Confessions of a Marriage Blogger Part 6: “We don’t stay married for the kids”

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Welcome back to the last installation of our “Confessions of a Marriage Blogger” series.  Thanks to all of those who visited our blogs over the past few weeks Part 5, “I had a mistress” and  Part 4 “Sex is not what we thought it was” and shared it.  It’s become the highest hit post in the past-year-plus of blogging on marriage.

If you’ve missed any of the previous blogs in this series of “Confessions”check out Part 1 “We irritate each other”,  Part 2: “Our kids are for sale”, and Part 3 “This is Not Who I Married!”.

Now back to breaking up the “Ken and Barbie” facade…

Ken and Barbie wedding

Part 6 We don’t stay married for the kids

Divorce sucks. (but I’ll get to that in a bit)

We can find a lot of reasons to do things.  For example, I find reasons to go to Best Buy.  What Toys-r-Us is to my son, Best Buy is to me.  It’s my love for all things technology that keep me going back to look, dream, and occasionally buy. What is it that draws me back to it time after time? It’s a simple answer called “passion.” (It’s at this moment, Kip’s wedding song to Lafawnduh resonates in my head.)

But at some point, the feelings of “passion” do run out. I don’t feel “happy” and therefore, want to go looking for another store to help fulfill the passion of all things technical.

Ministering teens for over a decade gave me exposure to a marital question that, when getting married, I didn’t know existed. “Should people stay married for the sake of the kids?” It’s the assumption that if people do, they will inevitably remain miserable in their marriage. This mindset creates a carousal of insanity that will spin causing everyone to get sick of the ride because there is no progression happening.

What do we do when the fairy tale is over?

Falling in love is easy.  Starting a fairy tale of idealistic relationships is quite simple. I fall in love EVERY time I go to Best Buy (with technology…not another woman).  Staying in love is a whole other matter.  It requires a particular set skills (insert a quote from “Taken”) — relationship skills.  These skills are what develops depth in a relationship that will foster marital longevity and health.  We learn relationship skills from a number of sources as we grow up. Unfortunately, from the earliest of ages, most people don’t have great role models or great examples of marriage.  The divorce rate is proof enough that our marital sources of wisdom are lacking severely. Even if we did have great role models, we might choose a spouse who wasn’t so fortunate.  If we don’t have adequate marital skills — knowing how to communicate, resolve conflict, recreate, co-parent, build on relationship strengths — our relationship with our spouse is going to struggle immensely.

It’s why Anne and I live out a simple TRUTHFeelings follow actions.  Actions do not follow feelings.

We make choices/actions that are the wise movements to make in our marriage and we’ve learned that the feelings will follow.  If we start with our feelings, we never get to the actions.  To many marriage operate on the “I don’t feel like it” mentality and need to act out of love instead of the “feeling” of love.

I still use the line that our “honeymoon hasn’t ended.” But in all truth, our life now looks nothing like the honeymoon season we had.  Admittingly, our “honeymoon” phase ended early with the arrival of our daughter.  We don’t blame her. (It’s not like she had a choice in the matter.)  We planned it and we’re glad we did.  Anne and I wanted kids early as to enjoy them in our youth and be young in our “empty nest” season.  Add onto having children within the first two years, we took our first position, bought our first car, and bought a home.  If you read the last blog, Part 5, “I had a mistress”, you’ll realize we had a marital concoction that had disastrous potential.  Why did we do all of that in the first two-year? Perhaps we needed more stress in our lives.  Perhaps we were young and didn’t know better. But regardless of our intentions, ignorance, or desire for less sleep, there is nothing we can change about our past.

I’ll make it personal: There’s nothing you can change about your pastSome of you reading this are consumed with trying to change that which is unchangeable. It reminds me of what Paul said in the Bible, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” We play the “what if” game.  Regardless on how bad our eyes and how thick our glasses are, our hind-sight is 20/20. We see the past clearly. The regret of the past eats us away like a cancer.  We then insert the pain of our past into the present and drain the joy out of our marriage.  It becomes our focal point.  It becomes our ideal.  We start chasing after, not a new start, but a rekindling of what we think we should have had and/or what we think we deserve because we didn’t get it before. We end up running our marriage aground instead of see it as an opportunity for God to form an image He is seen in.

You come to a decision, for the time being, to stay married…just for your children. You want them to see a mom and dad at home. You think when, their gone, that’s when you’ll pull the divorce trigger. After all, it won’t affect them then. Right?

Anne and I have some great memories and great regrets. We’ve had some seasons of hardship and struggle. We don’t compare ourselves to others. We could compare our pain as well as our successes to other marriage.  But in the end, we will end up either wanting someone else’s marriage or spend so much focusing on others marriages that we neglect our own.

When it boils down to it: We don’t stay married for the kids.  Why? We think being married is worth much more.

If your life has been centered around the children, your marriage is going to greatly struggle when they’re gone.

If you’re assuming you’re going to pick up where your marriage left off when the first child was born, you’re in for a rude awakening.

If you’re staying married just for them, you’re giving them a shallow example of what marriage is really about.

If there is nothing deeper about your marriage than being the parents of your kids, it’s time to get some help.

I love Cammi and Ethan. I love being a dad. But as much as I love them, I love Anne all the more.  They need me to love her more than I do them.  They need to see in us that we are planning on them leaving at 18 years old.  So, therefore, we operate our marriage to last beyond the empty nest.

If you’re staying married just for the kids, it’s time to “dig deep”.  It’s the term we used to use in coaching when you’re dealing with a team that is feeling defeated by the present circumstances of the situation. You may feel like it’s a losing situation. But isn’t time to dig deep. It’s time to dig deep past what’s happened.  It’s time to dig deep under the layers of bitterness.

You may feel your marriage isn’t salvageable…but dig deep.

You may have given up hope years ago…but dig deep.

It’s understandable why someone who is unhappy in their marriage might envision the future to be nothing more than a miserable extension of the past.  Can I speak something simple with some horrible grammar? It ain’t necessary. Marriage is not a machine.  It’s a living being where two lives have become one. Marriages can heal.  YOUR MARRIAGE CAN HEAL! With vision and a desire to change and improve with the proper help, health can revitalize your marriage.

Today I want to give ya some hope.

1 – Patience isn’t only a virtue, it’s a necessity. Like gas in a car, patience is fuel for longevity. Romans 5:3-5 says “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.” Patience does exactly what the paraphrase says, it will forge your marriage into the tempered steel that prepares you for what lies ahead.

2 – Get practical…rekindle the love. As stated before, let your actions proceed feelings.  We’ve relegated “love” to a shallow emotion experienced when times are good.  Love never fails.  Something I learned quite well as a boy.  A fire, not tended to, will fade and go out.  It must be fed.  It must be stoked. It must be cared for.  You may not feel like feeding it, but when love is fed, the feels follow and the love flourished. Do some practical and strategic actions that will help stoke the flames. Restart dating. Buy chocolates.  Make a favorite meal. Get flowers.  Go for a walk together. Get the kids to bed early and watch something together. Get naked with each other (I threw that in to lighten you up).

You know what your spouse likes. Get practical and get stoking!!

3 – Eject.

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I’m a James Bond fan (BTW: Sean Connery was the best).  007 had, in his car, an ejector seat.  If there was someone he didn’t want to have next to him while he was driving, he’d hit the red button on the shifter and boom…they’d be laying on the road behind him. Eject, not your spouse, but the mindset that you’ve been carrying that has been eating away at your joy.  Eject doubt.  Eject worry. Eject malice. Eject unforgiveness.  Paul says in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things.” Don’t entertain thoughts of leaving or even staying for the wrong reasons.  Eject the mindset and embrace the truth and hope that Christ offers.

4 – Put the towel in the drawer. There’s an old term for quitting called “throwing in the towel.” Some managers will keep it handy in case the boxer they’re training gets into trouble and wants to stop the fight.  Why stop? They don’t want their fighter to get hurt.  Some of you have been hurting. Perhaps the hurts go back a long time.  Do your marriage a favor. Put the “towel” away.  By that I mean, do not make quoting an option.  Don’t make it a choice. Get your butt off the mat one more time and fight for your marriage. I understand you’ve been picking yourself up of the mat for a long time.  Don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Don’t give up.  Keep fighting because with Christ’s help, “in due season“, it will be worth it.

Divorce sucks. It’s the nuclear bomb that hits. Like a nuke, it’s not the initial impact that is the most damaging. It’s the fallout and the collateral damage that lingers on for years that causes the most havoc.

Stop just surviving in your marriage.  Stop saying “we are staying together for the kids” as your permission slip for giving upon your spouse.

It’s time to thrive.

It’s time to grow.

It’s time to forget “what lies behind and straining forward” together as one and live.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Confessions of a Marriage Blogger: Part 2 “Our kids are for sale.”

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We started a series of marriage blogs last week. If you missed last week, check out Confessions of a Marriage Blogger: Part 1 “We irritate each other”.

I started off by telling my own feelings about how I felt like marriage blog and book writers lived in a Ken and Barbie world of perfection.  I’m not afraid to admit how wrong I was (it wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last time). But my thrust behind this series to help aid others in the marital cancer called “comparison”. Comparing causes a “double-jeopardy” of misery.  You get hit on a personal level and then you bring that into your marriage.  You think it won’t happen that way. You try to keep it to yourself.  But the problem resides in the oneness of marriage. When something effects you.  It WILL affect your spouse. Remember: The two became one when you were married (Genesis 2:24).  Again, stop comparing your marital journey with someone else’s trek. 

Part 2 – “Our kids are for sale.” 

Ken barbie together

(Disclaimer for people with no sense of humor: I don’t really want to sell my kids.)

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the poet Shel Silverstein. Having a little sister, there was one poem in particular that I was very fond of.  The poem, “For Sale” was all about an older brother trying to sell off his younger sibling. The lines, “One sister for sale! One crying and spying young sister for sale! I’m really not kidding, So who’ll start the bidding?” should tell you enough about his frustration with her.  She “spies” and “cries” and thus must be removed and, according to the poem, to anyone who will bid.  I didn’t always feel that way about my sister.  I know I frustrated her and would bet she probably wishes she could’ve sold me a time or two.  Hey, it’s what us siblings do.

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I’m a pastor.  I’m a marriage blogger.  I love my two children Camryn and Ethan more than you can imagine.  Some boys want to grow up and be a fire fighter, police officer, or an astronaut.  I wanted to be a dad when I grew up.

But…

Sometimes they tick me off.
Sometimes, when I’ve had a long day, I lose my cool way to easily with them.
Sometimes I feel like a failure as a parent.
Sometimes I’m so frustrated with them find myself counting down the days to “empty nest” (7 1/2 years).
Sometimes I wonder if I have a leg to stand in helping (through blogging, preaching, and counseling) people with their parenting skills.

But I can’t be the only one to feel this way.

When I survey the disagreements and the frustrations that we have with our kids, and of course, they have with us, I begin to see some issues:

I see too much of me. What Anne and I discovered is some of the most frustrating things is that we see is…well…US. Cammi shows a lot of Anne.  Ethan shows a lot of me.  The question we have to keep asking ourselves: Is it their actions that are causing the conflict or are we seeing reminders of us? It has been said that opposites attract.  Perhaps it’s why moms and sons are closer and dads and daughters are so connected.  Seeing me in my kids, many times, is so irritating, not because they’re doing something wrong, it goes deeper into me seeing something in myself that needs correcting.

Advice: When confrontation starts up with the kids, Anne and I will stop each other and simply say “he/she’s being you.”  We’re not doing that to take a jab at the other.  We do it to remind each other to take a breath and realize that what we are confronting more within the moment is NOT our children but ourselves. When I’m confronted with myself, it forces me to deal with “ME”. Take a moment to think and reflect upon what the confrontation is really about. Ask Christ for healing in your own life.  Ask your kids for forgiveness for your impatience.  Share your story with them and how you’ve grown through Christ.  Rev. 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Help your kids be an overcomer by allowing Christ into your conflict and let your testimony lead them to freedom.

I’m too protective of them. Every parent wants to save their children from the pain and frustrations that they, themselves, experienced. We try to stay two or three steps ahead and prepare the way for them as to make sure we can keep them from all of the faults, mishaps, and challenges we had to face. This is where, when I was youth pastoring, I used to categorize some parents as “helicopter parents”. They are the ones that constantly hover over their kids and can’t let them grow up. Most parents can be uber controlling over their children as their way of protecting them from any type of pain (physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental).

Advice: It’s very hard to admit, especially when it comes to our kids, but pain is necessary. Studies have shown that in this day of so many antibacterial soaps and lotions,  we are actually destroying the immune systems of our children. Without them being able to confront bacteria, their immune systems can’t develop the strength to fight. Could that same principle be in play when we don’t allow our kids to fail or go through “painful” moments?  What we need to teach them is HOW to make decisions and then let them MAKE the decisions. If they succeed: praise the effort and celebrate with them.  If they fail: praise the effort and teach them how to grow from failure. Proverbs 24:16 reminds us “The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.” We will “fall”.  But help your kids know how to get up and grow.

I’m dictating and not leading. As a dictator over the home, there is no responsibility for me to live and/or lead in any way. It’s my way or the highway. Even though there’s some truth to your rules as a parent being the rules to live by, there’s also something to be said about your example. I heard it said years ago, “What you do in moderation, your children do in excess“.  We don’t necessarily have a democracy at home, but I find if I go into dictating mode, my rules are inconsistent with my lifestyle. Why? Because I am the leader and I can do what I want. The problem: It’s confusing for the kids and teaches them to not live out what they say.

Advice: No matter what you think, you are always mentoring them. From your example, you will show them one of two things: 1. What to be like or 2. What they don’t want to be like. My father used to tell me, “Carefully watch the pastors that you work for. You will learn what the ministry is and what the ministry is not.” You’re kids will see the same thing in your family. Strive to give them the example of humanity possible.  Let them see you succeed AND fail.  For some reason, we don’t want them, out of pride, see our failures.  I’ll give you a tip: one of the greatest memories of my father was when he apologized to me for disciplining me when I didn’t deserve it.  Him asking for forgiveness and seeing his humility FOREVER marked my life. Proverbs 11:2Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

2 more that Anne and I also observe…

I want to be their best friend. I’ve notice that parents who, themselves, grew up with very tough parents are more likely to go to the opposite extreme and strive to be their kid’s best friend. It’s such a “feel good” move but in the end it’s damaging to the relationship. Why? Because when the child is in need of a parent, there’s none to be found. When they need parental discipline, it isn’t received with respect. Why?  Friends don’t/can’t discipline another friend.

Advice: I never knew my parents as my friends. Yet there wasn’t an issue I was not allowed to come to them about. Not having them as a friend didn’t keep me from going to them. In fact, it made them a safe place to go. Why? I knew they would approach it as a parent and there was such a safety in that. Your kids don’t need another friend.  They need a trusted and respected parent to be the voice of trust, strength, and Godliness in the home. Ephesians 5:1 says “Be imitators of God…” Don’t be an imitator of their friends. They don’t need it and, really, they don’t want that. Reflect The Father to your children and live out His example before them.

I live vicariously through my kids. Maybe because your parents would have never “bought you that”. Or your parents would’ve never let you “go out looking like that”.  As parents, we like to provide for what we didn’t have. My parents never bought me legos (those suckers are expensive), but what do I buy Ethan? Legos. As silly of an example as that is, there is a problem that goes far deeper.  There are parents that push their kids into sports, academics, and even relationships.  The goal seems to be to encourage the kids to be the best they can be. But for some, it’s to re-live moments. “Just to be on the field one more time.” “Just to get the grade I didn’t get.” “Just to not make the same relationship mistake I made.”  The problem: our kids end up hurt, confused, and damages, not over their lack of effort, but over a parent’s inability to let go and let them live.

Advice: Let your kids live. Set them up with wisdom, Godly counsel, prayer, and encouragement to make the decisions and paths they want to follow.  I’m a sports nut.  As much as I DESPERATELY want Ethan to play sports (specifically football), it has to be his choice. My position as father is not to reproduce me.  It’s to reproduce Christ in them.  Deuteronomy 6: 6-7 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Keep the Lord as the focus and foundation of your parenting. He’ll guide you and He will help you through this parenting thing.

I know it’s a lot to take in. But I want to encourage you that you are not alone in your parental frustrations. You are not the only one going through the storm of raising kids. Be of good cheer and be encouraged that this, as tough as it is, is going to be one of the greatest seasons of your lives.  You are only promised a window of 18 years to pour into them. The best thing for you to do is be the greatest encourager your child has. Proverbs 11:25 says “those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Do you want to be refreshed as a parent, refresh/encourage your kids.

Set them up to live Godly lives.

Then let them go.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo: “Open up your mouth” Deut. 6:4-7

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August is our journey through the 2 minute series called “Watch Your Mouth”.  I want to invite you to join me as we. It’s as simple as viewing  the vlog and reading the passage for the day.  Today’s passage is Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

Deuteronomy 6:4-7

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.