Thrive When It Hurts

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Thrive When it Hurts

by John Myer

A Buffet of Trouble 

You’re always one crisis away from quitting your faith. So am I. That’s not false modesty, either.

Every Christian life has a lazy Susan in it—one of those little server wheels on top of the dinner table that rotates the mashed potatoes and pork chops, and dinner rolls to everybody. The one in your life rotates troubles in and out, each problem spiced with a special kind of pain. desert thrive in hurtGo ahead and claim victory in the name of Christ. But for the most part, some of that stuff just sits there until you have to deal with it. Victory won’t come from pole-vaulting over it, but only from going through it.

I’m thinking of health scares. Financial problems that keep coming back like legions of the undead. Marital difficulties that show no more sign of change than the faces on Mount Rushmore. Kids who seem to have been born with a death wish. The company that tells you it has decided to “explore other options” (fire you). Personal sorrows. The mounting pressure of anti-Christian sentiments all around. If I haven’t described your particular poison, I’m sure I’d nail it if I kept going.

                                                       Tempted to Quit

The fact is, we’re tempted to react in non-Christian ways. And the very worst reaction of all is to quit. Pull the plug on your faith. We’ve been told that quitting school is not a good idea and most of us got the point. But when it comes to our faith, the warning hasn’t resounded so clearly. Dropouts are more common than you’d think. Consider the number of times you took a break from your faith and liked it so much you thought about turning it into an indefinite vacation.

Off and on for the last thirty years I’ve told myself this was it. I won’t get through. Then I prayed. I suffered. A lot of times I complained. But I refused to completely give up. Remember when this happened to you? If you’re a real Christian, it has.

Finally, reluctantly, your problem said a quiet “Uncle,” and crept away. It didn’t get solved. It simply took its ability to hurt you and retreated…for a little while. It was like the end of the wilderness experience for Jesus—“when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).

We’re certainly not going to get any easier or better treatment than the Son of God.

During his hugely transformative ministry in America, George Whitfield found himself grieved by a certain thing. Coming out of it, he then experienced closeness to Christ that was incredibly uplifting to his soul. Looking back on the suffering he had been through, he said, “I know that I shall be subject to it again.”

Whatever hurts you will be back to visit at a deeper level and in a deeper form—just give it a little while. And you’ll beat it again, using the spiritual capital you accumulated during the earlier rounds.

                                           Your Life as a Tomato Plant

Those who endure this process might sound hard-headed or stupid—virtual punching bags. And I have to admit; at times it feels that way. Some versions of the Bible translate the word endurance as “perserverance,” “patience,” and “steadfastness.” The original Greek word is Hupomeno—“to bear up under.” Vines’s Concordance adds, “to bear up courageously.”

None of us will make it without the learned ability to take an occasional beating from emotional, psychological, and spiritual factors. And so you must “Add…to your faith…endurance” (2 Pet. 1:6). No doubt about it, you’ll get tired of self-control. You’ll start to ask why you put up with certain things, especially in a world full of people who do whatever they want whenever they want. They seem to make out just fine. Why not you? Naturally though, at the end of the day nothing of Christ will have been formed in them. They got what they wanted, but they cheated themselves out of what counted. Spiritual progress is costly.

Part of my responsibility involves preventing my own growth from being interrupted. I don’t just control myself. I continue to control myself. It works the same way when I stake a tomato plant so it will grow in the right direction. It needs to be held upright all day every day. Endurance is like that stake. It won’t let me quit. Is the whole effort worth it? You bet. Endurance always results in a gain.

                               Be Realistic / Watch Where You’re Going

Then how should a Christian cultivate endurance? Here’s a few things you might want to consider. Peter says, “Since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same mind” (1 Pet. 4:1). That is, mentally prepare for a bumpy ride. If you’re looking for the velvet glove treatment this side of glory, disillusionment awaits you. Be realistic about the Christian life and see it the way it really is.

Certainly along the way there will be plenty of huge blue skies, fresh air, mountain streams, and heights with breathtaking views. But the ascent itself is a rugged climb with wolves, bears, and avalanches. By expecting a certain level of discomfort, you will minimize the chances of being blindsided. Odds are much better that you’ll stick with the journey.

The apostle also provides another critical element when it comes to developing endurance: perspective. What is the goal of your Christian life? Peter writes, “In this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11). In short, he counsels keeping eyes on the prize. The best way to continue momentum is to “see the glory” and to some extent, ignore the billboards, gas stations, and trouble along the way.

You have to remember why you’re enduring to begin with. It has nothing to do with simply being a good Christian, or arriving at some religiously awesome version of yourself. You’re putting up with a lot of things for the sake of a kingdom. You’re betting it will be as the Bible describes it—astounding. Christ will be revealed in glory. There will be rewards. The current age and its material will be discarded—“the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn” (2 Pet. 3:12). All of this will be replaced by “New heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).

In the meantime, don’t quit when it hurts. Thrive, instead.

7 Ways a Husband Injures His Wife Without Knowing It

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Yesterday, we posted 7 Ways a Wife Injures Her Husband Without Knowing It.  Today, we take a look a the other side of the coin – seven ways that a husband injures his wife without knowing it.

In a healthy marriage, spouses do not intentionally hurt one another.  Yet, there are things that we do and say, or don’t do and don’t say that result in pain for our spouse.  The purpose of theses lists isn’t to give a spouse a weapon to attack their partner, but a tool from which they can examine their own heart and have constructive conversations to enhance their marriage.

7 Ways a Husband Injures a Wife Without Knowing It

Adapted from an article by Ron Edmondson

1. Cuts her out of the discussion. When you act as if she isn’t even there or wouldn’t understand what you’re talking about, she feels a part of her is detached. She sees the marriage as a partnership in every part of life—even the parts she may never fully understand.

2. Fails to notice the difference she makes. A woman doesn’t want to be appreciated for only what she does. She wants you to appreciate who she is, but you can admit it—she does a lot. Whether it’s decorating the house or making sure the clothes are clean or that you have your favorite soap, a woman wants to know what she does is valued by you.

trap3. Underestimates the small stuff. You only said “this” but it was “THIS” to her. And it hurts. You may even think it’s funny. She may even laugh. But it is often building a wall of protection around her heart each time you do. The key here is that you can’t talk to her like you might talk to another guy. She hears and feels deeper than you do. Words can and do hurt.

4. Speaks with curtness. When you talk down to her, as if she’s somehow less than you, you bruise her spirit. Deeply. You know she’s not less than you—you don’t even think she is—but she just can’t tell that sometimes based on your tone and the way you talk to her.

5. Corrects her as she’s talking. This could be finishing her sentences or speaking for her in the company of others. She feels demeaned and devalued when you present her to others as if she can’t compete with you in original thought, which you know isn’t true. (My wife is much smarter than me.)

6. Acts suspicious. Don’t misunderstand or misapply this one. When you hide information, even when you think you’re protecting her, you cause her to question your motive. When you protect your calendar or act like you are upset at the question “What did you do today?” or “What did you talk about?” or “Who was that?” when someone calls, it gives her an eerie feeling something is wrong. And that hurts.

7. Admires other women over her. She sees you looking. She may even understand your highly visual makeup. It hurts her, however, when a glance becomes a stare, especially when it happens everywhere you go, all the time.

A wife’s heart, no matter how independent or strong she is, is tender in places—lots of places. She can bruise easily in some areas of her life, especially the places that involve the people she loves the most—like you. A husband who understands this is more careful in how he speaks and responds to her.

Most husbands I know would never injure their wife knowingly. They want to be her protector. Men, when we don’t realize the damage we are doing to our wives’ emotions, we invalidate every desire we have to be her defender. I always like to use this thought as a reminder: Would I ever allow another man to speak to or treat my wife like I am doing?

7 Ways a Wife Injures Her Husband Without Knowing It

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In a healthy marriage, spouses do not intentionally hurt one another.  Yet, there are things that we do and say, or don’t do and don’t say that result in pain for our spouse.  The purpose of theses lists isn’t to give a spouse a weapon to attack their partner, but a tool from which they can examine their own heart and have constructive conversations to enhance their marriage.

Tomorrow, we will post 7 Ways a Husband Injures His Wife Without Knowing It.  But let us not skip over this important aspect of the marriage partnership.

Seven Ways a Wife Injures a Husband Without Knowing It

Adapted from a piece by Ron Edmondson 

1. Put him down in front of other people. Most men will not counter this type of humiliation in public…if ever. They will simply take it…and hurt. If they do eventually address it will be out of stored up resentment…maybe anger…and it won’t be pretty.

2. Go behind him when he tries to do something at home. Always show him how much better you can do things than he can do them. He will appreciate that. When he fixes the bed, make sure you show him the “correct way” immediately after he finishes. He will be reminded he doesn’t measure up to your standards.

trap3. Constantly badger him. If he doesn’t do what you want him to do …remind him. Again and again (Because that accomplishes what you want it to do).

4. Use the “you always” phrase … excessively. Because he “always” does and, best news yet, it helps build him into a man that always will.

5. Hold him responsible for your emotional wellbeing. He’s the reason you feel bad today and every other day you feel bad. So, make sure he knows it’s his fault. And, you don’t have to tell him. Subtly, just be in a bad mood towards him, without releasing him from guilt. He’ll take the hint and own the responsibility. He will think it’s his fault even if it’s not.

6. Complain about what you don’t have or get to do. He has a desire to fix things. He wants to be a provider. Every man does. Some attempt to live it out and some don’t. But, when he’s trying, doing the best he can and yet he feels he isn’t measuring up, he’s crushed. When you are always commenting on what other women have that you don’t, he carries the blame, even if you’re not intending it to be his.

7. Don’t appreciate his efforts. Want to injure a man? Refuse to appreciate the things he feels he does well. It could be work, a hobby or a trait, but he feels part of his identity in the things he does. When you don’t find them as “valuable” as he does, his ego is bruised.

The reality is a man’s ego—his self-confidence and sense of worth—is greatly tied to his wife, just as a woman’s is to her husband. We can be fragile people, some more than others.

Understanding these issues and addressing them—with a third party if necessary—will help build healthier, stronger and happier people and marriages.

Setting Boundaries With Difficult People

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boundaries

Setting Boundaries With Difficult People 

By IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program

Boundaries Defined

What exactly is a boundary, when it comes to relationships?  Simply put, a boundary is a limit or space between you and the other person; a clear place where you begin and the other person ends.  Think of it as a fence in your backyard. You are the gate keeper and get to decide who you let in and who you keep out, who you let into the whole back yard, or who you let just inside the gate. You may still be keeping a distance, but you are giving them a chance to prove their trustworthiness both physically and emotionally. The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is, of course, to protect and take good care of you.

Healthy boundaries do not always come naturally or easily. We learn to “be” in all kinds of relationships by modeling. In other words, by watching how others handle relationships. In early childhood, it is our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, and who ever else we were around on a regular basis. As we grow into adolescents, we rely less on parents and more on our friends to help us define ourselves and our boundaries or limits in relationships. If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, then chances are you have not learned how to set a boundary or even really know what it is. Learning to set our own healthy boundaries is an exercise in personal freedom. It means getting to know ourselves and increasing our awareness of where we stand and what we stand for. It means letting go of the unhealthy people in our lives so that we can grow into the healthy person that we were meant to be.

Poor Boundaries Defined

How do you know whether or not you are in an unhealthy relationship? Chances are, if you are in a dysfunctional relationship it will feel “normal” or even “comfortable” to you, if you grew up in a dysfunctional home. You may not recognize the signs, until you are well on your way to giving up your entire self for the other person. Below is a list of some of the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy boundaries.

Healthy Unhealthy
Feeling like your own person Feeling incomplete without your partner
Feeling responsible for your own happiness Relying on your partner for your happiness
Togetherness and separateness are balanced Too much or too little togetherness
Friendships exist outside of the relationship Inability to establish and maintain friendships with others
Focuses on the best qualities of both people Focuses on the worst qualities of the partners
Achieving intimacy without chemicals Using alcohol/drugs to reduce inhibitions and achieve a false sense of intimacy
Open, honest and assertive communication Game-playing, unwillingness to listen, manipulation
Commitment to the partner Jealousy, relationship addiction or lack of commitment
Respecting the differences in the partner Blaming the partner for his or her own unique qualities
Accepting changes in the relationship Feeling that the relationship should always be the same
Asking honestly for what is wanted Feeling unable to express what is wanted
Accepting endings Unable to let go

(Lifesteem.org/wellness/wellness_boundaries.html)

Identifying where we lack boundaries is half the battle, for we can not change what we do not recognize.

For more information on boundaries go to the Life Esteem Web site.

Setting Boundaries

To set boundaries, first we need to learn to communicate without blaming. In other words, stop saying things like: you make me so angry; you hurt me; you make me crazy; how could you do that to me after all I have done for you; etc. These are the very types of messages we got in childhood that have so warped our perspective on our own emotional process.  Instead use “I statements”: “I feel frustrated/angry when you ________ or when xyz happens”.

Along with good communication, is honesty. Learn to say how you feel. Beating around the bush will not help you or your relationship in the long run.

It is impossible to set boundaries without setting consequences. If you are setting boundaries in a relationship, and you are not yet at a point where you are ready to leave the relationship then don’t say that you will leave. Never state something that you are not willing to follow through with. To set boundaries and not enforce them just gives the other person an excuse to continue in the same old behavior. For example: “If you call me names I will confront you about your behavior each and every time and will share my feelings with you. I will not tolerate verbal abuse. If you continue this behavior, I will weigh my options, including leaving this relationship. I do not deserve this and I will not put up with it any longer”.

“If you continue to break your plans with me by not showing up or calling me at the last minute to cancel, I will confront you about this behavior and share my feelings. If this behavior continues, I will consider it to mean that you do not respect me or this relationship and I will have no contact with you for a month, until we can both evaluate and figure out our priorities. If I chose to get back in touch with you, and the behavior continues, we will no longer be in any type of relationship together”.

“When I ask you what is wrong, and you say “nothing”, but then proceed to slam doors or kick the wall, and seem to be angry, I feel angry or frustrated  that you refuse to communicate properly with me as if I am supposed to read your mind. If something is bothering you, I will trust you to let me know after you have spent some time cooling off alone. If you continue to punish me with your silence or fits, I will tell you how it makes me feel. If this behavior continues, I will weigh my options for this relationship. I do not deserve this type of behavior and will not put up with it any longer”.

Setting boundaries is not about making threats. It is about giving them choices and then consequences for the poor decisions they make, much like we do with our parenting skills. We cannot be in a healthy relationship without appropriate boundaries.

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If you would like to learn more about setting, establishing, and/or maintaining healthy boundaries, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614.459.3003.

“Houston, We Have a Problem” – With Self-Control

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If you want to get serious about anything, education is going to be a key ingredient. Even if you want to rescue a dying potted plant, you’ll at least Google it for info. No surprise, then, that the Apostle Peter told Christians to add to their faith knowledge (2 Pet. 1:5-6). Such a great and worthy concern needs significant input. It’s hard to say your spiritual growth will go anywhere when you continue knowing more about NFL draft picks than Jesus.

Still, Peter situated knowledge at the early part of his list. Other things come afterwards, telling us knowledge by itself isn’t enough. If it were, anybody with a footnoted study Bible would be a spiritual person. The truth is I don’t simply need to know, I need to do what I know. I also need to stop doing what I shouldn’t do.   Easier said than done, right? That’s why Peter said we should add to our knowledge self-control.

 The High Cost of Ignoring Self-Control

I could point out how every item in the spiritual formation list is critical, but issues of self-control lie at the root of nearly every ruinous mistake and miserable addiction. Adultery, overeating, destructive outbursts of anger, narcissistic pleasures, and excessive vanity all stem from a certain unwillingness to tell ourselves no and a reluctance to accept God-given limitations. Frequently the impulses we refuse to control later become so compulsive that we feel unable to deal with them—literally enslaved.

As enticements increase, encouraging us to dismiss God’s law or push the limits of purity, we rarely wonder how to shore up our self-control. Instead, we look for loopholes. You’ve probably heard the soft assuring lie in your head that if you relent, there will be few, if any consequences. And so it seems the best way to solve the problem of temptation is to yield to it. In fact, I’ve seen studies that suggest it’s actually better to blow up at someone and “be honest,” because bottling our feelings might become emotionally toxic. Worldly wisdom also counsels people to follow their hearts regardless of the cost.

None of these studies ever bother to explore the collateral damage in the wake of a person who lays aside self-control. Apparently nobody wants to hear about the shattered families, or the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that turned out to be a pot of mulch. Surrender to sin is not a strategy for either emotional or spiritual long-term health. It gives relief for the moment. But so does crystal meth.

Then what should we do?
“Add self-control,” Peter would say.
Okay. How?

The Book of Proverbs to the Rescue

God has provided helpful resources from two places—the outside and the inside. Outside help has to do with what I call Proverbs-like wisdom. Check out the book of Proverbs. It’s loaded with practical insights for godly living—nothing overly spiritual—things like having healthy friends and not hanging out with fools, accepting wise correction and not acting like you know everything, using time productively and not falling into idleness, being careful with words and not vomiting out whatever crosses your mind, and seeking wisdom rather than toying with sin.

Proverbs even contains an extended coaching session for the man who is sexually tempted, helping him game out how he ought to respond and escape (Prov. 6:20-7:27). Very little of what you find there says to simply drop everything and pray. Instead, the book commands the implementation of attitudes, plans, and general approaches to life. By doing that, it actually teaches self-control even while sin is still over the hill and out of sight. In that sense, it is proactive.

Proactive wisdom might involve avoiding the beach if you’re a man who is challenged in the area of controlling his lusts. Otherwise you’ll get there only to discover the scenery is a lot more alluring than seagulls and shells…and you’ll find yourself forced to look down at your feet a lot. For the Christian dealing with weight issues, you might want to quit bringing those jumbo bags of Hershey miniatures into your house, especially when you know the whole thing will be eaten in less than a day.

These are not foolproof measures of course, but they put distance between yourself and the temptation. It’s easier to exercise self-control at an earlier stage and become practiced in it than waiting until the heat of full-blown trial. Add now.

Paul models this type of wisdom when he advises his young understudy, Timothy, to “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). Timothy wasn’t supposed to march into temptation and dare the devil to do his worst. He was supposed to recognize sin from a distance and avoid getting near it. If it unexpectedly cropped up, he was told to run from it. Cautions of this type are supposed to keep us from “letting our hair down” and falling into disrepute, losing our ministries, our families, or our careers.

 Ensure Victory with the Power Inside

Resources for self-control also come from the inside where we build up a healthy spiritual life. Let’s face it, you can’t just erect defenses on the outside if you’re a wimp within. You’ll start trying to defeat your own safeguards, like the guy who sets his alarm for 6:00 a.m., but keeps it within arm’s reach so he can conveniently click it off and go back to sleep.

Regardless of the external practical constraints we set up for ourselves, they cannot substitute for the corresponding self-control that emanates from within us. Dr. David Jeremiah cites the example of a submarine that once strayed too deeply into the ocean depths and imploded when the tremendous water pressure overwhelmed its steel hull. Yet tiny deep-sea fish thrive at those same enormous pressures. Their secret is not steel skin layering the outside of their bodies, but a pressure inside them that matches what’s on the outside.

Paul described his utter failure with self-control in Romans chapter 7. It appears his efforts occurred at a time prior to conversion when he had been without the Holy Spirit. Paul and his sinful drives were the only two parties on the mat. Give him an ‘A’ for effort, but his every attempt to control himself in the face of temptation was like a kid wrestling a Rhinoceros. He always lost. Later of course, he received the Holy Spirit and found that self-control is not simply about personal will power. It is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16)—a product of God’s work in us.

For sure we can’t mentally check out and say God will do all the adding (remember, it is self-control, not Spirit-control), but at the same time it’s foolish to think we’re going to pin the Rhino without serious help.

Of course it’s possible for Christians—people who have the Holy Spirit—to live as though they don’t have Him. Paul had to remind us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). In other words, fully benefit from the fact that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

As we fellowship with God through prayer and take the time to behold His glory in the Word, His presence within us counterbalances the pressures we feel without. Don’t skimp here. You’ll end up floating in the middle of an unfinished Christian life. Halfway to the moon you’ll wonder where the calculus failed, when the trouble all along was in the simple addition.

Add to your faith self-control.

Exercise Protects Against Depression

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Exercise defeat depression

Study shows how exercise protects the brain against depression

(Reuters Health) – Well conditioned muscles make it easier for the body to purge a harmful protein associated with depression, a new study in mice suggests.

“If you consistently exercise and your muscle is conditioned and adapted to physical exercise, then you acquire the ability toexpress this class of enzymes that have the ability to detoxify something that accumulates during stress and that will be harmful for you,” senior study author Dr. Jorge Ruas of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm said in a telephone interview with Reuters Health.

The body metabolizes this substance, kynurenine, from tryptophan, a process that is activated by stress and by inflammatory factors, Dr. Ruas and his team explain in their report, published in Cell. Studies have linked high levels of kynurenine – which readily crosses the blood-brain barrier – to depression, suicide and schizophrenia.

Their new study was done in skeletal muscle-PGC-1alpha1 transgenic mice, which were genetically modified to express high levels of this protein in their muscles, mimicking the effects of aerobic muscle conditioning. The researchers subjected these mice, as well as a control group of wild-type mice, to five weeks of mild stress. The normal mice developed signs of depression, but the PGC-1alpha1 mice didn’t.

In addition to higher levels of kynurenine in their blood, the transgenic mice also had higher levels of KAT enzymes, which convert kynurenine into kynurenic acid, a more easily mebabolized form that can’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

When the researchers directly administered kynurenine to the PGC-1alpha1 mice, their blood levels of the substance did not increase, because the KAT enzymes were able to break it down so quickly. However, giving kynurenine to the wild-type mice increased their blood levels of the chemical, and also caused depressive symptoms.

To ensure that the findings in mice would apply to people, the researchers recruited a group of adult volunteers to participate in three weeks of moderate exercise. At the end of the exercise program, the volunteers had more PGC-1alpha1 and KAT enzymes in their muscle.

Dr. Ruas and his colleagues are now planning a study in people with depression who have been prescribed physical exercise as therapy. The study would investigate how much patients actually exercised, whether the physical activity was helpful in treating their depression, and also the correlation among exercise, depression and kynurenine levels.

Clinicians can use the findings to help their patients understand why physical activity can fight off depression, Dr. Ruas said, which may improve their compliance with exercise recommendations.

6 Ways to Make Your Marriage Happy

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6 Ways to Make Your Marriage Happy

By Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott

Our closest friends flanked the concrete steps of our church as we made our way to the waiting car adorned with the obligatory “Just Married” sign. We couldn’t have been happier. After seven years of dating — through most of high school and all of college — we were a married couple. Finally.

After a romantic honeymoon on the Oregon coast, we moved to Los Angeles for graduate school. A tiny apartment, little more than a single room, became our new home. We’d spend our weekdays in classes and study until bedtime. No television. Barely any furniture. We watched every penny. We’d occasionally splurge on a couple of burritos at the corner taco stand. Life wasn’t exactly easy. But all that didn’t matter. We were in love. And we were happy — until we weren’t.

Little did we know that shortly into our so-called happy marriage, we’d be in couples counseling trying to, well, be happy. After all, wasn’t marriage supposed to do that for us? And if marriage wasn’t making us happy, was there something wrong with us? Had we made a huge mistake?

Truth be told, happiness is in short supply for too many couples. And the reason, we suspect, is that they don’t work at it — or more likely, they don’t know how to work at it. Happiness, after all, is not something that happens; it’s something you make.

Isn’t marriage supposed to make us happy?

Old CoupleOnce we find our perfect partner, we’ll have a lock on happiness, right? That’s what we thought. And with good reason: The notion has some truth. Marriage does make us happy. The problem is that marriage will not make us as intensely happy — or for as long — as we believe it should. Studies reveal that the happiness boost from marriage lasts an average of only two years.

Unfortunately, when those two years are past and fulfilling our goal to find the ideal partner hasn’t made us as happy as we expected, we often feel there must be something wrong with us or we must be the only ones who feel this way. But we’re not. It’s the common course of love. And if left unattended, if we’re not deliberately “making happy” together, our relationship suffers.

So what’s a couple to do? How do you make happy together? The answer is found in understanding just what happiness is.

What is happiness?

Happiness comes in two forms. Both result in feelings of satisfaction, but each has a different shelf life:

“Feel-good happiness” is the momentary sensation of pleasure. For example, when we joke around or have sex, we experience feel-good happiness. But here’s the catch: We know from research that feel-good happiness is ruled by the law of diminishing returns. This type of happiness can lose its punch, and it rarely lasts longer than a few hours at a time.

“Values-based happiness” is a deeper sense that our lives have meaning and fulfill a larger purpose than just pleasure. It represents a spiritual source of satisfaction. And here’s some good news: It’s not ruled by the law of diminishing returns. This means there’s no limit to how meaningful and happy our lives can be. Some like to call values-based happiness joy because it’s deep and more abiding. That’s fine with us. Whatever you call it, it’s found in our values.

For the uninformed, happiness becomes less about a well-lived life and more about experiencing the well-felt moment. That’s a dead end. True happiness requires meaning and values to accompany our feelings.

Must we be unhappy?

Our circumstances account for only about 10 percent of our happiness. In other words, being relatively healthy and having a job that pays enough money to meet our needs are circumstances that contribute to our overall happiness, but keep in mind this is only 10 percent.

A more significant factor is our “happiness set point.” It has to do with our genes. Researchers have found that 50 percent of our happiness is determined by our biology. Turns out that some brains are happier than others. We sometimes call it temperament. And we’re more or less stuck with it.

If our happiness set point is on the low end, making us less happy than others, are we doomed to stay that way? Hardly. The remaining 40 percent of our happiness is within our control.

Thankfully, lasting happiness does not lie mainly in increasing our set point or improving our circumstances. A significant portion of our happiness comes down to the choices we make.

How can we boost our happiness?

We’ve combed through all the scientific studies we could find on happiness to identify the best of what works to make and maintain happiness in marriage. And we’ve settled on a half dozen happiness boosters that are sure to move the needle in your relationship. These are the six dials we know couples can turn to get the best results:

Count your blessings. Nothing can increase happiness more quickly in a relationship than shared gratitude. Taking the time to conscientiously count your blessings together once a week significantly increases your overall satisfaction with life.

Try new things. Falling into a routine, or even a rut, is easy. But that is a killer to happiness, so you’ve got to shake it up. If you’re itching to “buy” some happiness, spend your hard-earned cash on experiences. Go out for a nice meal. Go to the theater or bungee jump. Buy an adventure rather than an object.

Dream a dream. The moment a couple quits looking to the future together is the moment they become vulnerable to dissatisfaction. So picture the life and love you see for yourselves, and talk to each other about what you see.

Celebrate each other. We all applaud the big things, but it’s the little and unexpected celebrations that can make or break a couple’s happiness. For example, listening to a favorite song activates parts of the brain that trigger happiness, releasing endorphins similar to the ways that sex and food do. A mini celebration ensues. Why not put a little playlist together for just the two of you?

Attune your spirits. The soul of every husband and wife hungers for deeper connection and a greater sense of shared meaning, and when it’s found, happiness abounds. According to sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia, married couples who attend church together tend to be happier than couples who rarely or never attend services.

Add value to others. When a husband and wife do good beyond their marriage, happiness envelops their relationship like never before. Together, make a list of at least 50 actions you can take to demonstrate kindness beyond your relationship.

Does God want us to pursue happiness?

We understand the sentiment that “making happy” is a selfish pursuit. After all, some silly and downright selfish things are done in the name of pursuing happiness. Many a marriage counselor will attest to hearing something along these lines: “I’m not happy in this marriage; God wants me to be happy; therefore I want out of this marriage.”This self-centered perspective is mistaking hedonism for happiness. They are pursuing pleasure at the cost of meaning. Don’t fall for this lie. You’ll find more happiness in giving yourself away than in any self-centered pleasure.

Our longtime friend Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage and many other books, is well-known for asking the question: “What if God designed marriage to make us holy instead of happy?” How could it be otherwise? The pursuit of holiness can’t help but bring an abiding happiness and joy. Why? Because holiness, being devoted to God’s ways of being, subsumes meaning and love. And true happiness is never fulfilled without it.

Happy people are more loving people — the very opposite of selfish. True happiness makes us more sociable and self-giving. It improves our ability to resolve conflict. The bottom line: Happiness makes us more loving and lovable.

Even Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). So is valuing happiness selfish? Not if it’s the kind of happiness that balances feelings with values. Healthy happiness, infused with meaning, makes us easy to live with. And that makes for a happy marriage.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are New York Times best-selling authors and the founders of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University. This article is adapted from Making Happy: The art and science of a happy marriage, published by Worthy Publishing, © 2014 Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott.

Questions to Ask Before You Get Married – Preschooler Advice

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More Questions to Ask Before You Get Married: Wisdom with Preschoolers

Video by Joy Eggerichs from Love and Respect Now

Here’s a humorous way to start your day along with some good questions to ask before getting married.

Contact CornerStone Family Services at 614.459.3003 for premarital counseling and relationship enhancement.

Communication Tips for Parents

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communication

Communication Tips for Parents

By APA

Be available for your children

  • Notice times when your kids are most likely to talk — for example, at bedtime, before dinner, in the car — and be available.
  • Start the conversation; it lets your kids know you care about what’s happening in their lives.
  • Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.
  • Learn about your children’s interests — for example, favorite music and activities — and show interest in them.
  • Initiate conversations by sharing what you have been thinking about rather than beginning a conversation with a question.

Let your kids know you’re listening

  • When your children are talking about concerns, stop whatever you are doing and listen.
  • Express interest in what they are saying without being intrusive.
  • Listen to their point of view, even if it’s difficult to hear.
  • Let them complete their point before you respond.
  • Repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you understand them correctly.

Respond in a way your children will hear

  • Soften strong reactions; kids will tune you out if you appear angry or defensive.
  • Express your opinion without putting down theirs; acknowledge that it’s okay to disagree.
  • Resist arguing about who is right. Instead say, “I know you disagree with me, but this is what I think.”
  • Focus on your child’s feelings rather than your own during your conversation.

Remember:

  • Ask your children what they may want or need from you in a conversation, such as advice, simply listening, help in dealing with feelings or help solving a problem.
  • Kids learn by imitating. Most often, they will follow your lead in how they deal with anger, solve problems and work through difficult feelings.
  • Talk to your children — don’t lecture, criticize, threaten or say hurtful things.
  • Kids learn from their own choices. As long as the consequences are not dangerous, don’t feel you have to step in.
  • Realize your children may test you by telling you a small part of what is bothering them. Listen carefully to what they say, encourage them to talk and they may share the rest of the story.

Parenting is hard work

  • Listening and talking is the key to a healthy connection between you and your children. But parenting is hard work and maintaining a good connection with teens can be challenging, especially since parents are dealing with many other pressures. If you are having problems over an extended period of time, you might want to consider consulting with a mental health professional to find out how they can help.

Why Addiction is Progressive

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Why Addiction is Progressive and Always Will Be

Posted by sobernation.com 

If you have been to treatment you have undoubtedly heard the phrase “addiction is a progressive disease.”

If you are an untreated addict, you will undoubtedly find out how true that is… one way or another.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. For the sake of this article we will not be taking a stand on whether addiction is a disease or not. Most in the field agree that it is, some do not agree with the disease concept. Whatever your stance, we think you will find this article to have relevance on the progressiveness of addiction.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as such:

“Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

You may be wondering, what do they mean when they say that it is progressive??

The short version – without treatment, addiction never get’s better. It always get worse.

The majority of active addicts are unable to control their using.There are anomalies in the equation. There are people who noticed that drugs and alcohol were having a negative impact on their lives and found a way to bring it under control. I know some of these people.

How Exactly Does Addiction Get Worse??

The best answer to this question probably lies in your own personal experience.

If you are in recovery I would bet money that you can personally attest to your own addiction getting worse over time. This can be shown in a variety of ways.

  1. You had to drink or use more and more to feel the desired effect
  2. You used or drank more and more often
  3. You did more and more horrendous things to get your fix
  4. Your financial and living situations got worse over time
  5. Your relationships deteriorated over time

Everything in your life will get worse over time as your addiction progressively gets worse.

If you can attest to any of this being true, well… the proof is in the pudding.

addictionDoes Addiction Progressively Effect the Mind and Body as Well?

Yes.

You don’t need to rely on experience for this one. There have been countless studies that show the ill effects of all drugs over time and how they progressively attribute to a decline in mental and physical well being.

No drug – not even Marijuana – has a long term positive effect on your health. *sorry Colorado*

Just to list a few

  1. Alcohol will break down your liver enzymes, your kidneys and can even lead to a condition called “Wernicke – Korsakoff Syndrom
  2. Heroin and other opiates will totally destroy your body, in more ways then one
  3. Cocaine and methamphetamine can cause permanent psychological damage
  4. Xanax can actually make anxiety worse once the drug is not used any more
  5. Marijuana causes memory loss and lung damage

Are There Any Ways Around It?

Nope.

That is what addiction is. There aren’t any ways to cheat. Once addiction has you in it’s clutch, it is not going to get better. Sorry to have to be the one to tell you.

It can be very frustrating. We deal a lot with people (especially young people) who are looking for help. They call when they are desperate and at the time are willing to do anything. We get them set up to a facility or a counselor and the next day (usually after they are no longer in withdrawal and have had a good meal) they no longer want help.

Many times we hear responses such as…

-“I just need to get things under control.”
-“I just had a weak moment.”
-“I feel a lot better I’m going to get my shit together.”

There’s not much we can do for them at that point. We are never going to convince someone if they are an addict or not but it can be really heartbreaking for us because we know what they do not know. We know that it is only going to get worse for them and hopefully they get help before they get dead.

Everyone has a different story but we see a few patterns in the people we talk to.

Usually people start in their teens. They may start with smoking cigarettes and stealing beers from their parents. One day they might take a hit of a joint. A year later maybe they experiment with something a little harder. They progress to something a little more intense. Maybe they try cocaine or painkillers for the first time. They like it but eventually its just not enough.

They start taking stronger drugs and take them more often. When they are in withdrawal they drink until they are incapacitated to help with the withdrawal symptoms.

They start stealing. They do anything for money, for that next high. In active addiction people do things they never would have imagined they would do.

Somewhere along the way the line is crossed. The invisible line that separates the recreational drinker from the addict. There is a cheesy slogan that always stuck with me.

“You can turn a cucumber into a pickle but you can’t turn a pickle back into a cucumber.” Addicts are pickles, they can never go back.

As with anything in life, there are a million different viewpoints on the subject. We generally don’t take a strong stance on many viewpoints because we have no interest being in the debate committee. Most of what we write and report is based on our own experience and therefore can not be argued.

Our experience tells us that addiction is progressive. Addiction will always be progressive. Without help, it is only going to get worse.

With help however, you may find that your addiction turns into one of your strengths. You may find that the lessons your addiction and your recovery have taught you have shaped who you are as a person and have made you specially equipped to help other people in need.