Today, Mother’s Day, we like to celebrate our Mom’s…those who gave birth, wiped our runny noses, took us to the doctor and if you are one of the lucky ones….Mom also hugged you tight when you were afraid; told you that you can do it, even when no one else believed in you and the someone you know, you can always count on. In order to honor this women, we may need to look outside our biological circle.
There is many a woman who has never borne a child and yet has the deepest Mother’s heart. There are also those who have given birth to many children and yet never truly loved any of them with selfless or sacrificial love.
My thoughts on What’s a Mother is that biology does not matter. A Mother is someone who you know will be there for you—no.matter.what. You can not only count on her, you also have the deepest knowledge that her love for you is never-ending. There are truly lucky people in our world who would quickly say this is the women who also raised them. For others, these women came in and out of their lives through seasons. Maybe it’s the woman who helped you get ready for prom. Maybe it’s the woman who comforted you when your Mom slipped out of this life. Maybe it’s the women who encouraged you when your kids were little and you were not sure what to do. Maybe it is the women who babysits for you when you go to work. Maybe it’s the women who……. (you get the idea).
That’s a Mother.
Stacey Eldredge in her book, Captivating: Unlocking the Mysteries of a Women’s Soul says, “All women are not mothers, but all women are called to mother. To mother is to nurture, to train, to educate, to rear….You can mother other people’s children. In truth our world needs you to.”
Today, Mother’s Day, let’s thank the women for the role, the work, the love they pour into others; regardless on whether they have littles they bore. These women are possibly even more courageous because they love and give and serve and sacrifice without the biological bond.
The heart of a mother is a deep abyss
at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.
–Honoré de Balzac
A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.
– Washington Irving
A good mother is irreplaceable.
― Adriana Trigiani
This is what we do, my mother’s life said.
We find ourselves in the sacrifices we make.
― Cammie McGovern, Neighborhood Watch
To ALL women who love, who give, who train, who sacrifice, who pray for others, Happy Mother’s Day!!
-Thriving in life is something we are all called to.
-Thriving in marriage is more than having feelings of love.
-There are 5 Ways to Thrive in Marriage. Last time we discussed 3 out of those 5:
1. Appreciation: The language that knows no bounds The power of sharing and showing appreciation in small doses can transform a marriage.
2. Friendship– Intentionally choosing to get to know your significant other like you would any other friend.
3. Recognizing Danger– Be aware of the 4 Horsemen and how they derail our relationship.
5 Ways to Thrive in Marriage …continued….
4. Duct Tape & Marriage
- Most guys who have a tool box in their home will tell you that Duct Tape is a handy tool for repairs. Healthy couples know that (1) they will fight, (2) the 4 Horsemen are waiting in the dark for cracks to appear in the relationship, and (3) Duct Tape is the most formidable way to repair the damage that has been done. Returning back to Gottman’s research, he calls repair attempts (I call it Marital Duct Tape) the secret weapon of long-lasting couples.
- An Example of Marital Duct Tape:
- Simple statements like, “I understand”, “I’m sorry”, “What are your concerns?”, “Let me try this again”, “I love you and I didn’t mean…..”, “Can I try that again?”, “I need to take a time-out and try this again”.
- Prescription: Begin by investigating which strategies for repair make the biggest impact in your relationship. Decide to become intentional about how to make these repairs and by how to receive them. There are always two people in a relationship, thus there are always two key components to repair: give & receive. Both hold equal importance
5. Attachment in Marriage: It’s not just for kids
- There is much discussed in terms of how to help our kids grow and have strong connections (or attachments) in relationships with their parents, siblings, friends, etc. The good news is that as we look at research, we are learning that attachment is not just for kids. In fact, as adults, our attachments can have a deep impact on how we interrupt the meaning and purpose of our lives. Dr. Sue Johnson states, “Romantic love is not the least bit illogical or random. It is the continuation of an ordered and wise recipe for survival. We now have a map that can guide us in creating, healing and sustaining love. This is a consummate breakthrough.” Dr. Johnson discusses, in-depth, the importance to connecting and turning into your relationship. This is not simply a principle that is important, it is vital and something that those in strong marriages work at daily. Couples work at developing a safe connection with their spouse is the one who is putting a protective barrier around their heart against feelings of resentment and betrayal. Gottman refers to the way’s we turn towards our spouse as “bids” for connection. Either way you look at it, the behavior, thoughts and emotions that go into turning towards our partner on a daily basis, makes HUGE differences in the type of relationship we have.
- An Example of Attachment: Secure attachments are clear in couples that are trusting, confident, are able to share both happy and unhappy feelings, and seek each other out for support. These relationships say (1) “I know I am loved and worthy of love in this relationship” and (2) “I know my needs will be met in this relationship and I ask for my needs to be met”. In other words, there is a confidence in knowing your spouse will have your back.
- Prescription: Repair injuries to the relationship often (i.e. deal with mole hills before they become mountains). Using the skills of empathy, understanding (i.e. the desire to hear to understand their heart vs. hearing to respond; ironically, the later of these two tends to lead into Defensiveness, one of the four horsemen), and forgiveness to work through the pain.
I could easily take each of these 5 and write a blog on each. However, don’t let this stop you. If you have felt challenged as you read this, choose to seek, learn, grow in your knowledge. Trust me. You will be thankful you did and so will your spouse. Remember, YOU were made to THRIVE!
Follow these links to learn more about the work of John Gottman & Sue Johnson:
Last time, we began laying the foundation to thrive in marriage. If you missed that post, check out part 1 here.
- Thriving is more than just surviving….Hopelessness, frustration, grief, anger, sadness, woundedness, feeling stuck are all ways to describe how and where we are. They are teachers, showing us what needs to change in order for growth, development, or dare I say it, the ability to prosper. THAT’S what it means to thrive…..to grow, to flourish, to develop something in a forward motion.
- There are 5 ways YOU can begin to thrive in your marriage TODAY. Sounds pretty exciting, eh? It is. AND, if you are intentional about working on this, the chances are, you and your spouse will be that old couple walking hand in hand at 80 years of age that we all ogle over.
Today we are discussing the how’s to thriving in marriage with 5 simple (but not easy) ways. Each of these 5 seem logical, but are in no way easy.
5 WAYS TO THRIVE IN MARRIAGE
1. Appreciation: The language that knows no bounds
- One of the biggest enemies to marriage is something called Negative Sentiment Override, or NSO. NSO, coined by psychologist, Robert Weiss, and used by the Gottman Institute basically means: frustrated and trapped feelings are growing in the relationship and is eroding Trust. Left unchecked, NSO can be a formidable adversary. The way to offset this is, according to Gottman research, is to build into the relationship times where you share with each other what you appreciate about him/her. The key with this is to be genuine and to do this consistently. Gottman’s research found that most couples who struggle in relationship are missing this important skill.
- An Example of Appreciation: “Honey, I felt cared for when you brought soup to my office today for lunch. You know I’ve not been feeling well all week and that really meant a lot to me.”
- Focus on 2 elements to this statement (1) how the person felt (2) the event in which it took place.
- This is a focus statement that does not bring up the past issues but clearly stays in the present.
- Prescription: Use authentic appreciation in small doses daily. Using too much can come across as inauthentic.
2. Learn to be each other’s Friend
- Most relationships start because one person is attracted to another-there is an internal chemical collision. We need this chemical collision in the early stages of attraction. However, just like the weather, there is an ebb and flow that follows. What helps give the relationship depth and substance is establishing a deep friendship. Most relationships that lack this foundation do not last. It’s one thing to love or be attracted to another person. It is something entirely different to like them or even consider your significant other to be your BFF.
- An Example of Friendship: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
- Prescription: Be intentional and plan to spend time together discovering new things about the other person. Who was your spouse’s favorite TV show? Music group? Already know this? How about learning a new language together? Or reading a novel together? Or…….Be creative. Be curious. Explore with each other.
3. Recognize Danger
- Gottman’s research was able to identify 4 common danger signs in relationships. The presence of these 4 account for divorce occurring, “an average of 5.6 years after the wedding”. Gottman adequately labeled these as “The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. These deadly elements are: Contempt, Defensiveness, Criticism & Stonewalling.
- The 4 Horsemen:
- Criticism: Talking about your spouse in ways that degrade or speak badly about his/her character.
- For example, “You never pick up after yourself. You are so lazy.”
- Contempt: Talking to/about your spouse as if they are beneath you. Contempt is often associated with feeling disgusted with the other person. Sometimes, people disguise contempt in sarcasm.Non-verbals such as facial expressions and tone of voice are also indicators of contempt.
- For example: “You are such a jerk. I would never be like that.” Or, “I was just being funny. You are so sensitive”.
- Defensiveness: Another way to recognize when this happens is when you feel as if you are being attacked and need to protect yourself.
- Example: When one person has a “it’s not my fault, it’s your fault” attitude and/or statement.
- Stonewalling: This occurs when one (or both) shut down emotionally in the relationship. This process of shutting down creates a valley or great chasm in the relationship. This typically occurs when someone feels overwhelmed with emotion and is unsure how to deal with what’s going on inside them as well as what is happening in the relationship.
- Example: “Quietly sulking” is how some of my couples have described their partner stonewalling. They feel their spouse is “unreachable” even if they are sitting on the same couch or they wonder, “what universe are you in” but have that gut feeling they better not ask.
- Criticism: Talking about your spouse in ways that degrade or speak badly about his/her character.
- Prescription: Gottman states, from his research that the best way to cut the horsemen in relationships is to
- Start conversations gently instead of being critical
- Take personal responsibility instead of becoming defensive
- Talk about what your wants/needs are instead of becoming contemptuous
- Use deep breathing or other ways to calm down instead of stonewalling
Next, we will take a look at the last two ways to thrive in your marriage.
Until then, remember, YOU were made to THRIVE!
Several months ago I began to write this post on thriving in marriage and had to put it down. Some of it was technical issues, some of it was business with life (kids, holidays, you get it…right?), the rest of it was timing. It seemed like the time to finish this blog wasn’t then…..it’s now. There is something to be said about “the right timing”. We may not always understand the “why’s” to timing but it is important to respect the power of it. Respecting the right time for something goes hand in hand with learning how to thrive in life. As I pick up this post today, I am eerily aware how linked timing is in our ability to thrive. Like all fine art, time is our greatest asset. If you are unfamiliar, or perhaps forgot the premise of thriving in life, you can refresh your memory with the post on thriving here. Now, let’s jump back into Thriving: Marriage.
One of the best parts of being a therapist is working with couples during the “premarital” stage. These couples are so cute and cuddly….just like new-born babes. I want to pinch their cheeks and squeeze them in their snow white fantasies of what marriage is all about. These couples are typically crisp and clean like freshly fallen snow. No imperfections on their love. They are (literally, in some cases) floating on a cloud of love and truly believe, as the song goes, “love is all you need“.
Regrettably, these couples present about 1% of my annual population that I work with. For the most part, couples in love don’t see the need to come into my office. Remember….love is all we need. But more on that later.…..The more realistic picture is of a couple who has lost sight of their friendship and has been beaten down by the chronic briage of conflict life has dealt. They walk into my office with little to nothing left in the way of hope. They plop down on the sofa, kick their feet up (yes, my clients are really that relaxed) and want to pretend that this isn’t their life. They come in with the last ounce of strength that is in them, anxiously wanting relief from the pain and dreaming that the relief will come without having to file for divorce.
As we’ve pondered the song, “She Talks to Angels”, (I’ve discussed this song more in-depth in our launch post on thriving. You can read that here) I am struck by the sense of hopelessness that the song draws you into. That same feeling….that same sense of hopelessness is too often what couples come into therapy. Unlike she in the song, these couples take the courageous step to seek help.
Hopelessness, frustration, grief, anger, sadness, woundedness, feeling stuck are all ways to describe how and where we are. They are teachers, showing us what needs to change in order for growth, development, or dare I say it, the ability to prosper. THAT’S what it means to thrive…..to grow, to flourish, to develop something in a forward motion.
Relationships matter. People matter. YOU matter! Did you get that?? Out of every experience you have had in your life, whether good or bad, right or wrong, there is still a deep profound importance on YOUR life. Choosing to thrive means you have chosen to allow this truth to sink in and swallow you up from the deepest recesses of your soul and flow outwards. In the next couple weeks, I will be discussing 5 simple, albeit not easy, ways to thrive in marriage. Until then, remember, YOU were made to THRIVE!
We are in the middle of a series on thriving in life; thriving, meaning more than just surviving. When we discuss grief, the pain can become so overwhelming, most just *hope* someday the pain will diminish….knowing, that for it go completely away is unrealistic. The problem with this false hope is that it keeps someone from thriving and living life. When we survive our grief, we are choosing to walk through each day waiting for it to end. This isn’t living. To live is to thrive. To thrive is to see grief for what it is, a companion in life.
Life and grief are two companions on the same journey. You can not have one without the other.
Got a call from a friend the other day, she was devastated by news from her family, left feeling rejected and abandoned by those she has fought for and those she thought were fighting for her. Later, I discussed with a different friend, who is struggling with unexpected trauma with her children. She was left with feelings of anger and bewilderment towards those who caused such pain and those she is fighting to protect. Opened my Macbook that evening, scrolled through posts on Facebook and received a message of prayer and support for someone helping those who’ve been abused. I then read a story about someone who lost their home, their job, their health, their spouse, their faith……
Life is harsh. It is difficult. Sometimes it is just down right cruel. These times are best described as valleys, slumps. It’s not a matter of (IF) valley’s come into our life but (WHEN).
We will all walk through valleys in our life.
I recently heard someone say that, “grief is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter if you are poor or rich, white, black, healthy or sick, educated or not, at some point, we will all walk through loss”.
Coincidentally (if you believe in such things) over the past 2 weeks, I heard three speakers talk about such difficulties and have concluded that there is a benefit of grieving. This isn’t a magic trick or a silver bullet, nor am I attempting to pull one over on you. I sincerely believe and see that there is a benefit of grieving.
LOSS GIVES YOU DEPTH.
In order to experience depth from your loss, first realize that life and grief are two companions on the same journey. You can not have one without the other.
From LOSS to DEPTH:
1. Recognize that what (or who) I’ve lost is not my identity. Too many people walk around this earth searching for their purpose and meaning (i.e. who am I?) like they are being tossed around by waves during a storm.
2. Lean into good, safe people. Not sure what this looks like? Check out (here) a resource from Townsend/Cloud and their book, “Safe People”.
3. Express your feelings of anger, sadness, disappointment, etc. Holding these feelings in is a major contributor to health issues, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, heart problems, obesity, bitterness, resentment. Finding good people to share your pain and loss with will act as a release valve and prevent an eventual rupture (whether that rupture be external-onto those around you or internal-within yourself).
4. Grieving happens IN seasons of life. There are times when we think we are done grieving and a memory is triggered or a stage of life occurs and we are reminded of the pain….the loss…..the wound. When this occurs, remember that it’s ok-YOU are ok! This reminder or trigger, is letting you know that you have more grieving to do, it’s a reminder that you are still living.
5. Realize that THIS TO SHALL PASS. It doesn’t have to last forever. Too often we choose to keep our pain alive by making choices that feed it. Learn to work through (or thrive) through the loss instead of merely surviving the loss.
6. You can do it!! There is a quiet confidence that comes when we are able to thrive in life. In the Bible, in the book of Romans 3:3b-4a says, “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”. This type of hope lasts….its real….it endures.
“It is hard to have patience with people who say,ʿThere is no deathʾ and ʿDeath doesn’t matter.ʾ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.”
~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed~
Today, I was in one of my favorite stores doing a little shopping (kid free). It seemed peaceful to gather my merchandise while slowly strolling through the aisles. I walked up to the check-out line to find an adorable little 4 yr old girl screaming at the top of her lungs. Although, the tears strolling down her cheeks were bigger than the sound coming from her saddened heart. I’m not really sure what set off this melt-down for her, and to be honest, her melt-down isn’t the focus of what I’m about to share. It’s what came next that struck me square in the chest. Within the few minutes I was standing in line, I heard three responses to this child (who was deeply troubled by something).
(1) Response from Mom: “I”m staying at home right now to be with my kids but I’m thinking it would be best for us all if I just go back to work”.
(2) Response from the cashier: “Some kids are just trouble”.
(3) Response from a bystander mom: “Been there. I hate those days”.
I walked out of the store, feeling deeply saddened and wondered: Is this when orphans are born? Is this when it starts…the feeling of, “she’ll tell you she’s an orphan after you meet her family?” (If you are unsure what I am referring to, please read my last blog post, “She Talks to Angels”). None of these women seemed to have any sense of the little girl except that her embarrassing display of emotion needed to stop.
We are taught how to SURVIVE parenting. We are not taught how to THRIVE as parents!
Before I go into thriving as parents, let me pause and state that parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is the toughest job on the planet! Being a Mom of 3, I’ve had my own challenging, knock-down, drag-out moments. This is called being human. We make mistakes; perfect people don’t exist. This post is not intended to judge any particular parent. If you can relate-Good! Hopefully, this will help you as you raise your beautiful babies! The information I am about to share is not simply opinion or personal experience, it is research based, time-tested information to help you start THRIVING.
Parents who THRIVE are:
1. Aware of their child’s negative feelings. This includes grocery store meltdowns.
- Being sensitive to these emotions invites the child to turn towards the parent as a trustworthy source of comfort and love.
2. Able to set limits on their child’s behaviors.
- They realize that just because my kid feels strongly about something does not give him/her the right to act out.
- They recognize these moments as teachable moments to help guide their precious little ones through the rocky waves of emotion.
3. Parents who help guide their kids to put words to their emotions….in other words, they help the child name what they are feeling.
- It’s difficult to deal with something that we are not aware of. My son could be deeply hurt that his buddy canceled a play date at the last-minute and not know how to communicate that to me. Helping him label his hurt (which is the hidden emotion driving his anger; which is what you are seeing) is giving him the skills necessary to move towards acceptance of the fact his buddy won’t be coming over.
4. Able to empathize with their children’s emotions, or they help their kid know they see why they feel the way they do.
- Understanding and validating our kids emotions is not agreeing with the emotion.
- No one is able to hear an alternative perspective if we do not first feel heard (i.e. understood).
5. Able to aid their kid’s into finding solutions to their problems-NOT solving their child’s problems.
- Asking questions like, “What might be a better way to….”, “How else could you…..”, “What would another solution to….be”, etc.
The million dollar questions is, “HOW do I do this”??
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could wave a magic wand and within seconds we can be exactly what our kids need? On the days when we are throughly exhausted and want to just.give.up, it would be wonderful to have that magic wand.
The reality is that we will make mistakes. We will not be perfect. The simple answer is that we need to learn to take care of ourselves (emotionally) before we can teach our kids.
Here are three simple (albeit, not easy) steps to get you started:
1. Thriving means choosing to walk through the storm of emotion instead of going around it. Choosing to thrive means that I’m choosing to get to the other side of ____(fill in the blank with conflict, hurt, pain, etc.)________ to flourish, to prosper.
- I do this by recognizing my own feelings that come up for me when my child has strong emotions her/himself. If I am invited to avoid, yell, punish, etc. my child’s emotion…I need to ask myself, “What’s going on inside of me that I want to avoid, yell, punish, etc.?”
2. Thriving means finding meaning in the storm. Dr. Clinton & Sibcy, in their book, Why You Do the Things You Do, share a story about resiliency, “Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist held in a German concentration camp during World War II. He found that those who were able to survive, both physically and psychologically were those who did not give up hope, those who persisted and even thrived in their capacity-were those who were able to find meaning in their suffering” (p.63).
- What’s the meaning behind the emotion? Can I see my child’s emotion as an opportunity to train, to teach him/her or do I see their emotion as threatening to me (i.e. my own sense of failure)?
3. Thriving means relationships. We are not meant to walk through life alone (i.e. none of us are islands unto ourselves) and we desperately need these relationships to both encourage and challenge us.
- The Bible shares with us that, “Two are better than one because if one falls down, the other can help them up” Ecc. 4:10.
Below is a couple of books that I’ve either quoted or mentioned in today’s post that could help you grow in this area of parenting. Also is listed some of the benefits from this Parenting approach. Please feel free to give me a call or contact me through my website if you would like someone to walk with you through this at www.cfmft.com
1. Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by Dr. John Gottman
- Gottman’s book is a fabulous read!! Especially if you like research and making those connections.
2. Why You Do The Things You Do by Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy
- Clinton & Sibcy take Gottman’s research (as well as other research on attachment) and frame it in a biblical worldview. Great & easy read!!
Parents who thrive are also called, Emotion Coaches. Gottman states that when we connect with our kids during emotional moments (which he calls magical moments) gives us (parents) the opportunity to influence our kids in how they feel about themselves and how they feel about the world. Through the research of the Gottman Institute, we know that children whose parents are thriving in their parenting are kids who:
- Make better grades and enjoy learning more
- Are sick less often and have fewer trips to the doctor
- Are more socially aware in their peer groups; better able to make and keep friends
- More emotionally stable. These kids are able to deal with positive & negative emotions
- Have less behavior problems. These kids have less issues with authorities &/or other kids.
For months now, I’ve had the song She Talks to Angels ruminating around in my head…or maybe more appropriately, my heart. The song was released in 1990 and I’ve yet (though I’m sure they are out there) to meet anyone who has not been touched by the lyrics. Please note, I am not recommending, supporting or agreeing with the band, The Black Crows, I want to draw on an interesting piece that many seem to resonate with.
If you have not heard the song, click here and you can listen to it on YouTube. A quick research of the song gives a pretty shared perspective that the song talks about a gothic girl and her addiction. I want to invite you go deeper. When you truly listen to the words describing the girl, you hear a brokenness. You feel her loneliness. You sense her pain. The words that keep playing over and over in my mind is,
“Yeah, she’ll tell you she’s an orphan
after you meet her family“
Too many people feel this loneliness deep inside them. They are surrounded by people (family, friends, etc) and yet are absolutely lonely. The pain in life can become so overwhelming that any escape is a good thing. Too often, we expect our family and friends to be there when we need to be caught, and yet, we find ourselves alone….and more deeply we become lonely in our hopeless despair. This is what I hear in the song. Hopeless despair. A girl who is walking around, living life lost.
Have you ever felt this way?
Life can be cruel and punishing. Even those who are not painting their “eyes as black as night” and put on a mask of happiness, the heart does not lie nor is it prejudice. There are few in life who have not experienced this level of pain. Knowing this, I believe it’s not just women who relate to this darkened girl but men as well. This feeling of hopeless despair is a universal issue that we must all face….regardless of age, gender, race, culture, economics, etc.
This is a human condition. Something we each will either struggle with, know someone who has struggled with….or, do I dare say, who is currently struggling with.
This is WHY we relate to this song. If we are honest with ourselves, we get what it means to be in pain, to experience loneliness, to experience the worst of this thing we call LIFE.
Thankfully, the song, just like life, doesn’t end here. When we least expect it, the most dangerous and risky thing occurs-HOPE. Nothing is truly as dangerous in life as hope. The danger comes in the unfathomable level of risk.
There are two sides: Pain & Hope. They go together….that’s what makes Hope dangerous. Choosing to enter hope means choosing to risk more pain. When I face pain, instead of shrinking to it, I’m choosing to thrive in life, not just survive.
Many survive. Few thrive.
Come with me and let’s discover the fine art of thriving.
My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.
Today is February, 14th, or more commonly known as Valentine’s Day to most of Western Society. However, if you are not in a committed relationship, this may be one of the most painful day’s of the year. Having been married for *** years, I really have not considered the thought that this money-making holiday disguised as love could actually be a day that poured salt into their wounds.
What if we were to reclaim and rename this holiday not as a day just for lovers but a day for relationship? What if we were to look at Feb. 14th as a day to show those whom we are in a relationship with that they are important to us? What if we rewrite what it means to grow and claim the most important relationships in our lives as ones that are in our family & close friendships?
What does this word mean to you?
For so many, it’s a word that elicits a desire for something more than they’ve ever known, and produces memories of hurt and sadness.
This is NOT what our Lord intended it to mean. If pain is a result of sin (which it is) then the pain in broken relationships is also a result of sin & breaks the heart of God.
With Valentines Day approaching, show appreciation & gratitude to those who are willing to forgive and allow God to develop something more in your relational life than what the world has to offer.
TODAY, Be the Friend You Need.
- Not everyone knows how to be a friend. How I show I care is often by picking up a card or giving a small token of appreciation. One of my closest friends would prefer to show me she cares by coming over and cleaning my house (which, I really don’t ever turn down). The point is, “being a friend” may look different to each person. This is where the true core of relationships hits home. Recognizing that mistakes happen, hurt occurs, and not everything is personal. Allowing me to develop a level of relationship I wouldn’t be able to meet if I put everyone in a box and expected perfection and complete devotion.
- Not everyone should be our friend. Why is that? Because we do not hold the capacity to attend to each person that enters our life. There are people who come into our life that are there for a season. There are people who come in and out of our lives like a revolving door. Then there are those who come into our lives and stick. It’s the fortunate ones who have people stick that truly know the joys of intimacy.
Are you looking forward into this new year with anticipation or anxiety? Maybe you are looking back into last year with regrets and wishes….or, are you hopeful for what is to come or fearful of what may be?
Most of us land somewhere between the two extremes. We end the year with regrets and wishes and look forward with anticipation and anxiety to what is to come. With such a heavy bag of mixed emotions, it is no wonder many of us will abandon our “resolutions” a week into the new year. One article I read stated that less than 20% of adults over the age 50 even make resolutions in the new year.
If you are determined that this year is the year you are going to succeed in your resolutions, here are 3 steps to keeping you on-track:
1. Be Realistic.
When setting a goal, select goals that are attainable. If the goal is too big or challenging to get, it is likely you will become discouraged when you notice you are not making the progress you believe you should make.
2. Be Flexible.
When working on a goal, realize that a day may come where you are not achieving what you thought you should be able to achieve and be willing to adjust the goal appropriately. Last year, I made a goal to run a 5k. This was before injuries and illness. Being flexible allowed me to keep up a goal of running without the disappointment in of not being able to run a 5k.
3. Be Forgiving.
When working on goals that we set for ourselves, remember to be forgiving. Training in an area of our lives takes growth. Growth takes perseverance. perseverance in myself takes a good spoonful of forgiveness (PS- This works with others in our lives as well!!).
4. Be Accountable.
This may be one of the hardest, which is why it is also the last. Maintaining safe relationships in our lives requires a good deal of accountability. Allowing our “safe people” to hold us accountable to the progress we are making in our goals will not just motivate us to succeed but also cheer us on towards our goal.
Encouragement from the Past
- “The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year, but rather that we should have a new soul.” —G.K. Chesterton
- “Maybe this year, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for flaws, but looking for potential.” —Ellen Goodman
- “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain
- “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” —Walt Disney
- “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” —Henry Ford
There is a lot of talk recently about the importance of our genes and DNA in therapy and working with couples. The how’s and why’s to this field of science is fascinating and to be honest, way over my head! So, when I saw that The Smalley Institute put out a book about the DNA of relationships, I was more than intrigued. What surprised me was what I read. Instead of a scientific book filled with numbers and studies, I found a novel. While the novel is not intended for the Clinician, per se, it is filled with examples of “how to” from a theoretical position.
The premise of this book is to walk you, the reader, through a weekend therapy intensive with four different couples. The authors literally invite you into not just the therapy room but the inner thoughts of each person.
The couples range from the brink of divorce to those committed to living as roommates. Some of the people have had affairs, others have lost themselves in work. All of them don’t feel loved or wanted within their marriage and are wearing their wounds on their sleeves. They all range from different ethnic groups to different economic groups. Some are full-time professionals, others are stay at home-mom’s, etc.
Why You Should Read This Book
- Both the authors do a good job of intermixing their own stories (failures and successes) into their work to illustrate the principles they want the reader to learn, which could help the reader feel connected to the authors.
- It is an easy read book, practical with many opportunities for application. Each chapter leaves you wanting to know what happens next to the people participating in the retreat. By the end of the book, you feel as if you know the couples and have some emotional investment in their lives.
- If you are looking for a book to start your new year off with that is engaging and challenging in your relationship, this may be the one for you. BUT, don’t be fooled!! This book will not just challenge your relationship with your spouse, it will also challenge all your other relationships as well.
Why You Should NOT Read This Book
- The authors are both Christians and blend their faith throughout the book. They hit some pretty hot topics in the book with infidelity, forgiveness, fear, shame, identity and faith. It is not a read for the faint of heart.
- While the examples and tools given in this book are concrete and practical, they may not be easy to apply. Someone reading this may become more frustrated and discouraged with their relationship as a result of reading this book and may find themselves in a place of crisis.
- If you are unwilling to make such a brave move in your relationship, then this book may not be for you.
This is a well written book that is chock full of information that is valuable to any relationship at any level. A happily married couple will be just as challenged as one that is one the brink of divorce. The information in this novel could also be of benefit to the single person who is looking at getting back into a relationship as well. In other words, no matter what your relationship status is, there will be words of comfort, words of challenge, words of insight in this novel.
After all, there is no perfect relationship….right?? And relationships are worth fighting for….right?? One of my favorite quotes from researcher John Gottman is, “marriage is meant to grow you up”. Do you believe that as well??
I’d love to hear your thoughts!!
Have you read this book?
If so, did you find it helpful?
Our last post focused on how communication can be derailed by roadblocks. Today, we are going to discuss a few ways to dismantle those roadblocks. If you would like a quick refresher on part one, you can read that here.
Taking these roadblocks down and removing them from our relationships is at the heart of communicating effectively with our spouse (or anyone for that matter). The success of this is the understanding that it takes a team. Below are 5 steps to take in dismantling the above roadblocks:
1. Slow down & don’t rush into the conversation.
We often times rush into conversations to get rid of the yucky feelings we are experiencing. When we slow down, we are better able to recognize what buttons got pushed for us and establish what our goal is in the discussion. Asking myself, “what do I want at the end of this?” can be a great guide. But, in order to get there, I need to take care of myself first (i.e. self care, relax, deep breath, etc.) Without this, we typically respond emotionally and hastily.
2. Actions speak louder than words.
Remember the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote earlier on? What I do or don’t do will communicate to my spouse an entire diatribe without one word being spoken. In some cases, facial expressions scream at us in ways we are not aware of. When I was a teenager, my Father would often say to me, “if looks could kill, I’d be dead”. It wasn’t until I heard similar words from my husband that I realized what I was displaying on my face is not the message I wanted to convey.
3. Seek a Win-Win in each conversation
In order to be on a team that win’s, I need to realize that I do not win when my spouse loses; either we win together or we lose together. When we “win” together, we are both able to hear our spouse from the heart. This occurs when I hear not just the words but what my spouse is feeling deeply. Then, once I understand that and I allow this to touch me, our communication takes on a very different tone. Empathy, validation and trust are some of the hallmarks of this type of rich communication.
4. Safety First
When we are able to approach a conversation knowing that we both value each other and what our goal is, then we avoid hitting buttons of rejection, shame, or feeling attacked. Creating an environment of safety in our marriage also helps keep defenses down and allows our hearts to be open to hear what our spouse has to say.
5. Expect Mistakes & Prepare to Repair
Mistakes happen. It’s part of being human. Our choice is to either learn from the mistakes and move forward or ignore/hide/deny them and take steps backwards. There is no middle ground on this one. Dr. Greg Smalley & Dr. Bob Paul state it this way, in their book The DNA of Relationships for Couples, “We get the best use out of communication tools by adapting them for our own style and personal bent-and that requires a lot of trial and error”. As part of the trial and error process, seeking and extending forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools we have.
John Gottman in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work speaks about the need for repair in our marital communication. Simply put, a repair attempt is anything we do to bring down the level of tension between us. Unfortunetly, these often go unnoticed in our conversations. You can prepare your repair by talking with your spouse about what helps you to calm down and about how your spouse calms down as well. When I was a newlywed, I didn’t realize or notice my groom ability to make me laugh when we were in the middle of a “discussion” as a repair attempt. Once I put 2 & 2 together, we discussed it and I came to understand that this was his way of saying, “WHOA! Let’s bring this down a couple notches”. The meaning behind this is care and concern instead of my initial assumption of avoidance. Realizing this and putting the appropriate meaning on his actions helped continue our conversation without either one of us walking away wounded. By the way, this is where team work comes into play and repairing is the responsibility is one both spouses.
As always, if you believe that you are still feeling stuck, please contact myself or another therapist to help you navigate through this time. You can do this and you are worth it to move.forward!!
Today we are going to break down one of the most powerful myths: All We Need is Better Communication.
Communication is crucial in every aspect of our lives. We not only need communication, we can not live without it. Before we get into all that, let’s define what communication is because, what makes this myth so powerful, is that it may be true.
Webster’s Dictionary gives us a pretty good outline of how we communicate. To simplify the definition, there are two ways we express our thoughts, feelings and/or ideas: Verbally and Nonverbally. We can even go a little further and break down the nonverbal into behaviors, expressions, body language and so on.
The point is, we use many forms to communicate what we are feeling and thinking. Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say”. Over the years, there have been articles and studies out about the effect of babies in orphanages who die with little to no touch. Other studies show a babies response to their Mother’s nonverbal communication and the conflict the baby experiences. Both of these give ample example of how rich and deep Emerson’s statement is expressing.
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone where what they are not saying is screaming at you while what they are saying goes unheard? Often times, this situation is more common than any of us would like to admit. In today’s day with the multiple ways we “communicate” via technology, the subtle cues get missed more often than ever before. Just the other day, I was texting with a friend and mistook a joke for something serious, thus responding seriously and asking my friend questions out of concern because of my misguided belief. How embarrassed I was to discover the ‘mis’ in our communication. The truth is that these types of misses happen daily for some and more than that for others. The point is that it is not so much whether we are communicating, but how we communicate that makes the biggest impact in our relationships.
Here are a few of the most common roadblocks to effective communication:
I don’t know what I want to get out of this.
Understanding what my goal is in the conversation will help guide me towards how I communicate.
- If my goal is power/control instead of care/concern, then my nonverbals will communicate that goal.
- If my goal is to win then my spouse is sure to lose.
I am scared of upsetting my spouse
Fear is one of the greatest roadblocks in relationships and life. Our fear may come from concern for our spouse or it may come from our concern for my self. No matter what the root of my fear is, when I allow myself to be stuck in this place, I have become paralyzed and ineffective in my most valued relationships.
I don’t want to get emotional
The desire to not become emotional myself comes from our feelings of being hurt-or-our perception that I will be hurt. If this is my concern, then what I’m really saying is that I don’t trust my spouse to be able to handle my deepest vulnerabilities.
We could communicate better if my spouse would _(fill in the blank with how your spouse needs to change)_.
Denying any ownership on our part is one of the easiest ways to avoid our own growth. Ken Sande states in his book, Peacemakers, “if I have 2% responsibility for a conflict, then I need to own that 2%, 100% of the time”. It is much harder to recognize what my part is then someone else’s. We all have room to grow. I am only responsible for my part. When I try to carry my spouses part, I will fail. I can not make her change, nor can I do it for him.
Next Up- Part 2: Dismantling the Roadblocks to Communication
If you missed the first 3 Myth’s in this series, here is a quick update:
- Marriage Myth #1: Marriage Shouldn’t be difficult we discussed the underlying meaning that some couples have that if they were meant to be together, then their relationship would be conflict free. We tackled this myth by realizing the truth that marriage is difficult and that by valuing my spouse helps us navigate through the rocky seasons of life. You can read more on myth #1 here.
- Marriage Myth #2: My Marriage Should Make Me Happy we discussed how to grow happiness in our marriage instead of believing the myth that happiness should be expected from our spouse. You can read more on myth #2 here.
- Marriage Myth #3: My Spouse Should Know What I Need we discussed how unmet expectations can weasel their way into our marriages preventing our needs to be met. You can read more on myth #3 here.
As always, if you believe that you are still feeling stuck, please contact myself or another therapist to help you navigate through this time. You can do this and you are worth it to move.forward!!
The first two post in this series was about how our marriage shouldn’t be difficult (you can read it here) and how our marriage is supposed to make us happy (read it here). Today, in this post, we are going to explore a different misconception that can occur in marriage: My spouse should know what I need, or, as I like to say, my spouse should have a crystal ball or at least be able to read my mind.
There are countless books available about marriage and being in a relationship. The majority of them probably have some really good things to say marriage, while others may not be the best books to read. Regardless of whether you have read one or hundreds, that you are reading this post leads me to believe you have probably not discovered what you are looking for.
Most of us marry our spouses with an amount of unspoken expectations. Whether it be someone to take care of us and protect us the way we wished our parents would have or someone to be a companion or even someone to simply kill spiders in your home, we all have them. Simply having these unspoken expectations is not necessarily bad or wrong nor are they even harmful to our marriages.
Fact #1: We all have unspoken expectations when we enter a relationship.
On the flip side, having unspoken expectations may lead to a lifetime of disappointment and hurt. Like most things in life, there is both a plus and a minus with expectations. The key to dealing with unspoken expectations is to SPEAK them. Say them out loud, write them down, talk them through. Allow what has been hidden to come into the light. Take what is holding you back and release it. Allow what is keeping you stuck to set you free. Many things can hold us back from recognizing our unspoken expectations. A main reason to not deal with unspoken expectations is fear of pain.
Fact #2: A main reason to not deal with unspoken expectations is fear of pain.
Fear is the driver of many failed relationship. When you add pain to your fear, a person may feel unable to think clearly let alone speak openly with their spouse. What fear communicates to you is that the other person should know what your thinking, what your *sigh* means, why you do what you do, and so on. Fear tells us that there is more of a negative result than benefit to ________________ (fill in the blank). So, it seems natural to just expect our spouse to know what we need. Besides, he/she will forgive me…right?
Fact #3: It seems natural to just expect our spouse to know what we need.
The funny thing is with us humans, what necessarily seems natural may not be natural. Each culture has a different way of dealing with things that might seem natural to them. When I was in China, I learned that it was natural to blow your nose while holding one nostril closed and blowing out the other, instead of using a tissue to blow your nose. One blogger I read stated that when he visited Switzerland, the people in that culture blew their noses with a loud foghorn style. The truth is that I need to teach my spouse what I need (and for that matter, I may need to teach myself what I need) instead of assuming or expecting him/her to just know.
Fact #4: I need to teach my spouse (& for that matter, myself) what I need instead of assuming or expecting them to just know.
Yes! My Needs Can Be Met!! Here are 5 ways to begin!
1. Recognize that pain is my teacher. It teaches me where I am wounded, where I am healing, where my boundaries are and what I need/don’t need from my spouse.
2. Be realistic & curious with yourself (& your spouse). If you are unaware of what you need and why you need it, your spouse will have no clue. He is not a mind-reader and she does not have a crystal ball. Our spouses learn from us and we learn from them. Being realistic about this will empower the marriage to curious instead of defensive when having needs met.
3. Be flexible and transparent with your spouse when you recognize that you were hurt and what you learned from that hurt.
4. Understand that your spouse is walking through life in a similar fashion. Be willing to accept his/her influence on where his/her hurts and needs may be.
5. The hero in a relationship is the person who has only 2% responsibility in a situation and owns that 2%, 100% of the time! In other words, when I can take responsibility for a misunderstanding in my marriage and extent grace and forgiveness, then I am being the hero my marriage (and probably my spouse) needs.
Ask Yourself: How curious am I to where my spouse needs are -or- am I just reactive to my spouse’s pain?
Maybe if we approach our spouse with more curiosity & less frustration (i.e. unmet, unspoken expectations) we will discover our needs being met….hhhmmm, something to think about……
As always, if you believe that you are still feeling stuck, please contact myself or another therapist to help you navigate through this time. You can do this and you are worth it to move.forward!!
The second marriage myth that I often hear is the belief that getting married will result in a life of happiness. Somehow, somewhere, some of us grow up thinking, believing that it is our right to expect our spouse to produce happiness for us in life. When that doesn’t occur, it seems as if the marriage begins to suffer. We become disappointed with our spouse over their lack to produce happiness for us.
This belief seems to be rooted in an unrealistic expectation that sets us up for eventual failure. It is impossible for one human being to produce a lifetime of happiness for someone else. We seem to struggle with the ability to provide a life of happiness for ourselves, let alone take on the monumental task of providing this for someone else. We all make mistakes that can hurt and/or disappoint someone else. Beyond that, no one person has everything needed for someone else.
One common time that this myth seems to plop on our doorstep is when a hurricane size problem sabotages our day without a discriminating thought. Life will toss and turn us upside-down and topsy-turvy in a blink of an eye. When this happens, a torrent of emotion gets stirred inside, and rightly so! When I’m faced with the loss of a job or a child, when a loved one becomes ill, when we are involved in a car accident, or our checking account found itself in the red because the car unexpectedly dies we would expect to have several strong emotions (anger, frustration, sadness, depression, etc.). Sometimes when life takes turns like this a person struggles to climb out of their strong emotions and gets stuck in them. It’s at this moment, one spouse looks at the other and says, “you are not making me happy”.
But I want to be happy!!
Who doesn’t?! We all want happiness in our lives. Happiness is not discovered or acquired because of my spouse, it is the result of what I have with my spouse. Have you ever heard the statement, “The grass is greener on the other side”? Well, what if it isn’t? What if the more accurate statement is that the grass is greener where you water it? The truth is this: When I cultivate my marriage, then by definition, I will be watering my own grass, thus, producing my own happiness. However, there is a secondary consequence to this. When I choose to work on this and discover happiness within my marriage, my spouse is affected by that. This then causes my spouse to work towards the same end, affecting me in the same way. As a result, we have both come full circle, thus creating happiness in our marriage.
The 1st step to growing anything is realizing what you want to grow and coming up with a list of tools necessary to grow it. 2nd, it’s important to know how to cultivate your relationship. 3rd, it’s understanding that the truth of any goal is to keep moving forward towards your goal and as you move forward, learn from the mistakes that will occur.
4 Tools for Growth
- Appreciation~ Researcher & relationship expert, John Gottman cites appreciation as one of the key tools in overcoming criticism and discontent in marriages. He states that marriages that are succeeding are ones that are intentional about communicating and demonstrating appreciation in their marriages.
- Forgiveness~ Ruth Graham Bell states, “A good marriage is made up of two really good forgivers”. Often times, it is difficult for us to forgive those who have wounded us, not with the minor issues but, as Max Lucado states, “with the Darth Vaders” in our life. Understanding forgiveness is not an event but a journey that we choose to take because the person in our life is worth it!
- Openness~ Chap Clark states that most 14 yr old-21yr olds struggle with not belonging. He goes on to state, “It’s better to treat you poorly, than to risk treating you well”. I wonder how many of us continue to see all relationships through this lens. It’s difficult to be vulnerable, open, to risk showing my deepest parts of myself to others (even the one person I vow to love and cherish) when I truly believe no one is safe or trustworthy in this manner. Successful couples in relationship choose to believe and work on developing an inner trust with the other. They are not just comfortable being physically naked with the other, they are also comfortable (or at least open to becoming) with emotionally naked with the other.
- Attitude~ John Maxwell stated years ago that life is made up of 90% what I make of it and only 10% of what happens to us. Let’s assume that Maxwell actually knows what he is talking about and take this as true. If 90% of my life is what I make of it, then that would lead me to assume that I can choose the attitude and perspective I want on a situation. There will be some where I am justified in how I see something (and thus, emotionally respond) and then there will be times where I am not justified. REGARDLESS of the justification, I still have the power within myself to choose my attitude.
Do or Do Not, There is No Try~ Yoda
Remember the last step in growing?
Mistakes happen. We are human. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Isn’t that why professional athletes have training season’s before they start the regular season? When I train and decide to grow in any area of my life, I need to accept this as fact and be willing to move.forward. Then you will see, you will feel, you will discover happiness is the result of the hard work and sacrifice towards that person walking this crazy thing called life with you.
Over the years, I have worked with many couples who come into marital therapy believing (and thus, behaving) based on a myth that is wrecking havoc in their marriage. The funny thing about myths is that you may not even know you believe in one until the myth becomes challenged or is creating problems in your relationship.
This first myth, Marriage Shouldn’t be Difficult, comes from a common belief that I’ve heard from couples who believe that if people are meant to be together then they will get along, will have no conflict, will agree on most everything and live this wonderful Norman Rockwell picture of happiness complete with the two kids and white picket fence. Ok, so the image may not be that extreme, however, the feelings (peace, contentment, happiness) that go along with this myth is alive and real for most.
First, let’s take a look at, a few, of the underlying messages that make this myth come alive:
1. If my marriage is easy, then I am a good person -or- If my marriage is difficult, then there must be something wrong with me. In this message, we tend to make the appearance of having a good marriage our identity. What we inevitably do is deny or avoid when cracks arise that need to be dealt with.
2. If my marriage is doing ok, then I feel secure and safe -or- If my marriage is struggling, then I feel insecure and unbalanced. A safe marriage is not found in whether we are “doing ok” or not. Safety in a relationship is discovered when two people can intimately share vulnerabilities together and know that they are (1) Loved (2) My spouse will be there for me when I need him/her.
3. If my marriage is in conflict, then maybe I chose the wrong person -or- If my marriage is happy then I made a good match. Questioning whether I made a good choice in a partner because we have difficulties or differences is averting my focus from where it needs to be….on the marriage!
4. If marriage is difficult, then there is nothing that can be done -or- If my marriage is flawed, then I need to make the best out of it. After all, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade…right?? The perspective that change is hopeless confirms the hopeless feelings we have. When we choose to compassionately reach towards our spouse to forgive, heal and work through the issues, hope is not elusive, it is obtainable. The key here is that both people need to be willing to step towards and risk instead of stepping away and staying guarded.
Question: What else in your life do you value that you believe you do not have to work hard to develop?
Defining marriage as good because it seems to be easy or problem free is like saying that I have a good guard dog because he sits around while a burglar robs me blind. Stating that marriage is healthy because we always agree is like saying I want to run a marathon next month and then only watch shows on TV about how people run marathons. Either way, you will not achieve what you want.
The Truth: At times, marriage will be difficult.
I’m not saying that it will always be difficult as much as I’m saying it’s important to acknowledge that if I want a healthy marriage, sometimes that means conflict. Acknowledging the moments of conflict, of unrest is acknowledging our humanity. Our ability to make mistakes. Our ability to grow from the lessons of our pain. John Gottman says, “Marriage is meant to grow you up”. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. This means that my spouse will challenge me to grow in ways that I would not have been able to without him/her in my life.
The Answer: Choosing to value my marriage and learn from my spouse will help my marriage navigate through the difficult seasons of life.
I choose to value my marriage when:
1. I allow my spouse to be influential in my life.
2. I adopt an attitude of studying and learning who my spouse is.
3. I remember the prize of forgiveness. Ruth Graham Bell once said, “A good marriage is made up of two good forgivers”.
4. I work at emotionally connecting with my spouse everyday.
Can you or someone you know identify with this myth? It’s ok if you do. In fact, that’s great if you can! Now that you know this, you can start working on changing the culture of your marriage into one of connecting and growing.
The more emotionally intelligent a couple—the better able they are to understand, honor, and respect each other and their marriage—the more likely that they will indeed live happily ever after.
-John Gottman, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
Next week: Marriage Myth #2: My Marriage Is Suppose To Make Me Happy
Some day’s, as a parent, you just want to sit. Sleep. Relax. You are exhausted. You think you just can’t take anymore in. Life is overwhelming, frustrating, confusing. And then, in comes your beautiful child, beaming with energy and asking, “Can we ……?” and your response, “not today, honey”. Then, like a flash flood, you are hit with feelings of guilt at turning down your precious child but your body is revolting against you and you just sit. Not moving. The idea that I know I need to get up and interact with my child is far away from the action of getting up and interacting with my child.
Here’s the problem. Your child will not question your devotion or love for him/her when the above occurs occasionally. In fact, it may even be helpful for your child to learn the importance of saying “no” in a relationship and setting limits. When this occurs frequently, it can set up a sense of insecurity in our kids. That insecurity then takes root and can impact the relationship long-term. Asking, “can we….” and being turned away sets up a feeling of rejection. Which, left unchecked can grow into a nasty weed in a person’s life. At the root of that nasty weed insecurity is asking, “If I can’t trust that you will be there for me when I need you for play time, can I trust that you will be there for me when I really need you?”.
Often times, when it’s brought to light how deep this goes, the other person may attempt to minimize the feelings of insecurity and rejection by statements like, “What, so I can’t be tired?!” or “Seriously, I just needed some down time” or “Just because I didn’t want to play with you doesn’t mean I don’t care”. These statements, while true (yes, you are allowed to be tired, or take a nap or care), have more to say about me then the child. These statements say I am feeling defensive or attacked. Maybe the meaning of these statements is that I don’t know how to respond. Or, maybe these statements mean that I am hurt that you are hurt and just want it all to go away. There are many meanings we can place on why I said what I said. Again, the point is that these statements speak about me, not my child.
We are all running a hundred miles an hour attempting to live life. The amount of responsibilities we have to carry out from day-to-day is exhausting for anyone to think about. No one is going to blame or not understand the need for some down time or time to just relax. Like it or not, we are not perfect but flawed humans. Mistakes are a part of life….well, let’s be real. Mistakes are a part of life that we attempt to avoid and resist. However, if we truly look at and deal with our flaw-ness, then we can truly teach our children how to deal with theirs.
In order to do that, we need to ask ourself one very important question:
Who do I want my child to be at 18 years of age, when they are considered an adult?
The answer to this question is our blueprint or guideline for how, when, and in what way we engage our kids. Let’s say that I want my child to be a secure adult who knows that I am there for him/her no.matter.what. If this is the case, then when I am approached with, “Can we….” then my response will be guided by my blueprint. Thus, it may sound something like, “Sure! How about in 10 minutes. I need to rest for just a bit” or “Ok. Can we do that over here? I had a super rough day today” or “Absolutely! Let’s do that for 15 minutes and then I need to sit for a while. I had a long day today!” or you get the idea.
There are times when we simply can not engage our kiddos when they want. At that point, when it’s occasional (versus frequent), reminding them of their importance is what is key. Verbally stating instead of assuming our kids know we care goes a lot further in the development of our relationship with them.
There are also 3-Yes, only 3-magic words that heals wounds quickly. Those words are: I AM SORRY. There is only one trick with these magic words. They must be said with all sincerity. You will notice that at the end of these three words is a period, not the word but. If the relationship is important, sometimes, we are sorry and apologize not because we intended to hurt or cause pain but because saying “I’m sorry” brings sweet relief to the pain.
Next time you come home after a long hard day, ask yourself, “When my child comes up to me after I just sat down to relax to play, what’s my long-term goal?”
Oh! PS- Think this only applies to parents and children? Think again. Our spouses ask the same questions. After all, where do you think they learned it from??
Over the past several weeks, many have asked me why this conference was one I felt I had to attend. Over and over I did my best to express my seeking, longing for deeper more meaningful relationships. This past week, I had the privilege of attending the Johnson-Gottman Summit in Seattle, Washington. The summit is the first time the Gottman’s and Johnson were publicly together discussing their theories; similarities, differences and application. For most, it probably sounds pretty boring but for me, it was riveting. There were 1200 therapists in one auditorium from not just our country but also many from over sea’s. The idea that we can all come from different cultural perspectives to listen and learn from those who are striving to understand the how’s and why’s relationships thrive is unthinkable to me. I felt overwhelmed with joy~like a kid on Christmas morning.
There is something about learning that has always fascinated me. Don’t get me wrong, learning is not easy nor natural for me. However, I like the challenge, the opportunity to figure something out that may not make sense. Since Graduate school, I have loved the idea of being able to reach others and help present them the opportunity to heal and grow from their deepest wounds.
To be honest with you, becoming a therapist was disappointing at times. It seemed like I’ve been on the verge of helping many people but with no success. The goals seemed elusive and healing seemed just-out-of-reach. As frustrating as that was for me, I have to imagine it was even more so for those who came to see me, expecting to walk out of therapy “transformed”.
I was introduced to the research of Dr. John Gottman in graduate school with his book, “The Marriage Clinic”. The research he presented in this 500+ page book captivated me. I loved the idea that we could not just understand but teach couples what was causing the conflict in their lives and help them strive for deeper more meaning relationships. I eagerly incorporated his findings into practice as soon as my feet hit the ground after graduation. The disappointment came in not seeing the transformation I expected.
So, I moved forward…moved on. Still clinging to my systemic roots (read this if you are unsure of the systems perspective in therapy). I begun seeking more because my heart knew there was more to this. The information Gottman’s research gave us is available, yes, but it just wasn’t getting to the heart of the matter.
Enter stage Left: Sue Johnson and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. My introduction to the work of Sue Johnson in grad school was not just minimal, it was minimized. As was her theory in most therapeutic circles. Johnson was taking theory based on children attachment and applying it to adults. And if that wasn’t enough, she was encouraging change through emotions first instead of thinking. This seemed to fly in the face of several decades of theory from some very prominent people in the psychology field. Personally, I was taught year after year in graduate school how our feelings need to be down played in session so we can help our Client’s understand and change their thinking, because in changing thinking we will be helping them make life long changes. Yet, it seemed like for some, this approach was helpful and for others, it didn’t even seem to scratch the surface. Thus my fascination grew into how these two models could be adapted and used to help others.
The icing on the cake for me was when I read research proving the effectiveness of these models:
- Research on Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy shows that couples who attend about 8-20 sessions show a significant move (70-75%) towards obtaining goals for therapy.
- Gottman’s research has given evidence (90% accuracy) as to the how’s couples move from happily~ever~after to divorce court.
As I left the summit, I didn’t just leave with resources, books, and a bag of skills. I left with confidence in what my heart had known for years. Deep meaningful relationships start with the people within the couple relationship. Happily married couples can see each other as great friends, safe partners, and know that their spouse has their back when they are feeling vulnerable. I made a realization at this moment, it was time to get out of the classroom and apply what I know:
“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul. I find myself searching the crowds for your face – I know it’s an impossibility, but I cannot help myself.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle
There are days when grief hits you without prejudice, without notice. It comes out of nowhere and shocks you to the core of your being. Shock overwhelms you like a tsunami. You even feel like you are in the twilight zone~unable to place your feet firmly on this planet we call earth.
If you or someone you know you has ever been surprised by grief, then you are aware of the long road ahead. This is when grief becomes complicated and overwhelms anyone near it. Like a city that has been devastated by a natural disaster, the road back into life is slow, painful and what we consider “normal” needs to be redefined.
Some questions that may come from grief like this:
1. How do I continue with life when someone I love has been shocked by grief?
2. How do I deal with my pain, knowing my friend or loved one is experiencing something I can’t understand?
3. What does my friend or loved one need? How can I be there for him/her/them?
4. What do I say to my friend or loved one?
The difficult truth to most of these questions is that there is no perfect answer, if an answer exist at all. I was reminded of this fact recently as I had a friend go through a tragic loss. These questions flooded my mind and heart, and I found myself spontaneously breaking into sobs as I attempted to put myself in my friend’s shoes. At that point, I decided I truly couldn’t empathize with her pain, nor, I decided, did I want to. It was overwhelming to think about and painful to attempt to consider the depth of feelings that my friend was dealing with. My humanity flooded me and self-preserverance kicked in with a shout of “keep going” and “don’t stop” messages for my life. The truth is, these messages are true. I’ve got kids, a husband, responsibility. Then, the questions above really started to sink in…….
And I had to choose: Stay Stuck or Move Forward.
- How do I continue with life when someone I love has been shocked by grief?
Realizing that continuing with life is not a slap in the face of the person who is grieving but a help to them seems uncomfortable. We want to believe that staying still and continuing with grief will benefit the person we care about, in addition to ourselves. The benefit we wish we could get is the one of not letting go of the person whom we lost. However, this is false, a façade, a mirage. Grief, while healthy, appropriate and natural needs to last for a season (*see caution below*).
One of the greatest gifts we can give our friend who is grieving is walking the thin line between allowing them time to grieve and helping them redefine normal.
- How do I deal with my pain, knowing my friend or loved one is experiencing something I can’t understand?
There is much to be said for having a variety of friends. We need a group of supporters, those who love us. Leaning on just one or two could potentially destroy the relationship (we are not created to carry burdens alone). To deal with your own grief, turn to your other friends, supporters. Emotionally, no one person can handle our suffering and pain. Having a few shoulders to cry on helps us in ways we may not even realize.
As I am able to deal with my grief, I will be better able to be there for my friend who is grieving much more deeply than myself. It is also helpful to remember that there may not be any answers to the torrent of questions that follow a tragedy. If this is the case, as it is with my friend, letting them know that it’s ok to ask questions and it’s ok to realize that there may be no perfect answers.
Sometimes the most healing thing we can do for a friend is nothing but to sit with them in the silence of their grief.
- What does my friend or loved one need? How can I be there for him/her/them?
Our natural instinct is to do something~anything. However, doing may be the last thing that is needed. As stated earlier, the most healing thing we may be able to do for our friend is to sit with them. To help them realize that they are not alone because the one they lost can not be replaced and has left a hole in their life. Being there, while doesn’t fill up that void, communicates that they are loved and not alone….Did you catch that? Make sure they know they are not a lone.
Practically, there may be needs: meals, house cleaning, child care, financial management, etc. that needs to be addressed. Being available and being willing to sit with them will help show these needs.
- What do I say to my friend or loved one?
We all want to say something, just like we all want to do something. Knowing the right time to say something could be just as tricky as knowing what to say. Whatever you choose to say, remember to speak from your heart.
Here are a few suggestions of things you could say, when the time is right:
“I’m sorry for your loss”
“I’ll call you in a day or so and see how you are doing.”
“It is ok to be lost for a while.”
“You don’t have to have all the answers right now.”
“Grieving is a process.”
“I am here for you.”
“I wish I had the right words to say right now; just know I care.”
“You and your loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers.”
“If you need anything, please call at any time.”
Instead of saying anything, choose to simply give a hug~that simply action may speak volumes to the friend who is grieving.
What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. – Helen Keller
*Caution: The season of grief each person experiences is determined by that person. Stating that one person’s timeline for grief needs to be as long or short as another’s is inappropriate. I wrote a post earlier in the year about dealing with grief, you can read that here.
Over the last couple of posts, we have discussed what quiet anger is and how we got to where we are. Today, let’s chat about what we can do about it. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. In order to fully benefit from overcoming quiet anger, seeking a professional (whom you can trust) to help you dig deep and make changes is recommended.
What I Can Do About It
Recognizing that your behavior is not getting you where or what you need is the first step to changing it. We can not change something if we can not own that it needs to be changed. My parents or spouse can tell me about it but if I do not believe or buy into the need for change, it will not happen. The old metaphor, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” is oh so true!! Our ability, as humans, to stay stuck in self-denial is quiet possibly one of the strongest factors on earth.
Let’s say that you do recognize this within yourself and you wish to change. Then you may be wondering, “what’s the first step?”.
Steps I Can Take:
1. Recognize that what you are doing (your behavior) is directly connected to your thoughts and your feelings. The three go together like the 3 Stooges or a PBJ sandwich. You know that there is 3 distinctive ingredients, which makes the product amazing, but alone they are nothing.
2. Buy a journal. The correlation between writing things down on paper (Not Typing or Speaking) is developing a process to be able to understand the relation between these three (behaviors, thoughts, feelings). Scientists continue to discover the incredible benefit to journaling.
3. When you notice quiet anger showing up, journal out the three: What am I doing? What am I thinking? How am I feeling?
HINT: Making statements, “I feel like….” is actually a thought, not a feeling. To state a feeling, it needs to be a simple sentence. An example of that is, “I feel angry”. Then you can state the thoughts supporting that feeling.
4. Replace the negative and hurtful with the positive and helpful. Simply put, I can not change something within myself without having something to put in its place.
5. Relax!! Any change takes time. Research shows that 2 months is about the time we need to make changes that will last.
6. Don’t go it alone! We are most successful in life when we have a support team. Depending on how deep the changes are that need to be made, will determine those you ask to be in your support team. Maybe you just need your spouse. Maybe you need to add a friend or two. Or, maybe you need to add a therapist to your group. Whomever you add to your group, you need to add those who will (A) challenge you when you feel tired and discouraged to press on, (B) will speak the truth in love (remember how you got here), and (C) remember that all training, is an opportunity to learn and mistakes are apart of the learning process.
Steps To Help Me Deal With Others
1. The most helpful thing you can do to deal with others who have quiet anger is to recognize that their anger is not about you. Don’t take it personally.
2. Establish healthy boundaries. Don’t allow others to walk over you. You are responsible to others and for yourself.
3. Be direct. Speak honestly, with compassion but also speak with confidence.
4. Take responsibility for what you are responsible for-not others.
5. Be empathetic and remember to calm down. Meeting a person’s quiet anger with anger will only escalate the situation. Take some deep breath’s and don’t take the bait to respond to their anger with anger.
6. Actions speak louder than words. Wade through the mixed messages to be able to see what is happening. Then, you will start to see their true intentions.
Believe you can and you’re halfway there. –Theodore Roosevelt
Last week, we discussed what quiet anger looks like. If you would like a refresher, you can read that post here.
How We Got Here
Each of us have gone through a stage that was a normal part of turning from teens to adults. From about 13-15 years of age, we all go through a time in life where being passive-aggressive (or as we are referring to it in this blog post, quiet anger) is normal and only if it does not cause harm to another person. In years past, teens may have shown this by toilet-papering (or TPing) someone’s home, whereas, today’s teens have kicked it up several notches by using drugs and/or becoming violent. These actions may sound extreme, however, anger that boils does not always boil up and out, but down and deep.
The basic questions that we begin asking during this time in life is, “who am I?” and “what can I become?”. As parents, our goal is to help train our kids, tweens, teens to maneuver through the confusion these questions ask. As that begins to happen, most will put away the quiet anger and begin to recognize that they are able to deal with their anger in better ways. They begin to learn that it is possible to be in conflict with others without losing their newly developed sense of self. In the book, The Five Love Languages of Children, the author, Dr. Gary Chapman states, “Passive-aggressive behavior is a primary cause of failure in college, problems at work, and conflict in marriage…..because passive-aggressive behavior is the hidden source of most of life’s worst difficulties, we as parents must train our children and teens to manage anger appropriately. We can’t discipline it out of them” (italics mine). Instead, we need to show unconditional love and love them through this season of life. As Dr. Chapman goes on to say, “keeping their love tank full” is the most powerful way to deal with quiet anger.
Unfortunately for some, they were not guided through this and instead learned that the behaviors that come with quiet anger are actually useful. CS Lewis states, “we don’t do bad for bad’s sake”. Translated= The behaviors we have were not developed to do bad but because we consciously or subconsciously decided that we benefited from the behavior. In other words, the behavior got us what we thought we needed.
NEXT: What we can do to begin changing our passive-aggressive behaviors and how to handle someone who refuses to change.
We all know at the deep center of our beings that relationships are important. We all strive, functional or not, healthy or not, to land ourselves in relationship with others where we feel known….where we can be ourselves and know the other person isn’t going to bolt at the first sign of conflict. Unfortunately, life, relationships are messy. One way that our most valued relationships are sabotaged is through quiet anger. We may not even realize that we are quietly laying our anger out on other people and then one day, that person may not be around any longer. Some may see quiet anger as a useful tool; it helps you feel connect to those in your life, it helps you get your point across while avoiding conflict, etc. If you have not heard of the phrase, quiet anger, you may have heard it called, passive-aggressive behavior, playing both sides, sarcasm, etc.
At some point or the other, we have all either heard or said the following:
I was only joking. Geesh! Can’t you take a joke?!
That idea sounds like it might work
Wow. That dress looks good. It’s an interesting color.
Whatever -or- Fine
I thought you knew.
Oh, I didn’t know you meant now.
Ok, do what you want; I’ll be fine.
Calm down. I didn’t mean it that way.
Maybe you’ve been around someone who, instead of making statements will do this:
- Chronically forget appointments/task: The person who is asking you to remind them of their commitments because they have a “bad memory”, or is consistently apologizing for missing a get together because they “forgot”. This person will say things like, “you know I have a bad memory”.
- Quietly refuses to follow-through on task/activities: The person who say’s they will clean the bathroom and three weeks later has yet to do so.
- Chronically late: The person whom you can count on to be late every time you get together.
- Completing a task but poorly or below expectations: Your child hands in a writing assignment on time but the handwriting is sloppy and illegible.
- Choosing to not do something that will cause consequences for someone else: Your teen deliberately not filling the gas tank knowing that the next person who uses the vehicle will need to make a stop, possibly making him/her late to their appointment.
If this sounds like someone you know, and/or maybe yourself, it would be safe to assume quiet anger is an issue. Webster’s Dictionary defines passive aggressive (or PA) as, “being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)”. PA shows up in all walks of life: work, home, marriage, kids, friends, etc., and can leave a lasting ripple effect of pain and destruction.
WARNING: If you are sitting in your easy chair, reading this post and saying, “Man! This sounds so much like ______. I’m going to have to send this, so he/she will stop!” WAIT. STOP. Or maybe you are reading this and you feel convicted by how much you relate and want to turn this off. WAIT. STOP. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “are my relationships going the way I want them to?” If no, then stay tuned.
Next, we will discuss two key pieces in resolving quiet anger: How We Got Here & What I Can Do About It.
A few years ago, I heard Dr. Dan Allendar speak on his book, Sabbath Leadership. He said, “To be a leader is to be in crisis. Expect it.” It has made me wonder, what does that look like….to “expect” crisis? Isn’t that a negative place? Expecting the worst? Aren’t we supposed to think positively, be optimistic?
As I’ve prayed and wrestled with these questions, a few thoughts come to mind.
1. As a leader (and for this writing, a leader is defined as any living, breathing human being who has ever had to make a decision that impacts someone else), I am often invited to join other’s anxiety over their problem/issue. To them, it is a crisis. To me it’s another issue that needs attention. However, if I carry everyone’s anxiety for them, then am I helping them? The answer is probably not. All I’m doing is picking up their anxiety and making it my own.
2. One way leaders expect and deal with crisis is to place an internal boundary around other people’s crisis. This doesn’t mean we don’t care; good leaders care and can empathize with others. Good leaders know that they cannot take that person’s problems home with them; they give it to the Lord and allow Him to deal with it. We realize our inadequacies as humans and know that we can only help others as far as He allows us (ALL things through Christ, not me; Philippians 4:13, Matthew 19:26).
3. Good leaders compassionately communicate with those who have brought the crisis to them. This leader realizes that an opportunity has been presented. If I join the other person’s anxious state, will I be emotionally present to fulfill my God-given role to lead them through this current crisis? Or, have I just provided them company in the midst of their storm?
You may be saying, “Much is being asked of me and I’m exhausted!” True. Much is being asked of you. When God calls us to be a leader, much is asked, much is expected (Luke 12:48). Thus, when I choose to pick up and carry someone else’s anxiety (which, yes, is a learning process on how not to); I am choosing to not grow, to be stuck in the emotional immaturity I had when I entered this leadership position. Nothing challenges us to grow deeper, connect more, and become more authentic than to be a leader. Want a good example? Open up your bibles and read the gospels. The disciples give ample examples.
Expecting crisis in leadership is also about being ready for what is coming next. Often times, it’s hard to be ready for the worst case scenario. In fact, the worse case may not be anything big. It may be several little things that set you over the top (i.e. the car broke down on Friday, on Saturday your kid sprained his ankle, then Sunday morning arrives and your worship leader is ill). When we sit in an authority position, one of power over others, it is easy to forget who we really are in Christ. It is easy to think we need to “handle it all”. It is easy to put on a mask we preach to so many about taking off.
Being a leader who expects crisis is being a leader who is:
- Willing to admit, “I don’t know” instead of acting as if he/she does.
- Is brave enough to slow down and obtain a steady focus of the path ahead.
- Is able to admit we are frail, humans who without the strength of Christ coursing through our very being can do nothing.
- Realizing that being a leader doesn’t even mean we are acknowledged as a leader and we don’t have to lead alone.
So the next time you feel as if you have been bombarded with crisis after crisis after crisis and you are all wore down, ask yourself this: Whose strength am I leaning on? Am I ready for the next crisis?
*disclaimer: This post is not a reflection of the book, Sabbath Leadership, it is merely a reflection, a processing of the information gleaned by this blogger from the author during a lecture series.
I picked up this book years ago and read through it when my oldest (who is now on the verge of adolescence) was a wee babe. Oh those beautiful years when there was one little one running amuck in our home. Now, our home is filled with the laughter (and, yes, sounds of conflict as well) and wonder of three. None can be called wee babes any longer. Bittersweet moment as a Mom to discover you are no longer a “Mom of littles”. The pace of life is a super highway speeding in lightyear pace beyond the grasp of us all. Coming to this profound realization along with working with several divorcing and divorced parents, it made sense to re-read this book.
Dr. Gary Chapman has written several books with the theme of understanding love languages. I’m not prone to picking up reading material that takes the same information and packages it differently. It feels too much like marketing gone awry to me. However, I have to say that not everyone learns the same and thus, it may be helpful for someone to read more than one version of this book and glean different insights. If you resonant with that thought, then the library is probably one of your best friends.
The first part of The 5 Love Languages of Children focuses on explaining what each love language is and how it is demonstrated in the lives of children. The second half of the book is where I believe this version is differentiated from the other versions. It focuses on specific issues in applying the love languages to your children: discipline, anger, and most important (at least in my mind) how to apply these principles to single-parent homes.
1. I really appreciated the time the author took to explain and give examples for unconditional love in the first chapter. It makes sense, to me, that to be able to apply any of the 5 Love Languages, we must first have a solid foundation of unconditional love. Unfortunately, most adults didn’t receive this as a child and thus struggle to prove this to their own children.
2. I thought his chapter on anger was also well written. It was a nice beginning to understand how to deal with and accept a child’s anger. It seems as if we are communicating that anger is only negative and has no place in our lives. This could not be any further from the truth. On page 163, the author states, “Train your child to deal with anger appropriately and he will be able to develop good character and strong integrity”. Notice, the author doesn’t say to eradicate the child’s anger but to “train” the child to “deal with anger appropriately”.
3. At the end of the book, the most recent version has ideas and a game to help you discover your child’s love language. This would be a great activity to use during a family night.
Why You should NOT Read this Book
1. If you are looking for a book to help give you deep insights into your child, this is not the book for you. This book is an easy read and easy to apply quickly. However, if you find this information to surface, than that’s because it is.
2. If you are looking for a read that does not include a holistic approach, then this may not be the book for you. The author speaks openly and honestly about the importance of faith in connection with loving your child and the physical effects lack of love can have on your child.
3. If you are looking for a book that tells what is wrong with your children and how to fix them, then this may not be the book for you. Each chapter provides information that may challenge the parent in how they perceive and show love to their children.
The 5 Love Languages of Children is a well written, easy read book that makes it easy to quickly apply the information into daily life. The book is targeted to parents with children from ages 5 to tween. The author states in the first part that it is difficult to clearly know a young child’s love languages as their personality is still developing. While this is correct, realizing that all kids need all 5 of these is important.
To some, the material may seem surface and lack depth that they are looking for. One way to offset this, would be to read the book in a Mom’s group or Small Group at Church. There will be moments when you read this book and feel challenged in your own perceptions and ideas of how to love those in your own life. Embracing this could serve you well, not just with your kids, but in your marriage, workplace, friends, etc.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book!!
Have you read this book?
If so, did you find it helpful?
It is a battle to keep families connected in our technological savvy culture. Too many kids are plugged-in to their electronics and plugged-out of their relationships. Even as adults, we sometimes prefer our superficial relationships on Twitter and Facebook to deepening the ones living in our own homes.
One way we can build community within the 4 walls of our home is to have regular and intentional family meetings. How this looks for a family with younger kiddos is quite different from the family with older ones, however the premise is still the same.
In this post, we will define a Family meeting as a consistent family gathering where 3 key things are accomplished:
1. Discuss what’s on each person’s heart, in a no-blame, no criticizing environment. Discuss issues in loving way. The goal is to build family unity.
2. 5-10 min lesson on an important value or belief. This may be accomplished by reading a novel together or doing a family devotional.
Since the premise of the meetings is to build unity and community within the family, it’s important to remember to turn off all electronic devises during the meeting and simply focus on each person. It’s also key to remember that mistakes are great teachers-don’t seek perfection, seek authentic relationship and have a good time!!
If the idea of having a family meeting is new for you, here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Know how each person in your family connects best.
Specifically, what is each individual person in the family’s love language? Allow this to help guide the lesson/devotional and activity time. Don’t assume how you connect best is the same for each person in the family. Remember, the goal is to build family unity and discovering these aspects about the people in the family will allow you to reach and connect with them during the meeting. Realize, this is not a position of having to please everyone in the family as much as it is learning who each person is and developing ways for them to feel connected within the 4 walls of your community.
In the book, The Five Love Languages of Children by Dr. Gary Chapman, you will discover a quick and easy read packed full of information. At the end of the book is a nice little handy-dandy activity to do with your kiddos to help discover their primary love language.
2. Expect resistance from certain members of the family.
It’s foreign for us to expect that something new will be positive and feel good. We expect new to feel difficult and scary. Allow time for the family to get behind this idea. Maybe even bring them on board and discuss the reasons for starting these meetings and help them throw ideas for the activity in a bowl. There is a balance between allowing your kids to make all the decisions and giving them none at all. Working through this is a great process for the kids to feel included, valued and to trust the leadership of their parents.
3. Plan time to plan & prepare for distractions
Family meetings take time. In our hectic fast-food society, time is a scarce commodity. Set a date and block the time out of the calendar. Place a thick-walled boundary around this time where nothing can penetrate through its walls. Work, sports, neighbors, etc. can all wait, these moments in our families are short and fleeting. Protect them. Cherish them.
What do you do to build community in your family?
A few years ago I had the opportunity to listen to a great author and speaker, John Ortberg, at a conference. He spoke about the three days of the death of Christ. Actually, he spoke more about the second day, the day where everything was still, quite, dark. He remarked on how when we go through a crisis in our life there are three days: the day the event takes place (Day 1), the middle (Day 2) and then the resurrection (Day 3). As we walk through this week, Holy week, remembering the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf, I am reminded what it means to sit on Day 2 where everything is dark and still.
Many times throughout our lives we need to endure and overcome difficult situations. It may be that the difficult situation was brought on by our own choices or it may be that we had no choice in it at all. Either way, we are left to sit and wait until the resurrection or release of our situation occurs. Waiting can be torture in and of itself. For many, the holidays, a time that should be filled with celebration and rejoicing is wrought with pain.
If you find yourself needing to survive the dark during this week leading up to Easter, here are a few points to keep in mind. While these points won’t solve the issues that are underlying in your pain, hopefully, they will bring you some relief as you sit in your Day 2.
- Focus: Look towards the light and the One who can give you the light. Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- Remember: You are not alone. During the resurrection story, we hear nothing from the Scriptures about what happened on Day 2. However, if we were to imagine, the followers of Christ were gathered together to bring both comfort and companionship to each other. The author in Hebrews 13:5 states, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
- Focus: Turn your mind towards what you can do in your situation. It is a mighty thing to actually “make the best out of a bad situation”. In Colossians 3:2, the author challenges us to “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
- Remember: When you grieve, the Lord grieves with you and has compassion for you. James 5:11c states that, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” Isaiah 49:13b states that “the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.”
- Focus: Acknowledge that this is a difficult time. Be honest with yourself about the darkness while focusing on the light that will come. Jesus told his disciplines in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- Remember: The dark only last for a short time. There is light around the corner, the resurrection is coming. In speaking to his disciples, Christ comforts them in saying, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)
Feel as if you’ve been there, done that? Then meet with your Pastor or Priest and discuss with them the difficult season you are in. Need more than an empathic ear? Contact a therapist who can sit with you in the dark.
There is light after the dark. Day 3 will come. You are not alone. Remember, you are not alone.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
*All scripture references for this post was taken from the New International Version.
Grief & loss are two of those things in our world that does not discriminate. It chooses its victims at random and without warning. Maybe you can relate to some of these scenarios:
Susy lost her husband last week to cancer. They were married 35 years and have 4 wonderful children. She is not sure how to move forward.
Bob’s wife just left him. She was having an affair. He thought they had a great marriage and now isn’t sure what to do.
Tom and Marcia are the proud parents of 3 beautiful children. They were devastated when they recently heard their youngest will struggle with a disability his whole life.
Mark lost his job. It was his identity. He is plagued with the question, “What do I do now?”. The answer does not seem as simply as how to bring in an income; this question reaches to the core of what is his purpose in life.
Chris just found out that she is diabetic. She didn’t want this in her life.
Jack can’t afford to go to college and is struggling to find a job.
Maggie had a miscarriage. She keeps thinking, “This wasn’t supposed to happen to me”.
The dictionary defines loss as, “failure to keep, to have, or get”. Whichever scenario we find ourselves in, we have all experienced loss to one degree or another. Sometimes we minimize our grief because it’s “not as bad” as what someone else is going through. Sometimes we magnify our grief because we couldn’t imagine having to deal with such a shocking blow. Whichever end of the spectrum you find yourself on, here are some tips in dealing with loss:
- It’s normal. It’s going to happen. Just as saving money for a rainy day is vital to financial management, so is verbally telling ourselves it is ok to be sad and down when we are experiencing a loss-No Matter What Degree of loss.
- What you choose to do with your loss will define you, not the loss itself. Instead of becoming stuck in pain and hurt because of the loss, do something. Maybe start with going for a walk or write your thoughts and feelings out in a journal. Focusing on one small goal at a time will allow you to reach your destination with confidence.
- How you choose to see your loss will shape your character. When we choose to work through our pain and sorrow, we are choosing to persevere. Perseverance is not born from how I feel but what I choose to think and do.
There are those times when the grieving seem to be overwhelming and incomprehensible. In these moments, the wisest and bravest seek help from someone to walk the journey of grief with them. Here are some tips to know if it’s time to seek help:
- You feel stuck in your sadness: Your thoughts are consumed by the sadness and in feeling overwhelmed, so are your daily activities.
- Your loss is affecting your relationships in a negative way. You are isolating yourself and pulling away from those around you.
- You feel unable to move forward in life. Life has little meaning now.
- You have developed unhealthy ways of dealing with your grief. Drinking too much alcohol, sleeping too little or too much, hurting yourself, constant angry outburst are just a few ways we deal with grief and loss in harmful ways.
While grief is normal and we all experience at some point in our life, unresolved or complicated grief can turn into despair, which leads to hopelessness. While resolving and working through grief can lead to a new strengths and deeper compassion.
If you find yourself reading through this and discover you are able to relate a little too much, then you may want to seek help. AAMFT, Psychology Today and Focus on the Family are three places to find a therapist where you live. If, you are living in northern Indiana, or lower Michigan, I’d love to chat with you on how therapy can help. You can connect with me at my website (here).
I was sitting with a colleague of mine the other day discussing the number of couples that walk in and through our doors looking to either divorce or improve their marriage. As we generally discussed this, we discovered that there have been several who acted as if they were married while they were dating, noting the subconscious belief that the same general rules apply during dating as with marriage. There seems to be some consistent thought processes that has changed the idea of dating to equal that (or at least mimic) marriage. This dynamic seems to lead, down the road, to an impasse in the relationship where the couple wonders if they were too hasty in saying, “I do”. The couple seems to be at a spot where they wonder if separating is what’s best and struggle with the consequences of those choices along with the guilt of not ending the relationship during the dating stage.
Here are some key comparisons:
- When you are dating, you are discovering what characteristics you like, want, need in a partner. When you are married, you have a good idea of what you like, want, need in someone and have chosen the person that best fits. And I say “best fits” because no one person is perfect. We all have learning, growing, stretching to do.
- When you are dating, you can end the relationship at any time with little to no consequences. Commitment is minimal. When you are married, commitment is high and walking away from the marriage is complicated with many consequences.
- When dating, you are wearing rose-colored glasses where the other person almost seems perfect. The beginning phase of dating is wonderful to help develop a chemical attraction. Moving towards marriage and into marriage, the chemistry stays while the rose-colored glasses come off. For marriages to be healthy in the long run, it is key to clearly be able to see who your partner is (strengths & weaknesses) to see how well matched you are.
- When dating, you are discovering other people’s beliefs and values about life, love, relationships, future, kids, etc. When you are married, you are working towards accomplishing the same goals together.
- When dating, you are an individual with individual goals, hopes, dreams, etc. When you are married, you join your life with another. Genesis 2:24 says, “the two shall become one” meaning, the lives of two people become intertwined together-no longer separate but joined, learning to become interdependent.
It seems like we often are in a hurry to grow up and get on with our lives. This seems to be even more true when we date. Many date for the simply reason to get married (and, for those of you who date just to have fun, this post is probably not for you). Walking into the first or even second date with the idea of “this could be the one” could be setting yourself up for relationship failure down the road. Or, maybe you’re the person who has been wounded from your family of origin and you are just looking for someone to fill that hole inside you. Again, relationship failure is a high probability.
If this seems like you, here are a few tips to navigating through dating:
- Date through seasons. The person you are getting to know may behave differently through the winter than they do through the summer.
- Date through illness. Seeing how someone handles themselves when they are sick can tell you a lot about that person.
- Date with some questions in mind. Seek to understand the core values and beliefs about the person you are dating.
- Date with the understanding the other person has baggage as much as you do. We all have a walking wounded dictionary where we keep a record of the hurts in our life. Expecting and acknowledging this fact will help you navigate when you unexpectedly walk into one of those wounds.
- Date with the understanding that both trust and forgiveness is a process.
- Date with the awareness that this relationship is not permanent until you stand before God, family and friends and say, “I do”.
If you are married, how did you navigate through dating?
If you are dating, how are you navigating towards marriage?
Most people set new goals the first of the year. Goals to help them improve their health, their relationships, their work, etc. Towards the end of the year, we are either encouraged with the progress we are making in those goals or discouraged with the lack of movement towards our goals.
This year, I decided to be intentional about the goals that I am setting, and the steps I am taking to carry out each goal. One of the goals I have set is to become well-rounded in my readings. Too often, I find myself only reading the things I need to read for work or my kids. As a way of training myself to be diverse and well-informed in the information I bring into my life, my home, and my practice, I have decided to set a reading challenge.
I have set a goal of reading 15 books in 2013. This may not seem like a lot of books over the course of a year (it breaks down to little more than 1 book a month) but that was the intent. The goal is two-fold: (1) To increase my learning in certain areas (2) To carry out my goal with confidence.
I came up with a few specifics to help set the stage for success with this challenge.
1. I made it easy. When setting a goal, especially for first goals, it is of the utmost importance to start small. I knew setting a goal of 2 books a month may be too challenging and one book or less a month would be too easy.
2. I broke it up into chewable pieces. I choose to break the books into three categories: Books to grow me professionally, books for enjoyment (this would include novels I read with my kids), books I read to enrich my marriage & family.
3. I’m keeping a journal. Keeping a log of the books I’m reading as well as the impressions and insights I gain from my readings, will help enrich the material from the book. In addition, having a record of books read helps me to look back and see the growth I have made.
Setting the goal of reading is just part of the challenge. In order to build some accountability into my challenge~ and, to be honest, some motivation, I will be adding a review of each book to my blog postings in 2013.
I would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives as I journey into the worlds that lay ahead.
How are you challenging yourself this year?
Tis the season to quench the desire for love in our lives. Pink and red hearts line most classrooms while outrageously expensive roses, chocolates and jewelry line the stores, magazine and TV advertisements. The burning passion that so many seek through out the year is at long last satisfied in one day…..or is it? Can we truly find the desire we need to have intimacy fulfilled in one day? To be honest with you, I find this one day attitude a little underwhelming. If I watered my house plants one day a year, they would die. If I feed my dog one day a year, he would die. Thus if I attend to my spouse one day a year, that relationship will, eventually die. While this post is not about the importance of intimacy (I’ll save that for a different day), it does seem quite fitting to chat about the importance of amour.
Ah amour. This french word has captivated me ever since I heard Pepe La Pew charm his way into my living room during Saturday morning cartoons as a child. The word amour, in french means, “a secret lover; an illicit love affair; to be romanced”. There is something exciting and enticing in the idea of having a lover. The thought stirs within us this raw feeling of being claimed, of being wanted. After all, who doesn’t desire to be wanted. We long for a deep connection that will take us beyond ourselves and leave us wrapped up in the steamy hot arms of the one who adores us. Walk into any bookstore or even simply browse the books on Amazon under love and you will discover an array of books on the subject. It seems as if everyone has an idea of how to land and keep such passion. Yet, as mentioned earlier, is such desire and feeling acquired through one day a year of activity and thought? Can it not be that amour is more the product of many days of esteem, admiration, and adornment in a healthy relationship? Granted, every new relationship has that season where amour is what draws us to each other. In long lasting healthy relationships, I think you will discover that amour is not just an expectation of the relationship but that each person anxiously works at creating the right atmosphere for it to occur.
So, ask yourself this question: How can today, Valentine’s Day, be day #1 in launching into a year long project to developing amour in my relationship?
This past fall I had the wonderful opportunity to sit with a dear friend that I have not spent much time with lately. She conveyed the exhaustion she was experiencing in her life and how that was starting to prevent her from being present in the lives of her family members, friends and co-workers. She spoke of needing to “get away” for a while and shared the plan she had for recharging herself. I found myself wishing, becoming jealous of her ability to self-care and plan a “get away”, a retreat.
I came to realize that depletion is a chronic condition that plagues Moms, Dads, leaders, pastors, therapists, teachers, police officers, firemen, office workers, executives…and the list can go on and on. We can all become depleted and if we are not careful, we can (and maybe have) crossed the thin fine line into burnout or caregiver fatigue.
Do you know what it looks like to be depleted? Specifically, for yourself, can you identify when you are on the brink, the point of no return?
Ask yourself these questions to discover whether you are teetering into depletion (this list is not exhaustive and is general; recognizing depletion for each person is unique):
- Do you find yourself getting sick often when you normally wouldn’t?
- Are you constantly tired for no good and/or apparent reason?
- Do you find yourself lacking the desire to carry out tasks that used to be a piece of cake?
- Are you finding yourself short-tempered and unable to handle situations that are typically no big deal?
- How long has it been since you’ve had a soul-to-soul conversation with the safe people in your life?
- Have you been given a clean bill of health from you Doctor?
1. The first step in overcoming most things is to be able to recognize when it is occurring. The ability to internally recognize what depletion looks like will allow you to move into step 2.
2. Make a plan for a retreat. Retreating is a specific and intentional place and time for you to get to invest in yourself, it’s the EBB in ebb and flow, a solitary sanctuary for renewal, safe haven, snug den, safe refuge. This can be as extensive as taking a week or weekend to get away. Go hiking in the Smokey Mountains or canoeing in the UP of Michigan. It could be as simple as getting away to a B&B for some reading and relaxing. Maybe it’s a spa day or taking an hour each day for 1 month to get away and read your favorite book-no interruptions, no phone calls, no Facebook, no kids.
3. Nourish your body, soul and mind. Work out regularly, eat a balanced diet, be around those who fill you more and drain you less, connect with those friends and family that you will encourage and challenge you to be a better version of you, join a book club or a bible study, date your spouse, get to bed on time.
4. Recognize that these steps are going to feel awkward, uncomfortable, uneasy and that’s GOOD! That uncomfortable, awkward, uneasy feeling is the pain of growing a new skill. This is often described by athletes who train a new muscle when they say, “No Pain, No Gain”.
5. Dive into your faith. A life saturated into faith has healing properties that scientists are just starting to understand.
A life seeking to be slowed, intentional, authentic, present is a life that is seeking to be at peace. Bill Hybels, speaker, author and pastor stated, “Whenever you are leading an organization (or family, or classroom, or….) and anything feels uncertain and treacherous, the best thing you bring to the table every single day is a filled up bucket and a heart that’s right with God and a heart that’s overflowing with optimism. When they see in you a rock solid confidence that you’ve been with God they feed on it.”
What are you feeding on? How do you renew and replenish when you feel depleted?
“HAPPY NEW YEAR!!”
A phrase most of us are sick of hearing as the new year is not so new anymore; this guilt laden phrase has many twisting uncomfortably in their seats 23 days into the “new year”.
This year, why not turn this phrase around and choose to throw the guilt away?!?! This doesn’t have to be anything complicated or crazy. It can be as simple as saying, “I want to grow” or “I am choosing to make a change”.
There is 1, Yes, only 1 key step to accomplishing this:
1. To reach any goal you have to take an attitude of training.
*To train is to verbally tell yourself that mistakes are ok and each mistake is an opportunity to learn how to do something better (i.e. this is different from saying you are going to be perfect-which is not training, it’s trying…but we will get to that later).
*To train is to make several small steps towards a desired goal. For example: If I want to learn how to run a 5k, I will go buy running shoes (step 1), I will find a good 5k running program or hire a trainer (step 2), I will ask a few friends to encourage me along the way (step 3), etc.
*To train is to meditate each day about the step I am on today. Dave Ramsey speaks of this in his program on money management about having a “cheetah like focus”.
*To train is to verbally and loudly say, “NO” to excuses. In the movie, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda (little, green, old, wise master) tells Luke (young, inexperienced, student), “Do or do not, there is no try”. Every time you think you are “trying” at something, you are more than likely giving an excuse instead of training. We can hear this in our speech when we say, “well, I tried” or “I guess I can try to do …..”. The attitude behind the word try is what causes the word to be an excuse maker. It gives ourselves a way out. The meaning of, “well, I tried” becomes, “I guess I really couldn’t do it, so, Oh well. I might as well give up”. Emotionally, we start feeling defeated and over the long run, this could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This year, resolve within your self to train towards your goals. Keep them simple and adopt an attitude of training.
How are you training in 2013?
I got a flyer in the mail one day advertising a “come check us out” graduate program at a local college. My husband and I had discussed my going back to graduate school a couple of years earlier when we lived in Chicago. The timing just didn’t seem right. Ironically, the program I was looking at in Chicago was for the same degree being advertised here.
Being a person who does not believe in coincidences, my curiosity was highly peaked. So, on a bright and hot summer day, I dragged my overly pregnant body (7 months pregnant, to be exact) down to the local college to sit while this man shared what a Marriage and Family Therapist was, how they worked, and why this was a great program. I was mesmerized by the way he weaved language together to draw me in. I loved the analogy of a baby’s mobile as a symbol for family and how all members are affected when you tug on one of the strings (i.e. the person coming into therapy is affected and effected by each person in the family). Inside I was shouting, “YES”!! I felt like I had hit the jack pot! This was it! This was what I was supposed to do with my life. To be able to work with others from a systemic (for definition and explanation of “systemic”, see below**) perspective didn’t just sound logical it seemed necessary to make real changes in a person’s life.
As I walked through graduate school, I learned some interesting facts about Marriage & Family Therapists (aka: MFT’s):
1. MFT’s are brief, solution-focused (average 12 sessions).
2. MFT’s are trained with “the end in mind”. I often tell my Clients, “my job is to work myself out of a job”.
3. MFT’s are trained to look for patterns in their Clients…patterns in their thinking, in their feelings, in their behavior. Looking for patterns in our lives helps us know how better to change and move in the direction we want to go-we need to go.
4. MFT’s are highly trained professionals. Two years supervised experience before graduation, combined with 2 years post-graduate supervised experience before applying for state licensing board exam (which literally equals thousands of hours of supervision). My supervisor was also an MFT and in each class we consistently discussed how the issues with each Client affect them relationally, biologically, psychologically, physiologically and spiritually.
In essence, it just made sense that to help people meet the goals they have in life, learning how to work with them holistically was not just logical, it is critical.
Are you looking to enter therapy? Or possibly becoming a therapist? If so, I would recommend an MFT. You can find us in 46 states and across the pond. Visit www.aamft.org for more information about MFT’s, how to become an MFT and how to find one near you! You can also check out my website to read more about how I work with my Clients. Visit me at www.cfmft.com.
**The Wikipedia definition is as follows : “Systemic refers to something that is spread throughout, system-wide, affecting a group or system such as a body, economy, market or society as a whole”. Systemic therapy, from family therapy, views problems as manifesting from naturally occurring patterns of interaction and/or behavior. These patterns emerge and are maintained in the context of relationships, where they may give to healthy or not so healthy functioning in the system (or family) as a whole.
Forward movement. A progressive step in the right direction. Often times, we feel like we muddle through life. Sometimes, we just need someone who cares enough to help us take that next step. This blog is about relationships. Those aspects of who we are and how they dramatically and passionately impact us. Whether it’s our marriage, children, extended family members, co-workers, friends, etc. People matter! Relationships are at the core of who we are. I hope this blog will be both encouraging and challenging as you journey forward.