Category Archives: marriage

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.


What Ever Happened to Unity?

unityI shared the following thoughts at my church yesterday:

I’d like to bring some perspective on the recent supreme court ruling if I can. It’s interesting to me that in some churches today, they are celebrating. I understand why. Yet in other churches, they are mad and fearful of what may happen next. I understand their concerns too. In many other churches, there is just confusion. I don’t want us to be confused by this.

I can’t say that I know God’s heart but from reading his word,  God may not share any of these emotions this morning. I think this morning God might be grieved because his church is divided.

The agenda that should take priority over all agendas is our walking in unity with people even if we can’t agree with them. That’s a topic I’m willing to talk about.

Jesus prayed, “Father, might they be one as you and I are one.” He prayed that we might love each other in order that we might show the world that He exists. The apostle Paul said that we should make every effort to maintain the unity of the church. I’m not seeing that. What I’m seeing is people taking sides and saying terrible things about the other side of the argument. It’s not right. As your pastor, I want to encourage you to not join in this war of words and actions.

The Bible is clear about Satan’s agenda: he wants to divide believers. If he can divide us and create bitterness in our hearts toward each other, he has done his job. I think that is what has happened. I don’t want our church to fall into his trap.

Jesus said we should be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Paul said we should speak with grace and truth. There is no greater time for this than now. This is a watershed moment in the church. I hope you realize the historical implication of what has happened. This decision by the supreme court, and how we react to it, can affect the church for years to come. 

Our church and denomination has always believed in the traditional view of marriage. But I’m not interested in that becoming our agenda. There is a bigger issue at hand (not to diminish the marriage issue). The agenda that should take priority over all agendas is our walking in unity with people even if we can’t agree with them. That’s a topic I’m willing to talk about.

Let’s not be seduced into discrediting and disrespecting people just because they don’t agree with how we see things. I hope our church can be an island of reason amidst a conversation that is often filled with people saying things that they don’t always understand.  

As is often the case in divisive issues: there is truth on both sides of the issue. If one side had no truth it would be obvious and there would be no debate.  We all grab bits of truth and attempt to build our case. It’s important to affirm the truth on both sides in order to find common ground.

To cast off either side of the argument as wrong, stupid, ungodly, wicked, ignorant, backwards, or whatever pejorative you can think of, is unfair and only causes people to dig their heels in deeper in defense of their position. You’ve only made it harder for them to see the truth that you so clearly see.

I’m just one more voice in a sea of voices. But I hope, if you are a follower of Jesus, that you will strive to walk in unity and show respect for all people. The only way through a divisive time like this is if people feel free to openly share their thoughts without threat of being labeled and dismissed as a fool. We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I’m committed to that. I hope you are too. Then unity might have a chance.


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.


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.

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