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Successful Marriage Relationships & Family Counseling


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Marriage; Building with the Bible


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Impress your Wife Ė 5 Simple Strategies
Guys, you should know by now the simple principal that "actions speak louder than words" is all too true in married life. In a successful marriage partnership, not only should the husband verbally express his love and commitment, but he should be dedicated to helping with domestic needs. This is critical to building a great marriage. Nothing pleases a wife more than when the husband takes care of simple needs around the home, whether it is changing a light bulb, or fixing a leaky faucet.

As in any healthy relationship, corresponding actions legitimize the spoken word. In my opinion, the emotional make-up of a woman has been designed to be keenly perceptive to deeds done by her man in regard to her needs.

After not only observing the success of this principal in marriage counseling, but experiencing it in my own married life, a deeper revelation came to me. What would happen if husbands went beyond the expected duties such as taking out the garbage? If the simple task of bringing in the grocery bags made my wife feel loved and appreciated, how would she respond if I did the unexpected? The results have been exciting!

Keep in mind; the wonder of a principal is that it works for everyone. It is universal and no respecter of persons. Whoever acts upon a principal, will in time, experience the benefits. No matter the condition of your relationship, right action will bring beneficial results.

If you have read this far, men, try not to get overwhelmed. I am often asked right about this time the all too familiar question from husbands -"Whatís it going to take to make her happy?" Let me give you some very important perspective. Remember, the small things often speak the loudest. Itís not the size of the action, but the sacrifice of the heart that impresses the wife. As I have said, to many a husband, a little bit goes a long, long way in the marriage relationship!

The seemingly most challenged husband can put into action my 5 secret tips and greatly change the landscape of his marriage.

  1. The Starbucks Run: Call your wife when returning home and ask her if she would like you to pick up her favorite hot beverage from Starbucks. This is has become a habit of mine. It doesnít take long to do and half the time she declines, but she loves that I asked.


  2. Gas up the Car: This is huge! When your wife gets into her car and sees it filled with gas she will think of you with deep affection. Not having to worry about going to a messy and crowded filling station and wrestling with the gas hose will make an instant hero out of you.


  3. Breakfast in Bed: Relax! Itís not as hard as you think. I am not talking about Eggs Benedict. My wife really enjoys her tea, a piece of fruit, toast, and a bakery treat that I pick up from the local grocery store. Takes me about ten minutes to prepare this simple meal, and it scores big. What a way to begin the day - her smiling face.


  4. The Turn Down: If your wife is like most women, she has a jungle of pillows and an assortment of blankets and throws on top of the bed. When my wife is preparing to retire for the evening, I will remove all of these objects and get the bed ready for her by neatly turning down the linen. I know this doesnít sound like much, but the fact that she doesnít have to deal with this herself when she is tired really makes her happy. Give it a try and you will see what I mean.


  5. The Late Night Kitchen Clean Up: After dinner, my wife cleans the dinner dishes and loads them in the dishwasher. But thatís not the end of the end of the dirty dishes. For the rest of the evening, my family uses more glasses, plates, and tableware. As I am almost always the last in bed in my household, I make it a point every night to collect these renegade dishes and put them in the dishwasher. My wife is so deeply appreciative of this. She can awaken everyday to a clean kitchen. And remember donít forget to turn on the dishwasher!

Give my suggestions a try or develop your own secret ways to impress your wife, and you will be back on your way to building a great marriage!


Surviving The 5-10 Year Marriage Challenge
I have always taught in the marriage seminars that I have conducted, that after a newlywed couple works through the common struggles of the first year, the next difficult milestone in their relationship comes around the fifth year of their marriage.

I had come to this conclusion through my many years as a marriage counselor, and through my own personal experience. The other day, I came across some interesting statistics in a newspaper article, (USA Today, September 20, 2007, Life Section, “Divorce threat persists throughout marriage”) which confirmed my position.

The article states that although divorce remains a threat throughout marriage, the risk of divorce peaks in years 5-10, according to Andrew Cherlin, a sociological professor at Johns Hopkins University. The average year of divorce for first time marriages is year eight!

As we take a quick look at some of the factors that cause the years 5-10 of married life to be so challenging, it is important to keep in mind some simple but central truths concerning marriage:
  • Every marriage is a dynamic work in progress
  • Every successful marriage does not just happen
  • Every successful marriage is built with dedication
  • Every marriage has the potential to fail

Here are some of the reasons:
  1. Added responsibilities of life: At the five-year mark, the simple life of just you and your mate exists no more. There are multiple and sometimes complicated life issues that a couple now faces. They include long work hours, new financial commitments such as a house mortgage, and the wonderful dynamic of raising children together. These issues create pressures that bear down on the already fragile relational joints of a marriage.

  2. Multiple children: In the course of raising a family, the advent of the first child is always a new adventure for the first time parents. The simple adjustments in lifestyle for a single child are challenging yet manageable. Usually around the five-year mark, couples are now engulfed with two or three children whose needs are now not easily managed. The many needs of toddlers between the ages of one and five, compounded by disagreements on child raising techniques, can sometimes create unbearable stress on the marriage.

  3. Drifting and Isolation: As these complicated issues assail the stability of the marriage, the time and energy needed to invest in the relationship is severely compromised. Both partners, weary and tired, begin to drift apart, simply trying not to drown in the floodwaters that life has brought. With what little interaction they find being marked by tension and bickering, the dangerous pattern of isolation begins to find its painful grip on their relationship.

  4. Loneliness: It is a proven fact that most extramarital affairs do not begin with physical attraction or lust. They begin with the empty, lonely feeling that sets in when two people who were once deeply in love, have drifted apart. A heart ripe with loneliness is fertile ground for deception and ultimately, infidelity.

Here are some tips on not only how to survive this difficult period, but that will help your marriage be great for a lifetime!
  • Get Attitude! Be radically committed to quality. Be determined to never let your marriage relationship dip below a certain level of love and companionship. If you feel it drifting, discuss the matter with your partner. This action alone will halt the drift temporarily.

  • Get Together! Have regular evaluation huddles. When my wife and I felt things spinning out of control in our marriage or family, we would set aside some time to evaluate our every challenge. We would clear our schedules, sometimes for a couple of days, to simply talk heart to heart concerning what we needed to do to regain control of our drifting marriage. When our children were little, we did this about twice a year. I recommend the evaluation huddle at least once a year or as needed-no matter how challenging the sacrifice involved.

  • Get Knowledge! Take time to learn the skills of building a great marriage and how to overcome obstacles. There is some incredible information available to you in this amazing technological age that can greatly enhance your relationship such as books, websites, and seminars.

  • Get Help! If you are stuck, have the courage to seek help. There are some great and highly qualified marriage counselors committed to working with you. Every marriage, at times, can drift into a difficult and painful place where help is needed to pull the marriage out. In spite of all the challenges a 5-10 year marriage faces, the good news is these challenges can be overcome and a great marriage can be built!


MEMORABLE AIRPLANE MOMENTS
PART I I have always found one of the best times for me to have some personal time encountering God is on a long plane flight. There is something about being thousands of feet up in air that makes you feel closer to where He lives.

This is the main reason why I try to avoid having conversations with the people sitting next to me on a plane. I realize this sounds a bit selfish, yet I can't resist the chance to sit in complete self-absorption while trying to experience his rejuvenating presence in my life.

I don't always get away with it though. The reason being is the way I choose to encounter God. I carry with me a large Bible that I plop down on the seat tray to read. It is amazing to me the conversation piece it becomes.

Very rarely do I escape some form of comment. They come from the people sitting around me within view of my Bible to the stewardess who serves the refreshments. The majority of the times these people are Christians who are desiring to express their own faith and sincere approval of my choice of literature.

I usually respond politely with a smile and a nod in hoping not to invite more dialogue. But as you might guess, in spite of all my efforts, I end up in some very interesting conversations. I am first what my occupation is. Once I tell them that I am a minister who speaks on married life the encounter turns rather interesting. All their philosophies on love and relationships break forth like a flood.

Most of the time their thoughts are a bit forgettable.  They are typically laced with the hurt and pain of failed relationships and the standard clichés about men and women.

Several times though, these chance encounters have left a lasting impact on me concerning marriage. One of these moments occurred during a conversation I had with a woman executive.  She was an attractive lady around 35 years of age. Her home was in San Francisco where she was a very successful vice president of a company. She had recently been married for the first time and was approaching her first year anniversary. Her husband, she would explain had been married before.

This was his second time around. He also seemed quite affluent and was the president of his own company. Although not a church attendee, she proceeded to tell me that she was raised in a semi-Christian home and believed in God.


My next step in unique moments like this is to see if there is something God wants me to say to this person. Are there some words of encouragement I can say to them in order to help them on their life journey. I silently begin to pray to for some thought that might come to me. Sensing maybe some slight apprehension in her about the newness of married life, I asked her how she liked being married after almost one year.

Typically we stereotype a woman like this. A strong, successful working woman in our culture must certainly be completely self-sufficient. They obviously don't need anything, especially the strength and support of a man or a husband. Certainly her marriage must simply be a dalliance on the side of her more focused career. As wealthy people do, her marriage was probably based on some pre-nuptial agreement preparing for the inevitable divorce. Whatever the stereotype, they are usually not accurate let alone true.

She began to tell me that although there were the usual adjustment challenges, her husband was wonderful and really loved and cared for her. Her eyes then lit up really big and then she made the comment I wont soon forget. She began to tell me the one thing that her husband did for her that made her feel incredibly loved like a queen.


As a marriage counselor, I thought to myself what a great moment of feedback.  Here is a newly married woman who is about to tell me the secret every husband wants to know! Is there one magic deed a man can do that makes his wife feel really loved and cared for?

Flashing through my mind were all the typical images of what it might be that her husband did for her. New Car?  Endless new clothes allowance?  Did he buy her the house of her dreams? I don't think I will ever forget her response.  It was simple yet profound.


She looked me right in the eyes, began to point her finger at me, and made an interesting request. Knowing I did seminars on marriage, she asked me to tell all the husbands that I encounter what her husband did for her. "He keeps my car filled up with gas," she said! She told me that every time she gets in the car and sees it filled up she is so happy. The fact that she doesn't have to worry about running out of gas and wrestling with a gasoline hose is so wonderful to her.

She made me promise to tell you this! Interesting isn't it? How the small, seemingly insignificant deeds mean so much to a woman. I notice this in my own marriage relationship. Oh sure, my wife likes and enjoys the larger gifts of life. She loves her car and the other possessions the Lord has blessed her with and used me in some way to give to her. My wonderful wife is deeply grateful for all these things, yet when I do the little things for her that serves her needs there is a look on her face that differs from the big things. It's the difference between a one time moment that creates joy and a feeling of being blessed, and the daily regular acts of love and serving that make her feel nurtured, loved and appreciated.

In my opinion, every woman is designed to be cared for.  It's not that a woman can't care for herself, for she certainly can.  But much like this executive from San Francisco, women seem to come alive when the right man serves her in the little things she needs. If we husbands will endeavor to understand this principle, the more our wives will feel loved and the more fulfilling our marriages will be.



SMALL WAYS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU IN A BIG WAY

AIRPLANE MOMENTS PART II

When it comes to building a “great marriage” it is important to keep in mind how the seemingly insignificant things deeply impact the marriage relationship. Serving one another in small acts of kindness really have the biggest effect when it comes to expressing love to each other.

This is true for both husband and wife, but seems to touch the wife even deeper. I am really touched when my wife takes time out of her busy daily routine to do something for me that I am not expecting or asked her to do. As grateful as I am, when I nurture my wife in small, unexpected ways it feels like Christmas to her! I believe this is part of the female make-up. In the creator’s design, the husband is to care for and protect the wife.
The wife is designed to receive this caring which generates in her a sense of security and love.

Most guys feel that they meet this need in their wife by fulfilling the big responsibilities that are expected of them as husbands. This would mean in a very practical way  providing the necessities of life. Certainly these things are of great importance, and kudos to the husband that is faithful in these matters. But keep in mind; provision does not equal nurturing when it comes to intimacy in marriage. If you think by providing a house you have created a home than you are mistaken. A home without caring love is not a home at all but an empty house.

Here are a few small things that I do to love my wife in a big way. But first, I want you to keep in mind some simple rules: 


  • Every marriage is different. Just like your fingerprint, your marriage print is uniquely your own. What works for me, might not work for you!

  • Make sure you do what she really likes and not what you think she likes. Finding what she likes is a process of discovery. Don’t get discouraged if your initial attempts to please her don’t get the results you anticipated. Be patient and keep trying, and the magic will happen. Persevere!

  • No laughing at what I do!
     
  1. Breakfast in bed. My wife really, really likes it when I bring her breakfast in bed. When I mention this at marriage seminars, the husbands moan and groan. I am not talking about Belgian waffles and eggs! It’s really very simple. She loves her hot tea along with an English muffin and some fruit. It takes me all of ten minutes to do something that tells her the first moment of everyday how much I care about her.

  2. Cut out puzzles. My wife loves to play Sudoku and some of the other puzzle Games found in the Life section of the newspaper. About every other day, before I dispose of the paper, I will carefully cut these out and place them on her nightstand by her bed. She can enjoy her favorite games at her leisure without having to wrestle with the entire paper. Only takes a minute or two and she thinks the world of me!

  3. Carry whatever she is carrying. This never grows old for her. From groceries to suitcases, no matter what, I make sure if I am with her, I carry whatever she is holding. Sometimes I will see her struggling under the weight of her purse. I am not sure why women do this, but they seem to put everything from their vanity and closet in their purse. I know this might not sound very “tough guy” like, but there are times I will even carry that for her! (Just as long as no one is looking)
These are a few of the little things I do for my wife to say I love you in a big a way. Think about what you might be able to do for your own wife. The things I do don’t take long and mean so much.  And don’t forget to fill her car up with gas!



Article Section: Marriage; Building with the Bible.


Building a Marriage in the Storm of Persecution - Part I
By Karen Bonasso

One of the challenges of married life is facing persecution together.
It's not something we like to think about but it would not be out of the ordinary for one of you or both of you to have to face some type of persecution sometime in your life. This is even more likely if either you or your husband has a high profile position in your job or community. In order to approach such a difficult reality together you must first know how to respond individually. The perspective I wish to offer you is one based on the teachings of the Bible and personal experience.


"…The Lord is with me as a Mighty Warrior: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: for they shall not prosper…" Jeremiah 20: 11 (Bible)
It is a comforting thought that the Lord Jesus is with me as a fighter in the midst of persecution. As He walked this earth He was no stranger to persecution but it never kept Him from loving people, teaching His disciples, or doing the Father's bidding. In other words it never kept him from his mission in life. Hebrews 4: 15 tells us that Jesus is the Christian's High Priest and we are fortunate to have one who sympathizes with us and is touched by our struggle with our weaknesses (infirmities) because He has experienced the same struggle against temptation in His manhood on earth (yet without sin). In Hebrews 2:18 we understand that in this struggle He experienced the suffering of being tested and tried (the meaning of the word temptation here) just as we do.


Persecution is one of these trials that bring suffering.  Although persecution is not the Hand of the Lord He will turn it for our well-being. He will use it to reveal to us the weaknesses of our soul.
In the Bible Jeremiah17: 9 tells us "The heart is deceitful above all things" and continues on to say that only the Spirit of the Lord can search the heart and the mind. Psalm 139: 23 says "Search me, O God, and know my heart…and see if there be any hurtful way (way of pain) in me…" This is the prayer to pray as you endure persecution. It is always good for a man to know what is in his own heart. It is not always easy. That is why we need a Champion on our side as we go through persecution.

Essayist, John Churton Collins writes, "In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends." An unknown author says this: "A friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."  I have found by experience that the best warrior to have by one's side is one who knows the Word of God and lives by its principles.  It is one who can really be "touched with the feeling" of the suffering you are experiencing (sympathizes) but not afraid of it. One who has the Courage and the Wisdom to know how to act with you and for you to produce help in time of need. One who can boldly help you, through the midst of the persecution, get to the Throne of Grace where all help comes from (Heb 4: 16). There are very few people like this. If you have a friend, a spouse, or relative like this you have found a treasure beyond understanding that will greatly enrich your understanding for and appreciation of true brotherly love: The love that Jesus talked about in John when He tells the disciples that the world will recognize them as His disciples when they love each other like this. Yet, the greatest Champion of all is the One whom is available to all at all times. It is our Lord and Savior, our High Priest, Jesus our Mighty Warrior.

If God is our help in such times where does the persecution come from?
What is the source of painful persecution? Certainly we all make mistakes and have poor judgment at times. This is a part of life and sometimes necessary to learn the best way to accomplish our noble goals. Will such things bring on persecution? Yes… So will jealousy and envy and prejudice. In other words, things you do or don't do, who you are or perceived to be can all put you in a place of persecution, but none of these things are the source of the persecution.

In part II of Building a Marriage in the storm of persecution, I will attempt to give insight into the answer to this question. I will also present some biblical responses to the challenges that persecution presents to us.




 
Building a Marriage in the Storm of Persecution - Part II
By Karen Bonasso (Wife of Phil Bonasso)

In Part I of this article I discussed the fact that one of the possible challenges that can face a couple is persecution that may come against them as a couple or individually.  It is very difficult to endure and those that have other people to stand by their side during such a time are blessed indeed.  Yet the main source of strength for this type of challenge can only be found in the Lord. I ended the article with the possible reasons for such persecution and a question. What is the true source of persecution?  This is an important question to answer if you, individually and as a couple, are to know how to respond with Biblical integrity to the challenge. The following quote gives insight into the answer to this question.


"Satan would like nothing better than to have us stop our ministry and start answering critics, tracking down wretched lies and malicious stories. By God's grace, I shall continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not stoop to mudslinging, name-calling, and petty little fights over nonessentials."  Billy Graham

It is apparent from the above quote that Billy Graham experienced persecution but it is also obvious that he knew that the root source of such persecution is the Satan and that the goal of the persecution was to discourage him from his mission in life. This mission for Billy Graham is evangelism, but the forces of darkness are intent on discouraging anyone from their God-given destiny. It is also obvious that the persecution he experienced came through people.

Our Biblical response to such persecution can be as follows:

1. In regards to the people through whom persecution comes, our initial response from a Biblical perspective is clear. Before I present it, there is a truth that must be stated: The God of heaven and earth is the ultimate Judge and from the many stories of the Bible we can understand that God hates injustice and inequity. He will always and in His right order, which includes timing, bring forth truth and justice into unrighteous persecution. He is faithful. Now, for our part .Our part is to remain (an important word!) forgiving and patient and "pray for those who mistreat you." (Matthew 5:44) Thus allowing His Sword of mercy and vengeance to move in a redemptive manner for all.

2. We have to fight the unseen source of our persecution. It can't be seen because the Bible says it does not come from flesh and blood. It proceeds from" powers and principalities in heavenly places" that are demonically influenced (Ephesians 6:12). There are things that we must do that seem ineffective in the natural because of the time lapse between that which occurs in the spiritual and its effect  on the natural. (When there is no time lapse it is called a miracle!) We must pray the prayer of agreement with other faith-filled people, primarily our spouse; Stand firm against Satan and his schemes to make us angry and bitter and depressed  and weary (Eph 6:11); and, put on the "armor of God" (Eph 6:13-17) which serves to protect us and keep us in the battle until it's over. In other words, we must fight the demonic, not the people, by depositing the Word of God into our spirits i.e. read the Bible. This part of the fight is in our minds and in our souls and the only thing that can bring peace to both of these is the Word. It is a battle of strategies not strength. The power of the cross of Christ always supersedes any demonic device.

3. Be proactive in presenting the truth. It's very possible that the information that people are hearing is not accurate. Some people don't really care about truth, especially if they have some vested interest in your demise. However, there are those who will be noble enough to want to hear the other side of the story. Don't try to defend yourself just put forth the truth. Although presenting the truth may not stop the persecution, it can be calming to your own soul and eventually the truth may matter.

I have offered you some personal strategies for enduring persecution when it comes your way. As a married couple you and your spouse must handle things individually in your souls. As this process is occurring you can be a great source of support and strength for each other: You will need each other. Be there for each other and this very difficult moment can be turned into a building block for a strong marriage that can face the storms of life with grace and hope.




 
The Five "Hot Spots" Or Tension Points In the Marriage Relationship

Webster’s dictionary defines the phrase “hot spot” as a place of unrest or instability usually considered dangerous. When it comes to building a great marriage, it is critical for both partners to understand the hot spots or tension zones that are common to every relationship. It is these unstable tension zones that generate the most friction between partners, which often results in the most painful and bitter fights.

It is paramount for couples to recognize where these hot spots are in the landscape of their marriage so that they can navigate them successfully when ventured into. Each partner needs to be prepared for the tensions that can arise, in order to work toward a healthy resolution of the issues these difficult areas usually create.

Although different hot spots may exist for each unique marriage relationship, most counselors agree there are a number of difficult zones that are generally universal to all couples. My list of hot spots is by no means exhaustive, yet these are the ones I have found to be the most common:


  1. FINANCES:One of the great stress producers in life, the tension zone of money goes beyond simply not having enough money to pay the bills. The friction over finances is usually centered on spending habits. Depending on a number of social factors such as family history, birth order, and the economic background that a partner comes from, the spending habits of each can be quite opposite. Generally speaking, spending habits fall into two categories: the stubborn tightwad, and the free spirited spender. The most common example in married life is for each partner to represent one of these patterns. Rarely, have I come across a married couple whose spending patterns are identical. Because of this diversity, many couples find it difficult to arrive at an agreement when faced with financial decisions. The obvious answer to the tension zone of finances is what I call the “marvelous middle ground” between the couples spending habits. This takes work, but it can be done.

  2. CHILD RAISING: Unless a couple comes to a dedicated agreement on their child raising principles, this hot spot in married life will almost always be a war zone of hostilities. Couples need to come into a deep unity together on all the challenging issues that raising children produces. From bedtime to movie watching, work together on how to handle each circumstance. This will create a secure home and produce the wonderful rewards of raising a loving family.

  3. SEX: Every married couple has experienced the tension that exists at times when it comes to intimacy. There are so many great books and articles available that more than adequately address the most common struggles in this hot spot. The key to unlocking the tension in this area is communication. Partners MUST find the courage to discuss this extremely important area of their life. The lack of dialogue between couples when it comes to their sexuality is usually due to fears, insecurities, and past experiences. If these can’t be overcome, then please find one of the many great marriage counselors available to help.

  4. IN-LAWS AND RELATIVES: The landscape of married culture is riddled with the proverbial mother-in-law jokes, which poke fun at what is, unfortunately, a very challenging hot spot. The invasion of in-laws and relatives into the life of a married couple is often wrought with complications that can lead once again to bitter, unresolved arguments for couples. Managing the expectations of extended family can be daunting to say the least for a married couple. From where to spend Holidays to vacationing together, many challenges abound. Once again, the answer to this tension zone lies in reaching an agreement with your partner on how to handle each situation and not vacillating from your decisions. Reaching this agreement will take time and patience, but will produce a healthy, long-term relationship with the extended family.

  5. VACATIONS AND HOLIDAYS: This may sound surprising to be a hot spot in marriage, but vacation preferences can differ sharply among couples. Within the typical marriage, one partner’s idea of a great vacation would be a secluded beach with very little contact with the outside world. This would be the preference of my wife. Not me. I would die of boredom! My perfect vacation would be filled with great activity and things to do around large crowds of people. Disney World here we come! How have we solved this dilemma? By trying to do some of both during our vacation time.  This same solution we apply to the annual Holidays when it comes to how we spend the time together as a couple and family.
Although these 5 “hot spots” are by no means the only sensitive areas a couple faces in the course of married life, being aware and prepared for these tension zones will help you on your path to building a great marriage!
 
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