are good at/what you love about them.
  • Prioritize them.
  • Create time for them to pursue creative interests/hobbies.

5. Talk about your marriage.

While it may sound simple, communication is one of the main pitfalls of most relationships. Talk when it’s easy. Talk in the morning. Talk when there are things to celebrate. Talk when things are difficult. Talk when you are away from one another. Talk when you are struggling. Talk when you need help. Talk in the evening. Talk when you are laying in bed together. Just talk!

Aside from investing in conversations, choose to invest in your communication skills. Listen to your spouse. Do not listen to argue or make a point – really listen to them. Study their body language. Study your body language. Choose to listen to your tone when conversing and ensure it is not setting a demeaning tone.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” – G.K. Chesterton

6. Invest in marriage counseling.

Whether you feel your relationship is limping along or thriving, investing in marriage counseling is a decision that you will not regret. The counselors at our office would love to equip you with an emotional toolbelt to withstand the highs and lows of your marriage.

We want to see you pursue one another, work through any disagreements/baggage from the past, and move forward in the best way. Call and schedule your appointment today and continue saying “I DO” to your spouse every single day.

Scriptures to pray for your marriage:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:14, ESV

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:8, NIV

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. – Romans 12:9, NIV

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17, ESV

Do everything in love. – 1 Corinthians 16:14, NIV

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34-35, ESV

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7, ESV

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2, NIV

Photos:
“Happy Couple”, Courtesy of Alba Rebecca, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Paying Bills”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Counseling”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Renovation”, Courtesy of Anastasia Shuraeva, Pexels.com, CC0 License

Dating with a Purpose: Praying and Planning for Relational Success

Few decisions in our lives shoulder the weight of success or sabotage like matters of the heart. While our choice to follow Christ is the most significant choice that impacts all others, who we link with in dating or in marriage, polarizes our path. It either fuels us in fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives or frustrates us in walking toward destiny.

Our hearts cannot always be trusted to make the wisest decisions and they often become obsessed with external appearances or are tempted by sin. God has given us wisdom in His word to help us make healthy and wise decisions. The Bible equips us to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). The Lord created us and knows our beginning and our end. He has given us all we need in His word.

Since we don’t automatically know the wisest course of action, we require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As we seek a marriage partner to be part of our life, we must pray and plan and seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

Pray purposefully

God speaks to us through His written word and illuminates what seems obscure or confusing (John 10:27-30). God’s Word tells us how to communicate with Him, and it clarifies and confirms His guidance. When we are single, and ideally undistracted, we can embrace our singlehood for purposeful prayer, asking God to bring the right person to us in His perfect timing.

Praying with a purpose allows us to grow in intimacy with the Lord. He already knows what we think and how we feel. Sharing our real experiences and emotions, then surrendering them to Him allows us to become more confident and better able to hear His voice speaking through His word. Submitting to the Word and His commands empowers us to actively resist the enemy’s influence (James 4:7).

Plan intentionally for dating

God, who is Beginning and End, has ordained our life to reflect His glory on earth (Revelation 1:8). He wants you to see the wonder of His image in you. As you pray, ask Him to harmonize your ideas and plans with His. Pay attention to the wisdom of the Scriptures as you form plans and goals that maximize your gifts and align with His purpose.

Process authentically

We tend to view our pain through a lens of shame, but God can heal the unresolved pain that we hide. Participating in a process to work through past issues often hurts before we feel the effects of healing.

That involves offering our wounds to Him with open hands and a surrendered heart. His supernatural strength targets and triages our weaknesses. He beckons us to approach Him boldly, and He responds by lavishing us with fresh mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Awareness and acknowledgment

Only the searchlight of the Holy Spirit can bring awareness of the hidden parts of our hearts. Is there repeated sin poisoning us from the inside out? We often become numb to it, unaware that we are partnering with forces that oppose our faith (Ephesians 6:10-12).

When we are seeking dating relationships that lead to marriage, we need to be aware of negative mindsets that influence our behavioral patterns. Dysfunctional cycles surface, circulating the issues that have disrupted our progress and success with relationships.

Ask the Holy Spirit to highlight where these offenders entered, even if they have lingered through your family’s generations. God champions your future marriage. Working through issues while unmarried reflects an active partnership with the One who authors your destiny. As you return to Him, repentance welcomes healing and deliverance, bringing the freedom to connect from a whole and healthy heart.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9, NIV

Addressing the issues in dating

Beyond the sin factor, our mates weren’t meant to carry every emotional load. When we avoid attending to heart matters while single, we place undue expectations and weight on our future marriages.

As the Holy Spirit reveals “thorns” or areas of weakness, He also furnishes God’s grace and practical remedies that transform us (2 Corinthians 12:9). Wisely using the gift of the present affords us the space and strength to prepare with God, and perhaps a counselor, to work on matters that may make us better dating partners and spouses.

Aligning hearts

We are not serving ourselves or our future spouses well when we short-circuit necessary steps for repentance and faith. Although physique and chemistry play a key role in attraction, cultivating spiritual, mental, and emotional development affects the longevity of a connection.

We mask our real selves with illusions like Adam and Eve who fashioned clothing from fig leaves. As clever as they may have thought themselves, the cover betrayed their sinful hearts. Not only do we want to present our real selves to potential spouses, but we must get right with God first.

Allied and agreed in dating

Scripture causes us to reflect on the importance of alliances. Every believer’s walk with the Lord is unique, so every potential partner might not be in the same spiritual place.

However, walking in agreement, that is aligned with Jesus and not in step with the world, is foundational to establishing a dating partnership and eventual marriage. While the external person initially attracts, the internal is integral to what nurtures a marital covenant over the long term.

Being equally yoked is often mentioned in single circles, but it is more than sharing a set of morals. Our core values, gifts, goals, and purpose factor into our suitability as a mate. We need counsel from the Holy Spirit, other mature believers, and perhaps a trained professional.

From these places of contemplation, we can develop questions and form criteria to gauge whether we will advance our dating relationships. God doesn’t move accidentally, and following Him will enable us to act with intention.

Do not be mismatched with unbelievers; for what do righteousness and lawlessness share together, or what does light have in common with darkness?2 Corinthians 6:14, NASB2020

Next steps for dating

Let’s use our singleness to nurture our first marriage with Christ, our Bridegroom. We, as the Church, inclusive of male and female believers, are joined to Him in one Body, much like the illustration of two becoming one woven throughout the Scriptures.

In the natural and spiritual, we can pray, plan, and process to become a better fit for our potential mate, but even more so, for our King of Kings. As we communicate with the One who inspired and authored Scripture, He aligns us with His own Heart and prepares us to walk in agreement with a partner.

While you cannot control the timing for encountering dating partners and potential spouses, you can influence your preparation. God has outfitted you with resources. Avail yourself of the options for counseling on this site. Locate the support and sustained care that will make you ready to recognize and receive what awaits as you pray, plan, and prepare for adventures with God.

Photos:
“Couple on a Bench”, Courtesy of Evan Tang, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee Date”, Courtesy of DocuSign, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Breakfast Together”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Happy Couple”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Becoming a Blended Family

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of bringing together two families. For whatever reason, you are now navigating a home life with a mixture of feelings and habits. What seems like an angry child could be a child who is scared of losing everything that was comforting to them. Creating a home for a blended family takes patience and grace.

Each person in the family is affected by the new dynamic of a blended family home. The children may feel as if they have no voice, the parent may feel like it’s all a mistake, and the step-parent may feel like an intruder. Even though all of these different feelings and mindsets may be happening, there are ways to ensure that your home is blended in a way that conveys love and peace.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. – Proverbs 24:3, ESV

Where do we start?

Blending families happen because of loss in some way or another. Whether your spouse has passed away or you are surviving divorce, you have gone through a painful time. This pain is not just for adults. Our children feel the pain just the same and they have to know that this new change in their home life is not going to negate how they feel about their other parent.

First, you should make sure that each child knows that this new family dynamic does not change how you feel about them. One of the easiest ways to help this would be to allow them to express any frustration with the new dynamics of the home. Even if you don’t want to hear how they are having an issue with the other parent, allow them to express what’s going on.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10, ESV

Children and blended families

Some say that children are resilient to changes in their lives. While it may be true that they seem to bounce back after some life-changing events it isn’t always easy for them. They still have to learn to navigate the change in the best way they can. Losing a parent is traumatic for children. Whether it is by divorce or death, not having that parent in their everyday life can cause lasting emotional problems.

Hearing “You’re not my parent!” or “I don’t have to listen to you!” are a few of the more common statements step-parents may hear when the family is just starting to create a new space for this new family. Even though these may be the most prevalent words that you hear during the first few weeks or months of learning to blend families, they don’t have to be statements that you hear forever.

Take time to talk to them and try to understand why they are so angry and hurt by this new home. Don’t expect them to always be okay. Some children have a hard time with change even though it may be the best thing for them. Let them voice what’s going on with their emotions. God understands that life happens and He will guide you through this rocky time with your child as well.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken. –
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, ESV

Parents and blended families

As parents of a blended family, it is your responsibility to ensure that the home is healthy and safe. The first aspect of creating a healthy home is to make sure that you are committed to a solid marriage. The family starts with marriage. When the marriage is solid and respectable, then the home will follow suit. The hard thing about blended family and marriage is that you are having to learn to be a couple while adjusting to parenting.

Being able to create a solid relationship with your spouse before blending families is essential in understanding how each of you intends to handle the issues that will come up in the beginning. You have to assure each other that you will support each one’s decisions even if it hurts your parent’s hearts. When you promote your marriage as a team that wants what is best for everyone, the likelihood of continued problems will decrease.

When you create a home that revolves around respect and compassion it will make the transitions easier for everyone. Learning to interact with each other civilly is key to overcoming any tension that may be present in the dread of facing changes.

Respect given and taken between all family members is a must if there is to be peace within the new family dynamic. It will also take an understanding that everyone handles change differently. These things will allow for growth in all areas of the family dynamic.

How to begin a blended family

When you know that it is time to begin the process of moving into a new home with your new family, you should consider how to make this process easier for everyone.

Take time to consider how the change will affect everyone. Too many changes at one time can be considerably overwhelming for all of those involved, especially the children. Don’t rush into any lifelong changes without considering how your children may be handling the previous change.

Discuss parenting styles beforehand. Bringing families together that use two different parenting styles is an open door for problems. Not only can this cause a problem between parents, but the children will also begin to show signs of resentment and anger.

Don’t rush the relationship with the children. As you and your spouse begin to create this new home, remember to take time to get to know the children. Don’t expect them to be eager to accept the new dynamic. They will begin to see your role in their life and how that will look for them.

Do life as a family. Make time to have family time with everyone, and then go a step further. Include them in everyday life. Allow them to interact with the other parent in real-life situations such as housework, shopping, and Bible study.

Make respect a priority. Whether or not the children like your new spouse does not negate respect in the home. Along with respect make sure that ultimatums are not tolerated by either parent. This also goes for the parents. Each of you should be the example of respect and grace that your children will need to see as they learn to become a blended family.

Challenges of blended families

As with anything that combines two things, there will be challenges. Creating a blended family is not exempt from challenges even if you have followed the above ideas to help create a peaceful transition. These are just a few of the more common challenges you may face as you create a blended family.

Relationship changes. When children find themselves in a new relationship, they may seem distant and reserved. The changes in the family will bring changes in the roles of each person. A child who was the youngest may now find themselves as being the oldest.

While this may seem like a small thing, it is a big change for a child to adjust to. When a child loses the uniqueness of their role in the family dynamic, they may need more time to adjust to losing that part of their identity.

Age differences. When you bring together two families you are bringing the likelihood of children being closer in age than they would naturally be. This can be a challenge when it comes to celebrating birthdays as individually as possible.

Experience as a parent. It’s a challenge when both of you have been a parent, but when you have a spouse that has never been a parent it can bring another challenge to the dynamic. As a person with no parental experience, your spouse may not understand the various developmental stages that children experience.

Changing family traditions. One of the hardest things for children to accept is new traditions that replace the old ones. Children grow accustomed to traditions when it comes to holidays and vacations. Changing these dramatically can have a negative impact. It’s best to comprise between the two families.

Activities and events. Trying to plan events with a blended family can be trying due to considerations that must be met. When you have to consider visitation rights for divorced parents it can be hard to plan an event for everyone to enjoy. Children may have a hard time accepting that activities change because of the need to include everyone.

Bonding and growing in a blended family

Creating a blended family that works and grows together is possible. When you focus on keeping faith-based values within your home you will promote a healthy environment in which everyone to bond. Don’t allow the roles to become confused with the overall picture of being a family.

You will need to create boundaries for children as well as parents. These boundaries will allow for healthy relationships to be built. Be sure to keep all parents involved in the child’s life. Co-parenting children of divorce is a key factor in helping them heal from the experience of divorce.

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Premarital Counseling: Strengthening Your Future Marriage

For some, getting married is the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is no mean feat. The world of dating is peppered with false starts, dead ends, unmet promises, people who aren’t what we thought they were, and much more. So, when you make it through that minefield and find that person you love and want to build a life with, that’s cause for celebration.

Having gone through the dating ordeal and confirmed your intentions for one another, talking about premarital counseling seems like putting one last obstacle in your way just before the finish line. Do you need premarital counseling, or is it something for people who aren’t sure about what they want?

The broad consensus is that doing premarital counseling is a wise decision for couples. Instead of looking at it as an obstacle to your happiness or a buzzkill for the planning around color schemes and your wedding menu, premarital counseling is one of the cornerstones in building your marriage.

It’s a vital step that will challenge you, but it will strengthen your commitment to one another while giving you the tools you need to navigate married life. It will confirm that you made the right decision to marry your beloved or provide you with insight and wisdom into your relationship so that you make an informed decision about the future.

What is the value of premarital counseling?

The value of premarital counseling is that it will help you prepare for married life with your partner. Pre-marriage counseling provides you with a space to reflect on aspects of your future lives together that will be vital for a flourishing and committed marriage. Sometimes, in the thrill of our intoxicating emotional connection with our partner, we don’t always ask the probing questions we ought to.

Or we simply assume that we’re on the same page about everything, even though we may not have gone into the specifics. Pre-marriage counseling is infinitely practical, getting you into those conversations that will make sure that as you set off on your life together you are united in purpose, clear about your expectations of one another and your relationship, and you have the skills you need to manage conflict well.

What kind of questions will come up?

Pre-marriage counseling covers a wide range of topics for discussion. Depending on your sessions and areas that need more focus than others, you may cover some or all these questions in depth.

Finances

Some of the fiercest and most common fights in marriage are about money. Money has a significant impact on your married life, from where you live, what you eat, whether you can take vacations, and what charities you can support financially.

There are many decisions to make that concern money in a relationship, and these include who works (one of you may earn enough to support you both, or both of you may need to work to support your family), who handles the finances (balancing the checkbook, managing your savings and investments), how will you use money in your spending, saving, investing, and giving.

These and other decisions need to be made within a marriage, and pre-marriage counseling addresses these so that the couple thinks through the practicalities of their married life.

Children

Another important question for a couple is whether they want children. How many children would you want to have? If biological children aren’t an option, would you consider adoption? Some couples find out when they do marriage counseling that their partner doesn’t want to have children, and they may want a house full of them.

Being clear about your hopes and expectations can save you from heartache later. During sessions you may also think through your own parenting beliefs and styles, to discern whether you are on the same page and share the same values around raising children.

Relating to family

In many cases, the couple that plans to get married is part of an extended family. Some people are close to their families, while others aren’t. Depending on those relationships, a couple may need to figure out practical things like where they will spend the holidays, how involved they want the family to be in their lives, and who will broach the subject if there’s an issue with the in-laws. The couple will need to set boundaries that work for both partners.

Goals and goal setting

Pre-marriage counseling can help a couple to speak openly about their life goals as individuals and as a couple, along with helping them be effective in setting and meeting goals together. Perhaps one of you wants to go to school, and you’ll have to work out for how long, how you will afford it, and then pivot to focus on the other partner’s development.

The goals can be renegotiated later but agreeing on goals and setting expectations early helps with accountability for a couple. Additionally, during pre-marriage counseling, a couple can be taught how to set and meet goals together.

Roles and distribution of tasks

The families that we grew up in taught and gave us our basic ideas of who does what in the family. Those ideas may change over time, but they are often our first and most important influences in that respect.

The times have changed, and more than ever there needs to be a discussion about what roles each partner assumes. Some people passionately believe that the man takes a leading role, while others would hold to equality in all things. Who does the dishes, who takes the car for a service, who works, or who takes care of the kids?

Each of us may think the answer to those questions is obvious, but too many couples find that their assumptions are wrong. A couple may choose to divide tasks according to capability, or they may stick to traditional roles in some things while mixing it up in others. The point is, each couple must figure out what works for them, and the starting point is asking probing questions.

Spirituality

For people of faith, their relationship with God is important and they want to nurture it. How will you cultivate this relationship? At which church community will you make your home? This is important and relevant if you aren’t in the same community.

Will you pray, fast, and read Scripture together or separately? How will you keep one another accountable and growing? Through this process, you may discover that you may have radically different or opposing ideas about spirituality, which means that tough decisions lie ahead.

Sex

Sex is a huge part of the physical and emotional connection between a couple. Questions will have to be answered about each person’s expectations about sex. How frequently does one expect it? What are the boundaries you’re establishing about sexual intimacy? These and other questions must be asked to ensure that this aspect of their lives is also addressed.

Time

With busy lives taken up by various commitments, how a couple uses their leisure time is another key area to reflect on. How will you use your leisure time? Will you use it to volunteer, chill at home and watch tv, start a sport or a hobby, or spend time with friends? When children come into the picture, how you use your time may need to be renegotiated as your priorities and commitments shift.

Conflict

Lastly, though a couple may hate to think it, there will be some disagreements and conflict that arises within a relationship. Each person handles conflict differently. Some avoid conflict, preferring not to bring up thorny issues, while others are confrontational.

Pre-marriage counseling can help a couple to figure out their individual “conflict style,” developing their communication skills, along with how to help one another address conflict in a healthy way so that you address the issue and don’t attack each other. Being able to manage conflict will go a long way to helping a couple face life’s struggles together.

Is premarital counseling right for you?

Premarital counseling is advisable for all couples, regardless of their age, ethnicity, socio-economic background, level of education, or whether they’ve been married before. Addressing issues ahead of time and gleaning wisdom to conduct your marriage wisely are some of the benefits of pre-marriage counseling.

Premarital counseling spaces can be found within religious institutions such as churches, but the services are also offered at community centers and private practices. You can even access pre-marriage counseling services online if your work hours or other obstacles don’t permit an in-person visit.

Whether in private sessions with a counselor or as part of a group with couples walking the journey toward marriage together, taking up pre-marriage counseling may be the best thing you can do to prepare for and strengthen the foundation of your future marriage.

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How to Forgive Someone: Biblical Guidance on Forgiveness

Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed impossible? How did you respond to the challenge? Sometimes in life, we face situations that take us to our limits and beyond. The sort of people we are – our character – shows in those moments. Though we may fail in the attempt, being willing to give something a go has great value.

If we are familiar with what the Bible says about living a life that is rooted in love for God and neighbor, then we know how challenging living such a life can be. We don’t always meet our self-expectations, and that’s to say nothing of the high standard to which God holds his people.

Nonetheless, we try to live faithfully, to be just and loving people through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may not get it right, but we try; and when we fail, we dust ourselves off ask the Lord for His grace and mercy and try again. It matters that we keep going despite the challenges and setbacks. The life of faith as a disciple of Jesus means staying in alignment with the Word of God.

One area that most of us find challenging is forgiving others. When people wrong us, we may find ourselves inclined toward wanting to see them pay for what they did. In other instances, we may not wish them harm, and many times we certainly want nothing more to do with them.

The sins we and others commit are many, varied, and complex in the kinds of effects and traumas they produce. In the Bible there are three categories of sins mentioned: sin, transgressions, and iniquities. Forgiving others is thus not always a simple matter, and it may feel like we are betraying ourselves and our experiences to forgive someone who has wronged us.

What is written below is in no way intended to guilt us into forgiving someone or to do something we aren’t ready to do. Forgiveness is ultimately a choice we must make to let go of our anger and desire for revenge and forgive as our Father forgave us.

Forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving, not the person receiving the forgiveness. That’s not a choice anyone can make for another person, but we must reflect on the biblical teaching about God’s will for us to live free of resentment and vengeance.

After all, holding onto unforgiveness, according to some research studies, negatively affects our physical and mental health by making us more vulnerable to stress, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

We too are forgiven

One of the realities with which we are regularly confronted in the Bible is that we all need God’s forgiveness. The word “sin” doesn’t roll off our tongues easily, but essentially what that word conveys is the notion that we are morally bankrupt. We miss the mark in a variety of ways, whether it’s by not doing what we’re meant to do, or by doing the things we aren’t supposed to. We sin because we seek after fleshly gratifications.

Our attitudes towards other people may be less than generous; we might treat others with more respect because they are like us in one way or the other. We show favoritism or partiality; at other times we are unwilling to consider the feelings of others. In our thoughts, feelings, and actions, none of us is perfect and lives the way God wants us to. For this and more, God has forgiven us.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.Ephesians 2:1-10

This is a powerful message that shows how God has bestowed on us his undeserved favor. The first few verses of that passage read, “Though we were disobedient, God forgave. us and gave us new life.

This forgiveness isn’t a thing of the past. We continue to sin, and God continues to forgive us – “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” –1 John 1:8-9

God meets us in our weakness and forgives us. Even as we consider how others may have wronged us, we must also consider how we have wronged God and others, and yet we are forgiven.

We forgive others as we are forgiven

Forgiving others is likely one of the hardest things about the Christian life. We mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness means that you aren’t taking a person’s actions seriously. On the contrary, because we understand that God’s forgiveness came to us through Jesus and the sacrifice he made on our behalf, we know that forgiveness is serious business.

It’s so serious in fact that we are reminded that if we understand just what it is God has done in forgiving us, we will extend that forgiveness to others. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Matthew 6 Jesus teaches his followers to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” and then he adds this difficult word – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. The gift we have received from God, we are to pass along to others; if we have understood God’s gift to us, that is.

Additionally, forgiving another person is more about us than it is about them. Have you ever noticed how stressful it is to be around someone you have something against? You either try to avoid them, or you grit your teeth when they’re speaking all the while thinking less-than-healthy thoughts.

Forgiveness allows us to let go of our toxic emotions such as hatred towards the other person. We reclaim our thoughts and don’t allow them to live “rent-free” in our hearts and minds because of the negative emotions we bear toward them. When we forgive them, we can move on with our lives, free of resentment.

We forgive often

The things that people do that require forgiveness may vary, but the act of forgiveness, the choice of letting go of the desire to pay back remains a tough one. It often doesn’t happen overnight; we must sometimes choose to forgive daily. If you live with the person, or if the things the person does occur often, that makes the act of forgiveness a daily choice.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples once asked Jesus the question “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus responded, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter’s question is all too relatable. It would be nice to have an upper limit when it comes to forgiveness, beyond which we can hold onto our resentment with divine approval. Jesus scuppers that hope. We forgive as often as we must.

Of course, we must understand that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that no natural consequences will flow from their actions. If a crime has been committed, forgiveness doesn’t mean the law can’t take its natural course. If a person repeatedly breaks their word to you, forgiving them doesn’t mean you are required to give them anything more than that forgiveness.

We can do all things

Forgiveness is hard. But in this, as in other areas of life, God has not left us to our own devices and to figure it out on our own. We “can do all things through him who gives [us] strength” as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13. God gives us strength to do the impossible – to forgive those who sin against us and to trust in God’s good judgment, leaving vengeance to God alone (Romans 12).

For the sake of our mental, physical, and spiritual health, forgiving others is a healthy practice that is tough in the doing, but worth it in the end. Ephesians 4:26-27 states, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Prayer for forgiveness

This prayer was written by Sue Fernandez in her book, Deliverance for Christians: Claiming Your Freedom In Christ.

“Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask that You take back the ground that was given to the enemy when (Name of Person)(List Specific Incidents). I ask that You break every stronghold from my soul. And as an act of my will, I choose to forgive (Name of Person) and I ask that You give me Your Grace to do so, from the bottom of my heart. I renounce unforgiveness. I renounce bitterness, and I ask that You remove every root of bitterness.

“If anyone has been defiled by my bitterness, I ask that You show me who that is and what I need to do. I ask that you bind the enemy from (Name of Person); take off all the veils of the enemy: and open his eyes, ears, heart, and soul to the truth of God. I also ask that You bring someone to him who can lead him to salvation. I release (Name of Person) now to You, Lord, for You to work in his heart, soul, and life, as You will.”

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8 Marks of a True Friend

In a world where people count friends by the hundreds on social media, one may want to consider how you can determine whether someone is indeed a true friend. There are many kinds of friendships, colleagues, and acquaintances, but not all friends are the kind of friends that one would want to keep close or allow into your deepest confidence. So how does one recognize a true friend?

8 Signs of a True Friend

1. A true friend is loyal.

A true friend is the kind of person that will stand by you no matter what. They will have your back when it feels like everyone else is against you and will defend you to anyone that questions your integrity. A true friend will not participate in gossip and will not stand for others gossiping about you.

When a friend has been around long enough to know your weaknesses and failures, but they think that you are worth having around anyway, then you know that you have found a true friend. They will accept that you are not perfect and not expect perfection from you. A true friend will remain committed to you despite your faults, flaws, and mistakes that you may have made in the past.

Their friendship isn’t fickle or changeable when the seasons in your life change. When a true friend is hurt or offended by you, they will allow you the chance to make it up to them and keep the door open to reconciliation. They won’t easily give up on you and will want to make the friendship work, even if for a time it is difficult.

2. A true friend is trustworthy.

A true friend is someone that you can always count on. They will have earned your trust over time, and you will know that whatever you share with them will be kept in strict confidence. You can also count on a true friend to keep their promises and do the things they commit to doing.

Not all people are naturally dependable, and some people will struggle more than others to show up when they say they will, but if someone is a true friend, they will prioritize the relationship to the point that other things will rarely stop them from doing whatever it is that they have promised to do.

You will also find that your deepest feelings and concerns are always safe with that friend. You can trust that your friend’s intentions towards you are good, and they will not be looking for ways to do things that would hurt you. They will respect your boundaries and not push you to do anything that you do not wish to do.

3. You can be real with a true friend.

When you have a true friend there will be no need to put your best foot forward on every occasion and you will know that you can truly be yourself with this person. When a friend can join in with you in everyday activities and participate in your daily life without finding such activities mundane or boring, then you will know that you have found something special.

A true friend will find joy and freedom in knowing that they are included in your more personal moments and that they can relax and be who they are around you. True friends will be content spending time in each other’s homes and will become well known to each other’s families.

Some may even begin to feel like they are a part of each other’s families. They will enjoy the freedom of being able to be completely real with each other and not worry about censoring themselves about any topic of conversation. This is because there will be a level of trust that they will be accepted wholly as they are, even if there are areas where you may disagree.

4. A true friend will show their care in practical ways.

While there is room for showing affection for a friend in a variety of ways, whether through gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, and practical help, etc., a true friend will make the effort to show their care in some or other practical way. The true friend will make the time to help in ways that show they understand your needs at the moment.

If you are going through a tough time emotionally then a true friend will be the first to call just to see how you are doing. They are the kind of people who will send an unexpected gift or note of encouragement when you need it.

They will also step up to help where they are able when you are in need, whether in need of a ride somewhere or of something material, like bringing by some groceries or a cooked meal if you are unwell. They will take the time needed to be there in a way that will lighten the load and help to ease any burden that you carry.

5. A true friend will share common ground.

This one seems obvious, but true friends enjoy spending time together and this is usually done around things that you both enjoy. Most friendships are initially formed around things that two people share, whether an interest in similar things or a shared activity.

With a true friend, shared things will likely hold a higher significance in your life, whether through a shared history or shared values. While true friends do not need to share the same faith and can have a mutual respect that allows for different beliefs, true friends usually have the things that are most important to them in common, like their faith. That way true friends can pursue their faith together, encouraging one another in that journey.

6. A true friend celebrates your success.

There is no room for envy in a true friendship. True friends will celebrate each other’s successes and be each other’s greatest cheerleaders. A true friend will want you to succeed in your endeavors and provide support and encouragement along the way.

7. A true friend will challenge you to be better.

On the other side, a true friend will also be willing to challenge you when you do something wrong. They will challenge any negative thinking or actions that are unhelpful to you. They will also be brave enough to speak out when they think you are making a mistake or acting in a way that is unhelpful or unkind or to those around you.

If you share a common faith or belief system this may also be something that they challenge you on. They won’t be afraid to risk offending you if they believe that challenging you in something is for your good. They will want you to grow as a person and will be ready to challenge you to do better whenever it is needed. They will also feel secure enough in the relationship that they will feel it is safe to do so.

So, if you have a friend who is brave enough to disagree with you, or to challenge a decision you have made, don’t be quick to discard them as a bad friend. Rather, recognize the courage it takes to confront someone and take the time to weigh the wisdom of what they are saying before deciding whether you will act on what they say or not.

8. A true friend is a rare treasure.

While a person may have many friends in their lives, many sharing characteristics of true friendship, a true friend is a precious and wonderful gift. True friendship takes time to develop and doesn’t happen without a solid commitment on both sides to push through the challenges together, even on the hard days.

It is only when a friendship has survived the storms and stood the test of time that its sweetness can best be appreciated. This kind of friendship only happens when both parties are equally committed to it, and willing to put in the effort for each other. Nothing dulls a friendship like one where a person feels like they are constantly giving and not receiving similarly from the other party.

A true friend will give without expecting to receive, but for the friendship to last, at some point, the amount of investment must be reciprocated. The way to determine how important a friendship is to you is to ask yourself how much you are willing to invest in it to keep it. To slightly modify the adage, the best way to gain a true friend is to be a true friend.

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Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

In the Christian world, marriage is held in high esteem. It is largely considered a natural step toward a mature and fulfilling Christian life. This emphasis, while in many ways positive, can overly-glorify the experience of marriage. It’s not that marriage isn’t a significant gift from God, but that gift does not come without relational difficulties.

The tensions of marriage are not as often discussed as the beauty and sacredness of marriage. This absence can create an unrealistic expectation of marriage and even make newly married Christians think that marital problems are abnormal, creating a sense of shame surrounding getting help for their marriage.

Spoiler Alert: Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

One specific area of conflict not openly discussed is communication. Other than saying something like, “communication is key,” pastors and Christian leaders rarely spend much time illustrating the need for clear and honest communication or teaching on how to become a better communicator in marriage.

As a result, when seriously dating or engaged Christians experience conflict and poor communication, there is the temptation to brush it aside, thinking something along the lines of “when we get married this will get better.” That is a false reality.

Marriage will not make you a better communicator. Only you can make yourself a better communicator, and it will require time and effort. However, if you push it to the side and continue to hope for marriage to solve the problem, then your frustration at your or your partner’s inability to communicate will continue to grow into deeper and deeper marriage problems.

The reality is marriage will not make you a better communicator. Acknowledging this fact is a step toward building a better marriage. Once you are aware of this, you can begin identifying the communication issues in your relationship and work toward establishing healthy patterns of communication to fortify your marriage and intimacy.

The Marriage Lie

The marriage lie is the idea that marriage will fix the problems in your relationships. These problems can be financial, relational, in-laws, career – the list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, if you think marriage is the solution, you are mistaken. In fact, marriage often times intensifies the conflict. For the sake of this article, we will only discuss the issue of communication and how to become a better communicator.

How does marriage make your communication conflict more intense? For starters, marriage is initiated by the wedding, a season that often brings tremendous emotional, financial, and relational stress. Many couples survive the crucible of the wedding rather than thrive through the experience.

Even if your wedding is a positive experience, there is still the added stress of covenant commitment. When you are dating someone, there is always the security of separating if things don’t work out. This may sound callus or uncaring, but it’s human nature. If in the back of your mind you know that you can walk away, then there is always a certain level of security you feel. You have control and can opt out if you feel the need.

Once you get married, however, the commitment is final. If you are seeking to honor God with your marriage, then Biblically, there are very few circumstances that allow for a divorce. This sense of commitment can escalate your conflicts because where before you felt like you had a back door (whether you planned on using it or not), now, you are committed to this for better or for worse.

So when you experience conflict, things can get primal and instinctual very quickly as you fight for what you feel you need. It should come as no surprise that primal and instinctual are not great qualities for communication.

While you may have hoped for marriage to help your communication issues, you will quickly discover that the added commitment of marriage can actually create more stress, resulting in more marital problems.

It is important to note that marriage doesn’t create the problems. The problems were already there. It’s just that marriage cannot and will not deliver on the promise of solving your problems. That will require patience, love, commitment, and humility. You know, the hard stuff.

Communicating through Marriage Problems

So if marriage is not the solution to your communication issues, then what will help you handle your relational and marital problems? There are a lot of answers to this question. Each person and relationship will need something a little bit different. But that being said, there are some universal practices that can help you become a better communicator and resolve communication issues.

The first is recognizing your communication style. Are you someone who speaks what’s on your mind and can’t hide your feelings? Or are you someone who stuffs everything you feel inside hoping to avoid conflict? Step back and consider how you usually communicate.

Consider asking your partner or close friends to get their input. If you are struggling to understand how you communicate, then you may want to meet with a Christian counselor who can help you reflect on how you communicate with other people.

Second, consider the communication culture of your family. Was your family a place of healthy, mediated discussion where everyone got to share and express their emotions? Or was there an unwritten rule that the family does not discuss problems openly? Or maybe your family was more characterized by explosions of anger followed by peace as family members recovered from the intense outbursts.

You and your partner will likely repeat or continue the patterns you learned in your family. Discussing the pattern of communication in your family can be a helpful way for married couples to recognize their own issues in communication and set a vision for how they want to communicate.

If you begin to seriously explore your family patterns and find them painful or difficult to understand, then you should give serious consideration to working with a Christian counselor. Family of origin issues are complicated and very difficult to parse out on your own. Having a trained professional to help guide you and draw out your experience with your family is tremendously important.

Finally, recognizing the patterns in your marriage is key. Marital problems don’t appear overnight. They take time to grow and develop. Once you’ve considered your own style of communication and how your family communicated, it’s time to look at the details of how you and your spouse are communicating.

Look for patterns in your conflict. Are there topics, phrases, or behaviors that set you or your partner off? It is very important to recognize the detailed progression of your communication conflict in order to stop and resolve the issues before they get out of hand.

If things are already extremely tense between your partner and yourself, and you need relationship help, then consider Christian marriage counseling. Don’t wait until you are in a serious crisis to get professional help. A Christian marriage counselor can help mediate the conflict and explore the deeper issues behind the communication conflict.

These kinds of marital issues are not uncommon and there is no reason to feel ashamed to seek relationship help. Christian marriage counseling is too often seen as a last resort when it actually is much more effective at resolving issues earlier on in the process.

Don’t wait to get relationship help

In marriage, like in any other relationship, there will be conflict. But marriage is different because the commitment level is much, much higher. Most people put hope in marriage to solve their problems and are surprised to find that marriage can actually aggravate the problems.

Don’t let the shame of acknowledging issues in your marriage prevent you from seeking relationship help. Christian marriage counseling can turn a struggling relationship into a healthy, strong relationship. It will take openness, sacrifice, and humility, but remember resolving conflict in your marriage is possible.

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