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8 Challenges of Raising a Son in This Generation

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Raising kids is tough. And raising a son into a man in today’s society can be especially challenging. Manhood looked much different a few generations ago. It was expected that men worked hard, respected women and children, protected their own at any cost, and their word was their bond. Boys who saw their dads live out these principles every day were ingrained with many of the same manly characteristics.

But over time, things changed. Sitcom dads have become nothing more than running jokes. Bold manliness is often discouraged rather than encouraged by our culture. These things make for some serious challenges for dads of boys. Here are 8 challenges for every dad raising a son in this generation.

1. Challenging him to think for himself.

There are many voices vying for your son’s attention, trying to tell him what to believe and who to become. Your voice needs to be one of the boldest in helping him to learn how to become his own man.

2. Encouraging him to stand for absolute truth.

The world is on a mission to neutralize all “truth” as being equal—to create a world in which we all can believe whatever we want and we can call all of it true. But your son must understand that truth, by its own nature, is exclusive. Otherwise, truth is nonexistent. Regularly have conversations with your son about your perspective of truth concerning the world around him.

3. Reminding him of what true manhood looks like.

Some may think manliness comes from learning how to spit, or shoot, or shout. Help your boy to know that true manliness is not found in proving something but in how one respects another as well as in how he respects himself.

4. Teaching him how to manage his time wisely.

Some boys who’ve become grown men are still spending more time playing video games than investing in their own families. This is a problem, regardless of what the time-stealing culprit is. A wise man recognizes that he is a steward of the time he has been given and he most likely learned that lesson young.

5. Showing him how to be responsible and dependable.

Good fathers hold their boys accountable for their words, actions, and commitments.

Good fathers hold their boys accountable for their words, actions, and commitments. Rather than coming to their rescue with excuses or blame, they help their boys rise to the occasion of character, even when it’s hard.

6. Exemplifying what makes a gentleman.

The art of being a true gentleman is not so much taught but caught, and it’s becoming rarer with each generation that passes. So, model it for your son. Open the door for the ladies in your family. Be polite. Use please and thank you and your boy naturally will follow your example.

7. Coaching him toward healthy relationships.

Nothing will affect your son more than his closest relationships. And nothing has the ability to make or break him more than how he handles those relationships. But we live in a society that is so broken when it comes to relationships. Teach your son while he’s young how to show respect and grace, to forgive, and to let go when necessary.

8. Training him to walk personally with God.

I believe that living a life of dependence upon God is not a sign of weakness but a sign of true manliness. Help your son come to know he is not alone so that even once you’re gone, you’ve instilled within him something far greater than yourself.

Earn some points: Are you married? Share iMOM article 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Raising a Son with your wife.

Sound off: Which of these do you find most challenging in raising a son in this generation?

The post 8 Challenges of Raising a Son in This Generation appeared first on All Pro Dad.

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cheerfulscreech
37 days ago
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How to Avoid Conversational Narcissism

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vintage two businessmen talking conversation pointing

With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Friday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in May 2011. 

Last month I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever to have lunch. Having both read and written about how to be an effective and charismatic conversationalist, I followed the old dictum of listening more than talking and asking the other person engaging questions about themselves. This is supposed to charm your conversation partner. I guess it worked because my friend talked about himself for an hour straight and didn’t ask me a single question.

When we’ve talked about the ins and outs of making good conversation before, someone inevitably asks, “But what if both people keep trading questions back and forth?” Well, that’s a pretty good problem to have, but I’ve yet to see it happen. Instead, most folks seem to struggle with asking any questions at all and have a very difficult time relinquishing the floor.

In a time where a lot of the old social supports people relied upon have disappeared, people have become starved for attention. They bring this hunger to their conversations, which they see as competitions in which the winner is able to keep the attention on themselves as much as possible. And this is turning the skill of conversation-making into a lost art.

Conversational Narcissism

In The Pursuit of Attention, sociologist Charles Derber shares the fascinating results of a study done on face-to-face interactions, in which researchers watched 1,500 conversations unfold and recorded how people traded and vied for attention. Dr. Derber discovered that despite good intentions, and often without being aware of it, most people struggle with what he has termed “conversational narcissism.”

Conversational narcissists always seek to turn the attention of others to themselves. Your first reaction to this statement is likely, “Oh, I don’t do that, but I know someone who does!” But not so fast. Conversational narcissism typically does not manifest itself in obviously boorish plays for attention; most people give at least some deference to social norms and etiquette. Instead, it takes much more subtle forms, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Everyone has felt that itch where we couldn’t wait for someone to stop talking so we could jump in; we pretended to be listening intently, but we were really focusing on what we were about to say once we found an opening.

So today we’re going to discuss the ways in which conversational narcissism creeps into our interactions with others. While it may seem a bit strange that conversations can be analyzed this deeply, Dr. Derber’s research is filled with some really brilliant insights that will help you see how a conversation unfolds and how you can easily fall into the conversational narcissism trap. I know it did for me.

Conversations: Competition vs. Cooperation

The quality of any interaction depends on the tendencies of those involved to seek and share attention. Competition develops when people seek to focus attention mainly on themselves; cooperation occurs when the participants are willing and able to give it. —Dr. Charles Derber

A good conversation is an interesting thing; it can’t be a solely individual endeavor — it has to be a group effort. Each individual has to sacrifice a little for the benefit of the group as a whole and ultimately, to increase the pleasure each individual receives. It’s like a song where the rhythm is paramount, and each person in the group must contribute to keeping that rhythm going. One person who keeps on playing a sour note can throw the whole thing off.

That’s why it’s so important that conversations are cooperative instead of competitive. But many people (and Dr. Derber argues, Americans especially, because of our culture of individual initiative, self-interest, and self-reliance) make conversations into competitions. They want to see if they can get the edge on the other people in the group by turning the attention to themselves as much as possible. This is accomplished through the subtle tactics of conversational narcissism.

How Conversational Narcissism Manifests Itself

So let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. How does conversational narcissism rear its head and derail what could have been a great face-to-face interaction?

During a conversation, each person makes initiatives. These initiatives can either be attention-giving or attention-getting. Conversational narcissists concentrate more on the latter because they are focused on gratifying their own needs. Attention-getting initiatives can take two forms: active and passive.

Active Conversational Narcissism

The response a person gives to what someone says can take two forms: the shift-response and the support-response. The support-response keeps attention on the speaker and on the topic he or she has introduced. The shift-response attempts to set the stage for the other person to change the topic and shift the attention to themselves. Let’s look at an example of the difference between the two:

Support-Response

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? What models have you looked at?

Shift-Response

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? I’m thinking about buying a new car too.
James: Really?
Rob: Yup, I just test drove a Mustang yesterday and it was awesome.

In the first example, Rob kept the attention on James with his support-response. In the second example, Rob attempts to turn the conversation to himself with a shift-response.

The shift-response if often very subtle. People put in a nice transition to disguise it by prefacing their response with something like, “That’s interesting,” “Really?” “I can see that,” right before they make a comment about themselves. “Oh yeah?” And then they’ll tie their response into the topic at hand, “I’m thinking about buying a new car too.”

Now it’s important to point out that a shift-response just opens up the opportunity for a person to grab the attention, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to. It’s a matter of intent. You might simply be looking to highlight what the other person has said and share a bit of your own experience before bringing the conversation back to the other person. That’s a healthy and natural part of the give and take of conversation. Let’s turn back to Rob and James:

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? I’m thinking about buying a new car too.
James: Really? Maybe we could go look around together.
Rob: Sure. So what models are you looking at?
James: That’s the thing — I’m not sure where to start.
Rob: Well, what are the most important things to you — fuel economy, storage room, horsepower?

So here Rob interjected about himself, but then he turned the conversation back to James. Conversational narcissists, on the other hand, keep interjecting themselves until the attention has shifted to them. Like this:

James: I’m thinking about buying a new car.
Rob: Oh yeah? I’m thinking about buying a new car too.
James: Really? Maybe we could go look around together.
Rob: Sure. I just test drove the Mustang yesterday and it was awesome.
James: That’s cool. I don’t think I want a sports car though.
Rob: Well, I want something with at least 300 horsepower and definitely leather seating. Did I ever tell you about the time my buddy let me take his Maserati out for a spin? Now that is an automobile.
James: Which one of your friends has a Maserati?

Most conversational narcissists — careful not to appear rude — will mix their support and shift responses together, using just a few more shift-responses, until the topic finally shifts entirely to them. Conversational narcissists succeed when they elicit a support-response from their partner: “Which one of your friends has a Maserati?”

To summarize, it’s fine to share things about yourself, as long as you loop the conversation back to the person who initiated the topic. The best rule to follow is simply not to jump in too early with something about yourself; the earlier you interject, the more likely you are to be making a play to get the attention on yourself. Instead, let the person tell most of their story or problem first, and then share your own experience.

Passive Conversational Narcissism

Conversational narcissism can take an even subtler form. Instead of interjecting about themselves and trying to initiate a new topic, conversational narcissists can simply withhold their support-responses until the other person’s topic withers away and they can take the floor.

To understand how this works, let’s first look at the three forms support-responses can take — each one represents an ascending level of engagement and interest with the topic and speaker:

  • Background acknowledgments: Minimal acknowledgments that you’re listening, such as, “Yeah,” “Uh-huh,” “Hmm,” Sure.”
  • Supportive assertions: Acknowledgments that show active listening. “That’s great,” “You should go for it,” “That’s not right.”
  • Supportive questions: Questions show that you’re not only listening, but are interested in hearing more. “Why did you feel that way?” “What was his response when you said that? “What are you going to do now?”

A conversational narcissist can kill someone’s story dead in its tracks by withholding these support-responses, especially by not asking any questions. Etiquette dictates that we don’t ramble on and share every detail of a story right off the bat. We say a bit, and then wait for further questions, so we know that the person we’re speaking with is interested in what we have to say. In the absence of such questions, the speaker will begin to doubt that what they’re saying is interesting. So they’ll stop speaking and turn the attention to the other person. A victory for the conversational narcissist.

Conversationalist narcissists will also show their disinterest in the speaker by delaying their background acknowledgments — those all important “Yeah’s” and “Hmmm’s.” Good conversationalists place their background acknowledgments in just the rights spots, in the small natural pauses in the conversation. The narcissist tries to adhere to social expectations by giving the speaker some cursory acknowledgments, but they’re not really listening, and so they throw them in there just a few seconds off. The speaker easily picks up on this skewed-timing and will stop talking and shift their attention to the narcissist.

Finally, one more form of conversational narcissism to avoid is the “Well, enough about me, I want to hear more about you!” tactic. People will often pull out this kind of line right at the end of an event, so they can make a show of etiquette and interest in the other person, while not actually having to give that person attention that lasts more than a few minutes.

Becoming a Master of the Art of Conversation

Avoiding these pitfalls of conversational narcissism will have you well on your way to becoming a competent and charismatic conversationalist. Once someone introduces a topic, your job is to draw out the narrative from them by giving them encouragement in the form of background acknowledgments and supportive assertions, and moving their narrative along by asking supportive questions. Once their topic has run its course, you can introduce your own topic. But as we mentioned earlier, it takes two to tango. It’s now your partner’s turn to ask you questions. If they don’t, you’ll sadly find yourself, as I did at the lunch with my friend, listening to a never-ending monologue. Just smile and enjoy the chips.

Looking for more advice to up your social game? Check out these resources!

Source: The Pursuit of Attention by Charles Derber

The post How to Avoid Conversational Narcissism appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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cheerfulscreech
120 days ago
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The Netflix Effect

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It’s movie night at our house. The pepperoni pizza has arrived. The orange comforter is on the floor. Netflix is ready to stream. What to watch? My 5-year-old daughter has me peruse the plethora of curated kids’ movies, sparking no interest. I get through the entire first carousel of content with no luck. Then the second, and the third. She still hasn’t chosen. I suggest eight different movies, but a fear of missing out on a better option fills my daughter with anxiety.

The pizza is getting cold as my nerves begin to wilt. Why does Netflix have so many choices for children? After 30 minutes, we finally settle on a movie—Frozen, which she has already seen a hundred times. Every parent has experienced this: the Netflix Effect, the barraging black hole of choices that never seems to satisfy. Experts call this “choice paralysis” and it is damaging our children’s ability to make decisions. Can we change that? Yes. Here’s how.

1. Curate the curation.

Requiring your kids to commit to their decisions helps build the skills to make good choices.

Pick two films your child can choose from on movie night. Don’t even allow them to see the Netflix carousel. This limits their choices. Explain both of the movies and maybe show them the trailers. When they’ve chosen, watch the film from beginning to end, whether it is high quality or poor quality, and discuss it afterward. Requiring your kids to commit to their decisions helps build the skills to make good choices.

2. Play strategy games.

I bought my daughter a hand-carved chess set right after my wife and I discovered we were pregnant with her. Chess is an excellent game to teach your child the consequences of choices and our influence on future outcomes. Strategy games help children think about how a small decision now will have a substantial impact later. If they are too young for chess, try Battleship. It visually shows how smart decisions can lead you to victory.

3. Talk it out.

As a parent, think through your decisions out loud so your child is privy to your thought process. If you are trying to decide whether to go to the mall first to run an errand or to visit grandma first, say it all aloud. Talk the options out with your spouse so your child can see how decisions are made and why it’s essential to think through them.

Sound off: What decisions do your children have a hard time making?

The post The Netflix Effect appeared first on All Pro Dad.

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cheerfulscreech
138 days ago
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Culture’s Worst Lies About Falling In Love

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As a teenager, I read my fair share of Christian romance novels. They were full of dramatic plot lines, sexual tension, one-room school houses and Canadian Mounties.

The leading men were imperfect but in a tousled and endearing sort of way. They always knew what to say. All the female characters were beautiful, but distressed, to ensure the reader plenty of drama. Each story ended with a sigh.

Today, women can indulge their romantic side by using Pinterest. They can build relationship shrines out of images of engagement rings and couple shots and create virtual collages of attractive men, romantic dates, perfect playlists and unique wedding favors. They are collecting comparisons.

This magazine says that the right guy will know what his girlfriend wants for Christmas.

This pastor says that saving sex until marriage ensures a satisfying and uncomplicated sex-life.

This film is my favorite because he sweeps her off her feet by showing up at the prom to slow dance with her to her favorite song!

Don’t let yourself off the hook. Replace Christian romance novels and Pinterest with anything else that may have you building up unrealistic expectations. Regardless of their source, the following relationship lies pose a threat to true contentment:

Lie #1: You Will Be Happy Once You are Married.

In other words, tough luck, singles. You’re missing out. Only married people know what true happiness is.

But waiting for happiness, whether you are single waiting for marriage, married waiting for children, or married waiting for your spouse to change, is idolatrous territory. When we hold our joy captive until we get what we want, a vicious cycle of discontentment begins. God calls us to be content right now:

Hebrews 13:5: Be content with what you have, for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Lie #2: Love Fixes Everything.

In films, love is the answer. Characters’ lives could be falling apart, their planet on the verge of collapse, until they meet “the one.” Suddenly problems vanish. Love is all you need, right?

Real life is different. Love as he might, a husband cannot always comfort his wife out of post-partum depression. A wife cannot simply hand her husband confidence after he loses his job. When we expect our spouse’s love to solve all of our problems, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Though it sure makes them easier to endure, love can’t make trials disappear. Love is powerful, not omnipotent.

Accepting this leaves less room for disappointment and more room for grace.

Because, you see, love does fix everything—Christ’s love. It fixes our ultimate problem of sin and separation from God. Expecting your spouse to be your Savior ensures discontent. Looking to Christ ensures salvation. He alone can remove our burdens and take our blame; and not just temporarily, but forever.

Lie #3: You Will Always “Get” Each Other.

Men seem to be particularly bad at mind-reading. My husband is thrilled when he can predict my answer to a question. He is thrilled because it is rare. When I try to read his thoughts, I usually get it wrong as well. I read something negative into a sigh or something specific into a general comment. Neither of us are any good at telepathy.

It’s important to confront this lie because believing it discourages real communication. When a woman gives her husband the silent treatment to communicate frustration, she is promoting confusion, not understanding. When a man makes a passive-aggressive comment about his wife leaving her clothes on the floor, he is not giving her a chance to change. He is just venting his anger.

I believe it takes more love to listen well and clearly articulate your thoughts than it does to buy into the myth that true love “always knows.” True love works hard to know.

Talking is the new guessing. Try it.

Lie #4: Love is Always Romantic and Unexpected.

Too many stories end right after the proposal or wedding ceremony. We don’t get to watch the couple go through life together. We don’t get to see their first fight, the way they handle money problems, discipline their kids, or how they deal with illness. As a result, many expect marriage to be just like dating.

Correcting this lie requires not just a shift in expectations, but perspective. Our culture’s definition of “romance” is too narrow. Though marriage does not contain the fluttery nerves, new cologne, and best manners of a first date, there is a great deal of romance in the regular. My 90-year-old grandpa regularly sets his alarm clock for 12 a.m. so that he can wake up my diabetic grandmother for her midnight snack. As a stoic WWII vet and survivor of the Great Depression, he has never been verbally affectionate. But when I watch him faithfully take care of his wife in this way, it is more romantic to me than any movie or book.

If everyday events like sickness and car troubles seem like romance-killers to you, then they will be. But if you expect real-life situations to enter and impact your marriage and view them as opportunities to demonstrate Christ-like love, you have a lot to look forward to.

Lie #5: Love Means Never Having to Change.

The main problem with this lie is that it is self-focused instead of Christ-focused.

Self-love says: I deserve what I want and don’t have to change for anyone.

Christ-like love says: I deserve eternal punishment but have been given eternal grace. I will continue to seek new ways to be more like Christ.

Sinners should enter marriage ready to change. You asked God to mold and refine you before you were married. Don’t stop just because you have a ring on your finger.

Our motivation for changing should always be God’s glory and Christ-likeness. Christ was a servant. He laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). He gave of himself when He was exhausted. He cared about people when they were sick, unlovely and unpopular. And He did all of these things for His Father’s glory. Ask God to chip away at your sinfulness and your spouse to forgive you when you sin against them.

But don’t enter marriage with the expectation that you will change your spouse. Though Christ-like love certainly has the power to change people, your job is to love your spouse. Think they need to change? God is one who has the power to change people, so prayer should be our first response.

There will be times when we need to boldly speak the truth in love to our spouse (Ephesians 4:12), especially if they are in sin. But there will be many more times when we are called to show them love when they haven’t changed. We need to remember that marriage, though a powerful symbol of Christ’s love for the Church, is imperfect; a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17).

This article was originally posted at thebibleisrelevant.blogspot.com.

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cheerfulscreech
178 days ago
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Are You a Worrier or Warrior?

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What keeps you up at night? What problems consume your thoughts, causing you to assume something bad is going to happen? Would you rather be a worrier or would you rather be a warrior when it comes to the troubles in your life? Worrying is a common struggle for all of us. There’s always something to worry about: kids, jobs, health, money, etc.

Parents worry if their kids will be okay at a friend’s house, at a park down the street, at a party, or out with friends. They worry about their kids making wise decisions when they’re with their friends. Husbands and wives worry about their spouse’s safety, their health, their job, and their faithfulness. But worry doesn’t have to consume you.  You can choose to fight back. Instead of being a worrier you can be a warrior. Here’s how:

A Worrier is passive, a Warrior is proactive.

For example, a worrier who is concerned about their child’s friends will fret, maybe complain, but just hope nothing bad happens. But a warrior gets to know their kids’ friends and their families, teaching their kids how to handle difficult or dangerous situations that might happen. The warrior also shows his kids how to stand strong for what is good and right.

A Worrier is paralyzed by fear. A Warrior admits fear but does what’s needed anyway.

For example, when a bully strikes family or friends, the worrier will avoid the bully in silence. But a warrior will overcome fear and do what’s needed: stand up to, speak out against, and report the bully.

A Worrier only finds peace when things go their way. A Warrior finds peace regardless.

When everything is going well on the job, at home, and in life, the worrier is at peace. But when the slightest thing goes wrong, the worrier is in complete turmoil. But a warrior finds comfort and peace even when major storms in life hit home because he knows God is in control of all things.

A Worrier becomes isolated and lonely. A Warrior seeks wise counsel and advice.

For example, a worrier consumed with financial concerns is likely to keep the problems quiet, assuming they should figure it out. But a proactive warrior confides in others they trust to get helpful advice and objective perspectives on how to handle their financial stress.

A Worrier obsesses with problems. A Warrior searches for solutions.

For example, a worrier concerned that their spouse may be dealing with an addiction might obsess on what the spouse is doing and be anxious about the spouse’s weaknesses and faults. A warrior looks for answers by getting help to address the problem.

A Worrier lacks trust. A Warrior trusts God in all things.

This is a tough one because we all worry sometimes. But worry is really not trusting in the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present God. A warrior trusts God—trusts that He is always with us, that He is always good, that He always loves us, and, that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

No one ever worried themselves out of worrying. No one ever worried themselves out of worrying. Eventually, a worrier who is weary of the worry needs hope and help. So go to God, trusting Him for answers and peace. Be proactive in prayer. Ask God to help you to release your worries. Don’t just say you’ll pray about your worries…get on your knees somewhere and actually pray.

Sound off: What is the most challenging thing about being a warrior rather than a worrier? 

The post Are You a Worrier or Warrior? appeared first on All Pro Dad.

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cheerfulscreech
288 days ago
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A Simple Yet Amazing Way to Improve Your Marriage

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On our weekly date night as a couple, my wife and I often ask and answer these few important questions: “What am I doing right?… What do I need to do more of or improve in?… What is one way that I can serve you this week?” Surprisingly, our answers are almost always about things at opposite ends of the marriage spectrum. And honestly, after nearly 19 years of marriage, we shouldn’t be too surprised by it but have actually come to expect it.

My wife and I are so different in many ways, and as a result of that, like most couples, we see things from different perspectives. Some things that are important to me are not nearly as important to her and vice versa. Do you find this to be true in your marriage relationship as well? Does it ever cause tension between the two of you? Here’s a simple exercise to help you improve your marriage and learn how to love your spouse a little bit better.

Try it, I dare you. It’s as simple and finding out the answer to this question: What are the top 3 areas of importance in your relationship with your spouse? Do you know what they are?

Here’s an easy as 1-2-3 way to find out.

  • Make a list of 10-12 areas of importance in your lives together (a clean house, unity in parenting, financial stability, a great sex life, good communication, peace with the in-laws, etc.).
  • Ask your wife to select the top three that are most important to her. Even allow her to add areas you may have missed if needed.
  • Once you’ve identified your spouse’s “Top 3,” honestly evaluate yourself (or better yet let your spouse evaluate you) by answering this question: “How am I doing at prioritizing these specific areas and what could I do differently or better in these areas?”

Allow your spouse to give you feedback. Because while all of the areas are important to get right, some are more important to your spouse than others, and you need to know which ones in order to be successful.

My wife and I have found that some of our most productive conversations come when we are willing to honestly and transparently answer each other’s questions and get specific about what matters most to us. Sometimes this happens at scheduled times like date nights, and other times this happens spontaneously and at unexpected moments like right before we’re about to fall asleep. We’ve learned to embrace them both.

We’ve also found that one of the fastest ways to get nowhere in your marriage is simply to assume your spouse knows what you’re thinking and thinks the same way you do. This breeds frustration and resentment over time. But by intentionally seeking to know and pursue each other’s personal needs and desires above our own, we have found one of the greatest keys to happiness in our marriage. Because…

The better you know your spouse, the better you can love your spouse.

The better you know your spouse, the better you can love your spouse.Someone once wisely gave me this advice about my wife. “To be successful, you need to know what makes her tick, and you also need to know what ticks her off.” That is some simple but good advice and this exercise is an easy way to help you to follow it. (If you haven’t already, another great way to help narrow down what your wife prioritizes in your relationship is to identify her love language at 5lovelanguages.com)

Once you know how to live successfully with your spouse by better understanding her and you’re willing to make some changes, you can often make all the difference between a good marriage and a great one.

Sound off: What changes are you going to make to improve your marriage?

The post A Simple Yet Amazing Way to Improve Your Marriage appeared first on All Pro Dad.

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