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Need a Marriage Makeover?

By Lisa M. Tait

“What can I do to save my marriage?” As a counselor, this is the most frequently asked question that I encounter. If you take seriously the covenant of marriage between a husband, wife and God, it is painful to even consider divorce as an option. So, what can couples do to bridge the gap left in their marriages from issues of infidelity, loss of trust, abandonment, neglect, abuse, fatigue, financial hardship, harmful addictions, etc. What do you do when the pain of remaining with someone is so overwhelming that divorce seems like the only escape to peace and sanity?

First, let’s identify key issues that make researchers conclude that between 40% and 60% of new marriages will eventually end in divorce. (Brian K. Williams, Stacy C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2005). One of the glaring problems is that our society teaches us that everything and everyone in our lives requires work and maintenance except our marriages. Hollywood has hoodwinked us into believing that once we say “I Do”, everything will fall magically into place and we will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

We all recognize that owning a home requires constant maintenance and a regular financial investment. We bring children into the world and we automatically shift into parent mode providing for their needs and carefully crafting a future for them. We even purchase automobiles and diligently change the oil, follow a prescribed maintenance plan, and secure the proper insurance. However when it comes to marriage we put our lives on autopilot and assume that somehow things will work themselves out. My mother used to tell me, “Whatever you did to get him, you got to do the same thing to keep him.” I’ve often reminisced about the amount of work I put into my relationship while dating. I never wanted to appear in a negative light. I went out of my way to be supportive and flattering. You get the point!

Your marriage must become sacred, precious, and a top priority.

God thought so much of marriage that he created a wife specifically for Adam so that he would not be alone. If the enemy can destroy our marriages he can destroy our families. Children of divorced parents lack a Godly example of a two-parent, loving, spirit-filled home. Many of us wonder why our children end their marriages in divorce once they have matured, but we failed to recognize that a generational curse has been introduced into our families. We allow our children to hear us talk negatively about their other parent. They see us verbally (and sometimes physically) assault one another.

We must end the attack on our marriages and families and change the discouraging statistics! What can you do to be proactive about keeping your marriage and family healthy? Here are a few biblically-based steps to help you “divorce-proof” your marriage and protect your family:

Create a Marriage Plan. The purpose of a written marriage plan is to provide direction, content, structure and purpose to your marriage. Just as you, as an individual, have a God ordained purpose, so does your marriage. If you’re not certain what that purpose is, pray about it, then talk to your spouse. Reassess your gifts and abilities and share your heart’s passion until God’s purpose is crystal clear. Then write it down as a mission or vision statement (Habakkuk 2:2-3) for your marriage. What do you want to accomplish together (e.g., successfully rear our children, finish our degrees, start a business, work together in ministry, write a book, own property, etc).

Cultivate Your Love Life. Marriage takes work. This work isn’t one-sided but the load is equally shared; which makes it seem much lighter (Eph. 5: 22-25). Work on how you talk to one another. Use love language that is certain to affirm, build up, and support your spouse. Set aside a date night once a week or twice a month. Find a sitter and spend time alone simply sharing your dreams. Take vacations together and remember that little things (e.g., a home cooked meal, a single flower, a massage, an encouraging word) mean a lot.

Center Your Marriage In Christ. A relationship devoid of Christ is a relationship headed for divorce. The trials and tribulations that you face daily, coupled with the reality that your spouse, as well as you, are flawed human beings, is enough to end the strongest marriage. Never forget that your marriage vows included a covenant with God; and with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). Continue to invite God into your marriage to guide, comfort, protect and keep you and your spouse.

I hope you will begin taking the necessary steps to fortify your marriage “before” and not “after” any breakdown. Value the gift of marriage and family, recognizing that there are many people who would love to be married with children. Remember, marriage will work if you work at it!

– Lisa M. Tait, M.A., M.Div., D.Min., serves as an Adjunct Professor at the ITC, a pastoral counselor and co-host of Relationship Thursday on Praise 102.5 FM (Radio One). She is author of Women of Destiny: Five Principles For Pursuing Your Purpose in God. Visit her at http://www.drtait.com

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SUCCESSFULLY SINGLE |Relationships Can Make or Break You!

By Michelle Mckinney Hammond

Because you were created to connect to others your relationships can make or break you. “Right” associations can empower you to make good choices that cause you to flourish; conversely, “wrong” associations can send you down the wide garden path to destruction. Your relationships affect your balance, outlook, and attitude toward life; they also color your actions, which can work for or against you. Relation- ships are a pillar of support; you can’t live without them.

There are three areas of relationship that solidify the foundation of your life and fortify you to stand no matter what elements or circumstances confront you:  Your relationship with God, Your relationship with yourself, Your interpersonal relationships with your mate, family, friends, co-workers, and associates.

Only after having a relationship with God can you have the type of relationship with yourself to produce fruitful relationships with others. You cannot love what you don’t know (whether that’s God or yourself). Being able to truthfully assess yourself in light of what God has said about you helps you know your strengths and weaknesses and what you have to offer to the world at large. Knowing that you are a gift to the universe and the specifics of that capacity puts a smile on your face, a pep in your step and a generosity in your heart that cannot be worked up or purchased.

Jesus’ commandment to “love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30), is essen- tial; as well, His next commandment—“love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) is just as critical. It implies that you must first love you! Not in a self-involved, self consumed, narcissistic way, but in a way that exudes that you are accept- ing of who you are and the way God created you. You are alright with the world and at peace with yourself; you like the skin you are in and have a healthy understanding of your own personal value. I have a friend who once told me, “If I met myself walk- ing down the street, I would want to be my friend.” I recall thinking at the time what an awesome concept that was to have such a healthy appreciation of yourself that you could say such a thing! (I was certainly not there at the time.)

Amazing and fruitful relationships with others begin with your relationship with yourself. If you know and love your- self you will have no problem loving others. Everyone wants to be around someone who encourages and celebrates them. If you don’t know or love yourself, you will be much more prone to criticize others. Discomfort with yourself can be felt by others, and will only deepen your rejection complex, because others will likely shun you; they might not even know why. Most people just have the instinct to avoid those who are not happy campers.

Let’s face it. Everyone struggles with issues in life and people are always looking for a happy distraction. Depending on where you are with yourself, you might be- come someone’s pleasant diversion. Knowing yourself, being honest about what you need to fix, tighten up or overhaul as well as appreciating the attractive features of who you are prepares you to be a major contributor to others. Loving yourself but at the same time being totally “over” yourself releases you to reach out to others in healing ways that build them up until they are healthy enough to do the same thing for others.

Everyone you touch should be the better for it, including family members, co-workers, neighbors (do you even know them?), and those you encounter daily. A good example to emulate is Dorcas (or Tabitha), who was so loving and caring that when she died the women gathered to mourn her death and rehearse her good deeds. (Acts 9:36) They were so deeply stricken and grieved by her passing that that they sent for one of the apostles, and when he came he was moved to raise her back to life! Now that’s what I’m talking about! Dorcas affected people’s lives so deeply and made such a great deposit that others couldn’t bear to be without her. In a sense, what you do for others will bring you back to life.

Your family is the training ground for all your other relationships. Family is the base of the pillar; friends and co- workers form the extension. Your relationships with others will only be as good as those that establish and define you from the very beginning of your life. Your life partner is your crown. This relationship will only be as secure as your other relationships beneath it.  Not only does your life partner “name” and “define” you in a sense, this person has the power to strengthen or weaken you; build you up or tear you down; and propel you into your destiny or rob you of it. This is the person you sleep with and is joined to you supernaturally.

The intimacy between you and your partner creates a bond more powerful than any other relationship you will have on the face of the earth. The sexual union surpasses the bond of your parents who had a hand in creating, birthing and nurturing you, because you literally become one with another human being. This creates a soul tie that connects and binds. Should this covenant connection be severed, it is almost like an amputation. The pangs of your missing partner are felt long after their departure. This is called “phantom pain”—similar to when a physical limb is removed. The commitment to “for- ever and ever, amen” is remembered by the soul long after it has been abandoned by the intellect. You are expected to leave mother and father and cleave to your mate—becoming one—in a connection that was not meant to be severed. (Gen. 2:24) A covenant union is so intense that when built according to the Manufacturer’s design it should empower both part- ners to be more effective and fruitful than ever before. Make rich relationships a priority, because they will ulti- mately affect the quality of your life and how it works over- all.

Remember, every success and failure you have in life will ultimately be traced back to a relationship, therefore, choose them carefully.

– Michelle Mckinney Hammond is a popular speaker, singer, and bestselling author. Her underlying message is “get yourself in spiritual order and your natural life will come together.” Visit her at MichelleHammond.com.