Debt is definitely a bad four-letter-word!  Statistics published by NerdWallet, Inc. suggest that the average household has credit card balances of $16,748.  The average household with any kind of debt owes $134,643, including mortgages.

The strain of debt puts an inordinate amount of strmoney-and-marriage.jpgess on a marriage, especially when coupled with the everyday stressors of marriage such as raising children, caring for elderly parents, career changes, occupational stress, and retirement planning.  As a result, many marriages end in divorce, exacerbated by family debt.

Many couples have discovered that by following some proactive steps, they have eliminated much of the problems associated with being in debt.

Suggestions for proactive financial responsibility:

  • Both parties must be active participants in the ongoing financial process.
  • Discuss finances with your spouse frequently (at least weekly).
  • Agree upon ground rules for credit and debit card usage.
  • Create a system for tracking your purchases.
  • Inform spouse of large purchases and increasing balances.
  • Monitor your balance frequently (at least weekly).
  • Elect to have your credit card company send you phone notification after someone makes a purchase.
  • Close credit cards that are rarely used.
  • When closing an account, do so in writing, and get a closing confirmation notice
  • Monitor you credit rating.imgres.jpg
  • Pay your bills in a timely manner.

Never ignore a credit card bill!

Suggestions for attacking debt:

  • Using cash makes you more aware of what you are spending.
  • Cut all necessary spending.
  • Stop expensive hobbies, habits and travel.
  • Learn to cook, plan budget meals, take your lunch to work, eat at home.
  • Consider a 2nd
  • Sell unnecessary possessions – boats, campers, club memberships…
  • Consign rarely worn clothes and household items.
  • Pay off smallest credit cards first.
  • Don’t buy new cars or new furniture….
  • Repair what you can before considering replacing.
  • Check your account for electronic withdrawals (phone bills, online memberships…)
  • Stop all unnecessary automatic withdrawals.
  • Consider TV options- cable vs. digital receiver; public radio vs. satellite radio
  • Control your thermometer (heating and cooling).
  • Unplug any appliances that you do not use regularly. (printers, computers…)
  • If you must shop for clothing, shop consignment stores.
  • Shop off-brands and wholesale grocery stores.
  • Clip coupons, watch sale papers, and accept free samples.
  • Resist shopping online, watching digital shopping networks, and window shopping.
  • Take good care of what you have, it needs to last!
  • Before you buy, determine if it is a want or a NEED.money-bag-clip-art-bag_of_money.png

Keep some money for an emergency fund.

Extra funds are to be paid toward credit card bills.

There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment that comes from paying all of your debt.

Karen Diane Reed, LPCC

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There are a number of aspects to a healthy marriage. For this post, I am going to just focus on one of them. It could be argued that this is the most important.

  1. Focus on yourself.

A first glance this may seem selfish. It could come across as self-serving or being concerned only with ones own feelings. That is not the angle I am navigating. When we focus on ourselves in an appropriate way, we notice our own behavior rather than point at the behavior of our spouse we avoid unnecessary conflict. A primary way that resentment builds in a marriage is for one spouse to feel responsible for the other. This could be in tangible ways or emotionally. If one person in the relationship feels the need to make sure the other is feeling a certain way, it hinders growth.

Be responsible for yourself while maintaining responsibilities to your spouse. Treat them appropriately, focusing your energy on how you act rather than trying to control how they act. It seems, when we do this, our positive behavior influences the other and it creates a context of growth rather than resentment and stagnation or deterioration. Of course, it should be noted, if one person in the relationship puts the other in physical danger there are appropriate boundaries that must be drawn.

So, focus on your own behavior. Instead of blaming, do your part.

Justin P. Lewis, MA, LMFT

Do you carry your cell phone everywhere you go?  Are you constantly checking to see if you have new messages, texts, emails, or other forms of data? Do you put your cell phone on the table when you eat? Do you lay it beside the bed at nights? Our cell phones are helpful devices to serve a purpose in our lives, but it has become a potential addiction for many. You can notice people walking with their cell phones, while oblivious to others around them. It may prevent you from developing person to person relationships that require time to develop. Cell phones typically foster communication with sound bite messages rather than conversation. Facebook, Instagram, texts, and Twitter are frequent avenues for exchanging information or photos. Some are personal while others are impersonal and viewed by many. Messenger is a source for communication in a personal way between two individuals.

Teens and preteens are frequently distracted while in classes. Inattention creates poor learning skills resulting in poor grades much like ADHD. ADHD is a neurological and behavioral problem interfering with learning. Cell phones have become a distraction causing a reaction and irritability when information is not processed quickly or instantaneously as expected.  Please read to learn more about Smartphone addiction or over use.  There will be additional blogs on our website (www.ccchope.com) and Facebook page about the Smartphone which will include: 1. What is the smartphone addiction,  2. Effects of smartphone addiction, 3. Signs and symptoms of smartphone addiction,   4. Withdrawal symptoms from smartphone addiction, and 5. Tips for helping children and teens.

Think Positive! Wow, that’s a lot of pressure. When you are going through a struggle, it’s not easy to will yourself to think positive. While, “It’s ok, just think positive”, seems like good advice, positive thinking alone does nothing but get in the way of reaching your goal.

Take action. For progress of any kind you need to focus most ofgoal.jpg
your energy on positive action.

Define your objective or goal. It is important to know exactly what result you want to achieve.

Make a list. There are steps that you need to take to get there.

Track your progress. Every improvement you experience stimulates and rewards your brain, making you feel good about the accomplishment. When you feel good about something you’ve done, you get more motivated to keep doing it. However, accountability is a key ingredient to reaching your goals.

You know where you want to go; you know how to get there; you are motivated because of your positive actions. Positive thinking can get you started. But even successful people have negative thoughts. Just positive thinking by itself can be a stumbling block to solving a problem or reaching a goal. Take positive action instead.

Disagreement and arguments are common in most all relationships—between coworkers, spouses, siblings.  In the heat of the moment, angry words can destroy a relationship that took many years to build.  By following a few short tips, individuals can use the opportunity to strengthen a relationship rather than destroy it.

Disagreement Do List

  1. Agree upon a time to discuss the issue
  2. Be aware of your body language (appear nonthreatening and relaxed)
  3. Avoid interruptions (phone calls, texts…)
  4. Control your tone of voice and volume
  5. Listen, Listen, Listen
  6. Think before you speak
  7. Make good eye contact
  8. Ask clarifying questions
  9. Be non-judgmental
  10. Be empathetic

 

boxing-gloves10 Rules of Fair Fighting

  1. No name calling
  2. No interrupting
  3. No blaming or accusations
  4. No cursing
  5. No yelling
  6. No sarcasm
  7. No defensiveness
  8. No generalizations (you always…)
  9. No physical/emotional intimidating
  10. No walking out without naming a follow up time.

 

Diane Reed, MA, LPCC

One thing that we can all count on in our life are stressful situations. These moments–long or short–will happen in many different areas. There are strategies to be incorporated in our daily life that will offset, or prevent stress. The following are four common ways to handle stress:

Handling-Stress

Exercise. An active lifestyle is helpful in distracting the mind in addition to the physical benefits. The human brain actually operates in a way that physical activity creates a happier existence.

Prayer or meditation. Taking our stress to God removes the pressure of carrying it all on our shoulders and provides the comfort of knowing we are not alone. Additionally, when prayer or meditation is taking place intentional solitude has been created. This personal time can provide a sense of peace.

Journal. Writing down feelings is a way of letting things out. It is one way to unbottle the feelings and relieves some pressure. Also, writing down all the good things is helpful in remembering the positives in life.

Talk to a counselor. Verbalizing the stressful situations can provide a sense of peace. A counselor can help change thinking process and give suggestions that are specific to the particular situation.

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At the Christian Counseling Center we have training and experience helping those struggling with feelings of stress.

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.

The best way to make your relationship better is to work at fixing what’s wrong, right? Nope. The most effective way to boost fun and passion is to add positive elements to your marriage. That positive energy makes you feel good and motivates you to keep going in that direction. 

Happy Couple.jpg

  • Say thank you for even the small things like folding the towels.
  • Stay Connected. Talk about the details of your day.
  • Mention the qualities that you appreciate… hair, laugh, kindness.
  • Recall past times together and describe your hopes for the future.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t feel —or talk about —anything negative, but pretend you are weighing your interactions on a scale.

If you want a happier relationship, the positive side needs to far outweigh the bad. The more you honor the love and joy in your bond, the sooner you’ll transform your marriage into one that is truly great.

Love and Respect–Building Blocks of a Good Marriage

Imagine having a marriage in which both husband and wife love and respect each other, have unity in their goals, and commonality in their belief system. This structure is a win/win for both husband and wife.

Two important building blocks to a good marriage are “love” and “respect”. These two words mean different things to different people, and often differ from males to females. Therefore, a discussion is needed to clarify the meaning.

Activity:

As a couple, define “love” and “respect”.

As a couple, agree on the differences between the two words.

As a couple, discuss and give examples of behaviors that would make each other feel “unloved” and “disrespected”.

Words of wisdom:

Be generous with your words of appreciation

Spend quality time with each other

Be quick to forgive and forget

Seek to understand your differences

Be honest and gentle when giving feedback

Be open and honest regarding finances

Always appreciate their best qualities

Pray together often

Practice physical touch

Surround yourself with other Christian families/couples

Attend a bible based congregation that provides Christian fellowship

Pray for your spouse, for when God blesses them, he blesses you

Laugh and enjoy each other’s personality

Diane Reed, LPCC

A friend of mine once told me a story of a Valentine’s Day date with her spouse. She and her husband decided to meet for a meal on this day for sweethearts. At this time, mobile devices were not part of the fabric of society creating a little more of a problem when they both waited…and waited for the other to arrive. By the time she had treated herself to a fair portion of chips and salsa my friend realized, it’s past time for him to arrive. Meanwhile, her man was across town waiting for her to arrive. Eventually they were able to contact one another and get together to enjoy a Valentine’s Day meal but that lack of communication…missing the mark connecting with one another caused a blip in the plans.

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Staying connected to one’s spouse includes clearly communicating meeting points. But there are also things involved in maintaining that important part of relationship building. Here are four ways to keep a bond with that special someone:

  • Find ways to surprise your spouse. The surprises can vary in size, from time to time spending money for a surprise can be appropriate. However, often times small surprises can be even more meaningful. Notes, social media mentions, and providing treats are ways this can be accomplished.
  • Always be in pursuit. Having been together for years gives the false idea that the pursuit of one’s spouse has been completed. Making that special someone feel loved and appreciated by the way they are treated them keeps the excitement of the relationship alive.
  • Take interests in each other’s hobbies. One may even become interested in something new due to broadening of a  horizon. At the very least it is one more way to keep growth of the relationship active. No healthy hobby or interest is more important than another–taking this attitude goes a long way in building comfort with one’s spouse.
  • Set aside time for each other. Just being alone together is not a date. In busy life styles waiting for alone time is an exercise in futility. People make appointments for important parts of their life. What is more important than building relationship with a loved one?

At the very least…clarify that Valentine’s Day date location!

Happy Valentine’s Day from Christian Counseling Center!

Justin P. Lewis, LMFT

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