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Archive for the ‘Military Marriages’ Category

Last weekend was great.  It was Sunday morning and the conference room was full of military couples.  People were smiling.  Husbands and wives were holding hands.  Others just kept their arms around each other.  I could tell that folks did their “homework” and made time to reconnect.  The dynamics of the room had changed.  There were no folded arms or frowns like the day before.  The room was full of happy people.  These marriages were stronger, satisfied, and renewed.

As a co-leader, it is great to see couples learn new skills and rekindle their romance.  The big “homework” assignment for Saturday night is to take your spouse on a date.  Both must agree on the details and craft a plan for the night together.  Additionally, every couple needs to treat their spouse like a friend, have fun, reconnect, and spend time listening to one another.  Why couldn’t every homework assignment be this good?

No matter if you attend a marriage retreat or a marriage enrichment seminar like this, we all need the reminder.  Instructors and attendees must hear the message alike.  Relationships are important.  Our marriages need to be nurtured and strengthened.  Take time for each other.  When our marriages were young and new, we never spent time apart.  Now, it is difficult to find a quiet evening to talk.  Make time for each other.  Remember why you fell in love.  Dates don’t have to be expensive, they just need to happen.

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It is tough being single, especially in the military.  You want to find the right person and be happy in a relationship.  Nobody wants to have their heart broken or even worse, marry the wrong person.

There are two common problems with dating today.  First, too many people do not know what to look for when dating.  They go out on the dating scene with no expectations.  This is a matter of education and learning what to look for in your next relationship.  Second, people minimize problems when they are dating.  People focus on matters of the heart, fixing a person, or accept bad behavior when they should instead hit the eject button to avoid a serious crash and burn.

Army chaplains frequently offer a program for single soldiers called, “How To Avoid Falling for a Jerk(ette).”  This program is also known as PICK, premarital interpersonal choices and knowledge.  While that title sounds complicated, PICK allows soldiers to build healthy relationships and follow your heart without losing your mind!

It is designed to provide singles and singles-again of all ages with a plan for pacing a relationship and exploring the key areas that foreshadow what that partner will be like in marriage.  This way you have a roadmap and mile markers to guide you in your next relationship.

No one should settle for a jerk or a jerkette.  Learn what to look for and know when to run for the exit sign.  You deserve a safe, happy, and healthy relationship.

Check out the Love Thinks website at www.lovethinks.com and the Army Strong Bonds website at www.strongbonds.org.  You can find additional information on building healthy relationships and also learn where future seminars will be held in your state.

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Found a great article on the struggles of marriage that will speak to every military couple.  She does a great job of sharing practical tips and reinforces the fact that being a Christian does not exempt you from marital problems.

Hats off to Elisabeth K. Corcoran for the excellent advice.  Enjoy the article.

In a Difficult Marriage? | Kyria.

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Chaplains are pretty busy during Annual Training season in the National Guard.  Tuesday I gave another suicide prevention class.  It’s a requirement that Soldiers get the presentation at least once a year.  The training focuses on the magnitude of the problem, how common issues can drive anyone to the point of despair, and that everyone can watch out for your battle buddy.

While many try to pin the Army suicide issue on multiple deployments, the majority of issues that drive people to suicide are common issues:  failed relationships, financial difficulty, and legal woes.  These are typical factors that we see in the civilian population, at schools, in factories, and even in the church.  PTSD is a factor in military suicide, but it is not the top issue that Time magazine or other media outlets want you to believe.

The fundamental issue to remember is that everyone can save a life.  You probably survived a breakup, be it in high school, college, or at work.  You probably understand what it is like to bounce a check or have a tough time making your paycheck last the entire month.  We are all in the same boat.  We all have the life experience necessary to help people at risk of suicide.

Remember and apply ACE: Ask, Care, Escort.

If you believe that someone is at risk of suicide, ask him/her about the problem.  Find out what is going on in the person’s life.  Directly ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.  Care by listening to the issue.  Find out what is causing the pain and suffering.  Why is the Soldier upset?  Finally, escort the Soldier to a resource.  That can be a chaplain, a medic, a counselor, an NCO, a friend, or a family member.

Don’t leave the person alone.  Make sure that he or she gets help.  It is okay to call a suicide hotline or wake up a supervisor, just don’t ignore the warning signs.

You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to apply ACE.  You don’t have to be an expert.  But you can practice these basic steps in suicide first aid.  Do your part to reduce suicide and help your friends.

If you need immediate assistance these suicide hot lines are always available:

Military One Source – 1.877.995.5247 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

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As a pastor and a military chaplain I am asked to perform a flurry of weddings each year.  It is absolutely wonderful when a couple wants to tie the knot.  I want them to have a strong and beneficial marriage.  That is why I require a minimum of four marriage counseling sessions before the big day.

Some couples fall into the trap of spending more time planning the wedding than their married life together.  A wedding ceremony can last 20-45 minutes, but the marriage is intended to last for the rest of their lives.  In an age when 50% of marriages end in divorce, couples need to build a solid foundation for their marriage to succeed.  Making time to strengthen your relationship before you tie the knot, will help it stay tied.

Pre-marital counseling has some distinct benefits for couples.  Here are a few reasons you should get marriage counseling before the wedding bells chime:

1.  Strengthen communication skills

You can learn how to listen to your spouse and speak effectively with each other.  This does not happen by accident.  It will take time, effort, and practice.  While better communication skills may seem like a catch phrase, couples who learn the skills can resolve issues more quickly and avoid serious fights.

2.  Discuss roles and expectations

What will married life look like after the ceremony?  Don’t expect this to take care of itself down the road.  Now is the best time to discuss expectations.  Topics should cover a wide range of issues to give transparency and depth.  Who will make the morning coffee?  Will you have a joint checking account?  Will you be a one or two income household?  Does your spouse plan to go back to school?  Where will you worship?  Marriage counseling is a great place to start or continue the conversation.

3.  Identify past relationship problems

We can learn from our past.  Discussing past relationships can allow a couple to eliminate destructive behaviors.    This time of discovery can show why a past relationship failed and help you build strategies on staying together.  It is also important to discuss the role of your family.  How and what did you learn about marriage from your parents?  There are likely good and bad examples, but this is the time and place to share those lessons.  No one is doomed to repeat past mistakes if we identify what went wrong and make a plan for success.

4.  Learn how to fight fair

Couples get into arguments.  That is a given fact of life.  We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people.  Verbal fights, arguments, and conflict will happen.  I can’t prevent you from fighting, but you can learn to fight fair with each other.  Take the time to educate yourself on these skills.  Learn what to avoid, how to cool down, and move toward solving the problem as a team.

5.  Strengthen your faith

Ecclesiastes 4:12 shares, “a rope of three strands is not quickly broken.”  There is incredible wisdom in having God as the third strand in your marriage.  Allow His love to surround you, teach you, and draw you closer to your mate.  Learn to follow God’s plan for yourself and your marriage.  Live within the covenant of marriage.  Make faith a priority in your marriage.  Worship together and reach new highs through Christ.

6.  Build a marriage map

Marriage is a life long commitment.  So it is important to discuss where you are going and where you want to be as husband and wife.  What should your marriage look like?  Marriage counseling allows you to discuss a plan for now and much later in life.  Do you want to have children?  How many children seem like the right fit for your family?  Will someone stay home during that time?  Will you continue to have a date night after the baby arrives?  Make time to discuss your goals and plans.  This is an exciting time to chart out a direction for your future together.

Books and Manuals

While no one likes to talk about homework, I encourage couples to read a book after our first session.  It will be the topic of discussion for our second session.  My personal favorite is Gary Chapman’s, The Five Love Languages.  There are several different marriage workbooks and programs out there.  Pastors and counselors may use another device, but take the time to strengthen your faith and your relationship before you say, “I do.”

What homework did you have for marriage counseling?  Are there additional books that have helped your military marriage?  What books would you recommend to a couple before they tie the knot?  Feel free to list your books and suggestions in the comment section.

May God continue to bless you and your marriage.

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The headline was small and muted this month, but the Army reported 278 suicides for 2011.  That figure represents Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve components.  While that number may not immediately seem like good news, it is nearly a ten percent drop from 2010.  It is also the first time that number has declined in four years.

I understand why no one wanted to herald the news, but this should still be seen as a victory.  We are making an incredible difference in the lives of people.  Suicide prevention training has taken hold in the force and continues to grow.  Soldiers and families understand that it is okay to talk about deployment issues and concerns.  Stigma and fear continues to decline.  Counselors, medics, chaplains and battle buddies at every level are teaching service members how to address suicidal thoughts.  That being said, there is still more work to be done.

Broken relationships are still the number one reason that Soldiers commit suicide.  It is important that first line leaders sit down with service members at the first hint of marital conflict.  Make time to listen and discover how your Soldiers are dealing with the hardships of life.

Practice ACE:  Ask, Care, Escort.  Ask people how they are doing.  Care about their situation through listening.  Escort people to a community resource when they need help.

Military One Source is available 24/7.  You can call and immediately speak with a counselor or ask for a referral.  The operator will give you several local counseling options and assist you in making an appointment.  Service members can receive 12 free counseling sessions each year.  Military One Source can be reached at 1.800.342.9647.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to help those contemplating suicide.  You can call 1.800.273.TALK (8255) and be connected to a counselor.  Once you are on the lifeline, a person can decide to speak with a veteran or a civilian.

Army suicides are starting to decline.  Our efforts are bearing fruit in multiple arenas.  One year will may not establish a pattern, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

 

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Marriage is difficult.  Few people would argue with that statement.  The divorce rate in America is near 50%.   People spend more time preparing for job interviews than a life-long commitment.  People spend more time at work than at home with their families.  Our culture encourages sexual images on television, cohabitation, and ignoring our marriage vows.  It’s easy to see all of these factors and feel like the deck is stacked against couples staying together.  Now consider the additional difficulty of living in a military marriage.   Your spouse is frequently deployed, gone on training missions, or working long into the night.

Military marriages require devotion and work to succeed.  You can help turn the tide by strengthening your marriage.  Take time to reconnect after a deployment.  Take time to focus on one another.  Take time to get away and renew the love you have for each other.

Toward the end of my first deployment, my wife suggested that we attend a marriage retreat.  I didn’t know how to take the suggestion at first.  My boots had not even left the sand box and she wanted to work on our relationship!  It turned out that her idea was just a suggestion on making our marriage better.  It was not implying that something was broken or jacked up beyond repair.  In fact, it was a great idea.  We attended a faith-based “Festival of Marriage” event and we learned some new ways to improve our marriage.  Anytime a military couple makes the effort to improve their relationship, they are on the right track.

Attorneys, doctors, social workers, and yes, even chaplains, are required to get a set number of continuing education hours each year.  This is encouraged to keep professionals current on the latest ways of helping their clients.  We should show the same devotion to stay current in our marriages.

Take time to attend conferences, presentations, marriage retreats, and faith-based marriage enrichment workshops.  Any nugget of knowledge that you find may help your marriage or allow you to encourage another military couple.

One upcoming event is focused on sexual purity.  Feel free to check out Men of Valor, Women of Virtue, or Youth 4 Truth at http://afa-ksmo.net

Know that military chaplains also offer Strong Bond events for married couples and single soldier events.  You can find a military marriage retreat near you at http://www.strongbonds.org

Find a way to strengthen your military marriage today.

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