Category Archives: divorce

Marital Meltdowns: How to Overcome Marriage Problems and Prevent Divorce

It’s not often that my wife joins me on stage but this past Sunday I invited her to help me talk about how to prevent marital meltdowns. We had a doozy of a meltdown a few years back and thankfully we found our way to overcome it and other marriage problems we had. Below is the video of our talk along with the outline and a few notes.

I hope you find some help from our experiences. As I said in the video below, this is our story. It’s not THE STANDARD that all people should follow. So take it for what it’s worth and apply to your relationships what makes sense for you.

Jesus and the apostles call us to healthy relationships.

There was often disunity in the early church. The New Testament writers constantly called believers to love and unity. This was a sign of true faith. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians dealt with the problem of disunity and called them to “make every effort” to restore the unity of the Spirit.

Aha moments that helped us overcome our marriage problems:

We learned:

    • it was okay, and even good, to be different from each other. (Not wrong, just different). We found that we different in these four area:
      • Gender: Lisa is more relational and I’m more oriented toward achievement.
      • Love Language: Lisa needs touch and I need quality time.
      • Family experience: Lisa came from a laid back team oriented fun household. Me, not so much.
      • Personality: I am a BIG picture person (spare me the details) while Lisa is a small picture person who LOVES details.
    • to not assume the worst intentions and get defensive before we understand one another. We learned that we would often read too much into words and facial expressions.
    • that we had different ideas of a successful marriage and needed to agree on a common goal. My achievement orientation left Lisa feeling emotionally abandoned. This caused a huge meltdown in our marriage that took hard work to recover from.

Divorce-Proofing Our Marriage

We committed to:

    1. never divorce but always find a way back to unity. This commitment put Lisa’s feet to the fire when she lost trust in me. It forced her to trust God to work a miracle.
    2. keep God first in our personal lives as well as in marriage. To give up on marriage meant being hypocrites as believers. Putting God first forced us to deal with our stuff until we could find unity.
    3. work on the marriage.
    4. work on personal growth.
    5. create touchpoints that would bring us together. Touch points are the daily, weekly, and annual things we do to make sure we are spending quality time together.

If you know someone who might find help with their marriage problems from our video, please share it with them or through social media. My book STUCK also deals with many of the issues that we touched on in our talk, looking at anger and how to forgive what feels unforgivable.

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Divorce, Remarriage, and Grace

Some people have found it hard to find any grace in Jesus’ words about divorce and remarriage. But if you understand the context of what Jesus was saying, you will see more grace than you might first think.divorce-remarriage

I’ve been teaching my way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount at Cedarbrook. In my younger years I’d often get hung up on each sentence. But by seeing the Sermon as a whole, the individual sentences make so much more sense to me now.

In regard to divorce and remarriage, it seems that the range of interpretation is to either take Jesus so literally that you must divorce your second spouse to return to your first, or hyper-spiritualize the text to an unattainable ideal that Jesus never meant for us to tackle.

But I think there is a reasonable third way that views the issue through a grid of grace. I’ll give you a snapshot of my thinking here and let you read or listen to my message if you want to hear more on this.

Religious Loophole for Divorce?

In approaching divorce and remarriage it’s important to remember the thrust of Jesus’ teaching. He wasn’t out to shame sinners. He was out to teach his disciples that an acceptable religion practice of the day was unacceptable to Jesus. Namely, using religious loopholes to hide their sin.

In that day, a man could essentially “annul” his wedding without cause with a certificate of divorce. So, in theory, you could get married many times and never have to admit to a divorce if you gave your wife a certificate. Sweet deal. (Meanwhile subjecting your ex-wife to shame and poverty).

But Jesus said: not so fast. God’s not fooled by your religious “work-around.” Call it what it is: adultery.You’ve broken the unity bond of marriage. This bond represents who God is. To break this bond undermines one of the ways we reflect God in this world. Don’t think your “certificate” gives you a free pass on sin.God knows the truth even if you fool others.

There is Grace for You

Jesus was speaking against hypocrites who wanted to hide their sin, not people who regretfully failed in marriage. To them he would say: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Jesus was warning his disciples of what NOT to do when they follow him.

Jesus wants to help you start over. He is the God of second chances. He’s not out to shame broken people. He just doesn’t want us to play religious games. Call your sin what it is (in this case:adultery) find forgiveness, and then move on. God will work with you to make your second marriage a success if you let him.

Too often people elevate divorce and remarriage to be worse than other sins and let it taint their second marriage, always doubting its validity before God. It’s good to admit and own your failure. Make the amends you can. But then move forward. Life is too short to let regrets rob from you every day.

You can read or listen to the message here.

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Eight Ways Pastors Can Affair-Proof Their Marriage

The other day I wrote about eight warnings signs that you might be headed for an affair, gathered from the General Petraeus affair with Paul Broadwell. I talked about the problem. Now I’d like to offer a solution.affair proof

I’m directing this post to my fellow pastors because too many pastors fall morally unaware of how vulnerable they are. If you aren’t a pastor, don’t worry: the advice still holds true.

Affair Proof Your Marriage

I’ve restated the warning signs that you are headed for an affair followed by my advice:

Warning sign #1: You live a high pressure, high responsibility life.

Rx: Being a pastor is stressful. Even in the smallest church you can feel ultra responsible to offer spiritual, emotional, and physical comfort to everyone.  It’s important to have strong boundaries in place to make sure you are cared for as well.  Build rest into your week and each day.  Get eight hours of sleep and exercise three times a week. Give yourself permission to not be everyone’s savior.

Warning sign #2: Your position and speed of life keep you isolated and lonely.

Rx: You need personal time. You need friends you can kick back and laugh with. Don’t allow yourself to always be the Good Shepherd.  Get a life outside of the church. Lonely people do desperate things.

Warning sign #3: You are physically separate from your family and friends.  

Rx: Your first obligation is to your family.  Make time for them.   Have family time every day and a family day every week.  And don’t lose track of your friends. Keeping contact with friends and family  creates accountability and prevents you from creating an alternate world with another person.

Warning sign #4: You spend long periods of time with someone alone.

Rx: Don’t let this happen with someone who you find attractive or could find attractive over time. Don’t kid yourself. Assume an attraction will happen and take preventive measures to make sure it doesn’t happen.  Some people will naturally be drawn to you because they perceive you as someone in authority and someone who is spiritual.  Don’t allow their misplaced adulation to cause you to be drawn to them. You are the leader. You need to anticipate this and have a plan of action to prevent anything from developing.

Warning sign #5: You are stimulated by the intellectual camaraderie.

Rx: Don’t think that talking about “spiritual things” is innocent discussion.   You bond with someone when you share things in common: even spiritual things.  If you find yourself enjoying discussions with another person more than your spouse, you are in a danger zone.  Limit your discussions to one or two counseling sessions and refer out after that.

Warning sign #6: You share personal intimacies with them.

Rx: You can’t do this. If you do, one of two things will happen: either it will be a very awkward moment that causes the person to feel uncomfortable and tell others, or they will feel privileged to have you be so vulnerable with them and be drawn to you.  Neither result is something you can live with.  Even imagining that you might share intimate information is a warning sign.  A warning needs to sound: Abort! Abort!

Warning #7: You arrange your schedule to “bump into” this person.  

Rx: If there is someone who you are naturally attracted to you should do just the opposite. Purposefully avoid interacting with them unless it’s necessary to speak with them professionally.

Warning #8: You lie about your meeting with this person.

Rx: If you don’t have a solid professional reason for meeting with someone then don’t do it.  If you find yourself having to justify your meeting then you are in a bad place.

Affairs are preventable. There are warning signs to watch for and preventative steps you can take that will make them almost impossible to develop. So why not do all you can to save yourself, your family, and your congregation a lot of pain?

Question: What else can you do to help affair-proof a marriage? Leave your comment below.

Consider sharing on Facebook. You might help save a marriage.

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How Do I Forgive My Ex?

How Do I Forgive My Ex?

Last week I posted pieces of a message I spoke called “Defining Forgiveness: What it Is. What It’s Not”.  The message is a part of a larger series on Restoring Broken Relationships that I’m giving at my church.  Both at church and online the messages are having an impact.

In the coming week I will share pieces of a new messages on How to Forgive. But to start I want to share parts of an email sent to me last week from a woman who was able to forgive her ex-husband. I hope it encourages you if you are in a similar situation.

I am so amazed by how prayers are answered.  I have been asking God to bring someone or something into my life to show me signs or give me direction.  I was stuck in the mud; I had only healed to a certain point and leveled off.  It wasn’t enough, so I prayed for more direction.   

I listened to your message last night about forgiveness.  Every word of this hit home with me on such a deep level.  Your definition of what forgiveness is, but more so the definition of what it is NOT, was so meaningful.  In fact, I had such a feeling of peace.  I understand now what forgiveness is and how it relates to God, and that was such a missing link for me.

I realized today that I wasn’t angry anymore.  I thought before that in order to let go of the anger, I had to trust my ex, or excuse what he did.   I can’t trust him, but I can choose not to remember like God wrote in the Old Testament.  I can allow him to build trust.  I can let go of the anger and feel peace.  It’s over. It’s all in the past. I realized that if I want to move forward and excel in life, this anger has got to go.  So I let it go and God has helped me do it.  My shoulders feel relaxed!   

I know it will be a continuous process and through prayer I am achieving the strength I need.  My ex was here tonight to pick up the kids and I told him about this.  I told him that I forgive him.  It was a powerful moment.    

I am eager to move on with my life. I understand it’s a process, but I made a huge leap out of the mud I was stuck in.  I wanted you to know that.  I feel fantastic!  The grace of God has left me at a loss for words.

It was great to read this. I hope to read many more like it! Please share these posts with people who are struggling to forgive.  You can learn more about forgiveness in STUCK.

Question: Do you have a story of forgiveness?  What was the tipping point that enabled you to forgive?

  • Defining Forgiveness – Three Things That Forgiveness Is (readingremy.com)
  • Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part three) (readingremy.com)
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