Q: My wife and I have been married a little over two years, and we're really struggling with balancing our differences. We want to work as a team, but I think we're each afraid of losing our own identity in the process. How can we reach a happy medium?
Jim: There's no doubt about it: Marriage is a paradox. Consider that for a relationship to be successful, couples have to limit their independence. But at the same time, they have to thrive as individuals.
A good marriage takes the active involvement of two people -- the husband and the wife. On your own, you may have all the talent you need to be a roaring success in your career. But, in marriage, unless you work together with your spouse, your relationship is going to flounder. When two people each let go of some of their personal ambitions for the sake of the relationship, the bond between them will strengthen.
But that's just one side of the coin. The other is that the more connected you and your spouse become, the more important it is that you grow as individuals. Why? Because a healthy marriage consists of two unique people who can stand on their own. Entering marriage doesn't mean you suddenly stop being who you are. It's just the opposite. You bring yourself into your marriage, so it's important to become the best "you" you can be. As a matter of fact, it's those differences that help make a good marriage truly great.
So, should your marriage bring you and your spouse together as one? Or should the two of you be strong individuals? The answer is "yes"! That's the paradox of marriage. (FocusOnTheFamily.com offers plenty of resources to help you grow and thrive in both ways.)
Q: My son just started middle school, and he's hearing all sorts of new (to us) music that his friends and peers are listening to. I've gone online to check a couple of the artists he's mentioned, and I'm shocked by their lyrics. What can we do?
Bob Waliszewski, Director, Plugged-In: First, let me commend you for not dismissing your concerns as simply a part of a child's growing-up. Studies have consistently shown that lyrical messages can strongly influence the lives of young people.
As for a strategy going forward, here's what I suggest. Call a family meeting, the sole purpose of which is to establish a clear policy regarding entertainment. Many parents don't feel the need to verbally articulate boundaries regarding what's acceptable and what is out of bounds. But trust me, modeling by itself isn't enough. When our children were young, our family went a step further and put our commitment in writing. After each of us signed it, we posted a copy in a visible place in our home.
It won't take much time to write up your own "family media constitution." The main point behind your efforts is to establish clear guidelines so there are no misunderstandings going forward. You may want to begin with: "Knowing the power of the media to influence our thoughts, behaviors and actions, we as a family commit to consuming movies, TV, videogames and music that are inspiring, encouraging and uplifting."
Once your family standard has been adopted and everyone understands the boundaries, it's likely that smartphones, tablets, etc. will need to be purged. I'd also encourage you to revisit this conversation and convene a family meeting at least twice a year to gauge your children's interest in all things media and evaluate their commitment to adhering to the family standard.
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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