Thursday, March 7thLove on the Rocks
Dr. Tim talks about how couples can overcome the cycle of disaffection in marriage.
Bio: Tim Clinton, Ed.D., is president of the nearly 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)–the largest and most diverse Christian counseling association in the world. He is Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, and Executive Director of the Center for Counseling and Family Studies, at Liberty University. Licensed in Virginia as both a Professional Counselor (LPC) and Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Tim now spends a majority of his time working with Christian leaders and professional athletes. He is recognized as a world leader in faith and mental health issues and has authored 18 books including his latest, Break Through: When To Give In, How To Push Back. Most importantly, Tim has been married for 33 years to his wife, Julie, and together they have two children, Megan and Zach.
Life, Love and Family Daily Fact Sheet
Dr. Tim Clinton
“If You Can See It, You Can Fix It: How Couples Lose at Love”
6 Rules for Fighting Fair (Clinton & Trent, 2009):
- Stay Calm—it is important to stay calm or at least keep your anger under control. By remaining calm your spouse will be more likely to consider your perspective and not overreact. This could eliminate a conflict before it even starts, especially if the conflict is based on a misunderstanding (and many are). If you feel so angry that you will not be able to deal with the conflict in a healthy manner, take a “time out” or try to put the matter back into perspective. This one conflict is likely a small matter in the lifespan of the marriage.
- Address One Conflict at a Time—it is best to address only one conflict at a time, so as to avoid feeling exasperated and overwhelmed. Leave all other conflicts off-limits until the matter at hand is resolved. If you have many little problems to deal with, it’s wise to start by getting help from a counselor to determine where to begin.
- Avoid Accusations—the quickest way to make someone defensive is to accuse him or her of something. Therefore, instead of accusing your spouse of something, emphasize how your spouse’s action(s) has made you feel. For example, “When you said that, it hurt me.”
- Don’t Generalize—be specific when you talk about a problem. It is imperative for your spouse to have a clear understanding of your problem. Vague complaints are impossible to resolve. Moreover, the words never and alwaysare two of the worst words to use during conflict, because they are almost always an exaggeration.
- Don’t Hit Below the Belt—hitting below the belt in a marital conflict is an attack on the spouse as a person, not an attack on the issue. It is usually an attack on your spouse’s area of personal sensitivity, delivered with the intent to hurt him or her, not resolve an issue.
- Don’t Stockpile the Pain—storing up small grievances is counterproductive to marital health. It is best to deal with problems as they arise. Of course, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the time is just not right to begin a conflict, such as right before bed, while someone is at work, or in front of company, friends, or family. However, if not ever discussed or if just let go, these small grievances can build up and explode with a wave of emotion when you are having a conflict regarding something more major.
- “It seems like everything in life competes for our affection for one another.”—Tim Clinton
- “A marriage without conflicts is almost as inconceivable as a nation without crises.”—André Maurois
- “The difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character.”—Peter de Vries
- “The course of true love never did run smooth.”—Shakespeare
- “Marriage is not a machine that needs routine maintenance to keep it functioning, but a supernatural event founded upon a mutual exchange of holy pledges. Above all, marriage is a deep, mysterious, and unfathomable endeavor.”—Les & Leslie Parrott
- “Love is not merely a feeling. ‘Being in love’ moved them to promise fidelity: This quieter love enables them to keep it.”—C.S. Lewis
- “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”—Thomas Edison
- “Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.”—Zig Ziglar
- “If your marriage has any value for God, all hell will be against it.”—Tim Clinton
Disaffection: When Love Grows Cold (Clinton & Trent, 2009)
- Disaffection refers to the negative transformation of marital love and commitment—the process by which love grows cold and the desire to leave the marriage or hurt one’s spouse replaces former love.
- Often disaffection involves an unintentional severing of emotional ties of love and affection.
- If people are willing to step back and review their marital story, they will usually find a pattern of thoughts and behaviors that led to the disaffection.
- Since harmful patterns are predictable, couples can work to stop them and save their marriage. More than just keeping their marriage afloat, they can reverse the process and breathe new life into their relationship.
- Disaffection in marriage is not a mystery, it is a common virus. Interestingly, the process begins with everyday life and pressure. Consider the following:
- Stress: Some marriages have been battered by life stresses, such as financial troubles, losses, health problems, or overly demanding work schedules. Spouses must deal with stress by considering the demands in life and their ability to cope with those demands. Develop a plan for better coping and stress reduction.
- Sin and Selfishness: Sin is part of our nature. As Christians, we seek to be victorious over sin but we often fail. Begin honest, seeking forgiveness, and staying deeply invested in one’s spouse is the only remedy.
- Satanic Assault: Since Adam and Eve, Satan has had the poison arrows of hell aimed at the intimate bond of marriage. He is the great confuser and ultimate liar. He magnifies people’s weaknesses and fears, using them as wedges in their marriage. Couples need to stay focused on the Lord and pray for their marriage. They need not fear Satan but they do need to understand his tactics and influence.
- Unrealistic Expectations: The gap between unrealized expectations and reality is filled with disappointment. If your expectations for marriage are unrealistic, you are setting yourself up for a fall. Unrealistic expectations must be fought with realistic biblical ones. You must understand that no one is perfect; no one person will ever fulfill all your needs. Only God can do that.
- Childhood Scripts: It is believed that the majority of what drives us as adults happened to us in our early years. These “scripts” are ones we faithfully follow, reinforced as we hold tightly to them. They also impact how we give and receive love. Unresolved physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, parental divorce, abandonment, gross failure, and emotional loss need to be dealt with before the Father so they don’t infect a couple’s marriage.
- Busyness and Time Pressures: Relationships and intimacy take time, time to understand, enjoy, and respond to one another, time to satisfy another’s needs and have one’s own needs satisfied. But, with life being lived on the run, there is little time—unless you make the time. To stay close, regularly schedule uninterrupted time to just be together.
- “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.”—Ecclesiastes 9:9
- “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”—Proverbs 17:27
- “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger…Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”—Ephesians 4:29
- “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”—1 Peter 3:7
- “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.”—1 Peter 3:1
- “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-7
- “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”—Proverbs 21:9
Clinton, T. & Trent, J. (2009). The quick-reference guide to marriage & family counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.