Doing Life Together

couple arguingIf you want to upset your partner, try these tried and true conversation starters or responses. These phrases will get a reaction, mostly, an upsetting one. So think before you speak!

1) We need to talk. Yes, this is the title of my latest book. Even though this conversation starter is often necessary, most people don’t welcome those four words. They usually mean there is a problem, one that I probably don’t want to talk about. So yes, those words may be upsetting but are necessary to grow intimate relationships. Use the phrase. Don’t expect your partner to be delighted! The phrase is unavoidable if you want to work through issues.

2) I may have thrown it away. I don’t remember. Do you really not remember or were you trying to get rid of something you didn’t want in the house? Be honest. Throwing away that prized leather ball, the too-tight college shirt, the tired old coat might have been on purpose but you anticipated a negative reaction. Better to say, “I did throw it away. Are you upset?” And better yet, “I want to throw this away, is that OK?”

3) Would you ever marry if something happened to me, and who would that be? There is no good answer to this question so don’t ask it. If something happens to you, you aren’t around so don’t waste time speculating. And knowing who the person might marry will start you thinking in a direction you don’t want to go. Don’t ask, don’t tell on this one!

4) Are you gaining weight? It’s only OK to ask if you are losing weight, not gaining. Even if you think it, keep it to yourself. If the answer is YES, the person already feels  bad and doesn’t need you to point it out. If the answer is NO, you’ve just told the person he/she looks fat!

5) Admit it, your mother doesn’t like me. Don’t admit it. This is a loaded statement. If your mother doesn’t like the person, encourage him/her to work on the relationship, but suggest this based on the person’s perception, not your opinion. It’s always best to stay out of the middle and encourage the person to work out his or her own relationship struggles. If you need to respond to this, ask what makes the person think that the mother doesn’t like him/her. Explore possible reasons and see what you can do about those reasons.

s child sleepParenting is on John’s mind now that his second child has arrived. John was raised by a father who was harsh and demanding. John often felt as if he could not live up to his father’s expectations. Now a father himself, John is aware that his parenting style is becoming all to similar to his dad’s. He wants to make changes and asks, “What is the best parenting style?

Parenting styles tend to fall in one of four categories: (1) Parents who are authoritarian. These parents have high expectations. Rules are expected to be followed. Authoritarian parents don’t usually give children options and can lack warmth and nurturing. Their approach is, “Do it because I told you so.” (2) Authoritative parents also expect children to follow rules but are much more responsive and democratic in the process. Discipline is supportive rather than punishing. (3) Permissive parents have few demands for the child and rarely discipline. These parents act more like the child’s friend than parent. (4) Uninvolved parents have few demands or involvement. They can also be rejecting or neglecting of a child’s needs.

Researchers have found that parents who are more authoritative in their parenting style have kids with fewer behavior problems, higher academic achievement, and less depression and anxiety. They tend to fare better overall.[i] This means the type A parent’s push for order and getting things done should be balanced with fun, encouragement, and support. The driven type A parent has to be careful to show compassion along the way and understand that success can look different for different kids. The danger with pushing too hard is that children begin to feel they aren’t accepted for who they are and learn to conform to your dreams, not theirs. The best thing is to understand your child’s temperament and help him reach his potential and passion, using a balance of pushing and accepting.


Adapted from We Need to Talk by Linda Mintle (2015, Baker Books)

[i] D. Baumrind, “Child-care Practices Anteceding Three Patterns of Preschool Behavior,” Genetic Psychology Monographs 75 (1967): 43–88.

anxietySusan feels she can’t stop worrying no matter how hard she tries. She’s beginning to wonder if she is a born worry. She is asking, “Can worry be genetic?”

In 2007, Yale researchers found a gene variation associated with chronic worrying and what they call “overthinking.” The discovered “worry gene” is the result of a genetic mutation that predicts a tendency to ruminate (obsess over negative thoughts).[i] In fact, parts of the brain associated with planning, reason and impulse control show increased activity in worriers. [ii]

Areas of the brain are linked along a circuit. The way the brain is wired regulates our response to danger and threatening events. For some people, that circuitry is more activated and causes more anxiety and frustration. This is the case with people who are diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Swedish and German scientists also believe that two genes account for the development of fears that are not easily overcome in some people.[iii] Without overwhelming you with science, the point is that our genetic make-up interacts with the environment, causing some of us to be more susceptible to fear and anxiety.

Knowing this should help you worry less about why you worry! Having said that, I do not want you to worry about your susceptibility to worry! For those of you who do possess those now discovered anxiety genes, it still takes stressful life events to bring worry to the forefront. Having a tendency towards worry does not mean you will automatically become Chicken Little! But you may need to be more intentional when it comes to sending worry packing.


Excepted and adapted from Letting Go of Worry by Dr. Linda Mintle (Harvest House, 2011)

[i][i] Melinda Beck, “When Fretting is in your DNA: Overcoming the worry gene,” Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2008, Health section, Online edition. (accessed March 10, 2010).

[ii] Stefan Hofmann et al., “The Worried Mind: Autonomic and Prefrontal Activation During Worrying,”Emotion 5, no. 4 (2005): 464.

[iii] Tina Lonsdorf et al. “Genetic Gating of Human Fear Learning and Extinction: Possible Implications for Gene-Environment Interaction in Anxiety Disorder,” Psychological Science, 20, no. 2, (2009),


worryWhen Christians are being beheaded in the middle east, when a man shoots people praying in a church, when young girls are taken and forced into sex slavery, when you are falsely accused or ridiculed for your beliefs, it often feels like God is in hiding. The psalmist wondered the same. He begins Psalm 10 by asking, “Why do you stand afar off, Oh Lord? Why do your hide in times of trouble?”

The psalmist sees the wicked prosper, the greedy renounce God and the absence of any thought of God. It appears the Lord is absent. I have felt the same way at times in my life–a diagnosis of cancer, the death of a brother, the wrath of an insecure boss…we could all come up with a list of times when God feels absent.

During seasons of adversity, our trust is tested. It is during those times of adversity that the darkness of our heart is revealed and we appreciate God’s grace even more. Our thoughts are revealed–do we secretly wish harm to the person who is doing the injustice? Is our attitude one of wanting to take the person down or hurt back? Do our emotions of anger and hate get the best of us? Is forgiveness far off?

During trouble, our heart is exposed. Will we respond differently than those who do not claim Christ? Or will we trust God and allow Him to do the work needed in us?

Psalm 10 says that the Lord doesn’t hide or forget us in times of trouble. And while he may not deliver us from the adversity, he observes our troubles and grief and is our helper. He hears our cries and does “justice to the fatherless and the oppressed:that the man of the earth may oppress no more (v18).”

The promise is for His justice. Everyone will answer to God one day. All wrongs will be righted!

So when it appears God is absent, remind yourself He is not. He is working on your behalf even though you don’t see the full picture. Only God has the full perspective–one reason it is so difficult for us to trust. And we prefer to focus only on the people doing the injustice, rather than the work God is doing in our own heart. Yet that is part we control and and can conform to the image of Christ.