Thursday, September 18, 2014

Protecting Your Marriage

Last month I began to blog about the 4 horsemen that seek to destroy marriages.  John Gottman identified the four horsemen and has been able to use his theory to predict divorce among couples he counsels.  The first of the horsemen was criticism and you can read more about it by clicking here.

The second horseman, and perhaps the most dangerous, is contempt.  Contempt is when we demonstrate disgust towards our spouse.  It may come in the form of sarcasm, name-calling, or eye rolling.  When couples are in conflict, one responds in one of these ways, the spouse often feels devalued and disrespected.  We do this when we mock our spouse or sneer at them.

We've all seen it before.

A wife says, "You are such an idiot. I can't believe you..."

A husband remarks, "You disgust me."

We tend to be contemptuous when we are angry or insecure.  When we feel backed into a corner we may bark out comments we wish we could take back.  When someone hurts us, we fight back with either words or actions as a means of self-preservation (or so we think). Some of us are gunny-sackers; this means that we hold on to negativity and keep a running list of things our spouse does wrong.  Whenever they do something we don't like, we don't address the issue at hand, but we drag out our list and throw it in their face.

This is the opposite of biblical love. First Corinthians 13 says, "Love keeps no record of wrong."  For many, we not only keep score, but we constantly remind our spouse that they are losing in our book.

Most of us don't realize the damage done by contempt.  Dr. Gottman's research suggests that  this is the #1 predictor for divorce.

The question at this point becomes what is more important -- winning the battle or saving the relationship?

The next time you are irritated by your spouse, take a few deep breaths before your limbic system kicks into overdrive (the limbic system is a part of the brain that controls emotional processes) and you say or do something you will later regret.

You can learn more by checking out Dr. Gottman's blog at www.gottmanblog.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Blessed by the words of a friend...

I was recently touched by a friend's raw response to Robin Williams suicide.  Next week is Suicide Prevention Week and the best thing we can do to prevent suicide is to share our story and invest our lives in others.  Well, Lindsey Brackett is doing just that.  I encourage you to read her post by clicking here.

Like Lindsey, too many Christians believe that if you truly love Jesus you will "be joyful always" and never feel depressed.  As much as I wish this were true, it is not.  The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who experienced the dark night of the soul.  Naomi even begged God to change her name to Mara (meaning bitterness) because of her hopelessness.

If you are in despair, muster up your courage and share your struggle with someone you love.  You don't have to struggle alone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

No Sugar Please...

Today is my 30th day going sugar free! In the past month I've eaten no sugar and very, very little carbohydrates.  When I started I wondered how I'd ever survive.  Now that the days have passed, I don't even miss it.  When I think of celebrating, I want to continue on this journey.  Not only do I feel better physically than I have in a long time, but I feel mentally sharper as well.  I have decided to make a lifestyle shift.  I plan to continue on this no sugar journey with only an occasional treat.

Did I miss it?  Yes and no.  I thought sweets would be my weakness but I mostly missed bread and pasta.  It was difficult to eat Mexican and avoid the chips, but I did it!  I am sharing this with you to encourage you.  If I can do this, so can you.  Sugar is in so much of our diet. I had no idea how much sugar I was eating until I decided to avoid it.  Eating out seemed impossible at first, but I gradually learned how to order.  I know, I'm a waitress's nightmare.  "I'd like to order a sandwich with no bread and hold the chips," or "I'd like a zensation salad (Zaxby's) with no sauce and no dressing (yes, this salad actually has both).  I've learned to love unsweet tea, and I can actually taste my food again.  I did not realize that sugar had deadened my tastebuds.

So, what have I learned on this journey?  I've learned that living requires sacrifice; I can sacrifice my health or I can sacrifice the sugar.  Life also requires discipline; I had to daily make a conscious choice to avoid sugar and carbs.

Translation into the spiritual realm:  If I want to be like Christ and be spiritually fit, it will take sacrifice and discipline.  I must be intentional to spend time with the Lord daily, even if it means sacrificing time on facebook or some other social network.

Change doesn't happen over night, but it does happen ONE DAY AT A TIME. Make a decision today to live healthier  -- physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Depression, Suicide....How's a Christian to Respond?

Since the death of Robin Williams, "experts" on depression and suicide have come out of the woodwork.  I am concerned for those who struggle with depression, as many of these self-proclaimed "experts" tout their opinions as facts.  I don't pretend to be an expert, but I have learned some things from years of living with a husband who had bipolar and died by suicide as well as from my education in counseling.

People often mean well, but their well-intentions can often leave someone who is depressed feeling even more burdened.  I discussed this in a previous post (click here to read the post). People who are depressed don't need trite promises of a bright tomorrow.  They don't need to hear that their depression is due to a lack of faith --- if it didn't help when Job's friends tried it, why do we keep pretending to be God and acting like we have all the answers.

The truth is, there are times when some go through a dark night of the soul.  Many stay in this pit, for weeks or longer.  When they are in the pit, they need to see Light so that they have hope of escape.  So the question becomes, how can Christians share this Light without further burdening someone who is down?

There are times when there are no words.  When someone loses a loved one to suicide, there are no words that can erase the pain. The greatest gift you can offer during this time is your presence. Be with them in the pain.  Walk beside them.  Let them know that you are not a fair weather friend, but that you will stick by them.  Your presence may offer them the strength that they need to face another day.

(On a side note, it infuriates me that many people can be so insensitive to family members after suicidal loss.  We'd never go up to parent at a funeral home who just lost a son to cancer and say, "Why do you think he died?  Was it that he didn't get enough chemo?  Did the doctor not do enough to help -- or maybe he just didn't trust God to heal him?"  Trust me, family members are asking WHY and they don't need you to ask them.)

There is a lot of debate among Christians about whether depression should be medicated.  I have met countless people who tell me that without medication, they would be dead.  Antidepressants can save lives.  Are there cases of abuse?  Sure, but we could say the same thing about the overuse of antibiotics.  Do we deem all antibiotics evil and cease to use them since they are over-prescribed? I encourage anyone who is taking antidepressants long-term to consider seeing a psychiatrist; they know much more about psychopharmacology and are better able to monitor your medication use.

I hesitated to join the debate about medication because people are very passionate about their beliefs.  Regardless of your opinion, I challenge you to join me in praying for the family of Robin Williams.  I also encourage you to pray for others who have lost a loved one to suicide.  All the media hype may reopen old wounds, and they may need someone to talk to about their own experiences with suicide.  Be that someone.  Listen. Be present. Pray.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Criticizing Your Mate


“I should have listened to your father when he said you couldn’t cook.  You are terrible,” the husband exclaimed as he stormed toward the front door. 

“All you ever do is sit in your chair and watch TV. You are so lazy,” she said with exasperation.

I could go on and on with criticisms that I’ve heard both men and women make about their spouses.  What happened to that promise to love and to cherish til death do us part?  With our lips we exchange I love you’s, but in the same breath we curse our spouses.  Why do we do this?
John Gottman identified criticism as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse that trample marriages.  We all know that whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words they never hurt me,” was a liar.  Words hurt.  Once said, we can’t take them back. The damage is done.  Why then do we think it’s acceptable to slander the one person we should love the most?

Whenever our spouse criticizes us, we our defenses rise.  We lash back or we retreat – fight or flight.  When this pattern continues repeatedly over time, marriages begin to crumble.  Each partner is reticent to be vulnerable for fear that their partner will later use weaknesses as ammunition. In the Bible, James put it this way, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  Criticism starts with a word (the match) and grows until it ignites into fires that destroy the marital relationship.

Make a commitment today to guard your tongue.  When you fall into the trap of criticism, apologize immediately – if you don’t your spouse may ruminate on your words and as they fester, the damage multiplies.