How to Work On Your Marriage

From time to time, I’m asked about how to work on marriage, that is, to make a marriage stronger–more stable and healthy. When ever I think about working on anything, I think of my father.

My Dad was a hard worker and a good man. He was often the first one up in the morning and the last one in bed. In the 70’s, he sold petroleum products plus nuts and bolts straight commission. Still, he earned around $40,000 a year doing it. For a guy selling to farmers with no college degree, etc.; that was and is pretty impressive.

Dad always saw himself in terms of his work and his ability to provide. Thus, full retirement with nothing to do was never a good thing. When, at age 77, he came to the place where he couldn’t work or drive any longer, it was over. He retired and had a party on a Tuesday, had a stroke on Thursday, and was dead by Sunday.

Work was important to Dad. In many ways, it defined him. He enjoyed it. It wasn’t drudgery or something he resented–it was what enriched his life.

Work Your Marriage

I think the key to working on marriage and making a marriage healthier is to see it in much the same way. It’s not exhausting labor or agonizing, stressful effort. Rather, the effort to serve and express love to one another is what defines us. It’s enriching–even fun. I’m not suggesting it’s easy, just as it wasn’t easy for my Dad. What I AM suggesting is that it’s worth it and, we can learn to enjoy the journey as we do it.

If you’d like help as you strive to improve your relationship, please use the “Contact Us” tab to get in touch. We’d love to serve wherever possible. We also offer a wide array of tools and resources under the “Resources” tab on this site.

Blessings,

Pastor Joel

Tough Love Relationships

James Dobson once said that if your kids live to be 18, you’re a successful parent. My Granddaughter Aadi almost ruined that one day.

My daughter Shelly and her daughter, Aadi, came to visit one afternoon. Aadi was about 2 and my daughter was pregnant with her second child. I was having some severe knee problems such that I was limping badly but I hobbled out the door to see them anyway. I let Aadi out of the car and we started walking toward the house together. My daughter was a few steps ahead of us.

When I reached the steps to our side entrance, I realized Aadi wasn’t beside me. When I turned around, I saw her running toward the street. We live on a main road between New Britain and Newington, CT. Traffic is intense and fast-moving. Aadi, oblivious to the danger, was laughing and racing toward it. My daughter screamed and we both started yelling to her to stop!

Aadi, who now thought this was a delightful game, laughed louder and ran faster toward her own demise.

Wincing in pain and screaming for her to stop, I took off! I ran and prayed and ran and prayed. Just as she crossed the sidewalk, literally one jump from entering traffic below eye-level for most drivers, I caught her by the collar and dragged her backwards. She fell on her bottom and cried, looking at me as if I was a cruel monster. I swept her into my arms, comforting and explaining to her that I HAD to do that because she almost had a “REALLY BAD OWCHIE” if I hadn’t stopped her.

I carried her to her sobbing mother who hugged and kissed and lectured her as we limped into the house.

My actions that day didn’t ruin our relationship. In fact, they saved her life. Still, had you asked her that afternoon about her “Bampa,” she would have told you that I was “Bad.” Why? Because I ruined her fun.

A lesson for marriage

You might be thinking, “Well, this is fine for parents, but I’m only engaged,” or, “We don’t have kids yet–so what’s the point?”

Truthfully, ALL relationships require “tough love.” There’s not such thing as a trouble-free, conflict-free friendship–let alone, marriage! In my book, “The Crucified Couple,” I talk about several steps to conflict resolution. CLICK HERE for a review of the book (Scroll down the reviews to find “The Best Marriage Book Ever.”). Still, that only becomes necessary when we are bold enough to confront a problem–in love, and with humility, but confronted nonetheless!

True love isn’t “live and let live,” nor is it “live and let die,” (as the Beatles musically taught us all). True love will always confront someone when to avoid that confrontation means to allow them to suffer. In Galatians 6:1, the Apostle Paul puts it this way, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted (NKJV).”

Simply put–you can’t let them run into the street!

Questions to Ask

So if you’re considering marriage, consider these questions:

  1. Are you willing to confront your future spouse if needed?
  2. Is he/she willing to do the same for you?
  3. Are you willing to receive that confrontation with grace and humilty?
  4. Is he/she willing to receive your correction the same way?

If the answer to any of these questions is, “No,” I would advise that you “put the brakes on” any marriage plans until you get some counseling and change it to a “Yes.” If I can help–just let me know. You can reach us via the “contact” tab on this page or by calling 860-938-2725.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Joel

Wedding Snafus!

One of the things I do to “comfort” couples preparing for marriage is to tell them all the horror stories of weddings I’ve done over the last quarter century.

In a weird way, it seems to help calm their nerves…

Engaged couples worry about a lot of things. Invitations, gifts for wedding party members, etc. I have written reviews of companies that do some of this work just BECAUSE it’s often such a big source of stress. (Click HERE for a review on DaySpring, a wonderful Christian supplier of such things). Of course they worry about logistics, personality conflicts among family members, etc.

So, again..telling my disaster stories seems therapeutic…

Like the time we were doing an outdoor, sunset wedding at a beautiful country club and one of the bridesmaids split her dress all the way down her back as she was putting it on. The other ladies jumped in to sew it for her, but by the time they fixed it and arrived at the club, the sun had already set. We lined up cars along the edge of the parking lot and did the wedding by headlight.

It all worked out well and the couple laughs about it to this day.

Then there was the time a bee crawled up under the brides’ veil from the back. People in the front row were signaling to me but I couldn’t understand them. Fortunately, the maid of honor saw the little creature and flicked him out of there with her finger. The bride never knew how close she came to an extra wedding-day surprise.

Monsoon Wedding?

Once, we arrived on the scene of an outdoor wedding that had turned into a flood zone. A monsoon had struck the city and the outdoor tent we were using was lying flat in the field with a pond forming in the middle of it. The father of the bride was hectically calling halls to find a back-up site. Most of the groom’s party wasn’t able to be there due to flight cancellations. In fact, he grabbed a guy from the audience to make him best man. After all, “the show must go on!”

It did–and the couple had a blast.

Another time, the bride was supposed to arrive in a horse-drawn carriage. Unfortunately, the road she was using to arrive “just in time” after the start of the procession became blocked by a truck stuck in the mud. I’ve never heard the wedding processional repeated so many times in one sitting…eventually, the carriage driver found a way around the tuck and the bride arrived unscathed, albeit a bit flustered.

But there’s good news!

You name it, from dropped rings to fainting groomsmen, I’ve seen it all.

But here’s the good news. Everyone survived. More than that, they thrived! Lessons were learned and all of the couples involved laughed about the glitches–storing them as humorous memories instead of painful disasters to forget.

Hmmm…perhaps there’s a lesson here for life in general…:)

Still, to learn more about options for wedding materials, gifts, clothes, invitations, and other items to help weddings flow smoothly; see our Resources page.

To that end,

Pastor Joel

But My Spouse is Weird!

Right out of college, I worked for a “real character!” His name was Mike and, while we loved him, he was unique—to say the least. He was a consummate professional and executive with some eccentric twists.

For instance, he had a giant bib with “Let’s get Mikey, he’ll eat anything” printed on it. That was based on an old Life Cereal commercial. We’d be out with a client for lunch, like J&J or Kodak execs and, right before the meal was served, Mike would pop the bib out of his pocket and place it over his tie. It was always good for a laugh, but he wasn’t being funny…

Then there were the power naps. We’d be headed to the Newark airport to catch a plane and he’d just pull off on the shoulder and say, “I need a nap.” He’d put his head back and immediately crash. Ten minutes to the second, he’d pop up, stretch, and say—“Yeah—that’s better!” Then, we’d pull out and continue our journey. I would just stare out the window for 10 minutes till he “came back.”

One other quirk I remember was the “Silver Boot Award.” When one of us would screw-up, he’d present this honor to us in a loud crashing ceremony. It was a silver painted boot on a plaque and it represented Mike’s desire to kick us in the butt for making a big mistake. We always knew when it was coming because he’d slam open his door and scream, “Where’s the Boot!!!???”

Never a dull moment….

But here’s the thing. I learned things from that man that have shaped my life and career for decades. I appreciate and value our friendship which continues to this day. I’ve learned that, when it comes to personality and behavioral “quirks,” you can either love them or hate them. They can either endear you to the person or drive you apart.

The choice is yours.

A lesson for marriage

The same is true for couples. Your partner’s style and habits can either drive you apart or draw you together. I’ve noted as a counselor that the very things which draw couples together–“opposites attract”–can unfortunately become the basis for separation later.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I love to pass on the advice of Pastor Gary Smalley, author of the book, “Love is a Decision.” Gary says we simply need to “value the differences.” See the synergy and even the humor in the things that are unique about our partner. That’s something we can choose and thus learn to do.

If you’d like help in “valuing the differences,” please contact us. We’d be honored to help. You can reach us by calling or texting 860-938-2725 or emailing office@rissingerrg.com.

 

Blessings,
Pastor Joel

Just Quit!

No matter what you’re struggling with, marriage issues, job problems, friends or a church leader giving you grief–whatever it is, I have two simple words for you:

JUST QUIT!

That’s right–quit! I know you don’t expect this, but still, I believe it’s true. You need to quit…you just need to:

  1. Quit–complaining. Even if your complaints about your situation are true and understandable, they do you NO good. They won’t change anything and they won’t help. Just quit. All complaints do is drive others away when you need them the most.
  2. Quit–justifying. Like complaints, justifications for failure, loss, or even the sins of others committed against you are fruitless and pointless. I’ve heard victims of abuse justify their abusers actions. Crazy? Yes, but somewhat normal. Does it help us? Not at all. So…just quit!
  3. Quit–comparing. Let me put your mind at east. There are and there will ALWAYS be people who are better off than you are. This is, at least in part, why scripture tells us that comparing ourselves is unwise (2 Cor. 10:12). It’s a waste of time.
  4. Quit–reveling. Pigs love slop. But here’s a revelation–you’re not a pig (even if you’re not known for tidiness). You’re a child of God. Thus, you do yourself a disservice if you revel in your pain, your loss, your failure, your conflicts, etc. Just quit!
  5. Quit–running. One thing I’ve noticed about problems is, like zombies, they are relentless–and they’re fast too. What I mean is, you can’t outrun them! So…running from them is silly. Don’t do it. Just quit!
  6. Quit–ignoring. Similar to #5, we forget that problems don’t usually just “go away.” They chase us, harass us, and attempt to devour us. We may not run, but sometimes we just pretend they’re don’t exist. It won’t work–so don’t do this…QUIT!
  7. Quit–blaming. Perhaps this is the most damaging and common response to problems. We blame our parents, our bosses, our government, our spouses…even God. There are times when some of those we folks have played a part in our problems. Still, the future, which God says is to be blessed, is NOT controlled by these folks. Blaming only takes away your free will and gives control to others. Don’t do it! Just Quit!

The answer to all problems is to own them, seek God’s direction through them (Proverbs 3:5-6), and then move on! If you’d like help with that–especially with a marriage/relationship issue, please contact us by calling 860-938-2725 or sending an email to office@rissingerrg.com.

Blessings,

Pastor Joel

 

Having a Sense of Humor in Relationships

I worked for a small consulting firm in NJ right after I graduated from college. One of my coworkers, T. David Cole, was the ultimate prankster. He was brilliant—and very creative.

His repertoire included things like cellophane wrap on the toilet, Vaseline on the toilet seat, Vaseline on the ear piece of the phone, rubber band attacks, and more. One of his favorites was to leave a phone line off the hook until the annoying, “blaaat-blaaat-blaaat-blaaat” signal came on.

He would then put the phone on hold and buzz one of the other consultants. When the consultant picked up, he’d say, “Hey there’s a Jewish guy on line 3 for you. I think his name was Meyer Hertz.”

You got it—you pick up line 3 and yes—“Ow—My Ear Hurts!”

Funny guy….

Humor in Relationships

But as a newly married man, I think T. David really helped me. I took his fun-loving, prankster attitude and applied it to our marriage. I played tricks on my wife and she on me. We laughed and loved all the more.

Once, when she worked at Chemlawn, in customer service, I called her and with a fake voice said,  “Hello…is this Chemlawn?”

“Yes,” she said in her professionally-trained CSR voice, “how can I help you today?”

“You poisoned Foo-fie,” I said.

“Oh sir,” she assured me, “Chemlawn uses only environmentally-safe and tested materials. I’m sure we didn’t hurt Foofie.”

“You’re right,” I said, “You didn’t hurt him…you KILLED him. Foofie’s dead!” (I started crying).

“Oh, I’m so sorry Sir,” Karen consoled me, “but I’m sure it must have been another cause.”

I continued crying and blubbering, “He’s dead…he’s dead…”

“So was Foofie a poodle?” Karen asked.

“No,” I replied.

“Was he a Kitty?” she asked.

“No” I replied.

“Well what kind of animal was Foofie?”

“My pet Rhino” I sobbed.

“You had a pet Rhinocerous?” She blurted out…”Joel Rissinger—is that you?  You are so dead? I hope you can get a room at the Zoo with Foofie because you’re not sleeping at hom e tonight baby!”

25 years of therapy and she’s almost over it….

Seriously though, we’ve laughed over these things for years and our humor and playful teasing has brought us closer together. We recently did a radio program together and people loved the rapport. You can listen to it by clicking HERE.

Leisure Time…Play Time

So, my advice for all couples is simple–play more, laugh more, joke more, playfully tease more–just have fun!

When I do Prepare-Enrich counseling, I make a big deal about finding interesting leisure activities. I encourage couples to make a list of things they’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t tried and then commit to trying some of those together. The goal is to build fun memories and perhaps even find a hobby you can enjoy as a couple.

So laugh–enjoy–and watch your love grow!

To that end,

Pastor Joel

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

I was a sales executive for Applied Data Research in my early to mid 20’s during the Regan era. I went from making barely enough to survive to a six figure income in my first year. At the end of 1987, I was over 300% of my quota and was asked to come to Princeton, NJ to speak to the new sales recruits. I loved it! I felt like a star…

Until I ran into my VP in the hallway. “What’s in the que?” He asked. “Er…ummm…well, I don’t have much yet,” I said, “I’ve been here since the start of the year doing these sessions for new salespeople.” “Well—let’s get moving,” he snapped. “I need numbers now!”

It was my first dose of “What have you done for me lately.” And, I didn’t like it.

Nobody likes feeling like their past efforts or accomplishments mean nothing. For married couples though, this story has two important messages or morals:

  1. Since we all hate being treated as if our past success is meaningless, we should make an effort to encourage our spouse by remembering and valuing those things. Celebrating accomplishments with special events or bringing them up at birthday or anniversary dinners is always a hit.
  2. As human beings constantly challenged to perform, we should avoid “resting on our laurels.” As much as I hated being pushed, it was good for me to avoid “basking in the glory” of my past year and get busy finding new business for myself and my company. Past wins may be good memories, but only constant and future diligence produces success. In marriage, this means that even a good marriage needs constant care, constant work toward improvement, constant prayer, etc.

So celebrate and remember victories in your life and your relationship. However, don’t let those create complacency–keep working to improve. The results will bless you…and your spouse!

 

To that end,

Pastor Joel

Buffalo Wings, Impulsiveness, & Your Relationship

Occasionally we do things in the spur of the moment only to regret them afterward…

That was the case the day I decided to break a three-day fast by eating hot Buffalo wings and fries. Now when I fast, I don’t eat and occasionally, I go without liquids too. I think this fast was a combination, but needless to say, I was empty when I devoured that first spicy bite.

Words do not exist to describe the after effects of this decision. It hurt going in and well, you know….

Working with couples, I’ve seen this many times–not the wings, but the impulsive statements or stupid actions that hurt for a long time afterwards. Whether you’re guilty of doing/saying something rash or you’re the recipient of these things–I’d like to offer you hope.

If you just ride it though, the pain will subside.

I know that sounds trite, but what I’ve noticed over the years is that the biggest problem for couples when one of them does something dumb is that they start to believe that they’ve now, “fallen out of love” and nothing will ever be the same.

That’s just not true.

If you continue to do the things God instructs you do to in passages like Ephesians 5:21-33, time WILL heal–the pain will pass–and your feelings will return. It’s true…I promise.

Even acid-producing, burning hot wings eventually leave and their after effects cease…

So hang in there, pray…and believe!

 

To that end,

Pastor Joel

 

 

Can You Say Prayers for My Marriage?

As a pastor and marriage coach/mentor, I often get asked, “Can you say

prayers for my marriage?” The answer is of course yes, but what I’ve noted is that the toughest marriage challenges, require fasting—sometimes even long-term fasting.

 

I’ve done three 40 Day fasts during my life in ministry. I always get a kick out of people’s reaction when they find out I’m not eating for 40 days. “FOURTY DAYS???!!!” they often say, “NO FOOD FOR 40 DAYS??”

 

It’s really not as bad as they think.

 

After about 4 days, the body shuts down and you don’t really feel hungry. Oh, you’ll feel a pang here and there and you do get weak, but it’s amazing what a glass of juice will do at one of those moments—“WHAAAAAAAHOOOOO!”

 

So why do it?

 

I think there are a lot of reasons. The biggest is that when we’re weak, God is strong in us (see 2 Cor. 12:9). When fasting, I have more time with the Lord and I’m more sensitive in the spirit. I find that I’m less tempted by sinful desires, more patient, ready to pray, etc.

 

But perhaps the most powerful benefits of a long term fast are the intangible, spiritual things we don’t always see. I’ve noted, and scripture supports the idea, that spiritual strongholds are often broken only through fasting. I’ve seen that somehow, in the supernatural realm, God does things while we’re fasting that just don’t happen when we’re less dependent on Him.

 

Couples often find that fasting can help with forgiveness and reconciliation since both husband and wife will be humbled in the process. The power of fasting separately and then coming back together can be intense (I Cor. 7:5). If nothing else, it can improve a conflict resolution dialogue immensely.

 

So while I wouldn’t recommend a 40 Day fast to everyone due to work requirements, health concerns, etc.; I WOULD recommend fasting from all food for a period of time. It produces amazing results—even health and cleansing benefits—for most people.

 

For more information and great tips on fasting, I recommend Bill Bright’s thoughts at–

https://stumofiles.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/7_basic_steps_to_successful_fasting_and_prayer-1.pdf

 

Blessings,

Pastor Joel

“My Constant Fighting Marriage!”

People sometimes describe their relationship as, “My Constant Fighting Marriage” or they’ll refer to their spouse as the “constantly fighting husband/wife.” What I’ve noticed over the years though, is that sometimes, we all like to “stir the pot.”

One of my earliest memories is of a nest of bees in the corner of our garage in Castile, NY. I remember taking one of my friends to see the bees swarming around the nest and getting the bright idea to spray them with a garden hose. The theory was that we could knock the nest down with a high pressure spray and then race the bees to the back door of our house. Of course, we didn’t let my mother know what we were up to or she surely would have objected.

So we cranked-up the hose and blasted away. Immediately, as if they’d been tipped-off re. our sinister plan, the bees swarmed and attacked. We dropped the hose and raced to the door, screaming all the way. We slipped inside and slammed the screen door shut, just in time to see hundreds of bees plaster themselves against the door. Angered, and buzzing like a chain saw, the bees tried desperately to get to us. Still, we were safe and unscathed. Dumb…but lucky….

Why did we do it?

I’d say the real reason was boredom or perhaps curiosity. We loved the thrill of danger and knew we’d face it if we harassed these critters enough. My question is, are you doing that to your spouse?

Seriously–some couple fight on purpose. They may joke that they just like “making-up.” Still, the “thrill” of the battle drives them to do and say some pretty dumb things just to get their mate to react. While normal arguments or disagreements can be healthy if proper conflict resolution techniques are used, fighting just for the “fun” or “thrill,” is dangerous and often, destructive.

Rather than stirring the anger in your spouse and then blaming him or her OR, rather than just putting up with a spouse who seems to do the same to you; my suggestion is to find some challenging–maybe even extreme sports leisure activities that give you that same adrenaline rush without doing harm to your marriage. If you’d like to discuss this or hear some suggestions on activities that might help, just leave a comment below.

Blessings,
Pastor Joel