I believe I have created a tall task for myself. These next few posts may be short to start with and added to later. I find the topic complicated. It concerns me that I may no do it justice. Yet, I am going to try. So, here we go!
The last of my Quarantine post! I am ecstatic! I have actually fulfilled a goal of keeping a series of blog post running. I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts on how to help improve your marriage. You might be one of the families stuck at home or spending more time at home during this time, and I hope this will continue to be helpful. I hope you share it with those who you know need it. Things have been a lot different in the past 3-4 months for all of us. I believe the changes that we all have had to make in the past few months has caused each of us increased stress in a variety of ways. It’s important to have tools to keep yourself and your family sane. Having some clear guidelines and actions you can take to make things a little easier on yourself can be huge as we move forward as a family, community and nation in uncertain times.
The final tip that I think would be helpful for your marriage during this time, although there is much more I could provide, is to focus on teamwork in your relationship. Why teamwork? I am GLAD you asked!
First off, what happens when we get stressed and things aren’t going well?
- We point fingers
- We blame others
- We start to protect ourselves
- We think about how we are getting the short end of the stick
- We become negative and have increasing negative thoughts
- We might even isolate and hold resentment
Did I leave anything out? Probably, but the above is a pretty good list of what happens when we get stressed, right? Every one of those points above also spell out in an indirect way, “Me, me, me.” We start to think about ourselves when we get stressed, and we distance ourselves from the problem. Thinking this way is a PROBLEM! Ever heard of the cliche: “There is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M”? When we start moving in this negative direction, we pit ourselves against others instead of rallying for others.
What can be done about this? How are we going to get back to US oriented and not ME oriented? How would that even help?
The first step to getting back to a TEAM mentality is to THINK TEAM. I believe getting our minds reset to think about your partner as your teammate and what it means to be a teammate is important. Focus on your partner as your partner. Focus on your relationship as unified and together. Meditate on the WE and not ME.
The second step is to visualize what a TEAM looks like. By the way, what does a team look like? I try to visualize a sports team. I love football. A football team cannot WIN or reach their goals without the maximum effort and unity of everyone on the team. Even the players who are not on the field have a role. Your role may be only to cheer on your team or to learn and watch the game so they know what is going on. No matter how small the role is, NO ROLE IS INSIGNIFICANT! When visualizing a team, the most important aspect of being a team is that they ALL have ONE GOAL! You and your spouse have the SAME GOAL. Why would we be against each other if we have the same end goal in mind?
Third, know your role! You can’t play every position on the field. A running back blocks and runs the ball. If he is running the ball, someone else has to block for him or run a fake route. In your marriage or relationship, you can’t do everything and be everything. You also can’t expect your spouse to do everything and be everything. You also need to realize that your spouse has an important role that is desperately needed in order to reach your mutual goals. Did you get into a relationship to do things alone or by yourself? NO! Understand your own role and focus on your own role. Also, realize that your spouse’s role is important, but you cannot do their role for them and it does not help to criticize them or fight them.
Fourth, try to listen and empathize with your partner. Better said, try to understand your spouse’s point of view. That helps you understand their role and their struggles with fulfilling their role.
Finally, remember that you are FOR each other! You want each other to succeed. If one of you doesn’t succeed, neither of you will likely succeed. Be each other’s cheerleaders! Help each other, encourage each other, praise each other, love each other, think about each other, share with each other, and be gentle with each other!
Teamwork will help you stay focused and will help you feel like you are not alone. Feeling alone is probably the most stressful thing in life, and loneliness is the last thing each of us need. You have each other in your corner. Don’t take that for granted. I challenge you to use “team” terminology to improve your focus on teamwork. Team terminology is any term that might relate to being a team and can help you refocus on acting like a team. Be the TEAM YOU COMMITTED TO. You can do it! You can get through this time TOGETHER.
I hope that this has been helpful. As this series ends, I hope I have given you information that you can go back to when you need it. If you have any further questions or need help, please call me and set up an appointment or check out some of my other BLOG POSTS.
Want to read the rest of the blog series? START HERE
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 706-955-0230.
To schedule an appointment online, click the orange button at the top right part of this page.
I hope you have received help through this series. I have enjoyed writing it, but I am concerned that I am not focusing on what’s most important right now. I don’t want to miss the fact that life has shifted for everyone of us so quickly. Many people are hurting right now. Some couples are scared and worried about their future and their families. There are many couples grieving due to loss. Everything has been turned upside down in only a few short months. How many of us have seen so much change so quickly. Even for those who have not been hit hard, it’s still be shocking and thrown us off in some way. The reality and gravity of the situation has still not been fully grasped. But I do know one thing, we need each other more than ever at this time. We need to be CONNECTED.
This opening brings me to my topic for this week. How can we practice listening to improve our relationships? I fully believe that learning to listen is one of the most important skills a couple can build. Most couples I work with have a listening problem. In fact, I think we all do! I would never leave myself out of that group. Some couples have even said about their spouse, “He/She doesn’t listen to me.” Have you ever heard that? I have definitely thought that a few times. In most of my relationships I have thought that at some point. Sorry Mom, Dad, friends, and family! But it’s true. If we are honest with ourselves, we would say at some point in our lives we felt unheard. If most of us have felt unheard, then the opposite is true: It’s likely most of us have not listened well at times also. If you KNOW that you are not so good at listening, or maybe you just want to learn how to listen better, let’s dig into how we can all PRACTICE being better listeners, especially in this time of change and unpredictability, so we can increase CONNECTION.
My 4 tips to listening can help all of us connect better in our relationships and decrease negative interactions. During this tough time, emotions may run high. Increased stress, hurt and pain may lead to quick reactions. Unfortunately, all to often, we are unable to stop these quick reactions. It is more important than ever to learn how to avoid these negative interactions, otherwise we double our pain and stress.
- My first tip: Remind yourself that your spouse loves you and has REAL, UN-IMAGINED emotions that have a reason! I can’t count the times I have told my wife, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” I disregard her feelings all together when I say that. If you think this thought or say this to your spouse, then you have your first sign that you are not listening. So, assess your tendency to disregard your spouses reality.
- My second tip is to TUNE into their feelings and the meaning behind their feelings. This step requires a little practice. It may help to practice even when you are alone. Say to yourself, “They have feelings and they are important. I need to understand them. Be curious and ask them to help me understand their meaning.” I try to repeat this phrase often. It’s not a full-proof method to decrease reacting out of defensiveness or disregarding someone’s feelings, but that old cliché keeps coming back to my mind, “Practice makes perfect.” Tune into your spouses feelings by intentionally seeking understanding.
- My third tip is to KNOCK OUT DEFENSIVENESS. Ahh, I have a boxer mindset. My way of boxing is to wait and sneak in a DEFENSIVE jab or two. I will go on the offensive at times, but usually after the other person swings first. I am the defensive one in my marriage. My wife asks, “Are you breathing?” My reaction: “Who me? Why would you think that? I was just over his smelling some flowers and being all innocent and stuff…” Okay, that is a little exaggeration, but you get my point. How do you feel when you are trying to explain how you feel and they defend themselves instead of listening to you and not attempting to understand you? THEY DON’T CARE! THEY ARE MORE WORRIED ABOUT THEMSELVES THAN HOW I FEEL! And you might be right! Or, they might be fearful or feeling attacked or they just don’t want to upset you. Unfortunately, their missing you. They missed the whole point. They had a chance to connect with you and help you build their trust in you that is longed for. Yet, you chose to defend yourself instead of put aside your own concerns. Remember: Defensiveness is NOT LISTENING. Knock it out by taking responsibility for where you messed up even if you don’t FEEL like you did. Apologize and tune in to their feelings. You will be surprised at how close the connection becomes once you do that. Defensiveness is distance. Listening is connection.
- Finally, my fourth tip is to MAKE TIME to go deep. Sometimes we are “too busy” to stop and hear our partner. We have the time right now, at least some of us do. Make time to ask how they are doing. Then listen! Ask tough questions. Then Listen! Be intentional to get off your phone and start a conversation. Then LISTEN! Then make it a habit to do this at the same time, or times, every week. I assume you get my point.
With our world turned upside down, now may be a better time than ever to turn your marriage back right side up. Don’t waste this time! Don’t waste the opportunity to fix things while you have more time. The world will get back moving again, probably sooner than we think. It already is in some ways. Don’t regret intentionally taking the time to learn to listen and connect to your spouse.
If you want to learn more about listening, visit this PAGE.
If you want to read the other blog post in this series, here is the first POST.
If you want help with your relationship, please call me at 706-955-0230 or CLICK ON THE ORANGE BAR AT THE TOP RIGHT OF THIS PAGE TO SET UP AN APPOINTMENT OR FREE 15 MINUTE CONSULT!
Next Post In Series – Rest
Throughout my son’s childhood, I have admired his ability to play with just about anything he can put his hands on. My house usually looks like the path after a tornado by the end of the day. It gets frustrating to clean it all up and can be sense of contention between my wife and I as well as our children. However, I have noticed that when we are helping him pick it up, that his creativity in his play is mind boggling. He doesn’t just play with one set of toys or stay in one spot (hence the tornado). He has a unique ability to gather different objects and play with them together. It sometimes seems to have no rhyme or reason. He tends to have a knack for spontaneity by just picking up a toy where ever he is at, at any given time, and just go with it. I wish I still had that ability.
Somewhere along the way, we adults lose this ability. We lose the ability to be creative and the ability to just enjoy being spontaneous. We lose the ability to be flexible and go with the flow. And, not only that, we lose the ability to be playful.
Play involves all of those things: spontaneity, creativity, flexibility, and fun! The definition of play is engaging in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Being serious squelches fun and sometimes creativity. Have you ever been so focused on one thing, that you miss something important? Being serious also keeps us from being flexible at times. I know this first hand. When it’s bed time, IT’S BED TIME! My wife probably thinks I have a stick up my YOU KNOW WHAT every night about 8:00 PM. IT’S BED TIME! I am rarely flexible on this issue, and I become serious and goal oriented about this same time every night. I don’t know if this is my anxiety or fear about what may happen if they don’t get in bed on time, but that is another topic for another day and should be explored. Staying on topic, play rarely has a set goal if it is fun. Sometimes even playing sports can be so goal oriented that it loses it’s fun. PLAY IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!
Many couples lose their ability to play and have fun. When they were dating, they were flirty and playful… spontaneous, surprising, flexible and creative, BUT not long after they tied the knot, their life became mundane and monotonous…stressful, tense and goal oriented.
Relationships thrive off of playfulness!
Think about when you had your best times. Were you playful? Were you spontaneous? My guess is the answer is “YES!” The times we have the most fun with our partner is when we are playful. Being playful helps others to relax and enjoy the moment. Having fun creates memories that have a lasting affect on us and help couples to build deeper connections and help to grow the relationship. When we are playful, we tend to seize the moment. When we are playful, we don’t take life for granted. Being playful with your spouse is about loving and enjoying life despite the stressors around you. It’s about controlling what you actually CAN control. You CAN CONTROL how much fun you have and create with each other, even in time of stress and discomfort.
I encourage you to use this time to play with one another. Be creative as we talked about in a previous blog post. Don’t let the worries of this world keep you from enjoying each day with one another. Lighten up! Be spontaneous, flexible and open to the possibilities around you. Play as my son plays! As you walk through your life, STOP and NOTICE the things around you. Be curious. Be that tornado that leaves a path of meaning behind you as you enjoy each moment with your spouse!
If you are having trouble find ways to play or enjoying time with your spouse, please let me know. Email Me or Call Me at 706-955-0230. Set up a free 15 minute consultation! Or go back and check out the rest of this blog series.
Next Post In Series – Practice listening and understanding
Stress and monotony becoming the norm? Being at home more than usual and not being able to get out increases boredom, unless you have figured out how to be creative since two blog posts ago. Sometimes there is not enough creativity to help a couple to feel good about each. More time spent together and more time outside of your element may make it hard to look past each other’s faults.
EXTRA grace and forgiveness at this time may go a long way! It may even save a relationship! Maybe a little more grace and forgiveness is what your relationship has always needed!
Everyone knows what grace and forgiveness are, but just in case you are a little fuzzy on it, let me clue you in to what I am referring to. Grace is the ability to look past someone’s mistakes when they don’t deserve it. From a Christian view, Grace means “unmerited favor.” If a couple gives each other grace, they will withhold their criticism and anger when their spouse or partner does something they shouldn’t. Grace can be really healing. Grace can bring a couple closer due to feeling like your partner understands that their is more to you than your mistakes. Grace allows a two people to be able to be themselves around each other.
Forgiveness is the ability stop feeling upset towards someone about an offense. Some people don’t like the idea of forgiveness because they think it means to “forgive and FORGET.” I tell my clients that forgiveness is important, but forgetting is impossible. Our brains were not really made to forget. So what does forgiveness look like then? It looks like being able to give up the fight to hold your partner accountable. It goes hand and hand with grace. It looks like loving them and letting go of the hurt. One way to think about forgiveness is to make a DELIBERATE CHOICE to release feelings of resentment and hurt so as to open back up to someone else to possibility to make it right.
So, as things continue to be confusing, stressful and tough, CHOOSE to give your spouse or partner a chance to make mistakes. And when they do, CHOOSE to give them the gift of forgiveness!
To learn more, go back to my original blog of this series.
If you would like to ask me questions about relationship concerns, call me at 706-955-0230 or EMAIL ME.
Next Post In Series – Get outside
Many of us who are home at this time find that our duties are actually increasing. Children being home from school and more people in the household creating messes means more clean up and monitoring of the homestead. If you are still working, especially from home, you might be pulling double duty. This increases the stress that spouses are facing compared to the usual life of going to work. Few breaks are available. At least, if I am at work I get away from the home environment for some amount of time. If I am working from home and the kids are there, it all runs together. I fortunately have a remote place I can work from, but I have taken the time to go home for lunch or in the middle of the day for an hour or so. By doing this, I believe I am giving my wife a break and breaking up my own day.
Sharing duties and giving time to reboot can help with this increased strain on the household and the marriage. Communication is the key here. If you are feeling stressed and need some help with certain duties or just time to yourself, it is important to verbalize your needs. I unfortunately do not have the ability to hear my wife’s thoughts, so I bet your spouse does not have that ability either.
There are some keys to verbalizing your needs though.
First, understand that your expectations to get what you need may not be met. By lowering your expectations, you may help to keep from creating conflict with your partner. So, how does verbalizing my needs help? The more information provided to your spouse, the more likely they will be able to meet your needs or help you get what you need. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “If it is not documented, it didn’t happen.” In this case, if it was not verbalized, then it is not a problem to be resolved.
The second thing to remember when verbalizing your needs is TIMING. Please make sure you don’t just verbalize your needs because you are emotional. Emotions are never a good clock to tell you when you should communicate about something. God gave us brains for a reason. If your partner is busy, stressed or upset at that time, maybe it is not the best TIME to express needs.
Third, figure out how to express your needs in the best way possible. Check out my thoughts about communication in relationships. Finding the right way to say something is important. Some tips are to watch your tone, check your volume and monitor your attitude. Men, soften your voice like you are speaking to your beloved grandmother. A booming, commanding voice is not necessarily “assertive.” Women, a high pitch, screechy voice will not get your husband to hear you. Try getting close to him, gently placing your hand on his arm and speaking him name in a regular, loving tone (Directed at both genders). Ask your partner how they would like you to speak to them. Then, ask them to help you practice. Practice makes perfect.
By communicating well, you are able to help your spouse to understand your needs. Now that you are able to do that, partners need to be selfless. As you learn what your spouse needs, offer to help them with those needs. That’s where sharing duties comes in. If your husband is working from home and now finds himself pulling double duty with the kids and work, but usually cleans the bathrooms and takes out the trash too, maybe as a wife you can pick up one of those tasks to lighten his load. If you are a husband who’s wife is home all day with the kids (2 months before they were supposed to be home all day), tell your wife to go take a bath when you get home and enjoy some alone time while you make dinner, wash the dishes and get the kids ready for bed (Giving your wife a reboot). It is understandable that stress had increased along with possibly your duties at home. A little teamwork, sharing duties, and serving each other will go a long ways. It’s definitely not time to dig your hills in. It’s not time to fight. It’s time to communicate your needs and work as a team. Serving one another is loving one another. You finally have a chance to do that. Don’t waste time being mad at each other. Good Luck!
Check out the original post to this series HERE.
Next Post In Series – Learn about grace and forgiveness
We are now weeks into this thing called quarantine, or “shelter in place.” I first wonder who came up with these terms. I guess that does matter much, but when you have as much time on your hands as some of us do, you start thinking about things that you would not normally ponder.
Anyways, time to help with that first of ten things that could help improve your marriage while in quarantine. Why did I pick patience and kindness first? I don’t know. It was the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking about what I needed to do. My kids are home all day, my wife is having to endure them for longer hours than she is used to. I am fortunately working. So, I am not at home like many of you are at this point. I still am getting to spend more time with my family because I am choosing to work from a remote office and can run by the house when I choose. I have also chosen to take at least one day off a week. I am taking this time to rest and relax as I believe God is giving us this opportunity that we rarely choose for ourselves.
Sorry, that was a tangent I probably did not need to go down, but now back to patience and kindness. Patience means the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Wow, what a concept. I am not good at this. I need this. The Bible says one of the “Fruits of the Spirit” is patience. It also says in 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient and kind….” There are so many places in the Bible that talk about patience. I wish I had enough space here to quote many of them, but that is not the purpose of this post. I just want you to know that patience and kindness are important. If the Bible talks about them, then they must be. It is wise to be patient as Proverbs 14:29 says “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding.” Isn’t that being tolerant? How many of us are at a point right now where we can tolerate our circumstances? Forget tolerating your spouse or children. What about just having to be locked in your house? We humans need diversity, stimulation, excitement, and fun.
So what are we going to do? Well, the second part of my heading was about kindness. I think patience and kindness have to go hand in hand. If I practice kindness, I can be patient. If I practice patience, I have more opportunities to be kind. I think this is a time to PRACTICE kindness and patience with our spouses. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. How many of us are kind every day, even when we are not in quarantine? It’s hard, but not impossible. I think this is a perfect time for us to find a way to practice kindness and patience. You didn’t learn most of the things by just being able to do them naturally. You had to PRACTICE. I will use this term a lot.
So, how do we PRACTICE patience and kindness? I encourage you to write some Bible verses down about patience and kindness and memorize them. Read them and recite them 3-4 times a day or more. Pray and meditate with them. Ask God to help become more patient with your wife or husband. Ask others how they show kindness to their spouses. The opposite of kindness and patience is selfishness and intolerance. Can you find one thing a day that shows kindness towards your spouse? Kindness toward a spouse may seem like a no-brainer, but I have seen many couples that in their marriage don’t show kindness. One act of kindness sometimes is all it takes to turn things around. Be kind. Be patient. It’s time for us to be kind to each other so we can show our kids, friends, and family how to build a relationship amid hard times. Let’s pull together and change our marriages and our communities through patience and kindness.
Please contact me (706-955-0230) if you are struggling with this. I would love to help you or just find a way to make your marriage better or you as an individual better.
Check out the other 10 things to do to improve your marriage in this post.
Next Post In Series – Bring back your creative side
Staying home due to COVID-19? Are you finding it hard to manage your relationship, the children or working from home? The combination of those three can increase stress if you don’t know how to manage them well. It’s like the movie, The Perfect Storm. Please forgive me if I get this wrong, but if I remember correctly, in that movie 3 different storms come together and create a super storm. Sound familiar?
Having to work from home while the kids are home schooling and trying to keep from getting bored, and your spouse is home all day everyday, sounds like 3 stressful “storms” coming together to create a super storm. What are you going to do? How are you going to juggle it all?
Unfortunately, there may be more storms. If you are like me, I get cravings. The usual ability to get out and have fun or see different scenery than your own familiar walls is a very missed luxury during this time. Humans need newness, excitement and experiences outside the norm. I heard one person say recently, “There is a reason they use solitary confinement in jails and prisons.” We may not be totally isolated, but the combination of the changes that have come upon us so suddenly can cause intense amount of stress, especially when combined with the anxiety around COVID-19.
So, I want to try to help. Hopefully, this series of posts will provide some ideas on how to keep your relationship on track while working through the changes. Here are my 10 tips to improving your marriage during quarantine.
- Practice patience and kindness
- Bring back your creative side
- Share duties and give each other time to reboot
- Learn about grace and forgiveness
- Get outside
- Be playful
- Practice listening and understanding
- Focus on teamwork
These 10 tips are almost self explanatory, but I will expound on them in the next few blog posts. They may not seem like they are ways to improve your relationship, but if you are practicing each of these daily or weekly, I can assure you they will help. Please stay tuned. If you are having trouble in your relationship, please don’t wait to call me or email me so we can talk about how I can help you. Sometimes people just get temporarily stuck. Sometimes there are deeper things going on. Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. Whatever it is, let me help!
Call 706-955-0230 to make an appointment or schedule through the patient portal.
Next Post In Series – Practice Patience and Kindness
As a marriage counselor, I teach couples many skills. One of those skills is how to listen better. Many of us have been taught how to communicate or express our thoughts better to others in classes or through our jobs, but may have never had the proper training to learn how to listen to others. I like teaching listening skills. When I help couples learn how to listen to each other, I actually get to see connections being formed right in front of me. It’s beautiful and very real. So, I think it would be great for everyone to learn some simple steps to listening to their spouse.
First, why is listening important?
Listening well helps build our understanding of others thoughts, feelings, perspectives and beliefs. Listening to our spouse opens up the opportunity to be able to provide input to a spouse’s concerns. Listening also can be a way of showing care and concern. Listening is one way to build connection.
After listing all of these benefits of listening, I am reminded of how much I want to be a better listener, but, be warned, listening takes practice, discipline and effort. Now let’s get to those steps to help YOU and ME become the listener WE desire to be.
- To be a good listener you first have to be willing to: “Hear it!” What does that mean? That means you need to know the exact words that were said. Yes! This is the easy part. For example, when I am with my wife, I can repeat back to you exactly what my she says, verbatim. Unfortunately, that does not always mean I actually understood her. However, some people truly do not pay attention to what their partner says and need to a better job of absorbing the actual words so they can take the next step to becoming a better listener.
- The second step I call: “Find the meaning.” What I mean by “find the meaning” is to try to analyze and figure out what is underneath the actual words that were stated. How many times do you say something and your partner interprets it one way and you say, “But that’s not what I meant.” Finding the meaning is not always easy, but is helpful to building a better “understanding” of what the real message is that was being transmitted to you.
- Thirdly, if you can’t find the meaning, ask “clarifying questions.” If you can clarify some of the information (actual words) you have already received by adding new and meaningful information through asking pointed questions, you will be one step further in “understanding” the message you received. It might be helpful to ask questions such as: What are you experiencing? Why are you experiencing that? What do you need or desire from me? Why is that need or desire important to you?
- Fourthly, summarize and repeat to your spouse your new “understanding” of what your spouse has said to you. By expressing to your spouse what you “understand” about their message, you are checking with them to make sure you have an accurate understanding.
- Finally, ask your partner, “Do I understand what you are saying?” By asking this question, you give your spouse the opportunity to tell you if you received the correct meaning of their message.
These steps have served many of my clients well. The key is practice. Remember, your spouse deserves your respect and your willingness to hear them out. They need YOU to hear their perspective, no matter how irrational it may sound. Also, remember that their thoughts, beliefs, feelings and perspectives are very real to them and when you don’t LISTEN to them, you are sending a nonverbal message that you don’t care about their thoughts or feelings and you don’t respect them enough to understand them.
PLEASE! Learn to listen to your spouse and practice these steps daily. I may not be right, but I bet you will be happier and have a more loving relationship. To learn more about listening, visit my page about communication. Be blessed!
Also, check out my other posts and pages on communication:
What year is it? Where does the time go? I am sitting here wondering how yesterday is already gone. It seems it was just yesterday I was getting excited about the season changing. It seems like a good time to talk about being intentional in life and in your marriage. Let’s talk about creating about new goals, not resolutions! Have I mentioned I don’t like the word resolution? It seems when I want to make resolutions, nothing gets resolved. So, I am sticking with goals.
A goal of mine is to be more intentional in my daily life, especially my marriage. This would be a key that you may want to use to unlock the potential of your life. So, it would be good to go over some simple ways to increase intentionality in your relationship so that you can get ahead and take hold of your life and not let wasted time ruin it.
Here are 5 ways to be intentional in your marriage:
- Start small
- Set reminders
- Manage your impulsiveness
- Be positive and use your words wisely
- Touch more
The first way to be intentional in marriage is to pick one thing you will be intentional about. You did read that right, “one thing”! My one thing right now is reading. I know that doesn’t sound like a relationship topic, but I am specifically going to be intentional about reading the best books and articles I can find about relationships. You might be wondering, “Why does a marriage therapist needs to do this?” Well, it never hurts to increase your knowledge and understanding of how relationships work. And, have I mentioned, even marriage therapist don’t know everything about relationships. My goal is to read about relationships to help me with the next way of being intentional.
A second way to be intentional is to remind yourself to be intentional. Have you ever had the best intentions, but didn’t follow through? Sometimes we need a cue to remind us to follow through. So, create a cue to help you be intentional. My cue is not only reading about relationships to help me think about and remember to improve myself in my relationship, but also to set reminders to read. Whatever that is for you, keep your cue SIMPLE. Set a reminder on your phone. Make sticky notes to post on your bathroom mirror or refrigerator. Just make sure that your cue works for you.
Manage your impulsiveness
A third way to be intentional is to practice managing your impulsiveness. SLOW YOURSELF DOWN! Take deep breaths. Monitor your emotions. Examine your thoughts. This does not sound easy or simple does it? That’s why I use the word PRACTICE. You may have to use the second intentional idea to help you with the third. Use a cue to help you be intentional about managing yourself.
Sometimes I teach people to use STOPP (Stop, take a deep breath, observe, find other perspectives, and plan). Just say “Stop!” to yourself and then follow the order of the acronym. By doing this you can manage your emotions and behavior better, but you have to be intentional about managing yourself. If that method does not work for you, there are all sorts of methods out there. Maybe being intentional for you is to actually take the step to find one that works for you.
Be positive and use your words wisely
A fourth way to be intentional is with your words. Be intentional to say positive things to your partner or spouse. In John Gottman’s research on healthy marriages, he found that for every one negative interaction a healthy couple has, they have five positive interactions. What does that mean for you? I think it means you have to create positivity in your relationship and be intentional about being positive, even when you don’t feel like it. I tell my clients, “Say nothing negative AT ALL.”
A fifth way to to be intentional in your marriage is to touch more. A simple hug, kiss, or light touch on the back or arm can be very healthy in a relationship. When a couple touches it increases the release of Oxycontin (the bonding hormone). You will feel closer the more you touch. It’s also very hard to be mean to someone while holding their hands. So, maybe you can try to hold hands while talking about hard subjects. Snuggling on the couch or giving back rubs can be healthy too. Kissing for 5 to 10 seconds can do wonders for a relationship.
So, there they are! My top 5 simple and intentional relationship builders to quickly improve your relationship. Maybe they aren’t so simple, because you have to actually do them for them to work. I somehow think the hardest part is to choose to do them, take some action, then be consistent. I hope this helps you to be more intentional and proactive in your marriage and relationship starting today!
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I recently read a quote that I found interesting and it got me thinking about how to make marriages work.
“To keep the fire burning brightly there’s one easy rule: Keep the two logs together, near enough to keep each other warm and far enough apart — about a finger’s breadth — for breathing room. Good fire, good marriage, same rule.” ~Marnie Reed Crowell
This quote provides great wisdom, but doesn’t provide the details. I have been told that marriages are “hard work.” Keeping the fire going is not always the easiest. Throughout my 7 and half years of marriage and my 7 and a half years of being a marriage counselor, I have found this saying to be more burdensome because of how tiring it sounds. When I think of work, I think about getting tired. Some people love their jobs, but almost everyone needs a vacation or break sometimes. Is it true that marriages are “hard work”? Or, can we find a different way to make marriages work instead of making people give up on marriages because they are too hard? Let’s seek if we can shed some light on three simple ideas to keep the fire going.
Marriage takes effort, but everything in life takes effort. I have heard my mother say, “As you get older, everything hurts, your bones creek, and you lose stamina.” She reminds my brothers and I every time I talk to her, “I am getting old, Brandon.” The older we get, our minds seem to stay teenager minds while our bodies become a daily reminder of our age. So, even aging takes effort.
So, if marriage takes effort like everything else, then it will make us tired at times. Yet, just like working out takes effort, makes a person tired, and ends in a feeling of accomplishment, marriage takes effort, can make a person tired, and can very much provide plenty of positive feelings. People need to think about marriages as a growth process. A person has to plant a seed to grow corn. A person has to work out to grow muscles and stamina. So, people in a relationship need to know what they need to do to grow their marriage.
Change the Heart, Communicate the Intent, and Choose to Act
To grow a marriage, a person needs to have a heart for the marriage and their spouse. This is the seed to a flourishing marriage. If you don’t like or even love your spouse, then how can you work with them? Seeds have a hard time growing in thorns bushes or rocks. How do you expect to communicate with your spouse if your heart is hard? Growing a marriage takes changing your heart to what matters. So, what does matter in a relationship? Friendship? Quality time together? Selflessness? What is in your heart that might be keeping you from growing your marriage? Resentment? Anger? Envy? Jealousy? Just like everything else in life, if your heart is not in it, then you are only going through the motions. Ask yourself what your heart wants. What is your desire? What are your goals? Once your heart is right, then you can begin to work on growing your marriage.
Intentions are important because they demonstrate to your partner what your heart is saying. If your partner knows where your heart has good intentions, they will be more likely to get their heart in line with yours. This takes communication. Tell your partner what you want to do. Tell your partner what your desires for the relationship are. Write those desires and intentions down so you don’t forget them and as a reminder to focus on growth each day.
Finally, choose to live in alignment with your heart. Choose to practice what you said you want to do. Choose to set goals and steps to meet those goals. Then choose to work one step at a time until you reach your goals. Choose to put your partner first. Choose to be selfless. Choose to love and respect your spouse. Choose to change the idea that you are the victim. Choose to stop pointing the finger at someone else and take responsibility for your choices. Choice is your responsibility. Will you choose to grow your marriage, or will you choose to continue to think about it as hard work and just another act that will make you tired?
By choosing each day and each moment to grow your marriage, you are choosing to plant a seed and water it daily. As you do that, your marriage will mature and grow. Sure, storms will coming, animals will try to hide in your branches, but someday, your relationship will grow strong and those troubles will feel small. Growth in marriage takes getting your heart right, speaking your intentions and choosing to live out those intentions.
Brandon Coussens, LMFT
- Address3540 Wheeler Rd., Ste. 110
Augusta, GA 30909