Doing Dope Together

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Carole was a client of ours who needed substance abuse treatment to be in accordance with her court probation. She was a freshman at a university in Michigan where she entered not long ago and met John.

John and Carole were so smitten with each other and it was not unusual to see them holding hands and laughing as they walked on the school campus. After a week of classes the first goal was to have fun and be with each other. Feeling very fortunate, their next goal was to live their lives together.

It was together that they attended and participated in all of the school activities planned, especially on the weekends. One weekend John and Carole were at a private party when someone passed a marijuana blunt around the room and Carole received it first. She looked to John who smiled as he encouraged her to try it.

“Go ahead” he said, “it won’t kill you.” John had smoked before in high school, but Carole never used any drugs. She was raised in a home of faith and prayer and was understandably apprehensive, but then John took the marijuana and demonstrated what she should do. “It’s only a blunt” he claimed. Carole slowly drew the smoke into her lungs. Little did they know that the marijuana was laced with crystal meth (methamphetamine).

How Does Methamphetamine Affect the Brain?

Methamphetamine or Meth is commonly manufactured in illegal, hidden laboratories. Other chemicals mixed into the ingredients add a higher potency during the cooking process of the drug. Methamphetamine increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine, leading to high levels of that chemical in the brain. Dopamine is involved in reward, motivation, the experience of pleasure, and motor function. Methamphetamine’s ability to rapidly flood the reward regions of the brain with dopamine produces the euphoric “rush” or “flash” that many users experience. Repeated methamphetamine use can easily lead to addiction—a chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and use. (National Institute on Drug Abuse, Drug Facts Revised 2014)

For John and Carole, the euphoric high made them feel like they wanted to party all night long.
Drugs soon became their primary objective. They each failed to complete their requirements to advance in their studies. When Carole’s parents came to school to take her home, she didn’t want to leave–she was not ready to stop using, and it was easier for her to find drugs with John. She begged her parents to give her another chance and she would make up her classes and work hard to stay on track. As their only child, she was persuasive. They agreed to let her stay because they knew nothing of her addiction to marijuana and crystal meth. Later, they admitted that they knew in their hearts something was wrong, but they wanted to trust Carole, and God. They have stated since that they think they let their daughter down by not listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. John, of course, was glad that Carole would stay after all.

As long as Carole’s parents believed she was making her grades they would continue to help her financially, so she paid friends to take her tests for her and assist her in passing her classes while she continued to use drugs. John, on the other hand, decided to drop out of school and live with Carole. He didn’t work and did not have any communication with his family. Substance abuse was in his family origin. His father was an alcoholic and had been abusive to his mother and the two divorced when John was only nine.

John developed a relationship with the dope man and didn’t need to go to parties to get that euphoric feeling anymore. He and Carole changed in many ways. Their eating habits changed and they started losing weight. They exhibited poor hygiene and didn’t have relationships with their friends, except for their dealer, that is.

God will stop you in order to get your attention

Meeting with the drug dealer had become routine for John and Carole. Sometimes they would smoke as they drove back home and that was the case as Carole drove home and the state police started following them. Blowing sirens and flashing lights panicked John who hid his drugs under the seat of the car. After being stopped they were both removed from their car on suspicion of possession of a control substance. John denied possessing any drugs when the police told him that he had been seen talking to a known drug dealer.

It became difficult for the couple to remain calm. When the officers from the back-up unit searched the car they found an ounce of the marijuana and methamphetamine mixture that John hid. The police asked who owned it and John stated that he never knew the drug was in the car. The officer asked who owned the car, “The car belongs to me,” responded Carole.

After interviewing both at the station later, the police released John and charged Carole with possession and transportation of a controlled substance. She was facing up to four years in jail.

As Carole was being held she remembered John’s words: “Go ahead, it won’t kill you.” But, Carole would later observe that it had killed her dreams and aspirations and she was incarcerated, being held over for a court hearing. Many nights even while getting high she had cried out to God to help her, but she didn’t realize that God will stop you in order to get your attention. She enjoyed the high but soon she realized that her life was a roller coaster out of control and she needed Him to step in and help her.

In so many of our counseling sessions we encounter individuals who have substance abuse problems and who need Narcotics Anonymous and other support groups. One aspect that we have in common with one another is that you must turn to a higher power to correct the substance abuse problem. We pray before and after each counseling session, allowing the Holy Spirt to manifest His power through us to help people understand God’s love for them, His desire that they become whole again and fulfill His purpose for their lives.

Carole understands now that she had become addicted to marijuana and crystal meth. Her world crashed, but her life was not and is not over. She is on the road to recovery and is currently preparing to resume her classes with an online school. Her priority, however, is to maintain her program to recovery. She was able to take an Incomplete in her classes as she worked on getting control of her life. She never saw John again.




Secrets

Drama Files Title TileA secret is something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others. Margret Atwood the author of The Blind Assassin stated “the best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.” In our therapy sessions with couples we often hear a sense of distrust and recognize chronic poor communication between the two. Bruce and Mary encountered problems during their marriage that created the inability to feel comfortable sharing feelings and being open.

The couple had been married for 17 years and have three children ages 9, 12, and 14. Bruce was an administrator for an area high school and Mary was a respected supervisor for an insurance company. Bruce was concerned about past problems that had threatened the marriage but because of his commitment to family, he stayed. However, he attributed his high blood pressure and other health issues to secrets within the marriage.

Bruce said that his wife had no remorse for having an affair earlier in their marriage and he suspected she was involved with someone currently. After seeing a text message from Mary’s cell phone, his suspicion was verified. The couple decided to search for marriage counseling. During our initial session Mary insisted that she only talked to the men and had not violated their marriage vows. Our session was intense with accusations of lying and infidelity flying.

“I want to keep my family together” insisted Bruce, “but I want my wife to be honest and willing to change.”

Adding fuel to the fire, during the reconciliation process, Mary left the home for one day. She returned during the evening, but Bruce did not know she went to a hotel and paid for the room with a credit card until the bill came, three weeks later. Mary said she needed some time because she was stressed and she went to a hotel to rest for a few hours alone. Bruce did not believe she was in the hotel alone.

Bruce wanted healing but Mary could not change the behavior of keeping secrets within the marriage. George Orwell the political writer stated “If you wanted to keep a secret you must hide it from yourself”. Mary was certainly hiding from even herself. Even during her efforts to be honest and open she could not share her secrets. She was living a double life. She wanted to be married but she also wanted other relationships.

Eventually Mary’s secret life was exposed. She had an ongoing relationship with her son’s football coach, who also was a friend to Bruce. Once again, the evidence was found on Mary’s cell phone where she had recorded nude pictures and text messages that were explicit and devastating to her husband and children. Bruce asked Mary to leave the home and he contacted the wives of the coach and another man who also had a relationship with Mary. The secrets destroyed Mary’s family as well as the families of the other men who had shared a secret with Mary.

Bruce has started proceedings for divorce. We must realize that secrets are like a vine growing around a post. The vine grows to the top and then it winds down again, back to its beginning.




Wanting Out Of Your Marriage?

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There May Be Steps You Can Still Take

 

Marvin and Tina Essex first came to us for counseling in 2012. They have four children and live in a rural area of Michigan. He is employed at a local furniture store and she is a social worker for the State of Michigan. They have been married 17 years. The couple came to counseling because they had stopped being intimate with one another and started sleeping in separate bedrooms two years ago before that because Tina felt her husband was being unfaithful.

She had become distant and wanted out of her marriage. Marvin suggested counseling and mediation to assist them in trying to reconcile their marriage. He had never been unfaithful, Marvin insisted. He thought Tina was just looking for a way out of their marriage.

Tina, however, said Marvin used pornography as a means of stimulation, that she found his magazines and caught him on the computer on several pornography sites. This has added to her mistrust and anger towards him. She constantly revisits the lack of trust in their relationship and her husband admitted that he has lied and had  been using pornography, but never has been with another woman.

There was an all too common backstory to the very real and very now problems facing this couple. What Tina didn’t know is that Marvin was introduced to pornography by his uncle when he was only six years old and he was taught that a real man always did these kind of things. He didn’t know how to stop and he cried out for help many times but nothing ever changed. He broke down during the session and cried and said to his wife “ Tina you thought I was always unfaithful, but in a sad twisted way I was.”

Tina responded by holding him during the session and she asked why he didn’t tell her about the problem.“I was so ashamed and didn’t know how to stop or ask for help. I know I have been wrong, but please Tina stay with me and let’s work through this.”

Since the truth about his introduction into pornography by his uncle came out, the couple has reconciled and Marvin has moved back into their bedroom. Tina is more sensitive to his past and wants to be a support to him and apologizes for her mistrust regarding another female in Marvin’s life.

Today, the Essexes have decided to continue their counseling and Marvin has not visited any pornography sites, or purchased magazines in over a year. Tina is working on letting her guard down and once again learning how to enjoy the benefits of her marriage. Marvin is also taking a personal interest in what Tina needs and being a good father to their three children. Marvin continues to be grateful for the counseling offered to he and his wife and realizes the treasures he has in his family and how he almost lost them all.

cutting marriage certificateIt is important to understand when considering divorce that you exhaust every option available. Many couples have lost their interest in their ability to be loving and compassionate towards one another. However, it is never too late to continue trying!

When you want out, consider the last-moment understanding that helped the Essexes:

  1. When all else fails try forgiveness. Tina needed to forgive Marvin so she could receive her own breakthrough and find her own inner peace.
  2. Tina also needed to understand Marvin’s past in order to move out of the past into a brighter, happier future.
  3. Marvin kept an awful secret from his wife that was destroying him every day of his life. The first step is admitting that there is a problem, recognizing that you need help, then take a personal inventory of what is really important in your life and is it worth preserving.
  4. Never be afraid to ask for help or to take the necessary steps to resolve your situation for the proactive outcomes you deserve in your life.



He’s Married. Can He Have A Female Friend?

 

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Introducing veteran counselors, television hosts and writers Arthur Nowlin and Kim Logan Nowlin. Each week they reach into their files of never-ending relationship drama to provide your life with a little (much needed) sanity.

 

 

Calvin and Rose Herring* came to us with some concerns within their relationship. Both individuals are 45 and live in an exclusive community near Detroit, Michigan. Rose teaches school and Calvin is an attorney. After 20 years of marriage and three children, there has been one lingering issue: Calvin’s friendship with another woman.

Calvin knew the woman, “Tracie,” before he and Rose even met. We learned he lived with her and her parents upon moving to New York years earlier. His wife was overreacting, he said, adding that he did not see anything wrong with maintaining their friendship. As far as he was concerned, the friendship never crossed the line and he had a close relationship with her and her family.

“I’m tired of not being trusted,” he said. Rose’s suspicions meant that he was constantly having to look over his shoulder, even though he was doing nothing wrong.

According to Rose, the ongoing contact and communication with this friend exceeded a “friendly relationship.” Rose thought that Tracie got more respect than she did as the wife. Further, Rose added, if she could just get a little more respect from Calvin, she could feel differently about the friendship. When we asked Rose how she knew about there was excessive communication between Calvin and Tracie, she said the phone bill reflected excessive calls from Calvin to his female friend. Still, he insisted that he never “crossed the line.”

It is clear that having an outside relationship with a person of the opposite sex can cause major concerns within a marriage, notes Debbie Cherry, Ph.D, in a Psychology Today article. But “the line” may not be where we think it is. When friends share information about themselves and their spouses with others, that relationship threatens the stability of the marriage. Instances of deceit and temptation increase while the husband or wife becomes more disconnected within their marriage relationship. When the deception begins the line has been crossed and it becomes difficult to stop the destruction of the family.

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On that slippery slope is where we met the Herrings. Our thoughts: eliminate the problem. If your spouse is uncomfortable with a relationship outside of the marriage, eliminate that relationship or have a meeting and discuss the concerns with the parties involved. On an even deeper level, when resolving relationship issues we have learned to investigate the origin of the problem. In this case, the question is why is it more comfortable to share feelings with someone other than your own spouse? In many households we let anger and frustration prevent resolutions. Relationships that start at work, school, and when pursuing outside interests such as working out at the gym. They should be kept in perspective and never to the point of disrupting the household.

Once that issue has been addressed and all parties are satisfied with the solution, then the issue becomes forgiveness and the ability to move on. The couple has indicated there has been anger and resentment because of outside friends. During the session Rose also indicated that she established a relationship with an outside friend from her past because she felt disrespected and disconnected to her husband. The marriage was in a weak state but the confession of both has opened the door to recovery.

Today after six months of counseling they are communicating better and Calvin realized that the comment that Arthur stated in the onset of counseling was character changing for him: “anything that causes the household turmoil needs to be re-evaluated and eliminated.” Calvin took that statement to heart and realized that Rose was right and that he had become too comfortable in his relationship. He now spends more time in the home and has taken our suggestions as their therapists to incorporate a date night.

The Herrings will continue their counseling and appreciate the help, and support from us.

*Yes, the names have been changed.




Four Keys to Marital Success

Happiness is fundamental to the health and survival of the human race. Happy people are generally optimistic about life, enjoy better mental and physical health, more productive at completing tasks and more satisfied with life. Happiness is not only essential to the health and survival of humanity, it is vital to the health and survival of marriages and relationships. To enhance marital fulfillment, we suggest that couples consult the Author and His manual, practice the golden rule of marital satisfaction, set mutual goals, and develop a supportive social network.

Consult the Author and His manual

We can all agree that regardless of the age of a product, a user’s manual whether it is printed or stored digitally always comes in handy. In fact, our society is constantly introducing a variety of products on the market causing users to seek manuals in an effort to answer questions about their function, proper use, and care. Similarly, the institution of marriage has its origin all the way back in Eden and the Author of marriage, God the Creator, has provided us with His manual, The Holy Scriptures. Consulting with the Author of marriage and His manual is the first key that contributes to a happier marriage. This manual provides us with clear instructions on how we should operate in marriage.

The Golden Rule of Marital Satisfaction

Did you know there is a golden rule for marital satisfaction? This rule is: “do for your spouse what you would want your spouse to do for you” (Matt.7:12, paraphrase). The golden rule of marital satisfaction is the second key that can improve the happiness in your relationship. Many wives, husbands and significant others request things from their partner that they are not willing to do if they are asked in return. This principle can help couples balance the expectation in the relationship and thus contribute to marital happiness. Simply put, request from your partner what you would want your partner to request from you. Spouses who know that their partners are fair, compassionate, and loving will normally experience a greater sense of marital satisfaction. We hope that you will make the decision to practice the golden rule of marital satisfaction.

Mutual Goals

Mutual goal setting is the third key capable of contributing to relational fulfillment. When two people come together in marriage, they have decided to shift their focus from “I” to “we.” This shift in focus is a unity that is not just limited to living in the same physical space but also a unity of goals. Amos asked a very fitting rhetorical question, “Can two walk together, unless they agreed” (Amos 3:3 NKJV). It is obvious that two people cannot walk together unless they agree to go in the same direction. Similarly, a husband and wife are unable to have unity of purpose if they have different goals for their relationship. It is important to note that strong families and relationships are built on mutual goal setting. If you have not started, it is time to start the goal setting today and avoid the spirit of competition and confusion in your relationship. Remember that you are on the same team and should be working towards common goals.

A supportive social network

The fourth key that contributes to happiness in relationships is a supportive social network. Research indicates that higher spousal support has a positive impact on various health outcomes (Stanton & Campbell, 2014). The importance of social support is captured in these lines beautifully:
“Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10, NKJV).

Spouses need to support each other daily, but besides the support spouses receive from each other, they need to belong to a supportive social network that extends beyond husband and wife spousal system. We all need social support to thrive. Do not isolate yourself from others; start building a supportive social network today.

Couples who would like to enhance their relationship need to consult the Author of marriage and His manual, practice the golden rule of marital satisfaction, set mutual goals, and develop a supportive social network. These four keys can be vital to the health and longevity of your relationship. We hope that these keys will help you to enjoy a happy and lasting marriage.




Intimate Partner Violence

Varied causes and the increasing gender equality in perpetrators may surprise you.

The elevator video was shocking: Janay Palmer, out cold, and her boyfriend, NFL running back Ray Rice, dragging her out like yesterday’s trash. How is it that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 24 people per minute—more than12 million per year—are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner, and what can be done about it? Alabama therapist and counselor Kenny Tannehill has worked for 15 years with male perpetrators of domestic violence, and he says abusive behavior is learned.

“Male abusers tend to be individuals who have absorbed—either through media images or family history—an ideology of inequality. These men often believe that a man is superior to a woman, and that a man’s role in the relationship with his wife or significant other is asymmetrical—he is the authority over her. A problem arises, however, if she ever questions his authority, or if he perceives that she is doing so,” says Tannehill.

Yet, contrary to what we may think of the stereotypical “abuser,” even big, burly men like Ray Rice have feelings. Their violent behavior may not come from a love of conflict, but from a deep-seated fear that they’re really not powerful. It is then, in response to their own sense of weakness that they act out. Through mental and physical manipulation of their loved ones, they may attempt to balance out their own lack of emotional equilibrium.

Tannehill says that one prominent characteristic of male abusers is that they witnessed violence as a child. They learn how to handle conflict from their dysfunctional upbringing, which results in more dysfunction when the child becomes a man. Impressions made upon him when he is young become the abuser’s default mechanism when faced with a challenge or perceived threat—particularly in his personal relationships—as an adult. If he does not know what a healthy relationship looks like, he may be destined to repeat the bad behaviors that he witnessed growing up. Things aren’t always what they seem.

However, there’s yet another dimension to this problem of intimate partner violence, or IPV, that is far less apparent and not often discussed. Ray Rice was raised by a single mom, and from what we know of his story, he did not witness domestic violence in his home. It would be a mistake, then, to pretend that there are cookie-cutter causes of aggressive behavior. In the full video of Ray Rice and Janay Palmer, she is seen spitting at and hitting him before the infamous punch. How do we reconcile that with our ideas about victims and abusers? Certainly Rice had the strength advantage, and certainly what he did was wrong. What is not certain, however, is whether Palmer should be excused for her behavior.

Aggression does not come out of nowhere, says Tannehill. There are usually patterns of behavior that lead up to the actual display of violence. Thus, in the case of Ray Rice, Tannehill suspects that even if there was no physical violence between the couple before, there was likely some pattern of abuse prior to the elevator incident. Perhaps the way to reverse the escalating culture of violence is to have a more honest discussion of all of its causes. This consideration is not to excuse Rice’s violent act—we can all agree that because of his strength advantage, it was his job to show restraint. Furthermore, his cavalier attitude after the incident speaks volumes about his guilt, but that story has already been told.

The untold story tracks aggression from women to men, a dynamic that illuminates the complexity of intimate partner violence, and is difficult to discuss in light of the elevator video. A 2009 story in The Huffington Post reports that although “two thirds of domestic violence injuries were suffered by women,” multiple studies have found that women initiate violence against their partners more than men do. In certain cases of intimate partner violence, “a woman’s violence against her man was as predictive of his violence to her as his own history of violence.” *These studies also show that in these cases when a woman refrains from attack, no violence occurs.

“It starts with how we socialize our young men and young women” says clinical psychologist Danella Knight. “We typically don’t broach the issue [of violence] until it’s an issue.” We tell our boys to “suck it up” and be “men” without fully defining what that means. We laugh off boys’ bad behavior with pat clichés—“boys will be boys”—then wonder why they do not make better choices. We tell boys not to hit girls, but do we tell girls the same thing? These are not easy questions to answer with the amber glow of the television screen beaming down the horrid, endlessly looping elevator video. But now that Ray Rice’s story has raised the issue of domestic violence, it’s time we have some honest discussions about men and women’s complicity in this troublesome, trending culture of violence.

*www.huffingtonpost.com/glenn-sacks/researcher-says-womens-in_b_222746.html

Signs of destructive domestic violence or intimate partner violence goes both ways:

• calls you names, insults you, or puts you down

• prevents you from going to work or school

• stops you from seeing family members or friends

• tries to control how you spend money, where you go, or what you wear

• acts jealous or possessive, or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful

• gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs

• threatens you with violence or a weapon

• hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes, or otherwise hurts you, your children, or your pets

• forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will

• blames you for his or her violent behavior, or tells you that you deserve it

www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/domestic-violence-against-men/art-20045149




Other Ways to Leave a Mark

Switch your method of corporal punishment.

Ask many adults about the way they were disciplined as children and they will say, “A good old-fashioned spanking.” They will tell you they appreciate those spankings, even though they may have hated them back then– because those lashes set them on the right track and made them who they are today. Even the Bible says, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.” However the recent child abuse case involving Minnesota Vikings

Running Back Adrian Peterson presents the question, where should parents draw the line when it comes to disciplining their children?

Peterson faces child abuse charges after he instructed his 4-year-old son to go outside and get a small tree branch–also called a “switch”–for a spanking. When photos surfaced of lacerations covering both of the boy’s legs, Peterson’s lawyer called him a loving father and explained that this was the same discipline Peterson experienced as child.

“Well let’s define what a spanking is for starters,” said clinical psychologist Seanna-Kaye Denham. Denham is the lead clinical psychologist of the child psychiatry inpatient program at Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, NY. “[W]hat Adrian Peterson did in disciplining his four-year-old son was not a spanking, but would fall under the category of excessive corporal punishment.” Excessive surpasses physical pain and leads to physical injury.

Excessive corporal punishment is abuse, and abuse can have long-lasting or permanent effects. Five children die every day because of child abuse according to a study done by the National Children’s Alliance. Another study revealed that 80% of 21-year-olds who were abused as children suffered from at least one psychological disorder.

“When spanking is excessive, harsh, and frequent, then you are very likely to see psychological problems, because that type of punishment produces an abused and traumatized child,” said Denham. “Children who have been abused and traumatized may show impairment in their academics, social interactions, ability to manage stress, sleep, appetite, focus and concentration, and sense of safety. And these effects can last well into adulthood. Abused and traumatized children can become aggressive or may be vulnerable to being victimized again by others, and may grow up to be abusive or to be victims of domestic violence.”

However when practiced with discipline, spanking can be effective. 32-year-old Natalia Priest got her first spanking when she was about five years old. She was spanked with belts and rulers. Priest is one of many people who believe spankings as a form of discipline have shaped her life for the better.

“At the time when I used to get spankings, I definitely used to hate them, says Priest. “However as I got older I realized that it has shaped the person that I am today—and who knows maybe perhaps without spankings I would not have been where I am today.” Priest, who has degrees in psychology and Human Service counseling sees it as necessary for a child to understand right from wrong, but the discipline comes from parents.

“I would say if you are angry about a situation then spanking your child may have consequences and can cause a child abuse case. I often say if you are angry, walking away from the child as opposed to spanking them is the best solution.”

There are other nonphysical ways to discipline children.

• “Praise positive behavior,” says Denham. “Demonstrate with your words and body language your approval of the appropriate things your child does.” It is easy to want to immediately correct your children when they are wrong, but remember to tell your child when he or she is doing something right. It will give them a clearer idea of what behavior is acceptable.”

• Denham also states that parents should “consistently model the expected behavior in front of their children,” because when given an example kids tend to do better.

• State the rules clearly and in a developmentally appropriate manner to eliminate all confusion.

• “Time-outs are effective for toddlers and young children when properly implemented. Don’t send a child to timeout for a behavior that occurred more than 15 minutes earlier.” Denham says parents should use the common rule of one minute for each year of the child’s age. Following the timeout the parent should speak to the child about his or her problematic behavior.

• When dealing with teenagers, withholding privileges is an operative way of discipline. “Try to make sure your child knows how to earn back the privilege and choose the length of time they have to be without the privilege wisely.”

• Most importantly Denham says parents should work on developing a relationship with a child that’s based on mutual respect and love. “Parents shouldn’t humiliate their children publicly or privately.”




Impasse!

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How do two people in a relationship move past a bad argument? do you have any advice to help us resolve conflict, mend a rift, and help our relationship move forward?

Becky—Sacramento, California

Relationships are challenging. No matter the type of relationship, the fact that we are all different makes disagreements almost inevitable. And this real- ity easily lends itself to strained relationships since almost everyone believes his or her opinion about what is being dis- cussed is the correct one. Sadly, for many, these stalemates can lead to the disintegration of a relationship, despite the fact that most of these situations can be resolved if the people involved are willing to respectfully listen to each other.

Romans 12:18 says: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” This text alone could transform relationships. However, we seem to have such dif- ficulty applying this message to our daily lives. Here are five ways in which we can use this counsel in all of our relation- ships to build rather than to destroy them.

1. Pause and pray. Stop what you’re doing—talking, argu- ing, fighting, etc. Take a deep breath, and then take another deep breath (some people may require three or four deep breaths). Pray and ask God to help you calm down, think reasonably, and act rationally.

2. Play on the same team. Most conflicts emerge because one or both parties are convinced of their own opinion—to put it plainly, we want to prove to the other person that we are right, and we want to win. You can flip the switch in your brain to a “win-win” attitude. Rather than having a winner and a loser, you can both win. If one person in the conflict adopts this attitude, it can change the atmosphere and influ- ence the other person to adopt a “win-win” attitude.

3. Listen. Listen. Listen. At the heart of most disagree- ments is misunderstanding that occurs mostly because we are not listening to one another. We all view the world through our own lenses that are colored by our experiences, our values, and our expectations. Conflict arises because the other person has his or her own pair of lenses, which is different than our own. When we interact without tak- ing into consideration our different perspectives, it leads us to judge each other unfairly. The only way to get a deeper understanding about what the other person is saying is to listen to them—their hopes, their dreams, and their stories.

In order to truly listen to another person, we must listen with our eyes, our hearts, and our soul, which allows us to enter their world. It is here that we glean a deeper understanding of their perspective.

4. Celebrate your differences. Accept the fact that we are all different and we can use our differences as strengths rather than weaknesses. It doesn’t have to be my way or your way; we can create a solution that incorporates ideas from both sides that will be a better way for both parties. This creates a synergy in the relationship that allows it to grow even stronger and to form deeper bonds.

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5. Be thankful. Thank God for giving you the wisdom, strength, and willingness to resolve and restore your rela- tionship. Thank the other person for their willingness to engage in the process of breaking the stalemate in your rela- tionship. This creates an environment of warmth, support, affirmation, and greater trust in the relationship. Engaging in this positive process will pave the way for resolving inevi- table challenges and opportunities in the future.

The reality is that dealing with conflict is an ongoing and sometimes frustrating process in every relationship, but with God on our side, we cannot fail. His power is available to everyone who asks for it. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus says: “Ask, and it will be given to you.” If you ask, you will be able to live at peace with everyone. Commit to being the catalyst for change and the initiator of creative cooperation and watch your relationships grow to new heights.




I Messed Up! Can I Get My Family Back?

A year ago I confessed to my wife that I had had several affairs during our 10 years of marriage. In the last year I have been totally faithful to my wife, but she still doesn’t trust me. We’ve tried counseling, but my wife has not been able to get over my unfaithfulness, although she says she has forgiven me. We are now separated, and she wants a divorce. I have been attending a recovery group for addictive behaviors and have come to realize how deeply I’ve wounded my wife, my children, and even myself. Is there hope for me to get my family back?

John—Chicago, Illinois

As long as there is life, there is hope—“with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). With that said, it is important for you to understand that an affair, or affairs, are devastating to a marriage and often leave a marriage so fragile it cannot sustain such a heavy blow. It is emotionally confusing for the injured spouse and leaves that person feeling betrayed and abandoned. Your wife is experiencing deep pain, hurt, isolation, guilt, and shame, and feels she can never trust you again.

Marriage experts assert that it takes approximately two years for the injured spouse to grieve the loss of innocence in their marriage and heal from the wounds caused by an affair. Forgiveness does not take away the pain or the consequences of such an injury. Even when wounds heal, scars remain. Once trust has been broken and sexual infidelity leaves an incredibly deep wound, it will take a lifetime of intentional commitment to restore that relationship.

We firmly believe God can heal any marriage, including one that has suffered the damage of many affairs. In our society, including thUnHappy Couplee Christian community, we have been led to believe that once there is adultery, it’s natural or inevitable to get a divorce. While the Bible allows for divorce when there has been adultery, if both spouses (especially the injured spouse) are will- ing to work hard, a marriage can be healed and restored. In fact, not only can a marriage survive, it can thrive. Regardless of why you had affairs, there are usually underlying issues that can contribute to spousal betrayal. Many of these issues may stem from unresolved loss, pain, abuse, or abandonment. When an individual does not deal with past hurts or certain unfulfilled needs from their early years, those issues follow them into future relationships. Many jump into marriage hoping it will solve their problems or relational gaps left from childhood. When those needs aren’t met in marriage, many try to get those needs met elsewhere.

You must find a good Christian therapist who can help you sort through and identify the issues that led to your unfaithfulness. Ask the Lord to soften your wife’s heart and let her know you are sin- cerely interested in doing whatever it takes to be a better husband and father. In humility, ask her if she can hold off from filing for a divorce while you try to get help with your issues. You must not ntimidate, force, or threaten her to take you back. Even if there were things you feel she did in your marriage to hurt or humiliate you, you must remain calm and patient with her.

At some point your counselor will most likely ask your wife to attend sessions with you or alone. Your wife should also seek individual counseling, but you should not be the one to tell her. Continue to pray without ceasing, study Scripture, and read some books, or search online to find out how marriage can heal from an affair. God promises in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” You can expect the process to be painfully slow. However, if you are willing to invest the time and effort, your family may be restored.

 

Of course, even with all your good intentions, your family may not be restored to what it was before. We still encourage you to go through the process of becoming your best self with the help of your counselor and God. We would also urge you and your wife to work through your marital issues and take steps toward true forgiveness of each other since divorce does not solve prob- lems—it leaves them in a pile so every time you come to that spot you stumble over them. To continue to coparent your children for future health you and your wife would want to work things out to give them a fighting chance in their own future relationships. We are praying for your success!




Other People’s Business

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I am really concerned about my sister’s parenting style. she allows her teenage daughters to wear clothes that are too mature for them, they are allowed to hang out with boys, and they can stay out as late as they choose. she says that she doesn’t want to raise her girls as strictly as we were when we were growing up, and she wants her girls to have the freedom to make their own mistakes. i think she is setting her children up for failure. she thinks I’m too strict with my children. What is the best way to talk to someone about concerns such as these? Where is a healthy place to draw the line between strictness and being lenient in parenting?

Cherise—London, England

 

Giving advice is always easier than receiving advice. We believe it is best to work on what Stephen Covey calls, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, living in your circle of influence. This notion suggests controlling those things within your sphere of control—yourself, your attitude, your words, and your actions.

When you live in your circle of influence you have more sway on those around you than when you attempt to live outside of that circle. So the best time to talk to your sister about your concerns would be when she asks for your advice. Since you and your sister are adults, and both of you are parents, you each have your own parenting style.

Most parenting styles fall along two continuums: (1) warmth and support; (2) control and structure (Journal of Early Adolescence, Baumrind, 1991). The best parenting style is one that finds a healthy balance along these two continuums.

There are four parenting styles that can be derived from the structure mentioned above. The authoritarian parent is one who has a lot of structure and little warmth. This parent is usually very controlling, demanding, and unreasonable. Children who have authoritarian parents find their discipline to be punitive, and feel rejected when disciplined. These children tend to be aggressive and uncooperative, and have low self-esteem.

Another parenting style is the permissive parent, who is very warm but provides very little structure or boundaries. This parenting style results in a child who tends to be self-centered, spoiled, and irresponsible.

The neglectful parent, another style of parenting, is neither warm nor supportive, and doesn’t provide any structure. This style of parenting is associated with risky behavior in children, adolescents, and teens—such as skipping school and early smoking and drinking. The healthy balance is found in the authoritative parent. This parenting style provides high warmth and high support. Healthy and reasonable boundaries are set for children that are age appropriate. Authoritative parents are very involved, consistent, loving, willing to communicate, and respectful of the child’s point of view. These children learn to be self-controlled, secure, and have good self-esteem.

Proverbs 22:6 declares: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” As a parent you have the awesome privilege and responsibility of raising God’s children on earth. One of the ways in which you can nurture and enhance your parenting skills is by reading books on the topic. We have provided several titles below for you to get started.
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Sharing these resources with your sister is a good way to share your concerns with her without adding strain to your relationship. You may even consider starting a parents’ book club at your church or local community center to help a larger number of parents. We are praying for your success!