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Married to Burger King?

Remember the old Burger King commercials?  I used to sing their moto, “Have It Your Way…,” such a catchy tune.

Unfortunately, some people think they’re married to Burger King. They want to always “have it their way” in marriage, treating their spouse like Burger King. They want their “Burger King spouse” to accept their way and agree with it, or at least act as though they do. They always believe their way “is right” and will argue their point in an effort to make their “Burger King spouse” toes the line and complies with their way. They do this by insisting on “their way” with vigor and passion, often overwhelming their spouse with their energy. They persist in this persuasion until their “Burger King spouse” accepts their conclusion as the right conclusion. What they don’t admit to themselves is “their Burger King spouse” often does this just to end the conflict and not have to talk about it anymore. As soon as the “Burger King spouse” gives in, a wedge (not a pickle wedge or a lettuce wedge but a solid, distancing wedge) is forced between them. That wedge will grow and fester, hindering intimacy and even leading to more conflict in the future.

“Having it your way” doesn’t work in marriage because none of us are married to Burger King. (Well, accept maybe Mrs. Burger King.)  Our spouse has their own opinions, perspectives, and ideas. Maybe you “hold the lettuce” and she piles it on…or you “hold the pickles” while he asks for extra pickles. More significantly, maybe she wants a minivan and you want an SUV…or you want to spend some money on a few weekend vacations each year, but he wants to skip the weekend getaways and save all the money for retirement. I won’t list possible differences you and your spouse may hold. I’m sure you can think of a few on your own. The point is, when we insist on always being right, when we demand to “have it our way,” we push our spouse away. In the words of a more marriage friendly moto, “You can be right…or you can be in relationship.” “Being in relationship” requires that we accept our spouse’s point of view as valid, just like our point of view. It means we don’t demand to “have it our way,” but honor our differences by listening and compromising instead.  It means having the grace to “have it their way” now and again instead of “our way.” In short, you’re not married to Burger King so don’t expect to “have it your way” all the time.  Learn to listen, compromise, and turn toward one another in discovering a third alternative that can satisfy each of you. After all, isn’t it more important to have a satisfying marriage than to “have it your way.”

Marital Conflict, Fathers, & Children

If you’ve been married longer than your honeymoon, you know that marital conflicts will arise. Even people who love one another and want to spend the rest of their lives together have disagreements. Those conflicts and disagreements also impact their children. On the one hand, angry, stressed-out parents might take their anger out on their children in small and subtle ways or in loud and obvious ways. They may withdraw emotionally or physically from their family and children. On the other hand, they might manage their conflict in a way that teaches their children how to love a person even while you disagree with them…and to love enough to work toward some type of resolution. It can go either way, depending on how the couple responds to conflict in their marriage. With this in mind, you can image the impact marital conflict can have on our children’s long-term emotional health and well-being…for better or for worse.

To understand the impact of marital conflict on our children, one study analyzed data from 3,955 heterosexual intact families (both mother and father were present in the family). They discovered an important role fathers play in how a married couple’s conflict impacts their children. Specifically, when fathers reported more frequent conflict with their marriage partner, they also reported increased parenting stress and decreased warmth toward their children. In the same surveys, this was linked to the mother’s report of children struggling to develop social skills and emotional regulation skills.

On the other hand, when fathers used more “constructive conflict resolution” skills, parental stress was minimized, parental involvement increased, and warmth toward children increased. All this leads to healthier social and emotional development in children. So, the big question I have from this research is: what are constructive conflict resolution skills? Let’s name a few.

  • Open communication. Children benefit when both parents, fathers in particular, learn to communicate openly. This requires exhibiting enough vulnerability to express emotions and feelings, to risk being misunderstood while patiently listening to understand the other person. Couples can help fathers communicate openly by starting conversations “gently” and soothing one another as the conversation progresses.
  • Compromising. Being a family involves compromise. Not everyone can have everything they want all the time. That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s true. We don’t live with Burger King. Every person in the family is going to have their own opinions, perspectives, and ideas. Meshing them all together into a happy, healthy home will demand compromise. Look for a resolution with which you can both be satisfied.
  • Listening. I briefly mentioned listening under open communication, but listening is so important that it deserves its own bullet point. Many times, if both parties in conflict will listen deeply and intentionally to the other person, rather than defending or blaming, they will discover their conflict is not really that big. They will easily find a compromise. In fact, they may even find they agree on a deeper level than the conflict suggests. So, listen, don’t judge. Listen to understand rather than listening to form a rebuttal. Listen to find the good in what the other person is saying, areas in which you can agree, rather than listening to prove them wrong.
  • Remember who you are talking to. You are talking to the one you love, your spouse, the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Don’t let your frustration or anger lead to statements that hurt, belittle, or demean the one you love. Remember how much they have done to make your life and your home a better place.
  • Remember how you want others to remember you. Do you want to be remembered as someone who always “had to be right” or someone “who listened so well I always knew they understood me”? Do you want to be remembered as someone who “blew their stack” when they didn’t get their way or someone who “always found a solution everyone could be happy with”? Someone who was always kind, even when angry, or someone who was unpredictable and loud when angry? Act accordingly…especially in the midst of conflict.

As you practice these skills and attitudes, you will find conflict resolves more easily. You will feel less stress. Your marriage will grow more intimate. And your children will develop in a healthier manner.

Expectations, Skills, & a Happy Marriage

What are your expectations in marriage? If your expectations are unrealistic, you’re probably going to be disappointed. The “lived happily ever after” expectation just doesn’t really work out that well. We all have our down times. Nor does the “you complete me” mentality make for a happy marriage. In the long run, we need to become complete as individuals before we can find true happiness with a marriage partner. (Read “You Complete Me” Kills a Marriage for more.)

On the other hand, having low expectations will also lead to a less satisfying marriage. After all, if a person has low expectations for their marriage, how hard will they work to make their marriage better? A long-term satisfying marriage requires investment. Healthy expectations for your marriage will lead to a greater investment in your marriage. Think of it in terms of money. If I thought hard work would profit me five dollars, I’d only work hard enough for five dollars. However, if believe hard work would lead to a thousand dollars, I’d put in a little more time and effort. Low expectations lead to less investment which leads to a less satisfying marriage.  So, what are healthy expectations for a marriage? Here are a few. After you read them over, consider what you would want to add to the list.  

  • Long-term commitment.
  • Verbal affection.
  • Physical closeness.
  • Honor and respect for one another.
  • Consideration for one another.
  • Quality time together.
  • Acceptance.
  • Honest sharing.
  • Open communication.

A happy marriage takes more than healthy expectations though. A happy, satisfying marriage requires the skills to build those expectations, to create an environment in which those expectations might become reality. In other words, a happy marriage requires the relationship skills and problem-solving skills needed to make healthy expectations a reality. (Positive Expectations in the Early Years of Marriage: Should Couples Expect the Best or Brace for the Worst?) Perhaps some of the most important skills needed to create a happy marriage include the skills of listening, resolving conflict, compromising, negotiating, and honoring one another. Take the time to improve in those skills every year…your marriage will thank you for it!

The Special Ingredient of Intimate Families

I was talking with a young man (middle school age) about what he liked and didn’t like about his family. Interestingly, he liked the family dinners they used to have and he disliked that they no longer had those family dinners. Even as a middle school boy, he missed family dinners. Family dinners provided him the time he desired to reconnect with his family…to slow down, talk, and connect with his whole family. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised to hear a middle-school-aged child talking about missing family dinners because of the family connection he desired. Nonetheless, he made an excellent observation. Family dinners provide a great time to reconnect and bond with our families. They are a time to relax, tell stories, and talk about our daily lives, laugh, and even make some future plans. Research also indicates that having regular family meals help to reduce the rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression in adolescents. Families that enjoy regular family meals see their children attain higher grade-point averages than children whose families do not have regular family meals. Studies also suggest that “dinner conversation” boosts vocabulary more than reading does! The stories of personal victories, perseverance, fun moments, and family times help build a child’s resilience and confidence. As you can see, family meals offer a smorgasbord of benefits for families and their children. So, if you want your family to grow more intimate…if you want your children to grow up happy…if you want your children to grow up physically and emotionally healthy…if you want your children to have a higher grade-point average, set aside the time to enjoy regular family meals.  Here are a few tips to help you plan your family meal time: 

       ·         Include your whole family in the meal process. The family meal process includes making the menu, preparing the meal, setting the table, and cleaning up afterwards. Include the whole family in these activities. Make the menu together. One day a week, allow a different family member to pick their favorite food items for a meal. Encourage the whole family to help clear the table, load the dishwasher, wash the dishes…and make it fun with conversation and laughter. Come up with your own creative ways to include the whole family in the family meal process.

Enjoy conversation during the meal. Save topics that you know lead to arguments for another time and focus on conversation that will build relationships. You can talk about the day’s activities, each person’s dreams, memories of fun family times, and things you’d like to do in the future. Really, the topics available for conversation are limited only by our imagination. If you have trouble thinking of topics, check out these conversation starters from The Dinner Project.

Make dinner a surprise now and again. I just ate breakfast with a friend today…he ordered a double burger for breakfast and I ordered an omelet. We both enjoyed our meal and his burger was a great meal conversation starter. Your family might enjoy dinner for breakfast or breakfast for dinner. Plan one “ethnic meal night” per week and travel the globe with culinary surprises. Eat your meal backwards, starting with dessert.  Plan an “Iron Chef” night and let each family members cook one dish…the family can vote on best taste, presentation, and creativity after the meal. You get the idea. Do something different now and again. Make it a surprise…and have fun.

Turn off TV’s, video games, phones, and any other technology that has the potential to interfere with the moment’s face-to-face interaction and family interaction. Learn to enjoy each other in the moment with no interruption.

A great resource to get your family started with family meals is The Family Dinner Project. You can sign up for their “4 Weeks to Better Family Dinners” for free helps. They also provide ideas for recipes, conversation starters, meal activities, addressing various challenges, and meal preparation. This is a wonderful resource to bookmark and use on a regular basis. 

I love the family meal plan to better family bonding, enhanced educational attainment, and better emotional health. It combines two of my favorite ingredients in life–eating and family–in attaining several of the goals I desire for my family and children. With that kind of recipe, why not give a try?!

Family–Coal or Diamonds?

Imagine a lump of coal and a diamond ring. Both are composed of carbon and both serve a unique purpose. If a chunk of coal remains buried under 435,113 pounds of pressure per square inch and remains at temperatures of about 752 degrees Fahrenheit, its carbon composition purifies and its structure modifies to form a different kind of carbon. After this purer form of carbon is mined, a jeweler places it in quick drying cement and cuts a groove in it. He inserts a steel blade into that groove and hits it to cut the carbon into pieces. The jeweler then removes the cut pieces of carbon from the cement and places them in a lathe. Working with another piece of diamond as a cutting tool, the jeweler cuts the pieces into the more familiar shape of a diamond (Click Here to read more on how diamonds are formed). So goes the journey of a carbon from coal to diamond. In this sense, you may think of a lump of coal as a diamond in the rough.
Interestingly, diamonds are no more rare than other gems (Click Here), which raises a question. If diamonds and coal are both carbons and they are not more rare than other gems, why do we value diamonds so much more? According to, we value diamonds more than other gems because of marketing and ownership. Perhaps, the right marketer could buy his fiancé a lump of coal instead of a diamond ring and convince her of its value. Wouldn’t the ladies love that? 
Still, if I offer you a bag of diamonds or a bag of coal, which will you take? I could try to convince you of coal’s value by saying it can help keep you warm and help cook your food; but, you would most likely pay more for a single diamond than several bags of coal.
Let’s face it, we have learned to value diamonds more than coal. We treat diamonds with more respect and care. We honor our fiancés with diamond rings rather than bags of coal. We honor diamonds by treating them with care and respect while we throw coal in the furnace for our own comfort. We honor diamonds by giving them value and treating them as precious while we toss coal aside to trample under foot or on the fire to warm up a burger. We have basically set diamonds apart from coal, stating that diamonds are of much greater value.
With this in mind, I have to ask…Do you treat the members of your family like diamonds or coal? Do you treat them with care and respect or do you throw them in the fire to use for your comfort? Do you honor them by giving them value and treating them as precious or dishonor them by tossing them aside while investing your best energy in other areas of your life? Have you “sanctified” your family members, set them apart from other people, and determined that they have greater value in your life than others? When we answer “yes” to each of these questions, we value family members as precious and treat them as special; we honor them like diamonds among coal. Treating family members like precious diamonds is revolutionary. Join the revolution—sanctify family by making the determination to treat them like precious diamonds among the coal. 

Favorite Summer Foods

Recently, one of my friends and I were talking about how food helps to build family. He excitedly shared the ethnic foods that his family eats to celebrate various traditions. He even shares them with me…and I enjoy that! We also talked about our favorite summer foods. Summer just would not be summer without our favorite summer foods. Many of my favorite memories of summer include food. Of course, many of my favorite activities all year round include food. At any rate, I thought I’d share some of my favorite summer foods with you. I do love to eat, so I had to trim the fat from my list in an effort to keep this post lean…and to leave us all hungry for more.
Everyone enjoys feasting on the juicy fruits of summer–watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, berries. So many wonderful memories come to mind when I think of enjoying watermelon or peaches or strawberries at family reunions and various picnics. I really enjoyed the watermelon. Not only did watermelon taste great, but the seeds provided opportunities for fun competitions—who could shoot (aka, spit) them the farthest, who could shoot the most in the shortest amount of time, who could hit a target. Although watermelon provided good taste and great fun, I think my all-time favorite summer dessert as a kid was fresh strawberries, sliced with just a little sugar…delicious.
I love corn on the cob, too—cook it on the stove or cook it on the grill. I recall losing my two front teeth one year and having to cut the corn off the cob to eat it. Although it still tasted good, it just wasn’t the same. I also remember going to church camp and watching the staff roast corn on the cob for the campers. If you haven’t tried roasted corn on the cob, you’ll have to try it. It tastes wonderful. Of course, when you roast some corn on the grill, you might as well add some hot dogs and hamburgers. My family enjoys preparing their own hamburgers. We supply diced onions, red peppers, garlic, and mushrooms as well as shredded cheese and various spices. Each family member goes to town putting together their own hamburger patty. Masterpieces include whichever ingredients we choose.
While waiting for your hamburger and roasted vegetables to finish cooking, you could enjoy a salad. Be creative in your salad. Depending on your tastes, you can add cranberries, orange slices, apple pieces, pecans, or any other tasty morsels to your lettuce. However you mix it, you end up with a refreshing salad on a warm summer day.  
Finish out this feast with some sweet delights. Ice cream is a solid stand by. However, if you want to add excitement to your ice cream, throw in some fresh strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries. Even more exciting is strawberry shortcake. Every year, our family enjoys a day of rides at our local amusement park. On the way out, we always buy the summer sweet found in amusement parks—cotton candy.  Really, you need to get two orders so you have enough to go around…and maybe a third one for dessert after tomorrow’s picnic.
That’s it…the short list of my favorite summer foods. Each of these foods holds a special memory as well, memories of time spent with family over the summer months. I hope you have your special summer foods and traditions. If not, why not start some this summer. If you do have a favorite summer food and tradition, take a moment and share it in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you.

5 Summer Picnic Ideas

I enjoy eating…well really, I love to eat. In the summer I love a picnic, combining my love of food with the outdoors. When I grew up, my family would often enjoy the “vacation picnic.” We would pack a picnic before vacation and, half way to our destination, stop for a picnic. Sometimes the sky was sunny…sometimes it rained. Either way, we stopped at a rest area, figured out which sandwich had ham on it and which had turkey, which had mayonnaise and which had ketchup or mustard. After matching the right sandwich with the right person, we enjoyed a meal together with good conversation and fun. It was always an interesting experience. There are other kinds of picnics that you can enjoy this summer. Here are just a few.
Invite another family to picnic with you. Ask a friend to bring a salad while you supply the burgers and hot dogs. Meet at the park and cook it up. If you have children, carve their names into the hot dogs before cooking them. Your children will love to show off their personalized hot dog before eating it. After you’re done eating, enjoy a game of Frisbee or catch. Or have the picnic by a lake and go for a swim.
Enjoy a neighborhood picnic, church picnic, or family reunion picnic. I love these picnics—lots of people and lots of food. This type of picnic is generally a “potluck” event–everyone attending brings a favorite dish to share. Someone cooks the burgers and hotdogs on sight and everyone enjoys sampling all the dishes that people have brought to share.
If you’d like an “out-of-the-box” creative type picnic, try a “progressive picnic.” A progressive picnic involves several families. Everyone goes to one family’s home for an appetizer. Then they all go a second family’s house for salad, a third for a main dish, perhaps a fourth and fifth home for a vegetable dish, and a sixth family’s home for dessert. You can involve as many families as you like, expanding on any part of the meal that you like. If the families live close enough, you can walk from house to house burning off a few calories before enjoying another dish.
Another creative picnic can involve foods from various cultures. For instance, start the meal with an appetizer like hummus or bean dip. For the salad enjoy a Mexican or Asian salad. For a main dish, cook up some fish, chicken curry, vegetable burritos, or pasta salad. This picnic becomes a family culinary adventure and a great chance to try some new things with your family and friends.
Whatever picnic you choose, enjoy the time it allows you to spend with your family.