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7 Foundational Aspects Of Your Marriage That Are Essential

I have had spouses, pastors, and even other counselors ask what I believe are the foundational aspects that matter the most for a gratifying marriage.  Counseling and written materials that provide skills and tools in 7 major areas can help build a strong, wholesome relationship for lifelong marital happiness.   

When couples are effective in the 7 essential components shown below, the probabilities for a gratifying relationship are significantly increased. 

1.  Expectations: Very simply, expectations will either create a strong emotional connection or deep disappointment and hurt.  Whenever a couple is satisfied in their relationship, the simple reason is expectations are being met.  Whenever a couple is disappointed in their marriage, expectations are not being fulfilled.  

2. Disagreement Discussion Guidelines: Disagreements are natural occurrences in happy marriages.  Couples in satisfying relationships certainly have disagreements—but they rarely have fights, arguments, and conflicts.  So a disagreement is never the problem, it is how a couple handles a disagreement while finding a solution.

3.  Apologizing and Forgiving: The Bible has nearly 125 references to the importance of forgiveness for interpersonal relationships. When spouses have the momentous goal to apologize and forgive one another for marital hurts or sins that substantially improves the chances for a gratifying relationship. 

 4.  Finances:  70% of couples fight over finances.  Couples need a budget and financial guidelines to produce financial harmony.

5. Communication: Words and behaviors can either build up or tear down a relationship.  Couples need basic skills for improving daily communication in both verbal and physical aspects of a relationship. 

 6.  Boundaries:  Healthy couples set limits with unhealthy behaviors.  Those “guards” make a significant difference in generating a satisfying relationship.

 7.  Faith Life:  Worshiping on a regular basis, praying at meals, and simply praying together for blessings, the needs of others, or personal requests of almighty God can strengthen a relationship. Striving to please God usually leads to healthy behaviors and nurturing words. 

 This Week:  Discuss with your spouse what steps you can take together to strengthen or improve your relationship in all 7 major aspects of a marriage.    

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MONDAY MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE

Similar to the wisdom of Proverbs, every Monday I will share a practical wisdom quote.  I pray the quote will make a difference in your personal life and relationships.  

“Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now!”  Denis Waitley

7 Steps To Prevent An Affair

Of the marriages that I have seen end in divorce, I estimate that a third of the time an affair is the reason. Due to the newness and false passion with an affair partner, the marital couple often has little chance of restoring the relationship.  Shown below are 7 Steps to hopefully prevent an affair. 

1.  Understand that every spouse is capable of being unfaithful.  We read in the Bible that King David, “a man after God’s own heart,” committed adultery.

2.  You can never have 100% trust in your spouse.  From betrayed partners I have heard numerous times, “I thought my spouse was 100% trustworthy.”  The goal is always the upper 90th percentile but no partner ever achieves 100%. 

3.  Relationships are bank accounts with deposits and withdrawals.  With affair partners, there are almost no withdrawals.  Limit your innocent deposits with friends of the opposite sex. 

4.  Watch your social media deposits.  Text messages, emails, quick phone calls, etc. can easily lead to unfaithfulness.  Due to social media, I have actually seen affairs start with old friends in another state resulting in a divorce. 

5.  Never have any secrets in your marriage.  Secrets hurt relationships and affairs start in secrecy.

6.  Know your spouse’s passwords.  One of the best ways to overcome secrecy is to know each other’s passwords and make your cell phone and email an “open book.”

7.  In Proverbs 4:23, God tells spouses to “guard your thoughts.”  Continually be on your guard against words and behaviors that may lead to unfaithfulness.  

This Week:  Sit down with your spouse and discuss together the 7 steps to prevent an affair.  

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MONDAY MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE

Begin your week with positive ideas and thoughts. Similar to the wisdom of Proverbs, every Monday I will share a practical wisdom quote.  I pray the quote will make a difference in your personal life and relationships.   

“When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it's like giving them emotional oxygen.”  Stephen Covey

7 Essential Goals For A Healthy Parent

A healthy parent desires to lead and guide their child to be a motivated, responsible decision-maker.  A wholesome parent also attempts to do their very best in order to help their child be successful in every area of life.  Focusing on 7 Essential Goals can assist a parent in achieving those objectives. 

1.         Provide unconditional love both verbally and physically. Daily, tell your child “I love you no matter what” and give numerous loving physical touches.  Unconditional love is always important but especially once your child is in double digits.

 2.         Only give your child positive labels, NEVER negative labels.  Your child will fulfill whatever label or reputation you place on their forehead.  Use the words “I appreciate” when giving the positive label.  For example, “I appreciate your positive attitude” or “hard work” or “great decision-making,” etc. 

 3.         Treat your child like they are 3 years older than their age.  Expecting your child to be 3 years more mature than their age will instill confidence, produce a positive attitude, and build excellent decision-making skills. 

 4.         Compliment more than you correct.  Unfortunately, most parents falsely believe the goal is to focus on just correcting errors. Instead, compliment your child’s efforts more than their outcome.  Search for what your child is doing right and give many “I appreciate” compliments. 

 5.         Be consistent, decisive, and have firm limits. It is so easy to give your child a second, third, fourth, and even fifth chance.  However, by not expecting your child to respond the first time, you are being inconsistent and indecisive which can create various difficulties for your child.  

 6.         Lead and guide your child by being brief.  Don’t try to influence your child’s heart by talking and reasoning way too much.  Talking a lot, debating, and arguing with your child will usually create “parent deafness” where they turn off the volume. Simply, be brief, be decisive, and have firm limits!

7.         Be a role model.  Example is not the best teacher, example is the only teacher.  More things in life are caught than taught.  As both an individual and parent, be operating at a higher level in all aspects of life than your child. 

This Week:  Discuss with your child’s other parent or a significant family member where you can improve for the sake of your child. 

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15 Danger Signs A Marriage Is In Trouble

Not recognizing that a marriage is sick and needs outside help from a skilled marriage counselor, pastor, etc. is an “illness” that can easily destroy the oneness of a couple.  Usually before a divorce is even final, one or both partners have been “emotionally divorced” for period of time.

Hence, it is absolutely essential that couples understand the “sickness signs” that may create the slippery slope toward marital brokenness.  Although not an exhaustive list, shown below are 15 Danger Signs

 1.         Positive times together outside the home rarely occur.  In addition, when a couple spends time together, sadly much of that time is more negative than positive.

2.         One partner controls most aspects of the marriage.  The relationship is not a partnership because decisions are one-sided a majority of the time.

3.         Spouses seldom eat meals together which creates a “single mindset” more than a couple relationship.

4.         Politeness seems to have left the relationship, meaning kind words and compliments are rarely given by one or both spouses.

5.         When a hurt or disappointment occurs, an apology almost never happens and/or forgiveness is not given, building a “grudge wall” between the spouses.

6.         One spouse keeps secrets-financial, technology, relationships, passwords, etc.

7.         One spouse does most of the “giving,” while the other partner is more of a “taker.”

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8.         One spouse regularly overreacts to minor hurts or quickly becomes defensive when a suggestion is made. Such unhealthy sensitivity often leads to disrespectful arguments that escalate out of control.

9.         Physical touch like lengthy hugs and kisses are infrequent.  Sexual intimacy also rarely happens or is almost nonexistent.

10.       Sarcasm becomes common with hurtful teasing where one spouse is the butt of jokes.

11.       Complaints have become attacks made on a spouse’s character rather than the goal of correcting bothersome words or behaviors.

12.       One spouse is growing and improving, while the other partner lacks the desire to grow and maybe has even slid backwards in some ways.

13.       Opposite sex friendships develop and become stronger than the marital connection.

14.       One spouse has personal issues like anger, selfishness, addictions, OCD, compulsive spending, eating disorders, that have gotten worse over the years creating an emotional divide. 

15.       Communication skills have deteriorated into serious problems like interruptions, mind-reading, memory-matching, extreme silence, negative labeling, yelling, etc.

This Week:  Discuss with your spouse how to prevent the spread of these infectious danger signs in order to have a healthy, happy marriage. 

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How To Evaluate 2018 and Improve In 2019

To improve one’s life, I believe that one of a person’s major goals is continual growth.  The best way to evaluate our efforts in 2018 is to ask three questions with various aspects of life. 

1. What did I achieve?

2. How did I do?

3. What did I do right? 

For example with my marriage, I could ask myself these three questions: “What did I achieve by enhancing emotional closeness with my wife?”  When I hurt or disappointed my wife, How did I do in the area of apologizing?”  Finally, What did I do right in terms of my daily communication with my wife to build up our relationship?” 

For improving 2019, ask three questions with various aspects of life. 

1. What do I need to keep doing?

2. What do I need to start doing

3. What do I need to stop doing

Again, using my marriage as an example and focusing on just emotional closeness. “What do I need to keep doing to strengthen our emotional closeness?” “What do I need to start doing to improve our emotional closeness?” Finally, “What do I need to stop doing that hurts our emotional closeness?”

 The following are aspects of life to consider:  Goals, Integrity, Attitude, Compassion, Mutual Respect, Enthusiasm, Faith in Christ, Personal Development, Marriage, Family, Parenting, Friendships, Health, Learning, Exercise, Organization of Home, Investments, Retirement, Recreation, Self-confidence, Work, Neighbors, Emotional Well-being, etc.

This Week:  Take the time to reflect and even write down your evaluation of 2018 along with your plan to improve your most important life areas in 2019.  Perhaps seek answers from family and friends to the 3 improvement questions.

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10 Steps To Achieving 3 Goals In 2019

New Year’s resolutions are dreams and wishes while goals are objective targets.  Achieving three goals in 2019 will be a significant achievement and make a positive difference in your life.  Shown below are 10 steps to achieving your 3 most important goals in 2019. 

1.         Evaluate all the major aspects of life: faith, family, marriage, parenting, health, fears to be overcome, friendships, income, career, financial planning, etc.  Then, select the 3 most important goals for making a difference in your life and the life of others. 

2.         It is absolutely essential to write down those 3 goals.  Yes, goals must be in writing otherwise they are only dreams.

3.         Be very specific and measurable with your goals.

4.         For each goal, write down the reasons that these goals will enhance your life and those around you. 

5.         Break each of the 3 goals into 5 small steps.

6.         Set a deadline for achieving each of the 5 steps.

7.         Write down the obstacles to be overcome in order to achieve your goals.

8.         Every night plan and write down how you will move toward accomplishing each goal the next day.

9.         Only share your 3 goals with those who will support and encourage you. 

10.       Perfectly visualize what it will feel like to achieve your 3 important goals.  

Before January 1st, intentionally write down your 3 most important goals for 2019. 

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12 Ways To Cope With The Holiday Blues  

Christmas can be a time of great joy.  However the holidays can also be a time of stress, sadness, and even depressing at times.  Some people may be experiencing financial difficulties, grieving the loss of a loved one, missing a military member, in the midst of a divorce, feeling lonely, going through family struggles, etc.  Battle the holiday blues through the 12 ways shown below.

1.         Pray daily.  Thank God for His many blessings, pray for those who are ill, pray for the leaders of our nation, pray for family and friends, and just simply have regular prayer for the needs of others. 

2.         Make sleep a priority.  Get plenty of sleep each night in order to have energy for each day.

3.         Eliminate all types of news.  Most of the time news focuses on various forms of negativity, creating feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, gloom, and doom.  Cut out the news for a certain period of time - one day, three days, or even a week or longer.

4.         Always have a lot of light.  Light combats the darkness of depression.  Increase the wattage of lights, open the curtains, etc. but do whatever it takes to be in the light.

5.         Take time to unwind. Being busy much of the time is not healthy.  Find quiet alone time for yourself and with those who mean the most to you.

6.         Respect your Christmas budget.  Overspending can be stressful and can quickly take the joy out of life.

7.         Write a thank you note.  Express written appreciation to someone who influenced you, helped you in the past, was an encouragement, an excellent role model, etc.

8.         Watch a comedy.  The holidays have enough drama so avoid “downer” shows.  Take time to watch a comedy television program or movie, a feel-good Christmas film, etc.

9.         Remember to Exercise and Eat healthy.  The blues can lead to not eating, overeating, and emotional paralysis to do nothing but sit or stay in bed.  Have a well-balanced diet and eat three meals a day.  Exercise for ten minutes three to four times per week. 

10.       Sing Christmas songs out loud.  It is literally true that we are happy when we sing.  So we can actually sing aloud to become happy. 

11.       Associate with positive people.  Like attracts like. If you hang around critical, negative, or complaining individuals, you will sponge up those emotions and develop that attitude.  Hence, you want to associate with encouraging, positive, optimistic, and upbeat people to combat the blues. 

12.       Give meaningful gifts.  The very best gifts are absolutely not financial!  When we give even small gifts to others we lift our mood. Give significant yet simple gifts like: your time, praise, a smile, a hug, a listening ear, a loving touch, etc. 

 This Week:  Begin implementing one or two ideas to cope with the holiday blues. 

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