Archive for August 25, 2012

Book Review: 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage

Remember the joys of dating…the spark, the excitement, the anticipation? After marriage the pressure of paying bills, running kids from activity to activity, meeting the demands of work, and the rush of life can all creep in to rob us of that spark. In 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage, authors David & Claudia Arp aim to help you rekindle that spark, reconnect with your spouse, and make new memories…and, it’s loads of fun!

10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage
provides you with topics to discuss with your spouse while enjoying a date; in fact, 10 topics for 10 dates. Topics include communication, conflict resolution, building unity based on individual strengths, sharing responsibilities, developing an exciting and fulfilling sexual relationship, balancing marriage with parenting, and developing spiritual intimacy. Each partner prepares for the date by reading a short chapter and answering a few discussion starters/exercises to help you think about the lessons of the chapter. Then the fun begins–take your spouse on a date. Enjoy the time together. Be creative…or romantic…as you plan your date. While enjoying your date, discuss your relationship in light of the chapter you read. Keep it positive and discuss how you can create the marriage you both desire. Most importantly, have fun, celebrate your love, and energize your marriage while enjoying the joy and excitement of dating again.
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Do You Parent With a Club or a Staff?

Some parents raise their children with a club, others with a staff. A club is used for beating things. Some parents seem to only have a symbolic club for parenting. And, when the only tool you have is a hammer…well you know what I mean. A staff, on the other hand, is used to guide and direct, to pull a child from danger and to set them on the safe bedrock of family support. Whether you parent with a club or a staff makes a huge difference in the long term effectiveness of your parenting. Club-wielding parents often raise rebellious children. Staff-carrying parents often raise independent and mature children. To help you decide whether you parent with a club or a staff, check out these four tell-tale signs.  
     1.      Those who parent with a club focus on externals. They want to make sure their family “looks good” from the outside. A club-wielding parent worries what others might think about their family. They believe that any behavior, appearance, or language used by any member of the family is reflection on their parenting…perhaps even a reflection on their worth as a person. Everyone has to look good, behave a certain way, and speak well or the parent feels like a bad person.
     Those who parent with a staff focus on internals. Staff-carrying parents are more interested in character development and maturity than external appearance. They realize that how a family member acts and speaks is not a reflection on their parenting, but an opportunity to teach, discipline, encourage, or praise their child and move them toward a more mature lifestyle. The staff-carrying parent knows that how their children behave is ultimately their children’s choice and responsibility. Their children will have to deal with the consequences of their behavior, good or bad.
2.      As a result of focusing on externals, club-wielding parents judge their family members by performance. Family members are good if they meet “my” standard of behavior and appearance and bad if they fall short. This type of conditional acceptance often includes negative labeling as well. When family members don’t show interest in the family activity, they are “disrespectful.” When a child does not feel like doing a chore, they are “lazy.” If a father has to demand his children participate in the Bible study he has prepared for them, they are “undisciplined.” You get the idea.Staff-carrying parents practice unconditional acceptance. They love their children when they behave well and when they misbehave. They love their children enough to discipline the misbehavior, but they do not add negative labels to the children who misbehave. Instead, they offer unconditional acceptance for their children while allowing their children to suffer the consequence of the negative behavior.

      3.      Parents who only have a club to use when parenting expect their children to be just like them. The standards and expectations for children in the club-wielding family are based on the parent’s interests and personal style. If I like to read, my children must read. If I like sports, my children must be athletic. If they are not, we go back to number 2 and give them another label, like “lazy,” “uncooperative,” “ungrateful,” “disrespectful,” or “stupid” to name a few. There is no room for uniqueness. In fact, being different is consider an intentional insult against the family.      Those who parent with a staff become students of their children. They learn about their children’s unique personality, interests, strengths, and vulnerabilities. Staff-carrying parents enjoy their children’s unique qualities and actively seek out ways to allow their children to grow in their special areas of interest. They encourage their children to use their unique strengths, talents, and interests to contribute to the benefit of the family and community.

      4.      Club-wielding parents verbally beat their demands into their children with harsh language. They yell. Their tone of voice is sarcastic and angry. Their cadence is broken and staccato. Club-wielding parents not only use harsh language, they also bludgeon their children with nagging. In fact, you may hear many a parent with a club point out that their children don’t seem capable of doing anything unless “I nag them until it is done!”       Staff-carrying parents state the family expectations and values in clear, concise terms. They use a calm tone of voice and normal volume when discussing the family expectations and values as well as the consequences of not behaving in accordance with those expectations and values. They do not nag. They simply state the expectation and then utilize natural consequences to teach and discipline. Staff-carrying parents are able to do this because they have faith in their children. They believe their children can learn from their mistakes and mature in response to consequences.

So, are you a club-wielding parent or a staff-carrying parent? The choice is yours.

The Fabric of a Fulfilling Family

A team of psychologists from the University of Zurich recently completed a study (Click Here for review) suggesting that training to improve character strengths increases overall well-being and life satisfaction. More specifically, they found that training a person in curiosity, gratitude, optimism, humor and enthusiasm had the greatest impact on their sense of well-being. That got me thinking…. What would happen if we made curiosity, gratitude, optimism, humor, and enthusiasm part of the fabric of our families? Our children, our spouse, and even our self would become “informally trained” in each of these areas. Each family member would have a greater sense of well-being and life satisfaction. Even more, perhaps the family would experience increased happiness. So, how can we do it? Here are some ideas for training in each of the five character strengths noted.
Curiosity: Explore together. You can explore anything and everything with your family–the back yard, the museum, cooking, music, books, movies, or any topic you can imagine. Use your family vacations and travels as opportunities to explore cultures, foods, fun activities, and local interests. Encourage family members to ask questions and use those questions as springboards to exploration. Read together. Reading is such a wonderful way to expand and satisfy a curious mind.
Gratitude: Practice daily gratitude by thanking people throughout the day. Thank the checkout clerk for ringing you up, your parent or spouse for cooking dinner, your children for setting the table. Look for opportunities to tell people thank you and do it. If you receive a gift, send a thank you note. Start a gratitude journal. List 3-5 things each day that you are grateful for. Keep the list of thanks in a journal and watch it grow. Review it now and again for a boost of gratitude.
Optimism: Watch your explanation of causes. When you talk about frustrating events and disappointments in life, make sure you use language that recognizes the temporal nature of those difficulties. Keep a mole hill a mole hill rather than exaggerate it until it grows into a mountain. Keep a simple setback a simple setback. Don’t talk as though a simple problem has ruined your day, your week, or even your life. Instead, keep in mind that “this too will pass,” differences can be resolved, setbacks overcome, and troubles transcended.
Humor: Play. Play is a great way to encourage humor. It also encourages curiosity and optimism. In addition, tell jokes–silly jokes, riddles, childish jokes, weird jokes, even “serious jokes.” If you don’t know any jokes, make one up. If it flops, laugh at yourself and enjoy the humor of it all. Or, read the Sunday comics together. Laugh out loud. Oh, and did I say play? 
Enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is enhanced by a healthy lifestyle. So encourage a healthy diet. Eating as a family can encourage a healthy diet and enhance enthusiasm at the same time. It is also an excellent time to try out that new joke you learned. Exercise together. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Go to the pool or the gym. In addition, encourage each family member’s unique interests. Provide opportunities for them to talk about their interests and listen with genuine enthusiasm. Learn about their interest and give little gifts related to their area of interest. Take turns having a night in which you enjoy nothing but the interests a particular family member.
There you have it—simple practices you can engage in to weave curiosity, gratitude, optimism, humor, and enthusiasm into the fabric of your family. And, in doing so, create a happier, more fulfilling family life.

Six A’s of Parenting

Josh McDowell, in The Disconnected Generation, gives six ways to treat children that are crucial to effective parenting. These six points are not daily actions, but attitudes. They represent how we can effectively relate to our children; and, these points of relating become absolutely essential to raising emotionally and spiritually healthy children. I want to share these six attitudes with you because I believe they truly can make each of us a better parent.

     ·         Affirmation. Children need affirmation. They need parents who will rejoice with them when they rejoice and mourn with them when they mourn. Doing so validates their feelings and communicates that we value them. As parents we will find that listening to and understanding our children’s feelings allows us to connect with them. After we connect in this way, we are in a better position to address their concerns, teach values, and encourage appropriate decision making.

·         Acceptance. Children need to know that we accept them…unconditionally, just as they are. We accept our children based on who they are, not based on performance. Children feel secure when they know we accept them for who they are, not whether they perform well, succeed, or become like us. Ultimately, acceptance gives children a secure base from which they can explore the world.

·         Appreciation. Children blossom when they know their parents appreciate them. Parents can express appreciation for their children in private or in public, in written word or in spoken word, with physical gestures or a simple wink. When we appreciate our children, they gain a sense of significance and come to know that their efforts make a difference. Take note that acceptance needs to precede appreciation. In fact, appreciation without complete and unconditional acceptance is manipulation. So, practice accepting your children as they are…appreciate them for the “natural bent” of who they are. Also, make sure to appreciate their effort more than their accomplishments.

·         Affection. Children crave affection. Loving words and appropriate touch communicates affection to our children. It informs them that they are worth loving; that they are lovable. If parents do not provide loving words and affectionate touch, children will seek it elsewhere, often “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Demonstrate affection in your marriage as well as toward your children. The affection that children see modeled in your marriage gives them a sense of security in the family. It also sets an example of godly, loving affection they can emulate in their lives.

·         Availability. Children need parents who remain available to them—emotionally, mentally, and physically. When parents value their children enough to remain available to them, children gain a sense of importance. Remaining available to our children takes time. In fact, Josh McDowell notes that children spell love “T-I-M-E.” Show your children how much you love them by remaining available to talk with them, play with them, give them a hug, listen to them, or just “hang out” with them on a regular basis.   

·         Accountability. Parents also hold children accountable. By holding children accountable, we give them a sense of responsibility. We hold our children accountable for their actions and their words. We hold them accountable to completing tasks that support the family (chores). We hold them accountable to expectations and living by the values we cherish. At the same time, we balance rules with relationships. Rules and accountability without relationships leads to rebellion. Relationships without rules, on the other hand, lead to irresponsibility. Healthy accountability provides both rules and relationship.

As you practice these six A’s of parenting, you will find your children grow in maturity. They will become responsible young people who value other people’s opinions and rights as much as their own. You will have the joy of seeing them practice loving boundaries with themselves and others.

What A Week!

Ever have one of those weeks in which everything frustrates you? I have…just last week in fact. I was a little frustrated and irritable (alright, my family would say very irritable) all week. It was a busy week with multiple changes and transitions. “Nothing” seemed to go right. “Everything” (and I mean “everything”) frustrated me. “Everything” I did went from “bad to worse.” I just knew that “it would never get any better” and “everything I do always ends in disaster.” I was stressed, short-tempered with my family, and not a lot of fun to be around. I felt disconnected from my family. I realized I needed to make a change to get back on track, to reconnect. But how? Well, here are some actions I found helpful. Maybe you will find them helpful, too.
     ·         Take a break. I know it’s busy. There is never enough time to get everything done. However, if you get caught up in the busy-ness of life you may forget to rest; and, you may disconnect from those things in life that are most important, like family. You will grow increasingly irritated and disconnected. So, take a break. Put your work aside for an evening or a day and relax. Do something fun with your family. Or, just relax at home with a good book.

·         Check Your Thought Life. Think about how you are thinking. Listen to the dialogue in your head. Notice the words in the first paragraph that are in quotes? When you find yourself thinking in terms of “everything,” “always,” or other global absolutes, it’s time to take stock of your thoughts and make the effort to change those thoughts. Consider whether the evidence supports your thoughts (it probably does not). Rewrite your inner dialogue with some more accurate and realistic thinking, thinking that reflects the fact that problems arise and then you deal with them. Change your thinking to acknowledge the support you receive from family and friends. Challenge yourself to reestablish thoughts that keep a mole hill a mole hill rather than letting thoughts that turn a mole hill into a mountain run amuck in your mind.

·         Apologize. You may need to apologize to your family for how you behaved or spoke. Apologize for your irritability. Do not make excuses or blame your family for your mood. Simply apologize for your actions. After apologizing, acknowledge your need for support…which reminds me of the next action.

·         Ask for Help. Life can be difficult and even overwhelming. Turn to your family and ask for help. Explain your feelings and mood to your family. Let them in on your emotional life. They can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on. So, if there are ways they can help, ask. Then, thank them for helping.
That can help you break out of that mood. I know it helps me. But, what if you are a family member of the person having a rough day? Family members can help by continuing to act in love. Sometimes it is hard to love the person who snaps at you in their irritability or mutters in frustration. But, the love of family can help cheer an irritable person up. Love with your words and actions. Here are some ways to show your love to the irritable family member.
     ·         Be Patient. I know it can be difficult, but patiently bear with their bad mood. Of course, you can set boundaries and limits that fit within your family values but love “bears all things.” A person may need some space in order to get past their frustration. Family may help by patiently allowing for that space.

·         Be available. Remaining available includes offering a listening ear, giving a hug, rubbing a back, or sitting quietly in the same room… anything that shows your genuine concern and love. Let your family member know you are available through your words and your actions. Let them know that you are willing to help in any way reasonable.

·         Be Kind. Along with remaining available, show your love and consideration through acts of kindness. Do a chore around the house that your frustrated family member would normally do. Take extra time to sit with them. Prepare a special treat for them. Sometimes kindness may mean leaving them alone and giving them space.

·         Finally, Don’t Keep a Record of Wrongs. Everyone has bad days. We have all had times of irritability. When a loved one goes through a period of irritability and then returns to their “normal self,” don’t hold it against them. Do not keep a record of their wrongs. When they apologize, be gracious to accept that apology. And, discuss what they think would help them if (or when) they experience their next period of frustration and irritability. Perhaps above all, remember that “love covers a multitude of sins.”
I found these suggestions very helpful this last week. I hope you find them helpful as well.

Tips For A Great Family Vacation

Summer time means summer vacation. Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to bond with your family while having fun. Whether you go to the beach, camping in the woods, or visiting family, here are some hints to make your family vacation time even more fun.
      ·Include the whole family in planning. Let each family member give input about various activities to include in your vacation. Perhaps one family member wants to visit a particular museum near your vacation spot while another would like to eat lunch at a particular restaurant. Allow both people to give input and, if possible, arrange your vacation schedule to include both activities. Including the family in planning may involve negotiating sleep, meals and foods, activities, use of video games and other technology, the balance of time together versus independent time, and even who sits where in the car.

·Speaking of technology…vacation is a great time to unplug. Allow the majority of your vacation time to be free of technology. You may still check in with your IPad and your children may still enjoy a video game here and there, but do not allow technology to rob you of valuable family time. Take the time to simply enjoy “tech-free” activities and interactions with your family.

·Don’t over plan. No one enjoys rushing from one activity to another, especially during your vacation time. So, don’t over plan. Allow yourself time to relax and recharge. Schedule activities and outings, but make your schedule leisurely and flexible. Maintain some “down time” each day so your family can “do their own thing” for a time.

·Take some old-fashion games with you (remember, vacation is a great time to unplug so avoid computer games). Spend some time each day playing a game. Games can range from Apples to Apples, Uno or other card games, putting together a jumbo jigsaw puzzle, or playing with beach balls, Frisbees, or footballs. These types of games and activities allow you and your family to have fun, talk, and relax all at the same time. You don’t have to worry about who wins the game…simply enjoying one another’s company means you have already won.

·Keep your eyes open for the spontaneous treat. Perhaps as you drive to your vacation spot you will come across a beautiful overlook. Stop and take a moment to enjoy the scenery. Maybe you will walk by an ice cream shop while shopping and, since you have a leisurely schedule, you have time to stop for an ice cream cone. Go ahead and enjoy it. You may even enjoy something as simple as a momentary opportunity to put your arm around a family member as you both look at something beautiful (like a picture, the sunset, or a waterfall) and enjoy the spontaneous opportunity to connect by sharing the experience.
I am not sure where you might go this summer for vacation. Wherever you go, remember these tips, enjoy your family, and have a great time!

Book Review: Fighting for Your Marriage

I’m really not very competitive and much too passive to make a good fighter; but, I do believe some things really are worth fighting for! A happy marriage is one of those things. So, why do most couples fight more vigorously for the perfect wedding dress than the perfect communication skill? Or, put more painstaking effort into planning the ideal wedding ceremony than in learning the relational skills necessary to sustain a long-term marriage? I’m not sure I have the answer to that question; but I do know that Fighting for Your Marriage definitely offers an alternative. In Fighting for Your Marriage, the authors presents the skills, “old school style,” needed to give your marriage more than a “fighting chance”…more than enough techniques to knock out the enemies that want to rob you of a joyful, intimate marriage. The material in this user’s guide for married couples is based on the objective research that undergirds the PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program) approach. Even though it is based on research, Fighting for Your Marriage is easily understood, humorous, and filled with examples that support the key skills and attitudes associated with good relationships. Practical skills and exercises give the reader the awareness and knowledge necessary to avoid four communication patterns that can harm relationships.

Even with this knowledge, problems, disagreements, and conflict may arise. In order to limit the potential nuclear disaster of marital conflict, the authors present a structure (control rods, if you will) that can limit the uncontrolled reactions of each person and allows them to direct their energy toward solving the conflict and enhancing their relationship. Just learning this structure to manage conflict makes this book worth reading. However, the authors go on to present ideas that can help couples deal with core issues (such as acceptance and power struggles), put expectations to work for their marriage, and protect their long-term commitment to a happy marriage.

The final section of the book is my favorite. In this section, the authors offer practical advice for enhancing friendship within the marriage relationship, bringing fun into marriage, and enhancing sexual intimacy (“woo-hoo”).

All in all, this book is a practical “user’s guide for one of life’s greatest adventures.” If you believe that your happy marriage is worth fighting for, you will want to add this book to your fighting strategy and put each skill into practice with gusto.

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End the Conflict in Your Home

“Do not give repay evil for evil. Do not retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9a–NLT) Following this advice would change how families operate, wouldn’t it? Think about it…the word translated blessing comes from the Greek word “eulogeo” (eulogy) and means “to praise” or “to consecrate a thing with solemn prayers-asking God to bless.” In other words, Peter advises us to respond to insults by asking God to bless the person who insulted us. Although that word of advice could end conflict in almost any home, it is very difficult to put into practice. I don’t know about you, but my first impulse is not to “bless.” My first impulse is to defend, attack, or respond with a like comment to make them feel as bad as I do. Unfortunately, that kind of response only escalates the conflict. But, responding with a “blessing…” What a difference that could make! Just imagine how families might change if each person made a commitment to respond to any insult or base, wicked comment with a blessing. “You’re an idiot” would elicit a simple smile and a silent prayer for God to bless the person who insulted you. Fighting would decrease because the person doing the insulting would have no one to fight against—it “takes two to tango.” In the silence of our “eulogy,” the insulter might recognize their wrong-doing. Perhaps they would recognize the pain and unfairness of the insult when we respond with kindness, blessing them with the acknowledgement of some positive quality about them. But…it is so difficult to carry this out when someone throws an angry insult in your face. So, here are six tips to help give a blessing in response to an insult.
·         Pause, Slow Down, and Breath. When a family members makes an insulting comment, do not respond immediately. Pause, slow down and take a deep breath…maybe two deep breaths. Take as many deep breaths as you need to help you calm down before you respond.
·         Remember Yourself. Remember the type of character you want to live out. You want to live out your values…and, chances are, your values do not include insulting others or making rude comments. Remember the kind of person you are, the values you want to practice, and the memories you want others to have of you. The more we act and speak out of our values, the greater joy we experience in life.
·         Remain Calm. The calmer you remain, the less the situation will escalate. It is generally a good idea to keep your voice tone calm and your volume lower than the other person’s. This can help de-escalate the situation rather than escalate the conflict.
·         Remember Anything Positive. Think about the person who is insulting you. Remember the positive interactions you have had with this person. Remember the joys you have shared, the fun times you have experienced, and the moments of intimacy you have enjoyed. Realize that the person you are talking to is more than just the insult they have thrown out. 
·         Consider the Times. Look beyond the insulting statement, gesture, or facial expression and consider any circumstances that might contribute to the current situation. Would the other person normally act this way or are their actions impacted by some stress in their life? Are they experiencing stress at work? With children? With their schedule? In their anger, are they talking without thinking? This does not justify the insult; but it may help you respond out of empathy rather than defensiveness.
·         Offer a Blessing. Say a silent prayer for the person who insults you. If possible, offer some word of affirmation or gesture of kindness. Sometimes a simple hug or statement (“I love you,” “You are special to me,” “I appreciate all you do for me”) can help the other person calm down and recognize the inappropriateness of their behavior. Part of a blessing may include establishing, with a calm and loving tone, a clear boundary regarding the kind of behavior you will accept or not accept. When everyone has calmed down, you might discuss how such insults affect you and explain that you will not walk away from any future discussions that falls to the level of insulting. Develop a plan for how you will avoid letting conversations stoop to insults. Setting such a limit and developing an appropriate response is, in my opinion, a blessing.
To offer a blessing in response to an insult takes intentional effort. It does not come natural to most of us. However, to offer a blessing in response to an insult will bring a blessing to all. Conflict decreases. People learn, grow, and change. And the whole family inherits the blessing of growing intimacy.
PS-If you are in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, these recommendations do not necessarily apply to you. Your health and safety are of utmost importance. Please visit this Domestic Violence Website for direction and guidance that is directly applicable to your situation. 

One Last Family Hoorah for Summer

I don’t know about you, but summer flew by for me. It seems like last the schedule never slowed down. The plans for a long, slow, relaxing summer evaporated before they even took shape. School is just around the corner and I still have unfulfilled plans. But, I do have an idea. I won’t get to do everything I want to do this summer, but I hope to have one last family fling. Maybe you would like to enjoy one last family fling too. Well, here are a couple of ideas.
     ·         Have a picnic in the back yard. Finish the picnic off with a bonfire and some s’mores. Invite some friends over to share in the picnic and s’mores. Play some games. Have a good time. Then, eat some more s’mores.

·         There are still some hot summer days left; so take a day off and head to the water park. You could take a day at a local water park or you could go to a nearby hotel that advertises an indoor waterpark. Make it a day or a weekend of enjoying family, water, and relaxation.

·         Do not forget about the amusement parks. Anything from a small local amusement park to a nationally known amusement park can provide great fun for the family. And, you can usually get some great fries, corn dogs, and hot sausage (my favorite part of the amusement park, by the way).

·         Perhaps you have wanted to take that trip to the beach, the lake, or the woods. Well, now is your chance. Book a small cabin, yurt, or campsite, take off early on Friday, and go to the beach, lake, or woods. We enjoyed a couple of nights in a yurt near Washington DC this summer. It was an affordable way to get away and still get to see some of the museums and monuments in DC. You can do the same for the lake or the beach.

·         As we roll through August, many communities will celebrate their community festivals. Community festivals provide a great time for a family hoorah. Many communities celebrate the end of summer with parades, food, activities, and even concerts to enjoy without even having to leave your neighborhood. So, grab your family and head off to a local community festival for great summertime fun.

I’m sure I missed some ideas. What is that one thing you wanted to do all summer but did not get “around to it.” Well consider this your “Round Tuit” and get out there to do it. And, tell us about it in the comment section below. I’m always looking for new ideas to use in celebrating family!

Book Review: How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk

They say that “love is blind” and that we “lose our mind” in the early stages of love. In How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, John Van Epp offers practical solutions to recover from that blindness and keep hold of our minds while going through the process of falling in love. Realizing that relationships are notoriously complex, he does not give pollyanish solutions. Instead, he offers a comprehensive road map to relationship development that is readable, practical, and humorous. He calls this road map the “Relationship Attachment Model” (RAM). The RAM model describes five relationship dynamics–know, trust, rely, commit, and intimacy–road signs, if you will, that guide a person into healthy relationships. The first road sign reads “SLOW DOWN.” Do not travel too fast down the highway toward intimacy. Slow the pace of the relationship so the heart does not outrun the head. Practically speaking, the author offers the three-month rule—“it takes three months for many subtle but serious patterns to begin to surface.” So, follow the speed limit and take time to know the person. Learn how your potential partner interacts with friends and family. Find out if they make you a “better person” when you are with them. Discover their values and beliefs.

The next sign reads “CAUTION–winding road ahead” and informs the reader to never trust a person more than you know them, never rely on a person more than you trust them, and never commit to a person more than you rely on them. Along the winding road, the author encourages the reader to stop at various scenic overlooks. One scenic overlook gives a lovely view of the “date-mate profile” to help assess and develop an appropriate level of trust. Around the next bend, a second scenic overlook gives a panoramic view of the relational “Investment-Reciprocity-Accumulation” (IRA) Account to assess a partner’s level of reliability. Another overlook offers a scenic view of the three strands of commitment–the “want-to,” the “have-to,” and the “reluctant-to” strands. Each of these scenic overlooks offers the reader a glimpse of the road ahead before they cautiously travel further down the road toward a healthy relationship. Taking the scenic drive toward relationship at a slow pace and taking advantage of the scenic overlooks to learn about one another’s nuances, the couple arrives safely at the beautiful villa of intimacy.

John Van Epp’s five dynamics-know, trust, rely, commit, and intimacy-offers an excellent road map for anyone seeking to develop a healthy relationship. I highly recommend this book to anyone currently involved in a dating relationship or anyone thinking about starting a dating relationship. In fact, I actually did recommended this book to at least three people this month…and I guess this recommendation makes four.

Book available at Our Favorite Picks.

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