Q: After 15 years of marriage, I'm starting to realize that I take my wife for granted. I want to start honoring her better, but I'm not sure where to start.
Jim: Here's an illustration that might come as a surprise: ballet. A friend once told me about a famous Russian choreographer who said, "The ballet is woman." What he meant is that the beauty of the dance is primarily captured by a woman's grace, her strength and her expression of beauty through the language of movement.
The male ballet dancer's primary role is to showcase his female partner. When he lifts her and twirls her, she should glow in the spotlight and wow the audience. When he uses his strength to support her through her most difficult steps, he helps her achieve more from her performance than she could on her own. Then, while the audience rewards her with a thunderous standing ovation, the male dancer steps back into the shadows while she is celebrated and adored.
What if we husbands adopted that same attitude toward our wives? What if men asked themselves, "How can I showcase my wife and honor her? How can I support her so that other people see the beautiful woman that I see? How can I bring out the best in her?" Don't just love your wife; cherish her.
I agree with the dancer who said, "My job is to make the beautiful yet more beautiful." I think that's the job of every husband as well.
Q: How can I tell if our teenager is faking an illness to get out of school? He often complains of not feeling well on school day mornings, but interestingly enough, his symptoms usually disappear by midafternoon and rarely surface at all on weekends. Is it wrong of me to distrust him?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Many kids struggle with overwhelming stress and the anxiety of going to school. It may be that your son truly does not feel well because of this. (For example, our emotions affect our digestive system.) Consider taking him to a doctor and/or a counselor who could help determine what might be contributing to these morning episodes. If a medical evaluation uncovers a specific diagnosis, come to an agreement about what should be done -- including the parameters for going to school versus staying home.
If the problem doesn't appear to be an ongoing physical illness, ask your son what he thinks about the night before school or on school day mornings. Discuss what is happening socially at school, in the neighborhood or at church. Ask questions with no obvious right or wrong answer ("Who do you like to hang out with?" or "What's your least favorite class?" or "What causes you the most stress?"). This may provide opportunity to talk about things that influence how he is feeling emotionally and physically.
Armed with that information, there are several practical things you can do to help your son. Look at how you handle stress, and proactively model how to do so in healthy ways. Work with him to find and practice what best helps him to process anxiety, according to his personality and interests.
Also, acknowledge that life can be scary and also managed. Help your child feel heard and validated. Remind him that you're on his team and care deeply for him. Help him feel safe in sharing what troubles him.
Finally, set some positive goals together (attendance, grades, etc.) and celebrate as those objectives are met.
Again, don't be afraid to seek help as you go through this process. We can help you find a local counselor through our referral network; visit FocusOnTheFamily.com or call 1-800-232-6459.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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