Q: My teen daughter and her boyfriend frequently exchange put-downs and insults. She laughs it off, but I don't think this is healthy behavior. Am I being too sensitive?
Jim: I think you can trust your gut on this one. It's no secret that many teens could benefit from some basic training on how to treat members of the opposite sex. And there's no one better than a caring parent to teach them.
There's been much discussion in recent years about "sexual respect" -- respectful conduct between men and women. But that concept has to be rooted in something more fundamental: recognizing the inherent value of every person. The best approach is to foster decency and consideration for other people's feelings in all kinds of relationships. So-called "sexual respect" will follow as a natural consequence.
I suggest you begin by encouraging your daughter to develop a stronger sense of self-respect. As a person of worth, she does herself a disservice if she allows her boyfriend -- or anyone else -- to insult her. When she tolerates nasty put-downs by laughing them off, she's sending a message that she considers this kind of behavior acceptable. She may think (or at least say) it's "no big deal," but what if the jokes were suddenly to turn mean or cruel? What would happen if the verbal disrespect were to escalate into physical or sexual abuse?
You might also ask your daughter if she's seen other teens put up with a little verbal abuse only to endure more serious jibes and emotional hurt later on. Chances are she'll know exactly what you're talking about.
If your daughter needs guidance setting appropriate boundaries in personal relationships, she may want to take a look at a book called Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. And please call our counselors at 855-771-HELP (4357) if we can be of assistance.
Q: I've only been married a couple of years, but I already sense that the original "shimmer" of our romance is beginning to fade. Is something wrong with us? Are we "falling out of love"?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Marriage & Family Formation: Most couples find it hard to maintain the emotional excitement of romance once the day-to-day reality of married life sets in. But there's good news: You can still have a healthy, vibrant marriage even when routine begins to take over.
It's actually fairly simple. You just need to grab hold of the fundamental "anchor points" of daily existence and turn them into meaningful relational moments. Here are some suggestions:
-- Waking Up. Instead of muttering "Good morning," turn to your spouse first thing and whisper something like: "I love you and I'm glad to be waking up together."
-- Leaving the house. When it's time to go, kiss your spouse goodbye -- and kiss like you really mean it!
-- Checking in. Stay in touch when you're apart. A quick call or even a text message can go a long way toward maintaining and strengthening connection.
-- Coming home. When you come back together in the evening, kiss and hug, talk about your respective days and really listen to your spouse. You'll be surprised what a difference it makes.
-- Mealtimes. Sit at the table and make eye contact -- no phones, TV or other screens! Meals are ideal times for reconnecting and celebrating your shared identity as a couple.
-- Bedtime. The end of the day, like the beginning, is a universal "anchor point." It's a time when you can "clean the slate" and express gratitude and appreciation with a kiss.
Obviously, this isn't rocket science. Neither is it about "doing more" or "doing things right." It's purely a matter of blooming where you're planted. For more tips, see FocusOnTheFamily.com/Marriage.
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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