Surviving the Family Drama at the Holidays

Christmas is a time when even normal families can feel extra stress. And what if yours is not a so-called “normal” family? What if you and your ex are fighting over who gets the kids, and when? What if both sets of in-laws expect you to spend the holidays with them this year? What if several generations in your family have very different needs during this holiday season?

The fact is, your family is probably far from perfect. Unless you’re one of the mythical Cleavers, Christmas probably won’t turn out exactly the way you might wish. Some people in your family may end up being very unhappy, perhaps with you. You may have to spend time around people you don’t like at all. Your efforts to try and make everything wonderful may fall flat, or even lead to more misunderstanding.

So here’s the important tip. …

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10 Things I Learned in 5 Years of Marriage

10 Things I Learned in 5 Years of Marriage

Couple Holding HandsMy husband Al and I recently celebrated our five-year anniversary. It’s been a wonderful five years, and I would say “I do” all over again knowing everything I know now. God has blessed us with a very happy relationship.

But that doesn’t mean these past five years have been trouble-free. And it’s some of those challenges that have led to the closeness we increasingly share.

Here are some things I have learned during these five years, some of them expected and some unexpected:

  1. Love that survives challenges leads to security. My husband really loves me! I have never questioned his love. But going through the ups and downs of life together has brought me to a level of security in his love even beyond what I could have expected. (I think God’s love is like that too!)
  2. Your spouse will only change what they want to change. My husband has made some amazing changes: quitting smoking, losing weight, and more. But salt still finds its way to the floor at dinnertime, and he still doesn’t like to go to bed early. (I’m glad the changes he’s made are the important ones.)
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When to NOT Discuss Things With Your Spouse

Unhappy CoupleYou are supposed to communicate together as husband and wife. And that’s a good thing. But there is a difference between communicating and dumping.

The purpose of communication is understanding, connection, and intimacy. (It’s been said that the organ of intimacy is the ear!) Hiding thoughts, fears, hopes, memories, problems, or anything else from your spouse builds a wall between you that can be difficult to tear down.

However, some women (and a few men) use the principle of communication to unload on their spouse. They use their spouse as a dumping ground for every thought and feeling that comes along. That may place a burden on your spouse that is not their place to carry.

Your spouse is not your pastor, your therapist, your 12-step sponsor, or your doctor. God often uses marriage partners to bring much healing to one another, but it’s not your spouse’s primary responsibility to fix you. Expecting them to do so is a form of manipulation and control.

And that drives people apart.

Here’s what the difference looks like:

Communication lets your spouse see and touch the difficult things in your heart. Dumping tries to force your spouse to carry what is yours to own.

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5 Pieces of Smart Marriage Advice

Romantic Valentine SeniorsThe institution of marriage goes back to the Garden of Eden. But sadly, the state of many marriages today is anything but Eden-like!

For those who are married, there is probably no other area of life that has a bigger impact on your well-being than the state of your marriage. If things are good between you and your spouse you can handle a lot of trouble in the other parts of life. But if things are not good in your marriage you are probably miserable in general.

And the state of your marriage impacts much more than just the two of you. It of course affects your children, but also your job, your finances, your health, and your Christian witness.

There are many bits of advice for those wanting a better, healthier, happier marriage. Here are five I believe to be especially important:

  1. Work at it. It’s not realistic to believe that something as important and all-encompassing as marriage can be good without effort. It may not sound very romantic, but the best way to have a happy marriage is to work at it! Take the time to learn how to do it well. Learn about your spouse, about yourself, about communication, love, respect, forgiveness, and commitment. There will be bumps in the road ahead, some larger, some smaller. Your effort is likely to pay off with more joy than you could have ever imagined.
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Why You Are Afraid of Intimacy

Woman at SunsetBuried somewhere in your soul beneath the bravado, the anger, the pasty smile, or the hopelessness, there’s a desire to be known. Truly known, intimately, for who you really are.

You may have long ago given up hope of ever having that desire fulfilled. You may have forgotten you ever wanted something so dangerous. You may have even come to hate yourself for having such an impossible longing. But in moments when you’re alone that desire sometimes rears its head, unwilling to go away.

One reason some people take big sexual risks is a misguided attempt to meet that need for being known. Intimacy and sexuality may be connected, but not necessarily. And trying to meet intimacy needs with sexuality gets you into all kinds of trouble.

True intimacy feels overwhelmingly vulnerable. Remember the lyrics to the popular song, “Sometimes when we touch the honesty’s too much, and I have to close my eyes and hide.” It’s not the physical touch the singer is afraid of; it’s the honesty, the vulnerability, being known.

In a perfect world you would grow up happy, never experiencing disappointment, betrayal, or violence to your soul. You would have nothing to hide, and you would allow yourself to be known at the right time.

But our world is anything but perfect.

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