Thursday, October 21, 2010

Conflict in Marriage

It may not be a big surprise to you to discover that most conflicts occur because of differences between people. The differences can be real, imagined, perceived, misunderstood or made up but they still can cause conflicts.

It has often been said that "The greatest cause of major and minor conflicts between a husband and wife are not a disagreement over the ANSWER to a question but a difference over the NATURE OF THE QUESTION itself." For example, My wife asked me this question: "Honey, did you water the new tree the condo association planted?"

I defensively and frustratingly reacted by saying, "Why are you always nagging me to water the trees? I watered it last night!"

Karen said in an upset voice, "I am not nagging you but you always forget to do the detailed things around the house!"

I said, "I do NOT always forget.Besides, the trees don't need so much water."

Karen, "Yes they do need water. I heard it on the radio and the condo association sent me a memo to make sure we get one inch of water on the new trees every week."

Gary replied, "Those condo people are always nagging us."

Why was I upset, reactive and frustrated? Why was I attacking the condo association and reacting angrily toward my wife of 49 years? I misunderstood her question. She actually said, "Did you water the tree?" I heard something else. I heard her say, "Why don't you EVER water the trees?"

I heard an accusation not a question. That PERCEIVED accusation set me off into a defensive reaction. It was not the FACTS of her question that bothered me but my PERCEPTION of the FACTS.

FACTS are those things that can be verified by data. My ideas are not relevant to facts.

Fact: "I weigh 200 pounds".

PERCEPTIONS are facts mixed in with my opinions, self talk, history, values, interpretations and, in my case, the ability to hear well. (I do not hear well.)

Perception about my weight: "I am way too fat."

In this instance, I did not actually hear Karen's exact statement. I missed some of the facts and added my own ideas and misunderstandings. So, I made a mistake but thought it was her fault and I became emotionally defensive and re actively accusatory. I thought she had made me upset but I really made myself upset.

Any time I get defensive and emotionally reactive I need to slow down and make sure I have heard and understood the issue correctly lest I make myself miserable and others miserable as well. A person of peace does not allow his/her PERCEPTIONS of others rule his/her life.

Toxic conflict that is destructive to a couple and family almost always arises from MISSED PERCEPTIONS of FACTS that are then interpreted as attacks. Make sure you have heard the facts and not simply misinterpreted them.

One of the main jobs of a Counselor is to help us deal with facts not just personal perceptions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Expert on Relationships

From whom did you think you were going to hear about the causes of divorce? Did you think I would quote Dr. Phil? he certainly impressed Oprah. Maybe he would impress me as well. Nope, Dr. Phil is not very impressive to me. He certainly is not as impressive as the expert I am quoting.

My expert is the person who is remembered for saying things like, "The truth shall set you free" and "You shall know them by their fruit." Any guesses? OK, OK! You guessed it is Jesus.

When He said, "You shall know them by their fruit it was obvious that His focus was on the quality of our relationships. Later, St. Paul heard the Holy Spirit say the same thing and he listed the things he heard and labeled them as the "Fruit of the Spirit." By looking at and these fruit we can see the positive qualities the Spirit develops in the lives of those who know and follow Jesus. The list is found in Galatians 5:22ff and their are nine in all. However, that is not the entire list but it covers about everything we can imagine in developing Great Relationships.

these fruit are the key to child rearing, marital health, business success, neighborly harmony and a great reputation. Their opposite shows up in divorces, disharmony, domestic violence, disrespect among co-workers and neighbors who dislike us. They are the real cause of divorce. If you don't believe me, just try living daily by the rotten fruit of the contemporary spirits!

Sweeten Life Systems

What Causes Divorces?

If none of the things I posted above cause divorce, what does? Too often we in our Western culture look at the symptoms of a problem as the real problem and thereby try to cure the disease by eliminating the symptom.

In 1998 a golfer from Spain named Olazabal was unable to walk well enough to play pro golf. His foot hurt him so badly he limped around the house and needed assistance to do anything. He faced certain retirement unless his doctors discovered the cause. But the doctors were stumped and he looked certain retirement in the face.

then he received a letter from a doctor in Germany who said he thought he knew why Mr. Olazabal was in so much pain. So, the millionaire sportsman flew to Germany for an examination. The German doctor discovered that the root of the problem lay in the golfer's back not his feet where everyone else was looking. They fixed his back and the pain in his feet and legs disappeared.

I was given two free tickets to the Master's Golf Tournament in Georgia for 1999. My wife and I went down to see it as the guests of the parents of Rev. James Brown, a Presbyterian Minister. It was a wonderful time and we had a ball. The Masters was won that year by Mr. Olazabal.

What can be the root of marital misery that causes so much pain that the couple abandons its love and commitment to each other and get divorced? What do you think it is or they are?

Sweeten Life Systems

Great Relationships

What makes a great marriage relationship?

Absence of anger?
No arguments?
Lots of sex?
Lots of money?
Both working?
Only one working?
No kids?
Great mother in law?
No mother in law?
Women submit to husbands?
Men an women are equal?
Both are Christians?
Commitment to stay together?
Church attendance?

What think ye? Well, IMO, some of these things do actually tend to facilitate a good to great marriage relationship, but only if they actually bring love to one or both members of the marriage. Yes, it is love applied in the nine aspects listed in Galatians 5:22 ff that really make a difference and keep the couple and the family functional.

It needs to be known, however, that love and anger; love and conflict; love and differences are not mutually exclusive. Almost every couple has conflict. Almost every couple has angry exchanges. Almost every couple has communication breakdowns, problem solving difficulties and failure to and manage conflict .

It isn't their perfection that keeps a couple together in a great marriage, it is what that couple does when imperfection, conflict and anger occur. In other words, "How do they deal with differences, disagreements and emotional explosions.

You may ask, "What are the options? I can only think of one option. Scream at him while he runs and cusses at me. Are there other options?"

Yes, there are but they may need to be learned as married adults.

See our web page for information.

Great Relationships and Great Training

Over the past forty years or so of my professional ministry of offering Christian care and counsel I have directly helped hundreds of marriages and families stay connected and married to each other. That is very rewarding, but it is not enough for me. That is why I did post doctoral work in marriage and family counseling and also studied other ways to impact entire churches and groups of men and women in positive ways so they could live more abundant lives and enjoy A Lifetime of Great Relationships.

If you are following this series of posts about what works in a marriage to promote Great Relationships, consider attending a class on listening, couple communication and marital enrichment. I wish every church had a dozen people who could do what I have done for so long. Just think, thousands of marriages and five times that number of kids would be positively affected.

Sign up for our upcoming conference and learn how to grow in your relationships.

Divorce is Easy-Separation is Impossible

Why do we want to stop divorces? isn't it a good thing that our laws make divorce so easy? Don't you think that "No fault Divorce" is a boon to society, especially women? As one of my favorite teachers said so often:

"In America divorce is easy. The trouble is, separation is impossible."

No matter how long a couple has been divorced, separating from those past memories is almost impossible to leave behind. I recently spoke with a person who became upset because her current husband and her ex had a pleasant conversation together. Why was she upset? Separation of feelings, memories and bitterness is almost impossible.

For some reason, God hates divorce. Do you suppose He has a good reason or is it because he is irrational and a kill joy. God loves people but hates divorce. Maybe he hates divorce because it is harmful to the couple, their children and their family members. Our research on parents who have a disabled child indicates that some 85% of the couples who giver birth to a seriously disabled child get a divorce.

Can you imagine how difficult it is to rear a child alone without a partner? It is difficult. Very difficult. I have met many such persons, usually women, and they all say how difficult it is for them to manage the kids, the money, the responsibilities and the work they must also carry out. It is disastrously difficult.

Now add a serious disability to the mix and see what you get. It is an impossible task. Parents with a disabled kid find the stresses and strains so overwhelmingly difficult that they too often get a divorce. How hard would that be on the child and the mother? Unbelievable!

This is why we at Sweeten Life Systems work so hard to PREVENT divorces by teaching people how to live together in harmony. "I want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony..." We can reduce the divorce rate. Believe me it is possible if churches would study the research on what causes and what cures toxic conflict. Not all conflict just the toxic kind. It can be done.

Go to the Sweeten Life web for more information.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Eddie Fisher What a Life

I just read a brief overview of the life of Edie Fisher. It was filled with addiction, debauchery and lies along with adultery and evil. The first comment made by an adoring fan was, "Rest in peace, Eddie. You lived life to the fullest."

I found the comment incredible. Either this person was high on drugs himself or emitting amazing amounts of cynicism. What does it means to "Live life to the fullest" if the life Fisher lived was its model? He left his wife and small daughter of two years for a fling with his dead friend's wife, Elizabeth Taylor. Is that life to the fullest?

He was on illegal and legal drugs most of his life. Is that life to the fullest? His daughter followed in his drug addled footsteps. Was that life to the fullest? Not to me and not to Jesus who promised a life to the full abundance for those who followed Him. My life has gradually improved in almost every way since I came to know Jesus some 62 years ago. I have stayed married to the same woman for 49 years and reared my kids and grand kids with love and peace.

Is that boredom or abundance? It is abundance. Praise the Lord.

Family Health and Family Stress

The divorce rate of parents who have a child with a serious, chronic special need is thought to be about 85%. The divorce rate of all couples is way too high but still much lower than the 85% mentioned for parents with a sick child. What are we to think when we see these stats?

Write and tell me what you think about this data.

Why do so many parents with sick kids get divorced?

What would you suggest we do to reduce this terrible pattern?