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January 30th, 2012

I’m currently leading a six-week Sunday School class for Corinth members who travel on business and their spouses.  Yesterday’s class was on marriage and family life, and I thought the reflections that emerged from the class might be helpful to share with a wider group.

Travelers and Family Life

January 29, 2012

Bob Thompson, Pastor – Corinth Reformed Church, Hickory, NC

Leveraging the travel life into stronger marriages and more effective parenting

1.      Read 1 Corinthians 13.  Love is trust, respect, compassion, patience, peace, and humility

2.      Apart from any consideration of circumstances (like traveling!) how would you describe a strong, stable, Christ-centered marriage and family life?

·        Underlying commitment, stability, endurance

·        Mutual consideration, respect, and submission

·        Awareness of personal and couple strengths and areas of vulnerability

·        Forgiveness given and received based on personal relationship with Jesus Christ

·        Balance of closeness and time apart

·        Balance of order and flexibility

3.      What are some of the key reasons that families come short of that ideal?

·        Unexpected challenges and unforeseen changes

·        Varying rates and directions of personal change

·        Challenges related to health and finances (too much or too little)

·        Failure to deal with pre-existing personal and relational issues and habitual sins

·        Discontent and underdeveloped spiritual life

·        Downward spiral: “You didn’t scratch my back; I won’t scratch yours.”

·        Insecurity and possessiveness

·        Cultural influences ranging from greed to sensuality to a false view of happiness to the time pressures created by modern family life

·        Unresolved addictions – alcohol, drugs, sex, spending, anger

·        External threats – in-laws, third parties

·        Complexities of blended family situations

·        Differences in personality and rearing that are masked early in the relationship

4.      What are the key lessons and coping strategies that any family needs to confront the items in #4?

·        Humility – toward God and your need of him, toward your and your partner’s sins/faults

·        Every phase of life, every spouse, every marriage, and every situation has positives and negatives – develop the habits of naming the positives, overlooking the trivialities, and talking about the biggies

·        Spiritual center:  time to worship, pray, study, and serve together

·        Using adversity as a cord to bind rather than a wedge to divide

·        Awareness of assumptions you each make – name them and talk about them

·        Finding ways to leverage the negatives into positives

·        Intentional communication – informal and planned

·        Appreciation for love languages and different styles of relating

·        Healthy conflict resolution skills, including a “safe space” for sharing difficult issues

·        Conflict utilization – taking advantage of disagreement to deepen understanding.

·        Revisiting difficult conversations after you’ve cooled down to discuss future strategies

·        Choosing your battles – knowing what’s trivial and what’s important and urgent

·        Listening and mutual affirmation

·        Compromise on roles and tasks

·        Awareness of each other’s traits, strengths, and weaknesses

·        Date nights and family conferences

·        Goals for marriage, family, finances, etc.

·        Accountability and assistance – friends, pastors, small groups, counseling

·        No guilt, no glory – don’t take too much credit or blame for how your children turn out

5.      What are some unique frustrations and risks for traveling families?

·        Disruption of rhythms and constant adjustment of roles

·        Cycles of blame and guilt

·        Crisis and decision-making while apart; worry about family members far away

·        Loneliness

·        Lack of consistent availability for spiritual input and fellowship in small groups

·        Temptations of loneliness and lack of accountability

·        Stress and weariness, especially with time zone differences

·        Compounding of pre-existing issues: insecurity, addiction, poor conflict skills

6.      What are some additional proactive steps that traveling families should take to strengthen family life?

·        Remember that the grass isn’t necessarily greener for those who don’t travel.

·        Lower bar of idealism

·        Pray for each other; share schedules and challenges for prayer.

·        Name and take advantage of the positives of the travel life.

·        Maximize technology as it fits your context – texting, Skype, etc.

·        Realize you’re not alone and look for those who have modeled endurance and success.

·        Nurture friends other than your partner who will strengthen marriage and family life.

·        Create your own “normal” – a rhythm around the travel departures and re-entries.

·        Allow the traveler to adjust on re-entry before making too many demands.

·        Plan special couple and family getaways.

·        Share devotional thoughts and special insights while away from each other.

·        Read the same book while away and talk about it.

·        Watch the same movie while apart and share thoughts.

·        Take advantage of your natural rhythm of separateness and togetherness.

·        Discuss in advance how to handle emergencies at home or delays on the road.

·        Keep talking about it, including professional help if you need it.

One Response to Travelers and Family Life »

  • wrburnham says:

    I’ve missed three of four but have kept up through this tool and the emails you send, Bob. As a veteran of this experience for almost 25 years the other thing to watch is for “drift” in your relationship. It happens slowly and you do not realize it. Doing something like date night or a class together is great. If God isn’t in marriage, drift is hard to see, it’s going to struggle and eventually be challenged by the love of self.

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