Have a little faith in your Partner in Parenting


Parenting challenges the best of couples. We’ll talk about the difficulties and opportunities for building your relationship. But first, a nod to those of you doing the work of two as one — I can hardly imagine the work of a single parent. Cheers to each of you!

As we all know, opposites attract and that probably includes opposite approaches to parenting. One says, “Get off of that! You’ll fall!” And the response comes back, “Leave her alone, she’ll figure it out.” And that’s when the fight starts.

Parenting is so important and yet we have two individuals with different attitudes and perspectives in facing the world. Spend the money, don’t spend the money; ground them or not; to spank or not to spank … those are the questions.

Here are a few general thoughts to hold in the back of your mind as your parenting team trains up your little ones.

Cooperate: This will be key. Children are gifted in their ability to work the edges and split parents. They know how to wait until you’re tired, and then say, “Mom said I could.” Before you know it, they have gamed the system. This is especially important in a blended family.

Communicate: It may be too obvious to say, but we have to communicate. Always a key component of coupling, the details are commodities that have to be shared. The ideas and attitudes that we are thinking and feeling need to flow back and forth. A subset of communication would be negotiation. Give and take is a core competency skill for coupling. To negotiate means to do it the other person’s way with a willing heart.

Congregate: This starts with sitting at the dinner table together and specifically not around the television. A study several years ago identified eating meals together as the common denominator for Rhodes Scholars, one of the higher honors a college student can attain. Sit around the table together and deepen your communication and cooperation.

Continuing the concept of congregating is to suggest sitting in the pew together. You know where to find a pew; it’s a bench in a house of worship. Want to teach your children values? Let them see the two of you humbly and respectfully worshiping together.

This brings me to the final point …

Faith: Have some faith in each other. If the other has an idea to manage a situation with the kids, roll with it, learn something, it won’t hurt to try. Faith in the other creates an opportunity for everyone involved. Your partner is affirmed and the children see your examples of listening and openness.

And have some faith in your children. Try to not help too quickly or too much. If you believe in them, stand back and watch. You might be surprised, but maybe not — you knew they could do it.

Cooperate, communicate and congregate. Practice a little faith, too, it will come back to you.

What to do when our past affects our present

The wife said to me while in my office, “I told him, ‘there’s the door.’”

This couple have disagreed for years about parenting.  Their childhood experiences are instructive in understanding why they differ.  She grew up in a family with a lot of love. There were problems but nothing too caustic or destructive.

His parents made him start working very young so he always struggled, frequently failed and often went without–without proper clothes, transportation, food and most especially love.

Remarkably he wants to raise his son the same way he was raised.  On some level he has to defend that it was good for him.  He seems to have to believe this.

What then happens is he projects his own negative core beliefs on the son.  He describes his son as no good, an idiot, worthless.  Of course these are his own unconscious beliefs about himself.

So the husband walks into the kitchen and finds the 20yo son making a mess, cooking for himself.  The real issue is the conflict in his mind.  How can this young man have the audacity to live his life so freely?  How can he be at ease with himself?

The son had gotten into the father’s special spices and oils as he makes a nice lasagna.  The husband argues with the son and then his wife.  He can’t believe the disrespect, the audacity.  And the argument escalates.  His main tactics are belittling, belligerence and threats.  The script is not new.  They’ve had this argument before, said these words before.  He threatens to leave

Before she has begged him to stay.  Fearing the loss of family she has given in.  But she has been growing, developing a stronger sense of purpose and personal authority.  She had been on her heels, but this time she steps forward. Now she was ready for him to decide.

She didn’t cry.  She didn’t yell.  She just wanted him to decide.  “There’s the door.”  Which way did he want to go?    She was clear in her heart that she was okay with whichever way he decided.  She said,  “It breaks my heart, that’s his son.  But he has to decide.  In or out.”

They are reading the Bible together and meeting with their pastor.  They are trying to figure out what sacrificial love is.  Love that gives itself away.

Life can be awfully messy.  I wish Couples could easily see and do the right thing.  But we tend to be pretty selfish, see things from our own point of view.   Not to mention the hurts and habits we are still trying to overcome.

She said, “I do love him but I can’t forget.  And I’m angry about what I can’t forget.”

George and Martha

Martha and George Washington

On July 4, 1776, Martha Washington had just turned 45 years old. I’ve always been a fan of our first president, but just learned that Martha and I share a birthday of June 2.

As the Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, Martha was evacuating along with others from New York, the site of the next big battle of the Revolutionary War. The British armada just off shore numbered more than 400 ships and was the largest naval force ever seen in American waters. The Americans had just won the fight in Boston but this was an unprecedented escalation.

She had already buried her first husband and a daughter. No stranger to grief, she must have been concerned as she made her way home to Mount Vernon. Maybe you know how she felt during this season of life.

George and Martha were quite a pair. She was quite possibly the wealthiest widow in Virginia when they married. But at 5 feet tall, Martha’s style caught the eye of the 6’2” George. She enjoyed her jewelry and was married in a pair of purple silk shoes. Their love is evident in the letters between them. In later years, he wore a painted miniature locket of her and apparently had it on him when he died.

Just a year before, as he was being named the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, George wrote a letter dated June 23, 1775, from Philadelphia. He tells her he is headed to Boston. He includes, “I go fully trusting in providence, which has been more bountiful to me than I deserve, and in full confidence of a happy meeting with you some time in the fall.” And, “I return an unalterable affection for you which neither time or distance can change.”

It’s a political statement to say that George Washington’s character was absolutely critical to the birth of our nation and the freedom we enjoy today. The shared experience of Christian faith and devotion to each other secured George and Martha in that foundation.

They had married in 1759 and had some years of peace together between the French and Indian wars and the Revolutionary War. He was a happily married man. Our first president enjoyed cards, hunting, fishing, dancing and theater, but it is interesting to note that once married he never again recorded in his diary attendance at a cock-fight.

In 1785 he wrote, “I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or misery.”

George was circumspect with his private life but gave some advice about coupling.

“Neither directly nor indirectly have I ever said a syllable to Fanny or George upon the subject of their connection. But as their attachment to each other seems to have been early formed, warm and lasting, it bids fair to be happy: if therefore you have no objection, I think the sooner it is consummated the better.”

On this holiday, we remember the courage and moral fiber underpinning our celebrations.

Make the Bed

“I’m tired of making up a bed that doesn’t get slept in, if you know what I mean,” he said.

Sexual problems manifest in a myriad of shapes, sizes and excuses.  We’ll get to these soon, but allow me to share some hope that these can be overcome.   Communication, compassion and consideration offer our best solutions to these problems.

In Coupling, the low desire partner always controls the frequency and quality of the sexual contact and intimacy in the relationship.  Now mind you, intimacy is not limited to physical contact.  Intimacy, in Coupling, covers many aspects of the relationship.

The intimacy of conversation eludes many couples.  Vulnerability in the sharing of feelings may be one of the foundational elements of healthy coupling.  We may even talk about couch time and the easy casualness of watching a movie together.

Intimacy may look different for each couple or from the perspective of each partner.  The challenge rises as we try to negotiate these differences.

Differences in desire for sexual contact can cause conflict just like arguing over the finances can.  We would probably do well to see the conflict as just another problem to be solved.

Lots of us are cleaning out our flowerbeds as we enjoy the Spring weather. I remembered the opening quote as I cleaned out my Zen garden.  That’s what folks have done for years in the South, we just called it sweeping the yard.  But we’re more sophisticated than that, so as I ‘cleaned out my Zen garden’ I thought about the work it takes to keep that other bed flowering.

Usually an imbalance exists between couples.  From their respective sides of the bed they say “you want it too much” and “you don’t want it enough” and they both feel they are right.  Talk about creative tension.  Maybe you thought I would say sexual tension, but I mean creative tension in every sense of the word.

These differences offer such a rich playing field for relational development.  We have the challenge to creatively engage the tension.  The question is will we.

Problems with desire can sound like “I don’t want it” or “I gotta have it.”   These problems may originate from fears of being controlled or abandoned.  They may come from depression or just poor management of stress.  Low desire may be simply a problem of low testosterone or the changes of menopause.

Whatever the problem, we have a framework to examine ourselves.  Such a powerful problem requires self-reflection.  Minimizing or blaming never helps.  Instead, I can begin by thinking, “how do I create the problem?”

I would suggest we think in terms of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.  I need to wonder which one of these tangles or sabotages my desires.  How am I the author of my own frustrations?

Learn this and then communicate, be considerate and compassionate.

The creative tension of sexual frustration pries the lid off of my excuses.  If I can face my weaknesses, we have the chance to enjoy a beautiful bed of flowers.

I Love you, if


What if when we said “I love you” we really meant it?  I know people say the phrase all of the time.  But I’m afraid that what we mean is, “ I love you, if.”

            I believe in love, and I believe it is love that will be the critical factor in your Coupling, but we have to continually struggle with what we mean by that little, three word phrase.  


Remembering your vows

Reflecting on vows of love in the new year




Maybe when your anniversary rolls around you remember and celebrate the day. You may go out for dinner, flowers or chocolates may be included. Cards and jewelry are always nice.

How often do you think of your vows? New Year’s Day may be a great day to reflect on your wedding vows when you find a quiet moment together. You also may do this just by yourself as you gratefully consider the blessings in your life.

Weddings have many beautiful moments — the bride walking down the aisle, the kiss at the end. Maybe you can remember a favorite moment of that day for you and your spouse.

Somewhere in the middle, there comes a moment where the two exchange vows. That is fancy language for promising each other that no matter what happens, we are in it together and we are hanging in here together.

I guess it is easy to forget the vows in the hard times. In the hard times, we can get selfish and go into survival mode. We defend ourselves instead of defending the relationship.

Fidelity always gets referenced in vows. Maybe you answered “yes” to the question, “And do you promise to forsake all others and be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?” Faithfulness to the other is pretty much the opposite of being selfish about your own needs.

Maybe in your vows the pairing of opposites was used. “In sickness or in health, for richer for poorer” … what does that stuff mean?

Let’s get real about the vows. Maybe we should promise things such as:

• “I will tolerate you when you are tired and irritable.”

• “I will appreciate and repay in full when you have to deal with my family.”

• “I will go along with your harebrained schemes and will be there when they fail.”

• “I will always try to see things from your perspective.”

Here is a common question used in wedding vows: “Do you promise to love, cherish, honor and protect her through all the changing scenes of life?”

We can break down some of those promises you made. We’ve talked before about love primarily being a verb. Love is what Olympians feel as they spend every moment eating and breathing the sport and the goal they have before them.

Think of cherish as that feeling you have when you hold a happy 1-year-old child, when you mirror and dote on their beauty and innocence. Can you dote on your loved one’s beauty and awesomeness? That would be cherishing.

When I think of honor, honoring God and country come to mind. Honor means we bring our best behavior, our best selves, to bear on the work at hand. One serves a sovereign with honor and is proud to do it. The king or queen of your castle will appreciate your deference and devotion.

Protecting means “I’ve got your back.” It means your loved one comes before anyone else. It may mean defending your spouse’s opinion or position in public but also doing the same in the home.

Through service or honoring their sovereignty, we protect their personhood, their right to be exactly and whoever they want to be. Wouldn’t you want that? You have it to give.

You can give all of these things to your loved one: love, cherish, honor and protection. Reflect on cultivating those qualities and have a happy new year.

Lincoln versus Black Friday

I participated in the new Christmas tradition of Black Friday shopping over the Thanksgiving Holiday.  My children and I had fun waiting outside in the cold, whispering to each other about the deals we would find, and anticipating the unlocking of the doors to a big box department store.

We had arrived two hours early.  The line grew to a great length and we smiled at our own diligence and prowess.  And then we saw them.  Like vultures riding updrafts, shadows skulked at the edges of the light.  It seemed that some had done this before and told us to watch out, the skulkers would forgo the line, wait until the doors would open and then rush in.

I was incredulous and angry.  It’s Christmas shopping time, we’re having fun, a time of joy and people are cheating.  I had a ‘run in’ with one of ‘them’ trying to get through the opening of the official shopping season.  Literally.  She screamed at me, “get your hands off me!”  I was stunned, I hadn’t touched her except the rubbin’ that went on as my 240 and her 300 raced through the door.

Anyway, I continued on and got the packages as planned, but the whole experienced was soured by the brazen display of selfishness.  Our whole society stands on the strength of our social conventions and our willingness to work together.  This was very disheartening.  I saw the underbelly of our tolerance, the crashing confluence of gratitude and greed.

But the holiday carried on.  We went to the theater and saw Twilight.  Then on Sunday afternoon we walked into the dark of the opening weekend showing of Lincoln.

Its a wonderful study of a great president.  Daniel Day Lewis brings the And what is evident is Lincoln’s belief in truth and right.  He did not bend or yield to self serving bigotry or self righteous fascism. He was a true believer and delivered each of us from a backbreaking yoke.

Abraham Lincoln faced mind numbing opposition and obstacles.  One son had died, his wife was lost in grief, the other son had enlisted.  Seemingly, every politician in Wachington City opposed him.  Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were dying brutal deaths on the field of battle, victims of his command.  And yet he persevered with determination, vision and clarity.  Wow.  I think I can still be cheerful even when selfish people bump me out of their way as they shop for Christmas gifts.

A final poignant note, Lincoln instituted our national day of Thanksgiving in 1863, in the middle of our horrific family fight.  Give thanks, believe in peace and goodness, love, even when others are actively breaking in line.  And serve, even when they don’t understand.

National WWII Museum

It is very moving to spend any time in a Museum that calls to mind the horrors of war and sacrifice of devoted Americans.  I started the day with an hour long movie entitled, “Beyond All Boundaries.”  The title brings to mind and the movie describes how far all had to go to push back against the despotism and egomania of an earlier time.  From the little towns that gave their best young men to the Manhattan Project Physicist, one sees the price of freedom.