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Monday, December 7, 2015

that he was just playing for fun. And you’re not even that fun, had been his final insult before I’d stormed out. Why couldn’t I just get over it? And why was I still bloody lost in the middle of nowhere?
Just as I had that thought I rounded the corner of a huge hill that I’d been skirting for some time, so huge I wondered if it was actually a mountain, and ahead of me lay a cluster of buildings. Civilisation! At last! I’d really started to think that I might be about to find myself in some kind of The Hills Have Eyes horror situation – it would certainly have been a fitting ending after the day I’d had! The settlement that that my little car was trundling towards wasn’t exactly a vast metropolis, maybe just about big enough to be considered a village, but all I really cared about in that moment was that I could see lights in the growing darkness. Lights meant people, and warmth, and food! It would also offer me the chance to get out my map and figure out where the hell I was, and how to get to where I was supposed to be going. If I could remember how to use one, that is. I was suddenly aware how reliant I was on technology and GPS to guide my way.
As I drove along the windy little road into the village, I searched for a name sign but to no avail. Surely the place couldn’t be so small it was nameless? It was pretty though, there was no doubting that. For a moment my anger subsided as I took in the quaint stone cottages set against a backdrop of rolling hills silhouetted against the indigo twilight sky. I passed a spattering of cozy looking homes, a church, a general shop, and a pub. The Moon and Stars looked extremely inviting, not just because of the blackboard outside declaring home cooked winter warmers. I sighed with relief when I noted another sign declaring that there were rooms available for the night. Phew! I would at least be able to hole up here for the night rather than getting myself even more lost in the dark wilderness, and make a fresh start in the morning light after figuring out my whereabouts. I had the number of the guy who’d rented me the cottage, I would just call and let him know to expect me in the morning instead.
I pulled my little car into the small parking area at the front, grabbed my handbag, and climbed out, stretching my aching limbs gratefully after the long drive. The cold hit me immediately. Sure, it had been cold in London, but it felt at least ten degrees colder here, and it was a biting, raw kind of cold. I wrapped my coat around me tighter and hurried towards the front door, noting that there were only a couple of other cars parked outside.
The pub was just as inviting inside as its exterior had suggested. Traditional but not over-the-top pub d├ęcor that managed to look quite fresh and vibrant. Cozy booths lined the edges and mahogany tables were scattered in the main area of the room, just a few of which were occupied. The bar, currently being propped up by a couple of farmer looking types, was straight ahead of me, but the absolute best thing was huge the roaring open fire to the right of the room. I could feel the heat hit me as soon as I entered the room, and was delighted to realise that the table right by the fire was free.
First things first, I needed to book myself a room and order food. I headed to the bar, and a pleasant looking woman in her sixties appeared from the back room as if by magic.
“Hello love, what can I get you?” She asked, her rosy cheeks shining as she smiled.
“Actually I was wondering if you had a room free for the night?” I smiled back. Her face registered surprise for a second, as if she wasn’t used to strangers walking an off the street and asking for a room. Then again, she probably wasn’t.
“Why yes of course duck, no problem at all. You’re very welcome, just the one night?”
“Yes just tonight thanks, I’ve rented a cottage for the week, but it’s a little late now so I’ll finish my journey in the morning.”
“Oh lovely, a holiday is it?”
“Yes, kind of… a writing retreat actually, I’m an author, well, I will be very soon.” I almost blushed as I said the words, but as Jenny kept telling me, I had to own it if I was going to ever make it my reality instead of just a far off dream. Mary’s eyes lit up.
“Well well well, an author under our very own roof! What are you writing? I love a good mystery myself.” You’d think I’d announced myself as royalty the way she reacted, and I had to admit it did feel quite nice. I was starting to thaw out – both on the outside and the inside. She turned to the open doorway behind her before I could answer her question and shouted “Helen, go and prepare room 1 for our guest please,” before turning back to me. “The room will be ready for you in no time dear. My name’s Mary, anything at all you need you just ask. Can I get you a drink? Do you have some bags you’d like taken up?”
“Oh that’s ok, I left my bag in the car, I’ll go and get it in a bit. I was actually hoping to get something to eat first. I’m kind of starving.”
“Well then, let’s get you a menu and we can get you all fed up.”
I ordered lentil soup with crusty homemade bread and a bowl of sweet potato chips on the side. Well, I was hungry! Then I decided to have a glass of white wine to go with it. Well, I wasn’t going to be driving again tonight and after the day I’d had, I deserved it. While waiting for Mary, who’d got caught up in a debate with the two men to my left about whether someone called Annie was going to labour tonight, I pulled my phone out of my bag and turned it on to check for messages. Okay, okay, to check for messages from Greg.
I was diligent about keeping my phone turned off while driving – I’d seen one too many devastating videos on Facebook and the news about horrific accidents caused by the distraction of a text message or notification. It just wasn’t worth the risk. A message pinged in once my phone had fired up and found a signal. It wasn’t from Greg, I noted with a sinking heart. It was from Jenny, asking me to let her know if I’d arrived safely, she was concerned that she hadn’t heard from me. Honestly, I was twenty five years old – did she not think I was capable of finding my way across the country on my own? I disregarded the fact that I evidently couldn’t find my way across the country on my own and that she was probably very justified in her concern. I would reply once I was sitting down by the fire. First I wanted to speak to Greg.
I’d managed to push him out of my mind for the last half hour, barely keeping thoughts of panic at bay, but now I was here I had to speak to him, I had to be sure. If there was a chance of him changing his mind, I wanted to take it. I moved to the farthest edge of the bar, away from where Mary and the farmers were still discussing Annie, who I’d figured out was probably an animal of some sort, and not a someone after all). Their voices were loud, and the other few groups of people at tables were all engrossed in their own loud conversations – maybe being loud was a Derbyshire thing? Added to that the music playing in the background, I didn’t think my pathetic begging would be overheard.
Finding him in my contacts, I clicked connect, and waited with a pounding heart.
“Hey Prim, what’s up?” He answered. I was too stunned to speak for a second, and I realised that after the way we’d left things, I hadn’t expected him to answer at all, let alone so casually. Maybe the fight hadn’t been as bad as I’d thought. Or maybe he hadn’t meant the things he’d said, just like I’d convinced myself in the car. A glimmer of hope sparked inside me.
“Hey Greg. So I arrived at the place. I just wanted to let you know. I’m just grabbing some dinner in a cute little pub.” See, I can be independent, I’m not scared of being alone was the implication under my words.
“That’s great Prim. Listen, I’ve got to go, I was on my way out. Enjoy yourself.”

to be continued....

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Winter Retreat

It should have been a journey filled with anticipation and excitement, finally I was taking the retreat that I’d dreamed of for years, a whole week to myself in a winter wonderland of the Peak District with only my muse and my imagination to keep me company. Paradise.
Well, that was the dream, anyway. The reality was unfolding a little differently. Instead of driving along with a grin on my face, marvelling at the beautiful countryside and singing at the top of my voice like a scene out of a cheesy chick flick, I was seething with anger and cursing everyone and everything under the sun, from my best friend Jenny who’d clearly suggested the most ludicrous place possible for my perfect week away, to my Sat Nav which apparently had gone on strike as soon as we ventured more than 20 miles from London, because an hour after I was scheduled to arrive at my little cabin in the hills, I was still driving aimlessly along ridiculously narrow and windy roads, my car low on petrol, my stomach growling with hunger, utterly and hopelessly lost.

It should have been a journey filled with anticipation and excitement, finally I was taking the retreat that I’d dreamed of for years, a whole week to myself in a winter wonderland of the Peak District with only my muse and my imagination to keep me company. Paradise.
Well, that was the dream, anyway. The reality was unfolding a little differently. Instead of driving along with a grin on my face, marvelling at the beautiful countryside and singing at the top of my voice like a scene out of a cheesy chick flick, I was seething with anger and cursing everyone and everything under the sun, from my best friend Jenny who’d clearly suggested the most ludicrous place possible for my perfect week away, to my Sat Nav which apparently had gone on strike as soon as we ventured more than 20 miles from London, because an hour after I was scheduled to arrive at my little cabin in the hills, I was still driving aimlessly along ridiculously narrow and windy roads, my car low on petrol, my stomach growling with hunger, utterly and hopelessly lost.
Maybe I’d been so busy seething that I’d missed a turn, or maybe the villages around here were too small for my stupid Sat Nav to even recognise them as villages at all. I didn’t know what had gone wrong, but I did know that I’d taken so many turns and backtracked so many times it was entirely possible that I was in the wrong county by now, and at nearly 4pm, darkness was descending on this winter afternoon, which only added to my mounting frustration.
Of course, the real source of my anger was 200 miles behind me in London, probably enjoying his new found freedom.
There’s just no spark… my mind betrayed me again and replayed a snippet of our conversation, causing my eyes to well up with tears again. I banged my hands down on my steering wheel and tried to push the thought away, as I had every time he’d crept into my mind. I couldn’t think about what he’d said, it was too painful. I knew he didn’t mean it anyway, so his words were unimportant – just a lie, a defence mechanism. He was probably just scared, I reasoned. Maybe I’d been moving too fast. A week away would do us both good, he’d miss me and realise what a mistake he’d made, and when I returned I would convince him to take me back for sure. In the meantime, I could not let it ruin my retreat.
I’d been dreaming of this week for years now, my little fantasy, but something had always stopped me from actually doing it. Maybe an inner fear about stepping into the unknown, going for my dreams, who knows, but with Greg’s encouragement, I’d finally gone ahead and booked myself a week alone in the country. A writing retreat. I smiled briefly as I said the words to myself. Every day at work for the past three years as I wrote more boring celeb gossip columns for the magazine, I’d promised myself that one day I would go on a writing retreat away from all the distractions and demands of everyday life and finally finish my novel. Then my dream life could truly begin.
Ha, what a joke. Now I had to wonder about the real intention behind Greg’s persistence in encouraging me to go away.
You’ll have more space and inspiration to follow your dreams babe, he’d said, and I’d truly thought he really cared about me, about my passions. Now I suspected he’d just been trying to get rid of me.
You’re so clingy. Was I? Was I that bad?
“Arrghhh,” I let out a yell of frustration. Why couldn’t I let it go? I’d only been dating the guy for a few months, as Jenny had pointed out during our tearful conversation earlier. Well, tearful on my part, Jenny had been surprisingly unsurprised by Greg’s revelations. Apparently she’d been able to tell from the beginning that he wasn’t that into me, that he wasn’t playing for keeps, 

to be continued....

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Marriage | 8 Lies That Destroy Marriage

Every wrong behavior begins with believing a lie.
By Bill Elliff

Imagine meeting with an engaged couple a few weeks before they are married. With excitement they describe how they met and how their relationship developed. The husband-to-be proudly describes how he set up a perfect romantic evening so he could pop the big question.
Then they surprise you by saying, “We want to get married and have some children. At first we will feel a lot of love for each other. Then we’ll start arguing and hating each other. In a few years, we’ll get a divorce.”
Who would enter marriage intending to get a divorce? And yet, divorce is occurring at alarming rates. A large number of people in my church have been hurt deeply by divorce—they’ve been divorced themselves, or they’ve felt the pain of a parent or relative divorcing.
As common as divorce is, I’m convinced that most of them could be avoided. Mark this down on the tablet of your heart: Every wrong behavior begins with believing a lie. Our culture promotes many deceptions that can quickly destroy a marriage. Here are eight:
Lie #1. "My happiness is the most important thing about my marriage.”  
As a pastor, I can’t tell you how many people have justified breaking up their marriages by saying, “I have to do this. God just wants me to be happy.”
But according to God’s Word, a spouse’s individual happiness is not the purpose for marriage.
The Bible says in Colossians 3:17: “Whatever you do in word or deed,” do for the glory of God. While all parts of creation are to glorify God, mankind was made in God’s very image. Through marriage, husbands and wives are to reflect His character and have children who will reflect His character … all the way to the end of time.
Every marriage knows unhappiness. Every marriage knows conflict. Every marriage knows difficulty. But everyone can be joyful in their marriage by focusing on God’s purposes and His glory instead of individual happiness.
Lie #2. “If I don’t love my spouse any longer, I should get a divorce.”   
It’s a tragedy to lose love in marriage. But the loss of human love can teach us to access a deeper love—the very love of God Himself. That love is patient and kind … it never fails (1 Corinthians 13). It even cares for its enemies.
When human love dies in a marriage, a couple can enter into one of the most exciting adventures they’ll ever have: learning how to love each other with God’s love. Romans 5:5 tells us that this very love “has been poured out within our hearts, through the Holy Spirit.”
Lie #3. “My private immorality does not affect my marriage.”
A lot of people think, I can view pornography in the privacy of my home. It’s just me and my magazine, or computer … it doesn’t affect my marriage.
Oneness in marriage is hijacked by sexual immorality. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?”
In the 21st century, there are many ways to join oneself with a prostitute: physically, through the pages of a magazine, on a computer’s video screen, etc. Paul’s advice is the same today as it was thousands of years ago: Flee immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).
If you take your emotional and sexual energy and spend it on someone else, there will be nothing left for your spouse. Those who continually view pornography or engage in sexual fantasies are isolating themselves.
Lie #4. “My sin (or my spouse’s sin) is so bad that I need to get a divorce.”
The truth is God can fix our failures—any failure. The Bible says to forgive one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us (Colossians. 3:13).
“But,” you ask, “Doesn’t Matthew 19:9 say that God allows divorce in the case of sexual immorality?” Yes. I believe that it does—when there is an extended period of unrepentance. Yet, nowhere in that passage does God demand divorce. When there is sexual sin, we should seek to redeem the marriage and so illustrate the unfathomable forgiveness of God.
Some of the greatest life messages I know are the marriages of people who have repented from sexual sin and spouses who have forgiven them. Their lives today are living testimonies to the truth found in Joel 2:25: “… I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”
Lie #5. “I married the wrong person.”
Many people have told me, for example, that they are free to divorce because they married an unbeliever. “I thought he/she would become a Christian, but that didn’t happen. We need to get a divorce.” They recall that they knew it was a mistake, but they married anyway—hoping it would work out. Others claim that they just married someone who wasn’t a good match, someone who wasn’t a true “soul mate.”
A wrong start in marriage does not justify another wrong step. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good,” says Romans 8:28, “to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
God tells us not to be poured into the world’s mold. Instead we are to be transformed and that begins in our minds. By doing this, God will give us exactly what we need for our lives. God’s will for us is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).
Here’s the key for those who are now married: The Bible clearly says do not divorce (with the exception for extended, unrepentant sexual immorality). God can take even the worst things of life and work them together for good if we will just trust Him.
Lie #6. “My spouse and I are incompatible.” 
I don’t know a lot of husbands and wives who are truly compatible when they get married. In marriage, God joins together two flawed people.
If I will respond correctly to my spouse’s weaknesses, then God can teach me forgiveness, grace, unconditional love, mercy, humility, and brokenness. The life of a person who believes in Jesus Christ is developed by responses to not only happy things, but also to difficulties. And those very difficulties include weaknesses.
That is why we are told in Colossians 3:12-13 to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.” My spouse’s weaknesses are not hindrances. Instead, they are the doorway to spiritual growth. This is a liberating truth.
If I will respond to my spouse’s shortcomings with unconditional acceptance, my love won’t be based on performance. I won’t say, “You need to live up to these expectations.” I will be able to accept my spouse, weaknesses and all. And that acceptance will swing open the door of change for not only my spouse, but also for me.
Lie #7. “Breaking the marriage covenant won’t hurt me or my children.”
When divorce enters a family, there are always scars. I know this firsthand; although I was an adult when my father committed adultery and divorced my mother, decades later there are still effects. Many consequences of divorce never go away.
Blake Hudspeth, our church’s youth pastor, also understands the pain of divorce. He was 5 years old when his parents divorced, and it was hard for him to understand God as Father and to trust people. “The people I trusted the most split up.” He also found it difficult to accept love from others “because I didn’t know if they truly loved me.” And Blake developed a fear of marriage. “Am I going to follow the trend of divorce, because my parents and grandparents divorced?”
Blake’s father even wrote him and said, “This was the worst decision I made in my life. It was bad. It hurt you. It hurt our family. When I divorced your mom, I divorced our family because I broke a covenant that we were a part of.”
Blake says that his parents (who both remarried) have embraced the gospel, resulting in him readily accepting advice and encouragement from them. “Watching the gospel play out … with my mom and dad was huge,” he says.
Lie #8. “There’s no hope for my marriage—it can’t be fixed.” 
This may be the most devastating lie of all. Because in more than four decades of counseling couples, I’ve seen God do the seeming impossible thousands of times. In a dying marriage, He just needs two willing parties. God knows how to get us out of the messes we get ourselves into.
I tell these couples about people like Chuck and Ann, who were involved in drugs and alcohol before God restored their home. Or Lee and Greg, who were engaged in multiple affairs. God brought them back to Christ and to each other. Now they have six children and a marriage ministry. Or Jim and Carol who had taken off their wedding rings and were living in separate bedrooms and about to live in separate worlds when God redeemed them.
If you begin to think, There is no hope for my marriage, realize that, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
We must combat the lies about marriage. The truth will set us free (John 8:32). God can fix anything!
Copyright © 2012 by Bill Elliff. Used with permission.
Bill Elliff is the directional pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas. His passion is to see both genuine revival and methodological renewal in the church. He is a frequent conference speaker, writer, and consultant to churches drawing from his four decades of pastoring and revival ministry. He is also involved in helping lead “OneCry! A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening.” Bill and his wife, Holly, have eight children and six grandkids (at last count).

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Friday, December 4, 2015

The day had come. I'd lasted as long as I could in my marriage. Once my husband, Bill, left for work, I packed a bag for myself and our 14-month-old son and left our home. It was the only year in our married life when we lived in the same town as my parents. Obviously the convenience of being able to run to Mom and Dad made my decision to leave Bill easier.
With a tear-stained, angry face, I walked into Mom's kitchen. She held the baby while I sobbed my declaration of independence. A washcloth and cup of coffee later, Mom told me she and Dad would help me. I was comforted to know they'd be there for me.
"But before you leave Bill," she said, "I have one task for you to complete."
Mom put down my sleeping son, took a sheet of paper and pen, and drew a vertical line down the middle of the page. She told me to list in the left column all the things Bill did that made him impossible to live with. As I looked at the dividing line, I thought she'd then tell me to list all his good qualities on the right hand side. I was determined to have a longer list of bad qualities on the left. This is going to be easy, I thought. My pen started immediately to scribble down the left column.
Bill never picked his clothes off the floor. He never told me when he was going outside. He slept in church. He had embarrassing, nasty habits such as blowing his nose or belching at the dinner table. He never bought me nice presents. He refused to match his clothes. He was tight with money. He wouldn't help with the housework. He didn't talk with me.
The list went on and on until I'd filled the page. I certainly had more than enough evidence to prove that no woman would be able to live with this man.
Smugly I said, "Now I guess you're going to ask me to list all Bill's good qualities on the right side."
"No," she said. "I already know Bill's good qualities. Instead, for each item on the left side, I want you to write how you respond. What do you do?"
This was even tougher than listing his good qualities. I'd been thinking about Bill's few, good qualities I could list. I hadn't considered thinking about myself. I knew Mom wasn't going to let me get by without completing her assignment. So I had to start writing.
I'd pout, cry, and get angry. I'd be embarrassed to be with him. I'd act like a "martyr." I'd wish I'd married someone else. I'd give him the silent treatment. I'd feel I was too good for him. The list seemed endless.

When I reached the bottom of the page, Mom picked up the paper and went to the drawer. She took scissors and cut the paper down the vertical line. Taking the left column, she wadded it in her hand and tossed it into the trash. Then she handed me the right column.
"Becky," she said, "take this list back to your house. Spend today reflecting on these things in your life. Pray about them. I'll keep the baby until this afternoon. If you sincerely do what I ask and still want to leave Bill, Dad and I will do all we can to assist you."

Facing facts

Leaving my luggage and son, I drove back to my house. When I sat on my couch with the piece of paper, I couldn't believe what I was facing. Without the balancing catalogue of Bill's annoying habits, the list looked horrifying.
I saw a record of petty behaviors, shameful practices, and destructive responses. I spent the next several hours asking God for forgiveness. I requested strength, guidance, and wisdom in the changes I needed to make. As I continued to pray, I realized how ridiculously I'd behaved. I could barely remember the transgressions I'd written for Bill. How absurd could I be? There was nothing immoral or horrible on that list. I'd honestly been blessed with a good man—not a perfect one, but a good one.
I thought back five years. I'd made a vow to Bill. I would love and honor him in sickness and health. I'd be with him for better or for worse. I said those words in the presence of God, my family, and friends. Yet only this morning, I'd been ready to leave him for trivial annoyances.
I jumped back in the car and drove to my parents' house. I marveled at how different I felt from when I'd first made the trip to see Mom. I now felt peace, relief, and gratitude.
When I picked up my son, I was dismayed by how willing I'd been to make such a drastic change in his life. My pettiness almost cost him the opportunity to be exposed daily to a wonderful father. Quickly, I thanked my mother and flew out the door to return home. By the time Bill returned from work, I was unpacked and waiting.

A new outlook

I'd love to say that Bill changed. He didn't. He still did all those things that embarrassed and annoyed me, and made me want to explode.
The difference came in me. From that day forward, I had to be responsible not only for my actions in our marriage, but also for my reactions.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I am a psychologist who specializes in marriage rescue for couples facing marriage problems (link is external).  When couples first contact me for marriage help (link is external), they typically feel distressed and even hopeless about their relationship. If they can look back and remember earlier good times however, that usually signals a marriage that can be saved.  In fact, this kind of marriage has potential to become the kind of partnership the couple had hoped for when they said, "I do."
What transitions couples from desperation about their difficulties to delight in sharing their lives together?  Here’s the 8-step pathway along which I guide my therapy clients, and which you are welcome to take as well.
1. Make a list of all the issues about which you have disagreements, including the issues that you refrain from talking about out of fear that talking might lead to arguing.
Your self-help treatment will be complete when you have found mutually agreeable solutions to all of these issues, and also have learned the skills to resolve new issues as they arise with similarly win-win solutions.
If the list seems interminable because you fight about everything from time of day to where to live, odds are the problem is less that you are facing some challenging differences, and more that your manner of talking with each other needs a major upgrade.
2. Fix your focus solidly on yourself.  Attempts to get your partner to change invite defensiveness.  No one likes being told they're doing things wrong or, far worse, that they are a bad person.   Better by far for both of you each to use your energies and intelligence to figure out what YOU could do differently.
Here's a question that can get you started.  What would enable you to stay loving and good-humored even if the frustrating pieces in your spouse’s repertoire never get an upgrade?  That's how to become “self-centered” in the best sense.  If both of you are seeking to do your own upgrades, the marriage will blossom.
3. Cut the crap (Pardon please my language).  The point is that negative muck that you give each other is totally unhelpful.  It only taints a positive relationship.  That means no more criticism, complaints, blame, accusations, anger, sarcasm, mean digs, snide remarks, …. get it?
No more anger escalations either.  Stay in the calm zone.  Exit early and often if either of you is beginning to get heated.  Learn to calm yourself,  and then re-engage cooperatively.
Research psychologist John Gottman has found that marriages generally survive if the ratio of good to bad interactions is 5 to 1.  Do you want to barely survive?  Or do you want to save the marriage in a way that will make it thrive?  If thriving is your goal, aim for 100,000,000:1.  That means, don’t sling mud at all.  Cut the crap.
4. Learn how to express concerns constructively.  A simple way to do that in sensitive conversations is to stick with the following four sentence-starter options.  In my clinical work I call these "the pink sheet." I hand it out (printed on pink paper) to couples for them to use in  discussions on topics that they know could be prickly.
I feel (followed by a one-word feeling such as anxious, sad, etc) …
My concern is ………..
I would like to … [note, NEVER use "I would like you to …."]
How would you feel about that?  or, What's your thoughts on that?
5. Learn how to make decisions cooperatively.  I call collaborative decision-making the “win-win waltz.”
The goal of win-win is a plan of action that pleases you both.  No more aiming to “get your way.”  Instead, when you have differences, express your underlying concerns, listen to your partner’s concerns, and create a solution responsive to all the concerns of both of you.
Practice this skill on all the issues you listed in step 1.  You may be amazed at how even on the issues that seemed so intractable you really can find solutions that will work for both of you.
6. Eliminate the three A’s that ruin marriages.
Affairs, Addictions, and excessive Anger are deal-breakers.  They are out-of-bounds in a healthy marriage.  Game over.
If you are indulging in one of these self-defeating and relationship-destroying habits, get help and get it out of your life.
If your spouse has these problems, saving this kind of marriage could be a mistaken goal.  Better to end a marriage than to tolerate these bad habits.  However, the ideal is for the two of you both to commit to building a new kind of marriage, a marriage where there are zero affairs, addictions or excessive anger and instead lots of love and trust.
So end the old marriage.  Build a new one with the same partner.
7.  Radically increase the positive energies you give your partner.
Smile more. Touch more. Hug more.  More “eye kisses.”  More sex. More shared time and shared projects. More appreciation.  More dwelling on what you like about your partner.
Respond more often with agreement in response to things your partner says that in the past  you might have answered with “But…”. Listening is loving, especially when you are listening to take in information, not to show what's wrong with what your partner says or to show that you know more.
Help out more.  Give more praise and more gratitude.  Do more fun activities together.  Laugh and joke more, do new things and go new places together.
The best things in life really are free.  And the more positives you give, the more you’ll get.
I wrote above about Gottman's 5:1 ratio.  Increasing the positives is every bit as important as decreasing negatives to hit a 100,000,000:1 ratio.
8. Look back at your parents' marriage strengths and weaknesses.  Decide what you want to do differently.  
When people marry they bring along a recording in their head of how their parents treated each other, and also how they were treated by their parents.  These relationships are where folks learn patterns of interacting for intimate relationships.  Decide consciously what to keep from your folks and what to do differently.
Ready to get started?  Take this free marriage skills assessment (link is external). Then focus in and learn the skills you need to make you a stronger candidate for marriage success. 

Susan  Heitler Ph.D.
Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.

The wedding dress is a big part of every wedding. But after the Big Day, it may be doomed to a life inside of a box, waiting for a future daughter to wear it down the aisle. Or worse, never to be worn again.
But one Washington, D.C. woman decided her dress was too beautiful to condemn to a life in hiding. So she's giving it away.
HuffPost Weddings spoke to the generous bride -- who wishes to remain anonymous -- and she told us that, after tying the knot two weeks ago, she felt so surrounded with love that she decided the best way to repay her family and friends for such a "hospitable, generous, and warm" wedding was to pay it forward to another bride.
The woman is looking for a bride who is unable to afford a wedding, a groom looking to surprise his bride with a dress they wouldn't have been able to afford, or a couple who had to elope or have a courthouse wedding and is now looking to have a more formal affair. "Basically, I'm hoping to find someone who really loves the dress and whose wedding experience will be truly transformed by having it," she told Huffington Post Weddings in an email.
The dress, which originally cost $800, was purchased from the family-owned Cocoon Silk in Portland, Ore. via Etsy. The shop uses Cambodian silk to create all of their own designs, and even did some alterations for free. The dress roughly fits a size 4.
"To know that this dress will bring someone else joy on their special celebration is an incredible blessing. It makes my own wedding feel that much more special, to know that we were able to use it for some greater good," she said of her decision to give away the dress.
HuffPost Weddings is helping this generous bride find her perfect match. If you or someone you know needs a wedding dress and can't afford one, send your story and why you love the dress to by Thursday Oct. 4. The winner will be announced Friday Oct. 5.
whaoo, it"s a long time since i was able to blog, am very sorry for this , it was due to the some circumstances that is beyond my control.
how are you all over there? am happy to write again, and how is your home , families and work? well glory be to God in the highest.