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Doing Life Together

ID-100112057Mom and dad are fighting. Mom turns to you and says, “Your father is unreasonable. Tell him he is being impossible right now.” You think, “Dad is being unreasonable. I see mom’s point. Should I say something and support her right now?”

No, resist. The fight doesn’t involve you, but suddenly you are brought into the conflict between mom and dad. This creates an unhealthy triangle–two people have a conflict, but now a third person is brought in to reduce the tension or stabilize the interaction.

Family triangles form when two people (mom and dad) stop relating directly to each other and a third party (you)  is brought in between them in order to reduce the immediate anxiety or tension. This is not a position you want to be in as it prevents the two people with the conflict from talking and resolving the issue. This “triangulation” puts the third party in an uncomfortable position to take sides in an issues that really isn’t about him or her.

When you are the third person in an unhealthy family triangle, your job is to detriangulate yourself out of the conflict. Get out of the middle in order to force two people to deal directly with each other. Refuse to take sides and push the two people involved back to each other. This will feel uncomfortable because pulling in the third person is an attempt to reduce tension. But refuse to be that third point of a two person conflict no matter how uncomfortable it feels. For example, you could say, “Mom this is between you and dad and I really don’t want to get involved. It’s better for you and dad to work it out.”

The forming of family triangles often prevents family members from working out their conflicts directly, a skill necessary to develop intimacy and grow in a relationship. So if you find yourself being pulled into a family conflict that doesn’t involve you directly, push the problem back to the two people involved. Don’t be tempted to solve it or take sides, as this will not help the two people involved learn to deal with each other directly. And being the third person in a two-person conflict can negatively impact your relationship with one or both of the two people as well.

So if you see an unhealthy triangle forming, refuse to be put in the middle. Lovingly say, “I’m not going to get involved in a problem that really doesn’t involve me. I think you two should work it out with each other.”

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coupleWhat happens when one person in a couple has more of a desire for the frequency of sex than the other. Is it some deep hidden emotional problem that only Freud could understand?

First, consider biochemistry and the role of testosterone. This steroid hormone produced by both sexes correlates strongly with desire. After initial infatuation, a low testosterone woman can feel sexually disinterested. Testosterone levels play an important part in on-going desire. If you are a high testosterone (“T”) person married to a low “T,” you may have problems.

Additionally, the key for most couples isn’t about having the same sex drive or being in sync with each other every time desire is felt. It is about negotiation the times when one initiates and the other refuses. What is usually needed is each spouse making an effort to meet the other’s need. Michele Weiner Davis in her book, The Sex-Starved Marriage,   says that a reluctant spouse can make a decision for desire. That when couples prioritize their sex life and put energy into it by flirting, complimenting and being nice, things go better. In fact, many partners who are not in the mood, get in the mood with a little prompting. The key is to stay open and receptive.

So, the most important thing to remember is not what is normal in terms of frequency, but how satisfied you are as a couple with your sex life. Dissatisfaction and disconnection can lead to problems and should be discussed. Sexual difficulties can be triggered by physical, emotional or even stress problems. Thus, getting to the root of dissatisfaction is important. Things like busyness, boredom, childhood trauma, stress reactions, aging and a host of other issues can lead to sexual difficulties and become points of contention.

Couples are often hesitant to bring up the subject of their sex lives even when both may be dissatisfied. However, it is important to start talking, sleep in the same bed together, show physical affection to each other during nonsexual times and make time for intimacy. If you find yourself unable to make changes or even have a conversation about your sex life, consider getting professional help from a therapist who specializes in sex therapy. Doing nothing only continues the dissatisfied and puts the marriage at risk.

Except from We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle

 

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ID-10070272David sat in my office confused. “I know we’ve had lots of family problems. My wife is mad at me for all kinds of reasons and some of them are legitimate. But I am trying to do nice things for my wife. Honestly, it doesn’t seem to matter. She doesn’t even notice. I don’t get it.”

David fails to see that the overall negativity of his relationship cancels out the good when it happens. I know that doesn’t sound fair, but an on-going negative relationship depletes the positives over time.

For example, in an overall positive relationship, if a husband comes home and forgets to bring the bread for dinner, the wife would probably think,”Oh, he must have had a lot on his mind and just forgot. No worries. We can do without bread.”

But if that same relationship is already very negative and the same thing happened, the wife would think, “See, he only thinks of himself. I can’t depend on him.”

In fact, research tells us that 50% of positive gestures go unrecognized in couples characterized by negativity. The reason–there is too much negativity in the bank. Even neutral actions are seen as negative.

So what can you do?

Go back to the basics. Work on the marital friendship, show admiration and respect for your partner, and most of all, be there when he or she tries to connect with you.

The challenge is to deposit positives into that emotional bank account. Over time, you can turn it around. But you have to be intentional. Pray for a change of heart and for your spouse to be responsive to your continued efforts.

Keep down the criticism, defensiveness and disrespect towards one another. Don’t turn away when frustrated. Stay present, calm yourself and talk.

Point out the positives about each other. Remember why you got together in the first place and try to recapture some of that good feeling! Be patient and eventually things will turn around, but you may need help restoring that friendship and expressing fondness. Afterall, it was probably the erosion of the positives that created the negativity you now experience.

For more help, We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle

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ID-100358653I teach millennials. One of the most common things I hear is that they don’t want to judge anyone. While that sounds good on one level, it is also a problem on another. What I see is a misapplication of a biblical view of judgment.

Here is an example. A group of millennials were talking about their friends who co-habitate and claim to be Christians. The Bible is very clear that this is sin despite the wide acceptance of this practice in the larger culture. When I asked if any of them ever discussed the biblical view of co-habitation given their purported Christian faith, the answer given was, “I don’t want to judge them. Hey, we are all sinners. “The  verse that was quoted was Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” This scripture is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and is widely used to justify tolerance.

But Jesus is not saying that we aren’t to judge what is sin or call sin sin. He is talking about hypocrisy. In other words, if you can’t adhere to biblical standards, you have no business calling others out.

In Matthew 7, Jesus is telling us to first look at our own behavior before we are even qualified to look at what others do. “Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? … You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” (7:3, 5). Without this self-examination and repenting of our own sin, it is wrong to call others out. Remove the hypocrisy.

Judgment also infers that we are deciding if something is good or bad. We don’t remain indifferent to sin. If we never make this decision, we can’t function as a society. We would be in chaos.

Thus, the importance of Matthew 7 is to warn us to examine ourselves first, to be in right relationship with God in terms of HIs commands. Then we are in a position to talk with others about sinful or problem behavior. But this is a tall order, as none of us is without sin. So the focus really needs to be on us first, then our brother or sister.

So to my millennials, I say, look at your own issues first, and then it is OK to judge certain behaviors and actions as sin. You might be helping another Christian along the journey.

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