Tom Russell - Heritage Christian Counseling Ministries
Every Thursday during the 8 o'clock and 9 o'clock hour, WVMC General Manager Scott Saunders and Tom Russell from Heritage Christian Counseling Ministries sit down and talk about issues facing the family.
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Topic for February: Love Month
Scott and Tom will be discussing relationships and marriage. Here is what they talked about.
We believe that we have a wonderful marriage. You will not be around us very long before you realize that we are delighted with each other and with our marriage. In the following paragraphs, we have tried to list a few of the things that we believe are keys to our own successful marriage. Don't get us wrong. We don't have all the answers! And while we do believe we have a great marriage, it is by no means perfect. We still have lots of growing to do. But on this page we humbly offer some tips that we believe have been most significant to us. We realize that some of them may not apply to you. But we would encourage you to please take them seriously, pray about them, and discuss them with each other. Your marriage can be great!
We seriously keep the Lord Jesus Christ at the center of our marriage.
This does not mean that we just “go to church” together, or “say grace before meals” together (although we do those things, of course!). When we are alone together, we frequently talk about the Lord, remind each other of how good He has been to us, discuss what He is doing in our lives, etc. If you listen in on our conversations, you might hear us say, “The Lord is so good to us.” Or “Thank you, Lord. You are so good!” Or, “Let me tell you about how the Lord worked out this situation for me today.” We have a brief time together each morning when we read, and briefly discuss, passages from the Bible together. (Usually we read about 10 to 20 verses from the Old Testament and 10 to 20 verses from the New Testament.) You will also hear us praying several times a day for our boys and their families, for wisdom for the day, etc. The point here is not to “brag” about our spiritual lives, but to try to illustrate what it means for Jesus to be Lord of our marriage.
We love being together.
There is nothing we love more than being alone together. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company. One of our greatest joys in life is to go somewhere for a “24-hour retreat” together. (You can read the details about these retreats a little further in this article.) During those 24-hour retreats, we are constantly in each other’s company and loving every minute of it. Of course, this brings up the question, “WHY do we enjoy each other’s company so much?” You will learn the answer to that question as you read the rest of this document.
We treat each other with the utmost respect.
We never just “order each other around,” in public or private. If we ask the other to do a favor for us, it is always accompanied by the words “Please” or “Would you please?” We try to be very “tuned in” to when the other does something for us—even if it seems like a small thing. And you will hear us frequently say, “Thank you so much!” to each other.
It is never ok, in public or private, to be crude or rude to each other.
We also try very hard to never tease each other in a hurtful way. We have seen many couples say words to each other that are uncomplimentary or that “sting” a little (or even a lot!). Then the spouse will say, “He (or she) knows I’m kidding.” We believe that these little stinging words that make fun of one’s spouse are harmful to a close personal relationship.
We remind ourselves often of what a great treasure our spouse is to us.
Each of us believes that there are many men and women in the world who would dearly love to have a spouse like our spouse. So even though we obviously have many faults and see each other’s faults, the faults seem so small in comparison to the great treasure we have in each other. And we do this with humility. I don’t see myself as such a great treasure, but I certainly see my spouse as a great treasure!
We have learned that the best way for our own needs to be met is to meet the other’s needs.
If I concentrate on meeting my spouse’s needs, I get great joy from that kind of living. If I concentrate on meeting my needs, I get ugly and selfish and miserable. Too many marriages have two people who are
each trying desperately to get the other to meet his or her needs. This selfish approach to marriage never brings real joy to a marriage.
We both sincerely desire for our marriage to be a great marriage.
It takes two people to make a great marriage. One cannot do it alone. If one is a “taker” and the other is a “giver” there cannot be real joy in a marriage. Both must be “givers” to each other. We enjoy reading and discussing books and articles that give us tips for making our marriage stronger. (By the way, we have found His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley to be a very good practical book for this purpose!)
We enjoy letting other people know how much we love each other.
Again, some married people are always making jokes to others at his or her spouse’s expense. These jokes are usually concluded with laughter and words like, “Naw, I’m just kidding!” We believe that kind of joking is very hurtful to a marriage. We want others to hear us saying nice things about each other and doing nice things for each other. We don’t mind at all if others see us giving each other approving or loving glances. We don’t mind if they see us being polite to each other. We don’t mind if they see us holding hands as we walk together or sit together. A few others may tease us about these things, but we
know that these are the kind of things that makes our marriage stronger and stronger.
We resist the temptation to share with anyone else anything negative about each other. If we have disagreements, we work them out privately between ourselves. (Obviously, there are times when problems in a marriage require that we get wise counsel from a Christian who has more experience than we may have. But even then, we should try to discuss our spouse in the most positive way possible.)
Many wives seem to enjoy “man bashing” or “husband bashing.” Many husbands seem to enjoy “woman bashing” or “wife bashing.” They speak in a derogatory fashion about the opposite sex in general. We believe that this kind of talk is disrespectful of one’s own marriage, and we try to avoid it!
We are very careful about how we relate to others of the opposite sex.
We believe that flirting and “over-the-line” teasing with others is destructive. We want everyone to know, whether we are in each other’s physical presence or not, that our spouse is “our one and only!"
We enjoy sharing the details of life with each other.
We want to know “how the day went” for each other. We share the details of what’s going on at work or what’s going on in the lives of our kids.
We don’t keep secrets from each other
In Christ Jesus, the two of us have become one person. Secrets divide. Secrets shared with someone other than our spouse puts that person over our spouse as a priority in our lives.
We believe this should apply to “secrets from the past” as well. We don’t think it is healthy to carry the burden of keeping things hidden. We have shared it all. We have forgiven each other where there might have been a need to forgive. And to the extent that our past reveals our weaknesses, we gladly accept the lesson in humility and the opportunity for our spouse to hold us accountable.
We Treasure our 24-Hour Retreats together
One of the most beneficial things we have done as a couple is what we call our “24-hour retreats” or “24-hour getaways.” This works especially well in a marriage if there is one day a week when both husband and wife do not have to work. In our case, it is Saturday. There can be many variations on how this works, but here is how we do it. Every couple of months or so (sometimes more often), we make plans to go somewhere and spend the night within about 2 to 3 hours of where we live. (Most people live in a place where, within a 2 or 3 hour drive, they can reach a town close to a state park, national park, scenic area, shopping area, recreation area, etc.) We pack our things on Thursday night, or on Friday morning before we go to work. To make packing easier, we have compiled a list of things we want to be sure to take along. We even keep a toiletry bag already packed sitting in the closet, ready to pick up and go! This kind of advance preparation for packing takes the hassle out of getting ready to leave. If I tell
Vickie that I think it’s time for us to have a 24-hour getaway, she is fond of saying, “I can be packed in 10 minutes!” And she means it—literally! We leave immediately after we get off work on Friday evening, and
drive to our destination. Many times we use the time in the car to read to each other from a marriage enrichment book or interesting internet articles we have found. Sometimes we stop and eat at an inexpensive restaurant on the way; sometimes we eat after we arrive at the motel. We usually share one
meal at the restaurant to save on costs. Sometimes we take our own snacks. You could also pack a simple picnic. On Saturday morning, we have breakfast together, and then we go hike a trail, take a scenic drive, ride our bikes, etc. Of course, we have planned in advance exactly what we plan to do on Saturday. We usually take our camera and take pictures for future reminiscing. One of our favorite things is to identify waterfalls within a 2 to 3 hour drive of our home, drive to a town near a waterfall to spend Friday night, and hike to the waterfall on Saturday. On Saturday afternoon or evening, we drive back home. Think about the advantages: For 24 hours we completely concentrate on each other. This is powerful and therapeutic way to keep a marriage strong and healthy. Limiting the trip to 24 hours keeps expenses down. Neither of us has to take off a day of work. We get back home in time to be in Sunday School and worship on Sunday morning, after a good nights rest. And it is amazing how refreshing this time away can be. We often comment on how it seems we have been on a longer trip than we really have been. Some of our most wonderful memories have been made on these 24-hour getaways. You will have to experience it for yourself to really appreciate what this means.
We Treasure our “Date Times” together
We have two times a week that we consider our “date times.” Since we were first married, Thursday night has been our “date night.” It is almost totally “inviolable.” There are very few things, almost no things, which we will allow to interfere with Thursday night alone together. Usually, all we do is have a simple meal out together and talk. It is a time for us to concentrate on each other and talk about the things going on in our lives. We also enjoy a “date time” each Saturday morning when we have breakfast alone together. We urge couples to have at least one “date time” each week when they can totally concentrate on each other. Get a baby sitter. Get out of the house. Talk about whatever is on your hearts. God will really bless this time. But be warned! It will be attacked! You will find it difficult to stay true to it. You have to make it a serious priority. Then, when other requests (or “demands!”) are made for that time, you can say, “I’m sorry. I’ve already got a commitment!” And ultimately it doesn’t matter whether others understand or not. Your marriage must take precedence!
We try this technique when we are having a tough time communicating
Sometimes we find ourselves "butting heads" and not really getting through to each other. We have found this technique very helpful in those times. One of us will say, "Let me try to repeat for you what I think you are saying." Then we try to roughly paraphrase what the other has said. If the other says, "No! No! You're getting it all wrong!" Then we try again, until the other says, "Yup! You got it!" At that point, it may
be good to say, "Now, you tell me what you hear me saying." And reverse roles. It is amazing how many times we think we are listening to each other when we are really talking past each other. And that's after years of practice! We all have a tendency to hear things through "filters."
We try hard to keep a "teachable spirit"
We believe that God can use each of us to help the other deal with "blind spots." We all have areas in our lives in which we need to grow or bad habits we need to overcome. Sometimes these things are easy for our spouse to see, but difficult for us to see in ourselves. If we keep a teachable spirit, God can use our spouse to help us grow to be a better person, a better spouse, and more Christ like. This is more
difficult than it sounds. Human nature tends to be defensive and stubborn. When our spouse tries to help us see a weak area, we tend to react by just pointing out one of his or her weaknesses while excusing
our own! Of course, it is especially difficult to maintain a teachable spirit when our spouse does not communicate a teachable spirit of his or her own. But if both are determined to keep a genuine teachable spirit, the marriage can soar to new heights!
Sometimes we have to "agree to disagree"
There will always be some issues where a husband and wife do not come to total agreement. We try to discuss these issues completely (following the tips already listed), but sometimes we simply come to realize that neither of us is going to be able to persuade the other that our view is the correct view! Some spouses make the mistake of feeling that they cannot just "let it go" until both are in agreement. But we believe we can go on loving each other even when we disagree about some issues. There is a time to just, "let it go!"
We believe it is important to have joint (not separate!) money accounts
We have known many couples who have chosen to have separate accounts. But to us, this is an issue that involves openness, trust, and oneness. To us, separate accounts imply that we do not quite trust
each other (or that we prefer not to be totally open with each other). Or that we do not believe that we can reach agreement on financial issues. Separate accounts sound too much like, "He goes his way and she goes her way." We do not believe that God intended marriage to be that "separate." Money issues provide a wonderful test of our ability as a couple to come to agreement about some of the most sensitive issues in our marriage. If we cannot do this, we need to do some serious ground-work in basic issues of trust and communication!
We proceed with caution when one of us has "reservations"
If one us is excited about a certain project or activity, and the other agrees that it is ok, but seems to have some "reservations," we try to take time to examine the reasons for the reservations. Sometimes a spouse will agree just because he or she wants to keep his/her spouse happy. When one of us is excited about something, we try to slow down enough to determine whether the other is really in agreement, or merely acquiescing. Sometimes, after some thought and discussion, the reservations seem to vanish away. Other times, they may turn out to be substantial and lead both of us to realize it was a bad idea. At other times we may not come to complete agreement. But in any case, we try hard not to just "push ahead" when one of us is hesitating until we have discussed the entire issue as thoroughly as possible.
We try to be sensitive to the "hurt" vs. "anger" situations It is not unusual for one of us to think the other is "angry" about something, when he/she actually is feeling "hurt." In fact, it is not unusual for each of us to have those feelings about each other at the same time! (He thinks she is angry when she is feeling hurt. And, at the same time, She thinks he is angry when he is feeling hurt!) These are times when we try to be sensitive at several points. First, we believe we have a spiritual enemy, the devil, who would like to mess up and confuse our communications. If he can make us misunderstand each other, he can do damage to our relationship. Secondly, we try to remind ourselves that we cannot tell the other how he/she feels! If we accuse each other of being angry (when we are feeling hurt) because we think the other is acting angrily, we make the problem worse. Third, we try to realize that we humans have a tendency to "redefine" anger so that we don't have to "own up" to it. Sometimes we really are angry, but just don't want to admit it. So we call it "hurt."
In those situations if one of us can find the grace to apologize for getting angry, or for trying to tell the other how he/she feels (or should feel), or for not listening to the other carefully, etc. we can usually take a lot of steam out of the situation pretty quickly.
Marriage “Red Flags”
(These things are signals that could eventually lead to the failure of a marriage. Remember, it takes TWO people with God’s wisdom, to make a successful marriage. It only takes ONE person to ruin it! If either of you has a problem with any of these things, GET IT FIXED IMMEDIATELY! If necessary, get help! If not, it may well cost you your marriage! )
One spouse cares more about keeping the kids happy than keeping his/her spouse happy. One spouse enjoys being with someone else more than with his/her spouse. One spouse has an anger problem. One spouse expects to get his or her way most all the time. One spouse teases the other with teasing that stings. One spouse flirts with someone other than his/her spouse. One spouse is not willing to work on improving the marriage. One spouse is not interested in learning the other’s needs. One spouse takes the other for granted. One spouse is not interested in spiritual growth. One spouse does not treat the other with basic politeness and does not show basic respect. One spouse is not interested in meeting the other’s sexual needs. One spouse seeks to pressure the other into doing things that are uncomfortable for him/her.
One spouse tries to manipulate the other with guilt or threats. One spouse is addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or pornography. One spouse is not willing to do his/her part for the financial well being of the marriage. One spouse is not willing to share significantly in chores and work around the house. One spouse almost always expects the other to apologize when there are misunderstandings. One spouse blames the other for his or her own irresponsible behavior (e.g., “You make me get angry!”). One spouse is consumed with jealousy. (A desire to protect your spouse from others is healthy unless it turns into irrational, uncontrolled jealousy!) One spouse desires to completely control the behavior of the other spouse. One spouse shows signs of not having any skills in relating to people or authorities. (e.g., getting into legal trouble, being fired from jobs, angry clashes with family members, etc.) One spouse has a problem telling the truth.
Copyright © 2005 Steve Hall
Projects for Marriage Enrichment
Do a Bible study on several of the Bible passages relating to marriage.
You may wish to start with the brief study on our web site (Bible Principles for Successful Marriage).
Buy, read, and discuss His Needs Her Needs by Willard Harley. Dr. Harley also has a great marriage enrichment web site. (http://www.marriagebuilders.com/) There are excellent questionnaires at that site to help married couples really communicate! The Recreational Enjoyment Inventory (http://www.marriagebuilders.com/forms/rei.pdf) will help you find activities to do together that both husband and wife will enjoy. Buy, read, and discuss The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. He has internet information here: (http://www.fivelovelanguages.com/) Discuss the following questions together. Do not get in a hurry. It may take quite a few “sessions” to cover all the questions! The set of questions is provided by the National Association of Wedding Ministers and is designed for premarital counseling. But it can also be extremely helpful for couples that are already married! A second set of questions, called “Lift Lines,” were put together by Gary and Barbara Rosberg to encourage spouses to communicate better with each other and to get to know each other better. We strongly encourage you to go to the GrowthTrac website at the following address, print them, and discuss them slowly—perhaps only a few questions at a time—over a period of several “dates.” You may be surprised at what you don’t know about your spouse! (Go to "Lift Lines")
National Association of Wedding Ministers Premarital Questionnaire (http://aweddingministers.com/wedding/premarital_quest.htm)
NAWM encourages all couples to attend premarital counseling/coaching sessions if possible. However, if you will not be receiving premarital counseling then please read the following questions and answer them
with your fiancé. You will be surprised how much you learn about each other and your relationship from answering these simple questions. Have fun; be honest and follow-up with counseling, if necessary.
Do you love and trust your fiancé?
How will you make decisions once you are married?
How would you handle/settle an argument?
What do you do if you cannot agree?
Is it hard to say please, thank you and I'm sorry?
When you are ill, how much sympathy and attention do you desire?
How would you handle end-of-life decisions and life insurance?
How will you relate to in-laws, opposite-sex friends, ex-spouse or children from previous relationships after you are married?
Do you believe your fiancé will be faithful?
Can you see yourselves growing old together?
Is your fiancé an honest and truthful person?
How do you show each other affection?
Is your fiancé kind, gentle and understanding of children, co-workers and family?
Who will be the primary financial provider in the family?
Do you support your fiancé’s career?
How will you decide on what major purchases to make?
Who will pay the bills and keep the checkbook?
What is your philosophy of giving to your church or other charitable organizations?
What are your thoughts about the use of credit cards?
If either you or your spouse lost your job, what budget items would you cut?
Will you have joint savings and checking accounts?
Have you created a family budget?
What percentage of your income will go toward home, car, groceries, utilities etc?
Where do you want to live and in what setting would you want to live (city, suburb, small town, rural, plains, mountains, desert, coastal,etc.)
What do you expect your marriage and standard of living to be like after five years?
How soon after you are married do you expect to have your home reasonably furnished?
Will you do your own home maintenance?
Who will do the landscaping?
Who will prepare each meal and what types of food will you eat?
How often will you eat out?
Who will do the laundry and ironing?
Who will go purchase groceries?
Who will make sure general automobile maintenance is done?
Who will do general household cleaning and bed making?
Who will wash and dry the dishes?
Do you want a pet in the home? If so, what type?
Children and Parenting
What is your attitude towards children?
When will you begin having children and how many?
What would you do if you cannot conceive children of your own?
What is your view on abortion and birth control?
Who will be the primary caregiver of your children?
How will you discipline them?
Who will be the primary disciplinarian?
Will your children do chores?
Will they receive an allowance and how much?
How will you deal with children from a previous marriage?
How will you deal with issues at their school?
Do you share the same beliefs?
Will you attend the same house of worship?
What will you teach your children regarding your faith?
What hobbies or recreational activities will you pursue individually, together and how often?
How will your personal friendships (his/her friends) change after marriage?
How do you feel about alcoholic beverages, smoking and guns in your home?
Where will you spend the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries?
Will you both have certain times to spend with your own friends?
Will you be joining any social clubs?
Your fiancé seems to be irrationally jealous of friends, family or past relationships.
Your fiancé is prone to extreme emotional outbursts and mood swings.
Your fiancé displays controlling/smothering behavior.
Your fiancé is unable to hold a job.
Your fiancé is unable to resolve conflict.
Your fiancé exhibits dishonesty.
Your fiancé does not treat you with respect.
Your fiancé is overly dependent on others for money.
Your fiancé exhibits patterns of physical, emotional or sexual abuse towards you or others.
Your fiancé displays signs of drug/alcohol abuse
*If any of these signs exist, you should schedule a time to talk with a minister or counselor immediately.
You may also wish to read Bible Principles for Successful Marriage.