Couples counseling

How Couples Counseling Can Make You More Discouraged

Many of us well-trained professional counselors specialize in relationship therapy. But the general public may not know how couples counseling can make you more discouraged. It’s important to know the factors that get in the way of improving relationships.

Couples Counseling Means the Relationship is the Client

When a couple comes in for counseling, their relationship is my client. Even though they are two individuals, the focus is the well-being of their marriage.

There can be successful outcomes for couples counseling. And both of them need attitudes of curiosity about themselves and their partner. This is tough. It’s human nature to believe our spouse is the one who needs help. Yet, we all have blind spots that our spouse sees. And we all have quirks and flaws built into our personalities. For clarity, here are questions to ask:

  • “What it’s like for my spouse to be in a relationship with me?”
  • “Am I willing to change my part of the relationship pattern?”
  • “Am I willing to learn from my past mistakes?”
  • “Is my motive for counseling driven by improving my partner or myself?”

Couples Counseling Can Make It Worse

In some cases, couples counseling is not appropriate. Here are questions to ask.

  • “Is drug or alcohol abuse an ongoing issue?”
  • “Is there a sexual or emotional affair currently going on?”
  • “Are you a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence?”
  • “Are physical or verbal fights situational? Or does it characterize the relationship?”

Certain behaviors and attitudes are our “normal.” But it’s still destructive. We may not have discernment about issues of emotional and verbal abuse. For couples counseling to be effective, the well-being of each spouse must be honored. If it can’t, it’s time for individual therapy.

When Couples Counseling Is Not Appropriate

First of all, if couples counseling is not appropriate, DO pursue individual therapy. Secondly, it may be appropriate to come back to the couples therapist when both spouses can respect each other. They’re able to partner with common intentions.

For couples counseling to be effective, the well-being of each spouse must be honored. Click To Tweet

Many couples’ therapists can be fooled by the most clever and charming of spouses who abuse. I don’t like labeling individuals as “abusers” or any other derogatory term. And unfortunately, therapists can inadvertently harm the bullied spouse if they lack additional training. And we’re all human. So even therapists’ marriages can have similar issues.

The power/control issues of emotional abuse are ingrained in our society. It’s vital for therapists to have acute self-awareness. They hold power in the counseling office that can repeat what victims experience at home. Too many in our field have unknowingly caused harm by lack of awareness.

Questions to Ask Yourself About Couples Counseling

  • “Are you concerned about your emotional well-being?”
  • “Do you see yourself as a victim in your relationship?”
  • “Are you fearful of your spouse?”

A more difficult issue to assess is emotional or verbal abuse. And it’s important that each spouse is honored through couples work.

If your well-being is at stake, then it’s vital for you to get help apart from the relationship. Click To Tweet

I’m not suggesting that we perceive one partner in a marriage as the victim and the other as the villain. Both individuals can be willing and teachable to overcome the power/control dynamic. If not, individual counseling will give a sense of clarity.

Start with your free consultation to find out if if couples or individual therapy is best for now.

 

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Soulmate

How To Be a Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul

It’s a continual process to balance how to be a soulmate without losing your soul. It takes attitude changes and pressurized reality to learn how to balance between “we” and “me.”

When we travel by plane, we’re used to hearing the flight attendant’s safety instructions. He or she usually says something like this.

“If there’s a loss of cabin pressure, the panels above your seat will open, and oxygen masks will drop down. . . Be sure to adjust your own mask before helping others.”

If we attempt to help others before adjusting our own mask, we may end up passing out. Then we can’t help anyone. We need to take that same advice for our relationships.

We need to care for our own soul-needs before attempting to care for others. Click To Tweet

It takes attitude changes to be a soulmate

Marriages are like a pressurized cabin at various times. They are not so even-keeled. We experience turbulence and high altitudes. Storms and fair weather affect our differences. Our ears pop. The ride gets rough. We’re required to stay in our seats with seatbelt securely fastened at times.

Early on in romance, our differences are exciting, novel, and energizing. After marriage, and sometimes before, our differences can become outright annoying. That’s when they can escalate into major conflicts.

Other life transitions expose the soul storms of a marriage. Raising children, career development, loss, and core differences create turbulence in life. But we can get beyond messy marriages.

Many Christian couples vow, “The two of us are one.” It doesn’t take long to realize one or both are subconsciously saying things like this.

We two are one. And yes, I’m the one.

Or, in a patriarchal or what some consider a “biblical” marriage, a bride may live her life like this.

We two are one. And, yes, he’s the one.

As years go by, both lose opportunities to develop their character. They lose their individual selves as well as the relationship. One of them becomes invisible. The other one gets caught up in self-delusions. Neither has insights into their own souls.

Neither one attempts to adjust their own oxygen mask. They’re too busy trying to improve, fix, or help the other. They become bitter, resentful, angry and resistant. Their world gets smaller. They become stuck. Or, figuratively, they pass out.

Life transitions expose the soul storms of a marriage. Raising children, career development, loss, and core differences create turbulence in life. Click To Tweet

It takes pressurized reality to be a soulmate

It takes two to honor each other and respect one another’s differences. And it still takes two to do that in a relationship. Here’s points to consider.

  1. Conflict is necessary for personal and relationship awareness.
  2. Don’t avoid it or run from it.
  3. Don’t criticize your partner or try to win them over to your side.
  4. Instead, be open. Listen to understand. There are more than two ways to resolve a conflict.
  5. Seek counseling or outside help to resolve resolvable conflicts. And to adjust to unresolvable conflicts.

World-renown researcher, Dr. John Gottman, gives us clarity. Sixty-nine percent of happily married couples have unresolved conflict. The difference between the “masters” and the “disasters” are this. The “masters” are the ones who adjust and accept their partner’s differences. The “disasters” allow perpetual resentment and negativity to grow.

Here are ideas on how to adjust our own soul mask

  1. Do breathe deeply when you feel reactive, irritable, angry, or triggered by your spouse. Slow down. You’ll get clarity when you do.
  2. Be curious about what’s going on inside of you. Ask yourself, “What’s unfinished in my life? Why did this situation or comment make me feel this way? What is the meaning I created from that interaction?”
  3. To increase self-awareness, reflect on this question: “How is my spouse experiencing me?”
  4. See your spouse as a gift from God. When you do, you can develop an attitude of thankfulness. You’ll nurture your soul and grow your character. Be willing to accept your spouses’ issues as helping yoube more understanding.
It takes two to honor each other and respect one another’s differences. Click To Tweet

The cabin pressure of your marriage will change. Those oxygen masks will drop. Always adjust yours first. Balance the “we” and “me” in romance and marriage. Your beautiful life is worth keeping your soul intact.

I’m writing more on the steps for balancing the “we” and “me” in romance and marriage. So, let’s stay in touch in the meantime.

For now, sign up for updates and preview on my new book

Beyond Messy Marriages: Divine Invitations Toward Your Authentic Self

 

Feature Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

Relieve Stress

Best Way To Relieve Stress Immediately

There’s a method I’ve discovered as the best way to relieve stress immediately. I’ve shared it with my clients and use it in my home every day. It’s called the seven-minute rule. What is the seven-minute rule? I’m glad you asked. Before I tell you how it works can you relate to these scenarios?

You Can Relieve Stress Immediately if. . .

  • You come home from work after a stressful day expecting to relax. When you walk in the house, it’s a wreck. No one cared to pick up after themselves. They must be lazy, you think.
  • Piled up bills are laying on the kitchen counter. The TV is blaring. The children don’t notice you because they’re on their iPads. They haven’t done their chores or homework. Or, they could at least be outside.
  • Your spouse is stressed and gives you the crying baby. And also expects you to change the dirty diaper. In an irritated tone, you ask, “what have you done all day?”
  • Your voice is firm with aggravation. The family accuses you of being mean. But it’s the only way you can get your point across.

As a result, we end up with an “I-work-so-hard-all-day-and-no-one-cares” attitude. Whatever our story, we find ways to escape the stress. Some do it by working late. Others do it by spending hours on social media. Those methods and others provide an immediate reward: dopamine, the brain’s pleasure chemical.

But, it doesn’t take long before our relationships become more distant. Those who matter most seem like strangers. And in some cases, enemies. Then we make up stories in our minds about their intentions to make our lives miserable. The results produce no teamwork in the family. Nor do we have partnership in the marriage.

Don't let mismanaged stress make relationships distant. Otherwise, those who matter most seem like strangers. Click To Tweet

Here’s how to change that cycle.

Relieve Stress Immediately —The Seven Minute Rule

The seven-minute rule is a technique that transforms stressful situations. With consistent use, we can create relaxing and peaceful connections in family relationships. What we create in a family environment can benefit in other ways. It also gives us skills to create more productive work environments.

Here’s how it works:

  • Consider seven minutes before or after any transition as sacred space. What do I mean by sacred space? It’s the place in-between a relationship that holds only gratitude and heart-to-heart connection. Nothing else. There’s no irritability, demands, criticisms or other negative interactions. That includes confrontations, stern looks, sarcasm, and cynicism.
  • The seven minutes of sacred space and time is taking deep breaths. That sacred space means slowing down to be loving and respectful. It’s focusing on being compassionate and tender with our loved ones. Also, it’s being kind and gentle regardless of the environment. It’s having an attitude of curiosity rather than judgement.
  • Let the children know you’re happy to be with them. You love them just as they are. You might say to your spouse with light-hearted honor, “I can’t believe I’m married to you! I am SO blessed.”
  • It’s your choice to love unconditionally in that seven minutes of sacred space. You take time to connect and value your relationships.

Examples of the 7-Minute Rule to Relieve Stress

  • Set the timer on your smart phone for seven minutes after pulling up in the driveway.
  • Put a reminder on your dashboard with a 3” x 5” card that reads “7-minute rule”.
  • Take deep breaths in and out with a mantra such as this. Breathe in thankfulness. Breath out stress. Or say, “I breathe in appreciation and I breathe out criticism.” Take about three or four deep breaths with the same mantra. Use that attitude for the following seven minutes of sacred time.

As you enter your home, leave your stress behind. Use deep breathing and then look into the eyes of your children and spouse. 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. Be willing to live in the present.

Use the 7-minute rule to connect, appreciate, & see through the eyes of your loved ones. Make transitions sacred. Click To Tweet

Relieve Stress through these 7-minutes:

  • Before bed
  • When you wake up
  • Right before leaving the home
  • After you arrive at your destination
  • While sitting down for a meal
  • As you finish 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 30 days. And I’d love to hear your comments.

Here’s Your next step.

Sign up for updates for my book in progress: Beyond Messy Marriages

 

Unsplash photo by John Sekutowski

 

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Regret

How To Transform Regret Into Powerful Life Lessons

I was trying to squeeze too much into my day and said “yes” when I should have said, “not now.” I began feeling regret and anger with myself for missing out. Really, I was trying to squeeze too much into my day. I made the wrong decision. We all know what that feels like. As we face our not-so-good decisions, can know how to transform regret into powerful life lessons.

Some folks say they intend to live with no regrets. And I think, really? Is that even possible?

I don’t believe we can live our entire lives without regrets.

No matter how intentional we are, we all experience regrets. Those of us who admit our regrets can become stuck in sadness with focused attention around helplessness. There’s nothing I can do about it now. Others ignore the regrets because the feelings are too painful.

Instead, it’s important to learn from regrets so we can make necessary changes.

With her care of people through hospice work, Bronnie Ware identified the five regrets of the dying. This list has been in my planner all year.

1. Have the courage to live life true to yourself and not what others expect.

Ancient literature reminds us of how universal fear is to our humanity. I highlighted several references of God’s message to Joshua in my Bible. Joshua was the one to champion the nation of Israel into the promised land. (Old Testament, book of Joshua) There’s several phrases of Be strong and of good courage along with more messages of Do not be afraid.

Notice that a pre-requisite for courage is fear. Let’s face it. We are all fearful at times. I believe fears (or any emotions we experience) are invitations to us from God to grow. Fear and courage are a necessary part of our growth.

2. Don’t work so hard.

We need to honor the God-given design of our bodies. Our brains need sleep, and our bodies need nutrition and exercise. Dr. Dan Seigel has a great diagram of our daily requirement for a healthy mind. Too many of us have stress-related health issues, and strained relationships due to overwork.

3. Express feelings.

Many of us don’t have words to describe how we feel. Or we may be constantly on the go and don’t notice our feelings. When we’re triggered in an instant, we fail to pause and explore what might really be going on. Instead, we medicate with social media or screen time.

4. Stay in touch with friends.

I fall short in this category and must admit I’d never been to any of my high-school reunions. Even though we have years of disconnect from former friends, it’s never too late to fill in that gap.

Not only is it healthy to nurture individual friendships, but it’s important to grow our marriages through couple friends. Recent research indicates friendships with other healthy couples increase happiness and partnership in marriage.

5. Let yourself be happy.

Some of us take ourselves way too seriously. When my husband meets new people, he usually asks, What do you do for fun? It’s amazing how many people just pause and are unsure how to answer. But it’s a great way to connect beyond our titles and what we do for a living. Somehow we learn a lot about a person when they share what they like doing for fun.

 

Remember, don’t let a powerful life lesson pass you by. Face regrets and take these five lessons to heart:

  1. Be courageous and true to yourself
  2. Relax from work
  3. Express your feelings
  4. Enjoy friendships
  5. Be happy.

Questions to Ponder

Which of the five lessons would you like to focus on?

Sign up for practical ways to do it:

  1. Ask for a free 20 minute consultation
  2. Contact me today as it’s the last Day to Sign up for Professional Women’s Focus Group.
Relationship

The Secret to a Healthy Relationship Is Not What You Think

The secret to a healthy relationship is not what you think. What do most people say? You guessed it. Communication with a capital “C.” But communication is not the secret to healthy relationships. Click here for audio version. 

Once you know the difference between communication and dialogue you’ll agree. Dialogue is the real secret to a healthy relationship. And it’s not natural.

Dialogue is the real secret to a healthy relationship. And it's not natural. Click To Tweet

Normal communication can easily turn into power/control situations.

If you were a compliant kid growing up, then you may be like me. You’re easily persuaded.

I have no problem buying products online. I’ve listened to webinars and taken more online classes than I can count. Marketers convince us there’s a limited time only, or the price will never be this low again. Persuasion is a powerful communication method.

If you’re naturally strong-willed, you won’t be easily persuaded. Instead, you spend hours of research before purchases. You’re skeptical of marketers and you have no trouble with being assertive.

Because you’re so confident, your conversations can mimic a sales pitch without realizing it. You might even be able to sell and snowball to an Eskimo.

In relationship, one person is great at persuasion while the other is easily influenced. The compliant one buys the “bill of goods” and later, has buyer’s regret. After time, this communication pattern in intimate relationships feel manipulative. Trust is weakened and isolation replaces connection.

Communication patterns feel manipulative when you try to convince the other person. Click To Tweet

Every one of us desire to be heard and understood in our intimate relationships. That’s why we need to know dialogue.

What Relationship Dialogue is not:

Dialogue is not debate.

Some of us know what it’s like to be on a debate team in high school. We’ve all watched political debates. Neither party is open to the other’s viewpoint. Their only purpose is to win the hearers over to their side. One ends up being a winner and the other a loser.

When marital communication is a debate, one spouse loses. Who wants to sleep with a loser? In reality, both lose.

Dialogue is not discussion.

Some of us call arguing “heated discussions.” Both people try to change the other’s mind, or belief, or behavior. Neither one is listening to the other.

Think of the suffix of the word discussion and how it’s similar to concussion. Discussion is to a relationship as a football player is to a head injury.  One person suffers.

What Relationship Dialogue is: 

Dialogue is a form of communication in which two people walk away feeling heard, understood, and validated. It requires skills of listening. Dialogue is two people willing to slow down and hear what the other is saying.

Dialogue is a form of communication in which two people walk away feeling heard, understood, and validated. Click To Tweet

It requires two people willing to bring attitudes of openness, growth and curiosity. They desire to honor the others’ differences.

Dialogue seems to happen naturally early on in a romantic relationship. Both are curious and open with the other. Over time, attitudes change. Dialogue eventually migrates to debate or discussion.

Secrets to a Healthy Relationship 

Whether you’re a master at persuasion or can buy anything online, it’s crucial to learn dialogue. We now realize the secret to a healthy relationship is not communication with a capital “C.”  It’s dialogue which takes a special skill of listening. Dialogue is the superglue that holds us together. Dialogue connects us in our desire to be seen, heard, and understood.

Three Choices in your next step to a Healthy Relationship

  1. Go to my FaceBook page to watch short videos about dialogue.
  2. Answer this question and comment on this post: Are you assertive or easily influenced in your relationship?
  3. Sign up for a free 20 minute consultation to begin learning dialogue skills.

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