Things I Wish I’d Known…

As a pastor, I’m asked to officiate weddings for couples who have lived together before deciding to marry. Does your book: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, apply to such couples?

Answer: The short answer is, “Yes”. The longer answer is that couples who live together before getting married are no better prepared for marriage than those who did not. In fact, their divorce rate is even higher. The topics I deal with in my book: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married are designed to help all couples whatever their past experience. I include such topics as: I wish I’d Known that…apologizing is a sign of strength; forgiveness is not a feeling; toilets are not self-cleaning. I wish I’d Known…how to solve conflicts without arguing; that romantic love has two stages, and that personality profoundly affects behavior.

Most couples who have lived together before marriage, have not learned these realities, nor the skills to apply them.

Forgiving Like God Forgives

Gary, Jesus said that we are to forgive 70 X 7. Does that mean with an apology or without an apology? My wife never apologizes and I’m having a hard time dealing with the hurt.

Answer: We are to forgive others as God forgives us. So, how does God forgive us? The Scriptures say, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins.” If we don’t confess, the Scriptures indicate that God will discipline us – Hebrews 12. Jesus gave us clear instructions in Luke 17: 3 “If your brother (or wife) sins against you, confront him or her. If they repent forgive them.” In Matthew 18, Jesus said we should make more than one attempt at confronting them. Eventually, if they don’t repent, we are to treat them as a pagan. How do we treat pagans? We pray for them; we love them; we return good for evil. It is unconditional love that often touches the heart of the offender. You will need God’s help to follow God’s plan, but it is the most powerful thing you can do when someone refuses to apologize.

Retreat is Not the Road to Victory

Marital separation sometimes brings a temporary sense of ‘peace’. One husband said, “This is the first week of peace I’ve had for years.” Of course, he felt peace; he had left the battlefield. However, retreat is not the road to victory. You must come from that retreat with a renewed determination to defeat the enemy of your marriage. If you are separated, use this time to examine the biblical principles for building a marriage. Discover where you went wrong and how to correct it. Reach out for God’s help. I wrote the book: Hope for the Separated to help you do this. Separation is not necessarily the end. It may be the beginning of rediscovering the dream you shared when you were first married.

Repentance and Reconciliation

When marriages fall apart, where do we go for help?

The Christian turns to God because we know that He cares. The Bible is God’s clearest voice for guidance. And the Bible calls us to repentance and reconciliation. Notice I said repentance. There can be no reconciliation without repentance. In marriage, this calls for mutual repentance, for almost always the failure has involved both parties. I do not wish to minimize the hurt, pain, frustration, anger, resentment, loneliness, and disappointment you may feel. Nor do I take lightly your past efforts at marital adjustment. But this is a new day and calls for new choices. Deal with your own failures and ask God to help you do something positive today. Reconciliation comes one step at a time.

Preparing for Good Adult Relationships

Do you know the five love languages of children? They are: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. One of those five is the primary love language of your child. If you don’t speak that language, your child will not feel loved. This does not mean that you speak only the primary love language. No, you give heavy doses of their primary love language, then you sprinkle in the other four. The ideal is that children learn to receive and give love in all five languages. This prepares them for good relationships as adults. Your example is the most effective method of teaching. Love your children effectively and they will learn to love others.

Discovering the Love Language of Children

Every child has a special way of receiving love. When Dr. Ross Campbell and I wrote the book: The Five Love Languages of Children, we discovered that children understand love in five basic ways: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service. If you have several children, chances are they each understand love in a different way. Often parents think that the ideal is to treat each child in the same way. They think of this as equality. However, a hug means more to some children than to others. So, if each child gets a hug, some actually receive more than others. Discovering the primary love language of each child is the key to effectively communicating love.

Practically Loving Your Children

Most parents love their children, but many children do not feel loved. When children don’t feel loved, they do poorly in school, they don’t respond well to discipline, and they are filled with anger. I believe that inside every child is an emotional love tank. When the tank is full: that is, the child feels loved by parents, the child grows up emotionally healthy. But when the love tank is empty, the child will grow up with many internal struggles. Loving children effectively requires parents to express love in a language that the child understands. In my research, I discovered five basic love languages: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service.

A Third Alternative

Dr. Judith Wallerstein has studied the topic of divorce for more than 20 years. Here are her conclusions. “People want to believe that divorce will relieve all their stresses – back we go to square one and begin our lives anew. But divorce does not wipe the slate clean…Few adults anticipate accurately what lies ahead when they decide to divorce. Life is almost always more arduous and more complicated than they expect”. I know that if you are in a deeply troubled marriage, you may feel that you have only two options: stay in the marriage and be miserable, or divorce and hope for something better. There is a third alternative. It is what I call “reality living”.

Love Removes Barriers

Have you ever accused your spouse of something they didn’t do? I once accused my wife of miss-placing my briefcase, when in fact, I left it at my office. What do you do about false accusations? Ignore them and hope your spouse will forget? Not if you want a loving marriage. Every time you ignore a harsh word, it sits as an emotional barrier between the two of you. Love removes the barriers. So, I called my wife and said, “I found my briefcase.” She didn’t say anything. She knew there ought to be more to it than that. So, I said, “I’m sorry for the way I talked to you. It was wrong. Will you forgive me.” She said, “I thought you’d call.” We’re committed to removing the barriers.

ABC’s of Screen Time

How are screens affecting your child? Here is the ABC test for parents;
Attitude – What attitude does my child have after the screen time?
Behavior – How does the content encourage my child to behave?
Character – What character traits are being modeled and picked up?
Screens can be a friend or an enemy in raising your children. Watching a TV program together and discussing the content can build family unity. Everyone watching their own program and no interaction afterwards separates a family. As parents we set the example. People are more important than screens. Would your children get that message by observing your behavior? Think about it.