Q: My wife and I are examples of opposites attract. We hold different social and spiritual beliefs but still really love each other. Now we're expecting our first child. We plan on showing her both our perspectives as she grows so she'll be well-rounded. That's a healthy approach, right?
Jim: When it comes to values in the home, many parents underestimate just how important it is to be on the same page with one another. If you think it's tough for adults to handle the emotion of conflicting viewpoints, it's even worse for kids.
Picture it this way: Have you ever seen one of those circus performers who rides into the arena standing atop two horses, one under each foot? That stunt only works as long as both horses remain side by side. But what happens if either horse angles even slightly in a different direction? The person on top will come tumbling down, or he'll have to choose one horse or the other to keep his footing.
It's the same dilemma in many homes. When parents hold conflicting values, it's as if the horses underneath the child are splitting into different directions. That's a no-win situation. No matter what the child does, he or she will be crossing one of their parents and will feel caught in the middle of their disagreement. That's a very stressful situation and a heavy burden for a child to bear. It'll make life seem unstable and scary. And when kids feel scared, you can bet it'll show up through negative behavior.
So get on the same page with your spouse -- if not for peace in your marriage, then certainly for the sake of your child. For time-tested life principles to help your household thrive, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
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Q: After years of marriage, it seems like everything my wife does or says drives me crazy. I still love her. But from the way she squeezes the toothpaste to how she talks on the phone or her latest cooking fad, I just find myself getting irritated. I know I shouldn't be this way. What can I do?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: If you find that you're only able to notice negative things about your spouse, marriage or anyone for that matter, you can be almost 99.9 percent sure you're "under the influence" of negative beliefs. When all you see is the weaknesses of your spouse's personality, you are heading down a dangerous pathway.
Psychologists call this tendency "confirmation bias." It basically means that whatever you're looking for in someone's behavior (your bias) is exactly what you'll notice (your confirmation). In essence, that person is powerless against your beliefs because -- you guessed it -- they can't control you or your thoughts.
You must fight these nasty beliefs in any relationship, but especially in your marriage. You can do this best by adopting an "I could be wrong" attitude and giving your wife the benefit of the doubt. Basically this means having a perspective that leaves room for the possibility that you've misinterpreted some irritating behavior you notice in your mate. You can work toward conquering negativity by giving your spouse the gift of believing the best about her and her intentions. After all, isn't that what you'd want her to do for you?
One practical way to jump-start this process is to write a list of every reason you love your wife and what drew you to her originally. When you find yourself getting irritated, step away and read through the list. Repeat as necessary. And try to find at least one new positive thing each week to add to the list. Keep it going and growing to help refocus your perspective.