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Buying a house is one of the most stressful things that you can go through as human beings. Especially if you’re newlyweds! Yes, it’s even more stressful than planning a wedding.

Not only do you have to decide on a house together, but once you do that, there’s also a *TON* of legal jargon, paperwork, and timely responses you have to work your way through, a 60-page inspection report to worry about, and a never-ending list of improvements you want to make. These things can wear you down to the point that you’re nearly ready to sell it before you even own it. THEN, you have to pack up everything you’ve stuffed into your little bitty apartment, and likely argue about what you should and shouldn’t toss out.

It’s. A. Lot.

Luckily for me and my husband, we had an awesome realtor, lender, and support group throughout the whole process. But we still had a plethora of challenges, especially since we’d only been married 7 months before we made this huge life change! Over the two months that we were deep in the house-buying process, we made a lot of mistakes. But you don’t have to!

Below are 4 things you can do to sail through the process without going crazy (unlike us)!

1. Schedule a date night every other week at minimum. 

When you’re meeting with tons of people, packing up all of your stuff, reading through a 120-page document that puts you to sleep, and somehow managing to be a functioning human being, the weeks fly by. And date night is the last thing on the list of things to do. My husband and I literally made Google calendar invites for date night to make sure we set aside the time!

2. Get a good look at the big picture. 

When we first started looking at houses, I was looking for our dream house while my husband was looking for our starter house. This caused a bit of miscommunication about what the non-negotiables were. Even if you’re able to afford your dream house right now, still do your best to keep your big picture in mind! Flooring can be changed, light fixtures can be updated, and any house can become your home with enough love and work. This is likely the biggest decision you’ve made together, so don’t let tunnel vision creep in.

3. Get a notebook/folder to store allllll of your everything in. 

This is something I wish we did, looking back. There were a few deadlines we missed and fees we had to pay because we were a bit disorganized or never finished that conversation about who was in charge of talking to what utility company. If you keep a central location for all of your information (even if it’s digital), you’ll have a better chance at keeping up with it all!

4. Make sure all your finances are in order. 

Buying a house costs more than just the down payment. There are a billion fees that are tacked onto the purchase, usually totaling anywhere from 2-7% of your total loan amount. And on top of that, you’ve got a bunch of moving expenses, too, from renting a truck to hiring movers. AND I won’t even mention the cost of paint & buying yard equipment & tools… you get the picture. It adds up. Even if you have it all ready and are fully prepared, go over each piece of it together. Every. Step. Of. The. Way. Money is one of the biggest causes of arguments in marriage, and with a large purchase like a home, tension can rise pretty easily. Taking the time to sit down and talk through all the little details of every expense will save you from some arguments down the road!

Having a home to grow in together is a great step for a marriage! Not only can it help you grow closer as a couple, but it can also be a great launching point on which to build the rest of your forever. It’s worth the stress, the many (many) decisions, and the late nights! Because now, you’re on your way to building your home 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.***

Looking for more marriage resources? Click here!

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What They Don’t Tell You About Postpartum Depression

If you feel like something just isn’t right, know that you are not alone.

“Why are you crying?!? What do you need?!?” I pleaded with my baby to somehow answer me. But when she didn’t, my anger quickly morphed into full-on rage. I tried to calm her, every way I knew how, but with slightly more force than was necessary. I shushed her, I swaddled her, I held her on her side, I gave her a paci to suck, I swung her… all with a rigid, almost robotic motion. She screamed louder.

postpartum-depression
Source: sassyzeni via imgur

“I just checked your diaper!” I yelled. But I figured I’d check it again because we’d been at this “witching hour” for a while now. I was so beyond angry and overwhelmed that I could have thrown her across the room.

And then it hit me.

This isn’t how you treat a helpless newborn baby. This isn’t normal. A baby’s cries shouldn’t make you so angry, so full of rage. The guilt set in and after I finally got her calmed down, I collapsed into a pit of despair. I melted to the floor, a wave of intense darkness washed over me and the negative intrusive thoughts that followed marinated in my mind before I even understood what I was thinking.

You are a horrible mom. You’re not good enough. You can’t even figure out what your own child needs. You are a failure. I wanted to crawl into bed, escape everything with precious sleep. I wanted to pack my bags, get in my car and never look back. They’d be better off without you. They’d be happier. 

I was paralyzed. My body so heavy, so weighed down by the enormity of the invisible load of motherhood, by sleep deprivation, by the loss of control, by a state of utter exhaustion, rage, guilt and defeat.

No one really knew what was happening with me. I hid it pretty well. I only let my rage show in the middle of the night when I was up for midnight nursing session and everyone else was sound asleep. My husband thought my increased irritability during the day was a symptom of sleep deprivation, which I’m sure it was… but it was so much more.

I actually never knew rage could be a symptom of Postpartum Depression (PPD). But after having thoughts of legitimately longing to abandon my family, I did a quick google search and discovered, sure enough, it was. (Check out this resource on postpartum rage, too!)

What They Don’t Tell You About PPD

Postpartum Depression isn’t cookie-cutter. It doesn’t always happen right after you have a baby. For me, it presented about a week after my postpartum checkup where, per the norm, they had me take the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale questionnaire. I happily circled answers that made it seem like this parenting thing was a breeze. So I flew right under the radar. Maybe I was in denial, or maybe my symptoms hadn’t reared their ugly heads yet.

PPD also doesn’t always consume your every waking moment. I actually had good days. This threw me off so much. I thought PPD was supposed to consume your life 24/7. What I didn’t know is that it is totally normal to have a good week, then a bad week. Or a good two weeks and a bad weekend. Or a good day and a bad month. Symptoms fluctuate with your circumstances.

But here’s how I knew I needed help:

  • I didn’t feel connected. To my baby, to my spouse, to myself. But especially to my baby. Through the endless days and nights of constantly trying to calm a screaming child, I wasn’t able to just ENJOY her. I felt so disconnected and detached from her. Instead of feeling a bond, I just felt resentment.
  • I was easily irritated and angered. As I mentioned previously, my anger turned into rage as the days passed by. The littlest things would set me off like the sound of my dog’s toenails clip-clip-clipping against the hardwood floor. Or the sound of the dishwasher running while I tried to have a conversation.
  • So many mood swings. One minute I felt fine, and then out of the blue, I’d be drowning in anxiety or flying off the handle with rage or sobbing uncontrollably. It started getting to the point where it interfered with my ability to function.
  • I lost interest in everything. I didn’t want to do anything, with anyone, anywhere. I started feeling like nothing mattered and it would just be better to stay in, where I didn’t have to pretend to care.
  • I wanted to escape. I didn’t want to be a mom anymore. I wanted to drive in a car and never return. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to somehow leave my overwhelming life.
  • I thought my own children and husband would be better off without me. This was when I KNEW something was wrong. I could justify all the other symptoms, say they weren’t that bad, that maybe I was just exhausted and it was the sleep deprivation… but thinking your family would be better off without you… That is NOT a normal thought.

Admitting the reality of the severity of my symptoms was embarrassing.

I felt so much shame and regret for all the rage I had. But luckily my husband and family were supportive. I decided it was imperative to seek professional help. However, the thought of seeing a therapist was extremely intimidating. I felt scared that they’d laugh and say, “Hunny, welcome to parenthood. Suck it up!” But, I faced that fear and after attending therapy and starting medication, my world changed. Suddenly all the obstacles that looked like insurmountable mountains, dwindled into hills that were easily scalable. Through therapy, I learned coping strategies to combat intrusive thoughts and handle my triggers. And eventually I started feeling more like myself.

NOTE:

If you feel like something just isn’t right, know that you are not alone. In fact, 1 in 7 women experience Postpartum Depression. It can affect any woman, regardless of income, age, race, culture or education. And it is NOT your fault. Please, don’t try and face it alone. Reach out to a loved one, join an online support group or schedule an appointment with a medical professional.

***For more resources on Postpartum Mental Health, check out: Postpartum Support International. You can also call the PSI Helpline at: 1-800-944-4773 (#1 En Español or #2 English) or TEXT: 503-894-9453 (English) or 971-420-0294 (Español)***

***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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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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What to Do When You Don’t Really Like Your In-Laws

If you want to try to have a good relationship with them, this is for you.

In-laws are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. They might blow through boundaries. Your in-laws might meddle in your marriage. You might even be having a hard time living with your in-laws. Possibly, they’re totally toxic. This isn’t about any of those things.

Sometimes, your in-laws are just difficult to get along with. But you want to try to have a good relationship with them.

After a few years of marriage (or less), you soon realize saying “yes” to forever with your spouse really did mean saying “yes” to forever with their family, as well as uncomfortable holidays and long weekends filled with awkward situations and tension for as long as you both shall live.

You want to like your in-laws. You’ve tried to like them. But you don’t. 

So, what do you do? How do you get along with people you don’t really like?

First of all, did you notice I said “get along with” and not “like?”

The truth is, you may never like your in-laws. And that’s totally fine. You don’t have to. It’s just important to keep the drama and the tension to a minimum as much as you can for the sake of your spouse and your children (if you have them). Even though you formed a new family when you were married, your in-laws are the reason you have your spouse and a new family to begin with. If nothing else, try to respect them for giving you your spouse. 

Secondly, be as empathetic as possible.

Maybe your mother-in-law is mega passive-aggressive and a little odd, and your father-in-law is just kind of a jerk all the time. TRY (keyword here) to look past their glaring flaws and put yourself in their shoes. For instance, your mother-in-law may be passive-aggressive because she really just wants to spend more time with you but doesn’t know how to say it. Maybe she’s even a little intimidated by you. (Note: If you’re the daughter-in-law, this is NOT uncommon… I mean, you did take her place as the prioritized woman in her son’s life. Forever.) 

And, maybe your father-in-law is a little unhappy with himself or unfulfilled in his life. Maybe they’re both a little off because their marriage and relationships aren’t as healthy as they used to be and they have some resentment and anger to work through. Being empathetic doesn’t mean you excuse their behavior. It just means you take a different approach to understand their motives and actions.

Third, tell your spouse about your uneasy feelings, but remember you’re talking about their parents. 

Be vulnerable and open with your spouse every chance you get. But, when it comes to talking about their parents, keep in mind that there’s a fine line between stating your feelings and being critical of their family. It’s okay to say, “I felt sad when I heard your dad talk to your mom in that tone of voice.” It’s not okay to say, “Your dad is a total jerkface. I can’t believe your mom has stayed with him this long.” 

Be sensitive. The truth is, your spouse more than likely already knows there are some odd bits about their parents. They did live with them during their most formative years. 

What's Your Communication Style With Your Spouse?

Fourth, set those boundaries with a smile.

You and your spouse want to start a new tradition around the holidays, but your in-laws insist that you come to visit them. Kindly and firmly say, “No.” If you want your in-laws to call before dropping by, tell them! Maybe you would prefer that your father-in-law not watch certain shows around your children. Let. Him. Know. Setting boundaries keeps things nice and tidy and leaves the guesswork off the table. 

ALSO, and this is very important, each spouse should set boundaries with their own family. So, you talk to your family, and your spouse talks to their family. It’s much easier for a parent to have a potentially dicey conversation with their child than with their in-law.

IF your in-laws don’t like one of your boundaries, and they throw a big fit, let them. You do you and what’s best for your family. If they get so mad that they never want to see you or speak to you again, then that boundary worked out more in your favor than you ever imagined it could. (Jk. Jk.) But, seriously. You can’t change or control their reaction. If they act immaturely about it, it’s not your fault. That’s their issue.

Fifth, different doesn’t mean wrong.

Everyone’s family has a certain way of doing things. It’s totally natural and normal for your in-laws to do things differently than what you’re used to, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And it also doesn’t mean you’re wrong. It just means you’re different. For example, you grew up having a big feast on Thanksgiving. Your mom made awesome cinnamon rolls and a giant fruit tray, and your dad made the best omelets you’ve ever tasted. But, your in-laws go to McDonald’s and grab Egg McMuffins. It may seem weird to you, and not as fun or exciting, but it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It’s just their way of doing things. Accept them for who they are and try not to look down on them for not living up to your standards or expectations.

Last but not least, texts go both ways.

Pursue your in-laws. That’s right. You heard me. Be friendly to them. Make an effort. They’re your family, too. Sending a text every now and again to check in won’t hurt you, and you know it’ll make them feel loved (even if you don’t like them). Send them cards on their birthdays. Invite them to big celebrations in your life. Let them learn more about you and your life. Who knows? You may just influence them to be a little more likable.

Marriage is hard and family is complicated. Both take a lot of work, but the reward of deep, meaningful connection is so worth it in the end. While you may never reach a level of relational bliss with your in-laws, these six guidelines should keep the drama to a minimum and maintain peace in your marriage.

Other blogs you may find helpful:

***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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If you have multiple children with different personalities, is it possible to parent them all the same way?

Even if you just have two kids, you know the pressure to treat them both the same.

I am the proud parent of three smart, handsome, curious sons and often refer to them as “The Boys.” It would be so very tempting and easy to parent them exactly the same way and to make the three of them conform to me. Yes, they are all my sons, but each one of them is a fearfully and wonderfully made individual.

I attempted the “all-for-one” parenting style for a while. The rules and consequences were the same for all. Bedtimes were the same for all. I had an interesting encounter with my then 5-year-old son where he asked me why his 14-year-old brother got to sleep downstairs, and he had to sleep upstairs with us.

This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road in parenting.

I recognized that I have three sons in three different stages of life. The recognition that I have to communicate, discipline, and spend time with each of them differently caused me to become Three Parents: Advisor Mom for my oldest; Relator Mom for my middle son and Hands-On Mom for my youngest. I now try to meet the individual needs of each of my children, and worry less about what they consider “fair.” I have become the parent that they need instead of the “throw noodles on the wall and see what sticks” parent.

In order to become the best parent they need, I use the following steps:

  1. Know your child:
    I am very clear on who they are. Each of them has their own likes, dislikes, and aspirations. I am able to recognize their moods – when they are hungry, sad, or just need time alone. I spend time with each of them. I would take my oldest grocery shopping with me. He was leaving for college and I wanted to teach him about shopping and meal planning. My middle son and I talk as I drive him to school. My youngest wants to watch movies with me while he holds my hand. I am being three parents all at the same time.
  2. Don’t compare your children to each other:
    As a young person, I was compared to another family member. As a result, I vowed to see the unique value that each of my sons brings to the world. I am conscious not to say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” We often have children who make parenting them seem ‘easy’ because they are compliant or have an easy-going disposition, while your other child is defiant, stubborn or moody. It is natural to want them all to be the same, but it’s not realistic.
  3. Realize that this parenting style takes time, energy, insight, effort, and adaptability:
    Using this approach to parenting will make you tired. It takes time and effort. It takes time responding to individual needs rather than reacting to the tyranny of the urgent and just reaching into my parenting bag of tricks.

My life as a parent is full.

I may feel pulled in several different directions, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I see my sons growing into the young men that they were created to be. This job of parenting may require me to have three different personalities, but the end result is worth it.

For more resources, see our Parents & Families page here.

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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.

Not long ago, I wrote a provocative column concerning men and marriageability. At the end I asked, “What will we do to help our boys succeed in life and relationships?” The good news is, we can do all kinds of things to ensure that boys and girls have the same opportunities in education, earning potential and life in general.  

Many researchers believe that the educational system itself plays a large role in how well boys do or don’t fare. Others cite technology and video games, the breakdown of the family, the focus on women’s equality or the lack of positive male role models as reasons – just to name a few. The reality is that ALL of these things contribute to whether boys succeed or fail. 

Will Honeycutt, assistant director of counseling at The McCallie School for Boys, believes that technology plays a role in disconnecting boys from real life. Whether it’s binge-watching episodes of Game of Thrones over a weekend, playing video games or being entrenched in social media, technology is isolating boys from valuable experiences, interacting with others, engaging in conversation, learning emotional regulation and figuring out who they are as a person.

So, how can we help boys thrive in an ever-changing culture? 

Troy Kemp, executive director for The National Center for the Development of Boys in Chattanooga, Tenn., has some ideas we can use, whether at home or in the community. 

BOYS AND GIRLS ARE NOT THE SAME

Boys are different than girls – not better than – but different. Their bodies and brains mature differently, and they take in and process information differently. Boys and girls have varying strengths and weaknesses. 

Research shows that teaching in educational settings leans heavily toward the strengths of the female brain, so actively addressing variety in learning styles and responses is a great place to start. Teachers can choose reading materials to reflect the interests of boys. Boys need to be surrounded by positive influences that will help them break through the popular culture’s narrow definition of manhood, and having more male teachers in the classroom would be a step in the right direction. 

WHAT ABOUT AT HOME?

Kemp feels that parents need to educate themselves about how boys (and others who wiggle) learn best and what intrinsically motivates them. Boys need examples of excellence, and using words and visuals can help them see things more fully and hold their attention. It is important that we don’t automatically assume boys aren’t trying if they don’t respond the way we want or expect. It may be possible that we didn’t clearly express our expectations, which may be very different from theirs.

According to Kemp, boys also need to develop a proper vision for manhood and masculinity. In order to achieve that vision, they need to be exposed to male mentors who are balanced in their approach to life, learning, unconditional love and emotions. Having a community of men who are behind them makes a great impact and prepares them to mentor others. 

“Boys need a crew and a cause,” says Kemp. “They need to know someone is counting on them and they can count on others. Boys need to know what is important to them is also important to parents…especially their fathers.”

If you’re a father, get on your son’s level and don’t discount what is important to him. Give him choices within the choices you approve.

Parents can model responsibility and healthy relationships with technology and everything else. 

  • Count the number of hours boys are in front of screens. Excessive amounts of screen time for children, especially boys, can be detrimental to healthy brain development. 
  • Make sure they are getting at least two hours of physical exercise every day. Don’t pull your son from a team or group if his grades drop. Work with the coach or group leader and use their power and influence.
  • Be intentional about teaching and modeling the qualities of healthy relationships and don’t assume they know what unhealthy looks like. 
  • Drive-time is a great time for conversation about what a lot of teens consider awkward topics. That way, nobody is looking at facial expressions. You can make it a media-free moment, too.
  • Take advantage of current situations. Talk about accountability and responsibility. Include healthy ways to handle anger or disappointment and treating people with respect who are disrespectful to you. 
  • Point them toward healthy role models beyond Mom and Dad – coaches, trusted friends and relatives – so they have more than their parents speaking into their lives and encouraging them on their journey into adulthood.
  • Spend one-on-one time with your child. Let them set the agenda for your time together. Fathers, try reading to and with your children. 
  • Volunteer together as a family. Go on a mission trip, help out at a local nonprofit or do something that involves giving to others. There is a real chemical reaction in the brain when we help others in need. It makes us feel good and makes us want to do more acts of kindness.

All of these things combined can help boys thrive in school and in life.

Boys with a strong support system have a foundation to build upon as they enter manhood and make wise decisions about their future.

Image from Unsplash.com