Learn to Listen Empathetically

September 30, 2014

If you are married and you take pride in being reasonable, and you see your spouse as being unreasonable, you are in the process of destroying your marriage. The person I’m talking about is calm, cool and collected. He believes that if you will listen to his arguments, you will be forced to agree. Any sane person could not disagree. “Let me explain this to you one more time.” The implication is that if you will just listen, you will understand and thus agree. This person makes no room for emotions. All that matters is logic. But I remind you that God made us emotional creatures and if you don’t allow for emotions, you will never create an intimate marriage. Learn to listen. Treat your spouse as a person of worth. Ask for their opinions and be empathetic with their feelings.

Q&A: My Husband Is Spending Way Too Much Time with His Parents

September 29, 2014

Q: My husband spends a lot of time with his parents and not with me. What can I do about it?

Gary: This is a question that many young couples can identify with if you live in the same town as your parents. The scriptures say that we are to leave our parents and to be joined to each other. What that looks like may differ with each couple, but the principle is clear. It appears to me that you think he’s spending too much time with his parents, and that may be true. What I’d like to know is what is he doing when he goes to see his parents? What motivates him to go there? Is his mother demanding that he come to see them? That’s unhealthy. Or is he helping his father with a work project? That’s different. Is he sharing his marital problems with his parents? That’s not good. Find out the motivation, and then seek a pattern that demonstrates that the marriage is priority.

Q&A: Dealing with Depression

September 26, 2014

Q: Depression has been an issue in our marriage for a long time. What can we do?

Gary: Depression that extends over a period of time can be difficult to deal with for both of you. However, there is hope for those who are depressed. The most successful treatment involves both counseling and medication. I know that some Christians want to stay away from medication but the reality is that often there is a chemical basis for the depression. Successful treatment then requires medication. I also know that you may have tried medication and it has not helped. Different medications help different people. Don’t give up, talk with your doctor and try another medication. However, don’t omit the counseling. Many times the depression is fed by relational issues. This is where a counselor can be very helpful.

Healthy Patterns of Communication

September 25, 2014

Communication is not enough. It must be healthy communication. There are many unhealthy patterns of communication, but none as deadly as “The Blamer.” “It’s your fault.” “If it weren’t for you everything would be fine.” “You never do anything right.” “I don’t know how you could be so stupid.” The blamer destroys intimacy and makes communication impossible. An ancient Hebrew proverb says, “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions.” If you are a blamer, I urge you to apologize to the person you so often blame. Your relationship will never improve until you admit your destructive words and seek to understand the other person’s perspective.

Evaluating Communication

September 23, 2014

We talk a lot about the importance of communication in relationships, but we don’t often evaluate our communication. Yet, how we talk greatly affects the quality of our conversation. Many have developed unhealthy patterns of communication and wonder why their conversations seem to go down hill. One such pattern is the placator. “That’s fine with me.” Or, “Whatever you want is fine.” It’s really not “fine,” but this person does not like arguments, so, on the surface they simply agree, but inside they resent the attitude of the other person. We will never have an authentic, relationship until we learn to share our honest thoughts and feelings. You might begin by asking, “Would you really like to know my thoughts?” If they say, ‘yes’, then share them.

How to Get over a Past Physical Relationship

September 22, 2014

Q: I’ve had past physical relationships and I want to get over them now that I’m getting married. What do I do?

Gary: You are identifying one of the major scars of premarital sex. Sexual intercourse is not simply the joining of two bodies. It is a deep, emotional and spiritual experience. It was designed to bond a man and a woman together for a lifetime. It is very difficult to erase the memories because the two of you bonded. My suggestions include: confessing your sin to God and to your wife, then picture the blood of Christ flowing over your sin and hiding it from your sight. It happened but it is now covered by his blood. That is the way God sees your past and that is the way he wants you to see it. The blood of Christ is the most effective medication for healing the memories.

Q&A: Friends Tell Me That There Is Something Wrong With Us

September 19, 2014

Q: I’ve been dating for several years but my best friend tells me that something’s not quite right. What should I do?

Gary: Listen to your friends. I don’t mean that you should necessarily break up. What I do mean is that you should listen to what your friends are saying. It’s not uncommon to have blind spots. Your friends see things that you don’t see. You need to find out what their concerns are and then address the issue. If you don’t, you’re likely to wake up married and realize that your friends were right. Don’t assume just because you are in love you should get married. It’s highly possible to fall in love with someone you should not marry. If you want a practical guide as to what you should consider before deciding to marry, you might want to check out my book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married.

Ways to Help Your Child with a Drug Problem

September 18, 2014

Alcohol and drug-related problems have become the downfall of many adolescents and young adults. Parents are frustrated and often do not know what to do. Here are three specific ways you can help if you suspect that your child has a drug problem. First, pray and ask God for wisdom. He can and will guide you in finding the help you need. Second, seek counsel from a qualified person on what steps you should take. Don’t try to solve the problem on your own. Third, practice “tough love”. Tough love means letting your child suffer the consequences of their drug and alcohol abuse. This is the fastest way for your child to become willing to go for treatment. Be kind, but firm in refusing to bail them out.

Internalized Anger in Young Adults

September 16, 2014

One of the most common problems for adolescents and young adults is passive- aggressive anger. This person has a subconscious motivation to do exactly the opposite of what one is supposed to do. Typically this behavior is designed to get back at a parent or other authority figure, at whom the individual is angry. The tragedy is that their behavior hurts them more than the other person. It is an immature way of handling anger. If your child’s behavior is illogical, rebellious, and self-destructive it may well be coming from internalized anger. The answer lies not in condemning their behavior, but in dealing with their anger. Someone must hear the pain and help the child find a better way to deal with anger.

Q&A: Relationships and Age Difference

September 15, 2014

Q: How much does age matter in a relationship?

Gary: It depends on how old you are. If you’re 16 and he’s 26—then yes, age should be a deal breaker. You’re too young to be involved with someone 10 years older than you. You have high school and college ahead of you. A person who is 26 and wanting to date you is revealing his own insecurity and may even be a predator. On the other hand, if you are a widow of 46 and dating a man who is 56, age difference is less important. You’re both old enough to be mature. There may be other factors that would indicate you should not get married, but age would not be that significant. The general principle is that the younger you are the more important age difference becomes.