How to Forgive Your Husband

forgiveFor if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15, New American Standard Bible).

Forgiveness is imperative in relationship with others. Not only will you need to forgive others, you will also need to ask forgiveness of others. Marriage is the one relationship in your life that has the greatest potential for growth. With this great potential for growth, there is also a possibility for hurt. Therefore, forgiveness is an essential part of the marital relationship, but as we all know, it is easier said than done. So, how does a wife work toward true forgiveness of her husband?

Recall the Hurt

Some of you reading this may ask, “Why do I need to recall the hurt? I already know how he has hurt me.” Recalling the hurt is not simply remembering what happened to cause the pain.  For some of you, there may be many instances where you have been hurt by your husband. With so many hurtful events, it may seem overwhelming to forgive him. Therefore, it is easier to identify specific events where you felt hurt (Worthington, 2003).


For example, on many occasions your husband has not supported your agreed upon parenting styles in front of his mother. While there are many times this has happened, it is important to visualize a specific, or more than one specific, example to this hurt. One specific example might be last Christmas, where your husband gave into your son’s tantrum.  In thinking about this example, you would remember the time you and your husband spent discussing that you would no longer give into your three year old’s temper tantrums. When your son has a tantrum, he is sent to time out. You both agreed upon this. Then, on Christmas morning when your son throws himself on the ground because he has to wait to open presents, your husband allows your son to open his presents because your mother-in-law insists that her grandchild means no harm.


Another aspect of recalling the hurt involves identifying and releasing the emotions you felt during the hurt (Worthington, 2003). You may have felt or still feel helpless, anger, fear, sadness, or betrayal (Worthington, 2003). This is not an exhaustive list, so there may be many more emotions you likely experienced when you were hurt. It is imperative to acknowledge these emotions and have a healthy outlet for releasing them:

  • Writing about them in a private journal
  • Doing crafts
  • Punching a pillow or punching bag
  • Talking with a trusted friend

Empathize

Empathize…you may be thinking, “There is no way I am empathizing with him! He cannot understand my side, so why I should I empathize with him?” To empathize with your husband does not mean you are condoning what he did. The refusal of empathy is a form of revenge and the protection it offers is only an illusion. Empathy does not make us vulnerable; it helps us exercise wisdom. Empathy is about understanding. To understand does not make someone vulnerable. You only become vulnerable when you give up your ability to make your own decisions.

The purpose of this step is to help you understand what he was thinking and to take him out of the “villain” role. The act of putting your husband in the villain role involves removing or discarding evidence that supports why he acted the way he did.  When you see your husband as a villain, he cannot do anything right. When we put someone in a villain role we put ourselves in the victim role (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012).  Genuinely ask yourself, are you truly a victim here? In most situations, the answer is no.

In order to have empathy with your husband, it may be helpful to write an apology letter as if you were your husband (Worthington, 2003). You would write the letter as if it were your husband explaining why he hurt you and asking for an apology.


Let’s go back to the example listed earlier about your husband not supporting you in front of his mother. If you think about the situation from your husband’s perspective, he may not have supported you because he wanted to please his mom. He may have been trying to live up to the standards that his mom has for him. While this does not make his actions right or justify them, it does give understanding, which is the purpose of this exercise.


It is important to note, this is just your opinion of his side of the story. It does not have to be correct; the importance of this step is to understand how the situation looks different compared to your own point of view.

Altruistic Gift of Forgiveness

Can you think of a time when someone forgave you? What about a time when you did not ask for forgiveness or feel you deserved it? When you think of times you have been forgiven, you probably feel grateful and relieved (Worthington, 2003). It can be helpful to think of forgiveness as a gift you give to your husband whether you feel he deserves it or not. Another word we can use is grace. Think about the grace given daily by our heavenly Father. We do not deserve it, but we are so thankful for this grace.

Three parts are important to giving the gift of forgiveness: guilt, gratitude, and gift (Worthington, 2003, pp. 121-122).

  1. Remember the guilt you experienced when you felt you had wronged someone and needed their forgiveness.
  2. When that person gave you forgiveness you did not deserve, can you remember the gratitude you felt (Worthington, 2003)?
  3. It may have felt like an incredible gift of which you did not deserve, also known as grace.

Commit Publicly To Forgive

You know when you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, go to the gym, or start a diet, and within a week you are back to your old ways? Many times, you find that these resolutions are more successful when you tell someone about it who can support you. With forgiveness, it is necessary to tell your husband or write a certificate of forgiveness in order to commit to the forgiveness (Worthington, 2003). Expressing forgiveness in an outward way will help you hold on to your forgiveness, we will talk about this in the next section.

Publically committing to forgive does not mean that you have to forget or ignore the emotions that went along with the hurt. It means you have let that hurtful action go, and you will no longer hold the hurtful action over your husband’s head. It is giving up your desire or right to hurt back. Forgiveness is about you, not him or his response. Forgiveness is not trust.

Hold on to Forgiveness

You may question yourself on how you know if you really have forgiven your husband. Or how do you not allow other hurts to cloud your forgiveness of your husband? It is important to hold on to forgiveness in order not to allow grievances from the past to continue to control your relationship with your husband. The act of holding onto forgiveness is also important in remembering to give your husband grace for his mistakes. Five ways to hold on to forgiveness include (Worthington, 2003, p. 149):

  1. The emotions that you experience from remembering the hurt does not mean you have not forgiven.
  2. Do not let negative emotions control you.
  3. Tell yourself that you have forgiven your husband.
  4. If you spoke to a trusted friend, it may be helpful to ask for support.
  5. Review the journaling or certificate of forgiveness you created.

The five steps above are part of the REACH model of forgiveness developed by Christian psychologist Everett Worthington (Worthington, 2003).

If you or someone you know is struggling with forgiveness, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professional counselors who can help.

References

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Master my stories: How to stay in dialogue when you’re angry, scared, or hurt. In Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high (pp. 103-130). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Worthington, E. L. (2003). Forgiving and reconciling: Bridges to wholeness and Hope. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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Husbands, Love Your Wife

loveWant to know how to love your wife? I’ll show you how. It’s not as hard as you might think. The number one thing you need to know is…LISTEN TO HER!

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-33

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hates their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body.  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.  However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Husbands, Love Your Wife. . . Listen to Her!

The number one way, time and time again, women say they need to feel loved is by being listened to.  Women who feel unheard also feel unloved, and not loving your wife isn’t an option.  Let’s face it, as men, we come hard wired to view communication in a very utilitarian way.  Guys talk when they have something to say, and usually the something to be said is part of accomplishing a specific task.


John calls his friend to ask him if he has a specific tool for a home improvement project and to see whether or not he has any pointers.  The two men exchange information quickly and efficiently.  Then the call is over.  If John doesn’t call his friend for a few weeks, the man does not wonder if John no longer cares about him.  Instead, if asked about the lack of communication, these men would simply remind the questioner there was nothing needing to be said.


In fact, there is an unwritten code among guys, if another man calls me, saying he was just thinking about me and wanted to talk, I am allowed to punch him in the face.

Not so with our wives.  She needs closeness in relationship with us and feels distant when we have not connected verbally.  Obeying the command of Scripture to love your wife requires men to learn to listen.  You will never lead your home if you cannot listen.  In fact, a huge amount of the stress and hardship I see in my office every week could be prevented if men could master a few simple listening skills:

1st– Body Language Basics:

Men, you communicate your affection and attention with your physical presentation.  It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your wife you are listening if your body language says you aren’t.

How NOT to Listen1. Turn to face her, not just your head – although that is a good start – but the rest of your body as well. When you are into something: watching football, working on a project, or playing a video game, your body is turned towards the activity, reflecting your focus. Do the same for her.

2. Look her in the eyes. The number one complaint I hear as a therapist from women is, “He won’t look me in the eye.” When I say look her in the eye, don’t stare at her, unblinking. Look at her naturally, expressing your intent and desire to hear her.  If she doesn’t have your eyes, you don’t have her heart.

3. Keep your arms open, not crossed or closed.  This communicates being receptive to what she is telling you.

2nd– Think Crock Pot, Not Microwave:

We are all busy and have a lot on our plates.  There are far more demands on your time than you can meet.  What this means, is you are going to have to intentionally schedule time to talk with your wife.  This time needs to be more than the five minutes before you fall asleep after another busy day or the commercial breaks during the big game.

When husbands don’t take time, they engage in what we call attempting to microwave relationship.  They are hoping to accomplish creating a deep and fulfilling relationship with their wife in the time it takes to microwave popcorn.  What is even more interesting is their upset when their wife calls them out on it.  Husbands will spin her astute observations into an attack, telling her she is critical and doesn’t appreciate his efforts.

When guys do this in my office, I call them on it “It’s not her fault for noticing you are being a bonehead, you married an intelligent woman.”  Take time with your wife, showing her she is important.  Doing so will communicate your love and allow listening to be possible.

Men resist me on this one, saying they are too busy or it’s unrealistic. However, I have never had a man who tries it ever tell me they regretted the decision.  Trust me, taking time to listen to your wife is the most efficient, time effective way to deal with and prevent problems. 

3rd– Say Something, Stupid!

If you have managed the first two, let’s up the ante still further.  Now it’s time to add to the conversation, actively letting her know you are listening and interested in what she is saying.  We are going to use two simple techniques her:.

  1. Check in with her by putting what she is saying in your words, giving it back to her, and asking if you are hearing this correctly.  Use a simple phrase like, “Is that what I hear you saying,” or “Is that what you mean?”  You are showing your interest in both what she is saying and your intent on hearing it correctly.  This is different than sitting quietly, staring at her, hoping she is happy.  I listen to people professionally and check in with people this way all the time.  Why? Because I can’t read minds, but I can ask questions.
  2. Make statements letting her know you care about what she is telling you.  It’s one thing for her to tell you about a problem, it is quite another for her to know you care deeply.  Here are some suggestions, “Thank you for sharing that,”  “What you are feeling really matters to me”, or “I appreciate the chance to hear your heart.”   WARNING: never say the words “I understand.”  Your job is to help your wife feel listened to.  If she comes to the conclusion you understand, that is fine, it’s her call, don’t make that jump yourself.

4th– Listening Does Not Require You to Agree With Her:

Let’s take an unnecessary burden off of your shoulders.  You can do all of the above without agreeing with your wife.  How is that possible?  Everything mentioned above is for the purpose of actively listening to your wife.  Hearing her and caring about where she is, is simply that, hearing and caring.  You are loving her if you do.  It does not mean you have to agree with her perspective, thoughts, or decisions.  Don’t worry about your listening being a form of agreement.  It isn’t.

God placed the mantel of leading the home squarely on your shoulders.  Leading your wife means loving your wife.  Loving her requires you listen to her.  Single men, if you don’t want this responsibility, don’t get married or be in a relationship.  Married men and men who want to be in relationship, practice the things listed above.   They are not genetically inherited, they are learned.

 

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WIVES, SUBMIT?

When we, as women, hear the phrase, “wives, submit”, we cringe. We, in our women empowerment movement, twitch and our skin crawls at the idea of ‘submitting’ to someone else – especially when that someone else is supposed to be our partner!

We are strong, we are capable, we are able to accomplish whatever it may be that is before us. We don’t need to submit to our spouse. This whole idea of submission is so outdated. Past tense. “Old Testament” if you will.
We are, if nothing else, a team. EqualsPrecisely.Wives, Submit
Girls, that is EXACTLY what God had in mind when he created us. To be a part of a team with our spouse. That is God’s heart for our marriages. Within that system, God has called us women to godly submission to our husbands, just as God has called husbands to love their wives.

What Submission is not:

Let’s get this out of the way real quick.
Submitting to your spouse is NOT:

  • Allowing him to lord over you like an untamed dictator.
  • Having your strings pulled by your spouse for compliance.
  • The idea of submission is not to every man – your spouse only.
  • Does not and should not produce lop-sided relationships.
  • A dig nor is it a blow to your integrity.

What Submission is:

Conceding to the idea of your husband being a leader in the home

What?!? Didn’t we just establish that this was not going to be the case? Hang on, ladies. This is different than your husband being the boss over you. This is allowing your husband to lead the home as God leads him. If you think about it, it’s a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. This shows up typically in major decisions for the family:

  • Large purchases
  • Family decisions
  • Job decisions
  • Family concerns

Wives, you should still absolutely be a part of the discussions!! Your voice matters and it is valid. Remember though, just because you go through this, doesn’t mean you two will always agree. Coming to the same conclusion is not the goal here. But learning to trust your husband beyond what you can see is the idea of submission. This speaks loud volumes of love to your husband. It says “I trust you enough to support you in this decision in leading our family.” It’s exactly what Jesus wants us to do with him.

Submission builds confidence

When we submit to our husband, confidence is built. It’s built in our spouse when he sees how we trust him. We become more confident in our marriage as it becomes a place of trust and safety. We become more confident in our relationship with Jesus as He is ultimately the one we submit to and by submitting to our spouse, we are indeed, submitting to our God.

We become more confident in ourselves as we look to submit and serve our spouse. Confident in our ability to not only survive but thrive in an environment where we are not completely in control but instead relinquishing leadership to our spouse.

Submission builds trust

When we are committed to submitting to our husbands, it speaks loud volumes that we trust him. We are trusting him to make the best decision for our marriage and our family. Remember though, submission does not demand perfection.

Just because we are trusting our husbands to make the best decisions, doesn’t mean he’ll never make a mistake. He’s not God. He’s only human. And when we continue to submit to him, to trust our spouse, our lives yell, “I trust you have our best interest in mind!” This leaves our husbands with confidence to try again.

Submission creates an environment of security for children

When we willingly and joyfully submit to our husbands, we show our children in word and in deed that it’s ok to trust daddy. That dad’s best intentions are for the well-being of our family. A standard is created for them to carry into their own relationship someday. One in which the girls will look for a leader in a spouse and the boys will be a leader in their home.

The idea of ‘submitting’ to our spouse is scary. The very word make most cringe. It is scary to trust someone else. To trust that they have the best intentions for our family. Sometimes it doesn’t always feel this way – but that’s ok. We are not called by God to demand perfection from our spouse.

We are called to trust our spouse’s leadership with an understanding that he’s human and will make mistakes. Love him by being gracious and finding the best in the situation. Hopefully it can be something that you’ll both laugh at in the future!

For further growth in this area, check out Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend and Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage

Sexual BarriersWhat does a couple do when the bedroom has lost its sizzle? They do what some of you reading this article just did…GOOGLE… “Why isn’t my sex life working?” or some similar topic. I imagine you are reading this article because you or your partner is disappointed about the sexual aspect of your marriage.

Sex is not turning out like your friends, TV, the movies, or even a previous relationship predicted.

What now?

There are three categories of sexual problems: physical, relational, and a combination of the two.

Examples of physical issues:

  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Female Sexual Pain
  • Loss of desire

Examples of relational issues:

  • One partner having/had an affair and the other cannot think about resuming sexually
  • Sexual aversion due to an abusive situation either currently or from the past
  • Relationship conflict that damages safety and respect

Combination issues (more likely):

  • A young couple cannot have intercourse on their wedding night because of a small vaginal opening resulting in sex being linked with pain. Sexual aversion then develops for one or both partners because the pain during sex is not pleasant.
  • Low desire may be triggered at any stage of marital life for a variety of reasons. However, if the lines of communication are not open about sex, the higher desire spouse feels rejected leading to demand for more sex or withdrawal from the relationship—either approach leading to less intimacy.

Sexuality is one of the most openly discussed topics on TV and the news and yet I find that most couples cannot even say the words penis, vagina, and orgasm as it relates to their personal sex life without it becoming a threatening, scary conversation. A sexual conversation needs to be held fully clothed when you are ready to try it!

Treatment for overcoming sexual barriers in marriage depends on the length of time the problem has existed and the severity of the after-effects on the relationship. Treatment differs between the 70 year-old loving couple who wants to resume sexual intercourse after the narrowing of the vaginal walls and the couple who blames each other for sexual issues and threatens divorce if their partner doesn’t get it together sexually.

Normally a couple struggling with sexual intimacy must put the issue “on hold” for a season, quit blaming each other, learn to communicate, care for their own heart effectively, and eventually learn to love their spouse again.

Often instead of learning to love, spouses try two less effective ways of change:

  1. They try to change their spouse. This is not effective for obvious reasons. No one likes the feeling of being judged or controlled and no one can actually change another human being except him or herself.
  2. They try to serve their spouse more. “If I were just more loving, he/she would change.” On the surface, it appears a better option. However, when the loving actions are not reciprocated, it often leads to bitterness and resentment—neither of which provide a great foundation for awesome sexuality. There are more effective ways to increase sexual intimacy.

INCREASE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Instead of the above options, couples need to commit to working on the problem together as a team. Effective teamwork starts with clear communication. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson is a great book for learning how to have difficult conversations effectively. Another option might be The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley which contains an effective communication tool called Heart Talk.

However, just reading books will not change anything; you must take the concepts and practice them. This is where a good marriage therapist and a group of trusted friends would be a great asset.

INDIVIDUAL SEXUALITY HEALED

Once the relationship is stable and there are no threats of divorce, affairs, and when the name calling stops, the relationship will truly be a safe place.  After gaining relational stability, then it is time to look at each person’s individual sexual history. Perhaps there are beliefs or events from your personal past keeping you stuck in an ongoing cycle of hurts and disappointment in the bedroom.

A great resource for exploring beliefs around sexuality is The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Malz. If there is sexual abuse in your background (which is defined as any time someone made you feel uncomfortable in an unwanted sexual manner) you made need to get some professional help to heal.

COUPLES SEXUAL HEALING

Lastly, it is time to look at the couples’ sexual relationship. Making time for sexual conversation and activity is critical. The number one reason women do not have intercourse more often is because of fatigue. You cannot heal a broken sexual relationship without time (or any relationship issues for that matter!)

Many factors lead to married people feeling like roommates instead of passionate lovers. Among the ones, I hear the most are busyness, child-centered parenting, negative beliefs about sex, past abuse, and TV/electronics in the bedroom. Honestly, I think a ban on all cell phone, tablet and TV use after 9 PM would lead to an increase in sexual frequency. (OK, I will get off my soapbox now!)


As a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage and sex therapy, my goal is to help couples connect in a deep, satisfying way both relationally and sexually. I wish you the best in your efforts to reconnect! Email me and let me know how you are doing – I care! rachelle.colegrove@getrelationshiphelp.com

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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How to Keep Your Sanity as a Pastor’s Wife!

As a pastor’s wife (and now missionary) for heart care for a pastor's wife25+ years, I am finally learning the keys to maintaining my emotional health. Yes, you heard me right . . . myself.  I have tried to keep the pastor (my husband), his kids, the deacons, their kids, and pretty much
everyone else in the church happy at times. If you are already a pro at taking care of your own heart, pass this article on to another friend, but if not, maybe something in here will help you.

As a counselor, I have found an excellent process that leads to emotional wellness when I am triggered and I give it to EVERY client because no one “makes it through childhood unscathed.”  While not all your craziness can be blamed on your mom (I already told my kids I would pay for their therapy!), at some point everyone has been wounded by another human being. It is inevitable. These wounds create buttons that get bumped into by those around us. I hear women say, “Well, if my husband would just _____ . . . then I would be OK.” I am proposing that you can be OK whether or not your husband does _____.

Your heart—Your responsibility. This article contains five steps for caring for your heart. An excellent team of therapists at The National Institute of Marriage developed these steps. Let’s get started!

You have dinner almost on the table and your husband calls to say he will not be home again because of an “emergency” with a church member. As you feel the steam rising from your ears – stop. Take space and work through the following steps in a quiet place with your journal. I have clients take a picture of the steps and keep it on their phone for use at all times (in traffic, in Wal-Mart, with children).

1. Become Aware of My Feelings (not usually too hard!)

  • What is going on physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally?
  • Identify my feelings. Be curious rather than judging them. A judged heart will immediately shut down whereas curious attitude promotes openness.
  • “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

2. Accept My Own Feelings

“My husband makes me so angry!” Really?
You just gave him power over your emotional wellness – You can choose to be angry or not.
 
  • Own your thoughts, feelings, actions, and beliefs, through personal responsibility:
    • I am responsible for my own Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
    • I am not responsible for another’s Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
    • In relationships, I recognize I contribute a positive or negative influence, but I cannot control or determine another’s Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, or Beliefs.
  • Accept the job to exercise personal care.
  • “Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm 139:23

3. Allow God to Enter

  • Pray.
  • What does God say to me about His comfort, His truth, His conviction, my value and my worth?
  • What is the TRUTH?
  • “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

4. Attend to My Thoughts

  • Are there negative messages/beliefs I might be feeling from my past?
  • Did I do anything to contribute to my feelings?
  • Could I possibly have misunderstood? Am I mind reading?
  • “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” James 4:1
  • “Above all else, guard your heart, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23

5. Act in Integrity

  • Will my response create safety within me?
  • Will my response create safety for my relationship?
  • How does God want me to respond?
  • Maintain and respond with integrity.
  • “If it is possible, as far as it depends upon you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

If you need help learning to care for your heart and respond in integrity instead of reacting, please give me a call.

For a printer friendly PDF version of this article, please click here: How to Keep Your Sanity as a Pastor’s Wife

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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How to Tell Your Kids You’re Having Problems in Your Marriage

Talking to Your Child about Your MarriageIn an ideal world, marriage would be continually blissful and if there just happened to be a disagreement, it would be a trite little thing resolved in moments. Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in. In our humanness, we are guaranteed to face conflict at some point in time.

Conflict within the home, especially, can have a lasting impact on our children. How we deal with this conflict and what we choose to do with it can determine how our children are affected by it.

Should we tell our children what’s going on?

We can expect to deal with disagreements in marriage and have marital conflict, let’s define ‘marital conflict’ as an ongoing strenuous point in your relationship. Although we might have ongoing disagreements, many times we feel conflicted about when to tell the children or even if we should.

Your children need the heads up if the conflict has been going on for a period of time and it is disrupting the marriage:

  1. To the point of going to counseling
  2. Sleeping in separate rooms
  3. Moving to separate places

Parents often think they’re doing a service to their child by hiding everything from them and one day surprise them with the news of one spouse moving out. This can be earth shattering to a child. Imagine sending your child to school one day and everything is fine and the next day they need to face school with the news their parents are separating.

Talking to your children in an age appropriate manner can help relieve some of the stress. They don’t need every detail but having parents on the same page with their children can be stress relieving.

How do we talk to our children about what is taking place within the home?
  • It’s important to realize that children rely on the home as being a stable environment. This helps your child thrive. Marital conflict does not mean you’re going to ruin your child, but there must be clear communication by parents.
  • There needs to be a clear message from both parents that the conflict is strictly between the adults and that your child is NOT at fault in anyway.
  • Sharing with the child, dependent on age – less details when younger, more when older – the basics of the conflict, what you as parents are doing to work through it, and goals for an outcome.
  • This is best done when everyone can sit down as a family. When children can hear the same thing from both parents and have assurance from both parties, they are less likely to  feel caught in the middle. This gives the child a sense of safety and security and allows the child to focus on their developmental goals – making friends, engaging in school and other activities – and not be consumed with the parent’s relationship. This is a vital piece for children.
Here are a few examples of dialogues for different ages:

Elementary: Remember this is best done with both parents present.

Susie, mom and dad want to talk to you about something that is going on. Mom and dad are having some trouble getting along and so we are going to sleep in separate rooms for a little while so we can work on getting along. This is between mom and dad and it is no one’s fault. We want to you to keep playing and having fun. If you have any questions you can ask either one of us.” (It’s best to have both parents talking during this discussion). “We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.”

High school: Again, best done with both parents present.

Tommy, we have something we need to share with you. Your mom and I have been not getting along for some time and are having a difficult time coming to a resolution. We are in counseling and seeking help so we can have the best marriage possible. In the meantime, we are going to be sleeping in separate rooms. This is not your fault or your brother’s fault. This is between your mom and I. We are here for you no matter what and if you have any questions you can feel free to ask at any time. We love you and we’re so glad you’re a part of our family.

Here is a more detailed process on how to talk with your children:

Allow your child to ask questions.

This is a scary time for them. By allowing them to ask questions:

  • It reinforces that they are very much a part of the family
  • Communicates they are not a part of the problem
  • Shows that there is open communication

Your child may or may not have questions immediately come to them. Let them know that you understand this and are available to them when those questions arise. Some parents may face children, specifically teens, who become distant or annoyed with the conversation.

This does not mean your child is disinterested but simply is using a defense mechanism to help themselves cope with the news. As a parent, be careful not to let this determine a response of ‘they’re not interested’, ‘they’re fine’, or ‘they don’t care. None of those would prove to be accurate.

Don’t make promises you cannot keep.

For example, don’t promise your children that everything will be back to normal or that a spouse will come back home if they have chosen to leave. There is no way you can guarantee this, even if it is what is hoped for. Being age appropriate honest with your kids will give them a greater sense of security than if you promise things you cannot deliver.

Put yourself in your child’s shoes.

If you were 6 or 8, 14 or 17, what would you need from your parents during this time? There’s an age old adage that says ‘hindsight is 20/20’. Your child may not know what they need specifically from you at this time. Help them put words to their needs by putting yourself in their shoes.

Keep nasty comments to yourself.

They are not helpful in any way, shape, or form. They are destructive not only to the child, the relationship with the child and the other spouse, but to you and your child. If the conflict arises to such a degree, there needs to be a clear understanding that defaming the spouse in front of the children is simply not okay.

If you need additional help communicating with your kids about your marriage, or help with your marital conflict, please contact me at The Relationship Center.

 

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Anxiety in Men: Common Warning Signs

anxiety

Anxiety in men is real and impacts life substantially.  However, it often goes unnoticed, by both the man and those who care about him.  When the “a” word is used, the response is immediate, “No, I am not anxious!”  The old saying is true: a man isn’t afraid, he’s just concerned.  As a therapist who specializes in working with men, there are common warning signs of anxiety I look for.  A man won’t use words like anxiety or fear, but he may identify as:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities and expectations.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.
  3. Being easily fatigued.
  4. Restlessness and inability to relax.
  5. Feeling unable to control or manage his worry.
  6. Becoming less effective/productive in work and home responsibilities.

*See below to learn more about each of the seven warning signs of anxiety in men.

  1. Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.  Men are like pick-up trucks.  They are built to work and haul loads (life responsibilities).  In fact, just like a pick-up, if there’s no load in the back, their handling can get kind of wild (think of the way many young, single men live and behave).  While it’s good for him to carry a load, sometimes life’s load gets imbalanced or he is not effective in carrying it.  Generally, instead of recognizing this and communicating a need for help, he will struggle silently, growing more frustrated.
  2. Having limited patience and being irritable.  Like it or not, most men anxiety/fear with weakness.  Weakness is not something he is comfortable with, at least his own weakness.  Men will often make flippant comments about the box of tissues in my office, trying to joke with me about needing it.  Anger, in the form of irritability, frustration, being demanding/controlling, is a safe way for a man to express fear.  Anger gives the illusion of power and mastery.  However, it is ineffective in solving the real problem.  Think of it another way.  If a child is afraid or overwhelmed emotionally, they will often react with anger.  They feel powerless, and to deal with this, they are using angry outbursts to demand control.  It’s as if they are saying, “If I get angry, I won’t have to feel afraid anymore/If I have a choice between anger and fear, I choose anger.”   
  3. Being easily fatigued.  If a man loses the “zip” in his step or enthusiasm for life, it can be a sign he is struggling.  Anxiety is one of the most energy zapping emotions.  It has the effect of causing a man to expend several times the usual amount of energy to accomplish the same tasks.  I use the following example with men:

a b line

There are two points above, A & B.  The line takes me from A to B in the simplest, most efficient way possible – in a straight line.  Only the necessary amount of energy is expended in this example, but what happens if we add anxiety?

Anxiety makes a big difference, taking our once straight line and turning it into a phone cord.  Yes, the man is still able to get from A to B, but if we stretch out the line, it’s clear he has had to go farther and expend more energy to get there.  No wonder he is so tired.

  1. Restlessness and inability to relax.  Once we realize why our guy is so fatigued, it’s clear he needs to rest. The problem is, he can’t.  Strong feelings of anxiety keep causing him to feel as if rest is not a good idea.  He must remain vigilant, even if he does not have a good reason to.  Explaining this to loved ones is difficult.  In counseling, I use the example of a fire alarm.  Imagine if you are in a building and its very loud fire alarm is sounding.  It causes you to feel the need to act, to get out of the building, exactly what it was designed to do.  Now imagine a loved one was there in the building with you, but they could not hear the alarm.  They keep telling you to lie down and rest, maybe even take a nap, but it’s impossible.  You try to explain this to them, but they just don’t get it.  Hunger is only a burden to those without food to eat, but for the rest of us, it’s just a cue to go to the refrigerator.  Fatigue is only a burden to those who cannot rest.
  2. Feeling unable to control or manage his worry.  Some anxiety is normal and a part of life.  Too much can be an inescapable burden.  Most of us are working to manage our anxiety throughout our day.  It’s like we are juggling balls, and most of the time, feel pretty adept at doing so.  However, the man who is anxious feels as if he has way too many balls to juggle.  No matter how much he tries to manage them better he keeps dropping them.  Anxiety goes from being a normal life experience to a sign that something bad is about to happen.    
  3. Becoming less effective/productive in work and home responsibilities.  Too much anxiety has the net effect of making a man less effective in important areas of his life.  He is unable to concentrate his efforts and energies on the task at hand, leading to poor performance.  His problems are also beginning to multiply.  As his productivity lessens, his backlog increases and so does his anxiety.  An insurmountable obstacle is forming, which will cause him significant problems down the road.  Anxiety has worked to justify its existence by creating real, identifiable problems.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, there is competent, caring help available.  At The Relationship Center, we have counselors who specialize in helping men with anxiety.  Give us a call today at 417-763-3309. 

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical
manual of mental disorders
(4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Winning a Fight With Your Spouse

Love & MarriageIt may not look like black eyes and bruises, but spousal disagreements are just a part of marriage. No one is ever looking to lose a fight, but what if there is a way for both parties to ‘win’. See, winning isn’t about proving your rightness or their wrongness, but making sure each party is heard and understood – working to come to a conclusion together. That’s what builds the bond of cohesiveness within a marriage.

Let’s take a look at six specific ways to win a fight with your spouse:

1. Ask for Time to Talk:

Just because something pops up into your mind doesn’t mean it is the best time to talk about it. Take some time to evaluate; have you both just had a strenuous day? Is someone sick? Is the baby crying? Ask your spouse if now is a good time to talk, share that there is something that has been on your heart that you would like to work out. If now is not a good time, schedule a time to come back and talk about the issue and resolve it. Letting it fester will only burn a hole in your heart and make you resentful towards your spouse.

2. Take Personal Responsibility:

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. The same is true for emotions across the board. Though our spouse can have influence over our emotions, we are ultimately responsible for the way we feel. With that being said, blaming your spouse for making you mad or sad or angry just isn’t going to work. Personal responsibility for one’s own emotions looks like “I feel hurt…” Coming from this stance not only gives validation to your heart, but can stop you from pouring gasoline onto already hot coals.

3. Be Respectful:

Being called names wasn’t fun in elementary school and it’s not fun in a marriage. Just because there is a disagreement doesn’t mean that it is okay to berate or belittle the one you chose to spend your life with. Being respectful also means you allow your spouse to feel what they feel. Not being easily offended by their emotions, which also means you’re not going to tell them that what they are thinking or feeling is wrong. Their experience is true to them just like yours is to you. Telling your spouse that they should not be thinking a certain way and trying to ‘win’ them over to your side is not respectful and will only create a larger distance between you.

4. Lay the Past to Rest:

By bringing up the past you state clearly that you have yet to clear the air on former issues. You’ve allowed a hole to fester in your heart in the form of resentment and now it’s seeping poisonous toxins. No one benefits from bringing up past issues. Using phrases like “always” and “never” also indicate you’re still stewing on the past. Once you and your spouse have discussed an issue, let it be.

5. Stay on Point:

If you have come to your spouse with a punch list of wrongs they have committed, then you have not done a good job of caring for your heart. Perhaps you’ve played the role of ‘serving spouse’ – you’ve quietly taken care of ‘wrongs’ committed by your spouse but in your heart you’re building piles of resentment. There is no benefit in playing this role and it creates space between you and your spouse. Tackle issues as they arise. Decide the one issue that is pressing, stick to it, and resolve it. It can feel overwhelming when your spouse comes to you with a list of 15 things you’ve done wrong. If there are more topics to be covered, schedule a time.

6. Check Your Heart, Check With God:

Take your heart and your hurt before God. Is this disagreement one that is affecting your marriage or is it a personal preference of yours? Making sure the towels are folded just right is not an indicator of your spouse’s love or dislike for you. It’s a personal preference that needs to be worked out within your own heart. Sometimes fighting fairly with your spouse can be difficult and needs outside intervention.

If you and your spouse need help in navigating fighting fairly, please know help is available. Click Here to schedule an appointment to talk with someone at The Relationship Center about helping you and your spouse strengthen your marriage.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Mistakes Men Make When Talking to Their Wives

As a counselor who specializes in working with men, Cracking a SafeI often sit with guys who are at their wits end in trying to talk to their wives. It’s an age old problem: How on earth does he talk to this woman?

She makes no sense to him, much of the time. He wants to have a good relationship, but this seems completely out of reach. Men frequently make a common, three step mistake in attempting to talk to their wives. The mistakes men make when talking to their wives is outlined here.

Step 1: Cracking the Safe

When I sit with men having relationship issues, it is often like watching an old fashioned bank robbery.

He is sitting at the safe door with a stethoscope, listening intently, as he turns the safe dial a little bit at a time, trying to figure out the combination. The man wants to be able to talk to his wife, and is convinced he must figure out the “combination” to do so. To him, it’s a simple trial and error method.

He’s come to session excited, barely able to contain the great news. It has finally worked! He shares with me after years of trying to figure out how to approach his wife about difficult issues, he found a way that seems to work. By “work”, he means she does not become overly emotional or escalate into a rage. Now, he has a tool he can pull out of his toolbox, as needed. No more anxiety and dread, he knows how to handle her.

Gradually, by trying various techniques, he will find a way that works and his problem will be solved, or so he thinks.

Step 2: Managing Her

With his new tool, the man is attempting to do something which is impossible for him, managing his wife’s emotions, behaviors, and attitudes for her. Let’s break it down using his logic: “If I do ________ she will respond with ________. Her response is dependent on and dictated by my action.” The logic seems very compelling, except it is fundamentally flawed. First, as mentioned previously, he is taking responsibility for her emotions, behaviors, and attitudes. These are her responsibility. She must be the one to handle them. Second, if his objective in responding the way he does is to illicit in her the response he desires, that is, by definition, manipulation. Ouch! She is not free to own her stuff and he feels trapped by her response.

Step 3: Seeking Stability

The ultimate goal is stability, not a real relationship. The man, without knowing it, is trying to exercise control over events to create the stability he desires in his life. In other words, if he responds in a certain way, he can and should have her respond to him in the way he wants. No meaningful intimacy or growth, for either partner, can occur in such an environment. Instead, it is a way of avoiding discomfort – that is the ultimate goal.

The Answer

Relationship is process, not solution driven. For men, this is difficult to wrap our heads around, but we must. We like lasting solutions and routine. However, the reality of a relationship is it is dynamic and changing. In other words, if we actually succeeded in what we were after, our relationship would lack excitement, adventure, and romance. We in turn, would probably lose interest.

Think of the idea of a process this way, if you decided to start exercising and eating right, you would do this on a daily basis. It would be a kind of lifestyle change. You would not look the mirror one day and say “Well, I look the way I wanted, so I guess I am done.” If you did, you would quickly return to the way you were before. You keep going in the process, seeing it as where you need to be and stop looking for the one answer or the destination. Your job is not to find out the exact way to approach your wife so she responds the way you want her to. Your goal is to have an ongoing, growing relationship with her.

The discomfort of friction is essential for both of you. Friction is the means by which we both smooth our rough edges and grow. Focusing all your efforts on avoiding friction will only create stagnation.

Often times, men need guidance in this process. If you do, get the help you need. Counselors at The Relationship Center are experienced in helping couples succeed in this process.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

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Women’s Fear of Intimacy in Communication

Communication is one of the most important aspects of marriage. Lack of communication is also thmost common complaint I hear when doing marital therapy. Feeling connected and close, as well as being able to converse with your husband is extremely important.

No Fear of Intimacy

In some situations, women may have difficulty having an intimate conversation with their husband due to fear of intimacy. When I use the word intimacy, I am referring to a close and affectionate relationship with another person.

Defined in this way, intimacy is allowing oneself to be known, cared for and loved, even the areas that you wish you could hide from others. It includes allowing yourself to be vulnerable with people that you trust. Below are some communication characteristics of someone who has a fear of intimacy and how they can be fixed.

Communication Characteristics

Avoidance

Someone who fears intimacy in communication will avoid conversations she believes will lead to serious topics. The person may avoid conversation unless it deals with tasks of daily living. For example, a woman who fears intimacy in communication may avoid discussing when she felt overlooked by her husband at a family gathering because she fears it will bring up unresolved issues from her past. Another example would be when a woman purposely busies herself  in order to avoid talking about difficult topics.

Passes Judgment

Instead of having an attitude of understanding, someone with fear of intimacy in communication may pass judgment on her spouse. Rather than listening to the feelings or information her spouse shares, she is concentrating on her opinions about what he has said. Thinking that your husband is lying when he says an emergency at work made him late for your date night would be an example of passing judgment without trying to understand. This type of judgment can:

  • Produce feelings of anger and being wronged
  • Cause distance between you and your spouse because of these feelings
  • Distance will prevent intimacy

Negativity

Someone who struggles with intimacy in communication may be overly negative in her conversations. Instead of trying to see the positive side of a situation, she sees the negative side and fixates on this. For example, a husband and a wife have a nice picnic planned for a sunny Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, when they get to the perfect spot, it begins to rain. As they try to find shelter, they slip in the mud and are able to laugh at each other. When they do find shelter, they are able to have a good conversation about their life together. Someone who fears intimacy in communication may see this experience as negative because things did not go as planned and she was not prepared for this type of conversation.

Excessive Control

Someone who always wants to be prepared for any type of uncomfortable conversation may try to exert control in any way possible. In trying to exert control, she may excessively control the areas where she feels she has control. This can give the illusion of being in control of situations for which you are fearful, but in reality that’s all it is: simply an illusion. For example, you may feel out of control and unprepared when speaking to your husband, but feel you have complete control over how your house is run. Due to feeling out of control in other areas, you may take this control over your home to extremes through needing to choose everything that goes in your home, needing everything to be spotless, or not allowing other family members to complete tasks because they did not follow your specific instructions.

Disengaging

When topics arise that she does not feel comfortable, someone who fears intimacy in communication may prevent herself from being engaging in the conversation. This may happen through day dreaming, thinking of other things, or physically removing herself from the conversation. If we go back to the previous example of the picnic, someone who disengages may not even have that good conversation with her husband. She may be thinking about her wet clothes, what to do with the food, how to get back to the car, or how she can leave the situation.

Focuses on Self

While focusing on yourself is not a bad thing, it becomes an issue when your thoughts are constantly about fear of intimate conversation with your husband. At an unconscious level, I see this present, often times, as an excessive focus on one’s own feelings, desires, thoughts, point of view, etc. It is a selfish way of thinking which insulates from intimacy. We are to care for ourselves, but not in a way that makes us the center of the world. Often times someone who experiences this fear of intimacy will be constantly thinking or preparing for these deep conversations when she rarely allows them to happen.

Focusing on self may or may not be evident to your spouse. For example, a woman experiencing this fear of intimacy may try to prepare herself mentally for any possible conversation with her husband that may be about a topic she does not feel comfortable discussing. There are limitless possibilities as to what conversations may come up and, therefore she finds herself more often than she would like in thought of protecting herself.

How Can You Fix These Characteristics?

Self-Analysis

It is difficult to make a change when you are unaware that there is a problem. Doing some analysis of yourself and your actions will help you understand changes that need to be made. Self-analysis may require insight from your husband, close friends, or family members. Ask others to make observations about your words, attitudes, and actions. It may also require the help of a professional, such as a counselor.

Commit to Change

It can be easy to say you are going to change, but actually putting those words into action is more difficult. Commit to change by telling your husband or trusted friend of your plans and ask them to keep you accountable. It may also help to write out a commitment statement of what you want to change as well as the steps you would like to take to make these changes.

Work on A Safe Relationship

It is important to work toward an emotionally safe environment in your marital relationship. Many women who experience fear of intimacy may not feel emotionally safe in their marital relationship due to a number of reasons. In order to work on intimate communication with your husband you have to feel safe when you are discussing important topics. The following emotional safety handout provides information about developing an emotionally safe relationship.

Communicate with your Husband

If you want to have intimate conversations with your husband you have to be willing to communicate with him. Your first step should be sharing with your husband your struggles and your commitment to change. This discussion must focus on yourself and not how you think your husband should change. Changing the subject to your husband would be an issue of boundaries in which you reach for something you cannot control. Starting off this change process without including your husband would defeat the purpose.

Give Yourself Grace

During this process, make sure to give yourself grace. It is difficult to realize that you may fear intimacy in communication with the person that you love. Identifying the problem and seeking change are the first steps to improving your communication with your husband.


If you or someone you know is struggling with marital communication, please contact us. The Relationship Center has therapists who specialize in marital therapy. We are here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

References

Berry, R. A., & Lawrence, E. L. (2013). “Don’t stand so close to me”: An attachment perspective of disengagement and avoidance in marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 484-494.

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Markman, H. J., Rhodes, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Ragan, E. P., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). The premarital communication roots of marital distress and divorce: The first five years of marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 289-298.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Recommended Reading

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

christian marriage therapyLooking for help? Join the 3,000+ families who have found the help they need by trusting the counselors of MyCounselor.Online. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $50-$155 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here for Christian Marriage Counseling

 

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