The Impact of Unemployment on Marriages

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Can you guess what the men all have in common in the following movies: John Q, Cinderella Man, The Jacksons (An American Dream), Selena and The Pursuit of Happyness? The answer is that each of these men had to face the reaction of their
wives from their being unemployed.  Of all these movies, the ones that put lumps in my throat were the Cinderella Man and The Pursuit of Happiness.

The scene in The Pursuit of happiness where Will Smith pleads with his wife to stay with him was simply gut wrenching to me.  While I understood his wife’s concern, I wanted him to have the type of companion that would help him through this extremely difficult time.  Even though this movie show a wife leaving her husband, a not too distant study indicated that the divorce rate actually declined during a recession.  A Huffington Post article offers the following interesting insight into the expected connection between divorce and unemployment, “…divorce decreases when unemployment rates climb because couples are not ready to give up their standard of living by having to pay for one extra household with one less salary.”

At the same time, staying together in strife and discontentment is no good either. Perhaps, if spouses would take the time to examine the emotional impact of job loss, there might be more compassion towards the unemployed partner.  I have come to understand that unemployment can induce a highly paralyzing state of mind.  It can greatly reduce a once thriving and confident person into a confused mindset, who learns to doubt everything.

However in order to get hired, the unemployed person actually needs to have a heightened since of awareness and strategic thinking in order to compete for employment.  Unfortunately, additional pressure from home only diminishes the ability to think clearly enough to plan strategies that could result in gainful employment.

It appears that many spouses who look to their partners for financial stability are often unskilled with encouraging the types of provocation that could help them to succeed.  Perhaps they feel that pressuring the spouse to do something” will result in immediate income.  However, many times the pressure leads to their spouses considering options that were previously unthinkable.  Additionally, once the spouse has been made to feel unvalued, it is difficult gain a level of proficiency and confidence that could attract an employer.

This attitude of defeatism can be quite taxing on a marriage.  The feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness are also magnified through the debt collectors and financial obligations that refuse to go away.   Anyone who is constantly faced with such challenges may easily find it difficult to be good company.  However, during this time of financial stress, there is even greater need for encouragement and reassurance.  Financial hardship is a time when the strength of a loving relationship will be exactly what is needed to overcome the growing urge to simply give up.

Ultimately, as in the Cinderella Man movie, a family will be able to reflect upon the great blessing of love and perseverance that actually withstood a great test.  Such challenges can uncover and even develop the true character of a couple that will make their relationship even stronger.  Couples should do their best to reflect upon and recommit to the promise to remain in their marriage- through “richer or poorer”.

Spouses should also encourage each other one to share their feelings that may be causing stress, while striving to give attention to what blessings they still have.  I have learned that everything has a season and hardship does not deserve the worry that it receives. Couples must learn to find ways to comfort each other until the trying season of unemployment passes.  And I truly believe that the more an unemployed spouse is fed encouragement, the sooner the season of worrying about finances will be over.

Intimacy Beyond Sexual Abuse

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DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

For years, my family would refer to me as the one “who smells everything.”  From smelling my food before eating it to being able to find the source of foul odors, I have been the one to call.  I finally realized that my keen sense of smell was directly linked to my memories of sexual abuse as a child.  This sensitivity to odors facilitated some of the triggers that occurred while sharing intimacy with my husband.  Without the ability to separate the good from the bad, there were times when our lovemaking crumbled into frustration and tears.  I would experience flashbacks so vivid that I would need to put on my glasses or be in a lighted area so that I could clearly see that it was my husband in front of me.

Other areas of triggers included certain types of touching, certain foods and the one that was most challenging- the timing.  Because I was often awakened from sleep by the man who began molesting me, my husband had to deal with my harsh response to his attempt to wake me up to engage in intimacy.  No matter how gentle his approach, I would often respond startled and sometimes even angry.   My particular issue has been compounded by the fact that my experience with sexual abuse included re-victimizationRe-victimization from child sexual abuse is when someone experiences multiple instances of sexual assaults from various perpetrators at different times.

I express my own encounters with re-victimization from child sexual abuse through adulthood in somewhat graphic detail in my book, “When Girls Don’t Tell.”  I include specific details in my book because my counseling revealed that many women and girls have experienced this without realizing it.  Consequently, their marriages suffer largely due to their not recognizing or acknowledging their own extent of victimization.

The Scriptures teach that we should meditate on whatever is good.  I was not able to do that at first because I did not have enough “good” that was suitable for reflection.  After completing my book, “When Girls Don’t Tell”, I began to experience the relief that comes with being able to confront those issues of abuse that can be haunting and hold your thoughts hostage.

Ultimately, my husband’s patience coupled with my faith in God, helped me to replace the bad memories with new good experiences to fill my thoughts.  Yet I remain aware that recovery from sexual abuse is a journey rather than a destiny.  I believe that couples who recognize this will have a great chance (with the help of the Holy Spirit) with overcoming the painful challenges and enjoying a happy and fruitful marriage.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

During a season of trust and peace, I found myself reaching out to touch my wife in a non-sexual way. WeImage needed to rebuild a level of intimacy that was real and uninfected by the abuse she encountered as a child and later on even as an adult. We had long talks and we laughed out loud at stories of our past. We prayed and we cried. We wrote to each other when talking seemed to fail our attempts at explaining what we felt.

To quiet the noise adding to the stress and challenges of working on our marriage, I would often retreat to my music, sports or writing. Confronting my own fears of being incompetent to help the woman I love became an issue as well. However, with the help of music and our interactive writing I began to refocus and use my God-given talents.

Blessed to be able to write and express our thoughts, we both began to blog and write books. I expressed how proud I was of the incredible courage and strength she showed in sharing her story with the whole world in her book “When Girls Don’t Tell”. Our children and I also assured her that her past had not defined her and that her story was still being written with the best still to come.

We still struggle at times in our communications. There are still times when there appears to be over Imagereactions and outbursts that I cannot explain. At times it appears as though there is an entity translating what is being said into something other than what is intended. Sometimes I fail to be sensitive or attentive enough to address her needs and have to slap myself out of dwelling on my own disappointment. I try to be both empathic and strong while remembering that the constant reassurances that she needs are not evidence of my faults but evidence of the hard work required for this marriage.

I can tell you now without any regrets that the hard work was and is worth it. I am blessed to be in the incredible marriage I have with my wife. I enjoy her verbal guidance that helps me to understand what is going on with my wife. I am improving in my listening skills and constantly pray for wisdom.  However, I am keenly aware that my marriage is not the norm. Due to the vast number of spouses that go through life shrouded in secrecy and shame about the hideous sexual crimes that robbed their innocence and tainted their view of sex, our marriage represents a small minority.

With sexual assaults at alarming rates within our homes, prisons, military and school settings, it is crucial to develop effective strategies about handling the societal impact of this crime with such long term effects. Give considerations to some of the facts surrounding this issue:

About 1 in 5 women and 1 in 100 men responded with “yes” when asked whether they experienced sexual Imagetrauma during their military service. This number only represents veterans that sought services from the V.H.A. Considering the previous statement, it is not difficult to imagine that these numbers probably under represent the extent of this problem.

In our American culture, we place a great premium on men behaving with aggression in sports, military, business, politics and in the protection of his family. However, when that aggression goes awry and turns into violent sexual assaults against family members or peers, it is that same American culture that often crucifies the man. Allow me to clarify that it is not my position to excuse any sexual violence perpetrated against the family or anyone. However, the broad strokes of legal remedies rarely provide strategies that effectively prevent these episodes of assault nor do they treat the offender and victims for the mental disorders they are struggling with afterwards.

ImageWhat is also heartrending is that same aggression has been fostered in many of our daughters that have also become violent and sexual predators as well. One of the fastest growing populations in our prisons today are our young women. These women also make up a large portion of those sexually assaulting and re-victimizing prisoners in state prisons.

Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer reported in a study that “sexual assault crimes committed within our correctional facilities can have devastating consequences for individual victims and for communities far beyond our jails and prisons,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement.

Unfortunately those devastating consequences have contributed to a multitude of married couples that struggle with intimacy issues as a result of sexual abuse.  The scope of that abuse is varied and seriously under-reported.  Additionally, it would be impossible to provide a” one size fits all” solution for this problem. My hope in this article is to provide insight and hope on a very small scale in comparison to the size of this problem.

Having counseled a large number of men and women, I found sexual abuse occurrences almost common Imageplace in the childhood of many of those I served as well as in adulthood of those that served prison terms. Those giving voice to this problem must be amplified in order to provide the appropriate level of resources and strategies aimed at preventing sexual abuse and the long term effects of this trauma.

For the sustainability of our legacy and generations to come, we must strive to provide comprehensive strategies for healing and effective interventions to help these survivors to avert their becoming offenders or self destructive.

Meredith Maran shares in her well written article “When a Sexually Abused Child Weds”
“Untreated sexual abuse,” says Padma Moyer, MFCC, a San Francisco therapist who works with adults survivors of incest, “is a time bomb. Sometimes it ticks so quietly that even the victim doesn’t hear it. But if it isn’t defused, eventually there’s an explosion.”

When you add these survivors to the populations of military and/or prison populations it often increases their probability of becoming re-victimized. My wife, Dr. Margaret Jamal, frames this phenomenon in her book “When Girls Don’t Tell” as Revictimization.

Maran also shares that “many women who were abused perpetuate the cycle, not necessarily by molesting their children, but by putting them at risk. “If a female survivor’s feelings and memories remain unconscious,” says Ms. Moyer ,”and she doesn’t examine the family dynamic in which she grew up, she may choose a husband like her perpetrator, and create a family like her own family. In that way, she may inadvertently lay the groundwork for her children to be abused.”

Additionally, Maran profiles this tragic truth: “Many incest survivors have “flashbacks” while making love, says Julie Robbins, LCSW, a therapist specializing in child and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Women who had orgasms while being abused as children may punish their bodies for “enjoying” the abuse, becoming non-orgasmic, obese, or anorexic as adults, she says.”

For some, the whole basis for trusting someone has been shattered and their anger, still unresolved, seems to erupt unprovoked at their spouse. For others, their identities have been shattered to the point that they lack the ability to integrate into social settings without violent outbursts of profanity and behavior that erupts like a nuclear bomb.

Marital Intimacy is facilitated through selflessness. Often the woman or man that was abused has developed patterns of distrust for every partner including themselves. Healing is possible and trust can and must be restored. However,  both require unconditional love and patience. Many require professional help and/or peer group settings to help them address nightmares, flashbacks and identity issues as well.

As a Christian that is extremely grateful for the innumerable amount of answered prayers that my Heavenly Father continues to facilitate,  I recommend prayer as a constant for any strategy to deal with restoring intimacy beyond sexual abuse. Personally, I believe that it is easier to place your hope into your Creator than in people that we often place unrealistic expectations on. God will not disappoint and is the healing balm you need to address this very deeply rooted issue.

http://maketheconnection.net/conditions/military-sexual-trauma

http://www.amazon.com/When-Girls-Dont-Tell-Revictimization/dp/1456599097/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1338128142&sr=8-6

http://www.meredithmaran.com/mag_bride_abused.htm

FORGIVENESS IN MARRIAGE

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NOTE: We will resume the Top 10 Reasons for staying Married blogs, but because of so much that we have been hearing, witnessing and experiencing about forgiveness in marriage, we thought it timely to write about it.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

  • TIME TO FORGIVE

How much time and energy does it take to say, “I forgive you”?  I tried timing it for 5 seconds and was able to say it coherently at least 9 times.   The reason that I even thought about timing how long it takes to say “I forgive you” is because of my reflecting upon how long it took me to actually decide to say it.

This is what happened… I got upset with my husband over something that I cannot even remember now.  But after missing two TV shows that we regularly watch together, I realized that I missed our time with each other and decided to say, “I forgive you.”

Now when I acted on this revelation, my husband was in the living room while I was in the bedroom.  And although he did not hear me say those words, I was satisfied that all was well and I could get back to our good relationship together.  Shortly afterwards, my husband asked if I wanted to watch one of my favorite programs, and we were soon united in our Thursday evening get-together.

You may have noted that It was not necessary that  my husband apologized first before I forgave him.  This may sound spooky (or whatever), but I believe that forgiveness is a spiritual thing.  I believe that I must be ready to  forgive daily in order to have a healthy mind and spirit.

Most days, if not every day, someone does something or says something that I might find offensive or hurtful.  This is something that I recognize as an unfortunate reality for me.  Perhaps it is directly related to my having been  repeatedly molested from childhood through becoming an adult.  Admittedly, I am often quite sensitive to comments and gestures according to my own determination about what they mean.  And more than not, when I express my concern, the other party can clarify the real intent to my satisfaction.  But since I do not often verbalize my hurt, I am left to process it just enough to draw my own conclusions.   Because of this, I found that it is much healthier for my state of mind to process in their favor- and to quickly forgive, so that I can move forward with my life.

  • PAYING FOR THE PAIN

Yet I fully understand how forgiving a spouse for the hurt that you experience may appear to be too much to allow.  I think that somehow, we feel that forgiving people means that we send a message of excusing them when they should be punished.

I understand the need and even passionate desire to see that someone pays for your pain.  Along with the desire for retribution is the need to believe that someone cares about how deeply you have been wounded.  Yet, with all of those needs in mind, I have come to realize that unforgiveness does nothing to solve those issues.

  • HAUNTED BY “THE HURTER

Even though the people who hurt you may feel as though they are being punished by your unforgiveness, you will probably agree that this punishment hardly fits the injury.   All the while there is too much energy required to remain unforgiving towards the person- that I will refer to as the “hurter”.

For example, you must continuously rehearse the wrong in order to keep it in mind.  This allows the hurter to hijack your thoughts while probably not even thinking about you.  You find yourself consistently adjusting your life based upon concerns and potential encounters with the hurter.   For example, you avoid places that the hurter may go even though you might have the desire to be there.  This is especially difficult in a marriage where you share the same friends, places and activities.

You may fight to avoid memories that remind you of the hurter (even if they are pleasant memories).  You dislike other people who somehow remind you of the hurter.  Your mood is altered according to how much the thought of the hurter influences you.  Because of your hurter-induced mood swings,  your responses to others become tainted and misdirected causing people to receive your moods as personal attacks.  Consequently, your bad mood – influenced by your unforgiveness towards the hurter – contaminated your  relationship with others.

There is simply too much control and influence  that we allow others to have as a result of unforgiveness.  – I grew weary of just typing about it.  On the other hand forgiveness is empowering as well as rewarding.  As a source of empowerment, forgiveness allows the forgiving person to regain the joy and liberty of living.  As a source of reward, it allows the forgiving person to recognize the ability to overcome a crippling mindset, which is a great accomplishment.

  • THE CHOICE TO FORGIVE

I choose to forgive even those who have hurt me by molesting and sexually assaulting me.  This is not because I want them to get away with what they did, but because I choose to be released from the bitterness that accumulates from unforgiveness.   Additionally, I do not want to be a hypocrite, seeking forgiveness when I am being unforgiving of others.

I know that my words or actions may also hurt others even though this is not my intention.  If I step on someone’s foot accidently or spit in someone’s face while passionately speaking, it does not stop that person from being hurt or offended.  In either case, I will ask for forgiveness, hoping that the response will be in agreement with my request.

  • IN CONCLUSION

For those who want to forgive, but wonder “how do I forgive such horrible hurt that has been done to me?”, I say that it starts with wanting to forgive.  Next, you must believe that it is necessary to forgive.  Then you must believe and convince yourself that you can forgive anything and anyone.  Like love, I believe that forgiveness is a spiritual gift that grows the more you use it.  However if you reserve a little un-forgiveness for something really bad and evil, then that unforgiveness will manifest even when you would rather move forward with your life.  I have found that my acquisition of the Holy Spirit has imparted an attitude that compels me to forgive – even those injuries that I once thought that I would never forgive.  This is my ultimate recommendation for those who truly want to break from the bondage of unforgiveness in their marriage.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

  • Forgiveness – God’s reset tool to heal your marriage

In an urban apartment in Denver, on any given morning, Sandy, a short, overweight and miserable young women would look at her tall husband and father of their 3 children and begin her daily listing of his faults framed by a litany of profanity laced complaints. The volume of this daily ritual was ear splitting and most of their neighbors and all of their children were already tired of the overflow of violent language that came from their apartment.

John was frustrated, unemployed and suffering from a number of mental illnesses. His addiction to a gaming social network was active and he was not seeking help to break his compulsive behavior. He had an alternative existence that he retreated to that excluded his wife. His coping mechanism was also a huge statement of rejection in her eyes.

This couple experienced trust issues even while dating before marriage. Somehow, they believed that marriage would make it easier to trust one another. They were wrong. In addition to the trust issues they faced, both had a reputation for bringing outsiders into their relationship to deal with things but only to build leverage against the other. Neither of the couple actually heeded the advice of those they brought in. They were only looking for witnesses that would back up their claims against their partner.

Both had support from their respective families. However, neither trusted their in-laws to intervene with objectivity. This power struggle continued to grow toxic and finally violent. The police were called repeatedly and rarely did more than to issue a domestic disturbance citation and warn them to get control of their disputes.

The couple sought help from a local pastor and attended his church occasionally. However, the war continued to escalate. In response to a number of midnight, urgent calls to the pastor, the couple was scheduled for counseling sessions.

Sandy made the first session and used this opportunity to build a case for all of the horrible faults that she was experiencing as a result of her husband’s behavior. She refrained from using profanity, however, there was vivid passion and frustration displayed in her recalling each incident. The pastor listened for more than 30 minutes without interruption. He was listening but did not seem to be moved by her illustrations and appeared to be taking notes. Additionally, the pastor showed very little emotion even when she bursted in to tears. He calmly offered a box of tissue to Sandy and asked; “Is that it?” She was alarmed by the degree of his calmness and shouted back “You don’t understand!” He waited a number of minutes before responding and then after 3-4 minutes had passed he said “Wow!” Sandy looked up to see what the pastor was responding to only to find him looking right at her. With a very calm voice he said, “It sounds like a lot for anyone to deal with.” She nodded but then heard a curious question from him: “Have you forgiven him for all of this?” he said, while leaning forward from behind his desk.

Sandy was shocked and suddenly convinced that this was a complete waste of time.  “What?  Why would I do that? He’s not getting away with all that ….stuff!” She said; while the blood rushed to her face in anger. The pastor continued remaining calm and replied: “I never suggested he should. However, I thought it was about time you got off the hook for this.  The best way for that to happen is for you to forgive him.  Why don’t you try to do that and I want you to promise to come back and see me next week. Would you do that for me Sandy?”

Confused by this strange set of requests, Sandy said: “Don’t you want to talk to John first?” The pastor looked at her and said, “There is more for you to share with me before I talk with him. How about 1 week from today at the same time?” Sandy was caught off guard and agreed to the scheduled appointment. She was still not convinced that this was not a waste of time, and she seemed challenged by the request of the pastor to forgive. She struggled with that request all week and came back asking the question: “Why did you say that to me?  How am I getting off the hook by forgiving him?” The pastor smiled and said; “I’m so glad you asked that. It appears to me that you are still not getting much sleep and much of your day is filled with stress even when your husband is not talking to you. He is not being punished by your not forgiving him… you are. You are punishing your own peace and sanity by holding on to this plan of vengeance. That just doesn’t seem to be working out too well. Wouldn’t you agree?”

  • Hitting the Reset Button

Sandy nodded her head and spoke softly; “How do I do this?”  “Well, I want to pray in agreement with you but I need to introduce you to the One that forgave me first.” The pastor began to share from his heart about his relationship with Jesus and led the woman to an understanding that inspired her to surrender her broken life to Jesus.  Over the next week, Sandy began to behave differently toward John. The daily listing of his faults was replaced with positive conversation and suggestions about employment opportunities she had read about. She also revisited the sermons she heard on CD.

John was still not changed in his heart and began to take his frustrations out on her until even he acknowledged that something in her had changed.  He asked what happened to her and she shared about her new found relationship with Jesus and the church. The husband scoffed at her assertions but was curious enough to go to the pastor and ask for a meeting. The pastor began to meet with him and then together with his wife as they appeared to initiate a treaty of peace, ending the war they had fought in for years.

Sandy learned that the toxic substance of her constant criticism and belittling of John was counter productive to the dreams they had shared when they first met. John began to build trust by seeking help to break free from his compulsive behavior.  They began to discuss things and even committed to “fighting fair” strategies that prevented them from ridiculing or making demeaning comments. Most important was their decision and vow to consider the children more and to refrain from violent arguments in front of them.

  • Meeting the Needs

This couple needed a lot more than a few episodes of the help they received from the pastor, the church and their relationship with The Lord. However, their journey has much more potential to continue moving away from divorce and closer toward their dreams while their help flows through a variety of sources.

Every couple has different needs and this is not the only strategy to solve turbulence in a relationship. However, I am convinced that forgiveness is as essential to the healing process of a relationship as water is to the growth of plant life. Likewise, it must flow without respect to the number of times it has been applied for the sake of the relationship.

  • Vengeance is Mine

For the partner that has endured long term pain from an abusive partner you can trust in this Scripture: “Galatians 6:Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” (NLT) and Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (NKJ)

During the airing of a previous teaching I entitled “Unforgiveness – Chains to the Past” I found that many, many people are struggling with this issue. I received calls
from people from different faiths, different cultures, young and old admitting that they were challenged by this issue. However, I have also found that married couples are plagued even to a greater extent with this challenge and often continue a pattern of failed relationships if they do not learn to apply this basic principle of forgiveness.  The most important principle of forgiveness to embrace is that it frees the offended from the act of the offender preventing the offended from being re-victimized by the same act over and over again.

So many victims of pain rehearse their pain in such a way that they interrupt their healing process and re-injure themselves. Others repress their stories but hold on to the pain as though some how it will prevent them from being surprised by that type of pain again. However, my experiences indicate the latter strategy orchestrates re-occurrences of similar pain and suspicion that most people want to victimize them again.

Parents consider it critical to provide protection for their children because they appear to be so forgiving and yet, it is through that same resilient attitude of forgiveness that they can fall and get up again even if it means risking another fall. Additionally, many children continue to have hope even after parents break their promises or disappoint the children over and over again.

There are a number of very positive examples displaying the advantages of forgiveness. Scripture tells us “14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

  • In Conclusion: 

I once read that Mahatma Gandhi contended that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”   This strength Gandhi referred to can also help to facilitate a resetting of the perspectives and motives in continuing any relationship. I am not suggesting that this is the sole catalyst for marital happiness. On the other hand, I do contend that it facilitates better conflict resolution toward a higher level of harmony and overall content.

Embodied in many of the principles that have been handed down to us is that patience and perseverance produce character. This is not a quick fix solution to marital discord. The competencies of conflict resolution will never replace character. Some are more skilled but still dishonest. Others are honest but lacking the communication skills needed to address conflict. But both are needed for sustained trust and harmony and everyone is capable of forgiveness.  With great character, forgiveness can facilitate the resetting of  a derailed relationship. In my humble opinion, that is a recipe for a long and prosperous marriage.

Sex is Better When You’re Married – Reason #4

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This blog entry is the fourth follow up to our challenge to develop top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

My husband and I discussed this a bit before agreeing to make this topic the next entry in our follow-up blog series regarding the top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.  Sex was among my husband’s top 10 Reasons to Stay Married, and I thoroughly agree.

This may be one of those articles that our children would rather not read, but we both agree that it is a topic worth our time and effort.  Both of our backgrounds include (perhaps too many) opportunities to make a reasonable comparison about sexual relations with and without the marital bond.

  • FROM HAVING SEX TO MAKING LOVE

There is little that my husband and I have not experienced in relationships, which allows us to speak from experiential perspectives.  I realize that there is really no way to prove to others that sex is better in a good marriage than with being single.  And I also realize that it is still up to the couple to maximize their marital relationship.  However, I have found that as love grows deeper in marriage, everything needed for great sexual relations is also developed.

We understand and appreciate the gift of sexual gratification that results from our love for each other.  After so many years of experiencing his selfless contributions towards pleasing me, I have absolutely no desire to explore any sexual relationship with anyone other than my husband. I certainly hope that my husband feels the same way about me.  However it took time to arrive at this realization.  The  type of sexual bliss that we now have took time to develop.  My youthful lust was gradually replaced by deep love, passionate engagement and sincere enjoyment that continues to grow for my husband.

  • SINGLE SEX VS. MARRIED SEX

There are those who might argue that sex outside of marriage is just as good.  I have no inclination to argue with someone who wants to think that way.  I simply know from my own experience that there is no way that I would welcome a return to that lifestyle.  One of the greatest reasons is that without the security of a marital relationship, sex tends to remain open to possibilities outside of the couple.  I believe that this openness causes distractions that prevent the opportunity to experience the holistic bond that occurs through long term monogamy.   This holistic bond is what has significantly enhanced our sexual relationship.  And our enhanced sexual relationship has other benefits as well.  It helps relieve stress and really aids our weight management and health regimen.

Although many unmarried people are able to be dedicated to one partner at a time,  other people will tend to view them as available.  Until there is a declaration of commitment through marriage, unmarried people are considered fair game.  They may even be hounded by those looking to “get lucky.”

I also have found that for many single people, sex may even be a source of stress and fear.  Single people are often more concerned with performance and competition (stress)as well as what disease their partners might have (fear) than married people.

  • TIME WASTING SEX

Sex outside of my marriage would be a waste of valuable time and effort.  I already know that my husband excites and stimulates me.  There is no need nor desire for pretense or performance.    I never feel guilty, cheated or bored with regards to having sex with my husband.  I also know that even if something is not quite right, we can talk about it and try again.  I believe that the state of deeply enjoyable and gratifying sexuality is most achievable in a relationship that is free of outside interference and distractions that occur when outside relationships are involved.

I am not impressed nor appreciative when people express that they consider me to be “sexy.”  Being sexy simply means that someone thinks that you would make an enjoyable sex partner.  I believe that anyone at any given time could wear that label.  However, I am impressed that one man wants to have a thriving sexual relationship with me after so many years of marriage.  I am very impressed that he cares enough about me to discuss and explore what makes us both happy.

  • A HIGH YIELD INVESTMENT

While growing in our marriage, we are also learning how to navigate the timing.  I am still learning how to manage my time in a way that keeps me from being too tired when my husband is especially desiring intimacy with me.  Likewise, I know that I have an open invitation to engage my husband’s full participation in satisfying my sexual desires.  I am grateful that my husband spends the time to learn about my needs and desires as well.  We have both invested the time to learn about each other’s sexuality.  We trust and care about each other enough to inquire about what is good and what is not good.

I find that investing deep love and commitment into our marriage continues to produce highly gratifying physical rewards.  However, I  must add that  there is also the element of spiritual investment that further contributes to our enjoyment.  For example, I pray for my husband to find pleasure with me in every way.   I also pray that we grow in our love and that we only desire each other.  Then I am mindful to give thanks to God for blessing us with the ability to enjoy each other with such totality.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I believe that truly great sex begins with a great marriage.  This is why I agree with my husband that sex should be listed among the top 10 reasons to stay married.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

God’s Perfect Design for Intimacy

  •  Passion, Rhythm and Grace

The lights dim and a sultry acoustic guitar begins to strum a simple but compelling latin rhythm of Jose Feliciano’s rendition of Light My Fire. A single spot light fades in and directs the audience’s eyes toward the center of the room.  An attractive couple embraces each other with the man positioned behind the woman and arms wrapped around her. They begin moving in perfect rhythm, synchronized to this slow latin rhumba. Their eyes gaze in to each other, however, no words are spoken. They anticipate each others moves and engage into a sensual dance celebrating their passion of their relationship.

The man is graceful and yet masculine as his guiding hands lead his elegant and sensual partner through a series of twists, and turns that culminates in a very close embrace. Their breathing seems exaggerated and intentionally synched with the beat of the song. The woman flirtatiously pulls away from him only to be pulled back in with a firm and controlling grip. She surrenders because there is no competition here during this moment.

Both appear determined to please one another producing a synergy of passion, rhythm and hot breathing in an intimate and familiar zone that provides a refreshing and entertaining rhumba dance.  The audience applauds with each turn and gasp in awe like voyeurs peeping into a private encounter of passion. The song ends with the couple facing each other wrapped tightly in each other’s arms.  They thank each other and then bow toward the audience in appreciation of the applause of the audience.

It would be wonderful if this type of synchronization and synergy characterized the sexual encounters of every married couples. However, many married couples would state a different story regarding their own intimate encounters. On the other hand, the statistics state that there are more married couples that enjoy this intimacy with more frequency than their single counter parts.

Studies show that 40-50% of married people claim their sex lives are satisfying compared to 20-25% of the single and cohabiting counterparts.  (Maggie Gallagher and  researcher/co-author Linda J. Waite  of The Case for Marriage (2001))  Of course there are those that would challenge the accuracy of the study. However, the crowded bars, clubs and frequent prowling of people seeking companionship suggest that finding a partner is not an easy chore. Additionally, the familiarity, trust and selflessness that is rooted within the structure of marriage frames a far more favorable setting for enjoyable intimacy.

  • Risky Business

Dating encounters that are often filled with clumsy pick up lines, and awkward conversations that are intended to lure the targets into a sexual relationship are rarely presented accurately in today’s TV sitcoms and movies. There are no second takes for the guy that approaches the woman that he has been lusting for the past half an hour only to forget his name while introducing him self before he begins to tell a story about something that has no barring on who he is or what she likes. Despite the level of mystery and intrigue of dating, I think there is little chance of this encounter reaching the levels of intimacy and satisfaction I have grown accustomed to within my marriage.

I agree there are a number of distractions and pressures that tend to plague and even hijack the spontaneous lust filled encounters that steamy movies and TV shows tend to profile. Even in a solid marriage, it is not easy for a man that has just experienced a humiliating and hard day at work, or a woman that fought her way through traffic to get home from her job early enough to make a dinner and pick up the kids to turn on the flirtatious and sensual non-verbal communicators that inspire an atmosphere for intimacy.

On the other hand, the seasoned couple that finds a way to develop the rhythm and synchronization needed to anticipate the moves and moods of their partner are far more likely to experience more frequent and satisfying sexual encounters. This seasoned couple has progressed beyond the awkward stages of clumsy experimentations. They have discovered a set of tried and true satisfying practices they can rely upon. They still experiment and are open for spontaneity, however, they can also do those things that continue to deliver satisfaction without worry of growing bored. I find it hard to fathom ever growing tired of the frequency and heights of satisfaction I share with my wife. The prelude is not often the same but the resolve always leaves us spent and satisfied. That’s not an experience I could count on during dating episodes before I married my wife.

  • Passion Sanctioned by God 

Personally, I believe this type of intimacy is protected and designed by God Almighty for  the heart’s desire of married couples.  I can’t imagine anything I have ever done proving worthy enough to justify the level of intimacy and enjoyment I experience with my beautiful wife. We have what we have through His grace and mercy.  Hallelujah!

In the Bible, we read; ” Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled”. I interpret that verse of Scripture to mean that my union with my wife is righteous in the site of  God and that whatever we decide to do in bed is permitted. We are allowed to be creative, spontaneous, to moan as a quiet storm or scream as a loud volcano and God is alright with that. I will refrain from any other illustrations in order to keep this fit for family reading. However, the point I am making is I believe that what we do in the privacy of our bedroom is without regret, guilt or blame. That is one of the many reasons that I can look forward to the morning after our making love rather than my single, or cohabiting counterparts.

I heard it said that chocolate tastes better if you had to steal it, however, when it comes to my wife, I believe our intimacy is better because she is mine. I would never trade my plentiful gift from heaven for a risky night of being a thief.  We hold nothing back during our intimacy and the reward is consistently  satisfying.

The Biblical model for marriage makes a provision for frequency as a safe guard:

1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

This provision is not a license for either partner to abuse the other. It is the framework of trusting one’s own body into the hands and motives of your partner. It frames an offering toward the prolonged satisfaction of your partner. The authority over your partner’s body should be rooted in love and not lust. Love is sacrificial. Lust is self seeking.

For those that continue to insist that they enjoy a greater level of frequency and satisfaction because they are single or cohabiting, I am willing to consider that you may not know what you don’t know. Additionally, I believe there is no chance at all of my ever becoming a candidate to join your ranks.

  • Hazardous Hunting Grounds

On the other hand I have counseled a number of single and cohabiting adults that I have deep compassion for.  The volume of social networks, dating sites,  and singles clubs tell me that there are extremely large numbers of people that are hoping to “get lucky.”  Their hunting grounds are dangerous, full of predators, STDs, and unknown challenges that are often deceitful, disappointing and under-deliver on their promises to satisfy.

Unfortunately, failed marriages may make the loudest noise regarding their dissatisfaction. However, my experience (and those of the couples that I know are happy), tend to avoid boasts about how great and or how frequent the levels of our intimacy meet or exceed satisfaction. It’s not a secret, but the intimate details should remain between us. We should never become arrogant or prideful.

  • Sharing Your Burning Passions for Each Other

In closing, I want to revisit the example of the dance partners I used in the beginning of this blog. The very graceful and exciting couples that win in dance competitions require training, practice, and a healthy level of boldness. Likewise, married couples must develop those things that work best for them. That level of communication requires trust, honesty, patience, sensitivity, confidence, a sincere desire to satisfy your spouse and a very active prayer life to protect your thought life and motives. If those lines of communication are active and proficient it is probable that this couple has learned and even established a consistent ritual of satisfying intimacy.

My wife and I often pray to only have desire for each other. I ask that God will help me to hold captive every thought obedient to Christ. If my mind, my heart and my spirit are all in line with God’s perfect design for intimacy, the results are always extraordinary. We always thank God for our marriage and the gift of intimacy He has designed for us.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I completely agree with the Scripture : “it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Is Love Reason Enough to Stay Married?

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This blog entry is the third follow up to our challenge to develop top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.

DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway sang the questions, “Where is the love you said was mine all mine, till the end of time?  Was it just a line?  Where is the love?”

Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

In reflecting upon those questions, I have wondered if when we promise to love someone, we actually have a good idea about what love is.  For example, think about the last time that you said “I love you” to your spouse.  Now try to think


about exactly what you meant by that statement.    Then think about times that you did not feel the love.  Where did it go?  Before you really try to meditate on your answer to those questions, please continue reading.

After having an argument about love with my husband, I decided to do some research on love to be ready when we later continue our argument.   That may seem strange or funny, but that’s what we do.   Anyway, I tried to uncover a true meaning of love that agreed with how I feel about love.  This was actually quite a challenge that was beginning to frustrate me.  I was beginning to hate my search for the true meaning of love.  There were so many opinions and insights about love that seemed to keep me bouncing around a virtual pin ball table of perspectives.  Finally, I decided that I would settle upon the Scriptural foundation of love since this is what is used to develop widely accepted marriage vows.  Although I do not consider myself very religious, I strongly believe that there are spiritual laws which influence and govern our existence.  Whether or not you agree, I trust that you will find the results interesting enough to consider.

  • LOVE AS A WORD

Basically, there are various language influences in Bible versions that include both Old and New Testaments.  I tend to refer to the Hebrew and Aramaic texts because it makes sense to me that they are closer to authenticity.  However, I respect that many others prefer King James and other translations.  As a show of concession my statements will consider what I believe are points of agreement.

An area of agreement regarding love appears to reside within the Old Testament of the Scriptures.  There is only one word for love in the Old Testament which is derived from the Hebrew term.  The following is taken from an article that I believe sums this up best.  “With respect to words for love, it resembles our languages like English or German: there is one and only one word for love (the verb ahav and the noun ahava) which covers the concept as broadly as our modern word “love”. God’s love (Jr.31:3), love of God (Dt.6:4), love of the fellow man (Lv.19:18), love of a friend (2Sam.1:26), love of a girl (Gen.29:20), mere sex (Prov.7:18), love of money (Eccl.5:9), and love of vanity (Ps.4:3) are all called by the same name.” http://www.lrz.de/~hr/bible/loves.html

  • WHERE DOES LOVE ORIGINATE?

I find that when it comes to marriage, there is love and there is the idea of love.  The idea of love can be superficial and can easily fluctuate according to how one may feel from moment to moment.  However I believe that love comes from God and that it is a spiritual gift.  I further believe that the acquired gift of love resides within a person’s spirit that transcends what is rational or able to be fully understood.   This gift of love is developed according to how and how much it is used.

I believe that love itself does not fluctuate and does not come in varieties.  This means that if you have this spirit of love that the love flows to everyone, because love does what love is.  I am convinced that love is consistent and not contingent upon the whims of those who possess it.  I believe that we choose how we use love and tend to combine it with other influences such as physical attraction, enjoyment, etc.   I do not believe that there are different types of love, but only different ways that we apply and process love.

  • MY PERSPECTIVE OF WHAT LOVE DOES

Now with so much discussion about the makeup of love there is still the question of what love does.  I believe that love is the essence of what is good.  It is the spiritual element of our existence that causes us to ultimately feel good about others and about life.  When I say that I love someone, I am willing to see and feel the good in and about that person.  I am also willing to overlook any bad or perceived faults when I am in the active state of love.  In the state of love, I easily forgive because I want what is good.

However, I am also of the opinion that many people are engaged with the idea of love which can easily fluctuate according to how they feel.  When people are able to stop loving someone, I believe that they actually quench the spirit of love.  I believe that love can be managed or even channeled.  But the choice not to love is controlled by the beholder more than the influence of the receiver.   My love for my husband is not contingent upon how he feels about me because my love is a gift from God that flows from my being a loving person.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I believe that God is the originator of love and that God is Love.   I further believe that the state of love is defined by the originator of love and is described and defined in the spiritual reference of the Holy Scriptures.  I have this scripturally based love for my husband and believe that this is the love that he has for me.  With this love, I am able to overcome the times that I might feel hurt by his words or actions.  This love compels me to forgive him and even want what is best for him.  It so happens that I believe that being married to me is included in what I believe is best and good for my husband.  Since I also believe that my husband loves me, I am confident that he realizes how much he is included in what is best and good for me.  We are able to make it through the tough challenges that we face in marriage because our love compels us to want what is best and good for each other.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

If a couple has to count reasons for them to stay married, then love’s ability to motivate and inspire has probably been severely challenged.  However, one of the most powerful attributes about love is its resilience.  Rekindling love is almost always a strategy to stimulate the memory; to reignite that “reckless, nobody but you will do” type of feeling you once had about your mate.

Some may say they have fallen out of love of their spouse. I believe that there are seasons that are less romantic in a relationship. I also believe that your relationship may require a defibrillator and some resuscitation but most relationships are worthy of another vigilant try.  This marriage was probably initiated and founded on love and the promise to love through good and bad times…. Remember?

  • DEALING WITH TEMPTATIONS

On the other hand, there are a multitude of lures out there that target those seeking “action packed passion on steroid” type of experiences. There should be warning labels stamped on the front of every date (outside of your spouse) that is promising to give you what you’ve been missing. However, they also know you probably wouldn’t read the label. This area of lust only responds to scent (not sense)  and picturesque thrills of short encounters.

Meanwhile, back at the normal home front, the adventure and mystique that accompanies your early dating process is often tossed aside for more practical and less romantic activities. Many couples are stressed just trying to navigate through finance (including consequences from impulse spending), health, children, and life in general. In the midst of some of the darkest and most difficult times of a marriage, those lures look especially distracting and attractive. However, they usually offer only short term satisfaction and often under represent the “fatal attraction” drama that accompanies their advances.

I still love my very stunningly beautiful wife and I am still aroused by her sensual and earthy scent that lingers after her warm embrace that assures me that I am still the only man for her. However, I am also guilty of not demonstrating and expressing the different dimensions of that love with enough regularity to off-set bouts of insecurity that surface. Most women will respond positively to spontaneous and romantic encounters that cast them in a starring role. On the other hand, that script has to be put in action more than once a year, or decade… Amen? (She will probably use this as leverage against me in the future…. )

On the other hand, stressful relationships can make even great plans appear unlikely and there is often an argument waiting to happen. Typically, in the midst of those stressful times, communication suffers and becomes stressful.  Repeated episodes of those arguments and stress will erode the trust in a relationship.

  •  HAVING THE BEST OF INTENTIONS

We must also address the need for your spouse to trust that you will be there for her/him, protect her, respect him and demonstrate trustworthiness.  Finally, I have learned that most want to feel that s/he will always rank among the most important things that are getting your attention.

Outlined in verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 we find what may be among the most important action things for a man to do. In this biblical listing of character traits of love, we find a very appealing plea for love being the catalyst for staying in a marriage.  Paul declares:

(4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.)

Now, if a couple has reached the point in their marriage where they are seeking reasons to justify staying or leaving; “What’s love go to do with it?” Remember love always perseveres, always, hopes, and always trusts.

There will be problems in most marriages.  Remember, there were even challenges in marriages during biblical times as there are now. The selfless attitudes that are illustrated through the true attributes of love is not like the noise in the head of a person considering divorce. It appears that people become far more self-centered and focused on personal needs when considering divorce.

I believe that is the justified motive behind framing covenant vows with promises to love in good times and bad. Contrasting times of bliss and struggle are inevitable in a marriage. However, the resilience of love can not only make that marriage bearable, but truly satisfying.  It may require more than a “couples retreat” to reignite those flames of love. However, the reward of reigniting those flames should prove worthy of the effort.

When given an exercise to meditate and journal all the reasons that you love your spouse, many are able to push aside imperfections and focus on the most attractive aspects of their marriage. Even if poisonous arguments have tarnished the glow of those aspects; with a lot of prayer, professional help and the desire to make it work, love can once again place your relationship into that “reckless, nobody but you will do” spot.  Because of the resilience of love, you can enjoy this relationship you promised to stay with in front of God and witnesses.

  •  ADDRESSING THE SPIRIT OF “I TRIED EVERYTHING!” CONSIDER TRYING THIS…

   Plan an appropriate outing, fitting your current budget. (Splurging can be a trigger for an argument and an example of your irresponsibility as well.)

(What’s the weather like?) For example; if you have been planning this special time to get away but your spouse does not trust you or is even suspicious of your intentions, you may find it impossible to be spontaneous because you need to be trusted to do what you are doing.  However, if you confide in a trusted sibling, or friend that could back up your intentions to your spouse without giving away the plan, you can overcome some of the suspicion through a surrogate trustee.

Taking your wife to a sporting event might not be the best choice to make her feel like she is the star of the night. However, taking her to a dance club where you are constantly turning your head to look at other women is even worse. A medley of things that may begin at the Museum (as an example) and end up somewhere cozy and very private could be just the thing that frames a time of intimacy and sharing that reassures your spouse of the fact that she is still the star of your dreams.  Aim for a win-win situation where you can both enjoy the night.

Essential to this date is to somehow capture this event with a photograph. Even a cell phone can capture this very special time and allow you to save and frame this memory/event for further review at the appropriate time.

If you are not very good at communicating your feelings, then search for that special song with those great lyrics that expresses what you are trying to say as clearly as possible. You should also plan on the follow up after playing the song. Dead silence could give room to questions like “What does that mean?” Be prepared to point to the specific line that captures what you are trying to say. No need to play the whole song unless relevant.

Remember and re-state plans you can still accomplish. Remember the goal is to rekindle.  Rekindling amplifies what is still there while acknowledging the promise of what could still happen. If you try all of this and it still meets a wall of resistance, then stay hopeful and get ready to stand and persevere. Remember: in the end “Love never fails!”

Staying Married for the Kid’s Sake

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This blog entry is the second follow up to our challenge to develop top 10 Reasons to Stay Married.


DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

I remember one day talking to two of our youngest children about what life would be like for them if my husband and I split up.  It was during a time when arguments between me and my husband seemed to erupt with increasing frequency.  Our youngest children were adolescents at the time and I was concerned that the discord was especially having an adverse effect on them.  I was also considering possible living arrangements in the event that a divorce actually occurred.

  • CHILDREN NEED STABILITY

In response to my bringing up a “what if” concerning a possible separation, my daughter looked at me and said that it “would be too weird.”  My son sort of chuckled and said “mom, stop playin.  Don’t even think about it.”  “Dad ain’t goin nowhere.  And you definitely ain’t goin nowhere.”   At that point I began to consider that a divorce would have a real negative impact on our children.  But what I expected was even more of an issue was how their perception of us would change.  Our children were confident that they knew us and could depend on us.  I pondered how important it is that children believe that they know what their parents would or would not do.

I have learned that children need stability and truth from their parents in order to nurture healthy attitudes in them.  One time, our youngest son was behaving like he had a huge grudge against the entire family.  I finally decided to explore his issue because I was weary of how much his attitude was disturbing the peace in our home.  I was surprised to find that our son was actually upset with my husband and me because we did not take them out like we had agreed to do.  We had come home really tired and asked if we could reschedule an outing to a restaurant that we had planned with the children.  Our son’s whole issue was that we did not keep our word.  I later found out that all of our children expressed that it really bothered them if we cancelled something that we agreed to do for or with them.  I also noticed that they were becoming increasingly unenthusiastic about planning anything together.  I reasoned that this was because our children had grown to distrust that we would actually follow through as planned.

  • KEEPING DIVORCE OFF THE TABLE

Eventually, my husband and I discussed this issue and made a conscious effort to refrain from breaking anymore commitments to our children.  I decided that I would do everything in my power to keep my word to our children after seeing how much it meant to them.  I realized that this meant that this was another reason to keep the issue of divorce off the table.  But since divorce was not an option, we had to learn how to get along and develop better communication skills- even if just for the sake of the children.

I must admit that there were times in our marriage where the disharmony in our marriage seemed too much to bear, even for the sake of the children.  There were even times that I convinced myself that the children would be better off if my husband and I lived separately because we would have such hostile disagreements.  I thought that our children would have a more peaceful existence because they would not have to be subjected to our violent, mean spirited bickering.

  • TEACHING CHILDREN TO BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS

But I had not realized how much our staying together was teaching our children valuable lessons.  For example, they later expressed how much they learned that people can stay together and work out their differences if they love each other.  Although they hated when we argued, they began to trust that we knew how to work things out because of our love for each other.  It also showed them that we cared about them and each other in a way that was self sacrificing.  They appreciated that we were considering their feelings even more than our own.

In today’s society, I hear too many people who simply do not have faith in marriage because of the many examples of divorce in their own families.  I believe that if parents continue to teach children that marital relationships can be easily broken that our society will breed a generation of adults who lack community and commitment in general.  I believe that on a broader scale, this will perpetuate a lack of trust and integrity that will hurt our overall progress – socially as well as economically.

  • IN CONCLUSION

I believe that when parents do not consider the impact that their decisions have on their children, that they risk steering them in ways that they are sure to regret later.  For example, I did not want to influence my children to think that it was acceptable to be unreliable.  I did not want to teach them how to go back on their word in matters of love, education, business or life in general.   Today, I am so happy that our children were factored into the reasons that my husband and I stayed together.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

Blessed to be the father of five children, I have had a number of their friends to claim me as their surrogate father. I have also had a number of much older people claim me as “dad”.  Some were even older than me, which felt awkward at times. More importantly, this represents a haunting void that is present for so many people in our society, it seems clear that strategies for effective parenting and keeping fathers in the home are desperately needed.

  • PARENTS AS ROLE MODELS

My children did not grown up in a home where there were no arguments or slammed doors. However, they did grow up with the benefits of a two parent home. Raising children with two parents is hard enough without the added pressures of adjusting to divorce. I am not holding my wife and I up as model parents. However, I know from the testimonies of our children that they truly appreciate our commitment to working things out while refusing to let them suffer through a difficult and traumatic divorce.

Children do not get to choose their parents and of course there are good models and bad models of parents to examine. In retrospect, I doubt that there is a “perfect and trouble free” model of a family. Even the first family recorded in the Bible of Adam and Eve reported a sibling murder within their family. However, that does not prove that the best model for a family is not with a father, mother and children.

  • MATTERS OF WELFARE 

The importance of the welfare of the children is often demonstrated by the level of sacrifice that many parents adopt as acceptable.  Even in marriages where the parents have fallen out of the affectionate and intimate relationship they once enjoyed, parents are often willing to continue sacrificing and providing for the welfare of their children.

I cannot imagine anything more important to the welfare of those children than the combined efforts of the parents, some great friends and some skilled and knowledgeable professionals to build competencies to repair fractured and stressed relationships.  Sometimes extended family members (in-laws) can assist as well, but those models appear to be less common.

  • OUTSIDE INFLUENCES

Tragically, and far too often, grand parents, aunts and uncles have been compelled to assume parental roles due to the toxic and violent nature of a distressed marriage. In that case, neither of the parents appear to be a good choice to oversee the welfare of the children. Regrettably, even this scenario is not always ideal for raising children. The worse case scenario is often when the courts rule that the children are to be seized and placed into foster care systems. There are far too many horror stories associated with foster care to outline in this brief article.

Another side of this argument usually sites that children do not benefit from being in relationships that are toxic and even violent. I agree with that point. However, the alternative should be framed carefully and with consideration for the long term negative effects of children being separated from one or both of their parents.

  • SEEKING SOLUTIONS

I believe that far too frequently couples head for divorce after failing self-help strategies that were not well though out or just not effective enough to handle the complexity of their problems.  I have also found that couples that seek a team of helpers that can address all sides of the marriage are far more successful in
preserving their marriage than couples with self-help strategies. Effective strategies allow the children to gain the benefit of watching mom and dad work through issues rather than bailing out and leaving the children with feelings of abandonment.

The effective solution to marital issues that threaten the integrity of the family is not his way or her way but a new way that is framed with the understanding that the children’s financial, social, and emotional well being are part of what is at risk. That is why it is critical to seek comprehensive solutions that heal the whole relationship and develops coping tools to provide sustained results.

  • CHANGE FOR THE CHILDREN

Rather than make a choice that is based solely on the children, I believe you can make the choice considering all the issues while acknowledging the weighted importance of the welfare of the children. Often there is a need for real change that is not easy to develop but critical for the sustainability of the marriage and family.

A number of studies argue that children in single parent homes are more at risk for depression, suicide, in addition to poor performance in school. Additionally, children experience  post traumatic stress from the parental battling while being uprooted and moving to new neighborhoods and schools. This is not to say that there are not exceptions to these statistics.  You may be one of those super parents that has done an awesome job raising your child after experiencing a divorce. If that is your testimony, I applaud you and hope that you can write a “How-to” book that will teach others to do the same. However, this article is only to highlight the increased risks concerning children of divorced parents.

  • IN CONCLUSION

In conclusion, I believe the greatest asset any community has are the families that learn the competencies needed to sustain a marriage and keep a family together.  My hope was to present one the greatest inspirations to fight for your marriage and your family.

Great marriages are not free from verbal fighting but they do learn how to verbally fight fair and avoid destroying the most precious gems in the eyes of their children, their parents and their family. Working through struggles and finding equitable solutions serve to teach invaluable lessons of conflict resolution and to build resilience into the character of your children.

Top 10 Reasons to Stay Married

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DR. MARGARET JAMAL WRITES…

It really bothers me to hear about couples getting divorced.  While I understand that there could be valid reasons to make the break, it just feels like something good has been tragically destroyed.   I believe that no matter what the relationship has become, it probably began as a wonderful experience of love, romance and hope.   After reading about yet another couple who was breaking up, I wondered if being challenged to make a list of reasons to stay married would influence the thought of possible reconciliation.

With much enthusiasm, I challenged my husband to write about the top 10 reasons to stay married for our next I Do Me2 blog post.  However, I found it difficult to come up with my own top 10 list.  This difficulty came with my realizing that there were pros and cons for many of the items on my list.  For example, Number 3 about “a sense of security” is not necessarily the case for some people.  Whereas I feel like a burglar, etc. would have a serious battle if they tried something with us, I know that other spouses feel like it would be every man and woman for themselves.

Unfortunately there are many women who do not feel that their spouses would do whatever it takes to make them feel safe.  Some have expressed that their husbands would push them in front of a robber if that person had a weapon.  I married a very protective man and I have a tendency to look out for his welfare also.

With this in mind, I am merely posting my opinion of what I might consider to be good reasons for staying married.  First, I am including a summary of my list.  Then each week my husband and I will follow up with more details describing each of our choices that have been listed.  This week will explain Reason #1.

By the way, we are each composing our lists separately.    I must admit that I am a little curious about his list.  I am sure that we will have much to discuss.

MY TOP 10 REASONS FOR STAYING MARRIED

1-You made a promise, 2-You love each other, 3-The marriage bond offers a unique sense of security, 4-Dating is a lonely pass time, 5- Losing a marriage tends to produce a chain reaction of failure in relationships, 6- Your spouse will know too many of your vulnerabilities and may use them against you if you try to enjoy life with someone else, 7- A marital relationship reduces the likelihood of contracting STDs, 8-You have given too much of yourself to your marriage to simply waste your investment, 9-People are weird and you pretty much know how weird your spouse is, 10-God hates divorce.

REASON # 1-You made a promise.

What is happening to people today who simply have no honor when it comes to keeping a promise?  I figure that breaking a promise is the same as lying.  This reality occurred to me after I actually began to read the content of some of those dreadfully long and tedious contracts that come with online software downloads.  Have you ever actually read the agreement before clicking the box?  I actually took the time to read one and barely understood 25% of what it was saying.  I was not sure if I could agree or not.  But I wanted to use the software, so I clicked AGREE.  I made the same mistake with credit cards and other costly commitments.

But when I got married (this time), the commitment was clear and the question was brief.   I was sober and believed that I was doing the right thing.   I made a promise.  Admittedly, there was a time that I was not a woman of my word and was more cavalier about commitment.  But I have overcome (am overcoming) that poor character trait and now look forward to keeping my promises.

Why make a promise unless you intend to keep it?  I also believe that if you cannot keep a promise made to God in front of witnesses, you probably are not very trustworthy in other areas as well.  If you can turn your back on your wedding vows, I believe that you are probably not to be trusted with other relationship commitments such as business relationships or leadership.  It certainly was the case with me.  It was too easy for me to walk out on situations where people expected my commitment.  Fortunately, I am finding that the recently acquired mindset of keeping my promise regarding my marriage is also developing my character in other areas.

DR. AARON JAMAL WRITES…

In response to my wife’s challenge to list 10 reasons for staying married, I must admit that I discovered a consensus of writers that seem biased toward divorce rather than marriage. In today’s culture of quick no-fault divorces, it has become increasingly difficult  to cling to reasons for enduring the ”better or worse” times that married couples vowed to endure.  Johnny Taylor’s song, “It’s Cheaper to Keep Her” has only prompted more caution for prenuptial arrangements. Any Google search will provide mountains of links that support your getting a divorce.  However, the volume of links encouraging people to stay married is much less and provide less compelling arguments for staying married.

On the other hand, I have discovered it is not wise to ask a drop-out about whether or not school is a great idea.  I have also used similar wisdom to deal with those that are unemployed when they suggest that I should quit my job that I am unhappy with. The point is jobs, school and marriage will have seasons of challenge no matter the employment, education or marital partner. Marriage vows have appropriately framed this covenant protected journey while promising to stay through the best or worse. I have yet to be interviewed for a job that promised the same level of security. Most employers are only interested in employing you for your best and will fire you if your worse frequently shows up.  Both dynamics will surface in a marriage.

Divorce is rarely expressed during a wedding ceremony as a plausible exception rule in case your worse shows up too frequently.  Conventional vows to marry read something like: “In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow.” These vows reflect a healthy respect for the higher authority of God, as well as a commitment to

embrace the contrasting conditions that will occur during marriage. There will be sickness, and health. There will be good times and bad. There will be joy and unfortunately sorrow. So how would it sound if people said “I offer you my solemn vow to be faithful with you as long as you make me feel awesome all of the time; as long as you look good; as long as you never say the wrong thing to me; as long as you are making a great income, and never, ever, ever get sick; as long as you remain faithful to me and never criticize me if I mess up.”  Somehow that does not read like a great deal to me.

Personally, I cannot imagine facing the challenges of life and death without the companionship and  emotional, intellectual, social and sexually gratifying support I have with my wife. Committing toward our marriage where divorce is not an option has given me a partner and cheering section that inspires and sharpens me when the hardest task I am facing is “working on me.” There is no chance of a healthy “us” if I am unhealthy spiritually, emotionally, socially and physically. I owe it to us to work on me and fortunately my wife works at least as hard on her self.

I have found that the process of blending personalities is a life long journey that provides countless blessings as well as challenges throughout the journey. The intimate connection of marriage can amplify the extremes we experience in our quests to pursue personal goals and dreams. On the other hand, those extremes can erupt in to passionate exchanges of arguments or sex as well as priceless support when you encounter the loss of a loved one or find yourself playing the role as a health provider for a severely ill family member.

The point is that we will face these challenges in life regardless if we marry or not. However, the inevitable challenges are far less overwhelming and we become a lot more resilient when we have a partner to embrace us while riding this roller coaster of challenges that life delivers to our door.

Now, before you run to exchange your married life for a single/divorced one, lets explore what other compelling evidence there is for you to consider. I will join my life partner and gift from heaven in profiling reasons for staying married over the next 10 weeks.

MY TOP 10 REASONS FOR STAYING MARRIED

1) Mental Heath-Evidence shows that your mental health is far more stable with less depression while married than singles or people divorced  2) Because the synergy formulated in your marriage in the form of children is priceless and their support system is vital to their development. 3)There is no such thing as a good divorce.  4) Married men and women live longer than their single counter parts. 5) 40-50% of Married people claim their sex lives are satisfying compared to 20-25% of the single and cohabiting counterparts. 6) Professionals that are married are more likely to be promoted, reliable in their attendance and perform at a higher standard than their single counterparts. 7) Married people are far less likely to contract STDs than single or cohabiting counter parts. 8) 77% of unhappy married couples that stayed married claimed a turn around in their marriage saying they are very happy or quite happy. 9) Single Dating is risky, expensive and usually does not provide desirable results. 10) Couples that seek help through counseling, marriage conferences, books, dvds, etc. are more likely to turn their relationship around and sustain satisfying marriages.

REASON # 1-Mental Health.

My first focus is not the best or the most compelling but it may be something that is rarely discussed. Mental Heath!  That’s right!  Contrary to what Hollywood projects and what so many people declare, statisticians have provided the research that reveals married men and women are less depressed, less anxious, and less psychologically distressed than single, divorced, or widowed adults. According to Maggie Gallagher and  researcher/co-author Linda J. Waite  of The Case for Marriage (2001), research shows “getting divorced lowers both men’s and women’s mental health, increasing depression and hostility, and lowering one’s self-esteem and sense of personal mastery and purpose in life.”

Dr. Robert Coombs, a  biobehavioral scientist at UCLA, conducted a review of more than 130 studies on the relationship between well-being and marital status, concluding that “there is an intimate link between the two.”  Married people have significantly lower rates of alcoholism, suicide, psychiatric care, and higher rates of self-reported happiness.

According to Dr. Coombs those in  married relationships experienced a lower rate of severe depression than people in any other category.

The annual rate of major depression per 100 is as follows:

Married (never divorced) 1.5 ; Never married  2.4; Divorced once  4.1; Cohabiting  5.1 house episode …

There is more evidence that supports the improved mental health of those that are married in contrast to their single or cohabiting  counterparts. However, for the sake of brevity, I will limit my references.

I look forward to sharing more of my reasons for staying married in the coming weeks.