Relying on over 40-years of practice, Dr. William (Bill) B. Berman, Ph.D. from CHRISTIAN FAMILY INSTITUTE (CFI) shares about limiting the damages of a divorce. There are harmful effects for everyone in a family in cases of divorce, even if amicable, and unfortunately children are more keenly affected. CFI often provides divorce recovery services, tips for successful coparenting and gives special focus on helping children to recover. Dr. Berman has consulted on over 500 child custody cases, and speaks with host Lisa Harris on key areas of concern for families facing or recovering from divorce. Dr. Berman is a licensed Psychologist as well as a Marital and Family Therapist and directs the clinical services at CFI.
Archive for the ‘marriage’ Category
Dr. William (Bill) B. Berman, Ph.D. from CHRISTIAN FAMILY INSTITUTE (CFI) speaks about divorce-proofing a marriage with host Lisa Harris during a recent segment of Joy In Our Town. Dr. Berman is a licensed Psychologist as well as a Marital and Family Therapist and directs the clinical services at CFI. Over 40-years clinical and forensic practice underlies the sound tips and advice he presents for couples desiring to shore up their marriage and avoid common pitfalls.
As couples consider ways to improve their emotional connection and friendship, they typically put a focus on efforts that take some effort. Going out on dates, weekend trips, efforts to improve physical intimacy and attending marriage enrichment events, are all useful and effective ways to increase a couples’ friendship. However, we often fail to recognize the cumulative effects of the very small interactions. In fact, healthy relationships are typically full of positive mini events.
Some examples of these moments can include, pointing out a post on social media, getting your partner something to drink, even a comment about the amount of traffic encountered on the way home. Simply put, these are small efforts to initiate conversation and positive interactions between partners. While it is important to get spouses to initiate these interactions, getting them to receive them in a positive manner, may be more important. Validating responses such as efforts to extend the conversation, a brief acknowledgement or even a responsive smile will pay dividends for both spouses.
On the other hand, a rejection, while seemingly small, can pierce very deeply. When one of these small gestures is made, that partner is taking a risk. The possibility of their partner accepting this bid for connection, also contains the very real possibility of its rejection. Rejections can be derisive statements and body language, or even simply ignoring their partner all together. This can create a pattern where partners are discouraged from making these gestures for connection and thus deprive the couple of a very important element to intimacy.
If you think that your relationship could benefit by increasing the frequency of these small moments of connection, there are two things I would encourage you to do:
- take the risk and make the effort to initiate these small interactions. Be active in serving your partner in small ways, give an affectionate squeeze of their shoulder, make small talk, and find small ways to serve them.
- look for and acknowledge the things your partner is doing for the relationship. If you have gotten in a negative pattern, challenge those negative thoughts and appreciate that they are still making an effort to connect. Even if it feels awkward at first, work though it with a sense of humor and let your friendship grow.
CFI is going to be teaching at The Church at Battle Creek this June and July. We look forward to educating the community and getting to know you.
About the Stronger Marriage series at The Church at Battle Creek:
This series is for anyone who is married or thinking about getting married. If your spouse is unable to attend for any reason, we encourage to come by yourself. Young marrieds, emptynesters, and seniors will all find help in this series. This series of topics will touch on biblical and sound family systems principles relevant to your situation.
These sessions will be provided by members of the staff of Christian Family Institute, Tulsa’s oldest and largest Christian counseling center. You can find out more about this group at. www.CFITulsa.com
6 Sessions – June 17, 24, and July 1, 8, 15, 22 (2015)
- June 17: Improving Couple Communication
- June 24: Learning to Manage Conflict in Marriage
- July 1: Making a Good Marriage
- July 8: Helping Your Child – or Grandchild – Win (birth through age 12)
- July 15: Helping Teens Through the Challenges of Growing Up
- July 22: Strengthening the Family Connection
Throughout, this series will emphasize the character of effective couples, and the objective character traits in those in healthy, godly relationships.
Christian Family Institute has been training mental health professionals, pastors, and lay counselors to do premarital counseling for over 30 years. We are strong believers that such premarital preparation can improve relationships and reduce divorce rates. One tool CFI commonly employs to strengthen relationships and marriages before they begin is the PREPARE/ENRICH assessment inventory.
I look back at the old versions of this test and am amazed at the changes that it has undergone over these many years. I first met Dr. David Fournier, an early developer of the inventory in 1977 when he was pilot testing PREPARE in Kansas City. Little did I know how significant our relationship would later be, and what an important role PREPARE would serve in our work.
This last year, PREPARE underwent another major revision. It is now going to be known as PREPARE/ENRICH Customized version, instead of PREPARE 2000. Several major changes in the instrument are immediately apparent. One change is that all the instruments are combined. Another change is that this version can only be taken by computer. When a counselor agrees with a couple to utilize this version, a private login account is established allowing the parties to take the inventory online. The initial items inquire into the status of the couple’s relationship, such as whether they are engaged, living together, or married. Other items inquire about age and other factors. The answers to these questions determine which banks of questions are relevant and will be administered to the couple. Each couple takes a “custom” version of the assessment.
The outcome results are immediately obvious. Separate reports are generated for counselors (“facilitators”) and couples. Reports include a massive amount or information about the couple and their relationship, no matter what stage of relationship the couple may be in. This enables couples to make important informed decisions, including commitments to grow and change.
Another important aspect of the PREPARE/ENRICH inventories is the increased emphasis on interactive feedback and therapeutic exercises. For those trained in this approach, tools for helping couples grow are immediately available to meet the couple’s needs.
CFI will be providing workshops to train new users of the PREPARE/ENRICH Customized Version, and to update those already trained in PREPARE 2000. Watch CFI’s website for dates and times. Also, check out the Life Innovations website for more information.
To sign up for Dr. Dale Doty’s PREPARE/ENRICH training workshop on Friday, March 28, 2014 please click here.
A frequently observed pattern is for those who remarry to repeat the mistakes from their previous failed marriage. Second marriages are even more likely to fail than first marriages. This occurs far too often, yet there are things that can be done to prevent it.
It is extremely important to gain some understanding and insight into what we may have contributed to the failure of our earlier marriage(s). It is never so simple as to have been entirely the blame of our first spouse that a previous marriage ended. If we do not have understanding and insight, we cannot take the necessary responsibility in order to correct past mistakes, and therefore, not repeat the same mistakes.
Marriages end due to many factors, including rushing into a marriage without an adequate courtship period to get to know the person we are marrying, not knowing our partner’s history and character, rushing into sexual intimacy, failing to be prepared for the demands of marriage, not being financially secure, failing to manage anger and other emotions, not knowing how to communicate well or resolve conflicts, just to mention a few.
Counseling is an important experience in getting help understanding how a past marriage failed. It can make the difference between a failed or successful second marriage. Pre-marriage counseling is also a very important experience, to insure that future relationships are on track to becoming a successful marriage. Premarriage counseling should begin as soon as possible after the first talk of a life together for the future.
The Bible speaks of the importance of the “safety in a multitude of counselors,” (Proverbs 11:14), and that we should walk in wise counsel (Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 19:20).” Making important decisions on our own without counsel increases the odds of our making an error in judgment.
Consider the gift of pre-marital counseling to your adult children considering marriage. A comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a planned marriage, offered by a trained and objective professional, may carry more weight than your own opinion. Further, this gives your adult children the counseling or therapy they may need to get their relationship on firm ground.
Usually this is asked at the end of a particularly difficult or emotional session. It’s often followed by the statement, “I couldn’t do what you do”. The truth is, I probably couldn’t do what you do. Not day in and day out. I believe one’s vocation is a calling. We usually think of ministers and missionaries as “being called” to the pastorate or the mission field. I think God has plans and designs for each of us and some are called to be counselors or bankers or truck drivers, and some are even called (though I think it’s more a curse than a blessing) to be Junior High math teachers. Counseling is what I do, it’s a part of who I am; it is what I have been called to do.
That is the short answer. A longer answer is comprised of three parts. First, I have a well defined sense of self and very firm boundaries. In other words, I don’t take responsibility for the outcome or direction of your life. My job is to be the best counselor I know how to be for the time you are in my office. What happens after counseling is over is up to you. That doesn’t mean I don’t care (I do) or that I don’t worry about you as you leave my office (I try to keep that to a minimum but the reality is some of my clients are in a really tough place). It does mean that I take responsibility for my life and I expect my clients to take responsibility for theirs.
I don’t do the same thing hour after hour, day after day. Counseling is a process made up of different parts or phases. Some of my day is spent doing assessments: figuring out what is really going on in order to create the most effective treatment plan. Being a good diagnostician is like being a detective. I question, probe, and investigate. I analyze, summarize, and interpret. At other times I teach skills: communication skills, problem-solving skills, parenting skills, etc. I get to take off my detective hat and put on my educator hat. Still other parts of my day are spent listening, empathizing, and understanding. On occasion I confront people, at other times I explain how they are quite normal and anyone would react/think/feel as they are. Counseling is much more than just sitting in a chair murmuring “And how do you feel about that?”. I actually enjoy those difficult situations that require me to call upon all of my training and experience; even if the client never realizes just how much work that is.
Finally, I do what I do all day long because I take pride in my work. I make a difference in people’s lives… and that’s more than a lot of people can say.
Licensed Professional Counselor
A common first question to a breach in relational trust is: “What did your spouse do?”. The answer will likely depend on the severity of the action. For instance, when your spouse forgot to pick up the dry cleaning when you clearly asked them to, you may receive a denial in response, such as “you never asked me to get your dry cleaning.” You would probably be able to forgive this more easily than forgiving your spouse when they won’t acknowledge a greater breach, such as infidelity. The adage “pick your battles” correctly applies here. The life of your marriage probably won’t depend on dry cleaning, but infidelity is a much more complex and damaging offense. However, the core issue is the same: A spouse’s unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions and make amends is a major roadblock in trusting relationships.
With something as serious as infidelity, your spouse may fear the demise of your marriage and fool themselves into thinking that if they don’t admit wrong doing, then the incident didn’t really happen. As fallible humans we are masters of denial. Understanding why your spouse won’t admit their mistake is important. Do they disagree that their actions were wrong or are they ashamed and using their denial as a defense mechanism?
If your spouse has a pattern of dishonesty and is unwilling to seek forgiveness, there is probably a deeper issue present that needs to be addressed through professional counseling.
The dilemma for the wronged spouse is, do you forgive them even if they don’t seek your forgiveness? For your spiritual and emotional health, is it best to choose to forgive them? Feeling forgiveness and choosing it are different. We often don’t feel like we want to forgive someone, but we can choose to forgive them. When we consider the grace and mercy of God toward us, it empowers us to extend that same forgiveness to others. Communicating your forgiveness toward your spouse can help them understand how their actions have affected you and encourage them to seek forgiveness.
Infidelity is a complex issue and the forgiveness of such offense is also complex. Christian Family Institute has developed and refined a methodology for helping couples through infidelity. Call us to set up a time to meet with one of our trained and licensed therapists.
Intimacy is, by definition, a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship. Intimacy in marriage is established and deepened as you increase your openness and vulnerability with your spouse.
As you draw nearer in relationship to your spouse, you will experience great joy in intimacy. But you also become more vulnerable and more open to being wounded. No human relationship is perfect. Whether intentional or unintentional, we all have the propensity to cause harm to one another. Ecclesiastes 7:20 (MSG) tells us “there’s not one totally good person on earth, not one who is truly pure and sinless”. There will be times in your marriage when you are the offend-ed and there will be times when you are the offend-er. There will be times when you need to seek forgiveness and times when you need to grant forgiveness. When an offense takes place in marriage, the offense damages the intimacy of the relationship and the offended often reacts with feelings of hurt, sadness, anger and distrust. These emotional reactions are normal. But you always have a choice about how you’ll respond. The acts of seeking and granting forgiveness provide opportunities to become truly authentic, to practice grace, to reconcile and to deepen the intimacy of your relationship.
When you are the offender, SEEKING FORGIVENESS involves:
- Acknowledging to your spouse what your specific offense was
- Admitting to your spouse that the offense was hurtful and damaging to the relationship
- Attempting to understand the pain that you’ve caused your spouse
- Taking responsibility for the offense and offering to make amends, if possible
- Vowing to your spouse that you will not repeat the offense
- Apologizing to your spouse and asking for forgiveness
- Forgiving yourself and creating a plan for avoiding future offense
When you have been offended by your spouse, offering forgiveness provides an opportunity to heal your own hurt and, often, to mend the broken relationship.
Did you know that you can choose to forgive your spouse even when he or she has not admitted fault and sought your forgiveness? Of course, ideally, we would all love for our spouses to admit they were wrong and beg us for forgiveness. But even if you never see repentance or sorrow from your spouse, you have a choice to make – To Forgive or Not To Forgive.
Unforgiveness, or refusal to offer forgiveness, creates:
- distancing or pushing away from the offender
- a power struggle because it puts you in a position of being superior to your spouse and presumes that your spouse owes you something
- warfare when you use the offense as a weapon to continually jab at or shame your spouse
- a judgmental attitude because you presume that you can determine whether your spouse feels guilty enough or has compensated enough to be “let off the hook”
In ALL cases, unforgiveness is a destroyer of intimacy. Unforgiveness causes marital partners to be adversaries, at a face-off against one another. Unforgiveness breeds criticism and contempt which ultimately will erode all closeness in a relationship. And unforgiveness damages the life of the one who harbors it.
Forgiveness is a process that takes time and energy. Forgiveness is not easy but it is highly rewarding. Please know that forgiveness does NOT mean that you are excusing the offense, condoning the offense OR forgetting the offense. Forgiveness is choosing to surrender the “right” to punish or think negatively about the offender so that you can be free from anger and resentment.
GRANTING FORGIVENESS includes:
- Taking stock of the specific offenses that have occurred
- Acknowledging the emotions that you experience as a result of the offense
- Admitting to yourself and your spouse that you feel hurt and disrespected
- Stating your specific expectations for the future
- Giving up your right to punish or retaliate against your spouse
- Choosing to discontinue bitter, resentful or critical thoughts and actions toward your spouse
- Communicating your forgiveness to your spouse
- Working collaboratively with your spouse toward reconciliation and intimacy (when reconciliation is safe)
There are times when reconciliation is not safe. In those cases, stating your expectations for the future may mean creating boundaries in the relationship or even ending a relationship completely. But even in those cases where reconciliation is not safe, you would be wise to work through the process of forgiveness independently in order to free yourself from the bitterness, anger and resentment.
Forgiveness is important in all relationships but especially in the marital relationship. If you find that you are critical or harboring resentment toward your spouse, consider whether there might be some offenses that you need to forgive. The counselors at Christian Family Institute can be excellent guides on your journey of forgiveness.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prison was you.” Lewis Smedes