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.

Q&A: The Choice to Have Children

September 12, 2014

Q:  Are married people obligated to have children?

Gary: God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” In the Bible, children are viewed as a gift from God. However, I don’t think this means that every Christian couple is obligated to have children. If a couple decides not to have children, their reason for such a choice should clearly be understood and should not be rooted in selfishness. Some good reasons for not having children might include: physical and mental disabilities, poor relational skills, or ministry for Christ. Selfish reasons might be: the desire to travel, not willing to accept responsibility, or wanting to be free to follow personal interests. Make sure that your choice is based on a genuine desire to follow God’s plan for your life.

Do’s and Don’ts of Depression

September 11, 2014

If you know someone who is depressed, let me give you some Do’s and Don’ts. First the Do’s: encourage them to go for counseling. Let them know that if they want to talk, you want to listen. Look for life-threatening symptoms such as suicidal talk or actions. Inform the counselor of such talk or actions. Invite them to do things with you. And pray for them daily. Now the don’ts: Don’t tell them that they have nothing to be depressed about. Don’t tell them to snap out of it. Don’t tell them that the problem is spiritual. Don’t tell them that the problem stems from their past failures. With proper help your friend or family member can work through depression and be able to move toward independence.

Depression in Young Adults

September 9, 2014

When Dr. Ross Campbell and I wrote our book: Parenting Your Adult Child, we discovered that depression is the most common hurdle faced by young adults. Symptoms include feelings of helplessness, despondency, and despair; problems with sleep (either too much or too little); problems with eating – too much or too little; and lack of energy. Depression in turn will affect the young adult’s performance in school or on the job. This may result in flunking out of college or being fired from a job. It is often at this point that the young adult turns to parents for help. May I encourage you, don’t try to help them alone. Insist that they see a counselor, medical doctor, or a pastor. Use the resources that are available to help your child succeed.

Q&A: Dealing With Substance Abuse

September 8, 2014

Q: What’s the best way to deal with substance abuse in marriage?

Gary: My approach is to see yourself as a positive change agent. The process is two pronged—first, tender love and second, tough love. By tender love I mean learn their love language and speak it daily no matter how they treat you. Then, 6 months into this process you make the request that they seek treatment. Keep loving them. Next, apply tough love. You might say, “I love you too much to sit here and do nothing while you destroy yourself. If you don’t go for treatment, I am moving in with my mother.” Finally, move out. Since you’ve loved them in a meaningful way for six months they now have something to lose. Typically they respond to this. After treatment you can get marriage counseling and rebuild your marriage.

Q&A: Jealousy Issues

September 5, 2014

Q:  I have jealousy issues toward my wife. We are newly married, but I struggle with her having other guy friends. How can I deal with this?

Gary: Some jealousy is normal, particularly in the early years of marriage. We cannot, however, smother our spouse and not let them have friends. If it’s simply friendships with simple conversations, then no problem. But if indeed she has hidden (or not so hidden) feelings for these friends and there are some romantic elements involved, that’s not permissible in a healthy marriage. Be honest with her about your feelings. She in turn needs to be honest with you about the nature of these relationships. Marriage is designed to be exclusive and this conversation will help set that standard.

Escaping from Reality

September 4, 2014

As parents, we want our children to reach the point where they can function independently of us. It is the way life is designed – children are born to become adults. However, in contemporary culture it is not uncommon to see adult children who are not succeeding in life and want to return home. Is this a good idea? Perhaps! If you can help them find healing from their hurts; and rediscover their direction then time at home is good. However, if they move home simply as an escape from reality; if they are not open to your help, then you may enable them to live irresponsible lives. My suggestion is to have a family conference. Agree on a plan and hold each other accountable. This is responsible parenting.

Release the Person to God

September 2, 2014

If you have a tendency to hold anger inside and to withdraw from the person at whom you are angry, please listen. The apostle Paul instructed us to “get rid of anger.” Jesus said, “don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Anger was meant to be a visitor, not a resident. It is not wrong to feel anger, but it is wrong to hold anger inside. There are two biblical ways to handle anger. First, you may lovingly confront the person at whom you are angry and hope that they will apologize and the relationship can be restored. Secondly, if they persist in hurting you and not apologizing, you can release the person to God. The scriptures say, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay says the Lord.” Trust Him, and don’t live another day with anger.

Q&A: Newly Married but Having Little Fights

August 29, 2014

Q: After getting married we are having a hard time with coming together with our money. When it comes to bills it seems like it’s either hers or mine. Any advice?

Gary: Talk about it. It’s normal for couples to have issues of adjustment when they get married. I suggest that each week you have a family conference in which each of you brings up one thing that is bothering you. Then the two of you look for an answer. If it’s done on a regular basis, you will process normal conflicts in a positive way. If you don’t have a set time to talk you will likely hold things inside until the pressure gets so strong that you explode and end up in an argument. Sharing concerns and looking for solutions draws a couple together. Love is always willing to listen and open to change.

Implosive Anger

August 28, 2014

There are two negative ways to respond to anger: explosion and implosion. Some Christians who would deplore explosive expressions of anger fail to understand that implosive anger is fully as destructive in the long run. Jesus warned about holding anger inside. Whereas explosive anger begins with rage and may quickly turn to violence, implosive anger begins with silence and withdrawal but in time leads to resentment, bitterness and eventually hatred. Jesus said that we are not to “let the sun go down on our anger.” That is, we are to process anger quickly. Have you ever seen a building imploded? The explosives are strategically placed so that the building will be destroyed by falling inward. That is what happens when you hold anger inside.