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There is more to making a good marriage better in addition to good communication. Here are tips to make your marriage better.

Pay attention to the needs of your mate as though they are more important or equal to those of your needs. This type of effort usually results in your mate returning the same interest and energy.

Compliment your mate about their appearance, the meal, or whatever would be a genuine positive comment. A good practice is a 5/1 ratio when talking to your mate. Share five positive comments before you attempt to address a concern or criticism.

Small efforts may be more impacting than a major effort, such as, surprising you spouse with something, not expensive that reflects that you thought of them during the day. It could be a card, flower, candy for your wife, while your husband might appreciate something that reflects his interest, such a new fishing lure, tennis racket, shirt, or his favorite candy bar. Use your imagination because it does not have to be any of the mentioned items.

Get Back on the Right Track

When you have a conflict, stop long enough to listen to each other. Really listen rather than jumping to conclusion. Stop with the criticism long enough to notice the positive and make appropriate comments to encourage rather than tearing down. Be cautious with you chosen words as well as your non-verbal expressions.

Be quick to stop the negative, say that you are sorry; I love you and please forgive me.  Sometime it is important to recall a simple rule, “HALT”.

HALT-Never-let-yourself-get-too-hungry-anxious-lonely-or-tired.jpg“H” You might be hungry (or hangry). Take time to eat a snack and wait up to 30 minutes and try again.

”A” Did you feel angry before you began talking or because of how something was expressed? Take ten deep breaths to cleanse your thoughts before going on with the discussion.

“L” may suggest that you might be feeling lonely and not ready for the conversation. It may be helpful to have a conversation about how you feel and allow the other person to know where you are in perspective to the current topic. This could improve your ability to have a more production conversation.

“T” may reveal that you are tired and not at your best to deal with a deep conversation until rested. Hammering out a topic while overly tired may result in greater damage. Tired employees are more prone to accidents that when well rested and the same is likely true for marriages as well.

Take time today to make use these tips to make your marriage a positive marriage.

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A great marriage results from efforts for the good times and even greater efforts to get through the tough times. A wonderful marriage is not an assumed relationship, but one requiring attention and care. The focus of a great marriage is the intent of the article, because it requires intentional efforts.

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  • Pay attention to your mate by looking at them when you talk to them.
  • Turn off any electronic devices that might create distraction. Put down whatever you are doing in order to pay attention.
  • Ask if this is a good time to talk to your mate.
  • Listen to your mate when they talk to you.
  • Look at your mate while you talk to them.
  • Avoid any distractions that may suggest your lack of interest.
  • It might be helpful to ask questions about what they said to be sure that you understood their message.
  • Persuasive speech conveys your thoughts while trying to convince the other to your views. This usually brings a positive conversation to a halt.
  • Listening, ask questions, and being courteous may bring out the best in your mate.

 

Roger Thompson

LMFT

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Our community remains aware of tragedy because of the events on December 1st, 1997. We experienced a shooting at Heath High School. Lives were changed forever on that day. Since the Heath shooting there has been much healing, though it was not thought possible at that time. In light of the recent events that took place in Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, I want to offer a few suggestions to assist our community. We want to promote healing while avoiding further traumatization of our children.

Life can be compared to a huge heavy suitcase. It can be so heavy that a little child cannot carry it.  Children cope much better when we put what they can carry in a smaller suit case that they can master. We might otherwise overwhelm the child or children leading to stressful reaction. The following are suggestions that will hopefully lead to helpful actions in what a child may be able to bear.

Start the school day as you would normally do with regard to schedule and routine. You might engage your students by asking if there had been any events that have taken place that they had noticed on television. The open ended question allows them to tell whatever is on their minds rather than being led to specific events. You may learn more than just trauma of the school shooting.

Keep the students under control by asking them to speak one at a time. It may prove beneficial for children to share their questions about the event.  Allow them to share their thoughts and feelings. Be ready for emotional responses with a box of Kleenex nearby. You might allow a little more time for play and self-expression with younger children.

It may be beneficial to talk about death and what happens when people die. There is a great book for preschoolers, “Dinosaurs Die” by Marc Brown. It is based on the public television character, Arthur. It is wonderful book to allow for expression as well as questions about death.

Children may want to tell stories of death or violence that they have witnessed. Keep close watch on the level of gruesome details; also watch reactions of children who avoid discussion. This may be a time where you observe children who may have need for additional counseling due to traumas of their own.

Children benefit from being reassured that adults are watching out for them both at home and while as school for their safety.  Repetition of this statement by both teaching staff and parents may be very beneficial. Statements should be made with confidence and concern. Encourage children to let you know anytime that they feel upset, unsafe or overwhelmed. Share with the children about counselors being available for them to talk with if needed.

It is important during a response to a trauma that we do not say too much or over react creating a new trauma which will only worsen existing events. A calm reassuring voice is a must while keeping your point’s simple and age appropriate. The most important thing we can do in response to the recent events is to listen. LISTEN!!!

Here are some tips in dealing with these types of situations:

  • Be cautious about the amount of exposure to TV or other media forms with photos that could be upsetting.
  • Parents and teachers are both encouraged to pay attention to their children’s behaviors and emotions. Please seek help if new sudden changes should occur.
  • This is an important time for parents and teachers to keep one another informed of the changes that they may be witnessing.
  • Seeking the assistance of a school counselor or mental health consultant may be required based on the events and the needs of the child or children.

 

Roger D. Thompson, MS, LMFT

 Adapted from “Caring about Kids after Trauma or Death” by the Institute of Trauma and Stress at NYU.

I was in a hurry to get to the mental health center where I counsel. Running late, I felt an urgent need to get there quickly and needed no barriers, especially not four consecutive red traffic lights.

By the time I reached the fourth red light, I was sure I was being punished for some evil deed. While waiting for the light to change, I got ready to peel out.

As my hands tightly clasped the steering wheel and my leg muscles tensed, the light turned a bright green. To my dismay there was a slow poke in front of me. I could not get into the other lane, and I felt trapped.

Just when I was about to call the driver in front of me a “Bozo,” I got a chance to slip into the passing lane. Edging up to pass him, thinking he probably should have his license revoked, I was prepared to glare at him in anger.

When we were side by side, I turned to give my sneer and found it to be a friend. Immediately I smiled and waved. I sure felt stupid.

My own lack of organization had led to grossly exaggerated impatience which could have taken inappropriate ventilation on someone I did not know.

The entire scene could have been avoided had my attitude been more Christlike. Maybe personal study of the gospels will help me become reacquainted with his personality traits. If you have had similar experiences maybe you too could benefit from a personal daily study of the life of Christ.

Roger Thompson, MS / LMFT

Want to have a healthy family? They do not happen by accident. It takes effort and paying attention to areas that will fortify rather than destroy. Dolores Curran wrote a book:  Stress and the Healthy Family  in 1985. The wisdom contained within this book still holds true today.

Curran performed a survey and all participants responded. She drew the following conclusions about healthy families from the survey. There were 15 traits that rose to the top from the 56 traits that were presented.

Healthy families:

  • Communicate and listen
  • Affirm and support
  • Respect one another
  • Develop trust
  • Have a sense of play and honor
  • Share responsibilities
  • Teach right from wrong
  • Build a strong sense of family
  • Have a balance of interaction
  • Have a shared religious core
  • Respect privacy
  • Foster table time conversation
  • Value service to others
  • Share leisure time
  • Admit to problems and seek help

There is one of the fifteen traits that were common with all of the respondents. It was “foster table time and conversation. It is important to take time to make a difference in your families by eating together and talking about the day’s events. It is equally important to be able to share the emotional aspects of your day for support and encouragement.

We encourage you to consider this list of traits that might enhance and empower your family.

Roger D. Thompson, MS

LMFT

How did you meet?

Common interests and common hangouts draw people together. The places where you met or frequented while dating could be choices for a lifetime. Are you comfortable with where this could take you?

How long have you know one another?

Hopefully you have been dating or engaged longer than one year. It is not essential, but it is a good start. Getting to know each other should allow for many settings, which should include time with each of the families.

What do each of you value?

You both grew up in different homes. You will likely have different thoughts on what is most important. Soon you will consider the purchase of furniture for your home. Inevitably, this is an area of great delight, different tastes, and sometimes strong opinions. In addition to the style of furniture, it becomes necessary to discuss how much you will spend on what type of items. Be ready for this to take time. It is normal! Be patient with one another and listen. It may be helpful to learn the art of compromise. This is just one example of how your values will impact your marriage.

Have you been sexually active prior to your getting married?

It is more than just a good idea to abstain from sexual activities until married. God says so! God wants the best for us in marriage. After all, God created us for each other. God directs us to refrain from sexual relationships outside of marriage before and after we marry.

Why question God’s authority? Why push the envelope again and again only to find out that God’s way was the best way. Of course, God is right. He is God!

Dr. Wayne Oates with the Baptist Theological School presented at the Kentucky Association for Marriage and Family Therapy in 1987. He was in his eighties at the time. Dr. Oates had written over 50 books at the time. He stood before the group of almost 500 therapists sharing about things that people had difficulty figuring out. Dr. Oates said, “Why have people not discovered that when they go to bed before marriage that they put to sleep the senses necessary to make good decisions about the future of their relationships?”

Have both of you spent plenty of time with both of your families?

It is a good idea to be well acquainted with your future in-laws. Also, it is a good notion to pay attention to how your family relates to the special someone. Certainly, it is a plus if you get along. It is even more important to learn how to get along when conflicts exist. It is a worthwhile process to learn how to get along.

Have you had time to have conflicts and resolve them?

Blending two separate identities into one is a process. It is inevitable that you will experience conflict. This does not indicate that you have major problems. However, it does indicate that you think and feel differently at different times. This is normal. The work now begins as you explore your differences in values. It is essential to learn how to solve conflicts. By the way this is a never ending fine tuning process.

Do you have a common faith?

This is an important issue, but commonly overlooked. First, having a similar faith can be defined as believing in Jesus Christ as the son of God, who was born of a virgin, died when he was 33 years old, lay in the grave for three days before his resurrection, and now lives seated at the right hand of God. Most who call themselves Christians have this belief in common.

Secondly, and this is where the difficulty seems to arise, there may be conflict on the how and where this belief system is to be practiced. This can become a major source of contention.

I suggest that you pray and continue to study to develop a common faith practice. This is what the people did following the baptisms on the day of Pentecost. This is not an area that tends to get better by ignoring or avoiding it.

What are your odds of marital success if you are both teens and if your parents have had multiple divorces?

Many young couples do not think to ask about matters such as this. Time is on your side. Teen marriages have a high rate of marital conflicts as well as divorce. You have matured to this point, which brings on deeper reasoning; however these same social and emotional abilities will take a major growth spurt over the next four years. In this time frame you will likely develop new ways of understanding and communicating. Your values are likely to experience equal growth.

You will have displayed a rare form of wisdom and maturity if you choose to wait. It is equaled by my hope for you to be able to be patient, while you experience this future growth. Reassess your growth in one year. Keep a journal abut how you think and feel. Read all of your entries in six months and twelve months. I just bet you see growth in what you read.

If you still plan to marry anyway, I do suggest that you plan to receive per-marital counseling. This process is usually more successful if done six months prior to your marriage.

May God help you to find strength to do His will His way to receive His blessings as you ponder marriage which He created.

Depression has become more prominent in our mobile society.  Depression is common to us all in life’s course; however, some individuals suffer from this affliction due to a chemical imbalance.  The best counseling efforts without medication would only add futility to an already troubled life.

Antidepressants are quite numerous and have to be prescribed according to one’s specific needs.  The determinants are varied as are the descriptions of depression.

Depression is an evolving “buzz  word” for similar descriptions of despair.  The following are symptoms common with depression:

  1. Feeling tired most of the time, despite adequate rest
  2. Disturbance in sleeping habits (too much or too little)
  3. Disturbances in eating habits (too much or too little)
  4. Irritable, upset over little things
  5. Sadness for no apparent reason
  6. Breaking into tears without any known cause
  7. Loss of sex drive (often complete)
  8. Headaches, often present but not severe
  9. Chronic back pain, stomach complaints
  10. Lack of enthusiasm or feeling of enjoyment
  11. Inability to concentrate
  12. Inability to make decisions
  13. Worried, fearful
  14. Feeling unwanted, unworthy, guilty
  15. Feeling life is not worth living (suicidal thoughts or gestures)
  16. Indigestion, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea

Many Christians are reluctant to get help for depression because they fear it might reflect on their lack of faith or sins.  There are many hymns which advocate that you can be drawn from the darkest of depression by enriching ones faith.  Whether spiritual problems are prevalent or not, in the midst of depression is not the time to sort it out.  It makes sense to not work on marital problems while someone is drunk, so it is with depression.  Remember that guilt is often just a symptom of depression.

If you are feeling any of the above mentioned symptoms, it might be advisable to contact the ChristianCounselingCenter, your regular physician, or your minister.

You may at some time receive a call that one of your parents has just been diagnosed with an illness or condition that will permanently change their lifestyle.  Someone may have to step up to the plate, accepting some of the former responsibilities of the parent with declining health.

Take time to learn about the illness.  Consult with your own physician or your parent’s attending physician.  It is important to learn about the illness and its stages.  Reality can be painful, but it helps to prepare in order to prevent misunderstanding.

There may be a support group for this illness meeting in your community.  It is so helpful to have the support of others who are in similar circumstances.  Remain connected to friends and family for the needed emotional support.

Parents may require special assistance in their own houses such as hand rails in the bathroom or steps leaving the home.  Geriatric social workers may be able to offer suggestions regarding what is need in the future as well as immediate needs.

The illness may require your parents to consider living with you or in an assisted living facility.  Assisted living may allow your parents to experience some level of independence rather than prematurely turning to nursing homes.

Traumatic events either have or will impact all of our lives. Traumas come in many forms and impact all of us with a myriad of symptoms. Traumas are any of life’s events that have the potential to overwhelm us without the assistance from others. The death of a spouse, the death of a child, sudden job loss, rape, sexual abuse, threat of loss of health, disability, abandonment, betrayal or loss of trust, devastation due to storms or fires, divorce systemic loss (child leaves home for college), loss of one of primary senses, and imagined loss or trauma. These are but a few of life’s traumas that can suddenly change our lives, creating an overwhelming presence too difficult with which to cope.

On the evening before Jesus Christ was crucified, he went to a garden to pray. He was accompanied by three of his disciples. He simply asked them to be present while he prayed. He became annoyed when he found that they had gone to sleep. He knew that he was facing a major trauma in his life, his death, and he just wanted them to be there for him. They could do nothing, but their presence was precious to him. On the other hand, in the trials and traumas faced by Job, his three friends offered advice that was not very helpful. The scriptures reveal that God was not happy with the three friends and their words of encouragement. Since there are not sufficient healers in our areas, it is important for all interested parties to know what to do as well as what not to do when trying to assist someone who has been traumatized. Here are a few “do’s and don’ts” to keep in mind when assisting those who have been bewildered by traumatic events.

Do’s

  • Build a relationship that offers hope.
  • Listen without being judgmental.
  • Help them to understand that it is normal to feel the way they do at this time.
  • Affirm their need for crying as normal and healthy.
  • Ask questions that allow their story to be told. Telling the story of the traumatic event relieves the stress of the trauma.
  • Value their story by telling how much that you appreciate them telling you.
  • Make eye contact with the person while they share their story with you. Good eye contact conveys a message without words.
  • Encourage the sharing of thoughts and feelings. Explain how sharing of both aids in their healing.
  • It is ok to ask, “What was the worst part about the event for you?”
  • Be patient!
  • Listen to their story repeatedly if they feel the need to tell it again. Each time the story is told, the hurt is minimized.
  • Tell abut the trauma in a group if it happened to a specific group of people. If done this way, encourage others to be accepting of the one telling their story by listening, words of encouragement, and appropriate touch by those sitting closest to the one telling their story.
  • Remind the story tellers that what is spoken will remain conficdential.

Don’ts

  • Never ask “why” they feel the way they do.
  • Avoid needless challenges of their stories.
  • Avoid, “I know just how you feel,” when in fact you do not.
  • Do not attempt to solve a problem, just listen.
  • Avoid needless questioning for details of your own curiosity when asking questions that encourage them to tell their story.
  • Avoid being judgmental about their expressions. They may tell you who they hate or that they are angry with God.
  • Do not push them to feel something that they are not ready to feel. Avoid telling them how they ought to feel. Avoid statements of “you should” or “you ought to”.
  • Never lecture, just listen. They do not need to hear you, but they need to be heard.
  • Avoid telling your own war stories. They provide less comfort than you may think.
  • Avoid sharing information that has been shared with you by someone else. It diminishes trust and may inhibit others from sharing as openly as needed.
  • Avoid generalizations or statements that may minimize their feelings. Their feelings are their feelings.
  • Avoid needless interruptions or distractions while listening, which may be interpreted as uncaring or lack of interest.



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