Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

Couple Therapy For One Please

posted by Linda Mintle

Susan’s marital distress reached a tipping point, leading her to see a marital therapist. Her chief complaint was that her husband refuses to change, blames her for all the family problems, doesn’t hold a steady job and rarely takes responsibility for his behavior. He is constantly late to family events, forms unhealthy alliances with their children and responds to confrontation with anger and entitlement. The problem is he won’t come to therapy.

While I prefer to see both spouses for couple therapy, couple work with one person is possible and effective. In practice, not all spouses are available or motivated to attend sessions. Couple  therapy, however, is not constricted to both partners attending, but rather involves a systems mindset applied to the work conducted with the person present.

The work involves helping the person observe his or her role in the couple process and changing unhealthy patterns by changing the client’s step in the couple dance. And nothing like an affair, lying or abuse can be on-going.

Ever since Adam first blamed Eve and Sarai accused Abram of being the cause of her suffering (Gen 16:5), people continue to stubbornly avoid personal responsibility in the context of relationships. Our natural bent is to blame others rather than “take the beam out of our own eye”.  Couple therapy with one person helps people take personal responsibility, focus on their own hearts and mind, and control the one thing they can control—their own reactions to others.

Ultimately, God holds each of us accountable for our part in our interpersonal relationships. He does not excuse us based on the unhealthy reactions of others. Thus, this type of therapy, which focuses on your reactions to unhealthy patterns fits beautifully with a biblical frame of personal accountability and responsibility.

So if your partner refuses to go to couple therapy, you go. Work on your behavior, conflict management and relationships skills and see what a difference this type of focus makes in the relationship. You can’t change another person but you can change you. And when you change you, the relationship does change. However, you need to find a therapist who understands the systems approach to couple work, and not a therapist who only deals with individuals.

 

More marital help, I Married You, Not Your Family by Dr. Linda Mintle (click on the link at the right More Books By Dr. Mintle)

 

A Tall Order: Bless Those Who Curse You

posted by Linda Mintle

This week I have had the opportunity to practice what I consider one of the most difficult passages in the Bible. It is found in Matthew 5: 43-48 (NIV). Jesus tells us how to treat those who curse us –something impossible to do in the natural.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

When I read this passage, I think of the story of Corrrie ten Boom who after one of her lectures on grace, shook hands with a former prison guard from the Nazi concentration camps where her family was killed. What grace it took to shake the hand of the one who was her enemy and cursed her family. My encounter this week was nothing on this scale, but words of cursing, rejection and incredible arrogance were spoken. And Jesus expects me to follow that same directive–bless those who curse.

So what does that look like? How do I pray for someone who curses? The context of the passage seems to say, pray good things for that person who did wrong. I am to leave my vengeance for God and approach this unloving person with the same love God approaches me.

Are any of you challenged by this? I certainly am.

So I cry out to God and say, “You know what happened. Your love can conqueror my unloving heart. I am to reflect you in all I do. Help me to give it completely to you and love.

It is easy to love those who are like us, who are on our side and treat us with respect. The challenge is to love our enemies, those who curse us, persecute us and spitefully use us.

Jesus tells us to bring those who curse us to the Father in prayer. Because we are the righteousness of God, we don’t allow those who treat us poorly to determine how we treat them. Instead, as we receive His love, we love others. It is only through God’s grace that my heart can be transformed.

To bless a person doesn’t mean I have to like what he did. But I do have to love him, pray the blessings of God in his life. To bless means I pray for complete restoration and all that God has for this person.

So Lord, hear my prayer. I desire to be more like you. Help me bless those who curse me. Help me show your character in this situation, to be more concerned about being your child and emulating my Father, than being right or getting back at someone. I can pray for that person as Jesus did, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24). I can choose to love, not by my own power, but by yours.

 

Later Life Divorce: Why Boomers Are Calling It Quits

posted by Linda Mintle

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, The Gray Divorce” brought attention to a growing trend–divorce after 50. The article reported that for people 50 or older, the divorce rate has doubled in he past two decades. At a time when the overall divorce rate is actually declining, what is up with baby boomers?

While the answer is complex, the article notes that boomers are the first generation to focus on self-fulfillment. When the kids are gone, a spouse may look at her current situation and decide she doesn’t want what she currently has for the next 20 plus years. The AARP found that women are the ones initiating more of these later life divorces. Economically, women have more options these days and are less reluctant to leave an unfulfilled relationship.

Other explanations include:

1) People are living longer so divorce becomes an option. Instead of dying, people are divorcing.

2) Happiness needs override commitment.The Me focus of this generation has many boomers feeling their mortality and wanting to get more out of their lives. Divorce becomes an option to that need fulfillment.

3) Personal needs are defining marriage. In the past, role fulfillment was more of a definition. Being a good mother/father was valued over getting individual needs met.

4) Those divorcing (53%) have divorced before and we know from numerous studies that second marriages are high on the risk scale for divorce.

Marriage is being impacted by a change in cultural thinking. When happiness, not covenant is the goal, couples find ways to end marriages in order to pursue individual happiness. But does one preclude the other? I would argue that even in unhappy marriages, the skills to make the marriage better are available and can be applied to trouble marriages. However, people must choose to work on those marriages, not get out. If they are willing to turn towards each other, face their issues together and work with a therapist, happiness can be achieved.

Do we know how to help couples who are unhappy in later life marriages? Yes, but you must choose to work on a relationship instead of ending it.

 

To guard against divorce, get Dr. Mintle’s book, I Married You, Not Your Family. Click the link on the right, More Links by Dr. Mintle

 

Problems? Take the God Challenge

posted by Linda Mintle

I was very challenged today by my devotional reading in Jesus Calling. The entry focused on how we approach problems when they arise. Our human tendency is to get upset. panic or worry, and become distrusting of God. We question why problems have to happen or even become angry when they do. The last thing most of us do is thank God for the difficulty and trust Him to work good out of it. Yet, that is exactly what the Word of God says.

Remember the Andre Crouch song, Through It All?

“I thank God for the mountains,
and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He brought me through.
For if I’d never had a problem,
I wouldn’t know God could solve them,
I’d never know what faith in God could do.”

Do we thank God for the valleys? Do we trust that God uses EVERYTHING in our lives to bring about His good? Do we see problems as transforming possibilities?

Do we take a step and actually befriend our problems as Sarah Young (Jesus Calling) suggests. Name the problem, thank God for it and then trust God to bring good from it. She doesn’t say God will remove all our problems, but does believe that God uses all our problems to do work in us. This position is grounded in Romans 8:28–We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose (AMP).

So today, if you face a relationship problem, are you befriending the problem? Are you giving it to God and trusting Him to work it for your good? Are you trusting His wisdom? Let’s take the challenge and see what God does.

 

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