We Clash Over Our Vacations!

Can we ever agree on how to use our time off?

Dear Dr. Langberg,
My parents live out of state, and I like to use our vacation time to visit them. But my husband doesn't enjoy using up our vacation time staying with family members. We only have a limited number of vacation days, and I miss seeing my family. How can we resolve this conflict?

Any marriage is filled with times when compromise is necessary—and this appears to be one of them. The simplest compromise is to alternate years. One year go see your parents, the next plan something your husband would call a true vacation.

You could supplement this compromise by having your parents (or even one of them) visit you sometime during the in-between years. Another way to supplement this is to suggest that the year you don't go see your parents, you be given greater freedom to call them long-distance.

I don't know whether you and your husband both work and have the same vacation limitations. But if you have more flexibility, perhaps during the years you don't see your parents, you could visit them on your own. Such a trip planned over a holiday weekend with just one extra day thrown in wouldn't even require that much time away.

Ideally, your vacation choices—along with everything else in your marriage—should have glimmers of both of you in it. When parts of a marriage consistently look only like one partner, then that couple hasn't learned the art of being one flesh in that area. Work together until you do.

My younger sister, who claims to be a Christian, has started having sex with her boyfriend. My parents aren't Christians and don't seem to care, but I know it's not right. When I confront her with what the Bible says, she tells me I'm too preachy and I don't know what I'm talking about. What can I do?

I'm sure you're feeling quite alone in the midst of your family, so I suggest you make certain you have other Christians in your life to love you, encourage you, advise you, and pray with you. You cannot stand on your own. If you're part of a church, perhaps you could speak to the pastor. While it would be wonderful for you to consult some peers who know Christ, you also need a pastor and other women who are mature in the faith to help you.

You're certainly correct in saying that what your sister is doing is wrong before God. Scripture tells us, "Flee from sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18). His Word also tells us our body belongs to him and he dwells in us. We're to live holy lives before God.

You're also right to speak the truth to your sister. God calls us to encourage and exhort each other. We are to do so in very loving, gentle ways, knowing how easy it would be for us to make the same wrong choices.

Your sister seems to have turned deaf ears to you. When someone does this, it usually doesn't help to keep speaking to her about the problem. Now's the time to simply speak to God about the matter. Pray for your sister and enlist a few other trustworthy people who will not gossip to do the same. If your sister attends church, perhaps someone there will carefully and lovingly begin to talk to her.

Your work now, besides praying, is to live before her a life that pleases God and shows great love for her. It's easy to be distant or judgmental. You'll need support and prayer from others. Hopefully over time the Spirit will work in your sister's heart. As you live out your faith before her and your parents, he will use your life to make them hungry for him.

After three years of marriage, we just learned my husband is sterile. We always wanted kids, and we're both devastated. I know I married "for better or worse," but I never dreamed we'd face this. How can I cope with feeling secretly angry with my husband about his sterility? I know it's not his fault, but somehow, I feel as though it is.

Of course you're both devastated! You and your husband have just experienced a great loss—the loss of your hopes and dreams for how your future will look. For many couples, one of those dreams involves having and raising children. The news of your husband's sterility is a huge blow.

Whenever we encounter losses, we initially respond with denial ("This can't be happening to me") and anger ("I'm angry at this terrible, unjust loss"). When we feel anger, we look for some place to direct it. You've directed yours toward your husband.

Obviously your husband's sterility wasn't his idea, but it's easy to slide into thinking, If only you . … It isn't hard to see how damaging this kind of thinking can be to your marriage.

I've worked with quite a few infertile couples, so I know your heartache runs deep. You need to allow yourself significant time for the intensity of your pain to begin to ease. You'll need help sorting through your thoughts and feelings—individually and together. It's important you not just talk to each other. I strongly encourage you and your husband to seek support from a pastor or counselor who has some knowledge about the grief process.

As time passes, you'll find your hearts and minds opening to other possibilities. Your grief will ease (not disappear), and your anger will subside. Hopefully you'll see this loss as "our" problem and begin to consider other options such as adoption, perhaps. And remember that God knew all about this as you and your husband stood before him at the altar and said "I do." He is the Redeemer who bestows "the oil of gladness instead of mourning" (Isa. 61:3) and who brings life out of death. As you renew your hope in God, you'll find your grief propelling you into an even closer relationship with God. While your husband's sterility may not be exactly what you had expected, your lives can be ones of beauty that glorify him.

Diane Mandt Langberg, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and author of Feeling Good, Feeling Bad: What Every Woman Needs to Know About Emotional Well-being (Servant Books) and Counsel for Pastors' Wives (Zondervan).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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