Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Insider’s Solution to a Successful Marriage

So, you two are different.

That wasn’t a question. That was a statement, and it’s probably the root of most of the problems in a relationship. You may have heard the official terminology: power struggle.
And it’s true. Your differences are going to cause stress. 

Nan and I are organized differently. All you would have to do is check out our dishwasher after each one of us has loaded it. The way we handle clothes can be different, the process of cooking and cleaning up after a meal is different and our level of comfort with clutter is different. Nan and I have different needs for sociability, different bedtimes and we have temperature wars in our environments. I could go on. And we have been pretty happily married for almost 47 years. So what gives?

We have learned a level of acceptance for each other that allows us to live together peacefully.

How we have done this is by trying our best to negotiate the differences and treat each other with “kind friendliness”. We really try to focus on where we agree, rather than disagree. It’s not always easy and I can’t say I have always been able to do this with grace, but I obviously haven’t failed entirely. After all, we are still together and still friends.

One conversation I have heard Nan have with women on more than one occasion is this:

“So you wanted to marry an easy-going stable guy, right?”

“Yes, but he’s not very ambitious, and quite frankly kind of boring.”

Then Nan will point out that stability is kind of boring, and easy-going isn’t “Type A”. You can’t have both. And to flip it around, a guy may choose a flashy, stylish kind of woman and then complain that she shops too often and spends too much. Yeah, that’s how she caught your attention and hopes to keep it in the future. You can’t have it both ways, either.

As I am writing this post we are sitting in our cabin that is not as remote as I would have liked, on a piece of land smaller than I would have chosen. Nan is relaxing on a deck that overlooks a river rather than an ocean, wearing more cold weather clothes than she would prefer. When we bought a sailboat many years ago it was bigger than I would have liked, but smaller than the condo Nan would have picked. 
So I’m sure you get the point. You didn’t (or won’t) marry yourself and so you don’t get to have everything exactly the way you want it. You will both have to accept that you are not the center around which the world revolves. But you can still have it good. Really good.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Do You Need Counseling or Coaching

Although there are a lot of similarities between counseling and coaching, there are also some distinctions that are important to understand as you seek a counselor or coach.

  • Counseling helps you move through the pain, struggles, or challenges of the past. 
  • Coaching is about results – moving forward with growth – realizing your dreams. 

Sometimes we are needing both – it requires healing the past to be able to move forward with our goals. Pastor and author Peter Scazerro in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality says that it is impossible to become spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. His advice is that we must go backwards and deal with our past before we can effectively move forward with maturity. For some that might be a priority.

But for others who have already taken an introspective journey, strategizing for the future might be their greatest need. In this case, some different tools are required to achieve goals. What’s desired may be defining a clear direction, breaking it down into manageable action steps, and having accountability to follow through with the steps. This is the realm of coaching.

Just like there are general counselors and specialty counselors, there are a diversity of coaches. Do you need a life coach, a business coach, a spiritual coach, a parent coach or some other more specific help? Most coaches can help in a variety of ways without having detailed specifics of a particular field. They can ask great questions and get you thinking on a particular track. But sometimes the assistance you need is very specific. In those cases finding just the right person is invaluable. Have they walked the road you want to walk? Have they been successful? 

Coach or Counselor? 

Can a counselor also be a coach and a coach be a counselor? Well, yes and no. A counselor can certainly function as a coach, especially if they know that is your primary goal. But a coach is generally restricted to dealing with the present and future. It would not be helpful to assume that they are interchangeable roles. The training for each is different and counselors are often licensed whereas coaches may have various levels of preparation and certification – or not.

Whereas most counseling takes place in person or by video, coaching may not require that kind of connection. Much of some kinds of coaching can be done over the telephone or email. That’s because reading body language and making emotional connections is usually less critical. Coaching requires doing assigned homework and reporting back results. Sessions may not to be as long, but perhaps more frequent.

What may be the most important factor in choosing someone is the person themselves. Do you trust their character as well as their knowledge? Can you be honest with them? Whether being coached or counseled, can you walk with them confidently for a season?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Do Step or Blended Labels Seem Sufficient?

One of the great things about having a cabin 4 hours away is that Nan & I have all that time up and back to discuss, plan, and dream. This week’s discussion was on adjusting to changes in family, whether the result of a break-up, separation, divorce or death.

When this happens (other than death) we often refer to them as broken families. And then when new families are put together we call them step-families or blended families. I am thinking that I would like to refer to them differently. The terms “dis” integrated and “re” integrated” seem better descriptions to me of what happens. In this context to disintegrate is to lose wholeness, not to disappear. We are no longer a whole family.

When a family breaks apart because of the sin of divorce (there is always sin present on one or both sides) the wholeness of the family is destroyed. Children will feel hurt and scared and even sometimes at fault. The security they felt will no longer exist in the same way as before. Even if the adult relationship was more temporary, if the kids bonded to the non-biological adult partner, there will be a ripping apart when the relationship ends. This is the disintegration side of this equation.

What always follows this change is a period of grief for all concerned and it should not be rushed. Probably the most destructive for children is when a new relationship is formed by a biological parent before they are finished going through the grief process of losing daily physical access to both of their parents.

No Dating?

I have sat with adults who were devastated because their custodial parent had serial relationships, often one starting before the other one ended. This is one reason we emphasize that dating anyone until a divorce is final is strictly forbidden. And we also do not want to see any married person have someone on the “back burner” whether in thought or actuality. Neither of those scenarios is God honoring.

In the case of death, being able to grieve before forming a new relationship is obvious, but a separation or divorce is a “living death”. The feelings are often more ambiguous. There can be more guilt or regret. It is emotionally risky to form a new relationship too quickly.

When the grieving has been given its space to go where it wants to go, healing can take place. Then we can think of the future. And if that future includes a new relationship, the process of reintegration can begin. Once the dating adults decide that they have a strong chance of moving forward, members of the new potential family can be introduced to one another. This begins the progression of getting acquainted and exploring the possibility of life together.     

When this process of reintegration is done carefully, there is a minimum of trauma. When done haphazardly, the pain can last for years, if not a lifetime. I don’t know if you might be facing a disintegration or reintegration, or are in the pain of grieving. Regardless of where you are, take your time and be wise. Know that you are loved.