A Gift to Help Marital Love Last

Adults with divorced parents often lack the template for what a healthy marriage looks like. During this season of love, why not give a gift that will help you and your spouse strengthen your relationship by learning what makes each other tick?

I encourage both husbands and wives to buy the set of books called, “For Men Only” and “For Women Only” by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn. (Ladies, you may want to get the audiobook or MP3 for your husband.)

These books do two things:

  • Help men be far less clueless as to how to keep their wives happy
  • Reveal to women just how clueless they are about what really makes their husbands happy.

Whether you want to make a good marriage better, a struggling marriage good, or you just want to decrease the hurt feelings and disrespect, make these books the love gift of choice this month!

“Let him Kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for your love is more delightful than wine”
~Song of Solomon 1:2

“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful”
~Song of Solomon 1:15

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Who to Call Instead of the Lawyer

Tis the season…for divorce filings. Right after the holidays, people (roughly two-thirds women) will call a lawyer to “explore” how to free themselves from the misery of their marriage.

The first thing the “helpful and understanding” lawyer will do is give advice that is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what needs to happen: “don’t talk to your spouse about this.” Unfortunately,  divide-and-conquer pays their bills, not reconciliation.

Please understand I’m not minimizing:

  • your hurt
  • all you’ve done “to make this work”
  • how unloving or disrespectful your spouse is
  • how unappreciative and unsupportive they are
  • how many prayers have gone unanswered
  • or….fill in the blank.

However, terminating any chance for constructive communication is NOT the answer. “But all we do is argue! We can’t talk without name calling, blame, and hurt.” That may be true, but get real help.

1)   An organization called Focus on the Family‘s sole purpose is to strengthen families. For forty years they’ve had people you can talk to for free. Their number is 800-232-6459. They have a wealth of resources that can help marriages that are even tougher than yours, but more important, they provide a listening ear.

2)   Find a couple that has been married for at least 30 years, treat them to coffee, and spill your guts. An outside and long-term perspective is crucial at this time. Very often you’ll find these couples have weathered storms similar or worse than yours.

3)   Commit or recommit yourself to God. If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Savior, listen to His words, ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Jesus can help you.

If Jesus is your Savior, act on the words of Psalm 61 verse 2, “when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”2 That rock is Jesus Christ. With God all things are possible. That can include changing your heart and/or the heart of your spouse.

Lastly, if your parents are divorced, please look over the resources on our resource page. Learn how the collapse of your parents’ marriage is greatly affecting how you see yourself, your spouse, and your own marriage. Before you call the lawyer, commit that you will never do to your kids what your parents did to you!

This is the most important blog of the year to share, because the person who needs this information hasn’t told you. In fact they haven’t told anyone. So let’s work together to stop the next wave of divorces…and adult children of divorce.

1Matthew 11:28-30, The Message Bible
2King James Version

Images
Divorce by Tony Guyton

 

An ACOD and The Ghost of Christmas Past

 

Christmas joy filled my childhood home. With snow falling and carols flowing from the record player, Hallmark movies were pale imitations of the Yuletides I enjoyed. Glorious Santa celebrations, complete with gifts, laughter, food, and fun, continued until I turned the corner into my teen years. There awaited my parents’ divorce.

Regretfully, the Christmases my mom, sisters, and I enjoyed after that point are dim memories. My mother moved mountains to make each December 25th special, but my appreciation for her efforts was pitifully small. Season’s greetings just weren’t the same for a teenage boy who missed his dad. The day was special, but something–actually someone–was missing. Also, unbeknownst to me, this period birthed a ghost of Christmas past.

Unlike those of Charles Dickens’ fame, mine wasn’t front and center. This specter hovered at the corners of my mind and shrouded my view of the sacred holiday. For years, at the first sound of Noel-tinted melodies, the ghost would awake from hibernation and get to work. However, its job wasn’t to teach me lessons from Christmases past. Planting seeds of remorse was its charge—thoughts of Christmases that never were, or holidays that should have included my dad and mom together.

In adulthood, I worked retail. Many in this field will tell you that the time of year people should have the most Christmas spirit seems to be the season they have the least.  So my retail management career, combined with the efforts of Casper’s evil twin, slowly produced an intense distaste for the season that celebrated my Savior’s birth. Though happily married with a growing family, an unexplained cloud hung over the festive tunes and TV programs. Smiles came hard, and joy had deserted me years earlier.

Why do I share this during this “most wonderful time of the year”? For two reasons: first, too many adult children of divorce can relate to these emotions, but have never given them voice. Second, to encourage you.

As I learned to turn toward the pain of the holidays and how to move on, God exposed the unfriendly ghost and I sent it packing. Then, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day! Over time, the clouds from the past parted and revealed the beauty of a baby born in a manger. A beauty that transcends who may or may not be celebrating with me around the tree.

This is a gift God would like to give you too. Seem impossible? “With God, all things are possible”1—even restoring your joy. Pray to Him and ask Him to bring healing to your heart. It’s a journey, but one God wants to do with you! Why not make that your new year’s resolution?

 

 1Matthew 19:26

Images
Hark the Herald Angels sing – http://www.dwellingplaceindy.org/hark-the-herald-angels-sing/
Emily’s Christmas Tree Cookies by Ralph Dally
madhouse Macy’s at Xmas by Eric Mueller
Star of Bethlehem Nativity by Garrett W

Thanks-giving to Parents Who Really Try

Divorce isn’t easy for anyone. Furthermore, on this site I tend to focus on the fallout parental divorce produces—and rightfully so. If adults with divorced parents hope to break the divorce cycle, we need to identify some of the contributing factors.

However, there are countless divorced mothers and fathers and stepmothers and stepfathers who honestly try to minimize the ongoing impact. They accept that hybrid relationships can be difficult, awkward, or confusing for us, even as adults.

Some travel distances to stay involved with us.
Some sacrifice their own happiness because they believe it will help us.
Some refuse to badmouth their ex because that ex is our mother or father.
Some go above and beyond financially to help.
Many display grace when facing new husbands and wives.
Some pursue us even when we push them away.
Many lovingly do the stepparenthood dance of being a parent, yet not being the parent.
Some avoid family functions to decrease our discomfort.
And the list goes on..

If you’re blessed with a parent or stepparent who is described by the list above, first give thanks to God. Unfortunately, these wonderful individuals are not as common as we might hope. Second, give them a call, or a special hug to thank them. Tell them what you are thankful for. You may just give them the best gift they receive this entire holiday season!

Images
Father and daughter by Chany Crystal

“Facing the Holidays” ACD Workshop is Coming Soon.

It’s no secret Thanksgiving and Christmas can be far from joyous times for adults with divorced parents. What often is the secret is why.
On October 28th I’ll be at Sycamore Counseling Services in Livonia, Michigan to present a workshop that will equip ACD with tools to help them not only hate the holidays less, but actually enjoy them–in spite of what may be going on around them.
Whether you “tolerate” the holidays, hate them, ignore them, or if you are divorced and want to know what your adult kids are experiencing,  I hope you’ll join us as we work together to restore “the most wonderful time of the year.”

When the Prodigal is a Parent

Marriage offers many benefits, but primarily a healthy marriage provides balance. Since spenders wed savers, risk-takers bond to safety-lovers, chocoholics find physical trainers, and spastics unite with steady-rudders, balance is maintained because they keep each other in check.
But divorce severs that tether allowing natural tendencies and desires to go unleashed. So, basking in post-marriage freedom, drinkers can drink more, couch potatoes couch more, spenders spend more, and philanderers play the field. However, we get entangled in all this. 

Wanting to scream
How do you greet Mom’s 12th boyfriend? Are you responsible to keep your father from eating Cheetos and Red Bull chasers for dinner? Does Mom really think she looks good in that outfit made for women 25 years younger? Tired of explaining to your kids how “til death do us part” fits into grandpa’s fourth wedding? Frustrated because your parents don’t get why you’re upset with their life choices? Perhaps a look at prodigals may help.

Perspective on Prodigals
The word “prodigal” comes from a story Jesus told about a young man who left the blessings of his home and “wasted all his money in wild living.”1 The son eventually realizes he messed up and plans to return home groveling. But the father sees the son returning and runs to greet him. Instead of condemnation, kisses and hugs are showered on the son. Then the father throws a my-rebellious-son-who-I-dearly-love-has-returned party. Jesus’ point is we are the prodigal and God is the father. As such, we should respond to our prodigals as the father in this story—but we usually don’t.

How we deal with our prodigals
Our response to prodigal parents is often:
1)     We brood over how things should be, could have been, or how we wish our parents should act.
2)    We harbor bitterness and unforgiveness, and withhold grace because we focus on our parent’s prodigal ways (and the hurt it causes) forgetting we, too, are prodigals in God’s eyes.
3)    We dabble in their behaviors because we’ve secretly wanted to do it anyway and if a parent can do something it’s justified for us…even if we know it’s wrong.

How does God deal with prodigals?
He loves them.  And we need to follow God’s example, but how do we do that?
1) Pray for them – prayer may change them, but often changes our attitude toward them.
2) No badmouthing. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.2  It’s tempting to talk them down, but find the positives and talk them up—particularly in front of your kids.
3) Maintain boundaries – Often their decisions impact us because we allow them to. Our desire for their love, or fear of losing it, can cause us to comingle in their dysfunction instead of maintaining healthy boundaries in love3.

While prodigal parents can challenge us, they can also stimulate spiritual and character growth. We just need to remember their actions are their choice. Our response is our choice.

1Luke 15:13, NLT
2Ephesians 4:29, NLT
3Henry Cloud, John Townsend, Boundaries, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.)

Images
Shutterstock
The Parables of Our Lord – The Prodigal Son by John Everett Millais by Birmingham Museum and Art  Gallery
Talk to the hand by Matt Foster
Bible with Cross Shadow by David Campbell

Graduations, Triggers, and Anger

Your high school graduation was long ago. Okay, not that long ago, but back then having parents (who could barely speak to each other) smiling together in graduation pictures was bizarre. But you were young (or numb) and treated it as an annoyance, not life changing.

However, twenty-five years have passed, and now your child’s graduation is coming. Planning for the big event goes well until the Ghost of Graduations Past shows up.

A slideshow of memories flash through your mind. There’s the embarrassment when your boyfriend’s parents met your dad, mom, and her husband. They’re all smiles, but the awkwardness felt like a steel ball in your stomach. Of course, their smiles later melted into glacial stares resulting in social courtesy so strained, it sent you scurrying from your party to somewhere less tense. It was “no big deal” at the time, but now anger brews over the unfairness you feel being forced into a position like that.

The specter’s next memory is of “the call”. The one responsible for the tepid relationship between you and your dad. The conversation announcing how, because you were 18 and new priorities had arisen, no college money was coming. The Ghost’s work is done now. All you can think about is how hard it was to get through college and how unfair it felt.

Now it’s happening again!
No need for the Ghost of Graduations Future to show you how your child’s event is going to play out. Dad with wife number two, Mom with current boyfriend, and step dad number one have accepted the invitation your child sent them. You know what’s going to happen, because it’s happened already. The question is, are you upset because of your discomfort today, or triggers from 25 years ago?

Triggers remind us of past events, but create an emotional response in the present. The frustration of our graduation creates “rose colored glasses” through which we see our child’s graduation. We project our experience onto their event. This can hide the real reasons we’re more quick-tempered as the event approaches.

Many of us deny we’re angry about events in the past, but words like “frustrated”, and “annoyed” are close cousins to anger. So, what can we do if graduation triggers are producing anger in our lives?

  1. Acknowledge this graduation is reminding you of your own. Stop pretending it’s something else.
  2. Identify specific issues you were upset about then, but didn’t share with anyone. Write them down if possible.
  3. Pray about them with God. The Psalmist wrote, “I pour out my complaint before Him.” (Psalm 142:2, NLT)
  4. Share them with your spouse or a close friend.
  5. Enjoy your child’s graduation. Regardless of how everyone acts, try to look at the graduation festivities through your child’s eyes. They’re probably oblivious to the drama.
  6. Meet with someone after the graduation and share your thoughts and emotions. Talking about it is a powerful way to avoid building up anger and anxiety.