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 someones feelings, but that old cliche 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
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
Brandon Coussens, LMFT
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