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Posts Tagged ‘military marriage’

marriage dance

You can ask anyone about marriage and the answer will almost always be the same.  I want a good, strong, happy marriage.  No one stands at the altar and says, “I’ll give you the best five years of my life.”

Polls and surveys share the same information on marriage.  The vast majority of people desire happy, lasting marriages, whether rich or poor, male or female, and regardless of cultural background.

The big secret about marriage is that it works.  Yes, I said it, marriage works.  While out-of-wedlock birth rates are high and divorce rates are higher, marriage works.  Look at the last thirty years of research; married couples are happier, live longer, and build greater financial security.  Children with married parents perform better in school, have better physical health, have lower rates of suicide, and experience fewer cases of child abuse.  Click here for new research on “Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from Social Science.”

Deep down, everyone wishes they could have a rewarding lifelong commitment with their spouse.  But in the midst of challenges, we forget how marriage can benefit our personal lives.  We are losing our determination and the skills to keep marriages healthy and strong.

February 7-14, 2013 is National Marriage Week.  This time is set aside to focus on the institution of marriage and strengthen it at a national level.  This is a collaborative effort that encourages groups to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture.  The website offers several marriage resources, event guides, reading lists, and videos on how to build a satisfying marriage.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, let us focus on the skills that can strengthen our relationships and keep our marriages intact.  Here are a couple of goals or reminders for a healthy marriage:

  • make time for each other (fun, friendship, romance)
  • work as a team (instead of me vs. you)
  • talk without fighting

Remember why you fell in love and think how hard you worked to maintain your romance.  After marriage, we normally encounter a period of time when couples spend less time on their relationship due to kids, careers, and other factors.  Take time to reconnect, go on a date, and rekindle the romance in your marriage.  Use National Marriage Week as a way to strengthen your marriage and focus on the one you love.

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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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Everyone loves being called a “single digit midget” in the military.  It means that you have entered the end of your deployment cycle and you are under 10 days from being home.  Your freedom flight is ready to carry you across the ocean and onto American soil.  A homecoming is just around the corner.

Homecomings also mean that a military family is giddy with excitement.  They are preparing to circle a date on the calendar and pick up their hero at the airport or attend a welcome home ceremony.  Either way, it will be a day to remember; a day that soldier, spouse, and family have been praying for.

Once the military family is reunited, challenges can easily surface.  This transition will take time for everyone involved, so here are some tips once the deployment is finished.

Give your hero time to adjust at home.  Don’t tightly schedule activities or gatherings.  He or she may require additional rest adjusting to a new time zone, a change of food, and a change of climate.  Yes, while it may be hard to believe, but the weather in some parts of the world is much worse than the heat we’ve experienced this summer.

Plan some together time for the immediate family.  Do something special where all the kids can be involved.  This will help your hero get back into the rhythm of family life.  It’s often best to re-connect as a family first and then have a romantic getaway.

Discuss roles and responsibilities.  Roles typically change during the deployment.  Will everything return to the pre-deployment routine?  Who will balance the checkbook?  Who will pick up the kids after school?  Who will mow the yard?  Perhaps the kids have been fixing dinner on Friday night for the last 5 months and they enjoy the challenge.  What will normal family life look like now that your soldier is home?  Now is the time to discuss what is best for the family.

Be patient and tolerant with your spouse.  New experiences during a deployment may bring changes to your hero’s attitude and outlook.  The parent who stayed home may also have a short fuse from being the “only adult” at home.  Remember Ephesians 5:1-2, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you . . . .”  Challenges will arise, but continue to show grace and compassion toward each other.

You just spent a year apart, now is the time to enjoy togetherness.  Get off the computer.  Put down your phone.  Go out.  Talk.  Make time for each other.  Celebrate the gift God has given you.

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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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