Questions You Should Know the Answer to Before Walking Down the Aisle

mr & mrsBefore you walk down the aisle and make a commitment to your spouse, spend some time asking and answering these questions.  While there is no guarantee that your marriage will survive the 50% divorce ratio, knowing your spouse’s perception on a few life issues can go a long way in identifying potential problem areas in your marriage.

Background Questions:

  1. What kind of childhood did you have?
  2. Who was your best friend and why?
  3. What did you dream about as a child?
  4. Who do you want to please? Whose opinion counts?
  5. How did you spend your time as a child?
  6. When do you say, “If only…”? What are your regrets?

Life Questions:

  1. What do you want in life?
  2. What are you passionate about?  What drives you?  What do you crave?
  3. What makes you tick? What really matters to you?
  4. What do you hope will last in your life? What can’t you live without?
  5. What do you pray for?
  6. What beliefs do you hold about life, God, yourself, others?

Goal Questions:

  1. Where do you hope for? What are you working towards?
  2. What are your expectations and goals? What are you working for?
  3. What are you trying to accomplish?
  4. Who are your role models? Who are the people you respect?
  5. How do you define success or failure in any particular situation? What makes you feel rich?
  6. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?

Emotion Questions:

  1. What do you fear? If fear is the flip side of desire then when I desire your acceptance I also fear your rejection.
  2. What gets you angry?
  3. Where do you find refuge, safety and comfort? How do you escape when things get rough
  4. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?
  5. What are your fantasies? What do you daydream about?
  6. What instinctively feels right to you?

Future Spouse Questions:

  1. What do you need from a spouse?
  2. Who do you trust?
  3. Does your performance matter to you? If so, how?  What about your spouse’s performance?
  4. What would bring you the greatest pleasure and the greatest distress?
  5. What do you talk about? What subjects do you tend to discuss with your friends?
  6. How do you envision your marriage?  How will you spend your time?

 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Marriage Tip: Don’t Be A Spouse Pleaser

Yes, I know that this is strange advice and most likely contradicts the latest marriage book you read but it doesn’t work in the long run.  Sure you can get great results in your marriage by always trying to please your spouse short-term but sooner or later you run out of steam especially when the gesture is not reciprocated to your satisfaction level.  Pleasing your spouse ranks right up there with pleasing others which should not be the focus of your life.

What is wrong with pleasing your spouse or others?  The standard for pleasing others is constantly changing and therefore is not a foundation upon which you can stand firm.  However, going to the opposite point of view which is pleasing yourself is selfish and an equally troubling foundation for a marriage.  Pleasing others elevates their feelings, beliefs, and standards as more important as your own.  Pleasing yourself elevates your feelings, beliefs, and standards as more important than others.  Neither is good.

There is only one to please, one to praise, one to worship, one to follow, one to hope, and one to love.  God.  His standard is unchanging, unwavering, and full of grace all at once.  By setting your sights on pleasing God, you will naturally please others and yourself but not because one is elevated above the other.  Rather, you will be  more focused on His ways of grace, mercy, love, patience, kindness, order, and structure.  This is the best foundation for your marriage.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Embracing Grief When You Have Lost a Loved One

Out of the blue, you receive a message that someone you loved has passed away.  Perhaps it is a sibling, a longtime friend, or close co-worker, he/she is close to you but not one of your immediate family.  Whatever the nature of your relationship, the timing of their death is so unexpected that you can hardly believe what you are hearing.  And yet you know intellectually that it is true.  Your emotions do not catch up to the reality quick enough so your response is distorted by a numbness of disbelief.  You are left hanging, not knowing what to do or how to respond.  Your relationship with the immediate family is close so you feel this pull to be with them but are unsure of how to act, what to say or who to speak with during this time.

The climate of our present culture is one that has lost touch with the art of maintaining intimate relationships. Media influences such as Facebook, texting, and video gaming all of which do more to disconnect relationships rather connect serve instead to keep intimate relationships at arm’s length.  While on the surface it may seem as though we are connecting to old friends or distant relatives by befriending or sending a message, the lack of two-way face-to-face conversation keeps the relationship at this distance.  During the times of a crisis such as the loss of a loved one, the distance then becomes a temptation not to act and to remain safely away.  But this is not an example of loving your neighbor.  So what is?

Time.  As hard as it is, one of the most loving acts of kindness is giving your time.  Just spending time with the immediate family can be a source of great comfort in a time of great loss.  One of the many temptations during this time however is to remain detached and self-protective as you embrace your own loss, but that is a selfish act.  Selflessness is the willingness to put aside your own emotions and become involved in caring for those whose loss is even greater.  Time demands that you are physically present offering to remain as long as needed to care for the suffering of another.

Listen.  During your time with the immediate family, do not enforce your own agenda or your own views of the loved one who has passed.  Rather, listen to the family speak allowing them the freedom to become angry, bitter, sad, and emotional.  Don’t argue or dispute what they are saying, just allow them to ramble.  The explosion of thoughts which plague your mind during this time are even more intense for the immediate family so let them just speak.  Some feel the need to narrate the story of their lives, some feel the need to just sit in complete quiet, some feel the need to be around people, and some feel the need to give instructions.  Whatever their need, be there to listen without judgment or correction.

Embrace.  There is no way around this.  Once you physically make yourself available and spend some time listening to a person grieve, you will become emotionally and intimately involved in the grieving process.  This act defies the nature of our culture which preaches that it is “all about me” and invites you to embrace an intimate moment which is about the one who has passed away and the ones who are left behind.  While it is scary to allow yourself to be so involved, it is an act of kindness that demonstrates fully the love of Christ.

To the outside world, such behavior of giving your time, listening unconditionally and embracing grief sounds draining and normally it is if you are doing such acts on your own strength.  But if you rely on the strength of Christ, there is far more than you need.  John 7:38, “Anyone who believes in me [Jesus] may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”  These rivers of living water are nourishment and refreshment in times of great challenge and great need which are available to all who believe in Jesus.  When you give of yourself during a time of loss, you are really giving the love of Christ of which there is an endless supply and far more than you need.  This is one of the many demonstrations of loving your neighbor which becomes a light to all who see.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Struggle With Intimacy

Have you met a person who only allows you to know so much before they push you away for no real reason?  Just when you thought you were getting close, they seem to pull back to the beginning of the relationship refusing to go any deeper.  If you challenge them on it, you will be met with such resistance and denial that in the end you might start to believe you are crazy.  Well, you are not.

Interestingly enough, a person who struggles with intimacy can be married, single, divorced, widowed, have children, have friends, be involved in a church or their community.  They can look like the most involved active fun person to be around but in reality it is all a front to keep you at arms’ length.  Erik Erikson’s sixth psychosocial stage of development is Intimacy vs. Isolation which occurs during the ages of eighteen to mid-thirties.  During this time period a person usually explores the idea of being intimate with another person but marriage is not necessarily an indicator if they have learned true intimacy.

The Psychology.  All of the psychosocial stages naturally build on each other just like steps on a staircase as each positive trait that is reached helps to support the positive outcome of the next.  But in the case of this stage, it is strangely essential that all of the other stages have positive outcomes for a person to reach true intimacy.  Some people do not want a positive outcome, preferring to mistrust another person over trusting them, and instead are more satisfied with isolation instead of intimacy.  The cost of intimacy in this example would mean they have to trust another person and this cost is too high of a price to pay.  So they pull back in any relationship that requires them to trust another person.

True Intimacy.  Intimacy and sex are not the same thing.  Intimacy is when you can be completely transparent before another person in your thoughts, actions, emotions and beliefs.  Even though you may have a fear of rejection, abandonment, shame, guilt, doubt, or insecurity, you are still willing to set the fear aside because intimacy is more valuable than the fear.  Contrary to many beliefs, the ability to give intimacy is not dependent on the other person’s response or character; rather it is dependent on the heart of the person giving it.  Sex is designed to be a reflection of that intimacy, a special act that you reserve only for your most intimate partner.

True Isolation.  In contrast, isolation is the choice to separate, segregate or seclude oneself from others.  Usually this decision is born out of fear from a traumatic experience either they personally encountered or one that they witnessed.  The likely result is that the traumatic experience also created a negative result from the corresponding psychosocial stage thus reinforcing the belief that isolation is preferable to intimacy.  For instance a child who is molested during the psychosocial stage of Initiative vs. Guilt feels guilty for the molestation even though they are not responsible for the act.  This guilt as an adult tells them they are not worthy of intimate relationships and therefore should prefer isolation because it is the safer option.  A person can still get married and have children even when they have chosen isolation over intimacy but the closeness or attachment is never developed.

The Cure.  So how can a person who has chosen isolation learn to be intimate?  They must want it enough to process whatever trauma they experienced or witnessed and be willing to heal from the past.  They cannot do this for another person; rather it must be a choice they make for themselves because they value intimacy over isolation.  A relationship with God is very helpful during this process as learning to be intimate with your Creator is foundational to learning to be intimate with others.  Strangely enough, it is actually easier to be intimate with your Creator over another person because He created you and knows you already.  Thus it requires less work on your part because you are already transparent to Him.

Once the foundation of intimacy has been laid with your Creator, the healing process can begin and intimacy can be learned.  It is quite a relief to live your life with someone for whom you do not have to pretend to be anything but what you.  Again, your willingness to be intimate is not dependent on their response, but rather it is a gift that you freely give.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

The Wedding Is Over, Now What…

I love weddings but I love strong marriages even more.  Once the wedding and celebration is over, the marriage begins but where do you begin?  What comes next?  Here are ten simple steps that are easy to implement the first day and lay a good foundation for a healthy marriage.

  1. You are part of a team now with your coach being God.  There really is no point in working against each other, trying to compete with each other, or holding resentment towards each other.  Each of these behaviors destroys teamwork.  Rather your marriage should be a pattern of working together as members of the same team.
  2. Forgiving the small things such as the things that annoy you or frustrate you lays a pattern for forgiving the large things.  In every marriage, there will be large things that you will need to forgive and if you have been forgiving the small things all along, the large things become easier.
  3. Don’t just remember what you love about your spouse, but regularly communicate it to your spouse.  Actually speak the words of what you love about your spouse, don’t assume they know.  Even if they do know, hearing the words is a great reminder.
  4. Be grateful for the times of want because they tend to strengthen your relationship more than the times of plenty.  It is in the times of want that you learn to work together in new ways and develop a healthy dependency on each other.  In contrast, the times of plenty tend to increase selfish behaviors.
  5. Be intentional about showing your spouse polite behavior, using “please” and “thank-you” regularly.  Too often polite behavior is given only for others thinking that we can just “be ourselves” with our spouse.  But in the end, this demonstrates a lack of respect for your spouse that can turn into resentment.
  6. When you see your spouse after you have been apart, greet them with a hug and a kiss.  When you leave your spouse for a period of time, even if it is just for work, say good-bye with a hug and a kiss.  These simple acts demonstrate that you don’t take their coming and going for granted.
  7. Have at least one special place that the two of you like to visit and reserve it just for you.  This means that even when you have children, this place should be just for the two of you.  The special memory of this place in combination with regular visits creates an intimacy that only the two of you share.
  8. Find a simple act that demonstrates love to your spouse and do it daily.  This will require communication to find out what is important to your spouse and then intentionally doing the act even though you think it is silly.  This should not be a list of “To Do’s” but rather one small simple act.
  9. Be careful how you treat your spouse in public and especially in front of extended family.  Making small jabs at your spouse, being sarcastic, or insulting them is hurtful and while they may laugh it off in the moment, resentment can build in the end.
  10. Talk about sex with your spouse.  Don’t talk about it with your friends, joke about it around the water cooler, or involve your family in any way.  Talk to your spouse.  Tell them what you like, how you like it, and what you would like to try staying away from any remarks that could be negative.

There is nothing quite like watching an older couple who has been married for a long time still holding hands or gently touching each other.  The love they have for each other just oozes out of them; it is something to aspire.   While these tips are no guarantee that your marriage will be successful, they can improve your relationship.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.