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Chris Legg Christian Blog and Commentary

Chris Legg

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Chris Legg is a licensed minister and professional counselor; he is the Campus Pastor for FBC Tyler’s South Campus; he also runs a thriving therapy practice in Tyler, Texas… counseling, speaking and consulting. He is a graduate of Texas A&M and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, with Master’s degrees in Religious Ed. and Marriage and Family Therapy, and has developed the Phalanx discipleship ministry for men. Chris and his lovely wife Ginger have been honeymooning since 1993, and have been blessed with three great kids: Mark, Ellie, and Holland. Chris can be contacted at 903 561 8663 or clegg@fbctyler.org Check out Phalanx, articles, and other resources at his website at www.chrismlegg.com.

 

I have some friends that we are so similar as to create an odd sense of time together even when we haven’t spent much time together.  Know what I mean?  Our temperaments, perspectives, opinions, etc are so similar that even getting together a few times a year is sufficient to maintain our friendship as at least “stable.”

 

However, there are others who I dearly love who are so different from me in their personality (temperament plus character), understandings, and communication styles that even a couple of weeks of not getting time and the relationships begins to feel awkward.

 

Of course, this happens in marriage too.  Make sure you are getting enough time to nurture the garden even when (and maybe especially when) the conditions aren’t naturally super favorable!

 

Also, stage of life impacts some of this.  You cannot do everything you would like to do (check out http://chrismlegg.com/2010/09/10/loving-your-wife-with-limited-resources/) so you have to be more intentional with what you have!

 

Finally, I would say that there is one thing about the question that bugs me a little.

 

As I make clear in the “limited resources” article, we have to learn to love intentionally and intelligently since we have so little margin in most of our lives… However, I still want to have a mindset of “how much time do I GET to spend with my spouse!?”

 

I am a little saddened when someone wants to know the minimum (Now I also know that sometimes one spouse is too irresponsible to schedule the time needed, or too much of people person to create the margin needed, or just an ornery and difficult person who wants to avoid, or even a lazy person who can’t be bothered to think outside of their own comfort… or, to be honest, even just a tired person with little left to give at the end of most days)…

 

So, to repeat, I am a little saddened when someone wants to know the minimum number for anything that God meant to be a gift to them.

 

What is the bare minimum of Mint Oreos that I have to eat?  What is the raw lowest number of dollars I have to accept?  See what I mean?

 

So, if your spouse is trying to figure out the minimum hours with you, ask yourself, what can I do to make that time with me more of a sweet experience?

 

I you find yourself wondering how little time you can get with your spouse and it still be enough – then you have become a boring spouse.  Get on the ball and become an agent of freedom, love and change in your family rather than someone who needs to be coddled.

 

If you both are seeking the least time required to be together (or if either of the above are true) then you need to come talk to one of our counselors – in person or by phone and get rev’ed up to make a difference in your marriage.  Who wants a boring marriage – I have never fully understood the idea that if we are going to stay together anyway, we might as well do our best to make it wonderful… not just bearable… much less unbearable.

 

So, here are my thoughts – focus attention toward finding out how to embrace time with your spouse and what role you can play in helping them embrace time with you… and then make the habit of devoting what time you can afford to one another!  Since life has a habit of causing a couple to drift apart and away, you had better schedule it.

 

Remember, like any garden, there are times of sowing a reaping when a good deal of focused attention for a good deal of time.  There are other times when less time is ok… but remember, no garden produces all the time.   Fruit and flowers are what make marriage fun, but they require the regular investment all year around.

 

Back to the original question… It is a good one, especially in this regard… we must be diligent and intentional about creating time for what matters most to us… in this case, our marriages. 

 

Don’t let your marriage slowly decay into a dead and fruitless garden.  Get the help you need, if you need it, and make whatever investment is needed to be a good gardener

I was recently asked to comment on the question of how much time a husband and wife should spend together… and most often this actually takes the form of “how much time is it reasonable to for me to ask my spouse to spend with me (since I have asked and they told me what I was asking for was unreasonable).

 

I have a couple of comments.

 

First, before I say anything else, I want to communicate that one of the things that can make marriage fun is when you know you can ask for what you want. 

 

I think a spouse should generally not be chastised for asking for what they want… I am serious when I tell my wife that I want her to feel welcome to ask for what she wants.  If my wife wants more time, more focus (can you imagine?) from me, then I want to know it!

 

I cannot promise that she will always get it, but sure want to know about it just in case I can!  This rule is a family rule, by the way.  The kids area also allowed to ask for what they want… but not promised to get what they want…

 

And I love, even when I cannot provide, to dream with my wife or child.

 

“I really want that toy” …  “Man, I bet it would be great to have every toy we could imagine – what else would you like if you could wish for it?” – that isn’t sarcasm, it can be just dreaming with them!

 

Also, different people have different Love Languages – one of which is “Quality Time” (according to Gary Chapman)… in my marriage, I would translate that for my wife into “Undivided Attention.” 

 

The idea here is that one spouse may be satisfied with less time than the other… but why not take the opportunity to give it?  I want to be able to give what I can when I can, because The Lord knows that I will not always be able to say yes.

 

God is a God who loves to give good gifts… and I love to reflect Him as a good gift giver to the people I love the most.  I love to give them what they want, when I can or when I think it is right/best. Now, on to the question more directly…

 

**************

 

For years, counselors have compared marriage to a garden.  This comparison works on many levels.  I have pointed out before that one comparison is that the “natural” state of a garden (meaning the state it exists in without the intentional input of energy) is death; the “natural” state of marriage is divorce.  Without the intentional input of energy, marriage dies.

 

Many want to think of marriage as similar to drifting downstream together… but that would imply that the natural state of marriage is to go where it needs to, but that isn’t the case, as anyone who is married knows.

 

I assume most therapists would agree with me that very few marriages end with the emotional bang… most marriages that end in divorce, drift into divorce.

 

There is more to look at in regards to this issue here http://chrismlegg.com/2011/05/23/boring-marriages/

 

But in response to the question asked, the first answer would have to do with what kind of garden you have?  If a garden is otherwise healthy, and in an environment that engenders health (think two people who are generally healthy and who have quite a bit in common), then less scheduled and intentional time is probably necessary.

 

Years ago, I think I remember hearing James Dobson say that he figured a good minimum goal would be:  15-30 minutes a day, 2 hours a week, 1 night a quarter, and one weekend a year.  I like these, and would generally agree…

 

By this he meant (if I am remembering it correctly) that we need direct and meaningful conversation and interaction 15-30 minutes every day in order to keep the garden in good shape.   Then, we need to plan a more extended period each week in addition to that – a date, couch time, etc. of meaningful interaction; then an overnight away about 4 times a year and a longer couple’s vacation about once a year. 

 

Keep in mind, this is focused time!  Watching TV together, while nice at times, would not count, unless you were engaging at the time with one another (in which case, feel free to turn off the television).

 

Now, you can already see that a one-size-fits-all rule just won’t work, though.

 

So, what might?  Come back next time!

Emotions – a new understanding (at least to me)

I have written that recently my understanding of what emotions are has grown – or maybe, rather, shrunk…

My understanding has grown simplified.

I think that our emotions are largely our heart and soul communicating with our bodies, especially

I have written more about this part of it… here

The basic is:

Anxiety (root is probably “fear”) – something is wrong and needs to be fixed – bend all energy towards figuring out what it is.

Enthusiasm (root is “happy”) – there is no immediate need evident for energy, so it can be “wasted”.

Depression (root is “sad”) – isolate withdraw to protect – pull back… hoard energy for what is to come

I have a new question I am working on…

I wonder how many emotions there really are?  I wonder if they might be understood better as just a few emotions, but with many various expressions along continuum.

I am not sure what I think of it yet myself.  So, I am posting it here for comments

I haven’t worked out the details yet, but I imagine when and if I do, I will come to the conclusions that there are only a handful of base emotions and that each of those then exist in a continuum of strength…

example:

anger exists as the base – it might run from the extremes of:

<–Disappointment…irritation…frustration…anger…bitterness…rage…wrath –>

see what I mean (these aren’t that well thought out, but just meant to show the point)…

<–Concern…insecurity…anxiety…Fear…panic…horror…terror –>

<– Relaxed…upbeat…happy…excited…ecstatic –>

see what I mean?

Think in terms of the nurse asking you to rate pain 1-10.

or you could say…

<– irritating…uncomfortable…hurts…painful…awful…excruciating –>

If pain is an actual baseline emotion… see what I mean?  Like colors of the visible light spectrum – only there are essentially limitless colors along the continuum.

if the baseline is 5, but you are feeling 10, it is better to say 10, not 5, so we have words to indicate the difference.

When it comes to pure emotion, I actually wonder if these are the only base emotions – happy, sad, angry… pain is a maybe that I am still thinking about pain.  Is the emotional experience just an expression of the physical pain or is it actually an expression of fear?  Is emotional pain really the emotion of hoping to not to feel more pain?

I hope to hear feedback on this – are there more “baseline” emotions?  Am I limiting it too much?

It is important to note that one advanced understanding that can come from this is the challenges that it creates in communicating with one another.

If each person has a different pain tolerance – and they do… and thus would also have a different anger, fear, happiness tolerance, so to speak.  That would be my assumption.

so, when people tell you what they are feeling it is always subjective and very personal.

think about more somatic feelings (like pain) or cold:

<– Nippy…chilly…cold…frigid…freezing –>

I have a wonderful wife who uses, by habit, stronger words than I do, for example.

If you and I are going to Dairy Queen, she will ask, “are you excited!!?”

Internally, I would say “no, happy maybe… looking forward to it… but not excited.”

She meets with a friend and is super-excited!  Unless you have a large check for me or something, I am typically only “glad to see you.”

She is regularly “freezing” or “absolutely starving” or “completely exhausted.”

By the way, hers is by far the more common way of communication in the U.S.  And probably I do it as well in other ways that I am unaware of.

It can make communication a challenge.  If she uses a word it doesn’t intuitively mean the same thing to me… it can create confusion.

…but it can cause other problems too.  The reason?  Our bodies respond to our language.  If I use the word “upset” or “disappointed” we have a different physiological response to the situation.

If you come home, slam down my bag and say “Staff meeting was terrible!” then you will actually have much stronger physical response… as if your body believes you that it was like being trapped on a plane with Al Quaeda (which would be actual “terror”).

There is more about the effects of this issue in the article about emotions and REBT(rational emotive behavioral therapy).

I hear regularly about a child who gains access to internet porn via a portal that they were unaware existed!  When I ask, parents tell me that  they are careful about their children’s internet usage and access by telling me that the family computer is in a public space… or maybe they have put a program that allows them to access the history of the computer.

 

They are naïve.

 

Here are some things you need to know in regards to your children’s internet access that you may not be aware of:

 

Essentially all game systems and game devices have internet access and typically has a search engine built in.

 

Your child’s ipod, ipad, or smart phone has built in internet search engine.   It offers unfiltered and unfettered access to anything on the internet.  Videos, chat rooms, live cameras… it is there.

 

For example, most apple products have something called “restrictions” under “general” in the settings.  There, a parent can turn on, code, and limit or restrict video access, internet access, etc.

 

Safari can be turned off entirely… and I recommend it.

 

If you think your child needs internet access on the device, (and I would challenge this – most everything a child would need can be gotten from a more narrowly defined Ap.) then I would say the best option would be to purchase a search engine ap… Bsecure and Covenant Eyes are two options that I know people recommend… I am sure there are more…  They are filtered and an email can be scheduled to be sent to the address of your choice with a report… and if you get the full account with them, you have all kinds of further features.

 

Speaking of Aps, many Aps have internet access built in… many, in fact… but most of them only allow the user to access their materials, game page, etc.  However, others have built in search engines!  Facebook’s Ap is one of these.  In order to surf the web, one need only open the Ap and click a link.  Since it is what it is, the access will go around any other kind of filter.

 

Be aware of which Aps are on your child’s device and what their capacities are.

 

Did you know that your family’s game system probably also has internet capacity?  Your Play Station, Xbox, and even your Wii can get online and search online with little effort.

 

Netflix and other movie systems often have access to all kinds of movies, documentaries, and shows with ratings of all kind… unless you intentionally create settings and passwords.  In fact, many modern televisions come equipped with direct internet access!  Does yours?

 

There is another issue as well:

 

Texting.

 

Too often parents are also unaware of what goes on in their child’s texting life… all 3000 of the monthly texts ;-)

 

Too many kids are foolishly (and kids are foolish) sending sexual texts; like historically used to happen with Facebook and email.  Texts are even less accountable in nature.

 

Something came up in my office a year or so ago:  a middle school girl had sent a topless photo of herself, via text, to her boyfriend.   Showing off, he sent it to a few of his friends… one apparently out of state.  In that moment, he had unknowingly broken federal trafficking child porn laws!

 

Like so many powerful things, there is little room for error with the internet.

Unlike most powerful things, the internet is easily accessible to virtually everyone with no training necessary… and no decades for a system of ethics to develop and be trained into us.

 

It is vital that we are diligent to monitor our children’s texting habits.

 

And something you may not know is that many Aps have additional texting capabilities – many games have chat rooms for talk between the players, but there is little-to-no policing of that activity.  One game I play has one comment  thread that is 18 and over only for crass humor but there isn’t any way to police it.

 

Numerous Aps and other programs that are otherwise kid-friendly have text capacities or internet access.

 

Honestly, there is nothing equivalent to being involved enough to see what is going on in your children’s life… make sure you are aware of what they are doing and what access they have… who knows, you might even enjoy some of the same programs.

 

The way we handle this is:  we only use one itunes account shared by the children and me… furthermore, the kids cannot purchase or without the password that only my wife knows (and my office manager)…  and we will continue this through their childhood and teen years… once we approve an ap or program, they can play it, but we can still be aware of them – because they automatically upload on my devices too!

 

Stay in touch.  Be aware.  Too many moms and dads aren’t even aware of all of the portals for the internet in their homes… don’t let that be you.

 

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