Tag Archives: critical words

Three Subtle Attacks on Military Marriages

Posted on by
A sailor kissing his new wife.

Use your marital struggles to grow together not further apart.

In 1987 I was a new Navy wife–straight from the land of Oz. And I didn’t know the first thing about the Navy lifestyle; There are no warships in Kansas! So, when I moved to California and met and later married my husband, Ray, I became a member of the larger military family and Uncle Sam became my father-in-law. Thanks to my friend, Vernel, a Navy wife I met at my new job upon arriving in California, she offered a quick lesson one Saturday afternoon on Navy life 101. I learned to expect occasional squalls between my husband and I brought on by rotational deployments with following seas of emotional anxieties. I realized there would be repeated adjustments, unique challenges unlike traditional marriage, intermittent miscommunication, with large doses of trust a certain requirement. On the up side, moments of well-deserved joy at homecomings would be the pinnacle of pride and honor in our beloved military member, all to say this lifestyle is worth it. Either way, I embraced my new role as a supportive Navy wife, determined not to throw up the white surrender flag when the stormy seas crashed in.

Marriage is hard in the 21st century, but a military marriage is not for those with one-sided expectations or a casual commitment. Like a warship undergoing sea trials to test the limits of the workings and maneuverability to determine its seaworthiness, there are also difficult hardships inherent in  military marriages. These challenges will test a military marriage to see whether or not it is seaworthy. Three of the top concerns for today’s military marriages are outlined below.

Selfishness. Last year while driving to work one morning I heard that selfishness is the number one destroyer of relationships. John Paul II said, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” In any marriage, selfishness is a deterrent to a lasting relationship, but in a military marriage, its tolerance is short-lived, potentially sinking your military marriage soon after it departs the pier. Other than infidelity, selfishness left unaddressed, is the fastest channel to sabotaging your marriage, deeming it unworthy for a sea-faring relationship.

There is a new viewpoint out there in our marital culture. Dr. Brad Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, has written about this new perspective of marriage and its enemy, selfishness. “In the new psychological approach to marriage, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage–usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse.1

This new view, contrary to the Christian belief of marital love, which highlights Christ’s love for the church, involves freely giving of one’s self to his or her spouse, is short on roots of generosity but deep in self-serving motives and entitlement. One way to stop or prevent selfishness is to focus on spiritual readiness. Instead of asking, “what will make me happy and fulfilled in my military marriage?” ask, “what will make us blessed and fulfilled in our military marriage?”

Unwarranted Expectations. Like selfishness, having idealistic expectations will send tempests into your marriage. Young military marriages in particular will benefit from recognizing that your military spouse has a job unlike most civilian jobs. Even on shore duty, he or she can’t be expected to always be available for wedding anniversaries, children’s birthdays, or even funerals for in-laws. Although the military understands the importance and value of these milestones and events, they can’t appease every request, nor can they be expected to. They must continually balance the needs of the military with military morale and sensitivity to family. I recall halfway into my husband’s military career, he was underway three consecutive wedding anniversaries. I was disappointed, but when I reflect back, was there really anything he could do about it? Try the following to increase the sea-worthiness of your military marriage:

  • Focus on the purpose and value of faith and discuss together whether or not your expectations are warranted and fit the example of faith Christ modeled.
  • Resist the urge to punish your spouse for what he or she can’t change or control.
  • Refuse the impulse to blame your spouse for being in the military.
  • Comparing your military marriage and family’s rhythm and schedule to that of civilian marriages only creates discontentment and plants negative thought patterns that the military lifestyle isn’t honorable service. Even in the civilian sector, there are unattractive job requirements. Albert Einstein once said, “There are two ways to live; you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Deception and Distrust. These two undesirable traits are linked. If there’s deception, distrust soon follows. In  military marriages, getting to the first base of trust between you and your spouse is a must. Trust is a raw material that has to be cultivated. Trust is the cornerstone of marriage. It is what binds and links the other walls–unconditional love, commitment, transparency, communication, and honesty together. Conflict is inevitable in marriage. And our jobs as marriage partners is to navigate through trust issues, with sound resolutions, not around them, believing they will fade away on their own. Otherwise, the same storm returns over and over again, threatening to shipwreck your marriage. For trust issues related to infidelity, a couple can’t go wrong with biblical counseling. It may be a needed first step. Doing so will take hard work. There are no easy fixes, but if you’re committed it can lead to necessary discovery and growth. Pastor Chip Ingram, author, and radio host of Living on the Edge said about marriage, “conflict is an opportunity to grow.” Other ways to build trust are:

  •  Be transparent – While on deployment or even short underway periods, be emotionally responsible with your spouse to maintain trust. Share your day, the good and the bad. If you’re the spouse at home, tell your husband or wife what you did that day or week, where you went, people you met with, the money you spent, the bills you paid as well as those you forgot to pay. If you’re the spouse underway, do the same. If on a port call, share the places you went to, venture out in groups with the same sex, how much money you spent, and interesting events you encountered.
  •  Forget being right or wrong. We’ve all been there, but there comes a time when this mindset has to end if what is truly wanted is a healthy and working marriage. Strive for solutions that steer you in the direction of unity.
  •  Reconfirm your commitment to your spouse throughout the deployment. Think of ways that honestly convey emotional trust. Start with “I appreciate that you ________________ (fill in the blank).
  •  When failure happens, don’t give up. If trust was breached, it’s normal to feel hurt and want to shut the offending spouse out. However, if you’re willing, let your spouse know he or she can earn your trust back, but genuine changes that bear results must happen. Put accountability steps in play, but be realistic about time frames. Seek out a counselor trained in dealing with military marriages. Rebuilding trust takes time on the part of both spouses.

 Unfortunately, in a military marriage there are no sea-trials to determine if your marriage will be seaworthy. Once married, the marriage must depart from the pier and the challenges and complexities of this military lifestyle will prove its readiness. But with the support of Family Readiness Groups (FRG), churches that offer a military ministry, and keeping your military marriage as a high priority will help ensure it is lasting and fulfilling.



Lisa Nixon Phillips is a retired Navy wife and author of Faith Steps for Military Families – Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent. Visit Lisa at www.LisaNixonPhillips.com and check out her blog page for additional articles on the military lifestyle.

You can also find me on facebook at www.facebook.com/faithstepsformilitaryfamilies.


1 Richard P. Fitzgibbons, “The Selfish Spouse/Relative, www.maritalhealing.com/conflicts/selfishspouse.php (accessed 17 June 17, 2014).


Did You Miss the Parental Blessing? (Your Child’s Potential)

Posted on by

Will your kids reach their full potential?Part 9

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11 NRSV).

In my last post, (part 8) we read about using word pictures to bring down defenses our children might put up, so we can communicate high value to them. King Solomon did this with his bride because of her insecurity over her looks (Song of Solomon 1:6). Today, we will explore the fourth and last way to convey high value to our children–uncovering qualities they may not know they have in a way that adds to their hope of a special future.

 Highlight Their Potential

 When we know we are good at something we feel more hopeful about our lives. As parents, if we point out those qualities that our children possess it will do the same for them. We are highlighting possible channels for them to travel and explore later. Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, we use a pellet stove during the winter months to heat our home. Whenever we come indoors we automatically navigate to the pellet stove for what it provides–warmth. Words that convey high value to our children work like that pellet stove. They provide the needed warmth of a parent’s concern along with the hope of a fulfilling their potential. So, how do we convey words of high value to convey a child’s potential?

 My son, Lawrence, is like his dad. He works well with his hands. As a toddler, we noticed he liked to work with moving things; he had an insatiable desire to know how things were put together and how they functioned. It wasn’t unusual for him to take something apart just to see how it worked. At two, his strong interest in building with Legos began. Each year he mastered several Lego kits progressing through the various levels of difficulty. Before long, he was building complex objects such as fire trucks, towering cranes, Monster trucks, or airplanes just by looking at the pictures. Some of these kits had over 1,000 pieces. We couldn’t keep up with his need to go on to the next challenge. He finished them quickly and what seemed to me, effortlessly. It wasn’t long before he mixed all the Lego pieces together and began designing his own colossal structures. I was amazed at his creativity.

Early on I began with words such as: “Wow! Lawrence, you can really build neat things! God put that in you.” Later, as he moved into his pre-teen years those words became: “Like your dad, you are good at building and creating with your hands and this skill that God gave you will help you find your life’s work.” And so on, you get the idea.

 A Special Future from Words and Nature

 The prophet Jeremiah also spoke words of a special future directed to God’s people in Judah (the southern kingdom). “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 nrsv). God’s people were in exile but Jeremiah’s words brought them confidence, optimism, faith, and hope.

 According to John Trent and Gary Smalley, the authors of The Blessing, God also communicates this special future message through nature. There are numerous “spiritual truths that illustrate the importance of providing a special future for the ones we love.”1 Our four seasons of the year, for example, provide many spiritual lessons, as does small creatures, such as the caterpillar that emerges from its cocoon as a butterfly. Just the transformation process of the caterpillar can be the catalyst for words that can transform a child’s potential into his/her reality.

 When our children were born, God placed them in our care. It is as if He said to us: “This child is mine, but I’m giving her to you–a gift–to cherish and love, to guard, to nurture, and to draw out her potential I place within her.”

 Like me, I know you want the special future that Jeremiah 29:11 speaks about for your children, yes? So, the question is, What will we do with this gift of potential?




1 John Trent and Gary Smalley. The Blessing (Nashville, TN.,Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993), 121.

Did You Miss the Parental Blessing? Words that Matter

Posted on by

Part 6

Do your kids sense your approval?

Do your kids sense your approval?

Proverbs 8:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (NRSV).

Earlier we read that to step towards someone is life and to step away is death. The spoken word can either be words that bring blessing or words that bring cursing. And if there aren’t any words from parents that communicate love and acceptance, children will assume they aren’t worthy of words of blessing.  This is tragic. They will end up wondering in life if they really mattered.

God must think highly of the spoken word because He gave us the Bible, His Word. But He also gave us His son, Jesus. His Word “became flesh and lived among us,” (John 1:14). If God communicated His blessing to us through His words, then so should we. James, Jesus’ brother describes our spoken words two ways.

If you’re a parent, your words, like a ship’s rudder steer your children in a certain direction. “Though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs” (James 3:4 NRSV).

Words carelessly spoken can do terrible damage. Words that speak death can divide people and relationships. Parents who speak critical words can sear pain straight to their souls, leaving scars for life. On the other hand, words that speak life, bring the blessing full circle and can propel children to a special future.

James also describes a careless or critical tongue as a fire. “How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell” ( James 3:5-6 nrsv).  Notice the last part of that verse­–“the cycle of nature.” In most cases, if parents lack the ability to convey words of acceptance and love, it is usually because they didn’t get them from their parents. This is why speaking words that bring blessing has to be deliberate. By putting off sharing words of love and acceptance till someday down the road, may never happen. Leaving unspoken words that bless is leaving the opportunity to chance.  As God was deliberate in sending his Son, Jesus to be the Word in flesh, we also need to be deliberate in sending words of love and approval to our childen.

John Trent and Gary Smalley say in their book, The Blessing: “Words of blessing should start in the delivery room and continue throughout life. Yet the “lack of time” and the motto, “I’ll have time to tell them tomorrow,” rob the children of a needed blessing today.”  But words that speak life and blessing can literally transform a child and breathe life into that soul. It can even change the course of direction for that child.

Solomon, in all his wisdom also said, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it” (Proverbs 3:27 nrsv). Let his words be your source of encouragement to communicate words of love and acceptance to your children, family members, and even our friends.

There is much more on this topic from Trent and Smalley’s book, The Blessing. I encourage you to read the book.

If you are a parent that is deployed, your words of blessing can still be conveyed even if you aren’t home to speak them yourself. See how on Thursday when we’ll explore the “how” and “what” to say when conveying words of blessing. The next element of the blessing is attaching high value to our words.

Don’t forget to download my 15-Day Devotional that accompanies my soon-to-be-released book, “Faith Steps for Military Families.” Just enter your name and email address in the bonus box at the top right hand side of this page and you’ll have access to the devotional. Thanks for coming. I invite you to leave a comment.