Focus on Improving Your Marriage

Has your marriage drifted apart, been a constant fight, headed towards divorce or separation?  If you answered yes to any of these questions you need to put your focus back on your marriage.

Before a couple can refocus themselves on the intimacy between them, they must make sure that no intimacy is being lost outside of the marriage. An escape is an intimacy leak. It is essentially any behavior we take when we don’t know how to talk about our uncomfortable feelings with our spouse. These behaviors are conscious or unconscious ways to avoid dealing with each other. We either withdraw inside ourselves or we go elsewhere looking to get our needs met. Whatever we choose, we drain the relationship of its intimacy until it becomes lifeless. We, in effect, have filed for an ‘invisible divorce’.

There are varying degrees of escape. Some are terminal such as divorce, which permanently ends the relationship. Others are catastrophic, backup plans which seriously damage a relationship to a degree which is often irreparable. Examples of these would include both emotional and physical affairs, excessive use of pornography or lots of contact with “friends” of the opposite sex.  The remaining backup plans are less severe but are so hurtful that they can do equal damage in the long run. These escapes can be intentional, a feeling expressed as a behavior with the clear motivation to avoid involvement with your spouse, or they can be functional, a behavior you enjoy but your involvement in the activity clearly takes energy and time away from the relationship.  Examples would include television, video games or activities your spouse doesn’t enjoy.

While some of these examples are valid forms of recreation, if one of the reasons you are doing this activity is to avoid spending time with your spouse, it is considered an escape and robs your relationship of intimacy.

Here is a list of common escapes that can rob your marriage of intimacy:

1. Work

2. Food/Eating

3. Exercise

4. Internet/Email

5. Pornography

6. Television, Music, Video Games

7. Cleaning

8. Hobbies

9. Headphones to avoid talking or other interaction

10. Kids

11. Sleeping

12. Talking on the phone

13. Going to bed at different times

14. Reading

15. Ministry

There are surely other escapes that do not appear on this list. Whatever they are, it is important to recognize them and understand that these are forms of “acting out” your frustrations about your marriage. Just as our children may “act out” when they are hungry or not getting enough attention, adults react similarly when their needs are not being met. When we feel unloved, ignored, or unappreciated we go everywhere but to our spouse to get those needs met. We find others and/or other activities that will meet those needs or we withdraw within ourselves, feeling hopeless about ever possibly getting what we want.

Talk about your feelings with your spouse and a professional counselor or your pastor.  Without out resolution the wounds will fester and the marriage will die.

Are you doing any of these things in your marriage? Did I miss something on the list, let me know.

Spending Quality Time With Kids!!!

Are You Treasuring the Time You Have with Your Children?

Recently, I wrote about spending quality time with my spouse. I have also decided to work on spending quality time with my kids as well. For me, especially during the school year, there is never enough time in the day to get to all the things I would like to do with my family.  By the time I get dinner ready, homework complete, and baths taken, there is little wiggle room to spend quality time with my kiddos. Sometimes I feel like a warden because the only time I am spending one on one time with them is to check there homework and the weeks are passing by quickly, yikes!!! I have been trying to think of ways not to just be with my kids but to make memorable moments with them. Here are some ideas that Dr. Harley Rotbart suggest for making the most of every moment spent with your kids.

Practice Parenting Meditation

When you’re overwhelmed with your responsibilities, it’s easy to toggle into automatic pilot with your kids. But if your mind is elsewhere during the precious moments you’ve worked hard to preserve, you have lost your kids’ childhood just as surely as if you hadn’t spent the time with them at all. Instead, try to stay in the moment with a “parenting meditation,” in which you focus on seeing your kids, hearing them, understanding them, and really being amazed by what you’ve created — living, breathing miracles of nature who are learning like sponges and growing like weeds.

A No Regrets Life Principle 2: Love Completely

Love Completely

Love Completely

So I am still on my journey to living a no regrets while reading the book One Month to Live.  Last week I shared with you about having a passion for life. This week focuses on principle 2, love completely.

When posed with the question of what I would do if I had one month to live I began to examine my values and goals.  I found myself less concerned about my house, career, and financial situation and more focused on relationships.  If I had one month to live I think I would want to spend as much time as possible with the people I love.  The things that I do or don’t have would fade into non-existence as I gave all I had left to those who I call family and friends.

Well why can’t I do this now?   Granted I do have to go about my daily tasks, and yes I still have career goals.  However this principle helped remind me that we were created for relationship. Loving completely cannot be done while harboring un-forgiveness.  I am learning to lay aside petty differences and to just let things go so I can enjoy my relationships with others. Knowing God and His love should be primary in the life of every believer.   Once we truly know the love of God we are able to freely give love to others.

Too often I have spent my time and energy on my career, job or other endeavor and only given what was left to the people I love. So today I am determined to love completely; to give my best to my loved ones without regret.

Read my previous post on my journey here.


Book review: When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner

griefHarold S. Kushner, the author of this book, is a rabbi who had a son diagnosed with Progeria as a child and died shortly after his fourteenth birthday. Kushner struggled with the idea of believing in an all-powerful but fair God that allowed such tragedy to befall his family. After all, he was a rabbi who spent his life serving others in devotion to God. Kushner wrote this book to share his experience with others.

Kushner used several personal anecdotes to describe how different people deal with tragedy depending on their views of God. Particularly, he used examples of how people comfort friends and family members who might have experienced an accident or loss of a loved one. Some may try to comfort their friend by saying that God has a plan and purpose for everything. Kushner points out that this view is often hard for someone struck by tragedy to believe. How is it in God’s plan to take a young child from the mother? How is in God’s plan for me to never walk again? Sometimes it seems like the price we pay is so high to get to God’s plan. Other’s may say that God never gives us anything more than we can handle, but that makes it seem to the widow that her husband was killed because she was strong enough to bear it. Another view may be that the world is chaos and God is simply here to help us through life. People who have this belief turn to God in moments of grief in order to find strength.

Kushner had so many thought provoking ideas. For example, he discussed his idea on creation. What if in the scheme of God creating the world in six days we were really just on the fourth day and God was still working all of the chaos around us into His order? I had not really thought about thought about how our view of God influences how we deal with tragedy. Kushner really made me think about all of the facets of grief and how it related to God’s plan and power. He also made me really contemplate his views in mass tragedies as well as his thoughts on what heaven might be like. How is it possible that a plane crashes and kills hundreds that it was just “time” for ALL of those people? If someone loses the ability to walk in this life, in heaven will they regain that ability? I can understand how someone can become angry with God after he or she has experienced a personal tragedy. This book discusses some of the hardest questions we ask of God when we face hard times. It also brings to light to a lot of ideas to consider about God’s role in tragedy and how to maintain our faith despite it all.

Gottman’s Sound Relationship House: Part 4

gottman 4This is the fourth installment of my series on Gottman’s Sound Relationship House. I have taken all of these from Gottman’s books The Marriage Clinic and The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. I highly recommend the second book, because it is written for non-therapists and is a quick, easy read. But if you are up for something more scientific, The Marriage Clinic is one of the very best, most interesting books I have ever read.

The fourth level of the Sound Relationship House is about accepting influence from your spouse. Generally speaking, Gottman’s research shows that wives tend to accept influence quite readily from their husbands, even in unhappy relationships. Unfortunately, the opposite tends not to be true. Men sometimes think it’s “unmanly” or “hen-pecked” to accept influence from their wife.

By not allowing your wife to influence you, you could “win the battle but lose the war,” according to Gottman. Listening to her suggestions, taking her advice, and letting her contribute in important ways to the relationship helps build trust and unity.

Claiming that the man is “the head of the house” is not a reason to ignore your wife’s opinions. A wise leader always gets input from his team.

Accepting influence will help avoid power struggles in the relationship. It will also model for your children appropriate male-female relationships and teach your children respect.

Accepting influence from your wife means showing her honor and respect. It means turning off (or pausing) the TV when she wants to talk to you. It means giving in to her on things that are important to her.

Gottman says, “I believe the emotionally intelligent husband is the next step in social evolution. This doesn’t mean that he is superior to other men in personality, upbringing or moral fiber. He has simply figured out something very important about being married that the haven’t–yet. And that is how to honor his wife and convey his respect to her.” (The Seven Principles, page 109)

The Makings of a Happy Couple!!!

relationshipSince it is the beginning of a new year, I have been think of ways to improve different aspects of my life in efforts to become the “Best ME.”  Last week I wrote about healthier eating,  this week I found an intriguing article regarding habits of happy couples. If you have ever contemplated switching up or trying new things to improve your relationship, I found an article very interesting. Dr. Mark Goulston wrote and article in Psychology Today stating that listening is the key. The following is his list of habits for happy couples:

1. Go to bed at the same time

Remember the beginning of your relationship, when you couldn’t wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner sleeps. And when their skins touch it still causes each of them to tingle and unless one or both are completely exhausted to feel sexually excited.

2. Cultivate common interests

After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.

3. Walk hand in hand or side by side

Rather than one partner lagging or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or side by side. They know it’s more important to be with their partner than to see the sights along the way.

4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode
If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.

5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong

If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.