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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.

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Unsplash photo by John Sekutowski

 

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Fatherhood

Five Ways to Appreciate Awesome Fatherhood

It’s tempting for some of us to dismiss Father’s Day. Greeting cards for dads aren’t as popular as they are on Mother’s Day. But it doesn’t matter what your father stories are. When we take time to reflect, there are five ways to appreciate awesome fatherhood.

Appreciate Fatherhood from your closest relationship

Think of your closest relationship and how you can appreciate fatherhood.

For me, it’s my husband Joe. Even though he’s never been a father, he is a remarkable “Papi Joe” to our four grandchildren. Yes, you may have heard the joke about skipping parenthood to become a grandparent. That is the case with Joe. But he’s more than “Papi Joe.” Right now, he’s becoming a father! No, we’re not Sarah and Abraham from the Old Testament. But it’s taken the two of us to conceive my book about messy marriages. For a woman who’s birthed four babies, writing this book is like going through nine months of pregnancy.

Appreciate Fatherhood from those who’ve passed on

For some of us, our dads are deceased and we miss them during this season. This is the first Father’s Day without my step-dad, Bob. He passed away a few months ago. Within the last decade, I’ve grown closer to him. I miss seeing his smile and hearing his laughter during family gatherings. Although Bob knew me as an adult, my other step-dad, Jim, influenced my formative years.

I have few memories of my young dad, Bill, who died of cancer when I was small. But my Aunt Sara said to me, “He was my favorite brother who took time to understand me.” I believe it’s my dad who passed this trait onto me to become the counselor I am today.

Appreciate Fatherhood from the dad who gave you life

Some struggle with their birth dad abandoning them. It’s easy to hold onto grudges. But our hearts can make room to appreciate them. Our freedom to forgive doesn’t minimize offenses. Nor does it mean it’s OK to let an untrustworthy man into your life. But being thankful helps us live more truthfully.

From the heart-ache I’ve heard in my counseling office, not all situations make this an easy task. And it won’t happen amidst bitterness and busy-ness. Most of us need extra help from a counselor to learn how to have healthy boundaries. We can cultivate an attitude of appreciation.

Appreciate Fatherhood from dads who’ve given you children & grandchildren

Let’s recognize our sons, sons-in-laws, and fathers of our grandchildren. And for some, it’s challenging to wish an ex-husband, “Happy Father’s Day.” Yet they all deserve our appreciation. Take time to notice the love they give and ways they provide.

We can cultivate appreciation even though all relationships have periodic or sometimes chronic messes. Click To Tweet

All relationships have periodic or sometimes chronic messes. Yet, we can still appreciate the dads who’ve born us children. It’s important to know that previous marriages and relationships are not failures. We can gain wisdom and focus on the beautiful lives conceived and birthed from those unions.

Appreciate Fatherhood from dads who’ve influenced you

Take notice of those who’ve been like a dad to you. It might be an extended family member or other mentor.

For me, it’s been my grandfather. His long and beautiful life lasted 94 years. I’m now blessed with living history through my 99-year-old grandmother, his widow. Also, I appreciate my father-in-law from my previous marriage who is now deceased.

Although my Uncle Ken has grown children of his own, I appreciate his influence on me as a father figure. He’s the one who encourages me and gives me advice when I ask for it. And he’s the one who’s known me since birth and has modeled a godly marriage and family over the years.

There’s a Father I’ve not met face-to-face. And I’m not Catholic. But, I appreciate Father Richard Rohr who’s made an impact on me in the last few years. I can tear up reading bite-sized portions of his small book “Just This.” Another book, “The Divine Dance” speaks to me on several levels. Parts of my memoir are about how God used dancing to move me into His divine invitations.

Celebrate Awesome Fatherhood

You may be full of natural appreciation for the fathers in your life. Or you may be avoiding Father’s Day. But we can all take time to ponder the positive things. We all can celebrate fathers as we focus on these five ways.  Let’s appreciate awesome fatherhood no matter how it shows up in our lives.

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Featured Photo by Morgan David de Lossy on Unsplash

How to Make People Feel Special

“Hi, Grandma. I have a surprise for you!”I made a quick call to my 99-year-old grandmother to tell her we were on our way to visit. It was my mom’s turn to drive as we finished the last hour of our twelve-hour trip. My grandmother has short-term memory loss. But she’s one who’s taught me how to make people feel special. I wanted to do that for her. And here are at least three ways to make people feel special. These three ways can help us connect with the humanity of the other person. When we do, we feel special, ourselves.

Make People Feel Special By Your Smiles

My grandmother has a natural smile that makes others feel comfortable. My step-dad, Bob also had a natural smile that matched his dimples. They both showed friendliness on their faces. Both could smile at strangers, acquaintances, and even their least favorite family members. Their smiles were always genuine.

But some people are born with solemn looks. It takes an effort to have a pleasant smile. It may be their facial muscles or lack of practice. But they’re unaware of how others experience them.

Whether you’re a natural smiler or not, the power of a smile makes a difference. In the presence of a small group or one-on-one interaction, a warm and pleasant smile helps us connect. And it makes others feel special.

Even in the most stressful situations, a smile can transform; both you and other people. #beyondmessymarriages Click To Tweet

If you struggle (as many do) with social anxiety, your face may be showing up as unapproachable to others. Practice your smile in front of the mirror. When you learn to do it, you’ll invite confidence in yourself and connection with others.

Make People Feel Special by Saying Their Name

It took a while before I could feel comfortable with this one. I’ve been known to immediately forget someone’s name when first introduced. But now, I say it back to the person who introduces themselves. As you continue the conversation, repeat their name a few times. It helps make the association in your brain so you don’t forget.

If you’re sitting in a meeting, jot a quick diagram with boxes. You can make a seating chart in the same way school teachers do. Then write their names in the boxes as people introduce themselves.

Here’s another idea. When the cashier is checking out your groceries, notice their name tag. Use their name as you say, “thank you.” Normally, they look up when you say their name. And sometimes they smile.

Make People Feel Special by Listening

One of the most valuable gifts you can give another person is the gift of listening. Dr. David G. Benner, my Spiritual Director showed me the value of dialogue.

Dialogue is making the space between two people emotionally safe. It’s being curious rather than judgmental.

Most of us think we’re listening. But instead, we’re formatting a response in our head. Listening to build your argument, is not true listening. But listening to hear and understand is the only kind that makes people feel special.

Smile, Name, Listen

We arrived at my grandmother’s assisted living, and knocked on her door. She expected us because of my call from the previous hour. “Judy, I’m so glad to see you!” She said it with a big smile on her face, and a warm embrace to my mom and me. She listened. All three of us felt special and connected.

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