Is this standing in the way of your dream marriage?

Guest Post: Janel Breitenstein is a married mother of 4 who writes frequently for FamilyLife. Janel and her husband John currently serve with eMi in Uganda. You can visit her blog at www.agenerousgrace.com

Maybe you already know what it is. You know: that one thing. It’s one thing that, like an arm in a cast, its layered hardness immobilizing you from totally embracing your spouse.

Maybe you’re like me; I didn’t even realize it was there. But still, it was a silent, mildly bitter seed I’d unwittingly nurtured when it niggled at me. Sometimes it was watered by a bad day that couldn’t keep pace with my vision of what life could be like if only.

12 Ways To Stay Close When The Going Gets Rough

Guest Post: Janel Breitenstein is a married mother of 4 who writes frequently for FamilyLife. Janel and her husband John currently serve with eMi in Uganda. You can visit her blog at www.agenerousgrace.com

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It was one of the most pressing seasons for our marriage.

We were facing a trifecta of major life decisions—only one of which included the continent we’d be living on. And our marriage that had been marked by teamwork and partnership now found our opinions diverging in opposite directions.

To say we were stressed was more than an understatement.

An Open Letter To A Spouse Who Wants Out

Open Letter

It usually starts with a phone call. Maybe an e-mail.

And this is the part where I feel my gut clench; I find my fingers covering my lips. No matter how many times I’ve received the news, I’m stunned for a bit. Broken.

The communication is typically from the husband or wife desperate for the marriage to work. He, or she, is pleading with me,

“Please call. Please, please meet with. Please email something—anything—to my spouse. Please do whatever you can to talk them out of leaving, or worse yet, divorce.”

Some of my most challenging, gut-rending work—though it’s why I do what I do!—is when one spouse is completely done with their marriage.

I’ve written previously describing what to do when your spouse wants out. But now I want to speak to the spouse that actually wants out.

To the one who wants to leave…

Did You Marry The Wrong Person?

Guest Post: Janel Breitenstein is a married mother of 4 who writes frequently for FamilyLife. Janel and her husband John currently serve with eMi in Uganda. You can visit her blog at www.agenerousgrace.com

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He surprised me, you know.

I was eighteen. I was leading a college Bible study around a book called Lady in Waiting. I had Kissed Dating Goodbye. I was running hard after God—“Dude, you were hard core,” a guy friend told me years later, in that “we kind of thought you wouldn’t be interested in us” kind of voice.

And then…there was this curly-haired guy with a head-turning but modest self-confidence, a guy who seemed to be running as hard as I was, but in retrospect, more peace and joy.

I initially thought of every reason in the book not to date him, scared of doing the wrong thing (or even feeling pleasure) as I was. Looking at those broad shoulders: I bet he works out and thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips.

3 Ways to Keep Your Marriage “HOT”

I’ll admit, I’m somewhat of a pyro.

My older friends can attest to my disorder.

When Star and I lived on 10 acres, we, actually I, would frequently build huge fires. When I say huge, I’m talking about ‘2 story high flames‘ huge. I’m shocked we only got 1 visit from the fire department!

What’s fascinating to me about fire is how a small spark can grow into a raging flame so quickly. As long as there’s oxygen and something for the fire to consume, such as wood, it will continue to burn and grow.

If the oxygen supply is low, such as at high altitudes, or if the wood is wet, the fire will struggle to burn. If the wood is completely removed from the fire, or if the supply of oxygen is cut off, the fire will die.

Fire thrives when good dry wood and a fresh supply of oxygen are present. The fire will continue to intensify to the degree wood and oxygen are supplied.

The same is true in marriage…

I’m Tired of Great Weddings!

How to turn a great wedding into a great marriage

George Booth and I collaborated on this post together.

I’ve been to some great weddings!

We once attended a wedding in Ireland where we traveled with a plane load of fellow Scots and celebrated for almost a week.

I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a colleague in Azerbaijan where we danced, ate, and celebrated into the wee small Azeri hours.

I’ve been to great weddings in the prettiest of Scottish Castles and great weddings in the grandest of Cathedrals – but quite frankly I’m getting tired of great weddings!

The more I think about it, I haven’t been to a bad wedding. Every wedding I’ve ever facilitated, attended, or observed has been great.

This weekend, great weddings will be happening all around the world where a beautiful bride and a handsome groom will enjoy with their fortunate guests, all the spoils and pleasure of months and often years of meticulous planning and paying! They’ll be great. People will laugh, parents will cry, and everyone will hashtag their memories to the happy couple’s Instagram tag – #greatwedding

So why with all these great weddings do we only know a handful of great marriages? Why do we pour so much time, energy, creativeness and money into great weddings but we are reluctant to invest in having a great marriage?

Please don’t do it…

The Affair Illusion

Guest Post: Janel Breitenstein is a married mother of 4 who writes frequently for FamilyLife. Janel and her husband John currently serve with eMi in Uganda. Additionally, Janel’s husband serves on the Board of Marriage Revolution. You can visit her blog at www.agenerousgrace.com

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Last Friday, Fox news reported that Ashley Madison—the self-proclaimed “original extramarital affairs site”—anticipated a 500% increase in applicants following Mother’s Day.

There are so many aspects of this statistic that baffle the mind. I suppose—or rather earnestly hope—that there are enough blog posts out there about the mere idea of a site dedicating itself to (how to put this politely?) willful marital annihilation. But in an effort to step beyond preaching and into understanding, there are a few observations that beg unpacking.

What To Do When Your Spouse Wants Out

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I’ll never forget that day.

I had been out of town for about a week and I couldn’t wait to be home to see my wife and 2 year old daughter.

Things had been rough in our marriage, but while I was out of town I felt like my love for her was renewed. I was going to be different when I got home: more patient, more gentle, less angry. Our marriage was going to be different.

My excitement to share my fresh start with Star quickly turned to confusion as I pulled into the driveway to her standing outside and holding hands with our innocent, red haired, pig tailed, daughter by her side.  Next to them were two suitcases.

I got out of the car and asked what was going on.

She was noticeably distant and silent for a few moments, then she looked up and said with a cold determination, “Hans, I’m leaving”.

“What?!”

“I said, I’m leaving.”

“Why?”

“Are you kidding me? Why?”

I was in unbelief.  I felt like I was hit by a truck.  I didn’t even argue with her I was so shocked. She had begged me to go to counseling for some of our problems for months, but now I was ready. And now this?! I didn’t fully understand what was happening until she was already driving away.

It was the start of our six month separation where I fought for our marriage. Alone.

The most heartbreaking calls and emails that come into my counseling office resemble stories like this. One spouse wants out. The other doesn’t. The spouse that wants out is confused. Hopeless. Desperately searching for anything – anything – that will save the marriage.

What do you do in a situation like this or how do you help a friend walk through a situation like this?

4 Keys to Finishing Strong in Your Marriage

Finish Strong

I recently heard the story of a Godly leader I respected that fell into sexual immorality.

When I first heard the story I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t think there was any way THIS guy would have fallen. He was a rock. He loved God. He taught God’s word.

But unfortunately I learned it was true. And the effects this event had on his wife and kids were devastating.

Should you renew your wedding vows?

Guest Post: George Booth is a married father of 3 and serves on the Board of Marriage Revolution.

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I recently had the privilege of attending a Marriage Vows Renewal Ceremony in Jerusalem, Israel. As we stood on a plaza overlooking this ancient city, the small party of assembled guests were struck by the beauty and simplicity of the occasion as we thanked God for 25 years of His love and faithfulness towards the happier than ever couple.

For this couple, the renewal ceremony had extra poignancy.  When they first took their marriage vows, they neither believed in or followed God.  But here they were, 25 years later, united in a common bond of love for each other, for Christ and for his church.

But I couldn’t help but ask myself, does a wedding vow ever need renewing?