Q: My wife and I have been married for almost three years, but we're both unhappy. Frankly, we'd each have plenty of other options. What would you say to us before we split up?
Jim: The fact that you're even asking the question, instead of just divorcing, is a good sign. I'd suggest you consider this: A study by the Institute for American Values found that two-thirds of unhappy couples who stayed together said their relationship was significantly better within five years. To achieve that, it'll require you and your spouse to make some strategic decisions.
Let me share an illustration from classic literature. In Homer's epic work "The Odyssey," Odysseus encountered the mysterious Island of the Sirens. These creatures' enchanting voices were so beautiful, they distracted sailors from their journey, imprisoning them forever. But knowing the dangers, Odysseus put wax in his crew's ears. He also ordered that he be tied securely to the ship's mast to prevent him from being lured away by the Sirens' seductive melody. Odysseus commanded the crew members to stay true to their course, no matter how bad their circumstances seemed.
Marriages in our culture have become transient. Too often, we'll throw out relationships at the first sign of trouble. But marriage is a covenant -- a deeply binding commitment designed to help us weather our most difficult circumstances. It's a vow requiring us to "tie ourselves to the mast." You have to dismiss the voices seeking to lure you away from your marriage or convince you that divorce is an easy answer to your troubles.
If your marriage is unhappy, it's not too late. Commit your relationship to a course of growth and healing. Before long, you and your spouse may discover the relationship you've always dreamed of. We have plenty of resources available to help -- even if your marriage is foundering on the rocks -- at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: We moved to a new school district over the summer; now our second-grader is expressing fear of riding the bus. He did OK last year, so I don't understand this development. It's too far for him to walk, and my wife and I both work, so we can't drive him every day. What can we do?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: This can be quite normal for kids that are a bit shy; if that's the case, your child will need some reassurance and coaching. If he's generally outgoing, adventurous and not usually afraid, then you'll need to dig deeper.
First, ask your son for more information. Did something occur last year on the bus? Was there a problem with other kids? Is anything especially scary about the new setting? If nothing bad happened previously, the issue could be he's just nervous about the unknowns at this new school.
You can make that first ride less intimidating with some planning. You could have him take a squeeze ball or a fidget toy to help him as he manages his fearful feelings. Or he could quietly play "detective" and note different eye colors, nose shapes or hairdos he sees on the bus, then share those observations with you when he gets home.
Another idea is planning a special celebration for the first day and the first week of successfully riding the new bus. Celebrations help a child focus on controllable things rather than the things that cannot be controlled.
Help your son see how fear is to be conquered and not avoided. Some personalities do better with this than others. But learning to manage uncomfortable feelings is a great life skill that will always be helpful as he grows.
If you'd like to discuss this subject at greater length with our Counseling Department, 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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