Posted: Feb 28 2018Why are people so hesitant to seek help when they are experiencing difficulties in their marital relationships? In no other area of life do we think we have to be experts without some teaching and training to become proficient.
Marriage Insights Blog
Posted: Feb 29 2016THE VAST MAJORITY OF MARRIAGES COULD BE GREATLY IMPROVED IF COUPLES WOULD FOLLOW THIS SIMPLE ADVICE: BE NICE. Oddly enough, many people believe that because they are married, they do not have to be nice. It is as if they think that their marriage license is a license to be mean and nasty. Oh, they would never say that, but that is certainly how they act.
Some of the nicest people in the world – people who would not hurt a fly, those who would brake and swerve for squirrels in the road, guys who would help an old lady cross the road, women who would be thankful and considerate to the pimply-faced kid that bags their groceries, couples who sit together in church smiling, singing and gently nodding their heads to the encouragement of the pastor—these same sweet people...get them home and watch the fireworks as they bark, yell, and throw insults at each other. Again, it is as if they believe a marriage license grants them permission to be however mean they deem necessary; to be as short and impatient as the moment calls for. They think that somehow a marriage license allows them not to live out their Christian faith. “I don’t have to be nice—I’m married!!”
Much of this is rooted in the six most poisonous words of bad advice ever given to a generation of married couples: BE HONEST WITH HOW YOU FEEL. Of all the ignorant, moronic and misguided pieces of advice ever given to couples, this ranks right at the top. Be honest with how you feel. Good grief!! No wonder they feel they have the right—no, the moral imperative— to emotionally vomit all over each other. They have been deceived into thinking that, not only do they have the right to spew their venom, but that somehow this is good for their marriage. No wonder so many people end up in divorce...Look, your mama was right: If you don’t have something good to say, DON’T SAY IT!!
My wife and I have been married for over 40 years. People always ask, “How have you been married for so long?” My answer: Because we are NOT honest with HOW WE FEEL!! “Be honest with how you feel.” Uuuuugh. Of all the stupid, ignorant and destructive pieces of advice that some idiot with a PhD came up with. Oh, I know, I know...there are times you need to share things that are uncomfortable and there are issues you need to visit and even fight through as a couple, but that it not what I am talking about here. I’m talking about people who just act as if it is their God-given right to be as mean and insulting as they please—just because they are married!
Only in marriage are we so incomprehensibly and immeasurably stupid. In no other area of life would you apply such foolishness. Can you imagine people deciding tomorrow morning on whether or not to go to work based on how they feel? Calling their boss and saying, “Look boss, I’d really love to come to work today, I really would. But I have to be honest with how I feel, and quite frankly...I’m not feeling it. And while we are at it, I feel I really must share that I feel you are an idiot.” They’d get fired.
Can you imagine soldiers at the front line when the sergeant yells “Charge!” and one of the soldiers stands up and says, “Um...look guys…I really would love to charge with you, I really would... Many of you know I have been very pro-charging for some time now and have been one of the better chargers during drills. But...I don’t feel it would be fair to you if I charged at this time, because...well...quite frankly, I’m not feeling it.” They’d take a gun out and shoot him in the head.
Truth is, your ability to succeed in life will be in direct proportion to how little you listen to your feelings. Ever feel like studying? Ever feel like working 18-hour days? Ever feel like practicing piano scales for eight hours a day? Truly successful people do NOT listen to how they feel. Great academics study, successful business people put in whatever hours are necessary, and the greatest concert pianists practice until their minds grow numb. You know who does listen to their feelings? The people who drop out of school, stop when work gets too hard and those who quit taking piano lessons because they feel like they would rather go out and play with their friends. Listening to your feelings is the ultimate separation in life between winners and losers. Those who listen to their feelings fail, and those who don’t succeed—period. And the same is true for couples who stay married and those who end up in divorce.
For the love of God—just BE NICE! It is the ultimate guide to all your relational dilemmas. “Do I have to visit my irritating in-laws?” Yes, be nice. “What if my wife is grumpy?” Be nice. “Don’t I have the right to criticize my husband when he doesn’t fold the clothes the way I told him to?” No, be nice. “Do I have to help my wife around the house even when I come home tired?” Yes, be nice. “What do I do if my mother-in-law insults me?” Be nice. “What if my husband always forgets to take out the garbage, leaves the toilet lid up or fails to pick up his underwear that he left in the middle of the living room just before diner guests arrive!?!” Check your medication and just BE NICE!!
Marriage is hard, but it is not complicated. Want to have a meaningful and successful marriage that will last the rest of your life? Two words: Be Nice.
*From my book “Be-Attitudes of Marriage: 9 Simple Steps to a Healthier and Happier Marriage” available at: www.markgungor.com
Posted: Feb 08 2016
In my previous post (click here to read), we looked at the first two categories for finding the rules in relationships: The Obvious and The Debatable. Today we shall examine CATEGORY THREE – The Third Party. Alas, the dreaded Third Party. The issues that are not universally agreed upon or cannot be settled through vigorous debate end up here: turning to others for help.
Many people consider this a sign of weakness and won’t enlist the help of others, but this is no weakness, it is life. For example, when a wife does not want her husband to befriend a certain woman (for reasons real or imagined) and he vehemently disagrees, or when you fight over what the children should be allowed to do, or how a friend or family member should be treated or any other dilemma that presents itself, and no conclusion can be reached after vigorous debate, then you must turn to others for help.
Sometimes just having friends you can trust will do the trick.From my book, The BE-attitudes of Marriage:One of the worst things a couple can do is live on their own little island. People who think of their marriage in terms of isolationist thinking do so at their peril.We say, “This is OUR business. No one should know OUR business. Don’t tell anyone OUR business.” This is the kind of foolish thinking that millions of couples employ today. But I warn you: If you live on your own little island, you will eventually turn into cannibals and start eating each other.Want to know how you can have a healthy marriage that will last a lifetime? GET A LIFE!! Or more to our point: GET SOME FRIENDS!!“But pastor, we DO have friends. I have my friends and he has his friends.” That, my dear, is your problem. Each of you having your own set of friends, surrounding yourself with people who will most likely validate your own self-centered, narcissistic, selfish viewpoint, is not helpful. Let’s face it: the reason they are your friends is because they think as goofy as you do. It’s like Saddam Hussein who, during the Gulf War, surrounded himself with generals who assured him, “Yes your majesty! We have the Americans on the run! You were right, they are suffering from the mother of all battles!”When you or your spouse argue, chances are you are more caught up in the argument then the actual facts you are debating. Emotions go crazy and you even start to use phrases like, “You ALWAYS do that!” or “You’re just like your father!” Want to save yourselves thousands of dollars in marriage counseling?Want to avoid the need for professional counseling in the first place? GET SOME FRIENDS!! And I mean other couples that you routinely get with in order to talk out the junk in your lives. Nothing is more enlightening than to take one of your stupid fights to your friends and have them tell you, “Boy, that is really stupid.”“I want the thermostat set at 70 and she wants it at 68!”You will most likely hear your friends suggest, “Why don’t you just set it at 69?”Ahhh… a brilliant insight. One that should have been obvious to you in the first place, except for the fact that you are mad and only interested in winning. In a phrase: You are too close to the trees to see the forest.Get some friends so they can help you with your struggles and you can help them with theirs.Of course, truly misbehaving individuals will oppose such a scenario at all costs! Why? Because it is easy to argue their absurd position with you and they know that anyone else would tell them they are wrong.Your husband thinks it’s okay if he looks at porn and has lunch with other women? Try running that past your couple friends. They will likely beat him with sticks.Think it's okay for you to travel with other men while on work, just the two of you in hotels? Yeah…try floating that past your friend network.You see, oftentimes the reasons couples do NOT want anyone to know their business is because deep down they know that their “business” is illegal or illegitimate.
Sometimes, however, even friends can’t help. That is when you need the courage and humility to be able to turn to a pastor or mentor or even a professional counselor.
“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.” (Proverbs 3:13)
Wisdom (the knowledge to know what is right or wrong in any given situation) is something that is sought out, obtained, gained, found. That means you have to ask. If you encounter really bad behavior in your marriage, a professional counselor may be your only real option. Let me explain ...
I am of the firm opinion that marriage problems are the easiest problems in the world to fix. Don’t misunderstand, I know the problems can be very frustrating and can even lead to divorce if not corrected. It is just that I don’t think marriage problems are very complicated and in my opinion, don’t really need a professional counselor or therapist.
But PERSONAL problems, now that is a horse of a different color! I am referring to deep personal problems: alcohol abuse, drug usage, violence, gambling, sexual addictions, negative self-image, etc. These will all negatively affect a marriage, but they are not marriage problems, they are personal problems. These types of problems, but for a miraculous work of God’s grace in that person, almost always need a professional. But keep in mind, this should not be marriage counseling.
Look, life is hard. We encounter many difficult hurdles. Be humble and ask for help. Don’t be like the fool who says, “This is our business and nobody should know our business!” If you get stuck, turn to others for help. Getting some advice from others to help negotiate the conditions upon which you cannot seem to agree may be just the answer for you.
Does a couple need conditions in their relationship? Absolutely! (If you are unsure about the reasons, go back and read my previous posts in this series.) Always remember: Without conditions, true love is not possible.
*From my book “The Battle Over Rules” available at: www.markgungor.com
Posted: Feb 03 2016
In my previous post, I discussed the importance of rules in relationships.
Today we will answer the next big question: How do we set the right conditions or rules for the relationships in our lives? Well, the answers can be found in three categories.
CATEGORY ONE – The Obvious
There should be obvious conditions for most kinds of relationships.
· My wife cannot date other men.
· I’m not allowed to have girlfriends.
· Our eight-year-old is not allowed to drive the family vehicles.
· Our sixteen-year-old daughter cannot spend the night at her boyfriend’s house.
· You should not lie to your friends and stab them in the back.
· You have to go to work if you want to get paid.
· Don’t tell your mother-in-law that you saw her sister riding a broom in the Wizard of Oz.
· Try to avoid going to church drunk (many pastors frown on that).
Sadly, I must admit that what was once “obvious” is getting less and less so.
I remember John who came into my office for marriage counseling. He told me that he and his wife Sarah had been in a big argument. You see, Sarah was working for a new start up company and frequently had to be on the road promoting the business. She had recently proposed to her husband the following scenario: “Do you mind if I just share a room with Larry (the owner of the company) when we travel? There would still be two beds and the company could save a lot of money by booking just one room instead of two.”
And now you know what the argument was about.
You would think that the question of “Can I sleep in the same room as another man?” would certainly be in the “Obvious Category”, but apparently, things are not as obvious today as one would expect…
CATEGORY TWO – The Debatable
Then we come to what must be debated. And what I mean by debated is: struggled through, fought out, and painfully wrestled down.
· What time do I have to be home?
· Who will do which chores?
· Who can be friends with whom?
· What is appropriate behavior for our home?
· What kind of programs can be viewed?
· Who can you “friend” on Facebook?
· What kinds of “tweets” are inappropriate?
· How and over what will the children be disciplined?
· Specifically, what will and will not be tolerated?
These are the types of questions with which we struggle in every relationship. They are usually settled after great debate (a nice word for fighting). These are questions that apply to your specific situations, and they vary. What you might allow your kids to do may be different than what we allow our kids to do. What programs and movies you watch in your home may be different from the decisions we have made in ours. Most people can, however, successfully (though painfully) work their way through these many varied scenarios of life.
I am amazed at how many people think that their marriage should be exempt from this stage. That if “we truly love each other” then this stage would not exist. But to believe this is to engage in a fantasy. Even the best marriages on Earth must endure this stage. In fact, it is precisely enduring this stage that puts these marriages in the “best on Earth” category.
We have an online profile that couples can take to help them discover each other in a more meaningful way. It is called The Flag Page (www.flagpage.com). In this assessment couples can easily identify the things that are the most important to each individual and can help explain why they act and react in certain ways. Part of the test helps to identify people’s temperaments. We break them into what we call four different emotional Countries: Control Country, Fun Country, Perfect Country and Peace Country. And while many tests place people into different temperaments and then “stick” them into one temperament category or the other, our test shows how much of each temperament is in you, which is much more precise. It creates a more accurate picture of who you are.
Of the four temperaments or “Countries”, the largest one and the one more people tend to identify with than the other three, is Peace Country. Most people in the world just want Peace in their relationships. Which brings us to this conundrum: You cannot get to peace with people without conflict.
I know, I know… it sounds counterintuitive. If you want peace you have to avoid conflict, right? Wrong. People who constantly avoid conflict are the very people who seem to always face it.
As I travel around the world, one of the big complaints I hear about being an American is, “You people always bomb other people!!” Of course, we don’t always bomb other countries, but make no mistake, Western powers are fairly likely to strike if they feel their interests are threatened.
It wasn’t always like that. In fact, America used to go to great efforts to avoid conflicts. But some seventy years ago, there was a young fellow by the name of Adolf who was going around Europe causing all kinds of trouble. The West went to great efforts to appease him and to get along for the sake of “peace.” The end result, the worst conflict in the history of mankind resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of people. Ever since then we are much more likely to “bomb” than to just let things get out of control. The saying of “Peace through strength” is true and relevant.
Couples that try to avoid this step of “The Debatable” end up with no peace. Here is the irony: If you run from conflict you will never find peace. People who avoid conflict tend to go from one relationship to another. Why? Because without conflict, peace is not possible.
A man came into my office wanting marital advice. He told me, “My wife asked me to move out of the house, rent another apartment and take our nine-year-old son with me, so I did.”
I asked, “Who is paying for the house?”
“I am,” he replied. “Everything – the mortgage, utilities, taxes and upkeep.”
“Why did she ask you to move out?” I was expecting the usual suspects - because I drink too much, or I’m not sensitive to her needs, or she just needs some time to herself - but no such luck.
“She wanted her boyfriend to move in with her.”
My eyes must have been as big as saucers.
“Your wife asked you to move into your own apartment, take the kid with you, and keep paying for the house she is in so she can have her boyfriend move in?!? Why on earth would you agree to something as crazy as that?!!”
“Well,” he gently responded, “I didn’t want to get her upset.”
WHAT!!!???? Clearly, this was a man who, for the sake of peace, endured the most outrageous insults a man could endure. But what kind of peace is that? Clearly he was not experiencing peace, which was why he came to see me. (In retrospect, me yelling at him probably did him no good. It did, however, make me feel a lot better…)
You want REAL peace?? You must endure some conflict. Without conflict there can be no peace.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6)
Now, I am not advocating yelling and screaming at each other in a fit of rage. That is some of the most unproductive energy you will ever burn. But the importance of wrestling through what IS and is NOT acceptable in a relationship cannot be over stated. I know you want peace, but the only way you can get to lasting peace with people in your life is to endure some conflict in order to get it.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Check out my next blog post when we discuss CATEGORY THREE of the Rules for Relationships.
*From my book “The Battle Over Rules” available at: www.markgungor.com
Posted: Jan 27 2016
In my previous post, I ended with a discussion on “unconditional love” and stated that despite the fact the phrase is widely used today in the Christian world, it is NOT Biblical. Which freaks people out:
“You mean God does not love us?!”
Oh, he loves us. It’s just not “unconditional.” Let me explain…
You see, God does not love you just the way you are, He loves you DESPITE the way you are. Mere semantics? Hardly. The phrase “God loves you just the way you are” implies there is no need for you to change and He expects nothing from you. Yet change is absolutely central to the message of Jesus.
“Unless you repent [change] you will all perish.” (Luke 13:3)
Does God love us in our sin and wretchedness? Without question. That means while we were separated from Him in our unbelief and sin, He still loved us.
"WHILE we were still sinners, Christ died for us ..." (Romans 5:8)
In fact, it is that very love that reaches into our darkness and veniality to rescue and redeem us. What it does not mean is that we are free to act and behave in ways contrary to His standards. It’s not a license to conduct our lives carelessly or wantonly, thinking it doesn’t matter because “Jesus loves me unconditionally.”
The Bible is replete with the language of transformation. That’s why we see words like repent, transformed, new creation, new birth, forsake, change, and forgive. If God didn’t expect change in us, we would find no such words; but they’re everywhere.
Even after we become believers, the unsurpassed love of God doesn’t change one iota when we stumble, sin or screw up. The love He lavishes upon us is not contingent upon whether or not we “check the boxes” and do everything to perfection. Not one of us can pull that off anyway. We need to understand that God does love us in any state we are in and at all times. What we have to avoid is the idea that God’s love affords us the luxury of carelessness or nonchalance or that there are no rules. You see, it’s precisely because of His love for us that He gives us His conditions or rules; because without conditions love is not possible.
What Does the Bible Teach About Rules and Conditions?
I believe that God loves us with a love that is beyond comprehension, but it still must have conditions. Yes, we can say God’s love is unequivocal, unmitigated, unquestionable, unending, unfathomable, un-ANYthing, but why corrupt it with the word unconditional, especially when the word is never found in the Bible? Without conditions or rules, love is not possible.
“This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (I John 5:3)
The Bible contains very clear conditions for knowing God. In His Word, God expressly lays out the promises, the rules and the consequences, both good and bad.
“You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.” (Psalms 119:4)
Remove the conditions, and you remove the bulk of the teachings of the Bible. In almost every chapter we find instructions, commands, deadlines, laws, consequences, ordinances, controls, rules, limitations, CONDITIONS, all required for human beings to live peaceful, joy-filled lives. If we were capable of living without the conditions, there would have been no need for them to be written.
“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” (Psalms 119:24)
To say that God has no conditions is to propose a version of faith that empowers narcissism and selfishness; it is to promote a faith where people only serve God when it pleases them, where people never really commit to anything. A kind of faith where people never tithe or give any serious amount of money to further the Kingdom of God, who never volunteer or serve in any meaningful capacity.
But doesn’t grace remove the conditions?
Of course not! Example:
Should you kill someone? No.
Will God forgive you if you kill someone? Yes.
Then I can kill someone!
Grace, while forgiving the transgression, never removes the rule.
“Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh.” (Galatians 5:13)
In the posts that follow, let's walk through the scriptures in order to dispel the wrong thinking that has confused so many. This isn't exhaustive, but it does underscore some major points.
First, allow me to make one thing very clear: In no way am I attempting to promote legalism or the condemnation that goes along with it. This is a discussion of the basic conditions required for love to exist. That is much different than legalism. Legalism is when people add their own rules to God’s original rule. That is what the Pharisees of Jesus' day did. They took God’s basic commands and then added all kinds of oppressive rules to help support the command. God said, “Don’t work on the Sabbath.” The Pharisees then added rules for exactly what one could or could not do on the Sabbath, rules that turned the command into a burden instead of a blessing.
For example: Let’s say we have a rule that says, “Do not let your children play in the street.” Certainly, a reasonable request considering that no one wants their child to get hurt. Well, a legalist would come along and say, “Since our children should not play in the street, let’s make sure they don’t play in the yard. That way they won’t be tempted to play in the street.” Then someone ups the ante by saying, “Let’s make sure the children play inside with the curtains closed so that they won’t feel tempted to want to go outside which, of course, could lead to playing in the street.” Then another well-intended legalist says, “Children should only play in the basement, because if they play upstairs they will be tempted to look out the curtain, feel compelled to play in the yard and then eventually end up in the street!!”
So the legalist takes the rule of “Don’t play in the street” and turns it into “Children should only play in the basement of a house where the curtains are always drawn.” He takes a sensible rule and turns it into something that was never intended and certainly something that is not necessary. In the end, what was intended for good becomes oppressive.
Many Evangelicals play this game when it comes to serving communion. Even though Jesus clearly served wine (real, honest-to-God, fermented grape liquid), most Evangelical churches refuse to do the Biblically accurate thing during communion and serve grape juice instead. Their logic? If you serve a tiny thimble of wine, it could cause some guy to stumble, run out to the store, buy a bottle of Jack Daniels, get drunk out of his mind and then beat his wife. So, they help God out by taking the rule of “Do not get drunk” and decide to forbid anyone to touch any alcohol at all. Legalism.
I am not a legalist. I am not adding to what God said, I am merely pointing out what He said.
Check out my next blog post for a look at the scriptures that clearly point to God’s rules and conditions for us.
*From my book “The Battle Over Rules” available at: www.markgungor.com