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    Seasons of a Marriage

    Marriage expert and creator of divorcebusting.com, Michele Weiner-Davis, and her husband Jim have been married for more than 30 years. Since Weiner-Davis is an expert, you might assume that marriage would be easy.“Expert or not, marriage is hard work,” says Weiner-Davis. “At times you consider quitting.   Read More...

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    Are Opposite-Sex Friends Okay?

    As people marry later in life, many are bringing long-term opposite-sex friendships into their marriage relationship. While the friendships were great during singlehood, in marriage, these relationships may prove problematic.“I think it is okay for married people to have opposite-sex friends,” says Lisa Stewart. “However, I believe out of respect for your spouse that even if you were close friends before the marriage, there ought to be strong boundaries around that relationship...  Read More...

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    Tidying Up Your Life

    Many people are looking to do some cleaning out at the beginning of a new year. Whether it’s a detox body cleanse or binge-watching “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix, people are interested in freeing themselves from toxins in their body and letting go of material things that seem to hold them back from living their best life.

    A relational cleanse could also be helpful. Start by asking yourself, “What did I drag into this new year that is holding me back?” It could be things like:

    • bitterness and resentment
    • a toxic friendship
    • lies you have taken on as truth about yourself
    • childhood experiences that still haunt you
    • a lack of forgiveness of yourself and/or others
    • disappointment that weighs heavily on your heart
    • despair that things will never change
    • an addiction
    • a job you dislike, or something else.

    Are there people who suck the life right out of you every time you are around them? If so, why do you choose to hang with them? How would your life be different if you moved on?

    What purpose does unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness serve? Holding on to emotions may seem powerful in some way or that it is actually impacting the other person, but it’s really killing you instead. Letting go of the poison doesn’t excuse the behavior; It gives you the freedom to live.

    What about disappointment and the complications of life? Spouses walk away, jobs end, unexpected illness hits, children make poor choices, and sometimes the biggest disappointments come from the ones you care about the most. Is collecting and carrying around disappointments helping you move forward? Sometimes you look back and realize that one of your biggest disappointments taught you one of your greatest life lessons. But, if you can’t figure out how holding on to disappointments is helping you be your best you, then it’s time to let them go. Doing this might feel like letting go of a very heavy weight.

    Excessive spending, gambling, alcohol, drugs, food, sex, pornography, video gaming, exercising, work and cutting are just a few of the addictions people often find themselves battling. Acknowledging that any one of these has a stranglehold on your life is the first step toward dealing with it and moving forward. Addictions are often bigger than what we can handle on our own, so don’t be afraid to seek professional help to get you moving in a healthy direction.

    Oftentimes, the hardest part is recognizing that we each make a choice, consciously or not, to continue hauling stuff around that isn’t helpful or healthy for us. Making an intentional decision to stop dragging around unhealthy relational things can give you a completely different perspective on a new year and your life. Opportunity lies ahead.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 20, 2019.


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    Why Standards Matter

    John Scolinos retired after coaching baseball for 42 years. In 1996, he asked more than 4000 baseball coaches the following questions: 

    • How wide is home plate in Little League baseball? 
    • Do you know how wide home plate is in high school, college and the major leagues?

    In case you don’t know, it’s 17 inches.

    “Seventeen inches!” Scolinos confirmed. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over 17 inches? They send him to Pocatello! What they don’t do is this: They don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a 17-inch target, we’ll make it 18 inches or 19 inches. We’ll make it 20 inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say 25 inches.'

    Scolinos encouraged coaches to uphold the sport's standards for everything from attendance and tardiness to behavior and personal appearance. 

    Why? Because there can be massive consequences when people fail to meet standards.

    Consider this: At least 15 touches are necessary to ensure the safety of donated blood before it can be given to someone who needs it. If any one of those 15 touches are missed or incorrectly completed, serious issues could result for the recipient.  

    When it comes to building overpasses and bridges, engineers carefully calculate weight, force and stress to determine how to build the right kind of structures to accommodate traffic flow. It would be unacceptable for the structural engineers to say they were pretty sure they got their calculations right. One degree, plus or minus, could result in a catastrophic collapse - and it could be the difference between life and death.

    Is it better to bend the rules or the standards in an attempt to make children feel better about themselves, or is it more beneficial to teach children how to accomplish the goal the way it was intended to be met? 

    Scolinos warned the coaches that failing to hold themselves and those in their sphere of influence to a high standard would result in dark days ahead. 

    Before passing away in 2009, Scolinos imparted much coaching wisdom over the years that is still useful in all areas of life. While times have changed, people still count on quality and safety standards for air travel, automakers, restaurants, schools, hospitals, hotels, etc. 

    It’s pretty clear that teaching the importance of accountability starts early and in the home, but it extends far beyond that. In fact, setting and holding to standards lets people know what to expect and where to aim, and it holds them accountable if the standards are not met. Should we expect anything less?

    Click here to read the entire article, which was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 13, 2019.

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    Building a Brilliantly Blended Family

    Any couple involved in a remarriage can tell you there are definitely some complicating factors. 

    Extended family is even more extended. There are typically at least three people involved in parenting decisions, if not more. Visitation with the other parent involves consulting more schedules, and co-parenting is often complicated. 

    Here are some blended family facts from Pew research and others:

    • 42% of adults (102 million) have a steprelationship, and when you add the 11.6 million stepchildren in the U.S. (16% of all kids), an estimated 113.6 million Americans have stepkin.
    • 52% of married/cohabiting couples with at least one living parent (or parent-in-law) and at least one adult child have a stepkin relationship.
    • 52% of “sandwich” generation couples have at least one stepparent or stepchild. 
    • The percentage is even higher for younger households, with 62% of married/cohabiting couples under age 55 having at least one stepkin relationship in the three generations.
    • 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage.

    In many instances, children find themselves trying to navigate two worlds, attempting to understand why they have to follow different sets of rules at each house. Sometimes parents talk badly about the other parent in front of their children. It can very quickly become confusing and complicated for the children.

    “Parents have to remember and accept the fact that while they can end a marriage to someone, they will never stop being parents,” said Ron Deal, speaker and author of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family

    “While you may be relieved to be out of the marriage, your children have been in a transitional crisis. How well they recover from that crisis has a lot to do with you. The key to successful co-parenting is separating the dissolution of your marriage from the parental responsibilities that remain.”

    Deal says that children can successfully adjust to the ending of their parents’ marriage and can fare reasonably well if: 

    • the parents are able to bring their marital relationship to an end without excessive conflict;
    • children are not put into the middle of whatever conflicts exist; and
    • there is a commitment from parents to cooperate regarding the children’s material, physical, educational and emotional welfare.

    “I do realize that many ex-spouses have great difficulty cooperating about anything, let alone the nurture and discipline of their children,” Deal said. “That does not absolve you of the responsibility to try. Your children deserve your best effort.”

    Although blending two families together comes with plenty of challenges, Deal wants to give stepfamilies the keys to unlocking some of the most difficult struggles they face. That’s why he’s coming to Chattanooga this month.

    At Building a Brilliantly Blended Family on January 26 from 9 a.m. to noon, Deal will answer some of the most common questions stepfamilies have, such as:

    • Should we develop new family traditions together? 
    • Are my boundaries and influence different as a stepparent?
    • How do I make sure no one feels left out or unheard?
    • What about dealing with ex-spouses? Are there dos and don’ts?
    • Sometimes, our “blended family” feels awkward. Will it ever feel normal?
    • Our marriage often takes a backseat to figuring out the stepparent dynamic. How can we stay connected?

    Your blended family can benefit from hearing Deal, no matter what season you find yourself in. If you want to develop a game plan to build connection and intimacy at home while keeping your marriage strong, start by registering now!