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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

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. 

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  • 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

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

practiceIt seems to me that often times we limit ourselves by saying something to the effect of, “I am just not good at that.” This probably starts early in life to protect us from the vulnerability of failing. It, however, also blocks us from success. Natural talent is not the only way to achieve greatness or success.

The late Steve Jobs–a highly regarded innovator and founder of Apple Computers–was also nearly as famous for his ability to present and market. His keynote speeches for Apple became famous and often imitated. But, his public speaking skills were not always superb. A video of an interview he gave early in his career was uncovered decades later. He is visibly nervous and even verbalizes his fear of becoming sick. This is not the same Steve Jobs who entertained while unveiling his most recent product. So what gives?

Jobs put in hours and hours of practice. He honed and developed his presentation skills spending hundreds of hours on one presentation.

Dr. K. Anders Ericsonn published a research study that looked into this idea of hard work and practice. He said excellence depends on more than mere practice but deliberative practice. His definition of this is, “improving the skills you have and extending the reach and range of those skills.” So Dr. Ericsonn takes into account natural talent but suggests excellence does not rest there.

So, when we consider our personal well being are we focusing daily on improving our  skills and extending them? In marriage, hone the abilities and strengths so that they cover a number of aspects in relationships. Parent in a way that sees possibility to attain skills rather than give up on that possibility.

The takeaway is this: because you view yourself as, “just not good” at something now, does not mean you can’t be proficient in that area. If you have skills in an area, they can always be improved.

 

Justin P. Lewis, MA, LMFT

 

Many times marriage counseling is seen as a last ditch effort. I often hear things such as, “this is the last chance,” “if this doesn’t work it is over.” Regularly the presenting problem for couples is quite extreme.

While these are appropriate times for marriage counseling, they are not the only times marriage counseling is important. Here is a list of times that marriage counseling can be helpful, in no particular order.

1. Pre-marriage. Okay, so this is technically not marriage counseling but participating in some type of premarital counseling sets a couple up for success in areas where they may be set up for failure. In premarriage counseling the goal is not to discover a reason not to be married, but to recognize hurdles that could develop into more difficult problems. We have all heard the saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

2. Communication breakdowns. Marriage counseling is an opportunity to learn and sharpen communication skills. A couple does not have to be in the depths, just care enough about knowing their spouse more intimately to enter therapy for this reason.

3. Changing of life stage. Utilizing a trained marriage counselor is not something that comes to mind for many when undergoing a major life change. This could be growing your family, retirement, empty nesting. Having a place to plan out your next step with your spouse can be valuable.

4. In-laws. Early in the marriage it is not only a new spouse to learn but an entirely new family. Being in counseling with your spouse in navigating the best approach to these relationships can be helpful.

All the counselors at Christian Counseling Center have training and experience to help guide couples through all of these reasons for entering therapy.

Henry Cloud and John Townsend are the authors of the very helpful book, “Boundaries in Marriage.” In this book they list these two common pitfalls in a marriage.

Moralizing Your Preferences

The problem here comes when one of the partners in the marriage claims his or her preference in somehow superior. One person’s hobby may seem more “productive” or “important” because it is satisfying or enjoyable to them; but that does not mean the other person’s hobby or way of relaxing is somehow wrong. Spouses may have differences in how they relax or socialize. This does not make one way right and the other wrong. We are in danger of working against our spouse in our marriage if this becomes a norm.

Score-keeping

Another problem area in marriages is score-keeping. At times couples may get into seemingly endless arguments about how time needs to be more balanced. When this replaces kind loving exchanges our marriage is obviously going to suffer. Trying to keep up with what the other person gets to do versus what you get to do can be a way to build resentment. Remember, balance does not have to mean equality. The important thing is that both people are satisfied. It all probably evens up in the end, anyways.

Most importantly always be open when there is conflict or resentment building. It’s much easier to handle in the early stages than when it becomes a habit. At Christian Counseling Center we are willing and able to help couples create healthy habits and learn communication strategies. Feel free to contact us for an appointment.

Men and women are different. It does not take a Marriage and Family Therapist to realize that.

Men and women communicate differently. That isn’t rocket science either but sometimes couples forget that. For this post I want to focus on a simple communication technique men can use to improve the way they interact with their wives.

Men are wired to fix problems. They hear their wife express a frustration and immediately formulate a plan to make it better. A step by step plan is on the tip of the man’s tongue. Women are not looking for this. Women only want their husbands initial reaction to be one of hearing what they have to say. It is not about fixing the issue at work, with family, etc. They just want to be heard. So, as difficult as this can be for men, marital communication thrives on them holding their solutions and hearing what their wives need to say.

The simple communication technique of listening can make a big difference as the wife simply wants her frustrations to be heard by her husband.

So, men, as a way of improving your relationship via a simple communication technique…listen!

Justin P. Lewis, MA

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  • Learning how not to do for others what they can learn to do for themselves is one of the golden rules of adult maturity. 2 years ago
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