How is our marriage really doing?

Have you taken pride in managing your money well, then later found out a check bounced? Have you balanced the checkbook and then discovered you were spending more on eating out than you realized?

Have you believed you were eating well, then were surprised the scales registered 10 pounds more than expected? Have you written down everything you ate and saw you were taking in many more calories than you were actually burning?

Many couples enter counseling with a lot of uncertainty.  One is usually dragged in by the other. One says, “We need help.” The other says, “We’re doing fine. . . We can work this out on our own. . .We’re not as bad off as you think.” It makes sense that couples who detect problems in their relationship, on average, wait an additional six years before they get help.

TigerPhotoIt’s very common for one spouse to minimize and the other maximize. I call it the “Turtle/Tiger” syndrome. Turtles typically hide in their shells and avoid conflict or accuse their partners of blowing things out of proportion. Tigers, on the other hand, roar and persist until they are heard. Many times they DO see things worse than they are. Turtles tend to see things “not as bad” as they really are.  TurtlePhoto

The Partnership Pattern chart is a great way to balance the check book of your relationship. No need to write down what you eat here. All you have to do is observe, experience, and check off measurable items that are going on now in your relationship.

Ideally, it’s great for both Tigers AND Turtles to participate. But if the Turtle in your life is still hiding, you Tigers will have a great outlet for grounding in reality. The idea is to check off what you experienced most in the relationship that day. Do it every day for one month and get a clear picture of what you need, whether it’s an enrichment weekend or crisis intervention. Know where your relationship stands.  Sign up for your free Partnership Pattern chart.

In upcoming blogs, I’ll give you ideas for developing healthy relationship patterns.

Stress Relief: the 7-minute rule

Do you normally come home from work after a stressful day expecting to relax, but then walk in and the house is a wreck?

  • Do you identify with piled up bills, blaring TV or electronic games, clutter, and whiney children?
  • Do you wonder what your spouse has done all day and you ask?
  • You have to be firm to be heard so you begin to order your children and spouse to immediately snap out of their illusion and straighten up.

Resistance hits like a sudden thunderstorm with flashes of lightning and a heavy downpour of rain. Tension builds until it’s no longer tolerable and everyone retreats to his or her best method of defense.

Do you find yourself with an “I-work-so-hard-all-day-and-no-one-cares” attitude?

If you identify, you may not realize how you may be setting the stage to get what you’ve got. You may be shooting yourself in the foot without realizing it.

Here is one of the most effective ways to change this cycle of craziness and tension.

It’s a technique that, with consistent use, can potentially transform stressful situations into a relaxing peacefulness and connection.

It’s called the Seven-minute Rule for Stress Relief. Here’s how it works.

  • Consider seven minutes before or after any and every transition as sacred space where there’s no confrontation, criticism, stern looks, demands, sarcasm, cynicism or any other negative interaction.
  • Instead, be purposeful about loving and respectful interactions with your loved ones regardless of the environment.
  • Let your children know you are glad to be with them just as they are. You choose to love unconditionally in that seven-minute sacred space.

Here’s an example.

You can set the timer on your smart phone for seven minutes after pulling up in the driveway.

You may want to put a reminder on your dashboard with a 3” x 5” card that reads “7-minute rule”.

You’ll take a deep breath and breathe in an attitude of loving connection and thankfulness. As you exhale, you’ll breathe out any expectations and stress from work. You may want to take about three or four deep breaths to give you the attitude you need for the seven minutes.

As you enter your home and leave your stress behind through the deep breathing, you’ll look into the eyes of your children and spouse and be interested in their world.

It’s as if you’ll be walking onto “holy ground” in those seven minutes. Use it to connect, appreciate, and see the world through the eyes of your loved ones.

Think of any transition, whether it’s:

  • seven minutes before bed
  • seven minutes when you wake up
  • seven minutes before leaving the home
  • seven minutes after you arrive at your destination
  • seven minutes before sitting down for a meal
  • seven minutes after finishing your meal

Any transition is seven minutes of sacred and holy space.

Try it out for a week, (7 days) and see how it works for you. I challenge you to try it for 21 days as that’s the habit-forming magic number. I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

Canoe Trips and Moods Swings – 5 things to do

Managing mood swings are much like preparing for canoe trips. Balance, safety, planning, experience, partnership, and close calls are all part of the adventure.

After years of trial and error, my husband and I now have a knack for canoeing. Recently while canoeing a 5-hour track on Georgia’s cold and adventurous Taccoa River, our traveling kayak companion said to us, “I thought for sure you two would tip over going through those rapids we just crossed. Those were rough. You did great! I’m impressed.”

Although delighted to get such a compliment, neither of us paid attention to our ability that day. Then I realized we were well-synchronized. We did make it through several rough rapids in our red 17 ft. Mohawk. We stayed balanced through several close calls on that winding river.

The many rivers we’ve canoed on are much like the  seasons and uncertainty of life. At times, they’re calm, passive, and flowing. Other times they are risky, dangerous, and catastrophic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Managing mood swings are like the necessary skills needed to navigate, endure, and have fun through the unpredictable turns of life.

Here are five ways to live life well through mood swings: balance, energy, navigation, partnership and safety.

  1. The most important balance for mood swings is regular and proper amount of sleep. Just as you need to sit low in a canoe, you need to be intentional about your sleep cycles. Getting to bed at the same time each night and getting up consistently each morning is the most basic way to stay balanced through even the most unpredictable circumstances of life. Beware of increased energy late at night spent on projects and creativity that sets you up for tipping over. Ignoring your body’s need for sleep is a sure way to disaster and loss when the rapids of life could otherwise be safe adventures.
  2. Eating healthy and exercising every day are obvious tasks we all know to do. For those with either severe or mild mood swings, it’s absolutely vital. I compare this with the very basics of rowing in a canoe. It’s impossible to navigate the river without oars, or the physical energy to paddle. Don’t neglect the obvious!
  3. Take time to reflect, pray, and meditate daily.  It’s amazing how even 5-10 minutes a day can quiet your mind and help you determine where you really want to go and how to get there. Before every canoe trip, we look at maps to see how long the river is, where the rapids are the most challenging, and which route to row through. Being aware of your own life, relationships, and core values helps you know and live truthfully.
  4. It generally takes two to canoe well: one to steer from the back, and both to paddle and move forward. Weight is distributed evenly with at least two. We are designed for connection and partnership with others. Having cooperative and affirming friendships in life while avoiding isolation makes all the difference.
  5. Nobody LIKES wearing life jackets, yet it’s necessary. Proper medication, therapy, and group work for those who struggle with mood swings is like the protection of a life vest.

What’s made our canoe adventures successful? We stay balanced. We have energy. We take time to plan our route. We partner. We wear our life-jackets.  We’ve established a routine for safety and adventure! We HAVE FUN!

Being intentional about assessing your own life, your relationships, and your core values will help you budget your energy and navigate a course far more rewarding than drifting with the current. Taking time to prepare for the rapids of life make the journey safe and adventurous, and FUN. Check out the Mindful Mood Group.