Thursday, March 27, 2008

Percentages in Marriage

It is so easy in a struggling marriage to point fingers at our spouse at all that they have done wrong. During our 16-month separation, my wife, Sharon, would say I mastered that.

Something I've read is that even if we are only 1% responsible for the struggles in our marriage, we are 100% responsible before God for our 1%. Someone has said that marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, but that each spouse must be giving 100%. Another has said that sometimes one spouse gives 60% and one gives 40%, then sometimes the percentages switch.

I found it so helpful, when I didn't know what else to do, to pray Psalm 51 outloud. It is David's prayer of repentance after Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar. ~ Psalm 51

Even if we haven't committed the sins of adultery and murder like David, who of us wouldn't want a cleaner heart before God, and who of us can totally clean our hearts without God's help?

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Love is Worth Fighting For" by Warren Barfield

I just came across this on the Smart Marriages website.

Check out www.myspace.com/warrenbarfield. He has a song called "Love is not a Fight". My favorite line is "If we try to leave, may God send His angels to guard the door; No, love is not a fight but it's something worth fighting for."

I wish I had known of a song like this during our separation to keep me inspired to hang onto hope.

What Do You Feel Is Helpful About This Blog?

I don't know who has been looking at this blog. Actually some of my purpose is to continue to help sort out my own understanding of our separation, then figure out what I can do to help others.

What has anyone found helpful? Is there something else you are hoping to find help for?

Thanks for responding,
Rich

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another Bulldog for Marriage: Divorce Busting by Michelle Weiner Davis

Michelle Weiner Davis is a real bulldog for marriage. (www.divorcebusting.com)

Michelle focuses on what is called Solution Oriented Therapy. In other words, rather than focusing primarily on what has gone wrong in the past in an individual's life or marriage, she focuses on "What can we do right going forward?"

She has written various books on saving marriages. There is a forum on her website.

Michelle also offers Divorce Busting Coaches. These are coaches who have been trained in her methods to help a person, who wants to save their marriage even when a spouse isn't willing, to devise strategies that have a high chance of success. I never used this service, but I probably would have tried it if Sharon had gone farther towards divorce before she reconciled with me.

Marriage Scriptures

When I realize how important and foundational marriage is in everyday life, and then I think about how few Scriptures specifically address marriage and divorce, I am puzzled about why that is.

Some of the thoughts I have had is that the Bible talks alot about good relationships, and marriage is a fundamentally a relationship, so if we apply good relationship principles from Scriptures to our marriages, we will have good marriages.

To find out what God thinks about marriage and divorce, you don't have to read pages and pages. I think I have most of the key Scriptures listed as links on the bar at the right.

The amazing thing is how so many of these Scriptures tie together. In a few short passages you can see the links between what God said before there was the law, what Moses said through the law, what Jesus said when He was here, and finally, what Paul said as he primarily addressed first century Christians. I encourage you to study these Scriptures for yourself.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bulldogs for Marriage: Rejoice Ministries

Rejoice Ministries (http://www.rejoiceministries.org/) is the ministry of Bob and Charlyne Steinkamp.

If your marriage is in a crisis, and you are at the point of drawing a line in the sand - you are going to give it your all to prevent divorce - I can't think of a better website or ministry to go to than this one, especially if you are short on energy.

Bob and Charlyne were married when he started having affairs and living out other ungodly behavior. Charlyne went to her pastors and they advised divorce. She did divorce him, but then God convicted her that she did the wrong thing, so she started praying and fasting for him. Eventually they reconciled, he came home, and they now have an international marriage ministry.

Some things to note on this website that are helpful:

Testimonies. When I felt like giving up hope of reconciliation, I would read a few of these and get encouraged.

The daily devotional is great to subscribe to. You get daily encouragement and teaching backed up by Scripture.

If you really are serious about marriage, read and reflect on the Standers Affirmation on the home page. This is something not to be taken lightly, but if it is really what is in your heart, pray it.

There is a place to enter prayer requests and a special place to list your court dates for prayer. Bob's story as a prodigal is on the website. There are various printed materials and radio programs available. Charlyne really does a good job of teaching from Scripture.

This may not be an easy journey, but Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and you can find lots of encouragement here to hang on to Him and your marriage.

Friday, March 14, 2008

FOCCUS/REFOCCUS

FOCCUS stands for Facilitating Open Couple Communication Understanding and Study. See http://www.foccusinc.com/.

So what does that mouthful mean? FOCCUS (for pre-marrieds and REFOCCUS for marrieds) is an inventory where couples answer a series of questions about many areas of their relationship. These two inventories are helpful because they can prompt much discussion the different areas. Normally the more you know each other and can appreciate the differences, the healthier your relationship.

Around the country, especially where there is a Community Marriage Initiative, or a Community Marriage Policy, there will be people trained to utilize these inventories. You can find a list of facilitators on their website.

My wife and I have been exposed to REFOCCUS a couple of different times since we reconciled and it has helped us grow in our relationship.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What Are Community Marriage Resources?

Community Marriage Resources have been assembled by various groups around the country. They are normally lists of resources to help pre-married, married couples, struggling couples, divorced couples, and step families. Some of the resources listed will be local, like seminars. Other resources can be used by anyone anywhere.

Some of the Community Marriage Resources were established by what are called CMP's also known as a Community Marriage Policies. The Community Marriage Policy concept has been spearheaded by Mike McManus with Marriage Savers (http://www.marriagesavers.org/). In a CMP city, the clergy voluntarily come together to sign a document where each agrees to uphold marriages, and to have minimum standards before they marry people, and to also help set up resources for marriages in their congregation. If you live near one of the cities listed with CMP's, you can contact them for help in your situation.

If there is a marriage topic that you are interested in that I haven't covered to your satisfaction, I would suggest reviewing the Community Marriage Resources listed to the right on the sidebar. You are likely to find a treasure trove of help for many situations, even if the group is not local to you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Review of "New Life After Divorce" by Bill Butterworth

What I really liked about this book was that Bill was very open about his emotional ups and downs after his divorce. His chapters cover various issues such as single fatherhood, dating, forgiveness, etc. He has some good scriptures scattered through the book but it is not a Bible study per se. And, he is very cautious not to "bash" his ex-wife.

I wish he had written a chapter of what he had learned through the whole experience that might be helpful in inspiring people to really work hard on saving their marriages, so they don't have to go through the same pain he did.

This would probably be a good book for someone in the midst of recovering from a divorce because it is so authentic.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Aborting Divorce

Often I hear people, who really don't want a divorce resigning themselves to it, seeming to think that a divorce, although not God's best, will at least end the pain. I try to encourage them to hang on and keep trying even when it seems hopeless, knowing that alot more pain lies ahead.

When I was tempted to give in to the fact my wife wanted a divorce, I would find another book to read, and realize that it was worth continuing to try. One book I wasn't aware of at the time was "Between Two Worlds" by Elizabeth Marquardt. She writes about the pain she has faced in her adult life dealing with her parents divorce when she was a child.

"New Life After Divorce", by Bill Butterworth, is a book I recently came across. He is very authentic about the pain he went through after his divorce. He did eventually remarry.

Part of me just got inspired to carry on so that the kids would not have to deal with the life long pain of their parents' divorce. There were lots of video clips in Divorce Care and Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce about the children's pain.

And when a person thinks "Well, I will just start dating again and remarry", I hope they listen to what Divorce Care says that, on the average, it takes four years to heal for every five years of marriage before you are really ready to date again.

So the message is, if at all possible, "abort the divorce."

Zippy Titles/Themes

I have been pondering what might be a good title or theme to make people perk up and take notice about marriage reconciliation. I haven't thought of a good one yet, but I have been noticing other titles and phrases lately that have caught my attention.

"Thrill of the Chaste" by Dawn Eden http://www.dawneden.com/. Dawn Eden grew up as a secular Jew, became a rock historian in New York, lived a promiscuous lifestyle in hopes of finding a husband, then came to Christ, started to live a chaste lifestyle, and is now Catholic. Her book is about her journey from promiscuity to chastity but she does it in away that is very authentic and very life affirming. She puts a positive spin on chasitity rather than the normal "just be chaste so God doesn't hate you, you don't get pregnant, or get an STD" rhetoric.

'The 30-Day Sex Challenge" This is done by Relevant Christian Church in Florida http://www.relevantchurch.com/. They challenged married couples to have sex every day for 30 days and singles to abstain for 30 days. The goal is to build new habits: for marrieds, to meet each other's emotional needs, and for singles, realizing that God's way of chastity for singles works. There is a daily study, including scripture, for both singles and marrieds. The studies focus on meeting each other's needs. The headline grabs your attention, but the message is alot deeper.

"Divorce Busting" by Michelle Weiner-Davis. She is a Jewish therapist who is a bulldog on saving marriages. She is at http://www.divorcebusting.com/.

Jon Van Epp wrote "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk" at http://www.nojerks.com/. He teaches women what to look for so they don't end up marrying a jerk.

One of our passions is to help marriages in crises to find hope and to reconcile. What title would catch your eye that would help you to read more/listen more and be encouraged to dig deeper in your relationship for healing?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Another Stubborn Spouse

I am always encouraged when I hear of a spouse who got stubborn for saving their marriage, and in the long run it worked. Here is a story from the Smart Marriages website.

Pastor Hurt is among the 173 who signed the one in Clackamas County, Oregon. It's a county of rugged beauty, much of it tucked up against Oregon's Cascade Mountains or sprawling across the fertile Willamette Valley. But it's also a big bedroom community for Oregon's largest city, Portland. The marriage rate there was going down and the divorce rate was going up when psychologist Steve Stephens put Tom and Liz Dressel together with Mike and Harriet McManus.

Divorce Makes You Less Happy, More Frustrated
The Christian therapist has written a number of books to help makes marriages last - books like "Lost in Translation: How Men and Women Can Understand Each Other" and "20 Rules and Tools For a Great Marriage."

"God hates divorce. Why does He hate divorce? Because divorce breaks people," Dr. Stephens told CBN News. "Divorce doesn't work. It won't make you happy, I guarantee you - except in very rare situations, a divorce is going to make you less happy, it's going to make you more frustrated, financially it devastates you."

Dr. Stephens knew the Dressels were as desperate as he is to fight divorce in Clackamas County.
The Dressels were on the verge of divorce themselves back in the 1970s.

Liz went to several secular therapists in attempts to save the flailing marriage. "I went there asking for communication skills, and they kept suggesting I get divorced," she said.

But Liz says she was a little too ornery to just give up.

"We had three kids to raise and I thought, 'This man is not getting out of it. Some way we are going to make it through.'"

Eventually, the two found the hope and skills they needed through church and para-church groups.

Tom said, "We took every class, every retreat that had the word marriage in it, and each one was a building-block, a foundation-stone."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Inspiring Persistence

I am in contact with multiple marriages right now that seem hopeless. Usually I am in contact with the person who doesn't want a divorce.

I am puzzled about how to inspire people to not give up even when it looks hopeless. In many places on this blog I share bits and pieces of my journey when things seemed so hopeless in my marriage. Everyone's journey is different, so what works in one situation maybe different than what works in a different situation.

My wife sometimes says it best to people, "Never, never, never give up." This from a woman who at one time wanted me to give up on our marriage, and tried very hard to convince me that there was no way she would reconcile with me.

So often I hear people in bad situations who really don't want to be divorced, to say that maybe a divorce will end the pain. My observation from others, both in person and by reading, is that the pain is still excruciating. Yes, down the road they may get remarried and have a good marriage, but usually there is a tremendous amount of pain to go through to get there. Those who jump back into a relationship too soon often experience even more pain if that new relationship breaks up.

One story that inspired me from Divorce Care when things looked hopeless was from a man and woman who had married quickly on the rebound from their divorces. They testified that they had a wonderful courtship and then seven years of hell before their marriage really got going well.

I wondered to myself how much progress Sharon and I could make in seven years if she would reconcile. Thankfully, she did reconcile with me. We have been back together just over three years. Lots of the old issues still resurface from time to time, but what is different now is that we have the tools to work through those issues, and each of us is getting more stubborn about not wanting to tip-toe around issues to survive but to work through the issues.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Reconciling God's Way

Joe and Michelle Williams had multiple marriages in their pasts. As a Christian married couple they separated. In their desperation not to go through another divorce, they really sought God. Eventually they reconciled, and from their experiences, they created a study called Reconciling God's Way (http://www.reconcilinggodsway.org/).

RGW has weekly lessons in a notebook that help you to focus as individuals on God and His Word. They are fairly short and simple, but can be very "deep". You go through the study with a same-sex mentor. Ideally each separated partner has their own workbook and same-sex mentor. After you go through the workbook alone and with your mentor, then you share with your partner. If only one partner is willing to work on the marriage, they still get a same-sex mentor and do the studies. The whole premise is that even with only one of the partners connecting with God, it lays the foundation for reconciliation.

During our separation, our counselor told us about Reconciling God's Way. Sharon agreed to do it with me, and with great hope and excitement on my part, and with reluctance on Sharon's part, we got our same-sex mentors and began. On our second or third time out together after starting, Sharon told me she was getting a divorce.

Thankfully I had heard that this study could be used even with only one partner being willing. I carried right on and finished the whole study with my mentor, who was a huge source of encouragement.

By God's grace, we did reconcile, although it was quite awhile after I had finished the study.

More Help When You Are Really "Down"

Sometimes during our separation, I was so down and had little energy for anything such as working, reading, singing, reading the Bible, eating, or doing laundry.

One thing that often helped was to listen to worship that had alot of scripture in it. John G. Elliott and Twila Paris are two artists who, if I could find enough energy to put the CD in and push play, I would perk up some after awhile.

I am not sure if I had access to it at the time, but now I have the Bible on CD. Just listening to scripture being read can have a powerful effect. God's word is alive and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and it doesn't come back void - it will accomplish what is spoken.

It's important that if you can do nothing else - listen to worship music and/or Scripture.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Emotional Intensity

I have been with several different men in different situations recently, and had some discussions about the emotional upheaval they have experienced through past or current separations, divorce negotiations or divorces. The discussions reminded me of what an emotional mess I was during our separation, and how almost non-functional I became at times. I got the essentials of life accomplished, barely, but didn't have much energy for anything else.

I remember an illustration that I saw in the Divorce Care videos that was so helpful to me. There was a picture of an equalizer monitor like you see on a stereo. As the music gets louder and softer on different channels the little indicator goes up and down. The video stated that our emotional energy normally gets pretty evenly distributed between four areas of our lives - physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Each section of life goes up and down during normal life but they mostly stay in balance. During separation or divorce though, 85 percent of our emotional energy can go to just trying to maintain our emotional stability and we don't have the energy to accomplish much of anything else. I think from my experience, and from my observations of others in various stages of separation or divorce, the concept is very valid.

Bottom line, if you are in a separation or divorce, or you know someone who is, don't be surprised if it seems like your energy is zapped and it is hard to accomplish your normal life functions of work, play, paying the bills, or exercising.

What helped me more than anything else was getting involved in a Divorce Care group(http://www.divorcecare.org/). I was with people who understood, and I was able to reach out and help those who were in worse situations than I was.