How You Might Be Avoiding Conflict in Your Relationship

After parking in your driveway, you notice that the walk from your car to the door of your home seems much, much longer today. You’re feeling uneasy about going inside as the going has been rough with your partner lately. It’s a stressful time for both of you, and you’ve been at odds more than usual. While you may not be concerned about the health of the relationship—you’ve weathered storms together before, you’ve understandably been texting and talking with your best friend about it as you’ve needed some support. The calls, the coffee meetings, the texts with your friend have been a breath of fresh air. Without even knowing it, though, the uptick in contact with your friend might be a way you’re avoiding conflict in your relationship.

The Best Resource for Making Your Marriage Sweet

“What resources can you recommend that will help us with our marriage?” As a marriage counselor, I hear this question a lot, especially from couples I see for the first time. Like so many married partners, these couples quite understandably want to know what they can do to make their marriage better. Of course, a number of books, articles, blogs, and podcasts come to the top of my mind in response, but when couples ask about resources to improve their relationship, my first answer is always the same: you. You are the best resource available for making your marriage sweet. 

5 Reasons to Do Premarital Counseling

Premarital CounselingWedding season is right around the corner, and many couples are busy getting ready for one of the most joyous days of their lives. All too often, however, in the hustle and bustle of preparing for their wedding, a couple may spend too little time preparing for their marriage. Premarital counseling—whether meeting individually with a therapist or participating in a premarital workshop—can help the couple strengthen their relationship to ready for a lifetime of love and commitment. If you’re getting married (or know someone who is), why consider premarital counseling?

A Few Words on Living Fully in 2015

The novelty of the New Year has not yet worn off, has it? Indeed, today I returned to work and, with awkward, halting penmanship and deliberate thought, wrote “2015” in the date I recorded on some paperwork. It’s this time of year that we are still eagerly embracing our hopes for the year ahead, wanting to make fresh efforts to realize what we long to be in our lives.

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 2: That Old, Familiar Tune in Your Marriage

Last week, we saw that as when two partners begin a new couple relationship, their deepest needs for love, understanding, and recognition fulfilled come to the fore. This period of “young love” is called the honeymoon phase, and during this time the couple can’t seem to get enough of each other. Notably, there is little to no conflict during this phase. Alas, a phase is, by definition, temporary. When the arguments finally come, each partner will use the defenses they learned in childhood to protect themselves and minimize their own pain.

On (Emotional) Shackles & Freedom

Today, of course, is the Fourth of July, the holiday during which America remembers its adoption of the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776. We celebrate that after declaring our independence from Great Britain, we at last gained hard-won freedom after the long years of the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Though that war is over, Americans still battle in many conflicts throughout the world.

 

A different kind of conflict, however, churns within each of us, regardless of nationality: Each of us fight for our innermost desires and longings to be recognized and understood in our most intimate relationships.

Your Need to Be Emotionally Intimate with Your Partner—And Your Need Not to Be

Have you ever wondered why people seek intimacy in relationships? What is it about emotional intimacy, anyway? Why is feeling connected with a deeply loved partner so much better than just about anything? As a marriage counselor, I know that partners in an intimate, committed, long-term relationship yearn to know and to be known by each other, and yet for so many couples, such intimacy is elusive. Why is cultivating this kind of connection so hard? Because as much as you want to be connected and close to your partner, intimacy is also profoundly frightening. To understand why, we need to consider our need for intimacy first.

Me & My (Fragmented) Self

Curiosity about the goings-on in my hometown of Holland, Michigan prompted me this morning to visit the website of the city’s newspaper, The Holland Sentinel. As a former paperboy for the Sentinel, I recalled slinging newspapers in the crisp cold of Holland’s winter streets bathed in the hushed light before dawn. As I scrolled through the headlines, I stumbled across Holland’s police log. My first perusal of its records for February 21-22, the most recent posting, showed little of interest. Animal complaint. General public assistance. Traffic. Motorist assist. A closer look was more troubling, however: destruction of property; larceny; miscellaneous crime; more larceny; fraud.

 

Sex, God, and Our Longing for Intimacy (Part 2)

Just as spirituality is an expression of our desire to experience an authentic, meaningful relationship with God, sexuality is the expression of our innate desire to connect with others and to know and be known intimately and completely. Certainly, in our closest, most satisfying non-sexual relationships, in knowing the other we discover more fully who we are.

 

For instance, a woman supports a recently divorced friend by meeting her at a coffeeshop for lunch, and her friend tearfully tells her that she has always been a calm, steady presence in her life. A groom exchanges a silent look with his best man that communicates the depth of his appreciation and love after many long years of faithful friendship. In such relationships, we encounter ourselves while encountering the other in unexpected and sometimes challenging ways that solitary self-reflection does not afford. However, even in these relationships, we, to quote the apostle Paul, “know only in part” (1 Cor 13:12), and we long to know and be known fully.