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How do you typically deal with the unexpected things life hands you? How you handle these situations – whether it’s a sick family member, a traffic jam on the morning of your big meeting or a last-minute, expensive repair – can determine whether the problem is minor or becomes huge and affects the rest of your day, week, month and beyond.

When unexpected things collide with the best-laid plans, some people have a tendency to react to the emotions of the moment. Their anxiety goes through the roof, they begin to panic, thinking about being late and all of the things they are supposed to get done. This often leads to frustration and feelings of helplessness and in some cases, even feeling hopeless.

How can you effectively prepare for these situations in a way that will help you remain calm, cool and collected? The key is to learn how to respond versus react, so the first item on the agenda is to have a plan and utilize the resources available to you.

The first key: Have a backup plan just in case something goes wrong.

This is like having an emergency generator so your life can keep going regardless of the crisis at hand. Be intentional about creating a support network of people who are willing to assist you when you are in a bind. It doesn’t have to be family. It could be teachers, neighbors, the parents of your child’s friends, co-workers, etc.

The second key:  Step back and assess the situation before doing anything.

People often move to action before actually assessing the situation to determine all their options. This includes getting the facts. We are much less likely to do something ridiculous when we think before we respond.

Once you have your plans in place, remember to follow your plan when the unexpected happens. Having steps to follow helps to make these situations more manageable.

  • Keep your emotions in check. Don’t let the situation control you.
  • Be prepared. Keep basic medication on hand, have a spare set of keys for your car, take a lesson on how to change a flat tire, give your neighbor keys to your house, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It is hard to be helpful when people don’t know there is a need.
  • Ask for a second opinion. Sometimes talking with an objective third party can be helpful.

All kinds of things will pop up in your life that have the potential to wreck your schedule, cause irritation or create stress, but how you handle it can be a game-changer. The next time you are dealt an unexpected surprise, be ready to respond by staying calm, assessing the situation and working your plan. You will probably be amazed at how quickly you can manage the crisis and get on with your day.

Looking for relationship resources? Click here!

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Why should you date?

Wow! That’s an incredibly personal question that has different answers depending on many different factors. Are you divorced? In your 20s fresh out of school and never married? In your 30s and hoping to be married? Looking for someone to have loads of fun with?

Answer This Question First…

“Why do I want to date?” And therein lies the first question that a person must answer for themselves. This must be answered honestly. To answer the question is to come to terms with the expectations and desires which I have from the process of dating. (The easy answer is that I may be looking for companionship in a romantic way. But who’s going for easy?)

Desire, by definition, is a strong feeling of wanting to have something. Do I desire to be married? Desire a committed relationship? Want someone to hang out with? Have the desire to be totally free and intimate with someone?

Many of us get into relationships with the desire to be our full, authentic selves with the other person. However, that involves a level of trust and vulnerability that the dating process is often designed to reveal over time. It doesn’t happen quickly or automatically. Can I be my truest self with you?

A large part of the dating process should help you learn about yourself. Do I change who I am when I’m around people that I’m romantically interested in?  Do I lose parts of myself trying to win the heart of my partner? Is there anything that prevents me from being myself? How do I respond when I, or strong facets of who I am, aren’t accepted? At the same time, am I willing to grow as an individual as I am learning more and more about myself? Do I compromise in ways that are unhealthy for me? Dating requires you to be vulnerable in a way that most other relationships don’t. One of the reasons that we date is to learn more about ourselves and what it means to let someone get to know us.”

Then Answer This Second Question…

Secondly, and closely related, is to answer the question, “As I am getting to know who I am, am I truly learning  who my partner is and their unique journey?” Let’s face it, just because I’m able to be me with someone does not mean we’re romantically a good match for one another. While I am not a supporter of “finding the one person out there who was meant for me,” I do recognize that there are those that I am romantically attracted to while others I’m not.

But What If It’s This Question?

What if part of dating is simply to answer the question, “Are we compatible?” Can we talk about things that matter to us? Is he/she an emotionally safe person to be with? We both know that relationships can accelerate a wide array of emotions. Are they able to deal with the emotional baggage that comes with me into the relationship? Do our values and belief system mesh with one another? Are we able to support one another?

We begin our dating relationships not knowing if we are compatible. We don’t know if this is a person who truly wants to get to know me. Let’s not assume that we do know. Starting with the pure knowledge that I am interested in getting to know this person and finding out if we’re a good fit is a lot less pressure. There are fewer expectations to meet or not meet.

Time, talk and being together during the dating process is no longer about us proving that we’re compatible. It’s not about you proving to me that you like who I am or worse, me being the person you want me to be.

For more resources, visit our Dating and Engaged Page here.

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7 Things You Need to Know Before The Wedding

Make sure you're on the same page before the big day.

Being engaged is a season of anticipation! You feel all kinds of excitement, right? You can’t wait! Before the wedding arrives, that and the honeymoon are all you can think about! (Plus, you can’t wait for all those wedding questions to stop!)

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We’re Total Opposites! Can Our Relationship Work?

Examining your differences can be key to finding out.

You’re in love and you’re total opposites. Is this your true love? Can your relationship last forever? Do you guys stand a chance? You’ve heard “opposites attract” and you’ve definitely felt that attraction, but you can’t deny how opposite you are either. (Your friends and family constantly remind you…)

Then, maybe in quiet moments, the nagging questions creep in…

How different is too different? Are we total opposites? Maybe opposites attract, but can opposites also drive each other crazy? Is there a point where you are so different that you are forced to concede that you aren’t compatible? Does it matter how different you are if both of you are willing to accept each other’s differences? Can there be a “balancing act” between the differences? He has this one t-shirt that he thinks is so cool and it’s all I can do to not burn it! THIS CAN NEVER WORK, CAN IT?

Calm down. Take a deep breath. These are (mostly) good questions to be asking! 

If we start with the idea that EVERYONE is already different from each other to some extent, then the next thing to understand is that the bigger the differences, the more you will have to work to function as one, to be unified, to be a team AND the more you’ll have to work to avoid conflict, arguments, and deal with disagreements. 

This is a key concept. Got it? Bigger differences equal more relationship work.

I’m using “bigger” here as in how important are the differences? (Personality and character, core values like religion or politics, issues like whether to have kids, parenting styles, or approaches to conflict, communication, sex and money.)

Some people get hung up on the little differences and don’t even consider the BIG ones. The little differences are the spice of life. Different taste in music or food. City or country upbringing. Cake or pie? (Pie of course!) Those kinds of differences keep things interesting. But there are Big Differences that can make things difficult down the road. Have you thought about those?

In theory, you’d think it doesn’t matter how many differences or how big they are if each of you is willing to do the required work. (“But we love each other!”) That sounds so nice.

In practice, people have limits, get worn out, or have certain things where their partner just has to be on the same page. Worse, sometimes you can’t predict the impact of the differences down the line. Listen, the rest of your life is a long time.

Give some serious thought to these next little pieces of wisdom:

First, marriage tends to magnify your differences, NOT minimize them. It certainly won’t make them go away. Oh, and you or marriage aren’t gonna “fix” him or her. If it’s a “thing” while dating, it will really be a “thing” when you get married.

Secondly, in general, while they are dating, people tend to greatly underestimate the impact of these differences, while, at the same time, overestimating their ability to look past them. (Read that last sentence a couple of times. I’ll wait.)

Why can’t they see straight? They have these big blindspots called “Attraction,” “Being In Love,” “Infatuation” or “But He’s/She’s So Hot! Then at some point, a few years into the rest of their life, they are like, “Wow, this is really, really hard!” (If children come into the picture, multiply the difficulty level by a factor of at least five.)

Here’s the thing, nobody is going to be able to tell you definitively, “You guys are just too different.” There is something there or you wouldn’t be dating, right? But here is some help seeing around those blind spots…

Are the differences in core values, non-negotiables, or just preferences?

I’ll use my 25-year marriage (That’s twenty-five years. A quarter-century!) as an  example. We. Could. Not. Be. More Different…

Her idea of a fun Saturday morning is re-organizing the kitchen cabinets so she can check that off her List of Things to Do. (That’s an illness, right?) Then she wants to proceed to the next things on her list, all equally as exciting to me. My perfect Saturday is watching some (pretentious) art-house movie, then analyzing and endlessly discussing the cinematography and the significance of the director’s color palette while listening to some obscure Icelandic band.

She is a grounded, list-making Doer. I am a list-averse, head in the clouds.

She is concrete. I’m abstract. She’s about accomplishments, I’m about … not.

All these are real differences, BUT we pretty much completely agree right down the line when it comes to religion, spirituality, and politics. We have the same non-negotiables of honesty and loyalty. We both wanted kids and wanted the same things for them. (But, man, if my life depended on buying a dress for her that she would actually wear, I’m a dead man.)

Do the differences complement or compete?

She is more of an extrovert who loves people and parties. I’m an introvert who is good at faking being extroverted. She loves the crowds on Black Friday. I hate them. But, if she has to return something and has lost the receipt, I will be called upon to talk our way out of that with the manager. I’m just good at that sort of thing.

See, when encountering differences, people often make a judgment as to who is better and who is worse. If you can avoid that kind of thinking and be more like, “Where does THIS come in handy? Where does THAT?” now you are complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Boom.

Are the differences an obstacle or an opportunity?

Religious differences are unique. Now, you can say that in this arena you’ll just agree to disagree. That’s sounds grown-up. Might work for you two. But It will be a thing with the in-laws. In fact, it will be THE thing. If you have children, you will have to pick which traditions they will be raised under. That can cause some serious tension! I’ve seen it. Just sayin’…

Speaking of children, it can be really good for them to have parents who are significantly different but model how to make that work and play to their strengths. Maybe the kids end up being balanced and learning valuable life skills. Or maybe they grow up seeing their parents arguing all the time because they are so, so different. Are you guys arguing a lot now?

Are the differences a problem to be solved or a tension to be managed?

Some differences might get smoothed out a bit over time so they don’t rub each other so sharply. but they will always be there. These differences aren’t something you solve, they are something you learn to live with the rest of your life. You cool with that? 

I don’t have a wife who enjoys talking about philosophy, movies, music, books, art, or the beauty of the word “oblivion.” She indulges me and works at it and is a really good sport about it. I try not to wear her out and corner her with lengthy conversations about Southern Gothic authors.

She doesn’t have a husband who will ever be organized, be good about budgeting, will jump up to tackle some project around the house, will ever want to go jogging, or organize my day around a list of things to do. I know that stuff is important to her, so I work at it. We both have accepted these thingsWe had to grow into it… It was hard for a long time until we figured it out.

Are the differences equally valued?

This is important. For us, this has taken some time and has been tough. When it comes to our differences, she likes to claim, “Hey, at least I get stuff done.” Then I say, “Yeah, but you miss out on so much beauty and wonder and will likely die from a stress-induced heart attack.” (Point, mine. Check THAT off your list…)

We have learned to play to our strengths. Who do you think makes sure that bills get paid on time? Who do you think helps our kid with his Shakespeare project?

Spending the rest of your life with someone doesn’t require uniformity – that would be boring. It does require unity. Whatever the differences, you will need to be able to stand unified. Unified against challenges, problems, hardships, the test of time, and even sometimes things like in-laws and often your own children. It’s gonna be you two total opposites against the world. Is there enough common ground for you to stand 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 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.***

For more resources, see our Dating and Engaged or Marriage pages.

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Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

(And get a discount* on your marriage license at the same time!)

Preparing for Marriage is an online course that will guide you and your bae on a journey to build a solid foundation for your marriage! From communication to intimacy, conflict to in-laws, we unpack 8 fun and fast-paced lessons in short videos that will provide you with all the essential tools to create a thriving marriage.

Plus you’ll have access to healthy relationship experts, Reggie & Lauren, by email every step of the way to answer any questions or just give you a little encouragement!


*Must live in a qualifying state where a discount is offered on your marriage license for completing premarital education or counseling.

Have you ever had a friend who completely began to ignore you when they started dating someone? Or a friend who began acting differently once they were in a relationship? How did that make you feel? Angry, irritated, frustrated? However it made you feel, we all say that will never be us until… it is.

Dating can be hard, especially in today’s digital age. You can’t open Instagram without feeling bad that you are single. When it comes to dating (or not) there are some things we have to be aware of. There’s not a right or wrong way to date, but there are unhealthy and healthy ways!

How can we make sure we are staying true to ourselves while also being in a relationship? Here are some dos and don’ts of dating…

Dos:

  • DO take your time. Good things come to those who wait. Anything worth having is worth waiting for.
  • DO stay true to who you are. Never forget where you came from. Be who you are because losing yourself is not worth it.
  • DO know what you stand for! You don’t have to compromise what you believe for others. Be strong and stand for your values. If they don’t like it, it is possible they’re not supposed to be in your life anyway.

Don’ts

  • DON’T block out your loved ones! Closing out the people who have always had your back is the last thing you should do. There is such a thing as having a family life and a social life while in a close dating relationship, trust me!
  • DON’T let your relationship status determine your worth. No, you’re not a loser because you’re the only one in your friend group that is single. Go live your best life. Being single can be lit! You don’t have to worry about someone eating your food, Valentine’s Day isn’t a huge deal for you, and no one gets upset with you for not calling them.
  • DON’T get in a relationship just because everyone else is in one. It’s completely fine if you’re single…

Listen, you don’t have to date right now. It’s okay to date yourself for a little bit. It’s okay to live in the moment by yourself. It’s okay to take yourself on dates. It’s okay to learn about who you are. It’s okay to tell yourself you’re beautiful or handsome. It’s okay to reassure yourself that you’re not alone- you have people in your corner! Don’t rush for the status. The heartbreak isn’t worth it.

For more resources, see our Dating and Engaged page here.

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What, exactly, were you expecting when you got married? Did you expect marriage and your spouse to make you happy?

Are you on the verge of stepping across the line into the world of marriage with your beloved? What do you expect when you get there? Are you expecting your “happily ever after?”

If you’re like me, I had all kinds of aspirations about traveling the world with my wife, going on endless adventures. It was going to be tons of fun! We would be so happy! But of course, real-life quickly set in, and we came to understand these weren’t the most realistic expectations we could have.

Great expectations in marriage make a marriage, well… great! Expectations give you hope for a fulfilling and enjoyable relationship. And who doesn’t want that? I’ve never talked to any couples who desired a less-than-happy marriage together.

But there’s often a very fine line, though, between great expectations and unrealistic expectations. And unrealistic expectations make marriage—you guessed it—unrealistic. So these unrealistic expectations, often unspoken, wreak all kinds of havoc on the marriage.

And ironically, what is the biggest and most popular of all unrealistic marital expectations? Expecting your spouse to make you happy. 

Yup, you heard me right.

Every married person wants their spouse to be happy. But a married person can’t control their spouse’s happiness. If your partner feels pressure from you to be the sole provider of your happiness, that pressure will eventually cause damage. You will always be looking for something from your spouse that he or she can never provide enough to satisfy you, leaving you in a constant state of frustration. Your spouse will always have a weight on their shoulders – a sense of inadequacy and failure.

This is such an unrealistic expectation because happiness is a complicated thing—it is a combination of genetics, circumstances, and decisions you make, not a reality your spouse can manage and maintain. Making your spouse your Happiness Manager sets him or her up to fail at something they weren’t meant to do. 

The fact of the matter is, life is full of ups and downs, unexpected turns in the road, and bouts of chaos- happiness is never a guarantee. And life in this regard does not change once you are married. Marriage does not solve problems, alleviate stress, cure addiction, create balance, nor give enlightenment. Marriage is not an automatic happiness dispenser. Therefore, your spouse is not—and cannot be—your source of happiness in life.

Author Gary Chapman calls these kinds of expectations “If Onlys.” If only my spouse would work less… If only my spouse would lose weight… If only my spouse would wash the dishes, take out the trash… Then he/she would make me happy

So how do you go about reversing these unrealistic expectations?

First, ask, “Where is this coming from? What is it that makes me think my spouse should provide my happiness?” These kinds of expectations usually come from something in your past – maybe some kind of unmet need that you’ve experienced earlier in your life. Or maybe they come from our culture, our circle of friends, or maybe even social media.

When you start recognizing the source, you take the pressure off your spouse for “fixing things” and “making you happy” and “making everything alright,” and you can put energy toward resolving the source of that need for happiness and getting it in perspective.

Another way to counteract this unrealistic expectation is to start recognizing marital expectations that are truly realistic and healthy

Dr. John Gottman lists several marital expectations that healthy couples aspire to in their relationship:

  • Be good friends.
  • Have a satisfying sex life.
  • Trust one another.
  • Be fully committed to one another.
  • Manage conflict constructively – arrive at a mutual understanding and get to compromises that work.
  • Repair effectively when one hurts the other.
  • Honor one another’s dreams, even if they’re different.
  • Create a shared meaning system with shared values and ethics, beliefs, rituals, and goals.
  • Agree about fundamental symbols like what a home is, what love is, and how to raise children.

These are good, healthy, realistic expectations to aim for. And they are hard enough.

One thing to remember—just because it’s unrealistic that our spouse provides all our happiness doesn’t mean that a fulfilling, remarkable marriage isn’t attainable. When you turn toward your spouse‘s needs and focus on them—you find true marital joy and fulfillment is much more within your reach. Now you have found true happiness!

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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When Should Your Teen Date?

Keep these things in mind as you make decisions.

“When will I be old enough to date?” It’s a question many parents dread. You’ve known it was coming, but you also realize you are crossing over into a whole new world with lots of moving parts, plenty of which you cannot control. 

You may reply sarcastically, “When you’re 30!” Or, you may try to be a bit more realistic and really wrestle with the right age for your child to date, which may be different depending on the child.

A study published in The Journal of School Health found that dating during the teen years can help teens learn social skills and grow in emotional intelligence. But guess what? Not dating during these years actually has benefits as well. 

Here’s what they found:

  • The non-dating students had similar or better interpersonal skills than their more frequently dating peers. 
  • While the scores of self-reported positive relationships with friends, at home and at school did not differ between dating and non-dating peers, teachers rated the non-dating students significantly higher for social skills and leadership skills than their dating peers.
  • The study indicated that students who didn’t date were also less likely to be depressed. Teachers’ scores on the depression scale were significantly lower for the group that reported no dating. And, the proportion of students who self-reported being sad or hopeless was significantly lower within this group as well.

Teen dating relationships today are complicated. Here are just a sample of the thoughts teens have, and the drama that often accompanies dating relationships is a whole other discussion that cannot be disregarded. 

“Does she like me?”  

“Is he cheating on me?”  

“I’m scared of what he will do if I break up with him. I think he might hurt himself.”

“Are his constant questions about where I am, what I am doing, who I am with, and what I am wearing signs of how much he loves me?” 

“Do I break up with him because he is mean or stay with him because a bad relationship is better than being in no relationship?” 

In an endless sea of questions, some teens feel intense pressure to date and be in the “cool” crowd while others could care less. Either ways, this is a time to pour into your teen the qualities that will help them navigate relationships in a healthy way, whether it is romantic or not.

The following things are important to keep in the forefront of your mind as you seek to teach your teen how to engage in relationships with others. 

  • They still need your guidance. The prefrontal cortex, or the rational part of the brain that helps with planning, decision-making, problem-solving, self-control and thinking about long-term actions and their consequences, is nowhere near fully formed, and it won’t be until age 25 or so. This has huge implications for teen behavior. 
  • Healthy relationship skills don’t come naturally, even if your teen seems super smart. They are the result of intentional teaching and modeling of behavior such as looking someone in the eyes during a conversation, using a respectful versus disrespectful tone of voice, and having high regard for one’s feelings. 
  • What your teen does in high school absolutely will follow them into adulthood and impact future relationships. Set standards, develop a strategy and don’t allow them to believe the lie that how they treat others now (or allow themselves to be treated) won’t impact them later. Unfortunately, this is a harsh reality many have experienced.
  • Sexual activity affects teens’ mental and emotional health. While the culture often pushes that having sex in the teen years is perfectly normal, plenty of young adults now believe that kind of relationship in high school created more anxiety, stress and depression for them and distracted them from truly enjoying the teen years.
  • They need to hear from you that their value and worth is not dependent on their relationship status. Friendships can be rich, deep and rewarding. Teens need to know and appreciate that their uniqueness is what makes them individuals.
  • Experiencing a range of emotions in relationships is normal, and it helps teens build their emotional regulation muscle. It is beneficial to know how they are feeling. Through that, they will learn to handle the intensity of the emotions that come with being in any relationship with others.

So, when will your child be old enough to date?

Great question! It’s definitely something you should consider with great care ahead of time. Waiting until they are 30 for sure isn’t the right answer. Agreed-upon guidelines for when the time is right will be important. And, it may be comforting to you and to your teen to know that in no way does it mean they are missing out if they don’t date at all during the teen years.

Sometimes you find yourself in relationships, social or romantic, with liars. You might say something like, “I can’t put my finger on it, but something is off about this person, explanation, or story.”

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