Mar 18

Will you let your children take you to court too?

Raising children is one of the most rewarding experiences a couple can share.  Two individuals coming together to love, train, discipline, educate, encourage and inspire a baby to mature into a functional and responsible adult. That is not an easy job and it can create a strain in marriage. Last week, I came across a story of a New Jersey teenager who is suing her parents requesting for financial support after she decided to leave her residence. I know you might think this is crazy. However, this is not the first time those parents have been to court. This is the first time they have come to a legal court, but this teenager has been taking her parents to court over the years -entitlement court, disrespectful court, no boundaries court guilty trip court, I  can go and on. This is a sad and tragic story. A lot of fingers are pointing are the teenager and her parents.  The media are asking; what happened? The first court date took place way before this teenage was 18. What can couples do be great parents and avoid going through a lifetime of legal battles in their own home?

Parent as a team. Is it possible?

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Here are 7 tips that will help you to parent as a team and build a strong marriage.

Put the marriage first – You cannot be a great parent if your marriage is suffering. Poor marriage health leads to poor parenting.  Making the children the center of life is a bad trend.  I see who couples overbook their children’s schedule and they don’t have time for each other.  Take care of yourself and take care of your marriage and you will help your children.

Be on the same parenting page – Know how  you will address each of your children. Different situations do require different parenting tactics.  For example, you might have two children, but your approach to correcting them is different. Communication about parenting style is a must if you want to be on the same page. If you are not on the same page, your children will be the puppeteers. You probably know who will be the puppets. Be on the same page about family rules, expectations, etc. When you are on the same parenting page, you don’t tear each other down. You don’t undermine your spouse’s parenting because you are trying to accomplish the same goal.

Establish clear boundaries – Children will follow boundaries that are clear, consistent and come from a place of love. As a child, there are family rules I knew that I was not willing to pay the consequences by breaking. Those were the rules that were clear and I know the consequences would be implemented. I did not like many of those rules. To be honest, some of those rules might have been a bit strict.  However, I am grateful for the values those rules brought out of my character.

Know that you are raising a child to be a functional adult – I think as parent sometime it is easy to fall in the trap of protecting our children. In order for a child to become a responsible adult, he will have to experience growth. Growth takes place in teachable moments. Which means, at times, your children will fail and you have to let them face the consequences? The more you keep your children in a bubble, the more they are exposed to danger. It is in the teachable moments you can extend mercy and grace and train them to be better prepared. They will take a successful flight if you give them the chance to get trained by life.

Get educated – Read books that support your beliefs and values on parenting. Discuss them with your spouse. Devise a plan to implement what you are reading. You can create your own library of parenting books. Go to parenting conferences and seminars. Study the character of God toward Jesus. If you are going to win at parenting, you need to be equipped.

Get Support – Ultimately you and your spouse are responsible for parenting your children. However, you can get support from other couples and parents you admire. I have receive priceless and countless advice from couples who are doing a stellar job in parenting. You can invest in a parenting coach or a therapist. However, you can easily get parenting help over a cup of coffee or lunch from great parents that is your circle of influence.

Pray and pray – There is no perfect spouse and no perfect parent. You will make mistake. The best thing to do is apologize to your spouse. Apologize to your child. Pray for your children. Pray for your spouse. Pray for your own sanity. Your parenting will test your marriage, but parenting doesn’t have to take your marriage out.

The New Jersey teenager has returned home. However, this is a family that will need a lot of healing. The home life has been broken emotionally for a long time. Just going back home will not fix it. I will keep them in my prayers and hopefully they will get help to rebuild the family unit. You have a choice. You do not have to experience the pain of going to court with your children.  The best gift you can give your children is being an excellent spouse and work together to raise them to be responsible adult.

 

Questions: What other tips can you share that have helped you to parent with your spouse?

 

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Mar 16

Mine, Yours and Ours, 3 Tips for Financial Unity in Marriage

You know when you walked down the aisle marriage meant forever. However, many couples do not reconcile their checkbooks. Money issues  and problems are the # 1 cause for marital discord. Financial issues in marriage go beyond the checkbook. Couples have separate  and secrets accounts. There are spouses who spend money out of boredom, out of respect and some due to immaturity and addiction.

Here are 3 Tips to Build Financial Unity :

Honesty   – Be honest about your financial situations. If you know you have outstanding debts, let your spouse know the truth. Sharing your financial weakness will only help you to be closer. Let honesty be a door to mutual accountability.

Being on the Same Page – Being honest is one step, but working together to head in the same financial direction is the only true way to have financial sucess in your marriage.

Budgeting – A budget is you and your spouse telling your money what to do. Without a budget, your money has no sense of direction. Saying that you are on the same page is only real if you created your budget together.

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Photo Courtesy of Tax Credits under Flickr Creative Common

Money issues do not have to lead you to the court house.

Questions: What financial tips have helped you and your spouse to build financial unity?

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Feb 25

4 Ways to Say I Love You by Giving Affection

Touch is universal. Touch is powerful. No dictionary is needed to define a loving touch. No translator is needed to translate the love that is communicated with a single touch.

Yet many married couples are not using physical touch as a tool to express love in their marriages. In time of crisis, we hold hands; we hug, and hold each other.

If touch is able to take our sorrows, and give us comfort in time of crisis, how much more potent touch can be during our daily routines?

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It can be hard to express love through physical touch if you don’t know how. Sometime couples confuse physical touch with sex. However, if you are willing to express love to your spouse by physical touch, here are 4 tips you can use.

1. Hold hands – This is one of the most powerful tools a couple has. Holding hand is so reassuring and it also strengthens a couple’s oneness.

2. Hug each other – Sometime a hug communicate support, and availability.

3. Give a back massage – This gesture not only nurture the relationship, but it also help couple to release tension.

4. Kiss – A kiss can lead to sexual intimacy, but it does not have to be a sexual act. A kiss can tell your spouse, “I am attracted to you.’

Make affection a daily practice in your marriage. 

Questions: How important is affection to your spouse?

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Feb 23

What Are the Old Patterns Doing to Your Marriage?

You were born  in a functional family or perhaps you had a difficult upbringing. Whether you would admitted openly or you choose to ignore it. All of us have some baggage from our family origin. Ignoring the baggage only hurt our marriage. Some couples are afraid to address family origin issues because they want to move on from the past. Issues like abuse, history of mental illness, divorce, unhealthy habits, etc. They cannot be ignored. Pushing past hurts under the rug only lead to a pile of dust.

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Phoro Courtesy of Kumar’s Edit under Flickr Creative Commons

Family issues will replicate in your union if you do not take measures to correct them.There have been times a couple will face a hardship, over and over again – only to realize they are playing the same roles they observed as children. Lack of communication, addiction, avoiding conflict, the rescuers and the chaser syndrome are just some of the roles spouses find themselves playing automatically in the marriage.

Whether you have walked down the aisle only one time or several times, your past do not have to dictate your marriage. However, look into your past and learn from your patterns.

Questions: How about you? What impact  your old patterns have played on your marriage?

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Feb 20

Are You Speaking to Your Spouse’s Heart?

Last week I was asked a question that triggers me to write this post about reaching a spouse’s heart. The question was “How do you speak to your spouse’s heart when they are no longer in the marriage emotionally? Honestly, I wish there was a simple answer, but when it comes to marriage, there are no simple answers. This is a place I wouldn’t wish for any couple to get to. However, in many marriages, the roommate situation has become the norm. Two individuals living in the same house but emotionally one and sometime both spouses have left the marriage. Day by day becoming strangers.  

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Photo Courtesy of Kathy Kimpel under Flickr Creative Commons

As hard it was for me to say this. This was my answer. – I don’t have one answer that could solve this marriage question.  If you want to fight for your marriage, you keep speaking to the heart while she is still receptive. It won’t be easy, but I want to walk with you and support you. My answers sounded simple but it takes so much courage and dedication to put the following sentences in actions when you are getting no feedback.  

Speaking to the heart means – You speak with patience. You speak with respect by watching your tone and your body language. You speak with actions especially if your track record cannot speak for you anymore. You admit that you were wrong. You asked for forgiveness and forgive yourself. You give your spouse space to grieve and space to address her emotions.  You get support for your heart since you might get weary on how long you need to be “punished” to prove that you want this marriage. You give your marriage time to heal. You feed your spouse  with love daily because that’s all you can do. If you want to fight for your marriage, you have to keep speaking to the heart while you still have the chance.  

 Are you speaking to your spouse’s heart on a daily basis? If you are in a  situation right now where your spouse is not listening, my heart goes out to you. I urge  you to keep fighting if you want to save your marriage. It is completely understandable that you are tired and you might want to give up. Don’t shut down or give up. Don’t retaliate by pulling away. Get the support you need and continue to speak with your spouse’s heart. It is better to try then to have not tried at all and wonder if you could have save your marriage.

Questions:   What does it mean for you to speak to your spouse’s heart?  How would speaking to your spouse’s  heart look in action?

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Feb 18

The One Practice That Will Change Your Marriage

Have you ever thought why your spouse is not meeting some of your emotional needs? All of us have been there at one point.  For some couples this issue can be resolved with just a simple conversation. For others, more work is needed. You probably have grumbled about it or used the old silent  guessing trick. None of the above methods work.  Staying silent only lead you to being bitter while your spouse is frustrated trying to guess exactly what you want. Staying silent also leads you to blowing up especially when you realize that  after all this time perhaps your spouse has no clue what you want.

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Photo Courtesy of  cleverCl@i®ê under Flickr Creative Commons

There is one practice that can take your marriage to a deeper bond, and you can get your emotional needs met. The one practice that can revolutionize your marriage is Asking. You know many useless arguments would not even take place if spouses make requests of each other. This practice is the art of Asking.

Asking is one of the most powerful tool you have as a spouse. By asking you are being vulnerable. Asking allow you to know yourself. Face it. You have to know what you want in order to ask for it. Asking take the blame game of the table. The responsibility to ask for the request is in your hands. The details in how, when, you would your needs to be executed are in your hands to actually ask your spouse. Once you have made a request it is in your spouse’s hands to communicate with you whether or not that the request can be fulfilled. By asking your spouse you have initiated a conversation that many couples leave for chance to happen.

Don’t let your emotional needs float in a nebulous cloud. If you don’t ask, your spouse has no clue of what you want.

Questions: What positive changes would asking create in your marriage? in your own personal life?

Take Action – Initiate  by asking your spouse for something that you need but has been putting off. 

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Feb 16

3 Communication Tips That Are Needed in Every Couple’s Toolbox

You know there have been many occasions I’m working with a couple, and they are stuck in the same argument over and over again. The issue is not that the couple is arguing about one specific event. It is usually different events that bring the same argument and complaint. You  probably can hear it in your own relationship – “You don’t listen to me.”  For a fist time  married couple the constant repetition of the  same argument might be push back with the excuse that we need to learn to communicate with each other. Or, we need time to bond. In  a remarriage situation, the constant repetition of the same argument bring back bad memories from the past relationship. Consequently, old wounds from the failed marriage can be a threat to the new union if not addressed properly.

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Photo Courtesy of Jennie-o under Flickr Creative Commons

To avoid a communication breakdown, couples can communicate effectively by using these 3 communication tips:

1. Review the issue before you bring it to your spouse – In a heated argument, you will say things out if anger. And once a word is out of your mouth you really cannot take it back. If you find yourself having the same argument with your spouse, review your thoughts and feelings before addressing your spouse. This is one tip that ave helped me to clear my thoughts and evaluate my feelings in my own marriage. Many of the couples who are in counseling have mentioned that they haven been able to communicate what they want instead of communication anger. By reviewing the issue by yourself  you really get a chance to see your point of view, see your spouse’s point of view and work out  on delivering the message  instead of the white noise of anger.

2. Use the soft-hard -soft method – No one like to be attacked.  To start a conversation with what your spouse is doing wrong is a sure way to shut all the doors and the windows of the communication process. Start by empathizing or even bring  examples of your appreciation  for your spouse for trying to address the issue. Then make a request  and then follow up with  encouragement, empathizing or validating your spouse. This approach reassures your spouse he or she is not at war.  

Wrong Approach – “You need to put the dishes away, you never listen to me.”

Soft – Hard Soft Approach – “I really appreciated it when you put all the dishes in the sink after dinner last night. Can you please  put them in the sink after breakfast too? I know that you might forget  due to rushing out of the door, but you really helped in keeping the house clean. Thank you for your effort.  

3. Praise the effort - All human being like a little encouragement. A pat on the back will go a long way.For second or third marriage, this is such a  huge building block in the  communication process. Praise might be something your spouse never heard of in the failed marriage  and by hiving praise you are not only breaking barriers, healing wounds but you are cementing your new union with new foundations. This is a tip I teach all couples who are engaged in the counseling process  Every request that is met needs to be follow with a praise. This is a sure way  to inform your spouse they are not taken for grated and you are aware of their efforts.

Communication is not a one time thing. Successful couples work at their communication on a daily basis and the above tips are one way you can begin to build your new union on a great foundation. Remarriage does not have to be a nightmare and a first time time marriage does not have to end up at the court house. Use the above tips and set your marriage for success.

Questions: What tips to you have in your communication toolbox that help you communicate effectively with your spouse?

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Feb 13

10 Valentine’s Day Gifts Ideas to Spice Up Your Marriage

This Valentine, go to the distance. Fill your spouse’s love tank abundantly. Don’t hold back.  Love freely and leave your spouse’s eyes with a sparkle that shines beyond Valentine’s Day. Get more tips to start before Valentine’s Day. 

 Here are 10 Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas That Will Spice Up Your Marriage:         

1. Can We Go Back to The Days of Our Love?  – Make a CD of love songs. Put the CD in a clear case and let the CD cover be a picture from the first date or the first time you met. Notice I specifically stated a CD not a playlist.       

2. Love Scavenger Hunt – Wrap little gifts that you know your spouse would love and hide them all over the house. Write clues for their locations. Note:  You don’t have to break the bank with all the gifts. The small gifts can be handmade, a poem, homemade cookie, etc.       

3. The Love Calendar  –  Create a calendar from February 2014 to January 2015. Reproduce pictures and fill the calendar with love notes, love quotes, wishes on special days like birthday and anniversary. You can also create your own holiday (i.e. Love’s Day, Kisses’ Day, Your Spouse Name’s Day, etc.).      

4. Delivery Please – Beware this gift can cause tears of joy.  If your spouse place of employment grants permission, arrange for his or her coworkers to deliver a flower or a candy, with a love note, at different times of the day. You can let it be a secret or the co-workers can let your spouse see the delivery.        

5. Jar of Admiration – Take an empty jar and fill it with little notes of admiration for your spouse. (i.e.  I am grateful for your hard to provide for our family, thank you for being a wonderful wife, etc.  

11113286864_42a65ca9ee    Photo Courtesy of BK under Flickr Creative Commons

6. A Day of Vacation – Your spouse might be tired from work duties and house chores. Well, if you can pull a getaway, by all mean do so.   However, A Day of Vacation can be gifted by offering to give your spouse a weekend or a weekday that he or she has off work. Take care of all the house duties that your spouse is usually in charge of. To make it a true vacation, cook a special meal; take care of the kids by arranging childcare, etc. Let your spouse be worry free.        

7. Loving Description – Use your spouse’s initials and find words to describe him or her. Put it in a beautiful frame and there goes a great gift. Robinson – Royal Highness, Outstanding Man of God, Brilliant Mind, Irresistible, Noble Heart, Simply Breathtaking, Onward Soldier, Nourishing to the Soul.              

8. I Am Your Servant – Make a tag that states Your Loving Servant. Let your spouse know that you are willing to take and comply with any demands. Do the house chores that you might not like joyfully.         

9. Adventure in the City – If you have not explored the delicious delights in your city, this valentine is your chance. Be adventurous. Pick three restaurants in the same vicinity and go on tasting adventures.           

10. Song of Songs Recital – I love this Valentine’s Gift. It is a myth that Christian couples are boring in the bedroom.  Marriage does not come with a handbook, but it came with an amazing love making book. Take a part of Song of Songs memorizes it, and recite to your spouse and see where it leads you.

 

Don’t let your marriage starve for love. Make a decision for Valentine’s Day to go beyond February 14th. Start romancing your spouse daily.

Questions:  What is the best gift you have received on Valentine’s Day?

 

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Feb 11

10 Things Every Engaged Couple Should Do

We are in the middle of love season.  This Valentine, many engaged couples seek to tie the knot. Couples are walking down the aisle ready to profess eternal love. My hope is for all the couples who say “I do” work hard to have a healthy and happy.

Since marriage vows states  till death do us apart, here is 10 tips that  every engaged couple should do to before saying, “I do”.    

 

Attend pre-marital counseling – Marriage is a lifetime decision. Pre-marital counseling can really help you and your spouse to be prepared to face marriage challenges together. In addition, premarital counseling help many couples to address problems areas before the marriage.    

Discuss your expectations – Many engaged couples enter the marriage covenant with unhealthy expectations of each other. Discussing tour expectations with your spouse to be will not only clear the air, but it also give you a chance to be on the same page. Expectations about house chores are a huge component of my pre-marital counseling program because I have encountered many spouses to be who were not on the same page. Discussing your expectations can help you and your spouse to create a plan about cooking, cleaning, paying bills, etc.  

 Create a vision for your marriage –This is one of the most powerful exercise I have seen in my counseling practice. Many couples who write marriage vision together have informed me they know where their marriage is going. A vision for your marriage allows you to dream together and work to move together. In reality, creating a vision together really set you on the path to be one.     

Find a couple who can mentor you – Marriage can be so challenging if you have no outside support system. A mentoring couple knows your challenges and encourages to keep fighting for the marriage. I always encourage engaged couple to pick a couple that they want to emulate.          

Discuss finances – Money fights and money problems are one of the main reasons for divorce in the United States. Discussing your finances will allow you to get on the same page about creating a budget. In addition, you can discuss a plan to attack your debts. If you want to win financially, you will need to discuss your finances openly.        

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Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Donley under Flickr Creative Commons

Discuss in laws – Many engaged couples fail to discuss the in-laws. Consequently, many engaged couples fail to set healthy boundaries with their in-laws. Discussing the in-laws with your spouse allows you to establish your oneness. Leaving and cleaving is so hard for so many individuals, but you can leave and cleave to your spouse in a healthy way by having in-laws discussions.         

Discuss Children – It is extremely important to be on the same page about your decision to have or not have children. How you will raise them? Do you have the same values? Children bring joy and a set of challenges in marriage. If you are on the same page about your parenting, your marriage will be stronger.       

Continue to date each other – The best way to keep your marriage fresh is by dating each other. Dating is the best way to keep courting each other. You build knew memories together. Consequently, you build recreational intimacy.         

Spend quality time daily – It can be just drinking a cup of coffee before you leave the house for work, but quality time allows you to stay connected with each other. The daily stress of life can pull you apart but if you spend at least 15 minutes connecting with each other you won’t end up being two strangers in the same house.   

Give grace – Your spouse is not Christ. He or she will never be perfect. Your feelings will be hurt (99.9% it will not be a malicious act from your spouse). Be quick to forgive. The first year of marriage is fun because you getting to know each other and forming your life as one. However, merging as one requires to be patient with each other.                

 As you enter the bond of matrimony, work hard to build a happy and healthy marriage. Congratulation on your big day.

Questions:  What are some other tips you are using to set your marriage for success?

 

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Feb 09

Marital Harmony and Parenting Go Hand in Hand

Marriage by itself takes work. To be quite honest lots and lost of work. Imagine putting a child  in this beautiful mixture. A child is a blessing, but it is the same blessing that can break or pull a couple apart. The child is not the cause of the marital issues but the couple’s responses to parenting will either send them on an exciting blissful path or a path of utter deterioration.

The above structure was just addressing first time marriage couples. In remarriage parenting is so crucial. However, many couples tip toe around the subject. They want harmony so quickly that they are not willing to even set let alone discuss parenting as a unit. Most remarried couples that bring children to the new union make the big mistake of you parent your children and  I will parent my children.

Three big issues occurs with the above parenting system

1. When your spouse does not have a voice on parenting the children rule the house.

2. By removing parenting responsibility from your spouse you leave your spouse  paralyzed. Disciplining the children he or she will be the bad parent. In some cases, children have even told the new spouse you are not my parent.

3. By doing all the parenting you are saying to your spouse I don’t trust you. Instead of merging the family it is being pull apart.

In order, to parent together and effectively , use these 3 tips

Be on the same parenting page – Know how  you will address each of your children. Different situations do require different parenting tactics.  For example, you might have two children, but your approach to correcting them is different. Communication about parenting style is a must if you want to be on the same page. If you are not on the same page, your children will be the puppeteers. You probably know who will be the puppets. Be on the same page about family rules, expectations, etc. When you are on the same parenting page, you don’t tear each other down. You don’t undermine your spouse’s parenting because you are trying to accomplish the same goal.

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Photo Courtesy of Simon Shaw under Flickr Creative Commons

Establish clear boundaries – Children will follow boundaries that are clear, consistent and come from a place of love. As a child, there are family rules I knew that I was not willing to pay the consequences by breaking. Those were the rules that were clear and I know the consequences would be implemented. I did not like many of those rules. To be honest, some of those rules might have been a bit strict. However, I am grateful for the values those rules brought out of my character.

Be consistent  – Both set of children will use inconsistencies to their advantage. By being consistent you will established fairness. Your spouse will not feel that only the rules apply to his children. Staying consistent place emphasis on parenting not favoritism. The more you stay consistent the more the family unit will forge under new routines.

Parenting is temporary but your level of unity in parenting  can help or hurt your marriage. Make the decision to make your marriage work by parent together. Yes, your spouse’s children are not your children  and perhaps vice versa but as a parental figure you are an integral part of their lives.

Questions: Parenting on the same page is a work of art. What parenting tips or techniques you have created by working with your spouse?

 

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