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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

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

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:

  1. Start small
  2. Set reminders
  3. Manage your impulsiveness
  4. Be positive and use your words wisely
  5. Touch more

Start Small

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.

Set Reminders

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.”

Touch More

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.

Conclusion

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!

Check out other post HERE!