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The Light Has Come

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The church is dark and still.
One small candle is lit. From the front of the church the light spreads from one person to their neighbor as the candles receive the light. Slowly the light spreads like clouds parting to reveal the stars beyond. The flickering light changes the room from darkness to the warm glow of wonder and awe. I assist my son to light his candle. He is excited to hold fire, reverence and excitement mix as he watches his flame. Nearby, I see the faces of my family lit softly. The church is now full with the multiplied light illuminating the community. I see the people in the room but I imagine the community of Christians worldwide celebrating in this moment. I also imagine those who have gone before, who have left their legacy of light, the legacy of Christ in them.

The world is dark and anything but still.
When evil and darkness seem especially cruel, I remember; The Light has come into the world and the darkness will not overcome it.

That is worth celebrating on Christmas and every day.

This Christmas Eve I will celebrate the birth of Jesus with my family and experience the wonder and light of the season. The candlelight service on Christmas Eve is a spiritual experience and tradition that warms and strengthens my soul. Spiritual experiences are individually powerful but they also greatly impact relationships. When we connect with our savior, celebrate His coming, and His continued presence in our lives our connection in marriage deepens.

What are your favorite spiritually significant experiences at Christmas time?

Healing Relationship Sore Spots

Copyright: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo

 

In my very first blog post on Make Some Wonderful (now nearly one year ago) I wrote about biting my cheek and how in marriage our emotional “sore spots” are difficult to avoid.

Click here to read the original post, “Ouch, That Hurts.”

“Sore spots” are the areas of our life most sensitive to criticism, usually due to past experiences of deep emotional hurt. Touching these sensitive spots can lead to an ugly fight or end one by going too far.

Marriage is simultaneously the most protective and most vulnerable place on earth.

When I meet with couples for marriage counseling I like to see them fight. Ok, I don’t really like it but your medical doctor doesn’t need to see the parts of your body that are feeling good.

When I see couples fight, I can see the sore spots that need care and attention.

The sore spots are often the ones being pushed, bit, and exposed in the fight. It can take some time to uncover the real wound and many couples are unaware of the extent of their own sore spots and those of their spouse.

Unlike the biting analogy in my first post, in marriage we tend not to re-injure ourselves over and over, it is our spouse we re-injure.

This has to stop.

After you have a fight with your spouse you can reconnect, stop the re-injuries, and end the pattern of interaction that makes the same fights come up over and over again.

  1. Express care for your spouse and their emotional health. Look them in the eye and slowly express your love for them and describe in detail three things you love about them.

  2. Acknowledge you may have hurt them and gently ask what hurt.

  3. Listen without becoming defensive. This is the key, and the hardest part. Hear them out, listen for their heart, not your defense.

  4. Express empathy for their hurt (validate their feelings) and reaffirm your love for them.

  5. Stop. Do nothing else. Ok, maybe a hug, but nothing else. No more words. Stop. It may feel like there has to be more for the argument to be resolved, a winner must be declared or your side must be heard now. Nope. Just stop.

The healing is in the connection. When you respond with care to hurt, you are fixing it. To heal past relationship hurts, you must build new emotionally healthy interactions. If you try to do or say more, the risk of getting sucked back into the same destructive pattern is too great.

The success of your re-connection depends mostly on the willingness of one partner to be vulnerable and for the other partner to respond softly toward connection and away from defensiveness. If this is too risky right now, wait until emotions have cooled a bit more and you have the emotional space needed. If your relationship is too contentious to have a conversation like outlined above, please get professional assistance. Find a counselor and start the healing.

You won’t always be able to avoid the sore spots in your marriage. But when you are well connected the emotional relationship injuries will be infrequent and less intense. When you intentionally heal past hurts, rather than continuing to cut each other, marriage feels great again.

 

What do you do after a fight to reconnect with your spouse?

Free Fashion Tip for Couples: Extreme Matching

Via http://www.pleated-jeans.com
Via http://www.pleated-jeans.com

 

I was cruising Twitter and I came across the unbelievable story of Mr. and Mrs. Fetherstone.

Every day for the last 35 years they have worn matching clothes. Click here to read their story and to see more pictures of their outfits.

 

I’m speechless.

Thirty-five years of matching clothes every day? Wow. For most couples, matching one or two times in 35 years would be embarrassing enough.

I shake my head in unbelief but I admire them.

They are happy together.

They have embraced an identity of togetherness.

For a better connection in your marriage cultivate an identity of togetherness. Don’t worry, it’s not necessary for you to wear matching clothes. Besides, the only people who should be allowed to wear matching clothes are identical twins under the age of five.

When you daily cultivate an identity of togetherness you will increase your experience of cohesion and happiness in your marriage. You will notice the benefits and others will notice (even if you don’t wear matching clothes) by the words you use with each other and body language displayed when you are together.

To cultivate an identity of togetherness:

  1. Consider each other when making decisions. When you identify as together, checking with your spouse before making a major decision is not a sign of control but of respect.
  2. Participate in activities you enjoy together. Shared activities improve connection in marriage. 
  3. Use together language. Say “us” and “our” rather than “me” and “mine.” It’s a subtle change that can make a huge difference.

 

Doing everything together is not required for great connection. Liking only the same things often ends up suffocating connection.

It’s good for marriage for you and your spouse to have separate interests. For example, I like football more than my wife does and she likes pedicures more than I do. Pursuing and enjoying different activities is healthy for individuals and marriage as long as opportunities for connection are not neglected.

When I heard of the Fetherstones, I thought they had to be the only couple in the history of the world to wear matching clothes on a daily basis for 35 years. Then I found Joey and Mel Schwanke have a similar commitment to wearing matching clothes. Click here to read their story.

 

Free marital fashion tip: If you find yourself in a fabric store and come across an extreme floral pattern, don’t resist the urge for matching outfits, make something nice and start your own daily habit. If you prefer you can find a different way, maybe matching hairstyles or phone ringtones, could do the trick.

 

How ever you commit to daily increase feelings of togetherness, the benefits will last at least the next 35 years.

 

What fashion tips do you have for a great marriage?

How to Know if You Need Counseling

Copyright: diego_cervo / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: diego_cervo / 123RF Stock Photo

Do you need counseling?

That’s like asking a barber if you need a haircut. Of course I believe you need counseling, we all need a little counseling. The right counseling at the right time will make a tremendous impact on your life.

Getting counseling is like seeing your medical doctor. When you are injured physically, it’s important to see a doctor. They are the expert you need to aid in your healing. When you are injured emotionally, it’s important to see a counselor. They are the expert you need in times of crisis. Healing from an injury is profoundly meaningful. The stories of Jesus healing people are awesome because we all have injuries that need a healing touch.

You don’t have to be deeply damaged to benefit from counseling; doctors and counselors also help to prevent injuries. It makes sense to see your medical doctor on a regular basis to prevent medical problems. Likewise, it can be helpful to see a counselor to prevent problems from getting worse or to prepare for inevitable life transitions.

Deciding to get counseling is up to you, no one else can choose it for you. It takes a personal willingness to invest in your health to bring positive change.

You may be interested in the benefits of counseling but the timing doesn’t seem to work. Timing is everything right? How do you know the best time to go to counseling?

Some counselors imply now is always the perfect time to go to counseling. It’s simply not true.

Is now the best time for you to get counseling?
I don’t think so.
It never is.
Stop wondering if it’s the best time.
If you want counseling, do it. Find a counselor and get moving.

We all get support from those around us to some extent. Often that support is exactly what we need, other times it’s lacking. When you need an expert to help you address challenges you are facing, it’s a good time to find a counselor.

I want every married couple to thrive and experience deep connection. Counseling is great, but sometimes even quick reminders, relationship tips, or messages of encouragement can make a big difference. I hope to use this blog to share ways you can Make Some Wonderful in your marriage by providing solid guidance for great connection.

What do you need in order to improve the connection in your marriage?

Let me know what you think, I would love to connect with you on social media.

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5 Survival Tips for Parenting Defiant Young Children

Copyright: ninamalyna / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: ninamalyna / 123RF Stock Photo

The longer I parent the more I realize: parenting goes fine, until it doesn’t.

My wife and I have two boys, ages five and three. Life with young boys is a loud experience. The sounds of plastic sword fights, chasing each other with Nerf™ dart guns, and ninja “hei-yah” attacks often match the noise level of playoff football.

Then silence.

I search to find the source of the dangerous silence and find them in the pantry with a newly opened bag of jet-puffed™ marshmallows.

“Boys, it’s almost dinner time, put the marshmallows away.”

“NO! I WANT MAR-MELLOWS!”

“No, put them away.”

Then 70,000 mini-marshmallows spray all over the kitchen.

I have never been as frustrated and devoid of patience as when dealing with defiant mess making. Our kids are great and we love them dearly but some days they are more than a handful and marshmallows don’t help.

How to handle defiance without risking a stroke

1. Check yourself.

Before responding to defiant behavior check your own emotions. It doesn’t work to respond with your own tantrum, I’ve tried it. Model the emotion you want to see from your children. To do this well it’s important to become aware of how you developed the expectations you have for your children. Think about how you were parented, how that influences your parenting, and how you can improve your parenting.

2. Get to know your spouse.

It’s not enough to understand your own desires for parenting, you must understand the expectations of your spouse. Talk about their experiences growing up and how they influence their expectations for your children. Couples who understand the unique perspective of their spouse have less conflict in marriage, especially when parenting.

3. Team up.

This is critical for every parent. You may be strong willed but you will break trying to parent alone. For parents who are married, it’s critical to work together for successful parenting and for a successful marriage. For single parents it’s critical you find someone to team up with who can support you and back up your parenting decisions. Develop a parenting strategy together when the kids are calm. Winging it generally provides poor results in parenting. Think ahead, develop a plan together for how you will respond to your children when they are defiant and support each other to follow through.

4. Time-Out.

It may be a good idea for the kids but it’s an even better idea for parents. Give yourself space to think and check your emotions in the moment. I’ve heard experts recommend one minute of time-out for each year of a child’s age. I usually don’t have the luxury of a 35 minute time-out for me. Ten intentional seconds can do the trick.

5. Get down from your high horse and talk eye to eye with your children.

When kids are defiant, it’s a natural reaction to “power up” and display authority by yelling or taking privileges away from them immediately. I have found when I deliberately stop and try to see the situation from their perspective, their negative behaviors are reduced. When I slow down my selfish agenda, and join them to play, I get closer to my goal of raising my boys to be solid young men.

Experiencing defiant behavior is exhausting. Children are experts in “divide and conquer” warfare. Remember, parenting is a team sport; you must team up to survive. The more you know yourself and your spouse the better you can develop a unified parenting strategy. When you Make some Wonderful in your marriage you will Make some Wonderful in your family as well.

What are your best survival tips for dealing with defiant young children?