Relationship? What relationship? Well, I am talking about the relationship that you have with your spouse, your significant other, your lover, boyfriend or fiancé – whichever one applies for you.
Let me guess.
When you look around, it seems like everyone’s got it figured out.
From what you can tell, anyway.
Nobody seems to be losing any sleep over their relationship, right?
Don’t let them fool you.
If I must, I am going to be the one and pop your bubble to say – don’t judge a book by its cover.
But, you say, how do people figure it out and I can’t?
It may be time that you stop asking yourself that question – once and for all.
And I want to help you figure out the answer.
Right here, right now.
Because, guess what?
Who is to decide what you want from your relationship?
You got it.
And nobody else but you.
And the answer matters a great deal.
Sometimes, it’s easiest to look around you, look at the past (both yours and other people’s) and start by simply writing a list.
A list of what? – you ask.
A list of things, both good and bad, semi-good and semi-bad – that you have seen happen that you knew were going to have to make the cut or others that needed to stay as far away as possible.
You are going to have to sit down, turn everything off (or put on some music that helps you be at peace and concentrate) and think about it for a moment or two.
Or spend a whole Saturday afternoon processing this.
Think about it.
You are going to have to take some time to evaluate what you learned in life.
And then start jotting things down.
Because there is NOBODY else that can provide you with that list as it applies for you.
Maybe you divide your page in two – and do the good old-fashioned pros and cons list.
I find that the easiest place to start with a lot of things (like when I was looking for a new office) is to start with the list of things you know you don’t want.
For me, that was easy:
And that’s just the start. I could go on. But you get the point.
So, it’s your turn.
Go ahead and start with that.
What are those things for you?
Sometimes, we figure out what we want best by realizing and figuring out what it is that we do not want.
You already know what your first two or three are, don’t you…???
Write them down.
And then, keep writing. If you hit a wall, put it down, and come back to it in a day or two.
Once you have that part figured out, turn the page over and see what that means about what you actually want in your relationship.
Now it’s time you write those things down.
Do it. I dare you.
The secret is this: Once you know that, you know exactly where and what to look for.
And do so shamelessly.
And let me tell you one other thing.
There is nobody walking the planet earth that can figure this out for you. (or did I say this already?)
You are the one and only person who has to figure this out on their own. The success of your present (and/or future) relationship depends on it.
So, get to work.
Because who you spend the rest of your life with matters greatly.
And how you do will too.
It’s been quite a while now that there has been an ongoing debate about QUALITY TIME with our children (and other people we love and care about).
To be honest, I am a little bothered by it. Because of the assumption that comes along with it. The assumption that if we spend QUALITY time with our kids (or spouses, or other family members), somehow that makes up for the difference – in terms of the little time you spend with them. The assumption being that QUALITY is, in fact, better than QUANTITY.
In other words, perhaps for a parent who travels a lot or works out of their downtown office 80 hours a week [this number is an approximation], it is alright to do so as long as this parent will promise the family an amazing Saturday once a month. Going to valley fair. Or shopping. Or whatever it might be that your family enjoys oh-so-very-much.
And I see this debate entering into the realm of marriage. I might be unable to be present with my spouse but then thinking – I will make it up to him/her by taking them on a special trip once a year. Or, using the good ol’ – we have kids now, this is a different time in our marriage, we don’t have time for dates. We’ll do that when we are done with this (AKA raising our toddlers, driving teens to sports practices or ____________ – fill in the blank whatever applies in your household).
As if you could eat once a week and call it good.
Or sleep once a month and say that’s sufficient.
This discussion of Quality vs. Quantity comes up quite often in my couples counseling sessions. I have to remind people that if you stop tending to each other now, 18 years from now you won’t even recognize each other.
That makes me think of something that used to happen at our house. Our youngest, now almost four years old, (then 2 or 3) used to play ‘party’ all the time. We entertain quite often, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. At the age of two or three, she would often bring her fluffy friends and dolls, set them up in the middle of the kitchen floor. She would use her little kid plastic plates and silverware and make sure that all her little friends had all they needed. In the middle of the kitchen floor. As if there wasn’t enough space elsewhere.
It would drive me crazy. Here I was, trying to make food, dealing with knives and hot pots and pan or the oven on occasion – trying to make dinner for our actual family. All the while I am expected to jump around on our tile floor, as if playing hop-scotch – making sure that I wasn’t going to step on something and slip or spill some of the imaginary milk that had been poured into the tiny little cups on the floor.
It wasn’t until I realized what she was doing that it finally stopped bugging me. She wanted to be with me. She didn’t care that I was busy doing what I needed to do. She didn’t care that my hands were covered in grease or smelled like garlic. She didn’t care that I didn’t sit down on the floor with her to engage her fully.
She just wanted to sit and be in my presence.
Now that she is older, she will just say the words: I want you. When she is upset about something, or when she first wakes up in the morning, she will find me. Tearful or tear-free, she will just say that. Those three simple words. And we find a way together to fill up her love tank.
It only makes sense to me: We cannot expect to be absentee spouses all year and have our lack of engagement erased from the past only to try to make up the difference in a week or two of all-inclusive, overly-abundant heavenly experiences. Quality time with your spouse is just fine and dandy as long as it is paired up with quantity. As long as the two go hand-in-hand.
It is YOU they want.
Both your spouse and your kids. Whatever that looks like for each of your family members, just be present.
When looking to work with me – given that I specialize in marriage therapy, there are two things I want all my clients to know about couples counseling.
As clients walk in and out of my office, I have heard concerns around a couple of things that keep coming up. Over and over again. And I can’t help but want to prevent it from happening. Here is why. Both of these (and there may be more coming in a later edition) seem like no-brainers to me.
Yet, I hear them time and time again. And the worst thing is this: The tone of your voice tells me you mean every single word of it.
So, here you go. You’ve got to hear this from me. And, you’ve got to hear it now.
Really. I don’t. And I am not just saying that. If I thought you were crazy, I’d have you admitted to a psychiatric facility. Or I would refer you to a different kind of professional. None of my clients have ever ended up there.
If caring about your relationship makes you crazy, then I will take all the crazy there is. If being attentive to your spouse and marriage makes you crazy, I hope the line will never stop. I want my practice to be full of your kind. In fact, if that’s the kind of crazy you are, I guess I want you to be crazy. In fact, I am sure of it.
If being crazy about your relationship is the prerequisite, then I am joining your ranks right now. There you have it.
Really and truly, judging you is just plain not part of my job description. It never has been. What would give me the right to judge? Nowhere in the list of my responsibilities did it include the ability or necessity to judge. Nowhere. Are you hearing me when I say that? [Please don’t make me say it again. :)]
All I am judging and seeing is the level of your commitment and the strength that it takes to realize and admit that you were wrong. From where I am standing, what I see is your ability to put your own ego aside in the interest of your relationship. Not caring so much about being right so that you can stay married instead.
In order to be successful in our work together in couples counseling, you need to believe these two things. This is your “Need to Know” when you call or email. I want you to really know both of these to be true. Once you do, we can start making headway. Because that means you know where I stand. And you know you are ready.
And, when you are ready, then you can say with me: Couples counseling, here we come!
When couples walk into my office and they are brave enough to admit that they have no idea how this thing called ‘counseling’ works, I am delighted. Because that way I get to explain to them how I work with couples. I get to explain to them, piece by piece, how marriage counseling works.
Sometimes people have this idea that they would walk in and it shouldn’t take more than 2-3 sessions to take care of whatever the issues is they are walking in with. As if that weren’t enough, we live in a time where everything HAS to be DONE. RIGHT. NOW. Here’s my short answer to that.
I don’t have a magic wand. Sometimes I wish I did. But I don’t. To expect that I can make things disappear on command in that short of a period of time is more than unrealistic. Here’s why:
In our first session, all I am doing is getting to know you two and learning what brought you in. I want to know how you got to where you are today. I want to hear from each of you, knowing that you both have your own reality. Knowing very well also, that the two realities you each present may or may not align. And I want and need to know when they do and which parts of them don’t. I want to know what your dance is. Yes, that dance that you have been performing since you met or starting dating. Because only then, only when I know what your dance looks like, can we do something about it.
Then, partly because I am a Marriage and Family Therapist (as opposed to a Psychoanalyst who just sees the person sitting in front of them as if in a bubble), and partly because I have learned that a lot of who we are has to do with where we come from, I want to know a little bit about that. Even though you each come alone, sitting on a couch together, or in separate chairs, you are bringing other people into the room. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it your kids. And other times yet it’s your ex-es.
I spend roughly a session with each in the couple – with you both present – talking about your family of origin. Yes, I ask for names and geographic locations and relational histories of the people that end up on your Family Tree.
Then we are done with that, we review your initial hopes and goals and we make a plan. From there, we move forward.
How, you are asking, is counseling like painting then? It’s like painting because it’s a process. You can’t smash all of this information into one, or two, or even three 50 minute sessions.
When we were recently doing some house repair/remodel in our home, we had a deadline. Family visiting from out of town in about a month. People who were hoping to occupy that space in peace and comfort.
As it always so happens, we found one bigger issue that needed to be addressed before we ever would be able to put the walls back up/on and even start picking the colors for the walls to be painted with. I so badly wanted to get the project done in the original time frame but we were told that the cement needed to dry for 10 days, pushing our deadline out way too far.
So, when it came time to paint, I asked what the shortest time period would be that we could do that in. I wanted it all done ASAP. There was so much still to be done after we were done with that.
As much as I tried, the answer was – you can’t hurry the process. I knew we needed a base coat, and then at least two coats of color after that. Maybe three. In my head, I was already mourning not being able to meet the deadline and needing to have family stay elsewhere for a few days when they arrived. Humid weather didn’t help. So we went with it.
Now, we could have done the priming in the morning, and smacked the next coat on before the first one was quite dry, adding another and another, being done by noon.
The risk being – if the walls aren’t dry enough and the colors are thrown on the walls prematurely, the color would not be even. Depending on the level of humidity that day, they could even peel off. They would be been done but there would be a greater chance that we would have to start from scratch a week or two later. All that because we didn’t wait long enough and didn’t let the layers dry as recommended. If you want it done right, you can’t hurry the process.
Often when you come in with one issue at hand, some other issue might surface that also needs your attention. You can’t paint before the walls are up and finished. In the same way, you may not be able to move on unless you take care of this issue at hand.
And then, remember this: You have been ‘perfecting’ your ways as a couple for one, five, ten or twenty some years. You cannot expect that in 2-3 sessions we would undo all that, get you both on track and send you on your way. If you are looking for a three session fix, I am not your girl. I can’t put a band-aid on a wound that requires a trip to the ER.
When couples ask me how long marriage counseling typically takes, there is no magic answer. Generally speaking, depending on what our plan looks like at the end of session four you are probably looking at 10-12 weeks of weekly sessions at a minimum. Three to six months is quite common, with more time necessary if you two have been in great distress for months or years and never talked about the elephant in the room. And maybe by now, it’s a whole elephant family.
Lastly, I do pride myself in always saying and sharing my mantra: “I am in the business of putting myself out of business.”
I don’t want you to need me forever. I want you as a couple to do the work you need to do, process what you need to process, take responsibility for your part in the dance, learn what you need to learn – and go and be able to fish on your own from there.
If you have any questions about any of this, or live in or around Minneapolis, MN and are looking for marriage counseling, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Whether you have been married one day or a hundred or ten thousand and five (don’t worry, I did the math for you – that’s twenty seven years and some – you’re welcome), how to improve your marriage is a question couples want an answer to. Why? Because no matter where they stand, as long as they stand next to each other, they actually want to know precisely that – How to improve your marriage.
If you are like me, sometimes, when I think of how to do something right, it’s getting the answer to how not to do it. What not to do. So I do that today and my question for you is: HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THE DOGHOUSE? Yep, for real. I did just ask that question. Have YOU ever been in the doghouse?
Or, alternately, should I just say: When was the last time you were in the doghouse?
What does ‘being in the doghouse’ look like in your household?
Understanding that it’s a commercial, of course, that wants to give you ideas about what not to purchase and give to your significant other. It’s all funny and cute. It made you laugh. It made me laugh too, I’ll admit it. It’s all fun and games. Until it’s not.
Sometimes you might be there due to a misunderstanding. Other times, it’s completely legit – generally speaking anyway. Sometimes you might not have a single clue how you ended up there. All of a sudden you are being drug by the collar and asked to crawl in. That’s because nobody ever told you that you should have NEVER purchased a vacuum cleaner as an anniversary or Christmas gift.
Not every man or woman will end up in the doghouse for purchasing an electronic device for their spouse. I know both women and men that would LOVE a vacuum cleaner for a present. Particularly if it’s some fancy-shmancy vacuum cleaner that they dream of doing all the work for them.
Several years ago, we even purchased one for a wedding we attended. It ended up being a group gift for one of my husband’s best friends from college. The couple specifically asked for one. Unashamedly, openly and directly they asked for a robot vacuum cleaner. One of those that runs around your entire house while you are gone and cleans the floors for you. What an amazing gift.
I am sure you have seen something similar on other wedding registries. And if it wasn’t a vacuum cleaner, then it was a kitchen machine of some sort. Or an appliance for their workroom. Whatever it was – none of us wasted more than a second thinking about it. It’s a given – it’s there so we can purchase it. And we know that the folks that requested it will love it when they un-wrap that gift. Guaranteed. You might have had one of these on your own registry or wish list.
Granted, you might argue here – I can already hear some of you saying:- BUT – it’s different if this happens between the couple. Particularly if it’s on their birthday. Or anniversary. Or whatever other important day of the year.
I would beg to differ. With all due respect — is it? Is it really?
You will agree with me if I say that we all have expectations. Expectations of what our married life should look like, expectations of what we want for our favorite holiday, hopes for how our birthdays should be celebrated or our anniversary trips planned.
I believe the disconnect happens when expectations meet reality.
In fact, here is what my question really is: If we assume that there is some unwritten law – but the law itself differs from household to household, and nobody says anything ever – how would you then know what to do? How on earth are you and I supposed to figure it out? Why do we stop asking each other things, just as bluntly and openly as we did before, the day we put our wedding gifts away? Why is that no longer ok?
Did something change? Is there some secret ritual in which each of the newlyweds unwraps their purple colored Predictibility-of-the-future shades?
When was the last time that you asked your partner what you want? Have you ever?
Are you better at it or is your spouse?
Returning to the doghouse theme, allow me to point out one more thing. At some point, particularly if you have spent days or weeks in the doghouse – then what do you do? How do you get out of it? And – if you are the one that sent your spouse there – what do you do to help your spouse get out of the mess they got themselves into? Anything? Do you just observe? Are you on standby until they figure it out?
If you think about it, while your spouse is in the doghouse, they are no use to anyone. You are left to fend for yourself, whether that’s with the house, or the pets, or the job, or the kids. They can’t do you any good while they are there.
So you both lose.
Can you help them win?
How to talk to your spouse seems quite plain and simple on paper. It seems like you and I should know what to do, like it’s something that should just come naturally. Easily, even. And yet, it’s sometimes not as simple as it seems. If you are one of the many people who don’t exactly know how to do this, keep on reading. But first, I have a dare for you. (say what?)
I dare you.
I dare you to pick out a card, one that you can more than tolerate, and write a note from scratch.
With Mother’s Day past, and Father’s Day fast approaching, the way I see it, there may be an opportunity around the corner. Maybe you and your spouse are celebrating your anniversary. It IS wedding season afterall. Perhaps you are attending a wedding or you are in one. Maybe it’s the graduation card for someone whom you have watched turn something poor into great.
Whatever the case, I dare you. I dare you to pick up a pen and just write.
Maybe you remember having had a similar experience. Or two. Or five. I have spent countless hours at the card stand at Papyrus, Target or the grocery store. You know the scene – you pick up one card after the next, without success. You leave an hour and a half later, frustrated and still with nothing to show for it.
What happens to me is this: I would either love the design 100% and hate the wording or the other way around – tolerate the text but hate everything else about it. The worst ones are the ones where they are almost good to go but then one word or phrase or paragraph just plain ruins the rest of it all.
And it makes sense, right? When you think about it, how can someone – a lovely lady or gentleman – sitting behind a lovely desk somewhere in a lovely faraway land (or state) know what YOU would want to say to YOUR spouse, your best friend or grandfather for that matter?
They try to guess. They do the best they can. They try to make it sound pretty. They put effort into making an impression. But it only works on a limited number of occasions.
When I was growing up on the other side of the Atlantic, there was no such thing as pre-written cards that required you to do no more than add your tiny little signature on the bottom of it. No such thing. We didn’t have that kind of luxury. If you wanted to write a card, you bought one with a design you liked and then wrote your own message. Every time.
I don’t know if it’s better one way or the other. But I know this. It forced a person to think about what they wanted to say. Nobody did the thinking for you and me.
And yes, it probably took longer. I remember writing a draft of the card on a scratch piece of paper so that, as I was thinking about the words, as a composer of sorts, I would not end up scratching words out on the card that was to be sealed and gifted. Sometimes it takes a while to say what you want to say. And yes, only you can say it. Because only you know the complexities of the present situation or the details of the past. Because only you know the person your card is addressed to. They might a friend, a son or daughter in-law to someone else. But they are only your spouse.
And saying something to someone you care about means something. In fact, it means a lot. Particularly if that someone is the father of your nieces, or the person who raised you or the friend who stood by and never disappeared during the tough times. Or it’s the person who, after publicly or privately promising to stand by you – however many moons ago that was – stuck with you through the thick of it and is still standing close by.
Consider this. If you could speak your heart – what would your card say? How would you as a couple come out on the other side, greater and closer together for having connected with the other in a meaningful way? Can you even imagine the impact?
Instead of signing your name and agreeing to agree with a prescribed message, write a letter. Or a card. I dare you to fill up all the empty space. Use real stationary. Or don’t. It doesn’t have to be eloquent beyond measure, unless that’s who you are. Your partner in crime wants the real you to shine through. Make it your advantage. Make it a point to stand out. It’s going back to being intentional and making time to talk to each other.
Improving your communication may include getting in touch with this lost art of writing that we have been hearing about. What do you think? Would you accept the challenge?
I guarantee you victory.
Because that’s one way you can start grasping how to do this thing – how to talk to your spouse – in a real and meaningful way about big things, and small things and all the other stuff in between.
Once upon a time, there was a Grammy-winning banjo-playing genius who fell in love with an amazing banjo-playing lady genius.*
Then the two got married.
Then one day they decided to start a family.
With great expectation they looked forward to their summer of newborn nesting and eagerly planned their three months “off” following the baby’s birth. This couple dreamed of writing music, being creative, and having the most productive time of their lives. Almost as if on vacation.
Lo and behold, at the end of this magical welcoming baby time, this banjo wielding couple held a concert to showcase the pieces of music they birthed. They stood before their audience, and spoke this opening line: “We want to play you the great pieces of music we wrote…
…that ended up being the one and only piece…
…oh, and it’s just instrumental…
Moral of the story: Beware the illusive dreams of productivity and prosperity of newborn days!
If you have children of your own, this will not come as a surprise: This IS what happens to most people’s lives when they have a baby. It’s what kids do to a marriage. (It’s why this post is titled True Colors of Parenthood.) Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing! But it’s reality nevertheless. In so many different ways, a child throws the family – shall we say – off track? At least for a little while…
Having a baby, welcoming a new life to the world throws our whole world off — and of course it does! BUT – Instead of being overwhelmed and disappointed that our maternity/paternity leave isn’t more productive, starting this new time of your life with realistic expectations will go a long way.
What if, instead of beating your head against the wall, we thought about it in terms of just preparing for the inevitable. Yes, plain awareness and knowledge IS half the battle. Once you know what to expect, the blow always ends up softer in the end.
I have noticed that, for many years, few parents-to-be had an honest picture of what this so-called bliss may bring as a by-product. Besides the bliss – because there IS bliss – That it might be the source of new kinds of arguments.
That there might be greater tension in the home. Or outside of the home — with the family or your in-laws.
That there will be little or no sleep some nights. Or most nights at first.
That adjusting to the particular ways of your new baby will be stress or anxiety producing.
That as you are navigating your new roles (and yes, they are roles and yes, they are new) as mom and dad, you will stumble upon newly discovered imperfections within yourselves and the rest of the world.
In the past, nobody used to talk about any of this. As a result, the new parents ended up with self-doubt more often than not. While we do a much better job with it these days – THANK GOODNESS for that- there is often still a gap. When in doubt, remember that you have never done this before – individually or as a couple. Do talk to someone. Many people won’t volunteer their insight or encouragement for fear of being unsolicited and rejected as a result. Once you crack the door open, many will accept the invitation, move a few things out of the way to find a spot on your couch and be real with you.
I can already hear some of you wanting to argue my point here – Yes, there ARE exceptions. I know that. As with every other rule under the sun, this one, too, has been proven wrong. By one parent. Or two. I wouldn’t waste my time looking for more.
Let me say it again — the fact that a new baby throws things off for a while is NOT a bad thing – it is reality. And the realist AKA borderline pessimist in me says that it is just plain something to be aware of so that we don’t over-schedule, over-plan, or ponder these ridiculously high expectations with hopelessness.
The untitled half-completed song by Grammy-award winning artists is a poignant example to me that there is a time and season for many different things — they just might not all happen immediately after your little miracle makes their grand entrance.
*Story based on an interview I recently heard on MPR with musician couple Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck (but I’ll be darned if I can find the link!).
When was the last time you had your teeth checked or professionally cleaned by a dental hygienist? When was the last time you got your oil changed? Or your tires checked? Or your eyes examined? I bet that even if you don’t know the exact date, you will be able to tell me at least what month it was. And I bet it was within the last year.
Why do we care about all that? Why do we make appointments (months in advance sometimes) to take care of our teeth, our eyes or the well-being of our vehicles? Because if we don’t, — and yes, I said we — bad things happen.
If you don’t go to the dentist’s office every so often, you are bound to get a cavity or, worse yet, root canal. Along with that comes tremendous pain, discomfort, mandatory time off and a fat bill following the procedure. If you don’t take your car into the shop, or change the oil in your garage, you might get a flat tire at the most inconvenient of times and pay a couple hundred dollars to get towed. Or – worse yet – ruin your entire engine as it cannot be running without oil being refilled periodically and having to replace it altogether.
Why am I bringing all this up?
Somehow in the midst of life, we have come to believe that we do not need to do that with our marriages or families. How that happened — How we ended up doing that without an acute awareness of negative consequences — is beyond me. If the same rule applies – that is, if you don’t take care of the things you care about, bad things happen – we should not be caught off guard that when not taking care of our marriages, our relationships end up not doing so well.
If the best way to spell love really is T I M E – then this would be the perfect opportunity. Here is what a Marriage Care Event is:
From newly engaged/married to the nearly divorced, and just about everyone in between, this event (much like any other MCE organized by Bogott Counseling) is geared towards couples at ANY stage of their relationship.
You do not NEED to be a newly married couple. But you can be. You do NOT need to be on the verge of divorce. But, again, maybe that’s where you are. Maybe you are somewhere in the middle, married for several years, perhaps you are on your second or third marriage and are hoping to avoid the mistakes of the past. At our events over the years, we have had couples that have been together for months and others that had already celebrated their 40th anniversary.
Here is some of the feedback for you to consider:
“(A Marriage Care Event is) a reality check on what we’re doing to each other that will never work.”
“It’s a way of working on strategies to thrive in a marriage – it demonstrates ways of thinking and acting that enable us to grow in love.”
“Really informal, dedicating time to explore your marriage and open up to spouse about issues, realizing that we both have some we can work on. It disarms fears.”
“A day set aside to examine weaknesses & strengths that we bring to a marriage while also hearing insights & encouragement from other married couples.
Here is what they had to say about the material discussed (AKA The Losing and the Winning Strategies). The material was:
“Easy to understand, not threatening”
“Practical & honest insight for any marriage”
“Well balanced professional advice & more personal candor”
Whatever the case, if you want to make known that you care about your relationship, this event is for YOU.
If you would like to be notified when our next event is happening, or have any other specific questions about this Minneapolis marriage seminar of sorts, please contact us via our contact page HERE. We hope you can join us next time!
When you are feeling discouraged in your marriage (and we all do at times), it is easy to desire one quick & easy fix. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Contrary to what the film industry has been telling us for decades, happy marriages don’t just happen. You and I make them happen. Whatever you want to call it – Marriage is work. And like everything else that you want to keep in good condition, it, too, requires some TLC (read: work). And, it’s the kind of work you cannot outsource.
But wait! In case you’re thinking – wow, thanks…that sounds depressing… There is something you can do to start saving your marriage TODAY.
Start with one word — or phrase — of appreciation.
One a day. That’s it.
It’s that simple.
Many couples I see in my practice will say: I keep doing all these things, and nobody notices any of it – not the kids, not my husband (or wife), and I am tired of it all. Consider for a moment the difference that adding words of appreciation could make.
• You build up your spouse with encouragement.
• You start focusing on more positive aspects of your relationship.
• You put a smile on their face.
In our relationships, our communication tends to be heavy on the negative. Anytime we talk it’s to voice a concern or a complaint or a dissatisfaction of sorts. We need to balance the negative content with more positive conversations. And this can be one.
In the words of the relationship guru and a mentor of mine, Terry Real, most couples are appreciation deficient and need to become more appreciation efficient.
Of course, it can be hard to think of encouraging words. Most things are hard when you first start trying. Sometimes it’s hard to see actions worth appreciating. But for the sake of trying, put a couple of these suggestions to the test:
–Maybe after dinner, instead of simply saying “Thank you” you take time to tell your spouse how good you have it; they not only know how to cook but they care enough to make meals you enjoy. And they do it often.
–Perhaps you notice that your spouse took out the trash. You can tell them you were just thinking about how much you dread doing that and thank them for taking care of it.
–On a day when you find it hard to think of something, thank your spouse for working for the family (whether you both work at jobs outside the home, or if one of you is home with children).
Ultimately, what you choose to compliment doesn’t really matter! Be open to noticing these things around you.
Just remember: Whatever you say or do, you HAVE TO MEAN IT! Faking it won’t get you anywhere. So, do yourself a favor and remember that.
There you have it: Give your spouse a word of encouragement today! If ever in doubt whether you’ve already done it that day, it’s always safer to do a couple than do none.
Ready, set, go!
There’s lots of advice out there on how to give an apology that has lasting impact: an apology that results in a restored relationship. Whether the process requires four steps, or eight steps, one of the things that rings most true to me is the need to own your responsibility for the injury you caused the other person.
In preparation for an upcoming Marriage Retreat, I recently watched this clip from a fellow Marriage & Family counselor based in Utah. The five steps Julie outlines provide an excellent framework for apologizing:
5 Steps to a Powerful Apology
I don’t know about you, but when I look at this list, the one that really sticks in the throat is right there on the top of the list:
own. your. part.
I couldn’t agree more — all good apologies must include owning your part, but the big question we so often face is this:
HOW? How do you do that?
How do you say “I’m sorry, I know that I did [fill in the blank – AKA – that cruddy thing you did]” and leave it at that? Is it even realistic not to discuss the reasons for your actions?
It seems to me that there are two aspects to owning our part that we need to see clearly in order to be able to do just that — own our part.
First, all the rest of the steps flow out of number one.
If we don’t start with owning our part, we cannot accurately show the person that we understand the way it’s hurt them. If we don’t own our part then we won’t be able to show empathy. And so it goes for each step in the process of reconciliation.
Second, the bottom line is, an apology is about reconciling.
Part of what we need to do is reckon with the fact that an apology is about reconciling and NOT about being understood. This willingness to put the other person first and help them feel understood is at the heart of an apology that will be well-received by the person you’ve hurt.
Not only should “being understood” be saved for another conversation, but frequently the need to feel understood evaporates with reconciliation — highlighting the fact that sometimes our “need” to be understood is more about defending ourselves in a moment of conflict than about actually experiencing fundamental misunderstanding.
Every apology needs to move from owning our part to full reconciliation, but today — take some time to think about that person (you know who) with whom you recently had conflict. Imagine what it would look like to acknowledge your part and leave it at that. Period. It might just be the beginning of a wonderful new relationship.