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
One of the best ways to improve your relationship is to have fun together. The more diverse the activities you experience together, the more you learn about each other and grow your admiration for one another. When you are stuck at home, one way to expand your activities is to get creative OUTSIDE. Obviously we all have different places we live, but being in quarantine does not necessarily mean you have to stay in your house, at least in Georgia where I live. Getting outside provide you Vitamin D from the sun that will help boost your mood. It will provide you fresh air and room to move. Also, it gets you away from those screens that we all have our eyes glued to. When you get away from screen time you invite activities that help to release energy and stress.
Here is my list of 10 activities that everyone of us can do outdoors:
- Exercise: Running, walking, push-ups, squats, dancing, jumping, and many other exercises can help with releasing that pent up stress. It also allows you to release endorphins that help you to feel good. Think about how productive you will feel. Can you imagine how awesome you would feel if you used your free time to get back into that exercise routine that you failed at after New Year’s? It’s fortunately warming up and all exercise can be done, OUTSIDE! Another benefit is a boost in self-esteem when you achieve that “beach body” we all desire.
- Throwing a ball or a frisbee: My wife and I every now and then will find a place to throw a ball of some sort or a frisbee. I love it! I enjoy the competition we create, and I love the thrill on her face when I don’t throw so well and she still catches it. But wait, isn’t this exercise too? YES SIR! All the benefits from exercise still exists.
- Water activities: Wash your car, create a slip and slide, get a little mini pool or just douse each other with water balloons or buckets of water. Water makes summer fun, so who says we can’t go ahead and bring it out of hibernation. It’s warm enough, and even if it’s not, remember that exercise we talked about? If you do some of that first, you will be warm enough to play in water.
- Sidewalk Chalk: My kids love this! Since my son was old enough to draw, we have been chalking up our driveway. He likes to draw roads, houses and football stadiums. Remember Hop Scotch? I like these new “stain glass” chalk drawings that people are doing too. Art is a great way to use your mind and creativity. It also gets you our of the house.
- Garden: Now for some people this might be hard if you are in an apartment. However, you probably can still garden in some way. If you go out in the parking lot with a bucket, dirt, seeds and water, you can plant you a small plant, or flowers. Others of you who have even a small yard can create a garden or plant flowers. We bought some small wild flower seeds and a planter from Walmart and are now watching them grow.
- People Watch: It’s an old past time that none of us do much anymore. We don’t take the time to slow down and just sit. I know all of us are at home, but I bet if you find some green space, there will be people to watch. Go sit on a bench or lay a mat out and take the time to be curious about people and behavior.
- Picnics: Along with the people watching, bring along a lunch. Eat out side on your back porch. My kids love it when I say we can “have a picnic.” This activity combines sunshine, fresh air, food and people watching.
- Bird Watching: This is for the curious at heart. Find a bird book and go see how many different types of birds you can find together. You will be amazed at the thrill you will feel when you both spot a bird and can name it. I know I sound like a nerd, but it is fun and stimulating.
- Talk to your neighbors: Who ever said we couldn’t get out and see people? If you are standing outside, 6 feet, 10 feet, 20 feet away, it is probably unlikely you will catch COVID-19. And when was the last time you spoke to your neighbor, or even met them? Humans are social beings. Say hello, be curious and start up a conversation. Ask them how they are fairing and how their life has changed since all this started. Get to know them and you may have just made new friends with another couple.
- Prayer Walk: I know, this one is probably not one you were expecting. Out of so much more I could talk about. There are so many activities you could do and I would love to list them all, but walking and praying together is a great way to experience deeper understanding and connection with each other. Even if you don’t believe in God, maybe their is a way you do this differently. Couples are meant to connect on a deeper level to grow their relationship, and during this time, we need to believe in something more than ourselves.
I hope these 10 suggestions help. I know their are a lot more and if you think of more, share them with others. I just want to jog your thoughts to help you be open to the many outdoor activities that we can experience together, even when our world is turned upside down. I even encourage you to find some that you will continue when or if everything returns to normal. It’s more about connecting with each other than it is about the actual activity.
If you want to check out the original blog post for this series GO HERE!
If you have questions or have concerns about your relationship, please call me at 706-955-0230 or EMAIL ME from my CONTACT page.
Next Post In Series – Be playful
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
I have been home all weekend and have been struggling with this way to improve my marriage. I am the expert on marriage and can’t even help myself sometimes. But creativity doesn’t necessarily come easily. I was thinking about how I was putting what I tell others to do into practice. I guess a fun thing we did do this weekend was to get our kids a blow up water slide. Yes, I know, it was kind of chilly. They LOVED it! I think playing on that was the most exhaustive thing they have done since being out of school. It wasn’t necessarily for me and my wife, but we did get some enjoyment out of watching the kids. I could list all the generic things we have done, but that wouldn’t help you with creativity or marriage.
I want to give you one inspiring thought though. Sometimes marriage is boring. I know that isn’t very exciting or arousing, but it’s true! Isn’t that amazing? I am actually glad that it can be boring. Because creativity usually gets sparked in times of rest and monotony. So, while the spouse and I were sitting around a lot this weekend, I seemed to have more ideas pop into my mind than usual. Although, without a little direction, they weren’t necessarily thoughts about improving my marriage. So, lets see how we can do this.
I think being intentional is important. Like I said, my thoughts weren’t directed at my marriage, but I did have a lot of new and creative ideas. What would have happened if I had directed them at my marriage? Well, hopefully I would have been more open and creative with improving my marriage.
Next, I think the traditional brainstorming technique would be helpful. Yes! That technique we all learned in English class. Basically, sit with a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind about a certain topic. Then write down everything that comes to mind about each of those topics and so on and so forth. Let me try it real quick:
Basketball, Baseball, throwing the ball, hitting the ball, fun outside, fun inside….Okay, I will stop with that. That reminds me. My spouse and eye got a glove, a bat and a bunch of tennis balls a few days ago and I threw her some while she wacked them way to far. I got tired quickly for having to run 30 or 40 yards to retrieve all of them. I guess I need to work on that. Which leads me to another idea. How many of you exercise regularly? Why not exercise together?
You see, I just came up with 2 in no time through brainstorming. Other ways you can come up with ideas is to call up friends and family and ask them what they are doing. You can also check out things on the internet. I recently found out you can get an escape room in a box shipped to you.
Another way to increase creativity is to shut off your devices. TV, video games, scrolling Facebook all do the thinking for you. Shut them down. Read a book. Write a journal about what you are experience. Write letters. Read that Bible you have been wanting to read if only you had time off. Pray together.
Finally, I encourage you to do whatever you come up with, together! Think about what each other like. Your brains are powerful! It is made by the Creator of the Universe! Don’t lose it, use it! God has given us a unique opportunity to make changes to our life due to slowing everything down. It’s time to really work on the creative side to increase love and connection with each other. Marriage takes effort and creativity may take time. But it’s worth it! Let me know what creative ideas you come up with by emailing me. Maybe I will add them to this post.
If you are struggling with your marriage call me at 706-955-0230. If you want to read more posts go to my Blog.
Next Post In Series – Share duties and give each other time to reboot
We are now weeks into this think 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 really 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 talk about them, then they must be. It is wise to be patience 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 are able to 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 patience. If I practice patience, I have more opportunity 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 everyday, 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 show 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 in the midst of 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 at 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:
Brandon Coussens, LMFT
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Augusta, GA 30909
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