5139 NE 49th Ave., Ste C, Vancouver, WA 98662 info@projectpatch.org 360.690.8495

Getting Your Marriage Unstuck – An Interview With Dr. Barry Ham

There are few things more lonely than being stuck in a loveless marriage. I meet couples who probably wouldn’t be together if it wasn’t for the kids. Their relationships aren’t abusive and typically both are well meaning wonderful people. Yet, their marriage feels lonely and is a disapointment.

I met Dr. Barry Ham at the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) meetings.  His booth was next to ours on the exhibit floor.  He was also presenting a breakout that I wasn’t registered for but sounded really interesting. During our time together I discovered Barry to not only be a fun person to talk to but a person that could really help me and a lot of the parents I know.  His wife Andee was able to sneak me into their overbooked session in which he shared “Eight Strategies for Getting Unstuck”.

I was thrilled that Barry agreed to record an interview.  We couldn’t find anyplace quiet in our convention center and even the corners of the building had music playing.  Eventually we took some chairs outside and huddled around my digital recorder.

Please take a few minutes and listen to this very important interview and enjoy the sound of planes, people and birds.

Here are some of the key things that I took away during our conversation.

  • We marry pursuing the dream.  We want to be fully known (mistakes, blemishes..) and inspire of our our faults to accept and love me.  But then we find there are conditions to that acceptance.  We tend to protect ourselves or present an ideal image of our selves and hide our true selves and eventually will find ourselves very lonely.
  • Because we sweep things under the rug and don’t deal with the broken expectations we end up over time waking up to the realization that this isn’t what we signed up for or want.
  • Parents hit the “parenting crisis” doing life with the kids as the focus of our attention and couples begin to drift apart.  Since couples may at this point feel let down from blown expectations from one another, they begin to transfer those expectations of being completely loved to their kids.  Kids become the center of the family life for 18-20 years and when kids leave the parents have nothing together.
  • There are stages of marriage (newlywed, children, middle years, late legacy years).  People function fairly well during the stages but the transitions between the stages are often their undoing.
  • When we get blindsided we typically think it is our spouse who dropped the ball.
  • “I’m not good enough” is a great place to begin if we know that God’s power and resources allow me to be a great parent and spouse even when I’m not good enough.  We can do this though God’s strength which allows us to be much more connected spouse and kids.
  •  Our assumptions cloud how we respond to things.  If we think our spouse is uncaring, we will interpret things to support that assumption.  It’s a self-fullilling prophecy.
  • Couples need to know they have more choices than getting a divorce or being unhappy.  How do I engage and get unstuck and get the marriage to the place I originally dreamed it could be.
  • Even if the couple isn’t both working on the marriage there are things that can be done.
  •  I’m not going to stand in the corner and wait for the person to love me, I’m going to do what God says and love them.


The Webpage :  Livingunstuck.org

Information about his two books:

  • God Understand’s Divorce: a biblical message of grace
  • Unstuck:Escaping a Lifeless Marriage

Weekly “Relationship Tip Tuesday” – Send an email HERE to and ask to get the tips.






Living Backstage

Backstage is a mess. Front stage is pretty amazing with all the lights, well rehearsed words and actions. Backstage is full of props, anxious performers and frantic rehearsal. The stage is all about being in the present, giving that moment all you have to offer. The backstage is dominated by fear, not just the future, but hoping your friends didn’t catch the mistakes in your last performance.

[shareable]Backstage is rarely glamorous but it’s where we spend most of our time and where our greatest impact comes from.[/shareable]

I had a load of expectations when I was on the Dr. Phil Show. I’ve never been met at the airport by a limo driver and had no idea what to do when the one armed older gentleman took my bags and I followed feeling like a jerk. It was pretty fun to pull up to the hotel, studio and airport in style.  I also kind of like to hear people  say, “Yes, Mr. Hagele” and be ushered into special doors.

However, being backstage for that show was brutal. My stomach hadn’t been settled for several days and now I was surrounded by tables full of food that I couldn’t eat. It was freezing and I was afraid to drink coffee since I didn’t know when I could use the restroom again. Instead of drinking coffee, I held the cup tightly trying to stay warm. My thoughts were jumbled and my confidence low.

Then came the make-up and wardrobe. I like my suit, but suddenly my Men’s Warehouse 2 for 1 suit seemed embarrassing and I felt like a bumpkin. I sat in the room, clutching my coffee staring at myself in the mirror for several hours. Occasionally I was put at ease by Julie, a producer and Anthony who does so much at the show. I tried to look relaxed and confident but I’m sure they were worried when they saw me clinging to the full coffee cup.

Several hours later, the show was recorded and I was back in my “green room” gulping down hot coffee, stuffing cookies and chocolate covered strawberries into my mouth. I was ushered back through long halls to “my driver” and whisked through Hollywood to the airport.

I’m glad the experience helped a girl and her family, encouraged others and furthered the work of Project Patch but the backstage experience was one of the darkest experience I’ve had.  You can watch the 45 second highlight real of the front stage from that recording but I don’t have footage of the backstage coffee cup terror.

The reason I’m sharing this is that most of us compare our backstage experience with other people’s main stage. I’m careful to edit what other people see and share my highlight real. I compare the most challenging and dark places of my life with everyone else’s best moments.

If you look at my social media trail it would look like all I do is travel to interesting places and do fun things with my family. This is because I only share my main stage moments and hide my backstage. It would seem weird, dangerous and kind of needy to post a picture of me driving slowly to work because I’d rather stay in my car then stepping into another demanding day at work in which I feel overwhelmed and inadequate.

Comparing our backstage to others front stage does several things:

  • Makes us feel “less than” others, inadequate or somehow flawed.
  • Sets me up for dissatisfaction and I avoid challenges because I think they are a sign of not being good enough.
  • Makes me search for shortcuts.

Our kids really struggle with comparison. They wonder what is wrong with them that everything seems so hard and that they feel so insecure. The reality is that everyone except a the drunk, high or emotionally unavailable people feels that way. We all spend most of our time backstage.

How do we help our kids become more comfortable with the backstage?

  1. Share our own awareness of the power of living backstage versus main stage.
  2. Make sure we reward back stage work and bravery over performance.
  3. Teach skills for living back stage in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
  4. Help them process mistakes and failures so they don’t keep us from taking the stage again.
  5. Pull back the curtain on what they see on social media, TV, movies, magazines and all the other things that make life look overly easy and meet.

There is a concept that Brene Brown shares in her newest book Rising Strong that all children struggle with belonging and wanting to be part of something.  It’s no surprise that kids often say, “I’m the only one who…” when they compare their life to their friends.  Everyone else gets to go to the movie, dye their hair, stay up late, get an iPhone, their own car at 16…

Brene recommends using the phrase, “The story I’m telling myself” to peek behind our emotion and frustration.  When our kids says they are the only one not being allowed to go the THE party it may sound like this.  “The story I’m telling myself is that you don’t trust me and think I’m a baby, I’m going to lose all my friends because of this.”

This process isn’t so we shoot holes in their story, but is to make sure that we understand why this is so significant to them and help them start searching for the truth that starts when out thoughts our brought to light.

It feels awkward to talk this way and your kids will not learn how to do it until you learn how. Once again, it starts with us as parents doing the hard work so that our kids learn how. I guess this puts us back stage again as awkward parents hoping that we don’t blow it but knowing this is the most important things we will ever do.


Sharing the Undone Life with Michele Cushatt

This episode of Today’s Family Experience features Michelle Cushatt.  For those not familiar with Michele, I wrote about her in an earlier post in which I reviewed her book, Undone: Making Peace with an Unexpected Life.  I really respect and appreciate Michele and know you will benefit from hearing this episode, reading her book and connecting with her online resources.

Quick bit of context on Michele incase, she is a talented public speaker associated with Women of Faith, Focus on the Family, Provers 31 She Speaks, Companions International.  She is the co-host of This is Your Life with Michael Hyatt a very popular business, life and leadership podcast.

What struck me as I talked to Michele this time was that while her voice was much weaker than before and I know she is still physically weak, she brings a strength and energy to our conversation which really surprised me.  Since we had met last fall, she had undergone a significant surgery and multiple treatment which have affected her speech yet she is continuing to use her voice to help others.

First, you need to listen to the podcast.  I know some of you just aren’t into that “podcast” thing but this conversation is the perfect reason for you to dive into the podcast world.  It isn’t hard, you can listen directly from this post which is easy but not convenient.  You can also download it to your mobile device.  For Apple users, just follow the link to iTunes and it is easy to listen and hopefully subscribe.  It is slightly more complicated with Android devices but the attached link will get you set up.


No more excuses, listen now.

Here are some highlights that I took away from our conversation.  They aren’t exact quotes but are my attempt to capture themes in our conversation.

Michele really helped me uncover why so many of us feel a double hit when things don’t go according to our plan.  First, the negative event brings all sorts of pain on its own.  Second, she shared that as Christians, we assume that everything should go fine if we are faithful Christians.  So when things go bad we also feel pain and fear because it attacks our identity as Christians.

She shares courageously about the challenges associated with divorce, remarriage and raising a blended family.  This section was one of my favorites because it revealed to me the chaos and healing that occurred when rather than trying to fit back into “normal” they moved into a new normal that allowed for a family full of hurt people to live together.

I also thought her saying, “We are imperfect people that ro raise little imperfect people” was a great way to balance the pain we feel when our kids rebellious.  It’s easy to blame ourselves or blame them but this saying really helped me see that both can be true and we can grow as parents and cut ourselves some slack at the same time.

Actions Steps

  1. Win a copy of Michele’s book “Undone: A Story Of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life”  You just need to fill out a really quick survey telling us about yourself and helping me develop content that helps you.  Just click here to take the survey and I’ll let you know if you win.
  2. Sign-up for free eBook “Parenting Stubborn Kids: When Your Kids Are More Stubborn Than You” either by filling in the form on the right side of this webpage or going HERE

Key resources:

Michele’s website:  www.michelecushatt.com


Restored and Remarried

Every family is dysfunctional, some families get away with it while others can’t because more is required of them.  Blended families, single parent homes, homes with illness, homes with any kind of job loss or a host of the challenges requires the family to have a higher level of “family skills” than a “normal” family.  It isn’t fair.

Actually, I don’t think there is such a thing as a “normal” family.  At some point every family will experience a season that requires more communication, problem solving and dealing with conflict.

Some families can’t predict when they will be called upon to be less dysfunctional.  However, for blended families, even before the “I do” is said, they know dysfunction is near and have to elevate their game.

This podcast interview is with Gil and Brenda Stuart who’s mission is “Encouragement for remarried couples in a stepfamily.”  They are all about helping step families discover God’s purpose for their newly formed family and the skills to live them out.

Subscribe: iTunes/Android/RSS

About our guests:

I met Gil and Brenda several years ago and my first impression was that I not only liked Stuart-4JE_5929[1] copythem, I also felt like I had known them a long time.  They are a couple with a lot going on.  They have seven children between them and now have two daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.  Gil is an insurance broker and Brenda leads a team building organization.  They are popular speakers and lead seminars to help other couples like them who are remained.  They also have developed a seminar called “Rearview Mirror” which helps all couples focus on what matters.

Key Points from Interview:

  • Foundation of honesty
  • Necessity of forgiveness – especially for yourself
  • How your marriage is strengthened through community and information.
  • Importance of parents taking time to trust and rely on each other, especially for discipline of kids
  • How it is a long term focus rather than need for immediate results


Their website:  www.restoredandremaried.com
Their books/materials:  Visit their store

Top 10 Blended Family Points

  1. There are 67 types of stepfamilies
  2. 72 differences between first marriages and remarriage
  3. 40% of all marriages today are creating stepfamilies
  4. New Stat (6/2014: from The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn)  Remarriage divorce rate is 34% not the 60% previously thought. Some stats state 40-50% of remarriages end in divorce. 80% of those marriages that failed could have been saved with information/education and support small group/fellowship with other stepfamilies.)
  5. Churches are reluctant to engage in a Stepfamily ministry for fear of condoning divorce
  6. Many remarried couples do not ask for the help/encouragement they need because of the “shame factor”
  7. Kid issues: grieving, schedules, POW swap, holidays, jealousy, parenting styles
  8. The step parent/step child relationship creates more threat to the remarriage than money, sex, work stress or in laws than in first time marriages
  9. Co-parenting: child support, schedules, two different life styles/values
  10. Modeling a healthy remarriage can reduce the divorce rate for kids in a stepfamily; which can change the legacy of the family