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Let’s be honest—boundaries can be hard to talk about for everyone. “Can we talk about boundaries with opposite-sex friends?” or “We need to talk about boundaries with social media. Both of those topics can easily be construed as passive-aggressive suspicion or even a flat-out accusation. 

So, let’s change that. Let’s take a look at why we need boundaries in the first place.

For any relationship to be healthy and thrive (and I do mean any relationship– marriage, in-laws, friendships, co-workers, even your relationship with yourself) there need to be some boundaries that are in place and respected.

These boundaries not only help us avoid uncomfortable, hurtful, even relationally destructive things, but they also help us feel safe and secure and allow our relationship to grow and deepen. They define and celebrate our relationship.

Boundaries are both a sign of and a byproduct of emotional and relational health. Boundaries show that we understand and respect where we end and where the people we care about begin. Saying “I do” is by definition saying, “I won’t.” A spouse that thinks they should be able to do whatever they want doesn’t understand marriage. But we’ll get to that…

Now, here’s the good stuff…

Boundaries help us avoid things that could damage our relationship, but they also allow all the good relationship stuff to happen. They help provide an environment where intimacy can grow and thrive. They are what makes us uniquely us. So, if we need to talk about boundaries with our spouse, let’s lead with the positive.

Even if your spouse really does hate boundaries, hopefully, they are down to talk about how your relationship is special, can grow, and how you can achieve deeper levels of intimacy. Try framing the conversation that way and see what happens.

Don’t forget the flip-side. Even if your spouse “hears” negative things when they hear the word “boundaries” rest assured they have their own list of things that help them feel safe and secure in your relationship. That’s just Being Human 101.

This can be a great place to start the conversation!

  • When do you feel the safest and most secure in our relationship?
  • What do I do that makes you feel guarded or uncomfortable?
  • When do you feel the closest to me? What do I do that hinders that?
  • What situations feel like a threat to our relationship being the best it can be?
  • What are your expectations when it comes to _____?
  • What are some healthy goals for us when it comes to _____?

When you start a conversation like this, you are showing how much you value your spouse and your relationship.

The word “boundary” is nowhere in sight. BONUS: you are leading the way with trust, respect, and vulnerability. You are starting with their needs. Also, notice the phrasing here. These aren’t “yes” or “no” questions like, “Do I ever do anything that makes you feel insecure?” You don’t want to stop the conversation before it has a chance to start.

Knowing your relationship goals, expectations, comfort-zones, and well… boundaries show that you are self-aware, emotionally mature, and value your spouse and your relationship with them. Even if your spouse hates talking about boundaries, don’t be afraid of these conversations; navigate them like the positive conversations they should be.

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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AFTER I DO | THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEWLYWED LIFE

SEX. CONFLICT. IN-LAWS. OH MY.

Tired of no one talking about how hard those first years can be? Well, buckle your seatbelt. We’re here to embrace the awkward (sex!), talk through the hard stuff (in-laws!), and give you everything you need to ace your newlywed years and beyond.

After I Do is a COMPLETE guide for those first 5 years of marriage, when everything is new and sweet… and freaking difficult. Even if you’ve dated for years, going from ME to WE is a huge transition and sometimes you just need a little (or a lot) of sage wisdom so that you don’t completely go off on your spouse. (But if you already have, no judgment. We’re here to help.)

Our relationship experts will guide you and your spouse through 12 modules covering all the hot topics like communication, conflict, sex, in-laws, money, etc. Get practical solutions you can put into practice! So if you wanna turn up the passion and connect with your spouse on a whole new level, get this marriage course, stat.

What people are thinking about about marriage may surprise you.

At the 2019 NARME Summit in Nashville, Dr. Scott Stanley shared what people are thinking about marriage using the latest marriage and cohabitation research.

If you’ve heard that married couples have a 50% chance of eventually divorcing, did you know that this statistic pertains specifically to Baby Boomers—the most divorcing generation ever in U.S. history? The news is better for those marrying today—their lifetime risk for divorce is only around 38%.

Before you get too excited about the divorce rate decrease though, it would be important to know that the marriage rate has also decreased. 

WHAT MARRIAGE LOOKS LIKE TODAY

According to Stanley, demographers and sociologists wonder whether people are marrying later or if a historic number of younger people just won’t marry. Some people are thinking marriage will bounce back, while others think the younger generations are afraid of or disinterested in marriage. 

This is quite perplexing when research, including the U.S. General Social Survey, indicates that around 95% of people say they are “pretty happy” or “very happy” in their marriage. Stanley says it’s possible that people are happy, but that when things go south, they may do so very quickly.

The average age of first marriage is currently 30 for men and 28 for women, but this delay in marriage puzzles many who have young adult children or grandchildren. Boomers and Gen Xers reflect on their own young adulthood and realize that not only did they marry in their early to mid-20s, but they also had children and jobs.

So what’s up with the delay? Stanley likens it to people milling around the airport who aren’t all there for the same reason. 

THREE TYPES OF SINGLES

  1. Seekers: Some are there seeking the one perfect person who will be perfectly attuned to them. Stanley cautions these seekers to examine if they are unrealistically seeking perfection from someone when they aren’t perfect themselves.
  2. Determined Delayers: The “determined delayers” at the airport might eventually be seeking “the one,” but are uninterested in finding them, at least for now. They say they want to get married—but maybe in five years or so. These delayers are either having fun trying out several relationships or are enjoying being uninvolved romantically.
  3. Wanderers: Then there are the wanderers, who aren’t looking for a relationship or preventing one either. If they get into a relationship and it works, they could easily end up married.

It’s when a seeker starts dating a determined delayer and doesn’t know it that things can get complicated. Stanley says ambiguity can lead one person in the dating relationship to believe that the other is more interested in marriage than they really are.

THE COMPETITION TO COMMITMENT

According to Stanley, the number one competitor to commitment in a relationship is how good your alternatives are and your awareness of them. People who carry a lot of relationship experience into marriage tend to think, “I hope this works, but if it doesn’t, there are other fish in the sea.”

“Marriage for many people has moved from being a cornerstone to your life to a capstone,” Stanley shares. “Instead of being foundational, it is a major achievement as a status symbol.”

Yet, the 2018 American Family Survey (AFS) indicates that 64 percent of us believe that marriage makes families and children better off financially. A large majority believes that marriage is necessary to create strong families and that society is better off when more people are married. The percentage of people who believe marriage is old-fashioned and outdated hovers in the mid-teens.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • If there is a benefit in delaying marriage, Stanley believes that perhaps people are self-insuring to protect themselves from potential loss. However, the downside of that means they are doubling down on individualism versus interdependence.
  • Friends used to connect their friends to their future mate, but the data shows that more people are meeting online instead. If people wisely use these online systems to look for someone who is a better fit instead of limiting themselves to only the people in their community, this is good news for relationships. Stanley says people need to think about what they are looking for and intentionally surround themselves with people who share their values.
  • People are wrestling with the idea of marriage for various reasons. When the AFS asked what was essential to living a fulfilled life, marriage was the lowest thing on the list. A good living, education and a rewarding job were at the top. It could be that people are thinking if they have those three things, their chances of making marriage work are greater, but no one knows for sure.

In The Atlantic piece, What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse, Mandy Len Catron contends that marriage is socially isolating, marriage is no longer what many want, there is too much emphasis on marriage and commitment is really the main thing, not marriage.  

Research does indicate singles have more social connections than marrieds, and they tend to have a broader community. When people marry, they do tend to invest their time and energy into their marriage. However, couples who know that marriage could become socially isolating can be intentional about building social connectedness and community.

THREE QUESTIONS TO CLARIFY COMMITMENT IN A RELATIONSHIP OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE

For those who align with Mandy Len Catron, Stanley offers three questions that are important to ask.

Have you…

  1. Both agreed to a lifetime of commitment to each other?
  2. Publicly declared the depth of your commitment to those who matter most in your lives?
  3. Agreed to be faithful to each other for the rest of your lives?

The answers to these questions can help determine the trajectory of the relationship, for better or for worse.

This article originally appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 9, 2019.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Why do couples fight? And what do they usually fight about?

Most people say they fight about money, sex, kids, and in-laws straight out of the gates.

In romantic relationships, all kinds of major and minor disagreements can impact the quality of a couple’s relationship. If you’re wondering what couples are most likely to fight about, check out this 2019 study by psychologists Guilherme Lopes, Todd Shakelford, David Buss, and Mohaned Abed.

They conducted the study in three stages with newly-married heterosexual couples. They looked at all of their areas of discord, and what they found was pretty interesting. Out of 83 reasons for couple conflict, they found 30 core areas which they placed into six component groups.

Component Groups:

  1. Inadequate Attention or Affection. This would include things like not showing enough love and affection, lack of communication, one not paying enough attention to the other, not being appreciated, and feelings.
  2. Jealousy and Infidelity. This was affected by real or perceived risk to the relationship from things like talking to an ex, possessiveness, past relationships, and differing opinions on whose friends couples hang around more.
  3. Chores and Responsibilities: Think about everyday tasks that couples may share. The housekeeping, chores, who does more work, not showing up when expected, and sharing responsibilities would fit here.
  4. Sex. One may want sex and the other doesn’t. Frequency of sex, sexual acts, and telling private information about the relationship to others—the list goes on.
  5. Control and Dominance. This would refer to events in which one partner tries to manipulate or control the other in some way.
  6. Future Plans and Money. Things like goals for the future, children, and the ability to invest in the relationship fall into this category.

Utilizing these areas of discord, the psychologists created the Reasons for Disagreements in Romantic Relationships Scale (RDRRS).

Key Findings

  • Jealousy and infidelity seemed to decrease after several years of marriage
  • A husband’s higher income contributed to control and dominance issues.
  • Men who were more religious mentioned less disagreement over jealousy and infidelity elements.
  • Relationship satisfaction improved over time, although the frequency of differences did not change significantly during the three years of marriage.
  • Females were less satisfied when there was more disagreement about control and dominance. As women grew older, there was more disagreement about infidelity and jealousy.
  • Women reported that sexual satisfaction was lower when there was greater disagreement about chores and responsibilities.
  • Women were more likely to guess they would have an affair in five years when there was greater disagreement around inadequate attention and affection.

Whether considering marriage, engaged, or already married, this info can provide a great foundation for a conversation about potential disagreements. There’s some relief in knowing that lots of people struggle with the same types of issues. However, it might be a bit disconcerting to find that the one you love doesn’t see things the same way you do. It’s pretty much impossible for two people from two different upbringings to come together and not have any differences of opinion about certain things.

Either way, knowing you have these differences or areas of conflict can help you talk about how you’ll navigate them so your relationship can thrive in the process.

How Do You Talk About It?

Find a time when you both can talk for 30 minutes or so without distraction. Choose one of the topics you differ on and begin sharing. Keep in mind, always seek information and to remain curious. Don’t include any rules about the conversation ending when the timer goes off! This also isn’t the time to try and convince your partner they’re wrong and should for sure see things your way.

Couples often find that seeking to understand their partner helps them make sense of why they think the way they do. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. You can still disagree on some things and have a healthy marriage, but it’ll require some effort on each person’s part. If you’re dating or engaged, your differences may be significant enough for you to evaluate whether marrying each other is the best next step. It really boils down to respecting your partner and doing what’s in your relationship’s best interest.

This article originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 11, 2020.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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The YMCAs and Planet Fitnesses in town and all the other gyms are packed full this week with all those who made New Year’s resolutions to lose some pounds, to better their physiques, and to get healthier. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Did you set some goals for this year? I hope they weren’t all about diet and exercise! Did you make some Relationship Resolutions?

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Cheating. Pretty much universally denounced as the worst thing you could do in a relationship (maybe just a tiny bit behind murdering your partner). We can all agree that cheating is wrong and definitely nobody wants someone to cheat on them, but…

“But what?” you ask. But let’s be honest, so much of the media we consume glorifies cheating and we sing along or sit and watch and munch our popcorn. And who among us isn’t fascinated by the latest celebrity scandal of who’s “steppin’ out” on who? Let’s get even more honest. Who hasn’t clicked on one of those, “6 Ways To Know If They’re Cheating” articles, you know, just to be sure…

Cheating simultaneously repulses and fascinates us. It’s one of the ultimate taboos, so we want to know all the details when it happens to our friends, but we really, really don’t want it to happen to us. Oh, but tons of people cheat. Tons and tons.

Statistically, it’s very likely that it has or will happen to you.

Sorry. (I’m going to assume that you want me to just skip the research-y parts here and just get to the parts that help you avoid being cheated on. I hear you.)

So you want to avoid having your partner cheat on you? You want to remain faithful to your partner and you expect them to remain faithful to you. Here’s where I encourage you to start: Make sure you both agree on what constitutes “cheating” in the first place. Confusion and poor communication cause a lot of what passes for “infidelity,” not a lack of character.

Yes, yes, there’s the obvious stuff. I’m not talking about that. But what about not being honest about where you spend your time? Porn? Friending an ex on social media? Not being honest about how you spent money? Talking about problems in your relationship with an opposite-sex co-worker? Anonymous internet “stuff?” Texting with an opposite-sex friend or getting emotional support from one? Business lunches and gym partners you conveniently don’t tell your spouse about? All of this shows up on surveys as to what counts as cheating. You and your spouse need to define together what “cheating” is to you.

So, yeah, you guys need to talk.

Framing The Conversation

So, you want to blurt out, “Hey, we need to talk about boundaries and what counts as cheating in our relationship!” But I’m begging you not to do that. Please. Just don’t. They’ll most likely hit you with a response like: “What? Don’t you trust me?” [And then in their head] “Wait! Why are you asking? Should I trust YOU?

My advice?

The conversation about cheating doesn’t have to be about cheating. There are so many other ways to frame this conversation that won’t set off alarm bells and rattle trust issues. How do you have a meaningful, productive conversation about all the nebulous grey stuff in a way that draws you closer together instead of driving you apart by creating static and mistrust? 

Can you have this conversation without using words like infidelity, cheating, betrayal, or even trust? It’s something to think about…

Shift: From What You Don’t Want To Happen, To What You Do Want To Happen

You want to talk about growing deeper in real intimacy, cultivating mutual respect, making sure that you are meeting each other’s needs, making sure you are healthy individuals and a healthy couple, protecting your beautiful relationship, and building a lasting legacy together.

So, yes, at some point you have to cover, communicate, reach agreements on, and honor each other in the following areas: (Note: This is not an exhaustive list. You don’t have to talk about them all at one time, for all-time. This is a dynamic, ongoing conversation.)

Opposite-Sex Friendships  
Phones, Tablets, and Technology
Honesty About Time
Emotional Bonds-Relationships Time With The Opposite Sex, Gym, Etc.
Pornography  
Texting and Social Media
Honesty About Money
Opposite-Sex Co-Workers – Meetings, Trips
Keeping Relationship Problems Private

Remember how you’re framing these conversations. All of the above-listed issues and areas can keep you from being the individuals and couple that you both want to be. You have to address them—not because you don’t trust your spouse or partner—but because of the way they impede growth, intimacy, vulnerability, mutual respect, and the legacy you want to cultivate as a couple. Be ready to disagree but respect each other’s needs, and, above all, respect the relationship you are building together.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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AFTER I DO | THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEWLYWED LIFE

SEX. CONFLICT. IN-LAWS. OH MY.

Tired of no one talking about how hard those first years can be? Well, buckle your seatbelt. We’re here to embrace the awkward (sex!), talk through the hard stuff (in-laws!), and give you everything you need to ace your newlywed years and beyond.

After I Do is a COMPLETE guide for those first 5 years of marriage, when everything is new and sweet… and freaking difficult. Even if you’ve dated for years, going from ME to WE is a huge transition and sometimes you just need a little (or a lot) of sage wisdom so that you don’t completely go off on your spouse. (But if you already have, no judgment. We’re here to help.)

Our relationship experts will guide you and your spouse through 12 modules covering all the hot topics like communication, conflict, sex, in-laws, money, etc. Get practical solutions you can put into practice! So if you wanna turn up the passion and connect with your spouse on a whole new level, get this marriage course, stat.

Let’s be real, there aren’t too many people in this world that would choose to actually be lonely. We as human beings thrive off our interactions and connections with other people. We are usually our best selves when we have people who care about us in our lives.

Sometimes, we’re afraid of being lonely.

We often don’t do well alone. Some fear it so much they settle and keep people that don’t deserve a spot in their life hanging around. Is being in a toxic relationship better than being lonely? Is being unhappy with an individual emotionally and mentally better than just learning how to be comfortable with just you?

I’m not just referring to romantic relationships either. I can think of a few friends I allowed to stay too long in my circle. Being alone for a little bit isn’t a bad thing. Being alone can be the best time for self-discovery. When you go on a journey to learn more about you, it’s the most beautiful thing. You discover things you never even knew about yourself. You learn to not accept the disrespect and abuse you maybe once did.

It’s not an easy process, but we work hard for the finer things in life, like knowing ourselves better!

Quick story, I was hanging out with this guy, and he was so fine, his smile was perfect, and I loved our conversation. Everything seemed pretty kosher. Soon enough, things started changing. I started to see some of his true colors, and they weren’t the prettiest, but I didn’t care. Why? Well, because I didn’t want to let him go. I didn’t want to be alone.

I couldn’t stand the thought of not being with someone, and though he was a bit controlling and handled his anger in inappropriate ways, I was still intrigued and drawn in by the fact that there was this guy right here, who wanted to be with me, even with my imperfections, so why not put up with him, right? URRR, wrong!

I started to see myself becoming insecure and dependent on this man, and that’s not like me at all. When I told him the things that bothered me about some of his habits, he would find a way to make it my fault. For a while, I believed him and thought everything was my fault. And that, my friends, is manipulation. We can’t stand for that.

There has been plenty of research proving that staying alone is better than being in a toxic relationship. Sometimes we just think too much with our hearts and not enough with our heads. Who said being single isn’t fun? We can look at it like this: at least if we’re single and miserable (which you probably won’t be) we’re just miserable with our problems. Period. We don’t have to worry about being miserable with our own problems, plus their own problems, plus both our problems being together- arguing, insecurity and jealousy and on and on. That’s two-thirds fewer problems just by being single! Check my math!

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn who you are. That often requires you concentrating on just you. Don’t look at being single as a bad thing. Look at it as an opportunity to explore yourself and the things around you more. Take it as an opportunity to learn how to be content and happy with just you. Take advantage of that time to hang out with family and close friends. Don’t let your fear make decisions for you.

When you’re choosing to stay single for YOU, you’re also choosing a few other things.

You’re choosing to say:

  • I’m enough.
  • I’m capable of self-love and self-acceptance.
  • I’m in control of my own life and decisions.

You don’t settle because you know what you want! Give yourself a high-five!

To answer the question at hand: No, it’s not better to be in a toxic relationship than it is to be single. If you can relate to this, I hope you can soon recognize that you’re enough, if you haven’t already. Because you are.

Looking for more relationship resources? Click here!

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After you say “I do,” there’s a lot that changes and there are new things to get used to when it comes to friends and family. Add the holidays to a new marriage, and it’s easy to feel incredibly overwhelmed. It quickly becomes obvious that friends and family influence your relationship.

As a married couple, you’ll have a different dynamic when it comes to your friends and family because there is an added measure of checks and balances. Your marriage is the one friendship and ultimate relationship that should come first. It’s very important to wean off relationships that could potentially cause problems in your marriage. Now, you can’t just all-out ditch family because you don’t get along, but you can definitely set boundaries and determine how much time you will spend with those “problematic” members.

Here are 5 ways friends and family can influence your relationship with your spouse.

1. You are who you hang around.

Remember when every adult used to say this to you no matter who you were spending time with growing up? Well, it’s true. For better or for worse, your friendships can lift you up or tear you down – and now it’s affecting more than just you. What if you or your spouse has a toxic friendship that is negatively affecting your marriage?

How to deal: Talk with your partner to see if they are even aware that they are hurting you or causing tension in your relationship. Be gentle, don’t accuse, and be open to hearing their perspective as well. After you bring it to light, assess where to go from there, such as less time spent with that person? A discussion with that person about behavior that you want to change/ have an issue with? You have to decide together what the best thing to do for your marriage is. And remember, friends should be encouraging you to be better every day and lifting you up to be the best you you can be! Invest in strong friendships for both you and your partner!

2. Your parents are just too intrusive:.

Just like on that old sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, your parents or friends may feel a little too welcome in your life. “If you have parents who show up uninvited, or who spend too much time with you, you might have too little time to be alone with your new partner and formulate your life as a couple,” says Susan Newman, Ph.D., a social psychologist.

How to deal: Set some rules – and fast. “You need to clearly define your boundaries in regard to visits and time spent with your parents,” Newman says. Once you and your mate agree on the ‘rules,’ tell your parents you love them, but they need to call before they come by, or even ASK specifically before they just decide to do something that affects you and your spouse. Set whatever guidelines you need to set for the sake of your marriage.

3. They make a mountain out of a molehill.

You picked your sister-in-law’s wedding over the annual family reunion (insert your own situation where you had to choose between two family or friend events) – and now your parents aren’t speaking to you, or they’re being nasty.

How to deal: Gently remind them that you now have two families and lives to consider when you’re making decisions. “They have to learn that you have a new family now [and new relationships] and that you’ll [still] be connected, but not joined at the hip,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., a psychotherapist.

4. They bad-mouth your partner.

You know the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Well, sometimes family and friends don’t really listen to or apply that.

How to deal: Explain that the snide comments upset you – and firmly tell them to stop. Always stand up for the person you have chosen to spend forever with. Be their #1 advocate! Most people will stop after being directly confronted. If they really care about the relationship – at least an effort will be made. But if they continue, you need to show that you mean business. “When your parent [or friend(s)] starts, simply say, “I’m not going to listen. I married [them] and I’m happy,” Newman advises. If friends continue to speak poorly of your partner, reassess your relationship with them. Then decide if that’s really someone you want a part of your new journey.

5. Sometimes, your in-laws (or your own parents) AND/OR your spouse’s friends can create marital problems simply by being who they are.

Different personalities sometimes just don’t jive.

How to deal: Talk it out with your partner to see if you can sort out why there’s an issue. Seek out resources to help you determine what the problem is and how to work through the conflict. Combining two families + friend groups with different backgrounds and lifestyles is not easy, but it’s not impossible. Strengthen your relationship with your spouse by being at peace with each other’s “people,” and sometimes agreeing to disagree.

Looking for more engagement resources? Click here!

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Weddings are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

Forgive and forget,” right? That’s what they say. But what happens when you can’t forget and you certainly aren’t ready to forgive? Have you ever felt like something was wrong with you because forgiveness didn’t come quickly, easily, or at all?

You are definitely not alone and there is certainly nothing wrong with you.

These struggles are common and normal. What we don’t want is for unforgiveness to turn into bitterness, resentment, or worse. (Which can happen so easily, so quickly.)

When it comes to marriage and forgiving our spouse, we often unconsciously resort to some cold, hard math. We add and multiply and divide these factors of what our spouse did and see how the equation works out.

Then we keep the totals in our Relationship Ledger.

  1. Is it their “first offense” or have they been doing this for years?
  2. How serious is what they have done? Lied to you or like, left clothes on the floor?
  3. How hurt are you over what they did? Disappointed to brokenhearted?
  4. Did they apologize and ask for your forgiveness? Did they seem sincere?

The Hurt Spouse then takes all of the above information into account and “calculates” how mad they will be, for how long, if retribution is in order, and finally, if and when they will forgive the Offending Spouse. This is Cold Forgiveness Calculus.

We do this math almost instantly in our minds subconsciously. We do this math with our kids, friends, co-workers – everyone really. It can be extremely difficult to get the numbers to ever add up to forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of those things that we desperately want for ourselves, but we are often absolutely stingy when it comes to giving it out to others. 

I get it. All the “calculations” are a function of self-preservation. We don’t want to keep getting hurt. We certainly don’t want to be taken advantage of by our spouse. Honestly, we don’t want to feel stupid because the same dysfunctional stuff keeps happening to us, so we keep that Relationship Ledger handy and it dictates how vulnerable we will be. (What is forgiveness if it isn’t being vulnerable?)

Could there be another way? What if we dropped the Cold Forgiveness Calculus that constantly keeps our spouse in the red? If we saw forgiveness as part of the self-sacrificial love that we pledged to our spouse? What if we forgave them the way that we hope they will forgive us when we need it?

Does all this sound crazy? Too exposed? Risky? Naive? I hear you. I feel it too.

Let me make it simple: The math will never add up. There will always be a remainder. This is how we love and forgive our spouse- we forgive the remainder.

Some practical things to think about…

  • You should forgive when it is real and you mean it. Take as long as it takes to be sincere. (It is ok and healthy to tell your spouse, “I am having a hard time forgiving you for _____. I am working on it. I’m trying to get there.”)
  • You might need to practice on yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself, let go, and move on. Forgiving others will always be a struggle for you.
  • Forgiving DOES NOT mean forgetting. If it did, we would set ourselves up to continually be hurt and even abused. “Forgetting” means NOT bringing up a past, dealt with, healed-over situation and using it as a weapon against our spouse.
  • You don’t have to wait to be asked for forgiveness to forgive your spouse.

Forgiving your spouse is also FOR YOU so that you remain healthy and don’t become bitter and resentful. (Treating them as forgiven might be the thing that causes them to realize how they hurt you. Even if it doesn’t – forgive anyway so YOU can move forward!)

  • Forgiveness can be a way that we take back control of our life from a spouse’s failings, from a past hurt, an unresolved issue, or even an ongoing situation. What we won’t forgive controls us.
  • Forgiveness DOES NOT mean that we don’t work with our spouse to understand what went wrong and work together to avoid it happening in the future.
  • Forgiveness is made tangible by the relationship being restored and going back to normal as if your spouse had never messed up in the first place. But…
  • Forgiveness DOES NOT mean all consequences are automatically erased. If your spouse betrayed your trust, you might truly forgive them, but there will still be things they need to do to rebuild trust over time. This DOES NOT mean they are not forgiven.

Forgiveness takes us to the very core of what it means to love someone. It isn’t easy. Do we sacrifice ourselves or do we protect ourselves? That’s a hard question that we live out day by day in our marriage. I do know that there is no formula or equation and that Love realizes the ledger will never be balanced, but forgives anyway.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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