Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What makes a lasting marriage?

A survey studied 351 couples to find out what makes a good marriage. Each individual responded to 39 statements identifying characteristics which matched their own marriage experience. Here are the top characteristics each gave, in order of frequency. Notice anything about the top 7 reasons? 

Husbands                                 Wives

My spouse is my best friend                       My spouse is my best friend
I like my spouse as a person                       I like my spouse as a person
Marriage is a long-term commitment         Marriage is a long-term commitment
Marriage is sacred                                      Marriage is sacred
We agree on aims and goals                       We agree on aims and goals
My spouse has grown more interesting      My spouse has grown more interesting
I want the relationship to succeed              I want the relationship to succeed
An enduring marriage is important to        We laugh together                                                                 social stability                                                                            
We laugh together                                       We agree on the philosophy of life
I am proud of my spouse's achievements   We agree on how and how often to show                                              affection        
We agree on the philosophy of life             An enduring marriage is important to                                      social stability
We agree about our sex life                       We have a stimulating exchange of ideas
We agree on how and how often to            We discuss things calmly  
show affection                                                             .
I confide in my spouse                                We agree about our sex life
We share outside hobbies and interests      I am proud of my spouse's achievements                                                                                                                  

Just for fun: Write the characteristics in random order, then re-order them based on which characteristics you believe most important, and ask your spouse to do the same. Share your answers and learn something new about one another!

Adapted from The Premarital Counseling Handbook, H. Norman Wright.
If you'd like more information about marriage, Temperament, or to arrange counseling by Skype or phone, please contact me at

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Five steps to a healthy self-esteem

People constantly talk about their self-esteem. Is it good, is it bad, is it healthy, overblown, or non-existent? It doesn't have to be confusing. A healthy self-esteem can be attained by taking a shortcut in 5 simple steps. 
Now, I didn't say every step was easy for every person. I said simple, meaning achievable, do-able. If you do it. Here we go:
  1. Know yourself. I'm not talking about your personality, or your choices, or what your friends think about you. I'm talking about getting to know what you think and feel before you put on the mask of personality and do what you think you should, or is expected, or is even just right. Discover you, warts and all. What makes you tick, gives you true joy, makes you feel ashamed, drives you onward in life? You can spend months, or years, in counseling, seeking mountain-top gurus, or piling up self-help books, but the quickest and easiest way I know to discover who you are, which is your God-created temperament, is through through an APS profile. APS stands for Arno Profile System and it involves an online response form that takes less than 10 minutes to complete. From this, the testing center uses a method proven to be 97.5% accurate at identifying your temperament, with all of its wondrous strengths and challenges. No more trying to figure out what you need in life from love, friendship, career, or recreation: it's all right there. Sure, I am a Certified Temperament Counselor and you may contact me at for more information or to take the APS right away with your results in less than one day. Otherwise, just go to for a directory of counselors qualified to administer the APS profile. It's easy and because temperament does not change over time, as does your personality, it's a one-time investment in yourself that will continue to benefit you for the rest of your life.
  2. Accept yourself. Don't use your temperament as an excuse for bad behavior ("Well, this is just how God made me so deal with it") but do celebrate the unique, wonderful, and truly one of a kind being that you are. Look, there are no more you's at the human store. You are it! Why not enjoy being yourself instead of trying to imitate what you think others want, expect, demand, or approve? Who decided they get to be the boss of you? 
  3. Love yourself. Again, this is totally within your control. Do you make a choice to embrace yourself and to love yourself today, or not? Do you think people are lining up to love other people who hate themselves? Not so much. So are you waiting for when you are a better person, a more lovable person, a healthier person? No, because that's how you begin to get better, lovable, and healthier: when you choose to accept and love yourself as you are right now. You love yourself as a human being who is worth love simply for existing. God says that before He formed you in the womb He knew you (Jeremiah 1:5) and that we love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He already declared you lovable so that is not even a question, it's an indisputable fact. So start loving yourself as a verb: being loving to yourself, being kind and gentle with yourself, treating yourself like a person treats someone they love. Stop waiting for permission. God already gave it.
  4. Be yourself. Who else are you going to be? Everyone else is already taken. Start to laugh at your quirks instead of being embarrassed by them. Practice saying things like, "Yup, I can be klutzy," when you trip in front of others, or "Awkward..." when you flub an introduction, then shrug and move on. People enjoy being around someone who is comfortable making mistakes or doing things that might be embarrassing without making it the end of the world. They can then feel more comfortable admitting and laughing at their foibles as well. A person who can accept that they are in the midst of working through, or just accepting for a while, their weaknesses come across as more confident and capable than those who try to pretend they have it all together.
  5. Forgive and forget yourself. Is it helping anyone to continue to punish yourself for something you cannot re-do or change? If you need to make amends or apologize to someone, get it over with and behind you. Ask God to forgive you. He promises that if you are sincere, He always and immediately forgives (1 John 1:9.) Jesus' whole purpose in offering Himself as the final sacrifice for sins was to provide a means of complete forgiveness to anyone and everyone who will simply ask for it. What a gift. So, if you have asked for forgiveness through Jesus, and you have apologized if appropriate to any person involved, what's the point of holding onto it any longer? You are free. Open the door and walk out of your prison. Then, start forgetting to think about yourself and what you want, need, wish for, desire, don't like, do like, etc. for most of the day. Think about what someone else would like, want, need, wish for, and see if you can make that happen once in a while. It's a whole lot more fun than me, me, me, forget you, me living!
So, that's it. Simple, right? Not necessarily easy, but the first step is the hardest and then it's all downhill from there! Know yourself so that you can truly accept yourself, begin loving yourself, and truly rock being yourself, and finally, forgive yourself. Healthy self-esteem...check!
Adapted from material by Tim Hansel, Christian Author, Founder of ignite!

Monday, January 30, 2017

5 ways to really show your kids love

Now that Christmas is over, you might be experiencing buyer’s remorse for all the money spent on gifts. Christmas is a time when parents feel especially pressured to buy their children objects in order to show their love. You might be surprised to learn that the more gifts a child receives, the less he or she actually feels loved. In fact, kids respond to other gifts much more readily than a new toy or electronic device.

Here are 5 things you can do to help kids truly experience your love: 

Eye Contact: Making eye contact is not only helpful in communicating with a child, but also in filling her emotional needs. This is especially important during the younger years, during which time a child is learning if they can trust their parents to care for their needs, if they are loved and accepted, and what their role is in the family. Loving eye contact and the parents’ physical presence communicates value, confidence, warmth, acceptance, and security. 

Take their feelings, thoughts, and opinions seriously whether you agree with them or not: Children and teens already deal with enough insecurity without feeling mocked or having their thoughts disregarded. Allowing your child to share with you about their ideas and opinions helps you to get to know them, discover what they are dealing with, and understand why they do, think, and feel as they do with greater clarity. Show interest by asking questions to show you are willing to hear them out and accept them as an individual. If you must correct something off-base, it’s best to start with something that will keep the window of opportunity open, such as, “What do you think about this other idea ….?“, or “Can I share with you what I’ve experienced with this subject?“ or even, “What if…?“ Remember, no kid wants every conversation to end in a “teaching moment,” a correction to their beliefs or opinions, or a rebuttal. Sometimes the best way to conclude a conversation with a child is to simply thank them for sharing their thoughts with you. Carol Wise, author of Pastoral Counseling: Its Theory and Practice, writes: “A person cannot communicate the deep intimate aspects of his life to another unless he has a feeling of security, confidence, and trust in the other.” 

Physical Contact: Loving touch including hugs, arms about the shoulder, hand-holding, pats, kisses, snuggling, etc., and other appropriate physical attention from parents can build a relationship bridge that will facilitate good communication. It doesn’t have to be constant, effusive, or cross comfort boundaries, and neither should loving touch stop when kids become teens and pretend that they are too old for such things. For example, one of my teen boys no longer wanted me to hug all over him in public, so we agreed that when I wanted to tell him I loved him, I would poke him gently with my finger. I still do this now that he is an adult and it always makes him smile and say, “I love you too, Mom.” 

Time: Giving kids our undivided, focused attention for even brief periods throughout the day is an easy way to communicate unconditional love to them. Another way is to spend scheduled time alone with each child, such as at bedtime, reading stories and saying prayers, or on a walk, for a lunch “date” or movie, or playing a game, etc. This communicates to a child that she is very important and special. While sometimes children need to learn the valuable lesson of being polite and waiting for an opportune moment to excuse themselves and interrupt parents, no child should feel that they are routinely pushed aside and told, “wait till I am finished with what I am doing.” This tells the child that everything and anything that interests a parent is more important than the child.  

Discipline: Dr. Ross Campbell, Christian psychiatrist and author of How to Really Love Your Child, states, “Disciplines involves training through every type of communication: guidance by example, modeling (children do what you do, not what you say to do), verbal instruction, written instruction, teaching, and providing learning and fun experiences.” Rev. John W. Luton and Drs. Richard and Phyllis Arno, authors of Mastoring Pastoral Counseling Using Temperament, add, “Making a child feel loved and accepted is the first and most important part of good discipline. Unfortunately, many parents make the mistake of equating discipline with punishment. When a child feels loved and accepted, he disciplines more easily and less punishment is required.”

Sometimes when a child is misbehaving, he or she is actually testing you to see if you meant what you said, to see if they can trust you to keep your word. He is asking, can he count on you, do you know what you are talking about or is he on his own?  Other times, they are misbehaving because they are feeling in need of something such as eye contact, physical contact, focused attention, rest, food, or water. Fill these needs first, then discuss what behavior needs to change and how to work together to bring that about.

Ultimately, discipline (teaching, requiring positive behavior, and applying consequences designed to increase a child’s desire to obey) shows a child that you care enough about them to teach them the process of how to become a loving, respectful, considerate, joyous, and responsible Christian adult, instead of leaving it up to their peers, the media, or their schoolteachers, to mold your children into who they want them to be. Parenting is tough stuff and it‘s not for the lazy or faint-hearted. At the end of the day, if you are not influencing your kids, you can bet someone else is…

That's it: 5 ways you can really help your child to feel loved. You will be amazed at how quickly you can turn things around in your relationship with your child with these easy techniques. Remember, “If you try to be your child’s friend when they are young, they will not want to be your friend when they are grown. If you are your child’s parent when they are young, you will become their friend as they get older.”  Dr. Henry R. Mohen in Christian Counseling: Integrating Temperament and Psychology

Adapted from “Loving Our Children,” in Mastering Pastoral Counseling Using Temperament, by Luton, Arno, & Arno, 1997


Friday, January 20, 2017

How to help your child when they are afraid

We have all experienced childhood fears. May be you were afraid of the dark, perhaps it was the monster under the bed, or, it might have been something else, something a parent thought even more silly or irrational. Children are afraid of different things for different reasons; sometimes for no reason we can discern, but that doesn't change the fact that your child is having a very real experience.

While you might not be able to convince your child that they have nothing to fear, you can help them by using your ears. Or, more specifically, your E.A.R.S., a technique from Byrd and Warren's, Counseling and Children:

E.A.R.S. for Fears

Earnestly listen - Earnest and undivided listening is the first way to help a child deal with fear. Listen and ask open-ended questions (requires more than a yes-no answer) that encourage the child to talk further. Avoid drawing conclusions quickly, giving immediate advice or preaching to a child. The fear may seem vague, but it has caused the child great distress.

Accept the child’s story - be willing to see the situation through the child’s eyes. Don’t give “just do this” advice, or brush off the fear as silly or unnecessary. For a child acceptance, especially peer acceptance, is the lifeblood of social survival.

Reassure - Children need to know that parents will try to see the future as best they can, that they take what the child is going through seriously, and are not angry or confused but confident, as this will be an anchor point for the child.

Suggest - suggesting good solution options as in “what do you think would happen if you…” or “tell me what you have tried so far,” and “would you like to hear some ways you might think about handling this?” etc. Supporting the child as she tries (and fails) at some options is important to help them overcome fears. Support and consistent encouragement by key adults builds a child’s sense of worth. Yamamoto says, “The basic requirement for everybody, young or old, is to feel that he or she is worth something.”

So, the next time your child is afraid, try to use your E.A.R.S.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The 7 Stages of Marriage: which one are you in?

Did you know marriage has predictable stages? In what stage of marriage are you right now? Depending on the source, there considered to be from 3 to 9 stages of marriage. Here are the 7 main stages that any marriage will likely go through at various times. 
This stage is also known as the Honeymoon Stage, and usually occurs during the first year or two of marriage, but may also occur at other stages, such as after the Empty Nest stage. Not every couple has a passionate stage in their marriage and for some it doesn’t last long. You may be in the Passion Stage if your relationship is all about the two of you and the excitement, sex and intimacy you are experiencing. You can extend, or begin, the passion stage by doing things that strengthen your sense of “us” – such as making spontaneous time for each other, leaving work at work, and scheduling in date and intimate time together.
You may be in the Realization Stage if you find you are beginning to get to know, or to stop denying, each other’s real strengths and weaknesses. Disappointment and conflicts are a part of this stage, so couples must learn to recognize the needs and wants of their partner if they are to grow beyond this stage. You can improve your communication during this stage by active listening and confiding, both are essential to expanding understanding and trust. Certified Temperament Therapy is very helpful at this stage. 
In this stage each spouse starts to reconsider their part in the marriage. You may be tempted to return to friends and activities from your pre-marriage days. Power struggles may take place. You might begin to feel unappreciated and feel it’s “your turn” to be happy. 
This is an ideal time to remember Paul’s words about marriage: if a husband is seeking his wife’s counsel before making difficult decisions, and putting her and the children’s welfare ahead of his own interests, he will not likely have any trouble inspiring her to respect him and choose to submit to his leadership. A husband must love his wife in the way Christ loves His Bride, sacrificing himself to show his love for her and to care for her. A wife truly wants a man she can respect, and a man wants to be respected. A man desperately wants a woman he can love, and a woman wants to be cherished and treated with love. 
Paul exhorts both the husband and wife to submit to one another to reduce conflicts. To avoid or end this stage, learn how to negotiate and to keep agreements – keeping promises builds trust. Identify areas of difference and start talking about them – one at a time. Don’t change the subject and point the finger of blame at one another. Look for the win-win. 
During this stage couples are preoccupied with the kids, money, home and work. It can be a period of growth or it can be a time when emotional separation begins. Cooperation is often focused on individual goals for which each person cooperates with the other in order to achieve, including careers, college, parenting, home buying, etc. As long as each are helping the other achieve goals, things are fine. 
However, Eph. 5:31 reminds us that we are no longer two individuals in a marriage, we are made one and need to develop a marital identity. Individual likes, pursuits, and interests are not the problem as long as they don't replace time building the marital relationships. Turning your marriage into a business partnership, instead of a unity of hearts, minds, and bodies is not what God desires. 
When you find yourself in the cooperation stage and losing a sense of togetherness, regenerate your marriage by making it a priority. Try new things together, start a hobby you both will enjoy, or take a weekend away for romance. Remind yourselves why you were attracted to each other in the beginning, before the kids, the mortgage, and the aging parents.
Typically, this occurs when parenting needs are diminished, finances are established, careers are set, and perhaps the mortgage is paid. You may be enjoying grandchildren and more freedom to travel or relax. 
For happy couples, this is the time to appreciate each other again as lovers, friends, thinkers, and seekers without all the pressures that came with being a younger couple or parents. This can also be a time couples separate, if you have not prepared emotionally for developing a new relationship as empty nesters. Refocus on your marriage, get off autopilot and plan some special events that bring back good memories. Go on a mission trip together or begin mentoring younger couples, laughing about how you got from there to here. Find a renewed purpose as a couple now, instead of the old roles that no longer fit.
The Explosion Stage can happen anytime during a marriage, especially during times of major career, health, parenting and family crises. This is a common time for a couple to seek counseling. 
The most important thing is to learn how to deal with crisis events in appropriate, God-honoring ways. Each spouse may have a different way they naturally respond to stress, which causes even more confusion because the other spouse has unspoken needs and expectations of their own. It is important during stressful times to make use of emotional, physical and spiritual support for yourself, your spouse and your marriage.
Find Godly friends who will support your efforts to cope in healthy ways, instead of giving you poor advice that will only make things worse. Pay attention to your physical and emotional health and well-being. Certified Temperament Therapy is very helpful in this stage.
In the Completion Stage, stability and security reign and you enjoy each other and the life you have created. You have gone through a lot together, survived, and possibly thrived. Much of the arguments and tension have worn away and you can laugh at the fact that you actually made it, you are still married in spite of everything. 
You have many life experiences in common that you share with no one else. Usually by this time couples can share their thoughts openly with one another without fear of rejection. Other people see this as “sniping” but it might only be that you can openly say what you need to and the other understands and does not take offense. This is a good time to try some new adventures together that are pleasurable, building new memories that are exciting and loving, without the painful drama that may have been a part of your past. 
Adapted from The 7 Stages of Marriage by Sari Harrar and Rita DeMaria and Christian Counseling: Integrating Temperament and Psychology, by Henry R. Mohen, PhD

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ten Questions To Base the Rest of My Life On

The new year has come and our resolutions are already going stale. There are a few reasons New Years Resolutions don't work (read why here) and people resist change. But, surely there is something we can do to help us focus on what will make a difference in the year ahead.

Instead of making a dramatic announcement that you will never again, or will always from now on...anything, try to think focus instead of ways you have held yourself back from making true change, and what are the simplest things you can do to make a difference that lasts.

The following 10 questions were designed to help you really define and pinpoint what those things are. Get a notepad, a journal, or a scrap of paper, a comfortable place to sit, and write your answers to these 10 key questions. Jot down the first response that comes to your mind. Do you see anything surprising? Next, answer again, this time thinking about each question, challenging yourself to go deep, be brutally honest, and open to what you will discover.

  1. What is my single greatest strength?
  2. What are three decisions causing me the greatest stress?
  3. What is overwhelming me?
  4. What impossible roadblock has me stuck?
  5. The three things I would do in my lifetime are?
  6. What should I resign from or drop out of?
  7. What can I postpone?
  8. What things on my to-do list can someone else do and 80% as well as me?
  9. What are the elephants in my schedule?
  10. What are three things I could do in the next 90 days that will make a 50% difference in my life or schedule?
Now, what would be the first and smallest thing you can do about each one of your answers today, this week, or this month? It might be to make a phone call or email, in fact that one small action will probably set into motion a chain of events in your thinking, your planning, and your actions that will begin to change your life in ways that really matter, and that really last.

Adapted from Temperament Case Studies, Phyllis J. Arno, PhD