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My Spouse Is Refusing Professional Help! What Can I Do?

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My Spouse Is Refusing Professional Help! What Can I Do? 

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

We all go through times in our lives and our marriages when we’d benefit greatly from getting professional help. Whether we’re having trouble dealing with a life change or transition, experience depression, or facing addiction, there are hundreds of scenarios that could warrant going into counseling with your spouse. But what happens if you recognize the need to get help…but your spouse doesn’t? Is there anything you can do?

You can’t force someone to seek therapy, but you can encourage it—and you can make changes to yourself that result in positive changes for your spouse. Read on for four common scenarios many couples face, and how to approach getting help for a spouse who doesn’t want or recognize the need for it.

IF YOUR SPOUSE REFUSES MARRIAGE COUNSELING…

Maybe you and your spouse have some recurring issues or unresolved problems that are causing trouble in your relationship. The two of you might be fighting a lot lately. Your spouse might have even asked for a separation, or you might suspect that he or she wants a divorce.

You know that working with a therapist or marriage counselor could help the two of you work through whatever you’ve been struggling with. The problem is, your spouse is completely against the idea, and nothing you say will change their mind about it.

It’s incredibly painful when you’re motivated to work on your relationship, but your spouse isn’t willing. You might feel stuck or hopeless, but there’s good news: you can seek help yourself and make changes on your own—without your spouse—that can improve your marriage.

Going to counseling on your own can help you focus on becoming the healthiest possible version of yourself. The most important thing you can do for your marriage is to work on who you are; every healthy choice you make gives your spouse a chance to join you.

Even if your spouse never attends a therapy session, the positive changes you make will affect him or her significantly. In fact, your change is a catalyst for change in your spouse. We’ve seen relationships turn around completely as a result of just one spouse stepping up to get help. So even if you’re the only one willing to seek help, you can still improve your marriage.

IF YOUR SPOUSE IS EXPERIENCING DEPRESSION…

Have you noticed that your spouse seems distant from you and disinterested in things they used to enjoy? Have you observed sudden changes in their sleep habits, appetite, energy levels, or mood? If you suspect that your spouse is dealing with depression, there are a few things you can do that will go a long way toward encouraging them to get the help they need.

First, educate yourself on the degrees and common variations of depression. Depression is a spectrum, ranging from mild, circumstantial depressive periods to severe chemical imbalances and mood disorders.

Your spouse’s depression might be temporary and circumstantial; maybe you’ve just gone through a major life change that triggered it. Some depression is neurochemical, requiring medications and interventions from doctors and therapists. Everyone’s case is different, so it’s important to try to identify what’s going on.

You don’t want to treat depression lightly; if your spouse can’t identify it in themselves, it’s up to you to try to help him or her recognize the symptoms. Try to get some outside, objective help if you can; if your spouse continues to resist therapy or counseling, find a checklist of common depression symptoms and identify the signs you’ve noticed in your spouse. Gently share your list with your spouse and tell them something like, “You know, it feels like so many of these things are things you’re dealing with. I love you and I’d love to see you start feeling better again.”

Continue gently encouraging your spouse to seek help; it’s important for them to get evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible. It’s hard to admit you’re having a problem with depression, but the sooner your spouse admits it, the sooner he or she will be on the road to recovery.

IF YOUR SPOUSE HAS AN ADDICTION…

Addiction is one of the most difficult issues to face in any relationship—especially your marriage. You might have been watching your spouse fall into their particular addiction for a while now, but maybe you’ve only recently realized how bad it is. And it’s difficult—sometimes impossible—to communicate with someone who doesn’t see a problem you see.

Whether your spouse’s addiction is gambling, drugs, alcohol, pornography, or something else, he or she is likely to be in serious denial about the issue. Addiction is the physical reality that you’ve lost control over your ability to resist something. And it’s the emotional reality of the pain you’re trying to escape from because you’re unable to cope with it.

If your spouse won’t agree to seek help, think about staging an intervention with some trusted friends or members of your family. Sometimes, a person who is in denial about an addiction needs a group of voices to lead them toward help—not just one. They have to be willing to say, “I’m powerless over this,” then be willing to be vulnerable and put in the hard work to overcome the addiction.

IF YOUR SPOUSE IS A CHILDHOOD TRAUMA SURVIVOR…

Childhood trauma—whether it’s emotional, physical, mental, or sexual abuse—is a serious and weighty topic that continues to impact victims into their adult lives (especially their marriages). If your spouse grew up in a sexually abusive home, for instance, he or she needs extensive therapy in order to experience healing.

When someone has been through that kind of trauma, they’re going to have baggage that will impact both them and their spouse for years to come until they’ve found some kind of resolution for the ongoing pain. Your spouse has the power to become a healing presence for others because of their past, but they need guidance from a counselor to turn their traumatic experiences into healing for others.

The first step toward healing is awareness. If your spouse has confided in you, that’s the first step. We know couples who have gone for decades before one spouse’s childhood trauma was revealed, and in retrospect, they could understand so much more about the troubles they’d faced in their 25 years of marriage.

Keep communication open and encourage your spouse to seek therapy. As an alternative step forward (although we highly recommend moving on to therapy together), your spouse might be open to starting the conversation with a mentor couple first.

If you would like help with your marriage, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

Praise You In This Storm

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Praise You In This Storm (by Casting Crowns)

I was sure by now, God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
That it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear your whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone how can I carry on
If I can’t find you
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear you whisper through the rain
I’m with you
And as your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
The God who gives and takes away

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The maker of heaven and earth

And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

The Freedom in Owning Your Mistakes

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The Freedom in Owning Your Mistakes

By Dr. Henry Cloud

You know that feeling when you make a mistake, and rather than owning it, you just swallow it and push it down with all the other bad stuff that you plan on dealing with some day in the undefined future?

When we were young, many of us bounced from mistake to mistake with all the innocence and naivety of a cheerful imp with no capacity for self-reflection. As adults, mistakes take a toll. There’s only so much room down there in the dark forgotten place where we put the things we don’t want to deal with.

The mistakes we make can become deeply rooted in our lives, and once they’ve taken hold, they are extremely difficult to eradicate. When we make mistakes as adults, the appeal to hide them away doesn’t diminish. But the consequences are not worth it.

To truly obtain freedom from our mistakes, we must own them. These mistakes must be dragged, kicking and screaming, to the forefront of our consciousness and expelled into the clear air. Mistakes can take many forms, ranging from the smallest error to the most unconscionable failure. In two of the most important segments of our lives — work and relationships — a single mistake is sometimes all it takes to wind up on the scrap heap of failure.

Take, for example, the workplace mistake. I watched, one day, as one of my co-workers single-handedly brought down an entire car dealership website on accident. These websites are critical for bringing in clients and for informing potential ones about inventory, contact information, and pricing. To have a dealership website down, even for an hour, is to turn away a dozen potential customers with money burning a hole in their pockets. A downed website is a failure for everyone involved.

What would have happened if my co-worker had concealed his mistake? He could have decided not to own up to it. The problem may have gone unnoticed for a while. The cause may have remained uncertain. We may never have figured out what had happened. It could have happened again, and we’d have no protective measures in place to prevent it from reoccurring. Our team would have suffered mightily for the error and we would have all taken a hit for such carelessness. But, he immediately confessed, dropped everything else he was doing, and reached out to a manager to help solve the problem. Within a half an hour the website was back up and running with no leftover damage to mitigate. My co-worker refused to let it fester in the dark and dragged it quickly into the light, repairing the mistake almost as swiftly as it was made.

Life is full of these small mistakes. Every single time we ignore them, we leave an open wound behind. Every time it happens again, or every time a related mistake occurs, it’s salt in the wound. Mistakes, even ones innocently made, occur frequently in both platonic and romantic relationships. Arguments arise from things ranging from forgetting to put the toothpaste cap back on to falsely accusing someone of a serious offense. To forge an unbridgeable cleft in a relationship, you have only to make a mistake and then never admit to it. The bitter silence you impose upon yourself inevitably spills over into a physical reality.

A mistake doesn’t necessarily spell disaster. What does spell disaster is not owning that mistake and thereby freeing yourself from it. We are bound to make mistakes more frequently than we would probably care to. The danger is not in making the mistakes, but in thinking there is freedom from them in hiding them.  The real resolution comes, as always, in owning what is yours – no matter how difficult it is.

If you would like to experience help in obtaining freedom in this way, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our licensed coaches or counselors.

7 Tips to Overcome Stagnation

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7 Tips to Overcome Stagnation

By. Dr. Henry Cloud

Life is filled with peaks and valleys, and all of us hit the highs and lows at various times in our life. However, sometimes it may feel like you are forever stuck in a low valley, unable to achieve a certain goal or losing sight of what exactly your goals are. We often procrastinate and know that we are living beneath our potential, but can’t seem to get out of the daily rut. The stagnation we experience is a sign of much deeper problems in our life—problems that require deep thinking and self-examination. Here are 7 ways you can start to overcome the stagnation in your personal and professional life.

You are not the only one. Everyone has experienced stagnation before, and thousands are probably experiencing it at the same time as you. Don’t fight it. Accept that you are going through a stagnant period, understand that it is okay, and then you can focus on implementing changes in your life to get out of it.

Become inspired again. Sometimes it is just as simple as re-examining dreams and wishes that may have gone ignored. Is there anything you forgot that you have always wanted to do or become? Setting out to accomplish these goals will help motivate you in your daily life.

Try new things. We get bored with our day-to-day routine, yet we are often so complacent in our lives that we don’t fix anything. Force yourself to try something new, whether it is learning a new skill or language, or skydiving and mountain climbing. New experiences give us a renewed interest in life’s many wonders.

Vocalize what bothers you. Is there someone or something in your life that has been bothering you for a while? If so, you need to get it off your chest. Don’t let negative feeling just sit there. It stirs up resentment in our relationships with people and keeps us from focusing on our goals.

Don’t be afraid. Stagnation thrives on us being afraid to move ahead because we may feel we are not up to the task. Everyone has a fear: snakes, public speaking, the dark. Take something you are afraid of and challenge yourself to face it. This will remind you that you are capable of overcoming any challenge that life may throw your way.

Concentrate on what you want, not the goals of others. The lives of others most always seem better than our own, yet we all know that everyone has problems to deal with. We all wish for something better. Don’t fall into the trap of envying others. Concentrate on what you want out of life, what your next goal is, and don’t compare it to the goals of others. Most of the time, they go through the same difficulties in trying to achieve their own accomplishments.

Interact with your community. We need to know that there are others like us. Book clubs, gyms, churches, and school functions are great places to meet others that share your ideas or beliefs. These interactions give our life more flavor and provide the emotional, creative, or professional support to invigorate a passion for what we want.

If you would like more help in overcoming stagnation and implementing change in your life, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a life coach or counselor.

The Surprising Upside to Sadness

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The Surprising Upside to Sadness

By Catherine Morgan

Depression. Discouragement. Sorrow.

Too often we find ourselves here. Waves of emotions overcome when we least expect them. While I’ve learned a lot about choosing light, daring to hope, hard thanksgiving, and spiritual battle, there are lessons yet to learn.

The more I consider these emotions I’d rather not experience, the more I see multiple reasons that depression—yes, depression—has been a gift to me. Here are five.

1. Sadness forces me to depend on Jesus.

I am far more aware of Christ, attentive to Christ, and thirsty for Christ when I am discouraged. Trapped in a rough patch, the psalmists’ words suddenly spring to life: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

Only when I thirst for Jesus do I bend low to drink his living water. And so, paradoxically, in sadness I find the key to joy, which otherwise I might blithely miss.

2. Sadness gives me humility and empathy.

Depression has a way of humbling me like nothing else, as God protects me from my own ego. It’s hard to feel you’ve arrived when you struggle to even get out of bed. In these moments I need grace like I need water, a knowledge that keeps me face-planted before the cross—a posture infinitely preferable to the kind of humiliating crash that often flows from pride.

Empathy lets me see the world from a brokenhearted perspective—it lets me borrow broken eyes. Am I compassionate? It’s only because I so deeply need mercy. How can I withhold this gift I’ve received and need more of each day? I meet homeless families, unemployed immigrants, teen moms, couples mid-divorce, suicidal folks, jilted sweethearts. Every one has the same needs, the same sinful soul, the same shy beauty of God’s image imprinted on their heart. When I see them, I see me. God redeems my sadness as he turns my eyes outward and fills me with compassion.

3. Sadness rescues me from silliness.

As my seminary-nerd husband would say, my depression rescues me from ontological lightness. It’s easy to exchange weighty things for hollow entertainment. Unchecked, it can lead someone through 30,000 days only to face eternity with empty pockets. Isn’t this the spirit of Ecclesiastes 7:2? “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

Joy is not inferior to gloom—emphatically it’s not—but it’s easy in all the levity to miss the grand epic as it unfolds. Like hobbits happy in the Shire while Sauron advances, we can forget the stakes—life is short, eternity beckons, souls hang in the balance. A healthy dose of sobriety helps me see the world as it is: cursed and lost, in need of a Redeemer.

4. Sadness prepares me for future struggle.

How often does a rootless faith blow away in adversity? A quick survey of spiritual giants indicates they have this in common: They’ve suffered. In various ways, to various degrees, they’ve driven those roots down ever-deeper into the love of God, so that when the storms of persecution or tragedy arrive, they’re prepared. They know from repeated experience where to find living water in a drought.

5. Sadness is God’s way of strengthening me.

Jesus, who holds the galaxies together by his power, demonstrated another kind of strength as he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. And in his mercy, he lends us a measure of his strength when we suffer. When we’re weak in ourselves, we’re strong in him.

When I fall into the pit of despair, I’ve learned to look up, to seek light, to cry out for deliverance, to long for home. It’s a struggle I may face all my life. That’s okay. God is at work, and I can trust him.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1:6–9)

Thank you, Jesus.

Study Examines the Effects of Prayer on Mental Health

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New Study Examines the Effects of Prayer on Mental Health

By Traci Pedersen

What are your deepest beliefs regarding the nature of God? When you pray, do you talk to a loving, protective and easily accessible God? Or does God feel strangely distant and unreachable? Perhaps a disciplinarian? A new study says that your beliefs about the “character” of God determine the effects of prayer on your mental health.

Researchers from Baylor University found that people who pray to a loving and protective God are less likely to experience anxiety-related disorders — worry, fear, self-consciousness, social anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior — compared to people who pray but don’t really expect to receive any comfort or protection from God.

Researchers looked at the data of 1,714 volunteers who participated in the most recent Baylor Religion Survey. They focused on general anxiety, social anxiety, obsession and compulsion. Their study, entitled “Prayer, Attachment to God, and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults,” is published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

For many people, God is a source of comfort and strength, says researcher Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D; and through prayer, they enter into an intimate relationship with Him and begin to feel a secure attachment. When this is the case, prayer offers emotional comfort, resulting in fewer symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Some people, however, have formed avoidant or insecure attachments to God, explains Bradshaw. This means that they do not necessarily believe that God is there for them. Prayer starts to feel like an unsuccessful attempt at having a close relationship with God. Feelings of rejection or “unanswered” prayers may lead to severe symptoms of anxiety-related disorders, he says.

The findings add to the growing body of research confirming a connection between a person’s perceived relationship with God and mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study by Oregon State University found that religion and spirituality result in two distinct but complementary health benefits. Religion (religious affiliation and service attendance) is linked to better health habits, including less smoking and alcohol consumption, while spirituality (prayer, meditation) helps regulate emotions.

Another recent study by Columbia University found that participating in regular meditation or other spiritual practice actually thickens parts of the brain’s cortex, and this could be the reason those activities tend to guard against depression — especially in those at risk for the disease.

This article courtesy of Spirituality and Health.

If you would like to incorporate spirituality into your mental health care, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our qualified coaches or counselors.

How Not to Help a Sufferer

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How Not to Help a Sufferer

By Gavin Ortlund

Of all the Bible’s many colorful characters, none is quite so exasperating as Job’s friends. Herod might chop off your head, and Judas might stab you in the back, but Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar will hurt you with Bible verses.

Job’s actual losses take two brief chapters to recount (Job 1–2), but the tortuous dialogue that follows drones on for 35 chapters (Job 3–37). I wonder which agonized Job more: his initial suffering or the extended indictment that followed?

The problem with Job’s comforters isn’t that they’re heretics. Much of what they say is true. The problem is the moralistic worldview that governs their engagement with Job, and compels them to reason backward from suffering to sin.

It’s easy to criticize Job’s friends, but let’s be honest: We can all be like them. In fact, a good litmus test of our heart’s alignment with the gospel—whether functionally we believe in a world of grace or a world of karma—is how we respond when a Job comes across our path. Suffering pulls out our real theology like a magnet.

Here are four things in particular to avoid when with a sufferer. Think of them as four ways we, like Job’s friends, can pour burning coals on the heads of those already sitting in ashes.

1. Appeal too quickly to God’s sovereignty.

The Bible teaches that “all things work together for good” for those in Christ (Rom. 8:28) and that God can use evil for good (Gen. 50:20). However, just because this is biblical doesn’t mean it’s always tactful or helpful to say.

“God meant it for good” is said by Joseph years after his suffering, not to Joseph during his suffering. Imagine Joseph’s angst and frustration had his brothers gathered around the well to shout down in encouragement: “Don’t worry, Joseph; God means this for good!”

Similarly, soon after Paul teaches that “all things work together for good,” he admonishes us to “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). Before quoting the former, let’s be sure we’re willing to practice the latter.

2. Launch into a story of how God used your suffering.

It’s human nature to relate others’ experiences to our own. We can’t help but see the world through our own eyes. But one mark of maturity is learning to genuinely enter into the world of another, rather than always filtering their story through our own. This is especially important to do with sufferers for two reasons.

First, everybody’s story is different. Maybe God gave us a better house after our first one burned to the ground, or maybe we’re able to see the good side of a friend’s betrayal. But in a fallen and confusing world, it’s entirely possible your suffering friend may never get there in this life. Some sorrows won’t mend until heaven. So we really don’t know enough to be able say, “You’ll be glad this happened.”

Second, even if our stories are similar, our suffering friend may not need to hear that right now. A good question to ask is: “Is sharing my story more about meeting my need, or about serving my friend’s need?” At the very least, we should listen carefully to the nuances of a sufferer’s story before we draw comparisons.

3. Minimize the wrongdoing that caused the suffering.

I’m not sure why we tend to do this, but we do. It’s that karma instinct. We say things like “I’m sure they meant well,” or “It can’t be that bad,” or “Well, in every conflict the blame is on both sides.”

But the truth is we don’t know that someone meant well. Maybe they didn’t. We don’t know that it wasn’t that bad. Maybe it was. And blame is not always 50/50. Sometimes it’s 80/20. Sometimes it’s even 100/0. That seems to be God’s verdict on Job and his friends (Job 42:7).

When you’re sitting with a sufferer, don’t minimize the sin that has contributed to their suffering. An honest acknowledgement of evil—without any excuses or evasions—will be to their pain like water to a parched man.

4. Emphasize character formation while neglecting comfort and compassion.

If the New Testament emphasizes anything about suffering, it’s that God uses it to produce godly character in us (e.g., Rom. 5:3–5James 1:2–4). And yet, when someone is in the midst of suffering, this probably isn’t the point to emphasize—especially if we don’t have a trusting relationship established. If the topic needs to come up at all, it should be balanced with words of comfort and compassion.

In cases of severe suffering, it can be best to avoid or minimize words altogether. This is difficult to do. We tend to share Eliphaz’s instinct: “Who can keep from speaking?” (Job 4:2). But our hurting friend probably needs our love and presence far more than our interpretations and ideas. It’s more helpful, rather than trying to relieve or even understand their suffering, to just be with them in it. Press into the darkness with them. Hang in there with them in that moment, in that space, in that pain.

Aslan’s Tears

In this way we can be like Jesus to the suffering, for this is how Jesus is to us. He doesn’t shield us from suffering in this life, nor does he offer trite pep talks when the darkness descends. He promises that when it comes, he will be with us. In fact, we find him most truly in our brokenheartedness:

  • “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted.” (Ps. 34:18)
  • “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” (Isa. 61:1)

There’s a scene in The Magician’s Nephew where a little boy named Digory meets Aslan. His mother is sick, and he wants to ask for Aslan’s help, but he’s afraid. Lewis writes:

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself. “My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another.”

What a world of comfort is bound up in those words, “I know.” Christ is close to sufferers because he is the Great Sufferer. He is the ultimate Job, stricken by undeserved calamity; the ultimate Joseph, betrayed by his very brothers. On the cross, Jesus took on our sins and absorbed the full sting of justice on our behalf, sinking down into the depths of hell and forsakenness. No one has ever suffered more; no one ever could. Such a depth of love can meet our need in the moment of pain.

To the sufferers in our lives, may we be less like Job’s friends and more like Jesus Christ.

If you would like help with your suffering or help in coming alongside a sufferer, please contact CornerStone Family Services to talk with a counselor or coach.

Balancing Act: Marriage and Friendships

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Balancing Act: Marriage and Friendships

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Friendship is a great blessing. Can you imagine going through life without friends? (We sure can’t!) Our friendships make up some of the closest relationships in our lives, and that doesn’t stop when we get married.

But when we go through a huge change in life, like beginning a dating relationship or getting married, it shifts the landscape of our relationships. Even though these changes occur, it’s important to find a new balance together, because maintaining our close relationships is important. So how do we do that?

FOCUS ON YOUR MARRIAGE FIRST

When you get married, it can be difficult for your friends (especially if you’re the first one in your circle to tie the knot) to accept the inevitable changes in your relationships with them. They don’t want to “give you up,” in a sense, for you to embark on something new. But it’s impossible to keep pouring the same amount of time and effort into your friendships as before, while cultivating intimacy with your new spouse.

It’s important for you and your spouse to understand that you’re both going to have to make some adjustments to the amount of time you invest in your friendships. You’re starting a new life together, and you need this time. Be empathic toward one another, and work together to make sure you’re meeting one another’s needs, as well as honoring one another’s need for your other friendships.

It’s also important to show empathy toward you friends, who may not understand your need to pour more time into your marriage. If you need to, you can explain that there have been some changes in your life, and right now you need to honor those changes as you start this new chapter.

Remember, your single friends will probably start getting married soon, and at that point, they’ll have a better understanding of where you are right now. In the meantime, you’re the pioneer, so start setting some great patterns in motion. Your friends will see your example of dedication to your marriage, and that will give them a strong model to follow when they get married, themselves.

CREATE SHARED FRIENDSHIPS

One of the greatest joys of a healthy, happy couple is having a shared circle of social connections. Shared friendships enrich your life, but it’s tricky to create a social circle within your marriage that works for both of you (and for those you bring into the circle).

When you gather friends together, something magical happens. You and your spouse get to know the deeper layers of each other in the process, particularly if you have a shared past with some of these friends. Enjoying friends together will deepen and enrich your relationship.

It’s easy to find a single friend we’d like to spend time with, but when it comes to forging friendships with other couples–and creating a relaxed, comfortable dynamic–it takes work, and it’s not as easy to pull off. All four of you need that natural chemistry, and that can be a challenge to find.

But when you and your spouse do “click” with another couple, it’s so rewarding. Not only are you friends with each of them; the mentoring that occurs when you watch another marriage play out in front of you is a huge bonus. When it comes to friends like this, the whole really is greater than each individual.

MAINTAIN INDIVIDUAL FRIENDSHIPS

While we’re big proponents of shared friendships (especially with other couples), this doesn’t mean you can’t also have individual friends. Our lives are enriched by keeping connections with friends from the past, work colleagues, classmates, and others. Communicate openly with one another about these friends, and allow one another the space you need to continue cultivating these individual friendships.

Sometimes we have a sense of responsibility and ownership for friends who have been loyal to us over the years (especially the single years!). It’s important to try to pull those friends into your shared life, but there are times when some of the friends you choose might not be your spouse’s favorite choices, and vice versa.

If your spouse has a friend he or she wants to maintain a connection with, open your arms a little wider to this person. Honor your spouse’s shared history with them, and allow your social horizon to expand. Your spouse is loyal to their friend, and it’s important to show grace and to respect your spouse’s desire to keep this friend in your lives.

Over time, you may find that the friends who aren’t in the center of your shared social circle draw closer to you as a couple. Relationships shift and evolve over time, and you may find that a friend of your spouse’s–who might not have been your top pick at first–turns out to be one of your most loyal friendships.

If you would like help with this balancing act of marriage and friendships, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Problem with Sexual Compatibility

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The Problem with Sexual Compatibility

By Hafeez Baoku

Last year, while working as a counselor at a Christian camp for young adults, I had the pleasure of spending a few months with hundreds of young men from around the country. If you have ever spent a large amount of time with a group of young men discussing life issues, you know I received a variety of crazy questions about sex.

For example, one of the campers asked, “If I’m supposed to wait to be married to have sex, how am I supposed to know if my wife and I are sexually compatible? Don’t I need to try out a few other girls first?” I wasn’t taken aback by his question because I knew he was just another teenage boy looking for an excuse to bend God’s guidelines. So I brushed off the question with a shallow answer so I could get back to the topic I was discussing.

Since receiving his question, I hadn’t thought about the idea of sexual compatibility until last month when the Huffington Post published a piece titled “Sex Before Marriage: 5 Reasons Every Couple Should Do It.” As the title suggests, the article discourages young singles from waiting for sex until marriage. The chief reason, according to the author, is that premarital sex affords the opportunity to ensurethere is sexual chemistry and compatibility with the other person. In cruder, contemporary parlance this is often called “test driving.” Linked to the topic of sexual chemistry was another article called “My Virginity Mistake,” in which a woman shares her negative experience of waiting for sex until marriage in light of her recent divorce to one with whom she wasn’t “sexually compatible.”

After recent conversations with self-identifying Christians also embracing this idea, I fear this idea has become an issue that needs to be addressed. I’d like to share why our culture’s notion of “sexual compatibility” is anti-Christian and, ultimately, destructive.

Conditional Love

The primary problem with this notion of sexual chemistry is that it focuses sex on pleasure and performance. Contrary to what Hollywood may suggest, great sex (which is a good, God-honoring thing) isn’t the pinnacle of humanity’s existence. Sex was created for man, but man was not created for sex. God gave sex as a gift to be exclusively enjoyed by a husband and wife as a means of loving, caring, serving, honoring, and enjoying each other in marriage. So sexual compatibility between a married couple comes neither from ecstasy (how good the sex is) nor frequency (how often you have it) but mainly from intimacy, which occurs as love, trust, security, and respect deepen through the longevity of a monogamous, self-giving, covenant relationship.

Lifelong commitment is something our culture struggles to understand and uphold. If “soulmates” should be tried out sexually, then what was intended for marriage gets ripped from its original context and instead becomes a litmus test for vague, fleeting feelings of compatibility and connection. But this selfish objectification, which involves viewing another as a tool made to meet our sexual standards, has never been God’s design for finding a spouse.

In the first marriage account, God declared it’s “not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). So he gave Adam a wife. He didn’t give him his own reality show where he could meet Erin, Erica, Emma, and Eliza in order to discover which one would be sexually compatible. He gave Adam one woman, with whom he’d never had sex, and called him to love her for the rest of his life. Why did God do this? Because, in his perfect wisdom, he didn’t design the purpose of marriage to be about great sex with the perfect person but about a lifetime of serving and staying with the inevitably imperfect person you’ve vowed to love.

True Sexual Compatibility

From the many conversations I’ve had with those who are happily married with healthy, God-honoring sex lives, I’ve learned that true sexual compatibility, if we must call it that, happens when two people commit themselves first to God, and then to each other. This covenant commitment affords an opportunity for a husband and wife to unconditionally serve and love the way Jesus loves his bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33). Marriage is a journey in which two incompatible, selfish sinners learn to become one. There will thus be multiple things—including sex—that both parties will have to figure out together along the way.

Desiring a healthy and vibrant sex life in marriage is a good and even wise thing. But for the Christian it’s not ultimate. As a single Christian man, I desire a spiritually healthy marriage before a sexually healthy one, though I trust the former encourages the latter. Therefore, I’m willing to trust God and wait, not because I want to have the most euphoric wedding night with someone I’m perfectly sexually compatible with, but because I want a healthy, God-honoring marriage after the wedding night with the person to whom I’ve just committed my life.

If you would like help with your relationship struggles, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

How I Gleaned Hope from the Darkest Psalm

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How I Gleaned Hope from the Darkest Psalm

By Christina Fox

After a recent talk I gave, an attendee shared that Psalm 88 was her favorite psalm. For those of us familiar with it, we might hear such a comment and raise our eyebrows in confusion.

Psalm 88? Really?

Psalm 88 isn’t a feel-good, everything-will-be-all-right kind of psalm. In fact, it’s the darkest one. If we put it to music, it’d be set to the tune of a sad country song—if not a funeral dirge. Hear the despair of the psalmist’s words:

O LORD, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. (vv. 1–3)

Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. (v. 7)

O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? (v. 14)

While other biblical laments end on a note of trust and worship, this one ends without any light or hope. It simply concludes, “Darkness is my closest friend.” The end.

Despite the dark tone, however, there is hope to be found in Psalm 88. Here are four reasons.

1. You can cry out to God.

The psalmist persistently directs his emotions and sorrow to his Father in heaven. He acknowledges God is the one who saves and reigns over all things (vv. 1, 6–8). His anguish is the faithful cry of a believer who understands his need of God’s deliverance and help.

When you’re in the depths of suffering, the psalmist’s words give voice to your pain. You can bring your uninhibited emotions before God as you pour out your heart. In your distress, he hears your cries.

2. You can share your deepest pain.

Like hymns today, the psalms were used in worship—yes, even Psalm 88. That this song was proclaimed by God’s people speaks volumes. It also offers hope, since it’s clear God doesn’t expect us to cover up what’s really going on. We can approach our Father in raw honesty. We don’t have to pretend everything’s okay. We don’t have to hide the pain, the emotions, the distress.

At the same time, Psalm 88 reminds us whom we are praying to: our Maker and King. In his humility, the psalmist’s honest sorrow differs greatly from the faithless grumbling of the Israelites in the wilderness. He reminds himself—and us—that God saves (v. 1) and that his deeds are righteous (v. 11). He shows us that we can express our deepest heartache in a way that honors God, rather than grumbling against him.

3. You can grieve the darkness.

Psalm 88 is brutally honest about life in a fallen world. While many of us come out of depressive fogs and spiritually dark seasons, there are others who perpetually struggle. Some preach a false theology that says if you jsut pray hard enough, believe hard enough, and do all the right things, God will make your life all that you’ve wanted it to be. But real life indicates otherwise. And so does this psalm.

The sun doesn’t always come out tomorrow. We don’t always get the job we wanted. Marriages end. People get sick and die. This is the far-reaching effect of sin on this world. Psalm 88 reflects our pain and give us permission to grieve all that isn’t right.

4. You can trust your Savior.

All Scripture points to Christ, and Psalm 88 is no exception. For what the psalmist sought in his lament was answered in Jesus, who came to rescue and restore what’s broken. He came to fulfill the deepest cries of our heart. He came so that one day all our tears might be wiped away.

Psalm 88 reminds us that we need an intercessor. We don’t always know what is best. Many times, we don’t even know how to pray. Jesus intercedes on our behalf, reshaping our prayers for God’s glory. Not only that, but the Spirit also prays for us. When we can’t find the words to voice what our hearts long to say, he cries out for us (Rom. 8:26). What marvelous grace and love! What comfort! Even when the pains of life mute us, the Spirit speaks for us.

I’m so grateful Psalm 88 is included in Scripture. It reminds me that I can cry out to God with a broken heart and that he hears me—no matter how weak my prayers. It directs me to focus on the truth of who God is, for even in the darkest night, his grace still shines. And when it seems as though darkness is my only friend, I can remember Jesus Christ, who faced the darkness of the grave so that I could be called a friend of God.

If you would like help finding hope in the darkness, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or a coach.