Today's Christian MarriageTweet
Posted 10/7/09 at 2:02 PM | Mark Gungor
In my Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage seminar I explain in detail how a man's brain tends to compartmentalize things. It's like men have separate boxes in their heads for everything: money, sex, kids, wife, in-laws, etc. And for a guy these boxes don't touch. He thinks about one thing at a time and then moves on to the next thing since one box isn't connected to another.
Then I go on to explain how a woman's brain is like a big ball of wire where everything is connected to everything and there is no compartmentalizing at all. Money can be connected to the in-laws and sex can be connected to the kids. Things can run together very easily in a woman's brain.
These two very opposite ways of thinking and processing cause men and women to communicate in very different ways. There is one area this is particularly evident and often problematic-the apology. Because men have this unique ability to compartmentalize, a guy can go to his "apology box", say he's sorry for something he did, close that box and then move on to the next task or thing to think about. In his mind he took care of it, he said he was sorry, it's done and life goes on.
Not so for a woman. When she has been crossed or hurt for some reason, the connections in her brain make it impossible to compartmentalize. She may attach all sorts of reasons, feelings, and ideas to that one incident. While her husband has moved on to other territory, she hasn't because it may take her some time to process her emotions and thoughts. So when a woman is still upset, sad or hurt for a couple of days (sometimes weeks depending on the infraction) it is often a puzzle to the man. Guys will then perceive their wives as holding onto a grudge, being unforgiving and unwilling to move on, and they can become very frustrated. After all, he said he was sorry, why can't she just get past it? FULL POST
Posted 10/1/09 at 2:32 PM | Mort Fertel
Do you know Aesop's fable about the goose and the golden eggs?
Let me share it with you and explain how it relates to your marriage.
The fable is about a poor farmer who discovers that his goose is laying golden eggs.
At first the farmer thinks it must be a trick. But when he gets the eggs appraised, he learns that they're pure gold!
The farmer can't believe it. And he gets even more excited when he realizes that the goose is laying golden eggs EVERYDAY. Eventually, the farmer becomes fabulously wealthy.
But the farmer tires of caring for the goose and waiting day after day for the golden eggs. So he decides to kill the goose and get all the golden eggs at once. But when he opens the goose, there are no golden eggs. And now the goose is gone too.
How does this relate to your marriage problems?
A good relationship lays many golden eggs: security, companionship, fun, intimacy, just to name a few. In the words of Jerry McGuire, "You complete me." And that's exactly how we feel when we're in a successful marriage...COMPLETE.
But the golden eggs of a marriage are THE RESULT OF tending to the relationship (the goose).
Over time, most people grow tired of caring for their marriage. Most people become selfish and impatient. So they stop extending common courtesies, being sensitive, and thoughtful. They stop giving their marriage time and energy. And they treat the person closest to them in a way they would never treat even a stranger on the street.
The amazing thing is that most people's inappropriate behavior in their marriage is, in their mind, an effort to grab some golden eggs. In other words, people aren't trying to sabotage their marriage. They're trying to get what they want. They're trying to get the golden eggs. But their behavior is killing the goose!
In the beginning of your marriage, your relationship is strong and indestructible. But if you want the goose to keep laying the golden eggs, you've got to learn how to take care of it.
It's easy to fall in love. But maintaining a marriage that lays golden eggs year after year is something very few people know how to do.
But the fact is, it's not hard. You can do it! You simply have to know how.
Remember the first time you tried to use a computer? Overwhelmed right? "How does this work?" But once someone showed you; from then on it was easy.
Saving a marriage and maintaining love in your relationship is kind of like learning to use a computer. It's seems impossible; until someone shows you how to do it.
Love is NOT a mystery. Just as there are physical laws of the universe (such as gravity), there are also laws for relationships. Just as the right diet and exercise program makes you physically stronger, certain habits in your relationship WILL make your marriage stronger. It's a direct cause and effect. If you know and apply the laws, the results are predictable--you can "make" love.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness
Posted 9/30/09 at 3:39 PM | Mark Gungor
It's a good thing that we Christians of today aren't the Christians of the first century church; otherwise the whole Christian movement would never have lasted and spread throughout the world.. People today don't have what it takes to navigate the slightest of hardships or difficulties. Anything that isn't easy or flat out gets "too hard" sends us packing. Persistent trials or even mild conflict in relationships-whether it be in marriage, family, on the job or in the church they attend-cause many people to just quit and give up. Never mind that we aren't talking about getting thrown in prison, being beaten, having your children murdered or even giving up your very life.
We live in a day and age when everything is about easy. Our culture says if anything is difficult, you don't have to do it-- or even worse, that you can't do it. Difficult has become synonymous with impossible. Husbands and wives can't keep their marriage vows because it's impossible to stay faithful. They divorce because their particular marital situation is impossible. They give up fighting for their marriage because they have issues and disagreements and it's impossible to keep going.
Just because something is hard, doesn't mean it is impossible-especially if you are a believer and have the power of the Holy Spirit living and working in you. While we have the most incredible help available to us through Christ, it doesn't mean that everything about life or marriage is easy. The bible never promises easy. In fact, many times scripture tells us quite the opposite. Jesus himself said that we would have trouble in this life. Paul wrote that married people would experience trouble. And it doesn't say we might have trouble or if we have trouble, rather when we have it. The bible is very clear that we will not have a life of ease. One, because we live in a fallen world full of sin, and two, because life on easy street does nothing to create character or build faith. FULL POST
Posted 9/23/09 at 11:16 AM | Mort Fertel
Shared by a Marriage Counselor
A marriage counselor once shared the following with me. I thought it was powerful and that it was worth sharing with you. It's the kind of story that you would not hear in a marriage counseling office, but one that you can imagine a marriage counselor sharing. Enjoy.
"This is Love" FULL POST
Posted 9/15/09 at 2:00 PM | Mort Fertel
Recently I had a series of private phone sessions with a person who was very frustrated. Listen to how this person described their situation. I bet you'll be able to relate to it.
This person said they felt trapped in their basement trying to communicate with their spouse via Morse Code. They said they were banging on the pipes trying desperately to be heard. They would bang on the pipes and wait for a response. Bang and wait...bang and wait...bang and wait. But each time they finished banging, there was silence. No matter how hard they banged and no matter how long they waited; their spouse never heard them.
Are you trying to get heard? Do you feel ignored? Is your spouse not responding to your communication?
We live in an interesting time. With one click, you can communicate with anyone in the world. It's easy, quick, and free. You even have options. If you don't want to click, you could dial, beep, page, instant-message, or Fed Ex. It's true. Your ability to communicate with the outside world has become increasingly easy. But my guess is that your ability to communicate with your spouse has become increasingly difficult.
The reason for this is that most people confuse INFORMATION communication with PERSONAL communication. Technological advancements give us all sorts of options to communicate information. But how do you feel the pulse of someone's soul? How do you communicate the subtleties in your heart? You can't text message that. You can have the latest and greatest in communication gadgets, but it won't matter. PERSONAL communication is a whole different ball game. And it's PERSONAL communication that determines the success or failure of your marriage.
I'm reminded of a scene from a Broadway play. A man and woman happen to meet on a train and engage in polite conversation. They were both headed home to New York after a day in New Haven, CT. After further discussion, they learned that they were going to the same building on Fifth Avenue. Lo and behold they discovered that they had the same daughter and lived in the same apartment. They finally discovered that they were husband and wife.
You know what's killing marriages these days? EMAIL! More and more I'm seeing husbands and wives resort to email to communicate with each other. You want to do something tangible TODAY to improve your marriage? STOP EMAILING YOUR SPOUSE! Email is for INFORMATION. But in a marriage you've got to HEAR each other. And I don't mean hear the sounds of each other's words. You've got to be able to hear the silence between the sounds and interpret the unspoken meaning of pressed lips or teary eyes. You've got to be able to hear the shapes and sounds in each other's heart. You can NOT accomplish this via email.
Let me be clear about something; you can't do it with communication techniques either. There's no clinical communication therapy that can help you and your spouse think each other's thoughts, feel each other joy, and cringe from each other's pain. My 1-on-1 phone session schedule and the Marriage Fitness Tele Boot Camp are filled with casualties from traditional communication strategies and the usual marriage counseling approach. If you're like most people with marriage troubles, you've been down that path and you know that it does NOT work.
Today my 4-year-old son came to me with a bruise on his leg. He was crying and I could see that it was black and blue. He said, "Daddy, I need a band-aide."
I responded, "But it's not bleeding."
He said again, "Daddy, can you put a band-aide on it?"
I realized that my son's perspective was that when something hurts a band-aide makes it better...even if it's a bruise and not a cut.
So what does this have to do with communication in a marriage? Because most people think that if spouses aren't hearing each other that communication techniques will solve the problem. But that's like putting a band-aide on a bruise. It's the wrong solution.
Communication techniques can help colleagues transmit INFORMATION clearly. Communication techniques belong in seminars that teach negotiation and sales. But you're not trying to complete a transaction with your spouse; you're trying to renew a relationship. I can almost guarantee you that your problem is not clarity; it's concern. Ironically, communication techniques sometimes give people clarity that they don't care what their spouse thinks or feels. They "got it," but "it" doesn't matter to them anymore.
How do you get back to the place where you and your spouse care again?
This is one of the things that's unique about the Marriage Fitness approach to repairing a relationship versus traditional counseling. Most approaches to marriage success preach communication skills. But communicating effectively will NOT create love in your marriage. In fact, the correlation is the opposite. Creating love in your marriage paves the way for effective communication. I'll prove it to you.
Think about when you fell in love. How was your communication? Good, right? In fact, when you're in love, you communicate with the wink of an eye and you can finish each other's sentences. And yet you haven't known each other that long and you haven't learned any communication techniques.
Then, years later, after getting to know each other inside and out, employing psychologically tested and proven communication strategies, and taking into account all the differences between Mars and Venus, you can't get through to each other.
Listen carefully: Communication has very little to do with techniques or knowledge of each other. It has everything to do with the depth of connection between the communicators.
The question you should be asking is NOT, "How do I communicate effectively with my spouse." The question you should be asking is, "How do I connect with my spouse again?" Once you reconnect, you won't be sitting in silence in the basement. You'll hear the sound of the pipes from above. It'll be your spouse. You were heard.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness
Posted 9/9/09 at 9:48 PM | Mort Fertel
Posted 8/18/09 at 3:07 PM | Mort Fertel
Looking for martial counselors? Read below.
Listen to this email I received from a reader and see if you can relate.
We are in week 2 of the silent treatment! It all started over something so little and ridiculous! We are both adults, old enough to know better than this! He is a judge, I am a social worker! He won't budge! I need help!
The dreaded silent treatment. The big stand-off. You know it, don't you? Horrible, isn't it?
The most intense prayers in a household come during these silent treatments: "Oh God, I hope that's not him/her pulling into the driveway."
Or, "Oh God, when will he/she go upstairs already?"
Sometimes you feel like you could explode, right?
Most silent treatments start like Jodie's started; with something "little and ridiculous." Most couples can't remember what the impetus was. And if they could, they'd be too embarrassed to admit that something so small blew-up into something so big.
So what are these silent treatments or stand-offs REALLY about? And how can you avoid them or end them soon after they begin?
It's interesting that Jodie made a point in her email toa say that she and her husband "know better." In other words, they're intelligent, educated, and accomplished people. Jodie's husband is even a judge, an expert in distinguishing between right and wrong. They know that treating each other this way doesn't make sense. They know IT is wrong. But they also know that THEY are right.
And that's exactly the problem!
Silent treatments ensue when both people feel they're RIGHT. And the more intense each spouse's conviction to their perspective, the longer the silence lasts. And, ironically, the more intelligent and the articulate the couple, the MORE LIKELY they are to endure silence between them. Because intelligent and articulate people have confidence in their position and justification for holding their ground.
Although Jodie is surprised that her and her husband, intelligent people, could be so petty; the fact is that one reason they're holding their silence for so long is BECAUSE they're intelligent. In other words, intellectual capacity and marital satisfaction can be INVERSELY related. Let me say it another way: When it comes to saving your marriage, you can be right or you can be happy. But sometimes you can't be both.
In a courtroom, a hospital, or an office, right and wrong determine success or failure. The decision to prescribe the right medicine, for example, could be the difference between life and death. The relationship between the doctor and the patient is secondary. Being RIGHT is what matters and what is rewarded.
But in marriage, being right has no value. All that matters is the relationship.
Sometimes you have to choose. Do you want to be right or do you want to be happily married?
Just because you're right/wrong paradigm works at the office doesn't mean that you should bring it home. "He who is a hammer thinks everything is a nail." Some things work perfectly in one area of life and fail terribly in another. In marriage, you have to be like a carpenter and know which tool to use. The right/wrong mode is the WRONG tool to use in your marriage.
The more you insist on being RIGHT, the more you will be miserable in your marriage. Don't go for RIGHT; go for LOVE.
Jodie expects that because she and her husband are "intelligent," they shouldn't find themselves in these petty stalemates. But just because Jodie and her husband have a high IQ, doesn't mean they have a high EQ.
IQ is a measure of your INTELLECTUAL intelligence. The higher your IQ, the better your ability to process information and determine what's "right."
EQ is a measure of your EMOTIONAL intelligence. The higher your EQ, the better your ability to connect with people and succeed in relationships.
Just as some athletes are strong but not fast, so too many people have a high IQ but a low EQ.
Bottom line: Intelligence, in the way Jodie means it, has little bearing on her and her husband's ability to succeed in their marriage. In fact, a high IQ coupled with a low EQ can be a disastrous combination for a marriage.
The good news, however, is that EQ can be developed. Anyone can increase their EQ and learn to make their marriage RIGHT.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness FULL POST
Posted 8/11/09 at 2:53 PM | Mort Fertel
Were your mom and dad happily married? Is your marriage like theirs was?
If you're looking into marriage and counseling, the chances are good that your parents struggled in their marriage too. Research shows that if your parents divorced, then your marriage is more likely to end in divorce as well.
Freud documented well the impact that heredity and upbringing has on a person's fate. We learn "tapes" early-on that we play again and again oblivious to how they control (and destroy) our lives. But does that mean the destiny of your marriage was determined years ago? Does that mean your fate was sealed by your genes and your childhood?
There is no doubt that you have deeply rooted relationship instincts. But those instincts do NOT have you.
Your past constantly vies for control of your future, but at the end of the day YOU have a CHOICE. Your domain is this moment, and every moment, when you can DECIDE to write a new script. At any time, in every time, you can decide to be the master of your destiny; rather than a victim to your past.
This, by the way, is the real value in understanding your past and your childhood roots. So that you can consciously REJECT what you know doesn't work and replace old habits with new ways.
This, of course, is no simple task. Not only because it's hard to break old habits and learn new ways, but also because most people are more comfortable doing what's familiar yet destructive rather than what's constructive but unfamiliar. In other words, most people are happier doing what they know doesn't work than they are working on something that they don't know.
But that's what it takes to be a "transition person." A transition person is someone who breaks free from unhealthy relationship patterns that have been in their family for generations.
You are by no means a product solely of your heredity or environment. There is a third element: YOUR DECISION. And that trumps ALL past events.
By the way, this, in my opinion, is the real meaning of marriage education...educating someone to acquire the ability to CHOOSE their behavior.
A successful marriage is not something that just happens; you have to craft it. It's a result of deliberate and conscience decisions to make a new way in your relationship.
Author & Founder of Marriage Fitness
Posted 8/5/09 at 10:55 AM | Mort Fertel
"The difficultly with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character." - Peter Devries
We can only appreciate the profundity of this statement if we understand what is meant by CHARACTER. FULL POST
Posted 7/28/09 at 12:26 PM | Mort Fertel
Do you know what happens after you plant the seed of a Chinese Bamboo Tree? Nothing. That's right. Absolutely nothing. For 4 years after planting the seed of this tree you get no satisfaction other than a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb. Must be something wrong, right? A still birth or stunted growth. A bad seed maybe.
If you didn't know about the growth patterns for this tree, you'd think that all your efforts to plant and cultivate were useless. FULL POST