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.


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

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?

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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.”

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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.”


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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.


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.
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!

Back From Broke – Dave Ramsey

David-RamseysFInanicalPeaceBack From Broke How to keep your family from falling off your own fiscal cliff
Interview with Financial Peace University founder Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey dispenses financial advice to millions of Americans every year through his best-selling books, one of the most recent being The Total Money Makeover. He hosts his own nationally syndicated radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show, where avid listeners, everyday Joes, formerly under financial stress, flock to his microphones to proclaim their newfound freedom from debt. Ramsey’s story, however, reaches millions because he experienced financial meltdown years ago, managed to climb out of debt, and now helps others do the same. “I don’t listen to broke people,” he likes to say. He carved out some time to answer some questions for Message.


Message: what do you say to a couple at financial rock bottom, perhaps dealing with joblessness or facing foreclosure?

You need to take care of your four walls first—food, shelter, clothing, and transportation. Food—buy your family food. That’s the very first thing you do. The next thing you do is keep the lights and water on—utilities. The next thing you do is take care of shelter. Then you take care of transportation, and then you take care of basic clothing needs. We pay the house payment and the car payment, we eat, and we keep the lights on before we do anything else. Don’t be behind on your home, and keep current on your credit cards. If you’re having trouble taking care of your necessities, then you need to look at how you can increase your income. Pick up an extra job or two delivering pizzas or throwing papers. Remember, this isn’t a long-term way of life; this is a short-term period of focused intensity to make things happen.

When you get all of these things taken care of, worry starts to leave, and you can focus on your situation and try to get control of it. When you’re in a tailspin, you can’t think straight, and you will not win with your money. Putting up the four walls in a state of crisis will help eliminate fear, so that you can work through your situation.

Message: what is the key to preserving the relationship that is strained because of finances?

Money fights and money problems are the number one cause of divorce. If you aren’t working together, it is impossible to win. Opposites attract, and in every marriage there’s a nerd and a free spirit. The nerd loves budgeting and spreadsheets, and the free spirit is usually a little less organized. But remember, it’s those very differences that brought you together in the first place.

Each month, sit down together and create a written plan for your money, a budget. The nerd might prepare the budget, but the free spirit gets to have an opinion and suggest changes. Once the budget is agreed upon, both parties have to swear they won’t do anything with their money that’s not on that paper until they discuss it with each other. Creating a budget together allows you to agree on where your money goes and ultimately your values.

Message: How do you come back from financial ruin?

Change is painful. Most people won’t change until the pain of where they are exceeds the pain of change. If you’ve had a wakeup call and realized your financial plan didn’t work, then it’s time to change. But the good news is that no matter your situation, it’s possible to win with money. Trust me, I’ve been there. The first step to winning with your money is being intentional, and that means making a budget. Virtually no one can win with money without a budget. When you know what you’re doing with your money and where it’s going, you’re able to control it instead of it controlling you.

Message: are there spiritual, biblical concepts you can reference that provide direction going forward?

There are more than 800 scriptures about money that show us how to handle our finances His way. Here are a few: Budgeting: Luke 14:28-30: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’” Debt: Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

Family: Proverbs 31:10, 11: “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.” Saving: Proverbs 21:20: “There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it.”

Message: what is the most liberating thing you may never have known were it not for the financial low you experienced yourself?

After losing everything, I went on a quest to figure out how money really works and how I could have confidence handling it. That quest led me to a really uncomfortable place— my mirror. I came to realize that my money problems and worries largely began and ended with the person in the mirror. Personal finance is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge. Most people know what to do; they just don’t do it. I realized that if I could learn to manage myself, I could win with money.


Family Unplugged

How is this for an evening portrait of family togetherness? Dad watches football on TV with his teenage son watching while texting beside him. Mom talks on the phone with a friend while surfing the Web on her iPad for a recipe. Brother plays on the Xbox in his room while sister multitasks while completing her homework on her laptop in between posts on Facebook.

As easy as it is to connect with someone, we have become more disconnected in our relationships. The deeper our relationship, the more intimate, enjoyable, and lasting it is, yet the technology masks feelings and muffles soul connections. It’s great for a quick connect, but not so good for a deep connection.

Jim Taylor, Ph.D., said in Psychology Today that “children who spent considerable time on a popular social networking site indicated that they felt less supported by their parents.”1

We tend to use technology as a quick fix, or a way to pacify and mask our feelings and needs, instead of facing our feelings, digging deeply, and experiencing that discomfort that will eventually get us to intimacy that everyone wants, but many don’t know how to get. If you want that deep feeling of joy, peace, and love, you won’t get there through technology.

According to research done by the A. C. Nielsen research marketing company, “the average parent spends 38.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with their children.”2 With 10,080 minutes in a week, parents are averaging less than 0.4 percent of them talking to their children. If those statistics are uncomfortable, and the depth of your family relationships are lacking, there is something you can do.

Philippians 4:8 states: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT).3

There are many things that you can think of about your family that makes you want to hide behind your iPhone, but in order for us to rebuild family relationships we must focus on the things that are lovely and right. Let me give you three tips to help you disconnect from technology and reconnect with your family.

1. Focus on what is good. I’m sure you can find things that are not so good about your family. What you focus on you will get, or get more of. Focus on what is good. Write down three things about your family that’s good. It may be painful at first, but try to focus on those things. Acknowledge those things in each person and be grateful about those things.

2. Find common ground. What does everyone in the family like doing that does not involve technology? Does everyone like some type of sport, or playing board games? Pick one day a week, or month when you have family day—without technology. Get to know each other again.

3. Ask questions. There is no better way to get to know someone than to ask questions. This may be a little uncomfortable if you are not used to it, so write them down. Start with just one question. If they brush you off or get frustrated, understand that it is just discomfort. Be patient. Find another time to ask a question when they are in a better mood or doing something fun.

Start with these reconnection tips, and you’ll be well on your way to reconnecting your family and connecting deeply.

How You Say It

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My husband and I don’t have a very good marriage. the first few months after our wedding we had a lot of fun and got along quite well. Since then, things have gone south. We seem to disagree with each other in every conversation, and since the children arrived—we have two boys—it has just added to the stress in our marriage, and our lack of peaceful conversations with each other. if things don’t get better between us soon, i may not be able to stay in this marriage much longer. Please help! We can’t talk to each other anymore.

Michelle—Addison, Texas

Effective communication is essential to the survival of every marriage. If we were to look at marriage as a living organism, good communication would be like healthy blood running through every cell in the system to remain viable. And if marriage were a car engine, good communication would be like oil with enough viscosity to keep the parts well lubricated in order to function well.

One of the greatest challenges in married life—once the honeymoon is over—is for couples to engage in frequent conversation that is calm, civil, constructive, affirming, peaceful, and understanding. It is a delusion to believe getting along well before marriage means you will continue to do so after marriage. It is amazing how much stress, tension, and trouble a few dishes that need washing, bills that need paying, floors that need sweeping, and babies that need feeding can bring to an otherwise wonderful and blissful marriage.

Good communication is not a skill we often bring to marriage. Most of us came up in families in which voices were raised— sometimes more than just a little—when people disagreed with each other. This unfortunate legacy must be discarded to survive the rigors of real life in marriage.

There are two elements that are particularly important to having good communication in marriage, or any other meaningful relationship: making it clear and making it safe.*

Quite frequently lack of clarity causes miscommunication in marriage. Many of the most heated arguments take place because a husband or wife failed to understand what his or her spouse meant to say, making things very unclear and leaving spouses very angry at each other.

Having a great marriage means that both husband and wife should be able to express their feelings, beliefs, concerns, and preferences clearly without damaging the relationship in the process. For this to happen, each spouse must feel safe to share what is on his or her mind, which can be accomplished only in an environment in which each spouse is careful about not hurting the feelings of the other.

To accomplish these two important concepts that are essential to great communication, there should be an agreement to: 1. Listen first and talk second. 2. Resist the urge to defend yourself. 3. Paraphrase what your spouse is saying to make sure you understand each other and are on the same page. 4. Share the process so you both have an opportunity to listen and speak to each other. 5. Pray for patience, a willing heart to resolve your differences to satisfaction, and a desire to give honor and glory to God in the process.

The Bible states in Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Determine that every time you speak to your spouse it will be like giving him a gift of gold and silver, so your conversation with each other will find new joy and peace, and be a blessing to your children and their children.

Relationship Rx-The Wedding Invitation

I received an invitation in the mail to attend my gay cousin’s wedding. I am conflicted about going. I love him, and his partner is a very nice guy. They both grew up as Christians. On the other hand, the Bible teaches against this, and I think I would feel uncomfortable at the wedding because of this. What should I do? Should I say anything? How do I maintain a relationship with them even after the wedding?

Mark – Atlanta, Georgia

life is truly becoming more and more complicated as society changes from more traditional values, based on a simple reading of the Bible, to a more postmodern reality filled with variations and multiple arrangements in relationships. The sexual revolution of the 1960s, a mostly heterosexual phenomenon, has given way to a number of alternative sexuality practices and arrangements, making life in the third millennium even more difficult to navigate.

So what is a Christian to do when confronted with a dilemma such as the one you have just posed? By your own admission, you would feel uncomfortable attending the wedding because of what you have read in the Bible about same-sex attraction and relationships. However, the question we should ask ourselves is: Would attending such an event convey our agreement with what is being done, or simply show support for the relative who was kind enough to send an invitation?

We hasten to offer that this is a dilemma each person will have to answer individually. Romans 14:23 states: “For whatever is not from faith is sin.” This means that whatever you decide to do must be based on the personal conviction of what you believe God is calling you to do. We cannot decide for you. We do know, however, God may have a special role for you to play in the lives of the couple getting married. It would be difficult to influence your cousin and his partner in the future if you simply ignore his invitation. Remember, Jesus frequently spent time in the company of sinners and people of ill repute, and the Pharisees were constantly accusing Him of being inappropriate: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ ” (Matthew 11:19).

The Gospel writer continues in Matthew 5:13, 14: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? . . .You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Salt is a preservative that can work only when next to that which needs to be cured and preserved; and light is valuable only when used in the darkness to illuminate the way.

We believe we must challenge ourselves to be salt and light. However, this reality will take place only when we live our lives as ministry in service to God for the salvation of others. It is not possible to save sinners if we hang out only with the righteous (let’s not forget that we too are sinners). We must press past the discomfort of our preferred perspectives to reach people where they are.

A prominent Christian writer of the nineteenth century declared: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence.

Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing [Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905], p. 143). Let’s follow Jesus’ example so that by God’s grace we might be used as instruments of His salvation and peace. We will continue to pray for you as you grapple with this difficult and serious dilemma.