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State of your marriage

How to Know the State of Your Marriage

My husband and I recently attended his 45th High School Reunion. There were a handful of couples who had been married over forty years! I was curious about the secret to their success. Of course, I want wisdom for my marriage. And I want to help others with “how to know the state of your marriage.” Beyond my clinical knowledge and experience, this was a perfect time to ask. These were couples my husband knew since adolescence. And it was the best environment outside my counseling office to get insight.

40-year Marriage Testimonies:

“We’ve been through a lot. And we have some major differences. But when we go hiking, all those differences fade. We appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

“I don’t know why it’s worked for us. I guess we’ve been blessed. My spouse is my best friend.”

Of course, not all long-term marriages give evidence of partnership. Some couples look worn down and live like room-mates under the same roof. We all go through seasons or years of unhappiness or dysfunction. That’s why I steer away from the term, “happy marriage.” It’s more valuable to work toward a growing marriage. And that was my takeaway after listening to the couples at the reunion.

Marriage falls into one of two categories: “masters” or “disasters.” Chapter 11 of my book, Beyond Messy Marriages addresses these two categories.

It's more valuable to work toward a growing marriage rather than a happy marriage. We can all choose to grow through temporary feelings and seasons. Click To Tweet

One of my mentors, Dr. John Gottman, is world-renowned for his research on marital stability. The research findings are packaged in his books for the general public. Clinical training programs for therapists like me have been invaluable. I was privileged to meet Drs. John and Julie Gottman in Atlanta in early 2018 for the Level 1 Clinical Training.

Many who write books on marriage use his findings to define what does and doesn’t work in relationships. Dr. Gottman helps us understand differences between “the masters” and “the disasters.” In other words, those who grow beyond their marital messes are the “masters.” Those who get stuck are the “disasters.” Certain behaviors and attitudes put us heading in one direction or the other.

Know the State of Your Marriage By What Direction You’re Heading

Imagine a horizontal line with arrows on either end. Remember geometry class? Anyone of us can be an “x” on a continuum line facing either right decisions on one end or wrong decisions on the other. This idea helps us see the fluidity of our choices. We have hope for changing our dance (relationship) patterns. We can apply that same horizontal line with an “x” representing our marriages. Are we heading in the direction of the “masters” or the “disasters?” In other words, we can change directions with the smallest of decisions.

Our lives and relationships are never static even though we feel stuck. Click To Tweet

Know the State of Your Marriage By Adjusting to Perpetual Conflicts

Gottman’s research challenges how therapists help or hinder couples they work with. For example, we shouldn’t focus solely on conflict resolution skills. The reason is that 69% of conflict in our relationships are perpetual. They have no resolve. The couples I spoke with at the reunion validated these findings.

So you could divorce one spouse and marry another. But you will experience a different set of perpetual conflicts. They’re likely to add up to the same percentage as the old marriage. The wisdom here is for couples to learn how to solve the 31% of conflicts that are resolvable. And grow through accepting the rest.

Know The State of Your Marriage By Resolving Resolvable Conflicts

We can learn to grow through, adapt, and even appreciate the remaining perpetual 69%. Unless, of course, part of that 69% dishonors the dignity, value, and worth of either spouse.

My husband’s old friends became my new friends while at the high school reunion. Those long-term married folks validated the premise for my book. Those who are open and willing to respect differences were clearly among the “masters.”

Sign Up For: Beyond Messy Marriages – Divine Invitations for Knowing Your True Self

 

Feature Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash

How to Get Positive Results In Your Relationship

We all have different stories in our heads about how secure or satisfying our relationships are. It’s common for one person to be satisfied while the other isn’t. That’s why it’s important to know how to get positive results in your relationship.

Some of us take pride in managing our money and then later found out a check bounced. Or we’ve balanced the checkbook and then discovered we spent more on the eating out category than budgeted.

Using another example, 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? Then saw you were taking in many more calories than you were actually burning?

Uncertainty in Your Relationship

Many couples enter counseling with a lot of uncertainty. One is usually dragged in by the other.

One person 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.

Tiger/Turtle Syndrome in Your Relationship

It’s very common for one spouse to minimize and the other maximize. I call it the “Turtle/Tiger” syndrome.

Unsplash Photo

Turtles typically hide in their shells and avoid conflict or accuse their partners of blowing things out of proportion.

Turtles tend to see things “not as bad” as they really are. Tigers, on the other hand, roar and persist until they are heard. Many times they DO see things worse than they are.

Unsplash Photo

Consider Charting Patterns In Your Relationship

A couple years ago, I created The Partnership Pattern chart which helps you keep track of both positive and negative behaviors in your relationship.

For those who like to check things off, it can be a great way to balance the check book of your relationship. All you have to do is observe, experience, and rate measurable items that are going on now in your relationship.

But after I created the chart, I hesitated to share it. Why? I’m glad you asked.

  1. The tendency is to focus our attention on what our partner is doing wrong rather than what we are doing wrong. What we choose to focus on, we’ll find. Yet, it’s vital we don’t ignore clear behaviors that minimize our dignity. Generally, if you look for the positive behaviors, you’re likely to find them. And, of course those negative behaviors scream for your attention.
  2. Normally, we don’t realize how our own responses and reactions invite negativity from our partner. We’re paving the way to get the things we don’t want. Most relationships follow the law of reciprocity. But we need to be aware when the character of the relationship isn’t reciprocal.
  3. Filling out the chart objectively may reveal serious relationship issues such as emotional, mental, or physical abuse. Don’t hesitate to get immediate help if you’re living in fear or danger.

Here’s why I’m offering The Partnership Pattern chart anyway.

Get Clarity in Your Relationship

It’s vital we don’t ignore clear behaviors and attitudes that minimize our dignity.

If you could be honest with yourself, it can be revealing about how to get positive results in your relationship. And get the help that you may be minimizing.

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 a marriage enrichment weekend or crisis intervention with your local counselor. Know where your relationship stands.

Sign up for your free Partnership Pattern chart.

Or, Sign up for your free 20 minute consultation.

Getting Unstuck For a Dynamic 2018

 

Getting unstuck for a dynamic 2018 enables fresh energy and motivation. It clears away subconscious negativity and makes room to live fully in the present. It allows us to have a clear vision for meaningful goals.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana Click To Tweet

Getting Unstuck: Wisdom From Technology

For example, an unfinished past is like issues I had with my iPad. All of a sudden a small white pinwheel in the middle of a blank screen kept going around in a rhythmic fading/returning circle over and over again. I tried clicking a combination of buttons hoping to turn it off and reboot. Nothing worked. It was slowly draining the battery and becoming useless at a time I needed it most.

Since I was traveling, I found the nearest service store. After the technician asked a few questions and clicked the home screen button twice, he showed me the hidden apps running in the background. Many were duplicates several times over.

“Oh, I didn’t know those were there,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “Every time you open an app on the iPad, you’ll need to swipe it away when you’re finished.”

He showed me how to swipe each of those no-longer-needed apps away. Once I did that, my iPad worked fine.

Getting Unstuck: The Apps of our Lives

Our lack of awareness about the unfinished business of our past is like those apps taking up valuable energy. It’s human nature to move toward pleasure and away from pain. But our pain and pleasure is meant to flow in and out of our lives. Yet our obsession with avoidance keeps us from taking inventory of what’s slowing us down or keeping us stuck.

A daily inventory can be as automatic as brushing our teeth. For example, a practice such as praying The Daily Examine Prayer or writing in a Five Minute Gratitude Journal are great ways to swipe away those apps. Weekly and quarterly inventories may include participating in your place of worship or gathering with an accountability group. I’ve known some happily married couples ask each other things like, “How full is your love tank today?”

In addition to daily and weekly inventories, consider quarterly reflections. I’ve taken spiritual and personal retreats every 90 days for several years. It’s a time to be aware and reflect on the previous 90 days and be intentional for the next 90 days.

When clients go through a series of counseling sessions with me, I encourage them to schedule “booster sessions.” We can maintain our relationship health like we do our dental hygiene as we visit our dentist for six-month cleanings and yearly X-rays.

With a practice of regular inventory, we gain wisdom, awareness, and movement. As a result, we get unstuck.

The lessons of 2017 are catalysts for transformation in 2018. Click To Tweet

The journey through our past wasn’t meant to be forgotten. Our life experiences have meaning and valuable lessons for us.

Getting Unstuck: Deeper and Freer

Getting unstuck means going deeper and becoming freer. Therefore, a small percentage of people actually accomplish their New Year’s goals.

When we don’t take inventory and learn from the past, those who know us best experience us as moody, irritable, and cynical. Consequently, we’re easily triggered. The criticism/defensiveness patterns are like synchronized dance steps in the Tango of our marriages.

It’s the subconscious disappointments, anger, trauma and grief that keep us frozen. In addition, we forget even the highlights of the previous year. We don’t take time to celebrate and we miss valuable lessons.

Is it any wonder why most don’t bother to take inventory of their past year or plan for change in the New Year? The apps running in the background are blinding us from from fresh beginnings. Our unfinished past takes up wasted energy and slows us down. 

Let’s take inventory of the good, bad, and ugly of our lives.

When we share our unfinished past with a professional counselor, compassionate minister, or a wise friend, we begin to notice the lessons. We make room for the present when we swipe away the unnecessary apps of our lives.

Your Next Step to getting unstuck

  1. Consider a daily practice of the The Daily Examine Prayer or a Five Minute Gratitude Journal
  2. Schedule a free 20 minute consultation 
  3. Ask about the Professional Women’s Focus Group

Professional Women’s Focus Group

Join me for a live Q & A webcam call about a 90-day plan for online group accountability, focus and clarity. For other free resources, go to judycounselor.com.

 

Counselor Support

How To Find The Right Counselor

With a splotchy red face and tears dripping down my cheeks, I had just shared intimate details of my life. An hour later, having used lots of tissue and now less money in my purse I wasn’t going back. The therapist was competent and reputable. But the chemistry wasn’t there for me. It’s important to know how to find the right counselor before your first counseling appointment.

Before you bare your soul to a counselor, it's important to find the right fit for you. Click To Tweet

Some clients feel cheated paying counseling fees at their first session if it’s not a good fit.

Here’s things to consider before you hire your mental health counselor or relationship therapist. Some may be more important to you than others. These items will help you get clarity for the therapist that’s right for you.

Do your research before contacting a licensed professional counselor.

Of course, it’s always helpful to get recommendations from your friends, family, or doctor. But do your own research as well. What may be a good fit for your sister’s marriage, may not be a good fit for yours. Each individual and relationship is different.

Many therapists advertise on Psychology Today, Theravive, or other counseling platforms. Start with a google search in your area. If you’re looking for marriage counseling, just type in marriage counseling in or near your city.

  • Read counselors profiles, specialties, and blog posts. Some even have introductory videos.
  • Find out how long they’ve been in practice.
  • Discover whether they’re “general practitioners” or if they specialize.

Make an initial connection with a counselor through their online presence or profile.

If you’re just too anxious to make that initial phone call, send a short email. You can say something like this:

I’m interested in counseling. Do you offer free consultations? 

Or you can say this:

I’m interested in counseling. Would you please call me at (your phone number) on Monday afternoon? I have a few questions to ask. 

Don’t assume you’re obligated to schedule a counseling appointment with that first connection by phone or email. It’s OK to shop around.

Here’s things to consider at a first encounter with a counselor:

  • How long does it take to receive an email reply? You should hear back within 24 hours.
  • The counselor may not offer free office consultations, but may spend 15 minutes on the phone with you. If so, pay attention to how you feel on the phone with them.
    • Do they sound rushed?
    • Is their voice warm and inviting?
    • Is it fast or slow?
    • Abrupt or calm?

Some counselors choose not to have contact with clients before meeting them at their first appointments. Their assistants may be the only initial connection. Decide if that’s acceptable to you. You are the one who decides what’s best for you. Your preferences matter.

It’s proper and necessary to interview two or three before hiring the right counselor for you.

Whether you’re choosing a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, or a mental health therapist, you’re the one doing the hiring for their expertise. Just as you would hire a contractor or mechanic, mental health professionals are providing you services.

View yourself as a client or patient who is making an informed choice. It’s easy to be intimidated by a person’s title or initials after their name. You are just as important as your provider. They just have issues you don’t know about. We are all human beings worthy of respect, dignity and worth.

Avoid anyone who makes you feel “less than.” Whether you’re struggling with substance addiction or a mood disorder, you’re no less than the doctor or therapist who is treating you.

Don’t leave your first counseling appointment feeling cheated. Save your tears for the right one.

Sign up for a free 20 minute consultation.