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Newlyweds Pay Attention–Ten Steps to Insure Marital Satisfaction!

Newlyweds Pay Attention–Ten Steps to Insure Marital Satisfaction!

Our oldest granddaughter is getting married this summer which gave me cause to consider giving advice to her and other newlyweds from my years of providing marriage counseling.  The decision to marry is one of the most important ones that you will ever make.  Be prepared for the journey of a lifetime which can be incredibly rewarding, neutral, or devastating.   Hopefully you entered into this event with the firm decision committed to the age old vows, “…to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part.”  As with all good intentions, there is also a need for preparation, coaching and action.  No couple is fully prepared for marriage, but there are things that you can do to insure a positive couple relationship and to provide a strong example for your children.wedding-626020_1280

  • GET MARRIED–You have already committed to the first step. Research shows that the very act of sharing your marriage vows is predictive of success as a couple. 1 Couples who live together without that commitment are much more likely to separate.
  • BE COMMITTED—the commitment to your marriage needs to be more than a commitment to stay in the marriage, it must be a commitment to support one another and grow in the relationship. Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, suggests that growth when he asks the question “What if God designed Marriage to make us holy, not to make us happy”. 2 It’s easy to be committed when things are going well but in times of difficulty cling to one another and see them as times of growth. Those incidents and disagreements always point to areas where you and your marriage can grow.
  • BE PREPARED—Good pre-marriage coaching is an important aspect of marriage preparation. It is an opportunity to “read the manual before exploring the repair.” This should be more than simply wedding planning and is a wonderful preventive measure.  This is an opportunity provided by many good counselors and should include written pre-marriage assessment such as Prepare/Enrich* or the more recent offering from Les and Leslie Parrott, SYMBIS.  Research also shows that marital satisfaction and success are correlated with pre-marriage coaching. 3
  • TAKE TIME-OUTS—every couple develops a script, a pattern that they follow during disagreements. When tempers rise and you feel hurt these patterns are predictable. Once started, it has a life of its own regardless of the issue or issues that triggered it.  Agree in advance that when either of you recognize you are in that script, that you will call time out.  As with any time out, take time to sort out what is happening, figure out what your partner may need at that time and what is going on in your thoughts and emotions.  Praying for direction can be helpful, “it is like going to the coach”. THEN call time in to talk about what you have discovered and LISTEN to your partner before talking.
  • COMMUNCATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUICATE—don’t ignore issues but learn to problem solve them. Start by renewing your commitment to growth in your marriage and to your partner. Then, LISTEN closely being sensitive to the needs, emotions and thoughts being expressed. The areas of finances and sexual expression are often particularly sensitive.  The temptation is to avoid difficult subjects, but that only results in the buildup of frustration or distancing which is harmful to the relationship.  On the other hand, working through issues builds intimacy.
  • COOPERATE, DON’T COMPETE— Competition in sports requires a winner and a loser. Two become one in marriage” and you can’t win a fight against yourself. Men and women are very different in many ways including the ways they think and communicate (our brains are actually quite different). In addition, we all have real personality differences.  These provide for the opportunity to succeed, or can become barriers in the relationship.  Strive to understand these differences and celebrate the contribution each of you can make as you grow together.  After all, that is what attracted you to your spouse in the first place.
  • DATE YOUR PARTNER—during the courtship the relationship is usually based on sharing and having fun together. The responsibilities that take over and pressures of married life often result in couples forgetting romance in their relationship. This is especially true with the responsibility of raising children and all the pressures put on parents.  It is easy to grow apart, so set regular date times (I suggest weekly and a regular get away together at least twice a year).
  • DEVELOP POSITIVE RITUALS—Take time to do the little things that tell your spouse you love them. Regular kisses and hugs, little notes, asking how their day went, taking time for meals together, pray together. Little things are the things that cement a relationship together and are often the things that will be cherished memories for your children.  My wife and I like to take time to read a novel to each other, a few pages on a regular basis.  And don’t forget a good long hug when leaving one another!
  • wedding-1149219_1920MAKE FAITH THE CENTER OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP—Values are supported and relationships encouraged in a good faith community. There are few institutions left in our culture today that support marriage and the Church is one of the few remaining. In addition, it provides a wonderful place to transmit your values to your children.  Don’t forget to pray regularly for your spouse and your relationship.
  • SEEK HELP—In every relationship there are times when problems don’t seem to get resolved. Recognize when you are in “over your head” and commit in advance to seek professional guidance. Too often, divorces take place after people have “stuffed their feelings” and avoided dealing with issues for weeks, months, or even years.  As with most problems “a stitch in time saves nine.”  Perhaps the person or agency who provided your pre-marriage coaching is a good place to start.

We wish you and our granddaughter a long, happy and prosperous marriage as you embark on this journey called marriage.  May your bond of love and your relationship become stronger each day.

1 Waite, Linda J., The Negative Effects of Cohabitation, George Washington University, Institute for Communitarian and Policy Studies, Volume 10, Issue 1, Winter 1999/2000,

2Thomas, Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 2000

3Saleh, Alexandra D., Premarital Counseling & Marital Satisfaction Alexandra D. Saleh, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Lee_and_Barb_637x425Lee Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over 40 years of counseling experience. He is also the founder and clinical director of the Center for Human Development.  To learn more about Lee click here.

Barb Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social worker with over 30 years of counseling experience.  She enjoys working with clients of all ages, individuals, and couples. To learn more about Barb click here.

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Psst! Hey, Mom and Dad! I’m about to tell you why I act up sometimes

Psst! Hey, Mom and Dad! I’m about to tell you why I act up sometimes

I know I look small, but I need A LOT of interaction with other people just like you do. And the most important interaction? Interaction with my parents – you. And, well, the truth of it is… negative attention is way easier to get and lasts a lot longer than positive attention does. Positive attention is usually shorter and less predictable. So, I try to get the positive every now and then but it’s hard work and it usually doesn’t pay off, so I just go for what I know I can get.

How do I interact, you ask? Good question! Through eye contact, physical touch, and talking.

If I’m desiring eye contact, physical touch, and an exchange of words…

I know I can probably get all three by acting up.

I know that I can get them for as long as I want by continuing the bad behavior.

I know that, even if you are ignoring me, I can keep getting worse and worse until eventually you have to look at me, touch me, and talk to me.

However……

If I’m desiring eye contact, physical touch, and an exchange of words…

I’m not sure if you’ll notice me quietly occupying myself over here or working hard on this project.

It almost seems like the quieter I am and the better my behavior is, the more I get ignored. I’ve heard you say, “Finally, some peace and quiet around here.” Then you look at your phone for a long time. I hate that!

Even if you say, “Good job on drawing that picture” the positive attention is over in less than 10 seconds and then I’m left trying to figure out how I’m going to get the other 29 min 50 sec of interaction that I need right now.

Mom, Dad, the good news for you is…

You are my favorite person.

I want you to teach me how you do all that cool adult stuff.

We don’t have to do anything super huge. I’d love to do almost anything with you if I can count on my Positive Interaction Bank getting filled in the process.

You can just hold my hand or rub my back for no reason. I love it when you do that.

I love your compliments more than anyone else’s.

I love your hugs and kisses more than anyone else’s.

I need you!

I adore you!

 

Love,

Your Little One

 

Corina Helgestad imageCorina Helgestad is a professional counselor who especially likes working with teen girls in such areas as self-esteem, cutting, suicide, depression, and anxiety. To learn more about Corina, or to set up an appointment click here.

 

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Every Yes is a No!

Every Yes is a No!

I am currently reading The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst – a very good book so far.  The night before I read chapter nine, I happened to read a blog about how to have a decluttered kitchen.  The next day while reading chapter nine of The Best Yes, I realized that they were both saying the same thing.  We are always saying yes to something and no to something.

I had heard this concept before when it came to time management – we only have 24 hours in each day and everything you say yes to inevitably means that you are saying no to some other thing that you could have done with that time.   I had always understood it in that context.  It even made perfect sense to me in regards to how we spend our money – a yes to the brand new car might mean a no to the freedom to go on that spur-of-the-moment trip.

This concepYEs NOt was very easy to understand in regards to the physical and concrete things in our lives like money and time.  However, after reading that blog and chapter nine, I began to considered just how much this principal impacts our lives in EVERY area, including the less tangible ones like the emotional and spiritual areas of our lives.

Consider this, if I say no to a conversation that could potentially cause conflict, I may be saying yes to misunderstanding and resentment.  If I say yes to procrastination on that project, I am saying no to peace of mind.  If I say no to God’s prompting to take a leap of faith, I am saying yes to the disappointment of not knowing how God had planned to miraculously provide.  If I say yes to hanging on to every item of clothing I ever buy because I might need it someday, I am saying no to the tranquility of a well-organized closet that I will use every day.  There are so many, possibly millions, of applications of this principle in each day of our lives.  When that realization set it, I knew that I could no longer live my life without considering it at every opportunity I could.

When I am real with myself about what each yes means and what, out of necessity, I am saying no to, I believe my life will experience a new-found level of clarity.  It’s time for me to step out of the denial that I can have my cake and eat it too and own the fact that every no is also a yes.  What an exciting thing to learn!  I can’t wait to see how it changes me.  How will it change you?

Corina Helgestad imageCorina Helgestad is a professional counselor who especially likes working with teen girls in such areas as self-esteem, cutting, suicide, depression, and anxiety. To learn more about Corina, or to set up an appointment click here.

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Building a Strong Marital Toolbox

Building a Strong Marital Toolbox

How strong is your marital toolbox?

A “marital toolbox” can provide a couple with an arsenal of tools to assist them with problem-solving and the decision making process. Used effectively, this strategy can form the foundation for a healthy marriage.  Couples that prepare themselves for difficult situations in advance, often handle these situations better.

Here is an example that will help you in understanding this– the “carpenter toolbox.”  Years ago many carpenters built large boxes out of wood to store their tools in.  Whether at the workshop, or at the worksite, these toolboxes went with the carpenter.  Every tool of importance was placed in this box.  No matter what situation came up, the carpenter had what was needed to handle any job or situation.

Like the old carpenter toolbox, the marital toolbox prepares a couple to address many situations.  Being in a healthy and thriving marriage requires time, commitment and communication.  Married couples need to decide which specific tools should go into their marital toolboxes.  Listed below are some ground rules which can assist couples with the tool selection process.

Ground Rules:Tool Box Drawing

  • Respecting your spouse- he/she will have good ideas or insights.
  • Willing to hear your spouse’s perspective without interrupting them.
  • Entering a discussion without having a pre-determined solution in mind.
  • Speaking one at a time when discussing things.
  • Taking time-outs from discussions to cool-off, process information, or seek counsel.
  • Writing notes when your spouse is speaking so you will not forget what was said.

A marital toolbox consists of husband and wife working together to select the appropriate tools.  Participation in such a process assists greatly with future difficult situations.  Like the carpenter, a husband and wife need to be able to handle any job or situation they face.

Dave Tice imageDave Tice is a licensed professional counselor at the Center with over 6 years of counseling experience.  To learn more about Dave, or to set up an appointment click here.

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Childhood Anxiety

Childhood Anxiety

Is your child showing signs of anxiety such as worrying, irritability, avoidance, fear, hair pulling, nail biting, or perfectionism?

You may be thinking, “My child has a good life; how could they have anxiety?  It doesn’t make any sense!”

The truth is it doesn’t have to make sense for it to happen.

Your child’s anxiety is not the root of the problem.  It is a symptom of the problem.

So, what IS the problem?

To understand this we must first understand that both emotions and needs drive behavior.

Your child’s anxiety is a sign of a basic emotional need being unmet.

This does not mean that you are doing a bad job at parenting.  It simply means that your child has a need that they don’t know how to get met and has feelings that they haven’t figured out how to handle.

Let’s take a look at what their symptoms are saying…

My Negative Emotion Bucket is overflowing.

I’m feeling out of control, scared, angry, etc and I don’t know what to do about it.

My Positive Emotion Bucket is too empty.

I want to feel loved, safe and capable of handling my circumstances and the emotions attached to them.

How to facilitate meeting that emotional need (Balancing the Buckets)

  • Ensure that every time your child hears something negative, corrective, or scary, they hear at least 5 positive and/or empowering things.

This is not easy to do and takes purposeful effort on your part, but the payoff is well worth it.

For example:

If your child overhears you talking about money concerns, this can produce very uncertain and fearful feelings within them because they have no control over the budget, but it affects their life.

Because of their developmental stage, they may think they did something to cause the situation.  They may begin worrying about the worst-case scenario and feel incredible stress with no way to release those feelings.

The best thing you can do to counteract that is to make sure they hear at least 5 positive statements, at different times, such as; things will be okay, I love you, I’ll take care of you, you didn’t cause this situation, etc.

  • Teach your child how to recognize and vent their feelings by asking “feelings questions”.

Don’t ask, “How was school?”  They’ll probably say, “Fine.” which doesn’t get to their emotions.

Do ask, “Did anything happen at school today that you didn’t like?  What happened?  What were you feeling when that happened?”

Do ask, “What was the best part of your day today?  What did you like about that?  How did you feel when that happened?”

When having “feelings“ discussions with your child, be careful to not suggest that they shouldn’t feel the way that they feel.  Often times we do this because their feelings don’t make sense to us.  But their feelings are real and legitimate.

A productive “feelings discussion” consists of the following:

  1. Allow them to vent their feelings with no judgment.

Ask them to tell you more about it, how often they feel that way, etc.

  1. Then ask them how they want to feel.

Steer clear from asking, “What would make you feel better?  They probably don’t know or else they’d be doing it already.

  1. Problem solve with them as to how they can produce the feeling that they want.

See if they have any ideas.  You may offer some ideas.  Allow them to choose a course of action.

This conversation validates and empowers them which can drastically empty the Negative Feeling Bucket and fill the Positive Feeling Bucket at the same time!

 

Corina Helgestad imageCorina Helgestad is a professional counselor who especially likes working with teen girls in such areas as self-esteem, cutting, suicide, depression, and anxiety. To learn more about Corina, or to set up an appointment click here.

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