Kindness

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?”
George Eliot

Think of one thing you can do for your spouse today to make his/her life easier. Do it without expectations, do it just to be kind and loving and giving. If you do this everyday, what kind of marriage might you have?

Be on the same team

“Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly
understood that they are on the same side.” Zig Ziglar

In working to resolve conflict, change the goal from winning the argument (which means you are against each other) to being on the same team by seeking to understand and empathize with your partners perspective.

Don’t go to bed angry

We have all heard the notion, don’t get to bed angry. I don’t disagree with the notion, however, not every conflict has a resolution that can be reached by sundown. So if you find yourself going round and round well into the night, don’t be afraid to put the argument to rest. Things often look different in the morning. After some rest and time to regroup, you can go back to the discussion in a calm manner, or sometimes you might just realize it wasn’t something even worth fighting about. So break the ice and get on with your day!

What makes marriage work? Boundaries for conflict resolution

What are the boundaries for effective conflict resolution in marriage? Often, when couples get married, they come into the marriage with unspoken expectations. A common one that comes up is the right to free expression. I should and have the right to express every emotion that I have in the name of honesty. Hogwash!! This can be incredibly damaging to a relationship! Some of this may sound contradictory to that last post that talked about being your genuine selves with each other, but in there I mentioned there has to be boundaries. Well in this post we are talking about those boundaries with the understanding that unbridled self expression can be very damaging to a relationship. It might feel good in the moment, but what feels good in the moment is not necessarily for the benefit of the relationship. Everything you say and do in your relationship will either move you closer together or push you further apart. So ask yourself that question when you are about to “express” yourself. Is this going to bring you closer or push you further?

Here’s an example: when my husband is with the kids for a few hours, I come home and the house is a disaster. If I were to come home and start complaining that the house is a mess, he might feel resentful that I don’t appreciate the time he spent with the kids so I could have some time for myself. I might feel annoyed that the house is a mess, but for the sake of the relationship and my husband’s feelings, I keep that to myself and focus on appreciating his efforts. Is that disingenuous? I don’t think so, because both feelings exist, but I choose to express the ones that will draw me closer to my spouse.

Think about how you can do this in your marriage. Next post I will write about how to express dissatisfaction about something in the relationship without pushing your partner away.

Thank you for visiting!

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What makes marriage work? Part 2

Here is part 2 in the series of what makes marriage work. My goal is to dish out tidbits of information that will help you improve your marriage.

This post will focus on conflict resolution. Conflict. It can be a scarey word to a lot of people but the avoidance of conflict will result in killing the passion in your relationship. When two human beings come together and allow themselves to be their authentic selves, there is going to be friction. To try to avoid this results in walking on eggshells and not being able to share genuine feelings, thoughts, beliefs and ideas for fear you are going to rock the boat.

Rock the boat! If communcation is dealt with inside the boundaries of love, respect, kindness, and empathy, conflict can lead to deeper understanding of one another which leads to a deeper level of intimacy. But it means allowing each other to be who you are and not trying to change each other. It means respecting one another’s views, feelings, and opinions. It means allowing your partner to feel what they feel and express emotions in a genuine way.

Embrace healthy conflict and have a happy New Year!

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What Makes Marriage Work?

I am going to make this blog more of a series of posts because this is the elusive question with many answers. I will start by saying I will answer this question based on my own marriage and the marriages I see day in and day out in my practice.

Acceptance is a big one, so I will spend this post discussing the importance of accepting one another in marriage. When you first get together, the romance is flourishing and you are both putting your best foot forward. The newness of the relationship can cause us to put blinders on. As the relationship progresses and you continue to open up to, live with, and become intertwined with your partner, it is impossible to avoid seeing the flaws that were really there all along. We open the window of ourselves to our intimate partners. Then we do something crazy, now that we are in, we begin to pick each other apart and put a microscope on those flaws.

Imagine you allowed a visitor into your home, and once inside, they begin to tell you all the things that are wrong with it. You missed a spot painting over here on this wall. Oh, the carpet has a spot on it over here. Those pictures are hung all wrong! We would surely not invite them back! But yet we do this to our intimate partners once we are let into their worlds.

You nor your partner are perfect. You never will be. If you can accept that in one another, and focus on noticing and pointing out what you admire and love about your partner and let the other stuff go, you bring peace to your home.

Try for one full day to not complain at your partner. Can you do it? Can you go a whole day without complaining about something your partner has said or done? Now if you can continue to repeat that behavior, your will be on your way to making your marriage work. More to come…..

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What about the strengths in your marriage?

It is often our human nature to focus on what is wrong rather than on what is right.

This is true in our relationships as well. In thinking about your marriage, do you spend more time trying to fix what is wrong? Do you take for granted what is right?

Think about how you treat your partner. Do you spend more time telling him or her what they do wrong, or more time telling him or her what they do right. If where you put your focus inspires more of the same, where do you want to put your focus? Criticism invites more of the behavior you don’t want. Appreciation and recognition inspires more of what you do want. Don’t ignore or overlook the parts of your spouse that are good and right, nor the parts of your marriage that are good and right. Recognize the strengths and build off of those, rather than focusing on the negative.

How to rebuild trust in your marriage

Emotional safety is an essential part of a healthy relationship. To trust another human being in an intimate relationship is a choice made when one feels emotionally safe. When this sense of safety has been compromised in a relationship, it can be very difficult to rebuild trust, but it can be done.

The first step to rebuilding trust is acknowledging the impact of the hurt that has been caused. For example, if there has been an affair. The partner who had the affair must fully understand and acknowledge the damage and pain this act has caused. Your partner must feel like you “get it”.

The next step is understanding why the betrayal occurred. There can be many reasons. I’ll site a few common examples. If a man is working overtime and is rarely home, his wife may feel neglected and unappreciated. She may then look for attention and affection elsewhere. This example shows a breakdown in communication. It does not excuse the behavior, but there must be understanding of what is going on in the relationship for the behavior to occur. The wife needs to communicate her needs to her husband and he needs to be responsive to those needs. (I am oversimplifying here just to illustrate the point.)

Another example may be of a husband who lies. When he tells the truth about a matter, he pays a high price. His wife may yell and criticize him so he deals with it by avoiding confrontation and continuing to lie. While you are not responsible for the choices your partner makes, it is important to reflect on your contribution to the dynamic of the marriage. Understanding where your communication with each other breaks down and your responsibility in that, is important to healing and rebuilding trust.

During the process of rebuilding trust, it is important not to do more damage. There is no room for punishment. This may feel better in the moment, but to use the incident as ammunition does nothing to heal and rebuild trust. For example: the wife whose husband had an affair, anytime he gets upset at her for something, she brings up the affair as retaliation. This continues to do damage to the marriage.

It is necessary to have open, honest, respectful communication with each other on a regular basis. It is important that you keep your word, follow through on commitments, and always treat each other with respect. If you are feeling pain, communicate your experience to your partner without attacking or blaming. For example: “whenever I think of the affair, it stirs up all the negative images and feelings and I am having a hard time dealing with it. Remembering the affair makes it so difficult to trust and believe this won’t happen again.” This is an example of sharing an experience without attacking or blaming. A responsive partner might say something like this: “I know I made a mistake and I am so sorry. I realize you are in a lot of pain right now. Is there anything I can say or do right that would help?”

These are just a few of the tools it takes to rebuild trust. Rebuilding safety in a relationship after a betrayal takes time, patience and committment. Counseling can be a helpful tool through the process. Having a third party to help you cope with the pain and not cause more damage can make for a smoother process. If you have experienced a trauma in your relationship and need help, call anytime. (865) 283-1777

Keeping your marriage strong during hard economic times

I don’t have to tell you about the tough times our country is facing economically right now. You are seeing it on the news, at the pump and at the grocery store. People are losing jobs, homes, and investments. If these challenges are effecting your family directly, it can put quite a strain on your relationship.

What is most important as you face these challenges, is that you face them together, as a team. Your communication and alliance with each other is of prime importance right now. When couples face hard times financially, there may be a tendency to take fears and stress out on each other. But that only makes the situation worse. 

Here I present some strategies to deal with tough times, cope with fears and realities without damaging your relationship. 

1. Listen to each other. Your partner may be feeling many of the same fears that you are. Listen to each others fears and have empathy for one another.

2. Share ideas and discuss strategies with one another. Sit down and write out your budget together. Discuss ideas about how you might cut back, save money or manage money effectively. Listen to each other’s ideas and problem solve together. The only way to effectively problem solve is to listen and talk to one another with respect and resolve. There might not be a ready solution, but talking about it doesn’t have to do damage to your relationship.

3. Stick together. A lot of it is about attitude. Have and share the attitude that we are in this together, and we will get through it together.

4. Recognize that there are ‘free’ ways to spend quality time together. Date night doesn’t have to mean a $30 babysitter, a $50 dinner and $20 at the movies. Date night can be having a night cap on the lanai after the kids go to bed, or an afternoon walk in the park. Find ways to be together and connect with each other without spending money. Cook meals together and eat at home as a family, whether it’s just the two of you or your kids too. Share babysitting duties with a trusted friend who has kids. Take turns watching each others kids for some quality time alone with each other.

5. Be emotionally supportive of one another. Eliminate blame, criticism, finger pointing, attacking and defending. These actions do nothing to solve problems.

Outside stresses can impact your marriage if you let it. But if you build your relationship resiliency through respectful communication, teamwork, support, and love, you can weather these difficult economic times.

If you would like more strategies, I found this great website full of resources. Check it out! http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org/challenges/financialstress.cfm

You might need marriage counseling if…

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Having a trusted marriage counselor should be like having a trusted car mechanic or a trusted family doctor. If something doesn’t sound right with your car, you take it in and have it looked at by an expert. You might be able to handle routine maintenance, but anything more than that needs a qualified professional. Same with your physical health. Even healthy people get a cold or a headache here and there, but something more than that, you go see a doctor. The same is true of your marriage. Daily squabbles in a marriage are normal even for healthy couples. But anything beyond that, just like with your car or your body, if you let it go too long without getting professional help, the problem could get worse. Here is a list of troubles that might indicate a problem that needs professional attention:

Anytime you try to communicate with each other it turns into a fight.

You avoid communicating about difficult topics to prevent conflict.

You fight about the same thing over and over with no resolution.

There has been infidelity in the marriage.

You are thinking about having an affair.

You just went through a major life change (marriage, newborn baby, job change) and are having trouble adjusting.

Outside stresses (work, children, family) are putting a strain on the marriage.

Intimacy and passion are not what they used to be.

You often feel disconnected from your partner.

You wish you could communicate better with one another.

You fight about how to parent the kids.

You have a difficult time managing day to day life that you can’t find time for one another.

You feel overworked and under appreciated.

You are having a difficult time getting over past hurts.

You are considering divorce.

Having an objective party take the time to listen to your interactions with one another without taking sides can help break negative patterns of relating, increase effective communication through marriage education, improve intimacy and connection and relieve pain. If you are considering counseling but are still not sure, call for a free phone consultation to get your questions answered. (865) 283-1777